Wednesday, April 30, 2008

6 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Wednesday, April 30, 3008

Didn't run as far as I'd hoped to tonight, in part because I got a late start and it got pretty darn cold as the sun started to go down. But as I was heading out on my final loop, I saw a large bird fly from a tree near the trail to one a bit further in the woods, and as I watched it I realized it was an owl! So I did my best to creep closer and tried to get some pictures. As I was doing so - another one flew up from the ground and perched in a tree nearby! Yet another occasion when I wish there was an easy way to carry binoculars with me while I'm running in the woods...

I watched them for a while and then headed on my way, since it was getting darker and chillier all the time. So I may not have gone as far as I wanted to... but it was still pretty darn cool all the same.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

6.5 Mile "Run" at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Sunday, April 27, 2008

So after tossing my initial plans to the winds and running fairly hard for the last 3-4 miles of the race, what did I do next? I drove to a different section of the park and ran on some of the other trails there, of course!

Of course, anyone who saw me might say I wasn't actually running... because when I was trying to run I was moving darn slow, and I did a lot of hiking up hills - my legs just didn't have any juice left for running hills.

My plan was to run the red loop, a little under 6 miles of wide woods road which would hopefully avoid some of the hills I hiked back in December when I went looking for the Leatherman's cave. While it was another grey day, one difference was immediately apparent - there was a lot of green amidst all the brown and grey of the woods and rocky hills. I suspect those trails are really quite beautiful in full summer, though the undergrowth probably makes it much more difficult to see all the stone walls and boulders.

Had my third canine encounter of the day shortly after starting my run - a very enthusiastic big black dog who was eager to play, dashing back and forth to the embarassment of his owner (and well he should have been embarassed - the dog should have been leashed.) He finally took his dog down another trail, and I didn't see any more people for over an hour.

Passed the sign for the "Leatherman's Loop", a trail that goes off to an overlook and the cave - too many hills for my tired legs! About a third of the way around the red loop, I came to the side trail that goes up to Bear Rock (a big stone with a possible petroglyph of a bear) and past Dancing Rock, and decided I wanted to see them when they weren't covered with snow. Lots of climbing (ie. walking) and rough footing (more walking) but I did see the rocks before hauling my tired self back down to the red trail. At that point I was seriously considering heading straight back to the parking lot at the first chance, rather than completing the loop... my legs were really grumbling.

But, when I came to the intersection where that was possible, I decided to continue on the red trail for a while, to see the Raven Rocks... it only looked to add a mile to the trek, and I knew I'd end up wondering what they were if I didn't go see them. (I did successfully resist the side trail out to Castle Rock and back - that looked like it would be a half mile in and of itself!) After some climbing and passing the only other two people I saw on the trails (two gals out running with their dogs) I found out that the Raven Rocks are a nice overlook, not as expansive as the one above the Leatherman's cave, but still a pretty view. After that I was lucky - much of the trail was downhill!

I left the red trail and followed the yellow trail back to my car... almost all the way blessedly downhill, which definitely hurt but was still easier than having to hike uphill! All along the way I was struck again by the sheer number of stone walls throughout the woods... a visual reminder that the whole area had once been cleared farmland, and it was mainly through the reforestation work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps that we have these wonderful woods to enjoy today. Skipped a side trip to see the few remains of the old CCC camp in favor of finally getting back to the car, where I changed into dry clothes and started the long drive back to Albany.

Perhaps a return visit is in order some time this summer...

LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #2
Leatherman's Loop 10k Trail Race
Sunday, April 27, 2008

2008 Leatherman's Loop results

the short version:

Remember how I'm planning to run most of my spring races as training runs? Well, that worked OK today for about 2 miles, and then Stupid Turtle stepped in and picked up the pace. All told, a good morning in the fields, woods, streams, and MUD of the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, and I made it to the finish line in 1 hr 18 min - almost exactly the same time as when I last ran this race, in 2005! Don't know if a fun time was had by all (there were a couple of injuries, and I overheard some whining in the parking lot afterwards, from road runners who apparently signed up for this race clueless about what they were in for) - but I had fun!

the longer version:

It was tough getting up this morning... lack of sleep from a busy spring at work is definitely taking its toll. I spent most of the drive down the Taconic Parkway fighting the urge to doze off... not fun. Though I did have two cool canine encounters on the way to Cross River - first a fox ran across the TSP and then stood alongside the road watching me drive by, then I saw a coyote tearing at a deer carcass along the side of I84.

No line to get into the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, though there was a bit of a line for getting down into the field to park... but the volunteers were doing a spectacular job and all went quickly. Picked up my race number and T-shirt, then wandered around trying to take a few pictures. Saw Jim and Loretta briefly as I was heading back to the car and they were just arriving - good thing too, because that was the last time I saw them all morning! Back at the car I geared up, visited the bushes (the lines at the Port-o-Potties are always a killer) and then debated on what to wear, given the light drizzle and chilly temperatures... finally settled on a long-sleeved shirt (and should have gone short-sleeved, though I would have been cold waiting for things to start.) Then I gathered up my meager gear (water bottle and camera) and headed across the field to the start. Passing by the remains of the old oak tree in the field made me sad... that was such a grand old tree (and something like 500 years old.)

