Sunday, August 31, 2008

26.4 Mile Ride on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Sunday, August 31, 2008

After a failed attempt to get a haircut (I got there just after they closed) I headed over to the Niskayuna Lions Park for another spin on the bike path. Started out thinking I'd head west and tackle some hills, but the trip up the hill along the old landfill convinced me otherwise, and I ended up heading over to the end of the path in Cohoes instead. (Ironically, the first couple of miles coming back from the end of the trail is a long uphill climb... not terribly steep, but it does go on for a while!)

Since it was getting towards evening, I once again saw lots of bunnies alongside the path, and as usual I had several sightings of blue herons and white egrets. The real surprise tonight was the number of green herons I saw. A couple of days ago I had spotted one perched offshore at the Lock 7 boat launch, so when I saw one there today I did my best get as close as possible to get some photos... and in the process spotted two more out in the weed-choked lagoon hunting for food. On my way back I also spotted three more out in the weed-covered channel that connects to Lisha Kill to the Mohawk River. Definitely a record for most green herons spotted in one outing - even during some of our paddling trips this summer I don't think Ann and I have spotted more than two or maybe three.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

6.6 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush
Saturday, August 30, 2008

This was one of those days where I slept late and then waffled around about going out to run... I finally convinced myself to get my backside in gear early in the evening by deciding to go a bit shorter than the 9 miles I had originally planned to do.

As I was riding the Blueberry Hills section (also sometimes referred to as the Columbia Circle section) of the Pine Bush yesterday I was thinking that the trails were unusually clear and I should go running there today. Often the brambles take over the Kaikout Kill Barrens and make the trails literally a pain to run throughout the latter parts of the summer, until the Pine Bush folks clear them... which apparently happened sometime earlier this month. This section can be one of the more challenging to run because it is very hilly... I avoided a lot of the worst hills while riding, but planned to tackle them during my run today.

Another thing I decided to do was test out my Vasque Blur trail shoes that I bought almost on clearance about a month ago... the Saucony's are definitely getting worn and will probably be relegated to the "hiking shoe" pile in another month or so, and I haven't invested in another pair of Adidas Supernova Trails yet. I'd read good things about Vasque shoes, so when I came across these at a nice clearance price I bit the bullet and bought them, and today's run would be short enough that if they were uncomfortable it wouldn't be a problem.

Hitting the trails felt good, even though this is the 6th day in a row that I've been either running or riding... maybe there's something to what Murakami says in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, when he gives his opinion that muscles are like work animals - if you work them consistently day after day and slowly increase what you want them to do, they'll respond and get stronger, but if you give them a couple of days off they relax and lower their limits. (Of course, a few sentences later he mentions that it's important to work them sensibly and not so hard that you burn out.) After two runs and two rides in four days, I expected my legs to spend tonight's run grumbling and complaining... instead they felt pretty good until the last hill or two.

The shoes felt a bit stiff and clunky at first, but by the end of the run were feeling pretty decent... it'll take a few more runs to be sure, and I definitely want to try them on some different types of terrain (the Pine Bush trails tend to be pretty tame compared to some places I've run!)

Along the way I saw several turkey vultures (or at least, the same two turkey vultures several times) and a couple of deer, including a doe and youngster off in the distance (it was fun watching him bounce around.) But the critter I was probably happiest to see was a bat, fluttering around just over my head as I stood on a hilltop and looked out over the fields of Blueberry Hill East - between the fact that they eat tons of bugs and have been dying off for no known reason, I'm always happy to see bats at dusk.

I also managed to catch Jupiter in a photo - I was surprised that it showed up in the shot I took!

click to enlarge - Jupiter is on the right, just about level with the top of the tree


Friday, August 29, 2008

A Possible Return for the Jordan Alpine Classic?
Friday, August 29, 2008

Between the incipient onset of fall and my recent ride through Jordan on the Canalway Trail, I've been thinking quite a bit about the Jordan Alpine Classic 8.5 mile race, which I ran for the first and only time back in 2005. According to an article by Dr Kamal Jabbour in the August 17, 1998 Syracuse Post Standard (and currently archived on his website of "Dr J on Running" columns, which ran in the Post Standard from 1997 until it's downsizing in 2003) the race was orginally started in 1980 as a way to draw more people to the Elbridge Country Fair. The 7.5 mile race course was designed by Hans Meixner, Tim Sandstrom, and Kenneth Wilson to take advantage of the the varied local terrain, with part of the course on local roads but much of it traversing private property. The run included fields, woods, hills, and a crossing of the Skaneatles Creek. When the Elbridge fair ended in 1992, the Alpine Classic Run ended as well, until it was revived in 1994 as part of the nearby town of Jordan's Fall Festival. A mile of trail was added to allow the start and finish to be at the Jordan Festival grounds, making the race 8.5 miles long.

I ran the Alpine Classic in 2005 and had an absolute blast. Actually, that was literally how the race started - with a blast from a small black powder cannon! I wasn't able to run it in 2006, initially because it conflicted with the Adirondack Marathon and then because I was injured from my bike crash in August 2006, but I hoped to run it last year until learning in early August that it had been cancelled. When there was no mention of it on this year's Fall Festival schedule I figured it was probably gone forever, for reasons most of us would never know...

