Skunked

“Another morning,” thought Boo the white bulldog as she wiggled her front toes and stretched her long body into a perfect downward dog. It was early, but she soon began whining because she needed to go out — now.

Boo’s female owner, called Lisa, finally climbed out of bed and headed toward the side door. Boo followed expectantly behind, and soon the door was opened for her to race into the dark morning.

Said owner, still half asleep herself, went quickly back inside to find her glasses and slip on some shoes. Boo scurried here and there, squatted to pee in the grass, and then saw a peculiar creature. It was crawling slowly in the lawn, and it was black the same as several cats she had seen before in the neighborhood. The only difference she noticed was this one had a thick white stripe down its black back. Upon closer inspection, the creature did not appreciate her attention. 

Suddenly a horrible stench filled the cool morning air, and her eyes began to burn in pain. She didn’t know which way she was going as she ran and thrashed away from the vile animal. The burning, stinking oil it had emitted hung around her face, and she couldn’t get away from it. Now she faintly heard Lisa calling from the porch, and she knew there would be dog food in her bowl if she listened to the call and went back inside. But food was the last thing her mind. She buried her face in the cool grass, and rolled her body in it for good measure. She simply had to get away from this smell.

Now Lisa was coming toward her across the yard, and Boo hoped maybe her person could help her. Lisa was clearly agitated by the smell too, even though Boo could hardly see her through red, swollen eyes.

Boo managed to eat a few kernels of dog food, but then Lisa called her up into the car and they sped away to the farm. At least Boo hoped they were going to the farm…

The farm was just a few miles down the road and where they usually went every morning. This morning, however, was anything but normal. Sure enough, they pulled into the familiar driveway, and Boo jumped out  of the car to resume rubbing her sore face. Lisa gently wiped bulldog nose, face, and neck with dry towels, and then she disappeared into the house.

She came back soon carrying a strange assortment of things. One was familiar — an orange bottle of dog shampoo. The other things were a dish of red liquid, a box of baking soda, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and another type of soap. Normally Boo liked being washed, but today she wasn’t so sure. Besides, it was still a bit chilly outside with the sun barely up.

Lisa didn’t care, and she began coating Boo’s face and body in the red sauce. A lover of food and vegetables, Boo lapped her tongue in the dish of red and recognized the familiar taste of tomato. At least some good was coming from this!

  
A warm water hose  — a benefit of the farm that home doesn’t have — was strung outside, and Lisa hosed Boo off until her coat was white again. Next came the baking soda mixed with the hydrogen peroxide and some dish soap. Carefully the mixture was applied around her face, and then over her wet body. One more rinse later, she got still another treatment with the orange dog shampoo. By this time she could fully open her eyes again, and she continually shook herself off to get rid of some of the water. A wet, clean, and still stinky bulldog followed Lisa up to the back porch.

  
Her pink collar had been thrown away and replaced with a thinner red one, but the smell still clung. It was going to be a long day for Boo.

Here’s the thing about American Bulldogs. They love people, and they prefer to be where the people are. If you aren’t crazy about letting your dog inside it’s probably best if you choose a different breed. They like to be part of the family, and Boo is no exception. Usually after running around the yard in the morning she is allowed inside to sleep on her basement couch or gaze at squirrels through the livng room window. Not today.

Every time she tried to follow someone inside the door got gently closed in her face. She eagerly wagged her tail on the porch, and soon Lisa came out with running shoes and a leash. They trotted along for a few easy miles, and then Lisa loaded Boo back into the stinky car.

This time they ended up at a store in town, and while Boo waited with the windows open Lisa came back with full bag of stuff. 

  
It’s hard to say if charcoal really absorbs odors, but it doesn’t hurt to try! Sometimes a snack also helps a person and a dog feel better.

When they got back to the farm Boo’s other owner, JR, had already arrived with Calvin. Boo has always liked her brown canine companion very well even though it’s clear he doesn’t always feel the same. Still, Calvin came to greet Boo and proceeded to spend ten minutes sniffing her from head to toe. He was finally satisfied that she was still a dog and not a skunk. It was a nice morning, and he also provided good company as they both peered through the door hoping to be let inside. 

  
Calvin has always been more of the outdoor farm dog of the two, but Boo learned it wasn’t bad to tag along on his adventures. 

