Saturday, December 31, 2011

First run with the training group

This morning was the first run with the training group this year.  There was 7 of us that ran this morning, Erik, Connie, Ray, Laura, Cassie, Penny and myself. We met up at my place around 6:30 for the run.  Erin wasn't feeling well and decided to rest and not get anyone else sick. The 5 miles passed fairly quickly as we all caught up on what was going on in each others lives. There was 1 section in West Fargo where conditions were very peaceful.  The dim glow of the low hanging clouds illuminated the freshly fallen snow as we glided along. I'm excited to be running with a group again and hope some more people can make it next week when we run from Connie and Ray's house.

I also put in a solid swim workout today in the pool going just a hair over a mile in about 50 minutes.  I was feeling really drained after that and fell asleep almost immediately after showering when getting home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

The past month or so has been busier then usual for me.  I have been putting in some long hours completing a big project at work and going through the process of switching jobs which will happen at the end of the year. My goal was to not get away from running completely like I did the previous year, but it seems it's happened anyway. I've been struggling to get back into my weekly training routine for about a week and a half now and even though it's not going smoothly I am making progress.  I'm a little frustrated when I go out for a run because I feel like I should be able to do more then what I can, but I try to remind myself I should be thankful I haven't lost more then I have.

This year I'll be organizing a training group for the Fargo Marathon. I'm a little nervous about organizing things, but I think with the group of friends I've got the group will run smoothly. The group will be starting earlier then the past few years because of the more social nature of the group and the fact that we have so many people who have run marathons before and are used to tweaking the training schedule to meet their goals. I'm really looking forward to training in a larger group again.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011 Surf The Murph 50k

I've been targeting Surf the Murph as my end of the year race for a while.  Initially I was going to attempt the 50 miler, but based on how the summer had gone I adjusted my goal and decided that the 50k would be a smarter choice for me. Surf the Murph is a little unusual in that because the farthest distance is 50 miles, the other races they offer are a little off in their distances. The 50 mile course is 3 loops, the 50k course is 2 loops and the 25k course is 1 loop.  This means the 50k course is long by about 2.5 miles.  I mentioned the race to a couple of running friends, Maggie and Heather.  Maggie, the seasoned ultra runner was very interested in going down for the event.  Heather's interest surprised me a little. It was a bit out of her comfort zone, but I think that was the appeal of the event to her. Maggie wound up signing up to do the 50 miler along with another local ultra runner Tim. Heather and I both signed up for the 50k. Erin and Cory came along to crew for us, and as an added bonus, Rick came down to the cities for the weekend with one of his daughters.

The week before the race wasn't quite what I was hoping for.  I had planned on running some short hard runs to finish my taper and prepare for the race. Instead, I was sick with a cold and not getting much sleep, let alone doing any running at all.

The day before the race, Erin and I picked up Heather after work and drove down to the cities.  On the way down we stopped in Freeport at Charlie's CafĂ© for supper.  By the time we made it to the hotel it was around 9:00 and after checking in we headed to bed straight away.

The next morning we got up, got dressed and drove to the park.  It was a bit on the cold side with a very clear sky.  We picked up our packets and then met up with Maggie, Tim and Cory.  Maggie and Tim started an hour before Heather and I.  Heather and I had lots of time so we just talked with Tim and Maggie has they were getting ready.  I wandered off to use the bathroom and ran across Rick and brought him over to the group. Eventually we made our way to the starting area and watched Tim and Maggie set off into the dark.  As they ran off, we could see the headlamps bob through the trees for a short while before the forest swallowed them completely.

Heather and I then took some time to get our gear rounded up. It wasn't long before we were standing around listening to our final announcements before heading off.  Just before the race director started to give her talk I overheard her on her cell phone saying something about #8.  I thought this was an odd coincidence because I noticed Maggie's bib number was 8, but didn't think much more about this at the time. The race director described the course and how it was marked before we all lined up and took off. Heather and I started near the back of the pack, the advantage to this was being able to see the line of runners ahead of us with their headlamps on and have some idea of what was coming.  It didn't take too long before she was a good bit ahead of me I and I was in a group of 4 at the very back of the pack.

My pack of 4 stayed loosely together for the first couple of miles.  There were a couple of girls who had come to the race together dressed in mother nature costumes, another lady in white and myself. I would gain ground on the downhill, but lose some on the uphill. After around a half an hour the sun was coming up and the headlamps weren't doing much good anymore.  Around this time the pair of ladies in the mother nature costumes decided to go their separate ways with one of them picking up the pace.  The other paired up with the lady in white. Even though my average pace was basically the same as the 2 ladies, I didn't get much of a chance to talk with them because they kept a much more consistent pace.

Near mile 3 was the first aid station along the course.  When I arrived I looked over the spread of food they had and was relived at how good everything looked.  My initial plan was to carry most of my own calories, but after seeing what they had I quickly changed the plan to use the calories I was carrying as emergency rations and to do my fueling at the aid stations.  At the first stop I had part of a PB&J sandwich, some sort of chewy candy, some coke, and a couple of endurolytes.

The 2 ladies that had paired up beat me into the aid station, but as I left they were still chatting with the volunteers. I didn't feel rushed, but it was nice to have gained a little time through the aid station. I hadn't thought too much about the terrain up until that point because it was dark out, but now with the growing light I could see just how much up and down there would be on the course and I knew that it was more then I had planned on. The lead I had out of the aid station didn't last for long before the 2 ladies passed me again and I was once again at the back of the pack.  Normally this bothers me a little and I try to push myself harder so I'm not last, however today it didn't.  I had prepared to be out on the course for a long time and knew I had to pace correctly or I wouldn't finish. I took this opportunity to look around and enjoy just how beautiful this course was, before stumbling on a tree root.

After  more hills then I would have liked, I was making my way into the second aid station.  My feet were a bit banged up from kicking rocks and sticks along the trail, but although I stumbled I had not fallen. As I went into the second aid station, I saw the 2 ladies I had been following still there.  It was nice to see I wasn't terribly far behind.  I had some more coke, heed,  endurolytes, another chunk of PB&J and then I made the discovery that they had peeps and a smile crept across my face.  After putting down 5 or 6 of the pumpkin peeps I headed out again to the trail and again I had a lead on the 2 ladies who lingered just a bit longer at the aid station.

Again my lead didn't last for long, but since the course had flattened out I had more of an opportunity to talk to them as they passed.  Once mentioned that she had run the Fargo marathon and we talked a little about Trail Mix. Eventually we found a hill and I dropped back far enough that conversation was impossible. Despite falling back a little I was picking up the pace a little on this flat section.  There was a lake on the right of the trail and I thought I could make out people running on the other side of it. I figured the trail went around the perimeter of the lake and because of this was probably flat and I was right. I made a mental note to make up time in this section when I came back around for the second lap of the course.

After the lake there were a few more hills, but nothing like the first section of the course.  Before long I was rolling into the third rest area and again found the 2 ladies that I has been going back and forth with.  At this stop I finished off my Poweraid and had my bottle filled with heed.  I also had some more peeps, another bit of PB&J and some fun size snickers. As I looked up to head out I couldn't figure out what trail to take, none of them were marked for the race.  I asked a volunteer and that's when they pointed me to a small opening in the trees with an orange flag.  I came up with some comment about them being sadistic, but by then I had already set off and the comment never made it past my lips. The 'trail' we were on was barely wide enough for 1 person and had a few logs that needed to be either climbed over or under.  In reality this was fun, but a bit more demanding then what I was expecting from the first part of the course.  This section didn't last for very long and then I was out on the open trail again.  I began to think about what was coming, the race director had talked about a section of the course called 'smurf village' and I was getting excited for it. From the last aid station it should be about 2 miles. These next 2 miles passed slowly for me.  I had made it out of the aid station before the 2 ladies and I was expecting them to catch up again, but this time they didn't.  Instead the 25k runners started to overtake me.

