Tag Archives: marathon

Running My First Trail Marathon

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.

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50 K Training: Week 3

Training for a 50k has been a big change to the way I run. I have never done any kind of official training program for any race I have run. If I set my sights on a run that is a little different in the past I just change the way I run to suit the type of race I am striving for. If the race is longer than what I normally run I just try to run a little farther each time I run until I can run that distance. If my goal is to run a familiar distance a little faster I just focus on trying to run each run of that distance a little faster and improve over time. If I am focusing on a a trail run instead of a road race I try to spend more time running trails.

Following a plan that tells me what days to run and how many miles to run is so much more regimented than anything I have ever done in my running or in any aspect of my life really. In a way its good because there it eliminates the decision making. Do I want to run today? How far do I want to run today? What kind of run do I want to have today? Not having to make decisions regarding the running is good. It alleviates a little bit of stress and indecisiveness. I know exactly what I am doing. I just have to look at my calendar.

On the other hand, following a plan feels a bit daunting at times. There is a limited amount of flexibility one can create within the structure if a plan. I sometimes can push a run back a day or run a day early. But other than that I wake up and I know, I am running TODAY. I think that as runners we have all had days where we just don’t feel like running. But when you are trying to follow a training plan to train for a very specific event you can’t decide I just don’t feel like running today and let that feeling win on a very regular basis. If you do you will show up to your race an be unprepared.

On Sunday 1/21/18 I finished up week three of my training plan. It felt like a particularly tough week. I felt tired several days I had to run. I just didn’t feel strong on most of my runs. There were days I just didn’t feel like running. There were days I almost stopped mid run and just called it good enough for no real reason than I didn’t feel like running anymore.

Part of this is I am running more miles on a more regular basis than I ever have before. I am running more days a week than I ever have before. And the biggest factor for me I think is, that due to it being the middle of winter in upstate NY, I have spent more time running on a treadmill than I had ever imagined I would. I am a hater of the treadmill. The monotony kills me. I can’t wait for Spring and more light an nicer weather.

On a positive note, Sunday I was scheduled to run a nice easy five miles the day after my weekly long run. My long run had felt like a struggle even though it was my shortest long run of the plan so far. I was kinda dreading going out for a run for fear that I just wouldn’t feel good. I procrastinated as much as I could. Eventually I laced up the shoes and stepped out the door.

It was relatively warm compared to recent weather trends here. I left my house and started slowly heading down the road. The run started off slow. But the longer I ran the more I wanted to run. The running started working its magic. I started to feel better. I felt better physically and I felt better about being out for a run. My run was supposed to be at an easy pace, but I was feeling good so I just ran what felt right. I didn’t check my watch much to make sure I was running the planed pace. I think just letting go and running the pace that felt right helped me feel better physically an spiritually. It was just the right thing to do for me in the moment.

I finished the run with an average pace that was 30 seconds per mile faster than what I was supposed to run but I also finished the run feeling satisfied. I left the mindset of training behind for one run and just enjoyed the run. I want to be prepared for my race. I want to be conditioned so I can enjoy the race but I also want to enjoy the training as much as I can. I think that this might be the approach I take throughout training from now on. As long as I feel good physically I might just run casually without minding my training plan once in a while for a refresh. It’s like hitting the restart button.

So if you are struggling take a minute and reset. Then get back to work.

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Tanglewood Nature Center

Running goals….change

This year I did not have too many running goals in mind. My one goal race was to run the 25k Green Monster trail race in October. That would be my longest race to date and the goal is to just finish. 

Other than that I just wanted to enjoy running with my friends. And on that note the first part of the year has been great. 

As with most things the more you run the better you get at it. Thankfully I have a great group of friends that enjoy running so I am able to find company for a run just about any time and that increases the likelihood of running on any given day. 

I tend to be the kind of person who thinks “I can’t do that” especially when it pertains to running. Luckily I have these friends that encourage me to sign up for challenging races and push me to run harder, faster, and farther than I think I can. These are good people. They tolerate my constant gripes as we run. They know at the end I’ll be happy with the results even though I deny it in the moment every time. 

