Archive for September, 2014

almost roadkill

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014


We saw this good looking fellow just as we were leaving Roundrock on our last visit. We were nearly to the paved road (2+ miles from the cabin) when I saw what might have been a stick across the road. I suspected it was something else though.

I put the truck in park (always a good thing when you’re going to get out) and got out. The closer I got, the more sure I was that it was a snake. It had stretched itself across the road, and my tires would have likely got one end or the other of it if I had tried to straddle it and drive on. But I’m not that kind of guy, so I decided to shoo the snake into the grass on the side of the road, assuming it would let me and that it wasn’t, say, a rattlesnake.

I’m pretty sure it’s a speckled kingsnake, but this is not my strength. The snake cooperated, though it seemed a bit reluctant. It was a sunny, warm day, and I suspect it was happy to have been soaking up some heat and didn’t appreciate getting hustled away.

But hustle it did, and then so did we.

We don’t see a lot of snakes in our woods. I’m sure they are there and we simply aren’t alert enuf to see them. Curiously, we did see a scorpion on our last visit. That’s only the second time I’ve seen one of those at Roundrock.

UMKC Regalia Run 5K 2014 recap

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Regalia kit

The UMKC Regalia Run was the third 5K I had on my dance card, which I’d mentioned in my earlier posts. I had said I didn’t think a 5K was my distance, and then I found myself signed up for three. Now they are run and done.

I had done the Regalia Run last year, and I regaled you patient readers about it in this post. That was the first year the run was held, and now I’ve been to the second running as well, so I feel like a legacy. I guess I’m going to have to keep doing this every year.

I was surprisingly nervous about this run in the days leading up to it. I’m not really sure why. I can do the distance. I knew the course (even if this year’s course was different from last year’s). I was rested and fueled. I’d been turning in faster times on races all summer. The weather was just about perfect for a run. My new shoes were broken in. The stars were in alignment. And yet I was fretful for some reason. I suspect it had to do in part with a desire to do better this year than last and in part with the knowledge of how hilly the course this year was. It might also have been some transferred anxiety about a long run I’m hoping to do this coming weekend.

Whatever the reason, I slept fitfully on Saturday night and woke before the alarm on Sunday. I moved about the house. Let Queequeg out (and checked the weather — which was much warmer than last year). I drank some tea, ate a banana, and swallowed a vitamin (in part because I don’t eat much of what most people would call a balanced diet but also because the vitamins seem to ward off the cramps I otherwise get in my hands, feet, and legs). I surfed online for a while. Checked and re-checked the race web page for updates (none). Brushed and flossed. And then slowly began slipping into the kit you see in the photo above. (Note: KC Running Company is a local store that sells the usual gear but also runs and sometimes sponsor’s races. They were running this year’s Regalia, so I thought I would wear their shirt.)

Libby and I got to the University about an hour before gun time (and before most of the other runners) and got ourselves over to the start. I felt chilled in my skimpy plastic clothes, so we found an open door in one of the buildings and let ourselves in to sit in comfy chairs and wait. (Also, indoor bathrooms.) The sun had finally crested the hills to the east and was falling on the campus grounds. About a half hour before the start, we headed up the slight hill to the start and wandered about there. I had my blood pressure and pulse checked at one of the booths operated by the nursing students (137/73, 54 bpm). We speculated whether that really was Steven Spielberg sitting on the stone wall. (If so, he ran under an assumed named since he doesn’t show up in the results, but it sure looked like him.) I ate a free energy bar. We wandered about. I looked for other runners I knew but didn’t see any. There were only about 250 runners signed up this year, but that beats the 200 they had last year. Still, it would have been nice to see a familiar face.

Last year the start had us running down a short, nice hill. This year they had us start halfway up a hill, continuing up that hill once we crossed the mats and were underway. (At first that seemed a little unkind to me, but on reflection, maybe not. Starting out too fast is a common problem for many runners, so starting out going uphill might prevent them from doing that. Or it might tire them right away. I don’t know.)

About five minutes before the official start, they asked us to assemble behind the arch and get ready to run. There was some speechifying that was mostly inaudible, and then the countdown began. I had told my watch to find some satellites, and it had, so I hoped it would hold the signal until I pressed the GO button. When the University chancellor blew the horn, we were off. Uphill. People were passing me, of course, but many more passed me as we rounded the first corner and began heading downhill.