Start was delayed, probably in part by stragglers checking in at the last minute and in part by the race folks trying to get the mike and speakers working well in the rain. But they finally got it, and we were treated to a few minutes of acknowledgements and thank yous, recognition of folks who've run the Loop many times, and so on. All good stuff, though when it's cold and drizzling - I'd rather be running! The traditional Celtic/Navajo blessing was recited (a variation on the Navajo blessing I included in Friday's post - how's that for serendipity!)

Beauty before me when I run.
Beauty behind me when I run.
Beauty below me when I run.
Beauty above me when I run.
Beauty beside me when I run.
Beauty within me when I run.

I see beauty all around.
In beauty may I walk.
In beauty may I see.
In beauty may we all be.

Finally we were given the signal to start... and 840+ runners headed across the fields to the sounds of bagpipes and cheering from the spectators.

I was somewhat determined to take it easy during the race and save some energy for my post-race run, so for the first mile or so I ran at a pretty easy pace with a group that did the usual start/stop routine, especially every time we came to a spot that was muddy or that presented any sort of minor challenge. That lasted through the woods along the stream and then up and down the several hills that lead into the first stream crossing. The stream wasn't all that high - maybe mid-calf in the deepest spot - and I crossed without mishap, other than a really rude runner essentially pushing me aside so he could get in the stream faster. Having done this course several times now (with the last two times in December!) the cold water isn't as much of a shock and I was able to resume my pace right after leaving the water.

I finally started to lose patience with the start/stop routine as we ran along the opposite bank of the stream. The path there started to get fairly muddy in spots, and every time we hit a mudhole the group would slow to a crawl as people tried to tiptoe around it. So I started passing people by blasting straight through the mudholes (which also has the advantage of being more fun!) After running the picnic area the trail became singletrack, which was a bit more challenging - very few opportunities to get past the slower folks (yes, there are people even slower than me!)

Went through the aid station at the halfway point without stopping... that got me past a few more runners. The mud flats were very muddy... there were one or two spots where I thought I might end up on my back. The Wall (a long steep sandy hill) was a tough climb as always, but after that was a nice stretch of downhill, with one part weaving through a forest of tall pines... sweet! I made good time and passed some more folks.

Of course, what goes down must go up and the long gradual uphill climb was as grueling as ever. The stretch along the stream and then up into the woods was also tough, both because by then Stupid Turtle had long since taken over and I was pushing hard and because that section of trail always seems to me to go on forever before we end up at the field heading for the second, more challenging stream crossing. This year the water was the lowest its ever been in my three Loops (though it's usually not too high during the December run) and again I made my way across without any trouble, then pushed as hard as I could on the quarter mile mostly uphill final stretch to the finish, finally crossing in 1 hr 18 min 42 sec - almost exactly the same time as in 2005!

After that I wandered a bit, snagged some bagels, and looked for Loretta and Jim without success. Eventually I decided I needed to start the 2nd run before my legs locked up, so I hopped in the car and headed over to the trailhead for the paths leading up to the Leatherman's cave (the same paths I hiked last December after Gail's Trail Run, though I wasn't planning to go to the cave today - too many technical hills.)

I have to say I'm glad I decided to run the Loop this year... maybe it was because I know what to expect or maybe because I wasn't trying to run a "fast" pace for the first couple of miles, but I wasn't as annoyed by the number of runners like I was in 2005. All in all I had a good time... it might be a couple of years before I run the spring race again, but it wouldn't surprise me if I do run it again in the future.

Next up: the Medved Madness 15 mile trail race next Sunday at Mendon Ponds Park near Rochester... that's going to be a tough morning...


2008 Event Totals
Run 15.5 mi / 3 hr 12 min
Bike 0 mi / 0 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

states visited: MA, NH, NY, VT

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Preview of Sorts...
Saturday, April 26, 2008

I first ran the Leatherman's Loop in 1999, after hearing about it from a running friend who told me about this crazy trail race in Westchester where the runners went through mud and streams and looked like absolute hell when they finished. Naturally, I had a blast, but didn't manage to get back to it until 2005, when I resumed running and riding in earnest. (In fact, in many ways it was the Leatherman's Loop that got me started running on a regular basis again... during a break from school I visited the race website and while looking at the pictures found myself thinking of how much fun it would be to run it again... and it all just kind of took off from there. This blog might not even exist of it wasn't for the Leatherman's Loop, since I originally started it as an easy way to post race reports and pictures after my first season back.)

One of the cool things about the availabilty of technology is that just about anyone with a camera and a little know-how can make a video these days and then post it on-line for all the world to see. As it happens, Rob Cummings, one of the runners in the 2005 race, took a camera along and shot many short segments of the race; they can be found here. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoy watching them, especially segment 19 which features an appearance by a certain running Turtle... I'm briefly visible in segment 20 too, but you really have to know what to look for, because the picture gets very shaky as Rob makes his way through a flooded section of trail.

At some point in the last year, Rob took a few of his video clips and assembled a Leatherman's Loop 2005 video, complete with a nifty soundtrack. It's available via the race site and also on YouTube.

Having watched it a few times, I'm now wondering if I'm going to find myself hearing "Take Me to the River" in my head, at least as I run the start of the race tomorrow...


Friday, April 25, 2008

7 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Friday. April 25, 2008

Some days it just seems to take longer to do everything (actually, that's most days for me!) so this evening found me heading not to the relatively flat Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve but instead the Columbia Circle section of the Pine Bush (officially known as "Blueberry Hill East", "Blueberry Hill West", and the "Kaikout Kill Barrens") for some hilly running.

