Monday, February 26, 2007

13 Mi Run on the Bike Path
Monday, February 26, 2007

The last time I did a non-snowshoe run (almost two weeks ago...) I commented on the fact that it would have been nice to run in the falling snow. Tonight I got my chance... fortunately, it wasn't falling too heavily and barely left a dusting on the ground, or this could have been even more challenging than it was...

Ran the bike path from the Niskayuna Lions Park to Lock 7 and back, a distance of 4.5mi, then repeated that out-and-back again, and on the final leg knocked off half a mile by turning around at the crossing for Lock Seven Rd instead of going all the way to Lock 7. Not the most exciting run I've ever done, but I needed to get in the miles on pavement and this is one of the only safe places to run pavement at night right now... most of the sections of the bike path are still covered with snow. On the plus side, I did hear an owl early on and repeatedly heard the ducks chattering away on the river. And the river was rather pretty with light snow falling.

This was more difficult than I had hoped (silly me) which emphasized that I can only do one race this weekend - if I decide to run the Celebrate Life Half Marathon (which I'm leaning towards) then I'll need to skip the Hawley Kiln Klassic snowshoe race. That's a bummer - I was looking forward to doing one last snowshoe race this season with the WMAC crew - but this will also be a busy weekend work-wise, so it's for the best that I can't spend a big chunk of both days off at a race. I'll make a definite decision toward the end of the week when I see what the weather's supposed to be like... if it's going to be lousy, the half marathon is not happening (running 13.1 miles for 3 hours in lousy weather doesn't fit even my twisted idea of fun.)

Tonight's run HURT. The first two legs weren't bad, but I seriously considered stopping after 9 miles. I'm glad I convinced myself to stay out there for the last 4 - it was slow painful going, but I finished. But I definitely have work to do for the Eastern States 20 Mile Road Race in (yikes!) a month.

No more long runs this week... maybe a short one tomorrow and a short one Friday.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tired... No Long Run Today...
Sunday, February 25, 2007

... which further casts into question whether I should try to do both the Hawley Kiln Klassic snowshoe race next Saturday and the Celebrate Life Half Marathon next Sunday. Decisions, decisions...

Looks like I'll do a long run tomorrow after work... checked out the bike path in Niskayuna and found that both the flat section from the park to Lock 7 is plowed AND the hilly section from Blatnick Park to the other side of GE is plowed too... with a 1.5 mile unplowed section in between. So now I'm trying to figure out if it's worth doing that whole section tomorrow night, or if I'm just going to run back and forth between the park and Lock 7... three times. That sounds a bit boring, but it might be better than staggering through the snow for 3 miles (out and back.)

Decisions, decisions...


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Another Season of the SnōShū, Race #6
Hoxie-Thunderbolt 3.5mi Snowshoe Race

Covered Bridge 8 mi Snowshoe Race
aka Mt Greylock Kicked My Butt Again!
Saturday, February 24, 2007

2007 Greylock Snowshoe races results
Greylock Glen snowshoe races info

2007 Greylock snowshoe races photo slideshow

I've done three events on Greylock - a 5k trail race in June 2005, a 50 mile bike ride in August 2005, and a 14 mile trail race in June 2006. The 5k was tough, but I pushed hard and finished with a pretty good time. The bike ride was incredibly difficult, and took far longer than I expected, as did the 14 miler (which I later dubbed the Greylock Death March.) So the question was - would Greylock kick my butt again today?

It definitely wasn't a good sign that I could hear the wind roaring through the trees, and the weather forecast didn't call for temperatures to go above the mid-teens all day... this would be a long, cold race...

As always, the drive into the Berkshires was a pleasure (yes, this is another "I love the Berkshires" moment...) As I drove up route 8 into Adams, I was amazed at how many ice fishermen there were out on the Cheshire Reservoir... and at how many of them had driven their vehicles out onto the ice. Seems a bit crazy to me but I guess they know how thick the ice is, given that they have to bore a hole through it. As I drove into Adams, I was surprised at how well I remembered the route to Greylock Glen, despite only have been there twice. At least there was less competition for a parking spot this time!

The wind was blasting through the Glen like crazy - fortunately, they'd put a tarp up along one side of the gazebo, so we were able to use it for some shelter. Took a while to gear up - the wind kept trying to blow the car door shut - but finally I was all set, and I went and stood behind the gazebo with the rest of the crazies and waited for my toes to go numb. (Some of the runners were huddled around the fire, but as Bob Dion pointed out later, if you warm your snowshoes up when they hit the snow they'll ice up very nicely, so I was glad I opted to stand outside. Finally, everything was ready, and after a few words from the RD (which none of us in the back could hear) - off we went!

The initial stretch was actually easier than I anticipated - I expected us to take off on the uphill trails that we used in the trail races, but instead we took a snowmobile trail which ran more or less level along the edge of the mountain. That took us past two ruined buildings and what looked like the remnants of an old ski lift - I've heard there was once a ski slope on Greylock, maybe those were the ruins of it? Anyway, it was fairly easy running for about 10 minutes... and then we took a turn onto singletrack up the mountain and the uphill fun began.

