Monday, April 30, 2007

20.4 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway
Monday, April 30, 3007

A nice (albeit windy) evening for a ride, though my start was delayed a bit by having to change a tube... apparently I pumped it up to full pressure and then when the sunlight heated the tire as I was driving to the trailhead - POW.

I haven't been on the bike path since back in March, when I was running back and forth to prep for the Eastern States 20 Mile Road Race. All the trailheads are far enough from home that no car meant no bike path. So it was nice to ride along the river on car-free pavement.

The trees are starting to turn green! Some are flowering, but I saw many tonight with leaf buds. Before long we'll be out of the brown, brown, brown, and into green, green, green!

Wildlife encounters - a duck, lots of birds, some geese... bunnies, a woodchuck, and a red squirrel. But probably the most interesting was the snapping turtle stomping across the path just before I got back to the car. He was making pretty good time until I stopped to watch him... then he hunkered down where he was and waited for me to leave. Watching snapping turtles always makes me glad I'll never have to face one of their giant prehistoric cousins...

Overall a good ride, and one that makes me think I'm doing pretty well in getting ready for the Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon in about 2 1/2 weeks. At this point I'd guess that my running will be slower than last year, and my riding will be about the same or maybe a tiny bit faster, depending on weather conditions. In any case I'm looking forward to doing the race for the third year in a row... it's a bit repetitive but Mendon is a pretty place to run and ride, and the folks from Yellowjacket Racing put on great events.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

12 Mile Run at Thacher Park
Sunday, April 28, 2007

My original plan was to go to the Pine Bush and do a long run (19 miles or so) today. But as I drove over the weather was cold and windy and it started to rain. Faced with the prospect of five hours of running in the rain... I opted to change plans instead, and headed up to Thacher Park for a shorter run (2-3 hours.)

It's funny how much I enjoy running at Thacher, given that up until last year the only times I ran there were for the annual Indian Ladder 15k trail race and then in 2005 the inaugural Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon. There are lots of reasons I like Thacher - the scenery is awesome, whether you're in the woods surrounded by trees and a variety of cool rocks, or running along the escarpment trail. Generally, the trails at Thacher are not at all crowded, except possibly the escarpment trail on a nice weekend. But best of all - Thacher is far enough out of Albany that the ever-present traffic noise that you hear everywhere in the Pine Bush is gone, and the only sounds are the sounds of nature.

Headed off along the escarpment, loving the fact that I was out running trails again. The streams were running strong, and the waterfalls were looking very pretty. From there I headed up the long hill on the old Paint Mine road... it was nice to see that I can still run up that (there have been plenty of times that I've done more walking than running on that hill!) At the top I gave in to a crazy impulse and ran part of the way to Roemer's High Point... made it up the hill through the fields, but decided to stop and turn around when I hit the steep singletrack. From there it was back down, and down, into the Hop Field swamps... that was a muddy, mucky stretch of trail! Just before returning to the Hop Field parking area and my car, I headed off along the stream and made my way back to the Paint Mine trails. Then it was time for a return run along the escarpment... that was particularly pretty because there was some sunlight peeking through the clouds. The last few hills were definitely tougher than the first few, but definitely not horribly so... I could have kept going for a few more miles before things would have really started to get ugly. Instead, I climbed back into the car (which now smells like a combination of "new car" and "Thacher mud" - wahoo!) and made the drive back to Albany.

So it was a mid-length, rainy, windy, muddy, mucky run... in other words, I had a great time!

I'll be doing the Pine Bush 19 miler after work on Wednesday... after all, NIPMUCK is only a month away...


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Almost 13 years ago (July, 1994) I purchased my first new car... a 1995 Subaru Legacy Sedan. I'd had some good cars prior to that one, but a brand new Legacy - what a great car!

Almost 310,000 miles later, the years and heavy use had taken their toll. During the past two years I was seeing increasing signs of expensive maintenance and repairs, with the two most worrisome being a leaking fuel system (possibly brought about by hitting a really nasty hole in the road when driving through New Brunswick, Canada, several summers ago) and an increasingly nasty bearing grind from somewhere along the rear axles. After 8 years of no car payments, I was really hoping to delay the inevitable by a few more years (and really, how cool would it be to have a Subaru that made it to 350,000 miles!) But towards the end of March the writing on the wall became clear, and I gritted my teeth and began the distasteful task of looking for another car.

Fairly early on, I ended up at the dealership which had done a good deal of service work on my Subaru, looking for another Soob. Unfortunately, all the used Soobs were either out of my price range, or had too many miles on them for me to easily get financing. Much to my surprise, however, they ended up offering to sell me a 2003 Honda Civic EX sedan, with relatively low miles. I admit I was initially skeptical, but was again surprised when I drove the car and discovered that rather than a low-end Honda manufactured box-on-wheels, this was a relatively loaded sedan with many of the same features as my Legacy, and almost as much interior room. After checking on a few other possibilities, I was finally sold on the Civic in part due to its fuel economy... a great feature, given the way gas prices are rising again.

So last night I emptied my remaining stuff out of the Legacy and drove it for the last time over to the dealership. After much paperwork and beauracratic nonsense, I left in a very nice Civic which will hopefully last me for many, many years with as little trouble as my Soob gave me.

