Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sore. Legs.

For a 36-mile run through rolling wooded hills on December 29th , I saw surprisingly little. But I did see three Pileated Woodpeckers, their laughs echoing through the forest.

They seemed to be laughing at me, and who wouldn’t? I had decided that it would be fun to run the entire Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. In the middle of winter. I even laughed at myself as I peered up a hill whose end seemed to be lost in the whirling snow. I thought of what I could be doing instead: drinking hot chocolate, or eating a large meal, or eating dark chocolate. Or sleeping. After a couple of eons, I reached the top of the hill. The view was dazzling. The snow swirled above a scenic landscape and a flock of robins gorged themselves on berries beside a small creek.

The combined pain in my legs and the serenity and beauty of the scene made me truly feel alive. This was fun.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Wrap-up

Battling 75 mile per hour winds, I tried to protect my eyes from airborne gravel while my bared legs stung from the grit being constantly thrown against them.  Sometimes I was reduced to a literal standstill, my burning legs barely able to keep me from being thrown backwards.  I only opened my eyes wide enough to recognize a pair of Red-tailed Hawks and a single American Kestrel, my only birds of the run.  As I wove out a 6.65 mile course along the mountainous dirt roads surrounding our house earlier today, I ruminated about the year that was quickly coming to a close.  I mostly thought about running, which is what normally occupies my thoughts on runs.  But in the process of thinking about my training, the races I've run, the races I plan on running, and the upcoming track season, birds were also omnipresent.  These two subjects, before completely alien and separate from each other, have now become almost completely intertwined throughout the course of the year.  I cannot go on a run and not also be birding.  After all, I've been obsessively birding since the age of six, while the running bug didn't bite me until a mere 1.5 years ago.  Birds have kept me motivated to train ("If I don't run, Bunny Rabbit might beat me!"), and the Sweaty Sanderlings have kept me birding during cross country season, a time when birds might otherwise get lost in the fray.

Regarding numbers, I finished with a total of 202 species.  I ran a total of 1273 miles.

Oh yeah, I got a haircut.

Welch here:  Sometime soon I'll be writing a 2011 recap, which will include our trip to the Nike Cross Regionals - Southwest Race in Arizona.  I finished the year with 214 species and 1,111 miles.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flaming Fall

Having been suffering from the dreary college application process, my SWSA list has not grown much recently.

And it didn't seem like that was going to change.

This morning I peered out the window--the sky was a bleak shade of gray, and I could see water droplets hitting the nearby pond. "I won't see much today," I thought.

I pulled on some shoes and went out the door, my mind busy planning a 12-mile loop on the dirt roads around my house. Having selected my route, I realized that the sky that the sun had pierced through the clouds, highlighting the flaming maples lining the scenic road. A cool autumn wind ruffled my hair. I quickened my pace, spurred on by the glorious fall day.

I heard the faint calling of White-throated Sparrows. I slowed slightly, and a flash of white caught my eye. A Red-headed Woodpecker briskly tore apart an ash tree.

This species has gotten much more common in my county in the last several years, perhaps do to the large number of dead and dying ash trees.
A bit further on I came upon a flock of American Pipits, a lone Palm Warbler, and a couple Eastern Meadowlarks--time for them to head south!

Pygmy-Owl After Dark

Due to the unfortunate reality called “school” that affects most people my age, I have not been doing too much dedicated birding lately.  However, because of the demands of being in the midst of cross country season, I have been running in excess of 40 miles per week, providing excellent opportunities for “Sweaty Sanderling” birds.  Despite this quantity of running, I have only seen two new SWSA birds since my last posting to this blog in July . . . Red Crossbill and Northern Pygmy-Owl.  This post is written to commemorate the finding of the latter species.

My cousin was visiting from Austria and we spent a day exploring Rocky Mountain National Park.  We returned home late and missed our XC practice on that fateful day of October the 3rd.  An overly tired Welch, stiff from a long day in the car insisted we run after dinner.  This was inconvenient in many ways . . .  one, it doesn’t feel to good to run after a meal, and two, it was nearly dark.  But I had to run, and run I did.  A half-mile in, I felt like puking due to the unseemly amount of elk, beans, vegetable stir-fry, and other delicacies I had consumed only minutes earlier.  The feeling didn’t subside until I finished the 7-mile slog of a run, but I would find it to be well worth the discomfort.

