The winter weather in Upstate, NY has been a bit brutal in January. I was really hoping for a milder winter like we have had the past few years during which to train for my first trail marathon and 50k. Last week I ran my long run of 14 miles on a treadmill. Something I never thought I would do.
This week I was determined to run outside. Yesterday the temperature was around 12 degrees and it was the morning after our region was hit by a snow storm. The roads were still covered in snow. Barely a snow plow in site. But I remained determined to run outside. I layered up my clothes, put on heavy socks, and laced up my trail shoes. I treated it like a trail run, but on snow covered roads.
Since the roads were in bad shape I couldn’t travel to somewhere where I could run 14 miles on an out and back our loop course. I have a route where I can run down into town and around back up to my house, but I thought it best to stay away from areas where there might be more traffic.
I have a loop route that I run from my house of 7 miles, so the decision was to run 2 loops of the 7 mile course. I have never run that loop twice in a row. It is fairly challenging since I live on a hill and it creates any course of significant distance with a good amount of elevation gain. Running this loop twice generated nearly 1,800 feet of elevation. This combined with the snow made it particularly challenging.
The cold as also a factor. During the first five miles I felt pretty warm. There were times when the wind started whipping and it penetrated my layers of clothes and I was cold, but overall I think I had the perfect clothing on. That made me pretty happy because one thing I worry about as a relatively new runner is not knowing how to dress appropriately for the weather. Especially in the winter. I’ve only done much running in the winter for the last couple years.
One thing that really helped me with the struggle on this run was taking my GoPro out with me and photographing the scenery and photographing myself as I ran. It helped to take my mind off grinding out the miles and all the miles still to go. Having two loops of the same terrain to run was actually nice from a photography standpoint because I could try a couple of different things out on the spots that I really wanted to photograph. I created several different time lapse videos and a short regular video along with the photographs featured here.
You can check out the videos I created on this run on my YouTube channel: Kyle Reynolds
I have talked in the past about how my photography has a tendency to flow with other passions in my life. There are many things I am passionate about and they have all become part of my photography. However, the subject that becomes most prominent in a given time frame often has to do with what I am experiencing in my life. Nothing ever fall completely out of my photography repertoire but there are definitely times when some things fall to the background and new things arise.
As running has become a more prominent part of my life I find myself photographing more running. I have been trying to find new ways to photograph my adventures in running. As running has become a prominent influence in my photography I want to find more ways to showcase that influence.
Next year I will be having a gallery exhibit and I think this might be a good time to try to showcase some of my running photography. I have been wanting to create some new work for exhibits and a lot of my new work has focused on running. It makes sense that my next exhibit should also center around this new passion in my life. So, now I am constantly thinking about ideas of how I want to create a gallery show to show of some of the best things I have seen in running.
For me one of the most important things about running are the things you see while running that you may never otherwise see. Running has lead me to go places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone and do things I wouldn’t have otherwise done. I think one of the goals of my 2018 exhibit will be to show off some of these experiences I have had.
I have really been working hard on incorporating my photography into my running to get the true feeling of what my experiences are like and photograph as much of my journey as possible. I haven’t officially started to review my work to make sure I have enough images that are of high enough quality that I would want to share them in an exhibit yet, but I feel like I do. If I don’t then there is even more incentive to get out there and run and photograph over the next few months.
I look forward to having an opportunity to share my work and my passion with people again in another gallery exhibit and I hope to see you all out there. If you have any ideas on how I could further incorporate my photography into my running experiences I would love to hear it. I would also love to hear any ideas you have about my exhibit. Please comment here or find me on Facebook and Twitter and connect.
So apparently 6 months ago I started writing this post and never got back to it. Distractions, procrastination, just plain forgot. You name it. It happens to the best of us. I added all these photos to a draft and then never came back to it. I have no idea why.
I went to Ithaca, NY. One of my favorite places and I just wanted to explore the area a little more in depth than I had in the past.
I went to my favorite locations, but I tried to focus on different things. Sometimes the little things. Sometimes things that are just a little askew. I wanted to look at things from different angles. Use my different tools that I had at my disposal. This included several different cameras and lenses all with their own set of capabilities.
Sometimes you are lucky and nature simply grants you the perfect set up for interesting photographs. I love waterfalls and I love Buttermilk Falls State Park, but seriously can you beat to huge trees jammed up in a waterfall and one of them is at an angle so you can show it coming right at you. That was one of the advantages of my different camera set up on this trip. I would not likely have been able to capture that image with my traditional waterfall shooting set up.