I'm not a car person. My needs in a car are simple - reliability (which is where the Legacy was failing) and comfort/convenience (which includes power windows and locks, and continues to include a moonroof.) I really didn't care that my Legacy was starting to accumulate rust and was no longer the shiny attractive vehicle it had been when I first bought it. If it had remained reliable, I would have happily kept driving it until it fell apart, rather than re-entering the world of the horribly indebted (and the bank is getting a very good return on their money, at my expense. Bleah.) And I'll do the same with this Civic, assuming it holds up as well as Honda's generally do.

But I have to admit, I felt a bit sad as I left my old Legacy to its fate. Not so much because I have a particular attachment to the car itself... but because I have a lot of memories attached to that car. Trips to parks, drives all over New York and New England, travelling to races, sitting on the hood to change shoes or chow down after a race... 13 years is a long time, and I've gone a lot of miles and seen a lot of places in that car.

No doubt before long the Civic will stop feeling like just another rental (I've been in a few of those over the past six months!) and I will certainly do my best to go a lot of miles and see a lot of places in it. Next week it will get christened at its first race (ie. gear all over the car, and wet smelly clothes afterwards) - the Medved Madness 15 Mile trail race at Mendon Ponds park. Should be a blast!


Friday, April 27, 2007

8.2 Mile Run Around Albany
Friday, April 27, 2006

Still waters broken
By muskrat's gliding motion.
Cool quiet evening.

Runner pauses a moment
Silently, muskrat is gone.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

8.8 Miles from Albany to Colonie
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

After the long-ish run last night, I knew running over to class tonight was out of the question... so I made plans to ride over, and then figured I'd play it by ear when it came to getting home (as it turned out, I found out during the day that I had a ride home.)

So I knew it was going to be an interesting evening when it started raining fairly hard around mid-afternoon.

Packed everything I needed in an old duffel, double-wrapped it in garbage bags, and tied it to the rack of my ATB. Then I geared up with my bright yellow rain jacket on top and set out into the cold, wet evening...

It was actually a fairly enjoyable ride. After being sore and creaky all day, it felt good to get my legs moving, and I was able to keep up a pretty good pace despite the weather and my heavy ATB. And it was a real pleasure to just plow over the rough patches and potholes!

By the time I got to the school, I was pretty wet, but that's no big deal. Overall, I'm glad I rode instead of driving... not only do I want to save my car for its last trip to be traded in at Goldstein's, but I had a good parking spot that I would have lost. And there's a certain amount of fun in riding through the rain... especially when you know it's going to be over relatively quickly!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

16.5 Miles in the Pine Bush
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

All I can say is... almost 4 hours running trails! Pavement blows, trails rock!

Didn't hurt as much as I thought it would... granted, the Pine Bush trails are pretty tame, but the last long run I did was 2 1/2 weeks ago at Northern Nipmuck. The first 13-14 miles went pretty well, with the last loop going slowly due to my fading legs and running

Wildlife encounters continue... a turkey and two deer early on, then after it got dark several rabbits and lots of wolf spiders (their eyes sparkle blue-green in the light of my headlamp.) Lots of birds (including a noisy woodpecker that I heard but didn't see.) And the spring peepers are out in force!

The sky overhead during my last loop was spectacular - stars everywhere and a crescent moon. If my legs hadn't been so tired I would have stopped and just stood there looking up.

With luck this Sunday I can head to someplace wild and struggle through 19 miles or so...


Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

And the oddball weather continues. After snow and temperatures barely above freezing a week ago... we move to sunny and in the mid-80's. At least tomorrow's supposed to be a bit more seasonable.

Delayed the long run until tomorrow, partially due to the heat (which I'm not even remotely acclimated to) and partially because my legs were still feeling a bit tired. Wuss or smart training - you decide. But I did go out on my bike for a little over an hour, and knocked off 16 miles pedalling around Albany. I set out to do an easy ride, just to get my legs moving... not surprisingly I rode much of it at workout pace, and cranked up more hills than I probably should have. Other than some windy stretches, it was a great evening for a ride. Looked like lots of folks agreed with me in one way or another, since I saw a lot of people out walking.

So... long run tomorrow, regardless. NIPMUCK is much, much too close... and I'm not even remotely ready.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

"It was one of those bad ideas that runners have when they're out for a run."
- Charlie Engle, when asked how he and two other runners came up with the idea to run across the Sahara desert

(For more info about the Running the Sahara expedition, see this interview at ESPN and the official site at National Geographic. Special thanks to Jim Fryer for sending me these links!)
Sunday, April 22, 2007

After a mildly strenuous three days, I toyed with the idea of doing a short ride today, because the weather was fantastic. But in the end I gave my legs a day off, except for a walk to the laundromat and the grocery store.

Today would have been a great day to run Muddy Moose (which has been reported to be the muddiest yet) or Leatherman's Loop (the most crowded so far - 883 runners - with a statement of preregistration only in years to come) but so it goes. Maybe next year.

Long run tomorrow! I'm shooting for about 17 miles. I'm still deciding whether to risk taking the car or take the bus out to Crossgates, but as of right now most of this run will be in the Pine Bush!


Saturday, April 21, 2007

9 Mile Run from Albany to Colonie
18.6 Mile Ride from Colonie to Voorheesville to Albany
Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ran to class this morning. Started out pleasantly cool but it got pretty hot by the end of the two hours! Some highlights:
  • doing a doubletake as a wild turkey ran across the sidewalk a couple of blocks away from my house. Boy was he lost!
  • running through the Pine Bush! Pavement blows, trails rock!
  • splashing through a very cold, knee deep pond that flooded one section of Pine Bush trail. My very own Leatherman's Loop!
  • another wild turkey crossing the trail in front of me in the Pine Bush.
  • a wide variety of birds - everything from crows and turkey vultures, ducks and geese, red-wing blackbirds and mockingbirds, and even a hawk or two.