It was a brief downhill stretch before we turned another corner and headed uphill once again. It was too early in the run (not even a half mile) to think about taking a walking break, and, really, I shouldn’t need that on such a short run. Right? So I ignored the voices in my head suggesting a brief walk (as many others were already doing) and just kept grinding up the hill. At the top, we turned again and began a delicious, long downhill run. I’d say it was almost a half mile. It was along here that I first began passing other runners. I’m still new enuf at this game to be surprised that I can actually do that, and I took it as a sign that I’ve made some decent progress as a runner in the last (nearly) three years.

The delicious downhill soon came to an end though and we runners reached our first intersection where the traffic was not detoured. The police were there blocking the cars that wanted to cross our path, but when there was a big enuf gap in the runners, they let a few cars through. I could see that I might be at the head of one of those gaps, so I picked up my pace to get myself closer to the few runners ahead of me. Once I was through the intersection I didn’t care what happened behind me.

But once I was through that intersection, the flat grade at the bottom of the hill was pretty much over. We began another very long ascent of more than a half mile (according to the map the computer created when I plugged in my watch later). I kept grinding, telling myself I wasn’t even half way through the run and that I couldn’t embarrass myself by walking so soon. I was passing some walkers, but I had no desire to pass any runners. (By this time, the faster runners were far ahead and I was in a pack of those who ran at about my pace. It’s good to know there are many others at my ability level.) I deployed my usual technique for dealing with long hills; I simply put my head down and concentrated on the three feet in front of my two feet. The hill seems flatter that way. And if I stick with it, by the time I do look up, I find myself most of the way up the long hill.

At the top we turned a corner in front of the art museum and had a nice level stretch before us. There was a water station at the end of this and I grabbed a cup, threw the water down my throat, and then obliged the hard working man who was running up to each of us with a trash bag to catch the empty paper cups we would otherwise throw to the ground. (The few hundred feet after a water station is generally peppered with thousands of paper cups that somehow don’t make it into the trash cans set out for them. The saying is that runners make terrible basketball players.) After this, we faced another wonderful downhill stretch that was longer than the uphill we had just completed. We would re-enter the campus on its west side, which is lower ground than in the center where we started. This gave us nearly a mile of downhill or flat running. Life was good.

But we weren’t done. There was still about a half mile to go before we reached that arch on the side of the hill where we had started and where we would finish. Once inside the campus, we began a series of ascents that were merciless. I don’t know who thinks having an uphill finish is a clever idea. Really, a race should be just like college. In your last semester, aren’t you allowed to coast? But, no, we had a long hill to climb before the last turn and then the two-block run up another hill to the finish arch. I was beat, of course, but I was also feeling strong. I tried to throw in a little kick, but the hill was taking it away as fast as I was delivering it. I saw Libby on the sideline taking a picture (actually a video I learned later), and I saw the arch getting closer, and I kept pumping my legs. I heard my name announced over the speaker system (always wear your bib on the front). And I was across the mats.

But I wasn’t finished.

A 5K is 3.1 miles long. My running watch had recorded only 3.02 miles. And I hadn’t been cutting any corners. In fact, I was running wide in some cases just to high five the police or course monitors out on the edges. (The high fives give a hard-to-define boost to my run in the low spots.) If anything, I ran farther than most of the other people on the course. I’ve had this same thing happen on several races lately. That horrible half marathon I did at the Air Force base came up as only 12.87 miles instead of the 13.1 it was supposed to be. That’s nearly a quarter mile discrepancy. Assuming our first line of defense doesn’t get these things wrong, I began considering that it was my watch that might be at fault. Since this continues to happen (sometimes, not always), and since when I’m running with others their watches report different distances and paces than mine does (again, sometimes, not always), I suspect the problem is on my wrist. Maybe at the turn of the year I’ll want to step up to a better watch.

So, the run came up short on my watch. I had the timing chip removed from my shoe, accepted the bottle of water, and then accepted the medal given to all of the finishers. (That’s a blue and gold kangaroo on the medal — our school mascot. His bib has a 14 on it for 2014. Last year it had an 80 on it for the 80th anniversary of the university.)

Regalia bling

And then I started running again. I needed less than a tenth of a mile to get my watch to consider my run a 5K, so I ran down the block a ways, turned around, and ran back. That was enuf. I had 3.11 on the watch and my run completed for the morning.

