Sunday, November 29, 2009

1.4 Mile Walk at the H.G. Reist Wildlife Sanctuary
Sunday, November 29, 2009
1 Mile Walk at Ann Lee Pond Nature Preserve
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another gorgeous November day, sunny and much warmer than we were expecting. After breakfast Ann and I headed over to Ann Lee Pond so we could walk around a bit and I could show her the "crazy bridge" across the back end of the pond. We walked along the shore of the pond and then through the woods back to the bridge. I was a bit surprised at how few birds and squirrels we saw along the way, though we did see a large group of mallards in the swamp at the back of the pond and another group paddling around the crazy bridge. (I'm sure it was level when it was first built, but since then the supports have apparently shifted in various ways resulting in several unusual twists and tilts to the bridge surface. Ann expressed a certain amount of surprise that it hasn't been condemned and torn down, through it certainly seems pretty stable despite its odd configuration - I have to admit, it has a certain bizarre charm the way it is and I would be sorry to see it leveled out.)

As we walked through the fields back to the car, we spotted goldfinches, chicadees, bluejays, and cardinals zipping around through the weeds and trees. Ann also spotted a pair of hawks off in the distance, though they flew off before I spotted them. It would have been nice to walk back into the woods to see if the beavers were out swimming in their pond, but while the main part of the preserve is off limits to hunters I'm not sure of the status of those "off trail" woods and we didn't want to risk possibly getting in trouble for trespassing or worse get shot at by someone mistaking us for deer rustling through the fallen leaves.

Weekly Training Summary
11/22 - 11/28/2009

running - 0 mi
riding (3x) - 60.9 mi

A good week to be out on my bike, but a poor one for running... my knee was killing me all week after I re-injured it during last Saturday's run. It seems to finally be stabilizing, which gives me hope I might manage a bit of easy running this week...


Saturday, November 28, 2009

0.6 Mile Walk Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Saturday, November 28, 2009

After dinner we stopped at the Niskayuna Lions Park for a short walk along the bike path under the light of the waxing moon. Unfortunately, my left calf was developing a cramp (undoubtedly from trying to protect my bad knee during all the walking we did today) so we didn't get far before we had to turn around, but we did hear geese and ducks honking and quacking out on the water in the dark, and even spotted a heron down at the edge of the river near the path. As it turned out, we came back at just the right time, since a few briefs spurts of rain came down just as we got back to the car.

Customer Service Done Right
Saturday, November 28, 2009

First, a bit of background - Ann is allergic to shellfish, and most types of fish give her an upset stomach, which led to a very unpleasant experience several years ago when we had dinner at the Miyako Japanese Steakhouse in Guilderland. We made a reservation for one of the hibachi tables not realizing that all the food would be cooked together, and several folks at the table ordered dishes that included shrimp. After seeing the food being cooked Ann let the waitress know she would need hers cooked separately and got a very negative reaction - not only did the waitress grumble repeatedly that she should have been informed of this ahead of time, she also charged us extra for Ann's original portion of food that needed to be discarded and when we objected to that became fairly nasty, insisting that it was all our fault and we were the ones who were being unreasonable. Needless to say we decided never to eat there again, and whenever I hear one of my friends discussing the possibility of going there I make sure I relate our experience. (In all fairness, I have to say that everyone else I know who has eaten there has had a very positive experience, so maybe we just caught them on a bad night.)

In contrast to that very poor dining experience, our meal tonight at Outback Steakhouse in Clifton Park was a fantastic example of how to keep customers coming back. Ann's dinner came with a ceasar salad, which when she tried it had a slightly fishy aftertaste. She asked the waitress about it, who said that the dressing included anchovies, apologized profusely, and immediately offered to replace it with another salad with a different dressing, then apologized again when the she brought out the new salad and checked that Ann was all right. A little while later one of the managers came out and also checked that she was going to be OK, apologized yet again, and made it clear that she would do anything reasonable to make it up to us. Rather than take advantage of that, we thanked her for her concern and spent a few minutes after she'd left commenting on what a nice contrast it was to our experience years ago at Miyako's, and how great it was to find a place that actually treats customers well rather than as an inconvenience to be endured for as little time as possible. I have no doubt we'll go back there at some point in the future, and I will happily recommend them to anyone I know looking for somewhere to eat in the Clifton Park shopping district.

4.5 Mile Walk at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve
Saturday, November 28, 2009

Since I couldn't get out to Rochester with my car still in the shop, Ann decided to come down to Albany for the weekend, even though the weather forecast (wind and rain) for Saturday wasn't too promising. Happily, while we did get the wind, today proved to be a gorgeous sunny day, and I decided we'd go to the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve today rather than tomorrow. Ann had never been there and it's usually a good spot to see lots of waterfowl and other birds.

We parked at the main entrance, near the restored Whipple Bridge, and immediately spotted a Great Blue Heron across the road in a little marshy area on the corner. Then we headed east along one of the old towpaths, with the water on either side of the path. When we reached the access road we briefly headed toward the river, then back west along the other side of the canal. Along the way we spotted lots of ducks and geese out on the water. I was a bit surprised at how few birds there were in the trees and bushes along the path, but maybe the wind had them hunkered down waiting for better conditions.

