Today I am heading out on a camping trip. I am going up to the Adirondacks in upstate NY for some fun and relaxation on my own. People like to say how they are going to disconnect and go off the grid and not use technology while they are away so they can enjoy themselves and live in the moment. I am not really sure that this is the answer, at least not for me. I am not going to stay away from my technology. Technology is what allows me to do what I do. I am going to try to be more present in the moment though.
What that means for me is I am going to stay mostly away from social media. I may check in from time to time and browse my feeds, hopefully a lot less frequently then I do on an average day, but I won’t post any live updates on what I am doing on this trip. No sharing my “Awesome Adventure” with you live. I will have plenty of time to share with you when I return. I will talk to my wife and text with her. That might be the extent of any live updating I do. I hope that it is. Who knows. I may fail at this and you might see me all the time. I have never tried to quit social media before. I believe it has value and enjoy using it. But I also believe it keeps me from getting things done at times. So instead of live updates from me I have scheduled some posts to go up while I am out in the woods camping and working on new projects to share in the future. I am hoping that most if not all of them will be new things you have not seen before. So that’s what will be going on for my web presence for about 10 days.
So what will I be doing on those 10 days? My plan is to engage in all the things I love and don’t get to spend enough time doing on a regular basis. And that is one of the reasons I am specifically not going tech free. My tech allows me to do what I love. I am a photographer therefore I need my gear. I will have more camera gear with my than camping specific gear. I am going to be out there trying to capture exciting photos from my adventure. Then I can share those along with my stories when I come back. Speaking of stories I plan to do a lot of writing on this trip. For me writing requires a lap top. I am going to work on my book and maybe some other things while I am out connecting with the woods.
The things I will be doing that do not require technology will be running, hiking, and hopefully sleeping out under the stars in my hammock. I am camping about 4 miles from Lake Placid and I picked this spot purposefully so that if I wanted to I could literally run down into town and just hang out for a while and then run back to camp, easy peasy. I also picked this spot because I love climbing the mountains and I think this location allows me easiest access as a home base camp to go out exploring each day and hike a new one of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks. I have already climbed 3 of them and I would like to add several more before this trip is over. Running is also on the agenda. I don’t know how much I will do exactly but I know I will do some. I have no real plan exactly for that. I will probably be bringing more running clothes with me than anything else. Just so I have plenty of options and opportunity to run whenever it strikes me to run. I really want to try to at least run up one of the high peaks and back down. However, at this point I have no specific plan. Also, another reason I selected my camping location is because there is a trail that leaves from the campground that leads to the summit of a smaller mountain, Scarface Mountain, and I like the idea of being able to summit that mountain whenever I feel like it without having to go anywhere. I would love to get to the summit to watch a sunrise and a sunset then I can just run or hike back down to camp. There really are just endless options of what I can do while I am out there so I am sure I won’t get to everything. But while I am out there enjoying myself I am going to try to record as much of it as is possible on any one of the various cameras I will have with me on this trip.
I also want to get in a decent amount of relaxation. I spent the first half of the year training for my first 50k and while it has been a fun year so far I don’t think I have taken enough time to just sit and relax and I think it has taken a toll on me. I want to lie in my hammock and relax and nap. Or sit back and read a book. I have several on the pile that I need to read and they will all join me on this trip and I will see how many I get through. Last time I took a solo trip I read several books cover to cover, so hopefully I will find some time to read which I do enjoy but have been too tired and to rushed to spend time doing.
Most of all I hope to recharge the batteries doing all the things I love and come back feeling rejuvenated so I can do more and share more with you. I’ll see you in 10 days.
I am fortunate to be part of a great organization, the Southern Tier Running Club. This running club does a lot to give back to the community. One thing that the club does is organize a youth running club, Southern Tier SOAR. This club is focused on as one might think, youth running and getting youth in our community out and moving. They offer different seasons over the course of the year. Another aspect of what the SOAR club does is over the summer they offer a series of free kids fun runs that are open to the community at large. They offer a different type of run once a month. At each of these events they collect items to donate to a local charity. The June fun run was a Donut Run. It was so much fun to watch the kids running and enjoying some donuts. I was fortunate enough to be part of this as a volunteer donating my time as a photographer and capturing the joy these kids have running. Here are a few of my favorite photos from this event. If you appreciate the work I do please consider supporting me on Patreon at KRNaturalPhoto for as little as $1 a month. Thank you.
There are many reasons to run. One reason that I run is because I feel like running teaches me about life. There are so many life lessons that can be learned through running. I have learned so much about myself from this journey I have taken into running.
