This is a photograph of the stream that runs through park of Ravensburg State Park in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of trees both standing, falling, and from the looks of it in the process of falling.
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.
In life we often have these things that we would like to do. They float around in our minds and we think of them often. They are things we think we would enjoy but they require some level of planning and commitment to actually do them. They are things that we think we will enjoy and genuinely want to do for our own enjoyment. But often we never get there. These things never get realized. They just remain free-floating aspirations in our minds. There just never seems to be a right time to do it.
One of the biggest challenges in life is realizing there is never a right time to do anything. We just have to go out into the world and make things happen. If we wait for the right time we will never do anything.
For several years now one thing that I have wanted to do was go on a long point to point hike over the course of an entire days worth of daylight hours and see how far I could get. I love hiking. I go hiking frequently. I have gone on some fairly long and challenging hikes up the mountains of the Adirondacks. But all of these have been relatively short round trip day hikes in comparison to what I really wanted to do.
There really has been no reason for me not to do this. There is a great trail right nearby. The Finger Lakes Trail, which traverses NY from east to west, runs right through the area where I live. But I have never really even been on it. As I my interest in really doing this has grown I even bought maps of the Finger Lakes Trail so I could plan. But still nothing happened. No hiking the Finger Lakes Trail ensued.
Recently I decided there had been enough sitting around and thinking about this great hiking opportunity that was so near at hand but still seemed so unreachable. I decided that I was going to do it. With the addition of trail running to my skill set I decided that undertaking this hike made even more sense and I decided to make it more challenging by starting farther out than I would if I was just going to hike the whole way.
I was taking some vacation time and I was setting aside one day just to hike. I asked for advice from others that I knew who had some experience hiking the trail. I gathered the necessary equipment and made the needed plans. I was nervous and excited because I had never done anything like this, but I was committed to doing it.
The plan was to leave my car outside Robert Treman State Park where Enfield Creek leaves the park and to be dropped off to start my hike in the Finger Lakes National Forest near Burdet, and that is what I did. I packed my Nathan hydration pack full of food, water, maps, GPS, compass, and a few other basics and I was off.
The beginning of the trail in the Finger Lakes National Forest was an incline in the begining, So I started out with just a fast hike to get warmed up. But the trail quickly became more runable. So, I ran. I decided at the outset that given the distance I was planning to cover and the fact that I had never run nor hiked that far in my entire life I was going to take it relatively easy and not push myself up hills or push the pace too much on flat lands. The goal was to make it to the end not to have a fast pace. So even if I was running at the time and I came to a hill and I felt good I hiked up it instead of running to conserve energy for the long haul.
When I first started thinking about doing this I had no idea what the terrain would look like or feel like to my legs. I was expecting a lot of hills and elevation changes that would require me to walk or even stop all together and rest. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how runable much of the trail was. So that led to the next challenge for me. When you are a trail runner and also a photographer you are of two minds. You want to run and get in a good flow and keep moving when you feel good. You don’t want to stop unless you need a rest. But as a photographer I kept seeing things that my photographer mind would say to me stop and take a photo of that. There was obviously great scenery everywhere. I saw several little orange newts, a small turtle along a roadside, a 12 week old Shar Pei puppy and innumerable other photographic opportunities. But as you don’t see it in this post, I did not photograph it. I included every photo I took in this post. I am amazed at how low a number I kept it to.
