Sunday, July 30, 2017

Still Running

I ran 20 km today, which wouldn't be that exciting, except it's the first time I've been able to run that far in the last two years that I've been struggling with IT band knee problems. I'm not sure what's changed but over the six weeks or so I've managed to extend my runs farther and farther without problems. My last six "long" runs have been 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, and then today 20. I kept expecting to run (pun intended) into problems, but it just kept coming together.

Honestly, before this stretch I was starting to think I'd never see 20 km again. To a non-runner that's probably meaningless, but for me it was sad. It's tough enough to accept your own gradual decay without it being quite so blatant. I've still been running but it's been limited to what my knee would allow. Because it's not the knee joint itself, I can still do intervals and hills and stay in shape. I just couldn't do long runs. I don't mind toughing it out through a certain amount of discomfort, that's part of the game. But this knee problem was a show stopper for me.

It wouldn't have been so bad except that a few years ago I got back into running more and found, to my delight, that I could still run quite far and hard (relatively speaking). I ended up running 20 km most weekends for the second half of that summer and loved it. The next summer I was raring to go again. I'd mostly just run on the treadmill over the winter, and mostly shorter interval workouts, but when spring came I felt I wasn't in bad shape. So it was a shock when I ran outside for the first time, and after only a few kilometers my knee was killing me and I ended up walking home. It seemed worse that it was out of the blue. I hadn't had any problems with my knee running on the treadmill over the winter. Not even a twinge.

I gradually (and painfully) worked my way back up to about 10 km but it was a far cry from the summer before. A couple of times we'd been away for two months on longer trips and I'd had a good long break from running. I thought surely that would give my IT band time to recover or heal or whatever it needed to do. But it didn't seem to work that way. As soon as I started running again it would come back full force. I tried various exercises and stretches and "smashing". None of it seemed to make much difference despite keeping it up faithfully for months.

After two years of this, I have to admit I was starting to think it was something I'd just have to live with. After all, I wasn't getting any younger and one has to expect certain betrayals from your body. But it seems like I've been given a reprieve, and regardless of how long or short it lasts, I am very grateful.

I like to think that I'm not very competitive but the truth is that's mostly because I avoid competitive situations. If I get into those kind of situations I'm as competitive as the next person, if not more. When I headed out on my run today I wasn't sure how far I'd go. I was hoping to make the loop around the bridges which is 17 or 18 km. Last week I'd managed 15 km without any trouble so it didn't seem too much of a stretch. But I took it easy, running at a moderate pace (for me) of about 10.5 km/hr. At that pace my breathing is still easy and my heart rate low. That worked well for about 7 km. Then I saw another runner up ahead. As much as I try not to, I always want to pass people ahead of me. So I sped up a bit and passed fairly easily. But then there was yet another runner ahead of them and I had to speed up even more to pass again. So now I'm running about 11.5 km/hr and my breathing and heart rate are picking up.

The bad part about passing someone is that then my ego insists on staying ahead of them. Usually that's not a problem. People often speed up when you come up behind them, but once you pass they usually settle back to their normal pace. But occasionally you make the mistake, as I did this time, of passing someone that is happy to go faster, and they stay right on your tail, forcing you to keep up the faster passing pace. So I ran the next 6 km faster than I'd planned. It was still an ok pace for me, I'd just planned to take it a little easier. I think my pursuer figured I wouldn't be able to keep it up, especially since it was just some old guy :-) I thought they might be right, but eventually I won the silent battle and my follower dropped further and further behind. So much for not being competitive! I have to admit it feels pretty good to out run someone thirty years younger than me. Gotta take our pleasures where we can :-)

As usual, I stopped for a quick coffee at about 13 km. It's probably not the smartest thing running wise, but it's a part of my routine that I enjoy. Although I get some recovery time and rehydrate (with water as well as coffee), getting going again can be a little tough. I'm careful not to let my knee stiffen up while I'm sitting (a lesson I've learned the hard way). When I started again today I could soon feel my knee and I was ready to be pissed off and depressed, but then I realized it wasn't the IT band on the outside, it was the inside of my knee and it was minor and soon went away.

Running is definitely a blend of mind and body. But at times like these, it's easy to start thinking of your body as something separate, as an opponent rather than a partner. Really, it's more like a good friend who isn't above telling a white lie or two "for your own good". So some of those odd transient aches and pains I interpret more as a ploy to try to make me stop doing things my body thinks are somewhat ill advised (like running long distances).

