19 July 2014

Pharaoh Mountain - 28 Jun 2014

I went for a run up Pharaoh Mountain a few weeks ago, to work on my ability to run up and down steep terrain, and also to get some elevation.  The views were fantastic, but the mosquitoes were vicious.

I parked at the end of Crane Pond Road, and started getting ready to run.  The mosquitoes were already out and looking for a meal, so I went for the picaridin right from the bat.  While I was getting my stuff together, I chatted briefly with another runner, who said he was going up to the trailhead and then running back.  He and his dog set out fairly quickly, and I thought about how great it would be to live close enough to this system that a 4 mile run would be worth the drive.

I set out, along a wide woods road, trying to take in as much as I could while still moving quickly.  I heard and then saw a small waterfall off to my left, running strong from the recent rains.  The other runner passed by on his way back, moving at a quick pace.  There was one car parked at the trailhead for Goose Pond, which was all I expected to see, but then there was another at a small bend in the road.

Then the road dipped down, all the way down until we were in the drainage plain of Alder Pond.  I had been able to avoid the puddles until now, but a road-sized muddy puddle stood before me.  It was impossible to see the bottom, but I knew what to do.  I plunged bravely in, trying to avoid widening the ... road ... and immediately stumbled.  I expected it to be 6-8", but it was much, much deeper.  At least 18", though it wouldn't have surprised me if it was 24".  Down I went, and my left knee smashed into what must have been gravel in a shallower section of the puddle.  I had gone to the puddle near the right edge of it, and it only occurred to me after I had shredded my knee to pieces that the edges of the puddle would be the deepest, due to vehicular traffic.  Where my knee had hit was where I should have been running.

It looked like I had a small gash on my knee.  Nothing too bad.  I could fix it up when I got home.  I pushed on, and found myself standing in a large, pine needle covered parking area.  There were at least ten trucks and SUVs there, though I didn't stop to count.  The moment I stopped running I was swarmed by mosquitoes.  The trailhead was off to the right, and I pushed on, stopping for a moment to clean the mud off of my hands in the outlet of Crane Pond.

The road had been fairly level, never flat, but very runnable.  The trail was fairly runnable, too, and in some places it was as wide as a road, an indication that it might have been one, at some point.  The trail register wasn't too far beyond the bridge over the Crane Pond outlet.  I stopped to register, and then pushed on, still hounded by the mosquitoes.  After a few more strides I stopped, put my pack on a rock, and applied another round of picaridin.  It stung on my knee, but it worked.  The mosquitos backed off once again.

Again I pushed on, taking a left at the next junction, heading south now, toward the mountain.  Whenever I stopped, I was swarmed, so I did my best to just keep pushing.  I reapplied the picaridin a few times, and the effect was the same.  As long as I was hiking, I was generally ok.  Once I hit the steeper portion of the trail, I decided to just keep hiking, to see if the mosquitoes would stay away.  It worked, for the most part.

The trail guide describes the hike as exposed ridge, and that's technically correct, though inaccurate.  The portion where the trail is has been eroded away down to the bedrock in many places, but this is not, in any way, shape, or form, an exposed ridge.  There is a small, 15' section that is exposed (about 10' of exposure) on a herd path paralleling the trail.  That's it.

Exposure has three meanings here, so, in case that wasn't clear:
1) You are hiking on bedrock that has been exposed through erosion.
2) You are not very likely to fall.  (There are cliffs near the summit area that you could fall off of if you REALLY tried.  Keep your kids on their leashes.)
3) You are never above the treeline.  (There are a few large tree-less areas on the summit, and that helps with the view.)

Despite never actually getting above the treeline, there are *fantastic* views from the summit.  After getting up to the summit area, I headed left, scrambled up some rocks and soaked in the view.  I could see Schroon Lake, Desolate Swamp, and the High Peaks off to the northeast.  It wasn't immediately obvious which peaks I was looking at, though I could make out some of the Great Range, which helped with orientation.  The PeakFinder app helped fill in the pieces: the three most prominent peaks I was seeing were Marcy, Dix (the Beckhorn), and Giant.  That struck me: I was standing on the highpoint of one wilderness area and looking at the highpoints of three others.