Shortly after the leaders of the 25k race had gone by, I entered a section of the course that seemed like it was a field of tall reeds that had been pushed over.  The ground was dry but very spongy and it seemed like I was going against the grain of the reeds that had been knocked down. I decided that I would walk this section because the ground felt a bit unstable and I didn't want to jab myself with the reeds like I did a few weeks prior with some buck brush. This was probably my least favorite section of the course. After navigating the field the course returned to a normal trail for a bit before I finally arrived at smurf village.

Smurf Village was some very narrow single track game trails populated by homemade signs with smurfs on them. What was really neat about running through this area was how little of a trail there actually was.  I would run to the next flag and then have to look around to find out where the next flag was. It was a little like a treasure hunt. Near the end of the 'village' was a good sized hill with a sign that said something to the effect of "papa smurf says stop slacking". I guarantee no one was running up that hill.

Once I made it past smurf village I was on the normal park trails again for a bit until reaching the last aid station, which was just the back of the second aid station.  I grabbed some food and started eating and then I spotted some barbecue potato chips. I finished off half a bowl of the chips before setting out again. They were some of the best chips I have ever tasted.

The hilliest part of the course seemed to be the section from the last aid station to the finish. I could feel myself getting tired and was looking forward to starting the second loop of the course. I knew the 'fun zone' was near the end of the course and kept waiting to get to that.  I was starting to feel a little out of it, like my head was cloudy, or underwater.  Somewhere around this point I thought I saw a polar bear, but it was just a stump.  I decided to take a 5 hour energy to see if it would help clear my head. When I reached the fun zone I found that it was properly named, it was fun but challenging. As I was traversing the run zone the 2 ladies I had left behind at the third aid station caught back up to me. Shortly after they passed me one of them went on ahead, so I stuck with the remaining one and chatted a bit. It was either the caffeine or the conversation that helped, but I felt a little more grounded in reality when I finally had to drop back a bit.  Just after we separated was the finish line area.  I had completed 1 loop! Rick and Erin were waiting for me. Erin filled my water bottle and got me some endurolytes while Rick helped me drop off some of my gear.  I told him about the odd feeling I was having and he suggested more electrolytes, so I took 2 more endurolytes and headed out for my second loop of the course.

After leaving the finishing area, I was a little surprised at myself.  What was I doing back out here? Oh, yeah... I signed up for the 50k.  I really should have signed up for the 25k, that would have been perfect. This didn't last too long before I remembered to look around and take a little time to enjoy what was happening.  The course was incredibly beautiful and I would have another shot at going through smurf village, now I just needed to get back to smurf village.  When I made it back to the first aid station they were serving 'lunch.' Either tomato soup or chicken noodle, and grilled cheese or hot ham and cheese. I had a couple of chunks of grilled cheese and wished to myself for a little mustard to go with them. I downed a couple of peeps for a little more sugar and took off again.  I was halfway through the hilly part at the start, I just needed to get to the next aid station and things would flatten out again.

 As I ran, I looked back on occasion to see if any of the faster people running the 50 miler would catch up.  Sure enough a little after the aid station a slim guy shot past me.  I was a little amazed that this guy would finish 50 miles in less time then I could do a 50k.  After that, I had some time to myself before I noticed a couple of people up ahead of me.  Not to disparage myself, but if I was catching up to someone on this day they were having problems.  When I pulled along side of them I chatted a bit, the guy wasn't very talkative, but the lady was.  It turns out she was just out there to help the guy who was having an issue with his knee. By the way he was moving down the hills I thought his day was done.  He could make it to the next aid station, and even through the flat part of the course, but I didn't think he could physically make it through the hills at the end.  I was a little sad for him as I picked up the pace and we parted ways. From there to the next aid station seemed to drag on forever.  It seems that my familiarity with the course was starting to work against me.  I knew what was coming up, but didn't clearly remember how far away it was. In addition to getting really tired my stomach was starting to tell me that I needed to make a pit stop which didn't make running down hills any more fun.

Eventually I made it to the second aid station and the horse camp and spotted Erin heading towards me.  I checked in at the aid station, tossed my handheld water bottle to Erin for a refill and headed to the bathroom.  Peeling off my sweaty clothes wasn't the most fun, and when I took care of business it hurt.  I felt like someone had rung out my insides and squeezed out everything.  I just attributed this to my body trying to adapt to some severe demands and went back over to the aid station to get some food down.  I was fortunate in getting the last 2 endurolytes they had. Erin told me that they were going to watch for Heather coming into the aid station on the other side and then head to the finish area. 

I left the aid station and tried to focus on gaining ground.  This was the flat part of the course and I knew this is where I would get the last of my running done. At this time of the day there were a number of people out on the trail with horses which was a bit unsettling for me.  I didn't want to spook them as I passed them, but I also wasn't going to dawdle around at their pace either.  I tried to give them as much space as I could when passing and I needed to be a little more alert for fresh crap on the trail. As I ran around the lake again there were a number of 50 milers that were starting to catch up to me.  I focused on getting to the next aid station because I knew after that I would get to run through smurf village again. Again the aid station seemed like it was further off then what I remembered, this might have been due to my slower pace the second time around the course. When I finally made it to the aid station I grabbed some more food and endurolytes and took stock of how things were going.  I felt better then I thought I would at this point in the event and felt that I had made good time to this point, but I also thought about what was coming up and wasn't sure I would be able to give what it took to get it done.  I opted to keep going with my mental strategy of focusing on the next landmark on the course and not look too much at the Garmin for details on how far I had gone, or how fast I was moving.

Leaving the aid station I took the game trail again and this time had much more difficulty going over and under the trees on the course.  I started to focus on the section of the course with the knocked over reeds.  It was my least favorite section and in just a bit I would be done with it.  Again it was further off then I remembered and it felt like an eternity to get there.  As I traversed the field there were a number of the 50 milers who were passing me. They seemed a bit more supportive then the 25k runners who had passed me earlier in the day. I started to wonder about when Maggie and Tim would catch me and if I would make it to to smurf village again before I saw either of them.  It was nice having something like this to push me and I felt like I made good time here.

The second pass through smurf village was a bit disappointing. By now the trail was much more well worn and my familiarity with the course took away the exploring excitement I had the first time. Oh well, at least it was a mental boost getting there.  When I left smurf village I was feeling a bit dehydrated.  The temperature had peaked for the day and I was out in one of the areas of the course without much for trees.  I wished for a closer aid station to get more water, but that wasn't going to change things so I rationed out the water I did have with me.  At this time the Garmin started complaining about a low battery.  This focused my attention on it and I looked over my data. I was hoping I would have come further then what I had.  I started to focus more on the Garmin data then what was coming up and it felt like I was making no progress.  I really started to think about dropping out at this point.  Even though the course was long, dropping out at the aid station would leave me short of a 50k.  I was still weighing the options as the aid station came into sight.  I limped down the hill leading into the aid station and turned the corner and spotted Maggie. "What the hell are you doing here?!"  I found out that her day was over before I even started mine.  Around mile 3 she had stepped into a hole and sprained her ankle.  Erin grabbed for my bottle and I told her I needed water.  I asked Heather if she still had her Garmin on her but she didn't. After Erin filled my bottle she said she had her Garmin in the truck and would go and get it.  I grabbed some food and looked at how far off Erin was.  I told Maggie that if I didn't leave now I wouldn't finish the event and headed back out on my own.