Sometimes you just need to get close to the subject. This photo was taken at the perfect angle to allow me to focus on the flower blooming inside the leaves an blur out the rest of the irrelevant detail in the image.
And when you are walking around the Cornell Botanical Gardens there is an abundance of oportunities. And something just catches your eye and you see a tree with surrounding flowers and you just know that this is the image you want to capture. It just makes sense. You get the correct camera and lens combination and you create an image that matches your vision.
I used my macro lens to get p close and personal with these flowers growing low to the ground. My lens is only 60mm so I was likely in some kind of strangely contorted posture taking this photo. I was either hunched over, crouched, on my hands and knees, or lying down. The things one will do for a photo.
I loved this little grouping of flowers. I was very happy I was able to capture three of them in focus together with another flower out of focus in the background. The little twig adds another element in the photo from the time of year when flowers are blooming and pushing up through the dead debris of the past.
Really this photo does not require much commentary for me. If you are familiar with our part of the Finger Lakes at all you know what this is a photo of. This is Taughannock Falls State Park. This photo is from the upper look out area near the visitor center. It is quite a majestic view. This is a place that must be experienced.
This photo is from along the lower portion of Taughannock Falls State Park as the water runs away from where the falls pours down it creates this stream and nice rock formation through the gorge.
Last year a friend of mine suggested I run a race that sounded challenging and fun but it was the weekend after I was running another race. I didn’t think that I could run a race on back to back weekends. I ended up not running the other race and just sticking with the one race that I was already committed to. The race I didn’t run last year was the Green Monster 15k.
My friend said that since I couldn’t run the Green Monster 15k in 2016 that I should commit to running the Green Monster 25k in 2017. (Thanks Shannon) I decided that was exactly what I would do. Green Monster 25k would be my goal race for 2017. Everything I would do in 2017 would be focused on getting me ready to run the Green Monster 25k in October. The Green Monster 25k would be the longest distance I had ever run period race or not. The race would be the most challenging race I’ve run from the perspective of elevation gain and technicality of the trail as well. I wasn’t even that experienced in trail running at the end of 2016. I just knew that I enjoyed the few races that I had run and I enjoyed the occasional times I had run on trails in the past.
2017 would be a year focused on trail running for me. I only ran in two races that were road races. I spent more time than ever on trails. I ran longer and longer runs. I talked to people that were experienced in trail running, seeking advice and counsel.
This year was the most fun and interesting year of running I have had to date. I experienced all kinds of new things. Since I would be running my first ever 25k mile trail run and the longest trail run I had ever run prior to that was a 10k (I had completed multiple road half marathons by that point.) I thought it would be wise to target a 25k trail run that might be at least a little less challenging early in the year so that I could at least get some experience with running that distance. I targeted the Fingerlakes 50’s 25k. Then I forgot to register on the day the race opened and I ended up on the waiting list. I spent the whole first half of the year waiting to find out if I would even get into this race. Turns out I did get in and the race went pretty well despite the monsoon that occurred during the race. Nothing like a soggy trail run in the Fingerlakes.
Even though I didn’t know if I would be able to run the Fingerlakes 50’s 25k I spent the first part of the year training like I definitely was running it. That meant building up my trail running legs over ever increasing distances. Almost every race I ran in the first half of the year was a new first for me. I ran a 10k race. I ran my first ever 8 mile trail run on a tough loop course, in the early summer heat, in the evening where I had the option of just stopping at 4 miles and bow was that tempting in the heat. That race was a new experience for me in many ways. That race was a new experience to me in so many ways. The distance was new. Running an evening race was new. And even running in the heat was different for me. I usually try to avoid running in the heat. I’ve also never run a loop course before where you could just stop, and the mental challenge of not stopping was so tough.
After the 8 mile race I went on to run my first 20K trail run. This race also included some substantial elevation changes which would present another new challenge for me. This was my second go on a loop course. Having to pass by the finish line after completing a steep climb that was the end of the 10k race was not fun but I was committed. Despite getting off course along with a substantial number of runners and missing some mileage and some climbing I was exhausted by the end, but I got it done and it was on to the Fingerlakes 50’s 25k for the next race.
