15 April 2014

Five Mile Trail - 13 Apr 2014

Today is Monday.  The winds have been blowing hard all day, and tomorrow the rain will likely come, pushing up our already swollen rivers and streams.  Mud Season is upon us in earnest.

Last Tuesday, I ran through the park, through sublimation fog, and fell twice on slick ice.  My hand still bears the marks.  I ate my lunch, a hummus sandwich, when I hit solid ground, attempting to figure out what my stomach can and cannot handle on runs.  I didn't last very long, but it was the ice that shut me down, not the food.  It was everywhere.

On Wednesday, I did a quick make-up session along the Spring Run, which was dry except for a couple of spots.  There was also a patch of late season ice; more like rock or glacier than the slippery stuff that had foiled me the day before.  I did some interval training, but my knee was hurting me, and my pace suffered.  On the way back to my car, I picked up a couple of hot dogs from Awesome Dogs and ate them as I walked.  I don't think I could handle that on a run.

On Thursday, I went back to the park, without food, but with a Heart Full of Soul and a shining sun.  Unfortunately Soul didn't get me very far, though the sun felt nice.  I again ran some intervals, attempting to salvage something of the week.  The ice that remained slowed me down, though, and on the last leg I came across ice that I was unable to cross.  It was angled up, I had no traction aids (it's April!), and it was too slick for me to climb up.  I was several feet onto the ice when I finally turned around, and I fully expected to fall.  I convinced myself that if I got up it, I could get down it, and carefully I made my way back down without falling.

On Saturday, we went to a park down in New Paltz to meet up with some friends.  The kids had fun playing together, and they kept us on our toes.  It was hot; more like June than April.

On Sunday, the kids and I went to my mom's house for breakfast.  Afterwards, they played outside for a while, and then we all pitched in a hand to help with some yardwork.  By noon it was close to 70; another hot day.

Later that day, after a week of horrid runs, and one and a half days of being outside in the sun, I went for a long run.  It was still hot out when I set off around 3:45.  I settled in to a 12:00 pace and did my best to mentally prepare myself for 10 miles of this.  The bike path I was running on was level, and clear of water and debris; as easy as a run on pavement is going to get.  When I hit an unpaved section, I was surprised to find it firm underfoot.

As the path made its way along route 50, I received a reminder of why I prefer to avoid roads: cars.  In this case, it was a car with a half-witted human inside, who decided to compliment me on my choice of hat (a thin explorer's style cap, to keep the sunburn off of my nose and ears).  It was gone before I had a chance to thank them for their kind remarks.  I thought that perhaps on my next run I should run with a ridiculously long multi-colored scarf, so that another kind soul would have something else to compliment me on as they drove in to 'Toga to get drunk.

After that point I decided to make my way over to the mall area and then run the Five Mile Trail, away from roads.  First, however, I needed to start my fueling experiment.

I'm training for a race in May, and I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do about fuel.  I decided to try out one strategy I had read, I think in Runner's World, which was to start fueling after 30 minutes and then fuel every 15 minutes after that.  I ate half a package of salty jelly beans, which were really difficult to choke down.

The winds whipping across the mall were strong, and I was happy to be in the woods once I got to the other side.  The ice that had been present in the woods three days earlier was now gone, and even the mud was noticeably drier.  I made my way down to the picnic area, past a decomposing possum and a gaggle of people enjoying the day.

The section along Geyser Creek had a little bit of ice left, past the tufa pile.  The air was noticeably cooler down there, too.  I made my way up the stairs as fast as I could, but my muscles were quite upset about being asked to climb stairs after having already run a few miles.  At the top I noticed that it was time to fuel again.

I ate the second half of the salty jelly bean packet, which tasted a lot better this time around.  I swung over to the Orenda Spring to top off my water bottle with some mineral water.  I started feeling strong at this point, and probably should have just stopped fueling for a little while.  Instead, I continued on with the experiment.  As I made my way over to the western entrance, I drank the shot of salty sugar water I had put in my flask.  This tasted delicious: a magical cherry beverage, but I crashed pretty quickly after that, and my pace started to suffer as I made my way through the wetlands.  By the time it was time to fuel again, I opted for a gel.

