Tag Archives: Running

2018 STRC Trail Fest at Grist Iron

Last year I ran the first trail race put on by the Southern Tier Running Club. This year I was back again but not as a runner. I photographed the event and an event it is. This is truly as billed a Trail Fest. One day, 3 races. There is a 1 mile race a 5k race and a 10k race. I photographed each one. Then there are post race festivities including live music, food, and beer. It does not get a whole lot better.

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Photographing one race can be challenging enough but photographing 3 races in a row is a different story all together. It was fun, exciting, and challenging just like running itself is. Photography at this point becomes an endurance sport in a way just like running. You have to be able to stay focused and not miss your shots. Look at what is in front of you and plan your moves just like on a trail run.

The first race of the day was the 1 mile race. I stayed relatively close to the finish line for this one and moved a little bit out into the field. I used my longest lens, my 300 mm, for this race so I could capture the runners as they approached in the distance. Then as they moved closer to the finish line I could take some nice close up shots that would also include some nice scenery of the trees and lake behind them.

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For the 5k and 10k races I wanted to be farther out on the course so I could depict more of the scenery in my photographs. But I also wanted to stay close enough that I would be able to tell when each race stated so that I could have a sense of when to expect runners to reach me. I hiked out on the course a mile or so until I came to the edge of the woods. It was the perfect spot for me to set up for photographs.

I could see into the woods along the trail that came directly towards me so I would see the runners approaching me. Then the trail took a 90 degree turn and then another 90 degree turn. The trail basically snaked around me where I was standing so I could watch runners along the trail from multiple perspectives. I would be able to photograph runner’s running head on towards me then they would turn and they would be running perpendicular to me across my field of view. Then they would turn again and be running parallel to me again. All I needed to do was change my positioning and I could capture each runner and multiple places along the trail with different scenery. I was also able to see the runners clear across the field from me as they started the race in the first mile or two and photograph them there with my 300mm lens.

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I really enjoyed photographing this event from this spot. It allowed me to be much more creative than I would otherwise be able to be. I used four different cameras during the 5k and 10k races. I took photographs from four different angles. I was also able take photographs with different scenery in the back ground and vary the composition of each photo by zooming in or out and they all came out very nice.

So, doing all that sounds perfectly good in theory, but in practice it is a bit challenging. One of my goals when I photographed this race is to try to get a photograph of everyone who is running. So transition and planning becomes very important. How will I move from photographing at one angle with one camera to using another camera at another angle and still another perhaps at a different angle or distance. This all has to be done on the move in real time as runners are approaching and passing you by.

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You have to get a feel for you equipment and how long it takes to move from one camera and one position to the next. You have to have a preconception of what you want to include in each photograph. For me at this location there were several flowering trees that I wanted to include as the background of most of the photos so I planned to take shots as runners approached each of these landmarks. You have to often be aware of multiple runners at once. As one runner is approaching one landmark another runner is approaching you. Which one do you photograph in which order so that you don’t miss any of the shots? How many of the runners do you group together on wide angle shots so that you can compose a nice scenic shot and include all the runners and not miss anyone? These are all thoughts and calculations that are going on in my head as a photographer in the moment sometimes subconsciously. It doesn’t always work out but I would say the vast majority of my photos turned out as I hoped they would.

This was all done basically sight unseen. I had a vague memory of some of the course from last year, but this year’s course was going to be very different for a variety of reasons. I had not been able to go up and preview the course prior to the race. I basically walked around and found a spot I liked minutes before the race started and then started thinking about how I wanted to photograph the runners as the race was happening around me. I am not sure if that says I am a bad planner or a good photographer for having it happen that way and being able to pull it off, but even if it was less than ideal it worked out ok. There might be a few things I would do differently but those are lessons learned for the next event.

