Recently I participated in the Sehgahunda trail event at Letchworth State Park in upstate NY. This is the third time I have participated in this event. The first time I participated in the event I was part of a relay team. The next year my friends and I all decided we would run the trail marathon. This year my best friends and I ran together as part of a relay team. We were all at the event with our extended running family from the SOAR running club, a youth running club in upstate NY. There were teams of youth running the relay together, teams of adults and youth running together, and solo runners running the full marathon.
My original plan for this event was to run almost the complete marathon. I wanted to run with my friends as they ran each of their legs and shoot photos and video of them running. Then I would also complete my leg to finish out the relay and create photography and video footage of my leg as well. After suffering a setback in my training during my last race I had been forced to take time off to rest and let my leg recover. I knew I would no longer be able to execute my plan as I had previously wanted. I would not be able to run the majority of a trail marathon right now. After some time off I tested my leg out on some local trails and after a recovery day I felt well enough that I thought I would be able to run the 9 mile leg of the relay. I wasn’t sure how fast I would be but I was pretty confident that I could get it done.
We all met up at the start line and watched our friends set off on this adventure. IT is fun to have so many friends to cheer for. I would be running the second leg so we headed out for the check point where I would meet our first runner and then set off down the trails. I was as ready as I was going to be. Our first runner met up with me and passed the relay bib to me. I put it on and headed down the trails. Getting from the check points down to the main trails through the woods is one of the most challenging aspects of this event. The trails leading to the checkpoints are nothing like the trails leading through the woods. I really enjoy the sections of trails that run through the woods. They are challenging but mostly runable. Even in less than desirable conditions one can run most of the course when down in the woods. I managed to move down the trails at a moderate pace. I tried to take it a bit easier descending and ascending the many ravines that comprise the main feature of these trails that make it so interesting and beautiful.
You run down the trails for a while and then you dip into a steep ravine and pop right back out on the other side. This occurs over and over again along the course. Then there are many sections where you run down a relatively smooth section of trail and you can just look out over a gorge section nearby. These trails are nice and scenic if you love the woods. I really enjoy the 9 mile leg of the relay. I think it is the best section of the course.
As we awaited the final leg of our teams race to start our members were also keeping tabs on the progress of the other teams. WE learned that one of the other teams had failed to make the cutoff time to continue on in the race, meaning their other runners would not be able to run. My kind hearted friend decided without a second thought that she would give up he spot on our relay team and allow the other youth runner who was not going to be able to run to take her place and run the final leg of the relay for our team. So we started with a slightly different team than we finished with, but it was still a fun adventure.
Let’s talk about these trails. One could say that there was some mud this year. Let’s just say there were some footing issues. There was significantly more mud than I had seen in my past experiences. Our friends who have run the race 5 and 6 times have said this was by far the worse mud they have ever seen. Sehgahunda seems to have a reputation for significant levels of mud on the trails leading up to the checkpoints and aid stations that are up out of the woods. This year was no different, but it seemed significantly worse. It wasn’t even like running through mud it was like thick brown soup or pudding. There was no footing to be had. Especially on the way down back into the woods from the aid stations it was so much of a run as a semi controlled constant falling down the trail without ever fully hitting the ground. You just slid along in the mud going wherever the mud took you. I found it better to just ty to go with the flow rather than try to direct myself down a specific course in the mud. It was just not happening. Even on the trails that ran through the woods mud was a significant issue. There was mud and standing puddles of water even on those trails, which I had not experienced in the past. This made the race even more complex and challenging. I am very glad that I did not decide to run the full marathon this year, which I had been contemplating when registration started.
Training for my first 50 mile race continues. I have several races built in as more serious training runs essentially prior to my 50 mile race. I “planned” other races into my training before I reach my date with a 50 miler, but I will admit most of them were not particularly strategic. They are more that I just want to run that race.
I am a little under a month away from the first race of my race season. My first race is a road half marathon. It will probably be my only half marathon and possibly my only road race. This will be the third time I run this particular half marathon, Skunk Cabbage Half. I have enjoyed this race in the past and I ran a PR there last year and achieved my goal of my first sub 2 hr half marathon. This year I would like to PR again. PR’s at half marathons have really been my only time goals at races these days. To that end I have been trying to be much more consistent and attentive to doing speed work during my training plan. I had speed wok on my training plan last year but I would not say I took a very good approach to it. Most of my gains in speed have simply come due to consistent running not by any specific strategy.
