Tag Archives: Running

2018 Running goals in review

It’s the time of year where we take a moment to look back on the year that has passed. 2018 brought on a lot of new things for me in running. The goals I had set for myself were the following:

  1. Run a trail marathon
  2. Run my first ultra
  3. Increase my mileage from 2017 – 2018
  4. Run a sub 24 Minute 5k
  5. Run a sub 2 hour half marathon
  6. Learn more about running
  7. Learn more about proper running training

Overall I would say my 2018 year in running was pretty successful. I completed 6 out of 7 goals. The only goal I did not accomplish was running a sub 24 minute 5k. I ran several of what I would call test runs on my own to see how realistic this goal was for me and I performed pretty well. I think this is still a goal that is within my reach, but I just never committed to running an official 5k where I could really put it on the line and go for it all out. To be honest this goal probably was the least important of the goals on my list. It was also a goal that was probably in direct contrast to most of my other top goals, running a short fast race as opposed to running longer races and mostly trying to just survive longer races rather than trying to get faster. I still want to accomplish this but I might need to target a specific race first and commit to training for speed for a specific time frame to really get it done. This is just another thing that I have never really done

My only other speed goal was to run a sub 2 hr half marathon. I was already pretty well on pace for this going into 2018, but I had never really run a race with a time goal in mind and I had no idea how to really approach the event. It turned out ok though and I succeeded in running under 2 hours. I think I will be returning there in 2019 and trying to further push down my PR and I’m hoping now that I have some experience doing that I will be even more successful.

Another goal that I had that is more about distance than speed is to run more miles in 2018 than I did in 2017. In 2017 I ran a little over 1,000 miles. This year I am at 1,425 currently. I don’t think I will break 1,500 this year, so that may be a 2019 goal.

The two goals that were the highest priority for me were about pushing my endurance to run longer distances than I ever thought I would. My goal was to finish a trail marathon and then a trail 50k. I never thought I would want to do either of these things, but when you fall in with the wrong crowd you find yourself swept up in this sense of adventure and desire to see what you can do. I successfully completed both the trail marathon and the trail 50k I had targeted. When I signed up for these races I thought I would likely be one and done for both especially for 2018 if not for ever. Little did I know I would end up running my second 50k later in 2018. Those pesky friends can get you to do anything. It is funny that initially I thought this would be all I would do at distance, but now I am already registered one long race and have more and longer races on my tentative schedule. I’ll talk more about those when I talk about my 2019 goals.

My other two goals were more about learning and knowledge than anything else. I wanted to learn more about the art and science of running and how to perform better. I feel like I learned so much about this topic. I have learned mostly from listening to experienced runners and coaches talking on podcasts. I still know relatively little but I have gained so much and there is always more to learn.I also wanted to learn more about proper training. I learned these lessons first hand as I trained for a race using a training plan for the first time ever. My friend and much more experienced runner put together a training plan for me to follow for my first 50k. It was both scary and amazing. I learned that you can really accomplish a lot when you take it a little more seriously and actually work strategically to accomplish your goals. I credit this training with allowing me to smash my goals including my half marathon PR, completing both my long races, and increasing my yearly mileage. I think the most important thing I learned is how much better you feel when you train properly.I might have completed my goals without the structured training but I would not have felt so good in doing so. I pushed myself harder and faster than ever before at a half marathon and I felt physically better post race than ever before. This is obviously a direct result of being properly trained. I ran my first ever 50k and it was tough. I expected to be completely destroyed and immobile for days, but instead I ran an 8k with my wife the very next day. I would never have thought that this could happen. This is only made possible by being smart and well trained. I could not have accomplished these things without the support of my friends.  

Gear Challenges

Over the years my photography has taken on many shapes. There have been twists and turns and unexpected adventures. That is part of what makes my photography so exciting to me, the unexpected. As my photography has changed and evolved over the years my approach to photography changes and my needs change. The very things I need to create my photography may change.

Pico Peak in Vermont

Over the last several years I began running and then my photography followed along and running became a large part of my photography. It started with mostly photographing races that other people were running. But then there was this shift in my mind. I love nature and my running allows me to explore more of nature than I can just hiking. I wanted to be able to photograph the places my running takes me and where it takes others. This often means getting out in nature and of the beaten path.

