Archive for October, 2012

campfire chic

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

I hardly need to say that when we’re out at the cabin, we try to look our best. And by best I mean most comfortable and most functional. I tend to favor bright colors since I don’t want to be mistaken for a deer or a largemouth bass as I’m stomping about. I have a reliable collection of insanely bright tee shirts that I wear three seasons of the year, and for winter wear, I have a few long-sleeved shirts like you see above to keep me warm.

The one above is my newest. It’s a large, cotton flannel shirt that makes me feel wrapped in love when I put it on. It’s floppy and loose. Easy to pull on and easy to slip out of. It’s just about my uniform this time of the year.

The bit of fur you see in the lower left is Queequeg. He’s been photo bombing a lot of my pictures lately.

Bringing Up the Rear 5K

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

And so on Sunday I rose at my usual impossible hour and began stressing over the Bringing Up the Rear 5K I would run later that morning. Stressing because it would be the first time that I would run two 5Ks in two days. I didn’t know if I had it in me, and even though I had a good run on Saturday, setting a new personal record, Sunday might turn out to be a big embarrassment.

Well, I managed to finish the run on Sunday, but I had a very hard time with it. Perhaps it was all of the self talk that dragged me down. Or it may have been the fitful sleep I had the night before. Or the lack of a banana before the race. Or maybe I just truly was too exhausted from the prior day’s run to hustle again. (Though a 5K is only 3.2 miles, and I do more than that three mornings during the week. It shouldn’t have been exhausting to me by now.)

The course was along the Missouri River in the picturesque town of Parkville, Missouri. They have a riverfront park there with a long trail, picnic shelters, a farmers market, and such. It certainly was a good setting for a run, though I feared that arctic winds might be screaming down the river as we ran beside it. The day dawned a full four degrees warmer than Saturday — it was 35 degrees — so I had that much to be grateful for. We got to the town just before dawn, and I picked up my race packet with my bib and timing chip. Then we had more than an hour to kill, so we walked to the nearby coffee shop where I could fuss and fret while Libby had a coffee, which she did. And so did I. (Fuss and fret, that is.)

Eventually, other runners came into the shop. Some got coffee, but most took advantage of the warmth to suit up and pin their bibs to their jerseys and jackets. (I ran in the gear you see above, so my bib was pinned to my yellow jersey.)┬áThis was another family-friendly event; there were many youngsters running, including quite a few that weren’t even school age yet. The coffee shop was a way to keep the kids warm and get them ready to run. Soon the little shop got too crowded, so Libby and I ventured out and met the cold. The sun was up by then, and when we got to the start area, still with a half hour to spare, we found a place where the sun touched the ground (finding its way through the gigantic cottonwood trees that flourished in that bottomland soil) and tried to stay warm. Others were gathering as well, and the emcee — the same fellow who worked the Graveyard Run the day before — tried to warm up the crowd with his palaver. Then we heard a twenty-minute talk about colon cancer, which is what the Bringing Up the Rear fundraising was for. (I found it only slightly less uncomfortable than the education I got at the woman’s health run in New York last month, but both are important subjects.)

I had slipped out of my sweats and was in my shorts and DriFit jerseys (a short sleeve atop a long sleeve), hopping around to try to stay warm as I waited for the start. I’d guess there were several hundred runners in the pack, and at least fifty of them were youngsters. The race director asked them all to herd to the side so they didn’t get trampled by the bigger runners at the start, and I suppose the little ones did their best to oblige, but I was constantly running around these kids throughout the race.

Anyway, someone shouted GO and I set the timer on my fancy Nike+ watch then headed out. As usual, while I was with the pack at the start, I ran much too fast. For the first two hundred feet, I felt fine, confident that I was going to pass many people and have a strong run. My watch tells me my per-mile pace, and at that point in the run, I was blistering down the course (at least for my standard). That, of course, was a mistake. I should have been conserving my energy for the long haul still ahead, and when I felt the first twinges of fatigue, I slowed down to a pace that I more or less maintained through the rest of the run, which was about the goal pace I had been working toward for a while. Of course people were passing me by the dozens. Many of the little ones, who bolted from the starting line, found themselves pooped not too far into the run and were walking. A few were crying and getting encouragement from mom or dad. They were too little to understand running courtesy, however, and mostly huddled in the middle of the path making me run around them. (I know, it wouldn’t seem like running around a little person in the middle of a path would be a problem, but I’ve reached a point on some of my runs where even a wad of gum on the ground before me looks like an insurmountable obstacle. I suppose it’s all psychological.)