After a snack and a few glorious bug-free moments in the sun, I went to explore the rest of the summit area.  Just beyond the turn off for the summit proper is a trail leading to a designated camping area.  (I didn't realize there were any designated camping areas on summits, especially prominent summits like this, but it makes sense to keep people in an area that can take it.)  I found the remnants of a fire there, but the flies buzzing about kept me moving on.  Beyond the camping area was another massive open slab, which I explored a bit.  Eventually I was driven away by flies, and I started heading back.  Just before I left the summit area, I found a small wooden structure, like a stash box, a few feet off of the trail, and further down the trail, a small cave that didn't seem to go anywhere.

I wasn't able to run on the steeper section due to the water on the bedrock, which kept the rocks slick.  Once I was past the exposed bedrock, I was able to run some, and that's when I started to run into a steady stream of hikers: one miserable looking guy with a bug net, an older couple resting on a rock, who warned me about the troop coming up the trail, followed by several other smaller couples and even a few small dogs.  When I got down to the water there were canoes out on Crane Pond, and as I ran the road back toward my car, I had to step off several times to make room for the vehicles coming through.  I also saw what I had missed the first time through: a small herd path through the weeds right next to the road where the puddle-trap was.

I made it back to the car more or less intact, and stopped at the Stewart's in Schroon for a snack before making my way back home.

I think I'm more or less done with running on trails in May, June and July.  I can keep the mosquitoes at bay fairly well with long sleeves and picaridin, but it fails utterly and miserably when I'm wearing short sleeves and sweat enters into the equation.  The other non-DEET sprays I've tried, using citronella or oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, follow the same pattern.  So I think it makes more sense to stick to double track when the bugs are at their worst, where I can move more quickly and not bother with bug spray.

01 June 2014

Moreau Lake State Park - 1 Jun 2014

I went for a run today at Moreau Lake State Park, to explore the 15k route some, and to continue my mileage build-up for Savoy.  I parked at the Baker/Western Ridge trailhead again, off of Spier Falls Road, with the intention of running down the Western Ridge Trail, over to Mud Pond, then up and over the ridge to pick up the Western Ridge Trail on the other side.  My goal was 6 miles, and I hadn't spent a whole lot of time plotting it out, figuring I'd adjust my route as I went.

As I was getting sunscreen and bug spray on, I chatted with a couple who had driven up shortly after me.  They said they were heading up the Western Ridge (the other way), and I chuckled a bit, saying that it was a bit steep.  They asked how steep and I said that it climbed a couple hundred feet, and they shrugged it off and said it would be fine.  I haven't actually walked up that trail, but running down it was steep and intense.  I said I'd see them out there, and headed off.

I started out way too fast, and it took a while for me to slow myself down.  It's mostly downhill from the parking lot to Mud Pond, and my body was screaming "let's go fast!".  I managed to rein myself in after the second stream crossing, where the trail heads up for a little bit, and settled in to a more reasonable pace.  The trails get nicer around there: fewer rocks and a lot more stable footing, but it was hard to enjoy.  There was what looked like bear scat along the trail, and I'd find more of it every few minutes.  (It was large; the smallest animal it could have come out of was a coyote, but it looked like the animal had been eating mostly berries.  I looked around for the source of the berries that the animal had been eating, but couldn't find them.)

Once I got down by Mud Pond, I started seeing other people quite a bit.  I ran around what I thought was the pond, and did my best to pick out the trail based on my memory of the race course map from last year.  In actuality, I ran around the northern portion of Moreau Lake, and then over an isthmus with a small break to allow boat traffic to travel between the two portions of the lake.  After that point, I was at the beach area proper, with several hundred (possibly a thousand) other people, from the look of the parking lot and the crowds gathered on the beach and at the various picnic areas.  It was *crowded*.

I made my way along the beach, and breathed a sigh of relief as I got away from the crowds.  I ran in front of the cabin along the white trail, which was occupied, and eventually came to a portion of white trail that was too overgrown to use.  There was a blaze right before the overgrown area, so I was certain that I hadn't stumbled upon a herd path.  My choice was to either run through the water next to the trail, or switch over to the road.  I crossed the road, looking to see if the Red Oak Ridge trail connector I was looking for was there, but it wasn't, so I ran through the water, which was shallow.  I'm not quite sure how that trail will look in September.

