Monday, December 19, 2005

Season of the SnōShū, weekend #1
I Love Woodford 3.5 mi Snowshoe Race
Sunday December 18, 2005

Well, true to form getting there turned out to be a minor adventure. As I packed my gear this morning, I was thinking that after doing 16 races/events this year, prepping to leave for a race has become pretty much old hat - I no longer stress over "do I have this" and "do I have that" like I did back when I only did one or two races a year. Lugged everything down to the car - and discovered that one of my front tires was very low on air. So that launched a 20 minute job of putting on the spare, complicated by the fact that my car (like every other car on my street) was parked on a sheet of ice. But 20 hot sweaty minutes later (I was drenched by the time I was done... great way to start a 75 minute drive to run a race in the snow) the spare was on and I was on my way.

The drive over is a pretty one through the mountains - the race is in the Green Mountains National Forest, which is a pretty cool place to go. Unfortunately missed the turn on my first pass and had to go back, but finally found the parking lot and picked up my race number with no problems. While waiting in line at the porta-john (a common pre-race ritual) I was told that we had to hike down to the starting line, which was on the other side of the highway. So once I was all geared up, off I went... up hill and downhill through the woods in about a foot on snow (good thing I was wearing snowshoes!) with the final bit to get to the road down a STEEP hill, which I was barely able to make it down without breaking my neck. Keep in mind this was just to get to the starting line!

(Afterwards I walked back to the starting/finish line to take a couple of photos... I walked along the road! MUCH easier.)

Anyway, so we all lined up, the race director said some stuff that none of us could hear, people around me said "We're in the back - it'll be all packed down, so how hard can it be to keep on the course?" and then - off we went.

photo courtesy of

Now, my version of packed down and everyone else's version clearly differs... snowshoes don't really pack snow, they just shift it down and out of the way. But it's still unstable, slippery, etc. I ran down the snow covered forest road for a bit, maxed out my cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and then we got to the singletrack section, and I spent much of the next 45-50 minutes hiking. It was a very pretty course (what I could see when my glasses weren't clouded over) but I didn't have a prayer of running most of it... not enough juice in my legs (and here I thought I was in decent shape running half marathon distances on trails this fall) and I'm just not used to running with snowshoes in snow a foot deep (well - the trail was "packed" so it wasn't a foot deep.) So I eventually managed a semi-efficient type of speed-hike which maybe in time I can turn into running on singletrack trails. For the last quarter to half a mile I did run ( we ended up back on the snow covered road) so I crossed the finish line at 1:04 gasping and running (that averages to 18.25 minute miles), but most of it I walked. And walking it was HARD WORK. My legs feel like I ran a half marathon.

We all got a loaf of bread at the finish (one of the sponsors was the Vermont Bread Company.) I thought that was cool, until I had to hike back to the parking lot uphill in snowshoes with a loaf of bread in one hand. Now I think it was just somebody’s idea of a cruel joke.

Had I known I'd be walking so much I would have taken a disposable camera with me and taken pictures of the course. Instead all I have are some shots of the registration area, the hike to the start/finish, and the start/finish. I did get one of the "officials" to take a picture of me running toward the finish when I went back down to take pictures… but unfortunately she must not have pressed the button all the way, because the picture didn’t come out. Clearly I need to get a digital camera (preferably a water-resistant one that I can take out on race courses with me!)

Oh, and your backside goes numb from the snowspray kicked up by the back halves of the shoes... I forgot my back was covered with snow and sat down in the car before changing clothes, then had to clean snow off the seat. I wonder if they make snowshoe gear that's teflon-coated in the back...

The cranky old right knee twinged and pinged a couple of times... it's going to take practice to figure out how best to protect it while on snowshoes. But it didn't go out, so that's OK.

The next race is January 7 - a 5 miler in Savoy State Forest in NW Massachusetts (assuming they have snow on the trails.) I clearly need to get out snowshoe running a good deal more between now and then, so that maybe I can run a bit more than I ran today. Of course, that means I also need to find someplace with actual snow to run in… Albany does not qualify in that department.

Time to take a shower (to try and finish warming up) and then I have to convince myself to do work instead of just going to sleep.


This was the last race of 2005! 18 races this year, covering 115 miles of running, 165 miles of biking, and 3.5 miles of snowshoeing, in 4 states - NY, MA, RI, and VT. (or should that be the equally applicable states of exhaustion, injury, confusion, and insanity.) Not too shabby considering how little running and riding I'd done prior to March this year... next year with luck and a little hard work will be even better...

