Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

RUN 765.0 mi

RIDE 1095.0 mi

SNOWSHOE 66.4 mi

HIKE/WALK 101.6 mi (from 5/16/08)

PADDLE 46.3 mi

more to come...
1.8 Mile XC Ski at Five Rivers
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We had originally planned to drive back to Rochester this afternoon, but the storm caused us to reevaluate our plans... partially out of a desire to avoid driving in lousy weather and partially so we could go XC skiing! I had thought about taking Ann to Vischer Ferry, but instead we ended up at Five Rivers EEC, which was much less crowded than I expected (probably because lots of folks had to work today... it was getting busier by the time we left.)

We didn't get very far, mainly because Ann's old skis have very little glide... she spent most of the time walking rather than skiing. So we went out along one of the perimeter trails, down into the section of the Wild Turkey Trail back in the woods, and then back along one of the Old Field trails to the parking area. Some spots were a bit damp, but I've come to expect that at Five Rivers!

Along the way we were treated to the sight of a large red-bellied woodpecker and an awesome snowstorm during the middle of our time out on the trails. We also had a nice view of the developing sunset as we were wrapping up and getting ready to head home. Even though we didn't cover much distance it was definitely worth changing our plans to go out skiing today. (After all - I've already doubled the number of times I've gotten out on my skis compared to last winter!)


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wile E.?
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

After spending the evening visiting with my parents, Ann and I headed home via a variety of "back roads" (mainly because I really wanted to stop along the way at a supermarket and get some dinner!) It's no great surprise to see deer crossing the road at night in the winter... Ann spotted the buck first and I slowed down almost to a stop in case he had buddies running behind him.

Instead, we watched a coyote chase after him!

They ran through a field along the road and then back across the road a minute or so later... if only I'd thought to pull my camera out the first time we saw them... oh, well, even without pictures it was still a pretty wild thing to see on a cold December night.

4.6 Mile Hike at Mt Everett State Reservation
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mt Everett State Reservation official site
Mt Washington/Bash Bish/Mt Everett/Jug End trail map (PDF)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mt Ida Falls & Poestenkill Gorge
Barberville Falls
Cohoes Falls
Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Brief Bit o' Hiking in Pittsfield State Forest
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pittsfield State Forest official site
Pittsfield State Forest winter trail map (PDF)

For a variety of reasons we were somewhat limited in our choices of where to go after Bennington... in the end, we headed over to Pittsfield State Forest to do a little walking. I had initially hoped to go to Balance Rock in the northern part of the forest, but the road up to the parking area looked a lot like the lot at Woodford ie. sheer ice. I drove about ten feet up the road, then decided it was stupid to risk an accident just to see a big graphitti-covered rock in the woods headed for the main entrance of the park.

After seeing Brad Herder's video of Pittsfield State Forest after the ice storm, I wasn't sure what we'd find along the trails and roads... there was lots of evidence of trees having come down, but the road to the Lulu Brook picnic area was clear. The parking lot was a sheet of ice, so much so that the car actually slid a bit when I parked it. Not a huge problem, though I was a bit concerned when I watched other folks trying to drive through the lot... sometimes truck and SUV owners don't seem to get the idea that their big 4wd vehicles will skid out just as easily as a little car if they're on ice. Don't know if the road to the summit was clear or not... between the ice on the road and the distance, we decided not to walk up there, though no doubt the view would have been great. Instead we followed the trail along the Lulu cascade for about half a mile. Other than some mushy footing it was pretty easy going, with no major damage. And along the way we were treated to the sight of some very nice waterfalls I'd never seen before.

Since Ann was such a good sport about my dragging her all over SW Vermont and NW Massachusetts (we probably spent more time driving today than we did walking!) I treated her to a nice dinner at a restaurant south of Pittsfield that I'd never been to before, the Dakota Steak House (the kids at the school I used to work at in Great Barrington always raved about going there when their parents came to visit.) Good food (and lots of it) and a quiet ambience... a very pleasant way to end a day of travelling (well... except for the hour drive to get home...)

