It will be good for me to be bad at something for a while

Item 1 - life is rough.  I'm at that stage where I could best be described as a sleeping monster.  Seriously.  I am like a bear.  I only want to sleep.  Which culminated in a dream this morning about me kicking out a chipmunk from a double paned window (it was time for it to go) and then discovering I'd also upset an animal that can best be described as part baby tiger and part hamster.  The little animal was panicking and crying and then I started crying when I realized it didn't have any teeth and no mom to give it milk.  I was planning on how to give it milk through an eye dropper when I woke up.  Thank goodness too.  That wasn't a good dream.

Item 2 - don't poop your pants is a phrase most runners know.  I entertained the Bolder Options training group last night with my use of that information. 

Item 3 - It's hot.  It's 9pm and still 90*.  I was thinking about a run tomorrow morning but may decide against it.

Item 4 - it will be good to be bad at something for a while.  I just started to share my time between my current job and another department at work.  In the new department I am brand new and in that stage where you have to completely learn everything again.   It's hard right now and perhaps contributing to the sleepiness.  Ultimately it will be good for me.

Item 5 - I'm dating a new bike.

I asked the Bolder crew if they knew anyone with an extra road bike.  While a mountain bike is better than nothing, it can be pretty rough slow.  My mountain bike is slow.  I took the new bike out on a long first date around the lakes (way too crowded) and headed home on the Greenway and Bikeways.

How fast was I going?  A billion times faster than on my mountain bike.  For reference, see how slow I was here
Things I liked about this bike:
  • The gear shifting situation is much better than my bike.
  • It's faster than my bike.
  • It weighs less than my bike.
  • It's meant to be on the road but not freaked out by the total crap pavement situation we have going on in some places up here.  40th street between Lyndale and 35W, I'm looking at you.

Things I didn't like about this bike:
  • Clips on the pedals.  Is this sacrilege or something?  I'm not a fan of the clips.  When I'm in them they make my toes numb and I'm worried I won't be able to get my foot out of them.  When I'm not in them, they hit the ground when I'm turning.
  • Honestly not sure if the frame is the right size.  My back and shoulders were killing me on the ride.  It could just be that I'm out of practice.
  • Also in the minus column is the speed because now I have to work harder to stop.  So afraid of flying over the handlebars...

 I'm going to date this bike for as long as I'm allowed.  It is fun to have a bike I feel good about and will look forward to riding.


Sunday - longest drive ever

Sunday I woke up early to fit in one last run.  (Good weather and good course means must run.)  I got my iPod working properly for this one so I can report I'm faster than I thought I was.  I actually felt slower than the day before so this was a surprise.  Nice.

Barb and I headed out to breakfast.  We'd been recommended a Scandinavian place (the one that's in the basement) but it was full so we wound up at the Thunder Bay Restaurant down the street.  It's a fascinating place.  Some of the reviews really pan the service but I thought it was just a different way of providing service.  The lady, Denise, got me my first cup of coffee and then pointed me to the pot if I wanted refills.  She took my order by my name and then the chef called me into the kitchen by name to get my food.  I think it's nice when the chef looks at you and says "enjoy your meal Liz", but I was in the mood to be entertained by these people. 

Both Barb and I liked this place for a couple other reasons.  They "charge" people a quarter if they don't finish their meals and then all that money goes to charity.  And we heard how the charities are picked.  Just paraphrasing here - Children's charities are really well funded but no one gives to people who are homeless and mentally ill so that's what I like to do.  Win for you.  We left extra money with the check for their charity jar.

After breakfast I was ready to hit the road.  The border crossing was fine.  That was the nicest American I've had at one of those.  (Welcome home!)  The drive was pretty easy until just before Two Harbors.  It's okay though because Betty's Pies is also just before Two Harbors.  I had chocolate raspberry cream pie.  All of my favorite things.


We had one more stop at the Scenic Overlook rest area in Duluth (I had to pee).  The river is changing back to not quite as red and it's harder to tell where the river becomes Lake Superior.  There's still a ton of damage and a lot of local roads closed.

The drive from Duluth to Twin Cities was fairly awful.  There was a ton of construction where the roads were down to one lane each direction.  That was fine on the way up but adding all the Sunday drivers who are slow and don't merge well was a frustrating experience.  The traffic was so slow and boring I agreed we could listen to a book on tape.  Barb was interested in Conversations with God which is permanently on my iPod so it queued it up for her. 

We got back into town around 7pm and Barb headed home.  It took me a while to be ready to talk to my parents because I was so burnt out from the drive.  I talked to them for a while and then headed to bed.

Next year the conference is in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Guess who's going!

Saturday - Day 2

Like all good days, Saturday started with a run.  I found this route the night before.  The profile looked like a lot of fun, especially the down hill.  When I actually ran it, neither the up or the down was as dramatic as it looks on paper.  It was a gorgeous run.  There were two little bike/walking paths that took me along some streams and away from the roads and the last trail put me right out at the dorm.

The last day of the conference was great.  Barb said she'd found her people.  I already knew they were my people.  We had a longer break at lunch (because I did not attend the business meeting for the Society for Spirituality and Social Work) so I walked around some of the trails on campus.  There seem to be all these little streams around Thunder Bay and they are wonderful.


After we ended, Barb and I hit up a Thai place that was recommended to us.  I love Thai food.  Barb was nervous for anything spicy.  She was afraid it would set her mouth on fire.  She wound up trying a great veggie dish and really liked it.  We headed back to the marina for another walk, pictures, and to decompress after the conference.  It is fun but it can be intense too.  The sail boats were heading out and coming in and doing all kinds of crazy stuff.  We also enjoyed the water/art piece.  I can now walk on water!