2005 races/rides

  • Dodge the Deer 5K trail race, Apr 2005
  • Leatherman's Loop 10K trail race, Apr 2005
  • Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon, May 2005
  • Greylock 3 mi trail race, June 2005
  • Summer Solstice 14K trail race, June 2005
  • Indian Ladder 15K trail race, July 2005
  • Greylock Half Century 50 mi ride, Aug 2005
  • Savoy Mountain 4.5 mi trail race, Aug 2005
  • Mohawk Hudson Cycling Club Metric Century 65 mi ride, Sept 2005
  • Jordan Alpine Classic 8.5 mi trail/road race, Sept 2005
  • Pfalz Point Trail Challenge 10 mi trail race, Sept 2005
  • Rochester Autumn Classic Duathlon, Oct 2005
  • Monroe Dunbar Brook 11.5 mi trail race, Oct 2005
  • Black Diamond Off Road Duathlon, Oct 2005
  • Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon trail race, Oct 2005
  • After the Leaves Have Fallen 20K trail race, Nov 2005
  • Lil Rhody Run Around 8.5 mi trail race, Nov 2005
  • I Love Woodford 3.5 mi snowshoe race, Dec 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

XC Skiing in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Friday, December 9, 2005

photo slideshow

Snow day! Snow day! Snow day!

While it may be no fun getting a phone call at 5:30 AM - I really don't mind when it's to let us know we have a snow day.

Used the morning productively - I ordered my new Dion snowshoes! ( From what little I've seen so far Bob Dion has a great company and he truly cares about his customers - I'm really looking forward to getting mine and giving them a try!

In the afternoon I set off with my XC skiis for the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. I wasn't the first one out on the trails (and I ran into several other folks gliding along. Well, sort of.) Trails were looking pretty nice under about 6 inches of snow. Unfortunately, it was very WET snow, and every five minutes or so I needed to stop and scrape the snowpack off my skiis. In other words, it was a long hard slog with not a whole lot of gliding going on. But I did get some nice pictures...
and a fairly strenuous workout, though not the kind I was hoping for!


Thursday, November 24, 2005

12 Mile Mountain Bike Ride
Thursday, November 24, 2005

This morning I woke up to a light snowfall - very pretty. So I pottered around for a while, prepped a turkey, and popped it in the oven for a slow cooking. Then I packed the bike on the car and headed over to the Pine Bush. There was only about an inch of snow - enough to make the ride interesting, but not enough to make it difficult. Again, no one in sight (despite the two other cars parked at the trailhead) as I zipped around on the trails. About halfway through the ride, the sky got very dark, the temperature started dropping, and the wind picked up... so I stopped and started unpacking my wind jacket, hat, and heavier gloves. Just in time, too... as I was putting them on the snow started coming down with a vengeance and then BOOM! one heck of a loud thunderclap hit overhead. So I rode through the snowstorm - very cool, and I once again wished I had my camera. (Admittedly, my glasses and brakes icing up made the ride a bit more challenging, but not impossible.) After about 20 minutes the storm blew through and I rode for a while longer, until I started getting tired and I ran into a large group of walkers - both signs it was time to head home. So off I went, to warm up and chow down on far too much turkey.

I miss Ann and will be glad when she gets back - but all things considered, I think this was a pretty good way to spend the holiday.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

7 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Since Ann is off in Australia with the karate group, I've had the freedom to spend the first part of this break doing whatever I want. In other words - running and riding!

Today we had pretty good weather - warm (for November) and sunny. So off I went for a short run (90 minutes) in the Pine Bush. It was a good run - quiet and relaxing, with no people in sight. Looking at the sun shining down through the trees I wished I'd brought along my camera.

All in all, a great way to spend the day before Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 21, 2005

Nine Strenuous Weekends - Part 9
Lil’ Rhody Run Around 8 Mile Trail Race
Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005

2005 Lil Rhody Run Around race results
Lil Rhody Run Around race info

2005 Lil Rhody Run Around photo slideshow

Well, once again my plans went astray. Originally I had intended to drive to Pawcatuck, CT (about 20 minutes from Burlingame Park in RI, the site of the race) on Saturday, spend the afternoon and evening visiting with friends, and leave for the race at the luxurious hour of 9:45 Sunday morning. Unfortunately, after I got home for lunch on Saturday I found myself dozing off, and decided a 3 hour drive that afternoon was a bad idea. So I called my friends and made plans to drive straight to the race, leaving at the not-so-luxurious hour of 6:45 AM.