Back at the bridge we headed west along the towpath. We walked out to old Lock 19, where we took a short break (I'm glad they hauled the picnic table back up out of the lock where the idiot kids had thrown it a few years ago) and then continued on to the access road and down to the edge of the river. Ann was surprised to learn that we were right across the road from the bike path and just a short distance west of the Niskayuna Lions Park, and she was really happy to find a rope hanging from a tree branch on the edge of the river - I guess in the summer somebody must enjoy swinging out into the water. Naturally she had to swing on it for a bit!

My knee was getting pretty sore and we were starting to get hungry (we had a late breakfast and then skipped lunch while we were walking) so we headed back the way we came, spotting more ducks and geese and a hawk as well. I kept hoping we'd see some of the less typical waterfowl, but it really looked like all the visible birds were mallards and Canada geese. We did see a pair of muskrats in the old canal, first swimming around and then crouched on a deadfall munching on something green.

Since we were right there, after we got back to the car we drove down to the remains of Clute's dry dock, and Ann walked out on the floating dock that's used as a canoe/kayak launch. Then we drove east the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway until we were driving parallel to the river in Halfmoon. I was particularly interested to see a new stone dust path between the road and the edge of the river - I had read that work had been done along that area but hadn't really been through there since the 2008 Mohawk Towpath Duathlon, so I'll definitely have to get back there with my bike sometime soon and check it out more closely.

I think we made a good choice in going to Vischer Ferry today... while the preserve isn't quite a pretty as it is in the summer and fall, it was still a great day to be there and Ann really seemed to enjoy our walk (possibly because for once I wasn't dragging her up and down some mountain somewhere.)


Friday, November 27, 2009

13.7 Mile Ride at the Corning Preserve & Schuyler Flatts
Friday, November 27, 2009

Since I'm not not ready to risk running, I hustled my backside out the door this morning to get in a short ride down at the Corning Preserve and Schuyler Flatts before the predicted rain blew in (as it turned out, the rain never amounted to more than a few spatters.) I seemed to be moving at a better clip than yesterday, though it was also definitely a bit colder - still, I got used to that fairly quickly. Took a few photos along the way, though the grey skies didn't really lend themselves to much in the way of sunning scenery.

Last year the Watervliet section of the bike path was repaved, and it was always a rude jolt to go from the nice smooth new pavement to the crumbling, bumpy old path in the Albany portion of the trail. Apparently this summer Albany finally got with it and repaved their section... and also decided to spend a bunch of money on a huge sign letting everyone know that they're entering the Corning Trail and the Albany section. I like the repaving but the sign seems like a waste of money designed more to trumpet "Albany!" and Mayor Jerry more than anything else.

After riding through the two parks, I headed south along the river to the riverfront park and then down to the dock where the retired destroyer escort the USS Slater is docked. I've driven past it dozens of times and find it even more interesting after reading about it in Jessica DuLong's captivating book My River Chronicles (DuLong is an engineer on the fireboat John J. Harvey out of NYC and describes visiting the Slater which has a similar powerhouse.) One of these days I think I'm going to have to do the tour, maybe sometime when Ann's down here visiting, since she'd probably be interested too.) I rode a bit further hoping to see Island Creek Park, but stopped when the sidewalk ran out and I didn't feel like risking riding in traffic.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

29 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path & Through Colonie Mohawk River Park & Cohoes Falls Park
Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Hydrate Or Die!"
Part 2 - What Works (For Me, At Least!)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Last time I wrote about a number of bottle carriers and packs that I tried which never quite worked as well as I would have liked. Other than some of the cheap department store equipment, it's all good gear... just not for me when I'm running or snowshoeing. I've been really pleased to find some gear that works great in the last year or so - that's what I'll be describing this time around. But first...

All products mentioned in this post were purchased by me; none of the companies mentioned have provided me with any gear, for review purposes or any other reason. (Nor do I expect them to ever offer to do so, given the very limited readership of my rambling writings...)

Now back to what works for me...

Last spring I read some reviews for GoLite's products which intrigued me sufficiently that I decided to try their HydroSprint single bottle carrier. I loved it right from the get-go. First of all, GoLite advertises this as a "no bounce" waist pack - and for me at least it actually is! There are two pockets with sufficient room for keys, a powerbar, handkerchief, electrolyte capsules, etc, and the belt is sufficiently long and wide enough that I can also attach a separate pouch for my camera. In addition to the water bottle holder, there's also a gel flask holder which I used to carry powdered sports drink mix during really long races. I've used the HydroSprint on countless runs, rides, hikes, walks, and snowshoe outings in the last 18 months and not only does it still perform as advertised, nothing has broken on it yet. This is probably my best all-around bottle carrier.

