Friday, June 30, 2006

Flooding Along the Mohawk River
Thursday, June 29, 2006

June 2006 Mohawk flooding photo slideshow

As most folks know at this point, the southern tier of NYS experienced massive flooding this week, closing many roads (including a major portion of the Thruway) and doing extensive damage, particularly along the Mohawk River. The waters had receded slightly by this afternoon, so I decided to combine a bike ride with checking out some of the flooding along the Colonie/Nisakayuna sections of the Mohawk-Hudson Bikepath.

It was pretty impressive. Water, water, everywhere. Part of the path was blocked by fallen trees. The effect on the local wildlife was also quite interesting - I saw several muskrats both along the path and in the water just off the path, and a group of deer seemed a bit stymied at one point. I guess with all our concerns for the effects on man-made things, we forget that the critters are at a loss for homes and food at times like this too.

Before heading over to class I drove down to Lock 7 (making my way around a number of fallen branches... guess the storms hit Niskayuna pretty hard.) The amounts of water were incredible. I can remember sitting and eating lunch on the bank of the channel below the lock a few years back - all that was under swiftly moving water. Off in the distance, just past two light poles engulfed by the water, a heron perched on a pole of some sort. I have to wonder what he made of all of it...


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Lots of Water Along the Indian Ladder Trail
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

photo slideshow

After running both the Greylock Trail Half Marathon (OK, maybe running is a misnomer for that one) and the Summer Solstice Run in the space of 4 days last week, my legs were left feeling pretty fried. Combine that with heavy rains yesterday and this morning, and I made an easy decision to go to Thacher and see what the Indian Ladder Trail waterfalls were looking like. If nothing else, I figured I could get in a relatively easy hike as part of my recovery.

Water was blasting over both waterfalls much like it was a few weeks ago, when I ran along the escarpment and wished I'd brought a camera to get pictures of what are usually trickles of water going over the cliffs. Combined with a nice sunny day and few people in the park, it was a great walk along the trail - very peaceful and great scenery. Too bad Ann couldn't be here to enjoy it...

Afterwards I walked back along the escarpment and spent a while watching the turkey vultures gliding on the thermals. There were close to a dozen of them at one point, soaring back and forth effortlessly... a few flew close enough that I could actually make out the red on their heads. Very cool.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Bit O' Recovery...
Friday, June 23 through Sunday, June 25, 2005

Well, after the Greylock Death March last Sunday and then my all-out effort at Minnewaska on Wednesday, it was fairly clear my legs were well and truly fried. So this weekend I took it somewhat easy - a short (just under 90 minute) slow run in the Pine Bush Friday night, then a short, not too terribly hill-laden, 22.5 mile bike ride Saturday, and finally an 8 mile run down at the Corning Preserve today.

Saturday was a good day for riding - sunny but not horribly hot and humid. I explored a couple of new roads and found a potential way around the killer hill in Unionville. All in all, a fun time... I wish I'd ridden more this spring, so I could have gone out longer.

The Corning Preserve seemed like a good idea because (1) the miles are marked, (2) it's relatively flat, and (3) if I'm going to do a road marathon in September I need to start putting some time in on pavement. I may run down there periodically just because the marked miles give me a good way to judge my pace, which I have to start pushing during my shorter runs.

And my legs are still feeling tired, so I guess an easy week is ahead in preparation for the Finger Lakes Fifties 25K Trail Run next Saturday morning...


Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Year of Long Distance - Race#6
Summer Solstice 14K Trail Race
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

2006 Summer Solstice 14K Trail Race results
Summer Solstice 14K Trail Race info

Lake Minnewaska Photo Slideshow
2006 Summer Solstice 14K Trail Race Photo Slideshow

What a fun evening!

Backing up a bit, at first glance it might seem like running the Summer Solstice Run three days after struggling through the Greylock Death March doesn't qualify as the brightest of plans. Perhaps if I'd actually been able to run most of Greylock that would have been the case... but Tuesday night on my short bike ride my legs were definitely tired but not shot. And Minnewaska is a Really Cool Place - one of the most beautiful places I know and one of my favorite places to visit. Plus the trails are relatively easy to run - more like somewhat rough dirt roads than trails, with the most challenging part being that the first 3.5 to 4 miles of the course is almost constant uphill. Plus I figured I could take it easy (hah!) and have a nice run at Minnewaska. Add in great weather and that's how I ended up on my way to Lake Minnewaska State Park Preserve late Wednesday afternoon.