A Brief Visit to the Bennington Battle Monument
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bennington info site

The first time I drove through Bennington on my way to Woodford in 2005, I was struck by the sight of a huge monument on a hilltop overlooking the town. I found out later that it was the Bennington Battle Monument, and since then I've planned to stop and see it up close when the opportunity arose. Since Ann and I didn't have any plans for the afternoon (beyond roaming around VT and MA) today seemed like a good opportunity to do just that.

I think the monument page on the Bennington info site does a darn fine job describing its history, so rather than paraphrasing I'm just going to include it here:

Built in the late 1880's, this monument is a dedication to the famous Battle of Bennington that took place during the Revolutionary war in 1777. It was at this location the American colonists maintained a store of weapons and food, which British General Burgoyne knew was critical to capture in order to restock his own troops.

Although the battle came together in nearby Walloomsac, this site seemed appropriate considering the military and strategic importance of the arsenal Burgoyne was trying to capture. For almost a century the battle was celebrated annually in the Old State Arms House Hotel which was also located on this sight.

In 1877 a local historical society was formed and they started planning the monument. The committee considered many designs for the monument. One design which called for a slender stone column only 100 ft tall was showcased during the centennial celebration in 1877, which was attended by President Rutherford B. Hayes. The committee finally accepted J. Phillip Rinn's "Big Tower" design with some changes. J. Phillip Rinn modified the original design to include curved edges, and in November 1889 the final stone was set on. The dedication ceremonies were delayed until 1891, when Bennington welcomed President Benjamin Harrison who attended the ceremonies and held a reception at the Walloomsac Inn.

Visiting information:

The Bennington Battle Monument, dedicated to the famous Battle of Bennington that took place during the Revolutionary war in 1777, is a 306' stone obelisk opened to the public in 1891. It is located north of VT Rte 9, about 4 miles east of the New York border. A guided elevator takes visitors to the observation floor for spectacular views of Historic Bennington and three states. There is a diorama and several interpretive exhibits on the ground floor along with General Burgoyne's cook kettle. Statues of John Stark, Seth Warner and other notable monuments adorn the grounds. Tickets can be purchased for a small fee in the gift shop that specializes in historical items relating to the Battle of Bennington and Vermont. Open 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week, mid-April to October 31st.

(courtesy of

Unfortunately, only the grounds are open in the winter, so we wandered around a bit looking at the statues and informational plaques... and of course the monument, which is huge! A trip back is definitely in order in warmer weather, so that I can go up to the observation floor and take in the view.

After we had checked out everything there was to see, we broke out the sandwiches we brought along for lunch and headed down the road to Massachusetts.

Season of the SnōShū 2009 - Race #1
I Love Woodford 3mi Snowshoe Race
Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Woodford snowshoe race results

Woodford holds a place in my heart as the first snowshoe race I ever did, way back in December 2005. I bought my first pair of snowshoes roughly three weeks before and probably got out for two or three runs on them, all in about 6 inches of snow... and then stumbled and gasped my way through three miles of trail in over a foot of snow. That was the first indication time I learned on a very personal level that snowshoe running is darned difficult... but it certainly wouldn't be the last!

This year was the first time since then that I was able to get to Woodford when they were holding the race, and I had the added pleasure of bringing Ann along for the ride. Not that the race would be much fun for her - the amenities in at the race site include a Port-o-potty and a couple of tables set up for registration and food, and that's it. But we were hoping that she could get out on her skis for a bit while I was running, and at the worst the course would only take me about an hour to finish.