Since the HydroSprint worked so well, I eventually purchased a HydroClutch handheld. I will say I'm still not crazy about handhelds, but this one is pretty comfortable and I'll use it sometimes when I'm either doing a short distance and don't want to bother with a waist pack or if I want a 2nd bottle along and don't want the weight of a double bottle carrier. I also picked up a HydroSwift double bottle pack for longer runs or ones where I might need more gear or fluids. While it's a good deal bulkier than the HydroSprint, it still works great and is pretty much bounce free.

One of the things I'd been looking for was a hydration pack that also includes bottle pockets - so that during really long runs I could carry both plain water and bottles of energy drink. There didn't seem to be much available and nothing was in stock locally (so I could actually check out fit, comfort, and so on) but this past spring I read a review of the GoLite Rush pack on Donald's Running & Rambling blog that, combined with my other experiences with GoLite's packs, got me to bite the bullet and order one on sale from Zombierunner. While injuries and general laziness have kept me mostly out of the really long run business since June, I've used the pack half a dozen times and been very happy with it. I've got two Camelbak hydration bladders I use with it - a 2L and a 3L - because my experience with them has been very good and the general buzz about Camelbak bladders is that they're pretty much bomb-proof. There's enough cargo space to carry all the gear I can ever imagine needing on a run or hike, and for a big bulky hydration pack it's surprisingly comfortable. Best of all, there's even room for me to carry one of my collapsible hiking sticks in the main compartment (it sticks up about 8 inches above the top of the pack) which is great when I'm on a route that involves some serious uphill. With one exception, I love all of my GoLite gear.

The one exception is the bottles, and it's a fairly quirky gripe that only popped up once I started using Nuun for electrolyte replacement on shorter runs (again, mostly as a result of one of Donald's reviews.) As he mentions, Nuun is slightly carbonated (which I actually like) and my GoLite bottles all ended up leaking, especially once I'd get runner and start them moving around. I eventually managed to minimize the leaking by keeping the valves slightly open (presumably to allow the gas pressure to escape without carrying much fluid with it) but it's always been a minor annoyance.

Which is why I'm very happy with my latest gear purchase, several Ultimate Direction sports bottles, based on a recommendation from Sherpa John, a very talented ultrarunner/outdoorsman over in nearby New Hampshire. When I first got my Ultimate Direction bottles, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of them. Instead of a traditional valve, they have a rubber "kicker" valve which you open by pulling up into an extended position with your teeth and then close by simply tipping the valve to the side, which causes it to collapse back down. After several decades of "traditional" (ie cheap) sports bottles, it's a pretty strange design to get used to, but having used them three times now - it doesn't take long to get the hang of them. And so far - no leaks! If they keep working this well I may invest in a few for my bikes. (I also use an Ultimate Direction add-on pouch to carry my camera with most of my packs - it's exactly the right size, and I can easily remove it to carry the camera with me without a pack. Unfortunately, they don't seem to make it any more... guess it's a good thing I bought a spare!)

So far that's what works best for me - GoLite packs and Ultimate Direction bottles, with a little Camelbak magic added to my hydration pack. If they keep working as well I really don't anticipate making any changes until they wear out... I'm not someone who has to have the latest and greatest of everything, and when I find something that works I tend to stick with it until I can't use it any more.

"Hydrate Or Die!"
Part 1 - What Didn't Work So Well
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I first read the title of this post on the very first Camelbak I ever owned, and thought it was a bit overdramatic at the time... then again, I suppose "hydrate or vomit", "hydrate or feel really lousy", and "hydrate or really wish you had" aren't nearly as catchy and memorable. And having ended up dehydrated on more than one occasion, I can definitely attest to the importance of getting enough fluids... unfortunately, the task of actually carrying those fluids with you can be a real challenge, and that's the focus of what I'll be discussing today - the gear that I've found that works best for me (so far...)

I feel a little bit silly writing the following, but apparently it's become an "issue" with blogs that discuss consumer products, so - All products mentioned in this post were purchased by me; none of the companies mentioned have provided me with any gear, for review purposes or any other reason. (Nor do I expect them to ever offer to do so, given the very limited readership of my rambling writings...)

We now return you to the regularly-scheduled post about hydration...

When I first started running back in 1997, there were two things I never would have predicted - that I'd still be running in 2009 (and in fact be missing it terribly while injured) and that I'd end up aquiring some much stuff to use while playing outdoors. So much so that I suspect I could easily fill a closet with all my outdoor gear. And a good-sized chunk of that gear would be related to hydration. Bottles, waistpacks, hydration packs, hydration bladders, plus a few items to help keep them clean and ick-free. A quick glance shows somewhere around 2 dozen bottles of various sizes and shapes, three hand-held bottle holders, half a dozen or more waist packs, three hydration packs, and three bladders... and there are probably more that are buried out of sight. Not to mention gear that I've thrown away because it wore out, broke under the tough use I tend to put my gear through, or just plain didn't work the way I needed it to.