My plan had been, if all went well, to run 17 km. At first after my break, I thought that was going to be more than enough. But then I got back into the rhythm and actually felt pretty good. So I just kept going past home and added another 3 km to make a round 20 km. Although I felt decent, I was started to feel a little tired. Where earlier I'd been running over with a heart rate under 140 bpm, now I was running slower but at 155 bpm. It didn't help that it was getting warm - by the time I finished it was 24c and the sun was hot - not ideal conditions for running.

I finished the 20 km in an hour and 55 minutes, about 10.5 km/hr, a little faster than I'd planned (due to my competitive streak) but not far off. My heart rate averaged about 130 bpm which seemed reasonable. I've been working on increasing my cadence and I average about 85 this run. And the best part was that I felt good afterwards.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't just a walk in the park. By the end my quads hurt, and I could feel my hamstrings, and my feet were getting sore. But it's been so long since I could get past the limits of my knee to reach those feelings that I welcomed them like old friends.

Nevertheless, I'm hesitant to get too excited. My knee problems could come back on my next run, possibly even as a result of this run. I'll just continue to take it one day at a time, and enjoy the "bad" days along with the good ones.

* Sorry for all the speeds, times, distances, and heart rates. No doubt they're meaningless to anyone but me.

See my other running posts

Photos of the Week

house wren with bug

A last shot of the house wren that nested in our birdhouse. At this point she was still busy feeding the young ones. The next day they were all gone. It amazes me that one day the young are in the nest being fed, and the next they're out on their own. (Although some birds continue to feed the juveniles even after they've left the nest.) I was hoping to see the young ones but I haven't seen a single house wren since they left.

I'm pretty sure this is another juvenile waiting to be fed. There were three of them hopping around in the bush. You can see the remnants of their bright yellow mouth used to attract the parent's feeding.

juvenile waiting to be fed

I think this was one of the parents. It was also hopping around in the bush making it difficult to get a decent photograph, especially against the bright sky. It looks like it managed to catch a dragonfly (a good trick!) My standing there seemed to make it too nervous to feed its offspring so I moved on.

dragonfly for breakfast

This cute little chipmunk seemed to be quite curious about the world.


Whereas this gopher (Richardson's ground squirrel) seemed more annoyed that I was invading his territory and was giving its high pitched alarm call.

gopher (Richardsons ground squirrel)

The rabbits at Innovation Place are becoming so common and tame that it's no longer much of a challenge to photograph them. This one let me get close enough for a good portrait.


I'm still enjoying the water lilies on the pond.

water lilies

water lily closeup

Some of them almost remind me of exotic sea anemones.

water lily closeup

The water hyacinths are also starting to bloom.

water hyacinth

Off the water, the real lilies are still delightful, especially with a little late afternoon backlight and a nice out of focus green background.


I think these next tiny flowers are one of the native ones we've planted in our garden but I'm afraid I don't remember what they are. They're pretty, even without a name :-)


There are lots of dragonflies around the pond. Not quite so many Bluet damselflies as before, but now a lot of these, which I think are Cherry-faced Meadowhawks.

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

One morning I rode my bike to work instead of walking and noticed a group of pelicans on a gravel bar. I left my bike in the tall grass and bushwhacked down the bank to where I could get an angle on them. The pelicans can be skittish so I tried to move slowly and stay in the bushes. I just had my little ZS100 (250mm lens) but they let me get close enough. I eventually was out in the open quite near them, but they didn't seem concerned, perhaps because I'd approached slowly enough. Or maybe they were just too busy preening :-)

pelicans on the river

After taking a bunch of photos, and with the pelicans still ignoring me, it occurred to me to take some video (which I don't often do). Although they weren't doing much, it was fun to watch see them preen and two of them turn their heads around to tuck their long bills under their wings to sleep.

I was walking by some long grass and out of the corner of my eye I noticed something on one of the blades of grass. Usually it's nothing, but you never know, so I checked it out and found it was an interesting looking spider eating a small moth. (There was also some sort of cocoon above it which I'm not sure was related to the spider.)

spider eating moth

I enjoy searching for the fishing spiders whenever I go by the pond. Sometimes they're easy to spot, other times they are quite well hidden. I think these are six spotted fishing spiders, but that refers to spots on their underside, not the more numerous ones on their back.

fishing spider

Here's a female carrying its egg sac.

fishing spider with egg sac

Since I've been observing the fishing spiders for the last few years, I've only ever spotted the nursery webs half hidden on the concrete wall of the pond. But in the last week I've spotted four of them built more or less in the open on the reeds. Maybe I've just never noticed them there before, but they seem so obvious I'm not sure how I'd miss them.

