Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

This time of year means the Christmas Meisner family reunion! We gathered again this past weekend at Good Earth Village in the blufflands of SE Minnesota. Last year we frosted Christmas cookies and cross country skied. This year we once again frosted cookies but instead went sledding.

So many delicious cookies, and only 1 stomach...

Bride and groom cookies for the bride and groom!

The cousins showing their daring sledding techniques: tandem sledding (really scary actually, but lots of fun!)

My family also threw us a wonderful engagement party/shower during our weekend at the retreat center. We received many wonderful Christmas-themed gifts, mostly decorations. Everyone was very sweet and generous, and we are extremely grateful. However, I'm not sure what to make of the armless dancing snowman. It dances to the tune of Cotton-Eyed Joe. Seriously. Look at the look of amazement and wonder on our faces at this marvel of modern engineering. It actually tap dances.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Beermas, I mean Christmas

So I'm going on the road for a little while, which means a temporary hiatus to my near-permanent hiatus. Wait, that means I'd be taking a short break from NOT blogging. Nope, I'm just going to keep NOT blogging for the next week.

I'll have the final stats after the New Year, but as of this moment, I am at 270 beers in my 2008 beer quest. I'm drinking Great Divide's Titan IPA right now, and I have to be honest, it's not one of my favorites of the year. Too much citrus with too many hops, and a nice, thick resiny-feel. But, it's decent and it rings in at the prestigious number 270 of the year. I think the next week will be a dry week for my beer totals. I'm going to the future in-laws and they drink green-bottled beer, and I can't think of any easily-obtained green-bottled beer in Sioux Falls, SD. Maybe we can hit a micro-brew one night. And then it's post-Christmas with my family, where there are only 2 beers: Miller Lite and Coors Light.

But alas, there is far more to Christmas than drinking beer. It's a great time of family, fun and Christian fellowship (3 "f"'s??). Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful and safe Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Google Reader Recommends Me!

I just logged into Google Reader to read all the blog posts I've missed over the weekend. Apparently Google Reader thinks that I should subscribe to my own blog!

If Google is recommending me, I should probably blog more than once every two weeks!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Minneapolis Bike/Running Trails - YOUR INPUT NEEDED!!

Thanks to Ed for this tip.

West River Parkway, part of the fantastic Grand Rounds trail system, is finally getting a much-needed rehab. The trail is falling apart and the lighting is pretty much dangerous.

So next summer the trail will be closed for 3-4 months for a complete overhaul. The trail will be repaired, crossings will be made safer, and lighting will improve. Great, right?

Not so fast. Unfortunately, Ed reports that the running trail will be made concrete. Can I get a collective WTF??? There are 3 small concrete sections of running trails in Minneapolis that I can think of, very short segments around Nokomis, Calhoun and Isles. All 3 sections suck and I (and every runner I know) avoid those sections like the plague.

Concrete sucks, it hurts the joints. Nothing's worse than a long run on concrete.

I'd write more, but I'm wasting time that YOU could be taking action. PLEASE contact the following people with your comments (Ed, I stole this right from your post):

Nick Eoloff
Project Manager

Janell Wojtowicz
Communication Specialist

Sandy Colvin-Roy - City Council Member Representing the Area
Phone (612) 673-2212
ax (612) 673-3940
Email form on website.

Scott Vreeland - Park Board Member Representing the Area

For more info (or "deets", if you will), please read Ed's post.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Beer

So by now loyal readers of this blog are well-aquainted with my 2008 Beer Quest. I'm well into the 200's (my original goal was a mere 100 different kinds of beers in 2008).

So while I've been logging my beers on this blog (look to the right), I have offered precious few beer reviews and advice. But it's a new season which means this is the perfect time to give some winter beer reviews!

I'll start out with a previous favorite, Summit Winter Ale. This caramelly goodness was perhaps my favorite winter beer of this past winter. However, Summit changes the recipe every year, which I think is a neat idea, but their Winter Ale 2008 has fallen flat. It's a boring beer with no seasonal flavor. It's no more exciting than their Extra Pale Ale. While I like their EPA (and I find Winter Ale 2008 drinkable), it is a major letdown from last year's recipe. Anyone got a Summit Winter leftover from last year???

Next up, 2 Below from New Belgian Brewery. Pretty good, rich, caramelly beer. Everything from New Belgian is fantastic, so drink up!

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: mmm.... seasonal flavors combined with Cascade Hops (as well as other varieties). Tis the season! (I drank a bunch of this Election Night, Celebration indeed!)

Anchor Steam Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale: I just polished one of these off which inspired this post, so obviously it's pretty darn tasty. Tons of alcohol, Cascade hops, and a phenomenal "mouth-feel". It's like drinking Christmas Beer Syrup. This is definitely a one-at-a-time beer.

And finally, my new favorite winter beer:

Bell's Hell Hath No Fury Ale. Caramel, more caramel with a dash of caramel. Wow, this is Summit Winter from last year taken to the logical extreme. While the $15/6-pack price should take this down a few notches (due to my cheap-ass leanings), this is one of the best beers I've ever had and it's worth every penny. It can be found at my new favorite beer store, the Four Firkins in St. Louis Park.