After a week of relative inactivity my legs felt sluggish at first, but they loosened up pretty quickly. For some reason I almost always enjoy running through this part of the Pine Bush, and today was no exception. The trails wind through open fields, pine and hardwood forests, and up and down some of the steepest hills in the Pine Bush. Maybe it was being out in the fresh air, maybe it was finally running again, but it definitely felt good.

When I got back to the trailhead I headed out for a short out-and-back across the field that makes up a large part of Blueberry Hill East, and ended up running the entire blue trail loop. Could have kept going for a few more miles without too much strain, but my legs were starting to feel it just a bit.

One portion of the trail runs along the border of a series of local back yards, and someone was grilling steaks - boy did those smell good! Sadly I ended up making do with dinner from Wendy's while I wrapped up some prep work for Saturday's weapons competition at the karate school (20 students will be demonstrating various weapons katas - I'll probably end up being one of the judges) before heading out to meet Ann, who had also come in to teach classes tomorrow morning and then assist with the competition. Not a lot of time to spend with my sweetheart this weekend... next Saturday should be much better in that regards.

Another Sign of Spring
Friday, April 25, 2008

Happily may their roads back home be on the trail of pollen.
Happily may they all get back.
In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.
It is finished in beauty,
It is finished in beauty,
It is finished in beauty,
It is finished in beauty.

'Sa'ah naaghéi, Bik'eh hózhó

—from a Navajo Ceremony (Four Masterworks of American Indian Literature, ed. by John Bierhorst, 1974)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Busy Weekends in May
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Right now it looks like I have two double-header weekends planned for May...

I was originally going to run the Thom Bugliosi 13/26k Trail Race out near Ithaca on Saturday, May 10... then Muddy Moose got postponed and left me with a dilemma. I briefly considered doing both, but a quick calculation of the amount of travel time that would entail (it's about a 6 hour round trip to the Thom B, and about an 8 hour round trip to Muddy Moose... in opposite directions) showed me that too insane even for me. So I made plans to run the Thom B and skip Muddy Moose yet again.

But last night I was looking over the race calendar, and it suddenly occurred to me that the Mt Tom Road to the Pogue 10k is practically on the way to Wolfeboro, NH. So that gives me my first doubleheader -

May 10 - Mt Tom Road to the Pogue 10k Trail Race in Woodstock, VT
May 11 - Muddy Moose 14mi Trail Race in Wolfeboro, NH

The following weekend is the other doubleheader. I've done the Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon for 3 years now, and I don't think I'm ready to skip it yet. But the next day is the Highland Forest 1-2-3 10/20/30mi Trail Race, in beautiful Highland Forest Park (where I stumbled and staggered through the snow at the Last Chance Trail Run last December.) And I need to get in some really long runs before Nipmuck. So that weekend I'm anticipating -

May 17 - Rochester Spring Classic F1 Duathlon (2/10/1/10/2mi) in Mendon, NY
May 18 - Highland Forest 1-2-3 20mi Trail Race in Fabius, NY

Maybe the following weekend... I'll rest!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yesterday the wildfire at Minnewaska was declared to be contained, and the work crews shifted from active fire-fighting to mopping up - moving through the burn and making sure all the hot spots are out to prevent future flare-ups. I can only imagine the amount of work involved in checking 3500 acres of burned mountain wilderness.

Right now the DEC is saying the fire was most likely started by smoking - I assume that means they think some idiot started it by carelessly discarding a lit cigarette butt. DEC officials are citing the lack of evidence of arson or campfires, plus the proximity of the original brush fire to the road. I have no trouble believing that as a possible cause, given the hot dry conditions we've had lately (many of the local areas have declared a high fire hazard and put a ban on outdoor burning) and the number of times I watched moronic smokers toss lit cigarettes out their windows.

The Poughkeepsie Journal also has a good editorial which compliments the recent fire fighting efforts but also somewhat takes the state to task for not having a better plan for how to manage the Minnewaska Preserve, particularly in the implementation of controlled burns to help manage undergrowth which can contribute to the rapid spread of wildfires like this one.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

I fell in love with Minnewaska State Park Preserve when I first visited there for the 1999 Summer Solstice Run. Since then I've run 5 more races there and visited a couple of times to ride my bike and just generally enjoy the peace and beauty of one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been. So it broke my heart to read the today's e-mail from the nearby Mohonk Preserve:

As of Monday, April 21 at noon, a forest fire at Minnewaska State Park Preserve had burned about 4,000 acres. Thanks to round-the-clock efforts of state, local, and volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, the fire is largely contained. However, firefighting efforts are ongoing and it is not known at this time when Minnewaska will re-open.
Apparently, the fire started on Thursday as a small brush fire which was thought to be under control by Friday... but it reignited and spread despite all the efforts to contain it. Over 250 personel from 27 state and local agencies have been involved with trying to stop the fire, including members from more than 30 volunteer fire departments, DEC forest rangers and personnel from state police, Department of Transportation and Parks and Recreation. At this time the fire is about 80% contained and is the largest wildfire in NYS since 1995. For more info, I recommend any number of articles from the Times Herald-Record, a local paper that has had excellent coverage of the fire.