One thing I have learned is something that might sound totally obvious. If you want to accomplish something it takes work. You might be thinking, “Well of course it does.” Let me explain what I mean.
I have been very fortunate in my life. I have been able to accomplish a lot of goals I have set my sights on in my life. Things I never would have thought I would do. I graduated college. I earned a masters degree. I continued grad school after my master’s degree. I learned photograph and became pretty good at it. I sold photographs. I became a published writer and photographer. I ran a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon, then a 25k. I swear I am not just trying to humble brag. I am very proud of those achievements and they took effort, but they did not take maximum effort.
There were many things I coasted on using mostly natural ability or did the bare minimum to get by. Many things I just chipped away slowly at without a big surge of effort. Very few things in life have I put my maximal effort into, yet I have been able to achieve a lot. I am very fortunate. I try to stay humble.
I am not a naturally gifted runner. No one would mistake me for one and if you saw me on the streets you would not likely think I am a runner. But I have been able to do a lot in running. I have been able to increase the distances I have run over time by just adding a little more effort and a little more training each time. I never put in maximal effort to achieve the best I could do at an event. I did the bare minimum to achieve the desired outcome.
This year I had my sights set on something much bigger. I was going to double the distance I had ever run from a 25k to a 50k and not only that I was going to run a very challenging 50k. Not only did I want to accomplish this goal I wanted to do as well as I could at it. I wanted to enjoy this accomplishment throughout the process when I ran the race. I did not want to suffer through it which would be the case if I put in less than my best effort in training. I committed to training for this race like I have never trained before. I trained hard. I ran when I didn’t want to run. I ran in conditions I didn’t want to run in. I was focused and determined to succeed at this and do the best I could and that required being committed to the whole process and not just the final end goal.
All that hard work and determination prepared me to run the race of my life. I did not win the race, not even close. That wasn’t even a consideration for me. But I did run the best race I could at that time. I was prepared to run the best I could because I put in the work. I enjoyed running a tough race. I did not suffer through it. It was a challenging experience but the kind of challenge that makes you feel good.
Now I am ready to commit to a new goal. One I have thought about and talked about off and on for a long time. I have worked on it in fits and starts. It is one of the many things that took a back seat to my commitment to training for a 50k. But that training has taught me that I am ready and that if I commit to the process I can succeed.
Over the years I have talked about writing a book. I started writing it over a decade ago. I have worked on it off and on. I have started working on query letters and book proposals on and off over the last few years. I am always slowly inching closer to maybe possibly some day accomplishing this goal. Now things are going to change.
I love the quote my Michael Jordan where he says “I have failed over and over again, and that is why I succeed.” I failed to complete my PhD because I was not committed enough to the process I was not putting in the work I needed to. If I had unlimited time to work on it I probably would have gotten it done, but that is not how things work. I ran out of time because I didn’t commit enough time and energy to it. Well, I am going to learn from that failure and from this success. My future goals will be approached from a new direction.
Starting now I am going to commit to the goal of writing a book the same way I committed to running a 50k. I am going to be determined to working on the book process 5 days a week. Working on the book will be my number one priority on the list of tasks to get done. Everything else will have to play second fiddle and get balanced and worked on after my work for the day is done on the book. I will work on the book 1 hour a day 3 days a week during the work week. I will work on the book 2 to 4 hours a day on weekends. This will be just like the amount of time I committed to training for and running a 50k. This is a goal I will achieve and it will not be some goal that I will achieve some day. It will be a goal I will achieve soon.
I will put in the work I need to get this done. Other projects that I want to pursue may have to be put on the shelf until this one is complete. Some things that are ongoing projects will be scaled back while I work on this goal with singular determination. One thing that means is that there may be less writing here on my website. I hope that everyone following me will still stay in touch and reach out to ask me how things are going. I do love to write so I will still try to post regularly here. I will try to have more short posts so I can stay in touch.
The first task I need to accomplish for this goal is to finish writing my book proposal. In its current form it is probably 50% complete. I need to research some items and then complete it and send it out to agents. Those are my next steps. Wish me luck and feel free to send me as many messages as you’d like regarding this. I would love to hear from anyone who has experience in this realm as I chase this dream.
What do you think I will be writing a book about? Let me hear your guesses.
Please consider supporting my work on Patreon at KRNaturalPhoto and join with the others who already do so I can continue to work on projects like this. You can support me for as little as $1 a month.
I woke up in the morning the day before the race and just could not get out of bed. I was so anxious. I couldn’t get out of bed and get the day underway. I just lay in bed thinking and trying to get a little more rest. There wasn’t anything much to be done. Finish packing the car and drop off our dogs at the kennel, then drive down to Pennsylvania to camp for the weekend and run a race. This was supposed to be a fun weekend. Then why was I so anxious in the morning?