Enjoy the Christmas Hops!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Fun Race Photos

Since I haven't raced in a while (2 weeks!!!) and I'm not racing for a long time (4 days!) I thought I'd toss out a couple more fun race photos. Last week was a nasty photo from Victory 5K. This week, Rocky's Run 8K from earlier in November.

This was a fun race on the U of MN's course (site of the Griak Invitational). I've watched the real runners race at Griak before, so it was great to get a chance to race on the same course, albeit much more slowly.

I wanted to run sub 30 minutes for the 8K (it's on the U's golf course and it's VERY hilly, so sub-30 for me would be solid). I went out aggressively at my goal pace and went through the 4K mark in 14:56, right on target for my goal. The 5K came in around 18:30, which is a pretty decent 5K time for me on a tough course like this. But then the wheels began to wobble. I struggled through the next 1.5K, but the last 1.5K or so I hit a major second wind and cranked it in for a time of 29:30ish. (We found out later the course was short by 0.08 miles, so I estimated that I'd still be right around or just under 30 minutes on a full course).

The best part of the race was that aside from being passed by Sits-In-The-Weeds Mike (who by the way needs to blog about his freaking sub 2:50 marathon at San Anton. I'm jus' sayin') at 2K, I was never passed during the race. And even better, I passed 2 people in the last mile including someone I had been trying to catch up to all race. I paid the price the following week at the State XC meet when racing 5 times in 6 weeks (the first being TCM) finally caught up with me.

All in all, a fun USATF XC series.

Now, for the promised Rocky's Run photos:

Chris coming out of the Jimmy Johns John... Later we ate at Jimmy Johns down the street (true story)

My camo racing flats helped me sit in the weeds during the race

Other highlights from the race:
  • Kirk winning the MDRA Grand Prix in style during 5K
  • Me locking my keys in my car, in the ignition! Thanks to AAA and Nick for bailing me out

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Worst Photo EVER

Do not look at the photo unless you want to be momentarily blind. Nick, this photo should be your next Photo Friday winner.

Seriously, this one has it all: random chest hair, nasty hot dog (actually it was tasty), and shorts that are way too short. Not to mention the funky hair.

(taken at the Victory 5K/10K)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


230? What's that number signify, you ask? Is that my ridiculously absurd marathon goal time? Is that what time I got home from the bar last night? Nope and nope. This morning I was voter #230 in my precinct.

After 2 years of constant campaigns, billions spent, it all comes down to this simple equation: 1 person = 1 vote.

Voting was pretty smooth this morning. I got there just before the polls opened and joined the growing line. I went with my roommate who needed me to vouch for her residency. The whole voting process took about 1 hour, but there were some inefficiencies. I had to wait in 5 different lines!

Line 1: Just to get into the polling place: approximately 20 minutes
Line 2: To check in as a pre-registered voter to obtain a piece of paper so that I could then get a ballot. ~5 minutes
Line 3: Vouch for my roommate and help her register to vote. ~10 minutes
Line 4: Hand in piece of paper, receive ballot. ~2 minutes
THEN VOTE ~3 minutes (there are a lot of judges to vote for!)
Line 5: Wait to HAND IN my completed ballot. This was the longest line and most annoying. ~20 minutes

But it was all worth it for church coffee and a cinnamon bun! THANK YOU ELECTION VOLUNTEERS!! You all made the voting process smooth and enjoyable.

By the time I left, all the lines were starting to dwindle. I'm sure the post-5pm rush will be pretty big too.

So when I had finished voting, I hopped on the bike and cruised toward the office, passing churches and schools along the way that were serving as polling places. It was so neat to see democracy in action like that!

I then stopped in at Starbucks to get my free coffee for having voted, and I discovered to my dismay that I had lost my "I Voted" sticker on my bike ride. I am really bummed about that. REALLY bummed. It's weird that such a small thing as a sticker could evoke such a powerful emotional response (ok, I wasn't that distraught). It speaks to the power of voting, and to the fact that we all want to feel like we have a say in our government. That sticker represents the pride we have in our democracy. So I'll just have to live with an "I Voted" sticker on my blog.

But thank you Starbucks, you gave me free coffee even without the sticker. I applaud you, butplease don't put any stores in my neighborhood to compete with the local coffee shops!


If you're reading this today, and you haven't voted yet, then stop here and go vote! Unless you're reading this right after I'm posting it (5am). Then the polls aren't open. So go ahead and read this and then go vote in 2 hours.

There, that's the extent of my get out the vote efforts! Actually, Minnesota has same-day registration, and my roommate needs someone to vouch for her residency, so I'll be doing that for her. I knocked on doors and made calls for a few elections, but this is the first time I'll be sure that my efforts will actually get someone to the voting booth.

So who do I support for pres? The Fonz, who else?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Fall Rocks! (And why I already miss it...)

Fall has to be the best time of year. Crisp weather, honeycrisp apples... Ok, ok, I'm a broken record on all that.