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Another part of the experience that has benefits and drawbacks is that since I found such an ideal spot that allowed me to take a wide variety of photographs of each runner from multiple angles, is that it allowed me to take a wide variety of photographs of each runner from multiple angles. Meaning I was able to take a ton of photos. I took a large quantity of photographs, over 3000. I could have taken many more if I had chosen to. I was under the impression that I had done a good job on limiting the sheer volume of photos I took until I started reviewing them on my camera after the event and realize just how many I had taken. Capturing all those images in and of itself is great and I love having so many photos to share with people but what it means for me is more work. It is time consuming to transfer all the photographs from each memory card to my computer. I probably need to do some hardware upgrades there at some point. Then I have to upload all those photographs to the internet to share them with the runners and the race organization. That takes time and websites don’t always cooperate or make it easy to upload large numbers of files all at once. So it becomes a slow time consuming process. But it is a process that I love none the less. Then there is the process of editing photos and sharing them which is also fun but time consuming and with 3000 plus photos it will be a while before I get through them all and share any significant number of edited photos.

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All said this was a great event full of great people from the runners to the volunteers to the organization putting the event on and the host site.

Thank you to Southern Tier Running Club for having me out to photograph your event. Thank you to Grist Iron Brewing for hosting. Thank you to the volunteers for making this happen. These events don’t happen without volunteers. Thank you to all the runners who went out and got after it on the trails. I hope you all had a great time and I hope you enjoy the photographs.

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Skunk Cabbage Half: Race Report

On Sunday 4/8/2018 I ran the Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon. Four months into 2018 I am running my first race. I generally don’t sign up for cold weather races because while I don’t necessarily mind running in the cold I like it to be by my choosing on my terms. I don’t really like to have the obligation of having to run on this day particular day where the forecast is for cold weather. Last year I ran the Skunk Cabbage Half in shorts and a T-shirt and it was so sunny that I ended up with a sunburn by the end of the race.

I realize it is early April and anything can happen with the weather but this year the weather was slightly different. The forecast was for about 30 degrees at the time of the start of the race. So dress was a little different for this race. I was wearing tights and three layers of shirts and a hat and gloves as well. After three miles the sun was actually starting to peak out a little and I felt a little warm and contemplated taking my hat and gloves off. I decided against it as it seemed possible I would just end up having to put them back on later and I didn’t want to have to worry about fussing with things and possibly slowing myself down unnecessarily.

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Keeping the gloves on was the right choice as by mile seven snow squalls moved in and there was on and off snow for the rest of the race. I have run int he snow, but I have never raced in the snow, especially when I am trying to run a fast race for me. At times the snow and wind were blowing right into your face. The snow just driving right into you pelting you and feeling like little ice bullets. It was not even possible to look straight ahead because the snow would literally hit you right in the eyes if you didn’t have glasses on which I did not. This was not a condition I had anticipated. It was snowing hard enough and directionally enough that just one side of your body would be coated in snow. By the end of the race the roads were wet and my feet were wet. It almost felt like I have run a trail race. Running in that kind of weather at a race was a new experience for me and even though I managed it ok, I would prefer not to do it again.

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The next part of the event that I had to navigate for me was my photography. I have been photographing and writing about my running especially my 50k training as a way to document my experiences. This race is in the midst of  my 50k training and was a good opportunity to get a sense of my overall running fitness even though a half marathon is nothing like a trail ultra marathon. I really wanted to have a camera with me to document the race so I could have photograph to accompany my writing. I debated if I should even take a camera with me for fear of using it and slowing myself down and self sabotaging my effort at a goal time at this race. I did end up bringing my GoPro with me and carrying it with me during the race, however I did not take it out and photograph anything until after I crossed the finish line. So all the photos here are after I finished the race.

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And now we come to it. The actual running of the race. How did the race itself and the actual running go for me? The first three miles had me a little nervous. I felt ok but I had a really difficult time settling into a pace. I was either too fast or too slow. I could not get on track. The vast majority of my training has been at a slow pace to build mileage for long distances. It took some mental effort to make my legs move faster. There was a time when I felt good and settled in and then my watch buzzed at me and I checked and I was running a 10 minute mile pace. That is a full minute slower than the pace I needed for my goal. so after that I knew I had to be much more conscious of my pace and really pay attention.