Some pluses to driving straight there: I got to see the Sun come up, and driving through the Berkshires was a treat, with the mist rising up into the air all over the mountains. For the most part it’s a very pretty drive (except for the bits through Springfield and Hartford.) One minus – once you leave the Mass Pike, there are NO REST AREAS or easy places to stop until you’re nearly to I95 in CT, about an hour of driving – not a pleasant prospect if you’re hydrating in preparation for a race!

But, that difficulty aside, got there in plenty of time and with no real difficulties. At 10:15 the parking lot was already overflowing – this is one of the best-attended trail races in New England, with about 200 runners being typical. Hunting season has already begun, so runners are required to wear at least 100 sq inches of orange, and some folks were very creative. Checked in and found that instead of getting a T-shirt, they were handing out orange safety vests that had been screenprinted with the race and sponsors (I would have preferred a T shirt, but so it goes.) Geared up, and noticed fairly quickly that in the high 50/low 60 degree weather my stylish race garb of a long-sleeved technical shirt with an orange tank top worn over top was going to be a bit warmer than I had expected (I knew I should have bought the orange technical shirt!) Still, I’d rather be a little warm than freezing cold… we had beautiful weather for the run!

After a few delays while several thick-headed runners (who apparently didn’t get that the “you must wear orange” instruction applied to them) found orange clothing, off we went on our 8 mile loop around Wachaug Pond. The trails were fairly level, a lot of singletrack, good amounts of roots and rocks, and some interesting bits – mud, boardwalks over some swampy sections, etc. I started out as usual, feeling like I didn’t have a prayer of finishing and doing my best “Darth Vader with asthma” heavy breathing. Thought I was running pretty hard, but people kept passing me. The first half was fairly level (apparently that’s part of the appeal of this race.)

After a brief stretch on a paved road (bleah) we hit the 2nd half, and that’s when the course got pretty cool. Flat turned into lots of gradual up and down, we ran past and around and over big rocks, through a couple of streams, and so on. I also started passing people, which was a pleasant feeling. The last mile took us out onto the paved road around and back into the park – bleah again (but at least the last half mile was downhill.)

This was another race where the announcer called out runner’s names as they finished – cool, finished the last race of my fall series like a real athlete! I also found that while my watch said that it had taken me 1hr, 29min, the official race clock said 1hr, 25min – so officially I ran just over 10 ½ minute miles… a nice bonus for the last race, too. (As it turns out, my watch was right and I ran 11 minute miles, but I’m still pleased.)

After that I hung around for a bit, enjoyed the sunshine and a warm November day in a pretty park in RI, and had a bagel and a bowl of delicious home-made minestrone soup. All in all I’m glad I made the trip down there and ran it – don’t know if I’ll do it again, but it was a good way to end the Nine Strenuous Weekends, and a good way to spend a sunny, warm November Sunday. Life doesn’t get much better than sitting on the bumper of your car soaking up the sunshine, enjoying the pleasant feeling of tired muscles and chowing down on minestrone soup in a really pretty park.

(and after I was done enjoying that I drove over to Pawcatuck and visited with my friend and his wife until early evening… then drove back home. And tried to do some work. And finally went to sleep!)


The Nine Strenuous Weekends are over! 9 races/events in 11 weeks! No more races for a month! (And no crazy Pine Bush run to wrap things up with TEN Strenuous Weekends... I'll just do that crazy run for fun sometime.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nine Strenuous Weekends - Part 8
After the Leaves Have Fallen 20K
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005

2005 After Leaves Have Fallen race results
After Leaves Have Fallen race info

2005 After Leaves Have Fallen photo slideshow

Well, so much for this being the last of the Strenuous Weekends… yesterday I mailed in my registration for the Lil’ Rhody Run Around, an 8 mile trail race down in Rhode Island which has the advantage of being about half an hour from the home of an old friend from grad school. So as of right now, there are nine strenuous weekends – 11 weeks altogether, from Sept. 11 through Nov. 20, with only two weekends “off” in that time period. 95 miles of biking and 75 miles of running over 9 weekends. (Not to mention riding and running during the week…) After the last two weeks (13.1 miles last week, 12.4 this week) it will be nice to “only” run 8 miles. (And it’ll be nice to see my friend and his wife, too.)