But now the nice part of fall is over. It's cold, dreary, cold, dark early, cold, brown, and cold. The leaves are gone or ugly and apples are beginning to be in short supply. With snow in the forecast for Sunday, it's time to clang the gong for fall.

However, this past weekend I had the most fantastic wrapup to my fall. I hit 3 parks (state, regional and county), and spent pretty much the whole weekend enjoying the fall colors in the 50 and 60 degree weather. Can't ask for much more!

Saturday I ran the Nerstrand Big Woods Race near Faribault. It's a half marathon and the course is on very hilly trails. It was a lot of fun and the course was beautiful with the leaves covering the ground (which made running somewhat treacherous). I headed down with Mike and Chris. Mike placed 2nd overall, Chris placed 2nd in his age group (9th overall) and I placed 4th overall. MDRA is becoming quite the force! For his efforts, Mike won free meat. Who could ask for more than that? I ran the half in 1:23:40ish, about 1.5 minutes behind the winner. It's weird running a race almost completely by yourself. But this is the kind of race where I enjoy doing that, where the terrain changes and it's scenic.

The photo below shows Mike and Chris at the start of the race, which is at a little church with a spooky cemetery. (Misty Mike earns his name).

Later Saturday I raked some leaves. OK, a lot of leaves. 12 bags! I like raking, but I HATE bagging. Especially by yourself. I need to get a big vacuum cleaner or something.

Then on Sunday, after a nice run with the guys through Lebanon Hills in Eagan, I went for a nice hike with some friends at Hyland Hills. As often as I've run, biked and skied there, I had never just hiked! We walked all around looking at the prairies and the leaves. My friends had never been there before so it was neat to see the look on their faces when they saw this hidden jewel of a park for the first time!

I love fall...I miss fall...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple Season is in full swing!

Ah, fall is here again! And with it, comes apples. Lots and lots of apples! I've blogged about my love of apples and fall in general previously, but it bears repeating. Fall rocks. Crisp days, and Honeycrisp apples. The photo below says it all. I bought 1/2 peck of Honeycrisp and 1/2 peck of Macoun apples at an orchard yesterday, a couple Firesides at the Midtown Global Market today, and was treated to a bag of Regents in my CSA (farmshare). Good thing I like apples, because I've got some work to do to polish those off!

An interesting thing I just learned, the Honeycrisp is a cross between a Honeygold (which I knew) and a Macoun (which I didn't know)! I had never even heard of a Macoun until yesterday. Turns out I owe a lot to that Macoun apple. And as far as I can tell, 3 of the 4 apple varieties I bought were all developed here at the U of M! Can't get much more local than that!

The other thing you can tell from this photo is that I own too many knives. All the better for cutting up apples for some delicious apple crisp!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good Luck Chicago-Bound

To all my Chicago Marathon-running friends: Kirk, Anne, Marty, Deb, Mark, Rob, C-Fletch (?) and everyone else:


Make sure you look like this at the finish so people think you've given it your all:

(Photo used with permission from

You all are going to have an incredible day! Make Chicago your kind of town!

And good luck to those (Drew, Jim) running Whistlestop this weekend too!

Monday, October 6, 2008

2:53:02 and a little extra motivation

This is a race report I am looking forward to write!

A lot of people have made statements about how it was a great day or a crappy day with all that rain and cold temps. I'd say it was a good day. Not ideal, but much much better than we've had at Grandmas and TCM in recent years. So I'll take it! We had about 40 PRs in my marathon training group (MDRA), and I'd attribute most of that to the fact these runners had PRs just waiting for a good day.

I had pretty much the best overall race of my life! Prior to this, the best race where I ran to the best of my abilities was Chicago 2005 when I shocked myself and went under 3 hours for the first time. The best race in terms of support of friends and family was TCM in 2006, but I had a bad running day.

I pulled it all together and removed my doubts about the Twin Cities Marathon. I've never run TCM well until yesterday. I'll just give a little race recap here:

I got to the Dome around 6am to wait for all my fellow MDRA runners. It was great to see them and have the chance to wish them well. After a cool 5 minute warmup with Nick, we were ready to roll. We headed for Corrale 1 and waited for the gun (note: my only TCM complaint was that the entry into corrale 1 was too narrow, it took way to long to get in. There should be an alternate entrance from the plaza.)

I decided that I would go out with a local runner whose goal was similar to mine. I paced off him and that was a mistake. Since he is such a great racer I assumed that he would run a smart race. He might have, but he didn't run MY race. So lesson learned, run your own race. After a 19:35 5K, I knew that I had to step back 20 seconds a mile. I did so and settled into a long string of 6:30s.

The race was going very well (even though at this point I'm getting passed by a lot of runners who DID NOT go out too fast), but then at mile 12 the sky opened up. Until that point the rain was nice; after that the rain was torrential. I was stuck on the bridge over Nokomis, easily the most exposed part of the race. That was momentarily demoralizing as I feared that might last hours. 15 minutes later the rain stopped. 15 minutes after that my shoes stopped slogging and I was no worse off! Time to keep pounding the pavement. I had crossed the half at 1:24, but I knew that I would positive split based on my fast first 5K. I knew that 2:50 was still in sight, but that would be a stretch even keeping my pace consistent.

