Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Walk Around the Park

The other day I was telling my friend John N. about a great walk in the Fort Washington State Park. He’s done the roads there, but not ventured out into the wilds. I told him I’d take him around the loop to show him the route. Later I started to think – how long will it be before we can get together to do this? In the meantime, John is missing a really nice walk.

I was at the park on April 17 and I decided to photo the route. I think it will be enough guidance for John to try on his own if he wants.

Background – this circuit is about 2 miles. It’s part of the cross-country course run by several local high schools in their meets. I became familiar with it running charity cross-country 5K events in the park. Now I go there and do it on my own – sometimes running and sometimes, like today, walking it. The route is composed of a big loop (the one I am showing today) plus a smaller half loop covering much of the same ground and including the dreaded Power Line Hill. We’re not going up that hill today but I will point it out.

The weather was off-and-on rain showers and quite mild the day I took these pictures. OK, John, here goes!

1. Park in the lot next to the bird watching stand and the bathrooms.

2. Go over to the bird stand and start down the hill, aiming for the two benches down there at the bottom.

3. Head down the trail.

4. You’ll come to this fork. Go to the right. And as a note, if you went left, you’d end up on the Green Ribbon trail by the creek. Nice to know this as it’s a good way into that part of the park. And notice the rail line – here’s a good view of it.

5. Now just go along the path. It’s easy to see. It parallels the freight rail line on the left.

6. Keep your eyes open and look to the right when you see the power poles. This is the Power Line Hill. In an actual 5K race this hill comes along about 70% of the way through (the race start is in a different location than where I started). Believe me, this is a killer hill. Looks pretty easy? Remember, it ends way off up there in that open area.

7. Keep on going along the path, until you come up to this bird house on a pole.

8. You veer off to the right – the path is still clearly visible.

9. Look, beach volleyball on the right.

10. Keep going along the line of brush until you see this signpost.

11. Don’t be startled if a train comes along while you’re in this section. I’d say about half the time one passes while I am here.

12. Follow the arrow on the sign and veer right, keeping pretty close to the brush. You’ll see birdhouses all over the park, by the way. And the baby trees have plastic sleeves around their trunks so that the deer can’t eat them.

13. At this point your aim is to get over to the park road that is in front of you (past the pink trees – hard to see in this picture). You can angle over or you can go straight to the pavement.

14. Once on the pavement, you head to the left.

15. When you reach the intersection, you’ll turn right. I always like to do a loop around the little island first…

16. Walk down this road a short distance, until you see the signpost on the left.

17. Now we are at my favorite part of the loop. Pick up this little trail going into the woods.

18. Follow the trail up the hill. If I am running, it takes me about two minutes or so to get to the more level section.

19. At the fork, go right. If you go left, you will end up on the upper park road and you’ll eventually end up at the same finishing point, but – the dirt trail is just more fun.

20. This section of trail skirts the brush on the right, with the overnight campsites on the left. You will see several groups of picnic tables and so on. And at times, the trail gets a bit vague. Just stay along the edge of the vegetation.

21. When you see this bench and the power pole, it’s time to get on the paved road.

22. But wait – I will show you where the Power Line Hill exits – look to your right and down the line of poles.

You say, So what? OK. I’ll walk a little way down it.

And I turn around and look back up. I have seen people crawling at this stage of things, in a 5K race.

23. Back on the route. It’s all easy from here. Go down the hill on the paved road and pass around the gate.

24. Come out to the main road. Does this look familiar? You have finished the loop!

Well, I hope that this travelogue was useful and I especially hope that John will be able to follow it, because I think he’ll enjoy the walk. I know I’ve enjoyed reliving it!

A Good Omen And Things Starting Off Sunny

I got a text from a friend. Driving through Glenside, PA, our town, he went past our florist. Your name is the name-of-the-day at Penny’s, he told me.

I knew exactly he meant. So I hopped in the car and drove right over there.

And there it was.

I went right inside and announced myself. My name is Claudia, I said, and that’s all I had to say. I was escorted into the flower refrigerator and left to choose. I took my time – so much to look at,  and also, I love that cooled flower air smell, why not indulge?

I made my choice and stepped back out into the sunshine.

