Wednesday, May 31, 2006


16 mile bike ride
Monday, May 29, 2006

4-5 mile run
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

So what does one do after running/hiking 19.5 miles across a technical hiking trail in northeastern Connecticut?

My legs were tired Monday but not totally shot, so I took my bike over to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike/Hikeway west of Schenectady and rode the path from Schenectady County Community College out to the railroad crossing at Scrafford Lane and back. A good evening for a ride - it was fairly humid and very hot, so the breeze from riding felt good, and that path is fairly flat, so it was a nice way to get my legs working again.

Wednesday night I headed over to the Pine Bush for a short run. I could definitely feel the aftereffects of Nipmuck in my legs, but it was still nice to be running again. Half an hour into the run a thunderstorm rolled in, and then it turned into a cool run. (Actually, quite literally - the rain felt great after running for 30 minutes in the muggy weather we've been having!) Just the thing I needed as a pick-me-up in the week following Nipmuck.


Monday, May 29, 2006

A Year of Long Distance - Race#3
Nipmuck Trail Marathon
Sunday, May 28, 2006

2006 Nipmuck Trail Marathon results
Nipmuck Trail Marathon info

2006 Nipmuck Trail Marathon photo slideshow

"When you can't run, you walk. And when you can't walk, you crawl. And when you can't crawl, you find someone to carry you."
- Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly

So after that ominous quote, let me answer the big question first: was I ready for Nipmuck? The answer - apparently not. I pulled myself from the race after 5 hrs 45 min at the northern turn-around, at mile 19.4, and caught a ride back to race HQ at the start/finish area. And I'm very disappointed, because I really wanted to finish NIPMUCK, both because it's been a goal on and off for 8 years now and because I really wanted one of the cool finishers trophies (a section of log with a sticker and a blue blaze painted on it!) But sadly, this year NIPMUCK finished me instead.

The day started early - alarm went off at 2:45 AM, and I was on the road at 4:15 to try to get to Ashford, CT, by around 7 AM. Drive was pretty straightforward, except for lots of mist and fog (not a positive sign regarding humidity levels later in the day!) All in all, a pretty drive through the mountains of southern Massachusetts, before a short jog down into Connecticut. And a big plus - almost no traffic at that ungodly hour!

Apparently I was part of the "early" group to arrive, because I managed a parking spot close to the start/finish line. The race is run out of a trailhead along Perry Hill Rd and and this is probably the busiest it ever gets, with the road lined with cars in both directions (after all, there are typically 150-200 runners.) Got a free water bottle (from the Fuggawee Athletic Racing Team - look at the initials and you'll see someone has a sense of humor) and a free Techwick T-shirt for the 2006 Montrail/EMS Northeastern Trail Running Series. Also got my race number, complete with bright orange "High Fall Risk" sticker indicating that I am a Nipmuck neophyte. Then I geared up and hung around waiting for the pre-race briefing.

After a few technical difficulties, Nipmuck Dave (the RD) ran us through the briefing, which consisted of a series of taped questions from "Inbred Trail Runner", "Trail Geezer", and so on, the bulk of which was designed to remind us that we MUST take responsibility for our being there and that no one else could be held responsible for anything which happened to us. We heard that many, many times during the 10 minute briefing. We also were informed of the cutoff times - 3 1/2 hours for the 1st out-and-back (wasn't expecting that to be a problem) and 6 hours to reach the 2nd turnaround (that one worried me a bit, since I'd heard the 2nd half is much hillier.) So that gave me some additional goals to shoot for (besides just finishing.)

And then, a few minutes later - off we went!

The 1st leg was a LOT of technical terrain - not particularly hilly, but rocks and roots everywhere. Also some very pretty surroundings - at two points we were running through pine forests along streams. About 2 miles from the turnaround, the faster runners started coming back - the big disadvantage to an out-and-back, if you're slower you spend a bunch of time getting out of the way of people on their way back. But I doubt that slowed me down all that much. Reached the 6+ mile mark, chatted briefly with the nice folks manning the aid station, and headed back, pretty much alone on the trail once I'd passed the half dozen folks who were still on their way to the turnaround. Kept up a pretty consistent pace, and pulled into the start/finish area at 2:55, which was what I was aiming for.

