Category Archives: sports

Skunk Cabbage Half: Race Report

On Sunday 4/8/2018 I ran the Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon. Four months into 2018 I am running my first race. I generally don’t sign up for cold weather races because while I don’t necessarily mind running in the cold I like it to be by my choosing on my terms. I don’t really like to have the obligation of having to run on this day particular day where the forecast is for cold weather. Last year I ran the Skunk Cabbage Half in shorts and a T-shirt and it was so sunny that I ended up with a sunburn by the end of the race.

I realize it is early April and anything can happen with the weather but this year the weather was slightly different. The forecast was for about 30 degrees at the time of the start of the race. So dress was a little different for this race. I was wearing tights and three layers of shirts and a hat and gloves as well. After three miles the sun was actually starting to peak out a little and I felt a little warm and contemplated taking my hat and gloves off. I decided against it as it seemed possible I would just end up having to put them back on later and I didn’t want to have to worry about fussing with things and possibly slowing myself down unnecessarily.

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Keeping the gloves on was the right choice as by mile seven snow squalls moved in and there was on and off snow for the rest of the race. I have run int he snow, but I have never raced in the snow, especially when I am trying to run a fast race for me. At times the snow and wind were blowing right into your face. The snow just driving right into you pelting you and feeling like little ice bullets. It was not even possible to look straight ahead because the snow would literally hit you right in the eyes if you didn’t have glasses on which I did not. This was not a condition I had anticipated. It was snowing hard enough and directionally enough that just one side of your body would be coated in snow. By the end of the race the roads were wet and my feet were wet. It almost felt like I have run a trail race. Running in that kind of weather at a race was a new experience for me and even though I managed it ok, I would prefer not to do it again.

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The next part of the event that I had to navigate for me was my photography. I have been photographing and writing about my running especially my 50k training as a way to document my experiences. This race is in the midst of  my 50k training and was a good opportunity to get a sense of my overall running fitness even though a half marathon is nothing like a trail ultra marathon. I really wanted to have a camera with me to document the race so I could have photograph to accompany my writing. I debated if I should even take a camera with me for fear of using it and slowing myself down and self sabotaging my effort at a goal time at this race. I did end up bringing my GoPro with me and carrying it with me during the race, however I did not take it out and photograph anything until after I crossed the finish line. So all the photos here are after I finished the race.

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And now we come to it. The actual running of the race. How did the race itself and the actual running go for me? The first three miles had me a little nervous. I felt ok but I had a really difficult time settling into a pace. I was either too fast or too slow. I could not get on track. The vast majority of my training has been at a slow pace to build mileage for long distances. It took some mental effort to make my legs move faster. There was a time when I felt good and settled in and then my watch buzzed at me and I checked and I was running a 10 minute mile pace. That is a full minute slower than the pace I needed for my goal. so after that I knew I had to be much more conscious of my pace and really pay attention.

The real challenge to this race is the course itself. It is a relatively hilly course with 500 ft of elevation gain. So it isn’t really possible, at least not for me to plan to just run one steady pace the whole way. There would be times on the uphills I would be too slow and times on the downhills I would be too fast. My goal was to just check in at my mile splits and make sure I was on pace at each mile and adjust accordingly. As it turns out I had only two 1 mile split times where I was over 9 minute miles which is the pace I needed to hit my goal of a sub 2 hour time.

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My previous best for a half marathon was 2 hr 15 min and with all my training the past year I was pretty sure I would beat that relatively easily, baring injury. What I really wanted was not just a PR I wanted that sub 2 hr time.

So can training for a 50k increase your fitness enough that you can PR at a half marathon and hit a new and challenging goal for yourself. The answer for me, a middle of the pack runner, is yes. Improving my overall fitness and endurance through 50k training was enough for me to run a half marathon 20 minutes faster than I ever had previously at an official race.