Libby found me and we wandered over to the booths where the freebies were. I stopped again with the student nurses and had my numbers checked. My BP was 126/62 and my pulse was roaring at 120. The nurse assured me that this was the way it should be. The heart was pumping more efficiently so the blood pressure was lower, and I had just run 3 miles, so it was pumping faster to service the body. (I wonder what an instant pulse measurement would be right at the end of the run rather than five minutes of cool down later.)

I found the chocolate milk (which I recall they did not have last year) and while there were still no bagels, there were also no donuts to tempt me as they had last year. I ate another energy bar. And then we decided to leave.

It was a good run. I came in eighth in my age group of 15 runners, which is fantastic compared to last in my age group, which was a position I defended throughout 2013. I’d also beaten my time from last year’s run by more than 5 minutes, but that’s not quite a fair comparison since the course was different. But in any case, I had just run my fastest 5K ever by 35 seconds! I had not even intended to set a personal record. I plan to do a really long run this coming weekend, and I need to take it easy. In fact, I’m done running until next weekend. But I still need to fuel up. So I have that going for me.

Skywatch Friday ~ September sky

Friday, September 26th, 2014



There was a small chance for rain when we were last down at Roundrock, but the clouds never got organized enuf to make that happen. Instead we got these pretty views. This is from below the dam, looking to the northwest. The weather was perfect.

a good and frustrating solution

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

fence stay

This, I hope, is the solution to my critter problem in the overflow drum on the dam. Some of you may recognize what this is right away. Others, like me, may need to get educated about the item.

As I noted in past posts, critters sometimes crawl up the exit pipe from the overflow drain on the dam and jump into the drum there only to find that they cannot then jump back up to the pipe and leave. This most recently happened to an opossum. I felt guilty about that, having created the “attractive nuisance” in the first place. I thought that I could squeeze a long, narrow stick through the grating on the top of the drum, and the stick could serve as a kind of ladder that most critters could then use to reach the pipe and get out. The problem with the stick, of course, is that it could break or rot away or otherwise just fail. So I gave some thought to a different solution and came up with the item you see above.

It’s called a fence stay. These are most commonly used on barbed wire fences, in the lengths between the posts, to align and support the strands, serving as a kind of mini post itself. It helps the strands support each other.

fence stay close up

The stay is screwed down onto the strands, resulting in them being kept spaced evenly and transferring strength among them. The stay I got was 48 inches long, but they come in other lengths.

My plan was to screw the stay onto/through the grating on the top of the drum, placing it close to the drain pipe in the back (though not in front of it), so that any hapless critter would have a grip-able, permanent pole to climb near the exit. And so I executed my plan.

And it seems to have worked (at least in installation).

fence stay installed

This photo shows much. There is the grating on the drum, the stay screwed onto the grating and reaching down more than three feet to the bottom, the black drain pipe that is an handy entrance but vexing exit for some critters, and the bones of the opossum down in the bottom of the drum. (I don’t know how the opossum’s bones managed to get scattered as they are. I guess some other critter got in there to feast and then managed to get out?)

The good and also frustrating thing about this solution is that if it works, I’ll never know that it does. Any critter that would otherwise be trapped in the drum would be able to escape, so I won’t see it trapped, and I likely won’t see it escaping. I’ll tell myself that it works and sleep better at night. (But if I do find another dead critter in the drum, well, I’ll know it didn’t work.)

washed and worn

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014


I had an early sign that the lake might be fuller on our last trip to Roundrock when I came down the road through the trees and saw leaves washed out of the roadside ditch. This doesn’t happen often, and it’s a sign of a heavy rain, heavy enuf to float the leaves and push them to higher ground.

I also suspect it’s a sign of a sudden heavy rain. A kind of surprise attack for the leaves that have been resting peacefully in the ditch for months, slowly moldering into soil.

This ditch is on the northwest side of the road. Where it gets near the cabin, most of the way down the hill, the road forks. Straight ahead it leads onto the dam. But it also veers to the east and ends in the pecan plantation below the dam. The ditch follows the eastbound road, so the draining water heads to the pecans. Or is supposed to.

The turn to the east is sharp, and the ditch there, though vastly improved by mighty efforts on my part with a pickaxe, is not quite sufficient to handle the kind of volume that must have passed through recently.

In the past the water simply didn’t make the turn and crossed the road, heading down to the lake, carrying a lot of gravel with it to wash into the lake. So I improved the ditch, using the dirt and gravel I dug from it to raise the bed of the road as much as I could at the turn. For the most part it worked, but when big rains like this last one come, my mighty efforts are overcome.