I'm not really sure...

I think...

I think I'd rather carry a tub of rice pudding than eat another of these gels.

The flavor was described as vanilla, and the taste was somewhere between vanilla pudding (evil vanilla pudding) and these packages of pre-made vanilla shakes that I used to drink twelve (or so) years ago.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good.  My hands were sticky afterwards, and I wasted water rinsing them off so that I wouldn't spend the next few miles trying to obsessively wipe them off.

I finished up the trails and made my way back over to the mall.  I ate the last fuel of my run, a stroopwafel.  (I'm at least 1% Dutch, so it's legit.)  It took me by surprise, though: they are definitely sweet, but the taste ended up bitter.  I'm not sure if it was the lingering bite of the gel, or the effect of the run, but it was strange.

I made my way back over to the bike trails, to finish up my 10 miles, and I found myself running on empty.  I pushed on, but mile 8 was spent in a trance, and not the good kind.  By mile 9 I was feeling better, and I picked up the pace a bit.  I was still zoning out, but it was an "almost done" zone.  At 9.5 miles, I gave up.  My feet were hurting, both knees were hurting, and I had no desire to run any farther.

That last bit is significant: my feet hadn't hurt yet on these long runs.  I'm not quite sure where that was coming from, though I'm guessing the mud and water in my socks may have had some impact on it.

I felt drained afterwards, and all the next day.  I have two more long runs to get this right, before the race.  It's clear that the strategy I used this week is not going to work well.  I'm switching to lower GI food, and increasing the interval between intake.  I'm contemplating three options for fueling: a trail mix that worked very well on Sawteeth last year, o-nigiri, and/or some No Meat Athlete energy barsO-nigiri is a portable rice dish, which Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) mentioned in a link off of his running comics (he got the recipe from Scott Jurek's book, Eat & Run).

29 March 2014

Castle Point - 29 Mar 2014

Today's long run featured a run up to Castle Point from Lake Minnewaska.  7 miles.  Slushy snow, snappy ice, mud, wind, rain, and mist made for a fun run.

When I pulled up at the booth, I asked the lady working there if the trails were still only for skiing.  She said I could try that, if I wanted, hinting that it wasn't a good idea.  There was still snow, and it had frozen and thawed quite a bit.  I said that I was planning on running on the carriage roads, and she said I could try that, too.  I liked her attitude.

There were quite a few people parked at the upper parking lot, but they all seemed to be hanging around the lake.  I only saw one other person beyond the lake: a cross-country skier.  When I first saw him he was gingerly making his way around some mud.  We exchanged hellos, both of us surprised to see the other.

It quickly became apparent that I needed to put on my YakTrax.  The terrain was rarely level on my route, and there was plenty of solid ice, rubbed smooth and too slippery for my shoes to handle.  Once I had them on I had enough traction to run on the ice, though.  My main problem ended up being the snow.  It was slushy, about the consistency of sorbet, and I ended up going slower than I would have liked.  Still, I made it up and back again in two hours.

The View
The View
The summit was windy, and the view was non-existent, but it was fantastic to be back up there again.  This peak has a special place in my heart, and I've been up it many times.  The views are exceptional, when they're visible, the rock is gorgeous, and the trees are stunted to the point of being cute.

On the drive home I had a bit of euphoria.  I was running much, much slower than I had expected to be, but the snow and the constant up and down explained that.  I was still able to move much faster up there than I ever have.  I can't wait to run back there again, on a day with a view, at a faster pace.  I'd like to run up via the Awosting Reserve, or possibly from the north or west, or even one of the routes I've done many, many times before.

23 March 2014

Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail - 23 Mar 2014

Driven half mad by cabin fever, my family headed out in search of some relief.  My first thought, the playground at Clifton Commons in Clifton Park, was a bust: it was covered in what looked like rock hard ice and snow.