Drive over was uneventful, through the Taconics and Bennington and up into the Green Mountains National Forest... always a fun drive with lots of pretty scenery. We had some sunshine down in the lowlands, but that vanished behind lots of fog as we went up into the mountains. Probably a result of the warm temperatures we'd been having. Another result of those warm temperatures - all the snow in the parking lot was melted and we ended up parking on sheer ice. Folks were slipping and sliding all over the place, and the RD even broke out a pair of skates and skated around the lot! I was mighty glad to get my snowshoes on - at least then I had some traction. It was surprisingly chilly, so I ditched my plan to run in shorts and pulled on my tights, a long-sleeved shirt, and a fleece vest.

Eventually it was time to hike down to the start area... the snow wasn't as deep and was well-packed so that was a lot easier this time around, even on the last steep downhill to the road crossing. And it definitely beat sliding down the driveway on my backside.

Hung around at the start for a bit listening to folks chatter and saying hi to running friends I haven't seen since the end of October. Then the RD had a few words for us, and finally - it was time to run. Or plod, in my case.

Photo courtesy of Kristin & Jim Johnson

Photo courtesy of Kristin & Jim Johnson

The first part of the race goes along a snowed-over access road, which has the advantage of being wide (so there's space to pass easily) but fairly churned up (slipping and sliding.) The huge patch of ice and water a little ways in didn't help. A lot of it's on a gentle uphill slope, which makes it clear just how tough snowshoeing can be... don't know when else I work so hard to go so slow. Of course, then the trail turned onto the singletrack and the fun really kicked in. Uphill, downhill, twisty and winding trails, jumping over fallen branches and wet patches and trying not to fall or blow out a knee on rocky uneven sections... parts of that were slow going, and I ended up letting a few people pass me by.

Photo courtesy of Kristin & Jim Johnson

I think the prettiest part of the course was along the shore of Adams Reservoir... we actually got some glimpses of sunshine! Of course this was also the messiest part, with sections of the trail clearly underwater under the snow. But that's all part of the challenge - stay upright, keep moving forward, and try not to get the snowshoes so wet that they ice up. I actually think I ran pretty well in some of these sections.

Since I've only done this race once I was a bit surprised by how quickly the final stretch came up... I'm not sure if they cut the course a bit short this year or if conditions were just much better (not to mention my having a dozen plus races under my belt) but in fairly short order I was out of the woods and back on the road heading down to the finish. Hammered as hard as I could for the last quarter mile or so, and came across the finish in 43:59. As I stood on the other side trying to get my breath back, Ann came down the trail from the parking lot, a bit bummed that she'd missed my finish (I'd told her it would take me around an hour, based on my 64 minutes of torture in 2005.) Claimed my loaf of Vermont Bread Company bread (sunflower sesame, yum) and then we headed back to the car so I could changed clothes and grab some soup and a bagel before heading out to try and enjoy some of the sights of SW Vermont and NW Massachusetts.

All in all, a good start to the snowshoe racing season, and a nice way to end the 2008 racing season!


2008 Event Totals
Run 260.7 mi / 59 hr 13 min
Bike 68.4 mi / 4 hr 59 min
Snowshoe 48.5 mi / 14 hr 3 min

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

John Boyd Thacher State Park & Peebles Island State Park Closed Due to Storm Damage
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I was more than a bit surprised to find Thacher closed today, presumably due to damage from the recent ice storm. As I drove through the park, I could see a lot of limbs and trees down in the picnic areas along the top of the escarpment... looks like the park workers have a lot of cleanup to do. Hopefully they'll have the manpower to do it - with the state parks' budget slashed as part of the measures to make NYS a bit closer to being financially viable and major cuts to parks' funding in next year's proposed budget, that's not a given. I can't imagine the mess that's going to greet the Schodack Island State Park staff when they re-open next April... that area was hit harder by the ice storm, and there won't be any upkeep happening during the winter since the park was closed for the winter in October.