Took a 10 minute break to change into a dry shirt, re-grease my feet and change socks, and grab something to eat... unfortunately, I had no stomach for solid food and ended up eating 1/4 of a boiled potato. I suspect the heat was the culprit there - just thinking about my Clif bars made me slightly nauseous. And the lack of solid nutrition (despite sucking down bottles of Hammer HEED and Perpetuem that I'd brought with me) may be what led to my problems in the seriously hilly second half. That and the relentless pounding my legs took in the technical 1st half. My legs were tired enough that I had to walk the uphills - no big deal. Unfortunately, even a little ways in I was finding it difficult to run the few level sections and downhills. I did some running during the next 3 miles, but after that I was reduced to hiking almost everything. Still not a huge problem, though I was beginning to get worried. But, tired as I was, things were looking OK as I walked into the aid station at mile 17.8, at 4 hours 50 minutes - I was still on pace to finish in under 8 hours, even hiking all the rest.

Unfortunately, the section between there and the turnaround at mile 19.4 was easily the toughest section of the course. Non-stop steep up and down, over technical terrain... I slowed to a crawl and knew I was in trouble. Hiking that section sucked away what little energy I had left - and I was going to have to go BACK over the same terrain on the way back! So over the next 50 minutes I made the tough call, and decided to pull myself from the race when I hit the turn-around. And that's what I did, after coming down a section so steep that there was a STAIRWAY installed!

It was a really difficult decision to make. I really wanted to finish and I hate giving up. But it was clear that, if I were to keep going, (1) it was going to take me at least 3 hours to get back, which meant I wouldn't make the 8 hour cutoff, (2) it's possible I would have reached an aid station after the 8 hour point and gotten pulled from the course by race management (which would have really hurt), and (3) my legs would have been even more beat up and my recovery time would be that much longer - not to mention the hollering my bad knee was doing on the ups and downs. So I caught a ride back to the finish, saw the RD who seemed saddened by the fact that I didn't make it, and watched a few people come across the finish line as I changed into dry clothes and bought one of the custom tye-died Nipmuck Trail Marathon T-shirts. (Don't know if I'll ever wear it - but I had to have one!)

So I'm disappointed but also determined to go back next year and finish. Being on the course has given me some new insight into training (more technical trail! more hills! and more long distance runs!) And perhaps next year, with a better base to start from than I had this year, I'll be able to do it.

And if nothing else - I got to spend six hours out on some really beautiful trails, with a whole bunch of folks who are as crazy or even crazier than I am!


Next up: a short trail race at Mendon Ponds park, and then - GREYLOCK.

2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 47.5 miles, 13 hr 07 min
riding - 32.4 miles, 2 hr 32 min

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Jedi Turtle or Grease Monkey?
Saturday, May 27, 2006

Last November it was a bad water pump leaking coolant the morning I was driving down to the 'Gunks to run the After the Leaves Have Fallen 20K. In December it was a soft tire (and various mishaps while trying to change it on a sheet of ice) the morning I was driving to Vermont to run the I Love Woodford 3 mile snowshoe race. So I should be starting to expect automotive challenges before races... but I wasn't expecting my alternator to give up the ghost on Friday night, a day and a half before I drive to Ashford CT to run NIPMUCK.

Fortunately, after an evening of stressing about it, I popped over to Advance Auto Parts, bought a remanufactured alternator, and greatest blessing of all, installed it without any problems in about 45 minutes. So apparently this was a speed bump on the road to NIPMUCK and not the powers that be warning me to stay home tomorrow.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

5-6 Mile Run at Five Rivers
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Well, my last run before NIPMUCK. Not my last run ever! I hope...

The trails at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center were great today... kind of muddy in spots, but that's fun. The section along the Vloman Kill was especially nice - I love all the little waterfalls and the cool rock formations in the stream bed.

I've spent this week recovering from the duathlon last weekend and resting up for NIPMUCK. Short runs, nothing more than 90 minutes. And, oddly enough, it will be nice to get back to doing some longer runs once NIPMUCK is over.

I don't know if I'm truly prepared for NIPMUCK. I readily admit, it's a scary intimidating race right now, since I'm really not sure how well I'll finish (ie running, walking, or crawling) or how long it will take me. The forecasts of hot, humid weather are not helping.

Well, I guess all there is to do is go to Ashford CT on Sunday and find out!