First we had a long, slow hike up steep singletrack to a wider snowmobile trail. Then we hiked up the snowmobile trail for a little ways before crossing a wide stream (problematic - the ice had long since been broken up by all the other runners, so I went in up to my left ankle on that one and spent a while worrying about ice buildup on my cleats) and more uphill singletrack. Then finally we had a longish downhill stretch, followed by a run through a frozen swamp and then more up-and-down through the woods. Besides all the uphill climbing, the snow was very loose (poor footing, even with snowshoes) and the singletrack was quite narrow - not a difficultly for the folks with the smaller snowshoes, but I kept clipping my ankles with my slightly larger models (yet another argument for getting a smaller pair just for races next year!) The general trend for the rest of the 3.5 mi race was downward motion - some singletrack through woods, some snowmobile trail, and some singletrack through fields and swamp. I have to admit I was totally lost until I spotted one of the roads, and then I had a vague idea of where we'd be coming back to the starting area, but it wasn't until I was about a quarter mile away that I was sure where I was. Made my way across the bridge by the pond in the Glen, and checked in for the finish of the 3.5 miler, in 1 hr 12 min... a bit slow, but not surprising, given all the climbing, the poor footing, and the fact that I had to save some energy for the 2nd half of the 8 mile race.

Jogged through the race HQ area and headed across the road for the remaining 4.5 miles of the long race. We started out on a snowmobile trail, which seemed much too good to be true... and fairly quickly I found out that it was, as we turned off on to a long stretch of uphill singletrack. Plodded my way up that, and along the way was passed by Konrad, who chatted for a bit about energy gels and drinks before we both got back to saving our breath for the hike. After a level stretch, we broke out onto another snowmobile path - easier footing, but again going uphill. That was the trend for the first 3 miles of so... almost constant climbing, the last mile on a steep snowmobile path that seemed to go on forever. I was reminded of the last few miles of the Greylock Death March back in June, where it seemed like I was trapped on never-ending washed out 4wd dirt roads - as it turned out, that was an appropriate thought, because the spot where we finally stopped climbing was the same spot where we left the roads in June and went back onto the hiking trails. That non-stop trudge up the road left me inclined the label this race the Greylock Winter Death March...

Finally we hit the downhill section - mostly singletrack, with a few stretches of snowmobile trail thrown in. Unfortunately, I had the same challenge as back in June - it was steep downhill, and my legs were trashed from all the preceeding running and hiking, so I had to take it very easy or risk blowing out a knee. (I admit I was a bit envious of the folks who could just barrel down those sections at full speed...!) This was one of the most scenic sections, as we ran along the ridge above a stream and eventually crossed two bridges, one being the covered bridge that gives the race its name. Finally the end was in sight, and I was able to cross back over the road and "run" the last few yards into the finish, with a final time for the 8 miler of 2 hr 42 min... actually slightly faster splits in the 2nd half, despite all the uphill trudging, so I guess I did save a little energy during the first 3.5 miles.

After that I chowed down on some delicious soup (both some home-made minestrone and the good old chicken ramen in a cup), chatted with a few folks who were still hanging around, and staggered back to the car to change into dry clothes. Then it was time for the drive back to Albany and thinking about how much my long run tomorrow was going to hurt...

This was the longest batch of snowshoeing I've ever done (8 miles) and it tells me that I need to train a lot more if I ever plan to do even longer distances (like the snowshoe half marathon and marathons up in Vermont next weekend!) Of course, this winter hasn't been terribly cooperative in that regard... in any case, I got out on a beautiful, sunny, and yes bloody cold and windy day, and ran and hiked in some great woods and fields in the shadow of Mount Greylock, the High Lord of the Berkshires. My times weren't bad at all, considering distance, terrain, and footing... but given my level of exhaustion and soreness at the end, I think we can definitely count this one as another butt-kicking from Greylock. So the score now stands at Greylock 4, Turtle 1.

We'll just have to see how things go in June... I don't expect to have any phenomenal success with the trail half marathon, but I may manage to knock my finishing time down a bit.

Next up: Good question. The last snowshoe race I anticipated attending is the Hawley Kiln Klassic next Saturday. But I would also really like to do the Celebrate Life Half Marathon on Sunday, in part to get a feel for where my road running is at (since the Eastern States 20 miler is now only one month away!) So I will have to see what the weather is going to be like and how I'm feeling both tomorrow and at the end of the week, before I decide if I'm doing one or both races...


Cycling 6.2 mi, 33 min
Snowshoe 31.3 mi, 9 hr 11 min

states visited: NY, MA

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today I found a book on ultrarunning that I intend to purchase soon - A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning, ed. by Don Allison, and available through Ultrarunning Online. (Actually, I first heard of this book in an article on running books in the latest Adirondack Sports & Fitness, a great local publication...) It looks to be a great resource for my goals of eventually doing longer distance runs...

A few days ago I e-mailed folks at the Eastern States 20 Mile Race to check if my registration was received - we had to send in a SASE for the race info/confirmation and I hadn't gotten anything back. Today I received a very nice response from the RD letting me know they'd gotten it and the info would be going out at the beginning of March. The name of the RD? Don Allison.

6.5 Mi Snowshoe Run in the Pine Bush
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

OK, not exactly a long run, but moderately long for a snowshoe run, right?

My legs were still feeling the effects of the weekend's races and Mondays brief XC ski jaunt. Combined with some very uneven trails, this meant I spent the first 90 to 100 minutes pretty evenly split between walking and running. At that point I found my "groove" and managed some pretty consistent running for about 40 minutes or so.

Today's snow was a third type - crust. It's been warm enough that the top layers have melted and refrozen, leaving a hard icy layer over the powder underneath. The Pine Bush has also seen a lot of activity since the storm - skiing, snowshoeing, and just plain hiking and running. In some spots the track was good, in others it was a mess. The main trails have gotten enough use that there's a track packed fairly solid... that made for reasonably good running once I got warmed up. The most curious section was a trail across the "desert", where the lack of ground cover leads to lots of blowing and drifting snow... the XC track had been filled in by drift, but for some reason was fairly solid - but if I stepped even a bit to one side or the other, I'd break through the crust and sink up to my ankle or deeper.