  After an exhausting day Boo was glad to be allowed back in the car to return home that night. The smell had faded enough that she and Calvin got to sleep in the basement, but it wasn’t quite the same as being allowed upstairs as normal. Still, she was very happy not to be locked outside. 

Several days post-episode Boo is almost back to normal. A sour smell is still faint on her face, and the poor Subaru continues to sit with windows open and fresh dishes of baking soda. One day at a time, right? 

As for the black “cat” with the white stripe? Well, Boo doesn’t plan to mess with him anytime soon. 

Posted in Boo the bulldog, Calvin, This and That | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Spring into Summer

How is it possible the sixth month of the year is almost here? May has gone quickly, and 2015 as a whole is simply passing too fast. 

When I was a kid I remember my dad often saying to me, “Time moves faster as you get older.” I thought this was a strange comment back then, but I’ve always believed my dad. He’s a smart man in many ways, and as I get older I have come to better understand what he means. Some days are still long, but as I look back I am surprised at the months and years that have ticked by.

After a dry start to spring we got drenched in rain a week ago and particularly throughout the weekend.

Sunday morning started out drizzling, and I put on my rain coat and rain pants to avoid being soaked as I did my work. The rain tapered off into huge wind gusts, and we had cleaning up to do after some hutches and branches couldn’t handle the wind. We got a few hours of breezy sunshine after that, but the afternoon brought two more heavy downpours leaving us with three inches of rain for the day.

  

The sunshine this week has dried up the mud puddles though, and most of the crops are easily visible in neat green rows wherever you drive in the country. We had a hint of frost on Monday night, but it wasn’t cold enough for long enough to cause major damage. 

The next thing we are preparing for is hay, and it won’t be long with all the rain and warm days we have had lately! Until then the cows and many new spring calves will keep us busy, along with the yard work we can never manage to keep up on. 

  
Our vegetables from a few weeks ago are still waiting to go in the garden, but with the late frost it’s okay we are a little behind. They will taste good no matter when they’re ready. We’ve got irises and tulips blooming in the meantime, and one of my favorite flowers has also made its yearly appearance. Does any flower smell better than a fresh lilac branch? I think not . 

  
Do you have a favorite spring flower? 

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care, Gardening and Yard Stuff | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon: Take Two

For me, the journey through life is made more enjoyable when I write about it. Even if I don’t physically put words on paper or screen, I’ll catch myself composing sentences when I see something noteworthy. No matter how small the audience, reflection is good.

This holds even more true for racing. I almost don’t feel like a marathon is complete until I write the story.

I’d been looking forward to the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon all year, and Saturday did not disappoint. It dawned clear, sunny, and cool in the upper 30’s. It barely reached 60 by afternoon, so even though I’ll say the sun felt warm at the end I can’t complain one bit about the weather.

I’d felt tired and achy with intermittent headaches all week, but Saturday I woke up feeling healthy and ready. It was a beautiful day to run, and there were no excuses.

The drive and bus ride to the start were easy, and the only traffic I saw was the steady stream of trucks and SUVs pulling boats because it was fishing opener in Minnesota.

I chatted with several people on the bus and at the start, and I was happy to find my friend Jill to share pre-race excitement. I had eaten more breakfast than normal — cereal, cup of milk, toast with butter/jam and a banana — and I hoped that would prove to be a good choice. I still took a gel right before the start, and I felt just about right.

Jill and I lined up in the middle of 400 runners, and before we realized it the race was on.

I started my watch right with the gun even though we were a little ways back from the line. This is a small race with no timing mat at the start, and I didn’t want to see 3:59:45 or something on my watch at the end only to have a 4:00:01 as my official race time.

Once I started my watch though, I didn’t think too much about pace for a few hours. Easy was the goal, and I stayed around a 9:00/mile as we headed through town and then out to the trail. I’m always grateful when God provides the right companions during a marathon, and this race was no exception. I don’t remember who spoke to who first, but soon I was running with two women who made the early miles fly by.

I could hardly believe it when the lovely lady in the middle told me she was celebrating her 50th birthday this week! I thought she looked a few years older than me, but not nearly that many.

 

Do you notice the birthday girl and I have the same shoes?

My right hamstring was uncomfortably tight for at least the first hour. I kept hoping it would loosen up as I went, and eventually I forgot it even bothered me. It was probably a blessing in disguise because the painful twinge kept me from going too fast in the early miles.

