Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Fitness

I was trying to decide which of my two blogs to write this post on, and selected this one.  Both of my blogs, in one way or another, concern fitness.  You cannot hike - or at least not without being miserable - without some level of fitness.  Nor can you do a marathon or a half marathon without some level of fitness.  When we are in our cars, 26 or 13 miles seems so short.  When we are running, those distances are not short at all - trust me on this if you have never done it.

I'm coming off a hard running season where I ended up with sore knees.  For the last two months of run training, my knees hurt all of the time.  I gutted it out.  I was determined to complete the Shamrock half-marathon in March to celebrate 10 years surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma, and I did.  Then I ran a 10K 13 days later.  These came at a price - a left knee that hurt at every step.  Since my knees are the same age, I know it cannot be old age, but what is it?

I stopped running for the last two (almost) months but still did some walking and some hiking -nothing too strenuous, and for me, a semi-couch potato.  I finally saw a doctor who specializes in sports medicine, and she told me that the root cause is probably weak hip muscles - which also contributed to my plantar fasciitis last year.  She told me that I have tremendous strength moving forward, but not enough side to side.  So this causes excess friction in the tendons and in the IT (ilea-tibial) band - the big wide strip of tough tissue that connects the hip to the knee.  This is a common problem in runners and in power walkers.

So in addition to drugs (short term) and knee bands (short term), the long term solution is better general fitness.  The cool thing is that a lot of the exercises that I am doing now are those also recommended by Backpacker Magazine for improving general conditioning for hiking.  These include a series of exercises with an elastic band around one's feet, like side to side stepping and moving one foot away from the others in several different manner.  But it also includes things like one legged squats - squatting to a seated position but with one foot off the floor and then standing - and balance exercises, such as standing on one leg for 30-60 seconds.  I've been pretty religious about these for the last week or so.  It sure would be easier to stay in shape if one didn't have to work for a living!  One trick I have now is trying to actually take my 15 minute work break and do a few of these at the company fitness room - as well as some of my old standbys from last year like side planks and leg raises.

It was another good reminder about how we think we are in good shape, getting lots of exercise, but then a reminder comes along about how important it is to attain total body fitness - and how much we have to work at that and just make the time for it.  That is what I am attempting to do, knowing that my efforts may fall short.  My knee hurts less, and these workouts will make me a stronger hiker and walker - and runner, if I take that up again.  The jury is out on that one - I enjoy running, most of the time (sometimes I hate it).  But I love walking, and especially hiking, and would hate to do something to my body through running that would mess that up for me.  I have a lot to think about as far as whether to run again or not.  Maybe I will do another marathon or half marathon next year, or maybe I will stick to 10K's.  Or maybe I should just stick to walking to make sure I can still do that for the rest of my life.  Speaking of, here I am, awake way too early this morning and on the computer.  Perhaps I should go for a short walk in the 30 minutes I have left before preparing for the work day?  Bye!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What Am I?

Here is the fifth and last of my "What Am I?" series for creatures seen during my hike a week ago in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  See if you can guess what this animal is.

I'm found along the shore and beach
Where things I need are in my reach

Perhaps you're guessing tall giraffe?
On sandy beach?  Now, there's a laugh!

No, I'm a bird, and not so tall
In fact, I am a type of gull.

My belly's white, while grey's my back
My head's covered with hood of black

I have a rather reddish bill
Of anything, I'll eat my fill

My name comes from my raucous cry
Which rings across the sapphire sky

How well so far are you fairing?
You must know my name's not herring.

You know I'm not the great black-back
Not with my lovely hood of black

If the answer you can't coerce
A clue's concealed in second verse

Enough clues
for you!
to see
what I am!

Always hunting for fish or clam
A laughing gull is what I am!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Am I?

Here is the fourth "guessing game" series for the creatures I saw during Sunday's hike in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  This one should be easy for you, because this guy likes to be noticed!