This being my first time doing anything like this I learned a lot. And as we all know we learn the most from our mistakes, of which I made a few. Mistake number one, over packing. I had no idea how long this would really take me. I had an idea of what I thought I could complete it in but I didn’t have any real experience to base that on, so I wanted to be prepared and pack things I could need. This over packing mostly came in the form of food. I had way more food than I needed. I only ate two Cliff Bars and a small amount of trail mix the entire way. That brings me to mistake number two. The food. I love Clif Bars. They are great food for before or after working out or hiking or any kind of adventuring. They are not great for eating while on the move especially when you have been running and breathing hard and your mouth is dry. Trying to eat a Clif Bar under those conditions was like trying to swallow glue. Each bite required a sip of water to wash it down. This was also true of the trail mix. And this in part lead to mistake number three, not enough water. I thought it would be likely I would run out during the trip, but I also thought that I had enough to consume that I would not be in danger of dehydration. My Nathan pack holds 2 liters and I had that completely filled. I also was pretty sure I would be able to refill water somewhere along the way and I was at Robert Treman State Park. However, I ran out of water much sooner than I thought I would around mile 18 or 19 and due to that I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to keep running and just decided to hike the rest of the way, which made the trip last a lot longer than I expected. Mistake number 4 was foot care. My feet took a beating, as is expected on a long trip like that, but I think part of it was self-inflicted. While I was running I accumulated a significant ammount of gravel in my shoes rolling around under the balls of my feet and toes. Eventually after I couldn’t stand it anymore I decided to empty the gravel out of my shoes, also around mile 18 or 19. It was at this point after emptying the gravel out I realized I had another foot related issue, blisters. The balls of my feet felt pretty swollen and painful. I was pretty sure my feet were getting blisters, my right foot worse than my left. I didn’t stop to confirm this until I got home, what good would that have done. I just pushed on. I am not sure if the gravel caused the blisters or my shoes just weren’t fitting right. I hadn’t gotten blisters previously in these shoes but this was by far the most miles I had worn them for at one time. So, I will have to figure out a solution for preventing blisters on my next trip. The blister problem slowed me down considerably each step became increasingly painful, but I was determined to get to the end of this trip. The blisters really sucked a lot of the joy out of this adventure. It became more of a battle of will than a thing to enjoy. I just had to force myself to keep moving. I kept thinking I was close to the end but it seemed like it kept getting further and further away. I was so happy when I finally saw a sign for state park lands, because that meant I was entering Robert Treman State Park and I really knew where I was and knew the end was in sight. These mistakes cost me a significant ammount of time. I am pretty sure I would have been done much faster if I had not made these mistakes. But you live and you learn.
I am not normally much of a selfie taker, I always feel uncomfortable with it and I feel like that often shows up int he photos and as a photographer I hate that. But as this was my first trip of this kind I decided it was a good idea to take some photos along the way and text them to my wife and post them to Facebook so people would know I was OK. My wife is supportive of all my adventures but she does worry, as I am sure all wives do, and she always tells me to be careful and not get hurt and I always tell her I will. But I wanted her to be as at ease as possible so I tried to stay in touch to some degree. It was also a nice break
The elevation changes were really not too bad. A little over 4,000 feet, which in total sounds like a lot but spread out over 31 miles is really pretty manageable. I am planning to run a 25k trail race that will feature 4,000 ft of elevation in just 16 miles. That will be a real challenge. But I will say no matter how relatively little elevation change there is once you are at mile 20+ and have blisters on your feet you groan everytime you see a hill.
I was really happy with my paces through mile 18 when the blisters and lack of water became an issue.
The first half of this trip was great fun. The second half was a huge physical and mental challenge to overcome. At the end I wasn’t truly enjoying myself anymore, but I was pushing myself across the finish. It was one of those things that you are not enjoying in the moment but you know when you are done you will feel completely satisfied and happy that you did it. And that is exactly what it felt like. I was so happy that I decided to do it and that I finished my trip despite the challenges along the way. I definitely want to do something like this again. Probably not soon, but definitely again.
Its been too long since I have gotten out for a good hike, and this winter has been too long. With this last snowstorm that blew through New York it feels like winter will never end despite spring being just around the corner. The only thing that makes it any better is that after this snow storm I was able to get out to one of my favorite places and experience what the storm left us.
Tangelwood Nature Center is one of my favorite places to go to just be out in nature. It provides some of the most beautiful scenery in our area. I never seem to find my way there frequently enough. Today I went there to hike through the snow and enjoy being alive and being outside. Being that I am both a nature lover and a photographer I brought cameras.