I think that was exactly why I was so anxious. This was supposed to be a big weekend for me, a fun weekend camping trip with friends and running a race. Not just any race though. This was my goal race for the year. It was something new to me. I didn’t know what to expect for the weekend, so I tried to hide in bed I guess. Eventually I got myself up got packed and we got under way.
My wife and I arrived at camp the day before the race and had plenty of time to relax and unwind a little. Later that evening we met our friends at bib pick up for the race. Then we had dinner at a great local place, The Forksville General Store. The food was amazing. Just the thing you need the day before a big race. Then we went back to camp and spent the night hanging out by the fire and enjoying each other’s company. One by one we turned in to get some sleep before the race.
We all rose bright and early and headed over to the starting grounds for the race. We were there with plenty of time before the start of the race, which is fine and probably preferred by many, but for me standing around just waiting for something to happen makes me anxious. I prefer to be right on time and just start whatever it is I’m doing. So I was relieved when all the waiting and race director talking as over and the race started. The Worlds End 50k was under way. Finally my feet could start moving and my brain could stop.
I started the race out nice and easy as we ran down the road to get to where the trails started for this race. I was in no big hurry. I knew I’d be out here for plenty of time. When we got to the trails we started to climb. The first ascent is a pretty steep one. I am fine with going relatively slow up any climbs and that is really my strategy. Go slow up and conserve energy. But when there are spots that level out and there is room to run some I quickly got anxious and a little frustrated with the continued slow pace that was basically a walk. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. It was early on and I would have plenty of time to run, but I quickly found myself squeezing by people to pass o that I could go the pace that was comfortable for me. I didn’t want to go fast. I just wanted to go my own pace and I wanted space. I am sure some of the people I passed in the beginning because of my impatience passed me back later on.
After that came a nice descent. It is fairly steep but it is also fairly wide trail and open in many places. It was a great spot for me to be able to just open things up and run down the hill at whatever pace my legs would take me. When I have a nice open descent like that my preferred way to run them is to just go with gravity. I don’t necessarily try to run hard down the hill by pushing my legs fast but I try to allow my legs to move at whatever pace gravity is pulling me down the hill. When you are my size gravity does a lot of work and provides a good amount of momentum to propel you down the slope. It really doesn’t even seem like work. It’s more like just trying to coordinate your legs to keep up.
When you get to the bottom of that fast descent you start right back up the hill again. You climb right back up a mountain for about another mile. Then once you arrive at the top one of my favorite feature of this race was a nice relatively flat section at the top where I could just run whatever pace was comfortable for me. I didn’t have to push. I didn’t have to really fight with gravity. It was like a nice casual trail run compared to the first several miles. Then after a nice gradual descent there is another quick climb going into mile eight.
After mile eight there are several miles that are probably what I would call for this course most closely described as rolling hills would be on a road course except all the while you are navigating rocks, and roots, and plenty of mud. During this section you reach the second aid station, which is the first aide station that is crew accessible. There my wife awaits me with anything that I might need. Fortunately I still feel ok and don’t really need anything. I am plenty tired though despite it only being mile 10 of a 30+ mile run. I stop to eat some food at the aide station and talk to my wife for a little bit. My one remark was that “This is not Sehgahunda”, which is the race I ran two weeks prior and was my first ever trail marathon. That race was plenty challenging in its own right, but this was a whole new level. There I felt pretty good through 15 miles. Here I was tired by mile 10.
The next crew accessible aid station would not be until around mile 19. There was plenty of varied terrain to cover between mile 10 and 19 when I would be able to see my wife gain and I would stop and talk for a minute. From mile 11 to 19 I got to run just about every kind of terrain one could imagine. There were relatively flat sections. There were hills. And there were downhills. There were roots. There were rocks. There were boulders. There were plenty of wet areas as well. The water took many forms on this course: mud and muck, puddles, full on bogs and marshy areas, streams and even waterfalls. My favorite part of this section was the steep technical descent that takes you into the aide station at mile 19. We had previewed this section a few weeks before the race so I knew what was to come. But when we ran it then we had much fewer miles on our legs. I was not sure what I was going to be able to do after around 17 miles had already worn down my legs. My plan was to run down it as fast as I could. I was wearing my GoPro on its chest harness and I knew this was either going to be epic or an epic fail and either way I wanted video evidence of this experience. I paused for a second at the top of the section to start the video recording and then down I went. I ran down as fast as I could while maintaining control. I stepped from rock to rock. Over and around boulders. Dodging roots and outcroppings. Many of my strides were more like leaps from side to side over and around obstacles. Watching my footing and making sure to find safe purchase. I plummeted down the descent. One fellow runner heard my thundering strides down the slope and moved aside and called out to me “Good Luck” as I careened by. He sounded sarcastic but I took it in stride, said “Thanks” and flew by. I think he seemed dubious that I should be taking this approach to the downhill. I caught up to another fellow runner who had passed me a while ago and he quickly moved aside so I could bound past him as well. I loved that section because it was a true test not only of my stamina but of my ability on a difficult technical section and I gave it my all and went for it. It was a fun and exciting section of trail to run during a race that had plenty of sections that were grinding.