As I turned the corner and the last aid station was out of sight I felt some mixed emotions. I wasn't sure if my crew had evaluated how I was doing objectively, and I wasn't sure I had what it would take to finish. Since I wasn't going to head backwards and return to the aid station my only option was to press forward even though I didn't really want to. I could still run for little bursts, but the bursts were getting shorter, and the walking time between then was growing larger and larger, not that this section of the course lent itself to running.  It felt like I was constantly going up hill and making little progress.  After a while, I noticed that it was starting to cool down which worried me.  If the temperature dropped too fast I would be in trouble. I didn't have any of my cold weather gear with me anymore, and I wasn't moving fast enough to generate enough heat to stay very warm. I started to focus more on the trail markers and making sure I didn't make a wrong turn.  If I did find myself in trouble I should be able to use my phone to call for help and if I was still on the course it should be easy enough to find me. Even walking up the hills was getting very difficult. Several times I would have to walk up partway and rest for a bit before continuing. Eventually my occasional bit of running stopped for good, and I knew it was walking from here on out. In retrospect I failed to consider that I was recovering while walking and I may have felt better after a long enough rest. Even though I felt I was mentally broken by the course at this point I did have a sense that things would go better next time... There will be a next time. Somehow I lumbered through the fun zone and eventually saw my crew waiting for me on the trail.  It was nice to see some friendly faces, but it definitely brought out some whining from me. As I walked and complained I expected to see the finish line come into sight. I was wrong. They had walked a bit further along the trail than they thought they did.  At least I had company to share the burden with. I heard a little bit about how Heather's day had gone and I was happy to hear she had fun. This made the whole trip worth while for me. Finally the finish line came into sight and I 'jogged' to the end at a pace just a bit slower then someone using a walker in a nursing home.

Just past the finish area there was a chair. Just a simple folding chair.  It was the most comfortable piece of furniture I've sat in. Erin was kind enough to take care of my finishers block of wood while I sat.  Our whole crew was there: Cory, Maggie, Tim, Rick and Becky, Heather and Erin. I was very happy to see all of them and touched that everyone waited around for me. I found out that Tim dropped out around mile 37, so Heather and I were the only 2 finishers from our group of 4. I was humbled by being fortunate enough to finish what I had set out to do. Eventually, I found my way over to the pizza and that made me feel a little bit better. After that, the only thing left to do was make our way to our vehicles and go our separate ways.

Heather, Erin and I made a stop by the hotel for some much needed showers before hitting up the cheesecake factory for supper.  It was delicious.  We got some cheesecake to go for dessert and went back to the hotel to hit up the hot tub.  We all got changed and went downstairs to the pool area, only to find the hot tub closed. A pump had gone out that morning and they were waiting for parts to come in before it could be fixed. We were disappointed, but found solace in the cheesecake waiting for us in our room.  The next day we checked out and went to the Origional Pancake house for breakfast.  It was fantastic as always.  We then spent a little time at REI shopping and stretching out legs before starting to head home.  When we got to the outlet mall we stopped again for some shopping and to stretch out our legs.  From there we went home to end this little adventure.  I'm hoping next year we can get a good crew together again for this event.  It's a well organized race on an incredible course.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 FM Half Marathon

The morning of the race I woke up with some lingering knee pain.  I don't normally take anything before a run, but since it was still early enough I took a couple of ibuprofen.  I had a little bit of time to kill so I watched TV until Erin got up and I decided that a trip to Hardees for breakfast sounded good.  Her friend Sabrina was staying with us, so we got ready and informed her about the change of plans. She was a good sport and just rolled with the change.  I had some cinnamon and raisin biscuits at Hardees and then we headed over to the civic center to meet up with Erik.

We arrived a little bit early and to wait a bit, but Erik was right on time.  After we meet up we went over to the start line to watch the 5k and 10k races start.  One of the unusual things about this event is how late the half marathon starts.  Most of the 5k participants were finished with their race before the half marathoners started.  The starting time was a common complaint among those I talked to.  As we waited to start we met up and chatted with several of our running buddies.  Eventually the time came to get started and we lined up.  I finally too Rick's advice and line up at the very back of the pack. Once the race started I made sure I was the very last person across the starting line.

My goal for the race was to treat it more like a tempo run then a race.  My focus right now is on the 50k at Surph the Murph three weeks from now.  Even though I started last I quickly caught up to Erin, Erik and Chris.  I guess I still have to work on my starting pacing even if I start dead last.  Once I caught them I slowed a bit and settled in at my warm up pace.  I figured I'd slowly bring my average pace down to something comfortable the first 8 miles and then start to push it, if I still felt good at 10 miles I'd push the pace a little harder.

The first few miles passed quickly.  I was moving up the field of runners and could constantly focus on picking off the next person ahead of me.  A couple of miles in I spotted a solder running with a couple of packs on. I tried to catch him, but he was holding about the same pace I was. I continued to follow him for a couple more miles until I was finally able to move past. I held my lead long enough that I had forgotten about him when he came up behind me and said I was keeping a good pace and he was trying to catch up to me.  We chatted briefly and then he sped off. On our way back North I passed him a second time and I knew that he wouldn't be catching me again.  I had started off the race a bit faster then what I'd planned, but it was still a conservative pace.  Now it was late enough in the race that I didn't need to hold back anymore.

After crossing the bridge back in to Fargo the course kept going North for a bit.  I ran past the finish line and though about how nice it would be if I were done already. I continued on into oak grove where I heard Judy, my former piano teacher, shout my name.  She had already passed the turn around and was on her way back.  I felt like I had more to give and tried to gain ground on her. With around a mile left I passed Erin on her way out.  She told me that Judy was just ahead.  I continued to push hard and after turning a corner spotted Judy just ahead.  When I caught her she remarked about how quickly I had made up the distance since she spotted me.  She encouraged me to finish strong and I did. My finishing time was 2:15:25.  As I crossed the finish line Heather spotted my and came over to talk.  We chatted for a while before I went in to get my medal and some chocolate milk.  After I came back out we waited together for Erin to finish.  Erin's goal was under 2:30 which she was able to achieve by about 30 seconds. After the race, Heather, Erik, Sabrina, Erin and I headed over to Rhombus Guys pizza on main.  It was a great end to a good race.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Catching up on the past few weeks

The past few weeks I've been a bit lazy.  I've neglected my training and my blogging.  Here's what's been going on.

The day after the Bismarck marathon and my late night run with Connie, Erin flew down to Memphis to visit her sister and meet our niece.  I stayed in Fargo and did my best to stick to a normal schedule.  I had been focusing on eating better and that did manage to last a few days after Erin left.  That Thursday I got up crazy early and did a 17 miler before work.  I was hoping for 20, but started a bit late and I didn't really have much in the tank near the end of the run so I opted to end it early.

A few days later I was out in Park Rapids for the headwaters 100.  I wanted to get a century bike ride in this year and I had a blast doing this event the previous year. I hadn't thought too much about the event until the night before, normally I do a better job mentally preparing myself for these things.  I decided to pack up the truck the morning of the event and forgot to pack my biking shoes. Not a deal breaker, but not what I was hoping for either.  I also felt a little off that morning, like I was starting to come down with something or had allergies starting to act up.  When I started the ride it was a bit cold out, not unlike the previous year.  I had forgotten to pack gloves to ride in, but lucked out when I dug through my gym bag and found a pair.  I started off the ride along, but eventually picked up 2 couples from the cities who were attempting their first century ride.  They were a bit faster then I was but I decided to keep pace with them so I had someone to chat with.  As we rode up towards Itasca I was getting hungry.  Skipping breakfast was another bad choice I had made that morning.  I could have stopped and grabbed something from my pack, but I decided that I was close enough to the first rest area that I would just wait.  Eventually we made it to Itasca and the first rest area.  I had some hot chocolate and about half a dozen cookies.  I don't know where they get these cookies from, but they were as delicious as the previous year.

After the rest stop the group I had picked up encouraged me to continue riding with them, so I did my best to keep up with them.  The next part of the ride loops around Itasca and was significantly hillier.  I wasn't able to keep up for long.  Without my bike shoes I didn't have much power going up hills and would fall further behind with each hill.  It was a gorgeous ride, but I definitely got my ass kicked by the hills.  My group stopped at the first rest area again when we went by and I grabbed a few more cookies.  I left the rest area with them and again tried to keep up.  After leaving the park we were out on the highway again, and they formed a pace line.  I'm not terribly comfortable drafting off people when biking, so I was probably further further back then I should have been and working a little harder to keep up.  After 10 miles or so I had to drop back and let the group speed off.  When I made it to the next rest area I  grabbed some food and found my group.  I started to explain that I was thinking of calling it a day and before I even got 2 words out one of the ladies said she could already see that I was done in my eyes.  I went back outside and started to look for someone in a SAG vehicle when I ran across Ray.  I chatted with him a bit before a lady came over and said that should couldn't help overhear that I was looking to drop out.  She was driving a SAG car and would take me back to the school where the ride started. As we drove back to Park Rapids I had an interesting conversation with her about biking.  She was part of the bike club that organizes the ride.  It was neat hearing about the different places in the area that they go riding.  When we got back to the school I packed up my stuff and drove back to Fargo.  When I got back to town I stopped by five guys for a late lunch.  I didn't really deserve it, but it sounded really good at the time.