One thing about crust is that it's not terribly forgiving if you don't lift your knees high enough... I caught the front of a shoe three times and did a near face-plant in the snow. On one my left calf went into a screaming cramp - no fun! On the plus side, it's much softer falling on snow this deep than on bare trails...

Had a nice clear night... saw Venus when I first set out, and Orion and one of the Dippers were prominent in the sky the whole time, as well as a very pretty waxing crescent moon.

So overall a mixed bag - started out feeling like my legs were made of concrete and ended with a decent stretch of running. Tomorrow is definitely a rest night, don't know about Friday yet... since I'm hoping to do the Greylock races Saturday and a long road run on Sunday, I may rest up Friday too.


Monday, February 19, 2007

A Bit O' XC Skiing in the Pine Bush
Monday, February 19, 2007

Tomorrow is a recovery day for sure. My legs are feeling the effects of 2 challenging snowshoe races this weekend and then an hour or so of XC skiing today. Besides, Wednesday night I'm supposed to do some kind of long run...

When I went out this afternoon the weather was sunny and relatively warm - nothing like the arctic, subzero-windchill weather that had been predicted. So how could I resist hitting the trails on my skiis?

Looks like a good deal of skiing, snowshoeing, and just plain walking has been done at the Columbia Circle section of the Pine Bush (officially, the Blueberry Hills East and West.) There's a well-packed path along most of the trails that I visited today. In some cases the skiing track was set along the side of the trail, so considerate snowshoers tracked a path next to it - in other spots, there's one track. In many places the walkers have also claimed the track, which can make skiing a challenge when your kick zone ends up over an 8 inch deep boot print.

Between my tired legs and the fact that I've only been on my skiis four times in the last two years, it was very slow going, though I did start to get back into the swing of skiing right around when I needed to call it quits and head over to the karate school to prep for the bo class I was teaching tonight. Being something of a glutton for punishment, I climbed to the top of the hill on the red trail and enjoyed the view for a few minutes - had a clear look at the Helderberg Escarpment off to the west. What a gorgeous day! I took off my skiis at the top of the hill to hike back down and then ski back to the parking lot - and promptly sank up to my knees in snow. Sometimes it's good to have reminders like that of why I ski and snowshoe instead of just hiking or running on the snow-covered trails...

Maybe I can get out on my skiis again Friday after work... perhaps for a longer workout. No telling how much longer we're going to have snow - I want to enjoy it while it's here!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another Season of the SnōShū, Race #5
Hallockville Pond 5mi Snowshoe Race

Sunday, February 18, 2007

2007 Hallockville Pond 5 mi race results
Hallockville Pond snowshoe race info

2007 Hallockville snowshoe race photo slideshow

As I crawled out of bed before dawn today, I once again was struck by the craziness of it all. I mean - people actually get me to pay to do this to myself!

At the same time, it was nice to be heading back to the Berkshires for a race. I know anyone reading this is probably tired of hearing it, but I love the Berkshires. For whatever reason, they hold a special place in my heart, and it always feels good to go there and do something fun in the outdoors.

The light dusting of snow we were getting in Albany intensified as I drove to Pittsfield and then up into the mountains east of the city. At times the wind blowing the snow made it downright blizzard-like, despite the fact that not much snow was falling! Of course, the minor adventures I have getting to some of the races only add to the fun of race day...

Got to the Kenneth Dubuque Memorial State Forest and found the race HQ. Got a warm welcome from Ed Alibozek, the RD who also sure seems to be a heck of a nice guy. Spent a while trying to decide what to wear, and finally went with the "dress light and hope I don't freeze" approach (since I was overheating yesterday at Camp Saratoga.) Then I trekked down to the starting line... along the way stopped to look at the folks ice fishing on Hallockville Pond and thought about how there are even crazier things to do than run through the woods on snowshoes - at least I'd be moving and generating a little bit of warmth!

The starting line didn't fill me with confidence - the first stretch was along a snow-covered dirt road that serves as a snowmobile trail in the winter... uphill. (What is it about Massachusetts races starting with a run uphill?) Chatted with a few of the other crazies while we waited, then Ed gave us a quick briefing on the course and with a quick and rather nonchalant "ready, set, go" off we went!

No surprise, the I tackled the first bit uphill at a fast walk... with five miles to go, I didn't see much point in sprinting up a hill! Once the hill topped out, we had a long downhill stretch... almost a mile... that would have been a lot more enjoyable if (1) my legs weren't tight and tired from yesterday, and (2) the road surface was a bit more level - instead, there were constant washouts under the snow, so it was nonstop up-and-down as I ran slowly down the hill. At least the snow was well-packed from the snowmobiles... in fairly short order there was only one runner visible ahead of me, so I guess everyone else made good time on this section. A brief uphill and then another downhill, and then - onto the singletrack!

On the plus side, the snow here was much more runable than up in Wilton yesterday. The trail had been fairly well packed and took me down into a ravine along the Basin Brook. From there things were fairly level, but the path weaved in and out between trees, around rocks, and on several occasions back and forth across the frozen, snowed-over brook. It was a great Berkshires forest - lots of cool rocks (erratics) and just generally a fun trail. Still slow going, between my legs warming up and the nature of the path, but a good time all the same. And then, just as I was getting into the swing of it and my legs were getting used to the idea of running again - the trail crossed the brook one last time and then headed up the Hill.