The Fingerlakes 50’s 25k was a great experience. Prior to the race I was worried about it being too hot as the forecast was for temps in the 80’s around race time. The actual race conditions were a muddy mess of a slog that for substantial portions of the race featured torrential downpours. Every trail you ran on had water running on it in some direction, towards you, with you, or across the path. There were even portions of standing water. Near the end it was a mental struggle to just fight the urge to just walk the rest of the way. I was beaten down by the distance and the rain and mud, bt I got to the finish line. This was not just a race it was an experience.
In August I ran my first every trail half marathon. It was on a relatively flat course that I actually had a little bit of experience with part of the trail from a trail relay I had run earlier in the year. Due to the lack of elevation change this race did not have a lot in common with my goal race other than getting me to close to that amount of distance. I still wanted to simulate how I would feel on my goal race during this race. I knew that long before the end of my goal race I would be exhausted, so my plan for this race was to run myself to exhaustion before the end. I ran out much harder than someone of my ability level proably should at the beginning of the race. And by not too far after the half way point I was feeling quite fatigued and slowing. But that was the plan I wanted to experience running tired and pushing myself to keep going. The plan worked well. I was exhausted and I finished.
I had run a race every month since spring to get prepared for my goal race and to help maintain my motivation to train. After my August race I didn’t have another race lined up for September. My friend Shannon once again stepped up and suggested I run the race she was going to run. An 8 mile loop course up and down a nearby ski resort mountain. Knowing I both needed to work on my climbing and have incentive to continue working on my climbing until my goal race, I was in. That was a challenging run for me. I am normally the kind of person that likes to stop for a second to get a photo of the nice scenery I am privileged to be out in. Not during this race. You were always going up or down. There were no convenient places to stop for a photo.
Finally October rolls around and my goal race, Green Monster 25k, is in sight. I am a bundle of emotions thinking about this challenge that is in front of me. Did I train hard enough. Will I be ready. Am I in over my head. I was pretty confident that I could handle the pure distance. It was the elevation gain that I was concerned about. I had run parts of the trail multiple times with friends. However, a planned preview run of the 25k course with a friend did not go so well and that had me a little down leading into the race and race day was forecast to be warm as well. Another strike against me that I’d worry about.
Ascents have been and continue to be my biggest challenge in trail running. The race starts off flat but quickly turns into the longest climb of the day. My strategy was to go out slow and try to conserve my energy for the climb. Climbs just take the wind out of my sails and I did not want to start off the race too tired already. I got through the first climb and I got to the top where it levels out tired but not too bad off. I apparently let my guard down a little too much after the climb and tripped and fell at one of the least technical (Read easy and no reason to fall) parts of the trail. But If I was going to fall there it may have been one of the best spots to fall. It was one of the least rocky areas. If I had fell a few minutes later I probably would have been pretty busted up.
After a little flat running came my favorite part of the entire race. A nice long descent. Not too steep as to be technical but steep enough that you could pick up some momentum. I even caught up to and passed some people. Descents are basically the only place that happens for me in a trail race. I spent the next portion of the race picking and choosing when to run and when to walk as distance was covered over a long gradual incline. The whole time I know a steep ascent is looming and I am trying to arrive at the ascent without being too out of breath already.
The ascent up Bark Slide Trail was steep and a considerable challenge for me. I took my time getting up it so I would have legs left for the rest of the race. At the top you loop around and go back down a more gradual descent and return to the path where you went up Bark Slide. A bit farther along was the third big climb of the race. This trail is steep and rocky and even has large trees growing in the middle of the trail. One of which I leant against and rested on during my previous attempt. This time I was tired but I did not need to stop. I slowly struggled on up the trail. These climbs were so steep it is difficult to even stop to rest if you wanted to because there is no level footing to stop on and it is pretty easy to lose your balance or simply slide on the slope.
After the three big climbs I had to endure the race was pretty tough for me. The climbs had siphoned all the energy from my legs. I just couldn’t run too much for too long after that. I ran when I could and walked when I needed to. I knew that at some point I would meet up with Jim Close trail and rejoin with the same part of the course that the 15k runners would be running. That was what I was seeking. I knew it meant that I was relatively close to the end and I knew it meant a chance to see my friends. When I saw the turn for Jim Close I saw my friends daughter and yelled to her to cheer her on. Getting on the Jim Close Trail was like a resurgence.