If you walk near a marsh at all
You're likely to detect my call

Melodious yet kind of harsh
It carries well across the marsh

I often cling high to a reed
Trying to call a mate to breed

My feathers are the blackest jet
All over chest and back, but yet

There are two colors in my name
And one of them is like a flame

For, as if to make me bolder,
A fiery patch adorns my shoulder

My mate however is quite drab
As I her love attempt to nab

And though you notice as I sing
What caught your eye's my flashy wing

you got
this one!
to see
the answer!

So tell me now, what's the good word?
Did you just guess red-winged blackbird?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Am I?

On my Sunday hike in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a pair of these, swimming together in the marsh.  Can you figure out what they are from my clues?

Your first clue, and you are in luck,
Is to tell you that I'm a duck

That narrows the animal field
But the answer's not yet revealed

For though a duck, what is its kind?
Continue on, if so inclined

Was it of marsh, or of the sea?
'Twas in a marsh when seen by me

A color makes part of its name:
Primary color, I proclaim

It's speculum is blue as sky;
A white half moon leads 'fore its eye

In its name is a body part
Come on, think hard, be very smart!

This body part's of birds, not man,
And often measured by its span

I think you have enough clues now
To get the answer, I avow

Review the clues and take your guess
And if you're wrong, no need to stress!

to reveal
what kind
of duck
I saw:

The answer to you I reveal:
A male and female blue-winged teal

You cannot see the blue speculum with its wings folded, but on the drake, the white half moon in front of the eye, and the white patch near the rump are the identifying marks.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Am I?

Over the years, I have seen a lot of fascinating creatures at Back Bay - an otter, gray and red fox, a water moccasin, copperheads, glossy ibis, osprey, eagles, even a bobcat!  But until Sunday, I had never seen this creature there.  Can you figure out what it is?

Not far past, I was everywhere
But today I am kind of rare

My blood gets warm when it is hot
But cools right down when it is not

In diet, I'm an omnivore
Berries and bugs, and so much more

I live entirely on the land
(At Back Bay, that can mean some sand)

I can't walk fast, I cannot fly
I can't swim well, I'm not real spry

I'm marked with black and bright yellow
My disposition's fairly mellow

I'm protected by armor plate
Which helps keep me in a safe state

And though I have no keys or locks
I can retreat to a strong box

Okay!  Time to make your guess!
find out if

If you cleared each careful hurdle
You guessed that I'm a box turtle!

Not only did I see this one, but later that day, I found another one a couple of miles away on the drive home!  And this after never seeing even one here before!

What Am I?

I saw this animal yesterday during my morning hike in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Use the clues to guess what it is.

I walk not on four legs but two
Which is the same way as do you

I can also fly through the sky
Which you can't do though you might try

My long legs which hold me upright
Also give a fair degree of height

Wading about is where I'm seen
Searching for prey with vision keen

I'll stab my prey with my sharp spear
Fish and frogs have plenty to fear

High in trees in a nest of sticks
Is where I raise my little chicks

For ladys' hats I once was killed
Long in the past, must say I'm thrilled

Spreading wings like an umbrella,
You might think me an odd fella

But shading the water from the sun
Makes it likely that lunch is done

One last clue so you'll get it right:
My feathers are a brilliant white


In your guess, may you not regret
I'm an American egret!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Early Day at Back Bay

I'd hoped to have a photo of the full moon in perigee rising over the Atlantic yesterday, but we got socked in by soupy weather.  This morning, the wind was still blowing strong, and the clouds were thick, but I decided to take a four mile hike early in the day at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Often, one sees more wildlife early, and I was not disappointed.  I saw pelicans, various gulls, a cardinal, a great blue heron, a green heron, two turkey vultures, and various other creatures - several of which I will mention later in my "What Am I" series.  For now, here are some photos of my overcast and blustery morning at Back Bay.

I started out taken the board path to the beach,
 walked past the dunes,
studied the sandy home of a crab,

and watched the wild surf for a while.
 From there, I headed away from the Atlantic, and started hiking down the East Dike pathway.  It was here that I ran last February, not long before the Shamrock Half Marathon.
 Wetlands of several kinds are on either side of the dike trail.
 I hiked to a large impoundment where I saw this great blue heron and a number of American egrets.  I quite often see wildlife here.