fishing spider nursery web

You can see the empty egg sac at the bottom of the photo. All the little tan spots are baby spiders. It's easy to see how the nursery web protects them, but I wonder what they eat at this stage? Maybe each other? Or nothing? Maybe they're just letting their skin dry out and harden ready for the outside world. They don't seem to stay in the web long, a day or two later and it will be abandoned. I never spot the babies outside the nursery - they're too small. (They are around though - looking at one of my photos of a large female, when I zoomed in on the computer I could see a tiny baby nearby.) I rarely even see the males which are about 1/3 the size of the females. I wonder if the females are out sunning (and therefore I see them) because the warmth helps the development of their eggs.

See all 41 photos

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Photos of the Week

A random assortment of photos taken at Innovation Place and on my walks back and forth to work.

I always enjoy seeing the pelicans at the weir. (Taken from the railway bridge with the RX10m3's 600mm lens)

white pelicans at the weir

I had trouble tracking this Swainson's hawk against a bright sky. If only I could fly my paraglider half as gracefully.

Swainson's hawk

Lots of different water lilies on the pond these days. The water is somewhat dirty and distracting so it's nice to be able to turn it black.

water lily

I love the details of them. Sometimes they seem to glow with an inner light.

water lily closeup

water lily closeup

The giant water lilies aren't flowering yet, but the leaves are impressive (about 18 inches across!)

giant water lily

Lots of other flowers around too. Interesting to observe the flowering process.




I'm not sure what kind of flower this is, it's on a large bush / small tree and the flowers are huge - grapefruit sized, and quite interesting inside.


And the usual birds are about - sparrows, robins, magpies, crows, and chickadees. The sparrows know to come around the outdoor tables where people eat lunch, looking for crumbs.


This robin was shy about having a bath while I was watching. Every time I moved to get a better angle it would stop and look around innocently.

American Robin

The jackrabbits are becoming common at Innovation Place. It's a rare day when I don't see them, and usually it's several times a day. Some of them are smaller so I assume there's a new generation around. They seem even more tolerant of people than their parents.


My thanks again to Innovation Place for their lovely gardens, and for being able to walk to work along the river.

See all 30 photos

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I've been taking lots of photos lately so I thought I'd split off the bugs. Most people are happy enough with butterflies and dragonflies, but beware, if you scroll down too far you'll be into the spiders :-)

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly

I think this is a Fritillary butterfly, maybe an Aphrodite. I saw it fly by and land out of sight. So I crept up slowly, closer and closer. But I couldn't see it, maybe it hadn't landed? I walked closer and it spooked and flew away. It landed nearby on a brick wall. I slowly moved towards it, taking photos as I went in case it flew away again. But this time it put up with me getting close enough for some good shots.

I didn't even make it off the front steps of our house for this next one - a cute little (1 cm) furry moth on the wall.


This one I chased around on the lower dirt trail beside the river. It refused to sit still for long, but at least it kept landing by the trail where I could photograph it. I submitted this one to iNaturalist with a tentative id of an Eyed Brown, but I was soon corrected that it was a Northern Pearly-eye. Many butterflies have very different patterns on the top and bottom of their wings, but this one was quite similar.

Northern Pearly-eye butterfly

There are lots of dragonflies and damselflies around. I try to photograph a variety. Because they are territorial, they often return to the same hunting perch which helps a lot in photographing them. I think this is a Four-spot skimmer. (confirmed on iNaturalist)

Four-spot skimmer dragonfly

Four-spot skimmer dragonfly

While I was photographing this dragonfly I spotted this nearby. I think it's a Crane Fly of some sort. They look a bit like a giant mosquito, but they don't bite (thank goodness!)

crane fly (?)

And last, but not least, the 8 legged ones. I was walking by the backlit lilies when I noticed the silhouette of a spider. It turned out to be a Harvestman (which aren't technically spiders). Many of these are missing a leg or two but this one still has all eight.


Not sure what kind these next two are.



Of course, my favorites are the fishing spiders. After multiple years of observing them, I finally saw one eating. It had one of the small damselflies by the head. I also saw what could be leftovers beside others, damselfly wings beside one, and water beetle wing covers next to another. They are mostly nocturnal hunters which is presumably why I don't see them eating much. It's hard to pin down what fascinates me about these spiders but I don't seem to get tired of observing them.

