Year 13 Wasn’t So Lucky!

Intrigued Blog Summary 2020

Well, it was the year 2020 but if anyone had perfect vision for what the world would be put through, they should immediately make their way to Vegas and find an open Roulette table – should not be hard to find an empty seat these days.  It is the small achievements along the way that get us through the bad times.  One such example is the completion of the 13th year of blogging here at Intrigued – at least for the mothership, the wildlife side is a little younger as that sister site was  created a number of years later.  Adding to that is a self-pat on the back for once again hitting the 6 post a month self-imposed minimum.  It was touch and go there a couple of times during the year, but we fought through it.  Definitely had a huge gaping hole in the running posts this year.  With the exception of the one virtual race recollected a couple of posts ago, the year was a complete bust.  This made hitting my yearly goal of logging at least 1,100 miles a lonely journey.  Toeing the line on race day is a huge motivation for me – with every race last year canceled due to that ass Covid, keeping on track and hauling myself out to the trails every other day tested the mental toughness.  Fought through two injuries to the back and a ridiculous last month of miles to get that check again this year (1,200+ actually).

2020 also brought with it some big changes related to our careers.  Linda officially retired February 1, 2020 giving her some badly needed stress relief after her large operation the year before.  Thanks to the pandemic, she really didn’t get to enjoy her first year of freedom as much as she deserved.  By November I had convinced myself to hang up the corporate life as well and went on permanent vacation until the official retirement on February 1st of this year.  Definitely looking forward to all the extra cycles available to spend on blog material – in between the extra training runs of course ha!

One of my goals last year (come to think of it … every year) has been to increase awareness of the Intrigued blogs.  Over the last year I’ve been able to keep in touch with many of my long time readers and had the privilege of gaining additional followers that apparently enjoy my musings.  For the existing fans as well as the new followers, I am truly thankful and honored you are willing to spend the one thing that is the most valuable in our lives – ‘time’.  A unique possession that is perpetually consumed yet never replaceable.    I am also thankful for the other members of the blogsphere that educate me on a daily basis, give me hours of enjoyment and continue to expand my thinking/perspectives along with pushing me to get better at my craft.

A few quick shout outs.  One to my brother Ron who is a big part of the behind the scenes operations as birding companion, ID confirmer and all around fact checker – not to mention invaluable help with all the Halloween projects that go on around here year round.  To CJ (link here) and B. in the UK (link here) who keep me informed on what is going on across the pond and then there’s my personal editor Brad M.  who keeps the pages mostly free of the egregious syntax errors – sorry for all the errors that make it through – In my defense, I graduated from the University of Illinois’ Engineering College which makes bits and bytes my first language (then married someone with a similar background so we could communicate hehehe).

Keeping with tradition, it’s time to look back at the year’s output and self-evaluate.  One noticeable improvement is the number of followers.  Few things bring a smile to my day more than a comment or like on one of my posts.  If you are curious about the details, hit the jump to see the individual stats and accomplishments.

Thanks again to all my readers and here’s to the new year of fun and adventures that will assuredly find their way onto these pages.

Hit the jump for the details on the 2020 Life Intrigued blogs summary.

Continue reading Year 13 Wasn’t So Lucky!

Thanks for Nothing Covid

Guess there is no time like the present to get some loose ends wrapped up before hopefully getting back into the upcoming racing season.  I’ve had a note on my desk for almost a year now to get this race post out.  Through part procrastination and part denial I bring you a post on last year’s race season.  Hell, this post represents the ENTIRE 2020 race season.

Allerton Trail Races April 26/27 2020

Hit the jump for the race recap – albeit late this year.

Continue reading Thanks for Nothing Covid

Evil Warding Stoners

Welcome to 2021 everyone!!  Sorry for the long delay on the posting thingy, but we are currently doing a little bit of exploring to start the new year off right.  Now a mere one month off from my official retirement date – need to live each day to its fullest.  Being out and about has limited my ability to get to the keyboard for my own blog and, unfortunately, waaaay behind on getting caught up with the output from all my blogger friends.

Statues and Gargoyles found on the Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC during October 2016 vacation

With the replenishment of the calendar, decided to start the year out with something completely different.  Honestly, this has been in the hopper for some time now.  Part of the confusion was deciding which blog to put it on.  Typically it would go on the mothership as it isn’t technically wild”life”, however you can’t deny there is a creature element to it.  Let’s just overlook the fact they happen to be in a perpetual stationary position.

Statues and Gargoyles found on the Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC during October 2016 vacation

Hit the jump to learn more about these evil deflecting creatures.

Continue reading Evil Warding Stoners

Recollection: You Call Yourself a Birder?

Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman

I’ve been staring at a book by Kenn Kaufman that has been laying on my desk for several months now.  Having read it in a couple of marathon sessions it was simply waiting for me to get around to posting a recollection of it.  There it sat, begging night after night for some time to meet the world.  Problem is, these recollection posts take a significant amount of time to a) to capture what I thought about it, b) review various pages to remind myself of compelling takeaways, c) do some research to personalize the takeaways and then d) get it all down in black in white.  Thanks to the first official day of the Wisconsin dog show, the procrastination has come to an end.  Today’s post is about a body of work on a famous birder.  Kenn published his book, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life  of an Extreme Birder, back in 1997 (2006 for my paperback copy) covering his endeavor to complete a Big Year back in 1973.  Tops of my list of birding related reading is Neil Hayward’s Lost Among the Birds (link here).  That book is an incredible read focused on the emotional healing that birding can bring.  Kingbird is now solidly anchored in the number 2 position. Like Hayward’s, I found myself unable to put the book down.  I’d pick it up for a quick nitecap and next thing I know I’m looking at very small numbers on the clock.  If I remember correctly, Ron had the exact same opinion when I originally bought him this book – he liked it so much he ended up having a copy sent to me.  After I turned the last page I said to myself “I’m not a birder!”.  Kenn sets an entirely different standard, embarking on his Big Year when he was 16 years old.  His mode of transportation – standing on the side of the road with his thumb out.  69,000 miles later he had tallied up 666 birds – three short of Floyd Murdoch, but they didn’t count his + 5 from the Baja’s which would have put him over. The stunner in all of this… the amount of money that he spent in this mission.  $50K?,  $100K?, hell $200K doesn’t sound out of reason based on all the criss-crossing you have to do across North America to even have a chance of getting the needed level of checks.  In truth, Kenn spent a staggering $1K – that is travel and living expenses for the entire year – with nearly half of that in two flights in Alaska.  Getting by on less than a dollar a day.  That my friends is an individual that can stand in front of anyone past and present and claim they are a birder.  One that is willing to eat dry cat food for sustenance and endured several run ins with police who didn’t appreciate his mode of transportation and/or his road weary look and even fended off a knife wielding mugger trying to get his cat food.  A different time for sure.  These days, traveling by thumb to see birds has a good chance of you ending up being circled by Vultures.  I did find myself asking what kind of parents he had that was okay with him dropping out of high school and heading off on a solo adventure to every coastline and everywhere in between.  He did thank them at the end of the book stating how grateful he was for them having the faith to let him follow his dream.

Kenn is a tall oak in the birding field and a regular contributor in our primary birding magazines.  Birder’s World refers to Kenn as “the person who knows more about bird identification than almost anyone on the planet”.  He didn’t get there by burying his nose in books – instead, he put himself out there and gained his knowledge the old fashioned way – experiencing it.  Do you enjoy birding, maybe even thinking about a big year yourself ?- grab a copy of this book – guarantee you will have problems putting it down, eagerly turning page after page to learn how Kenn was able to get another check on the list.

If you can’t wait to get your own copy, hit the jump to see a few of my takeaways.

Continue reading Recollection: You Call Yourself a Birder?

An Even Dozen

Lifeintrigued Blog Summary 2019

At some point in the previous year I must have forgotten how much time these blog summaries take.  Not so much the high level commentary, but gathering up all the year end statistics rivals the daunting 50K. Oh, did I mention I checked the 50K off my life list -yeah, I did that ha!  Truthfully, 2019 turned out to be one of those years I’ll probably try hard to put past me.  Something tells me it will keep flashing into conscious for some time.  The running addiction sent me to the doctor earlier in the year thanks to a marksman hornet/bee that nailed by spine and then I lost a battle with the Heat Miser that landed me in the ER with a set of shiny new staples.  Watching Linda go through her surgery and recovery still takes the top spot on my stressful experiences – a distinction that doesn’t come lightly based on some of life’s challenges that fill the rest of that list.  Then there’s still trying to keep my emotions in check whenever a random event triggers a cherished memory with my father.  Fortunately for me, blogging is the best therapy for the money.  It has been a fantastic grounding that allows me to document my thoughts, events, opinions, adventures, accomplishments and progression on the things that intrigue me in this thing called life – the fact that the completion of 2019 represents the 12th consecutive year of producing the flagship LifeIntrigued and its offshoot WildlifeIntrigued is testament to the joy it brings me.  Through this effort, I’ve been able to meet new friends across the world, share experiences, explore differing perspectives and learn about their cultures and hobbies from their own blogging efforts – ex: CJ has introduced me to the world of canoeing/kayaking, adventures in the Netherlands and St Louis zombies (https://thecedarjournal.com/blog/ ) – B has been ramping up my Butterfly/Dragonfly/Birding knowledge from the UK while taking me to places like the Berlin Wall that seemed so far away from my stomping grounds in the broke state of Illinois (https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/blog/).  A big thanks to all you birding bloggers out there that challenge me every day to get better at my photography craft and special gratitude to all those that take the time to read my musings, comment and show your appreciation through likes. Shout out to Brad M. who catches all my typos so I at least appear halfway credible.

