Giant boulders that have been rend asunder in the Adirondacks totally fascinate me.
Giant boulders that have been rend asunder in the Adirondacks totally fascinate me.
When I decided that along with some of my friends we were going to try to run our first 50k this year we initially only planned to do one. Then during the process of training one of my friends training for our first 50k with me mentioned that there was another 50k later in the year that she was considering doing. That sounded potentially fun and something we could possibly do if we felt like it after our first 50k and we still had any interest in running that distance. Over time the idea of running a second 50k this year just kinda fell by the wayside. After our first 50k we never really discussed it.
Then my other friend who ran our first 50k together this year mentioned to me about one and a half months ago that she was thinking about running the other 50k we had talked about previously. And that is all it took. I was in for a second 50k. And that is how I ended up running the Water Gap 50k from Red Newt Racing. All it takes is that one friend who is a bad influence and you get sucked right into another race.
I did not have a particularly good summer of running leading into training for this race. I had no idea what to expect for this training cycle or race. I had battled a lot of soreness over the summer, but I was ready to add in some miles and see how things went. I basically just ran normally during the week and added one long run in at the end of the week. Because of our condensed training time, we only decided to commit to this about a month and a half out from the race we added two miles to our long run each week with no decreases in mileage along the way, just a constant increase in miles. The only week where there was a decrease in miles was the week before the race where most people would taper and for the taper I rested most of the week and then another tough trail race, the Green Monster Trail Challenge 25k which has over 3000 ft of elevation gain. So not really a restful taper. We don’t really do things by the book around here.
Our goal for this race was to finish the 50k in under six hours. I really had no idea what to expect from this race particularly with the condensed training, but after all our long run results we felt pretty confident that we would be in good shape.
I prefer to run in cooler weather, so I was pretty happy as the race approached and the forecast was showing that it would be cooler than the week before. What I was not prepared for was sleeping in a tent overnight in the nearly freezing cold temperatures and then starting only my second 50k race at those same nearly freezing cold temps. That was a little bit of overkill on the, I hope it is colder than last race, wish-fulfillment. But it was still better than being too hot.
This was a very different type of race for me. The course was relatively flat and relatively straight. I have never run a road marathon before (However it looks like that will change next year.) so running 31 miles on flat straight terrain was new to me. I always feel like the constantly changing course of most trail runs benefit my legs by constantly changing my stride and that keeps my muscles from tightening up, but with this course my stride was mostly the same the whole way. I think the combination of that factor and the cold made my hips especially very tight and uncomfortable for most of the race. Even in the beginning when I should have felt good. There were points during the race where we were wishing we could just do a little climbing, something that anyone who knows me knows I never say. We just wanted to break stride and activate some other muscles. I usually love downhill running and there were some very nice little downhills in the beginning of the course that I enjoyed, but by the second half of the race what downhills there were I couldn’t really enjoy because I was too stiff and tight.
Despite all the challenges of training for and then running this race we were at the half way point and pretty sure that unless something catastrophic happened we would be able to make our time goal. During the second half of the race we spent a lot of time doing mental calculations and figuring out how much time we could afford to give back as we got more tired and the wheels started to come off. We would have to run about seven miles farther than our longest training run so one never really knows how it will go. I also spent our training runs trying to work out a new fuel strategy which I never really figured out and then made some unwise choices for pre-race meals the night before that lead me to completely abandon what I was planning to do for fuel that had worked on my previous 50k. Instead I ran the whole race on gels and tailwind until the last aid station where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was calling my name. It was the first time I felt like eating any solid food other than M&M’s.
We slowed down significantly in the second half of the race but did succeed in finishing under our time goal at 5 hrs and 47 min.
The course was a really nice course and had the opportunity to be gorgeous, but the freezing temperatures and cloud cover most of the day made it hard to enjoy the scenery. There were a few burst of sunlight peaking through the clouds to brighten things up, however when you are in the middle of a 50k those only serve to heat you up more than you would like. A lot of the course is run on a nice wide gravel trail with trees on one side and an open field on the other side. Those sections are primarily flat. I really loved the sections of the course when you are running through the woods. Some of those sections were more technical and had more elevation changes to them. The woods, the technical trail, and the elevation changes are all thing s I love in the sport of trail running. There were some nice sections where you run pretty close to the river, which again would have been a little nicer if there wasn’t complete cloud cover. My favorite part of the race was a section where you are in the woods and you drop down across a short but relatively steep decent that is narrow and drops off to both sides and then when you get to the bottom you pull a U-turn and go back the way you came at a completely different elevation level and you enter this section of the woods that is like a small twisty canyon for a second. Its kind of narrow and wooded. When I got to that spot I was just like, wow this is why I do this.