The real challenge to this race is the course itself. It is a relatively hilly course with 500 ft of elevation gain. So it isn’t really possible, at least not for me to plan to just run one steady pace the whole way. There would be times on the uphills I would be too slow and times on the downhills I would be too fast. My goal was to just check in at my mile splits and make sure I was on pace at each mile and adjust accordingly. As it turns out I had only two 1 mile split times where I was over 9 minute miles which is the pace I needed to hit my goal of a sub 2 hour time.

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My previous best for a half marathon was 2 hr 15 min and with all my training the past year I was pretty sure I would beat that relatively easily, baring injury. What I really wanted was not just a PR I wanted that sub 2 hr time.

So can training for a 50k increase your fitness enough that you can PR at a half marathon and hit a new and challenging goal for yourself. The answer for me, a middle of the pack runner, is yes. Improving my overall fitness and endurance through 50k training was enough for me to run a half marathon 20 minutes faster than I ever had previously at an official race.

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I achieved my goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon with a time of 1:55. I ran better than I every expected. More importantly I felt better than I ever expected. This was the best I had ever felt at a race. This is the first time I have ever been working through an official training plan and the benefits are pretty clear. I felt good the whole race. I was even able to speed up for the last three miles. I ran mile 13 at a 7:57 pace. That seems like a near miracle for me and what my running is normally like as far as speed goes. Having enough left in the tank to run that fast at the end of a half marathon is unheard of for me. Usually I am limping across at the finish getting passed by people. This time coming down the stretch I was passing other people. It makes me think I could have actually run a little faster. So maybe the future holds more room for improvement at the half marathon distance for me. But I am extremely happy with this accomplishment and extremely happy with how I have felt before, during, and after this race. I could not have done it without the support of my wife and my friends who have supported me on this journey.

 

Planning for Skunk Cabbage Half

In three days I will be running the Skunk Cabbage Half for the second time. This wil be the first time I have run a race with a very specific time goal I want to achieve. I have been training hard ever since the last time I ran this race and I am in the best shape of my life. That said I am still nervous. What if I fail?

I have only run four official half marathons, but I have run many half marathon or greater distance fun runs or training runs. I ran a recent training run where my Garmin reported a half marathon PR of 2 hr 2 min. So I know this goal is within my grasp. I think that is part of what makes me nervous about this race. I feel like I should accomplish this. I have this expectation of myself now.

I have worked harder and ran more miles in the last three months than I ever have in my short running life. But the training has not been for a half marathon. The training has been for a trail 50k with 6,000 ft of elevation. Will that kind of training translate into a half marathon PR for me. I guess we will have to see. But I think it will.

I think it helps that my actual official half marathon PR is 2 hours and 15 minutes. So, if nothing else I should at least PR. I rarely run a half marathon distance in that time frame these days unless I am intentionally running at a slower pace. So my A goal is a sub 2 hr half at Skunk Cabbage and my B goal is to at least PR which I believe is a gimme as long as I don’t get hurt. I am probably jinxing myself right at this moment typing those words.

The other issue I have been debating in my head is do I want to bring my camera? I have been documenting and photographing as many races and training runs as I can and have been increasing that as part of my 50k training documentation. If I bring my camera I don’t want to get distracted taking photographs and lose time and cost me my chance to reach my goals. But it would be nice to have my camera in case the race does not go as planned. It will be easier for me to enjoy a race that goes off the rails if I have my camera with me and I can at least take some photos and find other ways to keep myself positive.

So I think the conclusion is bring the camera but commit to only taking it out for pre-race and post race photos unless something goes wrong and I will not hit my goals. Then I can take out the camera and document what is going on. That seems to be a good compromise that will not compromise my goals.

I will likely write a race report after the race. Look forward to reporting back. Wish me luck.

