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 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!

18 May 2014

Moreau Lake State Park - 10,17 May 2014

(Sleep deprivation is fun.  I could have sworn that I didn't post the report for last week's long run, but.. I did.  I'm leaving this report the way it is, regardless.  This report is more accurate; it's the "Palmertown Range", not "Palmertown Ridge".  Also, the map I was using didn't have a name on the Baker Trail, it was just a green blazed trail.  The newest trail map calls it the Baker Trail.)

I took my last two long runs on Grant Mountain in the Palmertown Range.  If you haven't heard of either geological feature, don't be surprised; both names appear only on USGS maps, as far as I can tell.  This is the mountain that stands just west of Moreau Lake, and this is the mountain that the Moreau Lake 15K runs up, around, and back down.  I haven't committed to doing that race yet, but I figured I should go check out the trails.  So far, I'm very impressed.  This system is an excellent model for training for the High Peaks.  More on that in a bit.

Today's view from the Moreau Overlook.


This part confused me quite a bit when I first started investigating this trail system.  There are three trailheads along Spier Town Rd, and there is, of course, access from the campground, too.  You can find maps here: http://nysparks.com/parks/150/maps.aspx.  I am describing landmarks as if you were driving north/east along Spier Falls Road.

Western Ridge Trail

[I have not tried to run or hike from here, yet.]  There is a tiny pull-off near the western end of the Western Ridge trail (yellow), however, on the most recent Trail Map, there is no indication of a parking lot.  It was listed on the 2011 version of the map, and it is still physically there. Heading north, the road goes through several turns, and then when it gets close to the Hudson River, it straightens out.  Right after it straightens out, there is an access road on the right.  This is gated, so don't park here, but there's a small turnout a little further on, with what appears to be a spring.  The trail itself appears to start out following the access road.  I will investigate it further as time allows.

Cottage Path

[I have not tried to run or hike from here, yet, either.]  The parking lot for the Cottage Path trail is further along Spier Falls Road, and is very obvious.  Near the bend in the road, where it goes from following the Hudson to crossing a col in the Palmertown, there is a large access area for boats, with ample parking.  The Cottage Path trail (orange) is accessed on the other side of Spier Falls Road, a short distance to the south.  It appears to follow a stone wall for a while.

(Please note that as of May, 2014, a sign at the third parking area indicates that there is currently construction along the power line corridor, and that trails may be subject to closure.  No trail was indicated on the sign, but the trail most likely to be affected would be the Cottage Path trail.)

Western Ridge / Baker Trail

This is my favorite of the three areas, though extra caution is needed due to the single lane access road and blind turns.  Heading east along Spier Falls Road, the access road is a gravel road on the right, and it is just past the col.  As soon as the road starts to descend, look for gravel on the right.  Turn right into here, and then proceed to the parking area.  (Note that this gets gated off during the winter.  Also note that there is ANOTHER access road that intersects this access road.  DO NOT take this other access road.  I'm fairly certain that it's intended for large electrical utility trucks, and unless you have a big truck, you're likely to get stuck.)  You'll find the parking area a short distance on, and there are three paths you can take out of here.  The first is on your right, just before the parking area; this is the eastern portion of the Western Ridge Trail (yellow).  The second is blocked by a large boulder, along the same road that you drove in on; this is the western portion of the Western Ridge Trail (yellow).  Finally, between the two is another wide trail, marked in green, this is the Baker trail.

(The sign indicating closures due to electrical work could also apply to this access road; so keep an eye out for a closed gate when you're turning on to it.)

Hunting Notice

Please note that Spring Turkey season is in effect during the month of May in New York.  The Spring season runs from an hour before sunrise until noon.  Vermont and Massachusetts have similar Spring Turkey hunting seasons.  Since the season only lasts for half the day, it's courteous to give hunters the first half of the day to themselves.  Turkeys are apparently difficult to hunt, due to their eyesight and intelligence.  If you are out in the woods during hunting hours, stick to popular trails, and wear orange.  Avoid wearing red, white and blue, as this mimics the colors of the male turkeys being hunted this time of year.