In any case, it all lead to a fuller lake, and I’m good with that.

everything’s better when wet (or fuller, anyway)

Monday, September 22nd, 2014


This was the view of the lake from the cabin just over a month ago. On my visit two weeks ago, even that little bit of water you see at the left was gone. (I was so disheartened that I didn’t take a picture then.) The area you see here should be full so that’s it’s over your head.

There had been rain down Roundrock way in the last month, but I guess the ground was so dry that it absorbed nearly all of it and left little to run off and fill the lake.

I’ve gotten used by my Brigadoon of a lake (not that I like it), but it’s getting time for me to worry about the fish wintering over. They need at least eight feet of depth in order to survive the inevitable freezing temperatures.

Well, Libby and I were able to spend the weekend at Roundrock, and this is what we saw when we arrived:


That’s by no means full, but it about tripled the surface area of the lake, and the fish now have at least a dozen feet of water in the deep area closest to the dam. The water here would at least come up to your waist.

The dragonflies were busy laying eggs on the water, the turtles were surfacing and sunning themselves, the fish were hunting in the shallows, and we even got to see a heron arrive and stalk through the edge water for lunch.

Yes, I would like a lot more rain to fall before the cold arrives, but for now I’m grateful and hopeful.

Also, we had a fine weekend in our woods.


Wednesday, September 17th, 2014


On my last trip to Roundrock, I dared to venture across the dam (through the tall, tick-laden scrub) to check on the status of the opossum and the copperhead in the overflow drum. (One still dead, the other gone.)

Along the way I saw this lush growth of poke on the side of the dam. Now, a vigilant land owner would have taken the loppers he always carries with him and chopped this stuff to the ground since any growth on the side of the dam is bad since it can shelter burrowing critters, which you don’t really want on your dam.

But a vigilant steward might think otherwise. The poke berries can help feed the birds and other critters through the winter. From what I’ve read, it’s pretty much toxic to humans, though the leaves can be eaten if they are first triple boiled to remove the toxins. Yeah, I’m not going to do that.

Plaza 10K 2014 recap

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Plaza kit

I had a great run over the weekend. For the second year in a row, I ran the Plaza 10K. Here is my account from last year. I did even better this year, beating my time by nearly four minutes. It’s a 10K PR for me, which is always nice.

We’ve had a spate of cooler weather around here lately, with nightly lows actually dipping under 40 degrees. That’s just about perfect running weather (as long as it doesn’t rain), but just as I had to get acclimated to the summer heat, I needed to do the same with this cool, and it’s come so fast that I haven’t done that. I watched the weather reports through the week, and Sunday was looking good. Anticipating a chilly start, though, I had Libby scavenge in her basement hoard for a throwaway jacket I could wear in the start corral until I had run far enuf to get the engine warm. Then I could cast the jacket to the side of the road and run like the wind without it. (These cast offs are generally collected by the race organizers and donated to charity.) She found a nice fleece jacket that my son had worn in middle school and, astonishing as it may sound, the thing fit me and was even a bit large. Throwaway jacket achieved.

You see most of my kit in the photo above. I’m still wearing my summer white hat, though it’s getting time to switch to my winter black. Not shown are the compression shirt and shorts I wore as a base layer. I wanted the added warmth they would provide (and hoped I wouldn’t regret them later) as well as the chafing protection (no need to go into detail). You see that I wore my Olathe Running Club shirt. I do that in part to represent the club at these events, but I did it specifically this time since I was to run with the woman in the club who is in charge of the club-branded gear. I figured she would show up with one of the new shirts on and I had better do the best I could with my older version.

I had told Libby that she did not need to be my support crew this time. It’s only a six-mile run, which wasn’t going to destroy me the way a half would, so I could get myself there and back on my own. Plus, our youngest son, Aaron, and his wife, Amber, were moving into their new house over the weekend, and she (and my truck) needed to be available if called. (They weren’t.)