While running downhill early in a race can be fun, when it's a loop course you know you're going to be in for some uphill later on, and the Hill gave us that in spades. Unrelenting steep uphill... for what seemed like at least half a mile but was probably more like a quarter. As I trudged up the hill (and up and up and up!) I had flashbacks to the Greylock Death March last June... fortunately this was cooler and not nearly as long (the first three miles of that race go straight up!) Eventually the trail leveled out and I was back to walking/running through woods and rocks. About a mile from the finish I finally passed the fellow who'd been walking ahead of me for close to three miles... despite the fact that I was running occasionally and he was walking, he managed to stay ahead of me for much of the race - testament to what a strong, consistent stride he had! During this section, though, my legs finally seemed to get in the "groove" and I was able to run a bit more, and finally passed him.

Of course, not long after that we hit another short, steep uphill... and then another after that! One plus, the sun was finally putting in an appearance, and the sunlight streaming down through the trees and on the snow was gorgeous. What a great day to be out in the woods! Between the amount of time Id' been out and the fact that at one point the trail closely paralleled the paved road through the state forest, I knew the end had to be close... but it was hard to be confident of that plowing up those hills! Finally broke out of the singletrack back on the snowmobile road, and ran down the road to the finish... a downhill AND a packed road for the finish, what a bonus! Crossed the finish line in 1:37:07... almost exactly the same time as yesterday's race! Not too bad, considering the hills and my legs being a bit tired after yesterday's battle through the snow... funny thing was, one of the folks standing at the finish was Rich Busa, who I had followed yesterday - turns out that while he was out of sight for much of the race today, he finished just ahead of me again! (Maybe I shouldn't be so happy about keeping up with a 77 year old man... but Rich is a heck of a runner. I hope I'm still running as strong as he is when I hit 77!)

After that I grabbed some food back at race HQ - the ever-popular post-snowshoe-race chili, and a brilliant addition, some chicken ramen soup in a cup (just add hot water and enjoy!) After that I hiked up the hill to my car, changed into dry clothes (hurray), and headed back to Albany. I had originally hoped to do some XC skiing while I was in Massachusetts (much like I did after last year's snowshoe race at Savoy) but between my tired legs and the way the wind had picked up, decided that I was better off just going home and leaving the skiing for another day. Maybe tomorrow, if it's not too cold...

Before I forget, we owe a huge thank you to Ed Alibozek, for not only giving us a great race on a great course but also for organizing so much of the WMAC Snowshoe Series. This has been a very challenging year for the local snowshoe races, with last week providing the first real snowfall this winter... but Ed has always been ready to go and keeps us all well-informed on what's happening. Thanks Ed!

Next up: the Hoxie-Thunderbolt & Covered Bridge snowshoe races at Mt Greylock, next Saturday. 8 miles altogether - my longest snowshoe trek yet!


Cycling 6.2 mi, 33 min
Snowshoe 23.3 mi, 6 hr 29 min

states visited: NY, MA

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another Season of the SnōShū, Race #4
Camp Saratoga 8k Snowshoe Race

Saturday, February 17, 2007

2007 Camp Saratoga 8k race results
Camp Saratoga 8k snowshoe race info

2007 Camp Saratoga 8k photo slideshow

As I packed my gear and got ready for the 50 minute drive north to Wilton, I was struck by the fact that today's snowshoe race means I've run twice as many snowshoe events as I did last year. Who knows... by the end of the season maybe I'll bring that up to triple...

I have to admit, I like local events that have a late morning start. No rushing around and hitting the road before dawn! (I suspect crawling out of bed at 5:30 AM tomorrow for the Hallockville race is going to be a challenge...)

The drive up to Wilton was uneventful... after I got off the Northway I thought the road I was on might have been one of the one's I rode as part of the MHCC Metric Century back in Sept. 2005, but as I drove further down it the scenery seemed less and less familiar, so probably not. Found the Wilton Wildlife Park & Preserve and Camp Saratoga, home to today's snowshoe race, with no difficulty. As I registered and geared up I saw several familiar faces but also signs that there were folks from a ways away - there was definitely a group from Paul Smith's College and I even saw Mort Nace and Tim Ratowski of Goose Racing in Rochester (the folks who put on the Mendon Winterfest snowshoe race I did back in January and the Muddy Sneaker 20k trail race I didn't make it into for the 2nd year.) I guess the lack of snow has made it difficult for people to qualify for the Empire State Games and the USSSA Nationals in Minnesota - since today's race was a qualifying event, they ended up with a pretty good turnout.

As I hiked up the hill to the starting area, it became very clear that this was not going to be a PR race like the last three... the snow just wasn't going to cooperate. Among other things, today's race gave me a greater appreciation for just how many varieties of snow there are. The snow we got on Wednesday was a very, very fine powder... tiny particles with lots of space between the particles. Skiiers love powder - it provides good glide. As I discovered on Thursday, deep powder provides lousy flotation for snowshoes (unless you have a huge shoe - a 30" or 36" shoe probably would have worked fine, but those are mighty tough to run on...) So powder of any depth can mean pretty hard work snowshoeing. Once people start skiing, snowshoeing, and walking through powder, it becomes crud - the surface becomes uneven, some areas get packed and others don't - makes it tougher to ski and tougher to snowshoe, especially when the powder is as fine as our current snow is - it doesn't pack down as much as it shifts position. Making my way up the short hill, my shoes were sliding all over the place, making consistent forward motion a definite struggle.

Gradually everyone made it to the top of the hill and the start. We had a few quick words from Jeff Clark (co-race-director with Saratoga Stryders president Laura Clark) and then - off we went! Well... sort of. Surprise, surprise, the snow that made forward motion such a struggle getting to the start also made forward motion bloody difficult on the race course. I have never seen the group take so long to spread out... there were large numbers of runners visible for the first two miles or so. As for me... I ran some and walked a lot. And got my heart and respiration rate up to levels that were as unbelievably high as my forward progress was unbelievably slow. And got very tired and a little bit discouraged at the thought of 5 miles and 100+ minutes of this non-stop struggle.

