Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stories of a wannabe frog biologist



Recently I spent an evening looking for leopard frogs in a lake located very near the Arizona-Mexico border.  It's called Peña Blanca Lake.  It's not a naturally-occurring lake; it's impounded, it has lots of non-native crayfish and fish, but it's still a beautiful place with enough water to float a boat.

Ready to launch.
Peña Blanca Lake was drained in 2008 to remove sediment contaminated by mercury from gold and silver mining operations in the hills around the lake, then it was allowed to refill through natural rain events.  It reopened again in 2009.

At the time it was drained, a lot of effort was made to eliminate bullfrogs in the lake and surrounding area.  You see, bullfrogs are native to the eastern part of the U.S., but not the Southwest.  And as cute and cuddly as they may be, they're actually one of the most voracious predators out there and have really taken a toll on the native frogs, fish, and snakes in this area.  I have no doubt that if they had the ability to wrap their mouths around your average-sized human being, we'd no longer be at the top of the food chain.



Even though bullfrogs were cleared out of the lake a few years ago, they're actually evil tenacious bastards bent on world domination, which means (in the words of Mad-Eye Moody) it takes Constant Vigilance to make sure they don't move in again and eat the crap out of the native frogs that found their way back to the lake when they figured out it was no longer a death trap.

So every few months a team of biologists makes its way to the lake, headlamps and frog calls in hand, to figure out what's going on.  Or at least to try to.

Floating frog biologists.
The process involves floating around the perimeter of the lake alternately playing the calls of the two native frogs, the Chiricahua leopard frog and the lowland leopard frog, as well as the bullfrog, and shining your headlamp along the shore to see if you can glimpse the shine of their eyes.

Frog biologists in their natural habitat.
One thing you don't fully realize until you start shining a headlamp into the undergrowth is exactly how many other creatures are out there (no doubt also bent on world domination), and exactly how many of their eyes shine back at you.  Like spiders.  And moths.  And deer.  And leopards.  No, not really, there aren't any leopards in these parts.  (Except in frog form, of course.)

Rare sighting of a frog biologist at night.
There are, however, jaguars.  Which are pretty cool.  I'm guessing their eyes shine at night, too.

So anyway, all of these thousands of shining eyes glittering back at you are pretty and yet creepy at the same time.  Rather, they're pretty creepy.

We didn't detect an over-abundance of leopard frogs in the lake that night (unless two is too many), but we also didn't detect any bullfrogs, which is always good news.  The quest against those wily bastards continues, so hopefully at least a small part of Arizona will remain available for our native fauna to inhabit.  Constant Vigilance!

Of course, for me it's mostly an opportunity to wash the dust off my boat and float around a beautiful desert lake.  I'm not sure how much I actually contribute to the cause, except maybe to get in the way.  But hey, if that's enough, I'll try to do my part.

My happy place.  Wait, you want me to do something?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

608 days

So in my last post I shared (probably TMI) about my experience after one year of CrossFit.

Today's post is about my experience after two years of CrossFit.

Well, no, not really.  It's about my experience after 608 days, which, if you remember anything about the planets from about the 3rd grade, does not equal two Earth years.

But if you happen to live on Venus, then I guess I'd have been CrossFitting for almost three years when I wrote this.

Speaking of Venus, did anyone see the Transit of Venus on June 5?  Seriously awesome astronomical event.  If only because of the cool glasses.

Transit of Venus viewers.
And how about that Curiosity Rover?  You know, landing on Mars and all a couple of weeks ago?  That was some pretty cool sh*t.

But back to the point.

608 days.

And a ridiculous picture to go with it.

It's important to wear a nice dress and your best Chucks during a semi-formal CrossFit workout at your gym.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

One Year Ago Today, or the Inconsistent Blogger

Perhaps I'm not meant to be a blogger.  Or at least not a very consistent one.

Part of the reason seems to be the need I feel for every post to be perfect, articulate, and somewhat amusingThat bar is just too high to surmount on a consistent basis, or it is if you're the one inside my head.

Another reason is that I write a lot at work, and by the time I'm home and have some time to myself, often words have left me.

But even another reason is that a little shy of two years ago, I found this thing called CrossFit, which not only became something that completely changed my fitness level and how I think about exercise, but unexpectedly provided a creative outlet for my mind, too.

And so over the past year or so, I've been using the right side of my brain to express some of the changes I've felt and thoughts I've had as I've watched my body and mind evolve through my experiences at the gym.   And my gym, bless it, has been kind enough to share some of these musings on their website.  Below is the first of these, which I would link to if I could still find it on Wildcat CrossFit's website, but it seems to have been lost in the ether during a recent website upgrade.

So here it is, this time with pictures ...

August 2010.  Not fat, but not fit.

One Year Ago Today

10/11/2010 – 10/11/2011

One year ago today, if you'd told me that I'd willingly join a gym and be happy about it, I'd have laughed in your face.  Absolutely no way.  I'm not a joiner.   Never have been, never want to be.

One year ago today, if you'd told me that I'd look forward to working out so much that I'd actually get up to do it before work (and on Saturdays!), I'd have told you you're crazy.  Working out is boring.  I get enough exercise biking to work, plus I like to stay up late and sleep in.

One year ago today, if you'd told me – with the specter of age 40 darkening my doorstep – that I could be in the best shape of my life (including my college rugby days), I'd have said “yeah, right, what're you smokin'?”  We get older, we gain weight, we lose muscle.   The way the universe intended.

One year ago today, my life changed.

Today, one year later, I can lift 100 lbs from the ground to overhead and can jump onto something 34.5” high.   (I'll get 36” yet!)

Today, one year later, while I still weigh about the same, I've lost two dress sizes.  And have had to replace most of my wardrobe because of it.

Today, one year later, I practice push-ups with a 10-lb weight on my back because I HATE PUSH-UPS.   Which means I need to do more of them.

Today, one year later, I'm throwing bags of citrus fertilizer into my truck and thinking “hey, these 20-lb bags are feeling pretty light!”  And then I realize they're 40-lb bags.

Today, one year later, my husband can't keep his hands off me.  (To his credit, he's always loved my body, even when it was 25 lbs heavier and jiggly, but now he's telling me to keep doing what I'm doing because “hon, you're hot!”)

Today, one year later, my diet has changed (not perfect, but getting there), my sleeping habits have changed (not perfect, but getting there), and, holy crap, are those abs!?!

Today, one year later, I'm fit.  I have muscles.  I can open my own jars (mostly).  And the daily activities of life are so much easier because CrossFit has made me strong.  There's no going back, because I've experienced both sides of the fence and this is the side I want to be on, where the grass is greener (for the cows, of course), the people are stronger, the food is better.  Because I'm in the best shape of my life at age 40.  Because I have calluses on my hands and am damn proud of them.  Because being strong is the new black.  And, since I had to replace my wardrobe anyway, I'm all about the latest fashion.

So thank you, Wildcat CrossFit, for the amazing community you've generated.  I'm humbled every day by all of you who sweat and yell and push yourselves to be better, because you're pushing me to be better at the same time.  Thank you Noah, Eric, Jen, Erin, Mike, and Kevin for the motivation you inspire though your thoughtful and dedicated coaching.  I'm constantly learning, constantly striving to perfect my form and get stronger because of you.  And thanks especially to Jenny, who, in coaching me through my first WOD in your backyard, with chickens pecking nearby and kids running around, nearly made me puke but hooked me in that very moment.  I think back to where I was one year ago today, and can't believe how far I've come since then.  You've all changed my life, and I can't thank you enough.

November 2011. A work in progress.