The drive down is great - the Thruway goes through some very scenic terrain. Got to the park around 5:20, checked in, and spent the next half an hour walking some of the trails around Lake Minnewaska and taking photos. Then it was time to change into my running gear, after which I sat near the start and waited for the fun to begin...

A few minutes before the start everyone crowded into the starting area. As usual, the folks in the back were chattering away so no one could hear the RD. Fortunately, the course is simple enough it wasn't really necessary. And then - off we went!

As usual, I was near the back, but one of the nice things about this race is that there are usually enough slower folks running it that I wasn't the only one back there. There were a number of people this year who were using the race as a training run, at least two for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. The first 3.5 to 4 miles is pretty much constant uphill - nothing too awfully steep, but it does seem to go on forever. The periodic views off the ridge help make up for it, and the panoramic view when you reach the top is absolutely awesome. I didn't push too terribly hard but was still huffing and puffing all the way to the top.

Once there I discovered I'd been running somewhere between 11 and 12 minute miles - faster than I expected - and my legs felt OK, so I picked up the pace (the next stretch is mostly downhill) and hit the last aid station (about 3 miles from the end) at about 55 minutes. After that it gets a bit tougher - lots of very gradual uphill, broken up by some gradual downhill stretches - but I was still doing OK, so I kept pounding out the pace, and over the course of that last 3 miles found myself passing half a dozen folks. The last bit is a killer - just before the finish is a steep hill, and this year it was covered with a layer of fresh (ie. loose) stone. Had to walk part of that so I wouldn't blow up... but ran gasping across the finish line at 91 min 29 sec, almost 2 minutes faster than my time last year.

So I averaged 10.5 minute miles for a run where I planned to take it easy, and actually made it to the finish before a number of runners who went out faster than I did. I'll be sore for a couple of days, but it feels good to know that I haven't just been getting slower and slower as I've trained for longer distances.

After that I got to see glimpses of a very pretty sunset as I drove away from the ridge and headed back to Albany. What a gorgeous area... I will definitely have to try to go down there sometime this summer and ride the trails, sometime during the week when the crowds shouldn't be as bad as on the weekends.


2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 74.5 miles, 19 hr 51 min
riding - 32.4 miles, 2 hr 32 min

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Year of Long Distance - Race#5
Mount Greylock Half Marathon Trail Race
Sunday, June 18, 2006

2006 Mt Greylock Trail Races results
Mt Greylock Trail Races info

2006 Mt Greylock Half Marathon Trail Race Photo Slideshow

Hopefully the race organizers will forgive me if I hereafter refer to the Greylock Half Marathon (actually more like 14 miles, according to the RD) as the Greylock Death March. Between the long uphills, the steep downhills, and the technical terrain (oh, and a little heat, too) it seemed a lot more like that than a trail run...

After my tough time at Nipmuck, I approached Greylock with a certain amount of trepidation. While the distance wasn't a concern (I can hike 14 miles in about 5 hours if need be) all the uphill and downhill was... and as the weekend got closer and the forecast called for oppressive heat and humidity, that just added to the anticipated fun. Especially since much of my running so far this year has been in chilly conditions and rain. So I really had NO idea how this was going to go.

As with last year, things were buzzing at the Greylock Glen... especially the flies! Those little buggers were everywhere. One difference is a lot of people seemed to be trying to stay in what little shade there was while waiting for the fun to start. I also ended up parked a bit further away, so I tried to minimize trips to the car.

Bob Dion, the man behind Dion Snowshoes and all around great guy, did the pre-race briefing. As with his talk before Monroe Dunbar Brook last October (the weekend of the Great Flood) he showed a definite way with words...

BD: OK, for those of you doing the long course, it's about 3.5 miles to the top. The further you go, the steeper it gets. So if you're boxed in at the beginning and stuck walking, the folks you're with might be doing you a favor... (as a side note, I heard Bob telling someone earlier that the front runners would hit the top in 30 minutes, the mid-pack in 45 min to an hour... so I was expecting 75 to 90 minutes to get there. Wahoo.)

