Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

This was an ambitious year for me, albeit one that didn't end the way I was hoping.

The year started out with the (no) snowshoe season - out of all of the races I signed up for/planned to do, only Savoy had enough snow to actually snowshoe. Numerous races were cancelled or postponed to dates when I couldn't make them, and the ones I did get to ended up being trail races. I did get to do my first winter duathlon, though... riding for an hour in the cold, cold rain seemed a bit crazy at the time and still does.

My first trail race of the season was the Northern Nipmuck, which started a pattern of my entering distance trail races that turned out to be torturous. Northern Nipmuck, the Nipmuck marathon (where I dropped out after 19.75 miles) and the Greylock Half Marathon were all well worth doing but took forever and hurt like heck. On the plus side, the shorter races were a lot of fun - I really enjoyed doing the Spring Classic Duathlon in Rochester (despite the distinctly un-spring-like weather), the Yellowjacket Powerbar trail race (also at Mendon) and the Summer Solstice Run down at Minnewaska State Park. Planned for the 25k at the Finger Lakes Fifties (and missed it!) and went out too fast at Indian Ladder, as always (maybe next year...!) Forge the Gorgeous was one of the most scenic races of the summer, and Race the Train was probably the most unusual race of the year, and also a lot of fun, in a summer spent preparing for 2 marathons and a 50k in the fall...

Of course, then came The Crash, and I went from trying to run long distances to trying to run ANY distance. Missed Savoy, missed the Greylock Road Race, missed the Adirondack Marathon. But six weeks after The Crash I hobbled my way through the Rochester Autumn Classic Duathlon with a smile on my face. Missed a few more races in October (including the Black Diamond Off Road Duathlon) but entered the Hairy Gorilla Trail Half Marathon at the last minute and finished, earning not one but two gorilla finishing awards! A couple of weeks later I ran one loop of the Mendon Trail 50k I'd been contemplating running earlier in the year and had a great run - but doing five loops of that will definitely be tough! Wrapped up with a good run at the RT Turkey Run 5 Miler (more Mendon!) and a very tough Gail's Trail Run on a gorgeous day on the Leatherman's Loop course down in Westchester.

So not the year I was hoping for, and some of my times were definitely much longer than I'd planned on - but I also ran some races in what I would consider very fast times (for me.) I'm looking forward to doing some of these races again next year, and perhaps improving. And I definitely want to finish some marathons! (And maybe, just maybe, become an ultramarathoner!) Putting in some greater distances on my bike would also be a big plus.

So the tally for 2006 is - 17 races for a total of 3 miles/1 hour of snowshoe races, 136.6 miles/33 hrs 8 minutes of running races, and 52.4 miles/4 hrs 8 minutes of bike racing, in 3 states (New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.) Not bad, all things considered... not bad at all.


2006 races -
  • North/South Pond Shuffle 3mi Snowshoe Race - January
  • Lake Effect Snowshoe Duathlon - January
  • Saratoga Winterfest 5k Trail Race - February
  • Northern Nipmuck 16mi Trail Race - April
  • Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon - May
  • Nipmuck Trail Marathon - May
  • Yellowjacket Powerbar 4.5mi Trail Race - June
  • Greylock 13.5mi Trail Race - June
  • Summer Solstice Run 14k Trail Race - June
  • Indian Ladder 15k Trail Race - July
  • Forge the Gorgeous 8mi Trail Race - July
  • Race the Train 8.5mi Road Race - August
  • Rochester Autumn Classic Duathlon - October
  • Hairy Gorilla Trail Half Marathon - October
  • Mendon Trail Races 10k - November
  • RT Turkey Run 5 Miler - November
  • Gail's Trail Run 10k - December
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another gorgeous day (sunny and unseasonably warm) so Ann and I decided to go for a walk before heading back to Rochester. Ended up going over to the Pine Bush - started at the Madison Avenue Pinelands and then headed over to the Great Dune, to hike down the blue and yellow trails to the edge of the habitat restoration area.

Nice day for a walk, and very few people on the trails. Ann's strained muscles from Saturday's hike gave her some trouble going up and down the hills; she wasn't too happy about that. But we took our time and it was manageable.

From the looks of things they're wrapping up the work they're doing - the holes are filled and the downed trees are gone (unless there's more to do over the hill - we just stood at the edge of the area.) I'll have to do a run through there on either Tuesday or Wednesday in the daylight and see how things are looking.

After that we retraced our steps to the car and got on the road to Rochester. Tomorrow is lunch with her family and then I drive back here. After that the long drives are done for a week or two...


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ice Glen & Laura's Tower
Saturday, December 30, 2006

Since we were heading down to visit my folks, I decided to take Ann for a hike in the Berkshires. Originally I had planned to start with checking out the glacial erratics at Balance Rock State Park (part of Pittsfield State Forest) but we got off to a late start and had to skip that part of the trip. Instead, we headed straight to Stockbridge for a visit to the Ice Glen and Laura's Tower, two places I'd never been before (despite spending six years working 15 minutes away in Great Barrington.)

The drive over to the Berkshires always makes me homesick for the mountains - I loved living there. Unfortunately, it would be a killer commute to Albany (I know that all too well, seeing that I commuted from there for three months before I finally found a place here!) Drove through West Stockbridge and into Stockbridge, and parked in the small parking lot next to the Housatonic River. Snow was falling in very light flurries - enough to barely coat the ground and make it very pretty walking through the woods.

The bridge across the river was cool - a suspension bridge with stone arches at either end. After crossing the bridge we hiked uphill into the woods, and at the trail junction headed toward Ice Glen. What a cool place! Huge boulders in a ravine bordered by huge trees... apparently it stays dark and cool enough that some of the caves retain ice well into the late spring and summer. The glen was a favorite walking and picnicing spot in the 1800's and 1900's; supposedly, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorn first met at a picnic in Ice Glen. We didn't get very far in - the trail involved a lot of scrambling over boulders, and Ann had worn her good coat. But I saw enough to know that I definitely want to go back again!

From there we headed back to the trail junction and began the uphill trek to Laura's Tower. The trail was clear and switchbacked, so it wasn't terribly steep, but it was a definite workout, and Ann wasn't too happy - she hasn't done much uphill hiking lately. About half a mile and 500 vertical feet later, we reached the top, which has a viewing tower. Apparently the cleared hilltop is known as Laura's Rest because Laura Belden, niece of David Dudley Field (who donated the land to the town) used to retreat there for solace after the deaths of her husband and children. The tower is about 25 feet high, with fairly steep and quite narrow steps. We made our way to the top and enjoyed the views of the surrounding countryside. Then came the trip back down the steps - I ended up scooting down partially on my backside a step at a time, slow but safe going! Ann was quite amused - she knows I dislike heights.

I initially thought the trek back down the hill will be much easier than the trip up, but such was not to be... early on the muscles in Ann's leg cramped up, and she ended up limping painfully to the bottom... even more so after she turned an ankle about halfway down! So she was not a happy camper.

Still, it is a beautiful spot, and one I definitely plan to visit again. Special thanks to the Laurel Hill Association which oversees the park and to Dunn & Delaney's Trails with Tales (2006) for both directions to the park and much of the background info I've included here. (Barbara Delaney also wrote an excellent article about hiking to these two spots in the December 2006 issue of Adirondack Sports & Fitness - that's what gave me the idea to go there in the first place!)


Friday, December 29, 2006

A Short Hike at the E.N. Huyck Preserve
Friday, December 29, 2006

Ann and I wanted to go hiking somewhere different, so we headed over to Rensselaerville to visit the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve. I first heard about the Huyck Preserve from one of the ARE runners. The nature preserve there includes approximately 2000 acres of land, including about 10 miles of trails along Ten Mile Creek, Myosotis Lake, and Lincoln Pond. We were particularly interested in seeing Rensselaerville Falls, a 100 foot waterfall a short ways into the preserve.