In the rapidly fading light, I passed our driveway, dropping off Welch, who had a shorter distance to run.  Here, I heard a lone Green-tailed Towhee meow its final salute to the passing day.  I kept running.  Soon after, I heard another call, this one welcoming the night.  This, my friends, was the call of one of the most awesome birds on planet Earth, the toot . . . toot . . . toot of the Northern Pygmy-Owl.  I hollered for Welch, but he had already retreated into the well-lit interior of the house.  “Sucks for him,” I sadly thought as I finished my run.
SWSA Totals
Miles Run: 957
Species: 184

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tejano Trudge

I went running this morning, and it reminded me that there's a blog that I'm supposed to be writing on. So here I am. I've only run twice in the past 5 weeks, mostly due to a large amount of time spent in Texas and getting my wisdom teeth taken out, which made moving from the couch unadvisable for a few days. This morning's run was completely uneventful except for one new SWSA bird, the belted kingfisher.

I was only stupid enough to go running once while I was in Texas. It was hot and during Camp Tejano itself there was no time to go running. While I was staying with my grandparents afterwards it was hot and humid, but there was plenty of time. I headed out to Emma Long Metropolitan park with my grandparents. I ran and birded while my grandparents sat in the shade, drank coffee, and ate banana bread. I found 35 species in the park while running and 12 new SWSA birds. Scissor-tailed flycatchers and black-crested titmice were everywhere. I didn't run for long because it was already 95 degrees in the shade (it got up to 106 in the shade that day). I was also just being wimpy and sitting under a tree eating homemade banana bread while listening to western kingbirds sounded better to me than running.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Maine-iac Running

I had intended to get in regular runs while attending the Hog Island Audubon Camp, not only to add to my Sweaty Sanderling list, but also to keep in shape for a 5K I was running two days after I returned to Colorado. As it turned out, however, there were absolutely no chances to lace up on the island. The schedule was packed, and the fractured network of trails on the island could be utterly bewildering if one strayed from the main path (as I have a tendency of doing). In fact, one of the attendees of the adult Field Ornithology session decided to go for a quick jog through the woods behind the main campus, and nobody saw her for another four hours. I resorted to running between buildings and of course, I was hoping that something cool would be in sight on the adjacent Muscongus Bay, like a Black Guillemot, but this only happened when I was walking between buildings!

I did manage to get in a quick four-mile run while staying at the Seitz residence the morning before camp started. Speeding along a busy rural road with absolutely no shoulder whatsoever, I instantly started picking up new SWSA species. Eastern species that I rarely encounter were now calling on all sides . . . Northern Cardinals and Eastern Towhees leading the pack. In fact, the towhee was a lifer for me! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird flitted from flower to flower in a blooming shrub; a Prairie Warbler trilled somewhere off in the distance; an Ovenbird gave its loud, eerie call from somewhere nearby in the thick oaks edging in on the road; an adult male Eastern Bluebird peered down from its perch on a nearby power line; and a Red-eyed Vireo called from some fruit trees in someone’s front yard. I even heard what could only have been a distant Mourning Warbler, but as I am unfamiliar with their song, I missed out on that lifer possibility. I finished the run with six new SWSA species, and one lifer.

Oh, and by the way, Hog Island was awesome! If you ever have the chance, do it!

Atlantic Puffins on Egg Rock Island
There is absolutely no running allowed here, as there are active nests on the ground everywhere.

SWSA Totals
Miles Run: 525
Species: 182

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Incapacitated Sanderling and the 5K that wasn't to be

I had a brilliant idea. Sign up for my first 5K! I've been stalling for a couple years. So, I picked one out, registered, and was ready to go. I even started doing some hard-core interval training to speedify myself.

Then I injured myself.

I don't really know what it is--tendonitis, it feels like--but after two weeks of not running, I decided on Wednesday to go for a run since I was feeling better. I felt great during the run--but the next morning, when I woke up, I was painfully reminded that there is no such thing as a happy ending. Regretfully, I had to skip the run, which was today.

Last week, every time I remembered this sad fact, I cursed extensively, luciously, and creatively under my breath.

I have vowed to not run for a month. In the meantime, I've decided to become a bodybuilder. Just kidding.