Another aspect of this race that I could not possibly oversell is the fact that myself and two of my friends ran the race and then two more friends crewed us at the race the whole time. I ran the entire race with my friend who talked me into running the race. I have never before run an entire race with someone before, that was a nice experience and if nothing else it makes the concept of a race less stressful. Its more like just another long training run with your friend. I highly recommend that if you are going to run an ultra and can make a weekend with your friends out of it, do it. You will not regret it.
At this race I again tried something a little bit different. I only shot video with my GoPro’s and no photos. I then used my software to extract photos from the video. I am not happy with the results of those photos. The photos did not turn out as well as I would have hoped. After these last two races I will go back to some of my methods I have used in the past. This is what happens when you are always pushing the limits and trying new things. Sometimes things don’t go as well as you would like.
I was recently in the Ithaca area getting some trail running in. Post run I went to Buttermilk falls to relax and do some writing. Then I decided what better way to cap off the days trip than to hike down into the gorge and photograph one of my favorite natural places. My knees did not enjoy this post run decision, but I took my time and enjoyed myself and captured some nice images. Enjoy.
Last year the Southern Tier Running Club launched its first trail running event. I was so excited for this and I had to participate by running in the first ever STRC trail race. This year the STRC is launched its second brand new Trail Running event: Trail Fest at Pinnacle. I was equally excited for this event as well. I love seeing our running club grow and provide more events for our members and the rest of the running community. I did not run this event. I was able to be part of it in a different way.
I started off the day volunteering and helping with race day set up. We had a great crew of volunteers out there making this event happen many of whom put in countless hours before race day. The Trail Fest at Pinnacle consisted of two races. The event kicked off with a 3.5 mile race and then that would be followed by a 7 mile race. Runners had the option of running one or both races.
As start time for the 3.5 mile race began I took on a different roll. I would be providing race photography for the event. I was able to secure a ride out onto the race course to where I was ensured by our club member who designed the course that I would be able to capture some great images. He was right. It was a great spot. I was able to capture great still photos as well as time lapse footage and long video of the entire race. The best part for me as a photographer was that this location was where the 3.5 and 7 mile courses converged. So I could photograph the 3.5 mile race and then only readjust my set up a little bit and reposition and be able to photograph the 7 mile race without really even having to move much at all. I appreciated this aspect even more as the temperature rose to over 80 degrees.
Although I loved this location for photographs I am not sure the runners appreciated me being there. For each race I was at the top of a tough climb. I am pretty sure some of the runners wanted to curse at me. No one really wants there photo taken as they struggle up a climb, but for me as a photographer it allows me to show what trail running is really about. It is about the grit and determination it takes to climb those elevation gains that others would avoid. It’s not always fast or fun but grinding out those miles with effort is what makes trail running the sport I love and other people love as well. Photographs might not be traditionally “good” photographs (My thoughts on that here: What IS a “good” Race Photo) but they show the amount of effort runners are putting into the course.
This year has really been about trying to add new dimensions to my race photography and many of the races I’ve photographed this year have allowed me to do that because of the way they were structured. This one was no different. Never before have I shot such long segments of video and time lapse footage at the same time as photographing a race. Never before have I secured a camera to a tree in order to record video from a different angle. I love being able to do different things for race coverage. I hope other people enjoy the variety of things I provide from races as well. As I am still processing the photographs from the race this post includes some of my favorites so far. Enjoy. I’d love to hear any feedback you have.
I went on a 10 day camping trip to the Adirondacks. I reserved campsites at two different campgrounds because I couldn’t get 10 days straight at one site. That is the extent of the planning I did for this trip. I had lots of ideas running through my mind of what I wanted to do, but I did not actual planning of what I was going to do or when I was going to do it. I am not the kind of person that needs to have an itinerary of my day planned out or me on trips, but generally I do plan when I am going to do big things during a trip. But for this trip I didn’t even know what the big things I was going to do were. I was just going to wing it and have a nice relaxing trip. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.