Unfortunately, I did find two ticks crawling on me later in the morning, so I guess I'm not the only one who likes the warmer weather.

After classes wrapped up and I took care of some office work at the school (as well as washing the outsides of the front windows and practicing Cheon Kwon, a new kata Master Hillicoss taught me several nights ago) I hopped on the bike and headed home via a scenic route - after a couple of miles of busy roadways, I headed out into the countryside on Rt 203, not realizing just how far it would take me before coming to Krumkill Rd or how long a hill I'd have to climb partway there. Still, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and other than my legs being mildly fried from running to class twice and riding there once over the last three days, it turned out to be a good ride. I did opt to avoid the two steep Krumkill hills by cutting over the New Scotland Ave and taking that back to Albany. A bit more traffic than Krumkill, but missing those two hills made it well worth it.

Tomorrow I will get up and probably be slightly bummed that I'm not running the Muddy Moose or the Leatherman's Loop (which apparently reached the maximum number of runners during pre-registration and is now closed.) I had originally planned to do a long run (approx 16 miles) but we'll have to see how my legs feel. It may make more sense to give them a rest day and do the long run either Monday or Tuesday after work.


Friday, April 20, 2007

A $10 VISE IS... A $10 VISE
Friday, April 20, 2007

Last weekend I snapped a spoke on the cog side of my rear wheel. So over the weekend I identified the type of freewheel and ordered spokes and a Park Freewheel Remover.

Wednesday the tool came (the spokes are backordered, so they're going to take a bit longer) so I inserted it into the freewheel, lightly screwed down the axle nut, and attached my largest, longest wrench. No luck. Tried hammering the end of the wrench handle. Nada. Clamped the wrench in a wood-working clamp and tried turning the wheel... still no joy, though I did manage to snap another spoke with one especially vigorous twist.

Park Tools recommends holding the FR in a vise and turning the wheel, since this can provide better leverage. So today I stopped by Harbor Freight and was delighted to find a $10 vise. Came home after teaching a karate class and a bo class, and installed the vise on the bench in the basement. Clamped the FR in the vise and applied pressure to the wheel... nothing... nothing... then SNAP!

No, I didn't break a spoke or loosen the freewheel. I snapped one of the jaws off the vise.

I guess when you buy a $10 vise, you get exactly what you paid for.

Looks like my wheel will remain unrepaired until I can afford a better vise.

8.5 Miles from Albany to Colonie
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Warm, sunny... running in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt is great! After I got warmed up, the run felt good. And the couple of miles through the Pine Bush was wonderful. I was hoping I'd make better time than last week, since it felt like I was running stronger, but I only shaved a few minutes off. On the other hand, I wasn't as sore and stiff while teaching karate.

Tomorrow night I ride over to class, and then Saturday AM I'll probably run again (and ride the bike home.) Mostly I'm just looking forward to some nice weather for a change!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spent a while pondering the options last night while I ran and concluded that going to the Muddy Moose 14 mile trail race just doesn't make sense financially. Between a car rental and travel expenses (it's about an 8 hour round trip from here) it would cost close to $200, and that's money I need to put toward either another vehicle or getting my Subaru repaired.

It's a shame, because word is this might be the Muddiest Moose yet, with all the rain and snow we've gotten over the past few days. Oh, well, maybe next year...


Monday, April 16, 2007

10.7 Mile Run Around Albany
Monday, April 16, 2007

Finally got off my backside and out for a run. It started out a nicer evening than I anticipated, with a break in the rain. Actually, while we had some light drizzle at various points during my run, nothing even came close to the steady rain of earlier in the day. So no complaints there!

Found a nice little park not far from my place - Buckingham Lake. A little pond with a playground, wetlands, and a dirt path about 3/4 of a mile long around the perimeter. It was so nice to be running on a natural surface that I went around it 1 1/2 times before heading back out onto the streets and sidewalks. Also said hi to the geese (5), a duck, and a muskrat that was industriously making his way through the water (he submerged every time he saw me, so I'm guessing he wasn't as happy to see me as I was to see him.)

Ran down New Scotland all the way to the Normanskill (where the sidewalk ends) and got a brief glimpse of how much it's flooded its banks... I'm very glad I don't live down there! One house looked like it might have water right up to its foundations.

Overall, a decent run, but one that hurt a bit more than almost 11 miles should at this point... I need to get back into a regular schedule of long runs if I'm to have any hope of completing NIPMUCK.

I Can Definitely Be Thankful...
Monday, April 16, 2007

... that I'm not running in the 111th Boston Marathon. What an absolutely miserable day for the race - a cold, rainy day, with sections of the course under water and 50 mph head- and crosswinds. Yow. Gotta give the folks who are running today a lot of credit... especially the back-of-the-pack runners who will be out there for 2-3 hours longer than the elite athletes. Go, guys, go!

Of course, I've done races under similar conditions... but not a marathon! I can only hope for better weather when I do my marathons this year.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Perhaps it's just as well my car isn't working properly, because no doubt I would have driven down to Schodack Island State Park (not as bad as it sounds... only about 20 minutes to half an hour away) and run the 5th Annual Dodge the Deer 5k trail race in the rain and snow.

Instead, I was a lazy bum around here... motivation has been seriously lacking. All day today it's been raining, snowing, sleeting, raining, non-stop. I ducked my head out the door this morning when it was snowing and was tempted to get out then... but by the time I was ready to gear up, it had changed to freezing rain and the sidewalks were pretty treacherous. So I settled for moving my car, pulling a few more things out of the trunk, and coming back indoors.