When you are running and trying to photograph your adventures it can get complicated. There are specific things you need for long distance adventures like food and water and you need to be able to carry that with you out in the forest where you will have no access to it if you don’t bring it with you. And when you are running you can’t really carry a 300mm lens attached to a DSLR while you are trail running. You can’t even really carry a regular size lens like a 18-200mm zoom lens on a DLSR with a battery grip. You can’t really carry something like that in your hands while you run for an extended period of time. What if you fall or just drop it into a stream or off a ledge? And how would you get to your food and water if your hands are full of camera gear?

Mt. Tom Challenge

Trying to find the right combination of running gear and photography gear means compromises. And sometimes compromises that are less than satisfying at times. I first found a small Nikon mirror less SLR that I could fit into my belt pack as I ran. That was annoying as the weight caused it to bounce around at my waist as I ran. However, it did allow me to capture some pretty good images even on my first attempt at this pursuit.

I then upgraded my running gear to a hydration vest for longer adventures and this allowed for a more secure location to put my small camera. I also began using GoPro cameras to create time lapse footage and capture candid moments as well as create some video components. The GoPro cameras were a nice addition but they did not allow for the control that I would have with an SLR style camera and both the GoPro and the mirror less camera I have been using do not have quite as high quality image capacity as I would like either. I also always worry about getting stuck out in the rain with my mirror less camera and having that get ruined as my iPhone was. That is the advantage with the GoPro cameras they are designed for this type of adventuring and can withstand it physically but then there is a compromise with what you can do with them and the image quality of photographs.

Hyner View Trail

I would like to find a system that would allow me to carry one of my DSLR cameras with a smaller wide angle lens attached perhaps in a small backpack format. I really a have not found many options that might work like that. It would need to be a relatively small backpack that can be tightened down to not bounce around while running and it would also need to be able to carry food and water. And on top of all that the camera and food and water would all need to be easily accessible. I don’t want to have to stop incessantly to get different gear out. I need to be able to do this literally on the run. I found one option that might possibly meet some of those needs but not all. So that would create yet another different type of compromise.

Another possibility is investing in adifferent type of camera, yet again. One that meets more of my needs. Thechallenge there is two fold. First is it a good financial strategy to constantlybe trying to upgrade or change gear in order to meet the goals that I have. Theother concern is that if I buy new gear I then have to learn how to use it. Tosomeone who is not a photographer it might sound silly to say I have to learnhow to use this new camera. I mean, it’s just a camera push the shutter andtake picture right? But unfortunately every camera is at very least minimallydifferent to operate even if you are using ones from the same manufacturer. Iuse mostly Nikon cameras and each one of them is from slightly to drasticallydifferent. The biggest difference is in switching from a DSLR o a mirror lesscamera system. So then if I ended up having to buy a camera from a differentmanufacturer to meet my needs that differences could be even more exaggerated.So then on top of learning a new camera there is the challenge of masteringeach camera and remembering it between uses. You don’t use all your gear allthe time. Some items are for special purposes. So if you don’t use it all thetime you have to re-familiarize yourself with the camera so you can rememberhow to use it especially if you need to be able to operate it on the fly. I amnot sure that is practical or even a good idea.

STRC Trail Fest at Grist Iron

I love photographing running events with my DSLR and 70-200 mm f2.8 lens. Ideally I would love to find an option that would allow me to carry that lens and food and water so I could run a course with the runner and photograph them at all different pints as they move through the course. But I just don’t know if that is something that will ever happen.

There are just so many variables that need to be considered and addressed. I am hoping that as I see more and more people out there trying to do things similar to what I am doing that more and more options will become available. 

Does it mean that I have a unique creative vision that I can’t find the gear that allows me to do what I want or am I just crazy for wanting to try to do something that just doesn’t seem possible?

Lucifer’s Crossing

Race With a View

Since it is becoming much more wintry here in Upstate, NY I thought I would share some photos from a nice small trail 5k I ran back in June. The course was nice and scenic at Mt Pisgah County Park in Troy, PA. It wasn’t a technical course but was still quite hilly with lots of ups and downs. The race field was small with 50 runners but it was just the kind of run I like.

