Sunday, November 30, 2008

10.6 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Sunday, November 30, 3008

At least, it was snow for a while... until it turned to rain, fortunately after I'd finished my ride.

Had I known I'd be riding during a snowstorm I would have used my mountain bike instead of my road bike... but really it wasn't that big a deal. Even after over an hour only half an inch or so of snow built up on the path, which just meant I rode slower and was really careful whenever I stopped or had to make any sort of turn. Not too many other folks out, and I suspect those that were (all walking) probably thought I was crazy to be out pedaling. I of course thought it was pretty cool... at least when ice crystals weren't blowing into my eyes (they sting like the dickens.)

Apparently the Canal Corporation has lowered the water levels for the winter - lots of exposed areas on the river that were under water only a week or so ago. The gulls and ducks seemed to appreciate it. Saw three herons hunkered down along the shore... well, two hunkered down and one hunting. And I'm even pretty sure I saw a bluebird... couldn't tell at the time, but that's sure what the photos I took look like.

So not as long a ride as I'd planned, and certainly not a tough workout... but a fun time all the same.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

NOT-SO-LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #31
RT Turkey Run 5 Mile
Saturday, November 29, 2008

the short version:

the third year I've run this one, and this year on a new course along the Irondequoit Lakeside Trail rather than on the roads and trails of Mendon Ponds Park, so in some ways a guaranteed PR. Between the new, all-pavement course and my lower distance training this fall, this was another tough one - legs felt tight and cramping for much of the run. Overall a decent time for me for the distance - 52 min 25 sec - but not last year's 48 minutes. Still, a good way to spend some time on a grey Saturday morning in late November - and I got to run someplace new too!

the longer version:

When I first saw Camp Eastman in Irondequoit listed as the venue for this one, I thought it was a typo... but as more info became available it became clear they had changed the race course. I really liked the old course - Mendon is a beautiful place to run (after all, I did 5 races there this year) and the mix of pavement and trail appealed to me. But Ann and I had seen parts of the Irondequoit Lakeside Trail last spring and summer, so I was also looking forward to running someplace new...

The drive to a new race site is always a bit nerve-wracking, but the trip to the shore of Lake Ontario in Irondequoit was uneventful, even downright easy. Found a parking place right away and headed into the heated cabin (ah, luxury!) to pick up my race number and T-shirt. Then I headed down to the shore of the lake to look for a port-o-potty and get a few pictures while warming my legs up a bit before the run. Needless to say the breeze off the lake was more than a bit chilly!

A few minutes before it was time to start we all clustered around the starting line up on the road through Camp Eastman. The RD's comments were brief - a warning about ice and snow on the bridge over Tamarack Swamp and a brief description of the course - and then with a "Runners ready - GO!" off we went down the road.

Lots of gradual downhill for the first mile and a half and tough going - my legs just did not want to loosen up. There were a handful of us at the back, and the group was small enough that I didn't think I'd be seeing too many folks running near me... a couple behind, a couple ahead, and the rest passing me on their way back to the finish line. The bridge did look pretty slippery but fortunately the right edge was fairly clear, and then the fun began - a long climb up the hill on the other side of the swamp. I kept a pretty steady pace and only stopped once near the top to regroup and grab a sip of water.

Once at the top it was a short run down the path and then around a half mile loop through a local neighborhood, then back on the path to backtrack on the way to the finish. Legs started to feel a little better on the long downhill, and I started to close the distance between me and three runners not too far ahead. Over the bridge and then more fun - running back up what had been downhills on the way out. I pushed but not too hard - since I'd never run this path before I didn't want to blow up before the last half mile or so.

During the last mile I gradually picked up my pace and managed to pass all three of the folks in front of me, though the last one was a close thing - I had to really push hard for the last quarter mile to pass her. I'd hoped to break 50 minutes, but not this time. Still, 52:25 isn't a bad time at all for me, especially on an unfamiliar course and given the lack of distance I've put in this fall.

After that I staggered back to the car and changed into a warmer, drier top. I was going to head straight home, but when I got in the car my lower legs started seizing up so I drove down the road a little ways and walked out onto the beach. I was initially disappointed to see that the swans were gone from the lakes in Durand Park, but then I realized that the white spots I was seeing out in Lake Ontario were swans - eight in all. They seemed to be enjoying cruising around out there; I'm pretty sure several of them were asleep with their heads tucked under their wings! Guess it was a good day to be a swan on the lake. As for me, as much as I enjoyed the beach, the lake, and the swans... I enjoyed the warm house, hot shower, and lunch waiting for me at home even more!


2008 Event Totals
Run 260.7 mi / 59 hr 13 min
Bike 68.4 mi / 4 hr 59 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

states visited: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, PA, RI, VT

Thursday, November 27, 2008

13.2 Mile Ride Along the Erie Canalway Trail
Thursday, November 27, 2008

It was a grey, chilly day... but it wasn't raining! So after spending the morning helping Ann cook Thanksgiving dinner for some family that would be spending part of the day with us, and then of course eating some of that delicious dinner, I changed into my riding gear and headed over to the bike path along the canal (actually, along the Genesee River at first) to get in a little riding.

Between the not-so-attractice weather and the holiday I had the path to myself much of the time, just the way I like it! Looped through Genesee Valley Park and then headed east along the canal to Lock 33. All in all it felt good to be out in the fresh air getting a few miles under my tires when most folks were probably either slipping into a turkey coma or yelling at the television because their preferred football team wasn't doing so well...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I've been trying to be more aware of all the things I have to be thankful for on a regular basis... sometimes I manage it, much of the time I don't. So in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday...

I've got it darn good. I'm healthy and able to do all the activities I love. I have great people in my life who I care about and who care about me. I have a good job that I enjoy, good people to work with, plenty of food to eat and a warm roof over my head. Can't really say I lack for much of anything, and definitely none of the things that are really important in life.

No question about it - I have a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

9.1 Mile Run at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

At least, it's a tradition if doing it for the last four years makes it one... the first year Ann was in Australia and I enjoyed a great run in the Pine Bush on a warm sunny day. Since then I've gone for a run the day before Thanksgiving - the p[ast two years at Thacher Park and this year at Vischer Ferry.

