Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thankful Thursday ~ For the Love of Furniture!

Happy Thankful Thursday, Everyone!

As I post this, I'm on the bus en route to the State Track Meet in Laurel, MT! I'm pretty excited about the meet. State is always a good time, but most importantly, it's just so cool to see our athletes perform at their best. I'm sure I'll have more to say about the meet next week after it's all over. Let's get on to the real heart of the matter of today's post: Furniture.

Yes, Furniture!

This week, I'm thankful for furniture. Well, furniture, my dog, and my husband, to be more precise!  Yes, it's a pretty fluffy Thankful Thursday post this time. BUT that doesn't mean it's not sincere!

If you've been following along on the blog recently, you know that I was sick with some sort of throat infection that greatly resembled strep. I hate being sick. Doesn't everyone? But while I was sick, I kept coming back to three things that I felt extra thankful for: My BED, my DOG, and my Husband! Let's learn more!

My Bed
Recently, Jeff and I took advantage of some sales and purchased a new bed and mattress. I was so thankful for such a comfy place to lie while I was sick. Seriously, one day I slept in until 9, then napped from 10-12:30, took another nap from 1-5, then went to bed at 9:30. That's a whole lotta sleeping and I was so, so glad for the best ever new bed to rest in!

Here's a photo from the furniture store website:
Sunny Designs Sedona Queen Storage Bed w/ Slate
We are a little tight for space, so it was also really great to use the storage in the bed and eliminate a dresser in our bedroom. Mostly, I'm just thankful for a great place to sleep...

...and cuddle My Dog!
I was also pretty thankful for my dog while I was feeling under the weather. This dog, you guys! He is the sweetest dog. Pretty high level of empathy. It's like he knew I was sick and couldn't take him for so many walks or runs. He didn't get hyper and tear around the house. What he did was give me extra snuggles and loves! Woman's best friend, for sure! Harvey also loves the new bed...
Seriously- how many legs does this dog have?!

Lastly, and most importantly, I'm so, so thankful for Jeff!
While I wasn't feeling well, Jeff picked up the slack around the house and also did my end of some of the dog chores. He made me chicken noodle soup one day, too. Jeff was pretty encouraging and helpful all around, and I really appreciated the extra attention. He's always pretty fantastic, but he stepped up his game while I wasn't feeling good. Thanks, Hon! :)

Now that's it's been a little over a week since I first started feeling ill, I"m now feeling much, much better. Just wanted to say a simple thanks for some things that may not seem like much but are pretty awesome this week. I'm looking forward to a great weekend of State Track and also to getting back into some running and exercise.

What are you thankful for this week?
What helps you feel better when you're sick?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring Cow Feeding

Hello to my (tiny) blogosphere of readers! (Thanks mom!)

I have been MIA for over a week and I missed last week's Thankful Thursday.

Here's Why.

Stressful caseload at school + busy track season + busy farm season/homelife = not enough sleep + little time for myself = SICK KATIE!

Yep. I spent the good portion of the weekend without moving from my bed. It started with a sore throat last Wednesday. Thursday I spent the entire, long day, which also happened to be cold and damp, outside for a track meet-- throat got worse and add to that neck and head aches. Friday I woke up with a fever in addition to the other symptoms and subsequently spent more time in bed sleeping than I did awake. My throat hurt SO BAD. I felt pretty awful the rest of the weekend, but thankfully felt OK enough to go to school starting this week. Today, Tuesday, I feel pretty much back to fine. I'd say I'm at 95% of 100.

Needless to say, blogging was a nonessential activity while I was trying to get back to feeling semi normal. I don't know if it was some version of Strep or the flu or what, but I was pretty miserable for a few days there. Thankfully, I never got a runny nose or cough--you know, the really annoying cold and flu symptoms. Just had the painful ones. My lymph nodes were so swollen I thought they would burst if I touched them wrong. Ugh. I managed to somewhat dull the pain and the fever by simply taking Advil the whole time I was sick. Better than nothing!

The whole weekend felt like a weekend that had been full of plans but ultimately, some things got pushed by the wayside.