 

Photographing 2018 Red Baron Half

I have been trying to volunteer at some of the races I photograph. Usually my volunteer duties keep me stationed at the race start line and then I can head out to photograph the race before it starts. For this edition of the Southern Tier Running Club Red Baron Half Marathon I volunteers to help with course set up. This entailed putting cones and signs along the entire 13.1 mile course. I really didn’t know how long this process would take, but I was pretty sure we would be back in time for me to get prepared to photograph the race. As we slowly drove the course and set up the necessary equipment it seemed to be taking a long time to me. As the time neared noon I began to have a significant increase in anxiety, fearing perhaps unrealistically that we would not get back in time for the start of the race. I think the biggest problem for me was that I was not in control of the situation. I couldn’t just leave (We were all riding in one car together doing course set up.) when I needed to and there was nothing I could do to speed things up. Also, I was 13 miles away from where my camera was.
We did arrive back to the staging area for the beginning of the race in plenty of time despite my anxiety. There was even enough time for me to help out getting some last minute stuff done there as well. Then I headed out to the start finish line to take a few photographs of the beginning of the race.

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When I photograph a race I want to not only get great shots of the runners themselves but I want to get shots that have great backgrounds that show off the race course as well. Last year I was able to photograph the race from two separate locations, one near the beginning of the course on a more scenic location and one at the finish line in town. Due to changes in the race course layout (which were significant improvements over the past) the field of runners would be much more spread out than last year by the time they arrived at the location I was at last year. That would require me to stay there for a longer time to get photographs of all the runners, which is generally my goal, before moving down to a different location. I was afraid that with the speed of some of our great runners I would not be able to photograph all the runners near the beginning and get back to the finish line in time to capture the race winners.
I made a strategic decision to pick the one most scenic location I could that I felt embodied the race at which to take the vast majority of the race photographs. I think I made the right decision. I was able to capture a few photographs at the stat line of the race beginning. Then I drove down to about mile 10.5 and waited for the runners to arrive scouting the spot a little better and finding just the right place and angle to take photos from.

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The location I chose is where on road turns onto another nice wide road right in front of where I was positioned. I would be able to see the runners approaching and turn the corner to move towards me. This to me is the most scenic spot on the course that in my opinion as one who has run it is pretty nice and scenic. There is a steep cliff that parallels the road the runners are turning on. There are a variety of deciduous and evergreen trees as well as other vegetation growing or attempting to grow up the vertical cliff. I love the combination of runners pounding the pavement combined with the natural beauty of the course with the rock cliffs and tress in the background.  I really wanted to get as much of that cliff into the photographs as possible while still filling the majority of the frame with the runner themselves. To do this I decided to shot at a slightly upward looking angle for a lot of the shots. The photos that I took from that angle came out great. My clothing decisions for that idea did not mesh nearly as well. It cost me a pair of jeans. Check out my post on Instagram to see that outcome. So I did not shoot from that angle quite as much as I would have liked. But I am still very happy with how the vast majority of the photographs came out.

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I was able to post the photographs to the runners the next day. People seemed to be looking at the photographs as soon as I posted them in the morning as a few orders were placed as well as receiving a few messages from people interested in the photos. Comments are always great from the running community. I receive great feedback from them and I always appreciate reading their words of support on social media.

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If you have any questions or comments about my photographs from Red Baron or any other aspect of my race photograph please feel free to reach out and get in touch. Thank you.

If you appreciate my work and want to support it financially you can contribute as little as $1 a month on Patreon at KRNaturalPhoto.

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SOAR Pumpkin Hunt

I spent some time volunteering with the Southern Tier Running Club‘s youth club SOAR at their monthly kids fun run providing photography. It is always nice to see all the kids, parents, coaches, and SOAR athletes that come out for these fun community events. Enjoy the photos.

Water Gap 50K

When I decided that along with some of my friends we were going to try to run our first 50k this year we initially only planned to do one. Then during the process of training one of my friends training for our first 50k with me mentioned that there was another 50k later in the year that she was considering doing. That sounded potentially fun and something we could possibly do if we felt like it after our first 50k and we still had any interest in running that distance. Over time the idea of running a second 50k this year just kinda fell by the wayside. After our first 50k we never really discussed it.

GOPR5014_3-2

Then my other friend who ran our first 50k together this year mentioned to me about one and a half months ago that she was thinking about running the other 50k we had talked about previously. And that is all it took. I was in for a second 50k. And that is how I ended up running the Water Gap 50k from Red Newt Racing. All it takes is that one friend who is a bad influence and you get sucked right into another race.