For the most part it was a cold, grey day... a tough day to get inspired about running. Didn't help that for the first few miles it seemed like most of the wildlife had abandoned the preserve... then I saw ducks, a muskrat, and I think a mink, and I reached the thickets where apparently the birds were hanging out - chickadees, cedar waxwings, robins, cardinals, titmice, bluejays, and a few others I couldn't identify. That helped raise my spirits a bit... I almost always enjoy watching birds.

I ran out to the parking area on the river and spotted a few more birds along the way - some type of raptor, a blue heron, and a pair of mergansers that flew off the moment I came into view. During the run back along the towpath between the old canal and the wetlands, birds were all over the place... many ones I had seen earlier, but also a couple of woodpeckers.

And at one spot I saw signs that beavers have moved in... freshly gnawed trees and what looks like the beginnings of a lodge.

As traditions go, it's pretty low key... but it's a nice transition from the normal work week on Tuesday and the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving on Thursday.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

(Charlestown, RI to Albany, NY)
A Visit to NWRS Kettle Pond Visitors Center
3.0 Mile Hike at Devil's Hopyard State Park
Sunday, November 23, 2008

I had hoped to make a short visit to Ninigret Park and the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge (just across Rt 1 from the area of the race) before heading to Burlingame Park, but a variety of circumstances kept that from happening. I did manage to stop at the HQ for the National Wildlife Refuge System in RI - Kettle Pond Visitor Center - right after leaving Burlingame Park, since it's only a mile or so down the road. What I found there was a really great nature center with a variety of hands-on activities for kids and some excellent informational displays for everyone else. I also ended up buying a couple of guidebooks I'd never seen before, including one for a trail that apparently runs the entire N-S length of RI. Would have liked to walk some of the trails there, but with the relatively late start of Lil Rhody (11AM) and a 90+ minute drive to the park I wanted to visit this afternoon, I decided it was better to get back on the road.

I also stopped very briefly at Nature's Art/Dinosaur Crossing a ways north of New London... mainly to take some photos of Monty, a statue of a Tyrannosaurus they have in the parking lot. Someday I'd like to stop there for a bit longer and actually go into Dinosaur Crossing, where they have over 25 life-size dinosaur statues along the trails... sounds like a cool place to wander around!

Devil's Hopyard State Park

CT DEC site for Devil's Hopyard State Park

According to the CT DEC page for Devil's Hopyard State Park, the origin of the park's name is something of a mystery. One local story says that a farmer named Dibble grew hops (for brewing beer) in the area and over time Dibble's Hopyard became corrupted to the current name. Another possibility is that the name comes from the legend surrounding the smooth potholes in the rocks near Chapman Falls - that the devil was passing through the area, got his tail wet in the falls, and got so angry that his hooves burned holes in the rocks. In any case, I'd seen the signs for the park on a couple of occasions in the past, so when I realized I'd be passing nearby on my way home today I knew I had to try to stop there.

With various delays along the way I got to the park a little later than I'd hoped, so the light wasn't the greatest and I was only left with about 90 minutes to walk around and see some sights before I had to get back on the road (I was a little bit worried about getting locked in when the park closed for the night.) Started out by hiking up to Chapman Falls, and got some great views of the waterfall both from a trail leading down to its base and the path up to the top. This was definitely a good weekend for seeing waterfalls in CT, even if the skies were a bit grey much of the time.

After checking out the falls I headed into the woods on a loop trail which included two side trips - one up a steep climb to a jumble of rocks called the Devil's Kitchen, and another to an overlook. The trail turned out to be pretty challenging, given that my legs were a bit tired from the race this morning... a decent amount of climbing, including some scrambling over cool rock formations with some amazing icicles. I opted out of the climb to Devil's Kitchen - probably would have been fine on the way up, but getting back down would have been a problem. The overlook came after a long uphill slog, and I almost missed it... fortunately, I stopped to check my map to decide whether to try to complete the loop or go back the way I'd come (in the end I chose the latter, since completing the loop would have meant at least a half more more hiking than backtracking and daylight was disappearing much too rapidly) and noticed that the overlook was also down a side trail. I almost didn't hike down to it, since I wasn't too keen on hiking back up the same hill just to get back on the trail to return to the parking lot, but in the end I decided I'd be kicking myself if I hiked all the way out there and didn't see the view. And it was well worth it.

After that I pushed to get back to the car both before it got much darker and before the gates were locked (no problem with either, it turned out) and then got back on the road for another hour or so of driving in CT before passing through my 4th state of the weekend, MA, on the way back to NY and Albany.

All in all, I had a pretty good weekend. Revisited some areas I haven't driven through in quite a few years and saw three parks I've never been to before, spent time with some old friends, and had a good (if challenging) run the Lil Rhody trail race. I'd like to spend a little more time in CT and RI in nicer weather - maybe next summer I'll take a few days and head down there to run, ride, and hike in a bunch of places I wouldn't usually get to... this weekend has me thinking that could be a nice change of pace and a lot of fun.

NOT-SO-LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #30
Lil Rhody Runaround 7.9mi Trail Race
Saturday, November 23, 2008

2008 Lil Rhody Runaround results

the short version:
After a really tough first half, I ran another PR (barely), finishing approximately 2 minutes faster than I did in 2005. It was a wonderfully sunny day... fortunately, because it was also really freakin' cold, especially when the wind was blowing off Watchaug Pond! All in all this turned out to be a good run and well worth doing.

the longer version:
The air was actually fairly comfortable when I left the motel in New London, and I drove to RI thinking I might actually run in shorts today. That changed when I parked the car and walked down to the picnic shelter to pick up my number and T-shirt and nearly froze in the icy blasts coming across Watchaug Pond. Even in the sunshine it was bloody cold! So I wandered around very briefly snapping photos, then changed into my race gear and sat in the car for about 10 minutes waiting for the pre-race "briefing" to start.