We headed further south, and I decided to go have a look at the bike path in Latham and Niskayuna.  We found it mostly free of snow and ice, at least along River Road as far as the old train station.  It was, however, way too windy today to have the kids out for very long.  I do my best to get out under any and every condition, to train my mind as well as my body, but it's too much to ask of small kids.  My youngest has only recently started telling us when she's cold without being prompted.  As such, they only logged six tenths of a mile this weekend.


That was actually an improvement.  Last weekend I took my oldest out for a run along the Zim Smith Trail, and between the snow, ice, standing water, and wind, she only lasted for half a mile.  On the drive home, she said, "I only like running on blacktop."  I asked, "well, what about dirt?"  She said, "dirt is fine, but no snow, or ice, or mud, and especially no water."  I chuckled.  "Ok," I said, "we'll head back out once the snow has melted."  To which she replied: "how about summer?"  I chuckled again, and promised to take her out again once the surfaces were clear.

When we pulled up to the bike path today, she said, "I don't want to go for a walk.  I only like to run," to which we replied: "so run!"  So, she did!

It occurred to me later that her style of running is entirely fartlek (that's Swedish for speed play).  Run as fast as you can here, run over there, stop, walk, stretch, run some more, run fast, run back, stop, run in to someone, run, stop.  It drove me crazy at first, but now I mostly just laugh and encourage her (or corral her, as needed).

I hope to get them out again next weekend, hopefully for a bit longer, and hopefully without any wind.

On a different note: from what I could see of it today, the Zim Smith Trail (where it meets the Northway) seems to still be covered in a layer of snow.  I assume that this is from the sled traffic, compacting the snow down to a rock hard layer, since most of the surrounding terrain is snow free.  When we went out last weekend, we parked at the parking lot off of Round Lake Road.  There were several short stretches of clear pavement, but it looked like the trail was mostly snow, ice, icy snow and standing water.

Rounding out this report: I did my long run yesterday at Saratoga Spa State Park.  The bike paths are a mixed bag.  The portions that are normally clear are clear.  Along Avenue of the Pines there are sections with several inches of water covered by a thin sheet of ice, punctuated at regular intervals by a few crazy fools who decided to run through it (like me).  The closed portion of Putnam Road has a thin layer of milky ice on it.  Further into the park, the woods roads are covered in ice and icy snow.  The western half of the Picnic Loop road is in exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, the same state that it was several weeks ago: covered in several inches of hard snow that is a mess of tracks.  The North-South Road appears to be in the same state.  The East-West Road is mostly free of ice or snow where it was plowed (at least from the western entrance to the edge of the hill after the Peerless Pool).  And, finally, as you would expect, the dirt road leading south off of the East-West Road, across from the Peerless, is a muddy mess that deteriorates the further south you get.

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

14 March 2014

Moreau Lake State Park - 9 Mar 2014

I decided to check out Moreau Lake State Park last weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.  I have been driving down Spier Falls Road every so often, trying to pick out the trailheads.  The main parking area is just east of the apex of the road, on a single lane dirt and gravel road that winds its way over to a small parking area.  It is not plowed in the winter.  I did a quick hike off of here last August, but I haven't really explored the area yet.

There are at least two other trailheads along Spier Falls Road; but I have yet to check out the trail from there.  Both of them looked plowed, and they probably provide decent snowshoeing.  I say probably because there's a lot of bare boot activity over by the main entrance, so it's hard for me to say without checking it out myself.

At any rate, last weekend I went in the main entrance, and I was very surprised at what I found.  The parking lot near the booth is plowed, and it was packed full of cars.  People were there to walk their dog, to walk across the lake, to XC ski, and to snowshoe.  I didn't expect it to be that busy.

The road that leads from the booth over to the Nature Center was plowed, providing a somewhat clear surface just shy of a mile for walking and running.  There was some ice on it, but it was runnable, with or without YakTrax.

(It's amazing how much easier it is for me to run over ice than it is to walk, with or without traction devices.  I don't fully understand it, though I assume it has to do with the force of my strike and the fact that I midfoot strike when I run and heel strike when I walk.  Has anyone else experienced this?)

