Tag Archives: ultra marathon

Worlds End Nature Photos

This year I decided I wanted to shift my focus a little bit when it came to my running. I still set myself big goals to accomplish in my running, but instead of focusing on max effort I wanted to focus on enjoying the time I spend running more. For me this means taking the time to appreciate nature and more specifically taking the time to create more photography and media around my experiences in nature. This change of focus really benefited me as I struggled through some of my training and through Worlds End 50k. I found myself able to focus on the creative side of what I do and the real reason I love running, which is to put myself more in touch with the physical world and more in touch with nature.

After last year’s race it was abundantly clear that Worlds End State Park is just a supremely beautiful place to spend a day. There is just an abundance of gorgeous natural beauty here. Last year I felt that I failed to capture enough of it and this year I really wanted to capture more of it on camera. The best way to experience and see as much of this park as possible at one time is clearly to run the race. It would take days or weeks to appropriately explore this park slowly on foot, and maybe that is a project for another day. There are very few parts of the Worlds end 50K race course that is not exquisite in one way or another. Even with all of the mud it gave the park a gritty prehistoric feel.

The blessing in disguise of being unable to move at the pace that I wanted to is that I was able to/ forced to spend more time creating photography. I was able to create more photography and I was probably able to create more good photography because I was moving at a slower pace. Trying to get good quality scenic photographs in the dimly lit canopy of the forest can be tricky especially if one is on the move.

If you are someone who truly appreciates nature in all of its forms then this park has everything you could imagine. Just the simple trails leading into the forest is beautiful in its own right. You are quickly immersed in the wildness of the park. There are rocks and boulders that feature prominently in the landscape of different areas of the park. There are scenic overlooks where you can look out across the valley, typically to get to those you are traversing a steep climb that is featuring many of these afore mentioned rocks and boulders. Some of those sections are so strewn with boulders that there really is no trail and you are simply scrambling over rocks the best you can. As you descend from the high points and overlooks you delve deep into the valley that are carved out by streams that course through the forest like veins caring its life blood. There are many sections of trails where you are crossing streams or running alongside streams. These scenic areas where the water and rocks and forest combine are really what I live for as a photographer and a nature lover. These streams move through the woods following the landscape, charting its own course and creating waterfalls of various sizes. I could stand and photograph these streams through the forest and these waterfalls for hours without end, and someday I may come back and do just that. They are simply captivating.

One of the most prominent features of Worlds End State Park is the Loyalsock Creek running right down the heart of the park and carving out the valley over millennia. It is called a creek but in my estimation it is more like a small river to me. It was one of the features I wanted to make sure I took some time to soak in and photograph while I had time. We went down to the day use area the day before the race and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. I went down by the Loyalsock Creek walked around and took some photographs. Then after the race I went down and literally soaked in the creak.

Different regions of the park have their own distinct feel that is created by that nature of the landscape that surrounds you. Being able to participate in this race the past two years has really made a lasting impression on me. I didn’t even know that this gem of a location existed only one and a half hours from where I live. I did not know what I was missing out on. Now I feel compelled to plan for a time when I can come down and visit this area and give it the proper attention it deserves and capture its beauty in full. It would be great to take my time and explore each area of the park that has its own unique feel and capture that in photographs.

Water Gap 50K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At this race I again tried something a little bit different. I only shot video with my GoPro’s and no photos. I then used my software to extract photos from the video. I am not happy with the results of those photos. The photos did not turn out as well as I would have hoped. After these last two races I will go back to some of my methods I have used in the past. This is what happens when you are always pushing the limits and trying new things. Sometimes things don’t go as well as you would like.