Tag Archives: Trail Running

Goal Race 2017

Last year a friend of mine suggested I run a race that sounded challenging and fun but it was the weekend after I was running another race. I didn’t think that I could run a race on back to back weekends. I ended up not running the other race and just sticking with the one race that I was already committed to. The race I didn’t run last year was the Green Monster 15k.

My friend said that since I couldn’t run the Green Monster 15k in 2016 that I should commit to running the Green Monster 25k in 2017. (Thanks Shannon) I decided that was exactly what I would do. Green Monster 25k would be my goal race for 2017. Everything I would do in 2017 would be focused on getting me ready to run the Green Monster 25k in October. The Green Monster 25k would be the longest distance I had ever run period race or not. The race would be the most challenging race I’ve run from the perspective of elevation gain and technicality of the trail as well. I wasn’t even that experienced in trail running at the end of 2016. I just knew that I enjoyed the few races that I had run and I enjoyed the occasional times I had run on trails in the past.

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2017 would be a year focused on trail running for me. I only ran in two races that were road races. I spent more time than ever on trails. I ran longer and longer runs. I talked to people that were experienced in trail running, seeking advice and counsel.

This year was the most fun and interesting year of running I have had to date. I experienced all kinds of new things. Since I would be running my first ever 25k mile trail run and the longest trail run I had ever run prior to that was a 10k (I had completed multiple road half marathons by that point.)  I thought it would be wise to target a 25k trail run that might be at least a little less challenging early in the year so that I could at least get some experience with running that distance. I targeted the Fingerlakes 50’s 25k. Then I forgot to register on the day the race opened and I ended up on the waiting list. I spent the whole first half of the year waiting to find out if I would even get into this race. Turns out I did get in and the race went pretty well despite the monsoon that occurred during the race. Nothing like a soggy trail run in the Fingerlakes.

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Even though I didn’t know if I would be able to run the Fingerlakes 50’s 25k I spent the first part of the year training like I definitely was running it. That meant building up my trail running legs over ever increasing distances. Almost every race I ran in the first half of the year was a new first for me. I ran a 10k race. I ran my first ever 8 mile trail run on a tough loop course, in the early summer heat, in the evening where I had the option of just stopping at 4 miles and bow was that tempting in the heat. That race was a new experience for me in many ways. That race was a new experience to me in so many ways. The distance was new. Running an evening race was new. And even running in the heat was different for me. I usually try to avoid running in the heat. I’ve also never run a loop course before where you could just stop, and the mental challenge of not stopping was so tough.

After the 8 mile race I went on to run my first 20K trail run. This race also included some substantial elevation changes which would present another new challenge for me. This was my second go on a loop course. Having to pass by the finish line after completing a steep climb that was the end of the 10k race was not fun but I was committed. Despite getting off course along with a substantial number of runners and missing some mileage and some climbing I was exhausted by the end, but I got it done and it was on to the Fingerlakes 50’s 25k for the next race.

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The Fingerlakes 50’s 25k was a great experience. Prior to the race I was worried about it being too hot as the forecast was for temps in the 80’s around race time. The actual race conditions were a muddy mess of a slog that for substantial portions of the race featured torrential downpours. Every trail you ran on had water running on it in some direction, towards you, with you, or across the path. There were even portions of standing water. Near the end it was a mental struggle to just fight the urge to just walk the rest of the way. I was beaten down by the distance and the rain and mud, bt I got to the finish line. This was not just a race it was an experience.

In August I ran my first every trail half marathon. It was on a relatively flat course that I actually had a little bit of experience with part of the trail from a trail relay I had run earlier in the year. Due to the lack of elevation change this race did not have a lot in common with my goal race other than getting me to close to that amount of distance. I still wanted to simulate how I would feel on my goal race during this race. I knew that long before the end of my goal race I would be exhausted, so my plan for this race was to run myself to exhaustion before the end. I ran out much harder than someone of my ability level proably should at the beginning of the race. And by not too far after the half way point I was feeling quite fatigued and slowing. But that was the plan I wanted to experience running tired and pushing myself to keep going. The plan worked well. I was exhausted and I finished.