I did not have a particularly good summer of running leading into training for this race. I had no idea what to expect for this training cycle or race. I had battled a lot of soreness over the summer, but I was ready to add in some miles and see how things went. I basically just ran normally during the week and added one long run in at the end of the week. Because of our condensed training time, we only decided to commit to this about a month and a half out from the race we added two miles to our long run each week with no decreases in mileage along the way, just a constant increase in miles. The only week where there was a decrease in miles was the week before the race where most people would taper and for the taper I rested most of the week and then another tough trail race, the Green Monster Trail Challenge 25k which has over 3000 ft of elevation gain. So not really a restful taper. We don’t really do things by the book around here.

Our goal for this race was to finish the 50k in under six hours. I really had no idea what to expect from this race particularly with the condensed training, but after all our long run results we felt pretty confident that we would be in good shape.

I prefer to run in cooler weather, so I was pretty happy as the race approached and the forecast was showing that it would be cooler than the week before. What I was not prepared for was sleeping in a tent overnight in the nearly freezing cold temperatures and then starting only my second 50k race at those same nearly freezing cold temps. That was a little bit of overkill on the, I hope it is colder than last race, wish-fulfillment. But it was still better than being too hot.

This was a very different type of race for me. The course was relatively flat and relatively straight. I have never run a road marathon before (However it looks like that will change next year.) so running 31 miles on flat straight terrain was new to me. I always feel like the constantly changing course of most trail runs benefit my legs by constantly changing my stride and that keeps my muscles from tightening up, but with this course my stride was mostly the same the whole way. I think the combination of that factor and the cold made my hips especially very tight and uncomfortable for most of the race. Even in the beginning when I should have felt good. There were points during the race where we were wishing we could just do a little climbing, something that anyone who knows me knows I never say. We just wanted to break stride and activate some other muscles. I usually love downhill running and there were some very nice little downhills in the beginning of the course that I enjoyed, but by the second half of the race what downhills there were I couldn’t really enjoy because I was too stiff and tight.

Despite all the challenges of training for and then running this race we were at the half way point and pretty sure that unless something catastrophic happened we would be able to make our time goal. During the second half of the race we spent a lot of time doing mental calculations and figuring out how much time we could afford to give back as we got more tired and the wheels started to come off. We would have to run about seven miles farther than our longest training run so one never really knows how it will go. I also spent our training runs trying to work out a new fuel strategy which I never really figured out and then made some unwise choices for pre-race meals the night before that lead me to completely abandon what I was planning to do for fuel that had worked on my previous 50k. Instead I ran the whole race on gels and tailwind until the last aid station where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was calling my name. It was the first time I felt like eating any solid food other than M&M’s.

We slowed down significantly in the second half of the race but did succeed in finishing under our time goal at 5 hrs and 47 min.

The course was a really nice course and had the opportunity to be gorgeous, but the freezing temperatures and cloud cover most of the day made it hard to enjoy the scenery.  There were a few burst of sunlight peaking through the clouds to brighten things up, however when you are in the middle of a 50k those only serve to heat you up more than you would like. A lot of the course is run on a nice wide gravel trail with trees on one side and an open field on the other side. Those sections are primarily flat. I really loved the sections of the course when you are running through the woods. Some of those sections were more technical and had more elevation changes to them. The woods, the technical trail, and the elevation changes are all thing s I love in the sport of trail running. There were some nice sections where you run pretty close to the river, which again would have been a little nicer if there wasn’t complete cloud cover. My favorite part of the race was a section where you are in the woods and you drop down across a short but relatively steep decent that is narrow and drops off to both sides and then when you get to the bottom you pull a U-turn and go back the way you came at a completely different elevation level and you enter this section of the woods that is like a small twisty canyon for a second. Its kind of narrow and wooded. When I got to that spot I was just like, wow this is why I do this.

Another aspect of this race that I could not possibly oversell is the fact that myself and two of my friends ran the race and then two more friends crewed us at the race the whole time. I ran the entire race with my friend who talked me into running the race. I have never before run an entire race with someone before, that was a nice experience and if nothing else it makes the concept of a race less stressful. Its more like just another long training run with your friend. I highly recommend that if you are going to run an ultra and can make a weekend with your friends out of it, do it. You will not regret it.

At this race I again tried 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.

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.