At 21 I was still feeling great, but I was quickly and immediately struck by the need to stop for a particular reason. Unfortunately I lost 90 seconds to that stop. But I jumped back on the course and was back to some pretty consistent miles and felt great (actually, felt better!)

About 23 the wheels started to become wobbly, really wobbly. My brain started shutting down and all those doubts crept back in. But I knew I had some people waiting for me at 24, and an even larger contingent at 25, and finally an even bigger group at 26. So I struggled for a couple miles, but still kept things at 7:00 pace or slightly better. When I saw that Cathedral and raced down the hill, I felt so great! I knew I had accomplished 2 goals: PR (by over 5 minutes) and I went under 2:55. That last 1.5 miles I was a little emotional. I was in a great deal of pain, but I knew that I was going to do it. And seeing my friends, family and fiance along that stretch just made it even more emotional.

After reloading on food in the corporate tent, I walked out to be greeted by my fiance (seriously, that word sounds too pretentious. I'd rather say wife-to-be.) We (slowly walked up the hill to watch the rest of the race. I got to see a lot of good friends finish, and finish well. I am SOOO happy and proud of my friends who finished their first marathons. Seeing them was even more emotional for me than my own accomplishment.

That night our running club had a celebration. It truly was an emotional one. Everyone seemed so happy, and some of the PRs that people dropped were just mind-boggling. Even those that didn't PR had good days and good runs, and were happy as well! Everyone should feel so proud for finishing and gutting out the rain. Running 26.2 is not easy (for most of us), no matter the conditions. Major props to everyone who made this accomplishment yesterday! And good luck to everyone racing later this fall at Chicago, Whistlestop or whatever marathon may come!

I'm an engineer and therefore a numbers guy. Here are some numbers for those who want to see them:

1 6:11
2 6:26
3 6:08
4 6:44
5 6:21
6 6:27
7 6:30
8 6:25
9 6:30
10 6:30
11 6:26
12 6:38
13 6:26
14 6:31
15 6:31
16 6:49
17 6:28
18 6:32
19 6:28
20 6:29
21 7:44 (6:14 without the 90 second break)
22 6:49
23 6:49
24 6:45
25 7:00
26 6:59
26.2 1:25
Final Time - 2:53:02!!!!


A lot of friends have told me that they were impressed with my race and that I inspired them. That is so touching. But first, I have to say that those friends who braved the cold and cheered me in multiple spots provided me with a lot of inspiration. Knowing that the MDRA group would be at Mile 25 made me run that mile when my legs said stop. And once I was up that hill at 25, I just HAD to keep on going to the finish!

But there's someone else that gave me some inspiration on Sunday. A coworker's brother was recently diagnosed with cancer and is battling bravely. I don't know him aside from his name, but I know his story, and I know how he is holding his head up through all the chemo and pain and hospital stays. I cannot even begin to imagine what he is going through. So when I saw that runners could wear a sticker to show their support of someone with cancer, I knew I had to "Run for" Chris. I put the sticker on and ran. I thought about him and prayed for him early in the race, but I forgot about the sticker for a good chunk in the middle. Around 21-22 I was starting to hurt and I heard someone say, "Go Chris Go!" They were looking at the sticker. I got a little choked up (like I'm getting as I type this). I remembered Chris and thought about how laughable it was that I was even thinking about my own momentary discomfort. I said a few more prayers for Chris and charged up Summit Avenue. I finished the race, and my "battle" was done for the day. Finishing the cancer battle is not exactly a luxury Chris has yet, but I pray he will beat it soon. Thanks, Chris, for providing me with extra motivation yesterday.

PHOTOS: (some people who inspired me by cheering or running THEIR first marathon)

Family and soon to be family provided phenomenal cheering and support!

Sorry ladies, we're both taken. Wait, you don't care? Well, fine then. :)

2 of my best friends, and 2 first-time marathon finishers! You guys rock!

Who needs more inspiration than this? Post-race grub!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Restaurant Review - Corner Table

Last night I had a phenomenal dinner at the Corner Table, a local food restaurant at 43rd and Nicollet. This is the same intersection that boasts Anodyne, which is one of my favorite coffee shops/breakfast stops in all of Minneapolis. So it's odd that I hadn't yet tried the locally-themed restaurant across the street!

This was the perfect time of year to go, since the chefs had the most local ingredients. When I went to Heartland several months ago, local veggies were in short supply. Pretty much beets only (still quite delicious!)

For drinks they had a small but impressive list of beers and wines. Considering that Corner Table prides itself on local food, it was odd that there was only one local beer option and ZERO local wine options (Note to Corner Table: There are some good wines and lots of great beers you could highlight from Minnesota). I had two delicious beers, an Oktoberfest beer from Hacker-Pschorr that was the best Oktoberfest beer I've ever had, better than even Paulaner. Then I polished dinner off with a Belgian Kwak. My only gripe with that was that I was given the wrong kind of glass. They gave me an oddly shaped "hour-glass"-shaped glass, but not the traditional Kwak glass with wooden stand as seen here (and as served at Busters on 28th). Drinks: A- (lack of local options).

