Monday, April 28, 2008

Who likes Climbing?

I do. It hurts like crap, especially when you're a bigger guy, but the fitness gains are remarkable (at least they have been in the past). Yesterday was a good ride. Beautiful day in the bluegrass, and we took it down the the river for some climbs at Clay's Ferry, T-burg Hill, and the climb up from Hall's on the river. There were some other tough ones in there too. I'm looking forward to doing this ride more. Only next time, I'll be throwing on the 12-27 cassette instead of the 11-23. If you don't know what that means, just e-mail me before you have to do any serious climbing, because you should know.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Is this mating season?

Yesterday was a perfect morning for me to enjoy my first ever full 6 mile loop run (still with some walk intervals) in Walsingham Park. Lots of strong rain Sunday which should have pulled the pollen from the oak trees and piled it into soggy masses on the ground , allowing me to breath easier than I have in weeks, and I did not totally "thrash myself" in my weight workout and rollerblading over the weekend. The overcast sky and early morning fog hanging over the lake makes running the path a visual delight.

So I've gone around the lake once, done the "front loop", gone past the dog park, and have just entered the narrow stretch of park between the fence next to the Warhawk youth baseball complex and the lake when I hear the LOUDEST, deepest alligator bellow/moan I have EVER heard, in all my years in Florida. RIGHT next to the running path - like 6 feet or less from the sound of it.

Immediately I go on full alert, moving closer to the fence, doing a rapid IFR scan through my fogged over glasses of the bank, the lake, the water plants, the man walking, in front of me, the bank, the lake, the bank the lake, listening intently for any rustling that will signal a gator moving out of the water, picturing other Florida women who've had gator encounters of the "too close" variety. I pick up my pace, looking back towward the sound the entire time. I spot two bumpy roughly rectangular protrusions, about 26-30" long, very close to one another, and incredibly close to the bank. Is that the source? If it is two of them, they seem too small to make the incredibly deep sound that put me on instant alert.

I slow down when I pass the older man with earphones to ask if he heard it. He definitely did. He admits to fear and visually searching, without success, for what he is certain, from the sound, was a very large gator, much larger than the protrusions I describe. hmmm

So, anyway, I enjoy the rest of the return loop, happy with what I'm accomplishing when I catch up to a dog-walking acquaintance from the past and mention the incongruity of the huge gator sounds coupled with the comparatively small to medium heads I think I spotted. Too small? "Not if it's mating season," she shouts as I run ahead.

"Not if it's mating season?!" Who knew?

PS: I grabbed my camera when I got home and headed back to the park to take a picture for the blog. I intended to photograph the exact spot. 50-75 yards before I reached it, a pair of knobby eye sockets protruded from the surface, about 10-15 from the bank. I moved a bit - just a bit- closer and started zooming in so the non-Floridians could get a good look. The gator spooked and submerged, the wave action seemed to indicate movement towards the shore, and I stepped back, turned around and headed out. There will be other photo ops. Of that I'm sure. One day, last fall, I came within 3-4 feet of tripping over a baby gator OUTSIDE the park fence, right next to the sidewalk I take every time I take the "back route" to the park.

PPS/PSS: If you've never read Peter Jenkins' account of nightime gator hunting with some bayou natives in Louisiana, you've missed out on some good stuff. Find it in "Walk Across America".

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hammering out Fitness

Cycling in the spring is one of the greater passions of mine. Beautiful days filled with 60+ mile rides is a good afternoon.

So today we had a bit of deja vu. We had a guy come out who had not been riding since the winter. We were supposed to get in a somewhat easy 50+ mile ride, but somebody forgot to tell one person. This singular person started leading out at about 5 miles and we hammered in a pace line for about 10 miles. We put at least a half mile into the poor guy who hadn't been riding. Why deja vu you ask? Because that was me two and a half weeks ago. Getting dropped really builds some fitness.

Yesterday was a 6 mile effort with some 1/2 mile intervals mixed in in the second half of the run. What's the point? Building base fitness is a great thing. It helps to be ready, but when you can't be ready, it's good to go ahead and thrash yourself a little bit every once in a while. First, it does actually build fitness. Second, it's great motivation to put in some training to get up to a level commensurate with your abilities. So if you need to get ready quick. Crush it a little bit. Just don't be stupid.