Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thinking Back

Exactly six months ago today—May 15, 2011—I sustained the worst injury of my running career. My plantaris tendon ruptured and took my medial gastroc and soleus muscles down in flames with it six miles into the Cleveland Half Marathon. If you didn't already know, I finished the race. "Did Not Finish" was not an option.

Mile eleven, in excruciating pain, but so happy I got to see the Redhead!
Following a diagnostic ultrasound in early June, I was ordered into Frankenboot. At least Redhead and I got to be miserable together, though my relationship with the boot was more of a short-term fling while hers was long-term and serious.

It's the fashion statement of the summer! All the cool chicks have one.
I embarked on physical therapy after I was released from Frankenboot purgatory. In mid-August I took my first running steps since the day I was injured three months earlier. I did the Run for the Rolls on August 27 and celebrated running one mile totally pain-free. I finished physical therapy at the end of September, turned loose into a Michigan fall. I have run three races since then: the Big House Big Heart in Ann Arbor, the Parkview Pumpkin Run (Columbia City, Indiana), and just this past weekend, the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot in Dexter. All three were 5Ks. All three exceeded 30 minutes. All three I ran with the Engineer. I'm slower than I have ever been.

The Redhead and I have made a habit over the past six weeks of walking together at a nearby park during the work week. We have watched trees clad in red and gold shed their leaves, gradually snowing in the path with drifts of brown which crunch beneath our feet. The forest unclothed, every twig and branch exposed, the dry and dirty smell of decaying leaves, the squirrels noisily rummaging on the ground, the birds in the bushes, the rumble of the freeway just hidden from view...Our lunchtime strolls at Lillie Park will continue until the weather makes it impossible to be outside. We have been fortunate thus far, but we know that winter is coming. (It snowed last Thursday.) On days when we are unable to meet, I walk by myself on a 2.5-mile loop starting at my office. It's not as pleasant as the trail through Lillie Park—it's primarily on the sidewalk next to a busy road—but it does have its own (albeit brief) woodsy charm.

Cranbrook Park trail, short but scenic
I am climbing out of the deep hole I dug with my weight gain and hiatus from running. I still have a long way to go if I want to have anything close to the speed and stamina (not to mention the physique) I had two years ago. Rejoining Weight Watchers last month was a huge step in the right direction; I have lost 10 lbs of the 50 I hope to lose.

Finally, tomorrow evening I am going to sit in a movie theater for four hours and watch a rebroadcast of a Metropolitan Opera performance from a couple of weeks ago. The opera is one that is very dear to me: Mozart's Don Giovanni, in which I performed in 2008 and from which I can sing three arias. This is one of them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bugs, Birds, Rocks, and Walks

The Engineer and I went for two epic walks over the weekend. We did six miles on the Falling Waters Trail in Jackson on Saturday and 11 miles on the Lakelands Trail in Stockbridge and Gregory on Sunday. Both paths are converted railroad beds, so they are level and straight. They also pass through some lovely countryside and are uncrowded and peaceful (features on which I place great importance, as I find it more enjoyable to be where crowds are not). The weather was spectacular for Michigan in November and we just didn't want to be indoors!

Here I am perched on a glacial erratic alongside the Lakelands Trail. Erratics are rocks that were left behind by melting glaciers. In Michigan, this occurred during the retreat of Late Wisconsinian glacial lobes from 16,000-10,000 years ago. These rocks are called "erratics" because they do not match the local bedrock; they were scooped up elsewhere and traveled great distances in the embrace of a glacier. In this area, the erratics' most likely provenance is Canada, and a great number of them are granite (such as the one I am sitting on).

Don't take erratics for granite.
This is a picture of me next to the Madison Boulder (New Hampshire), which is regarded as one of the largest glacial erratics in the world. I convinced my family we HAD to visit the boulder when we were on vacation in nearby Melvin Village in the summer of 1995. My college geomorphology professor had told our class about it. If you suspect I was overcome with glee upon seeing the boulder, you would be correct.

I get excited when I see an unusual bird (the Engineer was there when I saw an indigo bunting for only the second time in my life and I yelled, "HOLY SHITBALLS it's an INDIGO BUNTING!") and even more excited when I find an unusual rock. My hometown friend Ellen has a great story about the time I nearly peed my pants and passed out when I found a GORGEOUS, perfectly preserved rugose coral in a creekbed in her backyard in 1993.

The Redhead could tell you about the time I saw a green heron up close while we were out walking over the summer and I became so animated with excitement I whacked her boob with my flailing hand as I squealed, "oh my god it's a GREEN HERON!". I call this "having a birdgasm." It happens a lot.

At home I have a cabinet devoted to special items, many of which are science-related. There's a whole shelf of important rocks I have collected over the years, including my Favorite Rock of All Time: an oblong hunk of serpentinite I extracted from a western Ireland beach in 1997 during my geology field camp experience

So, yeah, Nature nerd. This is an established fact.

I also like bugs...to a point. I can't stand those nasty-smelling Asian lady beetles that invade my house every year about this time. If I see a house centipede on the floor, that thing is headed for squishville; I don't care how beneficial it is. Spiders indoors? NO.

However, I do love fat, fuzzy caterpillars, like this big guy I found on Sunday:

Eeeee! It's on my hand!
Yes, those are my birdwatching binoculars around my neck.

I later identified the species as the caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth.The caterpillar was fun to observe, but I would have been even more excited by the adult moth. Unfortunately, they're nocturnal.

So, yeah. Nature nerd, and proud of it.