So now, no matter what the weather's like tomorrow night, I need to get out for a medium-long (12 miles or so) run after work. Though perhaps I shouldn't issue challenges like that to the weather-gods, given the frustrating way the weekend's gone so far... but regardless, I need to get back to putting in distance, if I want to have any prayer of finishing NIPMUCK.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

17.7 Mile Ride to Colonie and Back
Friday, April 13, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday after work I packed what I needed for the weekend into a pack and rode over to the karate school. Tough ride - cold with nasty headwinds much of the way meant I had to pump pretty hard just to maintain forward motion. After changing clothes I walked to where I was meeting my ride to Utica (iaido Friday night, a rank recognition breakfast and instructional staff meeting Saturday morning and early afternoon.)

Saturday I got back to the school and headed home on the bike. Weather was a little nicer, plus the wind was at my back to in a few places I was flying down the road (well... flying for me.) About halfway home, noticed an odd clinking sound, so I checked the rear wheel and sure enough, had a broken spoke. So that made for a slow 2nd half of the ride home... I took it easy to try and avoid breaking more spokes.

Unfortunately, the broken spoke is on the sprocket side of the rear wheel, so I need to remove the freewheel to replace it. Unfortunately, all the research I did tonight seems to indicate that I can't do that without a special tool that I don't have... the freewheel removal tool I have in my Spin Doctor tool kit won't work with my freewheel. So now I have to take the wheel to the bike shop, at least to get the tool from them (my preference, since I'm guessing I'll probably break more spokes, at least up to the point where they've all been replaced with stronger ones), or possibly to have them do the work (a distance second choice.) So after finally fixing that bike a little over a week ago... it's out of commission again. AAARGH.

On the other hand, we're supposed to have crappy weather all week (cold and rainy) so I probably won't be able to ride much anyway. But it's still annoying. Maybe someone is trying to tell me that I should have saved my pennies and bought a low-end "real" bike instead of this cheap-o department store bike. Oh, well.

UPDATE: May have found the tool on-line... we'll see when it arrives and I try to remove the freewheel...


Thursday, April 12, 2007

8.6 Mile Run from Albany to Colonie
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Since the weather was going to be lousy, I knew riding to class was out, so I originally planned to take two CDTA buses from a stop near where I live over to Colonie Center, and then either walk or run up Central Ave to the karate school (a distance of about 2 1/4 miles... barely enough to get warmed up running, and not much of a walk, these days.) As I was walking home through the snowstorm after work, I decided to skip the bus and run the whole distance (somewhere between 8 and 9 miles, depending on what route I took.) Admittedly, part of that decision was helped by Master Hillicoss offering to give me a ride home after class, rather than my having to take a bus and then walk about a mile from the bus stop.

So I rushed around, figured out how to pack some clothes for after class, geared up, and headed out into the now-rainy afternoon (throughout the day the weather had been alternating between rain,, snow, and sleet.)

The first part of the run was along the sidewalks down Western Avenue... bleah. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad in the sunshine, but running down the sidewalk with cars zipping by on the road on a cold, rainy day just kind of sucks. As I approached the University of Albany campus, I realized I could save myself some running by cutting through campus between Western and Fuller... it was also a bit nicer to run the sidewalk on campus (less traffic.) As I made my way over to Fuller, I decided to head into the Rensellaer Lake section and get away from cars and pavement for bit - an excellent decision, since the traffic along Fuller was downright scary (people blasting along at 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.)

There was something very appropriate about running through that section of the Pine Bush, since almost exactly two years ago I kicked off my current racing "career" by running the 3rd Dodge the Deer 5K Trail Race, put on by the Albany Running Exchange. (They've since moved the race to Schodack Island State Park down near Castleton, due to issues with use of the Pine Bush trails.) It was great fun running those trails again and wonderful to be out in the woods, on soft surfaces, away from traffic and people! The inch of snow made things a little bit slippery - my road shoes aren't as aggressively lugged as my trail shoes - but that was a minor problem, and being out on trails again more than made up for it.

Came out on Rapp Road and decided to continue on trails, rather than taking the roads to Central Ave and running up the sidewalks. Cut through the Fox Run trailer park and made my way into the Karner Barrens section of the Pine Bush. A bit hillier than Rensellaer Lake, which along with the snow and having run 5-6 miles already made things a bit tougher, but no big deal. I definitely have to get out on trails this weekend!

Came out by the Pine Bush Information Center (the old SEFCU building) and ran down 155 to Kohl's Plaza and the karate school. Traffic was fairly heavy but the shoulder's were nice and wide, so it wasn't too difficult. Had an interesting moment running underneath a power line with a transforming/insulator that was crackling and throwing off some major blue speaks, but finished the run without mishap, refueled, changed clothes, and jumped into teaching class with Master Hillicoss.

Ended up being a bit sore, especially my right hip and quad... probably in part due to the challenge of running in an inch of snow with less-than-ideal shoes, plus my not running enough over the last couple of weeks, and maybe some remnants of the very challenging Northern Nipmuck 16 mile race this past weekend. Still, I'm glad I did it... despite the aches and pains, it was great to get some time in on trails, and it was good to be out running for more than a quick few miles.

My long run for this weekend is still on (though it may be another wet one)... but I don't think I'll run over to Colonie Center to meet my ride to Utica tomorrow night...