So, thanks to getting to run with all my friends I have made more progress than I thought. So I think it is time to add a new running goal for this year. I had planned to focus on trail running but after my last road run I decided to set a goal for what I plan as my last race of the year, the Red Barron Half Marathon in Upstate NY with the Southern Tier Running Club. My goal is for a sub two hour half marathon at that race. Something that after last year I thought was just a goal for some race in the distant future. But now it seems within reach. 

Anyone who is interested in training with me as the year progresses with this goal in mind is more than welcome. Find me on Facebook and we can organize some runs. 

Looking forward to the next run. See you out there. 

Trying to Run a Better Race

 

Running the 2016 Wineglass Half Marathon:

I’ve known for about 52 weeks that I would run this race again. I ran my first half marathon here in 2015 and I knew I wanted to do it again and do it better. This was the one race I knew early on I would run this year.

Last year I was nervous if I would even be able to do it, but I did. This year I did something I had never done for any other race and I set for myself a pace/time goal. As the race began to loom on the horizon, I began to get nervous that I would not run well and what felt for me like a terrible race over basically a half marathon distance for a relay did not help the nerves.

I am not good at prep and planning for events like racing. I am more of a just go and do type person. So I was relieved when several of my friends running Wineglass asked if I wanted to car pool with them. Perfect, several fewer things to have to worry about on my end. Meet at the specified time and ride up with them. No decision making or planning by me needed.

The night before I felt like I was all prepped and ready to go before going to bed. All my clothes were laid out, racing and pre/post clothing. Gear laid out: hat, gloves, belt pouch (for chews etc.), compression sleeves, and headphones. I had everything in the same room in close proximity to make it almost impossible to forget. My wireless headphones were plugged into my computer to ensure a full charge so they would last the whole race. I had my camera out and battery plugged in to charge so it would last the whole race. Yes, I said camera. I’m a photographer and try to take a camera with me wherever possible.

We got to the starting location for the half marathon nice and early. Plenty of time to relax, stretch, eat, prep, and do all the pre-race things that only other runners are privy to. As I was getting ready I realized I forgot band aids to prevent chaffing (guys you probably know what this is about and maybe the girls too).  Strike one. The always-prepared Eric Williams thankfully had some extras that mostly worked. (I don’t want to talk about what happened when they stopped working. LOL.) As I was getting ready to run I realized I my headphones were definitely fully charged, because they were still at home plugged into my computer. This is after spending hours trying to put together a decent running playlist to pump me up throughout this half marathon. Strike 2.  As I am getting to the starting line I get my camera out to take a few photographs of the crowd of runners and the scenery only to discover that this battery too was still at home safe and sound fully charged. Strike 3. I was really hoping this was not a 3 strikes and you are out type of situation.

I was really starting to get down on myself for being unprepared right before the race. Not good. Fortunately for me Joette Foster was with me. She of the always-positive attitude gave me a quick attitude adjustment and got me back in a positive frame of mind.

As I waited alone for the race to start, if one can be alone in a group of thousands, out of the crowd materializes friend and fellow runner Georgia Tucker. We talked about the pace we were each planning to run and settled in the area where we figured we should be in the crowd, no pacer running the pace we were targeting. Unfortunately for Gorgia, but fortunately for me, she could not get her music service to connect so she too had no music to run with either. We ran and talked for 10 miles. In addition, we stayed pretty much at the pace I wanted for the entire 10 miles. I actually could not believe I could run and chat for 10 miles at basically my goal pace. Running and talking with Georgia helped me to not think about the running or the miles I’ve run or the miles still to go. It was so enjoyable to run with someone I knew and could talk to. I had my Garmin watch set to notify me if I was going too fast or too slow for the pace I wanted. That allowed me to just glance quickly and see if I needed to speed up a little or could slow down some then just keep talking and keep on keeping on running with Georgia.