After repeated reminders that we all needed to be wearing orange (why is that some folks find that a difficult concept, despite being told multiple times that no orange = no run?) and some words of caution geared mainly for the non trail runners in the crowd, we all made our way to the park entrance and waited for the fun to begin. A few more comments (including sending a couple of runners looking for, yes, something orange to wear - good heavens, they handed out orange T-shirts with the race numbers!) and then it was time to run!

The first part of the race goes down a dirt access road, which is good because it allows the pack to stretch out a bit before hitting the singletrack. I went out a good deal faster than I should have, in part because I was cold (and that wind was blowing through the trees!) and in part because I didn't want to end up behind a slow train once we entered the woods. Of course, over the next few miles I was passed by about a dozen runners who went out more sensibly and then picked up their pace as mine slowed. About a mile in we came out on the road to the campsites and spent a good distance, almost a mile, running along the pavement - I had forgotten how far that stretch of road actually was. Then it was back into the woods for about another two miles.

The mud had frozen which made for slightly easier going but the trails were a lot more technical than I remembered - lots of roots and rocks. No major hills, thankfully... by trail race standards the first half of this one is "easy." I still found it tough going because my legs just didn't seem to want to loosen up... I spent the first five miles fighting myself to maintain forward motion (and wishing I'd both started off slower and spent more time running over the last few weeks.)

After another brief stretch of pavement we headed headed back into the woods for 3 miles of more challenging terrain... hills, huge rocks, roots, running water, all manner of fun. Around 5 miles in my legs finally loosened up and I started feeling pretty good and passing folks... I probably passed half a dozen runners between miles 5 and 7 and managed to stick to a pretty good pace. And the scenery was gorgeous... I was concentrating on running so I didn't take any pictures, and I definitely want to get back to Burlingame Park in warmer weather and either hike or run that trail.

Finally we came out on the road with about a mile to go, most of it downhill, and I hammered as hard as I could, hoping to break 90 minutes. Passed a couple more runners and pushed the pace all the way back to the park, where I crossed the finish line in 1:27:32... roughly two minutes faster than in 2005 (though my "official" time for '05 was 1:25... somewhere along the way the timer lost 4 minutes.) One of the cool things about this race is the fact that the announcer calls the names of the finishers as they come across the line - it's almost like being a real athlete!

After that I staggered back to the car, changed into a warmer top, and wandered down to the shelter to get some food... good thing I'd brought bagels with me, because all that was left at the post-race "feast" was some very good soup. In 2005 I remember sitting on my front bumper in the sunshine, enjoying my soup and bagel on a beautiful fall afternoon. Today - I sat in the car! Finished my food, changed into some jeans for the trip home... and then it was time to get on the road, so that I could hopefully see some sights before it got dark.

I had a good time running this race again - I would definitely like to come back, both for the race and just to visit the park during a different season.

And - 5 1/2 weeks before the end of 2008, I've done it - I've run and/or ridden a race in every state in New England this year, plus New York (of course) and Pennsylvania. A silly goal with no real significance to anyone other than me... but one I've accomplished all the same. Woo hoo!


2008 Event Totals
Run 255.7 mi / 58 hr 21 min
Bike 68.4 mi / 4 hr 59 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

states visited: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, PA, RI, VT
(New London, CT to Charlestown, RI)
Sunday, November 23, 2008

Had a little bit of trouble getting to sleep, so I ditched my plans to visit Ninigret Park and the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge before going to the race so that I could sleep a bit later. Had a fairly relaxed morning, with the only real annoyance being a total lack of hot water... good thing I didn't do anything really dirty or smelly yesterday.

Then it was time to bid New London good-bye and drive over to Burlingame Park in Charlestown, RI. I must say it was a much more relaxed trip than back in 2005, when I drove there from Albany the morning of the race. I even got there early enough that I didn't need to be creative about parking (this race attracts enough runners that it almost overflows the parking lot.)


Saturday, November 22, 2008

(New Haven, CT to New London, CT)
Saturday, November 22, 2008

After East Rock turned out to be a bust, I still had about an hour to kill before my friends were expecting me, so I decided to head south down I95 to the Connecticut Post Mall and see if there was a Borders down that way. It's been a dozen years or so since I've been down there... and a lot has changed in that time. The mall has expanded and in now the Westfield Mall (and includes a Borders, so that part of my trip was successful) and the area around it, which was always a major commercial strip between Milford and New Haven, has been developed in a really big way. I saw the same thing happen years ago to the commercial district outside of Poughkeepsie, but it was still a surprise to see what has been done in that area. And it was a very unpleasant surprise to see the effect that's had on the traffic there... I was very glad when I left there and was on the road back to New Haven and then out to Hamden, where my friends live.

We had a nice dinner and then hung around talking for far longer than I should have (seeing as I still had an hour of driving to get to New London.) Sometimes seeing old friends after a couple of years is awkward, but that never seems to be the case with these folks. Anyway, we wrapped up a very pleasant evening and I made an uneventful drive to New London, found the local Red Roof Inn where I had a reservation, and settled in for what would probably be a far too short night.

(Albany, NY to New Haven, CT)
1.6 Mile Hike at Kent Falls State Park
2.2 Mile Hike at Southford Falls State Park
No Hikes at West Rock or East Rock Parks
Saturday, November 22, 2008

Parts of today's drive made for a major trip down memory lane, since I drove some of these roads many times during my grad school days. Of course, that was one of the reasons I decided to loop down through New Haven on my way to New London, even though it ended up adding over 90 minutes to the driving. (The other reason, of course, was the opportunity to see some friends I haven't seen in a couple of years.) The chance to stop at some parks I'd never visted before was an added bonus.

Kent Falls State Park

map of Kent Falls State Park (PDF)

There were more cars in the lot than I expected to see on a very cold, grey November day... but one plus to visiting sites like this during the off-season is avoiding the crowds that I suspect are there during the summer. The ice in the stream and on the rocks was a very visible reminder of how cold it's been.

