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As I turn the calendar to 2011, I close the books on 2010. Some of  the financial stuff has yet to be done, mostly because I have spent a lot of time watching basketball games. Adam & Beth have a combined schedule of 10 basketball events over the first 2 weeks of 2011, some with multiple games.

There are a few things that I learned while running those 1500.5 miles last year.

First, there are some really neat clothes for runners on the market now. I am not a real clothes horse, but winter running requires protection. I am constantly amazed at the protection from cold that some of these newer materials offer. Thanks Goretex for the Windstop technology. I also picked up some YakTrax to eliminate the poor road condition excuse I used this last December.

Second, a middle-aged guy can learn how to run with a new stride technique. Last January and February I surfed the internet enough to pick up on the barefoot / minimalist running trend and eventually read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. A very good story to read. With the new stride technique came the chance to try new shoe styles. While I still have fewer shoes than Monica, I know I closed the gap considerably in 2010

Third, a middle-aged guy can learn to run fast again. I followed a race training plan by Matt Fitzgerald and found speed again. Even though I was disappointed with my 3:30:29 Grandma’s Marathon finish based on training results, I was pleased with it from a perspective of a low mileage base leading up to last January. I also clocked 2 sub-1:32:00 half marathons last year, finishing 4th in my age group both times.

Fourth, due to those half-marathon finishes, I learned that I should start closer to the starting line to fully capitalize on my chances to bring hardware home:) After the Big Woods run, the race director told me that chip timing was used for finish times and placings, not for net times.

Fifth, running is a great way for me to relax. A couple stressful moments happened in the past year that long runs, and the ensuing endorphin rush, helped me get through. I am thankful that I am now in good enough shape to be active that long.

2010, and the miles I put in, transformed me into a runner again. I enjoy training, I enjoy racing, and I enjoy reading about the feats of fellow runners. For my part, I will try to best last year’s mileage and put more of my thoughts on this site.

Winter has not even officially started, yet we’ve had enough snow to make most people ready for it to be over. Cold temperatures and icy winds have added to the mix and we’re already talking about what it takes to be a “hardy Minnesotan”.

What should we do? Well, when you’re 13 year old son asks you to come outside and have a snowball fight, you put on your winter gear and get involved. The snowball fight turned into a “King of the Hill” contest that pitted Adam and Brett against Beth and I. Thanks to the huge snow piles that Dale made from all the snow so far, we had an awesome hill to claim.

Fortunately the boys have enough respect for Beth and I that they don’t use all their strength. I use my “experience” (isn’t that what we say when we get older and less agile?) to try to outsmart them. We try to stop the game before someone gets hurt, which isn’t always easy since Beth always seems to catch a flying boot or knee.

Not everyone has a nice yard or big snow pile to play on. But as the saying goes, life is what you make it. Winter looks like it’s here to stay for a while and we can either try to find some enjoyment out of it or be unhappy. Snowball fight anyone?

We are wrapping up our week at the Faribault county fair. For those of you that have been following us, you know we’re pretty involved in 4-H. The kids took project to the fair in areas such as wildlife biology, plant and soil science, robotics, food and nutrition and self-determined. They also took their rabbits and their pigs. Brett and Adam gave presentations on Saturday afternoon. Combine all those activities with working in the Dining Hall, participating in the 4-H Auction and just viewing the fair and you can see it’s been a busy week.

The kids have experienced the nervous anticipation of waiting to be judged. They have felt the satisfaction of earning a blue ribbon and the delight of a Grand Champion Purple ribbon. They have also been handed a red ribbon, which hopefully will be a motivation for improvement next year. Brett has earned a state fair trip for his rabbit, wildlife biology project and will be giving his presentation. Adam will take his plant and soil science project to the state fair and will also give a presentation.

We’ve had a share of breakdown moments too. Our patience runs thin when we’re tired from moving pigs or cleaning pens or just plain hot and tired. At those times we don’t always use the kindest voice and we have to remind ourselves that we’re all feeling the same way, tired and even a bit stressed.

Sometimes I wonder why we do it. Why do we get so involved and push ourselves so much? The obvious answer is for the kids. It’s true, I’ve watched them become better speakers and more confident individuals and I know that’s because of their 4-H experience. But are there other reasons too?

As Brett read the Code of Conduct Statement before the auction Friday night, there were a few statements that struck home with me. I’d like to share them with you:

            It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate some of what we have learned and how we have used our projects to grow and develop as young people. When our days in 4-H are over, we want to take with us what we have gained about honest, ethics, integrity and our desire to be caring and contributing citizens. You’ve taught us how to win; you’ve taught us how to deal with disappointment. But regardless of the color of our ribbons, we hope we demonstrate good sportsmanship today and throughout our lives.