I spent some time volunteering with the Southern Tier Running Club‘s youth club SOAR at their monthly kids fun run providing photography. It is always nice to see all the kids, parents, coaches, and SOAR athletes that come out for these fun community events. Enjoy the photos.
I have written often about how running has really been this synergy for me that has allowed me to combine many of the things I enjoy together in new ways. I have always loved getting out into nature, but previously I did not know very many people that loved getting out into nature the same way I did. Now that I have connected with and made friends with so many runners who enjoy nature the way I do it has opened up a whole new world of experiences for me. I can now spend hours and hours outside moving through nature with friends.
Previously I decided I wanted to challenge myself to go out on the trails for a long trail run that ended up being 31 miles (For that story you can link here Finger Lakes Trail Run/Hike). I went alone, because I didn’t know anyone else who I thought would enjoy that. After spending more time getting to know other runners. I decided I wanted to go out and try it again and invited some friends for a 26-mile adventure. It went from a solo adventure to a party of three.
This year I was already planning to run a trail marathon and a 50k so I hadn’t really thought about planning any independent adventures. Then my friends who accompanied me on the last suggested that I should plan another long run for us. I want to make this very clear for the record. I was asked to plan a long run for us to adventure on. It was Not my idea. Somehow, I always get the “blame” for these crazy running things that people in my orbit tend to be sucked into. So, I undertook the task of developing a plan for a run.
We wanted to run about 26miles. No Further. I was warned. I also wanted this to be a new adventure. We are fortunate to live near the Finger Lakes Trail that traverses most of the southern area of NY. We wanted to explore a new section of the FLT since we had explored one section last time. Part of the challenge of planning this run was the distance and the way the maps are laid out. I am not great at using maps and measuring distances and orienteering etc. On the FLT website, each map section shows its total distance. We knew where we wanted to end so we only had to plot the distance back to where we would start. The problem arose from the fact that the end point was just off of one map section and in the beginning of another map section and not right along the trail. So I had to estimate the distance we would travel on that new map section. Then subtract that from the beginning. If we had been able to stay only on one map section, we would have been able to know exactly how much we would run. Therefore, I subtracted the amount I thought we would run over onto the new map section from the beginning of the map section where we planned most of the run to be. I figured it would be a safe bet if we stated at Birdseye Hollow Park, It was right on the FLT, and we would end in the Sugar Hill State Forest area. Turns out my map skills were off a little bit, about 4 miles, and I would never hear the end of it.
I asked some more of our friends that we knew liked to do some trail running if they would be interested in an adventure that would be part run, part hike and likely take all day traversing 26 miles of the FLT. It turns out there are more people out there that want to explore 26 miles on the Finger Lakes Trail. Our number grew from 3 people last year to 5 people this year.
I am the kind of person who enjoys time alone on the trails be it running, hiking, or photographing nature, but there is something to be said for spending an extended period of time out in nature with friends. My wife and I have always enjoyed camping and hiking together, but now I was becoming part of an expanding group of friends that I can explore the wonders of nature with.
The beginning heading out of Birds Eye Hollow Park was a nice long relatively flat runnable section. We loved finding a really nice lean-to and camping spot during the early portion of the run. We were all anxious to reach the “Food Truck” at the halfway point. Then the never ending climbing started. When we reached the Sugar Hill area, we started to be ready to be done, some of us more than others. Then we eventually found the road and called it the finish line.
Combine running; nature, laughing, talking, and friendship with time, physical challenge, and exhaustion and you are in for a good time. Running, talking, and laughing with your friends while passing through great natural scenery is really a part of life everyone should experience. We weren’t out there to race; we were out there to just have fun and enjoy nature and enjoy each other’s company. I think that this is an aspect that gets lost sometimes in our overly competitive society. Have fun, enjoy the things you enjoy, and find some friends to share it with. I have been very fortunate to meet these friends.
Some of us have a tendency to have some sort of new unfortunate incident on every trail. Some of us get mad at the never-ending trails. Some of us we learned have never-ending song lyrics and dance moves that they let out on the trails. Some of us carry around a camera and photograph it all. Some of us are perfect steady companionship and put up with all the nonsense.