I was crouched down by the pond (I'm sure people wonder what I'm looking at) searching for spiders when I realized this one was on the edge of the concrete within inches of my feet. This is another female with egg sac. The egg sac starts out white from the newly spun spider silk, but it soon turns this shade of gray/brown. I can't quite figure out how they hang onto the egg sac. They don't appear to use their legs.

fishing spider

Once the eggs are ready to hatch the female makes a "nursery" web to protect the young spiders. At the Innovation Place Pond they seem to do this on the concrete side of the pond. Here's one batch of babies. It's a bit tricky to get the spiderlings in focus when they're surrounded by web. They also tend to start dispersing when you get close with the camera.

fishing spider babies in nursery web

There are a couple of corners of the pond where I tend to spot them. It usually takes a few minutes to see them, even when you know what to look for. Although they don't appear especially camouflaged, they tend to blend in quite well. One day I thought there were none around and by the time I was finished I'd spotted four of them within a square foot of pond. Here's one hiding in plain sight. They seem to like to be in a position where they can duck under the water if threatened.

fishing spider

See all 22 photos

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Print of the Week

water lily and reflections

A water lily with a background of reflections. Early morning at the pond at Innovation Place when the sun is on the trees but not on the water itself, resulting in good reflections. And just enough breeze to ripple the water in an interesting fashion. The flower adds some tangible interest to the otherwise abstract reflections.

My recent prints are showing a bit of a green theme, but that's the time of the year. Can't help but appreciate the vibrant color of life and growth in contrast with our long winters.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bird House Wren

House Wren

Shelley's Dad made a batch of bird houses and they put up a couple in our yard. One was right beside our shed and back gate and I was skeptical that a cautious bird would choose to use it. But it soon filled up with twigs and obviously something was building a nest, although I never saw the builder. Then one day when I was getting my bike out of the shed I heard a lot of cheeps from the box - hatchlings. Twigs blocked part of the entrance, and it was dark inside so you couldn't see them.

Watching from my office window I finally spotted a parent coming and going feeding the babies. I haven't figured out if it's one parent or two doing the feeding - I've only see one bird at a time. (Audubon says "probably both parents feed nestlings")

House Wren with a beak-full of bugs

It think it's a House Wren. I've probably seen them before but from a distance they're just another sparrow-like bird flitting about, although they're a little smaller than a sparrow. When you get a better look in the photos, they actually have an attractively patterned tail.

I was amazed at how often the parent returned to the nest with food. They're obviously very good at finding and catching insects. It's also amazing that the babies can process food at that rate, although it is being shared with probably 6 or 7 of them. It was as quick as 15 or 20 seconds between visits, or as long as a minute or two. Visits were quick and if you glanced away you could easily miss a visit. If you were within hearing you could tell when the parent was feeding because of all the cheeps from the nestlings. The first day I was watching the parent would go completely inside the bird house to feed them. But a few days later the nestlings are getting bigger and they come close enough to the opening that the parent can feed them while perched on the edge. The feeding frequency seems to have slowed down as well.

Of course, I had to try to take some photos. I got out the big lens, tripod, and gimbal head. At first I took some photos from my (open) office window. But even with 900mm equivalent the bird house was a bit far away for good shots. So I moved into the back yard. Our yard slopes down towards the back so I could set up sitting on the ground. I tried not to disturb them too much. The feeding continued as before so I assume I succeeded. Occasionally the parent would land on the fence or on top of the bird house before delivering a batch of food. Perhaps a nice juicy spider, or a fat moth, or a mouthful of miscellaneous bugs.

House Wren with a nice juicy spider

House Wren with a beak-full of bugs

I'm always impressed that they can collect multiple insects without dropping them, a good trick with no hands!

House Wren with a moth

This morning, the nestlings are more active and vocal, crowding around the door awaiting the next food delivery. Notice the bright yellow mouth to provide the parent with an easy target. These guys look fairly well developed.

House Wren nestlings

Of course, what goes in must come out. With that many nestlings eating that many bugs, the nest would be a mess, except that the parent carefully removes the waste (which the baby bird conveniently produces in a tidy fecal sac) Taking the waste away from the nest also reduces the chance of predators finding it.

House Wren taking out the garbage

House Wren

Despite the decent camera and lens and my best efforts, the photos aren't quite as sharp as I'd like. Not sure what I need to do different. High ISO on some, which is part of the problem. It's also a balance between small aperture for depth of focus and fast shutter to freeze motion. Getting closer would be the best solution but I didn't want to disturb the birds too much. On the other hand, these days the majority of people view photos on the tiny screen of their phone.