The trail helped make up for some of my frustration with my lack of speed... the Wilton Wildlife Park & Preserve is absolutely gorgeous, and it was a bright sunny day, only adding to the beauty all around. Much of the run was through pine forest, though there were some bits that took us through open fields. After about 40 minutes I came to an old barn and silo that I'd noticed from the road on the drive in, and as I stopped to take a picture Rich Busa came along and helped motivate me...

Rich is a 77 year old runner who has an absolutely amazing attitude - and who's also a darn good trail runner. I only know of only two races that we've both been in which I finished first - and in both cases he was right behind me. In most cases, he's not only reached the finish before me, but by a substantial margin (and in some cases after getting lost!) When Rich passed me my first thought was, "Oh, well, gonna get my butt kicked by a 77 year old again." Then it occurred to me - what an opportunity! Rich could be both my "rabbit" to chase and an example I could follow, watching to see what he was doing to make it to the finish line as quick as he could. So I tucked in a couple of hundred feet behind him and did my darnedest to stay there. (And it was not easy!) When Rich ran a section, I did my best to run it too. When he walked a section, so did I. And it worked! I finished just half a minute or so behind him!

We had a water stop at the halfway point - I felt sorry for those folks, standing around in the cold waiting for us. The 2nd half took us through more woods and down a couple of steep hills - steep enough that I essentially slid all the way to the bottom on the tails of my snowshoes! After one especially steep downhill we ran along the hillside above a frozen pond - very scenic! Made it arund the pond to the road by the finish line - and then the true torture began, because we had to pass the finish and run up a long, seemingly never-ending hill on the other side of the headquarters building! That loop took us up and down hill after hill and into a field overlooking the buildings and parking areas. But finally, after one more steep downhill, I had a short "sprint" to the finish - at 1:37:26. Definitely not a PR but that's OK - this was one tough race!

Grabbed some food and changed into dry clothes, then thought briefly about XC skiing at either the Preserve or somewhere between there and Albany. Ultimately I decided against it, in light of Sunday's 5 mile race - it was a shame to waste such a beautiful afternoon driving and running errands, but my legs were already pretty beat from fighting my way through the snow - I want to have some juice left in them for the Hallockville Pond 5 miler!

This was a tough race but one I'm glad I did. I definitely want to return to the Wilton Wildlife Park & Preserve - maybe next summer I can catch some of the Saratoga Stryders' summer trail series there. It's a beautiful park and it looks like it would be a great place to run. Speaking of the Stryders - they deserve a huge round of applause for putting on two excellent snowshoe races this month. Both events were top-notch, and I definitely want to do both again!

Next up: the Hallockville Pond 5mi Snowshoe Race, in West Hawley, MA. Assuming, of course, that my legs still work when I crawl out of bed tomorrow...


Cycling 6.2 mi, 33 min
Snowshoe 18.3 mi, 4 hr 52 min

Thursday, February 15, 2007

2 Miles in the Albany Pine Bush
Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Run" is a bit misleading... though I did run down 4 hills. But with deep, mostly unbroken snow, I spent most of the 75 minutes hiking... sometimes faster, sometimes slower, generally breathing hard. I thought a lot about something USSSA Coach Steve Ilg says during the intro to his snowshoeing basics DVD - that snowshoeing is the only activity that can get your heart rate so high while you move so slowly!

I was reminded repeatedly today of the article Making Lemonade in a Michigan Winter by Rick Murray about snowshoe running:

One evening in early December I decided to go for a 6-mile snowshoe run. It had been snowing the last few days, and it was starting to build up. The woods were absolutely beautiful. I eagerly strapped on my snowshoes, ready to start my run. It was early in training, and this was to be an easy-HR run. Oakley (Rick's dog) & I headed out the door. "Wow, this is deep." I thought.. I went about 200 yards and my heart rate was already at 85% of max with no sign of falling. "This was not supposed to be an interval workout", I thought, but there was no "easy running". Just walking in the heavy, deep snow put my heart rate at 70%.

I was still determined to get this workout in, and running the snow-covered roads at night was not an option. I shuffled my way back to the house. The snowmobile was sitting in the garage ready to go. I decided I would take the machine out and pre-pack my 6-mile trail loop. "Shouldn’t take too long", I thought. By my figuring, if it took 45-50 minutes to run this loop, it should only take 15-20 minutes to pre-ride it and pack it down. Wrong!

After the getting the machine stuck and buried for the third and fourth time, I was really wishing that I had changed out of my tights and thin poly shirt into something a bit more substantial. I got stuck on every hill I tried to ride up. Finally, after an hour and a half of fighting the deep snow, and digging out the machine, I had the whole trail packed down. I returned home and changed into some dry running clothes. I strapped the snowshoes back on and Oakley and I headed out for an excellent nighttime run.
After the time I spent today plowing through loose, deep snow - a snowmobile-packed trail would have been welcome! Hopefully the trails this weekend will be somewhat packed (and by more than just the many runners who go over them before I do) or I'm looking at two long, slow 5 mile snowshoe races...

At the same time, it was a gorgeous sunny day - I wish I'd stopped at Wal-mart for a camera beforehand, because it would have been nice to get some pictures of the snow-covered woods and fields. While XC skiing might have been a bit easier to do today, I definitely gave my quads a workout and got to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors. (And that definitely beats the mess that passes for the streets of Albany right now! Hopefully the city will get its act together soon and start removing the snow instead of just pushing it around... and hopefully people will start being a little less stupid and stop doing things like burying the sidewalks as they dig out spaces for their cars!)