I did a quick out and back, and then grabbed my snowshoes for a run over the trails.  I located the Red Oak Trail, which starts right across the street from the parking area, and put on my snowshoes.  The snow was in rough shape, and I found myself in danger of losing my footing along a few slope traverses and downhills.  The combination of warm weather, rain, and the fact that most of the trail users seemed to not be using snowshoes explained the poor condition of the trail.

I saw two other parties while I was playing in the snow.  The first was a group of four people whom I saw heading up as I was heading back to my car (and whom I had set as a target to catch up to).  The second... wow.  As I neared the top of a rise in the trail, I heard a whooshing noise and looked up to see someone skiing down through the trees.  They were off trail, looking for fresh snow, but it was amazing that they were able to exert as much control as they did.  One screw up and they would have run in to a tree, but they made quick work of the descent and were soon out of sight.

As I made my way along, I crossed three completely open brooks, as well as several downslopes that were completely iced over or eroded down to the mud.  It was certainly challenging, and I wished that I had brought my poles for the extra support, but I made it through without falling.  The steepest and sketchiest stretch was along the Moreau Overlook trail, and I ended up bushwhacking a bit to get around the ice slope.  Once I got down to the lake, I started making my way around the edge of it, following trails and tracks, until I made my way over to the road near where I had started.  I contemplated running across the lake.  There were several other parties out there, so I knew it would probably hold me, but I didn't have anything on me to dig a hole in the ice to check for certain.  The ice fishers might not have appreciated me thudding past, either.

Bluebird day at the lake
Bluebird Day at Moreau Lake

I sat down on a nearby bench to take off my snowshoes (what a novel concept), and headed back to my car.  As I mentioned, I didn't fall at all... until I was walking around my car to get in the driver's seat, and my feet slipped out from under me.  I landed with a thud on my rear. Ouch.

I look forward to exploring this park some more in the future.  It looks like a good place to train.

Until next time, be excellent to each other!

24 February 2014

The Springing of February - 23 Feb 2014

Yesterday's run around Saratoga Spa State Park was a lovely combination of wet pavement, icy pavement, water-logged pavement, and mud.  My favorite, though, was when the ice and water worked together.  It came in two distinct forms: standing water over hard ice, and standing water with chunks of ice floating in it.  The latter was, by far, the strangest thing I've run through in a long time.

Water on hard ice along Putnam Road.

I first encountered it along the bike path, where it cuts between the apartments along Route 50 and the golf course.  There was a short stretch of it, and it was very much like the inside of a cooler that started the day full of ice and had sat out in the sun for the rest of the day.  It even made the same sound that the ice in the cooler makes as you root around to find a refreshment.  The first stretch was short: long enough to make me take notice, but not so long that it really bothered me.  I had been running through water on and off for the entire trip, so it wasn't really a problem, it was just odd.

As I got over to the crosswalk for Railroad Run, I decided to pop over and check it out.  I had seen bits and pieces of it from driving around, and I knew it was roughly a mile long, that it went past the Y, and that ended over by West Circular.  Little did I know.  The first stretch started out great.  The pavement was wet, yet free of standing water, and it was pleasant.  Conditions were the same after the next street crossing, and even though there were some massive puddles near the intersection, I didn't think much of it.

Around the halfway point, I came to another stretch of standing water with chunks of ice in it.  The water was deep, at least an inch, and as I ran through it I kicked massive quantities of water up onto the bottom of the jacket that was tied around my waist.  (Where my phone was, of course.)  This stretch was longer: at least 100 feet, and immediately after it there was another stretch of equal length, and then another.  Each stretch was long enough that my feet started to go numb.  My feet had been warm up to this point; despite the standing water that I had been running through on and off throughout my run, my feet had warmed up by the 1k mark and hadn't felt cold since.  Now they were dangerously cold.  Mercifully they warmed up quickly after the last ice bath, but there was no way that I was going to repeat that.  I decided to run on the streets back to the last crossing instead of another turn through the ice bath.

The rest of the run was typical.  My shoes (Brooks PureFlow 2) did better than I expected them to on the ice.  One stretch along the bike path, between the dance museum and the Avenue of the Pines, was solid ice with water over it, and I was kicking myself for not bringing my YakTrax along with me, but I was able to navigate it fine, all things considered.  I slowed down a bit and kept my stride short, and I felt stable.  Nervous, but stable.  All told I felt myself lose traction only a few times on the run, and it wasn't so bad that I feared falling.