Funny thing is, I had briefly considered going to Minnewaska yesterday for my long run and decided it was too far to travel. I'm glad I made that decision!

No doubt the park will only be closed for a short time, until the fire is completely out and it's safe for people to return. But the thought of so much wonderful forest burning makes me very, very sad.

(all photos courtesy of

the fire zone - the red line indicates the area of the fire, and the black lines indicate the firebreaks cut in an effort to contain it


Sunday, April 20, 2008

12 Mile Run at Thacher Park
Sunday, April 20, 2008

My original plan was to run the Muddy Moose 14 mile race in New Hampshire today, but earlier this week I got word that the race had been postponed to May 11 due to snow and ice still covering the trails (hard to believe with all the warm weather we've been having, but as RD Fergus Cullen pointed out Wolfeboro received over 120 inches of snow this winter... yow.) Just as well for me... I'm really not in shape to run 14 miles of trails yet. So I changed my plans to heading over to the Berkshires to get in an early season run at Beartown or Pittsfield State Forest... but then decided to save both some travel time and gas money and headed to Thacher State Park instead.

I typically park at Hop Field when I run the Thacher trails, but today I decided to go to Mine Lot instead, since that's more centrally located and would give me more options to stop back at the car and pick up fresh supplies. Given the beautiful weather I wasn't at all surprised that there were quite a few people at the various picnic areas, especially along the escarpment. I warmed up with a run along the escarpment trail over to the Haile's Cave picnic area (HQ for both the Indian Ladder 15k and the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon) with an early pause to admire the turkey vultures soaring on the air currents off the escarpment - they may not be the loveliest birds around, but it sure is cool to watch them glide back and forth. I ran into a fair number of hikers along the trail, which helped me decide to do the bulk of my run up in the less-travelled OSI property in the northwestern portion of the park... a good choice, it turned out, as once I hit those trails I didn't see another person until I returned to the main parts of the park roughly 2 1/2 hours later!

I followed the service road up to the waste treatment plant and then headed through the woods along the aqua-blazed Long Path, coming out on a trail I've run many times between the Indian Ladder and Hairy Gorilla races. Stopped for a while to check out a woodpecker who was making an incredible racket on a dead tree limb, then headed up the hill to the top of the ridge and followed the same route we follow for the latter parts of Indian Ladder, through woods and scrub fields and pine forests. Along the way I startled a grouse and definitely enjoyed the fact that the trail was both somewhat drier and less overgrown that it has been the other times I've run it.

more to come

Saturday, April 19, 2008

16 Mile Ride on the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path
Saturday, April 19, 2008

After a long morning and afternoon spent working at the karate school getting things ready for next weekend's weapons competition (as well as doing general upkeep and improvements) I packed up my bike and headed over to the bike path for a ride. The path was a little less crowded than I expected, but there were still plenty of people out enjoying the warm evening.

I started out heading west, to the base of the old Niskayuna landfill, and was pleasantly surprised to find the riding easy - no headwind! Along the way I passed numerous walkers and riders... and a very muddy snapping turtle at the edge of the path. On the way back I found out why the initial riding was so easy - a rare west-blowing wind. Oh, well... on the way back to the park, I spotted two swimming muskrats and even managed to get some decent pictures for once.

It was getting a bit darker as I headed east along the path, and I had some nice views of the setting sun as I left the shore of the river and headed up into the wooded stretch between River Rd and Island View Rd. I also had a nice view of a flock of turkeys, including a large tom turkey who gave several displays of his fan of tail feathers.

At the top of the steep hill down to Island View Rd, I decided to go for it and headed down the path to ride the short stretch out to Dunsbach Ferry Rd - not much distance, but it gave me some hill work, which I need to get ready for the Spring Classic Du in a month. Paused at the top of the hill on the way back, and watched several deer cross the path - it was getting too dark for me to get any decent photos, but I did get what I think is a cool action shot of one deer leaping into the woods. Spotted a few more deer off in the distance on the ride back to the park, and even a couple of rabbits - hard to believe that in another month or two the sides of the path will be crawling with rabbits in the evenings.

Back at the park, I took some time to admire the rising moon and enjoy the dark and the quiet... maybe this summer I can get over there for a few night runs, with a lot more of the path to choose from than the 2 mile Gerbil Wheel stretch I run in the winter!


Friday, April 18, 2008

6 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Friday, April 18. 2008

What a great evening for a run... warm and sunny! The trees and bushes are budding and the woods are turning green again (well, except for the places designated for "habitat restoration"... it'll be a few years before those spots are truly green again.)

I even managed do do a "good deed" tonight... shortly after starting my run I spotted a cell phone on the path and tucked it in my waist pack, figuring I'd leave it at the trail head when I was done... then half a mile or so later, I came up behind some walkers and decided to ask if either of them had lost a phone, and one of them had. He seemed pretty pleased to get it back!

Didn't spot any deer tonight, and the peepers were a bit subdued... but the muskrat was very busy, and I must have spent a good ten minutes watching him and trying to get a decent picture (no luck... it was too dark and he was too far away.) I also heard an owl calling while I was watching him... pretty neat!

It was getting well into dusk for the last part of my run, and I had a nice view of the moon coming up through the trees... a great ending to a good time out on the trails.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Has Sprung
Thursday, April 17, 2008

No, not because of the weather, though that's been awfully nice this week (shame I slept through it yesterday evening... aargh.)

