Archive for June, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, I was out at South Park getting ready to go for a bike ride with the Quincy Bike Club, when I saw a huge group of people getting ready to go for a run. They were warming up and stretching, and through a little small talk, I found out that they were training for their first 5k run ever with a trainer from the NuFit facility here in Quincy.
Brian Pahlmann, a trainer from NuFit, was leading the group. He explained that the idea of the group was to take you from the couch to your first 5k in a matter of just 9 weeks.
The group I saw was made up of all beginners. They started in late April doing workouts that consist primarily of intervals of walking and running. The workouts get progressively longer and have shorter periods of walking and longer intervals of running. The class also teaches basic stretches for runners and different exercises to increase strength and flexibility so that participants can learn prevent the most common running injuries.
This group participated in their first 5k this weekend at the QND Running Raider Classic, and many will also be participating in next week’s Hannibal Cannibal.
NuFit also offers classes for novice or intermediate runners who would like to improve their 5k or 10k running times. The class is called Speed Training for Runners and is a 4-week program that starts July 12. The workouts in this series will help runners become faster by improving their fundamentals, running economy, lactate threshold and VO2Max.
Do you ever have one of those days where everything you do reminds you of a song? Well, I went kayaking both this weekend and last, and it’s one adventure that definitely keeps popping song lyrics in my head.
“Row, row, row your boat…”
I think the reason I’d never tried kayaking up to now was that I assumed you’d need to have really great upper body strength to row. As it turns out, that’s not really the case! I was delighted to find out that a good rower uses not only her arms, but lots of torso and leg to power her rowing. Once I had the hang of the technique, I was right in the front of the pack, and even passed up some of the “tough guy” rowers. It’s a sport where finesse is just as important as strength, and you’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of doing.
“You know a dream is like a River, ever changin’ as it flows…”
Yeah, that’s a Garth Brooks lyric. It’s true though! A dream is like a river and a river is like a dream. I’ve been out on the Mississippi and Mark Twain Lake lots of times, but nothing is quite like experiencing these bodies of water via kayak. You can approach wildlife and shorelines quietly; you can hear the birds singing and the lapping of the water at the banks; and you can really appreciate the way the water moves and sculpts the landscape around you.
“I will go down with this ship, I won’t put my hands up and surrender…”
Maybe you’ve always wanted to try kayaking but were afraid of flipping over. I’m here to tell you that in calm water, flipping isn’t all that likely. And more importantly, getting back in your boat if you do flip isn’t hard at all. On my first experience out on the water, I didn’t get wet at all, so on my second, I volunteered to flip on purpose to demonstrate how to get back in the boat. With a little rocking, I flipped the boat, slipped easily out of the hatch, righted the boat all on my own, and was soon back in the cockpit. With the guidance of our instructor, I actually learned three different methods of getting back in the boat. My point is, there’s no reason to be afraid of flipping your kayak, especially if you’re wearing a lifejacket. Actually, on a hot day, I’d recommend flipping every once in a while just to cool off!
“We all live in the ocean, we all start in the stream, and we’re carried along, by the river of dreams…”
Billy Joel was certainly on to something with the lyrics of “River of Dreams.” Learning to kayak in the calm backwaters of the Mississippi or along the sheltered shores of Mark Twain Lake has been a wonderful opportunity. I’ve now practiced the basics of rowing, turning, stopping, flipping, and getting back into a kayak. The next step is to head out of the streams and steadily work my way to bigger water. There are great places to kayak locally, but eventually, I’d like to try Lake Michigan and then the ocean. I remember seeing people out in Puget Sound (Seattle, WA) kayaking alongside killer whales. I really, really, reallllllly want to try that. And there are thousands of other great places in this wide world just waiting to be explored. I guess I better get a list started.
“Teach the children well….”
