The Run I needed

Today I got in the run that I really needed. I love running and I really do enjoy it most of the time, but sometimes when I am training for a race the monotony just bums me out. This is especially the case here in upstate, NY during the winter when the weather can really limit the running options.

Today my training plan called for seven miles which is fine. That usually means that I will be running the seven mile loop I have worked out in my neighborhood and run countless times. Also, today it snowed all day long. So that means running the same old route, which most days I like, but is just boring upon continuous repetition on the snowy slushy roads trying to keep my footing and also being extra wary of cars driving in the snow. Not really the recipe for a fun and enjoyable run. I realize that every run won’t be fun and enjoyable, but I really felt like I needed on today.

I started to think about running somewhere on the trails. I thought it would be run to run through the fresh snow before it gets packed down and becomes too slick to really run on at all. It was the perfect amount of snowfall to run in just a few inches. It would add a little extra challenge but still be manageable. I started to think of places I could go where no one else would have gone yet and I thought Steege Hill Nature Preserve would be the perfect place.

I was a little nervous going into this run. I haven’t had much experience running on trails in the winter in the snow. I also hadn’t had much experience running on trails at night which it likely would be by the time I was done. I had all the proper gear including ahead lamp for when it got dark. I knew I could handle it and get it done. But it was that nervous excitement of doing something a little bit new and different.

And that is exactly what I needed to do. I needed to remember what it is that made me fall in love with running. It’s the challenge and the adventure that I love, especially as it applies to trail running. I like to be out there doing something new and connecting with nature. I like to challenge myself and do things that I enjoy just because I enjoy them, it’s not all about the training plan. Doing something a little bit different that isn’t exactly what the training plan called for is not just ok sometimes it is necessary. It is not going to ruin my training and it might just save it by keeping me from burning out. I have a long way to go with this training so I will feel free to mix it up from time to time and go off plan to get a little extra joy and you should too.

Feeling Failure

I think one of the biggest challenges in life is that from time to time we all will experience this sense of failure. No matter what we are doing in our lives or how well of we are or how much we are struggling there will be times were we just have this sense of could we really be doing any worse than we are. We will question ourselves. We will wonder if what we are doing is even worth it.

There are so many different facets to life and it is difficult to keep all those things in balance on the best of days. We often times are happy to just keep one ball up in the air let alone all of the balls we are juggling constantly. Sometimes it seems like we are spending our whole lives juggling just trying to keep as many balls in the air as we can, and for what purpose. It can often seem like we aren’t making any progress. Life isn’t getting any better. We aren’t’ reaching our goals. So why oh why are we still trying to juggle all these different balls?

We all have families, friendships, and work lives. We have athletic pursuits and hobbies we enjoy. We have creative dreams we want to realize. We are brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. We are coworkers, employees, and bosses. We are runners, artists, golfers, writers, and explorers. We don’t have to be trying to invent the next big things or create a unicorn start up or save the world to feel the pressures of failing at life. It is there all the time, ever present. We all have something we aspire to. We want to do the things that we value in our life and we want to do them well. No one wants to feel like they are failing.

Yet, all too often that is exactly how we feel.

One of the hardest things about this feeling of failure is that it often stems from things that are currently beyond our control. There are many things in life that are simply beyond our control. Then there are the things that are more within our purview to control and sometimes we just make mistakes. Sometimes we make decisions that at the time seem perfectly rational and then those decisions come back to bite us later in life, but there is nothing we can do about those things in the here and now.

I think the biggest way to combat this feeling of failure is with acceptance. We have to accept where we are in this moment. We have to accept that it might not be where we ultimately want to be but that is ok. We can only live in the present. We can do the best we can to love the life we are living as we are moving through it. It is not going to be perfect but it is the only life we get.

Once we accept where we are in life and that we cannot change our past we can start to deal with working towards where we want our lives to go. And even that is hard, because it will always feel like that life we always envisioned or dreamed of will never get here. And it’s probably true that the imagined life or the ideal life will never arrive, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to get one step closer to that life. We can live life for the things we love. We can live life for the imperfections and we can revel in those imperfections and know that all the mistakes we make give us yet another opportunity to do something else in our lives.