From there, I got to a boat launch area across from the Warming Hut.  I stopped to use the restroom (between the crowds and the mosquitoes, a wise choice), walked right past the trailhead for the ROR trail, and continued along the white trail.  I got to the point where the white trail hits the road, and started scouting around for a connector that I had seen during the winter.  The sign or marking was gone, as far as I could tell, but I could see the ROR trail, so I walked over to it and started running along it.  Not long after that, I came to a point that I remembered from my winter run through here.  Now, seeing it in summer, it looked like a herd path, and the real path appeared to run down to the Warming Hut.  I ran down, hoping to get some insight, but the trail ended right at the hut.  Frustrated, I turned around, and made my way back to the herd path I had just seen.  Sure enough, there was a blaze, and it seemed to indicate that the way I had just gone, down to the Warming Hut, was correct.  Stubbornly, I took the herd path.

I wasn't very far along when I came to the eroded portion I remembered from the winter, where it felt like I was going to fall down the hill at any moment.  Eventually I came back to the trail, and turned right to see where it went.  Sure enough, I found myself back at the Warming Hut, on the other side of the parking lot from the trail that I had decided was wrong.  I stopped to take a picture of the sign that I had walked right past almost a mile ago, and then headed up.  The mosquitoes got worse as I headed up.  I did my best to run, but the heat and the terrain left me walking a lot.  I made it up to the Moreau Overlook trail, passed by a gaggle of beach-goers having a walk in the woods, and pushed up to the top.  I chatted with a few other people admiring the view, which was fairly clear today, and then headed off again.  I had intended on running along the Ridge Run as far as the Cottage Path trail, but my unintended diversion had eaten up distance and time.  Not long after starting out on the Ridge Run, I turned around, and headed the other way on it, with the intention of picking up the Baker Trail back to the parking lot.  As I ran past the Moreau Overlook again, I saw that the party I had passed were just now pulling in to the overlook.  I smiled as they gawked over the view, and pushed on.

I kept rolling my ankle on the descent, nothing serious, but I think I was a bit tired.  I made it back to my car in one piece, and dove in to avoid the mosquitoes that were starting to swarm around me.  The drive back home was uneventful.  I had seen a couple dozen Tour de Cure participants on the way in, and I saw what appeared to be a few more finishing up on the way home.  That must have been a long day for them!

Anyway, I think that's it.  I'm getting excited about Savoy, and doing the Moreau 15k, if they hold it this year.

Oh, one more note: I read Jake Stookey's report on the 2012 race, and I can't believe he ran it barefoot in 2 hours!  He went on to win the 2013 edition of the race in huaraches, which seems like a more logical choice.  He even set a new course record in 2013, coming in at 1:27:11.  I love being out and about barefoot, and while I can imagine hiking this course barefoot, I cannot imagine running it barefoot under race conditions.  I'd be hobbling by the end.

Anyway, be excellent to each other, carry plenty of bug spray, watch out for ticks, call your mother, and tip your waiter.  Until next time...

30 May 2014

Building Steam - 30 May 2014

I'm starting to get excited about the upcoming Savoy Mountain Trail Race. I was on the fence, until I read this post, at which point I realized I had to do it (read the comments, too). 15 miles seems like a lot, but I've run 10, and I know I can hike 15, so why not try running 15? I'd like to get into longer distances in the future, as time allows, so it makes sense to keep building this foundation.

To that end, I've started building up my mileage. I even went so far as to create a training plan. It's interesting, seeing target distances for a week. My mind keeps thinking about trails I've run and hiked, and which route fits which distance. This week I'm planning 6 miles for the weekend, and I'm probably going to do 2/3s of the Moreau 15k course. It's tempting to just do the whole thing, but I'd like to get a gauge on where I am at before I push too hard.  My longest runs will be 13 miles, and I'm hoping to do a route from Dacy Clearing, up and over Black Mountain, and then up and over Sleeping Beauty on at least one of them, if the timing works out. I'm really excited about that for some reason.  Hopefully the trail will have dried out a little bit by then, and I won't have to swim too much.