This morning I saw visible evidence that the birds are building nests and preparing to raise the next generation of feathered friends... as I was going to my car I saw a starling gathering up nesting materials and flying them up to the eaves of a house across the street. She was quite brave about it too - I wish I'd had my camera because I probably could have gotten a good picture.

The spring weather does make it dififcult at times to be indoors but I'm still glad it's here. Now I just need to get my backside outside for more running!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

12.1 Mile Ride at the Corning Preserve & Schulyer Flatts
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Given that my legs felt pretty tired during last night's run, I had originally planned to use tonight as a rest day and get some errands done. But the weather was just too nice to resist, so I took my bike down to the Corning Preserve and spent a while riding the bike path and the walkways around Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park.

The water was certainly a lot lower than it was a week ago, when it was practically up on the shore! Spotted the deer on the way out, and a few geese and ducks. On the way back I stopped to take a picture of the moon through the treetops, and watched what I think was a cormorant fly overhead. I was almost back to the parking area when I passed a heron down in the inlet... that was pretty cool. After loading the bike back on the car, I walked over to take some pictures of the river and the swing bridge, and watched a large white bird flying up the river - my guess is an egret.

So no errands accomplished, and my legs may not be as rested during tomorrow night's run... but what a great evening for a ride!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Muddy Moose Postponed
Monday, April 14, 2008

Got an e-mail today letting me know that Sunday's Muddy Moose 14 mile trail race has been postponed until Sunday, May 11, due to 90% of the course still being under snow and ice.

On the one hand, I'm a little relieved, because I'm really not ready to run 14 miles yet... but now I have to decide whether to do Muddy Moose or the Thom Bugliosi 13/26k trail race out near Ithaca that weekend.

So it goes.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Afternoon of Seminars with Master Fumio Demura
Sunday, April 13, 2008

I ended up overestimating the travel time to the Mohawk YMCA and got there a bit earlier than I wanted to... as it turned out, Master Demura and Sensei Hobbib had a situation come up in the morning that resulted in their being almost an hour late, so we ended up waiting around anyway. But once Master Demura arrived I was once again reminded of why I signed up for these seminars - he is one of the most positive fun-loving people I've ever met, and it is simply joy and a pleasure to learn from him.

Kobudo Bo Seminar

We started out with a bo (six foot staff) seminar. After a very brief introduction, he led us through a series of exercises designed to help us become more comfortable with moving the bo and working with it on both the left and right sides. He then took us through a series of kihon (basic combinations) and then we broke up into pairs to practice techniques on each other. For the most part I was pretty comfortable with what we did, since I've worked with the bo quite a bit over the last 10 years or so.

(all seminar photos courtesy of

From there he split the class into two groups - those who had been at his previous seminar three years ago and those who hadn't. The latter group worked primarily with Sensei Hobbib on Master Demura's Bo Kihon no Kata (Basic Bo Kata) that he taught three years ago. The rest of us were fortunate enough to learn a traditional Okinawan bo kata, Koryu Shushi no Kon Sho (Old Style Short Bo Kata of Shushi.) We've done a kata called Shushi no Kon Sho in our school for as long as I can remember, and while I've never learned it, this one seemed a bit different... perhaps because of the differences between the Japanese and Okinawan versions of some katas, as Master Demura spent a few minutes explaining and demonstrating. (The main difference seemed to be flow, with the Japanese method having very definite pauses between the movements and a certain emphasis on strength while the movements of the Okinawan version were more flowing... but my knowledge of Japanese and Okinawan arts is limited enough that I could be totally off-base on that!)

As always Master Demura did a great job teaching the kata... he took us about 2/3 of the way through it, then switched with Sensei Hobbib who both drilled us on the movements we'd learned and gave us a few more. Then Master Demura came back and finished the kata with us... unfortunately by that point we were running low on time, so we didn't get to practice the last 1/3 nearly as much as the first 2/3, and I wouldn't be able to do the whole thing from memory at this point... but with the help of some of the resources I've gathered over the years, I should be able to piece it together so that I can try to practice it on a regular basis.

Toyama Ryu Batto Do Seminar

After that we took a brief break and those of us in iaido changed into our iaido gear, then the second seminar on Toyama Ryu Batto Do started. Master Demura gave us a brief overview of the different types of sword work and drew analogies to different aspects of karate - kendo being similar to kumite, iaido being similar to kata, and batto-do being similar to breaking. Toyama Ryu is a relatively recent development in the Japanese martial arts, created in 1925 to give Japanese officers a method of basic training in practical sword techniques, with an emphasis on using the drawing and cutting with the sword in close-quarters combat. As a result, the style has a strong emphasis on tameshigiri (test-cutting.) There are currently three separate Toyama Ryu organizations and many schools; probably the best-known in the US is Nakamura-Ryu Happo-giri Batto-do, founded by Nakamura Taizaburo based on his training in a number of styles including Toyama Ryu. Master Demura trained under Nakamura Sensei until his death in 2003, and his International Batto-do Confederation is based on Nakamura's teachings, as well as training with instructors from the All Japan Batto-do Federation. (There are many places where more info about Toyama Ryu can be found on-line, including a fairly good article on Wikipedia. Master Demura's site has an excellent article outlining the history of Toyama ryu, Nakamura Sensei, and the International Batto Do Confederation.)

