Backpack or bag

For many, many, years I’ve used a briefcase/messenger bag to haul my stuff back and forth to work. In the past couple of years I’ve settled on a really nice bag from Swissgear that carries everything I have, without being too large. However, in recent months, as my walk from my car or bus has gotten longer, I’m starting to feel like a one-shoulder bag might not be the best option.

Both of my offices now require a walk, either from a parking lot many blocks away, or from a bus/train stop. This means I’m carrying around my laptop and other sundries on one shoulder, switching when I feel one side getting tired. As I’m getting older I’m starting to think that perhaps it’s time to go back to my youth… and get a backpack. I know a lot of my co-workers use backpacks, but I haven’t used one for commuting for many years. They’ve always seemed like something that you use for school, and not for work, but more and more lately I’m seeing professionals with them everywhere I go.

That brings me to the point of this post. What do you use? Are you a backpack person or a bag? What model do you use and love?

 

State Fair 2017!

Monday, the wife and I took off from work to go visit the Minnesota State Fair. This is a really fun tradition for us, especially when we do it on our terms. That means getting on a shuttle bus, and arriving on the fairgrounds before 9am, mainly so we can beat the crowds (as well as any heat). This year was no exception, as we arrived at the Fair a little before 9, and made our very first stop of the day at the Blue Barn for some breakfast.

One of the other treats that I really enjoy at the Fair is the bacon on a stick. It’s super thick and meaty, and smothered with a light maple glaze. It’s my other traditional breakfast on Fair days. At first I was concerned that the booth was no longer where I expected it. A quick search of the Fair website showed that they moved to bigger and fancier digs. This was cool, except that it also seemed to be much pricer than I remembered.

IMG_1409.jpgFrom there we decided to check out the arts and crafts buildings. One of our good friends, Natalie, took home a couple ribbons for some amazing dresses that she sewed. We got to view those, along with a lot of other really creative arts. We also wandered through the education building where student artwork was displayed, and I paid a visit to my alma mater to sign the guestbook.

We finished up on the NE corner of the Fair by hitting the fine arts and environmental buildings before getting our first decadent treat of the day, some warm apple dumplings with ice cream. From there we started wandering around, with an eventual goal of hitting the coliseum for some dog showing. In particular, we wanted to see sheep herding, and when we arrived we got to view 3-4 sessions. It was really cool to see the trainer and dog work together to herd a flock of three sheep through obstacles, with varying degrees of success.

For lunch I opted for a hot dish on a stick, and a new beer, the 612 Ligonberry Lager. It was a delightful beer, and very refreshing. A nice accomplishment for 612 Brew. Since I had been over at a friends the night before, sampling a LOT of other beers, I opted to stick to just one beer today. Despite being tempted by all sorts of unique options, I felt like I should probably behave.

A bonus highlight of the day was getting to run into our friend Kari and her mom. I was wearing a Rock Steady Running shirt, and she called “Rock Steady Running!” as we walked by. It was only after we turned around that we realized that we all knew each other! It was fun to chat about the upcoming Superior races and our plans for an incredible weekend.

We wandered around a bit more and shared a few more sweet treats before grabbing our bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies and heading back home. Around the time we were leaving the crowds were getting much more intense. This was our sign that we were done for the day, and we hopped the bus home feeling happy and satisfied. All in all, it was a great day at the Fair again, and I’m glad we’ve got our system nailed down to enjoy it the way we want to.

IMG_1408.jpg
A delightful piece of seed art

A home improvement day

It’s been a busy summer, and for what feels like the first time in months, I had a Sunday with nothing to do. No hard plans apart from some breakfast in the morning, and visiting with a friend tonight. I decided that it was about time I tackle some long overdue projects.

The first item is a display shelf for all of my various beer growlers. I grabbed a shelf setup I’m very familiar with at the hardware store and got to work. The difficulty with this shelf is the length (10 ft) and the height. I wanted it as close to the ceiling as possible to almost make it feel like a border on top of the wall. I picked up a new step ladder as well, that allowed me to reach up to 9 ft high, more than enough for our ceilings. There were studs in some odd places, but after fighting with the drill for a bit, I got the shelf up.

It came out like I wanted it to, however, there is one problem. It still wasn’t enough space for all of my growlers. At least this cleared out some shelf space on my brewing shelves in the basement, so for now the overflow will live down there. As I posted on Instagram: #craftbeerproblems.

IMG_1391.jpgThe next project I decided to tackle is some finishing of our basement bathroom. It’s been a finished bathroom for over a decade, but for some reason there were a few things that I just never got done Namely, the drawers on the vanity never had handle put on them. Weird I know, but I decided to correct that today. I also decided to put up a new toilet paper hanger, that was more out-of-the-way than the old one I had there.

Finally, the biggest project I needed to tackle was putting down a board under the door jam to actually finish the threshold into the room. It’s one of those things that I should have done years ago, but decided today was the day to get it done. I picked up a nice piece of door jamb wood, cut it to size, and put on a couple quick coats of stain and poly. After drying for a few hours it was ready to go on.

I didn’t want to drill holes in it, so I decided on using an all purpose adhesive to secure it to the floor. As I tried to move it into place I realized that it was just a bit too tight. Since I couldn’t find my hand planer I headed back to the miter saw to shave off just a few millimeters. I squeezed out some glue and tapped it all into place. It fits exactly like I wanted, which is amazing for my first time doing a piece like this. I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and it makes the downstairs bathroom look just a bit more inviting.