I hiked up one side of the waterfall gorge along the main trail, stopping at various points along the way to admire the variety of waterfalls and just listen to the running water. The final waterfall at the top was really spectacular - a plunge through a narrow gap in the rocks. After wandering around the area above the falls for a bit I decided to take a trail back down on the other side of the gorge - the views of the stream and waterfalls weren't as good, but it was nice to see another part of the park.

In some ways, this park reminded me of a mini version of Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca. The lower part of the falls is visible from the parking lot (and from the road) and then there's a hike uphill along the stream with views of lots of other waterfalls. Kent Falls isn't as long and the gorge isn't as dramatic as the one out in central NY... but it's still a really nice spot that I'd like to visit again in warmer weather.

Southford Falls State Park

map of Southford Falls State Park (PDF)

All of my guidebooks said that the waterfall here is realtively small but still fairly scenic, and right near the parking lot... so I really wasn't expecting to spend much time here. When I arrived I found a nice waterfall at an old mill site, with a cascade running down to a small covered bridge (a popular feature of the parks I visted this weekend - every one had one!) Looking at the park map, it looked like the loop trail into the woods and up to a fire tower wasn't too long, so I decided to do a bit of hiking here too, first along the stream and then up the ridge to the top of a hill and over to the tower. Nothing too difficult, though the path was fairly technical and I found myself wishing I'd worn my trail shoes.

The view from the top of the tower was nice but nothing spectacular, and since I wanted to try to visit at least one more park before dark I didn't stay long. Startled a deer in the woods on the way back to the trailhead - one of the few wildlife sightings I had this weekend, unfortunately. The sun came out for a bit as I came back to the falls, so I took a few moments to get more photos and then hopped back in the car to continue the drive to New Haven.

West Rock State Park and East Rock Park

map of West Rock State Park (PDF)
map of East Rock Park (PDF)

As I got closer to New Haven it became very clear that I wasn't going to have time to visit both West Rock and East Rock before dark... and since I knew I'd have quite a hike to get up onto the ridge at West Rock (the access road is closed November through April) I decided to head to East Rock, where I'd have to park in the lower lot but might be able to hike up to the ridge and back before it got too dark.

Unfortunately, the signs there indicated that the park would be closed at sunset, and I doubted I could get to the top and back down before then... so rather than risk having my car locked in for the night (or worse, towed!) I reluctantly decided to save a return visit to East Rock for another time. Maybe next time I can bring my bike and ride up to the top of the ridge.

On the Road Again
Saturday, November 22, 2008

The next two days will see me travelling through NY, CT, RI, and MA... though most likely the only states I'll stop in are CT and RI. Frist I head down through western CT to New Haven, with a couple of stops at CT state parks along the way. After visiting with some friends from grad school I'll head up the CT coast to New London to crash for the night.

Sunday morning I head into RI, possibly to visit a park and national wildlife refuge and definitely to once again run the Lil Rhody Runaround at Burlingame Park. Then I head back through CT, with another stop at a state park, and up to MA for the drive back home.

On the road again...


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

6.7 Mile Run Along the Streets of Albany
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Albany is by no means my preferred place to run... but tonight I just didn't feel like spending 40 minutes driving to and from the Pine Bush, so a run along the local streets was better than no run at all!

We've been in the midst of a cold snap for the last couple of days, with temperatures about a dozen degrees below normal for this time of year... hard to believe it was in the 60's only a week ago. At first I was worried I'd actually underdressed for once, but once I was out for a while I warmed up pretty well and spent most of the run pretty comfortable.

With luck I can hit the trails Friday night after work... and then of course I've got the trails of Burlingame Park in Rhode Island to look forward to on Sunday!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Wild & Wacky World of Snowshoe Racing in the Northeast, Part 2 -
Non-series Snowshoe Races & Winter Multisport
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about several snowshoe racing series in the northeast... there are some great individual races included in those series, but I'm going to resist the temptation to write about them here. (Though I may do a short description of the races I've done in the WMAC series at a later date...) Today I'll concentrate in individual races that aren't part of a series and also a bit of winter multisport (which thankfully does not include swimming!)

Roads Are Poison Snowshoe Races

The Roads Are Poison snowshoe races in western NY are organized by Mort Nace and Tim Ratowski, co-founders of two of the more extreme trail events in that area (the Muddy Sneaker 20k and Out of Bounds Half Marathon.) They currently offer four races - the Frozen Assets 5k and the Mendon Winterfest 10k in January, and the Cast a Shadow 6 hr and Mountaintop 6k in February. I've run the first two and had a lot of fun (in a sick torturous kind of way!) Lots of positive attitude and they try to make it fun for everyone. More info can be found at the Roads Are Poison site; links to info about the individual races can be found there as well.

Yellowjacket Racing Snowshoe Races

OK, it's only one race, but the folks at Yellowjacket are great so it's well worth mentioning - the Lake Effect Snowshoe Festival. This was a snowshoe duathlon for the first two years (snowshoe - mountain bike - snowshoe) but last year it turned into a snowshoe only event, I suspect because the logistics of doing a duathlon at that time of the year were simply too difficult. An incredible variety of distances are offered, both sprint (100, 200, 400, and 1500 m) and longer (2, 4, and 13 mile.) The distance course is a lot of fun, and really you can't go wrong with a Yellowjacket event. Last year I passed on this to run the Curly's Record Run race in Pittsfield, MA; I'll probably decide which one I'm doing this year based on where there's snow.

Peak Races Snowshoe Races

Peak Races offers a snowshoe marathon, half marathon, and 6.5 mile "fun run" in early March. The longer races are multiple loops of the 6.5 mile course, which can best be described as challenging. There are long steep climbs (1800' total per loop) and also some long steep descents. Great positive attitude and support from all the race staff. The race fee is hefty for a snowshoe event (where typical fees run between $5 and $20) but includes a unique finisher's award (last year it was a framing hammer with the race logo) and a post-race lobster dinner with a video of race highlights. More info about the races can be found here. I'm still undecided if I want to try this one again this season... on the one hand I'd like to actually complete the half marathon, but it's a lot of money (especially when you factor in needing to get a room for the night before the race.)