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Just for kicks I visited the Runners World Trail Running Forum today (I was looking for something to do while my kids took their latest quiz) and stumbled across a race report for Northern Nipmuck! How cool is that - almost all the races I read about on-line are big events far away, and here is one that's not only in the wonderful northeast but one which I ran!

Turns out the fellow writing the report has a blog called Off Track at the Nashua Telegraph. Part of one of his posts in particular struck a chord with me:

I’d always liked to run through the woods, but I had slacker’s bias for convenience. Why drive some place to go run? It seemed a poor use of time and gasoline.

Now I’ve changed, and I’ll tell you why: Pavement blows. Unless you are lucky enough to live way out in the sticks or beside a large park, the scenery on your street sucks, and the next block isn’t any better. This earth is a whole lot prettier when we leave it be. Sunlight dances on a pond. Pavement just gets hot and dull, and builders flatten all the lumps and fill the valleys as they sow suburbs. Also, it’s just too damn hard. Even dirt roads get packed pretty solid, but trails are gentle on the feet. You pick your way through the rocks and roots. You have to watch where you step, but there’s always a way. It’s like a dance, almost, synching your stride with the trail.

I never feel lonesome when I run alone through in the woods. The birds and squirrels may be shy, but there are always the trees, the sky and the occasional brook to keep me company. I’ve always felt close to them, like old friends.

(here's the rest of his post - much of it describes his experience doing the Greylock Trail Marathon last fall!)

That so eloquently describes why I love trail running. And it leaves me even more eager to have regular transportation again, so I can stop running around Albany and get back in the woods where I belong!

"No Run For You!"
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A tough decision, given that the weather this afternoon was the nicest it's been in a week, but the right one, I think. After days of walking, running, and riding, my legs get a break tonight. I almost convinced myself to go out for a ride (it was so nice outside!) right up to the point that I was dressed and ready to go... but then decided that caution was the buzzword of the day. No need for an injury at this point - no doubt I'll collect plenty as the season progresses!

Too bad the weather's supposed to be lousy tomorrow - I'd have run or ridden over to class tomorrow evening. As it stands now, I'll probably take CDTA buses most of the way.

But one way or another, I'm doing a long run this weekend!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

5.8 Mile Run near Academy
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tonight was supposed to be a short run, to get my legs working again prior to doing a medium-long run tomorrow (10-12 miles or so.) But tonight's run was tough... I suspect that the combination of Northern Nipmuck plus relying on walking and riding for all of my transportation over the last several days has left me without much juice in my legs. The run felt a little better after 40 minutes or so, but my legs are definitely tired. I'll have to wait and see how they feel tomorrow before deciding just how far I'm going to go.

One of the toughest things about my car being somewhat out of commision - right now I'm pretty much limited to running in town. I REALLY miss running in the woods! This Sunday I may end up riding my bike over to the karate school, just so I can head out from there and put in some miles in the Pine Bush (and it will be good cross-training for the Rochester Spring Classic Du, too!) Let's hope the weather cooperates... it's been pretty chilly lately, and they're calling for some storms over the next few days...


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Talking Trash
Sunday, April 8, 2007

Oscar the Grouch loves trash. He even has a song that says so.

I have to admit, I'm a fan of Oscar. But I wouldn't want to live in a trash can (even one which I happen to think is actually a TARDIS - after all, it's clearly dimensionally transcendental. Does that make Oscar a Time Lord? But I digress...) And I definitely don't love trash.

I've been spending a lot of time walking, running, and riding along the streets and roads around here, and I can say without a doubt that the amount of trash lying on the ground is absolutely apalling. It seems like there's garbage everywhere. What ever happened to throwing garbage in a trash can?

I was particularly struck during the Eastern States 20 Mile race two weeks by the number of energy gel packets I saw along the road. Now, I'll grant you, a dozen or so empty packets over 20 miles after 500 runners have passed may not seem like that big a deal. But we were specifically asked to hold on to any garbage we generated until it could be thrown out at an aid station! How difficult is that to do?

Occasionally a piece of paper, or a cup, or a bottle will fall out of my car as I'm getting in or out, and I'll find myself thinking, "It's just one ____, is it really worth reaching under the car to get it?" The answer is "YES!" And I hope if someone sees me dropping trash on the ground and not picking it up, they'll give me a good solid kick in the backside. Because I don't want to be contributing to the disgusting litter that I'm seeing everywhere I go. Maybe if enough of us take that attitude, we can someday return to having clean streets and roadsides where the only thing to see are the plants and animals.

Around here, there's a lot of concern because Mayor Jerry wants to bury a portion of the Pine Bush Preserve under the expanding Albany landfill (a huge money-maker for the city of Albany.) If what I'm seeing keeps going, he won't need to... because we'll have buried everything around us under the trash we're too lazy to dispose of properly. Whether via recycling (yeah!), reuse, or some other method. But just dropping garbage wherever we feel like it needs to stop.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

LONG DISTANCE 2007, Race #2
Northern Nipmuck 16 Mile Trail Race
Saturday, April 7, 2007

Northern Nipmuck info
2007 Northern Nipmuck results

2007 Northern Nipmuck photo slideshow

Didn't sleep particularly well, probably a combination of anxiety about the race today and various other sources of stress in my life right now. So when the alarm went off bright and early (well... early, at least) I seriously questioned the wisdom of setting out to run a 16 mile trail race over fairly difficult terrain on only a few hours sleep. You can probably figure out what I decided.

