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.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Three Days, Two PR's

It's been a great week for racing for me!

On Thursday night, I ran the TC 1 Miler in downtown Minneapolis. Perfect weather for a fun downtown event. I ran this last year in 5:15. My mile PR (personal record) wasn't much better: 5:06 on a track. So when I clocked a 5:04 on Thursday on an uphill mile road race, I was pretty surprised and really happy! Especially coming off Boston with virtually no speed workouts since last September.

I ran as part of the MDRA team. Everyone did really well. 3 of our members went 5:00 or better, and everyone else did well, especially considering that for one guy, it was his first timed mile since the Reagan administration! USATF results are here: We took 6th out of 7, but who cares!!?? We had a blast! Running down Nicollet Mall with the cheering crowds was phenomenal, felt like finishing Boston (except, I can remember finishing this race!)

Our women's team (Unattached) did even better, placing 4th out of 6. Individually, Joseph, Misty Mike, and Anne all placed in their age groups, with Fancy Kirk just getting edged out by Mike.

The USATF-only wave was a great change from last year. It was awesome to be running with and against all the same people that we see at all the races year-round. I hope they keep this format. And finishing and watching the elites run the next two waves was perfect. I won't recap, I'm sure you can find good recaps on DtB or even the Strib's site.

Two more shoutouts, great finishes to our other MDRA bloggers, Colin and Nick. Great to see you guys out there! Next stop, Brian Kraft!

OK, RACE #2!
This morning I ran the New Prague Half Marathon for again, the 2nd straight year. I PR'ed there last year, and strengthened my PR again, with a 1:21:59. Since this was NOT a USATF race series event, not as many of the fast guys showed up, so I actually was able to place 10th overall, and 2nd in my age group! (awesome medal too!) Fancy placed 8th and 1st in his age group. He could have done better, but paced me for the first 10 miles. At that point we both brought the pace way down and finished strong. However, Kirk's top gear is a good 10-15 seconds/mile faster than mine. Just like last year I had a strong 2nd half, and that's what I feel best about after this race. A lot of MDRA folks were there and PR's were plentiful. Another great day for racing!

So there you have it, 2 PR's in 3 days. I think I should run a marathon on Monday :)

Oh, and to you non-runners out there, I apologize for my most boring post ever, but the runners in the field may find this slightly interesting!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

You Ate What??

What am I eating??? Read on for the answer...

I returned to Amarillo, Texas, again this week for work. I've been there about 6 or 7 times in the past 3 years, but this time I made sure to get some new experiences since this may be my last scheduled visit for sometime. As far as I can tell, there are THREE (3) places to go in Amarillo:

1) Downtown. I'll toss that one in there even though there really isn't a ton there. It's run-down, quiet, and clearly not the focal-point of the city. There are about 2 blocks of restaurants that look like they're only busy a couple hours a day. But it's an intriguing place and shows how our car culture really takes the emphasis off downtowns and leaves them ghost towns, even in a city of several hundred thousand like Amarillo. There are a few attractive buildings like the City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce.

2) Palo Duro Canyon State Park. They call it the Grand Canyon of Texas. That sounds hokey, but actually, this is far and away one of the best state parks I've ever seen. It is a major canyon that is also rather accessible. It has gorgeous terrain and is heavily used by mountain bikers and trail runners. You know I got my run on!

3) Oh yeah, the BIG TEXAN. Home of the 72-oz steak. If people have heard of anything about Amarillo, this is usually it. This restaurant is pure tourist-trap Texan kitsch. And it is a must-see. I had been avoiding it for years, but I finally made a visit. And it was amazing. Their claim to fame is that if you eat a 72-oz steak, potato, roll, salad and shrimp cocktail in 1 hour, it's free. Many have tried, most have failed. I did not attempt this feat/feast since I had to work the next day, but I was tempted. Randomly, the Big Texan was featured in this MSN article the same week I was there!

While I was dining at the Big Texan, at the urging of some of my Texan colleagues, I tried some seafood. A local variety of oysters. Rocky Mountain I believe. (I wasn't fooled, I knew what they were). I tried one and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But I didn't eat a second one (although I suppose they should be consumed in pairs). I'll throw in some photos from my Big Texan experience.

The Big Texan himself looms over the Interstate

Can you eat the 72-oz steak and fixins?

The table where the "magic" happens. Many have tried, most have failed...

OK, It's Official, Spring is Here

I know it's May 1, and spring has TECHNICALLY been with us since late March. And I realize that we've had a few random days of warmer weather. But for pete's sake (who's Pete, I always wondered), we had snow just this past weekend! And while buds came out on the trees a few weeks ago, a wave of cold weather prevented their opening in most locations around the Twin Cities.

I feel like I've been in spring the past couple weeks. After spending 4 days in Boston where spring was in full bloom, I spent a couple days in southern Minnesota which got their spring a week or two before us. And most of this week I was in Amarillo, where I did trail runs in 90+ degree weather. So I am READY for spring to finally come to Minneapolis.

And, I can report with confidence, that it has finally arrived. I ran in Hyland Hills this morning, and it was gorgeous. The leaves are just starting to emerge from the buds. The turkeys, deer, cranes and pheasants were making their appearances. The frogs were singing, the birds were chirping. It was a natural choir out there!

With the exception of Friday/Saturday (of COURSE it's the weekend), the long range output has highs in the 60s. That's full-on spring, thinking about summer!

Of course, now that I'm excited about spring, what am I now doing? Going up to northern Wisconsin where spring is probably still a week or two away. Smart move.

What are your signs of spring? I mentioned last year that my sign of spring was when the DQ by the falls opened up. But that happened months before. Here are my top signs.

1) Big guys in cotton tee's start lumbering around on the trails, trying to run off that winter gut. The trails get clogged for about 2 weeks until softball season starts, then they're gone.
2) All the accumulated dog sh!t from the winter starts to decay and smell up the neighborhoods.
3) That first hyper-pollinated day. I know pollen bothers most people, but I love the smell and it makes me happy (and only slightly itchy).

The problems with this winter is that it gave us brief glimpses of spring and gave us all those signs already. Then Old Man Winter said, "just kidding" and came back with cold and snow, on numerous occasions. So I have a new sign of spring: When I stop complaining about the weather for one whole week.

Then again, it will be in the 30s tomorrow. Dangit! Does that reset the clock?