Miscellaneous Races

This will be the 4th year for the mid-January Hoffman's Notch Wilderness Challenge 10k at Schroon Lake... I've never run it but by all accounts it's a fun challenging course. The Empire State Snowshoe Racing Association lists numerous races around NYS during the winter, many of them set up as qualifying events for the Empire State Winter Games snowshoe events. The United States Snowshoe Association also has a calendar of races, including a regional calendar for the northeast, which are used as qualifiers for the US National Snowshoe Championships, held this year in March outside of Portland, OR.

Winter Multisport

Winter multisport seems to have been going for a while out west but was introduced to the Northeast in just the last couple of years, first via Yellowjacket Racing's Lake Effect Snowshoe Duathlon (now a purely snowshoe event.) More recently a group near Boston has organized the New England Winter Multisport series, three races which combine running (no snowshoes), mountain biking, and XC skiing. Given the ever-increasing popularity of multisport and winter racing, I would be surprised if the selection of winter multisport races doesn't grow over the coming years.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Wild & Wacky World of Snowshoe Racing in the Northeast, Part 1 -
Snowshoe Racing Series
Monday, November 17, 2008

Ok, I can't say I'm that eager to see snow, especially since I haven't put the snow tires on my Civic yet. Though it would be nice to get in some practice before snowshoe season kicks into gear!

This looks to be the biggest season yet for snowshoeing in the Northeast... so far I've gotten word of four snowshoe series, one winter multipsort series, and numerous "non-series" races. Quite a change from the humble days of old when snowshoe events were few and far between... assuming we have the necessary white stuff covering the ground, there are weekends where folks could conceivably have numerous options of where to go and what distance to run... wow.

Here's a rundown on some of the many options for torturous winter fun... of course, these events are very dependent on weather conditions, with a few becoming trail races if there's no snow.

WMAC Dion Snowshoe Racing Series

The original and the biggest series in the northeast... this year there are 16 races currently scheduled, with the series kickoff on Dec 28 in Woodford, VT. Races range from 5k to 13 miles (keeping in mind that snowshoe course distances can be very approximate) and include events in VT, MA, NY, and NH. The atmosphere at the WMAC races is always very friendly and relaxed (well... as relaxed as you can be with your heart rate redlining as you trudge up a hill in the snow feeling like you're going to throw up.) Spending time with these folks is definitely a highlight of my winter!

More info about the series can be found here. The current race schedule (which of course is very dependent on weather/snow conditions) is:

12/28 I LOVE WOODFORD 3.5mi Woodford,VT
1/3 NORTH POND 3.5mi Florida,MA
1/11 SOUTH POND 4.0mi Florida,MA
1/17 GREYLOCK GLEN 3.5mi Adams,MA
1/18 BRAVE THE BLIZZARD 5k Guilderland,NY
1/25 CURLY'S RECORD RUN 4.0mi Pittsfield,MA
1/31 NORTHFIELD MTN 10.3k Northfield,MA
2/1 SARATOGA WINTERFEST 5k Saratoga Springs,NY
2/7 SIDE-HILLER 4.0mi Center Sandwich,NH
2/8 MOODY SPRING 5.0mi West Hawley,MA
2/14 CAMP SARATOGA 8.25k Wilton,NY
2/21 COVERED BRIDGE 4 & 13.0mi Adams,MA
2/22 HALLOCKVILLE 3.8mi West Hawley,MA
2/28 HAWLEY KILN NOTCH 5.0mi Hawley,MA
3/14 NORTHFIELD STATES 3-5mi Northfield,MA
3/21 CATAMOUNT SUNSET 3.0mi Hillsdale,NY

Fleet Feet Rochester Snow Cheap Trail Series

A new addition to the winter outdoor scene, this is a series of 6 races organized by Fleet Feet Sports in Rochester and Yellowjacket Racing (both run by the same folks, Dave "Boots" and Ellen Boutillier and their dedicated crew) and sponsored by the City of Rochester. All 6 races will be held at Cobbs Hill Park on Wednesdays throughout December, January, February, and March. Runners can sign up for the snowshoe or the non-snowshoe series; if there's not enough snow then races will be trail races. Having run Boots' Powerbar course at Mendon Ponds and Lake Effect course at Webster Park, I suspect the folks doing this one are in for some challenging but fun runs... I've done 12 races with the Yellowjacket crew in the last 4 years and they've all been a really good time. I have to admit I'm a little bummed they're on Wednesdays and I won't be able to be there for any of them!

More info can be found here.

Granite State Snowshoe Racing Series

Another new series, which grew out of a series of three races put on by Acidotic Racing last year (I drove out to southeastern NH for one of their races, the Kingman Farms Moonlight 5k.) This year there are six races in the series, with two more possible additions. So far all of the races are in eastern NH and focus on shorter distances (3-5 miles.) Given the travel involved I doubt I'll make it to any of these - it's tough to rationalize driving for eight hours to run a 3 mile race. The current schedule and series info can be found here.

Atlas Mad Trapper Snowshoe Series

Just for something different, this is a series of 4 races in Canada, at a site about 40 minutes north of Ottawa. Each race offers both a 5k and a 10k option. Unfortunately, it's far enough away that I doubt I'll be able to even remotely justify travelling such a long distance for a relatively short race. Series info can be found here.


Those are all the snowshoe racing series in the Northeast that I'm currently aware of... I'll do an update if any more come to my attention. Tomorrow I'll write a bit about non-series races and winter multisport. In the meantime - go enjoy the outdoors (even if it is bloody cold here!)


Sunday, November 16, 2008

19.1 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path & Through Colonie Mohawk River Park
Sunday, November 16, 2008

My plan had been to drive up to Greenwich today and run the Taconic Hills 15k trail run... but when the alarm went off and I got up to get my gear ready, I realized I was pretty tired and not particularly enthused about the 2 hour round trip and decided to crawl back into bed instead.