I brought my rose home and put it into a vase. And now I feel the first day of spring is mine! Thank you, David, for alerting me; Penny’s Flowers, for choosing my name; and first day of spring, for …being the first day of spring!

New Poetry Book!

You may remember that I did a Poetry Marathon in the winter and decided to put the results into book form. I liked the process so much that I did it again in April, and here is the book of work that emerged from that project.

I liked the experience so much that I plan to do it again in July and in October. Then I’ll have four seasons of one year in my life. Somehow that seems important to me at this stage of things!

If you are interested in reading, the book is available on Amazon or I can send it to you for $12, including postage (email me at claudiamcgillart@gmail.com).

If you want to know more about the Poetry Marathon process, you can take a look at my poetry blog and search under the term “Poetry Marathon”.

Spring Cleaning Book cover photo with border for blog 2015

And here is the previous book in the Marathon adventure:

Look Winter in the Face book cover with border small

Seeing Things

I was walking along the Pennypack Trail in Lorimer Park when I looked down the steep embankment at the creek and saw —

Stone-body in creek Lorimer 5-15 small

Gave me a bit of a start. Then I realized —

Stone-body in creek Lorimer close up 5-15 small

that it was only an arrangement of rocks and the effects of splashing water. I was happy to realize it. Then I was able to enjoy the idea of a person of some sort floating on its back downstream, a nice activity for the spring morning.

Books and Benches and Robins Singing

I visited Mondauk Park in Upper Dublin Township a couple of days ago. I wanted to walk around the track there. I’m moving more slowly right now since I have a stress fracture in my left foot. The good thing about it is that I have plenty of time to see the sights as I go along.

I wanted to visit the Little Free Library there and drop off some books while I was there.

The view from the library has changed a bit since I left a sunshine here in March.

I stopped at the bench where I had left a sunshine in January.

As I stood there, I heard a clear bright song from above my head. I looked up and saw the singer – this robin. What a wonderful moment. I stood and listened for a while and then went on my way.

Robin in branches Mondauk Park 4-22-15 small

Green Plants

I don’t know what these green plants are called and I don’t care. I do know that I see them every spring and each time I am struck by the vitality and life they have. Maybe it’s because they are so very green and fresh when so much else is still brown. Maybe it’s the way they unfurl their leaves – a slow motion explosion that ends with an exuberant green display, leaves flung out. Maybe it’s the way they are set in the dark blue-black waters in the flood plain.

I don’t know. But I do like these green plants and their enthusiasm for spring!

Athletic Fields and Sunshine Revisited

During the Sunshine Project, I left two sunshines at the high school athletic fields located across the street from my house. Now the lacrosse and softball seasons are in full swing and so I took a few pictures of a couple of games I attended. Things look a lot different now, don’t they?

I visited the softball field on Day 80. I set the sunshine on the home team’s bench, on the right-hand side of the picture.

From center field.

From center field.

Here is the field as it looks now with a game in progress.

I set a sunshine on the bleachers by the lacrosse field on Day 17.

Sunshine in place on the bleachers.

Sunshine in place on the bleachers.

Here is a view of a recent lacrosse game – the bleachers are in the back, behind the visiting team in blue.

As I said, things look a lot different now, don’t they? Would you ever think winter had been here at all?

Nature Walk

I’m so excited that our world is greening up. I just have to say it! Look at the woods here. And what about the beautiful color of the water in the Pennypack creek? Right now I’m taking advantage of the early-season view of things – in summer it will be blocked by the masses of leaves.

Along the creek Lorimer 4-15-15 small

As I walked along the rail trail, I noticed a clump of daffodils down near the creek. I always wonder at how this isolated group arrived at this spot. It’s not as if a house or building were ever here for someone to plant them. Maybe an animal dropped a bulb or two here at some time in the past. Obviously it has worked out well – it’s a nice thick crowd of blooms for me to enjoy.

Same thought for these little white flowers. Who are they and where did they come from?

White flowers Lorimer 4-15-15 small

The ditches alongside the trail are full of rippling water and I like the look of these tiny green plants standing in it. And yet the dead leaves from last season still have a presence here, don’t they?

Plants in ditch Lorimer 4-15-15 small

This man was fishing in the Pennypack creek. He looked very settled in his red chair, but as I watched, he stood up and paid more attention to his line. Maybe he felt a tug on it?

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