It is always exciting to get out and try something new. The best new thing to try is running a section of trail you have never been on. I have been running on the Finger Lakes trail a bit the past couple years, but I have not gotten out to explore it as much as I would have liked to.
On the 4th of July holiday several friends and I decided to go run a section of the trail near Hammondsport, NY. This section of trail is also the ending of the Twisted Branch 100k, a race that I would like to run some someday I think.
One of the best ways to celebrate a holiday is to spend some time out on the trails with friends. I think it is especially fitting that on Independence Day we were out on the trails celebrating freedom to run and enjoying the freedom that I feel nowhere else than out on the trails.
I may have met many of my friends through running but we are all so much more than runners. For me I am among other things a photographer. One of my friends I’ve met through running works in one of the most challenging fields you can, mental health. She puts on what I consider a very important community event. This year I was fortunate enough to be a part of this event again. I am always happy to find ways to use my talents to support our local community.
Walk a Mile in my Shoes is a community wide suicide awareness event held in Elmira, NY. This year was the 13th year this event has been held. Over 2,000 people attended this event to show their support for suicide prevention and awareness.
This is a truly moving event to be part of. Seeing so many people coming together to recognize the importance of such an important issue. So many people are affected by issues surrounding mental health either directly or indirectly. I am sure we all know someone who has experienced difficulties with mental health, and maybe we don’t even know that we do. This community event helps to show that there are people out there that support anyone who is experiencing difficulties with mental health.
Community events like Walk A Mile In My Shoes will help to break the stigma that unfortunately continues to exist around mental health. Mental health is something we need to talk about all the time. It is something that we need to make easy to discuss. That way when people struggle they can easily come forward and receive the help they need. It is sad that it often takes an act of courage to come forward to address mental health issues because of the way our society can treat those who are suffering the most.
I have learned a lot from people who have worked in fields related to mental health and from those who struggle with mental health.
Mental Health is a difficult subject to talk about. Despite my years of study and times spent with others on the front lines it really doesn’t seem to get easier.
I usually consider myself a pretty good writer and think that I can find the words I want especially regarding topics that are important to me or that I am knowledgeable and this is both. But still the right words are not there to convey the importance of this topic and the importance of this event to our community.
This event is simply a powerful and emotional experience. To see so many people come together who have shared perspective. People who have shared experiences. People who know how important just that one word or just that one person for support is. It is truly moving.
I am glad we have people in our community who know the importance of mental health and people who show up to support mental health awareness.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. I have gotten to do so many things that make me happy and make life worth living. Somehow I was fortunate enough o break out of my shell and meet this great group of people that call themselves runners. I have fallen in with this group of people and we enjoy life together running and non-running alike. We have developed this little Elmira running crew who I have spent a lot of time running with over the past few years.
In 2017 we all wanted to run Seneca 7 together but we were not able to get registered for our own team. Several of us did get to experience Seneca 7 that year but not all together. In 2018 we were fortunate enough to be able to all be on one team together.
So for those who don’t know what Seneca 7 is, it is a relay race that teams of 7 run around Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of NY. The race is a total of 77.7 miles long. So when you sign up for Seneca 7 you are committing to a daylong event where you will spend the majority of the day traveling with 6 other people in a van. That might sound crazy, and maybe it is. But when your best friends are runners it is like one of the best days you can have.
You run you, you watch, you cheer. You drive, you navigate, you eat, you do ….. other things all in close proximity of your friends. You have to be very accepting of others to participate in this kind of event. You will be spending a lot of time together and might get to know each other better than you thought you would if you didn’t already know each other well. Seven friends in a van spending the day doing what they love, it’s like a party to me.
You are around hundreds of other people who enjoy what you do and are about the same level of crazy as you. Except maybe those bike teams, they are something special.
I loved being able to do this event with 7 of my best friends. The hardest part for me was the fact that I am a photographer and I like to photograph EVERYTHING. The weather was terrible. It was rainy and snowy. When you are packed in a van like sardines there isn’t room to bring the heavy duty camera equipment that can withstand some rain and snow. I brought cameras but most of the equipment wasn’t durable enough to brave the elements with. I had been really excited about the opportunity to document this event with my friends. Now I had to figure out how to make that happen as best I could. When you are a photographer it is hard to accept anything but the best quality of photographs you can get. At least it is for me. Maybe that is a flaw I need to work on, but it drives me.