At the mile 19 aid station I stopped to change my socks to prevent blisters. I also refilled my water bladder and added two more Nuun hydration tablets for electrolytes. I also ate some food that was provided by the aid station. I took my time and rested some as I changed my socks and ate and drank. I talked with my wife for a minute and gave her a kiss and then I was on the move again.
The three miles from the aid station at mile 19 to the aid station at mile 22 were the most difficult miles of the entire race for me. It was three miles of virtually all vertical climbing. Climbing is what I am weakest at. I really felt the fatigue set in as I made this climb. More than two-thirds the way up I really started to lose my energy and my motivation. I was felt like the climb had defeated me mentally. I just felt like I had nothing left in the tank. I had two vanilla bean GU’s with me and I really was hoping not to use them but they had caffeine in them and I felt like I needed any energy boost I could get at the moment. I really did not enjoy eating that GU. I basically choked it down. But eating it accomplished the goal. It gave me enough energy to get to the aid station at the top of the climb. I was very happy to get to that aid station where I could once again see my wife and eat some real food. It definitely helped to boost my mood. I took my time at this aid station talking to my wife, gathering my strength, and getting my mind right for the rest of the journey. Initially I thought it as odd to have two crew accessible aide stations so close together, one at mile 19 and another one at mile 22, but I was very happy that it was planned that way after I went through it.
After mile 22 there was a good deal of varied terrain. There were downhill sections and uphill sections, but nothing too long or too steep in either direction. There was a combination of all the things that made this course great. Single track trails, trees, rocks, roots, mud, and water. To be perfectly honest after running for such a long time on such a tough course at this point everything kind of blurs together in the aftermath trying to remember it. All I know is that in the moment I was enjoying being out in the woods. I went over 8 hours without touching my cell phone. When was the last time I did that when I wasn’t asleep? This is what trail running is about. Getting out in nature and connecting with it. Enjoying the connection our body makes with nature as you traverse the course.
Finally I arrived at the final aid station. I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat any actual food, but I knew it still could be an hour before I finished so I did have some tailwind to top off my fuel for the finish. As I rested for a minute one of the many friendly volunteers at the aide station jokingly asked “What are you still doing here?” I said “I’m enjoying all the hard work you all have put into this aide station.” And he responded “Then you should have a beer.” I normally don’t drink beer at a race. I actually don’t know if I have ever had a beer at a race. So I stopped and considered for a second. Then I agreed. I should have a beer. I am almost done. What harm could it do at this point? I will almost certainly finish. I am here to enjoy myself and have fun. So I did have half a beer at the aide station before I left. Maybe it was just what I needed to get me to the finish.
After leaving the final aid station there is a long relatively flat section that looks like an old logging road or something. It is probably the most open and flat section of the whole course. I was so tired at that point. I could not keep up a steady pace to run, so I adopted a run walk strategy. Just pushing myself to run at all was a sheer force of will at that point so; I ran for as long as I could then I would walk some to recover and then pick up the run again and repeat over and over.
As I ran through this flatter section of trail I began to think. I thought about all the long hard hours of training I put into this. I thought about all the commitment and determination it took to arrive exactly at this point. I started to think about how this was the culmination of everything I have worked towards for the past six months. I began to get a little emotional as I ran along thinking all the deep thoughts one does when they finally realize that they are about to accomplish a huge goal that they have fully committed to. I felt the full weight of what this experience meant to me. It was fun and it was exciting and it was something I really wanted and I set my heart to it and I got it done. When I say I set my heart to it that is what I truly mean it took my heart and my will in order to get to this point. It is an achievement of a physical accomplishment, but it is not one you come to if your heart isn’t in it and if you don’t have the will to put in the work.