I started out holding a bike water bottle in one hand, but then needed to put it somewhere else when I began using hand weights, so I picked up an inexpensive waist pack at either K-mart or Ames... that worked great for shorter runs or ones where I could somehow refill the bottle. I tried an inexpensive two-bottle waist pack for longer runs but was never particularly happy with it, because it tended to bounce around a lot. Then a friend gave me the Camelbak I mentioned a few paragraphs back - that worked a lot better, though it was far from perfect (this was in the days when Camelbak was just getting established and as present day hydration packs go it was pretty primitive.) In the end, though, it was a moot point, since I moved to Albany and cut way back on my running... I used the single-bottle pack when I did run and the Camelbak mostly ended up gathering dust in the closet.

Initially I stuck with my old bottle carriers and Camelbak when I started running "seriously" again in 2005, but it became clear pretty quickly that I would need something better, especially for long distance. I experimented with a variety of inexpensive waist packs for short and medium distance; most have long since gone into the trash. The best I found was one from Fuel Belt, similar to their current Crush bottle carrier, but I was never 100% satisfied with it - it still bounced a bit (though it was better than the cheap carriers) and had very little room for carrying anything else. For longer distances I followed up on a recommendation to check out North Face waist packs, and ended up with three - a small two-bottle carrier with a modest amount of cargo room, a huge two bottle carrier with tons of cargo room (the Mountain Biker), and finally a happy medium (a later model Mountain Biker.) I also tried a Nathan hand-held and was never particularly happy with it. And somewhere along the line I picked up a Camelbak MULE hydration pack on sale, which I've honestly mostly used for riding - it's big and bulky and not terribly comfortable to run with, plus there's no easy way to carry a bottle of sports drink and actually access it without taking the pack off.

Of all these products, the only ones I tend to still use are the North Face packs, mainly because they're decent for hiking or riding, can carry lots of gear, and so far they're incredibly durable - I've had one belt clip break when I shut it in a car door, but that's it. I don't run or snowshoe with any of this gear any more, because in 2008 and 2009 I found products that work much better for me...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For the first time since 2005 I didn't go out for a run on the day before Thanksgiving... my knee is still too sore and I'd really like it to heal up enough that I can run the Gail's Trail Run on the Leatherman's Loop course at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in about a week and a half.

Still, I definitely missed going for a run today... particularly since I got word that my car won't be ready until next week so I'll be staying in town this year.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes We All Need Reminding...
Monday, November 23, 2009

Every morning at work we have a short meeting with all the high school students to go over announcements and reminders and just generally get the day off on the right foot. Several of our faculty are known for reading passages designed to get the boys thinking about the wider world and their place in it... this morning Jim Poole read a piece that I found a particularly good reminder of something I forget more often than I should.

The piece was written by Beverly Beckham, a columnist for the Boston Globe... it was published locally in the Times Union on Nov. 6, but originally appeared in the Boston Globe on Nov. 1. I think the message is important enough that rather than paraphrase it here it is in its entirety:

The Most Important Reminder
By Beverly Beckham
November 1, 2009

It was a perfect October day, crisp and clear, the sky blue, the trees orange and bronze and red, the kind of day that made you forget for a while not only your personal problems but the infinitely bigger troubles of the world.

That’s how fine it was. That’s how divine.

Nothing seemed a burden. Not the traffic. Not the long line at the post office. Not a growing to-do list. Not even grocery shopping.

“Isn’t this the most beautiful day ever?’’ I said to an older gentleman who was checking me out of Costco, making sure that the number of items in my cart matched the number of items on my sales slip. You could see the golden day from where we stood. You could smell the fresh fall air.

This man looked up from his counting and out at the world, then back at me and he smiled. And then he said gently but firmly, “Every day’s a beautiful day. Every day we’re given. Rain or shine. If you wake up in the morning. If you can get out of bed? It’s a good day.’’

His words aren’t revelatory. We’ve all heard them and others like them: “Count your blessings,’’ “Be thankful for what you have.’’ But he said them with such conviction that they stuck with me, that I came home and told my family the story. And when it rained a few days later, a cold, ugly, steady downpour, I thought again about what this man had said and looked beyond the rain and watched the golden leaves fall.

He could have complained about having to work on a beautiful day. “It’ll be dark by the time I get out of here.’’ He could have said, “Yah. It’s great today but tomorrow it’s supposed to turn cold.’’ He could have said, “Too bad it won’t last.’’ He could have said nothing.

But he used the moment to make a point not to teach me something, but to remind of things I know for a while but always, always forget.

I knew them well when my friend Sal was alive. He had ALS and lived in a hospital bed for the last 10 years of his life. He could smile and he could raise and lower his eyes. But that was it. He couldn’t walk or talk or eat or hug his kids. He communicated - when someone was around who could work his machine - by using his eyes to spell out words on a small computer screen. It was hard and it was painstaking. He focused on one letter at a time and averaged two words a minute.

For years, until he was moved to a different room, there was a tree outside his window. “Open curtain,’’ he would spell, until we knew just by his glance what he wanted. He measured time by that tree; he counted the seasons, watched snow fall, birds nest, buds bloom. And fall after fall, dying leaves turn to gold.

I seldom complained about errands or lines or traffic or snow or rain all the years I visited Sal because I knew that he would love to be me, stuck in traffic, in his own car, the window open, drinking a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, wiping the fog off the window, switching radio stations, singing along to a song.