Eventually around mile 13 you get back to climbing and the resurgence I previously had felt had dissipated. At times it was all I coukd do to keep my feet going one in front of the other. After one of the steeper climbs I actually stopped for a few seconds and bent over to rest and that just seemed to make everything worse. So I trudged onward. One of the best things about this section though was 2 of my friends running the 15k caught up to me and I was able to say hi. That helped get me through it.
Finally I arrived at Frankenstein’s Forehead and at last I knew I was close to the end. One more serious decent and then a few miles of relatively flat running and I’d arrive at the finish line.
Frankenstein’s Forehead under race conditions was more challenging as I had to repeatedly slow down for others ahead of me taking more time on the decent. But getting to the bottom and heading out on the flatter trail was very welcome. The bottom was hotter and more humid than I expected. I stopped at every stream crossing and scooped up a hat full of water a nd poured it over my head as I put my hat back on.
As I neared the finish line it was so great to be able to hear all the people cheering. It was especially nice to hear my wife cheering me on. Every race she is able to make it to is even better. Crossing the finish line and reuniting with my wife and friends was great. It was a release it was the fulfillment of a year of hard work. Standing at the finish line cheering on more friends as they finished and then all resting and recovering together and talking about our races is what running is all about.
Today I ran my first 20k trail run, the Tanglefoot 20k. It didn’t actually end up being a complete 20k, however, because many of us managed to get off course and cut off like a mile on our first lap. But anyway, here are some nice photographs from one of my favorite places, Tanglewood Nature Center, where I love to visit, hang out, run and enjoy nature.
This Trail down the hill is much steeper than it appears in the photo. Do not let your eyes deceive you.
Seriously I have to go UP this? That was a steep tough climb on the second lap around.
Some of the best views around.
You can see across the valley and out to the river from the bluffs.
Then you head down this trail along the cliffs. I love it. Maybe the best part of the whole run.
One of the reasons I love trail running is that it brings me closer to nature. Trail running gives me another reason to get outside and enjoy nature. Even better trail running encourages me to explore areas I might not otherwise visit. Trail running also allows me to cover more ground in a shorter time than I would be able to on a regular hike, so I see more nature on one trip than I would be able to without running.
As a photographer and a runner my mind is in constant conflict. Run as best you can Vs. Stop and take a photo. I love taking photographs of nature even more than I love running through it. So, I’ve developed a strategy to be able to do both as equally effective as possible. I found the perfect hydration pack that allows me to carry water and fuel as well as my camera and cell phone, the Nathan VaporAir.
You might be thinking how on earth are you fitting a camera in a hydration pack? I am able to do that because I have a Nikon 1 J4 specifically for easy travel. It is about the size of a cell phone but bulkier and fits right in one of the front pouches. So, now on almost every trail run my pack and my camera is along for the ride.
Mendon Mauler was a tough race for me. One of the longest trail races I have run to date. It was also a race that started at 6:30 pm. I don’t usually run in the evening. And the temperature at start time was around 80 degrees. I do not like to run in the heat and usually avoid it at all costs.
The first 4 mile lap felt brutal in the heat. When I got to the end of the first lap I could have decided to stop at 4 miles and boy was that tempting. Being done and getting out of the heat sounded like a very good idea. But I had sign up for the 8 mile run and I was committing to the 8 miles and passed on the opportunity to finish at 4 miles.
Lap 2 felt much better. I was tired and slow but the temperature started to drop as the sun went down. I was actually cold for half of the second 4 mile lap. Then I cam to all the hills and warmed back up. The course was challenging for me. No huge hills but a lot of short steep inclines and declines. They were just burning up my legs.
Near the end of each lap there is a steep incline followed by an even steeper decline covered in slippery rolling rocks that defy description on the decent. It can really only be experienced as you try to maintain your balance on the slippery sliding rocks under your feet.
I decided that this spot would be the perfect spot to stop and take a break for a minute. Stop. Soak in the nature. Remember why I am out here and remember why I love doing these things that most other people probably think are crazy. I got out my camera and composed a few shots of the incline as a fellow runner ascended. Then a paused again at the top to compos a few shots of the sights from the hi-point before I descended. It was then that I was really happy about my decision to go another 4 miles. Without putting in the extra effort I would not have been able to capture these nice images.
Then a relatively short time later came the part I was now really looking forward to. The finish line and a chance to rest, re-hydrate, eat food, and reunite with my friends that also ran the race. I was also able to capture some nice photographs of the sun setting on Mendon Ponds Park.