Naturally once I got home I had to check if the Thacher being closed had been mentioned anywhere in the media. I found the following article from the Albany Times Union:

Weather closes Thacher, Peebles Island state parks
By DENNIS YUSKO , Staff writer

Dec 15, 2008

ALBANY - Add state parks to the list of places shut down by the ice storm. John Boyd Thacher State Park in Voorheesville and Peebles Island State Park in Waterford are closed until further notice due to dangerous conditions related to the weather, Alane Ball Chinian, regional director for state parks in the Saratoga-Capital Region District, said today.

Also, the lower area of Mine Kill State Park in Schoharie County has been closed due to dangerous ice conditions and tree damage, Chinian said.

The ice storm that ravaged parts of the region last week brought down numerous trees throughout Thacher park, closing many trails and damaging fencing, Chinian said.

"Trees continue to bear heavy ice," she wrote in a press release. "Forecasted winds may result in additional limbs and trees coming down in the park."

The main road through the Albany County park is open for traffic. The nature center does not have power and is closed.

At Peebles Island, the road connecting Cohoes and Waterford through the park is open, but the park remains off limits to the public, Chinian said.

Guess that rules out going to Peebles sometime during the holiday break...

4.1 Mile Snowshoe "Run" at Thacher Park
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday it was chilly with blowing snow. Yesterday it wasn't too terribly cold (by my standards - it is winter, after all!) but there was a roughly -20 degree windchill dropping effective temperatures down into the sub-zero levels. And with rain coming tomorrow - today I had to get out on my snowshoes.

I'd been planning to hit some trails up in Thacher Park - never been up there when there was snow covering the ground - so that's where I headed this afternoon. Imagine my dismay when I saw a sign saying "Park Closed" on the way in... as I drove through the park it was easy to see why, since the recent ice storm left the picnic areas along the escarpment looking rather like someone had set off a series of bombs. After a little consideration I decided I could go run at Five Rivers... but just for the heck of it I headed up to Beaver Dam Road first, to see if the pull-off near the end of the old Paint Mine road had been plowed. And, happy day, it had! So I parked there, geared up, and hit the trails.

Started out by crossing the road and heading up the hill to the park boundary, along what used to be a section of the Long Path going all the way up to Roemer's High Point before a local landowner rescinded permission for the trail to cross his property. Trudged up the hill, about half a mile to the top, along a path that had obviously been packed down by skiers. At the top they'd even made a jump - crazy! No trees down along the way, but a large one fell near the shelter at the top of the hill, just missing it. Lucky, that. After gazing longingly at the now-closed trail to the High Point, I headed back down the hill. Needless to say the trip down went a lot faster than the plod up!

Back at the car I ditched my fleece jacket, gloves, and hat in favor of some lighter gear... I'd pretty well cooked during that first mile, so I hoped I'd be working hard enough for the rest of the run to keep warm enough. Climbed over the snowbank and found myself on a snowmobile track - much easier than plowing through unpacked snow, though I still ended up walking a lot until I reached the downhill sections - those were fun running!

At the bottom of the long hill I left the snowmobile track and followed a set of ski tracks for a good while... not much running, other than one downhill stretch. It's funny - I've run that trail multiple times during the Indian Ladder 15k in the summer, but it looked totally unfamiliar today. Finally found myself back on the snowmobile track, and then had another long downhill to run which dropped me out about halfway up the old Paint Mine road.

At which point I decided I'd been enjoying running downhill, so I headed down the old road toward the Paint Mine picnic area... knowing full well I'd have a long uphill slog to get back to the car. But that's what's going to make my legs stronger, right? Reached the bridge across the stream and found a fallen tree blocking the road just beyond that... fortunately that's where I'd been planning to stop anyways. Paused briefly to enjoy the partially frozen-over stream rushing under the bridge, and then began the walk back up the hill. The snowmobile track definitely made that easier than it would have been otherwise. I took a short break to walk to the ridge overlooking the beaver pond (no beavers in sight, I imagine they're all snug in their lodge) and another break to watch a group of chickadees eating sumac fruit. While I was doing that I also heard and caught glimpses of two nuthatches.