A mile 10 the wheels started to come off a little bit for me and I could not keep up my pace and Georgia and the pacer I really wanted to stay in front of pulled away off into the distance. I was still running ok but could feel the strength leaving my legs. I just didn’t have much left in the tank. I was excited to see my friends at STRC and the SOAR kids cheering runners on and that gave me a quick boost of energy but it didn’t last. I was able to finish the race at a good time for me 2:15:32. This was a significantly faster PR for me. I felt good almost the entire race. I was happy with the results.

The race was great and I enjoyed it and felt accomplished by my run. However, by far the best part for me was the post-race. Over the past year being involved with running groups and clubs like STRC I have gotten to know so many runners, where in previous years I had known none. If anyone was there to cheer me on at previous races it was my amazing wife, Debby and one of my dogs. I’ve gone to several races where I showed up alone, run the race, and then immediately gone home because I didn’t know anyone.

This year was totally different. This year I knew at least a dozen people who were running in either the full or half marathon. This year I had friends, support, and comradery from the running community. This is something I would never had and I would have even known was possible without joining great running groups like STRC and No Meat Athlete, Corning. They welcomed me into their group and made me one of them. They supported me throughout this journey and encouraged me to work hard when I didn’t think I could do it.

When I crossed the finish line I first looked for my wife. She’s been there supporting me through all my craziness. She pointed Joette out to me in the crowd and we congratulated each other on a well-run race. We found, Lindsay Barrile, the person who has been the captain of this running crew I have been fortunate enough to fall in with. Lindsay planned great workouts and training for us and I did more structured running thanks to her than I ever would have. Let’s face it I would have done no structured running workouts without her. We found the speedster of our group Eric and the four of us got our picture taken together, which I had never done before at a race. We sat and recovered together. We talked about our races, where it went well for us and where it came off the rails. We shared our successes.

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Me and Kira after the race. (Photo by Debby Reynolds)

We all went to change into some dry cloths so we could enjoy the rest of race day together. I was able to find Debby in the crowd with one of our dogs who was very excited to see me. It is always great to have the support of my loving wife and one of our great dogs after a race. It always helps to ease the post-race discomfort when you can be snuggled by a dog.

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Me and Kira after the race. (Photo by Debby Reynolds)

Our group of runners was able to reconnect after changing and watch more of the runners finish there races. We were joined by another friend Sarah Wellington who was able to return after spending some time with her family. We were able to hang out, socialize, and enjoy some great food and a few beers on the always-fabulous Market Street in Corning, NY.

While we ate we were able to monitor another friends progress in the full marathon thanks to the Race Joy app. Brande Flaitz was running the full marathon and we wanted to cheer her on. I was in communication without other STRC members out on the course cheering and they were wondering about her progress. I was able to relay her position using the Race Joy app. We were growing concerned that she had become injured as it seemed she had fallen off her expected pace for the race. Brett Shelton who had been cheering with other STRC members and the SOAR kids ran out to meet her at mile 24 and see how she was doing. As we tracked her progress it was suggested that we go out to the course and meet up with Brande to support her in this effort. Thanks again to the Race Joy app we were able to find her exact location and drive over and meet up with her around a mile or so out form the finish. Sarah who was still recovering from her race and her own injury broke into a sprint upon seeing her and ran out to support her. Lindsay, Joette, Eric, and I all joined them.

Brande was clearly in pain. She was gutting it out through the pain of her injury. We were able to walk and ran with her towards the finish line where she successfully finished her race. Despite being injured, she was still moving at a decent pace. I couldn’t keep up without running.  I had never been a part of something like this. A group of people supporting each other and encouraging one another to push our limits. This is what running is. This is the community of runners I have been lucky enough to become a part of is all about.

Brande didn’t get to run the race she had envisioned but she ran the race she could given the circumstances she was dealt. She gutted it out through sheer force of will and determination when many others would have given up. She ran a race many others including me could not have run. I am proud of her for her toughness and her ability to dig down deep and see that race through to the end. This was a day I will never forget for so many reasons and I am so glad I was there to be a part of it. I am so glad I became a runner.