What I DID do over the weekend:

  • Jeff did convince me I was feeling OK enough to join some friends of ours for a lovely dinner on Friday night. Surf and Turf with beef from their ranch and shrimp from Pike's Market in Seattle. So good! Great conversation and company, too. 
  • Jeff and I also attended North Star's Graduation Commencement ceremony on Saturday afternoon. We arrived right before it began and left immediately after it was done. I felt bad about not going through and shaking hands with the grads and visiting with friends, neighbors, and coworkers, but I was just feeling so awful. Still, glad we went. The speaker was a man named Flint Rasmussen, who is actually a Rodeo Clown by profession. He tours with the Professional Bull Rider circuit. He was a really great speaker and had some good advice for the kids. 
  • Sunday, I felt good enough to get outside a bit and help Jeff with some cow chores. Photos will follow later in this post!
What I did NOT do over the weekend:
  • Household chores and cooking. OK, I did laundry on Sunday but that's really about it. Special kudos to Jeff for taking my turns with pet chores and other household drudgery.
  • I didn't do any blogging or spend much time at all on the computer. Mostly, I was asleep. Priorities.
  • I didn't do the 10K trail race in Ulm, MT that I've been sort of planning on for a long time. (If I couldn't even get up to walk from my bed to the kitchen table, how could I have run 6.2 miles, hmm?) Honestly, as the weekend approached, even before I got sick, I was leaning toward not going anyway. Ulm is nearly 3 hours from my house and since I'm gone so much in the spring anyway, it was starting to look like a good idea to stay home. Turned out to be cold and rainy on Sunday morning in Ulm anyway. Hopefully next year. 

So, lets get back to the pictures and info of what I did do on Sunday, which was help Jeff feed cows.

Jeff, Tom and some neighbors spent last Thursday (while I was at the track meet) sorting our cows and calves into breeding groups, administering vaccines to the calves, and hauling the groups of pairs to pasture. We have four breeding groups and we breed the "old fashioned way," meaning that we don't use artificial insemination to breed our cows. Here's a post I did a few years ago, specifically about how we breed our animals: http://prairieponderingsmt.blogspot.com/2014/02/matchmaker-matchmaker.html. The post is worth a look especially for the YouTube video at the end. Anyway, this is the time of year when the magic happens.

These gentlemen are about to be let out into the world to do work.
Get ready, ladies!
Our cows and calves are already out at pasture and the men will join them tomorrow or Thursday. It's going to be quite a bit like the Discovery Channel around here. This time of year, the cows get a little extra feed supplement in addition to the grass they eat at pasture. It's called range cake, or just cake. We drive out to their pastures and dump little piles of it on the ground for them to eat. It just helps with their overall nutrition as they are rebounding from calving and supporting a growing calf, and spring grasses are still a bit short. Here is a post I did back in February that has a lot more information about range cake: http://prairieponderingsmt.blogspot.com/2015/02/cake-walk.html. If you want to learn more, I highly suggest you click back and read through that one!

I went with Jeff on Sunday to feed the range cake. When we drive into the pasture and get close to the group of animals, Jeff will roll down the window and hit his hand on the outside of the pickup door and yell, while honking the horn. The cows know that this is the dinner bell and typically come running. It always makes me giggle to see them run this time of year because their udders are still so big! They get pretty excited about their range cake, though!

The cows know that the cake comes from inside that bag and they are pretty eager. Some of them will eat it out of your hand if you hold still enough. I love that our cows are so gentle.
 We pour the pellets out into little piles in the grass and the cows munch away. You can really see in this picture how the cows have lost their winter coats and are down to their short, summer hair. The light wasn't great on Sunday, but their coats are actually really gossy and nice-looking right now. Overall, the cows and calves look to be in really good condition. The calves especially are bouncy and happy.
Jeff snapped this photo of me dumping out some cake for the girls. I like cow chores where I can be in among the herd. While you do have to be aware of the cows--where they are and what they are doing--overall, they're used to people and are really pretty gentle. It was nice to be outside.
The astute reader will have noted that I made mention to rainfall and was wearing my rain coat and boots in the photo. Yes, it did (finally!) rain a bit over the weekend! We ended up with between .5 and .6 of an inch of rain, with about .7 on our farmland to the north. There were PUDDLES in the yard! I had nearly forgotten what such a thing even was! The rain was a good drink for the crops and the pastures, but we'll certainly need more before too long, since we were so dry to begin with.

So that's what's been going on around here! What did you do (or NOT do) over the weekend?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Before and After and Balance

Everybody loves a good Before and After photo series, right?

Jeff and I went on a crop tour last night to check on our winter wheat and peas. I remembered as we were walking around that I had gone for a run up to this field last fall and taken a few photos. So, here are the "before" pictures-- 
Young winter wheat in the furrows. Planted late last fall.
Winter wheat on the right. On the left is a field of spring wheat stubble, which we planted to peas this spring.
Also, a red blur in the stubble-- that's my dog, Harvey. :)
If you want to see the entire blog post from when I took these two "before" photos, you can check it out here: When Farming, Running, and Hunting Collide...

And now the "after" photos. "After" referring to after winter, I guess...