Live life and enjoy it. Accept the mistakes and embrace failure. It is all part of life. We are humans and we are if nothing else failable and we will fail over and over again, but that is what life is all about. Failing and learning from it and learning how to live with it and love it and make life better because of it.

Today I was really struggling and feeling like I was failing and feeling like I should just give up the things that I push myself to do, but then what be left of life. I decided to process my feelings through writing this post.  

Challenges of photographing winter as part time photographer

Winter is a very fickle season. It is especially fickle in regions with a more temperate climate that have changing seasons. Seasons can seem to change overnight. Seasons may seem to change well before it is time according to the calendar. Seasons may even change and then revert to the prior season. Sometimes it can seem like we skip entire seasons all together, with transformation straight from winter to summer and then from summer back to winter. Wait, where did spring and fall go?

A lot of people complain about winter. I enjoy winter. I even enjoy winter photographically. It can often seem like winter offers fewer options for photography, which may be true, but it offers an opportunity to hone ones craft around what remains. The most challenging part of photographing winter is that very variable that makes winter definitively winter and not any other season. That is the snow. Photographing winter without snow is just not the same. So the biggest challenge in a climate where snow may or may not be present or may or may not last even an entire day is being able to get out there and get those photos of the beautiful white stuff.

This is especially difficult as someone who is a pat time photographer who is growing their business. I do as much photography as I can but I still have a day job I have to report to every weekday. There are many days I wake up, look out my windows, and see the white frosting of snow draped over the trees and I just fall in love with my environment all over again. Then I am snapped out of my revelry because I realize I have to go into the office, which for me requires a one hour commute each way, and I will not likely get a chance to photograph that dreamy landscape. It is dark when I get up in the morning and often dark when I get back home during the winter months.

The best time in my opinion to photograph a winter scene is just after the storm when the snow is soft, clinging to the trees and fresh, and undisturbed on the ground. As a photographer that is chasing the dream of a perfect photo in every spare moment I am not in the office it is not very often when I am able to go out right after a storm to take advantage of this scenario. Even worse, in my region the temperatures can fluctuate so much that you can wake up in the morning to nice powdery snow and then arrive home to try to photograph it for thereto only be puddles remaining.

The other photograph I often chase in winter is a snow-filled landscape with a bright sunny sky overhead. This is not something that I am often able to realize with my time crunch and fluctuating temperatures. Either I am not available for photography on the days and times it is sunny or it gets sunny and the snow quickly melts away. I have been able to capture this scenario at times but it is one of my goals to capture this scene in different locations more frequently.

When you have limitations, you have to be able to adapt. I have adapted for my winter photography. While I still chase these other goals, I incorporate other different types of winter photography into my portfolio. Photography of shadows shown against the white background of snow can be interesting. I take close up photographs of smaller parts of a big scene in the snow. Braving the cold and photographing frozen bodies of water can result in some excellent shots. Another option is instead of waiting for the snow to settle and photographing the peaceful aftermath of the storm, go out into the storm and photograph the weather as it is happening. This can create a sense of drama.

No matter how you are able to do it just get out there and create photographs.

In the Beginning: 50 Mile Training

I am half way through week 4 of my training plan with one short run and my first 16 mile run of the plan left for the week. Trying not to stress about the numbers during training this year as my goal race is a long way off and little differences won’t have an impact. I’ve only had one run where I really did not feel like running. Otherwise training has been going pretty well. I am trying to keep a little strength training and yoga in the mix with running.

Recently it has been frigid here in upstate NY and I’d prefer not to run on the treadmill but have been forced to several times already.

It’s been so cold lately that my brain tricked me into thinking 18 degrees seemed relatively warm and I should run outside. It was still crazy cold. I was running harder than I should be for a training run just to get warm and stay warm and ended up setting a 10k PR. That was not the plan. Despite the cold my Boco Gear hat and gloves kept my head and hands warm, however the rest of me could have used another layer. My neck especially could have used more coverage. Luckily its supposed to warm up to above freezing the next few days.