All told this was a good run.  I managed to go 50 minutes without taking a walk break; I'm fairly certain that's a record for me, or very close to the record.  I have a goal of being able to run 60 minutes without take a walk break that I hope to complete very soon.

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

09 February 2014

Snowshoe Hike at North South Lake - 9 Feb 2013

Winter is a magical time for me.  The views are often phenomenal: you can see further without leaves, and you can see geological features that are otherwise hidden when the ground is lit up with snow.  The air is crisp, cool, and refreshing, and the world is dazzlingly bright.  The terrain is often easier to traverse, since snow fills in many features that you would have to step over otherwise, and the winter months are devoid of bothersome insects and especially bothersome arachnids, and I don't mean the harmless spiders or daddy longlegs.  Bushwhacking becomes much, much easier in some regards, though you'll still need to watch out for thorny plants, which seem to thrive through every season.  In short, I love winter.

Boulder Rock
Boulder Rock, with Kaaterskill High Peak in the background,
and a cut snowshoe and ski path wandering off into the woods.

Ken and I set out on a snowshoeing hike at North/South Lake.  I've been there several times, but it's been over a decade since I was last there.  The trail leading from Schutt Road has been improved from the confused mess that it used to be, and I swear there are more signs and junctions than there used to be.  Ken had been there several times over the past few weeks, and he knew exactly where he wanted to go, so I let him lead.

The trail from Schutt road over to the first junction (with the ski trail) was well cut and an easy walk.  Once we got to the junction and signed in, we started up the horse trail towards the top of South Mountain.  The trail was once again well cut, with a clear snowshoe track running parallel to ski tracks.  The snowshoe tracks abandoned us at a junction leading to the Palenville Overlook (an awesome place to sit a spell), so Ken and I took turns breaking a new snowshoe trail.

When we arrived at the tangled junction near Kaaterskill Mountain House loop, we saw a relatively large party of snowshoers (5-7 of them).  We exchanged greetings, and then headed on our way around the loop.  Here there were no ski tracks, just a broken snowshoe path.  The trail was only cut for a short ways, and we were soon back to breaking trail. 

We circled around and Ken lead us over to the old cistern, across from a small pond and a tangled mess of tracks.  It looked as if we had found the local deer party spot.  where we stopped to enjoy some food.  We had done nearly all of the height, and now it was just a matter of getting back to the car.  After enjoying a short food break, we continued circling around the small pond, heading toward the flat area where the hotel used to be.

As we did that, we came across a curious set of tracks: they looked feline, but with a walking pattern (or possibly running pattern) that I don't normally associate with cats.  Two larger paws were side by side, and then behind them, in a T formation, were two smaller paws.  I'm kicking myself now for not stopping to photograph them with a reference point, but it appeared to be a feline paw (at least up front): 4 toes and no visible claws.  If I had to guess, I would guess that a bobcat or lynx had come tearing through there trying to get at the deer whose tracks we had seen on the way in.  I don't know enough about reading tracks to say for certain, though.

At the site of the Kaaterskill House, I looked around, trying to find the top of South Mountain.  There are two possible areas: one is the height of a fairly open and level area, which you pass by near the start of a counter-clockwise loop.  The other is a small rise to the other end of it.  I decided to go climb up the small rise.  To my surprise, I found a decent sized foundation up there, along with footings for another building.  I told Ken about it, and we both spent a few minutes checking it out.  Then we circled around the building and started looking for a way off of the rise and back down to the trail.  It ended up being a relatively gentle descent on the line that we had chosen, and Ken spotted a marker within a minute.

We made our way back to the junction where we had seen the large group, and started over toward Boulder Rock.  We came to yet another junction, and then another.  The latter led on a short but somewhat steep descent down to Boulder Rock.  Had it been any steeper, we would have been taking our snowshoes off, but as it was, we did ok.

