Friday, March 31, 2006

Froggy Went A'Courting... mm hmm... mm hmm...
3 hour run in the Albany Pine Bush
Friday, March 31, 2006

Well, after two days of trying to get off my backside and do my long run for the week... finally pulled it off.

Gorgeous day today. Temperature was in the high 60's and may have even hit 70. I was a little worried I didn't pack enough fluids, but I had just the right amount (ie. I was almost out when I finished.)

The critters were definitely enjoying the warm weather. Saw 4 snakes - either garter or ribbon snakes - sunning themselves. The ponds were FULL of frogs... one of the larger ones must have had several hundred frogs in it. Saw some females with egg masses, so guess it's breeding time. Boy, several hundred frogs sure do make a racket when they're all talking at once.

As far as the run goes, I have only one thing to say:

Three hours HURTS.

Hopefully in a few more weeks that won't be the case.


coming up: the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race in two weeks! With luck that will give me some clue as to what I'll be facing at the Nipmuck Trail Marathon at the end of May...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Muskrats, Otters, and Big Fish
12 mile bike ride along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Got out for the first ride of the season on one of the road bikes - now there are some muscles that haven't been used for a little while! The Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway was fairly quiet - surprisingly so, given the nice weather.

I'm used to seeing a variety of birds and, in the summer, lots of rabbits along the trail in the evening. But tonight's animal encounters were quite unusual... the first was a muskrat munching on something at the edge of a drainage ditch near the Colonie Town Park. I hoped he'd still be there when I rode back through, but apparently there'd been too much foot traffic.

At the other end of the ride, I stopped along the river at the Colonie/Niskayuna line. The geese on the river were making a fuss, so I walked down to see what was going on. Never did figure out what they were upset about... but I did see some pretty large fish (well over a foot, I think) jumping. In most cases they were almost entirely out of the water. Even more interesting were the four animals that were swimming in the water. From the size and shape, I'm pretty sure they were otters. I'd heard there were otters in the Mohawk, but never expected to see any! Anyway, watched them for about 20 minutes. at which point they swam off and I decided it was time to get back to the car, since itwas getting pretty chilly.

I guess now I have something else to look out for during my evening rides...


Friday, March 24, 2006

Plotter Kill DID Kick My Butt!
3 Hour Trail Run/Hike in the Plotter Kill Preserve
Thursday, March 23, 2006

map of Plotter Kill

Plotter Kill Run Photo Slideshow

Ann and I visited Plotter Kill Nature Preserve in late December, 2004, after reading about it on some waterfall web-sites. (Plotter Kill has three reasonably large waterfalls.) We hiked in to the third falls, after which it was simply too cold and the trail was too icy for us to continue. Last summer various groups from the Albany Running Exchange ran the Plotter Kill trails on several occasions. So for a number of months I have been looking to get over there and run, and today I finally managed to do so! And on a gorgeous sunny day to boot!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I actually ran for about 2 hours, and spent the remaining hour hiking areas that were either too steep for me to run, or when trying to find relatively dry places to cross several streams. (Since I wasn't sure what the terrain would be like, I didn't want to soak my shoes... what a wimp. That won't be a problem in future Plotter Kill runs...)

The Plotter Kill trails are quite challenging... unlike the "tame" trails in the Pine Bush, they are loaded with rocks, roots, and mud. A lot of the latter was still frozen that day I was there - I suspect once warmer weather consistently hits the trails are going to be VERY muddy for a while. There were several steep uphills, including a long (3/4 mile) uphill stretch not long after crossing the stream at the far end of the preserve. At the same time, this is a beautiful area to run in... much of the time the trail follows the ridge line on either side of the main stream running through the preserve, and while I was there at least I saw no other people once I got away from the first mile or so.

Sometime in the future I hope to run not only the trails I ran today but also follow the stream bed and perhaps get a chance to see the waterfalls (which were still mostly iced over today.) There just aren't any good views of them from the top of the ridge.

So all in all, a good training run, albeit one where I hiked a good deal more than I'd have preferred. Next time - more running and less hiking!

As a side note - on my way home I was hit with a bad case of what I suspect was food poisoning that had me in bed with a rampaging fever for roughly two days (my digestive system wasn't too happy, either.) An excellent reminder of the basic frailty of human beings and how quickly things can go from being pretty darn good to pretty darn awful.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Self Defense with the RPI Air Force ROTC
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A while back we were approached by the RPI Air Force ROTC and asked if we could do a short self-defense program for their cadets. Grand Master Crandall came down from Utica Monday night and Tuesday morning, bright and way too early, a bunch of us headed over to RPI to do the program.

GMC started off talking to the cadets about some of the historical background and the original purpose of martial arts, and drew some comparisons with their future service in the Air Force. I have no clue how interested they were in that info, but they were attentive and focused the whole time he was talking. That was something which became even more apparent when we got into the physical portion of the program - we've worked with many great groups over the years, but I don't know that we've ever worked with one this disciplined and focused before.

