Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flirt with Dirt 10K

I was back in Michigan last week and figured I would play in the dirt for a bit before Father's Day. The Flirt with Dirt 10K is a nice trail run on primarily single track mountain bike trails in Novi, a suburb roughly halfway between Ann Arbor and Detroit. Figuring 10K would be a relaxing little run during a slow week, I was game.

The weather for the two days leading up to the run was overcast and filled with rain. On race morning, it looked as though rain was still the order of the day. Figuring the turnout would be low, I drove to the trail late and thought we would have a small group on an early start. Was I wrong! The locals came out in droves for both the 5 & 10K and it seems that the weather had us all fooled. Start for the 10k was delayed over 30 mins. while course adjustments were made. By the time the gun went off, the sun was out, humidity was rising, and we were all itching to get moving.

As for the course, over 3/4 of it was muddy and slick. Limbs were hanging low across the trail due to the rain and generally everyone was a mess of arms blocking and legs sliding. It was a blast!! At 6'5", I think I ran the entire race hunched over with my eyes on my feet to ensure I didn't get whacked in the nose or take a not-so-graceful tumble into oblivion (or Bolivia...if you're Mike Tyson). Runners were bunched tightly by pace and passing was really tough as everyone kept jumping sideways trying to keep balance. The course has some really tight switchbacks and inclines that proved to be a nice challenge. As usual, the runners were polite, friendly, and for the most part primarily out to have fun.

Director evaluation: Overall, the event was well run. Hydration and food were sufficient. Race photography was quality and inexpensive. On the down side: Chip timing was attempted due to a larger than expected registration, but that was an utter disaster. Too few chips and no prior notice to runners left it in disarray. Reported times were gun-based and many are suspect. This short coming was immediately acknowledged by the race director and pledged not to occur next year. My only other criticism would be concerning starter's announcements -- a single megaphone at the front of a narrow & deep crowd didn't work. Possible placement of speakers on the registration tent might alleviate this issue and allow everyone to hear.

Post-race, I discovered that poison ivy resides directly off trail. Purely my fault though, as I forget to apply Ivy Block. A few spots on my ankles, nothing major. Also, for some reason, I strangely blistered on the edge of the ball of my right foot.

Seeing no crease/fold on my sock, I can only assume the hot sport was created by too much movement in my shoe due to loose laces or excessive lateral movement which I normally don't experience. No big deal, but it was just weird.

No PR was set, but it was really a fun time. My parents were able to make it out for the finish which was a great added bonus, especially while my dad battles cancer. (Thanks Mom & Dad!) Nice to be home for the weekend, see friends & family, and still get on a trail. Thanks to the folks at Running Fit for another fun event.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Empty Nester...

About eight weeks ago, we found an interesting, rather large, egg in our flower bed behind a peony bush. Not sure what it exactly was, we decided to leave it alone for fear that it was still alive and its mother would return for it. Sure enough, the next morning a pair of mallard ducks was seen together in the lawn and, by the end of the day, the female had laid several more eggs and created a nest! Pretty cool, right? Well, we did the research, found out that Ma Duck would lay roughly eight eggs and, eventually, Pa Duck would leave her and continue sowing his oats. Meanwhile, Ma would stay around for the hatching and then take her ducklings off to a water source.

We kept on eye on the nest, observed the mother take her place on the nest when the male left, and decided to put out some cracked corn to keep her fed during the period. Here's a photo of her nesting comfortably (she has such beautiful coloring and markings):

So we carefully made sure to keep away from direct contact with the duck or the nest, and went about our business in anticipation of soon seeing the ducklings when they hatched and before Ma Duck led them off for life in the water.

One morning we placed a pile of corn out and figured we would check on her the following morning. Would you know 8 a.m. the next day, the eggs had hatched and the young were gone. The hatching must have taken place shortly after we placed the corn and then Ma decided it was time to begin the trek to the pond. Here is all we were left with:

All eight eggs were hatched (not eaten by a predator) and the empty shells lay cracked around the area. Well, guess we don't get to wish the newborns well. I'm feeling like such an empty nester now....waaaaay before my time. All the same, it was nice to help out in the process.