Running the Binghamton Marathon Relay

 

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I started off the 2016 year thinking I would only run a few events. As the year has progressed I have found myself running more events than I thought I would. Sometimes things just fall into your lap and you can’t pass it up.

I knew going into the year I would run Glassfest 8K and the Wineglass Half Marathon and maybe two other events. One of which would likely be a longer race like a half marathon. On Friday 9/16/16 A friend and fellow runner put out the word that he needed a new partner for the Binghamton Marathon Relay. I figured surely another of my running friends or a runner that I didn’t know would jump in and take the spot. As I saw the responses coming in from other runners saying that they were busy and couldn’t do it I began to think, well maybe I could do it. The only problem was I had a prior engagement I would need to be back home for by noon.

I began thinking about what the race entailed and the distances of the legs we would have to run. I had been training for the Wineglass Half Marathon already. If I ran the first two legs of the Binghamton Marathon Relay and ran it in around the times I expected from my training I determined that I could run the first two legs of the relay and then head back home. I was planning to run a long training run on Sunday anyway, right. What’s the difference? So, I talked to my potential teammate and we decided that this would work and he would either find another runner to run one of the other legs or he would run both of those. We were able to find another running friend to run the final leg of the relay.

The Binghamton Marathon Relay was on 9/18/16. Just two days away. Did I really just sign up for a race on basically  1 days’ notice? I’ve never decided to run a race on such short notice. I was excited to be doing something I have never done before in the Marathon Relay but very nervous about being prepared for it considering that I had not planned to do this at all. It doesn’t help that I am the kind of person who is always nervous and anxious no matter how prepared I am for something. I have also never run a race that I had to drive an hour to before and that made me nervous.

On Race day I was actually prepped, dressed, and ready to go on time. On the drive out to the race venue my hip was feeling like it was tightening up every minute I was in the car. Trying to stretch a hip while seated and driving a car is let’s just say interesting and mostly unsuccessful. I arrived at the race right about the time I was planning to and was ready to run and at the start/finish line in plenty of time. I was ready perhaps a bit too early. As they were calling racers to the starting line I was one of only a few that were ready so when I went to the starting line there was nobody else there and I ended up being at the very front of the field. At the front of the field in any race is not a place I should be nor is it a place I want to be. At the start of the race I was off with the other racers. I wasn’t intending to run fast but it’s hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm of the runners at the front. For the first couple of miles I knew I was running a faster pace than I wanted to or had trained for. I also did not want to spend the race looking at my watch to check my pace. I just wanted to enjoy the run. I spent the opening miles of the race just trying to slow down and let the other runners pass by, which really isn’t a great feeling even if you are not racing hard.

During the race I noticed bikers working for the event riding out ahead of runners and back towards the runners. I was not sure what they were doing. I just assumed they were making sure everyone was safe and people were staying on course. They may very well have been doing that too, but what I learned around mile 4 or 5 is that they were also handing out GU pouches to anyone who wanted one. One of the riders cruised up alongside me and coasted and asked if I wanted a GU and made a very easy transaction of passing me a GU while I was running and he was biking. This was totally cool and totally new to me. Now I didn’t have to get into my own pouch to get a gel. Thank you bike GU deliver guy.

One thing that is very strange is when you are running a relay and you come to an exchange point and you see all the other runners who are either waiting to exchange runners or have already exchanged runners for the relay and you know that you are not changing runners. It is especially tough mentally when you feel like you are not having a good race. Which is exactly how I was feeling. I was feeling tired both physically and mentally.

So, by mile 7 I was already feeling less than at my best. I was trying to keep my mentality positive. Telling myself over and over that this was just a practice run in preparation for Wineglass. Treat this just like a training run. I just wanted to log the miles. I’ll be honest it really wasn’t working. The race conditions were really not in my favor. It was warm and humid. I had spent the entire summer trying to avoid running in this type of weather.