I wanted to not only hike around and breath the fresh are and experience the wonders of nature I wanted to try to capture some images that I could share with everyone. There are so many different reasons I love Tanglewood and that means in order for me to capture everything I want in one trip I need a variety of equipment. To capture the full scenic view that is Tanglewood I brought my Nikon 1 J5 mirror-less camera with the wide angle zoom 10-30 mm lens. I also like to try and isolate certain elements of the scene from others. For that purpose I brought my Nikon 50 mm f1.8 lens on my Nikon D300 DSLR camera body. Then perhaps my favorite aspect of Tanglewood is the wildlife, particularly birds. For that I used my Nikon 300 mm f4 lens with the 1.4 teleconverter on my Nikon D500 DSLR camera body. With that gear I set off.
The snow was deeper than I expected and it was warmer than I was expecting. I was fine while I was standing still photographing some bluebirds. But with the sun out and shining I quickly heated up as I trudged through the deep snow. The deep snow and recent cold weather had me thinking I needed to bundled up. Turns out I was overdressed. But, too warm is better than too cold I guess.
There had been people there prior to my visit cross country skiing. I started off staying on their tracks. It made the hiking a little bit easier. Eventually as the ski tracks became more frozen and hard it was just easier to hike through the fresh snow. I don’t care who you are but it is one of the coolest feelings to be the first one to put tracks into virgin snow. The snow had drifted and was quite deep in places. it was up to my knee as I sunk in at times, but the varying depth was another challenge because you never knew what the next step was going to be lie. I went from sections of deep snow over my knee to a patch where I could see grass in just a short series of steps. When I was in areas of open field I couldn’t even tell where the actual trail was supposed to be, so I just did my best.
I just hiked around on some of the more open trails closer to the main complex. I didn’t get down into the woods. I was so happy to just get out and enjoy the day. No real plan, just be outside, do something, and enjoy.
Its been so warm this winter that my small azalea bushes already have leaves.
One of our friends decided we should take on the Mt. Tom Challenge instead of our regularly scheduled local trail run. So at the last minute the night before the event we decided that was just what we would do.
The Mt. Tom Challenge consists of going straight up a mountain. Then going around and down the other side. And you do this as many times as you can in two hours. There is no warm up to the incline. You immediately start going up the mountain as soon as the race starts.
You quickly discover that most likely this is nothing like anything you have done before. Well, at least thats what I discovered. The incline is a climb of 1100 feet over a distance of .8 miles. Someone good at math figure out what the angle of that ascent would be.
Once you get to the top you head down this very brief but flat trail. It was so nice to be on flat ground again. No more climbing. Each lat is about 2.5 miles. So once you get to the top you still have over a mile to go to get back to the bottom and start again.
As you leave the flat land you come to this nice depression that was filled with snow. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a photograph here. It was such a nice spot.
The uphill climb was snow-less. Thankfully for me as my trail shoes are virtually bald. I never would have been able to get up a slick snowy slope. On the way down it was a different story. It was muddy in spots and there was varying amounts of snow. The snow could be just a dusting, to half frozen/half melted ice, to ankle deep or more amounts of snow. It was pretty tricky for me picking a route down the mountain and watching my footing. Trying to figure out where I would have the best traction. I was constantly varying my speed and stride to maintain control on the way down. And it almost worked too. At one point on my way down I over stridded and my front foot slide out in front of me and I went down. I basically sat down on my back leg bent right under my butt. I slid down the slop a little on a frozen hard snow that felt more like gravel and cut up my knee a little bit. But I was able to bounce back up and continue running. No real injury, thankfully. As I was getting close to completing my race I stepped in a thick mud hole and lost my show. As I was going downhill I ended up taking about three shoe-less steps downhill in the mud and then I had to walk back through the mud to retrieve it. (Check out my Instagram for that photo.)
When I looked at what the incline was like I was nervous I wouldn’t even be able to complete one lap. So I was very happy with the two laps I was able to complete. I completed my first lap in around 45 minutes and my second lap in about an hour and a half. I could have went for a third lap but I just didn’t have it in me mentally to go back up that hill a third time. Plus I was battling a cold, so that didn’t help. Maybe if I do this event again my goal will be three laps. It was a great but challenging event. Check out the Tyoga Running Club and the Mt. Tom Challenge.