I used to notice, too, and marvel at how people walked and talked without any thought. They just did it, millions of people, billions of people all over the world. They did it. I did it.

But Sal couldn’t.

It’s raining as I write this. It’s gray and gloomy and the space heater hums beside me, and I am thinking about November days, how quickly they shrink and how the nights grow longer and how soon there will be snow and ice and how easy it is to slip into the mindset that winter is something to be endured, not celebrated and enjoyed.

“Every day is a beautiful day. Every day we’re given,’’ a stranger reminded me.

So for the moment, I know this.

But I know, too, that despite my best intentions, on some overcast day, I will forget again.

Beverly Beckham can be reached at © Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

I know I forget all too often. I get caught up in my knee hurting and not being able to run when I want to, or wanting to be driving my own car again, or the fact that it's dark and and cold when I finally get done at work. And I forget just how good I've got it. I take the many blessings in my life for granted. For today, at least, I was reminded that regardless of any challenges I may face - life is pretty darn good. Thank you, Jim and Beverly, for reminding me of that.

I think I'll check out some more of Beverly Beckham's articles when I get a free moment or two.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

18.2 Mile Ride on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Started out chilly and grey for my ride today, but then I had a pleasant surprise - about half an hour in the clouds blew off and it was sunny the rest of the time (well... at least until the sun went down toward the end.) It's amazing what a difference a little thing like a blue sunny sky can make - even the birds seemed a perk up and start singing once the clouds cleared away.

Since my knee was still hurting I did my best to stay clear of the major hills - rode out to the base of the old Niskayuna landfill, then headed back east to the top of the hill just before the short segment on-road to get around the Northway. When I got back to the park I decided I wanted to stay out a bit longer, so I rode the path over to Lock 7 Road one more time before calling it an evening.

Initially the only critters I saw were ducks and geese, both looking like they were enjoying the low water; apparently the canal corporation has opened the various gates that keep the river at its summer levels and the water is the lowest I've seen since last winter, which makes it a lot easier for the ducks to find food. But then later in my ride I passed a mockingbird that seemed to be enjoying the sunshine (at least, he didn't fly off when I stood there taking photos of him) and a group of mergansers near Lock 7. I also spotted a red-tailed hawk over near the Colonie water treatment plant. He didn't seem as keen on me being around - whenever I stopped to take pictures he flew off to another tree. On my way back to the park I also spotted a heron hunting along the riverbank. The biggest surprise, however, was a white squirrel I near the Ferry Rd bridge. It was getting darker and he was practically glowing as he bounced around across the inlet from the bike path. Unfortunately it was too dark for me to get a good photo... given how well he stood out against his suroundings, I'm thinking a pure white pelt is not a good survival trait for a squirrel.

Weekly Training Summary
11/15 - 11/21/2009

running (3x) - 19.9 mi
riding (1x) - 21.3 mi

I would say that's more like it, if I hadn't aggravated my bad knee during yesterday's run... it remains to be seen if I'll be able to run at all this week. At least with time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, I should be able to get out riding a bit more.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

$#@**$*!! KNEE...
6 Mile Run in Albany
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Woke up this morning and decided to cancel my car rental reservation and skip the trip to RI for the Lil Rhody Runaround trail race... as much as I enjoy that race, I have a lot of work to do this weekend and spending 7 hours driving there and back just doesn't make sense, especially given that the work I need to get done means I wouldn't have time to stop anywhere else along the way, either to visit other parks or stop by to see friends. Maybe next year...

Instead I decided to get in a run today and hopefully a ride tomorrow. I really didn't feel like driving anywhere, so I ran out to Buckingham Lake and then over to work to pick up the power cord for my laptop. I was actually feeling pretty decent and thinking that I'm starting to make slight progress toward getting back into shape when my left knee felt like someone jammed a needle into the side of it, in the spot I injured back in June. I managed to run/hobble the 1.5 miles home... not fun. Now it just remains to be seen if it will stabilize in a few days or if I'm looking at more time off.

Sigh. Maybe I should have stuck with my original plan and gone to RI...


Friday, November 20, 2009

$#@**$*!! Software "Upgrades"...
Friday, November 20, 2009

Back in June my e-mail and dial-up ISP released an "upgraded" version of their interface, which I foolishly installed despite the fact that the previous version had been working fine for everything I need it for. Since then it's caused me numerous headaches, including a crash that wiped out all of my e-mail folders and put years worth of messages into one folder, then duplicated many of them when I tried to restore it to the previous state. Tonight it crashed again, except this time it left the program data in a state where I can't even open the program, even after restarting my PC.

The good news is, uninstalling the upgraded version restored my "classic" version of the program, complete with e-mail messages. The bad news is, none of the messages I've received since the upgrade were stored under the old software, so I've lost approximately 5 months worth of e-mails. I can use my backups to regain a few months of those, but only if I return to using the newer version of the program, which is what caused me to lose the messages in the first place. Aaargh!