By mile 10 I was feeling completely gassed. I was really starting to slow down. I was really starting to get a little down. This was not the performance I had hoped for after all my training that I felt like had gone so well. At some point I shifted into survival mode. I had to change my mentality. It wasn’t about this race anymore. My goal race was the Wineglass Half Marathon in 2 weeks. I needed to make sure I didn’t do any harm to myself that I couldn’t recover sufficiently from in time to run my best at Wineglass. I slowed down my pace, weather because of my mentality or simply because I couldn’t sustain it any longer or some combination of the two I don’t know. I knew this was not the race that was most important to me. This was just a trial on the way to my ultimate test for this year. I just needed to make it through. By the time I reached the exchange point at the half marathon distance and saw my teammate I literally could barely keep going. I had never felt so worn out after a race.

The best things about the race had nothing to do with me. During one of the toughest parts of the race for me mentally one of my friends in the field caught up to me and recognized me. She asked if I wanted to talk while we ran. I said talking would be nice but I am literally too tired and fatigued mentally to carry the conversation so she’d have to do the heavy lifting so to speak in the conversation department. During our time talking I learned that we had a mutual friend. Our conversation gave me some reasons to smile and to laugh on what was otherwise a tough day for me mentally. Finally at one point I told my friend that she could go ahead and run on at her pace, because I was just too tired to talk anymore. A little later a running friend not running this event drove past and cheered me on. And as I neared my exchange point with my teammates awaiting yet another running friend, who I didn’t know was running this event, was leaving the check point and passing me on the other side of the street gave me a shout out and words of encouragement.

Along the course there were volunteers manning water stations providing runners with hydration and speaking words of encouragement. Scattered all along there course there were various people and groups of fans for lack of a better word cheering us on. There were even a few people who were stopped in traffic waiting for runner to cross intersections who rolled down their windows and cheered us on. Every time I crossed paths with someone who had positive words and cheers to share it gave me a reason to put a smile back on my face and lifted me up a little on what was a tough day for me.

I hesitated to call the people watching the race fans but I think the might just be the perfect word. The people watching the race and cheering on runners were obviously not my fans, nor were they likely anyone’s fan except maybe one person they knew who was running the race. But these spectators cheered for every runner that passed them by. They yelled out, spoke words of encouragement, and rang cow bells. Why would they do this? Because they are fans. Not fans of just individuals. They are fans of runners. Fans of people who push themselves. Fans of people who challenge themselves physically and mentally. Fans of the community putting on the event. Fans of people supporting people and people supporting local organizations. It is about people showing support for other people and supporting communities, the local community and the community of runners that have gathered there.

I will remember this day as a tough run for me, but above everything else I will remember it as a day that people came together to cheer on others they may not even know as well as those that they did. It was a day of support and encouragement. A day of pushing ones limits fueled by the encouragement of others.

Photographing Myself Running

We all have our own little idiosyncrasies. Sometimes we don’t really know why we do the things we do. Other times it’s pretty obvious why we do them. I know exactly why I do some of the things I do.

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The things that really move us, the things that are important a to us, the things we love. This is what causes us to do some of the strange things we do as humans. As a photographer, something I love, I carry around enough gear that my car tells me the passenger needs to put on their seatbelt when I set my bag on the passenger seat. I often have these multiple heavy cameras dangling from my neck while I look ridiculous. I can be found laying on the ground or just staring at something just waiting for the perfect moment to take the photograph. Most non photographers would think these behaviors are a bit odd but to me they are the things that allow me to do what I love.

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Over the past several years I have also become a fairly avid runner as improving my health has become important. Avid, not good or fast just avid. I get up at 5:00 am on my day off to make sure I get my run in before it gets too hot. I run for over an hour at one time. I run in the rain. I plan my days around trying to make sure I can get a run in. These are not things that very many non runners would typically do.