Note to self: the next time snow is forecast, lay off the snow dances!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dang, those snow dances I did worked too well. We had about 6-8 inches when I shovelled the sidewalk at 9 AM, and five hours later we're coming up on 18 inches. And it's still coming down strong.

I miss the country. Never had to figure out where I was going to park my car during a snow emergency back when I lived in the country. And the roads were rarely as scary as they are here right now. I spent close to an hour getting my car out of the spot it was in, finding a spot where it won't be towed at 8 PM when the 48 hour snow emergency goes into effect, and then getting it into that spot... and then walking the half mile or so back to my place. Unburying the car tomorrow is not going to be fun. I may leave it at work tomorrow night just to avoid having to find a place to park.

No playing in the snow today. It's not all that safe to travel to any of the spots where I'd ski or snowshoe, and I'm not sure I'd have anywhere to park once I got there. Also it's very cold with a wicked windchill. Maybe Friday afternoon I can go out on my skiis. Of course there are the upcoming snowshoe races this weekend - Camp Saratoga on Saturday and a race somewhere in Massachusetts on Sunday (Moody Spring is on the schedule but who knows - maybe they'll do one of the postponed races at Savoy, Greylock, or Northfield instead. Or maybe next weekend will be packed with snowshoeing goodness... I suspect we'll be seeing an update either tonight or tomorrow!)


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

12 Mile Run on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Too bad, really... it would have been cool to run in the falling snow...

Knew I needed to get in a long run before the snow hits and makes it harder to do night runs (well, at least non-snowshoe night runs!) So I headed over to the bike path along the Mohawk River in Niskayuna, originally planning to first run west to Lock 7 and then head in the opposite direction almost all the way to the Northway. Took my Yaktrax in case the snow was still covering the path - turned out I could only have used them part of the time, unlike my short run there a week ago.

After running to Lock 7 and back, I changed plans a bit, in part to take advantage of the fact the the path was mostly clear in that direction and in part so I could ditch my waist pack - I decided to run in the other direction only 2 1/2 miles, then return to the car and repeat the Lock 7 out-and-back. It was a good decision - there was enough packed, uneven snow on parts of the path to make the east leg a bit challenging and very tiring. And it was great not wearing the waist pack! While it was tempting to stop the 2nd time I got back to the car, I pushed myself to do the last 3 miles (didn't go all the way to Lock 7) so I could run a full 12 miles and 3 hours. Slow going, and the last 4 miles or so were not much fun... but the Eastern States 20 Miler is only 39 days away!

I even got to hear coyotes howling over in the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve across the river - guess it's just as well I didn't go over there to run!



Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

The forecast is for a decent storm to hit sometime tomorrow night and continue into the day on Wednesday... 18 - 24 inches of snow predicted for Albany

Can you say SNOW DAY?

Can you say XC SKIING?


Excuse me while I go do another Snow Dance...


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

map of Black Creek Park (300 kb PDF)

A nice sunny day, albeit a bit windy and a bit cold, so Ann and I packed up the skiis and headed over to Black Creek. Not surprisingly, the trails were moderately busy, and not in the greatest shape for skiing - between all the walkers and skiiers the snow was packed pretty solidly, and I tend to like having loose powder to ski through. So it goes... we headed up the hill and looped around on the wetland trail and then back on the ridge trail. Some stretches where I pushed fairly hard (and then took a break while Ann caught up - she tended more for the slow and steady approach.) Definitely felt both the lack of skiing over the past two years and my continuing to recover from the bug I'd been fighting off. Still, it was nice to get out on my skiis and good to be out in the snowy woods and fields. Hopefully we'll get some decent snow down in Albany before winter's done and I can get in another round of skiing or two.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Iaido and the Continuing Fight Against the Creeping Crud
Friday, February 9, 2007

The past few days have been a bit of a drain, not helped by the fact that I'm definitely fighting off a bug (and not that successfully.) I've been tripling up on the Vitamin C and taking it a little bit easier on the workout front... but this weekend is not likely to help. Iaido Friday night, followed by an overnight at the Utica Motel 6, an AMAI instructors' staff meeting much of Saturday afternoon, an early Valentine's Day dinner with Ann at Steamboat Landing, a restaurant on the shores of Canandaigua Lake, and then whatever we choose to do outdoors Sunday (either both of us XC skiing or Ann skiing and me running with my Dion's.) Maybe I'll try some cold medicine tonight and tomorrow night, just to knock me out and let me get some solid rest.

After a rush to get everything packed for the extended weekend, I booked out to Utica and kept my fingers crossed that I'd be close to on time. Iaido started late (no great surprise, that) but was moderately productive. After the usual opening actvities - stretching, donning swords, and cleansing the room - we spent a while moving back and forth in both natural posture (shizen-tai) and defensive posture (jigo-tai). After that the men and women split up and practiced separately - we worked on u-ken and sa-ken katas. While I felt fairly proficient practicing them last fall, my recent lack of practice has clearly had an effect; neither was flowing particularly naturally tonight. I'll have to work on katas more before the next class (in March.)


Thursday, February 08, 2007

When you know who you are;
when your mission is clear and you burn with the
inner fire of unbreakable will;
no cold can touch your heart;
no deluge can dampen your purpose.
You know that you are alive.