So what should you do if you’d like to try kayaking for the first time? Find a great teacher. Kevin Dempsey of Kayak Quincy led the groups I was in. He’s a very knowledgeable and practical instructor who will help you learn the basics and develop your skills out on the water. He’s also happy to help you learn what to look for if you were selecting a boat of your own to purchase, or can help you find interesting places to kayak. The Kayak Quincy schedule, rental fees and more can be found at www.seequincy.com/KayakQuincy.html or by calling the Quincy Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at (800) 978-4748.
As you know, this blog is all about finding ways to Get Out and get involved with the world around us. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to area resident Adam Duesterhaus about one of his favorite ways to Get Out: volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western Illinois.
Q: How did you first get involved with Big Brothers, Big Sisters?
I’ve been with BBBS since January of 2010. I simply called the office one day to inquire. Not knowing really anything about the process involved, they were all very helpful in getting me started.
Q: How does the program work? Do they try to match you with a Little Brother that fits your personality?
A: When I began this process I was really unsure as to who to call or what to even expect. Much to my delight, after a simple phone call, they were more than happy to accommodate me into the program. I spoke directly to Kathy Brink, Executive Director for West Central Illinois. New volunteers do a really informal meet-up at which point she’ll get to know you, and what you’re wanting to get out of being a “Big.” She’ll take note of your interests and personality and pair you with a compatible “Little” as to provide the best match possible.
Q: Tell me about how you stay involved with you Little Brother.
A: My “Little” and I had a really good first meet-up. I thought we hit it off right from the start. From day one, it hasn’t felt like work, it hasn’t even felt like it’s cutting into my time really. I’ve got his and his mom’s phone numbers, and I simply drop him a text once or twice a week to see what’s going on. Sometimes he has baseball games that week that I can attend, or we can grab some grub and talk about his week. I’m fortunate in the sense that I see a lot of myself at that age in him now, so I’m able to relate to a lot of the pressures and thoughts running through his head. We’re really able to just talk about stuff, even though we’re literally generations apart.
I wanted to be an influential male figure in his life, a friend, who would support and console him in whatever endeavor he took part in. I like to lead by example and have him witness my actions and how I try and be a good person. It’s also important to mention that my “Little” has a fantastic support system in his own family. I really can’t say enough about them. The attentiveness I’m able to give him wouldn’t be possible without the support and encouragement they’ve afforded him already.
Q: Why did you choose this organization to volunteer with? Would you recommend it to other people?
A: I have always recognized Big Brothers Big Sisters to be a wonderful organization. Giving your time and patience to a child is really satisfying. As a kid, I looked up to many family members that were able to give me their attention. Whether it was knowledge that I sought, or the occasional game of pitch-and-catch, I always appreciated them taking the time with me. I suppose you can call this me giving back. And of course I would recommend volunteering. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience. All it takes is your time.
Q: What’s the very best thing about being a Big Brother?
A: I’m not a parent, nor do I attempt to be regarded as such. But I still think I have something to give. To witness someone’s path along the road of life at such a young age is the perfect catalyst to wanting to make a difference for others. The world can benefit greatly from random acts of kindness and generosity — big or small — if there are individuals willing to do it.
Living more selflessly is something we should all strive for, not just for the benefit of there being rewards, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.
Q: Are there any specific needs at the program right now? How can a person get involved?
A: There is always a need in our area for volunteers, but right now, there is a particular need for Big Brothers. Just contact Kathy Brink at the 223-5452. She’ll get you started with everything you need to get involved. You can also visit www.bbbswci.org.
Q: Anything else?
A: There are a few things in life that shouldn’t be kept to yourself: Your time, your smile and your love. Share these things and watch how great the world can turn out to be.
When I was a kid, my grandpa used to play his guitar and sing me an old Mills Brother’s tune called, “Up the Lazy River.” Last weekend, during a float trip on the Meramec River, the song was stuck in my head the entire time. I suggest you click this link: http://tinyurl.com/lazyriver and listen to it, while you read the rest of my blog.
The song describes floating on the lazy river past kind oak trees, listening to robins’ songs, with nothing but blue skies and the noonday sunshine overhead. I can’t explain a day on the Meramec better than that.