For an appetizer we split a cold app, Grilled Vegetable (see menu here) medley. For the price, I was a little surprised that it was so tiny, but the presentation (chopped up zucchini, squash, etc) in a cylindrical shape was great, and the taste was fantastic and did the job of whetting our appetite for more. Appetizer: A- (size outweighed by taste and delicious bread, probably from Rustica???)

The meal came and wow, it was superb. My date had the Vegetable En Croute, which was basically a meat pie without the meat. The crust was flaky and looked delicious, and the ingredients were local and fresh. I had the lamb. It was the first lamb I'd had in probably 7 years and it was worth the wait. It was juicy and flavorful. The orzo/corn mix was great, although a lot of the orzo stuck together. But really, it's hard to find anything wrong with this. Main Course: A++!!

The atmosphere: I got there a bit ahead of my date, and there was a nice small bar to sit at and enjoy a beer while I waited. Not much else for waiting room, but the bar was a perfect spot for that. Thumbs up! While I waited I checked out the dining options. The place had a nice, romantic, but not stuffy feel. The outdoor seating looked good, even with the busy traffic of Nicollet Avenue. While the main dining room had a great feel, we were placed in a back room that jutted off the main dining room. It was a small room with only 4 tables. When I first sat down, only 1 table was occupied by a loud and annoying couple on probably a first date. I didn't really enjoy the feeling that I was sitting at their table and in their conversation. But once the other tables filled with diners, the room became uniformly noisy and the conversations canceled each other out. Grade: B+ (A+ for the main room, C+ for the back room)

Service: Impeccable, friendly, just what I would expect for the price. Great job!

All in all, in the categories that matter most: 1) Would I recommend this place and 2) Would I return, the answer to both is a resounding YES!

I'd love to return in winter and see what local food they have.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Key Lime Yogurt Challenge

I often wonder about the subtle differences in food and beverage. This interest previously inspired my "Coke Challenge", where I had folks try 4 different types of Coke and Diet Coke to see if anyone could discern the difference.

In addition to drinking a lot of Diet Coke, I also eat a lot of yogurt. Lately I've been eating a lot of Key Lime-flavored yogurt for some reason. While shopping for yogurt the other day, I saw 4 different types of no- or low-fat Key Lime yogurt. So I bought all of them. And ate them. And now I'm here to blog about 2 of them: The Archer Farms Target Key Lime Yogurts.

When shopping, look for the colored bar! They look so similar.

Not only does Target make a low-fat Key Lime yogurt, they also make a NO-fat Key Lime yogurt. I ate both at the same time to compare. The results are interesting:

I'll start out with the essential 3 C's of yogurt-grading:

Consistency: Surprisingly, the low-fat had a slightly runnier consistency than the no-fat version. I was expecting the no-fat version to be runnier like the Light and Fit yogurt, which is basically like water. Winner = No-Fat

Low-fat sticks to the spoon...

But not like No-fat does!

Color: Both are a shade of green, but the low-fat is a more Key Lime shade of green. Winner = Low-Fat

Calories: No-fat has far fewer calories. 80 vs 180. Winner = no fat.

Ingredients: Well, since the low-fat version doesn't have ingredients that give lab rats cancer, I'll give the nod to low-fat.

Low-Fat's key to taste victory = real sugar and lime juice. But 100 more calories? (click on the photo to zoom in on the ingredients)

And most importantly, TASTE: No contest here. While both are quite tasty, low-fat has that traditional tart lime taste. And somehow it's a little sweeter too.

So the clear winner is Low-Fat Key Lime. HOWEVER, when consumed BY ITSELF, No-Fat Key Lime tastes good too. Let's call it the Diet Coke principle. Diet Coke is pretty good until it is consumed side-by-side with Coke or Coke Zero. Then Diet Coke starts to taste like a$$.

So what will I buy? Probably a little of both, tending towards the no-fat. I like massive quantities of yogurt, and the lower calorie option allows me to eat twice as much!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

George McCain or John Bush?

Now the question can be answered definitively. Thanks Tom Ridge.

And thank you Daily Show. It was a great 2 weeks of convention episodes. Looking forward to the homestretch this campaign season.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tale of Two Races

The title of this blog has two meanings as will become apparent. This morning I ran two 5Ks. I first ran a free 5K sponsored by LifeTime Fitness and the Mayor's Office at Minnehaha Falls (obviously I had to run that, look at the title of my blog!) Then after chatting with some folks at the race, I ran home, jumped in the car and drove up to North Minneapolis for the Victory 5K.

These were two very different races. The first race in South Minneapolis is part of More To Tri, a series of races put on by the mayor to highlight Minneapolis' amenities and fitness. The event is timed to coincide with the Republican Convention, and a push was made to get delegates to attend (it didn't look like there were any there as far as I could tell). About 100 people showed up at the beautiful pre-dawn hour and ran the race. It was a fun, but small event, run entirely on bike trails and sidewalks through Minnehaha Park. And of course Mayor Rybak competed as well.

