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!

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