Monday, May 22, 2006

A short walk at Mendon in the cold, wind, and rain
Sunday, May 21, 2006

map of Mendon Ponds park

Ann and I wanted to get outside for a walk, despite the cold windy rainy weather, so we headed over to Mendon Ponds park to see the geese and walk on some trails I've never been on before (the cross country skiing/hiking/horseback riding trails in the eastern end of the park.) Only saw one family of geese, but the trails were very pretty and did a good job of keeping the wind off us (though it was a bit eerie listening to the trees creak and groan.) Off course it started raining just as we came off the trails (and while we still had a bit of a walk along the road to get back to the car) but that didn't last long. That's definitely a nice section of the park and one I'll have to do some running in this summer.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Year of Long Distance - Race#2
Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon
Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon 2006 results
Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon info

Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon 2006 Photo Slideshow

So here I am, a year after running/riding my first duathlon, back at the Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon. Originally I wasn't leaning toward doing this race again - it was fun last year, but the multiple loops are a bit repetitive, and I wasn't expecting to get a lot of time on the bike, due to training for Nipmuck. But I wanted to get in a shorter race in May, prior to the marathon, and I also wanted to do some duathlons prior to the Pinnacle Challenge in October - so I signed up for the Spring Classic again. And as it approached, I found myself really looking forward to it.

The Spring Classic saw some changes this year, in particular record registration levels (170 competitors half a week before, over 200 total on the day of the race.) This has the folks at Fleet Feet Sports and Yellowjacket Racing very excited, but it also created some logistical problems which they resolved by rearranging the course a bit. In the end I don't think that affected me in the slightest, other than adding to the overall feeling of anticipation.

The latter part of the week leading up to the race was one of the coldest I've ever experienced for May, and (of course!) rain was forecast for Saturday morning. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night and it was pouring (great...) and when I got up to get ready, it was still raining pretty steadily (what fun...) But not long after heading over to beautiful Mendon Ponds park, the rain let up, and all we had was cold and wind. LOTS of wind.

So I checked in, and was pleased to have two of the volunteers remember me from last year (guess the guy who comes in last stands out!) Geared up in tights, a long-sleeved shirt, and a fleece vest - figured I'd be warm running, but I didn't want to totally freeze riding. And then hung around as the crowd built and they got ready to set us loose!

First run went well, though at 2 miles I was barely warmed up and it was over. Averaged 11 minute miles, which shows just how effective my plan was to "take it easy" in preparation for the marathon. Hah.

Hopped on the bike, and set off for a very chilly 10 mile ride into some pretty good wind gusts. Then it was back for another mile, which was over before I realized it - good thing, too, because the bike-run transitions always kill my legs. The 2nd ride actually felt a bit warmer, though the effects of not-enough-riding this spring were clear as I struggled through the last few miles.

And I was definitely warm on the final run - ended the race with my vest unzipped and my sleeves rolled up. Felt like I was barely moving, but I made pretty consistent time on all three runs, and decent time overall - 2 hr 31 min 41 seconds overall. On average I think I did better running this year (much more consistent than last year) and went a bit slower on the bike (no surprise, given my lack of riding and the headwinds.) But I had a lot of fun, and my work for the marathon showed in that I wasn't totally dead at the end. I even had enough energy to walk the running course and take some pictures!

So I'm definitely glad I did the Spring Classic again. Don't know if the timing will be right for the Fall Classic, but if it is - I'll be looking forward to it!


Next up: NIPMUCK.

2006 event totals
snowshoe – 3 miles, 59.5 min
running – 28.1 miles, 7 hr 22 min
riding - 32.4 miles, 2 hr 32 min

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Iaido Class
Friday, May 12, 2006

A fairly productive class - opened with our usual warmup and ceremonial cleansing of the training area, then split into groups (advanced women, advanced men, and beginners) to work. We spent most of the time working on a single kata - Nukiuchi, which means "Unexpected Attack." The kata begins with a draw into a horizontal cut, chest-high (a warning technique), and follows with a downward cut to incapacitate or kill the attacker as he turns to run away. After that is a series of movements preparing for the possibility of further attacks, either from the front or behind, and then, when it becomes clear this won't be happening, chiburi (shaking the blood off the blade) and re-sheathing the sword. We worked on this kata for about an hour, with only a couple of short breaks to practice another kata once or twice. I first learned Nukiuchi sometime before our trip to Japan in 2002 to train with Master Matsuno, and I remember being very excited to learn it, as it was the first one where we got to perform an additional cut after the initial draw-and-cut. Despite working on it for over 4 years, there are still many small details that I need to perfect, but at times Friday night it felt pretty good and I had a couple of times where I felt I managed to move from thinking my way through the kata to letting my body and mind just do it. Maybe someday I'll manage that with my empty-hand katas too...


