Sonoran Desert Adventure

Weekly miles run: 20.5
Total mileage this season: 88.5

Dear Adoring Fans,

It is 6am on Sunday morning and I’m taking a little time before my run to write this. Training for the marathon is moving right along. It seems like the mileage of our weekly long run has jumped up there quickly, but I’m feeling good. Yesterday I ran 10 miles with my Team on the River Path. It was a beautiful day, sunny and the perfect temperature for a run. I ran with my friend Scott, which made things feel like they went faster. My Team’s marathon training methods have changed since I last ran a marathon. Instead of one weekly long run, we do two, back-to-back. So I will be following yesterday’s 10-miler up with a 6-miler today. The idea is that by not giving my body time to fully recover, I sort of trick it into thinking that it is the same run even though they take place on two different days. This way I get the equivalent of a lot more long runs in before the race so hopefully when I get to mile 21 on race day I won’t hit that infamous wall. My legs are feeling tired this morning after yesterday’s run and hike (see below), but I think that once I get a few miles into the run today I’ll feel fine. The jury is still out as far as I am concerned with this new method–logically it makes sense to me, but I sure hate having to give up both mornings of my weekend to train. On the other hand, it seems a small thing to do if it means we can find a cure for cancer or make the lives of cancer patients better in some say, so I am not complaining.

On a more serious note, and as a reminder of why I am doing this, the husband of one of my teammates recently passed away from multiple myeloma, and she’d brought to practice today burgundy-colored ribbon pins for us. My Honored Teammate Jan (see photos above) is going the distance with this terrible disease, so I will be adding this pin to my race day jersey decorations in her honor.

Bergundy ribbon for multiple myeloma.

Two Russians

After my run yesterday, C. and I hit up a rummage sale at a local church ($10 hammock–score!) and then went and got some lunch. At this particular restaurant (Tucsonans may recognize it from the picture) they take your order at the register and then give you a sign to put on your table so they can identify you when they bring your food. This is the sign I got (left). Do you think they were trying their hand at interpretive signage?

After lunch we ran some errands and then decided we wanted to go for a hike, so we headed out to Saguaro National Park, out on the east side of town. We didn’t get there until 4pm and so didn’t have a lot of time for a long hike, but we found a nice 3 mile loop through the desert and started off. Friends, it was beautiful. I don’t know how I’ve lived for so long in southern Arizona and have never hiked out at Saguaro East. I have heard tales of runs and bike rides along the 8 mile loop road, but I’d never been there myself. The desert was breathtaking.

Sonoran Desert.

One-armed C. underneath a one-armed saguaro.

The weather was perfect for a nice walk in the desert: blue skies, slight breeze, and bird activity starting to pick up. We’d brought our binoculars and birded along the trail as we walked. We saw some big flocks of Cassin’s Sparrows and a handful of Black-throated Sparrows, along with some of the other usual Sonoran Desert suspects. Although things were a bit slow, we did have some amazing sightings. As we were walking down a wash C. suddenly stopped and asked, “Was that an owl? It didn’t sound like a dove.” I wasn’t sure, but just then the bird hooted again. I turned to him and said, “It’s a Great Horned Owl!” We scanned the surrounding vegetation and spotted the bird perched on a saguaro. Every time he (she?) hooted the birds would hunker down and stuck its tail up. I had my binoculars and iPod with me, so I tried some digi-binning (putting the iPod up to the eyepiece of my binoculars and taking a picture). The results weren’t amazing, but are definitely enough to tell that this is a Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl hooting.

Perched.

As we were watching this bird we heard another, higher-pitched hoot, coming from slightly down the wash–two owls! We continued to watch bird #1, but since the sun was quickly setting had to move on down the trail. We walked around the corner and there she was: owl #2, perched in the top of a tree just in front of us. She (based on nothing but the fact that her hoot was higher pitched than bird #1) looked at us but didn’t really seem to care as we observed. I snapped a few more digi-binned shots (I’ll get the hang of this eventually), and although the lighting wasn’t the best, you can still tell it is an owl.

Great Horned Owl #2, in silhouette.