Hopefully there's nothing in the past few months worth of messages that I'll need going forward...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

8.6 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I stepped out the door tonight into light rain I wondered for a bit if I should have gone running last night after all, even though it was a bit colder. Fortunately, the rain never got any heavier than a light drizzle... and there are times when I actually enjoy a bit of challenge from the elements. Visibility wasn't great, even with my headlamp, but that wasn't a big deal, since I know most of the trails I ran tonight extremely well. At least the rain meant I was very unlikely to run into anyone else out on the trails!

I had intended to run about 6 miles, but ended up heading out on the mountain bike trails adjacent to the Great Dune section of the Pine Bush, which added more mileage than one might initially think, mainly because the riders tend to switchback their trails to get the longest loops possible in any given area. I was also surprised to run on some trails I'd never been on before - apparently they've been busy building a new loop. I have to admit, there were times when I didn't think those loops were ever going to end (and in the dark I didn't dare bushwhack to cut them short.)

My knee felt pretty good for the first 3-4 miles, then ached quite a bit after that... hopefully as I get back into shape I can extend that distance as my legs regain some of their former strength and endurance.

Didn't really spot much wildlife until the end of my run, when I first startled a group of deer that looked like they had settled in for the night in the grass along a section of the power lines, then a second group in the woods. I also spotted a the eyes of a small critter that did its best to hide in a brushpile, probably a flying squirrel from the size of it.

I ended my run sore and tired... I will be very happy when I get back to the point that an 8 mile run isn't as challenging as it is now. Like I pointed out on Monday - getting back into shape hurts. But that beats the alternative...


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Complete & Utter Chaos - Part 10
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some days it's tough to find the time to sit down and work on "fun" projects on the computer... and other days it's tough to find space in my chair...


Monday, November 16, 2009

5.3 Mile Run Through Albany
Monday, November 16, 2009

I would have rather been out in the woods or on the bike path, but with my car in the shop my options are somewhat limited, so... the streets of Albany it was. Some days I can manage to enjoy myself despite the surroundings, but tonight was just a slog. Still, it was better than not running at all.

Tonight's run also reminded me of another reason why I hate letting myself get into such lousy shape... regaining something resembling my previous level of fitness is hard work and it hurts. Running a meager 5 miles at a fairly slow pace (on pavement, no less!) shouldn't be nearly as difficult as tonight was.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

21.3 Mile Ride Along the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Sunday, November 15, 2009

Since I don't get many chances to ride during daylight hours this time of year I headed over to Lock 8 to ride the bike path west the SCCC. I had hoped to ride through the short section on the west side of Rotterdam Junction, but the train was just leaving Scrafford Lane and I didn't want to get into trouble with the CSX workers who were probably there to see it off, so I settled for doing a second out-and-back from Lock 8 to Rt 5S after riding the whole path once.

Overall it was a decent day for riding - definitely warmer than usual for November. Not much wildlife to see - gulls by the lock, a few birds along the way, ducks and a muskrat in the old canal, and geese in the river. The water in the river is low - they've opened the gates for winter when the canal is not in use. The water in the old canal was the highest I've seen it in a while, probably because of the fairly steady rain we had for much of yesterday.

The biggest surprise was when I was riding back from Scrafford Lane and spotted 4 turtles up on logs in the old canal - boy are those guys confused. I would have expected them to be hibernating in the mud by now. The chilly weather definitely made them sluggish, usually they'd disappear the moment I stopped to take a picture and today they didn't move at all.

Today's ride felt tougher than it should have - yet another sign of my recent laziness. I definitely need to get my butt in gear; snowshoe season is just around the corner, and that's tough enough when I'm in halfway decent shape!

Weekly Training Summary
11/8 - 11/14/2009

running (1x) - 8.3 mi

Ack. So much for running three times this week and improving on my mileage from last week. Admittedly, I would have had another 8 miles or so yesterday if my weekend car rental hadn't gotten fouled up, but still... this is depressing. After all, I could have gotten off my backside Friday night or yesterday and put in at least a few miles, all sulking aside. Or maybe I should look at it as setting the bar comfortably low for improvement next week.


Friday, November 13, 2009

AARGH! No Dirt Cheap Stage Race For Me...
Friday, November 13, 2009

And I was really looking forward to running it, even though I was pretty sure it was going to be difficult and probably painful (especially the 11 mile leg on Sunday.)

Unfortunately, my car is currently in the shop, hopefully on its way to being repaired, and when I got to Enterprise tonight to pick up my amazingly cheap rental for the weekend - I found out that they needed a bunch of additional stuff for me to put the rental on my debit card (like a pay stub and a utility bill... what the heck?) And since my filing system alternates between being non-existent and chaos personified, I didn't have a prayer of putting my hands on what they needed before they closed for the night.

So I'm both bummed and ticked off, and right now I'd like to find the jackass who hit my car and kick him up one side of New York State and down the other for the aggravation and expense he's caused me.

Oh, well. Enough grumbling. There will be other races and in the grand scheme of things this is all pretty insignificant, no matter how annoying it is at the time.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

8.3 Mile Run in the Pine Bush
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Since I had the day off from work, it was a rare opportunity to go out for a weekday run in the daylight... so I headed over to the water tower trailhead planning to put in 8 miles or so on the Pine Bush trails.