Regular training runs have been going pretty well. Long runs have been fine. I even added in my first round of speed work just for something different and to help me through a treadmill run, which I always dread. Today I ran harder for longer than I have in a while and the run felt pretty good. I probably could have even gone a little faster. Aside from being cold everything was clicking pretty good. Especially since this fast run was not planned at all I will definitely call this last run a small victory on the way to 50 miles.

Best of all I have been fortunate to share many miles with a variety of friends.

2018 Art Goals Review and the Future

My 2018 year in art was interesting. Mostly interesting because of what didn’t happen rather than what did happen. I started off the year with an opportunity to volunteer at a local organization and lead a photography group during an even for them, but I managed to bungle the paperwork process and didn’t get everything submitted in time to be able to be a volunteer at that event. I did eventually get the paper work submitted so hopefully if the opportunity presents itself again then I will be able to volunteer with them.

Below is a list of 8 goals I have for the 2018 year.

  1. Have another art exhibit.
  2. Publish an article without photography.
  3. Publish a photography related article.
  4. Take more portrait sessions.
  5. Photograph more shelter animals.
  6. Teach a photography class.
  7. Gain more support through Patreon.
  8. Write a book.

My number one goal was to have another art exhibit in 2018 and I had those plans already in development prior to 2018 so that made for a cheap and easy goal to list. This exhibit went well. I was very happy with it. I worked with the Tioga Arts Council and presented an exhibit title “A Runners World”. The exhibit featured photography all from my adventures in running. We had a good turnout at the event and I even met a couple of local runners. The only down side was I didn’t sell any artwork from the event. It is possible I will have another exhibit in 2019 as I was talking with an exhibitor in 2018 regarding possibilities.

My two goals relating to publishing article didn’t not go as I had hoped. I wanted to publish more work both photography related and non-photography related in print publications. I began the year writing article and sending out query letters to a wide variety of publishers. Unfortunately I did not make any headway in this process and it became clear to me that maybe publishing my work via this route was not meant to be right now. It is hard work finding publishers and querying them regarding your work. I really wanted to focus on writing and putting my work out there for people more than anything. So to that end I began focusing more on publishing my writing not only here but on my Medium page at https://medium.com/@krnaturalphoto. I have been writing on Medium for a while and I publish some of my content from this website there as well as content that does not fit into my work here. So if you are interested in checking out other types of content I create I strongly encourage you to check out my work there as well.

I have been saying for a while now that I want to get back to photographing shelter animals, however to date I still have not been able to make that happen. I just haven’t successfully found a way to make this work with my photography right now. I love the work there and it means so much to me I am determined to find a way to get back to that work eventually. Even though I did not get in to the shelters to photograph new animals I was able to arrange a fundraiser for our local Chemung County SPCA at one of my favorite local business that are super supportive Four Fights Distilling where we had a feature of my photography on exhibit where any sales of my artwork would result in me donating %50 to the shelter and Four Fights made a donation and the SPCA had adoptable dogs there. The best new from this event is that it resulted in some dogs finding new homes and that is the best news I could have hoped for. So while it was not truly my goal setting out the year I am calling it a huge win for those dogs and my soul thanks to the Chemung SPCA and the support of Four Fights Distilling.

Another big goal I had for 2018 was to start teaching photography classes. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. I planned one class and then I lost momentum and it ended at that. I still have several ideas for classes in the works that I am developing on paper and in my head. This is something that I still want to do but other priorities taking over pushed it to the back burner in 2018. I am hoping to resurrect this goal for 2019. I just need to turn the ideas in my head into action. This is one of my biggest challenges, turning my ideas into actions.

From my first ever solo art exhibit

Patreon is an aspect of my work that I really need to work harder to expand. I see a huge potential future there and I am hoping it is the way of the future for my work. I made small gains there in 2018 and I am hoping to expand it further in 2019. I will probably write more extensively on this topic in the future. Yet another aspect where I have lots of ideas that I need to turn into actions.