I knew from the course map and elevation profile that I would eventually come to a steep decent before getting to the finish. I was a little concerned about how that part would go for me. I usually like to go as fast as I can on downhills. I feel like it’s the best strategy for me for many reasons. But when I got to this particular decent I was spent. There was no way I could run down this. This was no strait open flat hill. This was a steep twisty turvy and rocky vertical decent. If I tried to go fast my legs would crumble underneath the pressure of my momentum building up. I decided my best course of action was to pick my way down through the rocks, going as fast as I could but far from a run. Going slow down a step decent was no picnic. My toes were smashed in the front of my shoes, but I finally made it down. I felt like I literally dragged myself for that last little bit to get to the finish line. I felt like I was barely moving as I crossed the finish line and I think the video my wife recorded of my finish verifies that fact.
I crossed the line and hugged my wife. I was finally done. I see my friends who were there, cheering. It was a great feeling.
Afterwards I was starving. The food was great. There was plenty of it and it tasted good. The beer was also the perfect thing after finishing a long race like that. It was a great post race experience to sit around and talk with your friends and cheer on runners you didn’t know as well as our other friends who finished. I told my friends I would do this race again just for the food.
I have run a fair amount of trails in our area and I have been out hiking even more trails and this area definitely ranks right up there as one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. I loved all the scenery. It was amazing. I ran the race with two GoPro cameras to try to capture some of the experience. I had one GoPro on a chest harness and another GoPro that could be hand-held. I could have just stood and taken photographs forever. Every twist and turn revealed something new and unexpected. I would take a video or some photos of a section and then turn my GoPro off and then around the next bend would be another section just as beautiful and I would think I should turn my camera back on. If I did that I would probably still be there taking photographs. When we came for a preview run of some of the course I told my friends that if I don’t finish it’s because I am still out on the course taking pictures. It is that beautiful.
If you are a nature lover like I am you need to get yourself out to the Worlds End State Park area in Pennsylvania. This area has just about everything one could ask for in nature scenery. You can hike up a trail to a scenic overlook and look out over the valley and across to another mountain that you can also hike up and be at the location you were just looking at from across the valley. There are endless scenic forest lands to wander through with all types of majestic trees. Throughout the entire landscape there are scattered rocks and outcroppings ranging from pebbles to giant boulders that you need to be on all fours to climb over. There are also many streams flowing through the woods and down the mountains. These streams create countless waterfalls that are just truly mesmerizing as they cross the green scape. There are sections of trail where you will cross the streams and waterfalls and you can get a real up close and personal look at them. There are so many I could not imagine how long it would take me to photograph them all, but I might go back and try some day. At the top of one mountain there is even a lake. Like really on top of all that amazing nature you get to run up to a mountain top lake. I’m telling you there is no shortage of beautiful sites in this area. The race course also has multiple sections where you run along a body of water that I am not sure if it is officially a creek or a river but it is big enough that you can dive right in and swim if you want. I know because I’ve done it.
How can you beat all this? I experienced all this amazing nature all in one day. This is the type of adventure that might take weeks to experience on a normal trip. But thanks to the gift of running and how fortunate I am to be able to do the things that I do I got to do all this in a bit over eight hours. Not weeks. I saw all those sights in a third of a day. I love how much running has added to my ability to explore nature and enjoy the other things that make life worth living and that is really why I love running.
It is just a unique experience to be out in that type of landscape. World’s End is such a varied place of unique treasures with something new around every turn. I don’t know if I will ever top this experience.
I know these photos don’t do the scenery I have described justice, so I will try to link to some photos taken by others at the event. Check out these photos by Brian: Worlds End Photos. There are also these photos from Rusty: Worlds End Photos.
When I first started running I never thought I would be doing the things I have done. They were not things thst I wanted to do. Some of the things I’ve done I didn’t even know were things people do when I first started running. Like trail running; that’s a thing? Running a trail marathon; people really do that?
As I began to run more I met more people. I made amazing friends. I learned more about running and the amazing things that runners really do. I learned about what the human body is capable of. More importantly I began to learn whst my body was capable of. I began to push myself farther and farther, literally. First a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon, several half marathons. I began to trail run more and more and conqured those same distances on the trails and thn pushed farther to 25k trail runs. Looking for that next challenge. Looking for that next beautiful trail I could experience. Wondering where tht next trail would take me.
Last year I was invited to participate in the event that really set all this in motion. My friend invited me to particiapte in an event with her and a couple other firends. We would run the Sehgahund Trail Marathon relay together. Once again, this was a thing that I didn’t realize even existed at the time. This was sucha fun event for me. It doesn’t get much better than spending time out on the trails with your friends working as a team. I don’t know if my fiend will think if this event with as much appreciation for the path it has sent us down as I do, but for me it was a formative event that has helped lead me to where I am now.
