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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sweaty, Bloody, Sanderling

We jumped off the road and into the shrubbery, ran, or rather fell, across a small creek and then ran/waded through hip-high murky water. A flock of Blue-winged Teal and Mallards circled overhead. The Swamp Run had begun.

The Swamp Run involves running across a couple miles of woods, creeks, and uhh...Swamp ending at the house of the high school Cross Country coach.

We swam across a fast-flowing creek, then came to a seemingly impenetrable stand of cattails, but we ran through them anyway. I exclaimed in surprise as my leg sank a couple feet in the mud as we tried to cross a stream. I managed to grab a nearby tree and hoist myself out of the slime.
We ran through a wet meadow of sedges interspersed with showy purple irises. Soon the purple was joined by the red of blood dripping from my knees as the the sharp sedges cut across my skin. 2 Sedge Wrens called.
We cut into some wet woods and were immediately met with a cheerful and malicious welcoming committee of Deer Flies and mosquitoes. I sprinted ahead, hoping to outrun the fierce motes. A sharp pain shot up my leg. I looked down and saw a barberry spine neatly implanted in my shin.
I had a dilemma: Run slowly and carefully to avoid the thorns and be eaten eaten alive, or, sprint ahead and have the skin torn off my legs by the abundant roses, Prickly-ashes, raspberries and barberries. I chose the latter.
The sound of Red-eyed vireos, Ovenbirds and pewees echoed through the forest, occasionally joined by my howls of pain as my skin turned to shreds.
I broke out of the forest and came to another swamp, with its robust population of Poison Sumac. I dodged between them, concentrating on trying to avoid the smooth shiny leaves. A Whoop of joy from behind me made me look up to see the road that was our destination. We hollered in exultation as we sprinted with new energy across a mowed lawn and up to the road.
I looked down at my knees, shins and ankles. They were unrecognizable--covered with scratches and bleeding freely. A friend exclaimed, "that was the most painful experience of my life." We all heartily agreed. However, I had added a species to my SWSA list: Sedge Wren.

Later, on seeing the state of of lower legs someone asked me why I had decided to partake in such a run. That's a good question.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taco Bell + Trail Run ≠ Fun

In retrospect, eating two deliciously-disgusting 7-Layer Burritos from Taco Bell twenty minutes before a semi-difficult trail run probably wasn’t the best idea. However, after the effects subsided (the effects being extremely painful abdominal cramps and the need to stop every 300 feet to wait out the nauseating sensation of needing to heave beans, rice, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato all over the place), Welch and I got some pretty good SWSA birds.

We were running on the Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows, which is situated in Larimer County right between Pinewood Springs and Estes Park at an elevation of 7335 feet. From the road, the trail takes a steep downhill descent to a tributary of the Little Thompson River, which it follows for three miles up canyon to “Homestead Meadows,” a mountain park chalk full of old homesteads, all of which have been abandoned since the 1930’s. In addition to the historical value of this site, the habitat conflagration of lower-elevation Ponderosa Pines and higher-elevation firs along with a smattering of Quaking Aspens make for some superb birding.

One of many dilapidated structures.

After the Taco Bell side-effects had subsided and I was able to concentrate my full attention on birds and footing, so not to have a rocky wipeout, I started picking up birds instantly . . . a Western Warbling-Vireo doing its “Figure-8” call from the Narrowleaf Cottonwoods along the creek, a Cordilleran Flycatcher pseet-ing from somewhere on my left, and a Western Tanager warbling its husky robin-like song from somewhere up the hill. Once we actually got to the meadows, we really started racking up the list with Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dusky Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and Lincoln’s Sparrow all making their appearance.

As we trudged back up the final hill to the parking lot (it seemed a whole lot shorter coming down…), we calculated the total of new Sweaty Sanderling species . . . six!


But that was two days ago. This evening, Joel and I took the pain and did our third trail run in three days. This time, our trail of choice was the Antelope Trail nearby our hometown of Lyons. Although we often drive/run by the turn-off for this trailhead, I’ve only been past the trailhead once, and that was only for a few hundred yards. After the first mile of twisting-turning, uphill madness through juniper enshrouded slopes (complete with Spotted Towhees, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers), the view opens up into a huge foothills meadow with a sizeable Black-tailed Prairie Dog colony. The trail skirts along this, however, and traces the edge of the Ponderosa forest. We scored two new SWSA birds, a Rock Wren calling from an isolated jumble of granite boulders and a Yellow-breasted Chat running through its eccentric collection of odd noises and sounds. The chance to explore new territory was well worth the pain and our now-dead legs.

I’m thinking about a nice, short, flat run tomorrow…


2011 SWSA Totals:

Miles Run=465


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

East Meets West

We live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and thus we generally run among western birds. This spring and summer, we have about three weeks of work for the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. From June 2-9, we did our initial survey and this put us in the company of not only some of our everyday bird species, but also some birds considered to be eastern, as well as the expected Great Plains specialties. Our atlas blocks are far enough from home that we live on the road (eat, sleep, work/observe birds, and of course, run).

Running Wheat Fields

We ran most days and this took us through several habitats - wheat fields, short grass prairie, tall grass prairie, sand hills, and riparian. We imagined we'd be running on pancake flat terrain, but that was hardly the case.

Arickaree River


Western Kingbird - Joel Such

Eastern Kingbird - Marcel Such

Orchard Oriole - Joel Such

Western Meadowlark with Nesting Material
by Marcel Such

Ring-Necked Pheasant - Marcel Such

Grasshopper Sparrow - Marcel Such

Common Nighthawk - Joel Such

New SWSA Birds:
Ring-necked Pheasant
Wild Turkey
Northern Bobwhite
Common Nighthawk
Red-headed Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
Western Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Cassin's Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Grasshopper Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Great-tailed Grackle
Orchard Oriole