I did have my GoPro with me and I worked with that tool as best I could to capture as many moments from our race as I could. I am not as experienced with the GoPro as I am with my other equipment and the super wide angle lens of a GoPro is less than ideal for photographing an event where you can’t necessarily be close to your subject. But the GoPro could withstand the weather. So I had to make it work.
I took a mix of single shot photos, time lapse photos, and videos to try and capture as much as I could of the event. Since I first began incorporating a GoPro into my photography I have been shooting an increasing amount of video. Most of this video I have recorded while I have been running. When you shoot video when you are running there will inevitably be some shaking of the camera. I have a steady cam to use but with the poor weather I also could not use that. So I shot video with my GoPro while running. I didn’t think it would be too bad. One thing I did not consider is that when I normally shoot video when I am running I am running at a more casual pace for me. During this race I was basically running all out. So when you try to run all out and hold a camera steady everything’s basically works against holding the camera steady. So the video was much shakier than I would have liked, but at least I recorded our adventure together.
I am happy to have such good friends. I am happy to be able to capture our fun times together even if it doesn’t come out as well as I would like. I can’t wait to record more of our fun times together.
Since I began training for my 50K in the beginning of January I have yet to run any trails. Trail running is my favorite kind of running and my training is to prepare me for a trail marathon and then a 50K, so I have really been itching to get on the trails. So far timing or weather or any other of life’s many variables have conspired to keep me from trails.
Going into this week 6 of the training plan long run I really wanted to get out on a trail to run. The weather had not really cooperated with multiple days of snow into mid week. But I really wanted to run trails. Then life circumstances really started hitting home and I really just felt like I needed to get out into nature. Nature is where I can find my peace and maybe just escape from life for a while. It is what I needed. So I doubled down on my desire to hit the trails today.
Normally on a long run in the winter I would were some running tights, but aparently life prevented me from having any of those clean. I have a pair of windpants that I can run in that have a light mesh lining to them and I figured would be perfect for the temperature and at least keep me warm. So I geared up and went out to my favorite local trail spot at Trnaglewood Nature Center.
My assumption was that Tanglewood is a pretty popular outdoor destination locally. I assumed that people would have been on the trail over the past few days so that the snow would be a little packed down and more runnable. And that is where it started to bite me in that ass. I always think I have learned my lesson about assuming. You know the saying when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. Well I sure began to feel like an ass once I began running.
There had been almost no one on the trails. Miscalculation number 1. Especially not on the trails I wanted to be on. I was pushing through fresh 6+ inch snow with every step. I was wearing my Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s that I love but they were no help in that level of snow. There was no traction to be had. The snow was so deep every step was over my ankles. Every step pushed snow up into my open pant legs of the wind pants. Miscalculation number two. Thank goodness I did have the good sense to where nice warm and tall Smartwool winter socks. Also since the snow was pushing up into my pants and the pants had a mesh liner the snow was powdery enough at first to just pass through the mesh liner. Once the snow got between the mesh liner and the outer layer of the pants it compressed and did not come back out through the mesh. I stopped to try to get it out but that was not happening. The snow just built up inside the bottom of the pant legs. Miscalculation number three. By the end of the run it was like trying to run in the snow with ankle weights on.
I am glad I went out with the intent of taking some photos and getting some time lapse footage or I may have given up sooner. Having something else to focus on other than the inability to run helped me to want to stay out there longer. And I did get some decent footage.
It is odd how something can both be a bad experience and a good experience at the same time. Thinking about this experience as a run and it was terrible. It was a grind and miserable at times. But when I think about it as a nature experience it was nearly perfect. I was out in nature experiencing something pretty unique for me, pushing through fresh snow and taking photos. As a nature experience it was something I needed. My dog just died and I needed to get outside and connect with nature and feel some connection and try to let the tension melt off me. This was the experience I needed. It was not the run I wanted or hoped for but it was the therapeutic nature experience that I needed to help me cope with life.