The following week I was out in western North Dakota for work.  We were doing some work for a coal mine near Beulah but since we'd booked the hotel late the closest we could find was in Bismarck. Tuesday morning I woke up early to get a run in.  Since we weren't far from the normal Bismarck marathon route I figured I'd meet up with that and go from there. I had my headlamp on and as I ran by sertoma park several deer crossed the road. I turned my head to watch them and I could see dozens of eyes looking back at me from the park. It was a bit creepy. As I was getting back to the hotel I saw a steel rod poking up across the sidewalk so I moved to the other side. There was a rod poking up on that side that I didn't see. As I supermaned towards the ground the garmin beeped for 5 miles. It was only about a block and a half back to the hotel from there. When I got back I looked like a really mess, dripping sweat and blood running down to my ankle. I didn't get any running in the rest of the trip.  We were working long days, and with an hour and a half commute in the morning and at night I didn't have much time or energy to run.

This past week I've been easing back into things. Tuesday I ran the overpass with Erin and I put in 7 hard miles this morning with the Beardsley group.  I've got some knee pain from my fall still, but I'm hopeful I'll do well at the FM Half Marathon on Saturday.  With the past few weeks not being ideal for training I'm starting to get a little nervous for Surf The Murph. Hopefully I can string some good runs together between now and then and gain some confidence back going into the event.  The craziness continues to grow, Heather will be joining us at Surf The Murph for her first ultra marathon and it seems Erik is eyeing the 50k at Trail Mix in the spring.  I'm going to have to keep working hard if I want to keep up with the growing group.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Bismarck Marathon Relay

Friday Erin was able to get off work a little early and we left town around 4:15.  I had made us some sandwiches for the road and we ate along the way.  When we arrived in Bismarck we began to finalize plans for the next day.  I called up Rick and we decided who would run each leg of the relay.  I would take the 6.25 first leg, Rick would take the 6 mile second leg, Kristy would run leg 3 which was 4.75 miles, Rick would run for a second time with the 5 mile 4th leg and Erin would finish up the last 4.2 miles of leg 5. After getting all of that squared away we then talked about how we'd get around.  The previous year buses were available to get us to each relay exchange point. However this year with the new route we would have to work out our own transportation.  We ultimately decided that Erin's dad Tony would drive and take us around to each relay exchange.  With all of that finally decided we headed to bed to get some rest before a very long day.

Saturday morning we woke up a little before 6:00 and got dressed for the race. We met up with Rick and Kristy on our way to the park to give them a parking pass before heading to the park.  We arrived just before traffic got really heavy.  We chatted in the parking lot for a bit before making our way to the starting line. I wandered around and found Heather getting ready to run.  She was running the full marathon while her twin sister was running the half marathon with a friend of hers.  I wished her luck and we parted ways so she could drop her stuff off in the bag check area. I meet back up with our group just before the race started so I could drop off my jacket.  When the race started I hung back a bit so that we would be towards the very back of the pack and hopefully not have to fight with congested trails.

The weather was a bit on the cold side with a stiff breeze and it misted just enough to barely keep the ground moist the entire morning.  The first leg of the relay loops around cottenwood park before heading south with the relay exchange at the top of the hill inside the university of mary.  The park was fun to run through, it was well maintained but did smell a little funny in a few places.  There was one spot along the trail that was lined by sandbags and had some pumps keeping the trail mostly dry.  I thanked the volunteer there and told him I hate running with wet feet.  From there the course was fairly flat and as I ran I kept an eye on my heart rate.  After the hard run the weekend before I wanted this to be a bit more relaxed, at least until I got to the hill.  As I approached the hill I was running with a couple of ladies and chatting with them. When we arrived at the base of the hill I told them that I was going to put some work in and started to pick up the pace by almost a minute a mile.  As I ran up the long hill I began to pass more and more people. One lady seemed almost shocked when she finally noticed me, I don't think she was expecting to be passed like that on the hill.  As I rounded the corner and headed into the university I thought the course would flatten out again, but I was wrong.  I kept climbing until I was at the relay exchange point and Rick took the timing chip from me.  I took a minute to catch my breath and then we headed back to the van to get to the next relay exchange.

As we drove to the second relay exchange point I was still quite warm, but when we arrived there and I had to go outside again a quickly became chilled.  We stood around for a little while waiting for Rick until Erin said she was going to walk over to the port-a-potties and Kristy decided to join her.  In keeping with our tradition from the previous year, Rick showed up when Kristy was in the bathroom. Eventually the exchange was made and we hopped back in the van to get to the next relay exchange.

At the next relay point we stayed in the van to try and keep warm.  We figured we had until around 10:30 until Kristy would be there.  Shortly after 10:00 Erin's dad came over and said that Kristy was almost there.  I filled Rick's water bottle from my own and he was off heading up the hill to the university.  When Kristy got in the van we tried to figure out why we were so off in our estimate.  Initially we just thought we couldn't do math until I asked her if she had run around the park before headed south.  It turns out that she had missed that loop because of how the volunteers worded the question when telling her where she needed to go.  She was about 2 miles short of what we were expecting her to run.  Since our goal for the day was just to have fun, no one was really upset about the mix up.

Rick's exchange to Erin would only be a few hundred feet from where we were so we didn't have far to go.  We spent most of the time waiting in the van to try and stay warm. When it was about time to get out and wait for the exchange I asked Erin how fast she was going to try and run.  It sounded like something I'd be capable of doing so I asked if she'd like company and she said yes.  We waited a bit more for Rick before Erin took the timing chip and we headed out. I was really cold starting out and opted to keep my jacket on, but after a mile the sweat was pouring off my face.  Neither Erin or I wanted to disappoint the other person so we both worked real hard the last 4 miles of the race.  A few full marathoners passed us, but we were doing well compared to other relay teams.  With a quarter mile left Erin and I caught and passed another relay runner that we had both seen take off a few minutes before we did.  It felt really good to pass her. Rick and Kristy joined up with us to cross the finish line.  Erin and I were working hard and I tried to motivate her a little more to get every last bit of effort she had.  After crossing the finish line I felt like throwing up, after a minute or so I asked Erin if she felt the same way and she confirmed she did.

After dropping off the timing chip we walked over and picked up some food for the finishers and Erin got her medal.  I picked up some snacks for later and drank some chocolate milk as we looked for Erin's dad and Rick and Kristy's daughters.  When we assembled our group again we decided that we'd head over to Famous Dave's like we did the previous year and get something to eat.  After we ate we said our goodbyes and Erin and I headed back to her parents house to clean up before heading back to Fargo later then we were originally planning.

When we got back to Fargo I had a little bit of time to relax before getting ready for my third run of the day.  Connie needed to do a 20 mile run this weekend and I had said I would tag along for it. The overcast skys had followed us back from Bismarck but it wasn't misting.  The wind was a bit stronger then in Bismarck and it almost caused me to dress warmer then I what I knew I should wear. I met up with Connie in our usual location and we started to head south out of town.  We had found a gravel frontage road a week or so behind walmart that we wanted to try out and this was as good a time as any.  It was a little boring running down a perfectly flat straight road, but still fun since it was the first time we'd been out that way.  It got dark out shortly after we got going but I brought head lamps for both of us.  A few times as we ran that night we'd see the reflection of the light off of eyes in fields, but couldn't figure out what they belonged to.  It was creepy.  When we made it out to the wild rice exit on I29 we looked back at the lights of the city and marveled at how far out of town we were.  

