The search for a rain/wind shell

Something that I’ve been on the hunt for, for many years is a ultralight rain and wind shell to run with. The go-to jacket for this has always been the Patagonia Houdini. This ultra lightweight jacket stuffs into its own pocket for easy storage and portability. I’ve always meant to pick one up, and have done some clearance rack browsing, but just have never pulled the trigger.

This morning I went for a great 10 mile run with my buddy Mike B. around the chain of lakes in Minneapolis. Despite being Spring, and nice warm afternoons, this morning was downright cold. The air temp was around 30F, and there was a strong, brutal wind out of the north. This wasn’t a nice summer wind, this was an arctic blast of frigid air that sucked away any warmth that the sun might be providing.

I decided to wear my go-to, cheap, sweat jacket because I knew I needed something to block some of the wind. However, that jacket is heavy, and overkill for the type of temps I was dealing with today. What I really needed was a nice shell, like the Houdini. That has me doing a bit of window shopping today to see what’s out there. Since the introduction of the Houdini, many other manufactures have started to release their own versions of this classic shell. One of my favorite brands, Kühl has the Parajax, and Smartwool has their PhD Ultralight. Outdoor Research’s Helium II is another strong contender.

That brings me to my question… blog audience… what have you used and what do you like? With so many choices out there right now, I feel like this is a good time to pull the trigger and pick something up, and I’d like to get reactions from folks on what has worked well for them. Share your thoughts! Ready, set, GO!

A weekend in Chicago

This past weekend I got to take a trip with my youngest son to the Windy City. This was the first time he and I have done a vacation together, and with kids getting older, who knows how may more trips will be in our future. When I asked him where he wanted to go for Spring Break he chose Chicago, and so I booked a trip for the weekend.

We headed out early Friday, with our primary goal being to get to the first stop of the trip, Galloping Ghost arcade. This is a video game arcade that he heard about online, that is filled with hundreds of retro video game cabinets. The drive down was uneventful, and we arrived around 2pm. Just as promised, the arcade delivered with huge doses of nostalgia. On the drive down I was telling my son about a particular game that I remember playing in the 80’s. All I could remember about the name was that it had ‘xeno’ in it somewhere. It was a side scrolling alien shooting game, and was unique because three people could play simultaneously on three slices of the screen. I remembered playing the game a bunch as a kid, but never saw it, or heard about it, after that.

img_4204We walked into Galloping Ghost and bought our all-day pass (games are free to play after you pay the entry fee). Within walking 10 feet, my son says, “Is that the game you were talking about?” Sure enough, there is was: Xenophobe. We walked over and played a few rounds, and sure enough, it was just like I remember it. The rest of the visit passed in a haze of pixelated nostalgia. This arcade was huge, and in the few hours that we spent there we only scratched the surface of everything we could play. Soon enough though it was time to go get dinner and get checked in to our hotel.

We hit a ramen place in LaGrange and then drove into the heart of the city to stay at the Congress Hotel, right by Grant Park. The hotel was old and historic, and had an amazing view of the park and the lake. We kicked around the hotel for the night and relaxed after a long day of travel. The next morning I got up early to get in a short run, witnessing an amazing sunrise over the lake. After 5 miles I headed back up to the hotel room to get cleaned up and figure out the plan for the day.

img_4208We decided to walk over to Millennium Park for a bit and then head to the Field Museum. There’s lots of museums on the shore, but it costs a lot of money to do them all, so we picked one. The field museum ended up being a ton of fun, and my boy actually really enjoyed himself, seeing all the cool exhibits. We capped off the morning with late lunch at Lou Malnati’s to introduce him to Chicago style deep dish pizza. I hit a taproom for a quick drink and then we headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit.

IMG_4235.jpgLater that evening I would be participating in the Ten Junk Miles podcast, but we still had some time to kill. So after a bit of Pokemon Go playing during the Community Day event, we hit up a candy store, and then picked out a souvenir to bring home from a local tourist shop. I then headed out with my friends to do dinner and the podcast, and it turned into a really late night, not crawling into bed until after 11. Originally, I had planned a long Sunday run with Scott Kummer, but I spent the night fitfully sleeping with a stomach full of too much greasy pizza and beer. After waking up yet again at 4am I decided to bail on the run and just relax for the morning.

DSC09199.jpgOur plan for Sunday was to hit the Museum of Science and Industry before heading out of town. This is a great museum, and has one of my favorite train displays of anywhere I’ve been. We spent a couple hours there, taking in the sights, and then grabbed some lunch for the start of our journey back. We had decided to break the trip home up a bit, by first stopping in Madison, WI to hit up another game arcade. Geeks Mania was nowhere near the size of Galloping Ghost, but it had a few things that Galloping Ghost didn’t have. It also had some pinball machines, so I got to play a bit of that instead of just video games. Overall, the video game nostalgia was pretty awesome this weekend, and I can see a few more trips like this in my future.

DSC09205.jpgAfter this we headed up to Eau Claire for one more night in a hotel. We decided to stop early since we weren’t in a rush, and it meant that we didn’t need to do the final couple of hours in the dark. Since we were on vacation I wanted it to feel like it, and so one more night in a hotel bed seemed just fine. We took it easy and I got to watch some Food Network, before hitting the sack. The final push home was nice and easy, and now we have all day to clean up and get ready for the rest of the week.