This is our winter wheat crop now. This was planted on pea stubble.
And again, the red-ish blur in the background is my dog. :)
Young pea shoots on spring wheat stubble. 

Even though we haven't had any rain this year, our winter wheat is still doing really good. Especially the wheat that was planted on the pea stubble from a few years ago. That field was yellow peas in the summer of 2013, last year it was fallow, and then last fall we seeded winter wheat on that field. If you remember your basic biology, peas are a nitrogen fixer in the soil. Wheat is a nitrogen taker. Jeff attributes the success (so far) of this crop in great part to the nitrogen left by the peas in the soil. We also had significant moisture last fall for planting, which certainly doesn't hurt.

Here is another image of winter wheat, from a field directly across the road to the south of the winter wheat pictured above.
Winter wheat planted on spring wheat stubble.
This crop was planted on spring wheat stubble. So, this field was spring wheat in summer of 2013, fallow in 2014, then seeded to winter wheat in fall of 2014. This wheat is still not bad, but it's not quite as lush as it's counterpart field that had been planted on pea stubble.  This is the same breed of seed, planted at the same time, with the same moisture and weather happenings as the previously mentioned field. The only difference is the type of crop that preceded it. This is why crop rotation is important (among other reasons).

As a reminder for my non-farming friends and family who read the blog, winter wheat is planted in the fall. It must germinate and grow a little, then with hard freeze it dies off for the winter, only to come back up in the spring. It's an interesting crop in that it's life cycle includes two germinations. There are many reasons to include it in our rotation. One is that we have a big enough farm that the time stress to try to plant all of our crops in the spring is great, so planting some winter wheat in the fall helps a lot. Another reason is that winter wheat does typically yield more bushels than spring wheat does, when the right conditions are present. We planted many acres of winter wheat last fall because we had A LOT of moisture in August and September.

This spring, not so much on the moisture front. When I wrote that it hasn't rained this year, that's more or less true. We haven't had any measurable rain of significance in 2015. Last week it rained, but it was a brief shower and we received less than one tenth of an inch of moisture. Better thana kick in the seat, but we all really could have used more. Many farmers, including us, are seeing the effects of drought and disease on their crops. Jeff and I feel pretty lucky that our fields look as good as they do.

Thinking about crop rotation, if our peas never make it to maturity due to lack of moisture, I wonder if they'll still be a good nitrogen source for a future wheat crop? If so, then we may still be money ahead for having planted them, in the long run. Interesting to think about.

Jeff and I spent quite a bit of time yesterday evening discussing our relationship to the farm. Specifically, my relationship to the farm and how my role fits in to the success of the operation. Something like 90% of family farms include at least one person who works off-farm. I guess I fall into that statistic, with my jobs at the school (I work at the school but I am not employed by the school- I work for a separate company). My income, while small (I positively impact children's lives and make less than a person who stocks shelves at Wal-Mart), contributes to the comfortable lifestyle we lead and helps us continue to farm in best way we can. I know there are times when Jeff has wished I had been more available, and my lack of availability can't always be blamed on my job. While I believe it is very important for anyone to take care of themselves and do what they need to do to maintain their own baseline, there are definitely times when I need to be better about balancing my own wants and needs with those of the farm. I guess it's just an ongoing learning process for me to see how exactly to do that. Not so different from balancing nutrients for a crop.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thankful Thursday ~ What is a Trophy Worth?

**Today's Thankful Thursday post, a day late! I had it done yesterday, I swear, I just didn't get around to publishing it!! **

Yesterday was the Montana 9C District Track and Field Meet, and the North Star Track and Field Teams, of which I am an Assistant Coach, performed very well. Our Boys team earned the First Place Team title and the Girls earned Second Place Team. Some new hardware will be added to the trophy case at school, continuing the tradition of excellence for North Star Track and Field. While pretty, shiny objects in trophy cases are cool, I think the greater story is in the the life lessons learned on a day like yesterday. When talking and writing about my own running, whenever I win a medal at a race, I like to think about how that the medal is important, but what it symbolizes is the culmination of hard work and personal growth that took place in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the receipt of that medal. It's no different for a track team earning a trophy.

These kids worked their tails off yesterday. For the first (and likely only) time this season, each student-athlete participated in five events during the meet, which is the maximum number of events an athlete is allowed to compete in. Every individual on the team had a season best or all-time-best performance in one or more of their events. Some kids even made very courageous personal sacrifices to participate in some very challenging events for the first time all season. For example, two of our boys competed in the 3200 meter run (approx. two miles), having never competed in that event before. Others made similar commitments to participate in events they may never have done, putting the team ahead of themselves. When it comes to winning a track meet, every point counts, which means that each athlete's individual efforts are important. Our head track coach stated to the team prior to the meet, "Your individual successes will lead to team success." His statement definitely rang true yesterday as individual efforts all day long added up, leading to team trophies.

