Tag Archives: Nature

2019 Hyner Training Run

In 2018 a group of my friends were all registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge in PA. I was not registered for the race, but had heard my friends talk about it. I was interested in the event and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. So I joined them for a group training run at Hyner to run 14 miles of the 16 mile course. It was really not the best day for a long hard run and certainly not the best day to be encountering the challenges of Hyner for the first time.

Now this year I am registered for the Hyner Trail Challenge. Once again myself and a couple of friends are making the trip down to PA for a training rung on 14 miles of the Hyner Course. It was a fairly typical cold winter day for our region, but it was made to feel even more frigid after enjoying multiple days of warmer weather including two days of 60 degree weather the previous two days. Then the floor dropped out of those temps and 24 hours later we were back to subzero temps in the morning with a high of mid 30’s. Luckily at least we had sunshine today.

Climbing up Humble Hill is no joke. The exertion level is high no matter what pace you are going. Despite the exertion raising body temps and the nice sun shining above the wind combined with the chilling temps to make it feel quite cold especially on the last quarter of the climb. It is cold and difficult but the view from the top makes it all worth it. It was still pretty windy and cold at the lookout point so it is not easy to stick around too long, but I hung out long enough to capture a few photos.

After that climb you switchback down the side of the mountain into the valley and you encounter the first of what will be many stream crossings. We stopped here to eat something quickly and drink some water. It was also a great spot to take some photos. I had brought my small Nikon camera with me and decided to get that out again and immediately proceeded to drop it on the rocks damaging the lens. Now that camera was out of commission for the rest of the trip after only about 3 miles. Not what I had in mind.

The next section is relatively flat but littered with so many stream crossings that you cannot really keep track. The freezing cold water from the snow melt doesn’t help either. Being that it was  a training run and not a race we decided to pick out way across the streams and try to keep our feet dry-ish as much as possible, but this is simply is not possible in places. You have to take on that freezing cold water. By the end of the stream crossings your feet are numb.

After the stream crossings you start another ascent. If you thought climbing meant no more water, you’d be wrong. On this climb you essentially climb up a stream bed as the water pours down the hillside and over your feet. After another descent you climb again and eventually reach SOB and whose name is well deserved. Then you reach the most moderate section of the entire course. There is some times spent at a relatively flat section on top of the mountain and then you have a long not too steep decent back into the valley. 

The most interesting aspect of this training run was the snow. Last year we ran in February. No snow. This year we are running in mid-march, nearing spring and there was quite a significant amount of snow especially on the second half of the course. I was hoping the snow would be melted. I am really hoping that the snow is melted by race day. It made the course interesting and was great for photos, but it did make for some slower going if for no other reason that just to be careful and make sure you had good footing.

Like many runners I use Strava to track my runs. One of the features I do really enjoy on Strava is the segments. When you run in an area where there are a lot of segments that have been created it allows you to pretty easily see how your performance has changed, hopefully for the better from run to run. There are a lot of segments that have been created for Hyner. I was happy to see that Strava had notified me of 12 achievements. Many of these achievements were 2nd best times on a segment which in this case doesn’t mean anything since it was only the second time I have run here. But there were several segments where I had PRs meaning that I ran better than last year. This was really good news to me because we really felt like we were taking it easier and not pushing too hard on this training run. So the fact that our perceived effort level was lower but we were actually faster on a lot of segments indicates to me that our physical conditioning has improved from our training over the past year. Hopefully this will translate to a nice strong run at the race in just over a month. 

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The Run I needed

Today I got in the run that I really needed. I love running and I really do enjoy it most of the time, but sometimes when I am training for a race the monotony just bums me out. This is especially the case here in upstate, NY during the winter when the weather can really limit the running options.

Today my training plan called for seven miles which is fine. That usually means that I will be running the seven mile loop I have worked out in my neighborhood and run countless times. Also, today it snowed all day long. So that means running the same old route, which most days I like, but is just boring upon continuous repetition on the snowy slushy roads trying to keep my footing and also being extra wary of cars driving in the snow. Not really the recipe for a fun and enjoyable run. I realize that every run won’t be fun and enjoyable, but I really felt like I needed on today.

I started to think about running somewhere on the trails. I thought it would be run to run through the fresh snow before it gets packed down and becomes too slick to really run on at all. It was the perfect amount of snowfall to run in just a few inches. It would add a little extra challenge but still be manageable. I started to think of places I could go where no one else would have gone yet and I thought Steege Hill Nature Preserve would be the perfect place.