What IS a “good” Race Photo

As runners I we are all excited when we see that a race we are running will have a photographer. It is great to be able to have our photographs taken while we do something we love. We don’t have to try to take selfies for this one. We will have memories created for us of this achievement. It’s a nice feeling.

We wait patiently or perhaps impatiently for the photos to go live. We scroll through the photos looking for images of ourselves. We want to see how we look. We want to see that nice race day photo. And for many of us we don’t see that “good” race photo. We see the photographs of us running the race and for one reason or another it never looks like we imagined it would look or it doesn’t look as nice as we want it to.

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I have complained just like everyone else that I don’t like the way I look in that race photo, or in photos in general. I am pretty sure that I even posted a photo on Instagram that I captioned “This is the one race photo I actually like”, or something to that effect. We look at our photos and we judge and we evaluate. It is just how we are wired. But I would like to take this opportunity to dispell the myth of the “good” race photo.

As both a runner and a photographer I think I might have a different perspective. One that I am trying to embrace more wholeheartedly. I believe it in my mind and soul, but it is harder to apply it to myself as are most things in life.

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As a runner I run because I love it, but I had to learn to love it. It takes effort and practice and time. A race day photo should reflect those things. A race day photo is not a posed glamour shot. It is a photo of us doing that thing we love. That thing that we do that not everyone else can or is willing to do. Running requires commitment, perseverance, and determination and the photographs of us should show those things. It’s not easy and its not going to look easy in the photos. When we look at our photographs and we critique ourselves because we aren’t smiling, or we have this ugly facial expression, or we are in an awkward position, and on and on forever goes the list of reasons to be disappointed in the photos, we are relinquishing the strength that makes us runners. This photograph is you getting up and out there. Doing what others don’t do. Let the photograph stand for what it really is. Let the photograph stand for all the hard work you have put into the race. You ran that race and you put in the work and here is the proof in that photograph.

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Things that are hard, things that are difficult, things that are challenging often don’t look “good” until the finished product is put on display. You will have time to laugh and smile and high five for pictures when you have completed your race. When you are running you are putting in the work. You are taking on the challenge. Wear that grimace with pride at what you are achieving.  You certainly have earned it.

As a photographer photographing a race I have a different perspective on what makes a “good” photograph than others might. When I photograph a race I am not necessarily looking for a posed photo, its not what I am looking for in most of my photography. It’s just not my style photographically. If you see me on the course and you want to wave or pose or anything you want to do I am more than happy to oblige, it is your photograph I am creating and I want you, the runner, to be happy with it. But there is a deeper meaning in the photographs I take.

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I grew up loving sports and that love of sports manifested itself in collecting baseball cards. One aspect I loved in collecting the baseball cards was the photography itself. The ability to capture an athlete performing. I loved the artistry of it. I loved more than just the photos of my favorite players I loved the cool photographs that occur during a sporting event that you will not find anywhere else.  I loved the black and white posed portraits and I loved the mid action shots of the baseball hitting the bat. But if there is one thing you notice when you collect baseball cards and study the photos it is that in the action shots none of those athletes are smiling. The athletes look intense. They are focused. They are locked in. They often have a grimace on their faces.

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Look at a photograph of a pitcher as they are in the middle of throwing a pitch as their arm is coming towards home plate. You can usually see their face. Thy often have some of the most awkward looking expressions on their faces and that is because they are doing what they have worked hard to do and they are not worrying about anything else. It is an expression of pure intensity and effort. As a photographer at a race this is what I am looking to capture.

Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that you have to be a professional level athlete to have this expression or that I am only trying to capture professional level photos. If you are out there and you are competing at any level from race winner to DFL and you are bringing it. If you are putting forth your best effort then you are the athlete I am looking for. You are what makes a good race photo. I want to see the blood, sweat, and tears that make our sport. Those are the things we should be celebrate.

Celebrate the effort. Celebrate the hard work. Celebrate the dedication and commitment. Most importantly celebrate what those things look like when they are photographed and be proud of your race day photograph.

