Monday, September 26, 2005

Eight Strenuous Weekends - Part 3
Pfalz Point 10 mile Trail Challenge
Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005

2005 Pfalz Point trail race results
Pfalz Point trail race info

2005 Pfalz Point trail race photo slideshow

Actually, it was more like 10.5 miles for me. More on that in a bit.

Getting up at 4:30 AM on a Sunday sucks. The fact that I did that so I could drive 90 minutes to run in a race that I paid to be in only shows how crazy I am.

And clearly the channel 10 weather people were clueless Friday evening. The weather started out cloudy and got worse. Fortunately, the rain held off until after the race.

I'll get the two mishaps out of the way first...

About a mile and a half in I missed a turn (and the course marshall was distracted making sure two runners who sprained their ankles early on were getting help.) Took quarter to half a mile for me to find someone who could confirm I missed the turn... I wondered where all the runners had gone! Then I had to go back. So that added at least half a mile to my 10 mile run. (I think I should get an award to running further than everyone else... maybe the "Not Too Observant" award? Actually, the trail was tough to spot... I suspect the flour arrows had been wiped out by the 200-300 runners who ran over them before me.)

Just past the 7 mile point (7.5 for me!) there was a STEEP section of gnarly singletrack about 3/4 mile long. Halfway up it I landed funny and popped my right knee. A medium pop ie. hurt like heck and the knee contemplated calling it a day. Not a bad pop because I convinced it otherwise... hobbled to the top of the hill (THAT'S fun with a bad knee), chatted with the water stop people, then hobbled off down the trail with a little over 2 miles to go. The knee gradually loosened up, though never enough that I could get back to my previous speed. Should be OK in a few days, though I'll probably take my cane to work for the next day or two.

So much for the unfortunate stuff. Apologies in advance for any typos... the screen and keys are at an awkward angle as I sit here with my leg up and a bag of ice on my stupid knee.

The drive into Mohonk was gorgeous as usual, despite the grey sky. Got all set, suited up, and so on. And away we went... at first I was worried because I was all the way at the back and had a chattering group of magpies (oops, I mean runners) in front of me who were planning to "take it easy" - had visions of having to listen to them the whole way. I needn't have worried, since my missing the turnoff left me at least 8 or 9 minutes behind even the back of the pack. Guess that's what I get... had I been able to hear them chattering away maybe I wouldn't have missed the turn! The next five miles were pretty steadily uphill.... though fields, singletrack, and doubletrack. That was work. Once I got to the top, it started to get really fun... had a very slight downhill grade so I was able to crank up the speed a bit. There were a couple of miles that really felt good. Of course, then I hit that 2nd uphill and popped my knee... not much speed after that. But I did manage to finish in 2:16, which works out to 13 minute miles when the extra distance is factored in. Not bad at all, considering the amount of uphill and running on a bad knee for the last 2+ miles.

The volunteers at this race were GREAT... what a positive group of people. As all these folks at different spots kept applauding me and telling me how impressive I was (I think because I was running with 2 knee braces, but maybe they tell that to everyone who's way behind) I kept wanting to say "Hey, I'm just this crazy guy who runs. It's no big deal." At one point I came out into a clear area and had three people in rapid succession take my picture. Joked with the water table people and especially with the sweepers on their ATB's a lot... at no point did anyone seem the slightest bit put out that they had to wait out there for slow (and directionally challenged, apparently) me. Stopped about a quarter mile from the end to take photos of the sweepers, and then one of them took my camera and zipped ahead to take pictures of me finishing! The cheering from the people at the finish line was also incredible... you would have though someone important was coming across the line instead of just me. It was really quite unbelievable. (Some of it may be because I think people see the braces and that I'm slow and figure that I don't do this stuff much... at the end two people handed me an application for the 20K at Lake Minnewaska in November and suggested that maybe I should do that next... they seemed a bit surprised when I said my app was already in, I'd run it several years ago and loved it, and my next race was going to be a duathlon in Rochester next weekend. So maybe it's not inherently obvious just how crazy I am.)

The races at Minnewaska are prettier than this one... not many views along this course, though the woods we ran through were nice. The pictures should give a pretty good impression of what a nice place this is to run...

So all in all, a good race with some great people marred only by the knee incident.


Next week - the Rochester Autumn Classic Duathlon! 2 miles/10 miles/2 miles/10 miles/2 miles! The same course as the spring duathlon I did, so maybe I'll answer the question - have I gotten any better at this stuff?

Pfalz Point Trail Challenge - a correction

Just looked at the map and it looks like I ran an extra mile rather than an extra half mile... which makes me very happy because that brings me in at just under 12.5 minute miles. Very cool!

What can I say... I'm vain enough that the extra 30 seconds per mile makes a difference to me. Guess I need to work on this...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Eight Strenuous Weekends - Part 2
Jordan Alpine Classic 8.5 mi trail race
Saturday, Sept. 17, 2005

2005 Jordan Alpine Classic race results
Jordan Alpine Classic race info

2005 Jordan Alpine Classic photo slideshow

Well, I have to admit I didn't consider it a good omen when Friday night I found a chunk of metal lodged in one tire, effectively scuttling my plans to drive out to Rochester the night before the race and only have a 90 minute drive to Jordan Saturday morning. But I repacked based on the change in plans and 6 AM Saturday morning hit the road for the long drive to western NY and the Jordan Fall Festival. Got there without mishap, went through the usual pre-race rituals (change clothes, brace knees, wait in line at the Port-o-johns) and then waited in the light rain for things to start.