 Just across from the impoundment is this wetland area.  Note all of the little islands and all of the edge between the worlds of land and water.
From here, I turned around and hiked back out the way that I came.

What Am I?

I saw this creature on my hike to Dutch Gap the other day. Can you figure out what it is?

Although, to you, I’m just reptile
To me, my life is quite worthwhile

I mostly live in H2O
But will rest on sunny log, though

To catch some rays and warm my blood
If scared, I’ll flop off with a thud

I’ll surface like a submarine
My tip of nose is all that’s seen

In boney armor I’m encased
To shield me when a foe I’ve faced

A turtle is your likely guess
But what species do you profess?

I’m colorful, with steaks of yellow
And red – a most splendid fellow

Although I may look marked with paint
An artist I most surely ain’t

Well, that is your most final clue
What beast am I? What now say you?


I am an eastern painted turtle.  I found this one, likely a female out of the water to lay her eggs, along the road into the refuge.  I didn't have a book with me to check her against, but am pretty sure what this is.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What Am I?

I saw this creature Wednesday on my after-work hike in Dutch Gap.  See if you can figure it out...

I have a backbone, just like you
So that makes me a vertebrate, too.

My body's covered with many a feather
To keep me warm, regardless of weather.

My feathers also help me fly
And keep my body warm and dry.

Keeping dry's important, you see
For far from water I'll rarely be.

I am the size of a wise owl
But you might call me a waterfowl.

I can see you're thinking "duck;"
If that's your guess, you're out of luck.

Not duck nor goose, I am a rail
Keep on going; you'll prevail.

Frenchmen called me la poule d'eau
Meaning "water hen," as you may know

My body is a lovely grey
With hood of black - quite sharp, I say!

My face and bill are brilliant white
And now to guess, I you invite!


Although you might not think I'm cute
I'm what I am: American coot!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dutch Gap After Work

When you work full-time, sometimes you just have to sandwich in a hike wherever and whenever you can, even if it is not to the Matterhorn or someplace equally grand.  This was the case Wednesday, when I had a 6PM Team in Training meeting in town.  So I arrived at 7AM to the office, put in my eight hours, and left at 3:30 for Dutch Gap in Chesterfield County.  Excluding time to change, walk to my car a half mile away from work, and round-trip transportation, I had only about 70 minutes for a short hike.  There is a nice 4.5 mile loop there, but I only had time for about a two-miler: one mile in and one out, with time for short side trails, and some wildlife observation.

Dutch Gap is a wildlife area on the James River, where there was a large oxbow.  Over time, humans cut a channel (left) to shorten the distance to transport materials by boat, and the river has rerouted itself a bit, leaving lots of rich wetlands spread over the area.  It is a really interesting area to explore, even on a very hot day that felt more like early August than early May.  I did the full circuit hike here some time back, which you can read about here.

Even though my hike was short, I still managed to see a number of animals, some of which will provide fodder to a few of my "what am I?" posts to come shortly. Here are a few photos from my hike, and also from observation of the wetlands along the road in the preserve on the way out.

This slider was sunbathing across an impoundment.  He seemed to realize that I was no possible threat, but remained alert.

 Most of my walk was in bright sunlight on a hot day, so the part that was wooded was even more enjoyable.

What a cool tree, eh?

Speaking of "eh," how about this pretty Canada goose, eh?

Is this a painted turtle, or is it a ghost?

On the road out, I came upon these cute Canadian goslings with their alert parents.
I actually hated to leave so soon, but I had promised that I would be at the TNT meeting, where we are going to discuss ways of recruiting more people to run, walk, cycle, and "tri" for a cure in today's continuing shaky economy, and how to make their experience better and more meaningful.  So off I went!  But you will see some more in the coming days about more of the creatures I saw on my all-too-short after work hike.