Last Week - 10 May 2014

Both weeks I found myself bounded for time between the Spring Turkey season and commitments in the mid-afternoon.  On the 10th, I ended up getting out the door a lot later than I had intended, and decided to cut my run down to an hour, instead of my intended two hours.  I started off strong, heading up the Baker Trail, but I quickly found myself out of breath.  Running uphill is nothing like running along flat bike paths, or even the rolling terrain I had been running on.  After a while the path leveled off a bit, and I was able to catch my breath a bit, but I found myself alternating between walking and running the entire time I was out.

The Baker Trail intersects the Ridge Run Trail.  Without consulting my map, I decided to go left, and I choose wisely.  A short while later I found myself in a still open deciduous forest, clearly high ground, and there were long exposed sections of parallel rock, which appeared to be the remnants of glacial erosion.  This whole section would have been under the ice sheet (the whole state was), and it looks like the movement of the glacier cut these gouges out.  They are beautiful, regardless of their origin.

Just past this area was what appeared to be a view point.  I ran up to it and it was indeed a view point: the Moreau Overlook.  From here I could see Moreau Lake and the country beyond.  What really caught my eye were the Taconic peaks off in the distance.  They were hard to make out, but they were there.  The following week I spent a little more time up here, and confirmed that I was correct: Equinox, Little Equinox, Bear, and Grass are all distinct and visible, and there are are a host of other peaks visible as well.

When I first ran up to the Overlook, I noticed that there were two people, a man and a woman, sitting on a rock nearby, taking in the view.  From their clothes, and the braids in the woman's hair, I assumed that they were runners, too.  We exchanged hellos, and the woman asked if I could take their picture, and offered to return the favor.  After we had taken pictures, we chatted a bit, and then they were off, down the blue Moreau Overlook Trail.  As for me, I lingered briefly, and then continued along the Ridge Run trail.  I knew I had limited time, so I consulted my map, trying to get a sense of what was possible given my constraints.  I saw that there was a loop to be had: if I kept making right turns, eventually I would end up on the Western Ridge Trail, and that would take me back to my car.  Off I ran.

The terrain up here was great.  Baker Trail is mostly loose rocks, but once you're up high, the trails are a lot softer; mostly leaves and loam.  The Western Ridge is a different story, though.  There's plenty of loam, for sure, but there are also sections where you're running along exposed bedrock, not unlike the rocks I had stopped to admire higher up.  It's a lot of fun, but I can imagine that they'd be slippery when wet.  Once the Western Ridge starts to descend in earnest, it has a few short sections of loose rock, and an eroded section near the end of the descent that is fairly steep.  I found myself monkeying along the trees in there at one point.  Once I got past the steeper section, the trail leveled off again, and it was relatively level (though not even close to flat) for the remainder of my run back to my car.  The views looked fantastic along the Western Ridge, but I didn't stop to admire them since I was in a rush.

This Week - 17 May 2014

 This week I decided to check out some more of the Western Ridge, to the east of the parking area.  The Western Ridge drops down to Mud Pond, over fairly gentle terrain.  It had rained the night before, and the streams were going strong.  I ran past the white blazed Turkey Path, and almost took it, but I wanted to get a better sense of the full climb, so I pushed on.  The Western Ridge Path ends at an intersection with the the Mud Pond trail; I went right, along a beautiful corridor of trees, and the over a wide bridge.  From there I hit a woods road, and I went right again, searching for the red-blazed Red Oak Ridge Trail.  I had run the other end of this trail over the winter, and I followed it to the same intersection I had come to back then.  This time, though, I decided to UP the Moreau Overlook trail instead of using it to bail out.

This section was steep, and I had trouble running up it, but I did my best to push myself into a run on the flatter sections.  Eventually I came to a decent sized talus pile and decided to just hike it.  I'm fairly certain that this is the "Staircase of Death" referenced on the event page, or perhaps the whole trail from the ROR/MO junction up to the Moreau Overlook is the "Staircase of Death".  Whatever.  It's steep.

Once I was past the talus pile, a little push put me back up at the Moreau Overlook.  I stopped for a few minutes, trying to enjoy the view and confirm that I was seeing the peaks I thought I was seeing, but the insects were feasting on me, so I had to get back to running.  My pace on the way up had been slow enough that they had found me, but once I started running steadily again, they mostly left me alone.  It was getting to be time to head home, so I ran back to my car, along the Ridge Run and then the Baker Trail.  When I got to my car, I felt like I needed a little more, so I ran along the Western Ridge for a minute just to get a little bit more out.  (Sitting here, writing this, I still feel like I have energy that I need to get out.  I might need to go for a run tomorrow.)

