A good running month

I’ve been trying to get back to 50K running form for over a year now. After my 50 mile race in 2016, everything has been a struggle. I DNF’d at the Superior 50K and didn’t bother even trying a second loop of the Surf the Murph 50K in 2016. Then, 2017 found me trying once again to ramp things up and just not having the mental or physical fortitude to make progress.

Now that we’ve entered 2018 I started to feel like my mind was getting back to where it needed to be. Despite getting a late start I am aiming for getting my training back in order to tackle at least one 50K this year. January was hit/miss because of illness, which led to it’s own frustration. However, February has been a nice solid ramp up. I ended January with a 26 mile week, and then backed down to 15 before climbing back to 18, 25, and 39.5 this past week. For the first time in a long time, I completed the mileage on the training plans that I use from Relentless Forward Progress.

The best part is that I’m actually feeling good, both physically and mentally. My head is in the right place, and I’m enjoying running again. This past week I went out for a 10 mile run on Monday and found myself at mile 8 before I really even thought about it. Perhaps it’s helped by the slow progress toward Spring with it’s warming temps and brighter skies, but I feel like I’ve turned a corner. There’s nothing like that feeling when you get your groove back again (hopefully for quite a while).

With my run scheduled for tomorrow I should top 100 miles for the month, which I haven’t done in a long time. It feels good to be back to a place that I was proud to be at before. Granted, I’m not nearly as fast as I used to be, and I still want to lose 20 lbs, but I’m making progress. Sometimes all we need is a bit of a break to reset things and learn to love running again. It’s hard to go through, but it’s fun to recover on the other side.

Blue Wolf Brewing

The nearby suburb of Brooklyn Park has gotten its first brewery, Blue Wolf Brewing. Their grand opening was Thursday, so I decided to swing by and check them out. After having a hard time locating their building (behind Broadway Pizza), I went in to see what was up. That’s when I discovered that opening day is the wrong time to visit. The place was so packed and crowded that I turned around and left.

The good news is that I had time tonight (Friday) to try again. The wife and I ordered up some take-out from Broadway Pizza and headed over. Sure enough the crowds had toned down quite a bit and we were able to get a seat with ease. One of the first things that’s unique about Blue Wolf is that they have servers who wander around to take your order. I’ve seen this in only a couple places, and in general I’m not a fan. I don’t like having to wait for someone to take my order to get my beer, however the bar area at Blue Wolf is small enough that I can see why they don’t want big lines at the bar.

Our server was pretty cool and easy to like, so it wasn’t that big a deal to have him wait on us. He got us the beer menu, which right no consists of three beers. They’ve decided to start small, before expanding to 6-8 beers in the future. This is a good plan for any new brewery. I’ve been to so many breweries lately that are tremendously mediocre when they open that I love it when I can have some beer that doesn’t suck.

I ordered up a flight of three beers; an IPA, a Rye Ale, and an “American Bitter”. The American Bitter was the first one up, and frankly I found it a bit weird. It was a cross between a British bitter and an American pale ale. It was tasty, but I’ll be honest, my taste buds weren’t sure what to make of it. There was an English maltiness to it, along with some earthy hop character, but it wasn’t very strong. It mingled with the American malts and mellow hops to create something that is certainly unique. But, as I said, it was still quite tasty.

The next beer I had was the Rye. This beer was very well done, and I really liked the smooth finish alongside the nice rye bite. It was very drinkable, and a solidly made beer. Finally, there was the IPA. Of all three, this one was my least favorite. It had an earthy hop quality, and was mostly balanced with the malt, but I felt like it needed some kind of brightness to perk up the flavor. Something fresh and piney as a dry hop would have perked up the nose on this beer and helped to make it feel nice and fresh. Despite this complaint, the beer didn’t have flaws, and was still quite drinkable.

Once I finished these three I noticed a sign that they were also doing Radlers. I assume that with the lack of beer options, putting in some Radlers was a way to expand their menu.  I ordered up their Rye beer with orange soda, and the two went together quite nicely. I could see this Rye beer going well with many different types of mix-ins as well.

The atmosphere at Blue Wolf was nice and quaint. It’s not the biggest tap room out there, but it didn’t feel too cramped. We were able to find a place to sit just fine, and we were able to have a conversation without shouting. Overall, a pleasant place to have a drink. I’m excited to have another brewery so close to home. It’s nice to have options that don’t involve having to drive down in to the city. Plus, it’s good to get more craft beer options out to where the majority of places serve Bud Light.