After building up by running loner distances last year culminatiung with a chalenging 25k I returned to the idea of Sehgahunda. We had all begun running more and more trails and I thought what if we all trained together and ran the full solo Sehgahunda Trail Marathon together. I almost couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth, and I don’t think my friends could either at first. A marathoin was never something I had thougtht about wanting to do. But now that the idea had formed in my head I just couldn’t shake it.
I spent all winter training and continued into spring. As the day of the race approached I began to feel nervous and anxious. I really has no idea what to expect. I just had to hope my training had me prepared for this. My wife was going to be at the race crewing and cheering me on at the aide stations and check points. Even though I really had no idea how this race would go for me I told her that I felt like if everything went well and I felt good I thought I could be done in six hours.
My friends and I spent the week leading up to the race watching the weather forecast for race day. The two conditions we were hoping not to have for the race was for it to not be too hot and for it not to be too wet. If it was wet we knew the trails leading to the aide stations/check points would be muddy disasters. We were fortunate enough to not have heat, which for me is the worst possible condition. However, we had plenty of rain leading up to the race including rain the night before the race and it actively rained during most of the race itself.
The trails that take you to the aide stations/check points lead you out of the woods and generally into open fields. The fields were completely saturated with water. It was a mud-fest. There was standing water in areas. The mud was at least ankle deep on most of these trails. You just slipped and slid all over. You couldn’t get any footing. You couldn’t push off because your feet just slid out behind you. As a mid pack runner another problem is that half of the runners are ahead of you so they have all already trampled through this area and degraded the trail a great deal. The traffic out in front on these trails basically created a narrow steep rut of mud to run through. You couldn’t step off to the side because it was so muddy that you slid back down into the trench. Gravity was doing its job. And it got more complicated. Not only did you have to navigate the water hazards and the deep slippery mud these sections were out and backs with two way traffic going down a path that especially due to the mud was basically single track. Trying to continue to move forward without colliding with your fellow runners was not as easy as it might seem. Combine this challenge with the possibility of passing other runners going the same direction as you and it was even more difficult. It basically became more effective to divert so far off the designated path that you were basically out in a field of knee high grass. But even that wasn’t possible most places.
On the way to most of the aide stations/check points you were going up hill. So, you were working against gravity in ground conditions that made it very to push off or use any power or strength to propel oneself forward as the ground just continued to shift under your foot as you pushed against it. The factors combined to result in a lot of walking up through the mud. On the way down from the aide stations/check points you were presented with a different kind of challenge. The mud was obviously still there but instead of going against gravity you were going with gravity down the hill. And instead of the mud preventing you from pushing off of to propel yourself up, now the mud prevented you from planting your feet to slow yourself down and control your descent. It was like mud skiing except there was much less control of direction and footing than with actual skies on snow. You slid and splattered down the hill at the best speed you could manage without completely losing control and either falling or colliding with a fellow runner. I’ve heard running described as controlled falling and this was as close to that as I have ever felt. The fall was barely under control but felt inevitable. However, I managed not to fall on any of those sections.
I thought that the main trails that ran through the woods would remain mostly firm with only a relatively small degree of mud despite the rain. I even advised my friend against running in her trail shoes with more aggressive tread for better grip in the mud because I thought the main trails would not be so bad as to require it and the side trails up to the aide stations would be so muddy that they wouldn’t make a difference. Luckily she was smart enough to ignore me and follow her own instincts. The main trail was much muddier than I had anticipated. I lost a shoe in a mud hole in less than two miles. I saw all the runners ahead of me running around this muddy spot and I thought it made no sense to take the extra steps to avoid it since we were going to get plenty muddy anyway. I ran right through the middle of the mud I went through it just fine. I didn’t slip at all. Unfortunately though one of my shoes did not follow me through those several steps and remained lodged in the mud. Being early in the race I was still moving along at a decent pace and despite my shoes being tied as tightly as I could get them my foot slipped right out and I took several muddy steps with no shoe on one foot. Then I had to retrace my steps and shimmy my foot back into my shoe.
I love the trails that make up the Sehgahunda course. They are almost entirely single track until the last 4 miles. The trails twist and turn and wind their way through the woods at Letchworth State Park. You get to see and enjoy so much gorgeous woodland scenery. You can see out across the gorge created by the Genesee River at times. You run along sloping ravines as you traverse the forest. You you run down into than back up out of countless gullies created by water runoff over the years. I was actually pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t more water in the gullies considering all the rain we had been having and were currently experiencing during the race.