A note about the path; it was gravel. I’ve not run on gravel since my laps around the dog park with Flike. This was crushed gravel, so it felt fine underfoot. In fact, it felt great, better than asphalt (which is still my preferred pavement for running). But just like the Graveyard Run the day before, the path was littered with leaves and sticks, and in some places the gravel had been washed away, leaving gaps just big enuf to twist an ankle in (which I did not). Members of the local high school cross country team were stationed along the course to make sure we made the correct turns and to cheer us on, and that was nice, but I was trying to stay focused on not surrendering to that part of me screaming how stupid I was to be doing this to myself. As I said above, the morning was cold, and I was sparsely dressed. I could feel the cold, but I wanted to understand why it didn’t bother me. What I’ve concluded is that when I run, I have more important things to worry about than the cold. I need to keep myself motivated. I need to keep my stride even and balanced. I need to pay attention to my breathing. Sure, I feel the cold, but it’s not that important. (By the end of the run, I didn’t feel the cold at all. I suppose I had my engine warmed up by then, but the sun had also risen fully and was warming the air.) Anyway, that was a good thing to learn about how I run.

The course involved a small loop at the start then a long out-and-back run. Libby met me at the turnaround point, telling me I was looking good, which was kind, though I suppose it was a little white lie. (She managed to get a little bit of video of me running, and I watched it. I never want to see a video of myself running again. What a disappointment! I look like a garbage truck bouncing down a bumpy road.) Anyway, once I realized that I was well beyond half way, I had that realization I always do that I would be able to finish the run without stopping. I didn’t feel strong, and even though there were plenty of long, flat, straight stretches where I might have tried to push my pace a bit, I didn’t. I just wanted to finish and not try to set a new personal record.

Because of the looping course and the out-and-back stretch, I got the chance to see how many runners were behind me. There were many, many who were behind me. This was a new experience for me. (At my first 10k, I was greeted by the sweeper car, letting me know I was one of the last ones coming in.) I was ahead of half of the pack. That might have been heartening for some runners, but I was so pooped and so focused on just crossing the finish line that I didn’t take much encouragement from it. By this point I could hear the emcee chattering, calling out the names of the runners as they approached the finish line, shouting encouragement, rousing the crowd. I was getting close. Finally, with about two hundred feet to go, I stepped up my pace as much as I could. At least I tried to make my stride look more like someone running rather than someone shuffling.

I crossed the finish line, stopped and panted while the young woman removed the chip from my shoe, then found myself before the cartons of chocolate milk. I drank two. Libby greeted me then and we hung around a bit. I don’t know what for though. I knew I wasn’t going to win any awards (for fastest in my age group, for example), but as we were turning to go, we saw the man posting the results on the side of the restroom wall. (It was the only vertical surface available.) And it was then that I got a surprise.

Just as the day before, I was not the last to finish in my age group! That was encouraging. But then I looked at my overall time.

Um . . .

As I said, I had a very hard time with this run. I never felt strong during the struggle. I was darting around little kids and slower runners and walkers. I was fighting with myself to keep going.

And I set a new personal record!!!!! I shaved 30 seconds off of my previous best time the day before. I cannot account for this. Maybe I really was pushing myself without knowing it and that was why I felt so exhausted. Maybe it was running on gravel that made a difference. Maybe it was the four extra degrees of temperature. Maybe it was . . . I don’t know.

But there’s no rest for me. I’ve committed myself to running three days during the week and a long run on the weekends. So I need to get back at it. Fortunately, we have a spate of warmer days coming. See you on the road.