I was a little nervous going into this run. I haven’t had much experience running on trails in the winter in the snow. I also hadn’t had much experience running on trails at night which it likely would be by the time I was done. I had all the proper gear including ahead lamp for when it got dark. I knew I could handle it and get it done. But it was that nervous excitement of doing something a little bit new and different.

And that is exactly what I needed to do. I needed to remember what it is that made me fall in love with running. It’s the challenge and the adventure that I love, especially as it applies to trail running. I like to be out there doing something new and connecting with nature. I like to challenge myself and do things that I enjoy just because I enjoy them, it’s not all about the training plan. Doing something a little bit different that isn’t exactly what the training plan called for is not just ok sometimes it is necessary. It is not going to ruin my training and it might just save it by keeping me from burning out. I have a long way to go with this training so I will feel free to mix it up from time to time and go off plan to get a little extra joy and you should too.

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Challenges of photographing winter as part time photographer

Winter is a very fickle season. It is especially fickle in regions with a more temperate climate that have changing seasons. Seasons can seem to change overnight. Seasons may seem to change well before it is time according to the calendar. Seasons may even change and then revert to the prior season. Sometimes it can seem like we skip entire seasons all together, with transformation straight from winter to summer and then from summer back to winter. Wait, where did spring and fall go?

A lot of people complain about winter. I enjoy winter. I even enjoy winter photographically. It can often seem like winter offers fewer options for photography, which may be true, but it offers an opportunity to hone ones craft around what remains. The most challenging part of photographing winter is that very variable that makes winter definitively winter and not any other season. That is the snow. Photographing winter without snow is just not the same. So the biggest challenge in a climate where snow may or may not be present or may or may not last even an entire day is being able to get out there and get those photos of the beautiful white stuff.

This is especially difficult as someone who is a pat time photographer who is growing their business. I do as much photography as I can but I still have a day job I have to report to every weekday. There are many days I wake up, look out my windows, and see the white frosting of snow draped over the trees and I just fall in love with my environment all over again. Then I am snapped out of my revelry because I realize I have to go into the office, which for me requires a one hour commute each way, and I will not likely get a chance to photograph that dreamy landscape. It is dark when I get up in the morning and often dark when I get back home during the winter months.

The best time in my opinion to photograph a winter scene is just after the storm when the snow is soft, clinging to the trees and fresh, and undisturbed on the ground. As a photographer that is chasing the dream of a perfect photo in every spare moment I am not in the office it is not very often when I am able to go out right after a storm to take advantage of this scenario. Even worse, in my region the temperatures can fluctuate so much that you can wake up in the morning to nice powdery snow and then arrive home to try to photograph it for thereto only be puddles remaining.

The other photograph I often chase in winter is a snow-filled landscape with a bright sunny sky overhead. This is not something that I am often able to realize with my time crunch and fluctuating temperatures. Either I am not available for photography on the days and times it is sunny or it gets sunny and the snow quickly melts away. I have been able to capture this scenario at times but it is one of my goals to capture this scene in different locations more frequently.

When you have limitations, you have to be able to adapt. I have adapted for my winter photography. While I still chase these other goals, I incorporate other different types of winter photography into my portfolio. Photography of shadows shown against the white background of snow can be interesting. I take close up photographs of smaller parts of a big scene in the snow. Braving the cold and photographing frozen bodies of water can result in some excellent shots. Another option is instead of waiting for the snow to settle and photographing the peaceful aftermath of the storm, go out into the storm and photograph the weather as it is happening. This can create a sense of drama.

No matter how you are able to do it just get out there and create photographs.

2019 running goals

When the new year begins we all feel the pressure to list out our goals and new years resolutions. I typical have lots of goals. They may even have very clear and concrete definitions of success. This year most of my important goals in running are really more about the feel than they are about achieving a specific outcome. 

  1. Enjoy Running More
  2. Take More Photos of Runs
  3. Complete a 50 Mile Race
  4. Run All FLRC Trail Races
  5. Think Big, Enjoy More
  6. Run With My Friends
  7. Don’t Worry About The Outcome
  8. Enjoy The Process

The only two goals I have that really relate to running goals as most people think of them would be to set another half marathon PR and completing a 50 mile trail race. The half marathon PR is so low on the totem pole of things I want to accomplish that it doesn’t even rate high enough to list above. If I achieve it it would be nice but if I don’t it’s not really a big deal this year. My only real competitive type goal is to push myself to even further distances than I have already accomplished and complete my first and maybe only 50 mile race. I am already registered for the race I am running at Finger Lakes 50’s in July. I am excited and at least at this point not too nervous yet. I am about to begin training and this time around the race I ran as my goal race for a 50k last year will be essentially a training run one month out from my 50 miler. And that is where I am struggling right now. Last year I was extremely dedicated to training in a way I had never been before. I think in large part that was because I was taking on something that I had never even contemplated before. Now after completing two 50k’s the concept of going longer doesn’t feel quite as daunting or intimidating. I know that I will live to regret this feeling now if I don’t find the motivation to be dedicated to training like I was last year.