Other than that, I'd like to review the course itself on a couple of runs, to get a feel for the terrain and elevation, so I can dial in my training a little more. There are so many variables when it comes to trails. I follow several runners on Instagram, and it was interesting to hear one of them, from Washington state, complain about rocky trails in an arid part of the state. I got the impression from that statement that the rest of the trails out there must be mostly loam. In the Northeast, it's common to see a lot of rocks and roots on popular trails, and a lot of softer ground on the less used routes.  We also get a lot of exposed bedrock, which is like running on uneven concrete.  Anyway, I think knowing what the trail surface is made out of will help with picking the best training routes. There's a map of the course on the Run WMAC website, so between that and the maps produced by BNRC and Mass DCR, I should be able to find my way around the course. I'll still do some training on pavement, too, to keep my legs used to it.

One more interesting note: the race is named after the state forest in which it takes place.  The route itself involves running around some of the trails in the state forest, and then running up and over Spruce Hill, which is the highest point of the course, from what I can tell.  To further complicate things, there are actually two Spruce Hills listed on the USGS map of Savoy Mountain State Forest, and, much like Lincoln Mountain State Forest, there doesn't appear to actually be a Savoy Mountain.  More than likely the entire massif itself is called Savoy Mountain.  There's also a gigantic train tunnel running under Spruce Hill, just to keep things interesting.

Well, that's about it. Have fun, and be excellent to each other!

28 May 2014

AdiRUNdack Trail Series - Race 4 - 27 May 2014

This week I learned several things:
  • My fitness is finally at the point where I can hike for hours at a time and not burn out.
  • The black flies are out all over the place, and biting at lower elevations.
  • I swell up at the site of black fly bites like some people swell up from mosquito bites.
  • I'm finally capable of running a 9 minute mile.
  • It takes more than 5 hours for a large burrito to pass through my stomach.
  • I can run a 9 minute mile with a burrito trying to escape.

On that pleasant note, the AdiRUNdack Trail Series has come to a close.  Kevin and Elizabeth Emblidge carried the series for their respective genders.  Susan Thompson and Tylor Duguay took second, and Joe Porter took third for the men.  The third place women's slot was a close one, with Gabriella Frittelli managing to hold on to her lead over Dennie Swan-Scott by 25 seconds.  All told, 66 runners made it out for all four races.  Congrats to everyone who participated in the series, and in individual races!

Today's race was easily the warmest of the series, with a temp around 80ยบ F for the start of the race.  The biggest change I noticed was that the run up toward the water tower was not flooded with sunlight.  As I neared the top of that, I kept hearing clicking noises, like someone was on a bike right behind me, but every time I glanced back, I couldn't see one.  Finally, as the trail started to descend, I saw a pack of mountain bikers making their way along a different path.

As I hit the track for the final stretch, I was happy to see my family there, cheering me on.  It took a little while, but I managed to sprint some of the track, coming in at 29:48.  Once we were all back in, Rebecca started the raffle and then the awards ceremony.  After that, we all headed up to get ice cream and then head home.  I can't wait to race here again next year.

Next up is Savoy Mountain, in August.  I'm starting my mileage build this week.

Until next time...

26 May 2014

Memorial Day - 26 May 2014

Today we honor those who have given everything in the defense of this country.

Oriskany Monument

In loving memory of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Captain Samuel Pettingell, a patriot serving in the 3rd Regiment, 5th Company of the Tryon County Militia. Killed in action, August 6th, 1777. Rest in peace.

Sleeping Beauty and the Three Ponds - 25 May 2014

On Thursday I got an invitation to join my friends Justin and Ken on a hike up Sleeping Beauty, which quickly morphed into hiking up Sleeping Beauty and then checking out the ponds between Sleeping Beauty and Black Mountain.    To that end, we met up at my house on Sunday morning and we drove up to Dacy Clearing.  On the way up Buttermilk Falls Road / Sly Pond Road we passed by Camp Wakpominee, one of the Boy Scout camps my troop used after Camp Saratoga stopped hosting summer camps.

We passed by the parking area for Buck Mountain, continued on down past the Hogtown parking area, down the one-lane woods road to Dacy Clearing.  There were several marked campsites with small parking areas along the way, and all of them were in use.  When we pulled in to Dacy Clearing, we saw a gigantic campsite set up in one corner, with a horse trailer and trucks being used to delineate the campsite.  Looking at the map for the Shelving Rock Area, it looks like they were in sites #5 and #6, though it wasn't clear to us at the time.  It looked like they had just taken up a huge chunk of the parking area for their own use.