Closing Thoughts

 When I was getting ready to write this, I reviewed the run in Strava, and I was astonished at the elevation profile.  I didn't think it was *that* steep, but I climbed from just under 400' at 1.3 miles to just under 1200' at 2.4 miles.  It's fairly typical for a trail to ascend 800'-1000' in the space of a mile near the top of the High Peaks.  You could run and/or hike up and down the length of the Moreau Overlook trail a few times and simulate the final push of a High Peak trail fairly well.  Furthermore, the trails themselves are typical of the trails found further north in the Adirondacks: a chaotic blend of rocks, bedrock, loam, and roots.

On a different note, I have to say that this park has the most considerate trail system I've ever been on.  There are numbers on the map at each junction, and those numbers are also posted on signs on trees at the junction.  I've never seen that before, but it makes a lot of sense, and I can think of many systems that would benefit from this enhancement.

Continuing on with the non-sequitor, I'm still reviewing gear, trying to figure out what I like best for this particular terrain.  I tried out both pairs of shoes that I had bought from Fleet Feet last autumn when I was finally healed up enough to start running again.  Last week I ran in my ASICs GEL-Scouts, and this week I ran in my Brooks PureFlow 2s.  The GEL-Scouts did very well with the terrain, and I felt in control, but their high heel drop (8-10mm) tends to bug my knee while running, and on this run it was no exception.  The PureFlows are my go-to shoe for running on pavement, where they offer a smooth ride; out here on the trails they felt hard, like I was running in a minimalist shoe, and I felt like I was slipping a few times on the descents.  They're treaded for road running, so I would expect them to have trouble gripping in some off-road situations.  I was just curious to see how they'd do.  Anyway, I still haven't narrowed down my shoe for this terrain.  I'm going to alternate between the GEL-Scouts and the Trail Gloves a couple of times, to try and see if it's just in my head or if there really is a difference in how my knees feel during or after the run.

Well, that's about it.  Next weekend I might try to run the entire 15k course, if time allows.  I've explored roughly half of it between my last three runs here.


Oh, before I forget, there's another option for a fall race, a newly created event called the Shawangunk Ridge Trail Run/Hike.  There are three distances: 20, 32, and 74 miles.  Details are here: https://www.facebook.com/SRTRunHike/info, and I've pasted the gist of it below:

"SRT Run/Hike is an endurance event for trail runners and through-hikers celebrating the preservation of natural lands along the Shawangunk Mountains.

The inaugural edition of SRT Run/Hike will take place September 19-21, 2014, offering three divisions:
- 20-mile, starting in Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Sunday morning, Sep 21
- 32-mile, starting at Sams Point, Saturday morning, Sep 20
- 74-mile, representing an entire "crossing" of the SRT, starting at High Point State Park, NJ, Friday afternoon, Sep 19"

Looks like fun!  It's the same weekend as the Saratoga Palio, so I wouldn't be able to do both.  I've still got time to decide, though.  Anyway, until next time, be excellent to each other...

14 May 2014

AdiRUNdack Trail Series - Race 2 - 13 May 2014

Last week I wrote a quick report about the first leg of this series, and posted it to my blog as I usually do.  I don't usually promote these posts; they're done so I can remember what I did a year from now, so I can practice my writing skills, and so my friends can learn about what I'm up to.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I received notification from Facebook that my blog post had been posted to the Adirondack Runners group.  The race director, Rebecca Smith, had kindly posted my blog post to the group, and the president of the group, Amy Hachem, had commented on the Facebook post.  I was floored.

So, when I went to get my bib for tonight's race, Rebecca recognized me, and said that she had found the post while looking for articles on the race.  I was still amazed that someone had found it that quickly, and I'm thankful for everyone reading these posts, and to Rebecca for posting it where others could find it.

The Race

I walked a few laps around the track to warm up and then made a quick trip to my car to drop off my water bottle.  I had contemplated running with it (it's a small running bottle with a bit of nylon to keep it on your hand while you run), but decided I didn't need it.  During the last race I had found myself wanting for water midway through, but I had made it.  I figured that I would be fine this time around, too.

We all lined up near the start a little before 6.  I found Matt, whom I had talked with briefly after the last race.  We chatted for a few minutes, and then Rebecca got up to say a few words.  She remarked with a chuckle that no one had gotten lost last time, reminded us that there was no one out there to tell us where to go, and to just go straight if we were in doubt.  Then we were off.