We started out with a couple of basic exercises - drawing and cutting, controlling the hieght at which we stopped each cut. After that Master Demura did a quick overview of the happo giri (eight cuts) - four diagonal cuts, two horizontal cuts, a cut straight down, and a forward thrust. Then we learned a Ippon me - Mae no Teki, the first kata. The movements defend against an overhead attack, by first cutting the forearms of the attacker and then finishing him with a downward diagonal cut. We practiced Ippon me a number of times, then found partners for kumitachi (paired practice) and took turns being the attacker and defender. I was fortunate to pair up with Ann, and we spent much of the seminar working back and forth (and trying to remember to do Toyama Ryu moves and not Takenouchi Hangan Ryu!)

The last part of the seminar was tameshigiri (cutting) using a cutting sword that Master Demura and Sensei Hobbib provided. They set up rolled tatami mats and gave us a few guidelines on how to cut properly, then a number of the iaido students were given a chance to try it. We were running low on time, so I didn't think Ann or I would get a chance to do it, but just before the end we were each allowed to go up and make a cut. I remember slightly more about this one than I do about the cut I made in Japan, under the late Master Tsuneyoshi Matsuno's guidance - maybe the 5 1/2 years of training I've done since then have improved my skills a bit. I was also lucky that Mr. Eric Stalloch, the owner of the Utica location, managed to get a fairly nice picture of me making the cut.

After that we hustled out, because another group was coming in to use the gym for basketball. As always this was a great set of seminars with Master Demura - he is a phenomenal teacher who is eager to share his wealth of knowledge. I can only hope we have more opportunities to learn from him in the future!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

18.6 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path
Saturday, April 12, 2008

The weather forecast called for it to be cold and rainy today, so I was more than a bit surprised when I left the house this morning and it was warm and turning sunny... but I definitely appreciated it after dropping my car off to have my snow tires taken off, since I had a 20 minute walk to the karate school.

After a busy morning and early afternoon, I walked back to the auto shop to pick up my car. What a gorgeous day - mid-60's, sunny... fabulous! While I was walking I decided to get out on my bike instead of running today. I can run tomorrow, when it's supposed to be chilly and rainy.

When I picked up my car I made the unfortunate discovery that this morning when I stopped at a bank to get some cash, I apparently left my ATM/Debit card in the ATM... it was nowhere to be found on my person. Thankfully I'd gotten enough cash that I was able to pay for the work they'd done... on the plus side, that cost $10 less than I'd been expecting, and the car feels much better with the all-seasons on it.

Dealt with the customer service folks at my bank, and locked out my missing Debit card... I have to make a trip to a branch Monday to order a new one, and it will take almost two weeks to get to me. What an absolute pain - but I have no one to blame but myself, so no whining here.

Decided to ride on the bike path west of Schenectady. When I got to the SCCC parking lot, the wind had kicked in something fierce; probably the cold front moving in. So I changed into long-sleeves and pulled on my rain jacket, which makes a decent windbreaker (and is VERY visible.)

The ride out was tough... had a fierce headwind, and had to work fairly hard to maintain any forward motion. But even with the wind it was a gorgeous day, just chillier. Spotted a snapping turtle in a section of the Old Erie Canal just west of the Rotterdam Kiwanis Park, and what were probably a few mergansers on the far side of the Mohawk. Other than that, it was the typical mallards, geese, red-winged blackbirds, and robins.

I rode out through Rotterdam Junction and came back on the short stretch of bike path west of the center of town. Spotted plenty of signs of past beaver activity, but I think they've moved on... for the past few years I haven't seen any freshly chewed trees. I did see two kingfishers on the flooded section of the old canal... nice to see them back. One of these days I'll get a picture of one of them...

The ride back was a lot easier, with the wind at my back... good thing too, because it was getting cold!

So... some good today, and some not-so-good. But I guess that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Tomorrow should be a busy day! Hopefully a short run in the morning, and then 2 weapons seminars with Sensei Fumio Demura in the afternoon!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

5.6 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path
Thursday, April 10, 2008

OK, that's a pretty pathetic distance to ride on such a warm day, but I was under pretty severe time constraints since I needed to get to karate class. So I rode from the Niskayuna Lions Park out to Lock 7 and back. Initially it looked like it wasn't going to be anything more than a short ride on a nice day, but then I spotted the mergansers (and tried to get some photos, with very limited success) and really exciting, a red-tailed hawk sitting on a telephone line... I watched him (and snapped pictures) for quite a while, until he dropped down into the grass alongside the road to nab some dinner.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

7.2 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A cloudy evening with the possibility of some showers, but still fairly warm - warm enough to run in shorts and a shirt! I headed over the the Willow Street trailhead for the Pine Bush planning to run most of the major trails (except for a short stretch that's currently undergoing "habitat restoration" and is off limits.)

While my legs felt better during the day than they have for the past two, it was clear fairly quickly that I still haven't totally recovered from Sunday... legs felt tired during pretty much the whole run. I'b been thinking of putting in a few miles on the bike tomorrow, but maybe I'll just do an easy walk or something and try to rest up for Saturday's long run (11-12 miles, on trails.)