After training seriously for the first time last year and running a lot of solo training runs I felt like I left behind a bit of the fun and enjoyment I had been getting from running. I am looking to regain that fun and train but at the same time not be so serious about it that I let it suck the fun out of things. I am going to try to incorporate more different things to try to not get stuck in the monotony of training and keep the fun factor high.

One aspect of running I had really been enjoying was incorporating my photography into my running. I think I also lost this in part due to training seriously for a big goal race. I am really going to stretch myself to get back to incorporating my photography back into my running the way it should be, the way I love it to be. There have been many things I want to do that I just haven’t done because I put up artificial restrictions around myself. There are pieces of gear I have specifically for running photography that I haven’t even used yet just because I haven’t put in the effort to make it happen. That is going to end this year. I am going to make photographing my running life happen this year. If you don’t want to be in a photo while you are running yo better not run with me. I will be loaded with camera gear as much as possible. I have so many ideas and plans I am hopping to bring to fruition this year. Keep your eyes open for new photography.

A goal I have for this year it to run all the trail races available from one of our areas running clubs. I want to run all of the trail running events that the Finger Lakes Running Club puts on this year. This is something that I just feel like would be a cool experience more than anything else. I have run a few of their events and they are fun and I always see others and just never commit to running them, so I figure if I commit to running them all in the same year it will get me excited and motivated to do it and not just procrastinate which is my specialty. In addition to running all the races, there are several that offer multiple distances and I am planing to run the longest version of each event. This fits right in with my other training and long distance running goals this year so why not, right.

My other goals all kind of tie together. I want to think about the big picture and make sure I am maximizing the enjoyment I get out of the running experience. This means doing what I enjoy. Taking all the photos. Working on photography projects that fit in to my running. And most importantly running with my friends. It is not always possible to work schedules into a time frame so that you can run with your friends especially when you may all be training or not training for different events. This year I am prioritizing making time for my friends. If I have to alter my training plan some, so be it. Making some changes and alterations on’t put an end to my running or make it impossible for me to finish the events that I am planning to run in. But running with my friends will make the whole year of 2019 better even the events where I am not with them. And because another goal of mine is to not worry about the outcome o my races it is a good reason to prioritize having fun with my friends and taking photos because it doesn’t matter what time I run my races in. It is always nice to run a faster time or better race especially at an event you’ve done before but that is not necessarily going to create a more joyful experience overall. I want to soak up every ounce of magic in these running experiences as I can even if it means I am going to run a slower race. I am going to bring as much camera gear as I can manage to bring to each race and I am going to photograph the majestic scenery that I am privileged to enjoy as I run by. I WILL STOP AND TAKE A NICE PHOTO. I am not going to just stop and take a quick shot or rely on my GoPro to capture it. I am going to treat it like my more normal photography efforts and make sure I get a shot that I want and will look back on and be happy. That will help me look back and remember the fond memories as well as share the experience with others. And all of these things are about enjoying the process. I want to put all of these pieces together to maximize the process of running and all of the things I get from it; the friendships, the time out in nature, the time with friends, the photography, the fitness, the way it makes my body and mind feel. I just want to sit back and find the appreciation for all of these things that sometimes I think I take for granted. I look forward to all of this in 2019.

Green Monster 25k, 2018

I recently ran the Green Monster 25k for the second time. Let’s just say it did not go as I had hoped. I don’ run a ton of races each year and there are only a handful of races that I have run more than once. But so far in my experience every time I have run a race a second time I have run better. I don’t always have specific goals going into a race but I generally run a faster time at a race on the second go around. That just makes sense to me if you are always working harder and training more and that has been my experience every year that I have been running. Each year I work a little harder, run a little more, run harder races and then the races I repeat I perform better at.

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I didn’t have any specific goals leading into Green Monster 25k. This was a race I was running because I love the trails there and I wanted to have a good time on the trails with my friends. As the race approached I began to think more and more about the race and how I wanted to approach it and how I wanted to perform. I knew I wanted to do better than last year, which I felt confident I would do because I have been training a lot more than I had in the previous year. I had actually been training for a 50k the week after Green Monster leading up to this. I had thought that my previous time at Green Monster 25k was around the 4 hour 30 minute mark and I was pretty sure that I could perform better than that this year.