Knee felt pretty good for the first 4 miles or so, then ached a bit for much of the rest of the run. I ran a section of trail I don't usually go on, and actually spotted a hunter perched in a tree - good thing I was wearing a florescent yellow jacket. I think I briefly spotted one deer - hopefully he didn't head over toward where the hunter was!

Definitely a pretty good afternoon on the trails, and it gives me some hope that I may be able to complete the Dirt Cheap Stage Race out in Rochester this weekend. Three races over 2 days, all at Mendon Ponds park - a 3 mile Saturday morning, a 5.5 mile Saturday afternoon, and then an 11 mile Sunday morning. Tomorrow will be the real test - if my knee feels decent during the day, then I can probably handle two days of races, though I suspect they'll leave me sore and very tired, given how much I haven't been running recently. Attempting the Stage Race probably isn't the brightest thing I've ever done (and I could make quite a lengthy list of "not the brightest things I've ever done") but I'm already signed up for it and it strikes me as a good challenge to begin winding down the 2009 running season.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

1.5 Mile Walk at Turning Point Park and the Genesee Riverway
2 Mile Walk at Lower & Middle Falls
0.5 Mile Walk at High Falls
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Weekly Training Summary
11/1 - 11/7/2009

running (2x) - 11.9 mi
riding (1x) - 21.4 mi

I'm trying something a bit different... my hope is that actually putting my weekly totals in writing will provide me with more motivation to get my backside out the door in the evening after a long day of work.

This past week's totals are pretty pathetic... but they're a lot better than the ones from the week before (OK, not completely, since that week started out with the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon... but then I did nothing all week except some walking the following Saturday.)

This week I'm going to push myself to get out and run three times... riding might be problematic, since most days I won't be free until dark and I don't know what I'll have for a vehicle after I drop my Civic off tomorrow to have the collision damage fixed. But I'm hoping to get out at least once for a ride as well, all other factors permitting.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

6.1 Mile Run at Five Rivers
Saturday, November 7, 2009

OK, change of plans. I found it nearly impossible to get in gear this morning and it ended up being 2 PM before I was ready to head west. Since that meant Ann would already be off at her ems/fd commitment by the time I got there, I decided to take advantage of the remaining daylight and a fairly pleasant day and headed over to Five Rivers for a run.

I ended up hitting most of the major trails at least once. No great surprise, there were lots of squirrels and chipmunks rustling in the leaves... spotted a few ducks down in the Beaver Pond as well. The last time I was here I saw freshly chewed trees indicating that there might be beavers in the Beaver Pond again; saw more today, as well as what I think is their lodge on the shore of the pond.

After I left the pond and headed back up toward the fields, I spotted a deer near the spot where the service road goes off of the driveway from the main parking lot. I guess in the fading light she couldn't figure out what I was, because she hung around for quite a while as I moved closer despite looking a bit alert to possible danger every now and again. I cut off from the service road down to the research ponds to get some shots of the sunset and surprised another group of deer, three this time. They also seemed to have trouble figuring out what I was, though they didn't hang around nearly as long before heading off into the bushes.

It would have been fun to run someplace out near Rochester today, but so it goes... I have no one to blame but myself for how long it took me to get my act together this morning (or early afternoon, as it happened.) And a run at Five Rivers is almost always a good time, so I really have nothing to complain about.


Friday, November 06, 2009

More Missed Races... Sigh
Friday, November 6, 2009

I've been getting e-mail updates for the Bobcat Trail Marathon in Ohio, the race I was originally planning to do this weekend. They always leave me feeling a bit bummed, since it sounds like it's going to be a good run.

I had hoped to run the Mendon 10k trail race tomorrow morning - even had my registration changed from the 20k - but I would need to leave at 4:30 AM to get there in time and as the evening progressed it became clear that I would be better off getting a full night's sleep. So I guess I'll have to settle for a run somewhere else tomorrow afternoon, while Ann's working on setting up for one of the fire/ems department festivals.

My plans for next weekend are up in the air, since I don't know right now what my car situation will be (I drop my car off Monday after work so they can start repairing it) but I'm still hoping to make it to the Lil Rhody Runaround the weekend after that. After that it all depends on what's actually scheduled (I still haven't heard if Gail's Trail Run on the Leatherman's course is happening this year) and how my knee is doing.

So it goes...


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

5.8 Mile Run at Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My first time running again since I screwed up my knee at Hairy Gorilla, and my first time running since the switch back to Standard Time. Fortunately, I had a short work day so I was able to get up to Vischer Ferry a little earlier than I might otherwise have, and had almost an hour before I had to break out the headlamp.

The knee is still grumpy so it was slow going with a lot of walking breaks. I'm dialing back the mileage for a while; the plan is to try and rebuild some of the fitness I lost this summer because of being both injured and lazy.