Packing for this race was tricky due to the unusually cold weather we've been having, but eventually I got my act together and set off on the drive to Bigelow Hollow State Park in Connecticut. The drive through the mountains on the Mass Pike was interesting, to say the least... all the cliffs had huge ice formations running down them, and at the highest point (Becket, I think) all the trees and bushes were coated with a layer of ice, like they'd been through an ice storm. At least the sun was shining...

Pulled into the park (at least this year I knew where the race was, since they don't post any signs for this one!) Checked in, and geared up - tights, shorts, long-sleeved shirt, fleece vest, and gloves. I also stashed a windbreaker, fleece hat, and fleece earband in my waistpack (along with food and Gatorade powder for refilling my bottle.) Finally it was time to make the half-mile hike to the start, where everyone was crowded across the road in an attempt to stay in the sunshine until the last minute. At the urgings of the RD, we all moved to the starting line, where we got the typical "It's a trail race and the trail is well-marked. If you get lost and complain about it, we'll laugh at you." And then, with a quick ready-set-go - it was time for the shoes to meet the trail!

One plus to having done this race last year - I learned a little bit and didn't even bother trying to run for the first half mile or so. Between the long hill that starts this race and the race field 0f 100+ people all crowding onto singletrack trail, it made much more sense to save my energy. (My plan was to run conservatively in any case, and walk all the uphills.) Made our way through some mud and water (which I actually did my best to steer clear of, not knowing what the remaining 15+ miles would be like) and hit the runnable (for me, at least) section after a dozen minutes or so. After that it was up and down, up and down... some nice runnable sections, and plenty of steep climbs and descents. Came out along the stream/pond/swamp, and hit the first aid station (approx. 4 miles) in an hour, same as last year. Of course, the question was - would I manage to maintain that pace or have increasingly longer times between aid stations for the rest of the race, like last year?

The next leg started with a tough technical section, including lots of steep up and down. Also some cool stuff - pine forest, mossy boulder fields, and ICE. Two of the streams had huge icepacks (a good 6" thick.) I watched people slip and slide across those and decided to go around them. Hit the runnable section of the 2nd leg, a long stretch of singletrack through mountain laurel. Unfortunately, this was also where the folks ahead of me were coming back, so it was tough to maintain a steady pace, since every few minutes I'd have to dodge to the side of the trail and wait for them to pass. On the plus side, many of them were very pleasant and encouraging (one of the things I like about trail runners - many of them are pretty nice people.)

The last mile or so got pretty technical, some steep up and down and rough footing... ending in a climb down a cliff to the 2nd aid station and the turnaround, at about 2 hrs 10 minutes. Not bad, time-wise... but the return trip was where I fell apart last year.

After a few minutes, clambered back up the cliff and hiked much of the technical section, before finally reaching the runnable section. At least on the way back I wasn't dodging other runners! This section went better than last year... I ran more, and a little faster, and the hiking didn't hurt as much. I was starting to get cold, though - the tempartures never got above the high 30's, and it was pretty breezy in some areas. Not bad in the sun, but as you can probably guess from the ice I mentioned earlier, the sun doesn't get to every part of this trail all that effectively. Took my only fall in this section - tripped on a root or rock and sprawled forward, fortunately on soft dirt. Picked up a few minor scrapes, but no big deal. Could have done without the last mile or so of technical trail, and definitely could have done without the steep downhills, but finally jogged into the aid station after about an hour and a quarter - a little past the 3 1/2 hour mark. No prayer for a 4 hour finish, but a 4 1/2 seemed like a remote possibility. (Hah!)

After refueling and chatting with the nice volunteers, hit the last stretch of trail... and remembered why I hated that section last year. After a stretch along the stream, the trail goes up and up and up and up. Some runnable stretches along the way, but I'd guess there's a good 2 miles of climbing in that 4 mile stretch. So I ran when I could, and hiked the hills. On the plus side, doing the Greylock Death March last year does afford some perspective on these long hills... none of them are 3 miles! About halfway along, the sweep caught up with me - he was making sure everyone finished and pulling down the orange flagging/picking up trash. From there it was run, hike, run, hike, until finally we reached the doubletrack and another challenge - shoe-sucking mud and water. Since I knew the end was in sight, I said the heck with it and blasted through the mud. OK, that wasn't the brightest move. Having wet feet definitely was more uncomfortable than when they were somewhat dry, as my shoes and socks rubbed more. But I finally reached the last bit of singletrack (a long downhill) and actually ran (well... slowly) down it this year. Reached the finish line in 4 hours 49 minutes - just in time to catch the fellow recording times, who was packing up because he thought everyone had finished!

So I didn't make 4 hours (which would have been a GREAT run) or even 4.5 (still pretty darn good.) But I did finish 20 minutes quicker than last year, and I wasn't suffering anywhere near as much, so I declare the race a success!

My improved time is probably due to a variety of factors - the cooler weather (last year was broiling hot and I suspect I ended up fairly dehydrated despite sucking down numerous bottles of water and Gatorade), foreknowledge of the course (so I knew to save some energy for later), possibly improved hydration/electrolyte replacement (only water for the first hour, and an hourly E-cap), and just maybe I'm in better shape than I was in at this time last year. (Different socks and shoes may have also helped... my feet weren't anywhere near as sore as last year, when I could barely walk and was snarling expletives every time I bumped a rock or root by the end.)

On the walk back to the car, I had a wildlife encounter... as I was walking up the road, a bobcat walked out of the woods a ways ahead of me. He stopped, looked at me, then zipped across the road and into the woods. (Sadly, he was missing the lower half of one back leg... stupid traps.) That was very, very cool!