I started in the middle of the pack this time, and found myself running way too fast once again.  Matt pulled a little bit ahead of me, and I tried to keep up with him, but he was moving just a little too fast for me.  At the end of the first lap, I managed to catch up briefly, and then he was off again.  I did my best to keep up the pace, to keep passing, and to keep moving, which worked for the first mile.  Right before the end of the first mile, Brian Teague ran past me, talking with another runner.  He had taken pictures of the last race, after having run it himself, and then repeated the trick on the Prospect Mountain race last weekend.  I don't know how he can run and then immediately hold a camera steady enough to take pictures of the other runners coming in, but I'm grateful for it.

I slowed down a lot on the second mile's hills.  During the last race, mile two was when I found myself fighting the urge to walk almost constantly.  This time around, it wasn't quite so bad.  My knee was hurting, I was thirsty, but I would live.  So I kept running, right up until we passed the water towers near the mall and the course started descending.  The big toe of my right foot got caught on a root or a half buried log, and I found myself sailing toward the ground.  I caught myself on my hands in a break-fall, but I didn't have time to throw my legs back.  My right knee, the one that had been hurting, the one that always hurts, ended up covered in dirt and what appeared to be blood.  The race had me in its thrall, though, so I jumped back up and kept running.

Two other runners whom I recognized as being around my pace cut past me just then, and I felt a surge of adrenaline.  I flew down the hill, focusing on turnover, and I passed them in short time.  I was determined to finish strong.  When I got past the people cheering at the edge of the track, I poured on whatever energy I had left.  During the run last week, I had nothing left by this point, and I just did my best to finish.  This week, I didn't have that problem: I ran the track portion at the end in the 7s, and finished at 29:20, a full 35 seconds faster than the previous week, another PR.  (I know I'll plateau eventually, so I'm enjoying these PRs while I can.)

Afterwards I walked over to the point where the track meets the woods road, and cheered other runners on for a little while.  After that, I caught up with Matt; he had also bettered his time from the previous week.  He said he was constantly looking to see if I was catching up to him, but I had lost sight of him after the first mile and hadn't seen him at all after that.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Rebecca, and all of the staff and volunteers who put on these series.  The races are a LOT of fun, and they're well run.  I strongly recommend that any area runner check them out.  There are two more left in this year's series, on the 20th and the 27th.

Gear Analysis

One interesting aspect of running the same course week after week is that you can compare gear when you're pushing yourself over the same terrain.  There's a lot that you can't control, such as the weather, or how you're feeling, but you can use the experience to get a rough feel for how you perform when using certain gear.

I had already decided, going in to this, that I would run this course with different footwear each time, to try to finally figure out what shoes I want to wear for this terrain.  I've dialed in my road footwear (Brooks PureFlow 2), but my trail footwear is still all over the place.  After this race, I also realized that it might not be cut and dry.  I love my Bikila LSs (Vibram FiveFingers) for the type of terrain in Coles Woods, and they also did great on hikes up smaller mountains, and even Mount Equinox.  When it came to the High Peaks, though, with its mud and and eroded faces, they fell short.  I found that I had to push my foot down completely against the rock to get traction, and when I didn't, there was a good chance that I was going to slip.  The treads on the Bikila aren't that deep, and I think that's the source of the problem: get enough mud on them and you're in danger of not making contact with the terrain.  So I might need to settle on one pair for woods roads and smaller mountains, and another for the High Peaks and similar terrain.  Regardless, I still have a lot to learn.

On the first race of this series I ran in my Trail Gloves (Merrell), which are perfect for this terrain, and I didn't have any problems with them.  This week, I took out my Spyridon LSs, which are the trail running FiveFinger model.  I have a love-hate relationship with these shoes; they bite well on most surfaces, including some ice, but they tend to hurt my feet.  I'm not quite sure where the problem is.  In today's race my feet were OK, but my knees were hurting.  I'll probably run in my Bikilas next week, and I'm curious to see if my knees end up hurting during that run.  For the final week I might take out my road shoes.