DSC09185.jpgThis trip ended up being an amazing experience, as it allowed my son and I to connect and hang out with each other on an adult level. It was the first vacation we had done like this, and it ended up being really fun for both of us. Since my son is still figuring out what it is he likes/doesn’t like in a vacation, this was a great way for me to help him discover that. We kept our schedule pretty open and only had a few things penciled in throughout the entire weekend. It allowed us to shift plans and change direction quickly, which helped make the entire trip a lot more fun.

As a parent it’s fun to spend time with your adult-ish kids, and get to know the people they’re becoming. I’m hoping for other opportunities like this in the future, but despite that, this weekend is a fond memory that I’ll cherish for a long time.

Race Report: Sandlot Minor League Half Marathon

A year ago a bunch of my friends decided to do something crazy… run a marathon around a baseball diamond. This breaks down to 384 times around the bases, which is the number of home runs that baseball player Harold Baines hit during his career. The entire event was just for fun, and because of an injury a couple days before, I decided to just go and hang out with folks.

Fast forward to 2019, and this is now a full fledged event. My friends put together a race directing team and turned their little idea into a big happening. This year 35 people signed up to run 26.2 miles in a small circle. Thankfully, they offered some smaller options for folks like myself who just weren’t ready to commit to that level of crazy, and so I signed up for the half marathon, only 192 times around the diamond. As an added bonus, I would get to do this on my birthday!

lrg_dsc09178Even though my race didn’t start until 12:15, I showed up nice and early to hear my wife sing the national anthem and watch the craziness happening on the other other two fields. The entire event was an awesome, baseball themed party, complete with a 7th inning stretch where everyone had to stop for hot dogs. They gave out baseballs as the medal, and everyone got a commemorative baseball card for participating. The event garnered a bunch of attention that even a local news show came out to put together a feature on it.

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PC: Fresh Tracks Media

I hung out with friends and tried to relax, but eventually 12:15 hit and it was time to start my journey. I started out with the pack, probably going just a little too fast, before easing into a nice steady pace. Rounding the bases didn’t seem too bad at first. I was able to chat with people and distract myself pretty regularly throughout the race. However, the real story of the day was the condition of the field. Our massive snowfalls had yet to melt, and so the path that had been cleared on the baselines was covered with water that had no where to go. Within 10 laps my feet were soaking wet.

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PC: Fresh Tracks Media

Some of us tried to find ways around the puddles, and the grounds crew attempted to fix some problem areas, but when all was said and done… it was just going to be sloppy and wet. I moved as best as I could in the conditions, but towards the end I could tell that my legs were feeling very done with this constant turning to the left. Around the 10 mile mark I decided to walk a few laps and drink a beer while I did. This was one of my highlights as I got to enjoy some moving time, and a tasty beverage, in my own personal 7th inning stretch.

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PC: Fresh Tracks Media

I lost track of my laps pretty quickly, and my GPS watch was destined to be dramatically off. These watches just aren’t meant to record data that precisely when your track is in the same place over and over again. Additionally, we were cutting the inside of the baseline pretty tight, to avoid puddles, and over 192 times around, this will heavily skew where the GPS thinks you are. Needless to say, I had no idea how close I was to finishing, until my friend Troy, who was helping keep track of laps, informed me that I had 20 laps to go.

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 3.58.32 PMI started counting them down, and when I hit 10 I breathed a sigh of release. After 192 laps I crossed the lap counter and was told I was done. My watch only registered 12 miles, but I didn’t care. I hobbled over to the main aid station and grabbed another beer to chug in celebration. My wife arrived and kindly brought me some dry shoes to put on. Shortly after, the entire event wrapped up and we all headed home.

In the following days I have discovered that I did injure my gastroc muscle in my right calf. There’s a tremendously tender spot, and running and walking has been a challenge. I’m spending a lot of time stretching and rolling it out, and it’s getting better, but it certainly shows the dangers of doing a crazy event like this.

Despite the lingering issues, I am happy I gave this an attempt this year. I had a great time with all my friends, and I know it’s an experience that I’ll never forget. However, next year, I think I’ll just volunteer!

 

Responding to tragedy as a non-theist

Back when I considered myself a Christian, I never had much difficulty in finding a way to respond to tragic events, or evil in the world. There were multitudes of theological formulae that could help bring comfort to a situation that felt hopeless. We would talk of how no matter how bleak things looked, Jesus was still Lord. We would declare that despite human evil and sin, God was there to bring peace. Our God gave us strength to triumph over our adversity and look with anticipation towards a new day.

Now that I no longer consider myself someone who believes in a deity, those old comforts ring hollow. In light of tragedies, such as the mass shooting in New Zealand, non-theists like myself need to find answers that don’t come from the concept of a spiritual being, or a divine creator. We need to discover how we can best respond to tragedy that aligns with our worldview, where humans alone are responsible for their actions, and the promise of an afterlife doesn’t exist.