Rensselaerville was once a major mill town; apparently at one point Ten Mile Creek was called Ten Mill Creek because of the many mills along its banks. Unfortunately in the late 1800’s the mills began to fail due to a variety of circumstances, including the depletion of trees in the area and the increase in use of railroads and the Erie Canal as the major means of transporting goods, which left Rensselaerville (which is basically out in the middle of nowhere!) behind. Now it’s a fairly typical small town in the country, and the ruins of the old mills and sluiceways can be found along the creek.

We followed the directions from Trails with Tales (Russell Dunn & Barbara Delaney, 2006 – also the source of the brief historical info above!) to Rensselaerville – about a 45 minute drive from Albany and parked in the small Huyck Preserve parking lot. A fairly sunny day, but definitely on the cold side – I ended up wishing I’d brought gloves and a scarf! A short hike took us to a bridge across the creek at the bottom of the falls, which were quite scenic – the water drops about 20 or 30 feet at the top, and then goes down a series of smaller cascades the rest of the way to the bottom. From there we followed the trail uphill past the ruins of an old mill and then out to Myosotis Lake, a man-made lake (probably dammed to provide a consistent source of water for the mills.) A very nice walk through the woods, a pretty lake, and a cool stone-and-earth dam. After that we made our way back to the top of the falls, where there was another footbridge over the creek. Then we headed back down the hill and after a brief trip across the road to take a look downstream (not all that interesting, unfortunately) we hopped back in the car for the trip back to Albany.

The preserve is very nice and would probably be a fun place to run – but the 45 minute drive means I’m not likely to go there very often! If I go that far I’d be more likely to head over to Massachusetts to hit some of the trails in the Berkshires.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

5-6 Miles at Five Rivers
Sunday, December 24, 2006

Today was an excellent example of the challenge in dressing for a run in the winter... the day was generally sunny and unseasonably warm, but also VERY windy. So when I was out of the wind - I would have been quite comfortable in a vest and long-sleeved shirt. But out in the wind - I was chilly even with my fleece pullover. So it goes...

Had a nice run along the perimeter of Five Rivers and down around the Beaver Pond. Not too many people out, which was nice. Many of the trails were extremely wet and muddy, and I quickly gave up on trying to stay dry.

All in all, a nice run on the day before Christmas... much like my nice run on the day before Thanksgiving (but I'm glad I didn't go up to Thacher for this one - I'd have frozen my butt off!_


Friday, December 22, 2006

13 Miles in the Corning Preserve & Schuyler Flatts Park
Friday, December 22, 2006

With a little over a month to go before the Lake Effect Snowshoe Duathlon, it's clear I need to put some time in on my mountain bike on pavement (and in the cold weather!) So despite the fact that the rain moved in early today (the original forecasts called for the rain to start sometime tonight) I packed up the bike and headed down to the waterfront, specifically the Corning Preserve on the Hudson River. Granted the traffic noise from 787 is everpresent along the bikepath there, but it has a major advantage in being very close (only 10-15 minutes from home!)

The rain started out light but picked up a bit as my ride progressed. Started out with a quick jaunt down to the Hudson Riverway, a fancy pedestrian bridge over 787, and then headed to the far end of the Preserve and the Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park in Watervliet. Pushed a fairly good pace out and discovered on the way back that I was riding into the wind, which added an extra kick to the workout. At the end I did another quick jaunt down to the bridge and back, just so my total distance would be more than the 20k ride in the upcoming duathlon.

Didn't feel it much as I was riding, but once I stopped it was clear that I was very wet and pretty cold. Fortunately the car warmed up quickly and then I just had to put up with crazy traffic through downtown Albany to get back home.

More riding is definitely in order - from what I recall there are some decent hills in the duathlon, and I'd like to ride the 20k in roughly an hour, so I need to put in some time on hills. Still, it's a good start... it will be interesting to see if we have snow and decent weather this year, or if it's another mud-fest like last year's race.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

5 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Headed over to the Columbia Circle section and ran the back perimeter, plus the Kaikout Kill Barrens loop. Felt decent overall, though I still found the hills to be a bit tough and my right hip/quad was definitely sore afterwards.

Still, it was MUCH better than my truncated run Monday night, when I stopped after 3 miles and 40 minutes because my left shin was cramping up!

Guess I just need to take it slow and easy and gradually build back up to longer distances. After all, I have until the end of March to work up to 20 miles, and the end of May to work up to the Nipmuck Marathon!

The Zenix headlamp worked great - I had it on the brightest mode for over an hour and the batteries seem fine. Don't know if I had a weak set the first night I used it, or if the new rechargeables I'm trying out just work better for this purpose but - I'm pleased with the result. The light seems a bit dimmer than my old halogen headlamp, but the beam is more tightly focussed and still provides plenty of light for what I'm doing with it.

On another positive note - it's the winter solstice! From here on the days get longer! Wahoo!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Saw this on the Saratoga Stryders web-page and found it both funny and appropriate...

Where's the snow?!

Club president Laura Clark anxiously awaiting the upcoming snowshoe season.

The first race of the WMAC Snowshoe Series (Woodford) already had to be postponed from Dec. 17 to Jan. 14 due to a distinct lack of crystallized precipitation to run on... here's hoping we get some white stuff for the snowshoe races this year!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My original plan was to take the ATB out for a spin on one of the bike paths and get in some training time for the riding portion of the Lake Effect Snowshoe Duathlon at the end of January. But when the time came to gear up and head out, I just couldn't find any enthusiasm. Maybe it was the grey, grey day. Maybe it was just that I've been tired much of the time lately. All I know is instead of riding, I crawled into bed with a book and eventually ended up taking a nap.

Hopefully this slump is just a sign that I need to get more rest. (I certainly did enough resting this weekend!) Tomorrow I'm going to do my best to bike to work, and then I'm planning to do either a short run (6 miles or so) or a ride (10-20 miles) sometime in the evening.

6 Mile Run at Thacher Park
Saturday, December 16, 2006

Some runs are just great - you fly along like you're barely touching the ground and feel like you could run all afternoon. Some runs are good - those can be anything from just getting out on a nice day to hammering out the miles at a challenging pace and ending the run tired and sore but feeling good about it. And then there are the runs that are tough - not necessarily because the distance or the course is anything all that bad, but because the whole time you feel like your legs are filled with concrete and your lungs are going to crawl out of your chest and throttle you.

Guess which one today was?

I had planned to do a loop through the Hop Field/Paint Mine areas of Thacher and then head up to Roemer's High Point - after that it was up in the air (I would either retrace my steps from Roemer's or continue on the Long Path to the first road and then take the roads back to the car.) Parked up on Beaver Dam Road and packed my headlamp in case I got back after dark.

Things just never clicked on this run. Despite the fact that I've been taking it fairly easy, my legs had no juice for running the hills, and the run never really reached a point where I felt warmed up and running well. I took a different path halfway up Paint Mine Road and ended up following a dirt road out of the park and ran the last mile or so on the local paved roads. Given how I was feeling, combined with occasional pain in my right leg when I did uphills and downhills, I decided to skip Roemer's and make this a short run.

Guess I'll try taking it easy for a week or so - flatter terrain, shorter runs, etc. - and see if my legs recover. Or maybe I was just having a bad day. Have to wait and see.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

6 Mile Run in the Pine Bush (and a bunch of bushwhacking)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My new headlamp came today - a Black Diamond Zenix IQ. My old Black Diamond lamp has been great, but I really hoped that switching to an all LED lamp would improve battery life, since I pretty much go through 3 AA batteries every run with the old one.

I'd been planning to run tonight anyway, so I geared up and headed over to the water tower area of the Pine Bush. Nice warm night (for December, at least) but very damp and very foggy. Visibility ranged from almost normal to only being able to see six to ten feet in front of me. So it was a slow run.

I like the light from the Zenix - it seems to do a better job of contrasting things that are sticking up in the path (like roots!) The beam is narrower than my old halogen, which takes some getting used to. Unfortunately, my goal to use fewer batteries may not happen - the high beam setting drained enough power that I hit 50% battery life after about an hour and it switched to a lower light setting to conserve power. Still, even at lower power there was plenty of light for me to see.

