Tag Archives: Trails

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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Tanglewood Trail Not So Much Run

Since I began training for my 50K in the beginning of January I have yet to run any trails. Trail running is my favorite kind of running and my training is to prepare me for a trail marathon and then a 50K, so I have really been itching to get on the trails. So far timing or weather or any other of life’s many variables have conspired to keep me from trails.

Going into this week 6 of the training plan long run I really wanted to get out on a trail to run. The weather had not really cooperated with multiple days of snow into mid week. But I really wanted to run trails. Then life circumstances really started hitting home and I really just felt like I needed to get out into nature. Nature is where I can find my peace and maybe just escape from life for a while. It is what I needed. So I doubled down on my desire to hit the trails today.

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Normally on a long run in the winter I would were some running tights, but aparently life prevented me from having any of those clean. I have a pair of windpants that I can run in that have a light mesh lining to them and I figured would be perfect for the temperature and at least keep me warm. So I geared up and went out to my favorite local trail spot at Trnaglewood Nature Center.

My assumption was that Tanglewood is a pretty popular outdoor destination locally. I assumed that people would have been on the trail over the past few days so that the snow would be a little packed down and more runnable. And that is where it started to bite me in that ass. I always think I have learned my lesson about assuming. You know the saying when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME. Well I sure began to feel like an ass once I began running.

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There had been almost no one on the trails. Miscalculation number 1. Especially not on the trails I wanted to be on. I was pushing through fresh 6+ inch snow with every step. I was wearing my Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s that I love but they were no help in that level of snow. There was no traction to be had. The snow was so deep every step was over my ankles. Every step pushed snow up into my open pant legs of the wind pants. Miscalculation number two. Thank goodness I did have the good sense to where nice warm and tall Smartwool winter socks. Also since the snow was pushing up into my pants and the pants had a mesh liner the snow was powdery enough at first to just pass through the mesh liner. Once the snow got between the mesh liner and the outer layer of the pants it compressed and did not come back out through the mesh. I stopped to try to get it out but that was not happening. The snow just built up inside the bottom of the pant legs. Miscalculation number three. By the end of the run it was like trying to run in the snow with ankle weights on.

I am glad I went out with the intent of taking some photos and getting some time lapse footage or I may have given up sooner. Having something else to focus on other than the inability to run helped me to want to stay out there longer. And I did get some decent footage.

It is odd how something can both be a bad experience and a good experience at the same time. Thinking about this experience as a run and it was terrible. It was a grind and miserable at times. But when I think about it as a nature experience it was nearly perfect. I was out in nature experiencing something pretty unique for me, pushing through fresh snow and taking photos. As a nature experience it was something I needed. My dog just died and I needed to get outside and connect with nature and feel some connection and try to let the tension melt off me. This was the experience I needed. It was not the run I wanted or hoped for but it was the therapeutic nature experience that I needed to help me cope with life.

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There was really nothing about this trail run that was normal. The snow slowed me to basically a walk at times, especially on hills. The deep snow made finding footing difficult. I couldn’t tell if my footfalls would be on trail or on flat ground. I spent much of the time fitting the edge of the trail being of balance. Tanglewood is a place I love to run at in part because I am so familiar with it. I have been there to hike and run dozens and dozens of times. However, on this occasion the snow also made the trail in general difficult to see. The trail was so difficult to see at times that I couldn’t tell if I was even on the trail during the course of my adventure. I found myself stopping multiple times and looking around trying to figure out if I was still on the trail or not. I could not really tell. I looked around slowly searching for trail markers. It really slowed me down in my progress on the trails but I did eventually find the trail markers and succeed in getting back on the trail.

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I kind of think of this as a metaphor for life. In life unexpected and unfamiliar circumstances can blind you to your usual path. The path that you are so comfortable with you can follow blindfolded. But this new life experience has thrown you for a loop and no you are struggling to find your way. So, if you find yourself stuck by some unexpected life circumstances and you are struggling to find your footing or you can’t see the path your life normally follows anymore, stop and take your time. Get your bearings. Look around and find those trail markers that will guide you back to your path and help you find your way. Look to those friends and family members that have always been there for you and count on them to get you back on your feet and help you find your way again.

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.

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.