On to the After the Leaves Have Fallen 20K, at Lake Minnewaska State Park, one of the most beautiful places on Earth…

The short version:

Very little mud and no rain… but a few more blisters and two VERY tired, sore legs. Finished in 2:34… not bad for 12.4 miles with a blown knee.

The (much) longer version:

I almost didn’t go. Woke up with my right knee feeling better than it did yesterday (it went out on Friday night during iaido class) but still knew that running 12+ miles on it wasn’t the best plan I’ve ever had. Added to that was a puddle of antifreeze under my car, which had me more than a bit concerned about driving 90 miles to the Shawangunks. It wasn’t totally clear I was going until I got on the Thruway in Coxsackie – at that point I had stopped and checked that I still had coolant several times, and the temperature gauge was registering normal driving temperatures, so my stubbornness won out over good sense and I went. (Instead of spending part of the day under my car trying to figure out what’s leaking. That’s later this week. Wahoo.)

Weather on the way down was great – warm and sunny. Got to the mountains and found the clouds, as well as a stiff wind that made it pretty darn cold. Strapped myself up, debated over what to wear, and finally settled on a shirt that ultimately was a little too warm but manageable. Soon after that – we started (a plus to all the delays getting there – not a lot of time to wait around!)

As usual, I couldn’t hear the race director describing the course (why people in the back won’t shut up and listen to that kind of thing is beyond my comprehension... after all, it’s us slow people who are most likely to end up on our own and wondering if we’re on course!) Was briefly passed by the person running sweep, but he dropped back and ran for most of the first two hours with me. (More on him later.)

As always, the route through Minnewaska was gorgeous. The sun came out right after we started and stayed out the whole time. This year we ended up taking a trail I’d never been on before – VERY cool! Not quite as many cliff top views as the usual trail, but still some great sights. The first 3-4 miles were almost totally uphill – THAT was a challenge, and made this course more difficult than the route we ran 2 years ago. (Of course the weather was beautiful today and in ’03 it rained the whole time… guess there are tradeoffs all around.) After that it was downhill, level, or gradual uphill until the last 2 miles, which was mostly uphill. LOADS of fun after running 10.5 miles to get to that point.

After the 1st bit until the last 2 miles, I didn’t see another runner except for the sweeper (well… not totally true. When we were running around Lake Awosting I could see other runners on the opposite side of the lake.) 2 miles from the finish I passed two other runners who looked to be having a tough time. And at 2 hrs 33 minutes I hit the finish and got to hear the end of the awards (I thought I should get the “dumb enough to run with a freshly-blown knee” award, but since the awards were boxes of donuts it’s just as well I didn’t.) Then I hobbled back to the car, packed up, and said hi to the nice troopers running a reg/insp checkpoint out on the road down the mountain. Also stopped a few times to snap some pictures of the ridge… it was pretty hazy, so don’t know how those will come out. My pictures from the course should be good…

The sweeper was a guy named John McGovern, who turns out to be one of the top amateur duathletes in his age group (40’s) in the USA. (And it sounds like he’s pretty good internationally, too…) Apparently he had a bad race at the World Championships (in Australia, a month ago!) and took a month off from training, so he agreed to sweep today figuring it would force him to get in some time running without pushing real hard. Little did he know he’d be pushing hard to slow down to my pace! Anyway, I got to hear some fairly interesting stuff, and he was very gracious about running at my pace (I told him several times that if he wanted to run on ahead, I’d be fine. All he needed to do was let the water stop volunteers know what I looked like so they’d know when the last person came through. He stuck with me until just under 2 hours, at which point he said his family was waiting and that he’d told them he’s be back after 2 hours and I assured him I’d be fine so he could leave with a clear conscience. (To give you some idea of his speed… I ran the Summer Solstice 14k run at Minnewaska in 1:33, which was one of the best runs I did all summer. He finished in 3rd place in 52 minutes.) Master Hillicoss might have enjoyed talking with him too – apparently he’s really into good wines. Anyway, he seemed like a good guy (though I doubt I’d want to compete against him… I suspect he’s not so nice then) and probably pushed me to run a little faster than I would have otherwise.
So all in all, I’m glad I ended up going to this. Would have been nice to do it without the blown knee (which didn’t bother me running, but I must have put a lot of extra stress on my left leg, because my left calf is very sore) and maybe finish in a little less time, but realistically that might have saved me at most a dozen minutes or so… I still finished in less time than 2 years ago, and that was on an easier course. And I got to go to Minnewaska, which is always worth doing.