After that, it was just a matter of munching some food (pizza and Pringles, mmm!) changing clothes, and then driving back to Albany (and wishing the car I was driving had cruise control - it would have been good to be able to stretch my abused legs!)

No question, I have a lot of work do do before NIPMUCK in June... but today says it may be doable.

Next up: I'm signed up the run the Muddy Moose 14 Mile Trail Race in two weeks... whether or not I'll be able to go depends a lot on what happens with my transportation between now and then. Wolfeboro is over 4 hours from Albany, so that's a bit of an expensive trip. So possibly Muddy Moose, or possibly the next race will be one of the one's I want to run in May.


Running 36 mi, 9 hr 10 min
Cycling 6.2 mi, 33 min
Snowshoe 31.3 mi, 9 hr 11 min

states visited: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bike Repairs
Friday, April 6, 2007

Finally made it down to the bike shop to pick up the parts I needed for my mountain bike and my newer road bike. (Snapped two spokes late last fall on the road bike, and discovered that one of the bearing races in the bottom bracket of my ATB was trashed when I took it apart a couple of weeks ago.) $10 later I was back home with spokes and bearings in hand, and an hour or so later both bikes are back in working order (at least, I hope they are... haven't had time to test ride either one yet.)

Also picked up the car I'm using to get to the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race tomorrow morning. I have to admit, I'm more than a bit apprehensive about it - last year the Northern Nipmuck course kicked my butt big-time, and not only haven't I been doing much running since the Eastern States 20 Mile two weekends ago, I've also done very little trail running since January. So I'm anticipated a long, slow, painful run tomorrow. My main hope is that I can at least finish in less time than last year...


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

22 Mile Ride to Colonie & Back
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Today is the last day of our spring break, and looking back, it seems like I've accomplished very little this time around... other than a trip to Niagara Falls, travelling to eastern NH and running the Eastern States 20 Mile, spending a weekend at the Saratoga Martial Arts Festival, and doing a lot of updating/tweaking/streamlining of the blog beast (including switching over to the new layout tool and converting all pictures to insertions within a text post.) Guess I got a little more sleep than usual too, which I can't knock.

Unfortunately, the car is feeling its age (13 years and 309,000 miles) and in need of some (probably) expensive repair work that I can't afford right now, so I'm going to be doing much of my travelling by foot or by bike for a little while. Today was the first major example of that - I biked over to the karate school to take care of some administrative work. It was a nice day for a ride, and I made good time - a little over 90 minutes for a 22 mile round trip. I must say, though, that sharing the road with all those cars isn't my idea of a relaxing ride. On the other hand, the traffic did encourage me to keep up my pace, which I don't always do when I'm riding the bike paths.

Back to work tomorrow... it will be nice to see some of the kids again, but I can't really say I mind staying home, doing whatever I want whenever I want, and collecting a paycheck every two weeks. I like my job, but sometimes it just seems to get in the way of the really important things in life (seeing Ann, running, riding, martial arts, reading, and sleeping... for starters!)


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007
Sunday, April 1, 2007

SMAF info

Another year of the Saratoga Martial Arts Festival has come and gone, with an entire weekend devoted to learning and training in martial arts. This was my 4th time at SMAF, and the 7th year it's been held. This year was different and unusual in that Master Hillicoss and Miss Moller both attended as well, and Master Hillicoss presented a 2 hour seminar on the tonfa on Sunday.

As usual, my focus was on learning or reinforcing principles, possibly picking up a new technique or two, gaining a little exposure to other styles of martial arts... and having fun while doing so.


The festival was supposed to kick off with a traditional lion dance being presented by Sifu Sharif Bey and his students. As we found out later, technical difficulties prevented that happening, and shortly after arriving at the Skidmore College gym we jumped into the first seminars of the weekend.

Zenbu Ryu Jujutsu with Sensei Lou Zuccaro - the first session I did on Saturday was another jujutsu class, this one with Sensei Lou Zuccaro. Sensei Zuccaro teaches at the Zenbu Ryu Jujutsu Dojo in Staten Island and founded Zenbu Ryu in 1998, after studying a variety of martial arts for 30+ years, with his primary training in Professor Florendo Visitacion's Vee Jitsu and Sensei Joseph Murgola's modern form of Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. I was particularly interested to learn that Sensei Zuccaro is Gary Lewis's instructor (Sensei Lewis taught the jujutsu seminar that I took last year at SMAF.) After a quick warm up we jumped into close to 90 minutes of wrist locks, throws, and takedowns, with a few strikes sprinkled in for good measure. Sensei Zuccaro was a lot of fun and despite getting repeatedly slammed into the mat, I really enjoyed his class. I was also pleased to see Sensei Lewis who arrived toward the end of the session and was flattered that he actually remembered me from last year.

Sensei Lou Zuccaro

Liu Seong Combat Arts with Sifu Dan Donzella - from jujutsu to a Chinese/Indonesian style. Sifu Dan Donzella teaches a combination of Chinese Chuan Fa (Kung Fu) and Indonesian Tjimande (essentially a form of kuntao) as well as filipino arnis. His seminar focused on techniques that can allow a smaller person to successfully defend against a larger attacker, including slapping techniques and pokes/jabs to sensitive areas of the body - all designed to get an attacker to react in ways that would disrupt their balance and allow one to either finish them off or retreat. While some of the techniques were counter-intuitive to me (with years of training in a primarily closed-fist striking art) they were very effective and definitely gave me some ideas of things to add to my own arsenal. I was also impressed by Sifu Donzella's very down-to-earth aproach and his interest and concern for his students (when I went over later to purchase two of his DVDs, he remembered that I'd mentioned having knee injuries and discussed them briefly with me.) I would definitely take another of his seminars!

