Leafed Out

An old friend delurked today to fill me in on her life since the last time I talked to her; among other interesting features, this life includes finishing three marathons. *sigh*

I can’t run that far once, much less three times (gawd, I hope she hasn’t run all three this year – or this summer!), but I can offer a slideshow of the scenery in the Carleton Arb last weekend. Tell you what: ambling through this sort of beauty makes the ambling a lot easier.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Overdistance Rollerski, or, Thinking Snow

This morning, the female fraction of the family attended a friend’s birthday party, giving me the opportunity  to do an “overdistance” rollerski workout – going longer, in terms of both time and distance, than a normal workout, with the aim of really taxing the body and forcing it to work harder than it does in regular distance or interval workouts.

Judging by the all-day throbbing in my shoulders, back, and upper legs, it worked.* More importantly, both the weather and the scenery were fabulous. After making my way through a crowd of surly road-users


I was out among the endless brown and green fields broken only by a few strands of trees or farmsteads…

Northeast of Northfield
Northeast of Northfield
East of Northfield
East of Northfield

Not a bad way to spend a couple hours.

* Final totals for the session:

  • 29.77 kilometers (18.50 miles) skied
  • 2:03:52 total ski time
  • 139 beats per minute average heartrate, with a maximum HR of 162
  • 1440 calories burned
  • Three energy gels and 56 oz of energy drink consumed
  • One gel packet dropped but later recovered
  • Four bike riders and one runner encountered
  • Zero crashes committed

Faster Than a Dodge Grand Caravan!

I realized a second ago that today marks the beginning of my fourth year at Carleton. I started my job here on October 3, 2005, which seems both a long time ago (I only had one kid then!) and not really that long ago (I only had one kid then!). It’s been a great three years, I must say. When I have another three years under my belt, I might finally stop feeling like a newbie.

I celebrated this milestone by inadvertently resolving an issue I’ve been considering as long as I’ve been riding my bike to and from work: is it faster to bike than to drive? I’ve thought so, but never had the chance to actually test it, since I can’t really race myself.

But this morning, pedalling up the street, I saw one of my neighbors, a professor who works one building away from me, getting into his car. Gentlemen, start your engines! Or your lungs, as the case was. I adjusted my speed so that I passed his driveway just as he finished backing up, giving us a more-or-less equal starting point.

I rode to campus at my usual speed, expecting his Grand Caravan to zoom by on my left at any second. As I approached the turn onto the the straightaway to my building, he hadn’t yet caught up, and I thought that I just might beat him outright – and right there he passed me, trying to break my spirit. But I had a plan – beyond even the application of superhuman willpower. Oh, yes: I would still be riding when he had to make like a hominid and start walking.

So I maintained my speed, and sure enough, I passed him back in the parking lot, where he was getting out of his car for the short walk to his building. 200 yards later, locking my bike to the bike rack, I looked back down the sidewalk to find him still strolling toward his building. Two wheels good, four wheels slow!

Car vs. Bike

After getting nearly hit twice in ten seconds by the same woman in a white Sequoia SUV this morning, I was in the mood for some bike propaganda today. The guy (?) who writes the Bike Snob NYC blog helped out with a couple of great posts and a video of his race against a SmartCar through New York City. It was a point-to-point competition; I’ll give you one guess as to the winner.

(What’s more, I’ll bet I reached my destination this morning before Sequoia Driver reached hers – and without endangering anyone else.)

Legging It Out

I was pleased with my race this morning, even though it didn’t go quite as planned. I finished in 20:12 (just off my goal time of twenty minutes, but 1:56 faster than last year), good for fourteenth place in the 140-man field and first in my 14-man age group. Still, I could have run a smarter, better, and faster race if I had handled a couple errors better.

The first big error was the race organizers’ – they didn’t tell those of us at the 5k starting line (a couple blocks away from the starting line for the 15k race) when to expect the gun, so we were just milling around when there was a bang and a puff of smoke down the block. Here was the second error, mine: I went off way too fast, leading the race for the first 500 meters. The only good that came of this was being in front of all the tweens and teenagers who run like oxen, clogging up the road over the first mile. Anyhow, I led through the first corner, and then started giving up places as the real racers caught up to me and the front of the 5k field hit the back of the 15k field.