I'm also trying to nail down running backpacks and clothing, as I find myself gearing up for longer and longer runs.  This race, to keep it simple, I just ran with an SPI Belt to hold my phone and my keys, and I found myself forgetting that it was there.  Last week, I, uh, well... I ran in my work clothes.  So my phone and my keys were in my pocket; no pack needed.  It wasn't horrible, running in jeans and a polo, but it was definitely sweaty.  (I do most of my midweek runs like this during the cooler months, when sweating isn't a problem.)  This week I stuck to a normal running outfit: wool running shorts and a wool base layer up top.

Well, that's enough rambling for one day.  Until next time, be excellent to each other.

13 May 2014

Moreau Lake State Park (Palmertown Ridge) - 10 May 2014

I had intended on staying out for two hours on this weekend's long run, but ended up with only an hour due to other commitments.  So, I did the best I could do with that time.

I parked at the parking lot at the northern end of Moreau Lake State Park, just east of the high point of Spier Falls Road, the only car in the lot at the time.  From there, I started running up the green trail, and quickly found myself out of breath.  It's amazing how much elevation changes the game.  Once I had gotten past the initial burst of steepness, the trail leveled out, but it was rarely flat.  I made my way over to the junction with the Ridge Run trail (red), and headed left, toward Moreau.  A short while later I found myself in a deciduous forest, still winter bare on this hot May day, and I stopped to admire the beauty of the landscape for a moment.  There were several exposed ridges, and they were captivating.  I headed on, and a moment later I found myself at the Moreau Overlook.  The view was fantastic, and there were two other runners up there admiring it as well.  We chatted briefly, and one of the runners asked me if I could take their picture.  I said sure, snapped a few pictures of them, and then she returned the favor.  We chatted a bit more, and then we were off on our separate ways.

I was alternating between walking and running a lot throughout the run, and it reminded me of when I was first starting to run on level ground, and made me think about how far I've come since then.  I made my way along the Ridge Run Trai, and then headed over to the Western Ridge Trail.  The Western Ridge runs along long, thin stretches of exposed bedrock before it starts to descend in earnest, and it was really fun to run along.

The Western Ridge was interesting to descend, and I did my best to stick to fast footwork instead of my typical descent pattern, which involves a lot of fear and cautious shuffling.  It worked, though I did revert to walking when the terrain got sketchy and I was worried about loose rocks on top of steeply angled ones.  All told, I did four miles in an 1:11; nothing to write home about, but the terrain definitely added an extra element to the run.  If I had been hiking here a few years ago, I'm convinced that it would have taken 2 hours, possibly 3.  I remember looking down at my GPS a few years ago, walking back from Awosting with my brother, and saw that we were going 2.5 mph, on level, easy ground.  My pace on hikes before I started hiking was typically 1 mph for steep ground (800-1000' of ascent per mile) and 2 mph the rest of the time.  Descents were as slow as ascents, due to the constant fear of falling.  Using my poles helps a lot, but trusting myself and keeping my feet light seems to help even more.

I can't wait to get back up here, hopefully next weekend, to explore more of the trail network and work on making myself stronger.

A few closing thoughts: the descent down the Western Ridge trail was very much like a descent down a High Peak, and I think it's a good training ground.  The trail themselves are a mix of rocks, loam and exposed bedrock.  This is fairly typical for the Adirondacks, and I think it'll be a good training ground for hiking and running in the High Peaks.

Also, I can totally understand how people get lost on the 15k race.  The trails aren't always obvious; and there's a lot of terrain that looks like a trail.  I also saw what appeared to be several herd paths or true game trails, further complicating things.

07 May 2014

AdiRUNdack Trail Series - Race 1 - 6 May 2014

I've wanted to check out Cole's Woods, in Glens Falls, NY, for a while. I got the chance yesterday, when I participated in the first leg of this year's AdiRUNdack Trail Series, put on by The Adirondack Runners and the Glens Falls YMCA. The turnout was a record: 163 runners and 142 finishers. The organizers seemed very pleased with the number of participants.

Around 6pm, the designated start time, we made our way over to the start line. The race director said a few words, explaining that there would be no one out on the course telling us where to go, but it was well marked, and if we were in doubt, just go straight. Then we were off.

I started too far back in the pack, and spent most of the first lap around the track passing other runners. After a lap, we headed in to the woods as one long mass of runners. I passed a few more runners, and eventually found people who were running at roughly the same pace.