After that it was time to get physical! Master Hillicoss took the group through some quick stretching and then punches and center kick/side kick as a warm up. After that they paired up and GMC ran them through a number of basic self-defense techniques - defending against wrist grabs, a punch to the face, bear hug from behind, and against someone with a handgun in front. Unfortunately, the time passed all too quickly and it was time for many of the cadets to head off to ther next academic class. They were definitely a fun group to work with - with luck they'll ask us back again next year!


GMC speaks to the group

defending against a cross wrist grab

Master Hillicoss heads toward the mat

defending against a handgun

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

60 minutes of cold windy biking in Jordan, NY
Monday, March 20, 2006

Jordan Ride Photo Slideshow

On my way back to Albany today I decided to stop in Jordan (home of the Jordan Alpine Classic, a race I ran in Sept 2005 and absolutely loved!) and ride my bike along the Erie Canal Trail. On the way into town I passed Historic Lock 51, a fairly well-preserved cut stone lock from the 2nd (or Enlarged) Erie Canal.

Not long after the first canal was completed in 1825 it became apparent that it was too small, so the canal was enlarged (from 40 feet wide to 70 feet) and in some areas re-routed in 1835. The Enlarged Erie Canal was used until 1922, when the canal was enlarged a 3rd time and in some places re-routed to make use of natural waterways like the Mohawk River. (Originally this wasn't possible in some areas because engineers didn't know how to control water levels in major rivers.) The section of canal from Port Byron to Camillus (passing through Jordan along the way) is an abandoned portion of the Enlarged Erie Canal. The towpath has been cleared for use as a multi-use trail, and several old locks, aqueducts, and canal-era buildings have been cleared or restored. (For more info on these paths, see Take Your Bike! Family Rides in the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley Region, by Rich and Sue Freeman, published by Footprint Press. Their books are great guides to hiking and biking in Central and Western NY, and they include lots of great historical background as well!)

Arriving in Jordan, I unpacked my ATB and bundled up, because it was pretty darn cold! While Rochester had gotten a light dusting of snow over the weekend, Jordan had about 6-8 inches on the ground, and it was clear that the snow-deprived snowmobilers had taken advantage of it - there were tracks all over the place. Little did I realize that was a sign of what was to come! I hit the canal trail - and discovered that the stone dust surface was wet and churned up by the snowmobile traffic, so I was essentially plowing through loose, wet sand about 6 inches deep. That did have the advantage of keeping me very warm - talk about hard work! After about 20 minutes of constant struggle just to maintain some slight forward motion, I gave up, and took a crossroad out to the main road, and headed back into town.

On the way back to town I decided to ride out to Lock 51 and take some pictures. Other than being pretty cold and windy, that was uneventful. The lock was pretty cool. On the way back I found the Lock 51 garden, a park in town built around the old aqueduct, and stopped to take more pictures. It's really impressive when you think about that fact that they built all this stuff by hand, with no power tools or heavy machinery, and it still stands today (albeit marred with some graffiti... grrr.) Quite the opposite of our current "everything is disposable" mind-set.

Sometime this summer I'll have to stop and ride the path from Port Byron to Camillus. Once the path is a bit more rideable than it was today...


Monday, March 20, 2006

9.5 Mile Run Along Genesee Valley Greenway
Sunday, March 19, 2006

Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway (somewhat out of date)

After two weeks, finally got out for a run again. Decided to go with the Genesee Valley Greenway, a railbed southwest of Rochester that's been converted to a multi-use, mostly dirt-and-cinder trail. Why? Partly because it's flat, and I thought that might be a good way to break myself back in. And partly because the trail is very well-cleared, which meant I wouldn't be stumbling over too much when it got dark (which it was for about half the run.)

The Greenway has an interesting history (well... it's interesting to me, at least.) It mostly follows the route used by the Genesee Valley Canal from 1840 to 1878. One sign of this is the old canal prism which runs along much of the portion I ran Sunday night; another is the remains of a cut stone lock. Both give a feel for how small this canal was compared to what we're used to today. After that, from 1880 to the mid 1960's, the corridor was used by the Pennsylvania Railroad, running from Rochester to Orleans. In the 1990's work was begun to convert the corridor into a multi-use trail, in part to preserve and protect some of the history of the area. Since then New York State has acquired the corridor and the hope is that someday all 90 miles will be open for public use (currently there are between 50 and 60 miles open.) This info and more can be found in several of the excellent hiking and biking guides published by Rich & Sue Freeman at Footprint Press.