Next weekend – a much needed weekend off from races…


Monday, October 31, 2005

Eight Strenuous Weekends, Part 7
Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon
Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005

2005 Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon results
Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon info

2005 Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon photo slideshow

A week of feeling fairly lousy (tired, achy, low energy), combined with the race being moved to Thacher Park where I’ve run 9 miles of trails multiple times for the Indian Ladder Trail Run, and the race director pushing this as a costume-fest complete with costumed animals attacking the runners, left me less than enthused about this one. On the plus side, it was only half an hour away, so I was able to get up at 6:45 and still have plenty of time to get ready. But my expectations for this run were pretty low – I wasn’t even convinced I would be able to finish, given the two short runs I did this week.

So I’ll get the “bad” parts out of the way right at the beginning (1) Some dummy installed new insoles in his shoes this week and then ran 13.1 wet, muddy miles on them – so I have a nice blister on my left arch. (2) Some dummy wore a new fleece vest to stay warm during the breezy conditions of the run, which probably contributed to his first ever blister on the small of his back due to his waist-pack rubbing. (3) Some dummy left his film at the local Wal-mart despite the fact that every other time he’s been there, the 1 hr machine has been broken – and surprise, when he went back the machine was broken and if he’s lucky he’ll get his race photos tomorrow. (4) We didn’t get to run along the cliffs… what can I say, I like running along cliffs.

Now for some big “good” parts – I ran 13.1 wet, muddy miles (I think I’m paying some kind of karmic debt for calling myself a turtle so often), the furthest I’ve done since getting back on a steady training schedule, and I finished in 2:28, or about an 11:18 mile pace. AND I ran in some cool parts of Thacher Park I’ve never seen before, on a nice sunny October day. And despite previous warnings, no animals attacked and thus had to be harmed during the running of this race.

By now you’re familiar with the basics – got there, strapped up all my busted bits, picked up my stuff and dropped off my bananas, and hung around waiting for it all to start. It was sunny but COLD – the wind was whipping over the mountaintop! After a fairly strange song sung by someone who definitely should not quit his day job, we set off along a start section littered with cardboard “tombstones” – fun dodging THOSE seconds into the race. When we got to the trail, we quickly hit the first of many, many “mud-and-water” sections… and things ground to a halt as people carefully tiptoed past the mud. I resisted the temptation to make a sarcastic comment and settled for a slight shake of my head as I just blasted through the mud – I did hear someone mutter “That’s one way to do it, I guess.”

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

Much of the first 6 miles was on trails we run at Indian Ladder, though there was one section I hadn’t seen since they changed the IL course back in 2000. That was cool. Had a few chatterers… why is it people who are running in the woods feel the need to yell conversation at each other? Anyway, before I knew it (OK, about 70 minutes later) we were at the point where the 6-milers peeled away for their finish and the crazy half marathoners headed into a different section of the park. I had run about ½ of those trails, but in the opposite direction – so that was cool. And the course went into a section I had never been to – also cool.

As we were running along I was “treated” to another conversation that had me shaking my head. I was picking my way down a wet, muddy hill and two gals came slipping and sliding down behind me, with one of them grumbling the whole way about how she had run a marathon in 4 ½ hours, so she expected to finish this in 2 to 2 ¼ hours, and with all this mud and hills, THAT wasn’t going to happen NOW. (Gotta love trail newbies. I was really hoping to beat her to the finish, but she and her friend stayed close enough behind me that when we got to the last half mile, which is fairly flat and clear, they were able to make some speed and passed me. Darn it.)

So I finished, WITHOUT doing a gorilla imitation (they gave an award to the best “gorilla” finish) and without picking up any bananas (they scattered bananas on the ground half a mile from the finish, and gave an award to the finisher holding the most bananas – no packs, etc, allowed.) Managed to snag a couple of burgers and headed off for my futile trip to Wal-mart to get my film developed. (With luck they’ll have my pictures by tomorrow evening…) And up until the Wal-mart part, had fun (in a torturous kind of way) in the process.

Would I do the race again? Maybe. Have to see what else is on the agenda for next year. If this one grows like their Dodge the Deer race (75 runner last year, 300 this year!) it may just get too crowded (they probably had around 250 runners today, between both races.) As penance for my pre-race negative attitude, I’ve already sent the race director an e-mail thanking both him and all the volunteers, and congratulating them on putting together such a good event.