There was really nothing about this trail run that was normal. The snow slowed me to basically a walk at times, especially on hills. The deep snow made finding footing difficult. I couldn’t tell if my footfalls would be on trail or on flat ground. I spent much of the time fitting the edge of the trail being of balance. Tanglewood is a place I love to run at in part because I am so familiar with it. I have been there to hike and run dozens and dozens of times. However, on this occasion the snow also made the trail in general difficult to see. The trail was so difficult to see at times that I couldn’t tell if I was even on the trail during the course of my adventure. I found myself stopping multiple times and looking around trying to figure out if I was still on the trail or not. I could not really tell. I looked around slowly searching for trail markers. It really slowed me down in my progress on the trails but I did eventually find the trail markers and succeed in getting back on the trail.
I kind of think of this as a metaphor for life. In life unexpected and unfamiliar circumstances can blind you to your usual path. The path that you are so comfortable with you can follow blindfolded. But this new life experience has thrown you for a loop and no you are struggling to find your way. So, if you find yourself stuck by some unexpected life circumstances and you are struggling to find your footing or you can’t see the path your life normally follows anymore, stop and take your time. Get your bearings. Look around and find those trail markers that will guide you back to your path and help you find your way. Look to those friends and family members that have always been there for you and count on them to get you back on your feet and help you find your way again.
One of my favorite things that I have gotten the opportunity to do since becoming involved with the Southern Tier Running club is photographing their races. And that means taking a lot of photographs of a bunch of the friends I have made along the way and sharing them all over the internet and there is nothing they can do about it.
This was my second time photographing the New Years Day 5 Miler for the Southern Tier Running Club. It was a bit colder and there I was snow on the grown this year. The runners were bundled up as was I. I staked out the spot I shot from last year, but I tried to shoot from a slightly different position so that there would be a different angle for the photos with hopefully a better background.
Prior to the race the sun was out. Despite the cold at least it would be sunny. That made me happy as a photographer. Finally a race with some good light. I had not been so fortunate during the last several races. Then wouldn’t you know it, right as the race was about to begin, the clouds rolled in. The sky became completely overcast. This put a damper on some of my plans but I was able to get some good shots with the trees in the background. The overcast sky made it really drab if I featured any images that included large portions of the sky.
Despite the cold and the drab sky it is always fun to get out there and watch the runners give it their best even on a less than ideal race day. It is great to see the race leaders coming down the road towards me and I know the fun part for me is about to begin. I have planned out what I want to shoot and how. Now to see if my vision will match up with the reality as the runners approach.
As fun as it is to photograph the runners at the front of the race it is just as nice to photograph people finishing later in the race. Sometimes that is where the best and most satisfying photographs can be found. There are people running their very first race who are giving it their best and are not going to be as fast as others. There are also more experienced runners that have been getting out for runs for many more years than most of us. I believe everyone deserves a nice race photograph no matter how fast or slow you are, young or old, veteran or newbie. I want you to have a photograph to enjoy from your race.
The runners might want to punch me for saying this but in some ways it is tougher being out there to photograph the race or volunteer than it is as a racer. When it is cold it is better to be running to stay warm than it is to be stationary taking photos, especially since you can’t where mittens and operate a camera. My fingers were about numb by the time I was done despite my ski gloves an hand warmers inside. Not only are runners warming themselves by running they are often out on the course and thus outside for a shorter period of time than me as the photographer or the volunteers. I generally don’t go inside until the final runner has passed me, which is often at the finish line. And volunteers picking up the course might be out there longer than I am. So be sure to thank your volunteers.
I think I want to do something a little different next year and try photographing from a different location. I would like to get different looking shots with different scenery. I think I may try running the course myself since I never have and see where I think might be any other good spots to take photos.
I hope all the runners especially my friends had a great time at the race and enjoyed the photos I shared. You can see the rest of the photos from the race on my Facebook page at Kyle Reynolds / KRNaturalPhoto. These are photographs straight out of the camera. Every single one. Nothing was deleted or edited so be kind. I stive to share as soon as possible so no editing.
Next race up is St. Patricks Day 5k and 10k by Southern Tier Running Club. See you there. Wave and I’ll take your photo. Or just be your bad-ass self running hard in a race and I will get a great photo of you busting your ass.