The more I thought about this trip leading up to it the more I thought about all the things I could possibly do during a 10 day trip to the Adirondacks. While I did not plan out specific details I knew in general what I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. So that lead me to reason 1 that I decided to camp at Meadowbrook Campground. It was the closest state campground to the High Peaks region as far as I could tell. So I would have less traveling. This worked out perfectly because I really didn’t’ have to drive far at all for any of the hiking I did even when I was outside the High Peaks region. Reason 2 I chose Meadowbrook Campground was that it had a trail that lead directly from the campground out into the forest and up a mountain. I figured I could run or hike that as much as I wanted with no travel involved at all. In my mind I figured I would be on that trail repeatedly. In reality I only accessed the trail one time and that was for my one and only trail run during the trip. I think this was in large part due to the fact that the mountain had no view at all. When I imagined it I thought it would be perfect for hiking up in the evening and watching the sun set, but since the mountain summit was completely forested there would be no watching of sunsets. Reason 3 for choosing to camp at Meadowbrook Campground was that it was only 4 miles from Lake Placid and I reasoned that would allow me to literally run into town any time I wanted. I wouldn’t even need to drive if I wanted to go to town. Running 8 miles in a day has become something I do regularly. Turns out I never did that at all, and I was kind of surprised as to why.
I purposefully chose to go on this trip alone. I have camped alone before. I enjoy a certain amount of solitude. It is peaceful and relaxing to me. However, it turns out that going to a small relatively bustling tourist town, Lake Placid, alone is not peaceful for me. It is the exact opposite. It was extremely anxiety inducing. I don’t know if it is because I am generally an introverted person or what but wandering around this small town amongst the other tourists was very stressful for me. I could not relax. The only things I did while I was there was go to REI and a bookstore to look for trail maps and was not relaxing at all that made things worse, go down to the park by the lake which was better than being on the strip with all the businesses, and go to the small art gallery. The art gallery was the only place in Lake Placid where I felt relaxed and calm. I love the art scene and was able to just relax and enjoy the artwork. I only stayed in ton about an hour and a half and did not return. I learned there is a very big difference between solitude and being alone in a crowd.
I imagined so many things that I could do on this trip: Run up mountains, Hike a mountain every day, Trail running, Photography, Read books, Write, Relax, Nap in my hammock. While I don’t need plans I think that I left my possibilities so wide open that even making a decision as to what to do was anxiety evoking at times. Sometime making the decision of what to do when you can literally do anything is the hardest thing to do of them all. I did manage to fit a little bit of everything into my trip but not as much of any one thing as I imagined I would.
I ran up a mountain. I hiked up 7 mountains. I did a little road running. I read 2 books cover to cover and started a third. I spent some time writing my book. I sat around relaxing. And best of all I took many naps in my hammock at whatever time of day I felt like it. I even slept in it out under the stars one night. A funny side effect of having so many things you would like to do and the very real possibility of doing them all is that you then have to pack like you might do any or all of them. And you have to pack like you might decide to do that one activity a lot if you want to be able to do it whenever you want as much as you want to. There was a real possibility that I would decide to hike every day or that I would run every day. Those two activities require certain types of gear and most importantly proper clothing to enjoy them. I literally packed just about all my running clothes and all my regular summer clothes which at this point are hiking clothes. I think I had one duffle back full of regular clothes and a separate one of the same size of jut running clothes. I give a lot of my friends grief for having a lot of running shoes, but I also have a lot of shoes. They are all just very task specific shoes and some of which I have had for a long time. I literally took a garbage bag full of shoes on this trip. I took multiple pairs of hiking shoes, road running shoes, trail running shoes, casual shoes, and a pair of sandals. It doesn’t help the packing situation when you have size 14 feet either.
Also, in case you haven’t noticed the photographs accompanying this post I am also a photographer. This trip presented a plethora of photographic possibilities. I wanted to be prepared for them all. I would not want to be caught without a camera and miss out on a good photographic opportunity due to being unprepared. I have a bunch of gear but not all gear is suitable for each type of situation. I packed 2 DSLR camera bodies, 4 DSLR camera lenses, 2 mirror less camera bodies each with their own lens, 2 GoPros, 2 small tripods, and other assorted gear. If I am going to be running I need a camera I can carry and access while I am out running so a GoPro or small mirror less camera. If I am hiking up a mountain I probably will only be able to bring one camera body and one lens with me. If I am hiking a flat trail I have many more options available and could carry multiple camera bodies and multiple lenses plus additional gear.