Camping in Style
Camping in Style
We stopped gawking, geared up, noted the swarms of mosquitoes, put on some bug spray, and headed out.  A short ways up the signed trail, there was a junction and a trail register box with no trail register.  I knew that we needed to go right at the first junction, so we went right, and immediately found ourselves back at the parking area.  Oops.  We turned around, headed back up the trail, found the correct junction, and headed up toward Sleeping Beauty.  We were at the summit cliffs an hour after heading out.  The view was excellent, but the black flies were swarming, so after a short snack, we headed out again.

So I walk upon high...
Lake George from Sleeping Beauty
There was some debate over where the path to Bumps Pond was, but I remembered from the map that the summit was on a spur trail, and that there was a sign pointing the way to the summit a short way down the trail.  It wasn't obvious on the way up, but this was the junction we were searching for.  We took the semi-hidden left turn, and made our way over to Bumps Pond.

The trails everywhere were wet, and I had already proven that the trail running shoes I had worn that day were draining well and drying out quickly enough.  So, when we came to the bridge that crosses over the outlet of Bumps Pond, and we saw a huge plastic blue and yellow thing floating in the water just past the bridge, it didn't take me long to decide to fish it out.  The guys were talking about using a stick to get it, but I could see that the water was only about a foot deep, so I just went for it.  Fishing it out was no problem, and I managed to jerry-rig the 3' long blue plastic thing to the bottom of my pack, where it stayed for the remainder of the hike.

On the other side of the bridge was a junction with another trail, and we headed north, aiming for Fishbrook Pond.  A minute or so later we started seeing a lot of amphibians: frogs, toads, and several beautiful orange salamanders, called red efts.  We sloshed in to Fishbrook Pond, walked down to a somewhat clear point near the water, and ate our lunches.  Justin had brought some fantastic dried swordfish, and shared some with us.  It was easily the best fish I had eaten in a year, if not longer: sushi-grade, brined and dehydrated.  Ken shared some paninis he made at home, and I couldn't believe how delicious they were, even cold.  They tasted a lot like a Monte Cristo sandwich, and they held up very well on the trail.  I offered up some coffee.

Lots of salamanders out today in the Lake George Wild Forest!
She turned me into a newt!
We headed out again, and quickly came to a lean-to, complete with a smoking fire.  I checked to confirm that someone was in fact in the lean-to, and then we headed off along the trail.  It quickly became overgrown, and I thought maybe I had picked a herd path, but eventually we found a sign indicating that this was a snowmobile trail.  A short distance later it met up with the foot trail and crossed the outlet of Fishbrook Pond.  On the other side, the foot trail went left and another trail, blazed with snowmobile markers, went straight.  I assumed that the snowmobile trail was the route over to Greenland Pond, but it took us on an overgrown path through the woods before dropping us back at the foot trail.

We picked our way up a brook to the junction with the Greenland Pond Trail, and then waded up and over a small ridge before starting our descent.  The first portion of the Greenland Pond Trail was incredibly wet, with several instances of standing water a foot deep.  One such occurrence manifested as a small pond, at least 50' in diameter and a foot deep on average.  That was fun to wade through.  Once we got past the flooded portion, we slogged downhill to the pond.  The trail was sporadically blazed, and it appeared to be little used.  When we finally caught sight of Greenland Pond, the first feature we saw was blue, then a beaver lodge in the blue.  The trail stays away from the lake as it crosses to the south, but it was still easy to lose, so we got to visit the lake a few times.

Ken stopped to let his boots air out, and Justin and I went to go check out the lean-to.  We found the outlet of Greenland Pond, and then came to what appeared to be a junction.  There was a red blaze over to the right, so we went that way, but it quickly became obvious that we were heading the wrong way.  Our mistake was fortunate, though, because we found what was easily the best waterfall of the day, a little ways off of the trail.  Actually, it was the second best waterfall of the day: on the drive in there was a ridiculously beautiful and tall waterfall in someone's backyard, complete with a large "Keep Out" sign.

Waterfall
Waterfall just downstream from Greenland Pond
We slogged down through deep leaves to check out the waterfall, and then headed back to the trail and back to get Ken.  From there, we made our way back up to Fishbrook Pond, then back up to Bumps Pond.  We hadn't seen much of Bumps Pond earlier, but now the trail took us right along it for a while.  After that we descended on a very rocky woods road back down to Dacy Clearing.  When we arrived, the parking lot was fairly full, and the sun was out.  So, too, were the black flies.  At higher elevations they didn't appear to have started biting, but in Dacy Clearing they were, and in the few minutes that it took us to get our wet gear off and choke down some food, I managed to get two bites.  Always a fun experience.