I had run a race every month since spring to get prepared for my goal race and to help maintain my motivation to train. After my August race I didn’t have another race lined up for September. My friend Shannon once again stepped up and suggested I run the race she was going to run. An 8 mile loop course up and down a nearby ski resort mountain. Knowing I both needed to work on my climbing and have incentive to continue working on my climbing until my goal race, I was in. That was a challenging run for me. I am normally the kind of person that likes to stop for a second to get a photo of the nice scenery I am privileged to be out in. Not during this race. You were always going up or down. There were no convenient places to stop for a photo.

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Finally October rolls around and my goal race, Green Monster 25k, is in sight. I am a bundle of emotions thinking about this challenge that is in front of me. Did I train hard enough. Will I be ready. Am I in over my head. I was pretty confident that I could handle the pure distance. It was the elevation gain that I was concerned about. I had run parts of the trail multiple times with friends. However, a planned preview run of the 25k course with a friend did not go so well and that had me a little down leading into the race and race day was forecast to be warm as well. Another strike against me that I’d worry about.

Ascents have been and continue to be my biggest challenge in trail running. The race starts off flat but quickly turns into the longest climb of the day. My strategy was to go out slow and try to conserve my energy for the climb. Climbs just take the wind out of my sails and I did not want to start off the race too tired already. I got through the first climb and I got to the top where it levels out tired but not too bad off. I apparently let my guard down a little too much after the climb and tripped and fell at one of the least technical (Read easy and no reason to fall) parts of the trail. But If I was going to fall there it may have been one of the best spots to fall. It was one of the least rocky areas. If I had fell a few minutes later I probably would have been pretty busted up.

After a little flat running came my favorite part of the entire race. A nice long descent. Not too steep as to be technical but steep enough that you could pick up some momentum. I even caught up to and passed some people. Descents are basically the only place that happens for me in a trail race. I spent the next portion of the race picking and choosing when to run and when to walk as distance was covered over a long gradual incline. The whole time I know a steep ascent is looming and I am trying to arrive at the ascent without being too out of breath already.

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The ascent up Bark Slide Trail was steep and a considerable challenge for me. I took my time getting up it so I would have legs left for the rest of the race. At the top you loop around and go back down a more gradual descent and return to the path where you went up Bark Slide. A bit farther along was the third big climb of the race. This trail is steep and rocky and even has large trees growing in the middle of the trail. One of which I leant against and rested on during my previous attempt. This time I was tired but I did not need to stop. I slowly struggled on up the trail. These climbs were so steep it is difficult to even stop to rest if you wanted to because there is no level footing to stop on and it is pretty easy to lose your balance or simply slide on the slope.

After the three big climbs I had to endure the race was pretty tough for me. The climbs had siphoned all the energy from my legs. I just couldn’t run too much for too long after that. I ran when I could and walked when I needed to. I knew that at some point I would meet up with Jim Close trail and rejoin with the same part of the course that the 15k runners would be running. That was what I was seeking. I knew it meant that I was relatively close to the end and I knew it meant a chance to see my friends. When I saw the turn for Jim Close I saw my friends daughter and yelled to her to cheer her on. Getting on the Jim Close Trail was like a resurgence.
Eventually around mile 13 you get back to climbing and the resurgence I previously had felt had dissipated. At times it was all I coukd do to keep my feet going one in front of the other. After one of the steeper climbs I actually stopped for a few seconds and bent over to rest and that just seemed to make everything worse. So I trudged onward. One of the best things about this section though was 2 of my friends running the 15k caught up to me and I was able to say hi. That helped get me through it.

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Finally I arrived at Frankenstein’s Forehead and at last I knew I was close to the end. One more serious decent and then a few miles of relatively flat running and I’d arrive at the finish line.
Frankenstein’s Forehead under race conditions was more challenging as I had to repeatedly slow down for others ahead of me taking more time on the decent.  But getting to the bottom and heading out on the flatter trail was very welcome. The bottom was hotter and more humid than I expected. I stopped at every stream crossing and scooped up a hat full of water a nd poured it over my head as I put my hat back on.
As I neared the finish line it was so great to be able to hear all the people cheering. It was especially nice to hear my wife cheering me on. Every race she is able to make it to is even better. Crossing the finish line and reuniting with my wife and friends was great. It was a release it was the fulfillment of a year of hard work. Standing at the finish line cheering on more friends as they finished and then all resting and recovering together and talking about our races is what running is all about.