Even with some of the downsides in ’19 there were still some very bright spots that I can’t overlook.  Seeing Linda on the upside of her recovery brings a big smile to me every time I see her.  Can’t wait to witness her tear up the dog agility competitions now that she can keep up with Raven.  On the personal front, getting the 50K trail checked off was big for me.  Failure doesn’t sit well with me and being able to recover and redeem myself in a little more than 3 months took some pushing (especially with all the chaotic things happening during that time).  Add to that the 17 (at least) new checks on the NA bird list (link here) which kept me in striking reach of Ron (yes, he who owes me bigly ha!).  Was able to meet up with Ron for some local birding adventures (and one not so local) – always fun times to be had in the field and going through the tins trying to ID the day’s haul.  Goal this year is for me to get him posting more on his own blog (link here).  He was the catalyst for me to start this whole blog endeavor 12 years ago.  Although the surgery limited us on our usual travel, Linda and I were able to  catch a few short trips allowing for some good birding opportunities that have filled up the blog hopper for likely years to come (Lake Tahoe, Henderson NV, St. Louis) as well as quick excursions to local hotspots.  I promise to try and get those tins posted at a fresher rate this year.  If nothing else, having just celebrated another birthday it is starting to limit how far back I can easily recall.

Keeping with tradition, it’s time to look back at the year’s output and self-evaluate. Did I hit my self-imposed monthly quota, did my photography show progress and what posts intrigued my readers ..or more important which topics missed the mark.  So with that, I bring you the 2019 year end summary. If you are curious, hit the jump below to see the individual stats and accomplishments.  Thanks again for all your help throughout the year and for spending precious time on my little project.  Can’t wait to see what intriguing things 2020 throws at us.  Fingers crossed I’ll be able to get you crispy pictures in the tin to share.

Thank You!

And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.

Hit the jump to see the 2019 stats!

Continue reading An Even Dozen

One and Done

I’ve been eagerly awaiting to find time to get this post out.  If there is one thing I hate more than clowns and crooked picture frames, it is failure.  It was bad enough when I unexpectedly went down during a training run several years back (link here), but when I had to take my first ever DNF at a race it was like a dagger to my pride.  The Cry Me a River fiasco (link here) will probably never be forgotten from a big ol’ blemish on a fairly successful running career and even more from a health scare perspective   17 years of racing and not one DNF graced the results page.   That changed of course when my first 50K attempt decided to coincide with some wicked heat.

Farmdale Reservoir 30 Mile/50K trail run October, 2019

Linda can confirm I tried everything I could to get back in that race.  Pleaded with the emergency room doctors to clear me to go back to the race.  My argument that I was in the best possible condition I could be in being they had filled me up with 4 IV bags and another bag of straight magnesium.  Ambulance drivers said “hell no”, nurses said “you are nuts” and the doctor initially scolded me only to eventually concede that “they were open 7×24”.  Later that day, Linda went back to collect some gear I had dropped.  “Hey, take me with you, you are going there anyway and I only have 15 miles to go!!”  Imagine a piercing evil stare of disgust in return.  Next morning I was nearly on my knees begging to return – now rested, still full on the fluids and feeling fine with the exception of the head wound.  “15 miles and you won’t have to hear about this again”…which brought a reminder than when she relayed my desire to the race coordinators the day before they put me in the certifiably nuts category.  Arggggggghhhhhh.  Well, there was only one thing to do… sign up for another 50K 3 months later in October.  Take that medical professionals!

Farmdale Reservoir 30 Mile/50K trail run October, 2019

Hit the jump to find out if there was redemption or not!

Continue reading One and Done

Moonlight Miles 2019

Ever since the Crying fiasco (link here), I had been clawing my way back to running health.  Slowly trying to once again win back confidence from my internal heat controller which was now totally spooked since my first little training “mishap” back in 2014 (link here).  It took me several years to get my body over that heat related incident and now I was trying to do it again in less than 4 months.  The Bix 7 test (link here) proved conditioning was back for short runs (7 miles).  Being ready for a 30 miler back in July meant there was not a lot of stress to get through with the shorter miles – my training runs since getting back on my feet were rarely under 6 miles so extending it a bit more wasn’t that much of a stretch goal.  Now the IVS run was a better test and that turned out well (link here).  The final validation run before the big one was the Moonlight Miles race at the historic Oak Ridge Cemetery in my hometown of Springfield IL.