I didn’t really have a plan for the race other than do whatever it takes to finish. I didn’t have a set plan to try to average a certain pace or anything. I started out the race running whatever pace felt comfortable. I wasn’t running hard but I wasn’t holding back either. I felt really good the whole first half of the race.
The race has a fair amount of elevation gain overall but there aren’t really any particularly steep climbs, which is good for me because I am not good at climbing and it always seems to just suck the life right out of my legs for whatever follows. Despite there being no steep elevation gains there are still some really nice long gradual downhill sections where you can pick up some speed and run faster. I was able to use these features to my advantage throughout the first half of the race.
As I approached the first side station/check point, about 6 miles into the race, I caught up to a couple of my female friends who were also running the full marathon. So I was able to chat with some friends out on the trail for a few minutes. At the aide station/check point I got one of my Calorie Bomb Cookies, that I made from the recipe in the No Meat Athlete Cookbook, out of my pack and ate and drank there. I said hi to my wife who was there to cheer me on and crew for me. Then I was back off on the trail.
After getting back down into the woods I eventually caught up to my two friends who I originally hatched this crazy plan with. We were able to talk for a little while out on the trail. We were all in good spirits. I also took some video of them running which I don’t know if they were aware of at the time. I continued to move along in the trails at a pretty good pace for me. I was just casually running down a relatively nondescript section of trail when I apparently failed to pick my size 14 foot up high enough to clear a root or a rock because I went down. I tripped and went straight down flat on my chest and face. Luckily I was able to brace myself somewhat with my outstretched hands like superman. Fortunately I was not hurt and I popped back up and continued to run. One of my fellow runners asked if I was ok and my response was that “I’m a professional faller at this point. I don’t get hurt.”
The large number of participants from our running club, Southern Tier Running Club, included several teams running the relay. The relay teams from our club included some very fast kids. Kids who are much faster than me on my best day. My friends and I had been talking about how long we thought it would be before I was passed by one of our club’s relay teams. Even with a 30 minute headstart it was only a matter of time before they overtook me. I said I would be happy if I stayed ahead of them for 10 miles. I actually did better than I expected. I didn’t get passed by the first member of one of our relay teams until mile 12. He went flying past me like I was standing still.
As I approached the 3rd aide station/check point at mile 15 I was starting to get tired. The plan here was to take the time to change my socks and reapply anti chaffing ointment to my feet because I have had problems with blisters on my past long runs. First I had to scrape the mud off my shoes just so I could get to my shoe laces. Changing my socks felt so good. It was much more noticeable than I had expected and even though I didn’t change my wet and muddy shoes my feet still felt dry and comfortable. I don’t know if that was a byproduct of wearing Darn Tough brand socks or what, but I was happy for it. The second half of the race was a little drier and less muddy so the change in socks was a good decision even though it took a significant amount of time to do. It also helps to keep your feet dry if you keep your shoes on while running which I managed to do during the second half of the race by keeping my weight more on my toes through the muddier areas. I was able to see my wife again and talk and absorb some of her positive vibes and every as she cheered me on and then I was off from the third stop.
The second half of the race was kind of a blur. The aide stations/check points were closer together and I took advantage of that. But the second half of the race felt like much more of a grind. Just trying to keep movingforward. It also seemed to have more elevation gain or at least more sustained segments of elevation gain requiring more walking. One part I do remember was falling once again on a very nondescript section of trail. Not doing anything that really should have lead to me falling. Just failing to pick up my feet. When I got up I saw another pair of runners standing over me and one said that they had just fallen there too. So it must have been booby trapped. At least I wasn’t the only one it took down.
At some point as the day progressed it began to get warmer and more humid down in the forest and when you emerged at aide stations/check points you could feel the cool breeze out in the open and we bantered with the great volunteers regarding their nice weather. I took some ice and put it under my hat and tucked some into the buff I was wearing around my neck to help me stay cool.
As I traversed the trails over the second half of the race what I knew to be my weakness became increasingly apparent. My hips and core muscle were getting tighter and increasingly sore. All the muscles you use to lift your legs and stabilize yourself in you pelvic girdle were screaming at me. I pushed on through the discomfort. I walked when I needed to on inclines and stretched my muscles as best I could at side stations/check points.
When I began the flatter section that was basically old logging road or gravel road or some combination of the two I knew I was getting closer to the end from the preview run I did here with my friends. Only about four miles to go. It was both a relief and a bit of mental torture. I was relieved to know the end was in sight but felt like how can there still be four miles. And those four miles seemed to drag on forever. But despite that the simple knowledge of how close I was to the end and the relative flatness of this section of the course allowed me to run at a reasonable pace and push myself to sustain it.