The course is a lollipop, with some time on the track thrown in at both ends. In the middle is a hill that goes on for a while. I pushed hard up it, and pushed hard down it, trying not to give up any ground. As we started making our way back to the track, I found myself getting passed. A lot. I did my best to keep up the pace, but I was running low on gas. I accepted my fate, did my best, and ran every second of the course. For my efforts, the timing gods blessed me with a 29:55, which beat my goal for the race by a full 5 seconds.

It was also a PR. The last (and only other) time I ran a 5K was for a virtual race to benefit the Boston One Fund. I ran a 36:06 on the Camp Saratoga 5K course on 4/20 last year.

After the race, as I was recovering, I ended up talking with another runner, named Mike. He said that he had been following me for most of the race, and didn't think I was going to let him pass. I told him I was doing my best not to get passed, but on the final stretch I ran out of gas. We talked a bit more, and then I went up to the finish line to cheer other runners on. Once I felt I had returned to a somewhat normal state, I took my leave and headed out. As I was leaving, an 82-year old gentleman named Walt was coming in, and I stopped to cheer him on, too. He finished in 44:09.

All in all it was fun, and I look forward to doing it again. I love the energy that comes from running with other humans, especially in a competitive environment.

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

05 May 2014

Spring Has Sprung 10 Mile Run - Follow-up - 5 May 2014

I've found myself analyzing everything that went in to the race yesterday, and thinking about what I want to do next, in terms of running, fitness, and mountains.  I want to keep the momentum going, and I want to push myself.  Here are my thoughts:
  1. Conditions permitting, my next few long runs are going to be trail runs up mountains.  There are a few options within half an hour's drive, and many more within an hour's drive.  I need a break from pavement.
  2. As much as possible, I'd like to get my kids and the rest of my family out for a run or hike each weekend.  It doesn't have to be long, and of course they have input into it.  We've had a lot of fun on the outings we've done so far this year, and I'd like to keep it up.
  3. I'd like to attend as many of the Adirondack Runner's and Saratoga Stryder's 5K fun runs this spring and summer as I possibly can.  The Adirondack Runner's series is up in Cole's Woods, starting tomorrow, and the Stryder's series is at Camp Saratoga, starting in June.
  4. I need to choose one race to focus on.  In my head, I am flipping between several possible races, but I know myself, and I know that if I don't pick one, I'll just keep flipping until it's too late.  Possibilities include the Savoy Mountain Trail Race (15.2 miles), the Saratoga Palio Half Marathon, the Moreau Lake 15k, the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon, and the Greylock Road Race (8 miles).  That last one is coordinated by Bob Dion, which might very well be the Bob Dion, of Dion Snowshoes.
  5. I need to commit to dropping weight, which at this point just means a few dietary Blerch-itarian tweaks, and maintaining a similar amount of weekly mileage.
  6. I need to find a better shirt for running in at a race.  I can't wear polyester, which eliminates a lot of options.  The wool t-shirt that I chose performed beautifully, but I didn't like the way I looked in pictures.  On long runs, this isn't a problem; no one is taking pictures, and I'm moving past the general public quickly enough.  With a race, there's a lot of standing around before and after.  If I could find something similar to the Schoeller fabric used on the Ibex Breakaway series, only lighter weight, I'd be all set.
  7. I'm going to continue my exploration of homemade portable foods.  Scott Jurek's Eat and Run offers a lot of good ideas, as does Matt Frazier's (et al.) No Meat Athlete site.  I'm also going to bring back (and post) my homemade sports drink formula, which I've used successfully on several High Peak adventures, and doesn't mess up my stomach the way commercial ones do.
  8. Speaking of High Peaks, I can't wait to get back up there.  There's still enough snow up high to warrant snowshoes, and enough mud down below to close several of the trailheads, so it's going to be a month or two.  Once mud season is over, I'd like to complete my trip up Wright, and perhaps the rest of the MacIntyres.  It doesn't matter if it's a trail run or a hike, I just hate leaving things unfinished.  (The same goes for Pharaoh Mountain, and little Mud Pond in the Gunks.)
  9. I need to commit to stretching and strength training on a regular basis, primarily in the form of calisthenics and yoga.  So far this year it's been ad hoc.
  10. I'd like to volunteer at one race this year, and I'd also like to work on one trail crew this year, as well, to help give back.
That's about it, I think.  Until next time, be excellent to each other.