Sifu Dan Donzella

Defensive Positioning and Timing Drills with Dr. David Wink - I was somewhat familiar with Dr. Wink from previous years at SMAF, although I'd never taken a class with him. Mainly I'd seen him doing demonstrations, often as one of the Crazy Guys with Sticks who would practice full contact stick fighting with minimal protection. He comes from a very eclectic martial arts background: TKD, Wing Chun, boxing, kickboxing, silat, and kali, among other things, though much of what I've seen him do seems to be based on filipino and Indonesian arts. He worked with us on drills to develop positioning and timing in defending against a stick or knife, based off the triangle principle (always moving at an angle to the attacker rather than straight in or straight back.) Once we'd worked on that for a bit, we added jamming the attack by either jamming the elbow from the outside or the forearm from the inside, and then added a rather nifty stick disarm. It's quite possible this would be very basic material for someone with a strong filipino/Indonesian background, but I found it both interesting and challenging.

Dr. David Wink
Low Kicking and Sweeping Techniques with Shihan Patrick Hussey - I actually started this session in Sifu Mark Cardona's class on concepts of monkey kung fu, but it became evident very quickly that my knees were not going to allow me to do many of the movements he was demonstrating, so I hustled over to Shihan Hussey's class on low kicks and sweeps. (I'd actually been interested in taking Shihan Hussey's class anyway, but decided to give my legs and knees a break... guess I was meant to be there after all!) Shihan Hussey was glad to have additional students and we jumped right into using low kicks to the outer thigh to disrupt our partner's balance, then following through with a variety of sweeps and strikes. Shihan Hussey struck me as an excellent teacher, very enthusiastic and very interested in his students. His background in traditional Japanese karate (kyukoshinkai, seido, and kokorokan) is very clear, and I am definitely interested in learning more about his style, Tenkara Karate, which apparently focuses not only on technique but also in developing strong moral character in its students.

Shihan Patrick Hussey

Aikijujutsu with Sensei Dave Lamond - for the last seminar of the day we had a variety of choices, one of which was originally going to be taught by the late Sensei Jim Tirey. With Sensei Tirey's passing a little over a week ago, it was unclear exactly what would happen with his seminar... but we were very fortunate to have his instructor in Icho Yama Ryu and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu Kodokai, Sensei Dave Lamond, as well as one of Sensei Lamond's students and Sensei Tirey's senior student (unfortunately, I didn't get their names.) Sensei Lamond is an retired NYC police officer who first began studying under Antonio Pereira, founder of Miyama Ryu Jujitsu. He went on to study under Miguel Ibarra and Roy Goldberg, two of the founders (along with Bernie Lau) of Icho Yama Ryu and Sensei Kiyama Hayawo in the secret art of Daito Ryu Kodokai. Sensei Lamond started with a brief demonstration of Daito Ryu techniques and looked to be, as they say, putting a real hurtin' on his ukes. From there we went on to practice a number of handgun disarms - a major difference between these techniques and the ones we practice in AMAI was an emphasis on keeping the gun close to your body to maintain leverage and try to avoid a strength-against-strength tug-of-war. For the last portion of the seminar, we experienced a bit of what the late Sensei Tirey called "faschia fighting", which uses the idea of maintaining light contact and taking a person down by stretching the skin to its elastic limit. A very subtle effect and not one that I was able to get to work for me, though I had it done to me effectively. Overall, an interesting seminar with a good deal of practical technique and information.

Sensei Dave Lamond

After the last seminar wrapped up, we found out that the lion dance was delayed from the morning because of technical problems with Syracuse Kung Fu's lion. In a show of incredible friendship and generosity, one of the local instructors, Sifu Steven Nacua, allowed them to use his school's lion (allowing another school's students under your lion is something which is almost never done - the lion represents the pride and soul of your school) AND we learned that one of the new instructors, Sifu Allen Wong, would be joining the Syracuse Kung Fu students under the lion. Thus the evening demo kicked off not only with a lion dance, but with a friendship dance showcasing the spirit of sharing and courtesy that characterizes the Saratoga Martial Arts Festival. Ann and I stayed to watch the lion dance, which was lots of fun, and the first demo, a short show put on by Adirondack Tae Kwon Do's students. Then we headed back to Albany, with a stop along the way for some much-needed dinner.


Three Arts Rotation: Defense Against a Punch -
Jeet Kune Do - Mr. George Ilyadis

Mr. George Ilyadis

Modern Jujitsu - Sensei John Borter

Sensei John Borter
Goju Ryu - Sensei Kevin Suggs

Sensei Kevin Suggs

The Tonfa - Master Allen Hillicoss -

Master Allen Hillicoss

Dynamic Fingerlocks - Sensei John Borter -

Additonal photos:
Baguazhang with Sifu Ben Bey

Iaido with Sensei Al Blakely

Capoeira with Professor Aranha
Kali with Guro Doug Marcaida
Shaolin Kung Fu with Sifu Allen Wong
Gun defense with Sensei Mike Campos

Monkey style kung fu with Sifu Mark Cardona

Karate with Shihan Lou Needham

Hung Ga Kung Fu knife techniques with Sifu Sharif Bey

all photos courtesy of SMAF 2007