Since that left me with a rare free afternoon and daylight is tough to come by this time of year, I took the bike over to the bike path in Niskayuna again, armed with a lot more cold weather gear than I needed yesterday, since it was about 20 degrees colder today. That turned out to be a better move than I realized - once I got to the parking lot and felt the wind whipping along, I wondered if I had enough clothing to handle the cold! Ended up leaving my sweatpants on over my tights, and my legs and feet still ended up a good deal chillier than I would have preferred. I think the fact that there was sleet mixed in with the brief spatters of rain during the middle of my ride gives some indication of what the temperatures were like... brrr.

Needless to say, there were very few people out on this grey, cold day, which is always OK with me. Saw a few more ducks and geese than yesterday, though no mergansers like on Tuesday. (I also heard hunters blasting away, presumably at the ducks and geese.) Spotted a heron perched on a tree limb in one spot, and watched a kingfisher swoop around chattering away in another spot... that was a pleasant surprise, since I've never seen a kingfisher along this stretch of the path before.

Either tomorrow or Tuesday - I run!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

14.5 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Saturday, November 15, 2008

Definitely a wierd weather day... spurts of rain, flashes of sunshine and blue sky, lots of wind... and of course temperatures in the 60's in November. That made it a bit difficult to decide what to wear for my ride...

After I had lunch with Ann and her brother and they got back on the road to Rochester, I headed over to Lock 8 to ride the bike path west of Schenectady. I'd hoped to do a bit more riding than I actually did, but the weapons classes they taught ran well into the afternoon and then lunch took longer than I'd hoped... so by the time I got on my bike there were only 90 minutes or so left before it got dark. So no trip to the short section west of Rotterdam Junction today... I didn't want to risk the half mile or so along 5S at dusk. And I still ended up doing most of the ride to SCC and back in the dark.

Had a brief bit of drizzle early on but otherwise no rain, which was a big plus. This was my 2nd outing on that section of path since they chopped down all the bushes along the edge of the path... I suppose I'll get used to it eventually, but right now it still bugs me, both because it detracts from the beauty of the surroundings and because of the loss of habitat for birds and animals.

Watched a kingfisher for a bit along the old canal, and startled a heron several times as I rode toward the RR crossing at Scrafford Lane. Stopped there for a brief break and was surprised when a heron same flying in and landed just a short ways away... of course he flew off when I moved, and then a second heron came flying in to chase him off. They are definitely very territorial. I was surprised by how few ducks and geese I saw... maybe they were off looking for food or something.

Not too many folks out on the path, probably because the weather was so uncertain. That was a real plus on the way back from SCC, when it was dark enough that I really appreciated not having to dodge too many walkers or other riders.


Friday, November 14, 2008

7.3 Mile Run Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Friday, November 14, 2008

A patch of unseasonably warm weather moved in between storms (yesterday and tomorrow) so tonight was a great night for a run… warm (high 50’s) and breezy. The moon was almost full… and even with the clouds I had no trouble seeing the bike path without my headlamp.

I saw the silhouette of a heron at the end of the canoe launch, and as I was heading down the path something made a pretty loud splash in the river… almost sounded like a beaver going under. The only minus was all the activity at the airport… at least half a dozen planes came in for a landing while I was out there, low enough to make a heck of a racket.

If I wasn’t signed up for the Taconic Hills 15k on Sunday I would have stayed out longer… but after a week of no running it was probably just as well I kept this one on the short side. I’m going to miss weather like tonight over the next few months…


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last night would have been a good one for a run… not too cold, a hazy moon… but then I found out there was an open seat at the dress rehearsal for the school play, and since I have several kids acting in it I decided to go to that instead. (And they did an excellent job!)

Tonight I had planned to get out for a run, despite the chilly drizzly weather… but with exams coming up next week I had several kids who stayed late for help, and by the time I got home it was too late to run, at least if I wanted to get all the work done I needed to and still get a few hours of sleep…

Just one of those weeks… guess it’s a good thing race season is winding down!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

21.6 Mile Ride on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There's something darkly comic about driving over to the bike path listening to the weather forecast of mixed clouds and sun under completely overcast skies with steadily increasing rain... fortunately I packed rain gear. And equally fortunately the rain stopped about 20 minutes into my ride...

Chilly one today, so I broke out a bunch of cold-weather gear - thermal socks, winter gloves, neck gaiter, ear band, and helmet cover. The latter was a new addition and an excellent idea; not only did it keep my head dry while it was raining but it kept the top of my head toasty throughout the ride. Now if only I could keep the ear band from sliding up and leaving the bottom parts of my ears uncovered...

Plenty of wildlife today... lots of small birds along the path, ducks, gulls, and geese in the river, several blue herons, and two deer. I also heard a kingfisher and startled a group of wood ducks into flying off. What I wasn't expecting was the groups of mergansers I saw at several points... it shouldn't be a surprise, since I saw them along there last spring. Unfortunately they tended to fly off whenever I tried to get close enough to get a decent photo. I also saw either a muskrat or a beaver... probably a muskrat, since I didn't see a broad tail the times he ducked under the water.

Opportunities to ride during the day are few and far between this time of year, so I'm glad I got out there today, even if it was raining for a bit. With luck the weather will be good enough Saturday afternoon that I can get in some more riding then...


Saturday, November 08, 2008

NOT-SO-LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #29
Mendon Trail Runs 20k
Saturday, November 8, 2008

2008 Mendon trail runs results -
5k 10k 20k 50k

4 AM today saw me crawling out of bed and rushing around to get everything packed so I could be on the road to Mendon by 5:15. I had originally planned to drive out last night, but ended up too tired after work... on the plus side, driving out this morning saved me close to an hour of driving back and forth from Ann's house to Mendon Ponds park. After a long grey drive (including a worrisome stretch near Syracuse where it was pouring) I ended up at Mendon for the last race I would be doing there in 2008.

Initial check-in was a bit annoying, as they had everybody in one line (and there were a lot of day-of registrations) which had me wondering just how much time I'd have left to visit the restroom and change into my running gear. Fortunately one of the organizers saw how long the line was and separated it so that those uf us who'd pre-reg'd were able to get through a little more quickly, which left me plenty of time to change clothes and get ready to run. Suprisingly it was warm enough that I felt pretty comfortable with just a long-sleeved shirt (or at least, I would once I started running.) Then I wandered up to the starting line, waited for the RD to say his piece (I assume he did, I couldn't hear him over the racket in the back) and off we went.

