Saturday, October 31, 2015

Four Seasons of Minnesota

The trees are on fire, this time of year in Minnesota. It's almost a ritual to drive far & wide, to places with sweeping views of colorful trees, click picture and then post it on FB :)

People crib about MN winter, but everyone loves that MN has 4 seasons. Each season change is so  tangibly different, its a verifiable phenomenon every year. I tried to capture it by clicking a tree outside our balcony, at different times of the year. Its not a flawless time-lapse sequence. I changed phones and lost some of the pictures. These 4 do capture, how it is in different Quarters of the year.

Snow makes the winter more beautiful and more bearable. It's all quite and cinematic, while it's snowing, even during a Snow-storm. Night sky lights up from all the refraction's from city-lights. Street lamps glows and the orange light on mounds of white snow fallen on the land, is something which never stops being peaceful. All of this from the safety of your house. It does not feel cold, while its actually snowing. Like each flake is absorbing all the cold (which I know is not scientifically possible). The killer cold comes later, when every surface is frozen and out to get to your bones.
Minnesota Spring is legendary. Officially, its after Groundhog day. But we still have leftover snow after that. It's this way from March to June. Once the snow melts away, its Rain time.  One week of rains, and there are leaf bud sprouting everywhere. All lawns turn from white to Green. And flower plants in every lawn and campus.
Technically Summer is from June to September. But it start the exact moment you realize, that you don't need jacket, gloves, hat & muffler anymore. You can throw away the heavy boot and switch to sandals. That's when you know, yes its summer. These are pleasant months, with maybe few days of 100F. This year maybe 2 days were 100F and rest were all in 70F to 80F.  There hasn't been a week when it did not rain, this year.
Beginning of Fall is usually such a beautiful sight. In Sept-Oct, all trees are colorful with dark greens, yellow, pink, maroons and browns. We can't get enough of those sights. Pictures cannot capture the beauty of Minnesota Fall. You don't have to travel far to see it. Any evening at any lakeside or park, and we can see unbelievable range of colors. This tree did not change color. Leaves just dried & fell off. Trees with empty dried stick branches are a usual sight after the colors fall of.
 And finally, a bearable sunny winter again. All year round, we dread the coming winter. But it lasts only 3 months. Initial few years, we forget to enjoy rest of the seasons, because of this dread. What we actually fear is the after-office return, to a frozen car seat - from being parked outside in 20F or lower. The frozen steering wheel cuts through your fingers. Those 10 minutes till car warms up, just resets everything you know. With the increasing thermostat, all is forgotten. And then we are back to the cycle of seasons.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spectating TCM Marathon 2015

Every year when this comes up I so wish I would run this one. Indeed this is the one from which I learnt about races. Studying the TCMarathon route, I feel like now I have covered most of those places via all the other races I have run so far. And they are all beautiful spots. I think my primary motivator for all the races is to see the corners of Twin Cities which I wouldn't explore otherwise. And it turned out to be true.

TCMarathon is a highly publicized one. In 2012, it started showing up in my FB newsfeed, and once I checked out their site and studied all pages, that was my first time knowing, whatever is a Running Race ? Till then all I knew was at the school levels. I never knew that grownup adults too indulged in it. Till then, running was just a boring torture tool, I knew people used to loose weight. TCM started that train of thought, which pushed me on the way to learn way more now then I ever did. I keep jotting them in my blog-post How to get started with Running - 101. Its a lot of info, that I learnt in bits and pieces, from different articles I read. It's not complete info, because there is always something new going on. But its enough to get started.

So in a way TCMarathon is the one, which got me dreaming about Marathons, while I was still in "couch" stage. In the past 2 years, I keep looking at their registration page, but lack all courage to sign up. Doesn't help that they close in July and I need to be confident by then. Also this Fall Marathon needs training in Summer, which is the time I can do it least. I just can't run in summer heat and have most of the vacation distractions at this time.

Hence TCMarathon remains in back burner for now. And I do the next best thing. Which is to check it out :) Their Specatator guide is pretty informative.

For the 2014, I went to Lake Calhoun with my daughter. It was 35F that morning and we were bundled up in coats & gloves. We rang the cow-bells and shared one with a toddler whose Dad was running. Saw the leaders who eventually won the race in Mens & Womens. We high-fived the middle pack. Saw the guy who juggled 3 footballs throughout the course. This sport is called Joggling, I learnt. We stayed on, till the escort car passed with the last runner. So I got to see the leaders, the middle packers and the ones in last batch. This was Mile 6 and it was amazing to see the varying degree of energy each batch had.

This year, I saw the TCMarathon 2015 at 25th Mile. I wanted to see the state of runners at this close to finish. Temps were a pleasent 50F+. I reached at 10:10 at Summit Avenue, after parking in Grand Avenue. Spectator guide was helpful to figure this out. One of the leaders just passed at that time. He turned out to be 2nd place. This was my first time witnessing a leader actually so close to finish, so early ! Long back, when I would reel off the times of the winners from the result pages, we would kid, "Did he ride a motor-bike ?" Haha.

Wheelers went by and I was quite out of respect & disbelief.

Watching women runners was exciting. I was stunned to see these 3 Women leaders. One in the middle came first place later. But here all 3 stuck together all the while.

And then came the 2:30 to 3 hour finishers. They too ran at consistent pace. Back straight, hands paddling their body, feet just going one step in front of the other. I hardly heard them breathe or know about their breathing at all. If anyone could be in monk-like steady state, that would be these runners. Except they were running. Moving forward. And they had been doing this for the past 2+ hours, across 25 miles. This was across different age groups - younger ones, 45 year old women, men in 60-65 range. Even the ones coming around at 11 AM were running. I saw maybe 1 or 2 stop for a walk break of 5 seconds. That's all. #Goals.

I stayed till 11:15 but could not stay longer to see the middle pack and the last runners. I did want to see, in what state they would be. Surely they could use more cheer from spectators.

I was the last few finishers in my first Marathon run in May-end this year. This Nike: Last ad is so me. I hope to be better next time.