Graveyard Run 5K

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Show me some respect. It was 31 degrees when I began the Graveyard Run 5K at the old, old Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City on Saturday morning. I was suited up in my long-sleeved running shirt, with another shirt over that, and a knit cap on my head. Plus gloves. But as I stood around waiting for the run to begin, I was also wearing sweats on top of everything.

I had signed up for this run more than a month ago, back in the balmy days when the morning temps could still be in the seventies. I really didn’t expect late October to get below freezing, but I’ve been on a few cold weather runs in recent weeks, so I was as prepared as I could be. And it turns out that was plenty well enuf prepared.

The run was in the Elmwood Cemetery, which is supposed to be the oldest cemetery in Kansas City, and the fees for the run are to benefit its upkeep. It was certainly appropriately spooky, with rolling hills, gnarly old trees, lots of tombstones, and quite a few elaborate mausoleums. Elmwood Cemetery is pretty much in the urban core, and it has high walls all around it, presumably to keep the troublemakers out and the zombies in. Curiously, though, it has a resident deer. I passed the deer twice on my run, and it had no apparent fear of humans. It even let some children pet it. I suppose it has a pretty good life. Plenty of grass to graze on and no predators to get at it.

The cemetery is only 43 acres, so to get the requisite 3.2 miles (3.1 according to my Nike+ watch), we had to run the course twice. The hills were moderate, and once I got going, the cold was pretty much not a problem. I was hoping to set a new record for myself. My last 5K was more than two months ago, but I’ve run two 10Ks since then, and I’m out doing at least 5 miles four days a week now. I had reasonable hopes that I could improve my pace and overall time. Since I had my fancy running watch on my wrist, I figured I would have a reliable measurement of what I did so I could know with confidence whether I did better, or did worse.

As usual, most of the runners passed me by. I hadn’t even reached the halfway point before the first runner was crossing the finish line. (He did better than seven-minute miles, so I don’t feel too bad.) But I felt strong as I ran, and I consciously picked up my pace here and there, knowing I had the stamina to finish and that I could spare the energy to push. The course was a mess. It’s an old cemetery, and the road we ran on was bumpy. There were also fallen leaves and sticks about. At one point there was a minefield of sweetgum balls, and at another point there was a spill of large gravel on the road. (Still, it’s not a mud run by any stretch!) The place is run by volunteers, so it would be unfair of me to complain about these conditions, and I won’t. I ran the course that was presented to me. And I managed to pass a handful of runners, though I only mention that as a gauge of my self-esteem, not as a matter of pride. I’m not sure I’ve ever passed any runners before. Walkers, yes. But not runners. As I came to the last straightaway before the finish line, I pushed it up again, going as fast as I could. (Did I mention that last stretch to the finish was uphill? No? Well, it was!) And so I crossed another finish line in my running life.

I had my time on my watch, but I didn’t look at it right away. I wanted to catch my breath a bit. And other runners were coming in, so I clapped and cheered for them. I started walking back to the chapel where Libby was waiting (she wasn’t; she was out wandering the mausoleums) and where they had bananas (and cookies). Only then did I look at my watch and see my total time and overall pace.

It was very good news, folks. I’ve shaved nearly seven minutes off my 5K time since I began running these things in July. And my pace per mile (still miserable by most standards) is now below the goal I had set for myself to achieve in 2013. I guess I’m going to have to set a new goal. It was a good run. I felt strong throughout, and I could certainly have kept running. I don’t think I could have kept going for another 23 miles to complete a full marathon, but eventually . . .

I was delighted with how well I ran. And to top it all off, for the first time in all of my runs (six now) I was not the last in my age group. I came in ahead of one other runner. And he was a runner, not a walker. His time was a few minutes behind mine. So, another goal met. Now I guess my goal will be not to be second-to-last in my age group.

Many of the runners wore costumes, and some of them were elaborate and creative. As you might imagine, I didn’t wear a costume, but they did ask me to be a judge of the costume contest after the run. I demurred. There were a few zombies, of course, though I don’t think they were real zombies from the cemetery but local kids dressed up as zombies. A group of women were suited up as dominos (?). There was a group of fairies with wings and skirts, including one good-sport fellow among them, and lots of kids in assorted costumes. One boy was described by the emcee as being a chipmunk, and the crowd quickly corrected him pointing out that the boy was actually Pikachu. All of the costumers were lined up and the judges announced their top three choices. Audience applause selected the winner among them. A young girl dressed as a witch was the ultimate winner.