So far during this year’s training I have seen significant improvements in my speed at the 10k distance. I never really thought of this distance as on I could show much improvement in as I did not feel I had the stamina to run hard that long. I have generally focused on running longer and farther not necessarily faster over the last several years. My runs have been long but relatively slow. Earlier in the year on a cold wintry day I found myself running hard for my entire run because I was simply freezing cold and running hard was the easiest way to stay warm and also get done faster and get home and get warmed up. On that run I ended up running a 10k PR. Then I started incorporating speed work into my training plan. I decided to use fartlek’s as my speed work because I am not well versed in speed work, as in I basically no nothing about speed work, and fartlek’s seemed easiest to understand and easiest to implement. I decided to run 1 minute fast 1 minute rest fartlek’s for 4 of my miles on either 6 or 7 mile runs with a warm up mile in the beginning and at least 1 mile cool down at the end. Since I started that routine I have achieved multiple PRs at the 10k distance. Also depending on which running app you subscribe to Garmin or Strava I either PR’d or ran my second fastest time at the 5k distance on my most recent speed work, with the difference in times between the two apps being only 1 second.
To be clear I am not a particularly fast runner. I am very much a middle of the pack runner if not back middle of the pack depending on the race. But it is very nice to see these added benefits of speed work really showing up in measurable visible ways on my training apps. It really helps me to stay motivated and keeps my drive up to stick with these hard speed workouts. I have never really done much speed work and these are definitely some of the hardest workouts I have ever done. It is really easy to stop doing something hard if you don’t feel like you are getting results. I am glad to be seeing these results or I would be very tempted to give up on the speed work.
I am looking forward to seeing how this new emphasis on speed work translates to my first race of my season at my only race with a time goal at this point. Hopefully it results in another half marathon PR.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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I have been writing a lot about my trail running experiences. I hope you aren’t getting sick of it because it seems to be a growing trend, especially as I explore new trails. I’ve written about how trail running has allowed me to and encouraged me to explore so much more of the natural world that I love so much. Today was no different.
Without running, but hiking instead the amount of distance one can cover on a trail in a reasonable amount of time is limited. If I was going to go for a hike would I choose to drive an hour to hike a few miles on some random trails in the woods or would I go to a well known state park where I knew that at least in those few miles I will be able to enjoy nice scenic views. I think I would probably choose a park. Nothing against state parks, I love them and go there frequently but that’s the point. I don’t see something new by doing that. There is less exploration.
Thanks to running I can cover 8 miles in a couple hours. So that is 8 miles of state forest land I can explore and discover for myself for the first time. Being able to explore that much nature in a relatively short amount of time is worth it to me even if there aren’t any majestic views. That all lead me to choose to go explore the Finger Lakes Trail through Danby State Forest.
I am not going to try to oversell Danby State Forest. I really enjoyed my time there, but I am sure it’s not for everyone. It is beautiful without being scenic, if that makes any sense. There are no grand waterfalls, or even small waterfalls that I saw along the FLT. There are no lookouts with wide open scenic vistas. You are in a forest just about all the time. There are trees of all sorts. There are roots. There are streams. There are flowers. And there are countless little spotted newts that I did not stop to take photos of but had I been out on a hike I surely would have. Being in Danby State Forest means enjoying the simple little things about nature. I didn’t even see any people until I had gone about 12 miles of my 16 mile run.
The run itself was very fun and interesting. I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t look at the map other than to confirm I could get a total of 16 miles in and stay in Danby State Forest. I didn’t look at contour lines or anything like that. Maybe I should have, but I am glad I did not. If I had maybe I would not have done it. My first thought when I began running on the trail was “oh nice this is rather runnable, not very rocky, no big climbs looming.” Then I started to go down and down and down. This was in the moment fine by me because I love downhill running and the trails were very runnable and I really enjoyed it. But it was one downhill after another without much climbing back up in between. I was loving all the runnable downhills but in the back of my mind I kept thinking “This is going to be a lot of climbing on the way back.” And it was. The first climb I came to I felt like it wasn’t so bad, but then climb after climb just wore me down. By the end I felt like I was barely able to move. I ended up with over 3,000 ft of vertical gain which wasn’t shocking but I was really thinking it would be more in the 2,000 ft range. I really loved the first half of the run with all the open downhill running. I just need someone to pick me up after eight so I don’t have to go back up next time.
I am looking forward to continuing to explore the Finger Lakes Trail, but as I explore it more and more I will need to drive farther and farther from home to reach new trail sections so that might make further exploration a continually growing challenge, but I will find ways to get out there and keep exploring. Maybe at Twisted Branch 100k next year.