(You know, with my sign off, you would think that the Moreau Lake 15k would be a no-brainer.  The race has an 80's theme, and it looks like a lot of fun.  I was contemplating running it in cut-offs and a Ride the Lightning t-shirt, if I did decide to do it.)

Spring Has Sprung 10 Mile Run - 4 May 2014

"Legs. Are. Sore.  High Peaks sore."

I texted that message to a couple of my hiking companions this afternoon, one of whom had just accompanied me on an eye-opening experience.  For nearly two years now, I had been engaging in active aerobic activities primarily for the purpose of building cardiovascular fitness for hiking.  I had burnt out early on a climb up Wright, and I had decided that I needed something a little more intense than walking to build up my fitness level.

I tried going to the gym and riding on an exercise bike.  After all, it had helped me immensely when I was losing weight years ago, perhaps it could help me now.  I found the experience unsatisfying, though.  Feeling more like a hamster than a human, I started relying on thrash metal to power me through the workouts.  Mustaine and his rotating group of musicians can only carry a person so far, though.  A month later, I tried running on the streets around my neighborhood.  It was all right, but my real breakthrough came when I went for a run at Camp Saratoga, in September of 2012.  Between the softer surface and the sunrise I caught, I was instantly hooked.

I've been running on and off since then, pausing to let injuries heal, and my hiking performance has noticeably improved.  In April of 2013, I ran a virtual 5k to benefit the Boston One Fund, but, aside from that, I didn't run any races in these two years.  The virtual 5k, given my inexperience, was basically just a long run on that particular weekend.  I was literally running just for fitness.

At the urging of my friend and hiking companion, Jason, we started discussing a race schedule for this year.  I set two goals for myself: a road race and a trail race, preferably with elevation.  We're still in the midst of deciding what races we're going to enter later on in the year, but Jason mentioned that he was thinking of doing a new race along the Zim Smith Trail, called the Spring Has Sprung 10 Mile Run.  The race had caught my eye a few weeks earlier, because of where it was being held, but I thought the distance would be too much for me.  When Jason suggested it, I thought, "why not?".  We were discussing running a half marathon, and running 10+ mile trail races, so, why not?  When I finally went to sign up, I found that the race had been moved from the Zim Smith Trail to Clifton Park, which actually made it easier to manage, since it was now starting and ending in the same place, as opposed to the point to point race it was scheduled to be originally.

I built up fairly quickly from my 6-7 mile a week base, peaking at 13 miles 3 weeks before the race.  The week after that, I missed my long run due to a nasty intestinal bug, and the following week, I bonked hard after 4 miles due to what I think was the lingering effect of the intestinal bug, and a fueling issue.  I was extremely nervous going in to this race; I didn't think I could do it.  Several of the people I spoke to about it said I should be fine, and I calmed down a bit after a decent run on Tuesday.  Taking my boss's advice, I decided not to go for a short run on Thursday, and to just lay low until the race.  I also decided to just roll with the fueling plan I had used on my last successful long run; I knew it wasn't ideal, but it had gotten me through 9.5 miles.  I would eat half a bag of fuel after 30 minutes, and continue eating half a bag every 15 minutes after that, more or less.

The Race

Jason and I rode down to Clifton Park together, where we met up with his father, Bela, who was also running.  Several of Bela's colleagues and/or friends were running as well, and he introduced us to a few whom we met while getting ready.  The Clifton Park YMCA was hosting the race, organized by Jennifer Casey and timed by ARE.  We went in to the Y, got our bibs, chips, and swag, and then headed out to drop our extra layers and finish getting ready.  The morning was cool and damp, and while we knew we would warm up quickly, it was tough for me to figure out what to bring.  In the end, I decided to keep my soft shell on, knowing full well that it would spend the majority of the race around my waist.

We lined up, Jennifer Casey said a few words explaining the course, and we were off.  It was fascinating watching the crowd move out.  We flowed as one at first, quietly finding ourselves.  After a short while the crowd started to thin out, and I started to slow my pace down a bit, searching for a level I could maintain.  In training I had been running 11:00-12:00s on my long run, and my plan for this race was to start at a 12:00 pace and aim for negative splits.  Instead, I ran the first mile at 9:30, and then started slowing down into the 10s and then 11s.  During that first mile, I settled in next to a gentleman named Scott, and we talked and ran together until the first water stop.  I hadn't gone on a run with anyone else prior to this race, and it was excellent to just run and talk.  It made the first two miles go by very quickly.  When we got to the first water stop, at mile 2, he said he was going to to walk it, and I said I'd see him soon.  We ended up running in proximity of each other for the remainder of the race, passing each other a few times.