As the meet began, I had the chance to watch one of our standout Senior athletes compete in her first event of the day, Long Jump. Right away, she popped out her season-best jump and as she got out of the sand pit, she had a huge smile on her face-- grinning ear to ear. I knew from that moment and from her expression that it was going to be a great day. Her jump was a great jump, but it's still only a jump. One jump out of many she has taken and will take, and it could symbolize any number of different types of "jumps" she'll make in life, metaphorically speaking. Her response and positive attitude was contagious and she carried it throughout her day. She affected every other athlete she encountered, and in the end she was nominated and won a Sportsmanship Award for her actions (as well as four First Place finishes and one Second Place finish, and several PRs!) It's a great reminder that our actions and attitudes affect everyone around us.  She wasn't the only athlete who let a smile lead the way yesterday.
Results of the Girls' 100 Meter Dash.
My own responsibilities at the meet yesterday kept me off the track for most of the day, but when I could sneak down and watch the athletes perform, I was continually blown away by the positive attitudes of each individual I came across. All day long, our North Star kids were smiling, laughing, cheering each other on and celebrating each others successes. I saw kids running across the infield to congratulate one of their peers for making it to Finals for her event. I saw two athletes give each other high-tens after their race, because they knew they had crushed it. One girl, who all season long has been nervous and very hesitant before her races approached the start line in the 800, her most difficult race and was smiling before the race even began-- and when she crossed the finish line, she had a new PR to show for her efforts.  All of us coaches, parents, and fans who attended the meet could add our own stories of positive energy that we witnessed to this list. All of this goes to prove that when we're having fun, we're relaxed, and we perform better. In life, when we're having fun and are relaxed, we are the best versions of ourselves.

This is only my third season coaching and already I have seen some outstanding individuals go through our program in my previous two years. Outstanding as athletes and as human beings. This year's crew was young. We started off the year having lost a number of talented leaders from the previous season. This year, it took us a long time to figure out who we were as a team and what we were made of. We began the year as a gathering of individuals who happened to be wearing the same blue and black uniforms, trying to figure out if and how each fit in with each other. As coaches, we spent a lot of time talking about how to motivate individuals, and also just simply figuring out each of their personalities. We also spent a lot of time thinking and talking about what events each kid would do best in personally, and how they could help the team. It took each and every practice, each and every meet to get the kids to where they are now, to be a TEAM. The credit doesn't go to us, it goes to them- the student-athletes- for putting in the hard work and recognizing their own positive results. A team is more than a uniform, and yesterday, our athletes were a TEAM in every sense of the word.

What our team learned about is what a team trophy is worth. More than anything else yesterday, they learned about the power of unity, encouragement, and positive attitude. Track and Field is just a sport, and trophies are just engraved bits of metal and wood, but what these athletes learn by participating in this sport are life lessons that will stay with them for years to come. To learn to give your best effort, even when it's challenging or scary, is not easy. To learn to put others before yourself can be monumentally difficult. To learn to be positive and celebrate the successes of yourself and others graciously is an art. More than winning races, jumping or throwing far, the team trophies the kids earned yesterday are celebrating each of those skills. That is how to earn a trophy, and that is what a trophy is worth. I hope that when they look at their trophies in the case, they remember their own individual events, but also what it felt like to be part of a team, part of something bigger than themselves.

North Star Boys Track and Field, First Place.
Congratulations, men! Looking forward to many years of continued success. :)
North Star Girls Track and Field Team, Second Place.
Congratulations on a hard fought battle, ladies! 
Should go without saying at this point, but I'm pretty thankful to be a Coach of so many fine young men and women, and to witness and be part of their personal growth and positive Track and Field experience. It's an honor and a privilege, and one I don't take lightly.

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Weekend Happenings

Hi Everyone!

