Tag Archives: nature photography

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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Photography Life

I love photography and I love trying to make it a part of every aspect of my life. Most photography is going out and finding subjects to photograph but for me photography is about photographing life and more importantly photographing my life. I want to photograph the things I do and the things that I love and share them with the world.

Some aspects of life are a bit more challenging to photograph than others so I try to explore new tools and techniques so I can capture as much of life as is possible. Over the past year I have begun using GoPro cameras to capture parts of life that are less conducive to carrying around traditional camera gear.

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I recently went running at one of my favorite local places Tanglewood Nature Center and there are so many great sights to see there. I have photographed the scenery there many times. I wanted tot try something new. I put my GoPro on an extension pole and used it to take some creative shots.

I ran out to the cliffs. I stopped at two different spots that have the best views and I used my extension pole mounted GoPro to take photographs at angles that cannot be achieved from just standing on the path. It was an interesting process to try and maneuver the GoPro into a position that would get the best shot. It took a lot of attempts to get the best photographs. This is a technique that will take some practice to master.

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After my run I hiked up the trail and found an interesting tree. This tree is hollow and had multiple holes in it. I wanted to attempt to photograph the inside of the tree. I also wanted to photograph through the openings in the tree. I was able to get a view from the hollow at the base of the tree where some woodland creatures had been munching on nuts in the past. I was able to take photographs looking up through the opening in the top of the tree. Then I rotated the camera from the same position and photographed the inside of the tree looking down to the base of the tree on the inside. Then I captured some images of the view at Tanglewood seen from the perspective of the tree.

 

Kicking off a new venture

I have been planning to take my photography in a new direction for a while now. What I have been wanting to do is teach photography. I have been thinking about this and developing plans for a while.

Now is the time I will be kicking this new venture off. I will be starting off by volunteering to lead two, one hour long nature photography workshops at the Corning Museum of Glass. We will be walking around the campus at the CMOG and looking for interesting things to photograph and talking about nature and photography.

If you are looking for something to do this Saturday join me at the Corning Museum of Glass from 1 to 2 PM or from 2 to 3 PM for a nature photography workshop.

Following this I will be adding more workshops I will be offering. Follow me here or on Facebook for more information regarding upcoming events. You can contact me through my website or social media with any questions you have.

These photographs are just a sample of what we can hope to see . I photographed them on a short walk around the CMOG recently.

Hope to see you Saturday.

You can find more information about the event at Corning Museum of Glass

Spring Bird Photos

So, in case I didn’t spend enough time on my feet today I decided to go out and see if I could photograph some Spring birding action. I have been to some local spots that are normally good birding lately, not for birding or photography but for photography, and I did notice quite few birds particularly migratory birds that move through our area in early Spring and then move on to their breeding grounds. I really wanted to get out and try to take some photos before these birds move on.

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Blue-Winged Teal

First I went to Sperr Park in Big Flats, NY. There were quite a few birds there. I saw red-wing blackbirds, a large number of swallows, a good number of ducks, geese, and some smaller birds hiding in the bushes.

One aspect of my wildlife photography I struggle with is having patience and staying still and waiting for my subjects to come to me. This is much easier when you have already run 18 miles. I spotted a pair of blue-winged teals, which I don’t think I have ever seen here locally. They tend to be skittish so I just patiently crouched along the pond and waited and watched as they moved about hopping that they would get close enough for a few decent shots. I was also able to stand and watch some kinglets dance around in the bushes. They zip about at amazing speeds. They are not afraid of me and flew right by me multiple times as they chased down insects to eat.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

After Sperr Park I went to Eldridge Park in Elmira, NY., the sight of my run earlier today. I had noted that there were some interesting birds still here today so I wanted to make sure I got back and captured some photos of them. There were not as many birds or as much of a variety of birds as when I was here a few days ago, but the birds I was most interested in were still here. I watched the cormorants and horned grebes swim around the lake. I waited as they approached. They would dive and then emerge closer and closer to me. When there were within range I captured the images I was looking for.

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Double-Crested Cormorant

I was lucky today both species of birds were very active and moving around the pond so it was almost effortless to capture the images I wanted. I was even more fortunate as a dozen cormorants all took flight at the same time and I was able to photograph them as they wheeled around the lake getting higher and higher as they flew until they flew off. That provided me with several opportunities to photograph them in flight.

If you enjoy the work I do please consider supporting me on Patreon at any level. Any amount of support helps me to continue doing the work you see here.

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Horned Grebe

Art Exhibit: A Runner’s World

Tonight is the opening reception for my 3rd solo art exhibit: A Runner’s World.

The exhibit is on display at the Tioga Arts Council in Owego, NY.

The reception is 5 pm – 8 pm tonight Friday 2/2/18.

The exhibit will be on display from February 2 – 24, 2018. Here is a link to the event in Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/194727194413683/

This exhibit features photography that I have taken while I have been out exploring the world through running. All of the photographs were taken while I was on a run or at a running event where I ran.

I hope you are able to stop in and enjoy the photographs.

Below are some preview photos of the exhibit. But it really does look much nicer in person. Come and see for yourself.

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50k Training: Week 2 Long Run

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

Photography Flow

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.

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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.

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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.

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