- often attributed to Chief Seattle, actual author unknown
Thursday, February 8, 2007

Yesterday my replacement cleats came - a solid "race cleat" for packed, rocky trails and the "flex cleat" for deeper snow. As always, the service from Dion Snowshoes was impressive - not only did Bob get the cleats to me in three days, but he included a note about what I need to do to get a 10% discount on any future orders. I'm thinking I'll have to either see him at a race or drop him a note and find out how much it would cost to get my broken flex-cleats fixed. I'm guessing it wouldn't be too pricey.

Even more amazing was the ease of installing the new cleats. Turn two screws, pop the old ones out, slide the new ones in, and re-tighten the screw. A couple of minutes each! At some point I hope to have to sets of snowshoes - my current larger set for deeper snow (more flotation) and someday a smaller set for packed or shallow snow (where flotation isn't an issue... in other words, everything I've done so far this season.) For now I'm confident a screwdriver and the spare set of cleats in my snowshoe bag will be enough to get me through just about any conditions I'm likely to encounter on race day.

There are definitely fancier snowshoes out there, but I'll stick with my Dions!


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

10 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

During last night's run I definitely should have had my Yaktrax - it would have made running on the packed snow much easier. So tonight I slipped them on before my long run - and much of the time I think they helped. Footing in the Pine Bush was mixed - much of the trails were under packed snow, but some areas had barely any snow or were entirely bare.

One of the coolest sights of the night was looking up through the trees and seeing that some of the clouds had cleared and the constellation Orion was shining brightly overhead.

The last couple of miles were tough... I definitely have a lot of work to do before I'm ready for the Eastern States 20 Miler and the Nipmuck Marathon...


Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday, February 5, 2007

Word just came down that there are four snowshoe races this weekend - two Saturday and two Sunday. Mostly ones I wasn't planning to go to, but... Woodford has been rescheduled to this Saturday, when I have to be in Utica for an AMAI staff meeting. Grrrr.

The first snowshoe race I ran last year was Woodford, and I was really looking forward to doing it again this year and both seeing what kind of progress I've made and seeing the course again. Oh, well. So it goes.

Hopefully we will have good conditions for races the following weekend, when I will be in town... though I guess regardless I can't complain, since this year I've already been in more actual snowshoe races than last year (three so far, compared to a total of two last year, with two more run as trail races.)

At least it looks like it will be a good snowshoeing weekend for some of the local "snowshoe enthusiasts"...


Sunday, February 04, 2007

5 Mile Snowshoe Run at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve
Sunday, February 4, 2007

Originally I had thought I might stay at Saratoga Spa State Park and run on some of the other trails there, but the wind was simply too much. So I went to plan B and headed to the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve on my way back to Albany.

The main lot by the Whipple Bridge was surprisingly full, so I headed east and ended up at the far end of the Preserve, near Clute's Dry Dock (the remains of an old Erie Canal dry dock.) As I changed into fresh running gear and pulled my snowshoes back on, I listened to two kids skating back and forth on a cleared section of ice in the dry dock.

It was tough running again, after racing at Saratoga and then driving for 20 minutes or so to the Preserve. I definitely wasn't going as fast! The initial trail along the old canal was pretty uneven, and much of the meager snow had been packed down by skiiers. I was curious to see a number of ski tracks on the old canal - I wouldn't have thought it would make for good skiing. (Of course, I'd also be more than a bit concerned about the thickness of the ice...) Saw a couple of skiiers in the 90 minutes I was out, but for the most part I had the trails to myself.

Running went a bit better after I warmed up, but I definitely didn't have much juice left in my legs. Fortunately the trails were fairly level. Other than being pretty darn cold, it was a beautiful sunny day - I wish I'd had some film left to take some pictures.

About half a mile from the end I noticed an odd sound from my snowshoes and discovered that on each one of the rubber joints connecting the front part of the cleat to the rest had snapped. I guess all the running on barely snow-covered trails finally took its toll - must be why Dion Snowshoes introduced a solid cleat for running on rough trails. Fortunately I don't have another race for two weeks, so there should be plenty of time to get new cleats and install them. I think I'll order both a solid set and a set of flex cleats - they're supposed to be fairly easy to swap in and out, and I'd like to have to flexibility to choose between which type to use (though this year is looking to be a solid-cleat winter!)

Ran the last stretch in my shoes, which felt nice after almost 90 minutes of snowshoe running. Changed into dry clothes for the 2nd time today and headed back home, one very tired turtle...

Tomorrow is a rest day... no running or riding. After a long run Friday and 8 miles of snowshoe running today (including 5k at race pace) I think I've more than earned it!

Another Season of the SnōShū, Race #3
Saratoga Winterfest 5k Snowshoe Race

Sunday, February 4, 2007

2007 Saratoga 5k Snowshoe Race results
Saratoga 5k Snowshoe Race info

2007 Saratoga 5k Snowshoe Race photo slideshow

For some reason I ended up very disorganized for this race... I found myself scrambling in the morning to pull all my gear together and even realized 5 minutes or so into the race that I hadn't started my stopwatch when the start whistle blew! So in some ways it's something of a pleasant surprise that it went as well as it did.

Friday night word was posted on the WMAC snowshoe page that the intention was to run the race as a snowshoe event, as 4" of snow had fallen Friday evening at Saratoga Spa State Park. I must admit I was a bit sceptical that enough snow would remain on the course for a snowshoe race on Sunday, especially after folks had descended on the park on Saturday for skiing and snowshoeing. So I was happily proven wrong when I arrived at the park this morning and found a good deal of snow remaining (though we did have sections where the snow cover was much less than ideal - we were basically running over gravel with a light coating of snow.)

Checked in, geared up (a challenging proposition, given that the temperature was in the high teens with a viscious windchill part of the time - I finally decided it was better to risk being cold and left my windbreaker and 180s with my shoes) and waited for the fun to begin. Joked a bit with Konrad, listened to the snowshoe newbies fret about what they were going to do, and then - off we went!