From there, I was pretty much in survival mode, with my heart rate averaging about 179 (something like 95% of my maximum – which I nearly reached in the last sprint) and my legs feeling increasingly cooked. One by one, other men passed me, with the last one – an old guy! with gray hair! and colossal thighs! – going by just before the two-mile mark. I tried to latch on to each one, but each time, my legs said, “WTF, dude! No way.” I just couldn’t overcome the lactate built up during my stupid all-out start.

Thankfully, the course rescued me. The last third is flat and then gradually downhill to the finish line, helping me hold my position to the finishing chute and even look sorta fast there at the end. (Shannon took this shot just about when I heard Julia cheering for me.)

Finishing the Defeat of Jesse James Days 5k
Finishing the Defeat of Jesse James Days 5k

Playing the Race Card

Just about twelve hours from now, I’m going to hit the pavement in the 5k road race that’s part of Northfield’s gigantic annual “Defeat of Jesse James Days Celebration.” I ran last year’s race in 22:08, finishing 16th among 122 men and first of five in my age group. The race was surprisingly fun – my first running race since 1995.

This year, I trained all spring and summer to run the sibling race, a 15k over a pretty hilly course, but my training regimen was blown up by illness last month, so I stepped down to the 5,000 meter race. This is not only hella shorter, but the course includes just one climb worth mentioning (300 meter run, 10 meter rise). Hoping that my distance-oriented training will translate to this shorter event, my race goal is to run under 20 minutes. Depending on the size and quality of the field, this time might get me into the top 10. In keeping with my goal for tomorrow morning, my goal for tonight is to avoid partaking of the chocolate ice cream in the freezer.

Cold and Snowy

Bring it!

The Farmers’ Almanac predicts below-average temperatures for most of the United States this winter. According to the publication, “numb’s the word.” The 192-year-old publication has an accuracy rate of 80 percent to 85 percent for its forecasts and is prepared two years in advance.

The almanac’s 2009 edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, says at least two-thirds of the country can expect colder-than-average temperatures this winter, with only the Far West and Southeast in line for near-normal readings. The almanac predicts above-normal snowfall for the Great Lakes and Midwest, especially during January and February.

From the Chicago Tribune.


I got my olde aull-terrayne velocipede fixed up at the shop today – those new brakes are great. This evening, I celebrated by watching the mountain-bike races from Beijing, which are archived on the NBC website. The races themselves are good, and the setting – a beautiful park smack in the middle of the city and riddled with narrow trails – is amazing. If you don’t have the stomach for four hours of viewing, settle for the montage of crashes in the women’s race, which is fun to watch too.

Straight Lines

I’ve snuck in a couple runs while here, mostly just to maintain some fitness before a more-intense couple of weeks that will end with a 15km road race in early September. For simplicity’s sake, my runs here in Moorhead have started at my in-laws’ house and consisted of tours of eastern Moorhead. About all I can say of the area as a place to run is that it’s flat and that you don’t have to worry about missing a turn.

Highway 52 Running Path
Highway 52 Running Path

Marathon Swimming

Among the other new events in the 2008 Olympics is the marathon swim – a 10,000 meter (6.2 mile) open-water swim event for women on August 19, for men on August 20. The races are so long that they can’t be held in the Water Cube, where a 10,000 meter swim would entail 200 laps lengths (thanks, Mr. Mayor!) of the pool. Instead, the marathons will be held in the basin where the rowing and canoeing races were earlier held; marathon swims are usually held in lakes, rivers, and oceans, so this is a bit of an odd place to race.

I haven’t swum in years, but this event intrigues me to no end. The technique for feeding racers is incredible (coaches use long sticks to hold food and drink out to the swimmers), a 16-year-old American is a medal possibility in the women’s event, referees can inflict yellow and red cards on swimmers who don’t race fairly, and of course swimming for two hours (in water that might be nearly 90 degrees!) is an enormous physical challenge – heightened by the fact that the swimmers are jostling constantly with one another. Oh, and the races often end in sprints. I’m sure NBC won’t cover more than a few minute of the races on TV, but I’m going to make a point to watch them online.

Olympians (Greatest Wikipedia Table Ever)

I am very impressed by this Wikipedia table, which lists almost every athlete who has won multiple Olympic medals. Obviously,  Michael Phelps is at the top of the list when its sorted for number of golds, but he’s only number three in the ranking by number of total medals, behind two Russian/Soviet gymnasts. My man Bjørn Dæhlie, the greatest cross-country skier ever, is tied for number 6, with 12 medals (8 golds, 4 silvers). Gymnastics and swimming are where it’s at for winning huge numbers of medals…