 

 

 

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Southern Tier Running Club representing at Green Monster

 

Tanglefoot Trail Run

Today I ran my first 20k trail run, the Tanglefoot 20k. It didn’t actually end up being a complete 20k, however, because many of us managed to get off course and cut off like a mile on our first lap. But anyway, here are some nice photographs from one of my favorite places, Tanglewood Nature Center,  where I love to visit, hang out, run and enjoy nature.

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This Trail down the hill is much steeper than it appears in the photo. Do not let your eyes deceive you.

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Seriously I have to go UP this? That was a steep tough climb on the second lap around.

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Some of the best views around.

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You can see across the valley and out to the river from the bluffs.

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Then you head down this trail along the cliffs. I love it. Maybe the best part of the whole run.

Photographing Mendon Mauler

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Finger Lakes Trail Run/Hike

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mt. Tom Challenge

One of our friends decided we should take on the Mt. Tom Challenge instead of our regularly scheduled local trail run. So at the last minute the night before the event we decided that was just what we would do.

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The View from the top of Mt. Tom as another person reaches the summit.

The Mt. Tom Challenge consists of going straight up a mountain. Then going around and down the other side. And you do this as many times as you can in two hours. There is no warm up to the incline. You immediately start going up the mountain as soon as the race starts.

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The view down the trail we ascend up to the top of Mt. Tom.

You quickly discover that most likely this is nothing like anything you have done before. Well, at least thats what I discovered. The incline is a climb of 1100 feet over a distance of .8 miles. Someone good at math figure out what the angle of that ascent would be.

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Once you get to the top you head down this very brief but flat trail. It was so nice to be on flat ground again. No more climbing. Each lat is about 2.5 miles. So once you get to the top you still have over a mile to go to get back to the bottom and start again.

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As you leave the flat land you come to this nice depression that was filled with snow. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a photograph here. It was such a nice spot.

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The uphill climb was snow-less. Thankfully for me as my trail shoes are virtually bald. I never would have been able to get up a slick snowy slope. On the way down it was a different story. It was muddy in spots and there was varying amounts of snow. The snow could be just a dusting, to half frozen/half melted ice, to ankle deep or more amounts of snow. It was pretty tricky for me picking a route down the mountain and watching my footing. Trying to figure out where I would have the best traction. I was constantly varying my speed and stride to maintain control on the way down. And it almost worked too. At one point on my way down I over stridded and my front foot slide out in front of me and I went down. I basically sat down on my back leg bent right under my butt. I slid down the slop a little on a frozen hard snow that felt more like gravel and cut up my knee a little bit. But I was able to bounce back up and continue running. No real injury, thankfully. As I was getting close to completing my race I stepped in a thick mud hole and lost my show. As I was going downhill I ended up taking about three shoe-less steps downhill in the mud and then I had to walk back through the mud to retrieve it. (Check out my Instagram for that photo.)

When I looked at what the incline was like I was nervous I wouldn’t even be able to complete one lap. So I was very happy with the two laps I was able to complete. I completed my first lap in around 45 minutes and my second lap in about an hour and a half. I could have went for a third lap but I just didn’t have it in me mentally to go back up that hill a third time. Plus I was battling a cold, so that didn’t help. Maybe if I do this event again my goal will be three laps. It was a great but challenging event. Check out the Tyoga Running Club and the Mt. Tom Challenge.

 

 

 

Todays Trail Run

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While a 70 degree day in near the end of February does make me concerned for other reasons. I am not opposed to going outside and taking advantage of the unusually almost disturbingly warm weather. I was able to see what it would be to run with my new Nathan Vapor Air hydration pack in some warmer weather. The answer is hot. It will be hot. This might take some getting used to. I have never run with a hydration pack, until recently and I have never run with one in warm weather.

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The thing that I love most about he Nathan Vapor Air and one of the main reasons I wanted this specific hydration pack is that it has lots of storage. It has two front chest pouches that can carry my iPhone 6 plus, my Olloclip,  and when I bring it my Nikon J mirror-less camera.

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One of the aspects of trail running I love is that it allows me to get out and enjoy nature even more and I think it will allow me to get out and see places I would never see otherwise. And with this pack I can get out there and capture great images of the natural world. Today we were on the trail at Personious Woods provided by Tanglewood Nature Center in Upstate, NY.

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My growing love for running combines perfectly with my love of nature and photography.

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All but one of these images was taken with my Olloclip attached to my iPhone 6 Plus. I am excited for the the opportunities I will have in the future to explore trails and capture some amazing images and share them with everyone.