Next up – the After the Leaves Have Fallen 20 K (12.4 miles) next Sunday down at Lake Minnewaska State Park, one of my absolute favorite places to go! I’m REALLY looking forward to that one (and keeping my fingers crossed for a sunny day!)

After that – there is the possibility of a NINTH Strenuous Weekend on Sunday, Nov. 20 – depending on what I hear from a friend of my who lives near there, I may run an 8 mile trail run in a park in Rhode Island. And I haven’t ruled out my crazy Pine Bush run as big finale for the 2005 “events” – but I need to get some decent distance estimates for the PB trails to see if it’s doable with my current level of training (ie. under 15 miles.)

(somewhere under all the mud)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Eight Strenuous Weekends, Part 6
Black Diamond Off-Road Duathlon
Saturday, Oct. 22, 2005

2005 Black Diamond Offroad Duathlon results
Black Diamond Offroad Duathlon info

2005 Black Diamond Duathlon photo slideshow

If nothing else, these weekends should be teaching me to be flexible in my planning, since things have rarely gone off the way I expected them to.

This weekend I set a new record for earliest rising to get to a race - 2 AM Saturday morning with a departure (from Albany) time of 4 AM to reach Victor (just east of Rochester) by 8 AM. The original plan was to drive out to Rochester Friday night. Unfortunately, this has been the week from you-know-where, sleep-wise, and Friday it became very clear that I WAS NOT driving out that night... I would have fallen asleep while driving. So instead I went to sleep at 7 PM and got up at 2 AM.

(FYI there's very little traffic on the Thruway at 4 AM on a Saturday morning.)

About 45 minutes out from Victor, the rain started. And stayed. I believe the announcer said it was 42 degrees while we were waiting to start. Cold and wet. What fun. I went with the "freeze my butt off" approach and took off my sweatpants and windbreaker before the start. Needless to say the bike leg was a little chilly.

For once no one said anything about my knee braces! BUT I did get a new comment - twice I heard variations on "You came all the way from Albany to do this race?" I guess it was mostly locals at this one.

So after the usual pre-race stuff (some of which involved the really nice race director talking way too much about the course - I kept wanting to holler out "We're freezing our butts off! Just start this thing so we can run!"), off we went on a 2 mile run through Fishers park. First on muddy trails through the woods and then on a loop around a field. Halfway around the field there was a cub scout pack manning the water station... boy were they enthusiastic. And apparently I made their day by stopping to take their picture. (They thanked me on the 2nd running leg.)

Anyway, back into the woods and back the way we came... finished the run without popping the ol' knee, and hopped on my bike. I then spent a while cursing out the race director, who had said the bike sections were almost entirely flat, because the Auburn trail sure seemed like it was a long gradual uphill heading in that direction. (But then again, on the way back it ALSO seemed uphill, so my "up/down" sensors may have been waterlogged or frozen. Maybe it was just that my legs didn't want to push my heavy ATB after the run.) After a few miles on the Auburn trail (an old railbed turned rec trail) we headed off into another park, this time for a muddy ride on a dirt road and around a field.

(Maybe I should change my alias from "jedi_turtle" to "muddy_turtle"... hopefully the next two races will be dry!)

Then it was back out the Auburn trail to the Lehigh trail (another converted railbed) and a short road stretch. I don't know who ordered the headwind for the last mile - that made the last bit of biking really tough!

After that it was back for another round of the trails in the park, except that they hurt more 2nd time around and it was raining harder, so things were getting pretty slippery. But I pushed through to the end, finishing in a pretty decent 1 hr 22 min. (I was expecting more like 90-100 minutes, but apparently I made good time on the bike.) All the volunteers were really nice - they had an amazing number of people out on the course (and that wasn't including all the police, firemen, and EMTs they had out there.) Afterwards I found someone to snap a picture of me - wet but done!

AND since I was already wet, I rode part of the bike course again to take pictures of it... I'll post them on webshots later this week (as well as the pictures I took during my first loop through the running course.)

Now I just have to see if I can stay awake until Ann gets back from Utica...

