2019 Hyner Training Run

In 2018 a group of my friends were all registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge in PA. I was not registered for the race, but had heard my friends talk about it. I was interested in the event and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. So I joined them for a group training run at Hyner to run 14 miles of the 16 mile course. It was really not the best day for a long hard run and certainly not the best day to be encountering the challenges of Hyner for the first time.

Now this year I am registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge. Once again myself and a couple of friends are making the trip down to PA for a training rung on 14 miles of the Hyner Course. It was a fairly typical cold winter day for our region, but it was made to feel even more frigid after enjoying multiple days of warmer weather including two days of 60 degree weather the previous two days. Then the floor dropped out of those temps and 24 hours later we were back to subzero temps in the morning with a high of mid 30’s. Luckily at least we had sunshine today.

Climbing up Humble Hill is no joke. The exertion level is high no matter what pace you are going. Despite the exertion raising body temps and the nice sun shining above the wind combined with the chilling temps to make it feel quite cold especially on the last quarter of the climb. It is cold and difficult but the view from the top makes it all worth it. It was still pretty windy and cold at the lookout point so it is not easy to stick around too long, but I hung out long enough to capture a few photos.

After that climb you switchback down the side of the mountain into the valley and you encounter the first of what will be many stream crossings. We stopped here to eat something quickly and drink some water. It was also a great spot to take some photos. I had brought my small Nikon camera with me and decided to get that out again and immediately proceeded to drop it on the rocks damaging the lens. Now that camera was out of commission for the rest of the trip after only about 3 miles. Not what I had in mind.

The next section is relatively flat but littered with so many stream crossings that you cannot really keep track. The freezing cold water from the snow melt doesn’t help either. Being that it was  a training run and not a race we decided to pick out way across the streams and try to keep our feet dry-ish as much as possible, but this is simply is not possible in places. You have to take on that freezing cold water. By the end of the stream crossings your feet are numb.

After the stream crossings you start another ascent. If you thought climbing meant no more water, you’d be wrong. On this climb you essentially climb up a stream bed as the water pours down the hillside and over your feet. After another descent you climb again and eventually reach SOB and whose name is well deserved. Then you reach the most moderate section of the entire course. There is some times spent at a relatively flat section on top of the mountain and then you have a long not too steep decent back into the valley. 

The most interesting aspect of this training run was the snow. Last year we ran in February. No snow. This year we are running in mid-march, nearing spring and there was quite a significant amount of snow especially on the second half of the course. I was hoping the snow would be melted. I am really hoping that the snow is melted by race day. It made the course interesting and was great for photos, but it did make for some slower going if for no other reason that just to be careful and make sure you had good footing.

Like many runners I use Strava to track my runs. One of the features I do really enjoy on Strava is the segments. When you run in an area where there are a lot of segments that have been created it allows you to pretty easily see how your performance has changed, hopefully for the better from run to run. There are a lot of segments that have been created for Hyner. I was happy to see that Strava had notified me of 12 achievements. Many of these achievements were 2nd best times on a segment which in this case doesn’t mean anything since it was only the second time I have run here. But there were several segments where I had PRs meaning that I ran better than last year. This was really good news to me because we really felt like we were taking it easier and not pushing too hard on this training run. So the fact that our perceived effort level was lower but we were actually faster on a lot of segments indicates to me that our physical conditioning has improved from our training over the past year. Hopefully this will translate to a nice strong run at the race in just over a month. 

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Ultra Training: Speed

Training for my first 50 mile race continues. I have several races built in as more serious training runs essentially prior to my 50 mile race. I “planned” other races into my training before I reach my date with a 50 miler, but I will admit most of them were not particularly strategic. They are more that I just want to run that race. 

I am a little under a month away from the first race of my race season. My first race is a road half marathon. It will probably be my only half marathon and possibly my only road race. This will be the third time I run this particular half marathon, Skunk Cabbage Half. I have enjoyed this race in the past and I ran a PR there last year and achieved my goal of my first sub 2 hr half marathon. This year I would like to PR again. PR’s at half marathons have really been my only time goals at races these days. To that end I have been trying to be much more consistent and attentive to doing speed work during my training plan. I had speed wok on my training plan last year but I would not say I took a very good approach to it. Most of my gains in speed have simply come due to consistent running not by any specific strategy.

So far during this year’s training I have seen significant improvements in my speed at the 10k distance. I never really thought of this distance as on I could show much improvement in as I did not feel I had the stamina to run hard that long. I have generally focused on running longer and farther not necessarily faster over the last several years. My runs have been long but relatively slow. Earlier in the year on a cold wintry day I found myself running hard for my entire run because I was simply freezing cold and running hard was the easiest way to stay warm and also get done faster and get home and get warmed up. On that run I ended up running a 10k PR. Then I started incorporating speed work into my training plan. I decided to use fartlek’s as my speed work because I am not well versed in speed work, as in I basically no nothing about speed work, and fartlek’s seemed easiest to understand and easiest to implement. I decided to run 1 minute fast 1 minute rest fartlek’s for 4 of my miles on either 6 or 7 mile runs with a warm up mile in the beginning and at least 1 mile cool down at the end. Since I started that routine I have achieved multiple PRs at the 10k distance. Also depending on which running app you subscribe to Garmin or Strava I either PR’d or ran my second fastest time at the 5k distance on my most recent speed work, with the difference in times between the two apps being only 1 second.

To be clear I am not a particularly fast runner. I am very much a middle of the pack runner if not back middle of the pack depending on the race.  But it is very nice to see these added benefits of speed work really showing up in measurable visible ways on my training apps. It really helps me to stay motivated and keeps my drive up to stick with these hard speed workouts. I have never really done much speed work and these are definitely some of the hardest workouts I have ever done. It is really easy to stop doing something hard if you don’t feel like you are getting results. I am glad to be seeing these results or I would be very tempted to give up on the speed work.

I am looking forward to seeing how this new emphasis on speed work translates to my first race of my season at my only race with a time goal at this point. Hopefully it results in another half marathon PR.

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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.

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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.

Talking photography, dogs, and life.

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