The one goal for 2018 that really subsumed everything else and took center stage was writing a book. This has been a huge idea and project growing in my mind. I have made huge strides on this in 2018. I spent some time almost every day working in some fashion on this project. I have a completed query letter to send out, a completed book proposal to send out to interested parties, and I have over 50,000 words of a book written. The book is by no means done but it is far closer than I ever imagined it being. It is to the point where I can almost actually envision it coming into being. It is much more than some dream now. It is almost an actual thing now. However, all the work I put into this book contributed significantly to my other goals not really being realized in 2018, but I think considering how much I accomplished on this front I think I can accept that.

From my first solo gallery art exhibit

So thinking about my book project at the close of 2018 that is where I will pick up with my goals for 2019. I have started to send out query letters to writing agents to find an agent that will help me find a publisher for my book. I have written to and heard back from a few agents already. So far none have expressed interest in my book. I will continue to reach out to agents. If you happen to know anyone who is interested in working with a new author to publish a fun book get in touch with me. So my goal for 2019 regarding the book is to secure and agent and hopefully a publisher for the book, however that may be pushing it. I would also like to complete a rough 1st completed draft of the book by the end of the year. This is my number one goal for the year.

Another goal for 2019 is that even if I do not teach a class  in 2019 I want to write down and formalize my ideas for what types of photography classes I would teach and begin making plans to set up the process for teaching classes.

2017 Joint art exhibit

If you have read about my running goals this goal ties back into my running. I want to spend more time capturing footage of my running adventures. This includes both photography and video. Then I want to use this artwork in my writing and other artistic pursuits.

So my biggest goal for my art in 2019 is that while I am running the running itself is secondary to the enjoyment of nature and creating art while I am out on the trail or otherwise engaged in running. Running allows me to do more with my photography so it is important to me but all the aspects one tends to think about while running like pace, time, and distance are really not relevant to my overall pursuits. I need to put them in their place where they belong and focus on why I am engaged in this activity and that is to enjoy nature and capture it. I want to spend more time recording my running adventure with my cameras and then writing about them. This goes for training runs as well as my races. Everyone wants to do the best they can at a race, but for me I want to focus more on enjoying the experience to its fullest this year. The time isn’t really that important and what really is the difference between a few minutes slower especially if I get more joy out of it and can create more art. It is not like I am winning any races. I am out there trying to have fun. That is their purpose. I need to get back to that simple pursuit. I am planning several races that are new to me this year and should allow me to capture entirely new scenes this year. I will capture scenes of the nature that I am enjoying as well as scenes of my fellow runners who I am blessed to be out on the trail with. I am also running a few races that I have run in the past and natural inclination is to try to run those races faster, but instead I am going to try to run them more joyful than last year. I will likely write more posts about my plans for these events as I clarify more about what I want to do exactly. One thing I really need to get worked out is how I will make my camera gear and running gear mesh for these adventures, but I recently acquired a new running pack that I think will really help.

2017 joint art exhibit

My other big goal for 2019 is to grow my support for my work on Patreon. This will really allow me to create the artwork and complete the projects that I have envisioned. Without support on Patreon I won’t be able to make it happen. I am developing a strategy for this with more details to come soon as I mentioned previously. So if you like what you are reading please support my work for as little as $1 a month to help me bring this work into existence. https://www.patreon.com/KRNaturalPhoto

I am looking forward to what 2019 may have in store. I think it will be really fun to pursue these dreams and make them reality.

2019 running goals

When the new year begins we all feel the pressure to list out our goals and new years resolutions. I typical have lots of goals. They may even have very clear and concrete definitions of success. This year most of my important goals in running are really more about the feel than they are about achieving a specific outcome. 