When I emerged from the woods onto the park road I was almost done. The finish was literally in sight. Just one more hurdle to get over. That last section of road included a not so small hill and it feels especially daunting after 25 miles. Who does that? Who throws one last hill in within the last quarter mile of a trail marathon? I was determined not to walk up that hill. I don’t know how fast or slow I went up that hill but I maintained some version of running all the way up. I am sure it wasn’t pretty.
As I approached the finish I saw my wife there cheering me on. She has been such a huge support for me during all this insane training. It helped push me across the finish just to see her. It was a great feeling to cross that finish and just stop moving for a minute. It’s a great post race vibe at Sehgahunda. Talking to friends who’ve already finished, waiting to cheer friends on through the finish, and cheering on other runners is a great way to finish off the day. Oh yeah, did I mention there is food and beer.
The other aspect of all this aside from the running for me has been trying to document as much as possible as a photographer. Race day was not a good day for photography so I did not take many still photos with my GoPro, but I did shoot several segments of video, which I honestly haven’t even watched yet to see how they came out. I’m hoping I can compile the footage into something bigger at some point. Race photos didn’t turn out great which is a bummer but I did some creative editing to try to make them look as good as possible and they accompany this post. I hope you enjoyed reading this way too long race report.
If you’ve enjoyed this and want to support my work become a supporter of mine on Patreon for as little as $1 a month. It helps me put all this together. Thanks for your support
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.
This weekend I have quite a few things going on. It is a double edged sword when your life is so full of activity that you aren’t sure that you can fit it all in. There are so many aspects of my life that I love end derive joy from, however sometimes all of those things collide in a short time frame and can create a significant amount of stress. This weekend my photography life and my running life are colliding hard core. I am currently training for a 50k trail race and simultaneously trying to expand my photography business as well as maintain services I have provided in the past.
For my race training I need to run 20 miles on Saturday and I need to run at least 10 miles Sunday. On Saturday morning I have the privileged of photographing an important community event, Walk A Mile In My Shoes. This is a suicide awareness event that is held in my home town of Elmira, NY. This is a very well done event and it receives a ton of support from the community. I have photographed this event in the past and it is always a rewarding experience. Also, on Saturday evening I have scheduled a nature photography workshop. Holding photography workshops is something I am beginning to do new this year. I really wanted to have an early spring workshop and this seemed like a good time to have it. I have a busy early half of the year and this was the only weekend that would relay allow it to happen at all. In between those two events I will somehow squeeze in a 20 mile run, and I am not particularly fast so it is quite time consuming.
On Sunday I will be at Southern Tier Running Club’s Trail Fest at Grist Iron Brewing. I will start the day at 7:30 AM volunteering for the club during bib pick up for all of the runners attending to run the race. Then I will transition into photography mode and photograph the event which consists of three separate races. There is a 1 mile race, a 5k race, and a 10k race. I expect this will take most of the day. Then after finishing that up I will need to run 10 miles as part of my training plan for my 50k training. It is going to be a long but fulfilling day and weekend.
All of this activity even though it is generated for things I love it is bound to be stressful. Stress is a real thing. It can be good but it can also be detrimental to both our physical and mental health. Stress can overwhelm us. We might think that all of the things we are doing is because we love it and we want to but everything takes its physical and mental toll on us. Even the things we love and enjoy. Maybe especially those things because those are the things we care most about. We all need to evaluate what things we say yes to and what things we say no to. No one can do everything even if they are all things they love. There is not enough time, energy, or mental capacity. We are all human and we can only take on so much of a load. There is no shame in this. We all have to chose and prioritize those things that mean the most and say no to other things.
As I have been going through the process of training for a 50k, I knew it was going to be a time commitment, but I really had no idea what I was getting into. I love the idea of running this type of run, but the commitment needed to train may be more than I can fit into my life these days. I will reevaluate after my race and decide if/when I will ever be able to do it again. As it is I would never be able to do it without my wife picking up the slack at home while I am out grinding away the miles.
This weekend will also be something I evaluate after the fact. Once I get through it I will look back on it and see what went well and what didn’t. Then I will know if I will ever plan to pack so much into one weekend again. This also fits into my evaluation of how training for a really long race goes. This would not be a problem if I wasn’t in the midst of training for a long race. Can I do both? Can I run long races and be a successful photographer in addition to other parts of my life I need to keep intact.
Husband, Photographer, Dog Lover, Writer, Runner, Nature Lover, Analyst. Is it all too much? How do I balance it all? These are the questions we all must ask and find a way to live the life we find most meaningful.