When I rose on Sunday morning (a few minutes before the alarm was to go off) I let Queequeg out the back door and stepped outside myself (with far less on than I would run in later). It was clearly not below 40 degrees, and when I checked the temp online, I found it was actually 53 degrees: perfect! And so I went in and began my ritual/routine of getting ready for a race. Mostly that involved getting dressed very slowly and going over my gear check again and again. I checked for last-minute emails from the race (none), brushed and flossed, fretted, walked about, then left an hour and a half before gun time to make the half-hour drive (in the dark) to the start at the swanky Country Club Plaza District. Since I got there too early to stand around in the cold, I drove the course just to see if there were any surprises. (When I ran my first half marathon, there was a quarter mile stretch where we had to run across freshly chewed up pavement. That was not fun.) There were no surprises, and though I was by no means the first one to arrive, I still got a great parking space close to the start and then sauntered over there to look for my running partner and other friends from the club that I knew would be there.

I wandered for a long time before we met up, and then we stood around in the chill and listened to the usual announcements and such. We saw some familiar faces and chatted aimlessly as we waited. About fifteen minutes before gun time, I told my friend (let’s call her ChrisAnn) that I wanted to do a short warm-up run around the block and that I’d meet her in our pace section of the corral. The trip around the block took me close to where I had parked, and I made the spontaneous decision to throw away my throwaway jacket in my car. It was warm enuf that I didn’t really need it by then, and I would regret losing it unnecessarily, especially with a full marathon coming up next month in Oregon and a half marathon coming up in Kansas in November. Throwaway ditched, I continued around the block and looked for my friend in her Volt yellow jersey (which was not branded with our club name). Eventually, of course, I found her. I should tell you about ChrisAnn. She had run the Plaza 10K last year. We had started out together, but she had lost me in the first quarter mile and I never saw her again. It turned out she had finished something like fifteen minutes before I had. She’d had a head cold then, and she said she had run so fast simply because she wanted the race to be over! This year, she asked me to run with her to pace her. She hadn’t been training much (for various reason) and didn’t want to burn out by running too fast too soon. So would I please run with her and keep her in check? (You see what this means, of course. She needed a slower runner to set the pace for her. Sigh!)

There was so much chatter among the waiting runners around us that the national anthem was nearly over before I heard even a snatch of it. I whipped off my cap, and most of the people around me noticed and did the same or put their hands over their hearts. Soon after this, we heard the starting horn, but as these things go, it was more than five minutes before we people at the back of the pack were even moving forward, much less running. I started my watch, it grabbed some satellites, and we shuffled toward the start. As we crossed the starting mats, I switch on my run counter, and we were off.

I had been talking to myself all week (all summer, all year) about this run. I had been telling myself positive things, confidence-boosting things. It was only six (point two) miles. Easy. I’d done this many, many times. I was rested, fueled, and ready. The weather was perfect. The kit was shaken down. The boy could do it, and now was the time. The trouble was that I had done such a fine job with this run last year that I knew I had to have a fine run this time or I would be a complete and utter failure to all of humanity and the running community in particular. (Sometimes it’s no fun being me.) So I had set myself an unreasonable standard, and I was worried sick about it. Yet I’d had a year of training and tangible improvement since the prior run. I had newish shoes on. I had a running partner, which tends to make these things easier (don’t ask me how). Plus, she had asked me to run with her. And in any case, we were underway.

And doing well. We were trying to maintain a slow pace to save our energy for the long haul. (You run six miles and tell me it doesn’t take management!) And we were chatting. I’ve run with ChrisAnn a number of times on club runs, and we know about each other’s families, work, running ambitions, and the like. So we had some catching up to do. Plus, a fine chatter helps distract from the inevitable agony of running long distances. The course pretty much runs along Brush Creek, so we went west first on the south side of the creek (really more like a small, very picturesque river) then turned around and headed east for a much longer distance on the north side of the creek. People were passing us, but we were passing others, including many who had already succumbed to walking within the first quarter mile. We’d both run the course the year before, and I had driven it that morning, so there were no surprises in store. Thus we could chat and visit and talk about other runners. (Not as many tutus this run as I’ve seen in the past, but colorful clothing was common.) We each asked the other how we were doing. I knew that ChrisAnn wanted to stay at a moderate pace, and just as when I’m driving on the highway, I tend to get going too fast. When I’m running I usually burn out and can’t sustain it. When I’m driving . . . But we were both doing well.

Which is not to say my body didn’t want to stop this foolishness right now! It was telling me very clearly that it did not like being used in this way. It’s usually my lungs that are the last to join the party, and they weren’t disappointing me this time. I had intended to have a good run (as I already mentioned), but I also had another plan with this run. I wanted to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings and moods and motivations. I wanted to watch how I mentally powered through the difficult parts and how to recognize the moments when I felt I could run forever. (It happens.) I wanted to get a sense of what my mental make up was during a challenging run because, well, I have a full marathon coming up in less than a month! I’m going to need to rely on the 90% mental part of running then.