Good thing, too, because I ended up making my way through the habitat restoration work area toward what I thought was a section they'd cleared (it was all clear when I was there a week and a half ago) but which unfortunately was buried under downed trees. So I ended up bushwhacking through the swamp and over and under the downed trees for about half an hour. My new pair of Saucony Omni's are now well-christened!

Once I was back on the trail, I made my way back out as it got foggier and foggier. VERY disconcerting... I know those trails like the back of my hand and I couldn't have told you exactly where I was much of the time.

Clearly more tests of the Zenix are called for - I like it so far, despite the possible lower-than-expected battery life. I think I'll pass on running through the woods in the fog for a while, if I can... it's a bit too claustrophobic (but it could have been a GREAT night for a walk!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Or, more accurately, what I usually hear is some version of "If you know you're going to come in last or close to last, why would you pay money, get up in the middle of the night, and drive all over creation to do a race?" Often the question is unspoken, but I can tell it's there when someone asks how I did in a particular race, I mention that I came in at the end or toward the end of the field, and they give me a look that says they question my sanity.

I suppose in an achievement-oriented society, it's a question that has to be asked. Of course, there are different kinds of achievements - while my 4 hr 20 min marathon finish in 1997 was a good two hours behind the top runners, most folks still felt that my running 26.2 miles was a significant achievement, particularly when I had just started running 4 months before. At one point I even made a practice of pointing out to people that I'm slow, so I have to aim for doing long distances and difficult courses where the achievement is found just in finishing. Of course, back then I did at most 2 or 3 races a year...

So why DO I pay good money, get up in the middle of the night, and drive all over creation to do a race?
  1. Racing forces me to get out and train. As someone who is inherently lazy, knowing I have a race coming up motivates me to put in the time and distance needed so that I'll be able to do well, whether that takes the form of a fast (for me) run or a long distance.
  2. Racing gives me an opportunity to push myself. When I'm running against the clock and against other runners, I'll typically run harder than when I'm out running by myself. Not to mention the additional adrenaline boost of bring in a race...
  3. Racing gives me a reason to go to cool places to run and ride. I would have a hard time justifying driving for 2 hours to run 6 miles in a really gorgeous park or on a really challenging course. But doing a race there makes it a special occasion. I've discovered some of the coolest places I know (like Minnewaska State Park) because of doing a race there.
  4. Racing gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I know it doesn't make total sense, but running a half marathon race is different from going out and running a 13 mile training run. Having people cheering for me as I cross a finish line (or even having my name announced, as has happened once or twice) is a unique feeling... almost like I'm a real athlete!
  5. Racing allows me to meet other people who are as crazy as I am (or even crazier!) In most of the races I've done, the vast majority of people have been very positive. I don't run and ride as a social activity... actually, much of my running and riding is designed to get me away from aggravating people! But it is also nice to occasionally have contact with folks who have a good time doing the same sorts of crazy things I do.
  6. Racing is fun. Sometimes it's "that was a great run!" fun, sometimes it's "that was brutal - what a great course!" fun, and sometimes it's "boy am I glad THAT'S over!" fun. Sometimes it's "cool, I'm going to beat this person to the finish" fun and sometimes it's "the only folks left are the ones manning the finish" fun. But overall doing races is something I enjoy.

I guess the bottom line is, for me running isn't the end product and it's not as much about achievement as it is about the journey. Doing races has become a part of that journey for me, and it will continue to be a part until they decide I'm too slow and ask me to stop!


Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Year of the Crashed Turtle - Race#17
Gail's Trail Run 10K
(and a missed opportunity!)
Sunday, December 10, 2006

2006 Gail's Trail Run photo slideshow

The Leatherman's Loop is a very cool 10K trail race at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, a beautiful park in Westchester. I've run it twice - once in 1999, and last year. The course is a bear - rocks, mud, fallen trees, mud, hills galore, mud, two stream crossings, mud, and a nearly vertical sandy hill that pretty much requires going up on all fours. (It's muddy, too.) It's an absolute blast, especially since it's held in late April and the 2nd stream crossing is usually between knee and waist deep and COLD. Unfortunately, it's also a very popular race, with between 700 and 800 runners... which can be very frustrating since much of the first half is singletrack. That's the main reason why, as much as I love the course and the park, I'm not sure I'll ever run the race again.

Gail Jensen was a member of Team Mossman, a triathlon club in Connecticut, who died of pancreatic cancer. Now each December Team Mossman organizes Gail's Trail Run, a fundraising run for pancreatic cancer research (all proceeds from the race are donated to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.) With the help of Tony Godino, the RD for Leatherman's, they use the Leatherman's Loop course - 2006 is the 3rd year they've done it. They typically get 40-60 runners.

It's easy to see where this is going, isn't it?

Alarm went off at 4 AM so I could leave before 6 AM to make it down to the park by 8:15. The sun started coming up about an hour after I left - a beautiful sight over the distant mountains. The drive down is through gorgeous country, and always reminds me of the times I ran Leatherman's and also all the drives back and forth to Vassar and New Haven when I was in school. Made it in plenty of time and enjoyed being able to park wherever I wanted in the lot. Signed in, made the challenging choice of what to wear (long-sleeved shirt, fleece vest, and gloves) and waited for the fun to begin. Listening to people talking about how this was the "fast" crowd, I began to suspect I'd be finishing long after everyone else...

We had a quick pre-race briefing, where Tony told us that this would be the "untamed" Leatherman's Loop course and mentioned that they'd had to break through ice to make the first stream crossing while marking the course the previous day. Heh. He also indicated that the 2nd stream was mid-thigh and running quickly. Heh.

After that we lined up, waited for the countdown, and then - off we went!

I never remember that it's actually a significant distance to the first stream - about a mile - and that there's a lot of up-and-down through the woods to get there. Within the first minute everyone else was out of sight except for one older lady who was lamenting that she'd be last and hoped she wouldn't get lost. I told her not to worry, I'm slow too, but apparently she was even slower, because I left her behind fairly early on (after she told me to go on and have a good run.) I'll be curious to see the results and see if she finished or dropped out.

The first couple of miles were tough - lots of leaves, making it difficult to see what was underfoot, and the sun was at just the right angle to shine directly in my eyes. The first stream crossing was pretty darn cold, and the rock where we climb out was pretty darn slippery - I took great care not to get a complete dunking! Slow going overall, but what a beautiful place to go slow! When I hit the swamp I discovered that the famed Leatherman's Loop mud was not all frozen - running through ankle-deep mud and ice was fun going. Then I hit the Wall, a long nearly vertical hillside. Took a bit to recover from the climb, and headed onto the "easier" trails - easier in that they are wider and not as rocky, but there's still plenty of hills to run (or walk) up! Still, made much better time through that section, but it was clear this was not going to be a PR day...

After a wonderful run through the woods the trail descends to run along the stream and then opens out into a wide field, after which is - the dreaded 2nd stream crossing. That wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be - cold, yes, but only a little over knee high, and the cold didn't bother me as much as it did the first time I plunged through that stream, in 1999 (my legs cramped up and my sinuses filled with mucous.) After that I just had to find my way through the field back to the parking area, to finish in 1:29. Like I said, not a personal best, but not a bad time considering the course and being basically by myself with no one to chase.

After that I changed into dry clothes and headed back north. Instead of taking the highway all the way back, I drove up Rt 22 for a while so I could stop and grab something to eat, then kept going north until I reached Rt 44 (which goes back to the highway.) Unfortunately, I went the wrong way on 44 and ended up back on 22! So it goes... probably added half an hour or so to the trip, but not really a big deal.

On the way home I realized I missed two great opportunities - I could have stayed at the park and hiked some of the other trails, and maybe even gone to see the Leatherman's cave. Or I could have brought my ATB down and headed over to Minnewaska for an afternoon of riding the trails there. Sigh. It's a shame I didn't think of either of those earlier - today was really a gorgeous day.

So lots of driving, but I got to run on a fun course in a beautiful park and donated some money to a good cause. And if that's not a good way to spend a Sunday, I don't know what is.