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I achieved my goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon with a time of 1:55. I ran better than I every expected. More importantly I felt better than I ever expected. This was the best I had ever felt at a race. This is the first time I have ever been working through an official training plan and the benefits are pretty clear. I felt good the whole race. I was even able to speed up for the last three miles. I ran mile 13 at a 7:57 pace. That seems like a near miracle for me and what my running is normally like as far as speed goes. Having enough left in the tank to run that fast at the end of a half marathon is unheard of for me. Usually I am limping across at the finish getting passed by people. This time coming down the stretch I was passing other people. It makes me think I could have actually run a little faster. So maybe the future holds more room for improvement at the half marathon distance for me. But I am extremely happy with this accomplishment and extremely happy with how I have felt before, during, and after this race. I could not have done it without the support of my wife and my friends who have supported me on this journey.

 

STRC Pie and Glove Photography

Thanksgiving morning I photographed the Southern Tier Running Club’s annual tradition, the Pie and Glove 5K. participants in the race receive a pair of gloves and the race winner recieve pies as awards. There were 713 participants plus a great crew of volunteers working to make the race happen.

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Last year was the first time I had photographed this event. I waited at the finish line for the runners to arrive. I photographed them as they were running straight towards me at the finish line. This created head on photographs of people running. I think this resulted in some good photographs.

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However, I don’t like to do the same thing all the time. I wanted this years photos to have a distinct feel to them. As I have been learning and trying to improve my photography I’m learning what things I like and what I think looks better. I think that I like to get some photographs of runners from the side as they run by. I think this shows their effort and motion better than a head on shot. I also really like to find the nicest scenery I can at a location to have in the background for a series of shots. If I can do that I will zoom out and try to capture the runner along with some of the scenery in the shot. I think I was able to find a nice spot at the park to do this during the race.

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My standard gear setup for race photography has me using two camera bodies each with a different telephoto lens on it. One body has a 300mm telephoto lens with a 1.4 teleconverter for added zoom. The other camera body has my 70-200 zoom lens. This works great for standing at the finish line photographing runners as they approach. You can stand there and pick them out from a distance as the finish line is essentially a long straight away so its pretty easy to switch from one runner to the next and photograph everyone. In this method my 300mm lens is usually my primary lens.

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This tim planned on my 70-200 bein my primary lens and I ould switch between that and capturing some shots of more distant runners with my 300mm lens. As it turned out with the relatively short race and large number of runners there was not time to switch between lenses to capture distant and more close up shots. Runners where zipping by with almost no gaps after the first few runners. Taking photos from the side view meant I only had a limited range of time to get a shot of each runner and as I learned it was very quick. I have to get the shot as the runner run by this small strip of land where I am standing. I don’t have an over 100 meter runway within which to capture shots.

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So since I had no time to switch lenses I used my 70-20mm zoom constantly, which lead to my memory card filling up surprisingly fast and unexpectedly. Runners will still streaming by as I fumbled to switch cameras and reposition to a spot where the 300mm telephoto lens was effective at isolating each runner from the crowd and could focus on mor than just the runners head. I eventually got backed up all the way to the finish line and was able to continue photographing all the runners, but I regret the fact that I missed some of the runners.

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Each photography outing is a learning experience. This one more so than most. I really liked the location where I shot the race from. Not too far from the finish. A spot where the likely winner was mostly established. I could see the finish line. Runners were about as spread out as they would get. It was also a spot with some decent scenery for the background. So for next year I will plan to not use my 300mm lens for this race and instead I will use either my 60mm or 50mm lens on my second camera body. This way I will have multiple lenses that will allow me to shoot similar types of photographs like I am aiming for.

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If you would like to see the photographs that I took of the race check them out here and consider buying a print or download: Southern Tier Running Club 2017 Pie and Glove 5K. Let m know what you think of the images. These are all the unedited images from the race. So there are plenty of bad shots in with the good ones. Be kind.

If you appreciate the work I do you can also support my work for as little as $1 a month on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/KRNaturalPhoto The higher level you support at the more rewards you are eligible for. Thank you for your support.

STRC Pie and Glove 5K

I spent Thanksgiving Morning volunteering at the Southern Tier Running Club Pie and Glove 5K. I photographed the event for the organization and posted the photos online for all the participants to see. Here are a few that I liked.