Little by little, taking care of all the small things that need to get done.

IMG_1398.JPG

Bluff Tuff Trail Half Marathon

Ever since deciding to focus the rest of my year on smaller races, I have registered for a couple that I’ve never done before. The first on the list is a race that is run over at Battle Creek Park in Saint Paul, called the Bluff Tuff Trail Half Marathon. It’s a part of the Urban Trail series put on by Endurance United, an organization that seeks to get people active in endurance events. They have a large focus on cross country skiing, but they also put on some trail races.

In previous years this even was known as the Twin Cities Urban Trail Marathon, as it wound through the park, as well as along various paths on the Mississippi riverside. Because of the difficulty in putting on such a big event, they chose this year to focus on just the half distance. To add some excitement to the mix, a month before the race, they were informed that some of the paths that they wanted to use near the river would be closed. This meant that instead of a point-to-point race, ending at Flat Earth Brewery, they needed to confine all 13 miles inside the park.

This was my first time running at Battle Creek, so I had no idea what to expect. What I found is that there was no trouble at all finding all kinds of trails and singletrack in which to put on a long race. However, it required a lot of noodling around, and it appears that some of the course marshals had to alter signage as the race went on to accommodate getting people going in the right direction. I didn’t mind the course at all, as it combined a lot of really cool elements, and despite the compact nature of the park, I never felt like I was just running back and forth or in circles.

The weather today called for rain, and there was even a slight chance that the race could get cancelled for severe storms. Thankfully, all we ended up with were some mild showers. Partway through the race the sun even poked through the clouds for a few brief moments. I wore a long sleeve shirt, and most of the time I didn’t regret it. When the sun peeked out I started feeling like I wish I had short sleeves, but I managed to just pull up my sleeves a bit more to cool down.

We launched at 9:15am, and I settled into a nice easy pace as we entered some double-wide grassy areas. My training has been very minimal this year, and so I knew I needed to just take it easy and enjoy the day. I’ve had five runs this year over 12 miles, and 4 of those were races. Today was going to be a bit of a challenge for my physically, but I feel like I still have a lot of mental fortitude from the past few years of achievements.

As we wound around Battle Creek, I was struck by just how beautiful this park is. I grew up in east Saint Paul, but we usually spent our time up by Lake Phalen. I rarely had reason to come down to Battle Creek. What I discovered today was an amazing set of trails that I’m going to have to spend more time visiting. The amazing thing about this park is that it’s just a couple miles outside of Downtown Saint Paul. In the selfie below you can see the outline of part of Downtown over my shoulder. The picture makes it look further away, but you could easily run there from this park. It’s amazing to have this so close to an urban core.

IMG_1379.jpg

As the race wore on my body started to feel more aches and pains that I normally do. This park, and this course, includes a LOT of elevation for a city park. When all was said and done I got almost 1300 ft of elevation change over the course of the 12 miles (more on that in a bit). To compare, this is just a few hundred feet less than places like Afton and Zumbro. It’s awesome to know that I don’t need to travel all the way out to Afton for some hill training if I don’t want to.

Once I had completed a particularly rugged section of singletrack around mile 9, I found myself on some pavement for a bit. It wasn’t very long, and frankly, just getting to run on flat ground for a half mile was a nice change of pace. Soon though we were right back at it, with an amazing climb up some switchbacks to get back on top of the bluff. By this point in the race my hamstrings were killing me, but I knew I didn’t have too much further to go.

IMG_1378.jpgThe distance was a bit of a confusing factor to the race. The mile markers, and the maps, showed a solid 13.1 distance. However, as the race wore on, my watch and the mile markers started drifting. By the end, I was a full mile behind where the markers said I should be. I took a look at a half dozen other Strava users who ran the race and every single person finished around 11.5-12.2 miles. What this tells me is that the original measurement of the course was probably off (perhaps old GPS?). I know for many of the road runners in the race, that might have been a big deal. As a trail runner, I really didn’t care. As long as I get a fun course, that’s somewhere in the ballpark of what I want to run (distance-wise), I’m cool.

Once I got on top of the hill, I managed to get a bit more running in, but I knew I was reaching the limit of what my training had prepared me for. I noodled around the upper section, following the flags, and saw the finish line in the distance. We had to round a small pond before we finished, and (at that point) it felt like the biggest pond in existence. As I approached the finish line I heard the Race Director Andrew announce, “The beer garden will be closing soon! Last call for beer!” You bet I ran like hell at that point. I rounded the finish line (2:50 finish) and made a beeline for tent.

As I stood in the garden, drinking my beer and waiting for my wife to finish, I felt my calves start to protest. I took every opportunity that I could to stretch the out, because they were just about ready to cramp up hard. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long for her to round the corner. I finished my beer, had a brief chat with RD Andrew and we headed out to get on with our day.

I’m so glad that I’ve decided to scale back my running this year. This race was tough, and a challenge, but I had a ton of fun, and I enjoyed myself. Sure it wasn’t an ultra distance on the north shore, but it was a beautiful urban course, with a lot of great hills and trails. Having fun with this is what matters the most, and I’m happy to say that getting to run this amazing race in the city where I grew up was awesome. Tonight, I’m very sore, but happy and fulfilled. This was a great race in a great place, and I’m thankful I decided to give it a shot.