The Best Laid Plans

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” has never been more true than this year.

I was in Denver last week to attend a five-day photography workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park, capturing fall color and wildlife under the direction of a professional photographer. I’d also visit my daughter Rachel and get in a run with my niece Robin, who’d just moved to Denver. It promised to be a really good time. I even bought a new camera for it.

Eighteen-hours of driving later, I arrived at my daughter’s place and got some lessons in the basics from one of her friends, an amateur photographer. I wanted to be familiar with manual mode for tricky lighting or for special effects. I was armed and dangerous, ready to start clicking that shutter.

And then a message from the instructor appeared on the workshop’s Meetup page. He was sick. A followup call confirmed it. He had flu-like symptoms and was on his way to the hospital. The workshop was officially cancelled.

What to do? I called the other attendees, who said they were going ahead with shooting in the park, and they invited me to join them. I thanked them but decided to do my own thing instead. Without the expert instruction, spending five days in the park didn’t seem all that attractive anymore. But I do love Estes Park so I spent an afternoon there practicing with my new toy. And I got in that run with Robin, and Rachel joined us too!

The following photos were taken with my new (used) Olympus E-M10 Mark III, at various aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. I didn’t crop or edit these photos, except where really needed. I’m not claiming any of these to be good; I was just playing around, learning what this camera can do. But I’m hoping you might find them interesting.

These shots were taken at a park in Denver. You can see the effect of aperture here. Low F-stop (large opening) means things close up in focus, while large F-stop (smaller opening) brings everything in focus.

Low f-stop.

Higher f-stop.

In Estes Park, along with experimenting with exposures, I worked on the four basic elements – line, color, pattern, and texture.

These were studies in “line”:

By visitor’s center.

Lake Estes and power station.

Creek by coffee shop.

Along the road.

Near Lake Estes.

These were texture:

These were pattern:

And this one was for color. Notice that every color of the rainbow is represented in the photo.

Behind coffee shop. (Colors not retouched.)

Later this month I’m off to the U.S. Trail Running Conference in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Warm weather and great trails. Looking forward to some good running and more opportunities to use the new camera!

The Long and the Short of Running

A couple Januarys ago I had breakfast with my running coach, going over my planned race schedule. It would follow a pattern I’d established, of a target race in late May or June (100-miler or more), with shorter ultras in the spring to leapfrog up to it. So we mapped out a 50K and a couple of 50-milers. “Now we can plug in your shorter races,” he said.

And by shorter races, we were including marathons.

Even at the time we laughed about it, imagining what a standard recreational runner (or any non-runner) would be thinking if they’d overheard us. But that’s how I think of it. There are ultras and there are non-ultras; there’s a clear line. By definition, a marathon is not an ultramarathon. (Unless you get lost. I once asked a race director if I could get credit for an “ultra-half” for running 14 miles on a 13.1 course.)

This attitude has some funny characteristics. For example, every April there’s a trail marathon in my area. (Present-year disclaimer, etc.) Anyway, I work it as part of my zero waste events gig. And before I get down and dirty with that, I run the marathon.

Thing is, there’s also a 50K option, which means you run an extra five-mile loop following your 26.2. And for me, those five miles mean the difference between a fun “short race” and an “ultra” which on those trails is, well, hard. As in automatic bonk afterward, while I can finish the marathon and get right to sorting Gu wrappers out of the water bottle bins.

Me (far right) after a measly ol’ marathon.

And after those five extra miles on the trail.

Why? Who knows? It has to be mainly mental, although you’d think someone who’s run multiple 100s wouldn’t feel that little extra. Heck, I even pitch 50Ks to skeptical folks as “just a marathon with a five-mile cooldown.” But there we are.

I’m sure none of this makes any sense to runners who’ve never run this kind of distance. This morning my run group included someone training for her first marathon. Like most folks in her situation, she did a half first, and was now trying to wrap her head around getting from 13.1 miles to double that distance. It ain’t easy. I was there once.

The good news is once you’ve done it, the second is easier. The bad news is, you just might talk yourself into an ultra. Then you’re really screwed. Trust me. I’m there now.

At least I would be, but my local fall ultras were cancelled, and I still don’t trust airplanes yet. So I’ll have to content myself with shorter races until things improve. Maybe I can find a marathon around somewhere.