I hope you all had a nice weekend! My weekend was pretty good around here, though busy. The major highlight of the weekend was that my birthday was on Saturday! Woohoo! Today's post is more or less a recap of the weekend's activities, which were many and varied, and also of what's going on on the farm.
The crabapple tree bloomed (early!) in time for my birthday this year.
Birthday Happenings
Saturday was my birthday. Yay! I celebrated with Jeff, Tom and Carol on Friday evening. Tom and Carol had a nice meal of grilled steaks, tossed salad with volunteer spinach from our garden, potatoes from the grill, a nice crusty bread, delicious wine, and some cheesecake squares for dessert. It was low-key and nice to get together and share good food and good conversation. Saturday, my actual birthday, I got to take a group of Junior High kids to their track meet in Cut Bank, along with another Coach. It was a long day, but good to be with some of these youngsters as they're discovering the sport of Track and Field. They surprised me with a nice birthday card and some singing of Happy Birthday. Pretty thoughtful for a group of pre-teens, right? Made me feel special and appreciated. :)
It was a pop-up card- my favorite! :) Delivered on the bus ride home.
Farm Happenings
We are officially DONE with seeding. The winter wheat was, of course, seeded last fall, but we still had lots of spring wheat, peas, and barley to do this spring, along with some land that we re-seeded into grass. Overall, seeding went well with little to no machinery breakdowns. The biggest news related to seeding is that we purchased a new blockage monitor system for our air-drill (seeder) this year, which is a little hard to explain, but helps show the person who's running the drill if the seed is flowing through the implement and into the ground as it should be. Jeff, Tom, and Stephanie (when she was here) installed sensors on each hose of the air drill. Each sensor is monitored using an iPad app that Jeff or whoever is driving the tractor can view. The app would buzz if it sensed that no seed was flowing through a hose on the drill, and would indicate which hose was blocked. Then Jeff could go out and see what was up, or how that particular hose was blocked, clear the blockage, and get back to work. The system worked very well and definitely ensured that seeding continued to run efficiently. Without a system like this, a person could have a blockage and not know for a very long time, which means that part of the ground goes un-seeded. So, with this system in place, we know we didn't miss any ground. Pretty cool how technology can work in agriculture and improve productivity, and therefore yields. Now we just need some rain. Seriously, folks, pray for rain!
This is what an air drill seeder looks like. Normally, it's hooked up to trail and seed behind a tractor.
Fitness Happenings
Shape Up Montana ended last Thursday. Overall, I'm happy with my own performance this year. I wanted to make it to 500 miles and I eclipsed that and then some by reaching 565 or so. As a team, my team did awesome, too, and I can't wait to see where we finished in the team standings. I ran and biked quite a bit more this year than in previous years, and already have a 10K under my belt, so I attribute that as a big reason why I scored so many more points this year. Over the weekend, I ran on Friday and Sunday. Friday was a windy uphill run of 3 miles or so in the afternoon, and Sunday was an easy walk/jog combo of less than two miles. I was pretty sore for some reason yesterday morning, plus I knew that Jeff and I were planning our big bike ride for that afternoon so I didn't want to overdo it... I am planning to do the 10K at the Buffalo Jump Race Series in Ulm, MT on May 17, so I do need to concentrate on keeping my mileage and training up this week, then "tapering" next week in preparation for the race.
8th Annual Buffalo Jump Races
I love this logo for the Buffalo Jump races!
Bicycle Happenings
Jeff has a fitness goal this summer of getting in a lot more mountain biking. I told him that for my birthday I didn't want any presents, but let's plan to go on a long bike ride instead. So, Sunday afternoon, we spent about an hour and a half on our mountain bikes. For the first time, really, we rode through our pastures instead of on the gravel roads. We mostly followed cow paths, which are a lot like single-track, except where there were no trails, then we just picked our way carefully through the grass. We left from Tom's house and made a big loop heading out to the Southwest, crossing the creek, then by the tepee rings, across the Inverness Road by the gravel pit and reservoirs over there, then crossed back into Chuck's pasture, and headed toward home. We think we covered about 8 miles. Harvey and Abby came with us and particularly enjoyed all the creek crossings and reservoirs. We had a great time!
Our first creek crossing of the afternoon. 
Stopping at another reservoir. Dogs went for a swim. :)
You can see how brown the grass is in these photos. We really need some rain. 
The narrowest, most harrowing portion of our ride. Barbed wire fence on one side, steep drop off on the other...
No big deal, right? We made it through with no spills. :)
 It was a jam-packed, but awesome weekend of work, play, and celebration. How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting? Happy trails, everyone!
One of my favorite views on our entire farm. Actually in some pasture that Jeff and I rent. Sage Creek with the Sweetgrass Hills in the background. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thankful Thursday ~ Pride of Place Photos

Two weeks ago in a Thankful Thursday post, I wrote about how I appreciate this place where I live. You can read that post HERE. I also put out a challenge to my readers, family, and friends to submit photos of places they love to use in an upcoming post. Today is the day of the big reveal of the photos I received! 

The amount of photos submitted was incredible. Several people submitted upwards of 10 photos! Wow! In the interest of time and space, I couldn't include every single photo that everyone sent me. So, at most I included two of the ones people submitted. Apologies to people who sent more, but I do thank you so much for your enthusiasm!!! 