Just past the first water stop, the informal strung out clump of runners I was rolling with came to the T intersection on Moe Road, and we went west, a direction that I can't remember ever taking in my car.  I cracked open the first round of fuel and walked a bit so that I could choke it down.  Despite being sweet candy, it was remarkably hard to chew and swallow.

The route ran past a reservoir, and I was delighted to see a few ducks or geese out for a cruise (I honestly can't remember which; in my head at the time, I said "duck", but looking back in my mind's eye, they were clearly geese).  What really caught my eye, though, was a Great Blue Heron, perched not far from the road, eyeing us with the suspicion only a prehistoric-looking bird like the heron can produce.

Just past the reservoir, the road angled up.  I decided to walk it; I could have run it, but I didn't see the point.  I would waste fuel trying to run up it, and I was still worried about a burn out.  I started running as I crested the ridge, and the skies decided to open up briefly and heavily in response.  I put my coat back on, and pushed on.  In a short distance, the route came to the intersection with Grooms Road, and I was stunned to find myself there.  I knew where I was and couldn't believe that I had just run down here from the Y.

Shortly after the intersection, I moved a foot to the left to enjoy a strip of soft dirt, and then the skies opened up once again.  The rain was clearly punishing me for my insolence; it was pouring buckets, and I had to keep my hood up just so that I could see out of my glasses.  The route turned back into a neighborhood, and then picked up a bike trail that I was completely unfamiliar with.  Most of the bike trails in Clifton Park are set alongside the roads, but this was a meandering path that took us through woods, past tiny wetlands, and dropped us not far from the Clifton Commons.  I expected us to cut through the Commons, but instead we stayed on Vischer's Ferry Road and then cut over to make our way through residential streets toward Shen.

I went for my third fuel pack, this one caffeinated, in hopes of keeping myself going long enough to roll across the finish line.  The route went briefly along Route 146 (horrifying, even on the sidewalks), and then ducked in to Shen at the main entrance.  We had been warned at the start that the route through the Shen campus would be on sidewalks, and indeed, it was.  Cold, hard, sidewalks.  We went past Gowana, then a brand new looking pool building, then Koda (now High School West), then around a much larger track than I remember, and finally past the High School.  I stared at the High School, my high school, as I ran past, my mind full of nostalgia.  I was approaching mile 9, though, so I snapped out of it, and texted my wife by voice to say I was getting close.  (She had asked for advanced warning, in case the kids were acting up.)  Then, I decided to see just how fast I could run the last mile.

I pushed hard, and managed to shave a minute off of my last mile.  As I rounded the final stretch, I recognized the people in the distance, cheering me on.  My family was there, and Jason and Bela had walked over, too.  It was great to see them, and I picked up the pace even more on the last bit.  My oldest had even made signs to cheer me on!  My youngest daughter held out her arms as I ran past, and I realize now that I should have grabbed her and carried her across the line, but it didn't occur to me then; I was in "go mode", so I went.  On the other side of the chute was a small group of people waiting to relieve us of our timing tags.  I reunited with my family and fellow runners, and we exchanged congratulations and salutations.

We all hung around long enough to see the other runners I had been running with finish, including Scott, and then we headed over to the Y for some refreshment.  The award ceremony started 15 or so minutes later.  The fastest runner that day finished in under an hour, at 57:39, and he was nearly 7 minutes ahead of the next fastest runner.  With a finishing time of 1:27:23, Bela won his age group, but he would have won it with any finishing time, as he was the only male in that group.  Jason came in at 1:26:09.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience.  I had no idea that I would get such a boost out of being around other runners, but it's something I intend to explore more as time goes on.  My goal for this race was to run it in 2 hours, fully expecting to walk a lot during the final miles.  It didn't happen like that, though.  I walked very little; the longest I walked was up the hill after the reservoir.  I ran the first mile in the 9's, the next two miles in the 10's the middle in the 11's, and the last in the 10's.  My official time was 1:50:25, nearly 10 minute faster than my intended time.  I'm elated, stunned, and can't wait for more.