"...In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or
brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."

~ Anonymous
(taken from Matt Erbele's, It Takes Time to Get Good)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back from Africa: Part 2

One thing that struck me about the animals in Africa is how healthy and beautiful they were. Now that may sound like a strange statement, but if you have ever encountered larger wildlife in the states you may know what I am talking about. When you see a coyote, wolf, bobcat, mountain lion, or bear in the wild they have a very ragged, 'hard life lived' appearance. The animals in the states have to "squeeze" their life and habitat into the sprawl we have created and if they interfere with our sense of safety, or even comfort, they are eliminated.

In Africa, the land is theirs. The ecosystems work as they were intended. There is balance among the members of the food web and all the members seem to thrive. If they cannot thrive they are eliminated, not by humans (usually) but by the natural order. Now, this is not without problems for the people of Africa who often feel the very real threat of living in close proximity to large predators and territorial creatures, but as a biologist there is something truly beautiful about a land where that natural order is allowed to play out, for the most part, without our interference.
Picture: Hubby taking pictures of leopards. My pictures suck! Hopefully hubby will get more processed soon and I can steal his shots!

Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa - Lions

After I recovered from my trip on the Vomit Comet I was able to join my family for the morning game drive. We first set out to find the lions on the giraffe kill. The giraffe had been taken down a couple of days prior. We were told it is unusual for a pride of female lionesses to bring down a full grown giraffe, but this pride is growing in strength and skill and this was their second giraffe kill in as many weeks. The pride is called the Eyrefield pride and consists of 3 adult females and 9 cubs of varying ages. We found the lions still guarding their kill. They were all fat and lethargic from the feast. Warren, our guide, said that they would stay on the kill for 5 days and then move on. When they did, the hyenas and vultures would move in to take their fill of the carcass. Nothing is wasted. There is a perfect order to the use of the energy stored in the giraffe carcass. From the lions down to the dung beetle the beauty and life of the giraffe is not wasted, it is transformed into new life.

Picture: This giraffe was just standing on the side of the trail. They are the most beautiful graceful creatures. When they move it is like they are always in slow motion. Their long lashes give their faces a sweetness that is incomparable. One of the VERY few animal shots I have.
This picture illustrates why you don't use a point and shoot in Africa.

Interesting lion statistics (Biology geek. I can't help myself)

  • Female lionesses weigh on average 125 kg (275 pounds)
  • Male lions weigh on average 180 kg (396 pounds)
  • Lions are the only big cats that hunt and live in groups.
  • The line of white fur under lions' eyes allows for the reflection of any available light into the eye and allows for their superior night vision. There is also a special reflective lining behind the retina, called the tapetum lucidum, that also reflects light to the retina and aids in night vision. (this is the same lining that makes your house cat's eyes glow in all flash pictures, or gives the "deer in headlights" effect on when you see them on the road)
  • Prides are not usually made up of a harem of females and one male, as is often taught. Usually males are in smaller groups called coalitions (typically made up of brothers from the same litter) and as a group they defend a larger territory. They may breed with females from several prides. When a one male is left from a coalition he may join a particular pride to enjoy the protection from other male lion coalitions that is provided by being in a group.


Yesterday, I biked 18 miles, then ran 2.25 miles and later went to my pre-masters swim class. Now I am off to the trail to do some running.

I am MASSIVELY freaking out about the Half IM. I am VERY concerned I will not be able to finish because of my weak cycling skills.


Runner Susan said...

someday i want to visit africa, you are living my dream!

E said...

Africa sounds so amazing.

How much longer before your half IM?

Calyx Meredith said...

Thanks for sharing the info on lions! Lions are fascinating and so much of what we learned in grade school about them is bunk!

I wish I had an anti-freak-out spell or formula or something I could give you!!

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

Welcome home! Your trip is on my list of travels wishes. I can't wait to look at all the pictures.
You will rock your event - even if your cycling skills are weak. You can do it!

Stef0115 said...

I don't blame you for freaking out about Barb's race. I mean you just got back from Africa and are getting back into your training!

However, here is why I think you will finish: 1) you are determined, 2) you have trained (and I seriously doubt you lost fitness while you were gone, 3) you may be more stressed than "normal" right now having just returned from a huge trip. Which naturally means you will freak out!

Are there cut offs? I believe Barbs' race is run at the same time as the full Vineman right? In which case you may have as much time as they have to do the bike/run portions?

You will totally have it in the bag. And I'm NOT just saying that. You will. You totally will!

I wish I could offer you some HIM words of wisdom from my personal experience but . . . I cannot. You will need to offer me some when you finish this thing. :-)

JenZen said...

What an amazing trip! Everything you've written has just been fascinating.

When's the race? I'm sure you do great! Some of my best races were actually when I thought I was the least prepared.

ryc: No - I didn't get into the race in San Fran. I desperately want to do that one. I'm running it here in Louisiana with a group of women at a sponsored location. Thanks for the stomach advise too! It's been trial and error so far.

E said...

My first half is Oct. 19. It's the Nike Womens Half. :)

ShirleyPerly said...

Thank you for the biology lessons! And I think your photos are just fine and, in fact, the one of your husband taking a photo of the cheetah (?) is quite interesting because you see how close he is to the animal (too close for me!).

As for the half, I agree with Stef that you probably have not lost that much fitness at all during your trip. And particularly having read what you went through on that terrible Oly tri, I'm confident that you will finish. But for peace of mind, if I were you, I'd get out for a 40-50 mile bike ride this week or weekend, followed by a short transition run of 2-3 miles. Then do a longer run 8-10 miles the next day. And make sure to practice your nutrition/hydration strategy, esp. while on the bike to keep you going strong as well as to set yourself up for your run. If you're viewing this race as more like a training race rather than one in which you hoping for a peak performance, you won't need a normal 2-3 week taper. An easy week prior to the race should be enough.

Willie said...

You know California is in my heart! Florida is just a fling, it means nothing to me. My soul longs for the western shore. I am so glad you had this life experience. You deserve it, I hope you hold these memories close to your heart forever.

Jane said...

Great photos and great trip!
Don't freak out and try to "cram" cycling or you'll hurt yourself. You've done lots of longer rides. I think you'll be fine from a performance standpoint. Don't freak out - you'll have to take it one mile at a time. Don't think of it as 56 miles; think if it in 3 mile increments, then 1 mile increments. I feel the same way about the run always.

Erin Leigh said...

Loving these posts. It is taking me a bit of time to get through them but I am loving them.

I would love to go there but that little plane stuff scares me to death!!