It was a small run. They had only about 160 people sign up, and there were a few more registrations that morning. I overheard the organizers say that there were 26 running events in Kansas City this weekend. Thus I can understand why any given run might seem sparsely attended. Even so, I was impressed by how many family groups won awards. One brother and sister won the awards for their age groups. Another family won four awards: the daughter being the fastest woman on the course, two sons winning for their age groups, and the dad winning for his. There was even a 93-year-old runner, who was the only contestant in his age group, so he was a winner too. There is hope for me.

I felt good after the run. I felt as though I could do it again on Sunday.

And then came Sunday . . .

Farewell, Kim!

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

If you’ve been reading this humble blog for a long time, you may be familiar with a regular commenter who went by the name of Kimmi, also known as Kim Walker.

I learned this week that Kim Walker passed away, apparently only a few days shy of his 70th birthday. I know that he had a long fight with many ailments, but he always seemed to have a positive, even combative attitude toward his troubles.

Kim had kept a blog for many years called Fluff, and he posted a lot of pictures on Flickr at Kimnet. He was an accomplished photographer and even used cameras he found in dumpsters to take many of his photos.

Farewell, Kim.

Skywatch Friday – Ozark sunrise

Friday, October 26th, 2012

I captured this bit of Ozark sunrise on my way to Roundrock last weekend. I guess I was in the right place at the right time because a few miles and a few minutes later the colors were gone.

I think we’ve seen the last of the warm weather here in Missouri. Last weekend was delightful, but it may have dropped below freezing this morning.

ten point buck

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

You’ll probably recall that gruesome business post I made here a few weeks ago. (I had to pull a dead deer out of my lake and drag it up the hill where the scavengers could deal with it for me.) A plan I nursed for a while was to be a sort of scavenger myself, liberating the skull and antlers of the dead buck to hang as an ornament near my fire ring.

My fear, bordering on certainty, was that though I might get the skull, the mineral rich antlers would quickly be gnawed on by the little forest critters, and they’d either eat them all or mar them enuf to make them unsightly.

On a recent trip to the woods, Libby and I decided to venture to the other side of the lake to see if we could separate the head of the deer from the rest of its body. Perhaps we would get there soon enuf to beat the gnawing critters. So we shut the dogs in the cabin and took a long-handled shovel with us to our destination. The shovel was for the separating work.

When we got to the site where we’d left the deer, we almost couldn’t find it. Nearly all of what was once a deer was gone. Even the bones were scattered. Fortunately, the critters did the separating work for us. The skull was free of the spine, and, best of all, the antlers were intact. There was still a little skin attached to the skull, but I managed to liberate that.

I carried the prize back to the cabin and quickly found a nail and hammer. Soon the skull and antlers were hanging on a tree, still looking more than a little gruesome, but I’m sure the weather will correct that over time.

Backlit as he is, I can’t seem to get a good shot of this fellow. I guess that will get worse as more leaves fall from the trees behind it. But I’ll keep watching it (just as I hope the gnawing critters aren’t).

asters in Autumn

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

It’s a little late in my forest to be talking about asters, at least these lovely lavender ones. There are many of these around the cabin, on the south-facing slope that is dry and sunny, but on my visit over the weekend, they were mostly shriveled and sad, ready to retire for the season.

And it’s not as though I haven’t wanted to post a nice picture of some nice asters for a few weeks, but I just can’t seem to take any good close-up pictures with my new camera. It has a macro setting, but when I try to use it, the camera focuses on the background and not on what’s in the center of the viewfinder. Libby says I should probably read the instructions to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and I probably should, but I probably won’t.