Our group of three talked to several other runners as we went, and my friend in the middle told us about the disabilities her son has overcome. He’s quite a fast runner now, and her reason for this progress is simply “God is good.” We met an oncologist from North Carolina who has run marathons all over the country and even on every continent. He kept us going for awhile with tales of the rainforest, the arctic, and his Ironman triathlons.

At mile eleven (or maybe twelve) I noticed an 8:26 split. That was probably too fast, but it felt so easy and we were approaching halfway. I had told myself after mile ten I could speed up if I felt good, so I carried on.

By halfway I made a mental note that my watch was registering almost .2 miles long. (This doesn’t mean the course is off; it’s simply a product of a little extra at the start, weaving at water stops, and the imperfections of GPS.) I knew once I got to the end it would add almost two minutes to my finish. I came through the official 13.1 mark just over 1:58.

By this point our group had disbanded, and I was chasing the birthday girl in yellow shorts as she glided smoothly ahead.

I felt good, the weather was good, and I decided I wasn’t going to mess up. It was still early, so I had to be smart. I started taking my gels earlier than normal because on sunny days I have found salt to be a limiting factor. I had eaten a gel with water at about mile 5.5 and mile 11. At the halfway point I started eating my margarita flavor shot blocks which proudly proclaim, “3 x the sodium!”

I had two packs just in case, and I popped one in my mouth every mile or two as the urge hit. Spoiler: I ate them all by the end. 

I chatted with a dairy farmer turned missionary for several miles around mile sixteen, and our conversation helped keep my mind off the building fatigue in my legs. He slowed and lost me at the next water stop, and I was tired. I decided marathons were too long, and I was alone as I looked up the trail.

The cheering had been energetic and motivational in the small towns we passed through, but this stretch to the finish was more straight and empty. I fiddled with my earbuds and music until I finally hit the right button and got some songs to keep me company. I was “in the zone.”

 

I passed mile twenty of the course at a few seconds over three hours, which is nearly identical to last year. I desperately wanted to stay stronger this year, but it was going to have to be mental because my legs were heavy and sore. I didn’t want any regrets this time.

I settled into my aloneness, and I already knew I would look back on this as a good race. I had met so many people along the way, and I was going to finish my fifth marathon. The only question was how fast.

At each mile my resolve would start to die, and I do think my mind was stronger this year about fighting back. But the other part of my strategy was purely physical. I would eat another shot block, taste the sugar and salt in my mouth, and my brain would recognize there was enough fuel to keep going.

My mile splits didn’t start with eight anymore, but I was still churning out around 9:15’s.  I kept doing math over and over to see if it would be enough, and by mile twenty five I knew it would be. I should even finish under 3:59.

I raised my arms in happiness (and to ease my cramped shoulders) as I saw a photographer snapping on my left. I still had a painful stretch to go until the finish, but it’s different when you have been passing people and know you’re going to hit your goal. I am positive I have never looked or felt that happy at mile twenty five before. I’m still looking for this “arms up in triumph” picture, and I’ll add it if I find it!

The cheers became audible as I saw the water tower and neared the finish. This is as close as I’ve ever been to tears as I crossed a finish line. It wasn’t about my time as much as it was about staying strong with the body and mind God gave me. God is good.

It felt amazing to see 3:57 in red numbers as I crossed the finish.

I know the actual difference from my 4:03 of last year isn’t that big, but it felt significant and amazing. Space blanket, medal, shirt, and chocolate milk in hand, I hobbled back to the finish in hopes of seeing Jill. I didn’t have to wait very long to see her strongly running toward the finish. 

 

The cookies and pizzeria pizza smelled amazing as we went to the line for food, but I simply couldn’t chew anything I put in my mouth. I drank another couple glasses of milk and even some cherry coke (shame!) as I kept trying to do justice to the pizza. I finally gave up, and I knew in a few hours I would eat when my body calmed down. All I wanted was fluid.

We wandered over to check results, and I was shocked at what I saw. A girl I met on the bus who was running her first marathon had placed second in our age group, and I, Lisa, had placed third — I think JR can still hardly believe it. :-) Had I been in the age group above or below I wouldn’t have even come close to placing, but I was thrilled with my coffee mug award just the same. 

While driving home I thought about the beautiful day, the good and bad in my training, the decisions I made, and the highs and lows of it all. Given where I was on race day, I finished knowing I ran the best race I could. That is a remarkable feeling. 

