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!