Spotted a couple of deer, but by far the best wildlife experience tonight was toward the end of the run, when I went through an area with a lot of vernal ponds (pools of water which fill with snowmelt and spring rains but mostly dry up in the summer.) Vernal ponds are very important for salamanders and woods frogs breeding, and if I hadn't known the ponds were there before tonight it would have been very obvious from the almost deafening racket the frogs were making! I ended up stopping and walking for a while, just enjoying listening to the peepers and all their different calls. And while I was there, I spotted a muskrat swimming through the largest pond (one that actually retains some water year-round.) From the way he ducked under the water when he spotted me, I don't think he was as interested in seeing me as I was in seeing him!

Overall, a tough run, but a good time outdoors... I'm starting to think that the Muddy Moose 14 mile trail race in 1 1/2 weeks is going to be a real bear, though!


Monday, April 07, 2008

9.3 Mile Ride at the Corning Preserve
Monday, April 7, 2008

Even though today is a recovery day from yesterday's efforts (my legs are definitely grumbling about running 9 hilly miles) the weather was just too nice to stay indoors, so I took a bike down to the Corning Preserve figuring I could get in about 10 miles or so on the bike path.

It was a bit windier and definitely chillier than I expected, but no big deal. The river was pretty high - right up to the edge of the bank in numerous places, and there were signs that sections had been flooded not too long ago. I rode out to the Watervliet parking area and then took the path back to the Albany waterfront.

About a mile out of the parking area, someone pulled up next to me on his bike and just started talking up a blue streak about bikes and riding in general. Turns out he was on mile 80 or so of a 100 mile ride and was using the path as a good way to get in some safe miles. He ended up riding with me all the way back to the waterfront, then headed off along the river when I stopped back at my car. It was a little bit bizarre, but he seemed nice enough, and he definitely knew his stuff where riding's concerned.

On our way back we passed one of the fields between the path and I-797 where the Corning Preserve deer were gathered.. 5 in all. They've gotten pretty used to people - didn't even move when I stopped to take pictures.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Short Walk at Genesee Valley Park
Sunday, April 6, 2008

After spending about an hour doing spring maintenance on Ann's bike so she can start riding it to work again (tires, tubes, lube, etc) we headed over to Genesee Valley Park for a walk before I had to hit the road to Albany. What a difference from when I walked there three weeks ago... there were lots of folks out enjoying the warm sunny day. (I must admit, I enjoyed the quiet back when the weather was colder!)

The river was pretty high and very muddy, so not much to see there... a few ducks and plenty of gulls, but that was it. We did see some very large fish swimming in the creek over neat the golf course, both at the beginning and the end of our walk.

I also felt the effects of this morning's run more and more the further we went - especially going up and down hills!

LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #1
Spring Forward 15k Distance Run
Sunday, April 6, 2008

2008 Spring Forward 15k results

the short version:
What a great day for a run through the Mendon countryside with 350 other crazy people! I had a good run at a fairly steady pace, except for the last mile where I pushed a bit, and finished in 1 hr 54 min. I was concerned that the last couple of miles would be painful, between the hills and my lack of training over the past few months, but overall the 9.3 miles went pretty smoothly.

the longer version:
I wasn't able to run the Spring Forward 15k in 2006 and 2007 because it was the same weekend as the Saratoga Martial Arts Festival. Initially I didn't think I'd run it this year either, given that the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race was on Saturday... but a combination of other commitments on Saturday and a serious lack of running over the last couple of months meant that 16 miles on rugged trails in northeastern Connecticut was not a viable option, and this morning found me heading over to Mendon Ponds Park once again for yet another race with the wonderfully positive folks at Yellowjacket Racing.

Arrived at Mendon to find the parking lot rapidly filling - I'm glad I got there early! - and picked up my number, timing chip, and T-shirt. Then I got my gear together and went through my usual pre-race "warm up" ie. I walked around for a while enjoying the scenery and taking a few pictures. (Hey, when you're as slow as I am, that really is a warm up!) While doing that I finally decided to go fairly minimal in the clothing department - long-sleeved shirt, shorts, and a hat. That turned out to be an excellent choice; while it was a bit chilly to start with, I would have cooked for most of the race if I'd worn a vest or jacket. A few minutes before the start we all gathered at the starting line near the parking lot exit, listened to a few words from the RD, and then off we went.

The first part of the course took us through the park and then out onto the local roads. Lots of hills, both up and down, though nothing too terribly steep, and I'm pleased to say I managed to run (slowly) to the top of just about every one. The weather was gorgeous - sunny and warm. While running roads is April isn't the most scenic option (everything's still pretty much in that post-winter shades of brown phase) the birds were singing and it was a beautiful morning to be outdoors.

Some of the roads we were on are ones I know well, having either run or ridden them multiple times in other races at Mendon. It definitely felt a bit bizarre to be running along some of the roads that I'm used to hammering down during the spring and autumn duathlons! After the first two miles or so, the back of the pack spread out, and I had the same folks in sight for pretty much the entire race. The folks at the water stops were great, and it never fails to amaze me how many volunteers they get to stand at turns and road crossings - without all that help, us crazy folk couldn't have our fun, so a huge "THANK YOU!" goes out to all those wonderful people!

I managed a pretty steady 12-12:30 pace for the first eight miles, and even managed to pass a couple of runners who'd been ahead of me between miles 7 and 8. At the 8 mile mark, I found myself back on familiar terrain (the road into the park) and was feeling decent, so I decided to pick up the pace a bit and see how strong I could finish. I pushed hard for the last 1.3 miles, and managed knock about a minute off my previous pace, finishing with my first running race of the year with a total time of 1:54:18, well under the 2 hours I had set for my goal. Not a phenomenal time by any means, but given all the training I didn't do this winter, I'm approaching most of my spring races as training runs rather than racing opportunities, since many of them will be my long distance runs for that particular week.

