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.

rain fell,

rain fell,

rain fell

I return to posting these oracle-like artist trading cards, for your review and possible edification! You remember such items from the past, maybe. Anyway, here are some more.

I make these cards and then I give them a phrase cut from printed matter, chosen at random but maybe not. See if you get any kind of push or insight or set off on any train of thought from looking and reading these, even if it’s just to say, “Whaaat?!”

Red Feather. And More.

Once in a while I get it into my head that I want to do something extreme. Now, being a cautious person, middle-aged, and with arthritis in her feet, crazy eyesight, and a fear of heights, that means you aren’t going to be reading about me bungee-jumping. Or jumping off the high dive. Or jumping off  – the sidewalk curb. Don’t even mention sky-diving.

No, today, doing something extreme meant I decided to walk all 10 miles of the Pennypack Trail through Rockledge/Huntingdon Valley/Bryn Athyn/Lower Moreland. It’s a 5 mile trail, so making the loop is – ten!

I  parked the car at Welsh Road. This place is the mid-point of the trail. I planned it so that I could pass the car halfway through the walk and stop and get a drink, etc. First I walked toward Rockledge, 2.5 miles away. Lots of people out today – the weather is cool and breezy. On the way I met up with my trail friends Alan and Stu, but they were finishing up so we did not walk together very long.

I stopped at the car, refueled, and set off toward Huntingdon Valley, 2.5 miles away. The day grew a little grayer.

trail-9-28-16-small

I tend to walk looking at the ground quite a bit, due to my eyesight and my uncertain depth perception. And I saw…

red-feather-9-28-16-small

…this red feather. Lying to the side of the trail, just waiting for me. I picked it up and put it between the pages of my little notebook that I carry in my belt pack.

Immediately afterwards, I saw these…

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What a beautiful group. Clustered together like this, they almost seemed to have arranged themselves for maximum show-off.

Red feather. Toadstools. I felt as if I might be entering a fairy tale…Magic!

I Remember These Names

Yesterday I went to Lorimer Park with my husband. Usually I would be running or walking, but on this day I was taking a day of rest – I injured a joint in my left big toe, and it was swollen, red, and painful. So I decided to take my sketchbook along. It’s a goal of mine to do more drawing and I thought I could do that while my husband ran the trails.

I decided to take up a seat near the ranger cabin, located in the picnic area.

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I walked around the back of the building, something I don’t usually do – I spend most of my time on the rail trail or at a picnic table when I’m here. I sat down on a bench a little distance away, near the creek. I had a view of the little stone building that I’ve never experienced before.

If you look, you can see a series of wooden plaques on the side of the building. I’d never noticed them before. Curious, I walked back up to the cabin to examine them.

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They mark the high-water levels of the creek in several past hurricanes. We are about 70 miles from the Atlantic Ocean at Lorimer Park, more or less, so if a hurricane comes near or on shore in New Jersey, we feel it. Still, I could hardly believe the creek had risen to levels that were in some cases above my head, at this location. Look at that picture of the red bench again – I took it from the ranger cabin, and the creek is back some feet and below.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

Cones, Simply

Yesterday my husband and I stopped by this parking lot to check on the Power Line trail – we wanted to see if the snow had melted and the way was clear for us to run on it again. (In case you are interested, yes, it was.)

This parking lot in Horsham is at the mid-point of the trail and serves the trail and adjacent ball fields, none of which are in use right now, of course. So, the lot is handling some other jobs – for one thing, the township piled a lot of snow there from the roads – there are some nice snow-mountains along the side. And, it’s a great place for these trucks to assemble when they are off-duty.

They are tree-trimming trucks and they belong to a company whose work consists of trimming trees for the electric company and municipalities. You see them everywhere in the winter.

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And a closer look.

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You know what caught my eye? The arrangement they each have on their front bumpers for carrying traffic cones. Yes, I was so intrigued by the ingenious way they were packed on to the truck. There are two methods. One is horizontal – the cones are set on a rod that is secured with a cotter pin.

The other is vertical – they are stacked in a bracket attacked to the bumper.

Think about it. Every road project, every construction site, any tree work – all of them need traffic cones to protect the site and the workers. You know this. You’ve seen it. And you’ve never thought about where the cones keep themselves when they are off duty, have you? Well, now you know.

I found it just fascinating to see these huge trucks all with their neatly stacked cones, all ready for Monday morning. I love the simple elegance of this solution. No one will ever be shouting, “Where are the #@&!* cones!” on any site where these trucks are at work.

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Snowed Last Night. Just a Little.

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A block from our house.

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The snow is wet and sticks to every surface, every leaf, every branch. These bushes are in front of our house.

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Another bush in our yard.

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This pot is the home of the second group of acorns we are trying to hatch. You may remember the saga from earlier posts.

Passage of Time, In Person

If you look around, you can find markers of the passage of time everywhere – statues of famous people now dead, every kind of old building, the little kid who grew up next door and is now married. How about this one? I saw it today at the Glenside Library, Glenside, PA.

This wall runs along the library’s driveway up to the upper parking lot and holds back a section of earth behind it.

The library was built in 1968. So this wall has spent about 50 years in position, dealing with annual freeze-thaw cycles. It’s hanging on, but not without a cost. The wall has some splits – and not just in the joints, but right through the bricks. What do you think of that?

I’m inclined to admire this wall. It’s not giving in. But…

I’m admiring Mother Nature, too. She is patient and can wait.

Cracked brick wall GL library 1-16 small

Magic Morning

I drove my husband to the train this morning, before seven o’clock. He had an early meeting.

The morning was mild, gray foggy, with a slight rain falling, and the sun was just coming up. As I came into the parking lot I noticed people looking at the sky and taking pictures. Here is what we saw – this breathtaking perfect rainbow all across the sky. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

People were smiling and looking to the sky. Everyone felt a bit of awe to see such a sight in our ordinary routine.

At Tyler Park

My husband and I went to Tyler Park in Newtown, PA, today. It’s a very hilly large park that we’ve been to many times before, but not recently. We took the five-mile course around and saw a lot. Now, we don’t run together – we go in opposite directions, meet in the middle, wave, keep on, and meet again at the finish. So it was just me and a couple of clay figurines – I dropped them off in a couple of good spots. The first one was left on a rock maybe 10 minutes into the exercise:

The other one finished up on a picnic table about 35 or 40 minutes along the way, near the highest point in the park.

And here are some sights I saw along the way. It’s really getting to be autumn now, I think. It was chilly and windy and gray with the trees beginning to turn.

That’s it for today!

Just Such a Beautiful Day

This morning I took a walk in Lorimer Park. I left the rail trail and went along the interior roads. I have not walked here for months – these routes are rough and hilly. Between my eyesight problems and my broken foot, the area has been off-limits.

Today is my first day back, then. What a glorious day – clear blue skies, sunny, breezy, cool and pleasant. Absolutely perfect. I walked along the fence separating the park and Fox Chase Farm. I left a figurine at the top of the hill. That’s all I need to say. The pictures do a better job of showing what a happy experience this was for me today.

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