Boulder Rock is a glacial erratic that sits right near the edge of the escarpment.  When we arrived there, we found that we had caught up to the  same large group of snowshoers.  As we strode past, heading for the view, one of them commented on the size of Ken's snowshoes: "they're so BIG!"  I said, "yes, they are," with a chuckle, and we kept on moving.  (Ken's snowshoes are sized for traversing unbroken snow, whereas most of the others, myself included, were wearing snowshoes meant for broken snow and the occasional rocky terrain you encounter on hiking trails.  On fresh powder, he floated a solid inch above mine when we stopped to compare.)

We enjoyed the view off of the escarpment for a few minutes, commiserating with a group of skiers about frozen Clif bars.  Ken offered me a choice, return by the way we had come (more or less) or head back over a unmarked trail (which is described on the NYNJTC maps as such), between a cliff and a rock wall.  I took one look, said "f- that" to going back the way we came, and we headed off.  Ken lead the way to the unmarked trail, which one or two other snowshoers had already cut for us.  It lead through beautiful woods, and past massive erratics that looked ready to topple the next time the region gets a big earthquake.  The snowmobilers we had been hearing all day were getting louder and louder, and as we neared the road, we saw them driving past.

The road was covered in snow, and pounded hard and flat by a lot of snowmobile traffic.  I imagine this makes for decent skiing, but for snowshoeing it's the equivalent of concrete.  I don't like running on it with snowshoes, and I don't particularly like hiking on it (with snowshoes or with spikes).  Still, we only had to hike on it for a tenth of a mile or so, and it ended up being ok.  We turned left onto the ski trail that led back to the first junction, and headed back to the car.

We saw a few more new parties on our way out, including a group of kids, one of whom decided to run off through the woods when he caught sight of us.  Apparently we're getting scarier-looking in our old age.

That was about it.  All told we did 5.2 miles, and it was a good trip.  By the end of it we were both getting a lot more comfortable on our snowshoes, and I'm looking forward to more winter adventures, hopefully soon.  Hiking on the road also brought back unexpected memories, of grey skies and wet ground and wandering forever over these roads, but that tale will have to wait for another day.

01 February 2014

Zim Smith Trail - 1 Feb 2014

I went for a run today on the Zim Smith Trail.  I was hoping to find bare pavement, since the weather was warm and I know that there's a decent amount of foot traffic on this trail, even in the winter.  I didn't find what I was looking for.

The section between Oak Street and Underpass Road was snow-covered, and packed somewhat from boot and bike traffic.  The packed section was maybe an inch deep, and the unconsolidated section was maybe two inches deep. (Both are very rough estimates.)  All told there wasn't much there.  As I got closer to Underpass Road, I saw some ski tracks originating from one of the private side trails.

The Zim Smith Trail
Crossing over Underpass Road, I ran in the tire track of a truck for a while, pretending that I was on a single track trail.  That didn't last very long.  The surface degraded into a mixture of snow, ice and bare pavement.  I found a hundred or so yards of totally bare pavement over by the industrial park, before it switched back to snow and ice.

After crossing East Line, the trail was incredibly hard underfoot.  This was the result of the snowmobile traffic in this section: a half inch or so of rock hard snow.  It didn't make for very good running; in fact it hurt my knee, so I turned back.  The damage was done, though, and I stopped my run a short distance after I had crossed back over Underpass Road.

This will probably be my last run on the Zim Smith until the snow melts, though I might try it once more with different footwear.  I'm fairly certain that the problem I ran into today was the result of wearing my trail runners and the way that I was running.  They're excellent on snow and ice, providing good grip, but they're a bit jarring on hard surfaces.  I didn't soften my stride when I got to the bare pavement or the snowmobile section, either, which didn't help.

Anyway, the Zim Smith right now is fine for walking and bike riding between Underpass Road and Oak Street (roughly 1.5 miles of trail).  I don't recommend snowshoeing on it: you'll destroy your crampons.  Between Underpass Road and East Line, it's a mixed bag, and once you're across East Line you're in snowmobile territory.  You can still walk or run there, as the snowmobilers don't seem to mind, but you'll be on snow that's as hard as concrete.

Until next time, "be excellent to each other!"