Southern Tier Running Club 5k and 10k

Today I photographed the Southern Tier Running Club 5k and 10k race in upstate, NY. This is such a great put on by a great local organization. The runners are all amazing. 700 plus runners turned out for this local event. Here is one of my favorite photographs I took at the event. There are so many to go through. They will all be posted online soon for the runners to see. Follow me here and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more updates and race photos when they are available. See you at the next race.

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State Parks Are Havens For Trail Runners

One of the greatest things about running is that you can run basically anywhere. You can walk out your door and run. There is not a whole lot that is necessary in order to run. Just put your shoes on and run. You don’t need a ball, a glove, a field, or a team. It’s just you, your feet, and the ground.

However, if you love nature you might also love trail running, and trail running requires one more thing, a trail. At very least you will want some outdoor space where you can run off road. Not all communities are fortunate enough to have areas where they can go out and run on trails very easily.

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In my experiences running on the past several years I have learned that there is one great resource that trail runners can take advantage of and that is your state parks. One thing that almost all state parks have in common is that they have trails. If you want to get out and enjoy some trails you need to check out your closest state park if you haven’t done so yet.

The Finger Lakes Region of New York is fortunate to be home to no fewer than 17 state parks. These state parks are areas where the people have decided nature is important and should be preserved and protected and that is one of the things that draws people to trail running. The opportunity to be out in nature and enjoy two things that go great together, running and nature, is irresistible.

In the Finger Lakes region there are multiple state parks where running clubs are able to put on great races. The Ithaca Running club has been putting on trail races or years and some of their races feature our great state parks. The Tortoise and Hare trail race is run in Buttermilk Falls State Park. The Monster marathon and half marathon, also put on by Finger Lakes Running Club, is held in Robert Treman State Park.  Forge the Gorgeous trail race is held at Filmore Glen State Park by the Finger Lakes Running Club. Red Newt Racing holds their Cayuga Trails race which encompasses to state parks, both Robert Treman and Buttermilk Falls. Lucifer’s Crossing trail race is held at Robert Treman State Park by Red Newt Racing. The race itself is named for one of the most prominent features of the state park, Lucifer’s Falls where the runners will be climbing the gorge along the falls.

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Soon we may have even more races to look forward to at state parks in the Finger Lakes region. The Southern Tier Running Club is planning to bring race to our area at Newtown Battlefield State Park and Pinnacle State Park. The proposed race at Newtown Battlefield would be a trail half marathon. The race at Pinnacle would have options for a 3 and 7 mile course.

Running races is one great reason to go for a trail run at a state park but there are more reasons. Most state parks offer multiple trails and not all of them will be covered by races. Not all trails are appropriate for races but all trails are appropriate for exploring. So take this great opportunity to explore. Go take a run down a trail you may not be familiar with. Just see where it goes and enjoy it. Relax, take your time even. Stop and soak in that nature. Exploration and connection are the best things about getting out there in nature on a run. See something new. Get out there and connect with nature.

State parks also might have trails that connect with other trails. Trails that go a much longer distance than you might otherwise expect. You can start on one trail in a state park and take a turn off onto another trail and go on an adventure. Who knows you could start in a state park and end up running across the state on the Finger Lakes Trail if you want to. You can pick up the Finger Lakes trail in Watkins Glen State Park and Robert Treman State Park for example.  You never know where the adventure might lead you. Be open to the adventure.

Another great aspect of state parks aside from opportunities to camp and hike or run trails is the opportunity to find solitude. Sometimes even running alone in the city you never really feel that solitude. There are always cars and street lights and other pedestrians and barking dogs. There are so many distractions to take you out of the moment. Too many other things to pay attention to that take you out of that moment. Get out on a lesser used trail at a state park and you might not see anyone for miles. No cars to worry about. No barking dogs to contend with. You can become fully immersed in the moment and just enjoy the run with no other concerns. Just drink in the nature and experience real solitude.

Gather your friends and meet up at a state park and start your adventure today.

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