Moonlight Miles Half 2019 at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL

I have a history with this particular race and it isn’t a good one on the health front.  With the exception of last year, I think I have managed to leave my guts at the finish line (link here) .. and one year at every exit between Springfield and Peoria.(link here).  Don’t read that wrong, last year I might have kept everything down, but there were some brief moments of concern that I fought through (link here).   If there were serious residuals from  the overheat at the Cry or any gaps in the armor from under-training, it would rear its ugly head in this race for sure.  This is the starting picture of someone concerned as to how this was going to play out over the next couple of hours. The good news is they heeded my warnings last year and go rid of those damn ankle timing devices.  I bitched here how it had managed to cut my ankle up last year – this year they finally dispensed with that archaic device and went with the sensors on the bib – hmmm, maybe they read my blog ha!

Moonlight Miles Half 2019 at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL

Hit the jump to find out how the race went!

Continue reading Moonlight Miles 2019

IVS for the Test

Sitting here in the waiting area for Linda’s cardio rehab class watching recovering heart patients being put through the paces makes you feel thankful for your health.  I also have the opportunity to witness Linda getting better every week, a long way from a few months ago when I was terrified she would not be able to use the right side of her body.  Thank god we live in a country with access to the best healthcare in the world.  Pretty soon she will be crossing the finish line ahead of me so I better make the most of it when I have the chance.  One thing I did learn about myself through all this is I’d rather be on the road straining the tendons and sweating a tsunami than sitting here watching others work out.  At least I can recollect while I wait.

IVS Half Marathon Springdale Cemetery Peoria IL

If you read my previous post, you know I was able to brush off the dirt from the Cry Me fiasco (link here) and get the legs moving again.  That was a crucial test to determine just how far I had fallen (metaphorically this time).  Although a slight mid-race recovery was needed, the body held strong and the damage might be less than feared.  Naturally, I came home that weekend and immediately signed up for another attempt at the 50K – this time in the cooler temps of October.  That left a little over 2 months to address some lingering issues (hip was apparently damaged more than initially thought due to the fall and there were some nagging pains in other places) and rebuild the stamina lost due to the reduced training miles (damn meddling doctors ha).  The first good test would be the half marathon at the Springdale Cemetery in early September.   That hilly course would be a good litmus for the chance I had at the 50k.

Hit the jump to see if this race ended up being a confidence builder or not.

Continue reading IVS for the Test

For the Medal of Course

Howdy folks.  It has been a while since I’ve posted a race recap.  In fact, somehow I’ve managed to get FOUR races behind thanks to a late Fall surge that included a major check in my life list.  I will keep with tradition and do the recaps in chronological order… but trust me, I really really really want to get to that big one (hint, redemption).  So, first up is the race that is closest to my heart.

Bix 7 2019

Yep, it was another running of the Bix 7 in Davenport, IA.  Your chance to run with the best which for those not familiar with running lingo means you get to stand at the starting line with elite runners from around the globe – many of which have excelled during the Olympics, won signature races like the Boston or New York Marathon or likely go on to dominate the upcoming racing circuit.  These specially invited participants come from across the States, Ethiopia, Africa and other runner hotspots (who now pretty much live and train in the US) in hopes of winning a car – although they always take the money equivalent).  Here is a picture of three of them!

Bix 7 2019

Hit the jump to read a few details about this incredible racing event.

Continue reading For the Medal of Course

Halloween Project 2018: Nightwings

Thought I would finally get around to showing off a Halloween project that was built for the 2018 Haunted Halloween Trail of Tears (link here).  Those that checked out the trail walkthrough probably noticed a couple of interesting adds that I didn’t really talk much about.   Was looking at my post queue and noticed I STILL had not posted on that project over a year later.  This must be remedied immediately (as in before this year’s Halloween hits the history books).  So without further delay I bring you Project Nightwings.

NightWings Halloween Decoration 2018

The night shots of the Nightwings didn’t come out the best because.. well, it was dark.  Last year there was close to zero ambient light on the trail making it a bit difficult on the final camera round.  Now, on the other hand, definitely upped the spook factor on the trail!  If you look closely you will see a giant pair of wings adorning the back of the gargoyle.  Now, making one pair of wings is fun enough, however, TWO wings pretty much puts this guy on cloud nine. The second pair is even harder to make out as the black wings blended into the darkness – unlike the zombie silhouette that looked awesome after an upgrade was made to the backing board that reflected the light better)

Nightwings Halloween Decoration 2018

Hit jump to see how these new props for 2018 came to be!

Continue reading Halloween Project 2018: Nightwings