Well, I guess that's about it for this tale.  I highly recommend checking out Sleeping Beauty and Fishbrook Pond.  Until next time...

21 May 2014

AdiRUNdack Trail Series - Race 3 - 20 May 2014

This Tuesday was the third installment of the 2014 AdiRUNdack 5K Trail Race Series, and it was another fun day.  Next week will be the final race of the series, and we'll find out who won the 20k challenge.

Current Standings


The 20K challenge is looking fairly locked up: Kevin Emblidge crossed the finish line first in each of the three races, running 17:47, 17:22, and 17:29, followed in each race by Tylor Duguay, at 19:05, 18:49, and 18:26.  Joe Porter finished 3rd in the first two races and 4th in today's, at 19:19, 19:08 and 18:36, and appears to be the current contender for #3.  Erik Sointio and Ryan Connor appear to be in the #4 and #5 slots, respectively, but Erik only has about a 20 second lead.  (I am basing this off of an informal review of the race data; I have not loaded this in to a spreadsheet for analysis and my findings are by no means official.  In order to win, place or show in the 20k challenge, you need to participate in all four races, and you need to be fast.)

On the women's side, it's a little harder to see without loading the data up, but here's what I think is going on: Elizabeth Emblidge is the clear leader, running 19:38, 19:21 and 19:23.  Next up is Susan Thompson, with 21:40, 21:30, and 21:24.  In third is Gabriella Frittelli, with 23:04, 22:54, and 22:56.  Susan Keely was in 4th, with 23:25, 23:17, and 23:20, but she was overtaken this week by Dennie Swan-Scott, who cut a full minute off of last week, running 23:31, 23:35, and 22:25.  (Again, this is by no means official; just my observations from reading the results sheet.)

Walt McConnell deserves a special shout-out, too.  At 82, he's the oldest participant in the series, and if I can run as fast as he can when I'm 82, I'll be very, very happy: 44:09, 42:29, and 41:13.

It's great to see so many people improving week over week!

AdiRUNdack Trail Series, Race #3

The Race


Rebecca started us off again, this time with a working megaphone, and we were off.  I ran well the first two miles, but fell off the pace a bit on the third.  I had already decided that I wasn't going to sprint the track this time (more on that in a minute), and I think that was the deciding factor.  I finished in 31:05.

What went wrong?

I stepped out of the office to head to the race, and the moment that I stepped outside, I felt a twinge run through my Achilles tendon.  I knew exactly what it meant: I had been pushing the transition to zero drop too hard, and my tendon was starting to get injured.  I considered heading home to get different shoes, but there was no way I could make it in time.  So, I decided to just roll with it, and to ease off if I felt it twinge again.  The tendon was fine during the race, but I didn't want to risk another round of tendonitis, so I kept my pace as consistent as I could as I ran the final portion.  I love to finish strong, whether it's on a long run or at a race, but I just couldn't justify it today.

(Looking back over my data, my minimalist mileage (barefoot, or shod in VFFs or Trail Gloves) went way up the past few weeks.  I had been doing 1-3 miles a week (walking or running) in minimalist footwear, and then I jumped up to 4 miles, then 11 miles and so far 6 miles this week.  This is most likely the source of the problem.  I need to reel the miles back in and then slowly build them up again, and not let myself get overconfident yet again.)

I also screwed up the fueling a bit.  I had eaten a snack two hours before the race start, but it was a bit heavier than I really should have eaten, and I don't think it had a chance to fully digest.  Furthermore, I've been experimenting with different fuels, and today's pre-run fuel did not sit well at all.  As soon as we rounded the hard left to start climbing the hill (into the sun), I felt like I was going to throw up.  That feeling didn't leave me for hours.

I think that's about it.  I was very happy with my first two miles; I might have pushed too hard on mile 2, but I was having fun running uphill into the sun, despite my digestive issues.  I think that's what matters here, anyway: having fun.  Pushing yourself, and having fun.

Until next time, be excellent to each other!