The more I thought about it the more I felt like I really just wanted to see how good I could do if I just threw everything I had at it pretty much from the beginning. I am not a fast runner. I am pretty much mid pack, but I really wanted to give this my best effort the whole way. I really wanted to go sub 4 hour. I wasn’t sure if I could actually do that though. But I figured I would start out as hard as I thought I could and then if I blew up I blew up.

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Race day arrived and the temperature was 10 degrees warmer than I would have liked at the start, around 65, with a forecast for it to be at least 10 degrees warmer still by the time I expected to finish. It also was quite humid. These are not ideal conditions for me. I run best in cool weather. I sweat a lot so heat of any kind is not my friend.

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I started the race at a relatively fast pace for me and I pushed up the first long climb well. I was only passed by 3 people on a long climb which is really good for me as climbing is my weakness. I ran hard down the subsequent long decent, my favorite part of the race. I felt pretty good all the way down that long descent. At the bottom of that descent was the first aide station. I stopped to grab some food, as I wasn’t carrying much at this race. As I stopped one of my friends cruised by and I started back up to try to keep up and I just never recovered after that. My friend pulled away and I never saw her after that as we got to the next big climb.

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I felt good at the start of the race but by just over 4 miles in I was spent. I had no strength in my legs for any of the climbs. Any elevation at all wore me right out. I was only able to run in fits and starts on flats or anything with even the most modest degree of incline. I did ok on some of the remaining descents but I was not able to run them the way I would have liked.

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I was tired. I had no strength in my legs. I just felt wore out and week. I rode the struggle bus for 12 miles. I just did not feel good. At times I was a little nauseous. I ate and I drank but I could never fully recover. I drank every ounce of the 2 liters of water I carried with me before the finish, which even had Nuun hydration tabs dissolved in it, but that didn’t help. The food at times would help me push through the lowest points but I never got back to where I felt good.

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At the half way point I was at a little over 2 hours, so in theory 4 hours was within reach, but I knew I was only getting slower at this point. I decided I needed to just try to push on en enjoy the race as much as I could and make sure I finished. I still wanted to at least beat my time from last year, which I believed to be 4:30 ish, but I had never actually checked. So I felt good at least that I should be able to beat that if only by a small margin. That helped me push a little harder down the last stretch of stream crossings, at which I stopped to pour water on myself at each crossing, and gravel road to the finish. Upon finishing I believed I had beaten my time from last year.

I say I believed I had, because as it turns out when I checked my stats from last year I had actually run around a 4:15. It turns out I was around 8 minutes slower this year. I am not sure how that would have made me feel during the race. I think this delusion that I was still going to beat my time from last year helped me to push a little hard and still perform with what little I had left. If I had known I had not been able to beat my time, maybe I would have taken it easier and walked and not pushed myself harder. So maybe being a little delusional can be a good thing.

Despite knowing I did not run the race I had wanted I had a great time post race with friends and fellow trail runners. This race has killed me 2 years in a row and has taken it out of me on every practice run I have done of the course. I still love the trails, but I am not sure I will be back to it any time soon. When I checked my statistics from the race according to Strava I still managed to PR the Frankenstein’s Forehead segment, which if you are not familiar with it is this wicked steep and technical section of the trail. I have no idea how I PR’d it. I didn’t even feel like I ran it well in the moment and I was exhausted by the time I got done with it. Also, according to Strava I somehow managed to PR one of the climbs but not Deer Trail which was what I really wanted, but one just before that it looks like that isn’t really steep. That makes sense because the whole plan was to run out harder at the start and this is the very beginning of the race.

Despite this race not going as I had planned I had a good time overall and love the experience.

At this race I did something a little bit different. I only shot video with my GoPro’s and no photos. I then used my software to extract photos from the video. I am not happy with the results of those photos. The photos did not turn out as well as I would have hoped. After these last two races I will go back to some of my methods I have used in the past. This is what happens when you are always pushing the limits and trying new things. Sometimes things don’t go as well as you would like.

Buttermilk Falls

I was recently in the Ithaca area getting some trail running in. Post run I went to Buttermilk falls to relax and do some writing. Then I decided what better way to cap off the days trip than to hike down into the gorge and photograph one of my favorite natural places. My knees did not enjoy this post run decision, but I took my time and enjoyed myself and captured some nice images. Enjoy.

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