It’s heating up in Tucson…

June 9, 2013

Weekly miles run: 19
Total mileage this season: 28
Fundraising total: $1140 (23%)

Dear Adoring Fans,

The last time I wrote I was just about to head out into the field to trap vultures with researchers from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. It was a little more challenging than we’d hoped, but by the end of the week we successfully placed satellite transmitters on six adult Turkey Vultures; we also captured three Black Vultures, who got wing tags, but not satellite transmitters. You can read all about it on The Vulture Chronicles blog, along with seeing some of the photographs that I took (look for the June 2013 posts in the archives if the posts aren’t on the top). I’ve posted a few of my favorite pictures below. I’m also happy to report that there was minimal vomiting (by both the vultures and the researchers, although the landowner had a few close calls when we were dealing with decomposing calf carcasses…)

I didn't realize Turkey Vulture feathers were so iridescent.

I didn’t realize Turkey Vulture feathers were so iridescent.

Here's a front view of the harness that we put on each of the birds--this will hold the transmitter securely on, but doesn't hinder the bird's movement, ability to molt, etc. Researcher Marc Bechard hand makes each harness, including cutting that little leather tab out by hand.

Here’s a front view of the harness that we put on each of the birds–this will hold the transmitter securely on, but doesn’t hinder the bird’s movement, ability to molt, etc. Researcher Marc Bechard hand makes each harness, including cutting that little leather tab.

Here's a view of the transmitter on the bird's back. Marc also makes those copper crimps by hand, cutting them from a piece of copper tubing and carefully filing down any sharp edges. The harness is made of teflon ribbon, and he uses waxed dental floss to sew the ends together once everything is adjusted perfectly. Then he slips the copper crimps over the knots and squeezes them down; this prevents the bird from picking at the ends.

Here’s a view of the transmitter on the bird’s back. Marc also makes those copper crimps by hand, cutting them from a piece of copper tubing and carefully filing down any sharp edges. The harness is made of teflon ribbon, and he uses waxed dental floss to sew the ends together once everything is adjusted perfectly. Then he slips the copper crimps over the knots and squeezes them down; this prevents the bird from picking at the ends.

Researcher Jean-Francois Therrien demonstrates the patterning on the underside of the wing--when you see a Turkey Vulture in flight, the white trailing edge to the underside of the wing is one of the characteristic field marks.

Researcher Jean-Francois Therrien demonstrates the patterning on the underside of the wing–when you see a Turkey Vulture in flight, the white trailing edge to the underside of the wing is one of the characteristic field marks.

I got to hold the final bird of the week--this is Ed, named for Edward Abbey, who wrote, "If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture–that is immortality enough for me."

This is me, holding the final bird of the week–Ed, named for Edward Abbey, who wrote, “If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture–that is immortality enough for me.”

We had some visitors to the trap site, and here I am talking (in Spanish) about how to identify Turkey Vultures and how the satellite transmitter will help us better understand, and ultimately better conserve, these important birds.

We had some visitors to the trap site, and here I am talking (in Spanish) about how to identify Turkey Vultures and how the satellite transmitter will help us better understand, and ultimately better conserve, these important birds.

After the vulture researchers left, Christopher was able to take a few days off of work and fly down to Tucson for a visit. It was too short, but still wonderful to get to spend some time together here (I’ve mostly been going up to visit him since my schedule has more flexibility). We went on a beautiful hike up on Mount Lemmon one day on the Butterfly Trail. Did you know there is the wreckage of a fighter jet up there? Neither did we. From what I’ve been able to find online, back in 1957 a squadron of fighter jets was returning to Davis-Monthan after spending the day doing maneuvers in New Mexico. Two of the jets collided mid-air above Mount Lemmon. Both pilots ejected to safety and were rescued the following day; one of the jets crashed on the mountain (the one we found) and the other one somehow straightened itself out after the pilot ejected and flew itself UNMANNED all the way to a rancher’s field somewhere near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where it crashed. Apparently flying without a pilot is easier than landing without a pilot.

Here's one of the two big chunks of plane that we saw--the remnants of an engine, maybe?

Here’s one of the two big chunks of plane that we saw–the remnants of an engine, maybe?

Photo opp in front of the fighter jet wreckage.

Photo opp in front of the fighter jet wreckage.

The scenery was spectacular--Red-faced Warblers everywhere, Black-headed Grosbeaks singing, cactus in bloom...

The scenery was spectacular–Red-faced Warblers everywhere, Black-headed Grosbeaks singing, cactus in bloom…

But isn’t this supposed blog to be about marathon training? Oh, right. The marathon!

I generally take things slow in the winter months in terms of training. My cousin Chris and I ran a half marathon in New Orleans in December 2012, and since then I’ve run a little bit, but not much, and never more than about 4 miles at a go.

Jennie and Chris: Ole Man River 1/2 Marathon Finishers!

Jennie and Chris: Ole Man River 1/2 Marathon Finishers!

So my first week back in the saddle, so to speak, was a little rough. I was slow. The weather was hot. I was in the field for a week, getting up at 3am and spending the day in the sun, hauling dead cows and trying to trap vultures (aside: it is easy to make that sound awful, but it was really a pretty fun week), so I wasn’t running. Two Saturdays ago was our first official team practice, and we were supposed to run 60 minutes. It was longer than I’d been running, but 60 minutes? I wasn’t worried. But here’s the thing: it turns out that when you don’t run regularly, it isn’t quite so easy. It’s not quite like riding a bike. More like falling off a bike. I’ve been running marathons and doing other events with Team In Training since 2005. You’d think this would have sunk in by now.

New kicks!

New kicks for a new marathon season!

The long story short is that yes, I ran for 60 minutes, but it was hard, especially the final twenty minutes (~2 miles). My runs during the week before that run had been similar–slow and difficult. My legs felt like lead, I was breathing hard, and I was slow. But. That run two Saturdays ago was just what I needed to make sure I got out for all of my weekday runs this past week. And you know what? When you get out and practice, you get better, it turns out. Go figure. I got faster with each run during the week, and this morning our Team got together for our weekly practice and we ran 60 minutes again. What a difference! It took me a few miles to warm up, but once I got my rhythm I felt great. I’m still not quite up to my normal pace, but I was about six minutes faster than last week for the same distance. That felt good.

Fundraising Update: We’re off with a bang! So far, thanks to your generous support, we have already raised $1140 this season, 23% of my ultimate goal of $5,000 by August 1, 2013. If you have been thinking of donating but haven’t gotten around to it, don’t be shy! 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 go to my fundraising page 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 contribution, your moral support is just as welcome.

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

Go Team!

jennie_signature

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