What I found was that there is a huge difference between wanting to stop and needing to stop. And there is a huge reserve within me that I am able to call upon when the running gets tough and the goal is still a long way off. Yes, I wanted to stop. I wanted to take a walking break. But I wanted — more — to keep going to the end and show myself that I have it in me. (Note, I ran the entire distance of the Vancouver USA half marathon in June. But these are lessons that need constant reinforcing.)

ChrisAnn, however, was struggling. Around mile four she had to begin walking breaks. This is an honorable solution to the rigors of running, and I’ve certainly relied on them on many of my long runs. I had no disrespect for her choice, but it did present a problem for me. I wanted/needed to keep running. The solution was as easy as it was obvious. I ran zigzag. I ran in circles around her. I even ran backwards! (More jiggling to that than I expected but kind of fun.) I ran about until she could pick up her pace and I could slot in beside her. We repeated this a few times nearly the rest of the run. ChrisAnn was managing her run as well as she could, and I was maintaining my role as running partner as I could. (Note: There was a selfish quality to this. I’ve done a 5K and a half marathon that did not record the proper distance on my running watch. I blame solar flares. Or bad karma. I worried that the same would happen with this 10K. So if I managed to add a little distance to the route by my zigging and zagging, that would help ensure that when I crossed the finish line, I would have 6.2 miles on my watch, which Nike would then recognize, and the world would be in order again.)

We were eating up the miles. The route from about mile 4.5 gave us a good view of the tall buildings near the finish. They looked impossibly far away, but, of course, they weren’t. I kept my eyes on the ground before my feet and played wingman for ChrisAnn. By this point she didn’t respond to my chatter. She was concentrating on managing her run, and I recognized the signs from my own run of the Kansas City Half Marathon nearly a year before when my wingman, Todd, chatted with me until he recognized that I was beat and just called out mile markers, hills, and other hazards to a man who was ready to die and ready to run.

We kept at it, keeping pace with each other, calling out the contradictory paces and distances on our watches, and otherwise pushing, pushing, pushing.

The last quarter mile of this run (and of the Trolley Run) is the most glorious in the city. It comes back into the Country Club Plaza, downhill all the way, with screaming crowds on each side and the finish arch within view and getting closer. Unfortunately, ChrisAnn needed to walk one last time. She urged me to go on without her, and since I still had some gas in the tank, I did. I picked up my pace, darting past people who were running along at a nice clip themselves. I dug deep to find a good finish in my legs and lungs, and though I think I may have started too early to begin my kick to the finish, I kept at it. I came in to the finish as fast as I could, and I even remembered to close my gasping mouth so I’d look fabulous in the finish photo.

And then it was done. I had run the entire 6.2 miles, and I had run them well. (And it wasn’t lost on me that in a few weeks I’m going to need to complete this run again only I’ll also need to add another 20 miles to it.) I had the sensor clipped from my shoe. And I accepted what you see below.

Plaza blingThe medals for these runs are getting bigger every year. Honking bigger. I’m not sure what I think of that. I wore it for the rest of the morning (including to breakfast, dammit!), but now it will hang on a wall and compete for attention with the others I’ve been accumulating.

ChrisAnn came in behind me only about a minute and a half later. We found each other in the crowded finish chute and pushed our way through the crowds to the chocolate milk and Chinese food (!) vendors waiting for us. So did everyone else, and once we collected our rightful chow, we found a quiet wall to fall against and slide to the ground where we ate and talked and rehashed our runs and talked about future runs and more or less settled down. It happened that the man who was delivering the cases of chocolate milk to the nearby booth happened to pass right before us, and after a couple of passes I realized I could ask him directly for some tasty milk. He obliged us. And then he obliged us again. We rested. We finished sweating. We started to get a little chilled from the still-cool morning. And then we decided we’d had enuf of the run and that it was time to go. ChrisAnn had to go into work (on a Sunday), and I still had that possible obligation to help my son move into his new house. So we sauntered out of the area. We considered briefly getting a print out of our times, but the line was long, and the info was already online, so we didn’t. We parted and made our ways to our homes.

