Backyard Nature

Spotted this guy on the sidewalk yesterday when I was sitting on the porch reading. I think it’s a mole kingsnake, but I’m not positive. It was about 15″ long. It had just started swallowing the frog when I first saw it.  By the time I ran in the house and grabbed the camera only the legs were left showing. You can see the bulge about 1/3 the way down his body in the second picture. After finishing dinner he crawled off the sidewalk and down into a hole next to one of our azalea bushes. Mole kingsnakes spend most of their time underground, so the behavior fits.

This moth is much more striking in person. I couldn’t get a picture that did it justice. I think it’s a tiger moth.

A brown headed nuthatch. Very common in NC. I had never seen one until we moved south.They are at the feeder every day.

The ubiquitous tufted titmouse.



Call the Sheriff

My running is coming along. I’ve run 7+ miles the last two times out. Even put some strides at the end to see if there is any leg turnover – there isn’t. Oh well. One of my friends said he saw me doing “wind sprints”. What I do these days certainly cannot be classified as sprinting.

Today’s run had an unexpected rest stop when I was nabbed for trespassing. Yup, I blew right through a sign that clearly said I didn’t belong. I was on a great dirt road that I’ve been using down here for years. Recently they put up “No Trespassing” signs. Sometime in the not too distant future they are going to sell more lots and develop the area. Right now it’s vacant except for a couple of big piles of dirt. Today there was a construction foreman back there, I guess checking out the dirt piles. Anyway, he and I had a little chat. I told him the “No Trespassing” sign was silly and he told me his orders are to call the sheriff if he finds criminals like me back there. I just kept giving him my “ah shucks” smile and talking about how nice a place it was to run. By the time we were done conversing I had won him over; he told me the next time I ran through I could pick a couple of the tomatoes and peppers they were growing next to the dirt pile.

Once a Captain, Always a Captain

When thinking back through all the years of coaching there are a few athletes who always come to mind first. Early in my coaching career I was very fortunate to have co-captains who not only made my team better, but more importantly taught me  the importance of good team leadership.

Both are married now, each with three children. Chris Reilly has a PhD in some kind of engineering. Tim Peters went to the Merchant Marine Academy and now works for a major shipping company. Tim sent me an email recently with his latest running exploits. He recently ran the Colchester Half Marathon. Tim is working his way back into serious running shape, entering the race with the goal of running 1:48. Early on he got caught up in a pretty brisk pace, paid for it a little at around the ten mile mark, then finished strong in 1:43:51 placing him 198 out of 1097 finishers.

Last year Tim led a small contingent of five runners from his office in a Corporate 5K. This year he is captain (not a surprise) of a team of twelve runners which the company is officially sponsoring. It’s great for an old coach to hear the captain is still leading fellow runners into competition.


The Miles of Hope 5k and 1 mile kids' race has become a staple on the MHRRC calendar. Lori Decker, who has a heart of gold so pure you can't even put a carat rating on it, is the director. With the help of her volunteers and support of the MHRRC this is always a great race. This year they had  363 finishers in the 5K and 46 in the 1 mile. John Jay had some representation with Ryan Joyce ( taking off from his busy cycling and duathlon racing schedule to take second overall in the race in a time of 18:12. Kyle McCloskey, the youngest member of the running McCloskey clan finished 5th overall in 19:46. Momma Claire McCloskey finished 110th in a time of 31:21.

Beware the Shortcut

There is something about shortcuts that makes them hard to resist. It doesn't seem to matter what you're doing, it's just hard to resist looking for an easier/quicker/shorter way to do things. It even happens in golf. There is a Par 4 on one of our courses where, if you're playing from the senior tees, you can cut the corner over or between a couple of trees and land on the green in one. It's not a shortcut most golfers should even attempt. I was playing one day with the best golfer in our community and watched him accomplish this feat. The other day I was playing the course from the senior tees for the first time in quite a while. Standing on the tee box I remembered what the aforementioned great golfer had done and decided to give it a shot.

Now the thing with shortcuts is, they always have a downside. The downside in this particular situation is the beautiful home that sits just to the left of the two pine trees you need to aim at. Being of no mind and sound body I took a mighty swing and watched my shot arc toward that beautiful home. I lost site of it in the air and held my breath waiting for the sound of breaking glass. When it didn't come I turned to one of the guys I was playing with and asked where my ball had gone. "Over the house." OK, that was good, except there was a house right behind the one I had gone over. I hit a provisional shot and headed out to see if any damage had been done. As good fortune would have it, the second house was brick. We came around the corner and there was my bright yellow ball up against the foundation – right below a window. It sure was tempting to keep right on going straight to my second ball. My conscience won out. It turned out I had gotten lucky a second time. The window was intact, no damage done and a lesson learned. Well, maybe.


The toughest year I ever ran Boston was 1982, the year that Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley ran "The Dual in the Sun". It was a totally cloudless day, with temps getting up to around 70-degrees. In those days the race started at noon, so we ran the bulk of the race in the heat of the day. For whatever reason I managed to survive the heat pretty well, which meant I was passing people steadily over the second half of the race. That year I finished 351st. The next year, under almost ideal conditions, I ran four minutes faster, but finished over forty places further back in 393rd.

Those conditions were gentle compared to what the runners had to contend with this year. One of my buddies, John Dean, sent me this comment: "I've never been more wet in my life with all of the water bottles, cups, hoses, etc. available during the race, but it still wasn't enough to overcome the heat.   Body just runs inefficiently in 80+ temps.   However it was fun because you felt like you were a part of some sort of "epic" survival drama.    Crazy stuff."

John Jay had three finishers that I know of. Liam Harrison ran an amazing race under those conditions, finishing under three hours in a time of 2:58:08. Laura McCloskey flew across the country to run and ran a very smart, even paced race. She finished in 3:54:53. Sally Briggs, who is also doing lots of triathlon training, finished in 3:48. All three of them had trained very hard for Boston and were ready to run much faster than their finishing time. That's one of the downsides of running a marathon. You can spend months doing everything right. Then the weather is crazy and it all goes out the window.

John Jay Updates

I got an email from Kara Tucker today. This former 400-meter runner ran her first 10K yesterday. She covered the distance in just over 54-minutes. Congrats!!! Here's a link to Kara's blog, with some kind words about the "old coach".

This year's Wappinger's Sports Hall of Fame induction is now less than a month away. As I've mentioned before there are a dozen former John Jay track and cross country runners entering the Hall of Fame this year. Pretty amazing. I'm not sure how many are going to be able to attend as some of them are scattered pretty far around the country. Not quite as far as two recent inductees, Tom Haimelin and Jennifer Ueland Piccolo who are in Hong Kong and India. I do know that Kelly McCloskey will be flying in from California. I'm really looking forward to this mini-reunion and getting a chance to see all the athletes who attend.

Note to athletes who are going to be in town. My son Josh is directing a 5K race on Sunday, May 13 at Vassar Farms in Poughkeepsie. If you are interested in a race while you're in town for the induction ceremony, here's the link:


This Coopers Hawk and its mate have discovered that my bird feeders are a nice feeding station for them. They recently built a nest in the woods right behind our house and are now using our bird feeders as their hunting grounds. You can see some of the feathers from the bird she is eating just below her feet on the limb. I'm conflicted as to what to do. It's kind of neat to have this pair of Accipiters right in our back yard. On the other hand it seems almost cruel to put out seed for birds who then become dinner themselves when they arrive to eat. If the hawks would stick to the doves it would be great. The thing is, they will eat anything from chickadees to pheasants.