April running update

April is coming to a close, and on Saturday I’ll be doing yet another 10K race as part of the Upper Midwest Trail series. I’ve been looking over my stats for the first part of the year, and I’m already blowing away anything I’ve done in years past.

I just surpassed 600 miles for the year, which puts me almost 300 miles above where I’ve been in previous years. Much of this was due to needing to train for a 50 miler over the winter, but I’m pleased nonetheless. The big key will be continuing to keep my training up for the rest of the races that I have scheduled this year.

The graph below is from a really cool data site that hooks into Strava called Veloviewer. It’s really awesome to see this graph change year over year, and to visually see how much progress I’ve been making. I know I haven’t been nearly as fast as in the past, but I’m able to put down much higher miles this way, and so far I am mostly injury free (only one minor ankle sprain).

My body certainly feels the change, and I’m looking forward to toning down the mileage a slight bit after my next 50K. The fall races will be coming up quickly so I need to make sure I keep my fitness level up. Thankfully, the biking season has arrived, giving me some other opportunities to get out there and be active.

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Beer and Bikes in Spring

Normally when the weather gets nice I ride with the Beer and Bikes group on Wednesday nights to various taprooms. This week it was pouring rain, and despite three of the members deciding to brave the rain, I opted for getting rained on tomorrow morning during my run instead. I drove down and met folks, and because of a scheduling issue with a private party at the taproom we intended to go to, we ended up at one of my regular haunts, Northgate Brewing.

The guys who run Northgate love soccer, and they love board games, which means they have a nice bookshelf with games on it for people to borrow. I got to introduce the gang to Citadels, a game that I’ve played many years ago, and it was a ton of fun. Once people got the hang of the strategy of the game it got to be pretty intense. My friend Michael ended up winning, but it was a hard fought victory. The whole experience made for a really fun night with friends, with lots of laughter and frivolity.

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Rainy Spring

Despite a warm spell in mid April, Spring has arrived in Minnesota. The past weekend has been grey and rainy, and the rest of this week promises more of the same. I’m kinda glad that we didn’t go right into Summer prematurely, as Spring can be a very beautiful time of the year around here.

This past weekend, while running in Mankato (60 miles south) the buds on all the trees were exploding, and there were many flowering plants in full bloom. With all of the rain this week I’m expecting that our area will start to look pretty green as well in a few days.

The one downside to Spring and all the rain is the constant grey skies. I know that it affects mood, and I can tell I’m not as chipper as normal. I guess this type of weather makes for good TV watching while eating grilled cheese (dinner on Tuesday night). I’m catching up on shows, and continuing to advance in Pokemon (we’ve already made it to season 2 of Star Wars Rebels, and we’re enjoying it quite a lot).

Time to finish getting through the week of rain so that we can enjoy the full bloom of Spring when it arrives.

The dining experience

This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to get away for a night, and as part of our time away, eat at a very nice restaurant. The food was amazing, and my steak was cooked to a perfect medium temp. I almost never order a medium steak because most places simply get it wrong. My go-to is medium-well because at least then I know it’s not bloody. However, when I’m at a higher quality restaurant I’ll give it a shot, because with a fine dining experience, I expect fine dining quality and service.

I’m one of those people who really struggles with the whole tipping culture that we have in this country. There are tip jars all over the place, and for the most part it’s socially acceptable to skip most of them. Restaurants are not one of those places. It doesn’t matter what type of restaurant it is, if you have a server taking your order and bringing your food, a tip is expected. In most cases, I just wish establishments would raise the prices and give all their employees a boost.

The one type of restaurant where I don’t mind tipping is in fine dining. When I’m going to spend a large amount of money on a meal in a fine dining establishment, I’m expecting more than good tasting food. I’m expecting an experience. This doesn’t mean that I’m looking for someone to grovel before me or to be a whipping boy for my sarcastic comments. It means that I’m expecting a server who understands how to make my dining experience the best it can be and takes pride in their work.

One of the best ways that a server can show that they care is with recommendations. This weekend I knew I wanted a cocktail or two with dinner, but I couldn’t really decide on which one. I asked the server’s opinion and they gave me a suggestion that was out of this world. On other occasions I’ve had great conversations about the types of food that I like, and a knowledgeable server has been invaluable in selecting the right dish.

A great server in a fine dining restaurant also goes beyond the standard, “So how is the food tasting?” routine. This weekend the server went one step further and asked if the cook on the steak was done properly, which may seem like a small detail, but when you’re ordering an expensive steak, the entire experience can be ruined by an improper cook.

Our server this weekend was everything that I expect out of a fine dining professional, and so I had no problems giving a generous tip. I know some may read this blog and think that I’m an arrogant snob, but my point is simply that there is often more to eating out than just getting someone else to cook for you. It’s about how you feel, and the memories that you make with friends and family you are eating with. These memories can happen at any restaurant, but when I’m spending a lot of money for a dinner, it’s made even better with people who take pride in making the experience everything it can be.