As we made our way down the final leg of the trail back to the trailhead we felt giddy with what we’d just seen. And it gets better–as we walked I heard another bird calling. I grabbed C. by the arm and asked, “Did you hear that? Western Screech-Owl!” It called a few more times, but we didn’t get a look at it. The sun was mostly down as we got back to the car and we spent a few minutes slack-jawed with the beauty of the sunset. These pictures were taken with just the regular photo settings on my iPod. Even though I know this, as I look at them here I find it hard to believe they weren’t doctored, but this is just really what it looked like. Beauty.

Sunset/Moonrise

Moonwatching.

As we turned the final corner to the trailhead we could see flashing lights and a park ranger walking around our car, peering in with his flashlight. Oops. He was just making sure that everyone was back safely, as the Park was about to close.  As we slowly drove along the loop to the exit, Lesser Nighthawks flew up in front of the car and we spotted a third Great Horned Owl perched on a saguaro. It was a beautiful day, and I foresee spending a lot more time out at Saguaro this spring.

The Official Fundraising Update!
I am very happy to say that fundraising started with a bang. We have raised $700 so far this season, 23% of my ultimate goal of $3,000 by April 30, 2012. If you have been thinking of donating but haven’t gotten around to it, step right up! There is no line! Make a donation to help support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in its mission to find a cure for blood cancers. Any amount helps, from $5 to $500–just click on the link on the right to make a secure, online donation (or contact me if you’d prefer to send a check). And if you are unable to make a financial donation, your moral support is just as welcome.

This is truly team effort, and I couldn’t do it without you.

Until next time!

2012 Team In Training Season Begins!

17 February 2012

Dear Adoring Fans,

Many of you may remember that it was just about this time in 2005 when you got a letter from me saying that I was training to run my first marathon and raising money to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) through their Team In Training (TNT) program. Since 2005 I have run five marathons and two half marathons, cycled two century rides, and finished two triathlon with TNT. More importantly, through your generous contributions we have raised nearly $20,000 to support the fight against blood cancers, a truly incredible amount. I am humbled by your continued generosity to this important cause.

I have had a great time doing triathlons for the past two years, but I have to be honest: the marathon has been calling me back. I’ve missed training with the marathon team and, strange as it may sound, have missed running long distances. So, on June 3, 2012, I and the other members of my Team In Training will head to southern California to run in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

Another really fun twist is that some of my family members might be coming to San Diego to either run the half marathon or cheer from the sidelines. I’ll share more about that in my next post.

Scott and Jennie after practice.

Our team here in Tucson officially started training at the end of January, and it has been an adjustment getting back into running longer distances. So far the most I’ve run has been a bit over 7 miles, and let me tell you: I am feeling like a wimp. When I got back to the meeting area after last Saturday’s run one of my coaches looked at me and says, “Gosh, you’re breathing kind of hard there, Jennie!” After about three weeks of regular training I think my body is beginning to remember how this works, though. At least, I hope it is. Another thing that was a lovely surprise is that my friend Scott is also running the marathon (remember Scott? My running partner for the Nike Women’s Marathon in 2007 and 2008?) Having someone to run with makes all the difference in the world to me. We yack at each other and the next thing you know, ten miles have flashed by. Well, maybe it isn’t quite that easy, but it definitely helps.

I can train for the marathon, but I need your help to meet my fundraising goal: to raise $3000 by April 30, 2012 to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in its battle against blood cancers. (Of course, I am happy to accept your donations after this date, as well).

How can you help? Make a secure online donation here.

On June 2, 2008, my Uncle Kenny passed away after a long, painful battle with graft versus host disease that he struggled with as a result of a bone marrow transplant he received the previous fall in an effort to treat his leukemia. This June will mark the 4th anniversary of his passing and will make the race that more special. I also train in honor of my friend Jan Riggs, who has been kicking multiple myeloma to the curb since 2007, and in memory of my childhood friend Robb Milacci, whose life was ended far too soon by a brain tumor in February 2009.

I will be documenting my season here on this blog, so please check back frequently to read more about what I am doing and follow my training. This is truly a team effort, and I couldn’t do it without your support. And if you are unable to make a financial contribution, your moral support is just as welcome!

Cancer has, in some way, touched the lives of nearly everyone I know. I’m running this marathon in honor of Jan and in loving memory of my uncle my friend Robb and the long list of others in whose names you have given me. Please let me know if you have a special person on whose behalf you are donating and I will gladly add them to my list of honorees. And feel VERY free to share this information with anyone who might be interested in making a contribution.

Thank you for your support!