After that I snagged some food, wolfed it down on my way to the car, and then headed back to Ann's to spend some time with my sweetheart before it was once again necessary to get on the road back to Albany.

I don't know that I feel any tremendous drive to do this one again - it might be a nice run to do once in a while if I don't have anything else planned, but the course wasn't scenic enough to make this one of my "must do" events. But I'm glad I did it this year - can't think of too many better ways to spend a beautiful spring Sunday morning than outside working up a good sweat, whether it's pounding or rolling over the pavement or hitting the trails.


Next up: the Muddy Moose 14 mile trail race in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. That's going to be a tough one, since I doubt I'll have done that distance this year prior to race day. Training runs... training runs... training runs... Nipmuck and Grand Island are approaching far too quickly!

2008 Event Totals
Run 9.3 mi / 1 hr 54 min
Bike 0 mi / 0 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

states visited: MA, NH, NY, VT

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Short Walk at the Onondaga Lake Park
Saturday, April 5, 2008

After spending the morning and much of the afternoon at a black-belt-rank promotion breakfast and an instructors' staff meeting, I really wanted to get outside before dark. Unfortunately the meeting ended an hour later than it was supposed to, so that limited the options to somewhere close to the Thruway (and not too far from Utica.) After reviewing the options, we decided to stop at Onondaga Lake Park just outside of Syracuse.

The park has paths that extend several miles south from the northern end of Onondaga Lake, along both the east and west shores, as well was some trails north of the Thruway. One of the coolest things about this park is the fact that the road along the eastern show is closed to traffic, making this an excellent place to ride, walk, and run (though the distances lend themselves best to riding.)

We wandered along the lakeshore near the northern parking area for a bit, checking out the geese and gulls. Then we crossed the canal and walked for a while down the western lakeshore trail. Not much to see, other than the lake. On the way back we took a short loop away from the lake and into the swamps, where we saw a couple of woodpeckers (I think one was a downy and the other a hairy woodpecker.)

It's been a couple of years since we stopped at Onondaga Lake Park - I liked it then and I still do, even though it can get pretty crowded in the summer. With luck I'll find some time on one of my trips back and forth this year to stop again, maybe with my bike so I can see more than we were able to get to today.


Friday, April 04, 2008

5.8 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Friday, April 4, 2008

This was one of those runs where the entire time my legs felt like they'd been filled with concrete. Guess they haven't recovered from Wednesday's run yet... I took tonight's run really easy and did a lot of walking, so hopefully a rest day tomorrow will help them bounce back in time for Sunday morning's 15k...

It rained lightly pretty much the whole time I was out on the trails, which left the woods looking fairly cool... I almost wish I'd brought my camera, even though I would have had to pack it in a ziploc back. I also tested out the fancy Nashbar rainjacket I picked up on sale a while back... it's definitely a nice jacket and even fits well except for over my fat belly... more incentive to try to lose that! Doesn't seem too breathable, but I can live with that if it keeps me from getting drenched when it rains.

Spotted two deer as I was coming over a hill deep in the woods... stopped to check them out and eventually saw that there were seven deer altogether, the largest group I've ever seen in the Pine Bush. They spent a while trying to puzzle out what I was, and finally decided to leg it, bounding off into among the trees. There was also a bird with a rather strange call that I kept hoping I'd spot, but it always sounded like it was quite a ways off.

One of the main trails is closed for "habitat restoration"... more woods being stripped to leave behind what will someday resemble more natural pine bush habitat. I get it, I really do... but I miss the trees.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

9.6 Mile Ride on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Thursday, April 3, 2008

Not a lot of time between work and karate classes tonight, but it was a sunny day (though windy and thus a bit chilly) so I definitely wanted to get out on my bike and headed over to the bike path for a short ride.

I ended up going a short ways in both directions out of the Niskayuna Lions Park - east to the crossing at Forts Ferry Rd, and then west to Lock 7.

Initially I didn't spot a lot of wildlife, other than the typical geese, robins, and red-winged blackbirds, but later over at Lock 7 there was a group of diving ducks swimming near the top of the Lock 7 dam, and then on my way back to the park I spotted a large muskrat swimming at a good clip and a little further on a group of mergansers and possibly a pair of ring-necked ducks... unfortunately at that point it was getting too dark for me to get anything resembling clear pictures even with manual focus, and I didn't have my binoculars with me to get a closer look.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

8.8 Mile Run Around Albany
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I had originally planned to head over to the Pine Bush tonight, but I pottered around too much after work and decided to save myself 40 minutes of driving by running around here instead.

At first I didn't think this was going to be a good night... it was chilly with a fairly nasty wind (one of the reasons I'd wanted to run in the woods) and my legs felt more than a bit sluggish at first. My first indication that the run was going well was looking down at my watch and discovering that I'd overshot my time to take a walking break by 5 minutes. The same thing happened at just about every other walking break too.

My legs did start to grumble a bit during the last mile or so, but all in all this was a great run, and a good confidence builder for Sunday's 15k on the roads of Mendon... maybe the last few miles of that won't be as grueling as I've been thinking!