We started to hear some loud sounds in the distance but couldn't figure out what it was.  It didn't quite sound like thunder, but we couldn't rule it out.  We also saw some flashing in the sky and figured a storm was moving in. We continued on towards University drive and just after we passed the wild rice grill and bar a vehicle came up behind us and began to slow down.  Rick had seen some fireworks and decided to drive out and check it out.  Since he was already out south of town he figured he's swing by and check up on us since he knew what our route was going to be. Connie and I felt better knowing that there wasn't a storm moving in and started to head back into town on University.

Around this time I told Connie that I was starting to struggle and she did her best to distract me with conversation.  Our plan was to turn onto 76th avenue and head towards Davies on our way back.  When I remembered that we were going to turn I thought we had already gone by it, but just ahead I caught a glimpse of a street sign. We needed to run across the road to read it, and luckily enough it was where we needed to turn.  We headed west again toward 25th street.  I was still struggling on occasion, the long day was starting to get to me, but Connie helped me stay positive and we kept moving forward.  After going by Davies we headed toward 52nd Ave.  When we arrived at the intersection of 25th and 52nd we walked and ate our hourly snack. This is when I finished my water and we decided that we were going to cut our run short.  Somehow Connie mentioned that her husband would be bringing her son's girlfriend home in a few minutes and I jokingly suggested we just get a ride back.  A few minutes later we recognized her car drive by and make a U turn.  We ran to the side of the road and pretended to pull up out short to show some leg.  When the car pulled we we found out it was her son driving with her younger son in back with his girlfriend.  Connie was a little embarrassed, but we had a good laugh about it.  Since there wasn't enough room for both of us right then we waited a bit as they went and dropped off Matt's girlfriend. On their way back they picked us up and gave us a ride home.  I finished the run about 5 miles short, but for the day I put in around 26.  It was a productive day of training and I had a blast doing it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 Dick Beardsley Half Marathon

The night before the race Erin and I were out babysitting rather late. When we got home I set the alarm clock for a few hours later and we got what sleep we could. After the alarm clock went off Erin and I feel into the usual routine of getting ready for a race.  Checking the weather, finding my favorite clothes to run in, putting together a bag of stuff for after the race, deciding if I want the hydration pack or just the hand held bottle. After getting my stuff together we headed over to pick up Heather who was riding down with us to Detroit Lakes for the race.

We were one of the first few people at the park that morning, which seemed to suit us just fine.  We picked up our packets and had some time to relax and talk to other runners that we knew.  Eventually we headed back to the car to drop of our stuff and make our way to the starting line. I had forgotten to bring a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes but Erin was able to pick up a cheap one for me just a short distance from where the starting line was.

When the race started Heather quickly raced off.  I wasn't planning on going for a PR so I was a bit more relaxed as I began.  I was primarily looking at my heart rate data instead of looking at pace.  I wanted to ease into things and save something for the finish.  The first 2 miles passed quickly, by keeping a close eye on my heart rate I was able to slow down a bit on the hills in the first section of the course and keep my effort fairly even. When I passed Erin at mile 2 I remarked that it was already hot and it was going to be an ugly day.

After I passed Erin I noticed my heart rate climbing a bit faster then I would have liked and made an effort to slow down and keep it under control.  The trees on this side of the lake were still providing a little shade and I tried to make the most of it. I was trying to drink plenty of water and Gatorade  when it was available at the aid stations. When I reached the halfway point I ate the honey stinger waffle I had with me and hoped it would be enough to get me to the finish. I had also forgotten to bring endurolytes with and probably could have used then at the point in the race.

After the halfway point the race started to go poorly.  My heart rate was higher then I liked and it didn't come down much when I walked.  I was feeling uncomfortably warm and just not having a very good time.  As the miles pasted the walk breaks became longer and the running periods got shorter.  With a little over a mile left to go Connie caught up to me.  It was great being able to talk with her.  After running for a bit I said that I wanted to walk for a while but Connie was having none of that.  She insisted that we keep running, but we could go as slow as I wanted.  I reluctantly agreed and we kept running.  Eventually rounded the last turn and I saw another runner I knew up ahead.  I told Connie I was going to try to catch this runner and finish strong. As I took off I could hear Connie cheering for me as if I was in contention to win the race.  I ran as hard as I could and passed the person I was aiming for within 30 feet of the finish line.  After crossing the finish line I began to pay for that last burst of speed.  I felt crappy, my heart was pounding and I was gasping for breath.  I collected my medal and found a spot on the grass to sit down.  After a minute or so I was still feeling awful, but I wanted to find Connie and thank her for the mental boost she was able to give me at the end.  I staggered back to my feet, found Connie and gave her a hug.  Shortly after that Erin and the rest of the gang found me and asked about the race.  I told them it how badly things had gone and asked about getting some ice cream.

When we got to where the line for ice cream was Nicky, Amber and Talon said they would head over to Zorbaz and find some seats while we picked up ice cream.  Once I had picked up the ice cream I plopped down on the grass again to eat it and to give my heart rate a chance to go down.  Erin said that I should just eat it on the way and she didn't want to keep the rest of the group waiting.  I still felt crappy but I complied headed off to Zorbaz.  When we arrived it took a little while to find out group.  I found a bar stool to perch on while Erin wandered in search of our party.  Mike Almquist saw Heather and I and chatted with us for a bit until Erin came back to get us.  After we sat down at our table my heart rate finally dropped out of the "working hard" range.  Erin went and ordered for us and came back with some cups for our drinks.  She asked what I wanted but I thought I should get up and get it myself to keep moving and not let things tighten up so bad.  When I stood up I felt light headed and got tunnel vision briefly. As we waited for our food I started feeling even worse.  I couldn't seem to get comfortable in the chair and felt increasingly nauseous. When our pizza finally arrived I felt so bad that I needed to head outside the restaurant.  I found a place to sit on the ground a little ways down the street from Zorbaz and let my head spin for a while.  Erin came out and found me a few minutes later.  She suggested that I not sit in the sun and we crossed the street to find some shade.  The little bit of a breeze that had kicked up felt good.  I lay down on my back and told Erin about how I felt. After a few minutes I got up and headed back into Zorbaz with her.  I ate a piece of pizza and drank a little pop before I told her I needed to head back outside again.  After laying down for about 10 minutes I heard some familiar voices behind me.  Ken and Monica were outside the restaurant chatting with some people.  I felt good enough to walk over and talk with them for a bit before Erin came up to look for me again.  We talked with Ken and Monica for a bit longer before I decided that my stomach had settled enough to try food again. This time I was able to eat more normally. Color had returned to my face and the people we were sitting with remarked how much better I looked.

On the drive back to Fargo I sat in the back seat.  I had trouble finding a comfortable position and felt like my body temperature couldn't find an equilibrium.  I constantly shifted from too cold to to warm. When we got home I jumped in the shower and that seemed to help things a bit.  After that I headed downstairs to watch TV for a bit and try to relax.  Later in the day I showed Erin how my legs were twitching on there own. The next day I felt almost normal, just a bit on the weak side.  Since it was the NFLs opening weekend I figured I'd take a rest day and I spent most of the day watching football.  It will be interesting to see how my body responds tomorrow when I get back out and try to run again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Labor day and heading into Beardsley

It's been a while since I've posted so this one is going to hit a lot of things.

Last Wednesday Erin and I met up with Maggie, Penny, Tim, Rick and Kristy for a evening run from the downtown Y. We ran along the top of the dike for a bit until we got to the water treatment plant and the bike path was a little more clear. After 2 miles Kristy, Penny and Erin turned back while Maggie, Rick, Tim and I pushed on.  At the time my right calf was a little tight.  About half a mile later my calf was cramping so bad I couldn't run any more.  I stopped for a bit to stretch and we decided as a group that we'd turn around.  After walking for a bit I was able to start jogging again but about a mile later I was unable to run again.  Again I walked until my leg loosened up enough to run but this time I was able to make it the rest of the way back to the Y.  There was considerable pain from the cramp but I was able to still keep a decent average pace. I had planned to meet up with Connie the next morning and hoped that my leg would feel better after a good nights sleep.