Next up: The Woodford snowshoe race has been postponed until January 14. So that means this is probably my last race for 2006! And almost definitely the last run for my first pair of Saucony Omni TR's, which I started using 6-7 months ago. Hard to say how many miles, because I also used a pair of Adidas Supernova TR's... but both pairs of shoes are looking very well worn! Wow... my 2006 racing season may be done... in which case, my next race could be the Frozen Assets snowshoe race the first weekend of January 2007.


2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 135.6 miles, 33 hr 8.5 min
riding - 52.4 miles, 4 hr 8 min

from the Team Mossman results e-mail:
We would like to thank everybody that participated in the 3rd Annual Gail's Trail Run! The weather this year was perhaps the finest we've had for the event yet. It was truly a beautiful day....not too cold and not too wet. Just the perfect amount of ice in the mud and rivers :-).

With the donations collected we will be able to send a total of $1523.00 to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in memory of Gail Jacobsen.

We had another fantastic turnout of runners from the area and more spectators and volunteers than ever before. A special thanks needs to go out to Tony and Judy Godino the race directors of the leatherman's loop... Tony ran and marked the course for us on Saturday and Judy swept the course for us on Sunday.

1. Ben Henderson 49:45
2. John Crotty 49:48
3. Rich Izzo 50:13
4. Bill Bradsell 50:23
5. Sean Curtis 52:28
6. Patrick Cavanaugh 52:32
7. Eric Zukauskar 52:36
8. Ron Carter 53:18
9. John Krasniewicz 53:26
10. Jeff Morris 55:00
11. Chuck Thomas 55:02
12. Pascale Butcher 55:06
13. Mike Paletta 56:05
14. Mike Koron 56:53
15. Peter Eddy 56:53
16. Kevin Cunningham 57:13
17. Chris Dawson 57:17
18. J.C. Stein 57:54
19. Andy Ludel 58:09
20. Sue Gold 59:39
21. Joan Lynch 59:39
22. Bruce Koffsky 1:00.21
23. John Reznikoff 1:00.21
24. David Morgan 1:03.05
25. Sam Montclair 1:03.06
26. Paul Morgan 1:03.07
27. Robert Maley 1:03.40
28. Clay Tebbetts 1:03.41
29. Paul Butcher 1:06.19
30. Scott Anderson 1:06.25
31. Larry Nusbaum 1:06.39
32. Robert Casper 1:07.08
33. Carol Kane 1:11.01
34. Susan Kamovitch 1:11.03
35. Jennifer Anderson 1:11.06
36. Allison Wendt 1:22.42
37. Jamie Howard 1:29.08

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Somewhat Better Cat, Rank Testings in Utica
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Saturday morning Chaos had perked up a bit, so I decided to risk going to Utica for the testings. Both groups were large, so it was a LONG series of tests... 4 hours altogether. The students from Albany did fairly well on their various brown belt tests (including one of my students, who tested to go from purple to brown.)

When I got back, Chaos was looking even more normal than when I'd left. Perhaps whatever was making her ill is passing...


Friday, December 08, 2006

Chaos (approx. 14 years ago... but she hasn't changed much!)

Sick Cat, No Iaido
Friday, December 8, 2006

Came home Thursday and Chaos was not acting normal... very low energy, and she was clearly having some problems with her digestive system (don't ask how I knew that. It was gross.) Friday morning she was looking even worse, so I called off my plans to go to iaido and stay overnight for the brown belt test tomorrow.

So it goes...


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Women's Self-Defense Final Class & more KATAS
Wednesday, December 1, 2006

I originally meant to do a 90 minute - 2 hour run before the class tonight, but it's been tough getting myself motivated to run this week. Got home from work cold and tired, and decided to just work on some katas after class instead. (Maybe I should have gone for a run - it was a fairly nice night! On the other hand, if I'm feeling this tired it's probably better to take a break.)

The final class of the 6 week women's self-defense program went well, though the instructors got thumped a bit (we moved in and out as "attackers" this time.) Overall I think it was a good program and the participants got some good information and skills out of it. Maybe we can do a refresher for them in six months or so.

After everyone left I worked through the 9 remaining empty-hand katas I know - Pyong-won, Long Hand, Continuity 2, Si Lum, Heian Shodan, Hookiyu, Hansoo, and both the male and female versions of Aoyagi. Had a few sticky points on several of them - I want to try to run through katas again before the end of the year and maybe polish some of them up a bit.


Monday, December 04, 2006

David Horton - "The Runner"
Monday, December 4, 2006

David Horton is an ultrarunner from Virginia. David Horton is also one crazy dude.

I first heard about Horton through the book Running Through the Wall, in which ultrarunners tell stories about their various adventures and misadventures. Horton was mentioned in several of the stories and even contributed one himself, about being one of the first Americans to finish the 100 mile Barkley Ultramarathon. Recently I became more aware of him due to a documentary, The Runner, which covers his Pacific Crest Trail speed record attempt in 2005. (He succeeded, running and walking 2650 miles from the Mexican Border to Canada in 66 days.) As I was researching the documentary, I discovered he had also co-authored a book, A Quest for Adventure, detailing his attempt to set a speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 1991 (again, he succeeded - he covered 2144 miles from Georgia to Maine in 53 days) and his competing in the 2906 mile Trans-America Footrace in 1995 (he has the third fastest time for the 64 day stage race.)

The first time I viewed The Runner I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed... I was hoping for more footage of Horton and his helpers running through the mountains. On the other hand, I guess it's tough to get footage when someone is running 200+ miles between road access points! There is a lot about what goes on in Horton's head and what makes him tick, and a good deal of his personal philosophy. On second viewing, I absolutely loved much of the film... I guess I just needed to know what to expect!

I've started reading A Quest for Adventure and in some ways it's even more compelling, because it provides a day by day log of Horton's thoughts and experiences. Again, there are places where I wish he said more... his discussion of running the AT through Massachusetts, for example, is very brief, though he mentions finding the trail up Mt Everett very challenging (that's reassuring... I died running those trails 7 years ago, the first time I tried to train to run the Nipmuck Trail Marathon!) He also talks about running with Bob Dion, which is very cool - Bob is a very active member of the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club that I do so many races with and also made the snowshoes I use!

Clearly David Horton has a gift - he can not only run long distances but he can do so at one heck of a fast pace. At the same time, I find him very inspirational, because he is very honest about how often he finds himself wanting to quit during the tough times in the challenging events he does - and how he pushes through that and keeps going to eventually succeed in what he's trying to do.

He also puts new perspective on my struggling through long runs - after all, my struggles are over in five or six hours, tops. His took months!

I guess one of the lessons is - if I keep working at it, and keep struggling - I will complete marathons and ultramarathons. It's just a matter of time...


Sunday, December 03, 2006

11 Miles along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikepath
Sunday, December 3, 2006

Up to the last 2 miles or so, today's run felt pretty good!

I got a late start (like that's anything new!) so I ended up running the last 3-4 miles in the dusk and then the dark. Had my headlamp, so no big deal.

And the moon reflecting off the river was VERY cool.

2 1/2 months ago I couldn't run a couple miles without being in substantial pain... I am very grateful for where I am today!


Saturday, December 02, 2006

10.5 Mile Ride in the Albany Pine Bush
Saturday, December 2, 2006

Well, after several days of incredibly mild weather, winter is once again rearing its head. Chilly weather and WIND were the hallmarks of the day as the cold front that dropped some nasty winter weather in the midwest moves into our area.

Of course, today was my day to go for a bike ride.

Didn't feel like fighting the wind, so I loaded the mountain bike on the car and headed over to the Columbia Circle section of the Albany Pine Bush to do some riding. My plan was to ride the easier trails of that section, then cut over to the water tower trails and maybe check out some of the work being done there in the daylight.