Next week - the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon in (grumble) Thacher Park. Apparently, the volunteers will be in costume (since Halloween is the next day) and the finish area will be set up to look like a graveyard (that would be much more appropriate if it was an ultramarathon... or that killer race I did two weeks ago... or the Greylock Half Century ride!) The director's e-mail also said something to the effect that runners should keep their eyes open, because there might be animals in the woods attacking them - of course, if anyone in an animal costume attacks me, THEY might be the ones in for a surprise... (I won't wear the AMAI logo at this one... but I am considering running with an escrima stick strapped to my back. Or maybe my cane... that could always come in handy if I pop my knee, too!)


P.S. As I was riding my bike in the Pine Bush Thursday night, I had a wacky idea for a ninth strenuous weekend which would get me my long run through the Pine Bush... I have to calculate some distances though and see if it's doable (ie. could I do it in under 3 1/2 hours.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Eight Strenuous Weekends, Part -
wait a minute! this was the weekend off!
Sunday, October 15, 2005

Other than, of course, covering karate classes at Rochester, riding the bike course for next week's duathlon, checking out the trails for the running segments of the same, and getting in a 9 mile run today...

But I DID get to sleep in this morning... that was pleasant after being up by 5:30 AM for the last three or four Sundays!

Checking out the bike course confirmed that I definitely want my ATB rather than the road bike... there's nothing all that extreme about the bike route, but part is along the edge of a field, and the freshly graded rail trail is still pretty deep in stone dust. Had a brief adventure when I took the wrong trail at one point, wondered how they were going to do an out-and-back along a rugged singletrack through the woods, and came to the end at a stream. (At least, I'm HOPING that's the wrong trail... if you cross the stream, hike through some swamp, and cross another stream you DO end up on a trail that goes to the field loop. But an out-and-back
on singletrack is dangerously insane... I doubt that's the plan.)

The run through Fishers Park should be pretty standard, trails aren't anything awful... though at only 2 miles, I'll be finishing each running loop right around when I'm getting warmed up.

Ann thought I was nuts (she thinks it's cold), but today was a good day for the 9 mile run along the Genessee Valley Greenway (another old rail bed converted to trail.) The trees kept the wind down, and I even had some sunshine for the last part of the run. And it was nice and cool! Great running weather!

Next week is the off-road duathlon, then a half marathon and a 20K the following two weekends. I toyed with the idea of entering the Stone Cat Ale Trail Marathon/50 Mile Race out near Boston the weekend after that, but (1) it's bloody expensive, and (2) it starts at 6 AM (YIKES!) and (3) I could probably finish a marathon at this point, but the last 10 miles or so would be really ugly, and I'd pay for it physically for a good long time. Maybe next year...


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Eight Strenuous Weekends - Part 5
Monroe Dunbar Brook 10.5 mile trail run
Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005

2005 Monroe Dunbar Brook race results
Monroe Dunbar Brook trail races info

2005 Monroe Dunbar Brook trail race photo slideshow

Most. Insane. Trail Run. Ever.

(Or at least, one of the most insane. I've been on a couple of runs that only the sanity-challenged would do...)

Two disclaimers up front - it was actually more like 11 miles, and "trail run" is a misnomer... I spent about 5 miles running and the other 6 speed-hiking.

So the day started with me turning on the news at 6 AM and hearing that northern Berkshire County had been hit with the heaviest rain yesterday and was badly flooded, with lots of roads closed and people generally advised to not go out if they didn't have to. Three guesses where I was heading to do this race...

On the way over, came to one road which was closed due to flooding... fortunately, it was the same road that was closed back in August because of bridge work, so I didn't have to look up a detour. Once again my tired old car made its way over the Taconic Range on the road that just goes up and up and up. As an added feature, this time the cloud layer started halfway up the mountains, so visibility dropped to about 10 feet.