Without further ado, let's get to the real reason you're looking at my blog today-- the PHOTOS! With each person who submitted, I'll first list their name and how I know them, then you'll see the image(s) they sent. If people submitted a caption or explanation, I put it as the photo caption in most instances. As you look through the photos, I encourage you to think about why that person might love the place or be thankful for the place in the picture. 

From Melissa, a friend and fellow Hi-Liner--
"Our farm, north of Gildford. Farm life is the best!!"
My blogging friend Jessie sent two photos. She blogs mainly about running but sometimes also posts fantastic vizsla and animal photos, as you can see below. Check out her blog at www.therightfits.com!  Jessie's vizsla is named Matilda. Isn't she perfect? The cats are pretty cute, too. :)
Jessie says: I'm thankful for having a warm bed to share with all our animals. 
Not going to lie... Harvey sleeps on our bed, too! :)
Jessie says: I'm also thankful for my home near Lake Calhoun where I can run with Matilda and watch beautiful sunrises!
Looks like a pretty awesome place to run!

Next up, two photos from another friend, Christy. She lives near Billings, MT where her family ranches. Christy is a fellow Team Beef member with me and also has an awesome running blog, which you can check out at www.christyruns.com.
 From Christy- They weren't the ones I had in mind, but they are of the family ranch and a place I am eternally thankful and grateful to have grown up on and now get to raise my children on.
Pretty awesome views on Christy's ranch, right?! Southeast Montana. Lovely!  Skies for days!!

 The next two photos are from my mom, Penny. She is quite an accomplished photographer these days! She sent me probably about 12 photos and I just chose two because they are images of places I am also thankful for! She didn't include any captions, so I added a little background for both photos.

First, this barn is in a park very near the house I grew up in. As kids, we spent a lot of time playing in this park! Mom has some really great photos of this barn and this is one of them--
The next photo from my mom was one that she took on a visit out here last summer. We were all driving home from catching a movie in town, it was early June and, well, check out this awesome image of the Sweetgrass Hills at sunset--

The Hills are a place I have a view of every day and I am so thankful for that!

Next, from my friend Tara. She and I are friends from college and this is an image of the Campanile on the Iowa State Campus. Iconic image for people from Ames or who went to school at ISU!  I am also pretty thankful for this place, just like Tara!
"I really work in a beautiful place."
Now, two images from Jane. Jane grew up a little bit west of where Jeff and I live, with a great view of the Sweetgrass Hills. Now, she lives in Choteau, MT.
From Jane:
Sweet Grass Hills – I love where you live now


I love where I live now

The next image is from Jon, who is the cousin of my Father in Law, Tom--
"Aja (aka Hound of the Baskervilles)  on a foggy Oregon day."

My friend Kathy also sent me several images and I chose this one out of the ones she sent.  She lives near Geraldine, MT. It would be pretty difficult not to be thankful of this view every day! WOW!
this view is facing South and is west of our home by my garden...the mountains are Square Butte and Round Butte, which we see out of our dining room, living room, and bedroom windows! So Beautiful...
Jeff's Aunt Linda (Tom's sister) sent this image from the Oregon Coast, near where she lives. Again, pretty amazing view!
Thankful that we live near the awesome Pacific Ocean , hope that I never take it for granted!!
From Ashley, another photo from the Geraldine area...check out that sky!  Ashley's view looks pretty similar to Kathy's... neighbors, I wonder? :)
Love the view from my deck 
And from Lorrie. Here is another person who was very enthusiastic about this "assignment" and sent many photos! Lorrie lives on a farm near Big Sandy, MT. 
I love the colors in the above image. Plus, if you know Big Sandy, the colors are extra appropriate! Purple and yellow are their school colors. :)  Pretty awesome view in the photo below. Again, I think I'd be pretty thankful for that place if I got to look out at it each day!

Next I have two photos from Lisa, who is a former student-athlete at North Star, where I work. She was a high school senior in track the first season I was a coach here. Now, we stay in touch via social media and she sent me these images to use in this post of places she is thankful for and/or loves-
 Lisa goes to school at University of Montana in Missoula. This is a view of campus and surrounding environs. :) The next photo is from Havre, and the third photo is from some hot springs in Idaho.