BD: right after the aid station at the top, you're going to hit what looks like an easy downhill, and just as you pick up speed you'll hit the nastiest section of the whole run. Ledges, loose greasy rocks, terrible footing. Slow down and take it easy. After that you'll hit a section that's all roots and rocks and overgrown, so you can't see your footing. Helen Keller trail running. We tried putting some Braille rocks out there for you, but again - take it easy and be careful! (no surprise, Bob was right on the money for these sections...)

BD: from there on, the trail gets better. The further you go, the better the trail gets. At Jones Nose, there's a great view. If you're going to look at the view, I'd recommend you stop or you may find yourself going off Jones Nose. Three years ago, when we first started using the current course, I hit Jones Nose and went airborne, head down and... well, I'm still alive. (again, right on the money.)

BD: from there on, the trails great, you'll be able to really move. (well, maybe Bob and the runners like him were able to...)

And a few minutes later... off we went!

One of the things about the Greylock races (both start at the same time) that frustrated me last year are the two bottlenecks right off the starting line... having learned from last year, I didn't even try to run. Besides, I knew I'd be walking soon enough anyway. About a quarter mile out, the short course went left, and we headed right, to start our march up the mountain. Very little running, because it was essentially non-stop uphill on a mix of single and doubletrack. The last mile or so was very steep. A couple of pluses - (1) it was mostly shaded, (2) there were other folks hiking along with me (so I wasn't the only one walking up the mountain!), and (3) the woodpeckers were having a good time in the forest... periodically you'd hear them rapping away on a tree. And after 75 minutes - we were at the top! That felt good, especially the anticipation of getting to actually run.

Just over the top was the first aid station - I tossed one empty bottle and refilled another (I'd gone through 40 oz of fluids on the way up the mountain.) Then I headed off down the trail... and soon hit the nasty section. So much for running. I managed some short runs, but most of it was too technical for me to run without risking blowing out my knees. So - back to hiking!

Eventually, we came out on a dirt road, and hit the next aid station, at about the 6 mile mark. At that point there were three of us in fairly close proximity... presumably the back of the proverbial pack. Refilled an empty water bottle again (still had about 1 1/2 bottles of energy/electrolyte drink, too) and headed off on the trail to Jones Nose. Initially it was very runnable, which was enjoyable, but it got more technical as it approached the rocky outcroppings (the Nose) and after that - the trail went almost straight down. So... more hiking. At the bottom there was a nice running section through a meadow... well, nice except for the brutal sun. And then I hit the last aid station, and was told I had 4 miles to go (actually, it turned out to be more like 4.5...)

Checked the time, just under 3 hours... not great for 9.5 miles, but not awful considering all the hiking I'd had to do. Hit the trail again, and it turned out to be downhill on a jeep road... wahoo! Finally a long runnable stretch (I thought) AND the possibility of coming in under 4 hours. Unfortunately, 10 minutes later the downhill turned into uphill, and while it wasn't too steep, I just didn't have any juice left in my legs to run uphill. So... back to hiking. About 20 minutes later, it was back to downhill, but the road was badly washed out (in other words, all loose rock) so the running was tough. Footing was tricky and my feet took a pounding from all the rocks. Some nice scenery crossing streams and so on... but that road seemed to go on forever.

Eventually the course left the road and headed off on a hiking trail. Fewer rocks, but a lot steeper... yes indeed more hiking. Eventually it hit the 2nd half of the short course, which is very pretty... but at that point in the game for me, all the downhills meant more walking. The last stretch was pretty good - managed to run to the finish line, and crossed it half dead in 4 hr 18 min 31 sec. Grabbed a bite to eat, then headed back to the car, changed clothes, and drove back to Albany, sucking down fluids all the way.

Apparently I was NOT the last person to come in... I knew there were two other runners behind me, but the race results show five folks crossed the line after I did (I don't know where the other three came from! Maybe they took a long break at the top of the mountain?)

So that was one heck of a tough "run" and one that has left me with no doubt that I am nowhere near ready to do Escarpment, since that makes this look like a piece of cake. I'm giving some thought to things I can do to improve - the three long races I've done this year have been mighty difficult, and I'd like to feel like I'm getting better the more I run rather than worse!

Next up: depending on how my legs feel, probably the Summer Solstice Run down at Lake Minnewaska State Park. And definitely the 25K loop of the Finger Lakes Fifties on July 1...