Then the hills were over and all that was left was the mostly level run the rest of the way back to the car... a lot tougher than I would have preferred, with race season just around the corner, but with luck my legs will get stronger quickly and my endurance will increase before we get too far into the series. Though that will mean my getting off my backside and out the door a lot more than I have over the last month or so.


Monday, December 22, 2008

UPDATE - Patrick Rothfuss' Heifer International Fundraiser - Final Totals
Monday, December 22, 2008

Pat gives lots of info on his blog, including some incredible pictures of all the raffle prizes packed and ready to go to the post office... but I thought it would be good to post an update here with a final accounting. Between the money donated and his matching donation, a total of $113,466.28 was raised for Heifer International to continue doing good work helping people and communities become more self-reliant around the world.

As a side note, Pat's looking to do something similar at this time next year, so keep an eye on his blog if you want to participate. He's also looking for a good name for the fundraiser, so if anyone out there has any cool ideas send them along to him.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Or what folks in the US often refer to as the first day of winter... the solstice occurs because of the tilt of the Earth's axis. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, that tilt changes in orientation to the Sun... with the solsitce occuring at the point where the northern hemisphere is tilted the furthest away from the Sun, resulting in the fewest hours of daylight for that particular day. The changing orientation of the Earth's axial tilt is also the reason for the changing seasons... when a hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun, sunlight is more concentrated and results in warmer temperatures (ie. summer) and when it's tilted away, the opposite occurs (ie. winter.) Here's a link to a nifty flash graphic from USA Today that demonstrates the effect.

From my point of view, the more important significance of the solstice is - from here on the number of hours of daylight increases, until 6 months from now in June on the summer solstice. Of course, it will be 6-8 weeks before the effect is sufficient to provide me with some remaining daylight for my post-workday workouts... but just knowing those days are on their way helps.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

4.2 Mile XC Ski at Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve
Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a great day for skiing... instead of ending some time after midnight, we continued to have snow flurries for much of the day today. Whether because of the weather or holiday shopping or who knows what else, there were very few people at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve... I saw five other people out on skis, and signs that someone had been snowshoeing, but that was about it.

Snow was about a foot deep. In some spots I was following previous trails and in some spots I was breaking trail. Slow going and definitely more work than on a well-groomed surface, but there's something about being the first person across a stretch of unbroken snow that's just really, really cool. And unlike the last time I was there, the airport was fairly quiet... only one plane in the 2 1/2 hours I was out.

Just to be different I followed one of the loops I usually run backwards. Very flat terrain, which is a big part of why I decided to ski there. Lots of trees and branches down from last week's ice storm, but most of it was relatively easy to either go over/through or to bushwhack around. Plowing through the snow with no one else around... what a great afternoon!

A various points I had woodpeckers, chickadees, cardinals, and what were probably sparrows keeping me company (well, flying off when I tried to take pictures of them) - they were cleary very busy trying to find food. No larger birds in sight, possibly because most of the marshes and ponds were frozen over.

I don't get out on my skis nearly as often as I'd like... partly because of lack of snow, partly because I'm not skilled enough to ski at night, and partly because my primary snow sport is snowshoeing... but I really enjoy skiing and I really enjoyed this afternoon. With luck we'll have ample snow this winter and I can get in more skiing in addition to all the time I spend on snowshoes.

Bummer... Final Holiday Classic 5k Postponed
Saturday, December 20, 2008

10 years ago I ran the Holiday Classic 5k at Columbia-Greene Community College... at that time it was the shortest race I'd ever run. I popped my knee the Thursday prior to the race and somehow still managed to run the fastest pace I'd ever done up to that point (somewhere between 8 and 8:30's.) I haven't run it since... the course isn't all that interesting, and I tend not to run 5k's since I'm slow, slow, slow and there's not much opportunity for my endurance to play a role for such a short distance. But when I heard that this year would be the last time the race would be held, I decided to give it a go.