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"At every endurance event, there comes a time when you'll say, ' What the (expletive deleted) am I doing here?' And you'll say, 'This is what I do.'"
- John Spas, ultramarathon cyclist, quoted by Bill McKibben in Long Distance
20 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Albany Pine Bush Trail Map

... and for those who are wondering - running for 6 hours and 20 miles freakin' HURTS.

Last fall, as I was working through the Six, then Seven, and then ultimately Nine Strenuous Weekends, I came up with the idea for a Crazy Pine Bush Run, which was basically - run all the major trails of the sections of the Albany Pine Bush that I frequent, in one long run. Today I did that run, albeit leaving out one section (Rensselaer Lake) for logistical reasons (plus I had never really decided if that was included in the Crazy Pine Bush Run or not.) I parked at the Willow Street trail head, ran over to the Karner Barrens (by the new Pine Bush visitors center) and ran the trails over there, on both sides of Rt 155. Then it was back to the Madison Avenue Pinelands/Great Dune (known around here as the water tower section) where I ran some of the trails before heading back to the car to re-provision at 3 hours. After that I headed back out and made my way over to Blueberry Hill/Kalkout Kill Barrens (known around here as Columbia Circle) and ran most of the trails there (one trail is currently a mess due to habitat restoration ie. all the plants have been stripped from the ground to remove a black locust infestation, so the section is basically a sandy desert.) And then finally back to the Great Dune to hit the last trail there.

Don't really know if I'm ready for the Nipmuck Trail Marathon, but the time for long training runs has passed - it's tapering time! Hopefully the taper period will work its magic and the marathon will only be somewhat painful (unlike my long training runs!)


Monday, May 08, 2006

"And what did I learn from running eighty thousand miles and hundreds of races, being the first to cross the finish line and once or twice not crossing it at all, those runs on icy roads in winter storms and those cool fall mornings when the air was ripe with the smell of grapes, my feet softly ticking against the pavement?

"I learned I was alive and it felt good. God, it feels so good."

-from "Running with Time" by Roger Hart, in How Running Changed My Life

Sunday, May 07, 2006

7 Mile Run in Fishers, NY
Saturday, May 6, 2006

Lehigh & Auburn Trail map (Victor)
Fishers Park trail map
Lehigh Crossing Park trail map

Last October I ran and biked the Black Diamond Offroad Duathlon in Fishers, NY, and spent 4 miles on the trails in Fishers Park and 10 miles on rail trails, dirt roads, and a bit of pavement in the surrounding area, all in 45 degrees and the rain (and naturally I had a blast freezing my backside off.) I've wanted to get back there again either for some running or some riding, and today was my opportunity. I needed to get in a short (90 minute) run, on the way to Ann's house, but still have time to get showered and change once I arrived so that we could head off to her nephew's annual Boy Scout fundraising dinner. The trails in the Fishers area seemed ideal - fairly flat, and I knew them well enough that I could be pretty sure of keeping to my 90 minute time limit.

Fishers Park is small but riddled with trails that run though both the woods and some fields. The two other major trails in the area are the Auburn and Lehigh Valley trails, both on abandoned rail beds. The Auburn trail was once the Rochester and Auburn Railroad, and runs from just north of Fishers down to Victor. The first time I rode it (3 years ago, maybe?) it was mostly singletrack and quite rough-and-rugged... in other words, lots of fun! Since then a major portion of the open trail has been widened, leveled, and given a base of compacted stone dust. A connecting ramp has also been built, connecting the Auburn trail to the Lehigh Valley trail at an old railroad trestle. The Lehigh Valley trail runs from Victor all the way to the Genesee River and the Genesee Valley Greenway just south of Scottsville, and was once the route of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which was built to take advantage of the lucrative coal freight business (also known as "black diamond", hence the black diamond logo on the trail markers and the name of the Black Diamond Duathlon.) The Lehigh Valley trail has also been widened, leveled, and given a nice stone dust base. I must admit to having mixed feelings about this - on the one hand, I'm pleased that resources are being used to keep these trails open to the public. But I do miss the old trails, which were wet, muddy, rocky, bumpy, in places overgrown, and generally a lot more interesting and fun!