With a VERY loud blast from a black powder cannon, we headed off down a fairly level path next to the old Erie Canal. It became clear very quickly that I was going to be at the back of the pack, which just meant I didn't bother anybody when I stopped to take pictures. Before long we ended up heading into woods and fields, with lots of uphill stretches. Very scenic and very wet (we had a constant light drizzle pretty much the whole time.) After a stretch of about 1 1/2 miles on paved road, we headed into the hilliest section, the middle of which was a long hill that went almost straight up (ie. needed both hands and feet to climb)followed almost immediately by going down the equally steep opposite side. After another stretch on roads, we went into the woods and followed a winding, slippery downhill to Skaneateles Creek, which we waded across(it was between ankle and knee deep, depending on where you were in the creek) and then we had a rope climb up a steep bank, and more fields and roads off to the finish.

The volunteers were great... I've never seen so many water stops at a trail race (6, I think) and my impression was that many of them were families who set up a table with water in front of their houses. The only challenge to that was that the water was clustered... we had three stops in the space of about a mile, and then a similar situation later in the race... Everybody was very positive and really seemed to be having a goodtime - I get the impression this is considered a special event for everyone involved. There was even a group that walked the entire course before the race started to make sure there wouldn't be any surprises for the runners. As I came in at the end the race director emeritus (he organized the race for 10 years, then turned it over to new directors this year) announced my race number over the loudspeaker - I know that was mainly for the benefit of the people writing down the results, but it was still pretty cool to hear "We have a runner coming in - #11!" like I’m a real athlete or something.

Didn't run this one all out - I've concluded that mainly results in my getting injured. But I ran hard enough that I was pretty tired at the end, and my legs will definitely be feeling this for a few days(especially with all those hills.) Finished in 1:50, or just under 13 minute miles, and I had a great time... I'm putting this one on the calendar for next year. Hopefully some of my pictures will come out OK -I'm not in any of them, but they show what some of the course was like.


Next week - the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge, a 10 mile trail run in the beautiful Mohonk Preserve (right next door to Lake Minnewaska Park, where I did the Summer Solstice run and went mountain biking with Ann in July.) 10 miles is going to be work but I can't think of many places to run that are more beautiful than the Shawangunks...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Seven Strenuous Weekends - Part 1
MHCC Metric Century Ride (+ 3 miles)
Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005

MHCC Century Weekend 2005 photo slideshow

Well, as it turned out I made a good decision 1st thing when the alarm went off - I DIDN'T go back to sleep for an hour and do the 50 mile ride instead of the 65. (Apparently the 50 miler was loaded with killer hills, and ended up being harder than the 65.)

Anyway, nice quiet drive to Saratoga Spa State Park, where the Mohawk Hudson Cycling Club's Century Weekend rides were based out of. Sunday morning 7:30 AM is a good time to drive on the Northway. Got checked in and geared up, and at 9 AM promptly the 65 mile ride started. Pretty chilly, but that beats heat and humidity. And it warmed up as the day went on.

It became fairly clear very quickly that everyone else doing long rides in this thing is faster than me, so I ended up part of the small back-of-the-pack group - about half a dozen mostly older folks (ie. 50's, 60's and 70's) They tended to go a bit faster than I might have if I'd been alone, but that was good - I pushed myself to keep them in sight, and they were good about not dropping me (disappearing off into the distance, leaving me to plod along at my slower pace by myself.) Unlike at the Greylock ride, all 3 rest stops were manned. At one of out stops a brief discussion started up about how old my bike is - now I know how the poor kid in his hand-me-downs feels at school. (The best guess was 30 years old, which for a bike is positively antique.) So more evidence that I need to save pennies (well, more like lots of dollars) to someday get a good road bike... given that I was keeping up with these folks on my heavy clunker, I could probably add a fair amount of speed with a newer, lighter bike. And steep hills would be do-able! So we had a good ride for 5 1/4 hours through upper Saratoga County, though by the end my legs were pretty well fried.

Would I do a ride with these folks again? Yes, they were well-organized and seemed genuinely concerned that everyone make it back safely (including having two #s to call if you needed a support vehicle to come rescue you.) I can also see the point of group rides, which can push you to go faster than you might otherwise (someone else talked about how the group rides make her ride farther than she might otherwise; I don't seem to have a problem doing that on my own.) It was also nice not having to think about the route, but rather just follow someone who knew where he was going (and the route was very well-marked, to boot.) At the same time, I don't think I'm going to jump on the group ride bandwagon, since I'm not generally looking to socialize when I ride, and at times it was frustrating that I had to match my riding style to the group (for example on long rides I tend to stop every hour for a quick break; had I done that today I'd have lost them and had to find my own way along the course.) But maybe next summer I'll look up when the group rides are and jump in an occasional one. And someday when I have a better bike I'll go back to Greylock and prove that I can ride the whole thing start to finish.

So, all in all, a day fairly well spent. But I don't think I'll bike to work tomorrow morning.

note: all photos courtesy of


Next week: Saturday, Sept. 17 - The Jordan Alpine Classic! 8.5 miles of extreme trail running west of Syracuse. The description makes me think I'm either going to have a blast or it's going to kill me:
If you want a real challenge in the fall and don't mind getting muddy and wet, run the Alpine Classic at the Jordan Fall Festival.It's an endurance test. After the traditional cannon start, runners climb over steep hills, maneuver through woods and fields, and wade across a stream.
(I've read that the stream crossing varies from ankle deep to a couple of feet, at a section where the stream is 20 feet wide...)
They even climb a 12-foot vertical bank using a 1-inch thick rope.
(Add some kicking targets and people dressed like ninjas and you'd have...?)
Mid-way in the race, the course goes down a very steep path, similar to an expert ski trail. It is recommended by some you don't run this part, but rather just sit down and slide. The race ends at the Jordan Fall Festival grounds near the original Erie Canal towpath.
(8.5 miles... I suspect I'll be out on the course for a while.)