Red Baron Half Marathon

The last race I ran was the Wineglass Half Marathon in early October. The next race I was planning to run was the Red Baron Half Marathon in early November. In the month in between I was focusing on recovering from some minor nagging injuries and getting over a bad cold. So, my running was not what I would have liked it to be. I was already anxious about running Red Baron because I have never run on terrain like (Hills) that for that long of a distance (13.1 miles).  I was very concerned about those hills. With the encouragement of my friends at STRC I lead a group run to practice the first 6 miles of the Red Baron course which is where most of the hills lie. After the practice run I felt like the hills were doable for me. I felt a little relief. In the days before the race doubt began to creep in once again. In the time between the two races I never ran anything longer than 8 miles. I was not sure I would be able to sustain my effort for the whole race. Everything about this race was different for me. Different terrain. Different start time. Different needs for pre-race food consumption. It had me very unsure about just about everything. My mind kept cycling between maybe I could PR or maybe this will be my worst half marathon distance run yet.

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On race day I was already a step ahead of the game from my pre Wineglass experience as I had remembered my headphones and remembered my battery for my camera, both of which I forgot at Wineglass. When you are a both a runner and a photographer you try to figure out ways to take photos of your races thus the camera and battery. I was at the race venue and feeling good. The weather was great. I was relaxed and able to meet up with some friends, chat, and feel relaxed. I was recruited to take a few photos pre-race by STRC. Thanks Scott. That helped me take my mind of the race. I was ready to go.

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As the race started, I began at the back of the field since I had been taking photos. I found this disconcerting for some reason, even though it’s a fine place for the pace I run. For the first several miles I felt pretty good. Maybe too good. I began to think I went out too fast, so I slowed down some and found a friend to run with and talk to for a little while. The hills rolled by. On the largest hill of the bunch it was tougher on me than I would have liked but I did not succumb. I was able to surmount the obstacle without feeling like I gave too much of myself and depleting my reserves.

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The second half of the race was what I was hoping would be the fun part for me. It consists of a lot of downhill which I actually enjoy. To my surprise it was not as easy as I would have liked. By miles 7 and 8 I was feeling pretty tired. I could tell I was slowing down already. Maybe I did go out to fast after all. All the second thoughts and doubts were getting to me. By mile ten I was feeling the pain. My hips were tightening up and I was doing anything I could to just try to stretch them out. I would occasionally check my pace and seeing how much I’d slowed down try to push myself for just a little more speed. I didn’t have any left though. As I was crossing the bridge back the school I could barely lift my feet off the ground. I almost started walking, but I knew I was so close, I knew I could make it. I pushed on at a run, however slow at that point. At the bottom of the bridge my friend from earlier in the race that I ran with caught back up to me, as I thought she might. She pushed me and challenged me to give this last stretch all I had. She challenged me to sprint through to the finish, so we did. Or at least I tried.

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I didn’t run the race I had hoped for or finish with the time I hoped for. But I also did not run the race I feared or the time I feared.

The race was a great event put on by a great organization and a stellar bunch of volunteers. I had a great time with the challenge and I will be back next year to take it on again.

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Don’t want to run? Run anyway.

I went to bed last night planning to run in the morning. I woke up this morning and I did not feel like running. I was able to convince myself I was going to run and get my gear on to get out the door. As I was going out the door I was obviously going to run but I didn’t really feel like I was going to have a good run. I was in the mindset that I was just going to go out and get a run in. I was thinking that I was just going to run a nice easy coasting run. I just wanted to get the miles to keep my body in tune.

After I started running at about 1/4 – 1/2 mile I realized I actually felt pretty good. I was cruising along pretty well. My legs felt good and my mind felt good. It felt like a good run was in progress. I wasn’t running for a particular pace. I was just going to run my normal approximately 5k distance I run from outside my house up on Mt. Zoar. I know the route and the distance it covers so I never even looked at my watch. I like to run these runs by feel.

When I got done running and stopped my watch (My brand new Garmin Forerunner 230 by the way.) I was pleasantly surprised to see the readouts. I ran a sub 29 minute 5k which is pretty good for me. I ran a 9:18/mi pace which is pretty fast for me. The fact that I had such a good run when I didn’t feel like even running it made me vary happy that I had forced myself to run. I had overcome the psychological hurdle that was trying to prevent me from running.

When you don’t feel like running, run anyway. You might surprise yourself. You just might have one of your best runs yet. Once your feet hit the road your mindset can shift and your body can shift and you become the runner you know you are.

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