Anyway, I managed to snag at least one good picture of these lovely lavender asters for you.

food for thought

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This is what I found when I opened the cabin on our most recent trip to Roundrock. What you see is my visit journal. In it I record various facts (like the temps, the weather conditions, critters seen or heard, what’s blooming, my random thoughts, et cetera). Usually, I’m sitting on the porch when I do this, and at the end of my visit, I put the visit journal on the table inside the cabin, with my beloved mechanical pencil resting on top of it.

Yet when we arrived, this was how the visit journal presented itself. Open to a random, past visit. I certainly didn’t leave it that way. Nor were there any open windows in the cabin that could have allowed a breeze to blow in and rustle the pages. The spiral spine is even on the wrong side. I wouldn’t have laid it down that way when I left.

So what to make of this. I really don’t think I have any trespassers getting into the cabin. The door was locked when we arrived (though I suppose that doesn’t mean much — any trespasser could pull it locked behind him — or her — as he — or she — left). But if I did, nothing was taken. In fact, nothing has ever been taken from our woods. (Things have been left by interlopers though.) It seems odd that if someone did manage to force the door (without damaging the lock or latch), they would have helped themselves to the tools or the peanuts or the afghan my mother made me when I was a boy. Instead, they sat and flipped through my visit journal?

I suspect the best explanation is that I didn’t leave the journal the way I normally do. I must have left it open, ready to receive some last minute entry as we were preparing to depart on the prior visit. I sometimes do that, because sometimes when we leave it’s with half a mind that we’re just going to stop in town for this or that and return but then change our minds.

Food for thought.

By the way, that brown wooden box at the top of the photo is a repurposed cigar box. I use it to collect my first aid supplies, though it’s hardly big enuf for what it should hold. What it does not hold is cigars. Since I’ve been running so much lately, I’ve stopped smoking the things. I don’t have an automatic objection to them, especially as infrequently as I used to smoke them. But they do seem to have about a two-day influence on my lungs — I do not inhale them — and I’ll likely be running within any given next two days. So finding an opportunity to indulge in a cigar any more is just about impossible. I suppose that’s a good thing, but the smell of them reminds me of my grandfather.

Skywatch Friday – Ozark Autumn

Friday, October 19th, 2012

We were stomping around the pecan plantation over the weekend when I cast my eyes to the heavens and saw this delightful portrait. The day began with thick clouds and even a little intermittent rain, but by the afternoon, the clouds had scudded away and blue sky reigned.

I’m delighted with the colors of my Ozark forest this year. I worried that the prolonged drought of the summer would have spoiled the color change, but that hasn’t been the case.


every picture tells a story

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

In this case, perhaps several stories.

The story I could tell you might be about that lovely row of hybrid salvia that are all blooming after the bleak and difficult summer they went through. We planted them in this bed before the cabin to attract hummingbirds that would entertain us as we sat in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. Too bad they didn’t bloom through the drought of the summer. Now, with more or less regular rains and more moderate temperatures, they are blooming madly. Alas, the hummingbirds have migrated from Missouri for the winter, so no entertainment there. Still, it’s nice to see the salvia have recovered. I understand they’re self seeders, which means this late bloom is a good thing for next year’s prospects. I’m pretty sure at least two of these plants managed to overwinter and stayed alive in their roots. Of course, least winter was moderate itself. I can’t expect that two years in a row. Well, I’ll take my successes at Roundrock however I get them. And for now, this robust bloom late in the season is dandy.

Or I could tell you the story of that wavy wall. Laugh if you want, but I challenge you to dig a trench in the Ozark “soil” to lay a gravel base for a wall of blocks. With a tree in the way. (You can just see its trunk there on the left.) Whoever takes this wall apart will find a number of beer and wine bottles behind it used as filler. I’m sure that person will nod knowingly and think he or she has figured out why the wall is wavy. Ain’t so! That wall is wavy because of the working conditions on site. There’s still more wall to be built, so if you doubt me, c’mon out and I’ll give you the pick axe to get started. Then we’ll see how you do!

I like this wall. Maybe it’s because I laid every block myself. I like to sit on the edge of it and gaze down at the lake. Or just because it gets a fair amount of sun and it feels good to sit there. Or maybe just because.

Next time you’re at Roundrock, I invite you to sit on it too and let me know what you think.