A Walk Through the Woods

A few days ago, I took some time and got out into the woods. I do a lot of trail running this time of year, but I don’t take the time to slow down and smell the roses as much as I should. I felt like I needed to do that recently, so I did. I took my camera along too, because it’s been feeling neglected lately.

Cattails

I watched dragonflies hover over the lake.

Dragonfly

And honeybees collect pollen.

Honey Bee

And I stumbled upon a Blue Heron preening itself on a fallen tree. Herons are one of my favorite birds. They are so awkward and graceful at the same time.

Blue Heron

I really need to do this more often. I think it is important for us all to remember to slow down once in awhile. It’s so easy to get caught up in a quick pace and become so myopically focused on the end goal that we miss all the good things happening around us.

You can see the rest of the photos from this hike on my flickr stream.

The Sandhill Cranes Are Back

I took the kids on a bird watching expedition this afternoon to see the sandhill cranes that migrate through here every year. I look forward to these birds every spring. Their call sounds almost prehistoric; I always imagine that a pterodactyl would sound similar.

I was a little late getting out this year, so we didn’t get to see as many as we have in previous years.

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There are a few more photos on my flickr stream if you are interested. I might go out again this weekend and see if I can catch a few more photos of them before they head north.

Wind, Mud, Hills, and Amazing Grace

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

– Carl Sandburg

The above quote came to mind this morning because it applies to the past week in both a figurative and somewhat literal sense. Literally speaking, I actually got to watch 2 bald eagles soaring on a trail run and found myself covered in mud on 2 separate runs. Figuratively speaking, I’ve felt ready to spread my wings and soar, but I also really enjoy wallowing sometimes – not in negativity or self-pity, but rather in laziness.

I started the running week off with a wet and muddy run on Monday.  The grayness made me want to wallow. And the run started to go south quickly when some mo-moes in an over-sized pick-up truck purposely drove through a puddle as they passed me. This brought them uncomfortably close to me and covered me in mud. I really don’t understand their behavior, since they could have seriously injured me, but I’m not on this planet to figure out stupid people. I’m just thankful I only got muddy. Ironically, I chose to run on the road vs. the trail on Monday because I didn’t want to get muddy….

I don’t know what it is about Wednesday’s here lately, but Wednesday is when the snow seems to arrive. This Wednesday the snow came with 25 mph wind gusts. Running in wind is challenging on both a physical and mental plane.  It took a lot my energy just to punch down the negative self-talk during the first half of the run that kept telling me to go home and knit. It was tough, but it was a good tough. I liked the challenge in the end and I felt very invigorated when I got home.

Swan at Potato Creek

If you look closely, you can see the swan on the lake. It’s the best I could do with my phone.

On Friday, still in wallowing mode, I decided to lace up my trail shoes this time and set out on my favorite trail. I was still wallowing early in the run when I was startled back to reality by a large splash as I ran past the lake. I stopped to see what made the splash and saw a bald eagle flying into a nearby tree. It must have been feasting on a fish when it heard me coming. It dropped it’s fish in the lake and flew out to a “safer” tree. They are magnificent birds – and big. I’ve never seen one so close in the wild. It’s times like these when the photographer in me wishes there was a way I could carry my DSLR camera and all my lenses with me on my runs.

At first I was upset by the distraction and halt in my running. But after I stopped for a few minutes to take in the scenery and admire the eagle until it flew away, I noticed all the birds on the lake – swans, geese, a few ducks – and the noise was a beautiful cacophony of bird calls. I finally got out of my head and gave myself permission to make this a fun run, which turned into a fun muddy hill run; and much more of a workout than I imagined when I first set out. I also got to see a second eagle soaring over a swamp. And this time I came home covered in mud because I wanted to be muddy.

This week I learned the importance of variation and quieting my chattering mind. I still need to work on the quieting part. I’m making progress though. My mind is still chattering, but with positive, good thoughts now. The wind and the hills worked muscles that have been forgotten about on my recent, fairly flat road runs, which in turn made yesterday’s 2-mile shake-out on a fairly flat road much more enjoyable. The recovery seems better this week too. I think the new challenges woke up my tired leg muscles. I guess they need variety too. It’s easy to stay with familiar routines. It’s comfortable and not threatening or challenging. But because they aren’t threatening or challenging, it’s easy to get stuck and not move forward. And that applies both to training and real life.

I did decide to give into the my wallowing instinct just a little this week by giving myself an extra rest day instead of cross-training. I think it was good call. Wallowing isn’t necessarily bad if the intention is valid and good. And while self-discipline and sticking to the training schedule is important, so is listening to our bodies. It’s easy to get caught up in schedules and what the calendar says we need to do, when what we really need to do is slow down, take in the scenery, and not miss out on the life that is happening all around us.

