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.
We have always enjoyed camping but we had never taken a dog camping before. That is until we added this fun guy to our family. Caspian presented some challenges so we decided if we wanted to take a trip our only real option was to take him with us. Little did we know the world of fun he would open up to us.
Caspian loved playing in the water at Allegany State Park in NY.
This ball of energy came bounding into our lives in March of 2014 and before we knew it we were taking her camping in July in NH to continue our new tradition.
In June of 2015 we fell for this guy and Paxton became part of our lives. In August of the same year we went camping on the Adirondacks and he came along for the adventure.
Tomorrow we take on a new adventure. We are going to Letchworth State Park in NY. We have been there before but not camped there. For the first time we are going to take two of our dogs on a camping trip at the same time. We will be taking Brynn whop has some experience camping and plenty of experience with us and being out and about. Then we are also taking Sammy, a 4 year old Bernese Mountain Dog. We adopted Sammy in March of 2017. He is very energetic and excitable. For some reason we like the challenge of taking new dogs on excursions. This will be a fun and exciting adventure.
In addition to camping with our dogs I am running a trail race on Saturday, Sehgahunda Trail Marathon & Relay with some friends. A bunch of us are all camping at Letchworth and then running in races there. So this will be a fun new experience.
This year I did not have too many running goals in mind. My one goal race was to run the 25k Green Monster trail race in October. That would be my longest race to date and the goal is to just finish.
Other than that I just wanted to enjoy running with my friends. And on that note the first part of the year has been great.
As with most things the more you run the better you get at it. Thankfully I have a great group of friends that enjoy running so I am able to find company for a run just about any time and that increases the likelihood of running on any given day.
I tend to be the kind of person who thinks “I can’t do that” especially when it pertains to running. Luckily I have these friends that encourage me to sign up for challenging races and push me to run harder, faster, and farther than I think I can. These are good people. They tolerate my constant gripes as we run. They know at the end I’ll be happy with the results even though I deny it in the moment every time.
So, thanks to getting to run with all my friends I have made more progress than I thought. So I think it is time to add a new running goal for this year. I had planned to focus on trail running but after my last road run I decided to set a goal for what I plan as my last race of the year, the Red Barron Half Marathon in Upstate NY with the Southern Tier Running Club. My goal is for a sub two hour half marathon at that race. Something that after last year I thought was just a goal for some race in the distant future. But now it seems within reach.
Anyone who is interested in training with me as the year progresses with this goal in mind is more than welcome. Find me on Facebook and we can organize some runs.
Looking forward to the next run. See you out there.
This photograph shows the Enfield Creek flowing through Robert Treman State Park with Lucifer Falls in the background.
I had the privileged of photographing this amazing community event promoting mental health awareness.
Visit their website here: Walk A Mile In My Shoes : SUICIDE: More common than you think… More preventable than you know!
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.