Unfortunately, the storms sweeping through the northeast this weekend have resulted in the race being postponed until next Sunday, when I'm hoping to be in Woodford running the first snowshoe race of the season. Bummer. If Woodford is snowless then I'll head south for the Holiday Classic... but as it stands right now it looks like the RT Turkey Run was my last running race of 2008.


Friday, December 19, 2008

2.3 Mile Snowshoe "Run" in the Pine Bush
Friday, December 19, 2008

We had the first major snowstorm of the winter today. By the time it's done it's only supposed to drop 8-12 inches of snow, but the forecast called for that to come down quickly enough that all the local schools closed in the morning or early afternoon and we even got out early. We also closed the karate school for the evening, so I didn't have to cover classes as I'd planned... instead I was able to get out on the Pine Bush trails a couple of hours earlier than I'd planned, which was a real plus.

For a variety of reasons the easiest trailhead for me to reach was one at Columbia Circle, otherwise known as Blueberry Hill East. That section has been closed for "habitat restoration" but somehow I didn't think they'd be working tonight... and luckily the parking area had been somewhat plowed by the time I got there.

Didn't need my headlamp at all, it was so bright between the lights reflecting off the clouds and then that reflecting off the snow. Somebody else had gone through the snow earlier, but I was still essentially breaking trail the whole way. That was one of the reasons I wanted to get out before the snow got too deep... it was tough going, but could have been a lot worse! I ran the downhills when I could (when I was confident the footing was safe) and a few level stretches, ended up walking a lot of the flat parts and definitely the uphills. Don't know if it was the depth of snow (6-8 inches) or if I'm finally getting used to snowshoeing after three seasons, but at least it wasn't harder than I remembered.

The amount of "habitat restoration" they're doing over there is heartbreaking... most of what was still wooded is now stripped or in the process of being stripped. Hopefully they'll leave the woods at the Kailkill Barrens, so there's a couple of miles of woods left to run through. Running through the cleared areas, even once it's regrown and green, just isn't as fun. I know they're removing invasive species (mostly black locust) and trying to restore a rare, unique habitat... but I'll still miss those woods.

Of course, one plus to the hills being cleared - about a half miles from the end of the run I was able to hike to the top of the tallest hill and had an incredible view out over the area.

All in all, a good start to the snowshoeing season... with luck tomorrow afternoon I can get out on my skis!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Woke up this morning to a few inches of snow on the ground... a good sight to see! It may be mostly gone by this evening - we're supposed to have sleet for most of the morning - but it's still good to finally see snow on the ground. There's hope for some snowshoe running in my not-too-distant future (especially since we're supposed to get some heavier snowfall at the end of the week...)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

10.2 Mile Ride on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
December 14, 2008

I have to admit I was torn over what to do today... on the one hand, I was originally going to run down in Westchester and would have a rare winter opportunity to run locally during daylight... but on the other hand, there are few chances for me to ride my bike safely this time of year. In the end the chance to ride won out, and I took my road bike over to the bike path west of Schenectady hoping to put in 20 miles or so.

Unfortunately, it never occurred to me that even though the Albany sidewalks are free of ice and snow, the bike path would still be mostly covered in both... otherwise I would have taken my mountain bike and possibly even my running shoes in case riding wasn't practical. Instead, I spent the better part of 90-120 minutes riding very carefully on some very challenging surfaces. Mostly a thin layer of snow on top of a layer of ice, but in spots bare ice (yikes!) The footprints and, along one stretch, a deep bike tire rut, made life more interesting. At least I didn't fall anywhere... but riding carefully on the snow and even more carefully across icy stretches (a good number of those I walked around.) A few downed trees and branches added to the fun... by the time I reached Scrafford Lane I'd had enough of wondering when I was going to take a spill so I hopped on the road and hustled back to the Rotterdam Kiwanis Park where I took the bike path for the last couple of miles...

Not the greatest of rides, but it was still better to be outdoors riding slowly and carefully than indoors doing work!