The first half mile is a fairly gradual uphill along the road, which I ran much too quickly back in 2006 (and checking my Garmin told me I was running it faster than I probably should today, too.) It was nice to finally head into the woods, where the somewhat rocky and rooty trails were covered with enough leaves that I was glad I'd decided to go with the Vasque's... I've yet to be disappointed by their traction. Pretty easy running for a ways, then up a steep hill to the water tower and down and up and down a series of rolling hills to run along the top of the ridge. The downhill after that was nice, but I knew there was another steep climb coming before we headed out of the woods and across some fields (with a climb up the last of the steep hills.) After that was a long downhill to the aid station - since I had plenty of water I didn't bother to stop.

The stretch back to the starting area always ends up being longer than I think it should be, with a long gradual climb along the way... it's always a pleasure to finally come out along Lost Pond, because then I know it's not far to go! Though the hills along that last stretch can be tough... none of them are very long, but I always find myself eager to finish the loop and those short climbs take the wind out of my sails. The final stretch through the fields, across the road, and around to the "finish" is a nice way to round it out, pretty easy running all told.

Except this time I had a second loop to run and GI cramps to boot... but they subsided somewhat as I crossed through the finish area (in 1:17:39, not bad all told), refilled my water bottle, and headed off up the road for the 2nd loop. Glanced briefly at the restrooms about a quarter mile away and decided I'd be OK... so of course the cramps came back with a vengeance as I followed the road, slowing me to a walk at times, and once I finally got back into the woods, forcing to go off trail for a bit to deal with the problem... not fun, but it made finishing the loop a whole lot easier than if I'd tried to keep going with my guts ready to explode.

Legs were defnitely feeling it as I trekked up and down the hills a second time... don't know if it was the hills, lack of training, remnants of last weekend's double, or lack of electrolytes, but my legs were definitely hurting by the time I reached the aid station a 2nd time. The temperature had also dropped a bit since the start, so I was finding it a bit chilly at times (though at least the rain held off!) But at that point it was just a matter to hanging in there and doing the last 2 1/2 miles or so to the finish. About half a miles from the end I passed a rather large fellow walking who looked like he was having a tough time... turns out he was doing the 50k, more power to him!

I was mighty glad to make it to the final downhill through the fields... pushed to get to the finish as fast as I could, but I was definitely hurting and it was one of my slower finishes. Can't say I'm thrilled with the time - 2 hr 47 min - but all things considered it's not even close to the worst run I've done this year. And I'm very glad I went for the 20k and didn't try to tackle the 50k... there's no way I would have managed to get myself out on that course for another loop, much less three more!

Didn't take many pictures, while the woods were very nice - it was overcast and grey the whole time and I really tried to concentrate on running... slowing to shoot photos would have made it far to easy to start walking and never stop.

Mendon's a great place to run, and I'm glad I made the trip over to do the race (especially since it meant I could spend the rest of the weekend with Ann.) I hope to do the 50k someday, but I don't think it will be my first one - the hills are just too tough and I think it's going to be a real challenge to keep going for 5 loops. Maybe next spring I can aim for running the Finger Lakes 50k in early July and then maintain my training to be able to possibly do Mendon in November... we'll see.

This should also be my last mid-length race for 2008... after this they're all under 10 miles.


2008 Event Totals
Run 247.8 mi / 56 hr 53 min
Bike 68.4 mi / 4 hr 59 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

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

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Most of the comments I hear about Standard Time this time of year focus on gaining an extra hour of sleep on the night we set the clocks back and occasionally how it's nice to have daylight for the trip to work in the morning.

Me, I absolutely hate the switch to standard time.

Basically, the switch back from Daylight Savings Time means any run or ride I do after work is going to be in the dark, until somewhere around mid-February or so. An occasional run or ride after dark is fun and cool... but 3 1/2 months of them is tough. I have a hard enough time getting my butt out the door when it's light out!

It also takes me at least a week to adjust to the new time... don't know why, an hour shouldn't be a big deal, but I always feel tired and sluggish in the evenings for a while after the switch. (Or maybe I'm always that way and this just gives me an excuse to notice it.)

Oh, well. Enough griping. (And let's be honest, if this is the worst thing I have to gripe about, I continue to have it awfully darn good!)


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

12.8 Mile Ride on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Weather was just too nice to pass up today... so after being stuck indoors all day with parent-teacher conferences I took my ATB over to the bike path and went for the first night ride of the season. I probably could have done most of it without lights - the cloudy sky was reflecting a lot of light pollution - but I used my LED headlights just to be safe and was fairly pleased with how well they lit the path.

I would have liked to go a bit further, but between riding the heavier bike, using my riding muscles in a slightly different way (due to the more upright posture for riding an ATB) and my legs still feeling a bit tired (what a wimp!) I kept the ride fairly short. With luck the mild weather will stay through tomorrow evening when I head out for a run....


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Awosting Falls
Sunday, November 2, 2008

With all the water in the streams along the carriage trails, I decided I had to get down to see Awosting Falls before I left the park. So I changed into my riding clothes (easier said than done... a van parked very close to the driver's side of my car, which left me constantly scrambling to find gear from the wrong side of the car while I tried to figure out how best to deal will the blister on one of my toes. But I finally got my act together and headed down the road to the Lower Awosting lot, so that I wouldn't have to push my bike all the way back up to the Lake Minnewaska lots.

After parking the car it became clear that a lot of where I'd be riding would be shaded, so I added some clothing to try and keep warm and then headed across the road and down the carriageway to Awosting Falls. The waterfall was beautiful - the highest I've ever seen it - and much of the time there were only a few people around (and it was cold enough that no one lingered too long.)

After that I headed down along the path until I reached the main road. Walked across the road and took a picture of the remnants of the old power station (from back when the Minnewaska property contained two major resorts.) Unfortunately I wasn't sure how far I'd have to walk to see the waterfall there, so I headed back up the path. Much more slowly than my trip out, I might add, because it was all uphill.