I’m hopeful that Blue Wolf can make a solid go of it and continue to develop their beer flavors into some amazing beers. They also seem to really have an interest in wolf populations, and they are supporting places like the International Wolf Center in Ely, that helps support and maintain wolf populations. It’s nice to see a place that takes a stand for something that they believe in. I’m certain that I’ll be back.

The new art

This past weekend, as I’ve mentioned, I headed down to Milwaukee with my son. The reason I went down there though was to get some new tattoos. My artist moved down there a couple years ago, and so the only time I can get art from him is when he’s doing a guest spot in town.

I had originally intended to get a new tattoo when my artist was going to be at the Minneapolis Tattoo Convention. However, I got sick that week and decided that having the flu in a room full of people with open wounds wasn’t a great idea. So I decided that instead of waiting for him to come back, I would head down to where he is, as a fun weekend trip. My wife was out of town last weekend as well, for work, so it ended up being perfect timing.

IMG_2280.jpgI decided that since I was traveling all that way that I should get two pieces instead of just one. We began the day with the first piece that I was intending to get at the convention, a nice Green Lantern symbol on my right, inner, forearm. It came out really good, and I loved that we decided to put a background on it. We debated it back and forth, but I’m liking where it turned out.

IMG_2281.jpgThe second piece I got was something I’ve been wanting for a long time, a tribute to Minnesota. My artist and I worked together on some ideas, and what he came up with was absolutely brilliant. It captures much of what makes Minnesota unique with it’s three distinct biomes. We’ve got a bison, and wind farm, in the southwest, all the way up to the lake in northeast. In between are different pine cones and leaves that make up the Minnesota landscape. The background is a rust red, to denote the mining industry that has shaped our state, especially in the northeast.

I’m incredibly happy with how these turned out, and it has given me ideas for some other pieces in the future.

Olympic “sports”?

On my Facebook feed I recently made a comment that I make every time the Winter Olympics come around; “How is ice dancing an Olympic sport?” Many people piped up about other sports such as synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics that also would fall into this category. Needless to say it provoked some discussion, and so I wanted to spend a bit more time in a long-form venue to explain what I meant by my comment.

To start, I want to be very clear that I am in no way diminishing the physical capability of these competitors. People who participate in these competitions are incredibly talented, and they work just as hard as any other athlete in any other sport at the top of their capabilities. I have a niece who is involved in dance, and I’m always seeing posts from my sister about the toll it takes on her body to be at the top of her game for competitions. I’m not physically capable of doing what these people do, and I never will be. They work very hard to achieve success.

My issue is with the definition of these events as “sport”. When I think of the Olympics I think of sport played at it’s highest level. These people are the fastest, strongest, most agile people on the face of the planet, and they have dedicated their lives to being the best that they can be. Every four years we put them in a contest to see who is truly the best in the world. We determine who is best through many different means, but in almost all cases, the defining factors are objective measurements of success.

For speed sports, the amount of time it takes to finish is the objective measurement. For sports of strength and agility there are measurable factors that determine if something was done successfully. Did the person lift the most weight? Did they complete the agility exercise completely? These objective factors are measurable, and they create the basis on which we can determine who is “the best”.

There are some events in the Olympics that contain a subset of subjective measures. Sports like snowboarding have a certain component of subjectivity, however, I feel that they still tilt towards the objective end of the spectrum. If someone is performing a complex snowboarding trick, they either complete the trick or they fail. The performance of a specific maneuver is the focal point of their attempt. The addition of any artistry or style simply pads their score, but their base completion of a task is still the most important factor.

Some events tread very close to this line between objectivity and subjectivity, and there could certainly be arguments made for some events that they are too subjective. But when you look at events like synchronized swimming, ice dancing, and rhythmic gymnastics, the bulk of what they are judged on is style. If you can’t make it look good, it doesn’t matter if you complete an element or not. The overarching goal is to impress the judges, and hope that they “liked” your performance better than the next competitor.

This subjectivity is why I don’t enjoy these events as a part of the Olympics. I 100% believe that these competitors in these events are amazing, incredible, athletes. They do amazing things that most us could never do. However, the structure of the event itself does not lend itself a competition where someone can be objectively crowned as “the best in the world”, which is, for me, what the Olympics are all about. These events are all visually enjoyable, but yet they feel out of place in a world where winners and losers can come down to thousands of a second, and the analysis of high speed photos to determine who got the tiny little edge across the line.

That’s my thinking today, and maybe that will change in the future. I firmly believe that there’s a place for these subjective events in the world, which are amazing and beautiful. I simply don’t think that place is in the Olympics.