I haven't been riding in the woods since early August, so today was both a treat and hard work. It was great to cruise along the trails again, though some of the hills were a little tougher than I remembered. (OK, maybe it was my legs which were the cause of that!) Passed a group of bow hunters early on - they were very polite, and generally bow hunters don't worry me, since they need a pretty good line of site to get their target. Besides, I had a bright orange vest on over my windbreaker! The sun peeked through the clouds occasionally as I made my way over to 155 and crossed into the other section of the Pine Bush. There I cruised the red trail to the power lines, then headed down yellow to the spot where there were trees blocking the path two weeks ago.

There were still trees in the path, but the clearing crews had extended their work zone far enough into that section that I was able to do a short bushwhack and then pushed the bike through the cleared area. As I've said before, I understand why they're clearing this area... but it still makes me sad to see so many trees downed and such a huge area stripped down to bare sand. The crews have removed most of the downed trees from the area I made my way through two weeks ago - I could have ridden my bike through there had I wanted to. But to be honest, I didn't really feel like riding just then.

Found my way back to the other end of the yellow trail, and got back into riding. Made my way back across 155 and onto the trails. Originally I had planned to just ride the easiest trails back to the car, but I changed my plans twice. The first time was to climb to the top of the largest hill in that section - the sun was low on the horizon but shining through the clouds, and I could see the Helderbergs off in the distance. Very peaceful and beautiful... it's sights like that which make it worth climbing to the top of a big hill! Then a while later, I decided to detour onto one of the uphill trails, so I could come down into the field that was cleared last November and ride the trail that was plowed under in the process. Actually, only part of that trail was affected, and they have put the trail markers back up, so maybe there's hope for the trails that are being demolished this year.

Got back to the car just as the sun was setting... all in all, a good ride - I put in a good deal of time on the trails, and got a better idea of the area that's being "restored" over on the Great Dune. We'll see tomorrow how much juice is left in my legs for my long run...!


Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday, December 1, 2006

Another warm evening (before the COLD air hits tomorrow to remind us that it is December, after all!) and I found myself really tempted to get in a run. But I wanted to give my legs another day or recovering, plus I was a bit worried about the stormy weather (rain - OK. Wind - not great, but OK. Lightning - bad news!) So I headed over to the karate school to help with the end of class and then stayed to work on some katas.

Ran through everything up through 3rd degree black - the 3 Basic Katas, 8 Pal-Gwes, all 3 Chul-gi forms, Old Koryo & Koryo, Keumgang, and Taebaek, Chip Su and Chip Jang, Bassai Dai, and Eye of the Eagle. Kept the pace relatively slow and concentrated on form and technique. Not too bad overall... of course, I still have another 9 to do in the near future, plus a variety of weapons katas.

Definitely not the toughest workout I've ever done, but productive all the same!


Thursday, November 30, 2006

6 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
(with a little bush-whacking)
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So tonight before week 5 of the 6 week women's self-defense program we've been running at the karate, I decided to work in a short (5-6 mile) run. Admittedly part of my motivation was the unseasonably warm weather - I don't expect to run without tights much in the next three months or more. Headed over to the water tower area of the Pine Bush to try as much of a perimeter run as I could manage, given the way the trails are blocked and torn up over in the Great Dune section.

Headed off on my usual loop along the red trail and up the hill onto blue. Thought I might actually get all the way around the blue loop... but they've extended the destruction (oops - habitat restoration) into the furthest section of that trail, so I ended up bushwhacking for a while along the edge of the work zone, until I could finally rejoin the blue trail (after having to plow through a bunch of pricker bushes... gah!) Then I had a pretty good run along the rest of blue and back up red, with a final bit along the sandy trails near the water tower trailhead.

As I've said before, I understand the need for the habitat restoration work to restore an environmentally unique area to something resembling its original state. But I really do miss having the full blue and yellow trails to run on (and I suspect we'll be losing more of them before the work is done - they're clearing a total of 28 acres.) And I'm not at all confident they'll ever restore those trails - so far nothing has been done to restore the trails that were torn up in the Columbia Circle restoration a year ago.

Sadly, removing those trails will probably only lead to even more people using the illegal trails (I'm sure I'll find it difficult to resist the temptation.)

I guess I should be grateful to have "wild" areas to run in so close to home. But after running those trails for the last six years or so - I'm going to miss them.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The End of an Trail Running Era -
No More
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Back when I first started trail running (1997 or so) one of the coolest sites I found on the web was Not only were there articles about trail running and race results - but there was an extensive calendar of trail running events in the northeastern US! I can remember spending many hours looking at the race listings and dreaming about doing many of them someday... when I got back into some serious trail running last year, that calendar was one of the first resources I consulted. Some of the races were no more, and in many cases I needed to track down updated info... but what a great resource.

Over the past year, much of the site was dismantled, with only the race calendar remaining, and the owner (who's name I unfortunately cannot remember) posted a note that he was considering retiring the site altogether. Now that seems to have happened. Guess I'll have to set to work compiling my own list of races and events to refer to every year.

There are now lots of sites out there with much of the same info, but NewEnglandTrailRunner will always be first in my mind. Thank you, NewEnglandTrailRunner, for 10 years of helping me find race info and giving me ideas of new races to do (I can think of at least half a dozen cool races I wouldn't know about if it weren't for that calendar!) You will be missed!

Recovery Run
5-6 Miles in the Pine Bush
Monday, November 27, 2006

I guess the race Saturday morning and the hilly hike Saturday afternoon left my legs more fried than I thought - my legs were definitely grumbling as I climbed the stairs at work Monday. Since Tuesday is going to be a major work-night, I decided to get in an "easy" run before heading to the karate school to teach a bo class. Headed over to the Karner Barrens and did a very slow 5 to 6 miles there. Haven't been there in quite a few months - actually, since my mountain bike ride there back in August!

As I was running on the path through the field I was struck by the fact that soon the Great Dune section will probably look much like that - open field with a few pines and lots of low ground cover. I understand the reason - it's an environmentally unique area being restored by the removal of non-native species - but I'm really going to miss running through those woods.

After the run taught a nice bo class to half a dozen students - we worked on Master Fumio Demura's kihon no kata that he taught us at the bo seminar a few years ago. It's a short kata, so everyone was able to pick it up fairly well by the end of the class. Hopefully next class we can do some possible bunkai.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Year of the Crashed Turtle - Race#16
RT Turkey Run 5 Miler
Saturday, November 25, 2006

2006 RT Turkey Run results

2006 RT Turkey Run photo slideshow

What a beautiful day for a race! Much like last year's Lil Rhody Runaround, we had unseasonably warm weather for November - so much so that I was wishing I'd brought some short-sleeved shirts with me to run in!

This was the last of 5 races this year at Mendon Ponds park - a beautiful place to run and ride! it may also have been my last running event for the year, since it's not clear if I'll be doing Gail's Trail Run on the Leatherman's Loop course at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation on December 10. If so, it was a great venue for my last running race of the Year of the Crashed Turtle. Ann also came out to watch this one, which was a nice treat.

The RT Turkey Run 5 Miler follows the park roads for 2 miles, then covers about a mile on trails, and then finishes with 2 more miles on the roads. There is a fair amount of up and down, since Mendon is a hilly park, including the so-called "Cardiac Hill" a little ways into the trail segment. The race field was fairly small - about 80 runners overall - which in some ways was tough (not too many people to judge my pace against - and to chase!) and in some ways was a refreshing change from some of the crowded runs I've done this year.

We started out with a bit of uphill followed by at least half a mile of downhill, which did wonders for my 1st mile split - 9:24! (That also told me that, as usual, I'd gone out too fast!) Slowed down a bit for the next mile, and hit the trailhead at about 21 minutes. Running on the trails was a wonderful break from pavement, and reminded me of how much I love running in the woods, even if it's slower. Over the course of the trail leg and the initial return to the roads, I was passed by several runners, but when I hit the 4 mile mark at 43 minutes, I realized that all I needed to do was run the last mile in 12 minutes, and I average 11 minute miles for the race... a great pace in my book! So off I went, and after cresting the last hill I really pounded out the last half mile, passing all those folks who'd passed me earlier to cross the finish line at 54:24, just barely breaking 11 minute miles for this run (my fastest pace yet since The Crash!)