Volunteering: Pride Goeth Before

Philosophical question for you all: If a guy falls off his bike in the woods, and there’s no one around to see it, does it still hurt?

The answer in my case is, yes.

I’ve been enjoying my new role this year as a volunteer Ambassador for the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail (SBHT), which runs along the National Lakeshore from Empire to Glen Arbor, then northeast though the Port Oneida Historic District. The current total length is 22 miles, with one more five-mile segment to go, which will reach the end of the National Lakeshore property near the Good Harbor Trail.

Being an Ambassador means traveling the SBHT on foot or by bike in a fancy orange vest, picking up litter, checking trail conditions, and answering questions from people on the trail. I get to choose my hours and which parts of the trail I want to cover.

On the job at the Dune Climb.

I’ve done this many times this summer, and believe me, I’m worth every penny they pay me. Which is none. I haven’t even found a penny on the trail yet, so this is truly a labor of love.

I make up for this by giving people at least one incorrect piece of information every time I’m out there. Like last weekend, when I told someone the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive was still closed – only to find they’d opened it for three days behind my back. Why don’t they TELL ME these things?

Not that I’m complaining. I’m out on the trail anyway when I go up north, so why not get some volunteering done at the same time?

And thus I found myself cruising the section near the Dune Climb one afternoon, and passed by a bright red piece of plastic I took to be trash. I slowed down and put my bike into a tight left turn to go back and fetch said trash. But I’d unclipped only my right foot, and thus when I began to tip too much during the turn, my still clipped-in left foot was unable to save me.

What followed was that helpless feeling I’ve written about before – you know you’re going down and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I suffered bruises to my left elbow, left hip, and ego, not necessarily in that order. Otherwise intact, I remounted and continued the ride. So no lasting harm done.

And the red trash? Actually a marker flag. Probably a utility indicator. So I left it there, and it remains there still. Fool me once and all that.

Other than the occasional unfortunate incident, I’m having a great time. The trail is beautiful and a great way to get in a long ride without getting on M109 and M22, both of which can feature heavy, fast-moving traffic, including logging trucks and other such monstrosities. And stopping in Glen Arbor for coffee and/or ice cream is a great way to take a break from my hot, sweaty, trail labors.

And for those of you wondering how I’m recovering from said fall? Just fine, thank you. In fact, this morning I tripped during my morning run and bruised elbow and hip on my right side. I suppose it was inevitable – the karma was achieving balance.

P.S. This time I was with other people. And it also hurt. Just another data point.

… and yet she continues to smile on the outside.

This is a guest post from my sister Jennifer. I’m reposting it from Facebook because it deserves to be. This is more than a “cute or poignant moment” – this speaks to her entire life loving horses and helping others discover the joys of riding. She is one of the strongest people I know!

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Thirty (30!) years ago, I chose to start my horse riding business. I chose to work hard, very hard, mentally and physically.  I chose a career where the riches are measured in the experiences of others, the fresh outdoors, the rewards of horse ownership. ❤️🐴❤️

Every single dollar made and spent was worked for. I did this all on my own without regular financial support from family or a spouse: no health benefits, no 401k, nothing but the dollars earned by love and sweat and all of my time.

Sick horse(s)? I’m on call and night watch. Short on staff? I’m to cover.  Need feed? I’m the gofer. Round bales need to go to pasture? I’m the tractor driver. Fences to build or repair? I’m on it… all this in between my office duties.

(THANK YOU, Trasa, for being my guardian angel and weekend office warrior!)

My adult life has been about others. Giving all that I can for the good of others. An unselfish lifestyle. I was wonderfully raised to become this way.

This year has been challenging, to say the least. Business is booming! People are discovering riding as an outdoor activity! (imagine that)… My horses are working double time. I’m working all the time. …

A “good problem to have, right?” I hear it, a lot.

If I were renting bicycles, yes.

If my senior herd of horses were younger, yes.

If I were 30 years younger, yes.

But I’m doing my best to care for my horses and take care of my guests.

After 30 years of giving up my time and life for others, carrying this beloved business on my shoulders,  I am finally admitting this one thing:  My horses are tired. I am tired.

And we’re allowed to be!

I’m strong, but I’m exhausted.

 


Jen’s business is Blazing Trails at Pontiac Lake stables. Just in case you want to make her more tired.  😃 😃 😃