Peggy, a local Rudyard resident, sent me this photo of Glacier National Park as a place she loves-


The next two photos are from Darla. She and her family are long-time family friends from my hometown. You'll notice that her photos are a little different from most of the others submitted...
Katie, I know this isn't exactly what you asked for but my favorite place to be is anywhere with my family-anywhere with my friends is good too! 
Here's another one - again my favorite places is anywhere with my family
Whew!  That is A TON of photos of places that are loved! I hope you found at least one photo on here that made you smile or feel happy, and I hope that you can look around you and find reasons to be thankful, wherever you are. Whether it's a beautiful mountain vista or somewhere close to home, such as your own bed, there's always reasons to be thankful for the places in which we find ourselves. And, sometimes, as Darla points out, it's not the place that's important but the people we're with.

As I was going through all the many images that were submitted to me I was struck by how many people submitted pictures of places that I also feel thankful for. Places I grew up or places where I live now or travel to. I suppose it's because the people who read and comment on here most all have a connection to me somehow, our lives intersect in some way. It's a great reminder of the interconnectedness (is that a word?!) of all of us, everywhere. Food for thought. :)

It has been so much fun uploading everyone's photos and looking at them over and over in compiling this post. Thanks again to everyone who submitted! I worked on this yesterday evening and felt myself feeling more calm, even amid a somewhat stressful, busy week. I carried the good vibes outside with me as I headed out for a sunset run. It was hard not to notice the beautiful light and, yes, to feel thankful for the place I call home and all the people (and animals!) in my life I'm connected to in one way or another.

Happy Thankful Thursday, everyone! What are you thankful for this week?
Just heading out my driveway to start my run. 8:20pm. That's Iggy, and Harvey has already raced way ahead somewhere.
Thankful for these dusty gravel roads I get to run on, and the setting sun!
Goldstone used to be a town and now it's the site of our farmland! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Log Off, Shut Down, Go Run Virtual 10K Race Recap

Last Friday I worked my first 10K of the season into my schedule! It was the Log Off, Shut Down, Go Run Virtual 10K. It is part of the virtual run series that the website Goneforarun.com puts on, and I first heard about it from my friend and fellow Team Beef teammate, Christy's blog post. I originally wasn't sure about signing up because I'd been experiencing some pain and stiffness in my hip, but once I started getting that worked out and feeling better, I really started looking forward to the run!

My sign up fee was $30.00 and I got a bunch of cool swag-- 
I received a tank top (that fits!), race bib (not pictured), a cool race medal, and a car magnet.
They sent me a packet with a nice tank top, a car magnet, a race bib to wear for the run and a finishers medal! It was up to me to actually complete the race and feel like I earned my prizes.

Before going any further, I want to spend a paragraph or two sharing my take on the whole "virtual run" phenomenon. I've been reading on many other running blogs what other people think about virtual runs and have given it some thought myself. There's definitely a mixed bag of opinions out there!

Personally, I like the idea of virtual runs and they work well for me. I live in an EXTREMELY rural area so it is very, very difficult to find races to do that are nearby, or even within what I consider reasonable driving distance, which is admittedly a much greater radius than for most people! ha! What I like about virtual races is that I can fit the race into my schedule and run it when it's convenient for me at a place that is also convenient for me. Do I miss out on the "race experience" of having race organizers, people all around to run with/against, water stops, bathrooms, food after the race, etc? Yeah, definitely! Those are all reasons I really like doing organized road races. But it's also nice to run a no-frills race on my own terms.

I've had some people say that they think I'm stupid for signing up for a virtual race because, in their opinion, "It's just a scam by t-shirt printing companies to get you to spend money on their stuff." And they may be right in some ways, but if I am still going out there and putting in the miles, then I feel like it's money well spent. 10K especially is a distance that's a challenge for me, so I do have to train for it and spending the money on an entry fee for a virtual race is like a bet on myself that I'll get it done. I'm more likely to get in the workouts and the race itself if I've spent the money to do so, than if I just tell myself "Hey I'm going to go run a 10K for fun this weekend." If I spend $30 to train for and complete a race by myself, AND I get cool stuff for it, so much the better. (And what's it matter to you anyway how I spend my money!?)

So the day I decided was going to be Race Day arrived (Friday, April 24) and I pondered whether or not I should actually wear my race bib that they sent. I'd be literally running this "race" by myself, so no one would see or care if I wore the bib or not. If someone did just happen to drive by on the road, they might think I was silly wearing a bib while out for a jog... But since when do I care what people think of me when I'm out running?! ha! (And how often do people drive on the Minneota Road between Road 200 and the Goldstone Road? Almost never.) I also decided that I didn't want to just feel like I was out for a training jog, so if I put my bib on, it would mentally feel more like a RACE! I pinned on my bib, laced up my shoes, and got ready to take off on my run!