  1. Enjoy Running More
  2. Take More Photos of Runs
  3. Complete a 50 Mile Race
  4. Run All FLRC Trail Races
  5. Think Big, Enjoy More
  6. Run With My Friends
  7. Don’t Worry About The Outcome
  8. Enjoy The Process

The only two goals I have that really relate to running goals as most people think of them would be to set another half marathon PR and completing a 50 mile trail race. The half marathon PR is so low on the totem pole of things I want to accomplish that it doesn’t even rate high enough to list above. If I achieve it it would be nice but if I don’t it’s not really a big deal this year. My only real competitive type goal is to push myself to even further distances than I have already accomplished and complete my first and maybe only 50 mile race. I am already registered for the race I am running at Finger Lakes 50’s in July. I am excited and at least at this point not too nervous yet. I am about to begin training and this time around the race I ran as my goal race for a 50k last year will be essentially a training run one month out from my 50 miler. And that is where I am struggling right now. Last year I was extremely dedicated to training in a way I had never been before. I think in large part that was because I was taking on something that I had never even contemplated before. Now after completing two 50k’s the concept of going longer doesn’t feel quite as daunting or intimidating. I know that I will live to regret this feeling now if I don’t find the motivation to be dedicated to training like I was last year.

After training seriously for the first time last year and running a lot of solo training runs I felt like I left behind a bit of the fun and enjoyment I had been getting from running. I am looking to regain that fun and train but at the same time not be so serious about it that I let it suck the fun out of things. I am going to try to incorporate more different things to try to not get stuck in the monotony of training and keep the fun factor high.

One aspect of running I had really been enjoying was incorporating my photography into my running. I think I also lost this in part due to training seriously for a big goal race. I am really going to stretch myself to get back to incorporating my photography back into my running the way it should be, the way I love it to be. There have been many things I want to do that I just haven’t done because I put up artificial restrictions around myself. There are pieces of gear I have specifically for running photography that I haven’t even used yet just because I haven’t put in the effort to make it happen. That is going to end this year. I am going to make photographing my running life happen this year. If you don’t want to be in a photo while you are running yo better not run with me. I will be loaded with camera gear as much as possible. I have so many ideas and plans I am hopping to bring to fruition this year. Keep your eyes open for new photography.

A goal I have for this year it to run all the trail races available from one of our areas running clubs. I want to run all of the trail running events that the Finger Lakes Running Club puts on this year. This is something that I just feel like would be a cool experience more than anything else. I have run a few of their events and they are fun and I always see others and just never commit to running them, so I figure if I commit to running them all in the same year it will get me excited and motivated to do it and not just procrastinate which is my specialty. In addition to running all the races, there are several that offer multiple distances and I am planing to run the longest version of each event. This fits right in with my other training and long distance running goals this year so why not, right.

My other goals all kind of tie together. I want to think about the big picture and make sure I am maximizing the enjoyment I get out of the running experience. This means doing what I enjoy. Taking all the photos. Working on photography projects that fit in to my running. And most importantly running with my friends. It is not always possible to work schedules into a time frame so that you can run with your friends especially when you may all be training or not training for different events. This year I am prioritizing making time for my friends. If I have to alter my training plan some, so be it. Making some changes and alterations on’t put an end to my running or make it impossible for me to finish the events that I am planning to run in. But running with my friends will make the whole year of 2019 better even the events where I am not with them. And because another goal of mine is to not worry about the outcome o my races it is a good reason to prioritize having fun with my friends and taking photos because it doesn’t matter what time I run my races in. It is always nice to run a faster time or better race especially at an event you’ve done before but that is not necessarily going to create a more joyful experience overall. I want to soak up every ounce of magic in these running experiences as I can even if it means I am going to run a slower race. I am going to bring as much camera gear as I can manage to bring to each race and I am going to photograph the majestic scenery that I am privileged to enjoy as I run by. I WILL STOP AND TAKE A NICE PHOTO. I am not going to just stop and take a quick shot or rely on my GoPro to capture it. I am going to treat it like my more normal photography efforts and make sure I get a shot that I want and will look back on and be happy. That will help me look back and remember the fond memories as well as share the experience with others. And all of these things are about enjoying the process. I want to put all of these pieces together to maximize the process of running and all of the things I get from it; the friendships, the time out in nature, the time with friends, the photography, the fitness, the way it makes my body and mind feel. I just want to sit back and find the appreciation for all of these things that sometimes I think I take for granted. I look forward to all of this in 2019.

