Interval Birding

My running efforts these days are not pretty.  Have you ever seen the 1932 Tarzan movie?  The one where Jane is kidnapped and Cheeta seemingly meets a horrific demise in a deep pit at the monstrous hands of a killer gorilla (killer gorillas were still roaming the planet in the early 30s), and the jungle is terrorized until the gorilla and his evil minions are killed in an epic battle, and Tarzan and his animal friends rescue Jane, and finally – FINALLY – as the sun sets, Tarzan and Jane stand on the edge of a cliff with their arms around each other, overlooking the newly peacable kingdom, and you get teary-eyed and think “this would be just perfect if only…*sniff*… if only Cheeta had survived…” and then the music swells and the camera pans back and there is Cheeta!, alive!, limping dramatically (Cheeta was by far the best actor in any of those old Tarzan movies) – dragging his broken leg behind him, staggering out onto the cliff and into the arms of Tarzan and Jane?

That Cheeta scene is pretty much how I walk at the end of a workout these days.  And sometimes for a couple days after.

I’ve had a dodgy left knee since I was 13, but I tried to be a distance runner, anyway.  In recent years, I was getting away with some modest trail running and even did a half marathon a year-and-a-half ago.  Then I pulled a hamstring when I tried to leap a surprise hole on a trail.  I mismanaged that recovery and ended up with pes anserinus bursitis.  By then totally unable to run, I worked out on our rowing machine for awhile, but my physical therapist told me that was worsening the bursitis.  So I went for a hike, tripped, and slightly tore the meniscus in the star-crossed knee.  I considered an exorcism to purge the left leg of whatever demons had clearly taken up residence.  I grudgingly climbed aboard a stationary bicycle (so boring!).  Then a friend took me to a spinning class (so cool! where has that been all my life?!).  The revelation allowed me to make a bit of peace with the stationary bike and start working out again.

Slowly, the left leg started to feel a little bit stronger, so recently I crept back out to the trail to see how far I could run without pain… About 25 feet.  Then 50.  Now on level and uphill segments, I can jog almost 100 teeny steps; but I walk the downhills.  Jog, walk, jog, walk, AARGH!

Did I mention that I’m not very patient?

So today I decided to multi-task.  I’ve been trying to improve my birding skills, and my favorite running trail – in the early morning and early evening – is a great place to go bird watching.  Usually I wear my big Nikon binoculars on one of those nifty harnesses that takes the bino strap weight off your neck AND leaves your hands free for catching yourself when you trip over a vine or fall over a cliff.  But they’re a bit cumbersome for what I had in mind.  Instead, I carried my $20 compact Konus 10X25 binoculars.  These things are surprisingly good (although they mess with colors a bit, especially at sunset), and so lightweight and tiny I hardly notice I’m carrying them.  My iPhone probably weighs more.  I clutched the Konus binos in my left hand, and my pepper spray in my right, and trotted off for my first 100 steps.  Then I walked, stopped and scanned the shrubs, and jogged the next 100 steps.  Walked, checked the eucalyptus branches, and jogged again.  Repeat until the sun goes down.  I’m calling this Interval Birding, and I expect to launch the web site, book, and coast-to-coast workshops as soon as I finish my dissertation.

(I jest.)

No, this is not the way to an effective aerobic workout – for now, that’s what my bicycle is for.  This is just to get ambulatory again, while honing my ID skills.  If it weren’t so crass, insensitive and inappropriate, I would say this is like killing briefly and humanely immobilizing two birds with one stone.

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