Thursday morning when I woke up my leg did not feel any better. I figured that I had done some damage while running with the cramp the previous night but thought I'd be able to do a slower run with Connie.  We met up like we normally do, but I suggested taking a shorter route to the store in case things got to bad.  For the most part the pain stayed constant, not going away but not getting worse either.  I felt good about being able to get in 8 miles that morning.

That Friday I rested hoping the time off would let the leg heal.  It did help a little.

Saturday I met up with Connie for a long run.  We started off with Erin and Erik who were doing a long run in preparation for the FM mini in October.  Eventually we broke of from them and went out around the new high school and way out on south university.  When we finished up I had 18 miles in and Connie had 19.  During the run my leg had loosened up, but after the run it tightened up again and hurt when I walked.

Sunday Connie and I met up for a planned 7 mile run.  I wanted to sleep in and rest the leg, but got out and ran anyway.  The first few miles I was in a foul mood.  My leg hurt and I just wanted to be done, but eventually things turned around and Connie and I explored some new areas that we hadn't run in.  This run capped a 50 mile week for both Connie and I.

Labor day Erin and I went biking with Krisann out on the heartland trail.  We started off in Park Rapids abd biked 18 miles to Akley for a late lunch.  On the way back we stopped in Nevis for ice cream.  It was a great day for a bike ride and I had a lot of fun getting to know Krisann better.

Tuesday I ran a 5 mile tempo run workout and it confirmed that I've slowed down since this spring.  I still had some lingering leg pain as I ran, but things were definitely healing up.

Thursday Erin and I drove to the store early and we got 10 miles in.  I was able to keep a brisk pace and it was a solid run. Better still was after the run I didn't have the lingering pain in my leg anymore.

Saturday is the Dick Beardsley half marathon.  It will be my third year running it.  I'm not going to shoot for a PR, but I'd like to have a solid run and I'm hoping it will be my second fastest half marathon when it's all done.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Streets Alive

On Sunday Erin and I decided to check out Streets Alive, a local event where some streets are closed to traffic and people are encouraged to run, bike, roller blade, skateboard or anything else they can think of. We biked downtown from our house and met up someone Erin works with.  The event itself had a festive atmosphere, but the road bikes and clippy shoes seemed like a poor fit.  The slow pace forced us to either constantly clip in and out, or stay very focused on staying upright at low speeds.  We ran into Ray and Mitch and talked with them for a bit and I chatted with Judy for a couple of blocks before heading back to find Erin. The entire ride was a little more then 24 miles.

I've been logging miles on the daily mile since March of last year and this last ride put me over 4000 miles logged on the site. It was a neat accomplishment and something I'm rather proud of.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend Long Run

I've been doing longer runs during the week, but it's been a while since I've stretched the distance on a Saturday.  Today I met up with Connie and we were shooting for around 17.  I took her around to some of my favorite spots to run and in general kept us far enough away from where we lived so that we wouldn't be temped to cut it short.  We did run into a little road construction on a gravel road and decided to cut through anyway.  There were a few people working near there, but I don't think we were noticed.  I put in 16.4 which was a little short and I think Connie was a little short as well but overall it was a productive day.  After we went out separate ways I was able to end my run with a last mile pace of 9:13.  My legs are a little sore now, but it's the good kind of sore that I miss from this spring. The 50k at Surf the Murph is looking more likely if runs continue to go like this one.

Also today Maggie is running the 50 miler at Lean Horse.  Her husband Cory has been texting periodically keeping us up to date on her progress.  The last text I received said she was at the 26.2 mile mark and had a little over 5 hours left to compete the rest. After completing the 100 miler last year at this event I'm confident she will finish strong this year.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bouncing back from Young Life

I've taken my recent failure in the young life triathlon a bit hard, but I should mention some small measures of success I've been having as well.  This past Thursday I reclaimed the overall mileage lead in the Thursday morning running group.  Since the miles reset July 1st I've ran 71 miles.  It's not an official competition, but I like to see how I stack up against some of the other runners. Also I reached my goal in the YMCA's frequent Yer program this summer.  Since June 1st I've gone to the gym 60 times and received a duffle bag as a prize. They haven't all been the greatest workouts, but I'm definitely noticing some positive changes as a result of the frequent trips to the gym.

Looking ahead I realized that Surf the Murph has a 50k option in addition to the 50 miler I was looking at doing.  The 50k should be a more appropriate challenge for me and I'm starting to set my sights on it.  I haven't committed yet, but I'm going to start training with that as the primary goal. Perhaps I can talk some of my running buddies into joining me for the event.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 Young Life Triathlon

After my disappointing half ironman at liberty this year I was left with a desire to finish a triathlon that was longer then a sprint.  Young life in Detroit Lakes offered me a chance to test myself with the Olympic distance.

The night before the event I drove out to DL with Ray who wanted to pick up packets early.  We left town right around 5:00 and fought some traffic on the way out.  After picking up our packets we stopped at the Lakeside Tavern for supper. We both ordered a patty melt and the food was very good. On the way back we chatted some more and made plans for meeting up the next day.

The morning of the event I woke up a little early.  I realized I was dreaming about getting ready when I noticed my Garmin on my wrist.  I figured I might as well get up and start getting ready for real. Most of my stuff was already packed and I just needed to throw some clothes on and grab my bike.  Erin and I stopped for gas and feed that cats that we're watching for some friends and then picked Ray up for the drive out. We were a little bit early picking Ray up, but I guess he's getting used to us being a little early.

After picking up Ray I realized I had forgotten my swim goggles.  We were already far enough down the road that it didn't make sense to drive back for them.  I hoped that the Walmart in DL was open 24x7.  When we got to DL we found that it was open and I was able to buy some goggles. It wasn't the way I wanted to start the day, but things could have been worse.  We found a good parking spot in the park, grabbed our gear and headed into the transition area.  We found a nice area by a tree that had a little extra room for our stuff and started setting up. We got ready rather leisurely and then headed down to the lake to check the water, which was pleasantly warm.

After some race announcements we were ready to begin.  I was in the first wave of the swimmers.  I quickly fell to the back of the pack in the swim.  Since the lake was fairly shallow from time to time I could stop and clear off my goggles which were having some fogging issues.  The course could have used more markers.  After the first turn I couldn't see the next buoy and had just take my best guess as to which of the swimmers ahead of me were going the right direction.  This was by far the best swim I've had this year.  I didn't have much problem with my breathing and was able to swim properly for large chunks.  When I finally finished the swim I was feeling light headed and struggled though my first few steps towards the transition area.

My transition went smoothly and I soon after I left the lake I was cruising on the bike. The course was well marked and had friendly volunteers at every turn. My first issue on the bike came around mile 9.  As I was starting up the biggest hill on the course my chain slipped off.  I didn't have enough momentum to stay clipped in and get the chain back on, so I had to stop and put it back on.  Then I was far enough up the hill that I couldn't get going again and get clipped in, so I had to run the bike up to the top.  It didn't kill my time too much, but it was frustrating.  I saw Erin after the first loop around the lake and showed her my greasy hand from putting the chain back on.  As I was getting close to the end of the second loop I noticed that my rear tire had gone flat. It was disappointing, but I had a spare tube with me and after a few minutes I had it changed.  Shortly after I had it changed I noticed it had gone flat again.  I'm not sure if I pinched it while changing it, or there was something sharp in the tire, but my race was over. A couple of women were out walking with strollers and I asked to borrow a cell phone. As I was calling Erin a car stopped by and asked if I needed a rider. It was another racer who had bike problems along the way.