The Victory Races (10K and 5K) are races sponsored by the Minnesota Distance Running Association (disclaimer: I belong to and coach for this running group) benefiting the Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods. This is a long-standing race (26th year) that draws much of the running community and the neighborhood. The course is flat and fast, and follows Victory Memorial Parkway, which is a gorgeous boulevard lined with tall and historic trees. Each tree along the parkway commemorates a fallen Minnesotan from World War I. It is a gem of a location in North Minneapolis, part of the Grand Rounds bike route, and a living part of Minnesota's history. During and after the race, the neighborhood throws a big block party in Webber Park and serves unlimited hot dogs while the tired racers watch 5-year-olds run around in the toddler race. It is a wonderful party and probably one of the best races I've ever been to.

So 2 races, one in South, one in North. But while these races were separated by only a 10-minute car ride, they felt much further apart. The Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods have been at the center of the foreclosure crisis, and are right at the center of the homicide heat map. This is a neighborhood that is hurting. Yet this is a neighborhood that hasn't lost its fight. While a drive up Lyndale from Broadway revealed easily a dozen boarded up or demolished homes, there were so many bright spots in the neighborhood as well: exquisitely-maintained homes and parks full of children. Clearly this is a neighborhood that is fighting back against crime and the economic crisis that has hit harder in North than anywhere else.

But where does Mayor Rybak choose to showcase Minneapolis to our out-of-town guests? Beautifully manicured South Minneapolis. It's hard to argue that Minnehaha Falls is a bad location for a race. Easily a dozen races a year are held at this location, and, obviously, it's my favorite location in the entire Twin Cities and I feel so blessed to live 2 blocks from it.

But the mayor missed a great chance to showcase a wonderful neighborhood, a place that feels as friendly and welcoming as (and probably more so than) any other part of Minneapolis. The real story today was in North Minneapolis. It's a great story for people of Minneapolis to hear. It's a great story for the RNC delegates to take home to their foreclosed neighborhoods. And it's something inspiring for all of us. In spite of the physical and economic pain that North has endured, people live, have fun and throw a great party. There were two parties in town this Labor Day, and I feel so blessed to have been included in the one in North Minneapolis. Mayor Rybak is an energetic mayor with a passion for Minneapolis. His cheerleading does good for our city, but on this day, his cheerleading would have been better placed in North Minneapolis.

OK, so most of you that read this are probably more concerned about my race report than my non-running ramblings, so here you go!

Race 1: my intention was to run this as a fun run and a warmup for Victory. So I sandbagged the first 2 miles, yet was winning handily. Or so I thought. Some LifeTime Fitness guy caught me with a quarter mile to go. I let him go thinking, "I'm saving myself for Victory 5K". Then I got competitive. I sprinted the last 40 meters or so and almost caught him but he kicked and beat me by half a step. Finishing time: 18:07. I regret not racing this one from the beginning. How many chances will I have again to win a 5K in Minneapolis? Probably not many. I should also be clear that I'm sure the guy that won probably would have beat me on a head-to-head. He really sandbagged the race and only kicked as much as he needed to in order to win. But if I had gone out at a 5:30 pace, I would have won. Oh well.

Race 2: Fun race, fun times with lots and lots of good friends. While the shirt at the first race was better, this race was so much better organized and was just a blast from beginning to end, with great racers in the 10K and 5K (especially the 10K with all those Team USA-MN racers). I placed 6th in the 5K with a They called out 17:43 and my watch said 17:43, but the official time was 17:45. Shouldn't be a big deal but that's the difference between a PR and not. So I'm calling it a PR, but hopefully I'll beat that again and the official time will reflect that. I'm happy with how I raced, but a larger lead pack would have been nice for that extra push.

This was the first time I ran 2 races like this. Obviously not the best way to PR. I would have done better at either one if I hadn't done the other. But I enjoyed both for very different reasons, and it was a good way to spend a Monday morning!

CORRECTION: The Victory Races are co-sponsored by the Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods, and while the race benefits the neighborhood in many ways, there is no direct monetary benefit for the community from this race. They are partners in the race, not recipients of any assistance.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack, Our Savior!

Well, I hate the Republican talking points that suggest Obama has a Jesus-complex, but you have to admit, Jon Stewart has a funny take on this!

1 Down, 1 to Go!

Well, now that the DNC Obama-LoveFest is over, it's time for the RNC to come to town. I'm looking forward to their arrival like I am a colonoscopy, but since they're going to drop something like $100+ million into the local economy AND still lose Minnesota to the Dems, I'm ok with that. Give us your money, I'm giving Barack my vote.

My thoughts on the DNC Convention: Pretty good, as good as it had to be. I still don't really like Bill Clinton, but wow, what a speech! That guy still has the magic, so dynamic. And Obama, you keep saying you're going to elevate the campaign. Snarky ads and comments about how rich your opponent is makes you a typical politician. You still inspire me and you have my vote, but I'm disappointed with the direction your rhetoric is going.