Despite the fact that we don’t believe in a divine presence, we still need a framework by which to engage with the world. The word ‘theology’ comes from the Greek word theos meaning god, and the notion of logia which denotes a study or knowledge of a thing. In modern times the idea of theology has been generally equated to the study of the Christian God, though by definition it can apply to other theistic or spiritual faiths as well. When we talk about theology, we ask questions about how human existence and the spiritual interconnect in the world. Theology is only relevant in terms of how it affects the life of human beings.

As a non-theist, can we have a theology? Undoubtedly yes! If we break apart the word theology again, we then can ask the question, what is the theos that a non-theist is talking about? If a person does not believe in a deity, the concept of non-belief becomes the theos of theology! To a non-theist, the lack of a divine presence is the building block upon which we study and know things in our life. The theos in ‘theology’, for a non-theist, is the foundation of how we approach life. It’s the basis for how we answer the tough questions about how we should live and exist in the world with other human beings.

The theology of non-theism is a belief that we only have one life to live, and therefore how we act and treat others has a direct impact on how each and every one of the hours that we have left, is spent.  If we treat people badly, and without love, then our lives will be lesser for it. Whereas if we approach the world with compassion, grace, love, and respect, our own lives will be enriched and more full. Creating, loving, sacrificing… these are all acts that bring life to it’s fullest, not just or us, but for those around us. If we only have one life to live, why shouldn’t it be as full as it can be?

So, how does this influence how we respond to tragedy? If we can’t bring comfort in the hope of an afterlife, how do we wrestle with the hatred and death that surrounds us? We bring hope through the understanding that every action that we do has an impact in the hear and now, and that fact is of utmost importance. By showing love and compassion to those who need it most, we’re improving not just their life, but the entire human condition as well. Every act of sacrifice that we perform enriches our understanding of what it means to be human. We learn and grow as we show love to others, and this growth helps bring our society together. Just because we don’t have the promise of a life hereafter, does not mean that the non-theist cannot bring love into another’s life.

When events such as racially charged mass shootings happen, the response of the non-theist should be one of anger, sorrow and grief, but also of hope. Hope that when evil is brought out into the light that it is shown for what it truly is, and that its lies and ugliness becomes a repugnant smell to everyone around it. Hope that those who suffer can be given comfort and care by people who can show them love. Hope that anger and pain can be turned into positive actions that make a difference in the lives of those who will come after us. We do good in the world, for the sake of the world.

The late Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better, when we all do better.” This is the theology of the non-theist (and many theists!). A theology of hope and compassion towards everyone around you, seeking to make the world the best it can be in the time that we have.

A snowshoe adventure

This February, Minnesota decided to show us what a good old snowmageddon feels like. With over 30 inches of snow in the month it became the snowiest February on record, and one of the snowiest months ever. All of this meant that people like myself who love playing outside in the winter have a magical playground waiting for them. In particular, this year was amazing for getting out the snowshoes.

There was one problem though… I didn’t own any. I hemmed and haw’d for weeks deciding what to buy until finally a couple of weeks ago I pulled the trigger on some clearance Redfeather Hike shoes from REI Outlet. The price was right, and as luck would have it, we had one more snow storm on track for the weekend after they were arriving. I would get at least one shot at using them before we turn into a wet mess.

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This past weekend my buddy Mike B. and I headed out to the Elm Creek Singletrack to snowshoe for a while. The snow had just stopped on Sunday morning and so we were the absolute first people on the trail. We headed out and I got used to the different movement that you need to make when wearing snowshoes. It’s a lot of quad work when lifting your legs higher, and made the entire morning feel like a slight hill workout.

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I need to work on my look. Mike looks way cooler than me!

We were breaking trail the whole way, but the shoes made it easy to stay on top of. We managed to cut a decent path that the bike groomers could use as a base later in the day. Our biggest issue was all of the low hanging branches that were collapsing under the weight of the snow. We had to stop far more often than we would have liked to shake snow off the trees, so that they would no longer bend down and block our path.

img_4166Despite this, the morning was amazingly beautiful. The sky was incredibly blue, and the temps were in the upper 20’s. We only had to wear light layers to stay comfortable, and at times I was even taking off my hat. In the end we did 7 miles in about 3 hours of hiking. My Strava showed that I got a decent workout through it all and I certainly felt the burn when I got done.

img_4167The one issue was that I was wearing my new Vasque Arrowhead boots, and it turns out that they are just a bit too big for me. I will most likely need to wear multiple layers of socks when wearing them in the future. However, I ended up with two very severe blisters on the back of my ankles where my foot was loose.

img_4169When snowshoeing your foot moves up and down a lot, and that meant that my ankles were constantly rubbing. About half-way into the hike I noticed the problem, but I had nothing with me to fix the problem, so I had to just soldier through and get back to the car. Two days later and I’m still in intense pain when they get rubbed. It’s time for some aloe treatments tonight to try and speed up healing.

Despite this issue, I absolutely loved snowshoeing. It was some of the most fun I’ve had out on the trails in a long time. I got to spend time with a good friend, on a beautiful morning, doing something amazing. You can’t ask for much more.

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