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Over the years both my photography and running have grown in importance to me. Each becoming an increasingly significant part of my life.

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When you live for photography and live for a healthy lifestyle you do increasing odd things. On Sunday 10/4/2015 I ran my fist ever half marathon. And my enthusiasm for running crashed headlong into my passion for photography and they merged. I decided the best way to make the most out of this situation would be to find a way to photograph the half marathon as I ran it. In years past I never though this would be possible because A. I could never have run a half marathon and B. I would have had no idea how to go running with a Nikon D300 around my neck.  But thanks to my relatively recent decision to begin experimenting with a Nikon 1 system in my photography I was able to find a way to make it happen. I was able to find a small snug fitting elastic belt pouch that stretched and was marketed to be used to carry ones phone and keys while running. As luck would have it the pouch would also fit a Nikon 1. I was able to tuck the Nikon 1 into the pouch and wear it to the starting line with my regular running gear no problem. It was hardly noticeable. I got it out  and took a few pre-race photos.

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I considered getting the camera out at different times during the race. But in the first six miles I was maintaining a pretty good pace for myself and I didn’t want to risk getting off my pace and slowing down to monkey with the pouch and get the camera out and then try to put it away again. I hadn’t had time to practice with it before the race. That was a big mistake.

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In the last four miles I was too tired and spent to consider using any energy work a camera. All my mental energy was going to focusing on running and making sure I finished the race. I was getting very tired and very sore. It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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Then as I neared the finish line probably inside of a mile I knew I was definitely going to finish. I had slowed considerably so my pace wasn’t an issue. I wouldn’t have to worry about putting the camera away I would just carry it to the end. So I decided now was the time to see what I could do with this little camera I carried all the way for 13 miles.

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I was able to unzip my pouch and get the camera out without impacting my running or dropping the camera. Now that’s a small victory in itself. I kept the camera strap on the camera even though it could make it more difficult to put away on the run, which I ended up not doing, and in glad I did. This freed me from worrying about dropping the camera while trying to looks round for something interesting to photograph and running. I could just simply throw the strap around my neck and that was that.

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Now it was time to try to figure out how to actually take some photos while running. I decided to try to experiment and try a few different things. Having the camera strap on allowed me to try something similar to having a GoPro strapped to my chest. I allowed the camera to essentially dangle from my neck and just tried to keep it straight. I thought I’d be able to get a photo as if directly from the runners perspective this way. I think it was difficult to make sure the camera was oriented properly to capture a decent image of what was in front of me. I am not sure any of these images turned any good. I think I often ended up with too much road in the photo and not enough subjects due to how low the camera strap hung and a wide-angle lens and not angling the camera up at all.

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I tried glancing over my shoulder to see what was going on behind me. I was able to get quick looks at my fellow runners as they usually approached and passed me. I then tried to position the camera over my shoulder facing the runners behind me so I could get a view of runners approaching me. It was a challenge to get the camera aligned right to be pointing straight and at the runners while also running however slowly I may have been going.

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I also attempted two other ways of taking photos of what I was seeing as I ran. I experimented with alternatingly holding the camera up in front of my face in a more traditional position to view the image and at other times just holding the camera out in front of me arms fully extended towards my intended subjects.

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This is where having the live view LCD screen of the Nikon 1 was invaluable. I don’t think I could have gotten decent photos of I had to try to look through a viewfinder. I was able to quickly select a subject and compose the image using the LCD and click the shutter all without compromising my safety by blocking most of my vision with a bulky camera that I had to hold up to my face to see through the viewfinder.

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I was even able to take a selfie style photo one-handed and I crossed the finish line, which was announced to the crowd as I crossed. I certainly couldn’t have done that with my Nikon D300.

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Overall this was a fun experience on all fronts. I challenged myself in many ways physically, mentally, and technically in both my running and photography. Trying something new is always an opportunity to learn and grow and I think I did.

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I also think I captured some nice images if I do say so myself. I think I will try this photography experiment in other running events and other experiences.

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