Some days running seems effortless and others my legs feel like they're made of concrete... this was one of the latter. My calves never really loosened up, and my legs definitely took a beating going at that pace over mostly paved roads. I'm reminded of one of Dean Karnazes stories in Ultramarathon Man, where he tells his middle school track coach that his advice to go out hard felt pretty good and the coach responds that he clearly didn't go out hard enough, because it's supposed to hurt like hell. I ran at a tough pace for me, and there is no question that it hurt. But I'm still glad I did the race. It was a great way to spend a gorgeous Saturday morning.

Next up: a slim possibility of Gail's Trail Run, a 10K fundraiser for pancreatic cancer research, in early December. And definitely the I Love Woodford 3.5 Mi Snowshoe race in mid-December! (Maybe we'll even have some snow before then, so I can get in a bit of practice!)


2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 129.4 miles, 31 hr 39.5 min
riding - 52.4 miles, 4 hr 8 min

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

8-9 Miles at Thacher Park
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A chilly day, but definitely a good one for a run. Thacher was pretty empty - I saw a total of maybe 6 other people the entire 2 hours I was there. And best of all - it was quiet. I get so used to the traffic noise down here, even over in the "wilds" of the Pine Bush, that it is absolutely wonderful to go run trails where the only man-made noises are of planes overhead and an occasional train off in the far distance.

Ran from Hop Field along the escarpment up to Hailes Cave and then along the very muddy XC ski trail back to Paint Mine Road. Up and up and up the hill... got to get back to the point where I can run that hill non-stop. Paused just before the top to go look at the beaver pond - 2 lodges and I may have seen the water trail of a beaver swimming off into the weeds. Then it was along the trails in the Paint Mine area and down onto the swamp trails - very muddy but also very pretty, going through pines and past cool rock formations. Just before I got back to the parking area, I headed off on a trail I'd never taken before, and ended up at the park maintenance area (which made me smile - that was where I parked the two times I ran the old Indian Ladder 15K course, out of the Glen Doone picnic area.) Then it was a fast (for me) pound down the road to try to get back to the car before the ranger locked the gate (apparently, he took pity on me, because he drove down there and then left but didn't lock up. Or maybe he just didn't want me driving over the grass to get out.)

And on the drive back to Albany I got to see bits of a really pretty sunset.

All in all, a good run and a great way to spend two hours the day before Thanksgiving. This is the 2nd year I've done a pre-Thanksgiving run, and I think I'll try to maintain the tradition...


Sunday, November 19, 2006

10 1/4 Miles in the Corning Preserve and Schuyler Flatts Park
Sunday, November 19, 2006

Knew I wanted to get in a longer run today, but wasn't rally sure where... in the end, I decided I didn't feel like doing a lot of driving and ruled out Thacher and both the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Paths. After a bit of thought, I headed down to the Corning Preserve, where I knew I could get in at least 8.5 miles along with some extra if I wanted.

Started out in a chilly light drizzle and was once again grateful for the rainjacket I bought back in early October. The run out to Watervliet felt decent, so I decided to head over to the Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park and extend the distance a bit. The gradual downhill to the park felt good - of course, running back up it on the return was less fun! On the way back I decided to push my pace a bit, and I think I managed between 12 and 13 minute miles most of the way back.

Between the distance and the pace I tried to maintain, it was a tough run, but well worth it... and the longest training run I've done since The Crash. Many of my injuries still hurt after a tough run, but I am definitely getting some of my old strength back and continuing to extend my longer distances and pace... there's hope I might manage to regain some of what I lost to being injured and complete some of those longer distance races in 2007!


Saturday, November 18, 2006

6 Mile Night Run in the Pine Bush
Friday, November 17, 2006

The website of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission probably says it best:

The Albany Pine Bush is known as an inland pine barrens ecosystem. One of the largest of only about 20 other inland pine barrens worldwide, the Albany Pine Bush is globally rare. It was formed toward the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 -15,000 years ago. At this time a large glacial lake stretched from present day Glens Falls, NY to Newburgh, NY. Over time, the water drained leaving behind the sandy deposits of the lake floor. These sandy soils now support the Albany Pine Bush ecosystem. Less than 20% of the original Albany Pine Bush ecosystem still survives today. This remaining area is divided by interstate highways, shopping malls, and industrial parks, and is threatened by further habitat loss.

The Pine Bush is important because of its outstanding biological significance. Characterized by well-drained sandy soils and open areas, it hosts a variety of rare plant and animal species. For example, its open areas present ideal conditions for wild blue lupine, a beautiful wildflower which is critical to the survival of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. The scrub oaks of the Pine Bush are also important in the survival of another rare insect called the Inland barrens buckmoth. Aside from these two insects, the Pine Bush supports many other species of wildlife including the eastern hognose snake and spadefoot toad. In preserving the Pine Bush, we have the opportunity to protect a rare environment for the unique species it supports as well as for the enjoyment of people for years to come.
(, 2005)

Part of the work the Commission does to preserve the Albany Pine Bush is what they call "habitat restoration." In some cases this means periodic controlled burns, which simulates the natural fires that would have occurred in the past. In other cases workers log the area to be restored, removing invasive tree species (particularly black locust) and essentially stripping the soil down to bare sand for replanting and regrowth. This was done in one of the areas off Columbia Circle last November, and led to my referring to that section as "the desert" through mid-summer, when ground cover finally became fairly consistently established.

Two weeks ago I found out that two of the trails along the Great Dune, one of my favorite sections of Pine Bush to run, were being closed so that 28 acres could undergo habitat restoration. At that point nothing had been done and I was able to run the trails just as I normally would. But at some point the work crews would be moving in and wiping out the woods I've run through for almost 6 years.

I almost didn't go running tonight... it's been a long week and I was beat. But I finally convinced myself to get out and headed over to the Willow Street trailhead to run the Great Dune trails. Looped down red to yellow, and got about halfway around the yellow trail when I started hitting the fallen trees. So I took a connecting trail over to blue and then another connector back toward yellow, hoping to bypass the work zone. Instead, I spent 15 minutes bushwhacking and trying to make my way over and around stacks of cut trees. I shudder to think of what it looks like in the daylight.

Finally found the yellow trail again, and headed back to blue, then ran blue the long way back toward red. Had to climb around a couple of cut trees early on - looks like the blue trail will not escape the destruction. I've read that all told they're clearing 28 acres - that's approximately 21 football fields and a LOT of woods.

A good run, all told, but the changes to those trails makes me sad. I understand why it's needed, and I support preserving the Pine Bush ecosystem. At the same time, though, I have a lot of memories running, riding, skiing, and snowshoeing through the woods on those trails, and I'm going to miss them.


(for more info on the habitat restoration, here's a PDF info sheet from the Albany Pine Bush Commission.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A while back I stumbled across a book called Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes, basically an autobiographical account of how he got back into running and began running longer and longer distances. Now I have to admit - I'm not sure I totally believe all of his stories. And at times he comes across as a bit full of himself. But his adventures are right up my alley, and his reasons for doing the runs are ones I can understand and relate to.

Neddless to say, Dean has become a running icon, and this past summer it was announced that he would be doing an Endurance 50 this fall - running 50 marathon courses in 50 states in 50 days. His reason? To encourage people to be active and live healthier lives. (I suspect its also to assist his charity fundraising efforts... and just because he can!) He started on September 17 in St Louis, MO and completed the 50th marathon in New York City, NY, on November 5.

The next day he went out for a relaxing 21 mile run... just because he could.

And then he started his next "big thing" - now Dean is running across the country from NYC to his home in San Francisco. Yow.

In the videos I've seen of him, he comes across as a pretty nice guy. I know some folks don't like his self-promotion and the fact that so much attention is focused on him. But I think he's pretty darn impressive, and I wish him the best of luck in his long journey home.

I wonder how long it would take to run across New York State...

(...but I think I'll bike across it first... someday!)