When I got back to the park I started to pack my stuff up.  Erin told me that Ray was doing well and should be finishing soon.  We walked over to the finish line just in time to see him.  After we had everything packed up we went over to Zorbaz for some pizza and nachos.  It was a fun day, just disappointing with how the event went for me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011 Pyrotechnics Guild International: Grand Finale

Rain was forecast for the final day of the convention and it came in the early evening.  The storms weren't strong and for the most part were clearing around the time that the action was supposed to kick off.  However because of the rain things were delays and a bit disorganized because preparations were delayed.  The first part of the show was the super string, a couple million firecrackers tied together in a large string.  It inadvertently went off as the national anthem was finishing.  I thought it was a bit disappointing, it wasn't very loud or visually interesting.

After that there was a long delay before the all stars did their thing.  This is a group of some of the better competitors from throughout the week.  A couple of the more interesting things they did was a palm tree with coconuts and a sun with planets. The followed up the demonstration of individual items with some stuff set to music.  We both enjoyed it, but it was much smaller then some of the other shows throughout the week.

After the all stars was another break until the first show by Zambelli.  Their show was a tribute to 9-11.  Some of the things they did with fireballs and a flaming outline of the towers was interesting, but some of the music was a bit dull.  This show wasn't really my thing, but I can see why some people would have liked it.

The evening finished with a display by Pyrotechnico which was neat.  It was well coordinated and there were some neat shells that we hadn't seen during the week.  The finale put a lot of shells up in the air at the same time and finished strong.  After the show was over getting out of the parking lot was a bit of a chore but eventually we made it home.  Overall it was a fun week and I'm looking forward to the next time they come to town.

Friday, August 12, 2011

2011 Pyrotechnics Guild International: Night Three

Night three started with a couple of competitions, best movie special effect and best wheel.  The movie special effect was neat, it was a series of growing flashes with loud reports.  The wheels were a little bit boring with the exception of the last one called the machine. As it spun it had some parts that moved in and out which looked really neat.  There was another girandola which was larger then the one on the previous night. As it climbed it paused it's ascent a couple of times.

The first show of the night was by the JPA, a group of kids aged 5 to 18. They get product donated and buy some with cash donations during the convention. It wasn't as coordinated as the professional shows and appeared a bit haphazard and random at times, but it was fun.  It was a little like watching a fireworks stand burn to the ground with all of it's items pointing upwards.

The next show was by precocious fireworks. On the bright side it was all american made, but the downside it was a boring show.  There were long pauses between fireworks where there was talking.  It tried to be funny, but didn't really succeed and became very repetitive with seeing the same fireworks over and over.

The last show of the night was by Dominator who had put a show on the previous night.  They did not disappoint. We did see a few fireworks that we didn't the previous night and it was as well timed to the music as it was the previous night.  I think the finale peaked just a little early, but overall it was an outstanding show.

We didn't stay for any competition after the shows because we planned to get up early the next morning for out usual Thursday morning run with the group from the store.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 Pyrotechnics Guild International: Night Two

The second night of displays started with a couple of competitions.  The first was for people who were new to pyrotechnics and featured shells.  The second was something called a girandola.  The beginner shells were interesting and for the most part the competition moved quickly.  The girandola was really neat.  It spun around as it gained height and left a neat helix pattern below it.  Definitely the best single items we've seen this year so far.
Ok, so this isn't the highest quality video

After that it was dark enough for the shows.  Again there were two shows, the first done by P&F All Seasons and the second by Dominator.  Erin and I really enjoyed both shows.  The P&F display lacked the volume of fireworks that some of the other shows used, but the ones they did use looked very good.  They seemed to be able to get more vibrant colors then some of the others I've seen. I guess they're known for their "hammer" shells which they used to punctuate the performance as well as end with a large bang.

The second show by Dominator was awesome. Very well coordinated to the music they were using with lots of ground effect items as well as lots of larger shells.  They had some that broke into circles that looked like a blue spark was chasing a wave of yellow sparks.  The description doesn't do justice to how neat it looked.  They also had some shells that appeared to break into 3 circles each on a different axis and each in a different color. Their finale wasn't quite as intense as the opening show on day one, but was close.  Erin thought that this was her favorite show so far.

After the two shows we stayed for a few more competitions; large mines, comets and large rockets. Since we were both hungry we decided to duck out before the end and head to Applebees for a couple of appetizers before heading home to bed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 Pyrotechnics Guild International: Opening Night

Living in Fargo I've been fortunate to attend the Pyrotechnics Guild International conventions when they come to town.  This year Erin and I got reserved seats for all 4 nights. I know from past experience that we won't be disappointed in the show.

We weren't sure how bad the parking situation would be this year so we left the house at a little after 7:00.  When we got to the fairgrounds there weren't many people there yet and we felt a little silly.  We found our seats and Erin got her first taste of Angry Birds on my phone.  A little after 9:00 things got started. The opening show was put on by Flashing Thunder out of Iowa.  It was spectacular. The fireworks were coordinated very well with the music and there were a lot of neat effects they were using.  The finale of the first show was incredible with the large number of shells they had going off simultaneously.

The second show was put on by Chicago Lights and wasn't as impressive as the first.  It lacked some of the coordination of the first show and the fireworks they were using seemed simpler. Overall it was still neat, but Flashing Thunder was a difficult act to follow.

After the 2 shows were over we hung out a little while and watched a couple of the competitions.  The first featured some larger shells and the second was medium rockets.  It was a little disorganized but I still find it interesting to hear about what each item is going to do before it goes off.  After the rocket competition we decided to leave because we were both getting up early in the morning.  I'm looking forward to Tuesdays show.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Buffalo River Run

This weekend Erin and I tagged along with Erik when he did his long run at Buffalo River State park. Rain was forecast for Saturday morning and when we got up we could see some stuff developing on radar, but it was slow moving and it looked like we could sneak our run in.  Erik picked us up and we drove to the park. On the way out we saw the Buffalo river looked and it looked a bit high. I thought with all the recent rain we've had it would be a soggy run.  We  were shooting for around 6 miles and didn't have much of a route planned out.  I figured we'd try to do the 10k route from the trail run earlier in the year backwards.  When we got started I was surprised to find a bit of an old asphalt bike path that had been overgrown with grass.  We followed it out a ways, but it was a dead end.  As we ran along it we startled several deer.  The weather was great, it was cool with just a bit of a breeze, unfortunately the grass had a lot of dew which kept our feet wet as we ran.  The tall grass hadn't been mowed recently in several areas and slowed us down a bit.  Towards the end of the run we got into some trail with sorter grass and we picked up the pace a bit.  After the run we enjoyed some bacon cookies that Erin and I had brought along.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Here's the recipe:
1 Cup Franks Red Hot
1 Cup Ranch Dressing (or blue cheese dressing)
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 8oz blocks of Cream Cheese
Chicken (however much you like)
Can be canned, rotisserie, chopped up popcorn chicken
Pepper (to taste)

Here's an example batch I made with some variations:
I wanted to add some onion flavor to the dip that it doesn't normally have
I chopped it up enough to fit into the magic bullet, you could use
a food processor or blender to puree it
I pureed the onion. I only used about a quarter of the onion
The onion puree with 1 cup of Frank's Red Hot
I wanted a little extra heat so this is the extra Franks Red
Hot I added along with the cream cheese and shredded cheese
I use blue cheese dressing
I also added some garlic to the dip
We used some pre-chopped chicken from the deli at the grocery store
Here's everything in the mixing bowl
This is the final product after mixing with an electric hand mixer

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vacation day 6

Our last day of vacation started a little earlier then the previous day.  When we woke up we hoped in the steam shower and lounged around for a while until breakfast.  For breakfast we had some fruit again followed by some orange pecan scones. We also had an egg bake with sun dried tomatoes and some sausage and breakfast was finished by homemade vanilla ice cream with blueberries. When breakfast was done we sat around on the porch talking with the owners and another couple watching a storm roll through.  Eventually we headed back up to our room to pack and headed for home.