Friday - Day 1 of the conference

First day of the conference
Challenge 1: find breakfast.  I wound up in the resident/student cafeteria.  There were what could loosely be called eggs.  Not good.  The french toast was very good though.
Challenge 2: there are no more challenges.  Enjoy the conference.

Lakehead University is not on Lake Superior but does have some water on campus.  I ate lunch outside and it was great.

At the end of the day we headed downtown for dinner and a walk around the marina.  It was gorgeous and again, light after 10pm.  Nice.


Thursday: Every road in the state is closed so a road trip will be perfect!

Last week - torrential rains caused flooding in Duluth and the surrounding areas.  Among other things streets fell apart, the polar bear escaped and the seal was swimming down the street.  More importantly, every road in the state was closed as a result.  I exaggerate only slightly.  Here's the statewide map and a close up of Duluth.

I was expecting a pretty horrendous drive up to Thunder Bay for the North American Conference on Social Work and Spirituality.  Turned out that 35 had opened up again and there was only one small detour on the north shore.  And we were the only ones on the road.  The view coming into Duluth was breathtaking.  The rivers run red in northern Minnesota becuase of all the iron in the area.  You could see where the rivers were running into Lake Superior because the water was two entirely different colors.

We stopped a few places along the north shore, once we knew we were out of road closure danger.  Was saw Split Rock Lighthouse, a few rivers that had swelled their banks and created waterfalls and then stopped in Grand Marais.  We celebrated my birthday with a Strawberry Smoothie.  There was this lady behind me who asked me what was in a smoothie (sorry, I'm not sure what they put in them here) got the same thing as me and then said "Thank You" when Barb wished me a happy birthday.

Barb was really nervous for the Canadian border.  I'm not sure why.  I kept giving her a hard time about it.  The last time she'd been out of the country was to Canada in the 1970s before you needed a passport.  As soon as we crossed the border we saw two moose.  I'd never seen a moose before.  (Yes, even after living in Minnesota for 10 years.)  The border crossing ultimately threw both of us off because we also crossed back into the eastern time zone.  WTF?  That made us super later for dinner.  Boo.

The good thing about changing time zones was when the sun was still up at 10pm.  My birthday really was the longest day of the year.



Wordless Weekends - North of the border


Customer service - a review

For my recent trip north of the border, I had to call around and figure out the rules for traveling with credit cards, phones etc.  I don't have any horror stories for you.  Everyone I talked to was nice and helpful.  It was fascinating to make all three calls at once.  I found myself comparing the experience with each company in my head, so I'll pass it along for you. 

American Express card was my first call.  It stands out because I wasn't asked to repeat the last four of my social or my mother's maiden name or anything else.  Also, there's a reason Amex has a good reputation for customer service.
  • The system excepts number prompts from the key pad and or plain language requests ("talk to a representative")
  • Lame hold music, mercifully that was short lived
  • I only had to say my account number once, at the beginning of the call and wasn't asked to repeat it.  Ever.  Win for AmEx.
  • Customer service representative was super nice and told me about some more services (that apparently don't cost extra) that I can use while traveling.  Hopefully I wont lose my passport, but I appreciate knowing I can call you collect if I do.

Bank of America card was my second call. 
  • The system only accepts prompts from the number pad, no plain language requests.
  • I felt like the automated "this is your balance and these are your charges..." was a little long, especially the fifteen times the computer asked if I wanted to make a payment over the phone.
  • Why do I have to type in my credit card number for the computer, have the computer verify I'm calling from the phone listed on the account, and then when I get to a representative, they don't know who they're talking to or what account?  Why?
  • This representative was also super helpful.
  • This card has a lower foreign transaction fee than Amex.

TMobile was my third call. 
  • All the other calls were fine, why is the connection to my mobile service provider crap?
  • TMobile automated system also accepts plain language requests, but the connection was so spotty, it finally gave up and got me to a representative.  Fine because that's what I wanted anyway.
  • I am calling you from the phone number on my account, why do I have to verify my identity in five other ways?  I understand this one slightly more than some of the others because there's three lines on my account (sometimes the best way to make your parents use a cell phone is to finance the phone) but still.
  • Super helpful guy who told me about the costs associated for incoming texts (free), outgoing texts ($0.50/text), minutes for calls including when people leave voice mails ($0.59/min), and data charges (a whopping $15/MB - no, that's not a typo) and how to avoid data roaming fees altogether.
  • Also the only call that tried to sell me some new plan or service or something.  Someone has a quota to fill.

To summarize:
  • Don't try to sell me new crap when I'm calling for customer service on an existing account.
  • It's annoying when I have to provide my account number and verify it ten times in a five minute phone call.  I exaggerate only slightly.
  • If I have to deal with a computer system when I call, I prefer the ones that accept plain language commands.
  • Yeah for all three companies being able to answer my questions straight away and being very helpful and polite!


I will celebrate my birthday with a long run!

I got up this morning and actually made it out for a long run.  Great success.

 I did my favorite route, Ft Snelling, and threw in some of the Minnehaha trail for good measure.  There's this secret walking path that no one knows about.

It was basically a really good run.  I think I started a little too conservative because I had a lot of kick left at the end.  Pacing on runs is hard.  I don't want to go too easy, but I don't want to make myself sick either.  (Failed at not getting sick twice today.  Awesome.) 

Here's what my Nike+ thinks I did.  As always, I'm taking this with a big grain of salt.

When I got home I synced up my workouts and Nike wished me a Happy Birthday.  (As it should.)