Meramec State Park is located west of St. Louis near Sullivan, Missouri, and is about a 3-hour drive from Quincy. The park itself is breathtaking. hiking and biking trails, limestone bluffs, forested hills with secluded cabins, places to picnic, and many other outdoor opportunities await visitors to the park. The stream-fed Meramec River crosses through the center of nearly 7,000-acres of state land, and there are ample opportunities to enjoy the water, including fishing, canoeing, swimming and raft floating trips.
Our five-mile long float trip was in celebration of a friend’s 30th Birthday (Happy Birthday Mike!), and we couldn’t have picked a better afternoon to be on the water. The temperatures outside were near the century mark, and the river was the perfect way to cool off. We met the group in the parking lot of the State Park offices, got our life jackets from the shed, applied sunscreen liberally, and then loaded a repurposed school bus for the quick drive to the beginning of the float. Our group was large, with 16 people, but since we had reserved ahead of time, the park had us ready to go when we arrived. We had two heavy-duty eight-man rafts with paddles already sitting on the launch ramp when we pulled up. All that was left to do was hop in the boat, shove off the launch, and enjoy our day in the sunshine.
The five-mile float took about four hours, but that included a few times where we paddled to the riverbank to stop and swim and throw the football around for a while. The river, while higher than it normally is this time of year, was fairly slow moving, and families with children of all ages seemed to be
out enjoying the day. There were a few spots where we needed to navigate around a downed tree or two, but overall, this is a slow and safe river for beginners.
Prices for float trips on the Meramec vary by day of the week and what type of raft or canoe you are going to rent. It’s always a good idea to call ahead and reserve your raft, especially on the weekends. Rates and schedules can be found at http://www.meramecpark.com or by calling 888-MERAMEC (637-2632).
A special note: Many people associate float trips and other river activities with alcohol, while it’s true that some members of our group brought along coolers and had some beers, personally, my husband and I only drank water and Gatorade on this trip, and we had a wonderful time. Remember that boating and alcohol, especially on extremely hot days, can be a very dangerous combination. If you’re going to drink, be responsible and make sure you’re still taking in plenty of water. According to the American Boating Association, people who have had as few as two beers are 10 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident while on the water than those who do not. My philosophy is there’s plenty of time to imbibe when you’re on land, so why not just enjoy being out on the river without the booze?
Whatever you decide, I hope you have fun and be safe whenever you “Get Out” this summer!
For more on boating safety: http://www.americanboating.org/safety.asp
Last month, I completed my first 5k run at Bridge the Gap, and I must have gotten bitten by the running bug while I was there, because I’m planning on participating in two more runs in the next few weeks. Here’s the info on those events, plus a fun-run for kids that you can get involved in this summer.
This event benefits the Quincy Notre Dame cross-country and wrestling teams. Runners can choose from a 5k run or walk, a 10k run, or a one mile Fun Run for kids under 13 years old. The courses all begin at Quincy Notre Dame High School and go towards South Park and the historic Stone Arch Bridge. The 10k course takes runners through Indian Mounds park. Pre-registrations are accepted through Saturday June 11 ($18 for adults, $15 for youth, $10 for the fun run) online at www.signmeup.com/71106 . (Registration after June 11 will be $23 for adults, $20 for youth, and $10 for the fun run). For more details on the event, you can contact Andy Edgar at (217) 257-6227 or email email@example.com
The tag line to the Hannibal Cannibal is, “It will eat you up!” I have the feeling that the tag line does not exaggerate! Last year, over 1700 runners from 26 states participated, and the event has become known as one of the toughest races in the US. Why is it tough? One word: Hills. The biggest one? Lover’s Leap. There are 10k and 5k runs at the Cannibal, or a 5k walk, and all of the courses go up the bluff leading to Lover’s Leap. I’m psyched, but not expecting to set new speed records. This one is about survival! Proceeds from the Hannibal Cannibal benefit Hannibal Regional Hospital. For more information and to register, visit www.hannibalcannibal.com or search Hannibal Cannibal on Facebook.