The purpose of this trip was to get out of the daily routine, to stop being stuck in a rut and just relax and enjoy life. I wanted some freedom. What I learned is that even if you have the freedom to do anything you want, you still can’t do everything that you want. Even on a trip with no limits on free time. No constraints. No plans. A trip where I was completely in control of what I would do. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things one might want to do. Even over a 10 day trip. The depressing thing about that is, if there is not enough time to enjoy all the things one might want to do when we have the freedom to just do it how in the world are we supposed to find time to do the things we love when we have all the time constraints that daily life places on us. I am not sure what the answer to this is. I feel like it has something to do with take time out of every day to do one thing that you love. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. It doesn’t matter if it is accomplishing a monumental task you never thought you would get done or doing some tiny seemingly insignificant thing. It doesn’t matter if it is extraordinary or mundane. Do what you love and love what you do. Find time and find peace in that.
I didn’t do all the things I imagined I would on this trip but I grabbed every minute of peace and joy I could and I embraced it with no regrets and it was a great trip.
This portion of my trip was very different than the other parts of my trip. Most of my trip was about exploring and doing new things. Visiting Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center was not something new. I had been here on a previous trip to the Adirondacks and I loved it there. That is precisely why I came back.
After my tough hike up Cascade and Porter Mountains I knew I still wanted to hike at least one more high peak mountain and I wanted it to be a longer hike. I thought it would be best to take a day in between as a relative rest day. I wanted to have fun and enjoy myself but not completely wear myself out so I could not rest and relax and enjoy other aspects of my trip. When I explored the area nearby on my first day there I saw a sign for Paul Smiths which was kind of surprising. I didn’t realize Paul Smiths would be near where I was. So when I decided I wanted to have a more relaxed hike and be able to enjoy nature I didn’t want to try to figure out someplace else to go. I didn’t want to have to spend time looking at guide books anymore. It was obvious. Go back to Paul Smiths, you love it there.
Paul Smith’s did not disappoint. I hiked two different trails while I was there. There are several more left for me to explore on future visits. Some of the trails I hiked were ones I remembered from my previous visit; some of it was brand new to me. That is why you go back to a place you’ve been before, so you can see what you missed last time. Also last time I was here it was a different time of year so some of the vegetation was different as well.
You really get the full Adirondack view at Paul Smith’s VIC. You get to hike around large bodies of water. You get to see the mountains of in the distance. There are trails through various types of terrain from forests, to swamp like areas, to floating boardwalks across a body of water, to stream crossings. There is even a trail up a mountain, which I am saving for a future trip out to Paul Smith’s. You really can get everything you are looking for right here at this one nature center.
Paul Smith’s VIC is like the culmination of all possible the Adirondack experiences rolled into one. There isn’t much you can’t get at this one location. I watched dragonflies zoom across the water. I photographed butterflies glide on the wind and land on flowers. I looked to my right and saw nothing but forest. I looked to my left and saw nothing but forest. I watched a great blue heron land in a tree and then eventually dismount the tree to stalk some prey in the water. I heard a loon sing. I stared out into the vast panorama of sky and mountains and endless nature. This is what it is all about.
Then in other moments I was down on my hands and knees photographing the small flowers growing at the borders of the different merging ecosystems. I singled out individual flowers floating peacefully on the water with my 300mm lens. I watched birds flit from tree to tree, most of which would not cooperate with my photography.
I enjoy Paul Smith’s VIC so much that not only did I return to it on this trip, I went there a 2nd time during this trip. Wanting to spend 2 days of a 10 day trip at one location tells me that this is a special place.
I went back for a very specific reason. I wanted to try out something new. I wanted to try to capture some time laps footage of landscapes, specifically clouds. I wanted to capture footage of the clouds moving across the sky. This is the first time I have tried to capture this type of footage. Usually I sue time lapse photography to capture race footage, and I like that because while it captures movement it also allows me to easily select one single image I like in isolation. This is all about capture the slow motion of clouds across the sky and showing it in a faster pace. The footage came out with the look I hoped for but over a much shorter time frame than I expected. I wouldn’t call this a success, but it surely was a learning process and that is what makes life worth living. Get out there and do something new and learn from it.
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