The first part of the race was a run around the perimeter of the field in the middle of the quadrangle that includes the park admin building (which also acts as race HQ.) I had forgotten how long that stretch is - took a good 10 minutes to get around it. As a plus, I had a good view of the train of runners ahead of me and the front runners pulling away from the rest of the group.

Then we headed through the woods and down a snowcovered road, across Geyser creek, and then - up the long hill to the pool complex. As I was trudging up the hill, the front runners came blazing down - I recognized Bob Dion (of Dion Snowshoes) in 2nd place, and the fifth or sixth fellow to come down the hill greeted me by name - wish I could remember his, we met at Northern Nipmuck last year and then chatted again briefly after the Greylock Deathmarch (oops - Half Marathon!) Near the top of the hill we headed into the woods again, circled around the pool building, and then ran back down the hill I'd plodded up earlier. After a stretch along another snow-covered road, it was back across the creek and through a picnic area and then - the never-ending hill through the pine woods.

About halfway up the hill, the fellow taking photos for the race hollered at me to start running for my picture... so run I did. Couldn't tell exactly when he took it, though he said it was good - just have to wait for the photos to be posted to see!

Finally made it to the top of the hill - after that it's level all the way to the end. I was able to pick up my pace a bit - legs were finally warmed up and ready for some sustained effort. Kept a pretty good pace all the way through the woods to the long straightaway to the finish - even managed to pass a kid who'd blazed by me early on - and finished in 38:33, or just under 12.5 min per mile - yet another PR for my snowshoe running.

After that it was time for the post-race stagger back to the admin building, where I chatted for a bit with Rich Busa (who's in his late 70's and still manages to beat me in every race we're in together - I hope I'm running as strong as he is when I get to be his age!) while we each removed our snowshoes. Snagged two cups of very delicious chili, and headed back to the car to change clothes before heading to the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve for more running before returning home.

Next up: hopefully the Camp Saratoga 8k Snowshoe Race in just under two weeks... last year it was cancelled because there was no snow and the trails were covered with ice. And possibly a 2nd race in the WMAC Snowshoe Series that Sunday... just have to wait and see what happens between now and then.


Cycling 6.2 mi, 33 min
Snowshoe 13.3 mi, 3 hr 15 min

Saturday, February 03, 2007

10 Mile Ride Along the Corning Preserve Bike Path
Saturday, February 3, 2007

I recently ordered a set of fleece-lined neoprene "booties" to wear while riding in cold weather and possibly while snowshoeing... the idea being to keep my toes dry and warm(er). Unfortunately, the pair I ordered was far too small to fit over my running and riding shoes, so they've gone back to Performance Bicycle to be exchanged for a larger pair (hopefully large enough...) I could have defnitely used them during my ride today.

The path was mostly plowed, so riding was fairly easy. Once again I ended up with a headwind on the way back, which made a cold ride even colder. Despite the fact that I only went 10 miles I didn't feel the slightest temptation to keep riding... by the time I got back to the car my main interest was in getting some warmth to my toes before frostbite set in.

Guess that's what I get for saying "it's not all that bad" when various people grumbled about how cold it was earlier today! Perhaps I should have gone out on my skis instead... only a couple inches of snow, but it was probably ski-able.

Right now word for tomorrow is snowshoe race... I'm taking both snowshoes and regular trail shoes. Should be fun regardless!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Well, the Muddy Sneaker 20k Trail Race Lottery has come and gone (the race is very popular and they only have 150 slots, so for the past two years they've held a weighted lottery to determine who gets to do the race) and once again I'm not on the list. So it goes...

Most likely I'll sign up for the Muddy Moose 14 Mile Trail Race instead... unless I lose all grip on my sanity (some would say I already have!) and decide to brave the crowded trails at the Leatherman's Loop... (my money's on the Muddy Moose.)


Friday, February 02, 2007

11 Mile Run Along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikepath
Friday, February 2, 2007

Just checked my old posts and discovered that almost exactly two months ago I did pretty much the same run as I did today. At least there was more snow (but not much more) on the ground today...

Headed over to Lock 8 and the bike path along the Mohawk River and Old Erie Canal west of Schenectady. Just to be different I ran east to the small park as the warmup, and then back west all the way to the path's end at the Scrafford Lane railroad tracks (and of course back to Lock 8 to finish!) Had a nice tailwind when I was running west, which meant I was running into the wind for the final 4 3/4 miles... that was a pain (and chilly, too.) Parts of the path were clear, paths had a thin layer of snow... very runnable all the way. I took it fairly easy... averaged a bit over 13 minutes per mile, but today was about building distance, not going fast. On the plus side, things didn't start to feel difficult until the last mile or two... maybe there's hope for me running the Eastern States 20 miler at the end of March in decent time after all. All in all, today's run was a good one. I even got to see a hawk and a small woodpecker.

The river was disturbingly low... it's always low this time of year (they raise many of the mobile dams and let the water level drop while the canal is closed) but I remember it being higher in previous years... I can recall ice jams not far below the level of the bike path. The lack of snow is a bother in part because it means little chance to snowshoe and XC ski, but more importantly it makes me wonder what our ground water supply is going to be like next summer. (Of course, we could always have a snowless winter and then get hammered with rain in the spring and early summer, like last year.)

After my run I headed to the Rotterdam BJ's to do some shopping... when I came back out it was snowing! Not enough to give us more than a dusting, and it's supposed to end by midnight... but it sure was pretty. Almost made me want to go for another run!