After driving up more mountains (and seeing some very nice waterfalls next to the road) I found myself at the Dunbar Brook Picnic Area in Monroe State Forest in NW Mass. Yes, the race was still on (after a 2 hour drive, it darn well better have been!) Did all the usual pre-race stuff and found out we were starting half an hour late to give people time to arrive over the flooded roads. No biggie. 15 minutes before the start we got the briefing, which was another clue that this was going to be an interesting run. Keep in mind that the speaker is Bob Dion, a gifted but psycho trail runner who blasts up and down the Greylock trail half marathon in record time.
BD - "Yesterday we marked the trails in the rain - THAT was scary. They're usually very slick and there's some very tricky sections - those are even worse this year."
(Oh goodie.)
BD - "Today we went out on the course at 7 AM and it's even scarier. Most of the trails are under water - they're streams. Be careful!"
BD - "Now about the stream crossing - we noticed yesterday that the river was getting pretty deep and pretty fast. So we thought about how we could do this and decided to use the bridge instead."
(That's not so bad...)
BD - "So we tried going over the bridge and it's VERY slippery - if anyone falls off into the river they're dead. It's currently chest deep and 50 mph whitewater."
(That doesn't sound good.)
BD - "So this morning we put a strip of indoor/outdoor carpetting across the bridge - the footing is great now, lots of traction."
(Let's back up to that part about if you fall in the river, you're dead...)
BD - "Unfortunately, as we worked on the bridge we found out that some of the beams are cracked and there are boards missing. It's a bit unstable. I'm OK walking across it, and most of you might be, but I'm sure there are some of you who would have problems with the bridge. Thing is, you probably wouldn't realize it until you're halfway across, and then it's too late. And if anyone falls in that river, they're dead. All we could do is watch them get washed away."
(OK, guess I'm crawling across that bridge on my hand and knees. After 9.5 miles of running. Great...)
BD - "So as much as I hate doing this, we've re-routed the course so we don't end up on the other side of the river. We just can't risk someone dying in that crossing."
(Well, I was looking forward to having to cross the knee-deep stream, but I can handle not having to crawl over a rickety bridge over 50 mph whitewater. OK.)

After that he gave us directions for the re-routing and then did his best to get everyone to line up for a head count, "so they could make sure everyone who went in made it back out." And then a little bit later - off we went.

The first mile was along the River of Death (don't slip!) and was mostly runnable. It became clear very quickly that there was no point in trying to go around the water and mud, because 30 seconds later you'd hit a spot where there was no room to go around it. So my feet were wet five minutes in and stayed that way until I got in the car to go home. At the end of the first mile we started up the mountain - literally. The trail was a muddy, wet single track that went right up the mountain. The first stretch of speed hiking, and an ominous preview (thanks to the re-routing, we had to come back down the same trail, after 85 runners had gone up it and most of that number had come back down it.)

Hit on ORV trail which was runnable, and a nice downhill stretch (where I watched some of the people around me take off at full throttle so that they missed the turnoff. Sadly, they passed me later in the race despite the extra they ran.) Then it was back to more steep uphill single track. That was the pattern for the first six miles... run a bit, then speed-hike up a steep and gnarly trail. Ran a bit at the top, then we started the steep downhills, and I slowed to a crawl (bad knees + running steep downhills = POP! *#%#*&**!! OW OW OW!!!) That's when I was passed by a bunch of people who I never saw again (guess they're good at running steep downhills.)

Anyway, between short stretches (a mile or so) or running and crawling down steep muddy trails, I eventually made it back to the runnable first mile and ran pretty consistently to the finish, at 3 hrs 11 minutes (compared to the 2 1/4 hours it took me to run 11 miles down at Mohonk, popped knee and all.)

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

At various times had people around. One fellow was with me for some long stretches... unfortunately, he mostly complained, until I was almost ready to stop at one of the deeper trail/streams and see if he could complain underwater. Luckily he hit a point where he was sure he knew the way back (I think one reason he was shadowing me was he was afraid he'd get lost) and he disappeared. I clearly wasn't the only one who struggled with this crazy course... I'm curious to see how the "fast" people did on it.

I may or may not have pictures from this one... dropped my disposable camera in one of the "ponds" so the film may be ruined. I know tomorrow after Wal-mart tries to develop it. I hope some of the shots survived... there should be some good ones illustrating the insanity of this run.
After finishing I changed shirts and hiked back to the bridge over the River of Death... if they leave that carpet there someone in the future is going to be wondering why anyone whould carpet an old footbridge out in the woods. Took some pictures with my good camera, so I know those will come out.

So it was an interesting experience. Frustrating because I wasn't able to run more of it, but a good lesson for prepping for Escarpment next summer - I definitely need to get in mountain work (like hill work only worse) so that I can run up some of these steep trails, because I don't have a prayer of running the steep downhills (which is where most people make up the time they lost on the uphill.)


Next week - no race! (though if I can get my ATB back in working condition, I'm planning to ride the bike course for the duathlon the following week, to see if I need my ATB or if I could do it with my heavier road bike, which would be faster.)

Two weeks - the Black Diamond OffRoad Duathlon! (the name's a misnomer... the running is offroad, but only some of the riding is...)