On our way out of the cities we stopped at Trader Joes and picked up some cookies and baklava. After that we shopped a little while longer in the area until lunch time.  For lunch we stopped at bucca de beppo.  We had some fried mozzarella, white pizza, and manicotti. Some how we were able to finish it all.  After lunch we continued on our way home.  Erin drove as we listened to more of Dracula.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011 Perham Harrier Half Marathon

This morning Erin and I got up early and drove out to Perham so I could run the second annual Perham Harrier Half Marathon.  When I signed up for the event I was hoping to break 2 hours, but training hasn't been going very well lately and I didn't keep up with my running over our vacation so this turned from an A level event to one where I was just going out to have fun.

Terry and I before the race, the DBRC twins
The alarm went off a little after 4:00 and we were both fairly tired.  Erin was at a bachelorette party the previous night, and even when she got home she was texting all night because her twin sister had gone into labor.  We stopped for gas on the way out of town and headed east.  We arrived in Perham a little ahead of schedule which was nice.  We drove to the park and I was able to pick up my packet.  We ran into some other runners from Fargo we knew: Terry, Mike and Paul and chatted with them for a bit as we got ready.  They went off to warm up but I just waited with Erin in the car.  I'd have plenty of time to warm up over the 13.1 mile run.  Just before the start of the race I went to the bathroom one last time and Erin and I walked over to the starting area.  Since it was the same as Turtlefest this year it was all familiar.

Look closely for the hydration pack, you'll see

I'm not exaggerating about being dead last
When the race started, I jumped out to an early lead with the pack trailing me by quite a bit...  Ok, maybe not. I was dead last for the first 4.3 miles.  I settled into my running rhythm within a mile and started to pick the pace up slowly.  Even though I was last there was still some crowd support along the way.  There was a residential area we ran through and there were a few driveways with people standing near the road cheering. It was nice of them to stay out until we all had gone by.  I was starting to embrace the roll of being last place.  I had a biker and police car following me and had the road to myself.  Where else am I going to be pampered like this on a run?  After 4 miles, I started to close in on the person ahead of me.  When I approached I saw he was a teenager that looked like he was in a little over his head.  I asked him how he was doing and received a grunt in reply.  I couldn't think of anything inspirational to say and my legs were feeling good and I quickly left him behind.  After I passed him I started to hear something in the distance that I couldn't quite make out.  After going along for a bit I was able to determine it was music.  Eventually I passed a volunteer in a suburban with the doors and back hatch open blasting music.  He was standing outside his truck with a cowbell playing along with the music.  It was greatly appreciated and I thanked him as I went by.

As the music faded, anther sound became noticeable: thunder. I could see some nasty looking clouds to the west and watched the lightning as the storm rolled in.  Eventually I turned east and it was rather eerie listening to the thunder grow closer behind me without being able to watch the clouds.  I started to catch up to another runner right about the time it started to rain and we ran along together for a while talking until the wind picked up and the heavy stuff started to fall.  When the storm intensified I pushed the pace a little.  The heavy rain and strong wind stung my skin but I wasn't too worried.  Last year I had gone running with Connie and we were caught in a similar storm. I had made it through that when we didn't have anywhere to take shelter, but here if I got concerned I could get a ride with the race volunteers. My clothes were completely soaked by the down pour and the leading edge of the storm had some impressive lightning.

As the rain started to let up I was expecting some more fireworks on the trailing edge of the storm and I was not let down.  I was passing what looked to be a radio tower as it was struck by lightning.  I'm guessing I was less then a quarter of a mile away when it happened.  Just a couple minutes after that a van pulled up beside me and stopped.  I gave the thumbs up sign and continued on only for it to pull up along side me again with the window rolled down.  The volunteer said they were pulling everyone from the course because of the lightning. I wanted to continue, but would have been on my own for the rest of the race.  I decided to take the ride back.  Even though I was disappointed, I could see that this was the right decision to make after seeing the lightning strike so close to me.  I rode back to the starting area and found Erin who was waiting in the car.

After changing out of my soaked clothes we went to the lakes cafe for breakfast.  I had some pancakes and bacon while she had cheesy hash browns with toast and bacon.  The food was very good. After breakfast we headed home.

Later in the day Erin's twin sister, Elisa, delivered her baby, our first niece. Emily Rae Eastburn, 6 pounds 13 ounces.  I think I'll concede to Elisa I had the easier day today.
Emily Rae

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vacation Day 5

We slept in on day 5 getting up just in time for breakfast at 9:00.  We ate out on the porch of the bed and breakfast.  We started with some fruit and then had some wonderful scones, followed by an egg bake with feta cheese, potatoes and artichokes, and we finished with a chocolate sorbet.

After breakfast we walked down to main street and did some shopping.  There were a number of large antique stores that we visited as well as a spice store and a candy store. We had a late lunch at a small place on main street.  We each had a burger and split some cheese curds.  We picked up some candy as well as some gifts from one of the antique stores. When we walked back to the B&B we arrived in time for some lemonaid and wine with some fresh bread and various spreads.  After a light snack we took a short nap.  When we got up we walked to Nelson's Ice Cream .  I had a waffle cone with  carmel turtle cheesecake ice cream and Erin had a waffle cone with wildbery yogurt.  We each had the child's size which was enormous and then walked back to the B&B.  When we got back we lounged in the hot tub and listened to Dracula before heading off to bed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vacation Day 4

Day 4 we woke up and headed back to the original pancake house for breakfast.  I had the tall stack of buttermilk pancakes and Erin tried the apple pancake.  The apple pancake was thinly sliced apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar before adding the pancake batter and baking.  Erin enjoyed it, but even with me taking a few tastes of it she barely had half of it.  My pancakes were just as good as the last time.  After breakfast we drove back to the campground and packed up the sleeping bags and the air mattress.  Since we still had some time to kill we went swimming one last time.  I played the ring game with Erin where one of us would throw it in the pool somewhere and the other would have to get to it before it hit the bottom then that person would throw it and the cycle would repeat.  At first Erin was a little nervous diving down in the deep end, but when we finished she was just as comfortable as I was with it.  We showered after getting out of the pool and packed up the rest of the camping stuff.  One of the few times we've been able to pack up a dry tent on a camping trip.

After leaving the campground we headed to REI near the mall of america.  We had seen it a few days earlier and  wanted to check it out.  I was impressed, they had a wide selection of some really nice gear. Erin got a new pair of goggles, a nose clip, bandanas, and some injinji socks.  After REI we headed to Stillwater and the William Sauntry Mansion. We arrived right at 4:00 and checked in.  After getting settled in we went downstairs for some hors d'oeurves and wine and had a chance to look through menus of local restaurants. We picked out a few that sounded good and then headed out for a short run around Stillwater.  This hills were challenging, but we had a good time.  When we got back we cleaned up. There was a steam shower in our room that had a ridiculous number of settings and options. Then we headed to the Lake Elmo Inn for supper.

When we arrived at the restaurant we noticed that we were by far the youngest people there.  The decor was also a little odd in that the walls were covered in old salt and pepper shakers.  The service wasn't the greatest either, but our food was good.  I had some lobster ravioli and Erin had some fried sunnys which they advertised as one of their specialties. When we finished eating the waitress eventually showed up with some heated towels and a couple of chocolate covered strawberries. It seemed like an odd way to end the meal.

Erin and I before the gondola ride
We had some time to kill after eating so we went back to the hotel and bummed around a while.  I hooked my phone up to the radio in the room and we listened to a chapter of Dracula. Eventually we headed out and drove down towards the river for a gondola ride that Erin had booked. She had booked the 11:00 to midnight time slot expecting a nearly full moon. We were a little early and thought we had found the right place but we're weren't sure.  I called the phone number on the reservation and someone assured me that someone would be along shortly for the ride. After a bit a guy showed up and we headed out on the dock to climb aboard. The sky was overcast obscuring the full moon, but other then that the weather was perfect. It was warm with just a slight breeze. Our 1 hour ride took us across the St. Croix and under the lift bridge.  We could watch the lights from Stillwater reflected in the river.  I really enjoyed the ride and would recommend it to anyone. After the ride we went back to the B&B to get some sleep.