2018 Running goals in review

It’s the time of year where we take a moment to look back on the year that has passed. 2018 brought on a lot of new things for me in running. The goals I had set for myself were the following:

  1. Run a trail marathon
  2. Run my first ultra
  3. Increase my mileage from 2017 – 2018
  4. Run a sub 24 Minute 5k
  5. Run a sub 2 hour half marathon
  6. Learn more about running
  7. Learn more about proper running training

Overall I would say my 2018 year in running was pretty successful. I completed 6 out of 7 goals. The only goal I did not accomplish was running a sub 24 minute 5k. I ran several of what I would call test runs on my own to see how realistic this goal was for me and I performed pretty well. I think this is still a goal that is within my reach, but I just never committed to running an official 5k where I could really put it on the line and go for it all out. To be honest this goal probably was the least important of the goals on my list. It was also a goal that was probably in direct contrast to most of my other top goals, running a short fast race as opposed to running longer races and mostly trying to just survive longer races rather than trying to get faster. I still want to accomplish this but I might need to target a specific race first and commit to training for speed for a specific time frame to really get it done. This is just another thing that I have never really done

My only other speed goal was to run a sub 2 hr half marathon. I was already pretty well on pace for this going into 2018, but I had never really run a race with a time goal in mind and I had no idea how to really approach the event. It turned out ok though and I succeeded in running under 2 hours. I think I will be returning there in 2019 and trying to further push down my PR and I’m hoping now that I have some experience doing that I will be even more successful.

Another goal that I had that is more about distance than speed is to run more miles in 2018 than I did in 2017. In 2017 I ran a little over 1,000 miles. This year I am at 1,425 currently. I don’t think I will break 1,500 this year, so that may be a 2019 goal.

The two goals that were the highest priority for me were about pushing my endurance to run longer distances than I ever thought I would. My goal was to finish a trail marathon and then a trail 50k. I never thought I would want to do either of these things, but when you fall in with the wrong crowd you find yourself swept up in this sense of adventure and desire to see what you can do. I successfully completed both the trail marathon and the trail 50k I had targeted. When I signed up for these races I thought I would likely be one and done for both especially for 2018 if not for ever. Little did I know I would end up running my second 50k later in 2018. Those pesky friends can get you to do anything. It is funny that initially I thought this would be all I would do at distance, but now I am already registered one long race and have more and longer races on my tentative schedule. I’ll talk more about those when I talk about my 2019 goals.

My other two goals were more about learning and knowledge than anything else. I wanted to learn more about the art and science of running and how to perform better. I feel like I learned so much about this topic. I have learned mostly from listening to experienced runners and coaches talking on podcasts. I still know relatively little but I have gained so much and there is always more to learn.I also wanted to learn more about proper training. I learned these lessons first hand as I trained for a race using a training plan for the first time ever. My friend and much more experienced runner put together a training plan for me to follow for my first 50k. It was both scary and amazing. I learned that you can really accomplish a lot when you take it a little more seriously and actually work strategically to accomplish your goals. I credit this training with allowing me to smash my goals including my half marathon PR, completing both my long races, and increasing my yearly mileage. I think the most important thing I learned is how much better you feel when you train properly.I might have completed my goals without the structured training but I would not have felt so good in doing so. I pushed myself harder and faster than ever before at a half marathon and I felt physically better post race than ever before. This is obviously a direct result of being properly trained. I ran my first ever 50k and it was tough. I expected to be completely destroyed and immobile for days, but instead I ran an 8k with my wife the very next day. I would never have thought that this could happen. This is only made possible by being smart and well trained. I could not have accomplished these things without the support of my friends.  

Talking photography, dogs, and life.

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