Posted in Race Reports, Running | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

The Garden Project

Our garden was not much last year. Well, “not much” might even be an overstatement. I finally put a few tomatoes in patio-size pots in July, and I harvested the rhubarb in our yard. That was about it.

A few years ago we had abundant tomatoes, peppers, and squash, and we even grew enough cabbage to make our own sauerkraut. A year before that I think tomatoes were our sole crop. Apparently our gardening enthusiasm and success go in cycles, but when the season is young it’s always easier to have hope. :)

We’re planning to do better this year, and the early spring should help. We also have veggies eagerly waiting to be planted in the great outdoors.

One of JR’s friends has a family garden center, and this week we made a trip to purchase Mother’s Day flower baskets, 4-packs of vegetables, and get our friend’s expertise.


We now have everything from kohlrabi to hot banana peppers, and I’ll try to keep you updated on our progress. Hopefully that will ensure we keep making progress! Also, if you’re in the Twin Cities area, Waldoch Farm is worth a visit.

If you’re keeping track I have my race tomorrow, so I’m planning on an early bedtime. It was a nice, low-key day at the farm, and now I’m eating some homemade pizza and thinking far too many thoughts. I may have mentioned I like writing, and sometimes I even find it relaxing. (Which is probably why I’m blogging tonight!)

I hope you all have a great weekend. Happy Mother’s Day, and stay tuned if you want to hear more gardening, farming, or race details.

Posted in Gardening and Yard Stuff, Running | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Race Week Comparisons 

Early May is unpredictable in Minnesota. Snow flurries and freezing nights are just as possible as 85 degrees and sunny. 

Right now I’m paying special attention to the weather because I’m running a marathon THIS Saturday. As I look at what the day might bring, I’ve thought a lot about this same time last year. I was preparing to run my first Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon last May, and it was a slow and cool spring. 

In late April last year I was still busy monitoring the snow pile in our front yard! This year we haven’t had any measurable snow on the ground since early March, and our yard is full of long, green grass that should have been cut last week. 

Currently our trees seem to showcase more open leaves by the day. This is in stark contrast to barely budding branches in this picture from last year’s race.  

 
The most obvious difference though is our planting progress. I remember last year my parents and JR both came to the race because it was still too wet to even start planting. This year we are both already done planting corn. That’s a great feeling on May 5th!

So what about the race itself?

This will be marathon number five for me, and I must admit I still have race week jitters. So much can happen over 26.2 miles, both good and bad.

I’m in similar shape to last year based on my training, so my time goals are similar as well. As I look over my training in 2015 I know I ran less overall miles, but I had stronger and more consistent long runs. My average pace each month was a little faster than last year too, so we’ll see what this adds up to on Saturday. It will be the first time I’ve repeated a marathon, and it will be nice to have the advantage of knowing the course. I’m mostly injury-free, though I do have a huge bruise on my right knee from a small calf I startled last week. A calf’s only defense when startled is to kick, and kick she did. My run felt fine yesterday, and I don’t think it should effect my race. 

My first goal is to enjoy the race and run the best and smartest I can for the day. The forecast goes back and forth between clouds and sun, and if it’s hot sun with humidity I may have to re-evaluate my pace as the race goes on. 

My second goal is a course PR. I ran 4:03 here last time, and I know I can run faster if the weather cooperates and I don’t do anything stupid. I also plan to start more conservatively than last year so I don’t death-crawl the final miles! 

My “A goal” is simply a PR. To get this I need better than 3:59:52. I know three minutes difference doesn’t seem like a lot, but those three minutes and odd seconds proved killer to me last year. I don’t want to set myself up for disaster by arbitrarily going after 3:50 or 3:55 from the beginning. If I can start at four hour pace, stay relaxed, and pick things up as the race goes on that will be success. 

Sometimes I know I want to rush improvement faster than my body can manage or my training has prepared me for. I always blow up at the end when I do this, so I’m back to chipping away at small improvements a few seconds or minutes at a time. 

My friend Jill, who I ran Monster Dash with this fall, will be running her first marathon at Lake Wobegon this year! I think I’m more excited to see how her race goes than my own, and I know it will be a thrilling moment for her when she finishes. Trust me when I say finishing your first marathon is a big deal!

I’ve thought through my race plan as much as I can (or should), and now I know I just need to focus on taking care of myself, hydrating, eating well, and thinking positively. I’m grateful to have another go at this marathon, and I can’t wait until race day.

I’d love any race week advice you have to share! 

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Running, This and That | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments