Happy belated New Year everyone! With the new year comes a transition between introspection and family, into “The Grind” until spring. I’ve used a bit of that introspection time off to catch up on blogs, and I’ve found a common theme: Why do I run (such stupid distances). For me it is simple: adventure and competition. I do get a kick out of racing, but I will focus on the adventure portion for this post.
What other endeavor allows us to experience so much in a day or a run, while allowing for the mental clarity to truly live that adventure? What people might take 2-3 days to experience while hiking with their worldly goods on their backs, I can live in an afternoon. True, hiking allows for other types of adventure, but running allows for more of it. Running can be a feast for the eyes and mind.
The following describes some of the things I’ve learned on my many adventures while running. But first a couple of updates:
Kettle 100 – I’ve signed up for my first Hundred! I am pretty pumped. The base training has started, with hills and speed to start in February. Funny thing, I am not so worried about the discomfort thing during this race, but more the bugs. It will be spring. I hate black flies. I need a plan…
Diet – The low-carb diet has started with three weeks of mainly fruits and vegetables. Things are going pretty well so far. I will incorporate more protein and fat in two weeks. My only craving is really popcorn and chips. Potato chips are vegetables, right?
OK. Here are some of the things I’ve learned on my many adventures while running:
Owls are cute – While in a forested section of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine, on a misty moisty morning, with two of my brothers, I was stopped by a commotion in the trees above. After a bit of searching, we found the source; two parent owls teaching two (ball of fluff) owlets to fly. It was mesmerizing. Whenever the owlets tried to land on a branch, they promptly did a 180, flipping underneath the branch, wildly flapping their wings. The parents? I’ve never seen such indifference. They just watched as their chicks fluttered and rotated from branch to branch, unfazed by the possibility of a 30 ft plummet. We watched them for what seemed like hours. They never did seem to get the hang of it.
Fawns are super-cute – Most visitors and campers at Willow River State Park in Wisconsin tend to flock to a 2 mile section of trail between the campgrounds and falls. The remainder of the park tends to be sparsely visited. I like that (selfish, I know). In one remote forested portion, the main trail winds through a thick stand of pines. On one cool, spring morning while rounding a bend in that trail, I saw two enormous eyes staring back at me. After stopping cold, I worked out the tiny body of a fawn lying in the center of the trail. As it was not moving, it must have been born just moments prior. We both remained in place playing don’t blink for several minutes before I figured the fawn was not going to budge. Mom was nowhere in sight. Finally, I chose to bushwhack around; the fawn was obviously terrified. After my first loop I thought to run an abbreviated second loop to check for the fawn. It was gone. You just never know what’s around the next bend.
Turkeys are stupid – The Glacial Drumlin Trail is an east-west Rail-to-Trail in southern Wisconsin between Waukesha and Madison. The trail tends to be thinly lined on both sides by trees, with fields of corn, soy, etc. outside of this leafy corridor. There is a great 5-mile section just outside Lake Mills with nary a road crossing, and opportunistic wildlife in the farm fields. Once, on a summer long run, I was spied by a flock of turkeys in a potato field wolfing down scraps. They could see me through the thin line of trees bordering the trail. In true turkey-fashion, the alarm went up and the whole flock ran for cover. Of course, the only cover was that tree line along the trail; where I was. Running to the trail now, the stupid birds led me perfectly such that, as they passed through the tree line and onto the trail, they ended up directly in front of me and underfoot. I’ve never heard such squawking and gobbling, all gigantic eyeballs and floppy neck things stumbling over each other. The alpha that got them into this mess probably heard it after that! It is hard to laugh and run at the same time. And to think Ben Franklin was a fan of the turkey over the eagle.
Eagles are clumsy – Why do eagles try to fly through densely wooded areas? They are clumsier than turkeys when trying to alight onto trees, and have no room to launch themselves. Talk about noisy too. Proud and graceful in the open, eagles are anything but in the trees. Maybe Ben was onto something.
Spearmint smells great – Along the Glacial Drumlin trail, there is a 200 yard section of wild spearmint. I often think of smell as the weakest sense, but the smell of that spearmint is so captivating and almost overwhelming that it can dominate the others. The fragrance seems to last for about a week each year, with the remainder of the year being a subtle background odor. I can smell it now just thinking about it.
Willow River waterfall is a gem – The falls along the Willow River in the Wisconsin state park of that name can be quite beautiful. I run past this gem many times each week, and it is ever changing depending on the season and time of day. On summer afternoons bathers can be seen filling the plunge pool, and peeking behind the falls themselves under the overhang. On humid mornings, I can barely see the falls through the mist that covers the trail. It is in the winter, though, that the falls takes on a completely new façade. Depending on how much freezing weather we’ve seen, the falls can be seen partially to fully frozen over, with the water still flowing beneath. A dichotomy between the roar of the river and the motionless ice. The shape the ice takes is ever changing, providing a beautiful break location for every winter run.
Geese, Ducks, Swans – The lazy waterfowl that choose to winter over in Wisconsin and Minnesota need to compete for the limited open water space this time of year. And they don’t share nicely. The swans bully everyone. The geese need a runway from which to takeoff, and barring the availability during a panic, just blast through everyone else. And the poor ducks just try to eke out some space. An idea for a reality TV show?
Wildflowers – I’ll save the best for last. There is a section of the Ice Age Trail in the Southern Kettle Moraine south of ZZ, where a runner is far from roads and manmade structures. Seemingly endless prairie. If you hit this section at the right time of year, the expanse of wildflowers is breathtaking, with a corona of pollinating insects buzzing industriously throughout. I think the Kettle 100 runners will experience this in June. I hope so!
I guess I can find adventure in the little things. Probably comes with advanced age. I know, I need to get out more.