P.S. If you want to find out more about the Endurance 50 and Dean's Home Run, Runner's World has tons of coverage.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Year of the Crashed Turtle - Race#15
Mendon Trail Runs 50K 10K
Saturday, November 11, 2006

2006 Mendon Trail Runs results

2006 Mendon Trail Run photo slideshow

What a great race! Finished in 1 hr 14 minutes, for just under 12 min/mile - the fastest I've run in a race since The Crash 10 weeks ago!

Back when this was the Year of Long Distance, I had hoped to run the Mendon Trail 50K and officially become an ultrarunner (though there are some who would say you aren't truly an ultrarunner until you've run 50 miles.) The Crash, of course, threw a serious monkey wrench into all of my distance-running plans. Still, I wanted to get a feel for the course (the 50K is 5 times around a 10K loop... a very challenging 10K loop, with approximately 1100 ft of climbing per loop!) So I headed over to Mendon Ponds park to do the 10K. (I might have attempted the 20K, but I didn't want to spend that much time away from Ann - we haven't had much time together recently.)

The weather didn't seem encouraging - Friday night was rainy and there was supposed to be a cold front moving in carrying a substantial amount of rain. I even drove through a shower on the way to the park. But once I got there, the weather was great - relatively warm (for November!) and no rain for the whole time I was there. I ended up leaving my rainjacket and fleece vest in the car, and even wished I'd worn a short-sleeved shirt once I got going and really warmed up.

The 50K runners started 90 minutes before the rest of us, and I got to see two of them come through the loop transition as I was waiting for the shorter races to start. There was actually a good-sized crowd there when I arrived, and it grew as we got closer to race time. The interest in trail running really seems to be growing, which sometimes I think is a good thing (more interest means more events I can go to!) and sometimes a not-so-good thing (too many people! too many people!) It also leads me to an observation regarding silly human behavior - why is it that people who are going to be running 3, 6, and 12 miles in the near future feel compelled to park as close to race registration as possible, in an effort to save a little extra walking to check in?

Anyway, after the usual gearing up and hanging around waiting - off we went! The first half mile or so was along the park road, on a relatively gentle uphill. That was nice because it gave the group a chance to spread out. Then we hit the trails - and the fun began! I'd run these trails twice before - once during Yellowjacket Racing's Powerbar Trail Race in June, and once on an afternoon run in July - and while they are in great shape and very runable, there are many hills, some of them quite steep!

I knew I was having a good day when I hit the first mile marker in 9:40 - and I also knew I was in trouble if I tried to maintain that pace up and down the hills. So I slowed down a bit, and started speed-hiking the hills (especially the long ones!) Hit the 2nd mile marker at about 22 minutes - a bit more reasonable for my conditioning and the terrain. Left the woods and ran through the field between miles 2 and 3 - had another big hill to contend with there, but also saw a deer running through the fields. After that was a nice downhill stretch through the pines into "Carol's Diner", the aid station set up just over halfway through the course. After a quick sip of water, I headed off into the last stretch. I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to push it a bit and picked up the pace - even ran the shorter hills. Managed to pass half a dozen other runners, motivated by the glances at the watch that told me a 12 minute average pace was possible if I hammered out the last couple of miles. It wasn't easy, but I pushed the pace all the way to the end, all the while being passed by some of the runners in the longer races and having my picture taken by the race photographer (hopefully I'll be able to get a copy of the photo!) And made it across the finish line in 1:14:13, 65th out of the 87 runners in the 10K.

Overall, I'm very glad I did this race. It was a nice morning, weather wise (sunny would have been even better but I'm not complaining!) Mendon is a gorgeous place to run, and these particular trails provide a lot of variety and challenge. And I found out that I'm gradually regaining my former conditioning and I still have some kick (well, for me!) and some stride in my legs, despite the effects of The Crash.

And, as with every race I've done since The Crash, I was also just darn happy to be there!

Next up: another race at Mendon, this one mostly on the roads (with a 1 mile stretch on trail) - the RT Turkey Run 5 Miler on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.


2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 124.4 miles, 30 hr 45 min
riding - 52.4 miles, 4 hr 8 min

Thursday, November 09, 2006

4.5 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Originally this was supposed to be a riding night, but the pouring rain changed my mind. Riding in the rain just isn't a whole lot of fun... riding in the rain in the dark seems like it would be even less so.

Instead, I stopped at the Columbia Circle section of the Pine Bush on the way over to the women's self defense class and ran most of a perimeter loop. Had a really good run - it was short enough that my legs didn't really hurt during the run, and since I knew I would only be out for an hour I pushed a bit harder than I have on my longer runs recently. Running in the woods in the pouring rain in the dark was very cool! And it was also fun to run those trails, which I haven't been on in a while (since early August, I believe.) The new rain jacket I bought a month ago worked great... all in all, it was just a darn good run!


Monday, November 06, 2006

8 Mile Run
Monday, November 6, 2006

After 7 years of living in Albany, I finally did something I had never done before - I went for a run in Albany. Right out of my front door.

That used to be a regular occurence, back when I lived down in Hillsdale... I had a number of great loops I could run right from my house. (Of course, I also had the wonderful Berkshires right next door too, and lots of hills to make my legs strong - but those are other stories!) One of the many things I've missed about moving away from the country has been the necessity of driving to anywhere decent to run.

Last night I really didn't feel like driving 40-60 minutes (round trip) so that I could go run on the bike path or in the Pine Bush, so I geared up and headed out on the Albany sidewalks, over toward the Academies and along some of the streets nearby (residential areas, which I knew would be a little nicer than "downtown".)

A few observations -
  • Albany is noisy. Even running at night there's never a quiet moment.
  • Cars are a pain, even when you're running on the sidewalk. The headlights make it tough to see, and when you come to an intersection you have to have your head on a swivel to make sure you're not going to end up plastered on someone's grill. (On the plus side, having cursed out many a runner for just blazing through intersections without a glance - I know to slow down and look all ways before continuining.) But at least in chillier weather the exhaust fumes aren't as bad...
  • Whoever designed sidewalks to go up and down and up and down definitely didn't have runners in mind. On the other hand, my trail experience was a major plus running over cracked, buckled, pot-holed sidewalks.
  • Other pedestrians can be very single-minded in their pursuit of sidewalk dominance. Fortunately, running at night reduces the number of those encounters.

Overall, it was a decent run, but definitely not one I was doing to enjoy where I was running... the enjoyment had to come from the act of running itself. Still, I can see the convenience of being able to step out the door and get in a run, and I suspect I'll do more running in Albany in the future... but not on a regular basis. Getting away from so-called civilization is just too much a part of why I run for me to ever make running in the city a regular part of my training.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

8 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
23 Mile Ride in Bethlehem-Slingerlands
Saturday & Sunday, November 4 & 5, 2006

All week the weather forecast for this weekend said "It's gonna be sunny but COLD!" So naturally I determined to make the most of it and get outside.

Saturday after classes and running a few errands I headed over to the Pine Bush for a run, and I'm glad I did - being out in the daylight let me read the signs that they're closing two of my favorite trails for habitat restoration (basically, they go through and remove the non-native plants and trees, usually by stripping everything down to bare soil.) Of course, I ignored the signs and went for what might be the last run I get to do on those trails - they hadn't started any of the work yet, so I had a nice run on some trails I've been running on for the last six years or so. Didn't even seem all that cold...

Sunday I ended up going out on the bike later in the afternoon than I should have - I forgot that with the switch to standard time it gets dark an hour earlier!) I repeated my Slingerlands loop from a couple of weeks ago, which trades the long downhill and steep uphills of Krumkill Road for a nice stretch along Font Grove Road and a return along New Scotland Ave. All in all a nice ride, other than having to do the last parts in the dusk with no lights and breaking two spokes on my rear wheel! (Looks like I'm back to riding the Dawes and my ATB until I get that wheel to the shop. Aargh.)

So yes, it was a chilly weekend, but it was definitely nice to get out and run/ride in the sun!


Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Year of the Crashed Turtle - Race#14
Hairy Muddy Gorilla Trail Half Marathon
Sunday, October 29, 2006

2006 Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon results
Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon info

2006 Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon photo slideshow

Since The Crash, the longest distance I've run has been 8 miles. So I wasn't too upset to learn that this weekend was supposed to be characterized by drenching rain on Saturday and frigid cold with up to 40 mph winds on Sunday. I even went so far as to say something like "Wow, those guys are going to have a miserable race on Sunday - glad I'm not paying to do that!"

You can probably see immediately where this is going...

Saturday afternoon I got home and just for the heck of it, I visited the Hairy Gorilla site and chuckled over the "bring warm clothes to change into" and "you will get WET" statements. Then, just for the heck of it, I pulled up the e-mail that was sent to pre-registered runners, and that was my downfall. Because in that e-mail posting were three tiny hooks guaranteed to catch the trail running Turtle...

  1. Each half marathon finisher would receive a mini Hairy Gorilla - last year I'd seen these small stuffed gorillas on the awards table and been bummed that I'd never be able to get one, since it's unlikely I'll ever place in my age group. But this year - I could get one just by finishing...

  2. The course had been altered slightly, as requested by last year's runners - in particular, two annoying loops through the grass fields in front the the picnic area (race HQ) had been eliminated and replaced with a short stretch along the escarpment trail in the first half and an out-and-back loop in the 2nd half into an I'd never been in. So they not only addressed two of my peeves about the 2005 course, but I would also get to see someplace new...

  3. The loop through the Paint Mine area of Thacher Park was being run in reverse of what we run for Indian Ladder every July, as well as continuing to include some trails that aren't used in that race.

So take all of that, plus the fact that the trails would be muddy beyond belief, and Saturday afternoon I made the decision to run the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon Sunday morning. I finalized that decision by making a run to the store to pick up supplies (Clif bars, a disposable camera, and bananas) and changed my clocks before going to bed, somewhat wondering what I had gotten myself into for Sunday...

So for the 2nd time this fall the alarm went off on a race day. At this point that's not a big deal, and this one is especially nice in that it's close enough that I didn't have to get up too awfully early. Probably the toughest thing about packing was knowing what clothes to bring - I finally went with the overkill approach, figuring it was better to have a fleece top I didn't need than to be up there freezing and wishing I'd brought it. Had a pleasant surprise on the trip over to Thacher - sunshine! Parked the car and registered for the race, and had another pleasant surprise - a race T-shirt! After that I spent a while gearing up and wandering around... the views off the escarpment were, as aways, great, and whenever the wind dropped a bit it was actually pretty pleasant. Got the word that the race would start in 20 minutes, so I made a tough call and put my windbreaker in the car - my main worry being that I would end up walking a lot during the 2nd half of the race and freeze my backside off.

Josh Merlis, the RD, had a few quick things to say once we had gathered at the starting area - among them "If you're from the Western Mass Athletic Club - you're going to think this course is flat, smooth, and dry!" in a nod to the many insane places they do races and, to first time trail runners, "You're going to die." And then, after a few short delays - off we went!

As in last year's race, after we entered the woods there was a brief bottleneck where folks were trying to tiptoe around a huge puddle, and as in last year's race - I splashed down the middle, figuring I'd be wet soon enough anyway and probably wouldn't dry out until the finish. The trail through the woods was flooded in spots - a warning of what was to come. After that we got to wade through a very cold stream - fun! and had a brief jaunt along the escarpment before heading into the Paint Mine area and a couple of long slow slogs uphill. But most of that was relatively dry, and all too soon we were heading down Paint Mine Road to retrace our steps through the stream and through the flooded woods back toward the starting area... at which point the sane folks headed to the finish of the Squirelly Six Miler and I headed off into the wilds of the 2nd half of the half marathon. My time at that point wasn't bad - 1:18 or so - but also wasn't great, and my legs were beginning to hurt, which meant I was in for a slow 2nd half.

Part of the fun of this race is the people - the ARE encourages both runners and volunteers to appear in costume, so there were numerous interesting characters on the course, including a number of gorillas and a chainsaw-wielding maniac. I even had a very nice young lady dressed as a huge banana running with me in the short space between the end of the six miler and the return to the woods for the remainder of the half. (Some of the other volunteers urged me to run faster and not get beaten by a banana, but I'm not proud... any banana that's faster than me, and that doesn't take much, is welcome to beat me!)

Into the 2nd half, and pretty much on my own. Just before the bottom of the 2nd big hill, the top three guys blazed by me within seconds of each other... they had about three quarters of a mile to go and I was only about half done. Impressive. Slogged up the hill and warned the volunteer at the top that he might want to get a flashlight so he could see me when I came back through! After a brief pause to empty rocks and sticks out of my shoes, I made my way around the pond and onto the first of several long, slippery, muddy plods. Between the wet course and the 100 or so runners who'd been through before me - there was no way to run without ending up on my back or blowing out a knee. So I slipped and slid to the next aid station, where I repeated the flashlight warning to the very nice folks there.

Then it was off into the new area - another mud-plod down a trail to a loop around a field. It was during this section that the snow flurries started - would have been quite pretty if I hadn't been trying to stay on my feet and maintain some forward motion!

After that it was up the road to the old quarry, and then a long slow run along the Long Path and doubletrack to get back to the aid station. It was during this stretch that I became the official "last runner", as two folks from the WMAC passed me. (You can always tell you're last when the guys taking down the course markers appear behind you!) At the aid station Christophe the gorilla greeted me enthusiastically and did his best to get me pumped for the last couple of miles. Christophe is an incredible runner who has done several ultras this past year - it was nice to actually get a chance to talk to him for once (usually the only time I see him is when he blazes by me on the return leg of an out-and-back race!) His energy and enthusiasm helped keep my spirits up as a slowly made my way back to the top of the hill - where I got my picture taken! (So along with the two pictures I asked volunteers to take using my camera, I should have at least one more too.)

At the bottom of the hill I ran into John Kinnicutt on his bike and after I asked him a question about the last bit of the course he decided to ride back down with me. It was great talking to him and best of all - it distracted me from that last run through the field, which I always find difficult. And before long I was back on the trail through the woods, slipping and sliding up the last hill, and then out in the ball field and heading for the finish line, complete with a cheering mass of volunteers. (They may have been cheering because they could finally pack up and go home, but I'm going to keep thinking that it was because they were happy I'd made it, after 3 hours and 21 minutes!) I may have even managed to pick up the pace slightly... OK, very slightly. I was given my stuffed gorilla and best of all - they gave me two! So now I have one to give to Ann...

So all in all it was a good day to plod my way through 13 miles - cold, wet, windy, and muddy, yes, but the people there were great and it feels good to have done a run I really wasn't positive I could finish running. A huge congratulations and an even bigger THANK YOU to the Albany Running Exchange and all the volunteers for putting on such a fun event. And after my conversation with John I think I may have to run it next year... it sounds like they're making some changes to the course that should be very interesting.


2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 118.23 miles, 29 hr 31 min
riding - 52.4 miles, 4 hr 8 min

Monday, October 23, 2006

23 Mile Ride in Slingerlands and Bethlehem
Monday, October 23, 2006

Another grey, cold, windy day. Not ideal for doing a 23 mile ride after work... but I've got to ride when I get the chance. I clipped my red blinky light to my back pack to help with visibility, and wound my way along a variety of roads to the west of Albany. Another good shakedown ride for the new bike, which handled it well - though it gets a bit squirelly, especially in a crosswind. On the other hand, I used to think the Dawes was squirelly, and now I don't even notice it.

Some highlights of the ride...

A small group of wild turkeys scrambling into the brush alongside the road down near Five Rivers.

Cresting a hill and seeing the sun starting the peek through the clouds, lighting up the Helderberg Escarpment. Gorgeous.

Climbing the hill just past Five Rivers and having the sun come out for a while, casting the whole hillside and valley into golden light. Absolutely magical.

Zipping down parts of New Scotland Ave and Hackett Blvd at close to 20 mph and not even pushing all that hard (tailwinds are wonderful!)