Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just a few images from a trot around the park...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autumn in the park

25 October 2011

I stood listening after crossing the northerly footbridge in Naylor’s Run Park. A woodpecker was nearby. I knew that unusual chirp, high pitched, watery—it was coming from two possible trees, both on my side of the park road, based on the volume. Maybe this would be the day I would see the actual bird, but if I didn’t, I still felt the need to listen. Today was a day for listening—to the wind as it rustled leaves, to the “twt” of cardinals, to the stream’s babble, to the world around me. It simply bore listening, not for any hidden message, not for prophecies, but just for what the music spoke to the soul.

So I stood still, listening. Then I saw the glimpse of the bird—red head striking against a black and white body—hopping up and down branches as it chirped and I watched its movements, now in plain sight. After a few minutes, the bird flew to another tree nearby, as if leading me there, and I watched several more minutes. Then it was time for us both to move on, the bird to a distant tree, and I back home.

But I was given a privilege, a gift, to see this lovely bird usually invisible.

This on a bright, breezy fall day abundant with gift.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Double the fun!

Today, I wanted to do a few things: get in some decent mileage for today to prepare for my half marathon—and spice things up by throwing two races into the mix. I had planned on volunteering the Catholic League Open Cross Country 5k, and when I volunteer in Dave’s races, I also like to run them, especially the cross-country races. I don’t get too many chances to run Belmont Plateau. It’s not a place a woman should run by herself, and yet so beautiful—in the woods, there’s a sense of shelter, of privacy. In the open fields, especially on a clear day, the sun and clouds and the cityscape in the background make for a spectacular view—and Dave always has fresh fruit, bags of pretzels and mini candy bars to enjoy after the race.

So no, I couldn’t miss that one. But on the same day was the Bobtoberfest 4 miler. And since there was a $100 gift card for each age group winner in the six-race series BMRC puts on, and since I was in the lead, I was hot on the trail of this gift card—plus the $20 gift card that I could win if I finished first in my age division today. Some people put carrots in front of them to keep them going. Good vitamin A source and all, but I have to love the gift cards. Besides they save me shoe money which means I can buy some carrots and get vitamin A in the bargain.

So, altogether, I'd guess the total was about 11ish miles: two races, a 2.5 mile run from one race to the other, some warm-up, some cool-down (although I must have looked and run like roadkill by the time I got to that second cool-down).

In the cross-country race, I wanted to run mostly easy, but throw in some strides, surge here and there if I saw someone to pass—otherwise, keep the effort moderate. I pretty much stayed with that plan, and finished in 32:?? (I forgot to stop my watch and forgot the time I saw on the clock at the finish, except that I was surprised at the 32. I was thinking I’d be in 33+ territory.)

After some down time talking with other runners and snacking on the fruit and candy Dave had brought, it was time for awards, given to the first 15 men and first 15 women. As fourteenth woman—out of seventeen, to be honest—I received a medal, which I put in my pocket to carry to the second race—I figure wealth attracts wealth.

Awards given out, it was time to proceed to my second race—with a photo break, I admit, when I reached Martin Luther King Drive and saw the white goose in among its Canadian cousins.

[Photos above of friends I met along the way]

I then continued on my 2.5 mile journey to Lloyd Hall, picked up my number, removed the previous one, and pinned on the new number with the pins from the other one.

My goal in the second race was to break 36 minutes (or nine-minute mile pace). It wouldn’t be easy. My lower back began to act up, but I did some exercises Jason Hewitt, the Bryn Mawr College Track/Cross-Country coach recommended, and they helped enough to get me to the start line. I decided I’d give it whatever I had, doing something people always advise against: starting out fast. I decided I’d hold sub-9 pace for as long as possible. The quarter mile markers on the pavement helped during the first mile, giving me the feedback to know whether I was on pace. I began with 2:12, 4:25, 6:39, and 8:?? (didn’t hear the time… sounded like something with a 5 at the end, guessing 55?). At two miles, the time was 17:47, and at three, about 26:40. But in the last mile, even though I was pushing as hard as I could, it felt harder than any other time in the race, and although I was hoping I managed a sub-36 on the official clock, the clock read 36:00 even. However, I’d started my watch at the start line, and it read 35:59. So I managed to break 36 by one second unofficially.

But while the official time might not have shown the sub-9 pace I hoped for, I was pleased with the effort. I came out of there with two gift cards--one for being first in my age group for the race itself, the other for being first in my age group in the Bryn Mawr Running Company's six-race series! A productive day--plus got some GREAT half marathon training in.

The final four miles (before the cool-down) felt like redlining—okay, I’ll grant that to the five minute miler, it probably looked like jogging, but for me it was an honest effort. And it does show I have some endurance. I wonder if that 36 minute barrier would have been even easier to break had I been fresh. But this double-race/long run/workout does give me encouragement for the half marathon.