Last year the Southern Tier Running Club launched its first trail running event. I was so excited for this and I had to participate by running in the first ever STRC trail race. This year the STRC is launched its second brand new Trail Running event: Trail Fest at Pinnacle. I was equally excited for this event as well. I love seeing our running club grow and provide more events for our members and the rest of the running community. I did not run this event. I was able to be part of it in a different way.
I started off the day volunteering and helping with race day set up. We had a great crew of volunteers out there making this event happen many of whom put in countless hours before race day. The Trail Fest at Pinnacle consisted of two races. The event kicked off with a 3.5 mile race and then that would be followed by a 7 mile race. Runners had the option of running one or both races.
As start time for the 3.5 mile race began I took on a different roll. I would be providing race photography for the event. I was able to secure a ride out onto the race course to where I was ensured by our club member who designed the course that I would be able to capture some great images. He was right. It was a great spot. I was able to capture great still photos as well as time lapse footage and long video of the entire race. The best part for me as a photographer was that this location was where the 3.5 and 7 mile courses converged. So I could photograph the 3.5 mile race and then only readjust my set up a little bit and reposition and be able to photograph the 7 mile race without really even having to move much at all. I appreciated this aspect even more as the temperature rose to over 80 degrees.
Although I loved this location for photographs I am not sure the runners appreciated me being there. For each race I was at the top of a tough climb. I am pretty sure some of the runners wanted to curse at me. No one really wants there photo taken as they struggle up a climb, but for me as a photographer it allows me to show what trail running is really about. It is about the grit and determination it takes to climb those elevation gains that others would avoid. It’s not always fast or fun but grinding out those miles with effort is what makes trail running the sport I love and other people love as well. Photographs might not be traditionally “good” photographs (My thoughts on that here: What IS a “good” Race Photo) but they show the amount of effort runners are putting into the course.
This year has really been about trying to add new dimensions to my race photography and many of the races I’ve photographed this year have allowed me to do that because of the way they were structured. This one was no different. Never before have I shot such long segments of video and time lapse footage at the same time as photographing a race. Never before have I secured a camera to a tree in order to record video from a different angle. I love being able to do different things for race coverage. I hope other people enjoy the variety of things I provide from races as well. As I am still processing the photographs from the race this post includes some of my favorites so far. Enjoy. I’d love to hear any feedback you have.
Earlier this year a friend of mine and fellow runner posted online that he wanted to go run up Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks. He wanted to know if anyone would want to go with him. At the time I really knew nothing about what the rout up Mount Marcy was like. But it did sound like an interesting idea.
I went to the Adirondacks with the idea in the back of my mind that I would possibly try to run up a mountain and that I would maybe even attempt it at Mount Marcy while I was there. I did get an opportunity to run up a mountain while I was in the Adirondacks, but I did not run up Mount Marcy. After doing a little reading about what the climb up Mount Marcy entailed and some realistic evaluation of my fitness level and running ability I decided it might be rash to just decide I was going to go run up this mountain sight unseen.
I think that was probably a wise decision. I love trail running, but my weakness is definitely in climbing and Mount Marcy would require significant climbing. I did venture out to Mount Marcy and hike up to the summit. A journey that I highly recommend to anyone. While I was out on the trail Multiple groups of people ran past me on the trails. They passed me on their way up while I was working my way up to the top. I was hoping that they would take long enough to reach the top and then hang out at the summit long enough that I would get a chance to talk to them when I arrived at teh summit myself.
However, I would have no such luck. Before I was even clear of the forest and above the tree line the runners came back down. I wish I had been ready and was able to get more photos. Two groups completely passed by me before I could get my camera out and ready to get a few shots as they passed out of view. Luckily I was prepared for at least one of the groups and captured some nice images of a group of women running down Mount Marcy.
When I arrived at the summit I overheard some of the other hikers saying that the runners were part of the Olympic ski team out here training. They were really kicking ass on the trails, both on the way up and on the way down. Granted I did not see them on the steepest rockiest terrain but they were making it look pretty easy running up the trail to the mountain summit.
After hiking it and getting a little experience on that trail and learning the layout of the trail I think running it may not be out of reach. I think I know many runners that could put on a pretty good run up and down that mountain. I don’t know how much actual running I would do after the first several miles on the ascent, but the descent could be pretty fun. I have been known to organize groups of friends to do some fun (crazy) stuff. Maybe I will have to see if I can find some friends who want to go for a day trip to the Adirondacks and give this running up Mount Marcy thing a try. I am always looking for new experiences and that sure would be one.
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