When I started out on my race, it was about 62 degrees, sunny, and about 15-20mph wind out of the north. I had predetermined a route that would be exactly 6.2 miles-- an out-and-back course of 3.1 miles each way from Tom and Carol's house. For those of you who know the area, it's .1 straight west from their driveway to the Minneota Road, then three miles straight north to the Goldstone Road, then turnaround and head back in reverse. So, I had somewhat of a headwind in the first half of the race.

I had looked through my records prior to beginning and saw that my previous PR in 10K was 58:30, from back at Huffing for Stuffing last fall. I had it in my mind to see how close I could get to that mark. I tried to sprint the first .1, then hold a steady, strong pace for the first mile before settling in to closer to my normal roughly 9-minute-mile pace for the "hilly" section of the route.  The first mile has a mild uphill for the first half-mile, then downhill for half a mile. First mile 8:38.5. The second mile is pretty flat-- I covered it in 8:58.66. The third mile is a long, steady uphill for most of the mile. Heading up the hill into the wind was not very fun and I knew my pace would be slower for that mile.  Third mile- 9:13.6. Slower, but not too bad. Once I got to the top of the hill and the turnaround point, I told myself I had to fly down the long downhill to make up time, so I did! Mile four was my fastest- 8:22.89.

I coasted through the flat of mile five as best as I could, then with a little over a mile to go, I really began to struggle mentally. I hadn't actually run more than about 5 miles yet this year, so I expected to struggle a little at the end of this 10K and I did. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy... Either way, I needed a little self-motivation. I repeated a mantra in my mind that our head track coach uses to inspire and motivate our team sometimes: "Your body can do almost anything- it's your mind that sometimes needs convincing." and focused on steadying my breathing. "Find your breath, find your strength." I focused on a two-two breathing pattern-- so, inhale on two steps, exhale on two steps. Soon, I was finally nearing that last .1 and sprinted around the corner to the finish. Last two miles were 8:54.92 and 8:54.52. And... DONE!

After checking my watch, I saw that I had indeed scored a new PR! I finished in 54.01, so I cut 4:30 from my 10K time! Virtual race or not, I know I did the distance, it felt like a race to me, I pushed myself and I'm going to count it.

I snapped my post-race photo with my medal and then celebrated by eating a giant monster cookie! Perks of a virtual run are that you get to decide for yourself what your finish line food will be.

Let's take another look at just the cookie, shall we?
It's a huge cookie! Barely fits in my hand, and I have long hands!  The story behind the cookies is that our head track coach's wife bakes them for the team. Any time a kid gets a new Personal Best or All-Time Best in an event, they earn a cookie. Coach had handed out cookies at practice on Friday, and the other coaches sometimes get any extras. I knew as soon as I got mine that I'd keep it for my race and aim for a PR. There were definitely times during the 10K that I was envisioning crossing the line and devouring a cookie, and that was pretty motivating. They are so good, and definitely worth running for!  This cookie definitely inspired me to a strong finish!

Overall, this virtual race was a positive experience. To me, it was worth the money paid. I hung up my virtual race medal on the same rack whereon I keep all my other medals. Am I going to sign up for a virtual race every month? No. But I will sign up for them from time to time when they fit in my schedule or when I can't find another race or event to do nearby. Bonus if the virtual race proceeds go toward a charity of some sort, and there are a great many of them that do things that way.

Here's a recap of my splits again, for those who are interested:
.1 - 31.37
Mile One - 8:38.5
Mile Two - 8:58.66
Mile Three - 9:13.6
Mile Four - 8:22.89
Mile Five - 8:54.92
Mile Six - 8:54.52
.1 - 27.86
Total Time: 54.01, Roughly a pace of 8:43 per mile. I'll take it! 
Overall, I'm pretty happy because I've been trying to work on quickening my overall pace and times. It's difficult to do that during track season because I'm so busy, so to get a PR feels extra good. I'm at least holding steady with my normal "old" pace, if not getting slightly faster. 

Next race for me-- I'm planning to do the Buffalo Jump 10K in Ulm, MT on Sunday, May 17. I think it's a trail run, so I'm not sure if I'll shoot for besting my PR again, but I'll definitely give it all I've got!

If you're interested, Goneforarun.com is continuing their virtual race series with a Badass 5 Mile run on the last weekend of May. Same cost - $30.00, and choice of a couple different race packet options. I don't plan to do it unless I don't get the Buffalo Jump run in for some reason. Then, I might consider signing up again. We'll see! 
Bad Ass Runner Virtual 5 Mile Race - Gone For a Run Virtual Race

What are your thoughts on Virtual Runs? Do you do them? Avoid them? Are they "worth" the same as a standard road race in your opinion?