But next up, RNC! I'm so freakin glad I live and work in Minneapolis. What a cluster St. Paul will be. Most of my small readership is probably equally annoyed that we got the RNC instead of the DNC, so while you're bitching about road closures and crowded St. Paul restaurants this next week, enjoy this hilarious video by Current TV about the convention right here in the Twin Cities by Trace Crutchfield.

I know it's going to suck next week, but let's all be nice to those Republicans. They have a lot of money and when McCain and that "Alaskan hockey mom" leave, their money will still be here with us.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I Love Lamp....and Summer

Many are already lamenting the end of summer, but complaining that it feels like it only just began. Well, get over it. Stop complaining and go enjoy the outdoors!

After a 3 hour run in Lebanon Hills this morning and a trip to the North Shore looming, my mind is definitely NOT on working. I'm thinking about all the fun I've had so far this summer!

So since I'm lazy and not in the mood to write a lot, I'll let the photos speak for themselves. Here are a couple photos of random fun things I love about summertime in Minnesota.

In the category of "Exploring My Backyard":

I started out the summer by visiting Fort Snelling on Memorial Day. Re-enactments and history, so you know I loved it!

I am embarrassed to say that I had never been to Eloise Butler Wildflower Sanctuary. A special treat was seeing my first Lady Slipper in bloom. It's not the Showy Lady Slipper (MN's state flower), but it was incredible nonetheless.

Well, I had to wait 4 years, but it was worth it. 4 years after their wildly successful Art Mini-Golf course, the Walker Art Center did it again. This time, there were 2 courses set up, and even better, the sculptures functioned so much better (generally) for actually sinking a putt!

I LOVE Minneapolis at night, especially on the Stone Arch Bridge. I've been down there several times this summer for fireworks and festivals. A new reason to go this summer was Red Bull's Illume photography exhibition. The photo exhibit made for some great photo opportunities! neat how that works.

Exploring just beyond the urban core, I had a fun weekend camping with some friends in Afton State Park, an incredible retreat just minutes from the Cities. With the hike-in sites and the gorgeous river views, it's easy to forget how close to the city you are.

Afton is a short hop from Stillwater, where my FAVORITE festival of the year, Lumberjack Days, takes place. I haven't missed a Lumberjack Days since I moved to Minnesota, and I can only say that about HighlandFest in St. Paul as well. I don't really have any photos of HighlandFest, even though I went twice this year and had a great time listening to music and climbing the water tower. But I took some great photos of the Lumberjack competitions in Stillwater. Here's a fun photo of the dog jumping competition that you can see sometime this fall on the OLN channel I think.

But Minnesota saves the best for last. The summer will close out soon with the Minnesota State Fair! There's nothing better than the fair, not even Lumberjack Days. It's the great get-together, and I just can't wait! I biked by the empty fairgrounds a couple weeks ago. Soon, this photo will be filled with tens of thousands. I'll leave that as my parting shot, of summer fun yet to come!

Monday, August 4, 2008

More PRs!

Stop the presses, 2 posts in 4 days!

I've had a hiatus in blogging and racing lately. I finally got out for a race, the Hennepin Lakes Classic 10K. Oddly, I've never raced that distance before. That meant I was guaranteed a PR! 10K is an weird distance for me. So short that you need to push harder than is really comfortable, but too long so that you really can't just will yourself through it like a 5K.

The race was basically 2 laps of Lake Calhoun. The first I went out a little too slowly perhaps, but that let me hammer it in for the last lap for a nice negative split. I ended up finishing in 36:37, which is in the range of what I was shooting for based on race calculators and my other PRs from shorter and longer distances.

The race also featured a 5K, with a "doubleheader" option of running both the 10K and 5K. The true MDRA superstars were the flying married duo of Kirk and Anne. Both took 2nd in their age groups. Great job guys! They also have the annoying distinction of being the two most photogenic people WHILE racing. They always look like they're enjoying running. What gives?

To prove that racing is painful, I submit to you a photo of me at the halfway point of the race, running side by side with local running great Dan Morse (editor's note, he ran the doubleheader and I only ran one race, which is the only way I could keep up with him). He's demonstrating to me proper form. However, I'm apparently not paying any attention! I am generally an exhibit on how not to run!

Nathan, don't punch yourself in the face! Get those arms down.

Since I last posted, I also PRed in the 5K at Brian Kraft. So that makes PRs in the 1 mile, 5K, 8K, 10K and half marathon, all in 2008. The one that eludes me is the marathon! Here's to a PR at Twin Cities in October! It's been a great running year thus far, and hopefully that continues!

Friday, August 1, 2008

August 1

I know I haven't blogged in a while. Like most of you, I'm out having too much fun in the summers to blog. And of course, I probably have more blog-worthy material now than ever, but no time to actually blog it.

But I couldn't let today pass without a post. One year ago today I was biking with the youth from my church in southern MN when time seemed to stop all over the state. I don't want to over dramatize a tragic event where (fortunately given the circumstances) ONLY 13 people died, but those first few days after the bridge collapse, there was a different feeling that palpable, and reminded me of living in DC through 9/11.