As I pedalled and pushed uphill, it became very clear that I just didn't have any juice left in my legs for sustained riding. (I wonder why... 23 miles of running in 2 days perhaps?) That meant my plans to ride the southern part of the Walkill Valley Rail Trail were a bust. Some other time, I guess.

So once I got back to the car I headed out of the park, stopping first at the overlooks and then at the Mohonk Preserve Visitors' Center, where I picked up a couple of trail guides I hadn't seen anywhere else. And then all that was left was the drive home... which didn't seem so bad after driving to and from Rochester earlier this weekend.

Maybe this winter I can get down to the Gunks to do some skiing or snowshoeing...

NOT-SO-LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #28
After the Leaves Have Fallen 20k Trail Run
Saturday, November 2, 2008

I have to admit... I wasn't expecting today to go all that well after running the 10 miler yesterday... and I definitely wasn't expecting to set a second PR by approximately 9 minutes (and 14 minutes from the last time I ran this particular course back in 2003!)

What a beautiful day for a run... sunshine and blue skies. The breeze was a bit chilly at times, but nothing too bad. I found out when I registered that we were running the course I ran back in 2003, rather than the "normal" course I ran in 2005. (Apparently the Hamilton Point carriageway is closed to both bikes and races, and may remain so for the foreseeable future, since the park doesn't seem to be doing much to repair the trail.) So we all grouped together at the start, listened to Steve S.'s pre-race spiel, and then headed off around beautiful Lake Minnewaska.

The carriageway around Lake Minne is a tough run... lots of hills to run up, though also a few to run down. We circled the lake, then headed off on the Upper Awosting carriageway toward Lake Awosting. By the time we'd gone all the way around Lake Minne the pack had thinned out considerably and there were only half a dozen or so runners near me, with a few (surprise!) behind me. The group thinned out even more as we headed toward Awosting... I always find that path tougher to run or bike in the direction we went today, because it's a pretty consistent gradual uphill. But as always the scenery was gorgeous, and seeing the amount of water rushing through the various streams we passed told me I needed to get down to Awosting Falls after I finished running the race.

One gal pretty much caught up with me as we headed toward Awosting, and we ended up running together on and off for the next couple of miles. The path around Lake Awosting is a bit rougher than the other carriageways, and there are some nice rolling hills along the way. It's also cool to look across the lake and see runners on the other side. Stopped for a moment to get a stone out of my shoe and then continued on around the end of the lake, heading for the stone beach. Unfortunately, about halfway there I tripped on a rock and did a double roll through a puddle... scraped my hands a bit and my right knee enough to leave a nice patch of oozing blood on it for the remaining 6 miles or so, but nothing that interfered with my running... I was more annoyed to be wet than anything else.

After crossing the beach the gal who I'd passed a ways back caught up with me again, probably in part because I slowed up a bit to have something to eat, add Accelerade to my water, and take a few pictures, and she was running nice and steady. We wound our way up the path to the top of the ridge - one of my favorite sections of Minnewaska, because first the trail goes along the base of the cliffs and then along the tops, where the views are spectacular. Made pretty good time up to Castle Point and the last aid station, where I stopped to refill my bottle and she disappeared off down the hill - 4 miles or so to go, and most of it downhill!

Unfortunately, by that stage of the game downhill was starting to hurt... still, I made decent time for the first bit, and resisted the temptation to stop at the various viewpoints - it helped that I had been here only a month ago! Down, down, down, and then my stomach started to bother me... probably the Accelerade which I'd made pretty strong. That slowed me up a bit - it's hard to push when you're trying to keep your guts from exploding - but fortunately only for short periods of time until each wave of cramps passed. The trip down from Castle Point to the shore of Lake Minnewaska always seems like it takes forever... I know it's 4 miles either way, but I always remember it as being shorter when it's at the start of the Summer Solstice run. But finally I could see the lake through the trees and ran as hard as I could down the final hill and then as hard as I could (ie. not very hard) up that last killer hill to the finish, in 2:25:03... a much better run than I ever expected to have today!

After that I staggered over to the tent to snag something solid to eat (bagels, mmm) and then off to the car to change clothes and decide what to do next. The way my legs felt told me I probably wouldn't be riding the rail trail today, but I did want to get down to Awosting Falls so I changed into riding gear to make the trip down there as easy as possible. Chatted briefly with the gal who'd run with me for a bit, and then headed down the hill to see what parking would be like in the lower lot.

All in all, an excellent day and an even more excellent way to wrap up this weekend's races... I'm really glad I decided to run this race this year, and I'm even more glad I dragged myself out of bed and followed through on that intent!


2008 Event Totals
Run 234.8 mi / 54 hr 6 min
Bike 68.4 mi / 4 hr 59 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

states visited: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, PA, VT
Waiting for the Race to Begin...
Sunday, November 2, 2008

What a gorgeous day for the race - bright and sunny. Drive down was beautiful, even with the leaves past peak. And I think that was snow I saw up on one of the Catskills...

The forecast called for temperatures in the low to mid 50's... I'm glad I brought a variety of clothes, because with the cold breeze that kept sweeping across the top of the ridge I think it was more like the 40's. Not bad in the sunshine, but in the shade... brrr.

I arrived about an hour early to make sure I'd get a decent parking spot... not to worry, there was hardly anyone there, but the lot filled up fast. After registering I grabbed my camera and wandered around a bit, as usual. Got some nice pictures, then headed back to the car to gear up. After half a dozen changes of clothes, I finally settled on shorts, a long-sleeved top, and a short-sleeved top over that, along with gloves and 180's (ear warmers) tucked in the pockets of my shorts. Then it was over to the path overlooking Lake Minnewaska to wait for the fun to begin...


Saturday, November 01, 2008

NOT-SO-LONG DISTANCE 2008 - Race #27
Charlie's Old Goat 10mi Trail Run
Saturday, November 1, 2008

2008 Event Totals
Run 221.8 mi / 51 hr 42 min
Bike 68.4 mi / 4 hr 59 min
Snowshoe 45.7 mi / 13 hr 19 min

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