2006 event totals
snowshoe - 3 miles, 59.5 min
running - 66 miles, 18 hr 20 min
riding - 32.4 miles, 2 hr 32 min

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hiking Taughannock Falls State Park and Watkins Glen State Park
Sunday, June 11, 2006

Taughannock Falls site
NY State Parks: Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls hike photo slideshow

Watkins Glen waterfalls
NY State Parks: Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen hike photo slideshow

As part of celebrating Ann's upcoming birthday and our 6 year anniversary, I took on the task of finding someplace interesting to visit. In the end I found two state parks - one neither of us had been to, and one I hadn't been to. And both were fantastic choices.

Taughannock Falls

Taughannock (pronounced "tau-han-nock") Falls State Park is near Ithaca, off the western shore of Cayuga Lake. The gorge is 400 foot deep in spots and has trails along both rims and along the stream at the bottom of the gorge. The primary attraction, of course, is Taughannock Falls, which at 215 feet is higher than Niagara Falls and is almost the highest waterfall in the northeastern US. (Apparently there's a falls in Letchworth which is slightly higher, but that one spends much of the summer dried up.)

We picked a good day to visit - while it was somewhat overcast and cool, the rain a couple of days before meant there was a good flow going over the waterfall. We parked at the overlook and after watching the falls for a bit, hiked down the north rim trail (downhill all the way, ending in a steep set of stone steps down the hillside... all of which meant lots of uphill on the way back!) and then up the gorge trail. There were plenty of people around, but it wasn't crowded. The trail goes to a viewing area which was covered in spray - pretty darn cool (made me glad I have a waterproof camera!) There were numerous small waterfalls along the way, and a variety of neat rock formations. Unfortunately, all too quickly it was time to make the uphill hike back to the car. I'd definitely like to go back some time and walk the south rim trail... there's also another waterfall further upstream (only 100 feet high, but still...) Who knows... maybe I'll go for a run there sometime this summer.

Watkins Glen

When I told Ann that the other place we were going was Watkins Glen, her response was, "That's right, you've never been there. You're going to love it." And was she ever right!

Watkins Glen State Park runs along a gorge containing the Glen Creek and numerous waterfalls. At the end of the most recent Ice Age, about 12000 years ago, glaciers dug out the 38 mile long trough that became Seneca Lake and steepened the valley side. Since then the creek has eroded the weaker sedimentary rock and made waterfalls at the harder rocks, leaving behind a gorge that descends 400 feet in 2 miles and contains 19 waterfalls, with cliffs up to 300 feet on either side. The gorge was opened as a private tourist resort in 1863, and in the early 1900's the various tunnels were dug by hand. The area became a state park in 1906. Now it is easily one of the most spectacular parks in New York State (right up there with Minnewaska, in my book - and that's saying a lot!) (Much of the historical info here came from Rich and Sue Freeman's books on hiking in the Finger Lakes region.)

Anyway, enough history, on to the hike!

The first thing we did was go up through a tunnel and out onto the Sentry Bridge, which overlooks a waterfall and gives a nice view out into the gorge. What a beautiful place! Took the path along the stream, climbing up stairs and even walking behind waterfalls in two spots. It was a little bit like walking through a rainforest in spots, with the sun trickling down through the vegetation and water splashing down the sides of the cliffs. Bridges crossed the creek in a number of spots as we climbed higher and higher.

Eventually the trail leveled off and the stream bed became a bit calmer. No surprise, the crowds also thinned out quite a bit. About a half mile later we reached the top of the gorge, and climbed a long, steep staircase to the rim, where we took a wide dirt path back down almost to where we started, and crossed the gorge on a suspension bridge 85 feet above the creek. Apparently, during the great flood of 1935, water came within 5 feet of this bridge! I can't even imagine that much water blasting through the glen. Much of the stonework (bridges, walls, etc) that we saw was built after that flood.

From there, we hiked back down a long stone staircase to the main path along the creek. It was getting fairly late, and close the time for the park to close, but we took a few more minutes to go back up the trail and marvel at the beautiful waterfalls and rock formations. Needless to say I would have loved to stay longer, especially since there weren't as many people around! But finally we made our way back through the tunnel and down to the car, and started the long drive home (Watkins Glen is at the southern tip of Seneca Lake - as already stated, a long lake indeed!)

So, while it was a bit chilly and cloudy at times, overall this was a great way to celebrate - spending time with my sweetheart and wandering around some absolutely fantastic places. I definitely want to go back to both parks again!