So it was a great, great run for me. Yes, if I hadn’t zigged and zagged to keep pace with ChrisAnn, I might have had an even better finish time, but a) that’s not what a wingman does, and b) I might not have run the entire distance at all if I didn’t have the accountability of a witness (and friend) beside me the entire way.

I have a small 5K coming up in two weeks. Then I board a plane and fly to Portland to face the hardest run of my life. But I’m going to relish today’s run for a while first.


don’t drink the water

Monday, September 15th, 2014


A little scene near the fire ring at Roundrock. I’ve kept jugs of water by the cabin for years, even before there was a cabin. Without running water there, and with a come-and-go lake, I felt that I needed a supply of water near where I burn stuff just in case. Or at the very least, to snuff the coals at the end of the evening.

I almost never use the jugs of water. Lately I’ve felt comfortable letting the coals burn themselves to ash through the night (because the forest has happened to be wet when I’ve had fires and because I’ve had, I think, only three campfires this entire, sad year). So the jugs have lain unused for a long time. I think most of these jugs are a couple of years old at the least. A couple of years sitting in the heat and the rain and the cold and the snow and ice, with the relentless sun bearing down on them and breaking apart the chains of molecules that hold them together. The plastic has become brittle, and I wonder if I grabbed one by the handle if the handle would come off in my hand. (This is a sort of inadvertent adjunct to my old bag experiment with its inconclusive result. Also, the boulder on which I conducted that experiment is now gone, having been shoved aside as the north overflow spillway below the dam was built.)

When I first planted the pecans and the pines, I kept jugs of water in their acres so that I could water my little baby trees and give them a decent start. I don’t know if that helped; I certainly couldn’t water them consistently, so they more or less suffered or thrived on whatever nature delivered. Obviously I stopped doing that after the trees that were going to survive got established (and seem to be doing well in both plantations).

Now I think the jugs of water serve two purposes. One, they look ugly and remind me that I should just dump them out and take the empty jugs back to faraway suburbia to recycle. Two, as you can see above, they seem to be a last resort for the local critters when the forest is dry. I have found some jugs gnawed open and drained (mostly from being toppled in the gnawing process, I think). I suppose that’s partly what happened above. I think a critter began chewing on the plastic, but being so brittle, the plastic broke under the weight of the beastie, and water was achieved.

Yep, I’m pretty sure I’m going to clear all of those jugs out of the fire ring area on my next visit.


Wednesday, September 10th, 2014


I mentioned yesterday that some critter has been gnawing on the wood of the cabin. I’m not sure why this is. You can see in this case that the munching is going on very close to the ground. At two of the four corners of the cabin where there is similar munching, it is also near the ground. I suppose that is a function of the size of the critter doing the gnawing, but why the wood at all?

At first I thought that I must have touched the wood in these areas on some sweaty day and left some personal salt on it, which then attracted the critter. (Libby’s family tells the story of a family trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan and how their car made a terrible noise one morning. They lifted the hood and found many of the hoses gnawed through, eaten by some critter that was apparently after the salt residue on them left by the last mechanic to work on the car.) But I don’t remember touching the wood in these low spots at all, much less any more than the other two corners or the four pillars, which remain unscathed.

The destruction is not extensive from visit to visit. It’s more like a sampling, but what does the critter get out of it? In the middle of a forest, why is the critter more interested in the treated wood of my cabin?

When I oil the exterior (!) and repaint the front door and frame, I hope that will deter the critter from more sampling. (Or, I suppose, it could have the opposite effect.) I’ve done a rough calculation of the surface area of the exterior, and I’ve come up with about  770 square feet of surface. Given the price of cabin stain per gallon and the coverage each could give, that’s a lot of race fees I’m talking about.

A man I know said it should take a person four years to paint a house. You simply do one side each year. (Then, if you’re lucky, you get a year or two off before you must start the cycle again.) That might be a more cost-effective solution. Plus it would allow me to practice using/applying the stain on the least visible side of the cabin (the west side) before I moved to the rest. We’ve also talked about painting the door and frame Santa Fe blue. (If you’ve been to the southwest of the U.S. you know the blue I’m talking about.) The trouble is finding that exact blue. Every paint company has its own definition of the color, and it’s been too long since I’ve been to Santa Fe to picture in my mind the true color that attracts my eye. That would be distinctive and pleasing, except that the roof of the cabin is green, so the contrast might be jarring when taking in the whole picture.

That little gnawing critter has no idea the trouble it’s giving me.