Lots of geese out on the water, and quite a few very nervous ducks (at one point groups of them kept flying up from the swamp next to the path and I repeatedly tried to get a photo of them going overhead, with no success.) Spotted a few muskrats as well and had a great view of the moon after it rose. Before I turned around and headed back I walked down to the edge of the river and looked across at the bike path, not that there was much to see in the dark. While I was there something rustled in the leaves and then there were two blue-green eyes staring at me from partway up a tree... never got to see what it was, because it dashed away when I tried to get closer. Later I saw a set of eyes that turned out to be a cat.

It was good to be out running again, no matter how slowly. Right now I doubt I'm running the race at Mendon Saturday morning - there are an awful lot of hills on that course. But who knows, maybe my knee will be feeling well enough by then that I'll change my mind.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Off to Minnewaska... or Saratoga... or Maybe a Ride...
21.4 Mile Ride at Colonie Mohawk River Park & the Mohawk Hudson Bike Path
Sunday, November 1, 2009

Up until a little under a week ago I had planned to spend a big chunk of today down near New Paltz, running the After the Leaves Have Fallen 20k at Minnewaska, one of my all-around favorite places to go. A week of hoping my knee would bounce back quickly (it didn't) followed. A day ago I had changed that plan to going up to Saratoga for the Fall Back 5 Mile trail race at the state park... I've never run that one, so this seemed like a good opportunity to take the lemons of missing Minnewaska and make some lemonade (or maybe some lemon iced tea.) This morning I woke up tired and cranky, so I convinced myself to give my knee a few more days so I could take my bike out today instead.

I mixed things up a bit by parking at the bike path lot across from the entrance to the Colonie Mohawk River Park... I figured that would force me to ride a bit further than I might if I used my usual spot, the Niskayuna Lions Park. To be honest I didn't expect much from today's ride, beyond spending some time outdoors... I know the past few weeks of relative inactivity have taken their toll, and with colder weather moving in there are fewer critters to see.

I started out with a quick loop through the park, down the hill to the edge of the river. Other than squirrels stocking up for the winter and a few ducks on the river, not much to see. From there I headed west, first on the local roads that connect the sections of the bike path separated by the Northway, and then on the bike path itself. I stopped to take some pictures of the mob of pigeons sitting in the sunshine on the Twin Bridges, and must have annoyed a hawk perched nearby, since he screeched and flew off almost directly overhead... unfortunately, I couldn't get him in focus quickly enough to get a picture.

On the bike path I passed a downy woodpecker flitting around looking for food and a mockingbird singing some very pretty songs... I snapped pictures of him for a little while and I don't think I heard him repeat himself even once before he flew off. Spotted a few ducks and a muskrat, but for the most part the river was pretty quiet. I had planned to stop at the base of the Hill... ended up riding to the top instead. It was tougher going than it should be at this point in the season, but I made it.

After taking a short break to catch my breath and drink some Nuun, I headed back down the Hill. Passed several bluebird houses along the way and thought about how they're usually set up in pairs so that if a swallow moves in one, there's still another one for the bluebirds (apparently swallows won't tolerate each other as neighbors) and then next thing I knew, I was looking at bluebirds in the trees alongside the path. None of them sat still long enough for me to get a decent picture, sadly, but it was still good to see them - apparently the attempts to bring their numbers back up are succeeding.

I kept an eye on the trees as I rode, but didn't really see anything unusual until I got back to the Gerbil Wheel... at which point a bald eagle flew almost directly overhead with a fish in his claws! A second or so later another eagle followed, this one completely brown - I'm assuming a juvenile bald eagle. By then I had my camera out in case they came back, and I watched them flying around one another a ways off. I couldn't figure out what they were doing until the first one dropped the fish it was carrying - maybe it stole the fish from the other one? After that they headed back to the river and disappeared. I managed to get one halfway decent photo, but they were still pretty darn cool to watch.

Once I got back to the parking lot, I decided to make one more loop through the park, and headed back down to the river again. Along the way I caught a sweet view of the full moon over the trees. The river was a lot busier this time around, with several flocks of geese out on the water and a few more groups coming in to land while I was there. I watched (and listened to!) them for a while and then decided it was time to call it an evening, heading back up the hill to the car and a few errands I wanted to get done before heading home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yup, it's my yearly grumble about the evils of Standard Time. While I don't mind that extra hour of sleep when we set the clocks back in the fall, that's just about the only thing I like about the switch to Standard Time, which heralds several months of my being exiled to running and riding in the dark, now that sunset is not that long after the time I get out of work.

This year the return to Standard Time goes hand-in-hand with the arrival of November, probably one of my least-favorite months of the year. The brightly colored leaves of October are mostly gone, the warmer days are fewer and further between, everything seems to turn shades of brown and grey, and during the week it starts to seem like the only hours of daylight are while I'm cooped up indoors warping impressionable young minds. And when I do hit the trails on the weekends I have to be careful to dress in as much orange as possible, in hopes that a hunter won't mistake me for whatever critter he's hoping to take home with him.

Ah, well, enough griping. I'm probably just bummed because my stupid knee has messed up a lot of the fun I was hoping to have this year. Time to try to enjoy this month, despite the strikes it apparently has against it!