Photos speak much more clearly than I can write, so I'm going to just put some photos online that I have taken over the past year for you all to see.

Photo taken from Stone Arch Bridge days after the collapse

The old bridge takes shape down on the river flats below the UofM

One month later the bridge is still on the rail cars

One month after collapse

It's hard to see the 35W logo, but this is from a post-collapse Twins game last fall

Bridge is really taking shape - July 13, 08

This past Tuesday I had the extreme privilege of taking a hardhat tour of the 35W bridge reconstruction. I was able to walk around the entire site. The progress they have made in less than a year is astounding. Absolutely astounding.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Play Ball! (almost)

I'm in a baseball mood! Maybe it's from watching a thrilling 12-inning game last night (inside the park 3-run homerun in the bottom of the 9th!!! Are you kidding me Delmon??? Get your head in the game!) Maybe it's because it's spring/summer (all 3 months we get here in MN) and that always puts me in a baseball mood. In any case, I want to blog about the future of Twins baseball today. No, not the future pitcher down in AA or who we should draft. Heck, I don't know anything about that. But I do know WHERE the Twins will be playing in 2 years.

A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the new Twins stadium under construction. It's a fascinating site, and they are literally shoe-horning that stadium in there between 2 bridges, a freeway, a coal rail line, 2 future rail lines (Northstar and LRT), a waterbody (Bassett Creek) and the Target Center. The constraints on this construction site probably make it one of the most challenging buildings ever built in Minnesota. They are cantilevering the stands over a railway, building the stadium from the inside out so that heavy machinery never rests on top of the future field, and building the stadium OVER a 20-foot span over the aforementioned Bassett Creek which is now in box culverts deep underground.

The location is really superb. It has great access to all the municipal ramps, 2 rail transit lines, multiple freeways and all the restaurants and amenities of the Warehouse District around the Target Center. You may have your opinions on whether this is an appropriate use of public funds (as I have strong opinions too), but it's hard to not get excited about the future of baseball in Minnesota after seeing this site. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

The view from around 3rd base

View of stadium from new plaza near Target Center

Another Race, Another PR

Hot on the heals of 2 PRs earlier this month, on Monday I hit my 5K PR at the Brian Kraft Memorial 5K around Lake Nokomis. I finished 5 seconds better than my previous PR at a time of 17:44. I am pretty happy with how I ran since I finished with very even splits of 5:41, 5:45 and 5:44. I kicked in the last .1 and felt pretty good at the finish. Good enough for a PR (albeit a small one) and good enough that I know I have more improvement ahead of me. I think I ran a little too conservatively, but frankly, after the cold winter of training, while I may have the base, I have little speed. That will change this summer.

In MDRA news, the team did great! We had 3 guys go under 17:00, and we placed 7th out of 11 teams (and once again, edged out those dentists!) Our women's team did even better, placing 3rd out of 6 teams. Great job everyone!

Here's to a summer of fast road races! May the PRs continue to fall! And if not, well, 3 PRs (1 mile, 5K and half-marathon) in the month of May will keep me quite satisfied for a while.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Job's Pretty Cool

I'm at a conference on flooding in Reno right now. It's a long conference; I'm actually gone for almost a whole week. I'm learning a lot and I'm really glad that I came. I'm working hard, putting in 14+ hour days, but I'm still finding some time for fun, as I always do. It helps that 2 fun coworkers came with too.

I'd like to blog more, but all I really have time to do is post a couple photos proving that I have found time for fun in the midst of work...

Here are 2 photos from a quick hike at Lake Tahoe...

One of our conference events was at the National Automotive Museum (over 200 beautifully restored, historic vehicles):

And tonight we explored downtown Reno!

It's a pretty neat town, but I'm looking forward to coming home soon! I don't know if I'd come back to Reno, but I'd definitely love to spend some serious time at Tahoe.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bikers Unite!

As many of you probably already know, May is National Bike to Work Month, this week is National Bike to Work Week, and today is National Bike to Work Day! So many reasons to bike, none better than the fact it's gorgeous outside. It was so encouraging to see the Greenway and all the streets around Uptown just flooded with bike commuters.

This morning I biked to Common Roots Cafe, a local organic restaurant that focuses on local ingredients. I'd been hearing all sorts of great things about their bagels, and wow, they did not disappoint! Common Roots was one of many places around town providing free breakfast today to anyone who biked or walked to work. So I met a friend there and enjoyed a bagel and some Peace Coffee. Then I picked up 2 dozen bagels for my company's own version of Bike to Work Day.

I can't say enough great things about where I work. One of the things that I like the best is the commitment of so many people here to reducing their carbon footprint. A big part of that is biking to work, and there are about 30 folks that bike at least occasionally, out of 300. This morning, we had at least 18 (and most of our regular bikers were out of the office this week)! People had to chain bikes to signposts all over the building! Anyway, the bagels were a hit, and good times were had by all. Another successful Barr Biking & Bagels Day.