Today curiosity got the better of me and I spent a while searching the web for references to the race... didn't find anything I hadn't seen before, other than a 2nd site claiming to be the official site for Jordan NY and mentioning the Allpine Run as part of the Fall Festival. A first I thought this was a revamped version of the site I'd visited previously, but then found that one as well... who have thought there'd be competition to be the official site for info regarding Jordan? Anyway, in the midst of that, I came across an e-mail address for info regarding the Fall Festival and decided to send a question about whether or not the Alpine Run would ever be back. Later in the day I recieved a very nice e-mail from one of the Festival co-chairs, with the following info:
The Alpine Run is not gone forever. We are hoping a group will step forward to bring it back the the Jordan Fall Festival. Just a week ago someone stepped forward so we're hoping we may have it back for the 2009 Festival. If you, or anyone you know is interested in volunteering to get it back please let me know.
Way cool! There's a possibility this great race may return!

(As an aside - if anyone reading this wants to volunteer to help bring back the Jordan Alpine Run, please contact Maureen Doyle, Fall Festival Co-Chair.)

16.7 Mile Ride in the Albany Pine Bush
Friday, August 29, 2008

The weather turned out to be better than predicted today, so after some delays due to my street being closed by the fire department dealing with a fire next door, I headed over to the Pine Bush with my mountain bike to do something I've done very little of this summer - trail riding.

I wasn't entirely sure exactly where I wanted to go, but I started at the Blueberry Hill East trailhead and headed off into the woods and fields. I rode the perimeter over the the West trailhead, with a detour up to the hilltop to look out over the fields, which were mowed sometime in the last month, like the rest of the Pine Bush fields I've seen recently. Then I headed off on the Kaikout Kill Barrens loop. I was a little concerned that trail would be overgrown with brambles, but it had been cleared not too long ago and was great to ride, though the unofficial conecting trail to Rte 155 was badly overgrown - one brush with a plant left my right glove, seat cover, and trail jersey covered with tiny green burrs that I'll be picking off for months!

Crossed the road and headed off on the Great Dune trails. With the blue and yellow trails closed due to habitat restoration (removal of invasive species, particularly black locust trees) all I did was a basic loop along the red trail before heading over to the Madision Avenue Pinelands. Didn't ride many of the trails there, because they tend to be very sandy and more often than not I end up pushing the bike in those sections... so I took a fairly direct route to the trailhead and then headed off on a somewhat scary road ride to get to the Karner Barrens.

Instead of trying to cross Rte 155 again (which is extremely busy at that time of day) I took advantage of the wide shoulder and rode facing traffic the short distance to the entrance to the west Karner Barrens. Had a fun if challenging ride through the fields - the paths are somewhat uneven under the grass cover, and the recent mowing left some slash in spots, which meant I ended up stopping several times to pick sticks out of my wheels and derailleur. (After destroying my rear derailleur by riding through slash back in 2005, I tend to be careful about that now!) Passed under the bridge over the Thruway and made my way through the fields and woods of the east Karner Barrens. Since I skipped the worst hills in the other sections, this was some of the toughest terrain I rode today, and I definitely started feeling it in my legs.

Paused briefly outside the Pine Bush Discovery Center, then headed back out on the trails to make my way over to the Fox Run trailer park and some road riding to get to the last section of Pine Bush I'd be visiting the Rapp Barrens. The smell from the nearby Albany Landfill was nasty - I have to feel sorry for the folks living near there, who end up smelling that all the time and have the landfill looming over them. The landfill has been a hot topic over the last couple of years. Since the City of Albany gets approximately 10% of its yearly budget from landfill revenues (generated in a large part by non-local companies that pay to dump waste there) and the plans to build a new landfill in Coeymans will probably be blocked forever by the residents there, the local government has a vested interest in keeping the landfill running as long as possible and has on several occasions attempted to expand the landfill onto land that is either already protected as part of the Pine Bush Preserve or is promised to someday be a part of the Preserve. Needless to say, local conservation groups, especially Save the Pine Bush, have fought these plans every step of the way.

The Rapp Road section of the Pine Bush is one of the first parts I ever visited, and is also the spot where the Albany Running Exchange's annual Dodge the Deer 5k race was originally held, until the ARE had a major falling out with the Pine Bush Commission and moved most of their events to other venues. The 2005 Dodge the Deer race was the first one I ran when I resumed running and riding on a regular basis, so I have a lot of fond memories of the trails, though I don't run there very often - the trails are fairly short and I have to run multiple loops to run any appreciable distance. Today I rode the main trail twice, mainly because they're wide and fairly flat, so it's easy riding, plus I was having a good time and wanted to delay the end of my ride. Along the way I spotted a fairly large toad (eat lots of bugs, dude!) and spent a while watching a group of ducks eating plants off the bottom of the narrow waterway connecting the main body of Renssellaer Lake with its extensions into the Preserve.

click for larger image

From there I had a quick ride along the paved bike path over to Rapp Road... after struggling along sandy trails, buzzing along pavement seems a breeze! Then I had the last road leg to ride. Initially I was worried this would be the hardest part of the ride, in terms to dealing with traffic, but it actually went very smoothly, and I quickly found myself back where I started at the Blueberry Hills East trailhead.

I really enjoyed having a chance to see a lot of the different sections of the Pine Bush today - as I've said previously, I haven't spent as much time on these trails as I have some other summers, so it was nice being there today. Today's ride also reminded me that I'd like to spend more time riding trails - I've only gone out on my ATB twice this summer. I definitely need to put in more time on it before the Black Diamond Offroad Duathlon in October, though much of the riding in that race is on well-graded rail trails that I could probably ride my road bike on. My ride today also left me once again considering getting a bike without rear suspension - I think I waste a certain amount of energy and momentum in the rear suspension bounce, and since I'm riding an inexpensive department store bike it can't be tightened any more than it already is. In nay case, I'd still be looking at a department store bike to replace it - I'm too novice a trail rider and I don't ride off-road often enough to justify spending too much on a mountain bike.