And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll leave you with the Dropkick Murphy’s singing Amazing Grace. I love this song. It’s one of my favorite running songs right now.  Since today is not only a rest day, but also a cheat day, the Irish part of me will be celebrating with some Irish whiskey, because we all know “what butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Half Marathon Training Week 4

  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: 3 easy miles
  • Tuesday: strength and yoga
  • Wednesday: 4 windy miles and core workout
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: 4 miles with hills and core workout
  • Saturday: 2 easy miles

The Tonic of Wildness

We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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I’ve had Thoreau in my head lately. So with him as my inspiration, I decided to change things up for yesterday’s run. The sun was bright and there was a fairly fresh coat of snow on the ground. It was so pretty out, I needed to get out of the house. It’s been one bad-weather day after another here and I’m experiencing a bit of cabin fever. Unfortunately, the roads weren’t all the way cleared and the sidewalks were a little icy, so I decided to try the trails. It was a good call.

IMG_0103I frequently trail run in the warmer months, but this is the first time I’ve been on them in the snow. I chose the trail I did because it’s a scenic, hilly 1 mile loop. So if anything happens I’m not too far from the car, but I still get the feeling of being far, far away from civilization. The first loop I did a slow run/walk just to get a feel for the terrain, enjoy the view, and snap some photos.

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I tried out my new Buff. It worked well. I felt like a ninja, but it was comfortable, it stayed in place, and it kept the cold air from invading my lungs. My glasses kept fogging up, but if it means I can breath, I’ll deal with it.

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I definitely overdressed. I put on what I normally wear in this weather, but I didn’t take into consideration that all the trees provided a natural wind barrier. I normally run through town, or on a country road where I’m flanked by corn fields which offer little protection from the elements. Running through the forest was much warmer. I was glad I chose this trail, because I ended up stopping at the car to peel off a layer after the first loop. All I could think of was my son quoting SurvivormanSurvivorman used to be one of his favorite shows and he’s very concerned about winter safety now. For the last few minutes before I got back to my car, the only thing that was going through my head was, “Mom, if you sweat, you die.” It made me giggle.

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Running through a few inches of snow was slow going. My legs, my abs, even my arms feel it more than usual today. Despite the extra nagging in my tired muscles, it was a fun run. I only ended up doing 3 loops before I needed to move on to the next item on my to-do list. I only actually ran about 2.25 of the 3 miles I traveled yesterday. I felt like I could have gone longer, but that was all the free-time I had. Of course I would have had more free-time if I hadn’t spent a good 20 minutes debating with myself about whether or not to go for a run.

My pace yesterday was pretty slow. There were a few slick downhills and a few spots where the creek had flooded and then froze over. I slowed down for those spots. I didn’t want to start the new year off with an injury. Stopping to enjoy the view a few times, snapping a ton of photos on the first loop, and stopping at the car once didn’t help my time any either. But this run/explore wasn’t about pace or mileage, it was about getting out of the house and finding motivation again. In that I succeeded.

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If I decide to keep blazing trails through the snow, I definitely need to invest in a pair of gaiters. A few more loops and my feet would have been pretty wet and eventually pretty cold.

Soon after I got home another snow band came down off the lake. That means there will be new snow. Maybe I can blaze a new trail somewhere else….

Where is your favorite place to run in the winter? Do you ever go off the beaten path?

The Fog Comes

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

-Carl Sandburg

Today it was foggy and wet and warm. It was a perfect spring day….in January?!? I decided to stop questioning and take advantage by going out for a short run. I love running in a light rain. And the fog added a stillness to the air this morning. I even ran without music today, which is rare.

I met a new puppy on my route. He was a cute little Pit Bull who kept bringing me empty beer cans, dropping them at my feet and then beckoning me with his cute puppy eyes to play fetch. A few minutes prior I was starting to get angry at all the empty cans littered along the road. He refocused me back to a more positive frame of mind. He ran with me for about a quarter-mile before he went back home. I started to get worried that I was going to have to bring him back to his house myself, but he eventually got tired of our little game and went back home. I might pack some treats, or a tennis ball in my pocket next time I take this route, just in case he’s out and feeling playful again.

I didn’t snap a photo of my new friend. It was raining pretty steady at the time and I didn’t want my phone to get wet. I did snap this photo of a horse farm I passed along the way.

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I ran almost 4 miles this morning at a nice slow pace. It was a good morning.