Overall it was a good run. One of the pluses to this time of year is the days are getting longer, and one of the pluses to Rochester is the sun sets about half an hour later than it does in Albany. So even though I started at 6 PM, I really didn't need my light for almost an hour. Ran the trail from Brook Road down to Canawaugus Park in Scottsville... unlike in the summer, when you'll frequently encounter runners, riders, and walkers along the trail, I had it totally to myself. Didn't even see any ATV's (they're not supposed to use the trail, but we all know how much good THAT admonition does...!) All in all it was a nice run on a chilly evening along a fairly pleasant trail.

The only downside was that it took me 2 hours to run 9.5 miles... I have a LOT of work to do before the end of May and the Nipmuck Trail Marathon. For that matter, I have a lot of work to do before mid-April and the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile Trail Race... (only a month away!!!)


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

90 minutes of biking along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Whisper of wheels
Moonlight sparkles on water
Exquisite chill in the air!

Stars and clouds watch in silence
Only the night sees him pass.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Season of the SnōShū, weekend #11
Spruce Hill Climb (cancelled)
Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Curse of the No SnōShū struck one last time, ending the Season of the SnōShū not with a bang but with a whimper. Word came down Friday night that conditions wouldn't allow the race, and that the WMAC snowshoe series had come to a close.

Made it to four races in the Season of the SnōShū... two were snowshoe races and two ended up being trail races instead. Still, two snowshoe races and multiple snowshoe training runs isn't bad... considering I'd never been on snowshoes before December 2005! Now I have a great pair of Dion's, and I'm looking forward to next season, when hopefully we'll have lots of snow and I'll get to go out for some distance runs in some great places in the Berkshires.

And now it's time to get training for the Nipmuck Trail Marathon!


Next up: the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race, in mid-April!

2006 racing totals
snowshoe – 3 miles, 59.5 min
running – 7.1 miles, 1 hr 17 min
riding - 12.4 miles, 1 hr 1 min

Sunday, March 12, 2006

IT'S OVER!!! (And I passed!)
5th Degree Black Belt Testing
Saturday, March 11, 2006

Finally the big day arrived! We had an iaido class in Utica on Friday night - that was a pretty good time. We spent most of the class practicing the three basic katas: Ten no Kata (Kata of Heaven), Chi no Kata (Kata of Earth), and Jin no Kata (Kata of Man.) So it didn't take a tremendous amount of thought - just focus, focus, focus on the movements for about an hour.

After a night of tossing and turning I had a very good breakfast at Denny's (a scrambled egg & ham sandwich, hashbrowns, and a bagel -…great stuff!) and then it was off to the Utica training hall for the test.

Turns out there were only four of us testing - Jim Colasurdo and Cindy Prentice from Rochester (both of whom I'd worked with prepping for the test) and Terry Hommel and me from Albany (ditto.) Overall, a great group to be testing with. Nobody out to prove anything, and everyone concerned for the safety and well-being of the others.

We spent the first hour working on the written exams. Mine had a fair number of essay questions, as well as lots of short answer. Some of the essays took some thought - they were mostly the sorts of questions that didn't have a right answer, but definitely had some better and some worse answers. On the whole, though, it wasn't as difficult as I'd been expecting (and from what I heard afterwards, was easier than the 4th degree written exam.)

After that came the physical portion of the test. We warmed up with some punches, then jumped into basic forms. After running through half a dozen of the standard 36, we worked on some moving strikes that aren't part of the standard curriculum, and got pointers on how we can do some of those better. Then we went through most of the Ippon Kumite combinations. And then it was time for katas. In some ways I was fortunate - other than Pal-gwe 1, I got to concentrate on the katas needed for 5th degree: Heian Shodan, Hookiyu, and Hansoo. The other candidates did many of the Pal-gwes, plus a variety of Black Belt katas (above and beyond their required forms.) On the other hand, while the katas I was doing are in some ways fairly basic, there are many fine points involved which I didn't always get right, so I ended up doing each one several times, and got some feedback on how I could be doing them better.

Once we had finished with katas, it was time for self-defense: 1st empty hand, then take downs, then knives, and finally guns. I was paired up with Terry, which was a real pleasure. He's a great partner to work with. Though he did seem a bit surprised at times that he was ending up on the mat - what can I say, I like putting people of the ground when I'm defending myself. It seemed like this part of the test flowed really well - I think it was one of my best sections. (I heard afterwards that Jim Colasurdo's partner, another instructor who'd been brought in to help with self-defense and sparring, was a challenge - so Jim ended up having to thump him quite a bit to make his techniques work. I definitely lucked out!)

The sparring stayed pretty sane this time, with each of the other candidates sparring first one, then two, and finally three partners. Apparently I've sufficiently paid my dues in previous testings, because all of my sparring was as one member of a 2 or 3 person team. With only four of us testing, that was over pretty quickly, and then we had a LONG wait while the judges conferred in the office.