Anyway, I parked at Fishers Park, geared up, and headed off for one of the Auburn trailheads. First surprise - had to run up a hill to get there! Ah, well, that was a good workout. Hit the trail and headed along a "unimproved" section, including running through a mammoth tunnel under the Thruway. Crossing through Fishers again, I started a long and at times slightly boring run down the section we rode in the Du. A little ways before the end, I ducked through the woods and ended up in the Lehigh Crossings Park, for a brief change of scenery and terrain (fields and dirt road instead of stone dust trail.) Then it was back on the Auburn trail, and up onto the Lehigh trail, for more basically flat, straight running. Finished up with a short stretch of road and then a run through Fishers Park, and managed what was probably about 7 miles or so in an hour and a half. Not a bad run, all told.

The trails are a bit dull at times, but the scenery can be pretty, and there were very few people out when I was there. I'll have to go back with the ATB this summer and ride the rail trails some more. There's a park with some fairly extensive mountain bike trails just off the Auburn trail in Victor - it could be fun to go for a ride and/or a run there sometime, too!


Thursday, May 04, 2006

"When you see a mountain, climb it. When you get to the top, go down the other side. When you come to a river, cross it."
-Description of the Hardrock 100 course by Race Director Dale Garland

Sounds like a pretty good summary of trail running to me!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

6-7 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
Monday, May 1, 2006

Toward the end of last week my left knee began giving me a fair amount of grief, which had me seriously concerned about whether or not I'd be able to keep up with my training plan and have a chance of completing the Nipmuck Trail Marathon at the end of the month. So after several days of no running and a certain amount of feeling sorry for myself, as well as some research into the possible causes of the pain in my knee (probably overuse, surprise, surprise), I once again hit the trails in the Pine Bush to determine what I can and can't do (in particular, how would running or walking up hills affect it.)

It definitely felt good to get out in the woods again, and much of the time all I got from the knee were mild twinges. I carried an expandable treking pole with me, and discovered that (1) it's a big help on the hills, and (2) if I'm going to RUN up those hills I need poles in both hands. (So now I'm thinking about a carrier for the poles that I can strap to my back. Collapsed, they're about the size of escrima sticks, so it might be possible.)

I hit the trails fairly late, so I didn't have much company, at least not of the human kind. Shortly after dark I heard what sounded like dogs howling - figured it was dogs at one of the nearby developments, but then decided it was too close, so my 2nd guess was kids out fooling around. A little further and I realized - nope, not kids: coyotes! I'd read about the coyotes in the Pine Bush but had never seen any sign of them, but they were definitely making a racket last night. They quieted down as I got near, but I'm pretty sure I heard them moving through the woods off to either side, and I may have even seen the eyes of one as he crossed the trail a ways ahead of me. It was a bit spooky, but pretty cool at the same time.

Later I caught a deer staring at me from off the trail - two orange reflections in my headlamp. Possibly one of the group that I've seen repeatedly over the last few weeks of running in there. He took off when I turned out my light momentarily. Guess he was no longer a "deer in the headlight."

Of course, the coyotes may have been laughing at me, since last night I was the Trail Running Geek from Heck. Normal running gear (shirt, shorts, and waistpack with water bottles) supplemented by a pair of 1 lb wrist weights (working the upper body/cardio), a treking pole in one hand, and, once it got dark, a headlamp. I guess it gets the job done but I'm glad no one's snapping any pictures of me.

So tomorrow night it's another run, longer and possibly hillier, to see what my knee can and can't handle. Next Monday is the last LONG run (20+ miles) assuming my knee can take it. I had been thinking of running the Thom Bugliosi 26K Trail Race on Saturday, but I'm going to pass on it... no sense risking an injury running a race on an unknown course. I did find a cool-sounding offroad duathlon for the following weekend - don't know yet if I'm going to give it a try, guess I have to see what the body's up for when the time comes. I'd REALLY like to run and finish Nipmuck, even if I'm slower than slow.


coyotes in the Pine Bush, photographed as part of a research study run by the NY State Museum's Wildlife Science and Conservation Initiative.