This year, your kids can go the extra mile for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital! The first nnual Event is sponsored by the Grimm-Schlipman Financial Group and will be held July 16 at Quincy’s South Park. Children grades K-8 are encouraged to come out and run or walk the 1.13 mile track to help benefit the hospital. Families and friends are also welcome to participate. You can cheer your child on, or run as a family and cross the finish line together. All of the registration fees go to the kids of St. Jude. Cost to participate is $10 for kids, $15 for parents. Participants will also receive an event T-shirt, race number, and a certificate of completion. To find out more about the event visit http://tinyurl.com/kidsforkids or email Jenny Craven at firstname.lastname@example.org to get an entry form.
If you read my blog last Friday, I bet you’re anxious to know which Memorial Day Weekend destination my husband and I chose. After careful consideration, we headed north and visited Sand Ridge State Park, in Forest City, Ill.
Sand Ridge is the largest state park in Illinois at 7,500 acres, so we only got the chance to scratch the surface of what it has to offer on this short visit. One thing I can tell you is that this is the most unique environment I’ve ever seen in our area.
The park gets its name because it is, in fact, very sandy. The receding glaciers dumped most of the sand there about 15,000 years ago, and a subsequent dry period turned the area into a desert. Fast-forward a few thousand years, and the deciduous forests of Illinois have grown onto the great sand dunes and merged with this formerly arid area to form what’s known as a Sand Prairie.
The area itself is so unique that it’s difficult to describe. There are the usual suspects from an Illinois forest: similar trees, deer in the distance, cardinals and robins raising a ruckus in the early morning hours, but there are also some strange features. For example, I trod over Prickly Pear Cactus in the first ten yards of the unceremoniously named “Orange Trail.” The trail was completely made out of deep sand and supported a variety of wildflowers that I’d never seen before. The plants seemed sturdy and worn and reminded me more of the southwestern U.S. than northern Illinois.
The sand also supports a wide variety of bugs. Besides some really pesky gnats and an unfortunate number of seed ticks, we saw some unique beetles, huge centipedes and several lovely types of butterflies. My favorite butterflies of the forest were the bright yellow Tiger Swallowtails and blue and orange Woodland Swallowtails.
The abundance of bugs supports a variety of animals that eat bugs — particularly birds and bats. As I was walking away from our campsite early Sunday morning, an electric buzzing sound caught my attention. I thought to myself how strange it was that they’d run electricity clear out in the woods, when I noticed that the sound was coming not from a light pole, but from a dead tree. The dead tree was evidently the home of a whole colony of Myotis lucifugus, or Little Brown Bats. I guess the noise was just the bats getting settled from a night on the wing at the best bug buffet in Illinois.
Hiking and camping at the park is very rustic. The trails are fairly well-marked, but there are not many of the amenities you might expect. The bathrooms are all latrine style and unplumbed, and there are no playgrounds, rental areas or shelter houses. The sand was wet due to storms this weekend, and the temperatures were in the 90s, so the hiking was pretty exhausting. The back country campsites are stationed every few miles on the trails and do include nice fire pits. If you’re planning a trip to Sand Ridge State Park, you can reserve campground sites (with or without electricity) or backcountry sites at http://www.reserveamerica.com. The park does have very nice equestrian trails and a hand-trap range that look like fun. Seasonally, hunters find this park to be one of the best destinations in Illinois for deer, pheasant, quail, doves, turkey, and red and gray fox.
Overall, if you’re looking for a rustic outdoors experience at a very utilitarian park, or if you are interested in seeing a unique ecosystem in our own backyard, Sand Ridge is for you. I’m looking forward to visiting again in the winter and learning what a Sand Prairie looks like in colder months. But for now — does anyone know how I’m going to get all of this sand out of my sleeping bag?