Once they came back out, I demonstrated some seated self-defense techniques, which went moderately well considering I was making them up as I went along (I understand the basic principles Grand Master Crandall is looking for, but we really haven't done much to practice those types of techniques.) Then I had a quick ground-fighting match with Terry (he took me to the ground and I put a choke hold on him) and an even quicker one with Jim (who stepped up, threw himself to the ground, and tapped out as soon as I picked up his wrist and gave it a slight twist - everybody was cracking up, including the the judges.)

After that we had an oral question-and-answer session, where Grand Master Crandall talked about some of the questions from the written exams (mostly in the vein of "You need to look that up in your textbook!") and asked us some extremely tough questions about katas and the development/applicability of different martial arts styles. That was a challenge not only because the questions were tough, but also because we were standing out on the floor with out muscles stiffening and and cramping, and all our bumps and bruises starting to clamor for attention (once again, back to that idea of "focus, focus, focus"!)

Finally, one more brief trip to the office, during which we tried to stretch and limber back up and hoped we wouldn't have to do anything more, and then we got the news that we all passed and were presented with the new tips for our belts. And then it was over, except for some picture-taking!

I'm very fortunate to have tested with this group... they are all fantastic people and made the testing very special (as well as prepping for the test.) I feel fairly good about this one (unlike my 4th degree test! After that one I felt my performance was really pretty pathetic!) though there are some things I wish I had done better (but then - that would always be the case.) And best of all - it will be a long time before I have to do it again!

So saving the most important part for last - a few thank you's:

Ann - for putting up with me being cranky and bad-tempered, and loving me despite that

Miss Moller - for being a good supportive friend

Master Hillicoss - for all he's done to get me to where I am today. He is my instructor, and I couldn't ask for a better mentor to follow along the martial way. And I am honored to consider him a good friend as well.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

90 minutes of biking along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Well, after missing out on two nice days in a row, I finally got out on my bike! Of course... I didn't start until almost 6 PM... so much for sunshine! But it was great to ride again... I rode the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway between the hilltop in Colonie (right next to the Northway) and the park near Knolls on Niskayuna. Much of the time it was fairly dark, so my light came in very handy. Other than a runner, a rider, and a walker right near the start, I had the path to myself. (Not surprising, after dark on a chilly March evening.)

Maybe my legs will be grumbling a bit tomorrow - but it was worth it! I definitely need to get back into my old schedule of getting out to either ride or run 4-5 times a week...

...AFTER the black belt testing on Saturday...!


Monday, March 06, 2006

Katas and Running... and WORK, WORK, WORK
Friday - Sunday, March 3-5, 2006

After two days of fairly cold temperatures and NASTY windchills, today wasn't so bad... so I took a break from a weekend of grading and headed over to the Pine Bush for a run.

Some days everything clicks and I can run seemingly without effort... those are good days. OK, they don't happen very often... most days I'm a turtle, not a gazelle! Today... I was a turtle with legs filled with concrete. There were a few moments when running felt good... but most of the time it was just hard work. But at least I got out for just under 2 hours, and hit most of the trails in the Columbia Circle section of the Pine Bush. That's one of the more challenging sections, and even more so now that they've ripped up part of it for habitat restoration (removing a sizeable colony of black locusts, with the eventual goal of restoring the native pine bush plants.) I'll be glad when some of the vegetation grows back... I certainly understand and support the idea of restoring the habitat, but right now it's just ugly and depressing.

Friday nigh Master Hillicoss checked out my katas... so now I have some things to work on (and less than a week to do so!) Ran through many of them again yesterday... next Saturday is definitely going to be interesting... I'll be glad when it's over.

The blasted grading STILL isn't done, so I may take a break from working out tomorrow night (I suspect my body can use the rest) so I can knock off the rest.

Season of the SnōShū, weekend #10

Hawley Kiln Klassic 5K (MISSED)
Saturday, March 4, 2006

Curly's Record Run 5K at Greylock (MISSED)
Sunday, March 5, 2006

Hawley Snowshoe race info & results
Curly's Snowshoe race info & results

The Curse of the No SnōShū was briefly dispelled this weekend... apparently some parts of the Berkshires got a few inches of snow, and the decision was made to hold a modifed Hawley race and the move Curly's Record Run from Pittsfield to Mount Greylock. Conditions weren't great - but from the pictures it looks like the folks who went had a good time.

I ended up skipping both races, unfortunately. I'm currently buried under work, so spending 7 hours driving back and forth just wasn't feasible. Also, since I haven't been able to run on my snowshoes since late January, I didn't want to risk hurting myself (not with the black belt testing a week away...)

I know the folks at the WMAC Snowshoe Series are hoping to make up a few more races between now and the end of March... but I suspect the Season of the SnōShū may be just about done...


2006 racing totals
snowshoe – 3 miles, 59.5 min
running – 7.1 miles, 1 hr 17 min
riding - 12.4 miles, 1 hr 1 min