Friday, November 26, 2010

Race Report: Stone Cat 50 miler, 11.6.10: Sweet. Simple as that.

Yes, I know--it's like three weeks since the race.  But almost nobody reads my blog anyway, so no matter.  And the one follower I have, UltraChris--well, she ran Stone Cat too (much faster than me, I might add).  So she knows all about it.

Since I'm so late posting this, let's go straight to the videotape (you'd have to live where I do and watch NYC TV stations to get that...):

  • Sweet is indeed what this race was.  Great bunch of folks that  put this on, run the aid stations, etc. 
  • Fun is also what this race was.  Live band at the staging area and even at an aid station at one point.  Which point that was, I can't say.  It was all a little foggy by that time.   But I know I saw them out there, somewhere, playing music.  Well, I think I did.  Didn't I?
  • The aid stations lived up to their reputation.  What did they have?  How about, what didn't they have? I recall everything from sausage, eggs, and bacon to soup and grilled cheese, with the usual assortment of pringles, M&Ms, etc.  Thank You, Volunteers!!
  • I always carry a second light with me in case my headlamp fails.  Always.  Except when I don't.  It was really dark out there.  But the light did stay on most of the time, until going off for good about 50 feet from the finish.  
  • And in case you were wondering (I'm sure you were), yes, a three-battery LED headlamp WILL work with only two batteries going in the right direction.  It's just really dim.  Except when it goes out completely.  Did I mention it was really dark out there?
  • Trails were perfect.  Nicely soft from recent rains, but not slippery and not so soft as to suck the energy out of every footstrike.  Wet leaves on the trails made it slick in spots and hard to see, but it was manageable.
  • There was the small matter of that wetland we had to run through...the one where FREAKING COLD ICE WATER was running ankle-deep across about 100 yards of the trail and there really was no getting around it.  Oh, and it was conveniently located somewhere before the first aid station, if I recall correctly.  Meaning, with a four-loop course, we got to iceberg our feet four delightful times, and a change of socks at the staging area only kept your feet dry for a short while.  I did carry a pair with me to change after the swim, but just never bothered...hey, it was a trail run.
  • Wonder if it was the ice water that caused my right foot to slowly cramp as the day wore on, to the point where I started walking almost immediately after starting the final loop.  I was afraid if I ran it might cramp so bad I'd have to drop at an aid station.  But as I made my way along the loop, I found I could run, and once I was halfway through, I figured I could stump along for 6 more miles no matter how it felt, so I "ran" again.  Thing I like about these long-distance endurance events is dealing with adversity, be it injury, illness, weather.  And this being the worst thing that hit me all day--I'll take it.
  • Overall, the course was virtually entirely runnable, with very little elevation change.  Nice diversity--different forest types, wetlands, fields, and pleasantly rolling.  Being entirely runnable actually made it very difficult for me.  Courses with lots of elevation change, like Virgil Crest (my first 50 miler six weeks prior) force you to walk/hike a lot.  Not the Cat.  Run run run.  Until I barely could.  
  • The four-loop course was one loop too many for me.  To keep thinking (or trying not to think) all day that I've got three more...two more...that was hard.  But the worst wasn't the last, it was the third.  I knew if I headed out for Loop 3, I'd finish, because there was no way I was dropping at 37.5 unless both legs fell off.  And the end of Loop 2, where you can decide to run a 1.2 mile baby loop and take a marathon finish instead, that was (or could have been) the danger point.  Though I must say it wasn't for me--I came to run the 50 and wouldn't even think about dropping.  After all, there was the coveted Stone Cat 50 miler finisher's jacket on the line.  
  • Speaking of that jacket, I may have one from the tenth (?) and final 50 miler.  There is consideration being given to changing to a 50K next year, but no decision has been made.  I hope they keep the 50 miler, though--it's such a great distance, in my mind--plenty long enough to be truly challenging, but not completely destroying.
  • Oh yeah, my time: 12:32:02.  About 3.5 hours faster than VCU.  Which it should have been, given the less-topographically-challenging course.  At VCU I was about 6.5 hours slower than the winner, but just over 6 hours slower at Cat, so I figure that's an improvement.  And I was far from last.  Four people finished behind me, but around 40 either dropped to the marathon or dropped after 3 loops.
  • The Stone Cat Ale at the end, in my hand bottle and while wearing my Stone Cat 50 finishers jacket, now that was good.  Water bottles are made for more than just water and sports drinks, you know.
  • Stone Cat: Add to Favorites. Then click annually.  Loved it!! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trail Diary 10.16.10: Ashokan High Point--how to run 9 miles and take forever

The plan:  Run up Ashokan High Point, in recent years a lollipop trail with some nice running over the top of High Point, around the sweet part, before coming back down the stick.  Not long, but close to home.

The reality: Nine miles isn't long.  Except this day.  Nice but rocky herd path for much of the stick.  Goes up gently, never got a groove on.  Sharp left at 2.7 miles, pass the junction with the sweet leg return, then...up.  False summit after false summit.  Every one a boulder climb.  Very cool.  Eventually, up top.  The view is, well, nice.  Nothing that special.  But the run over the top, through fields of mountain laurel and open woodlands--that was nice.  A long downhill stretch that got a little "scree-ey" at times and a bit annoying.  And then, back to the the groove and flow finally kicked in.  The perfect downhill pitch--not so steep as to be un-runnable, but steep enough to hammer, and the rocks were just right to demand that laser focus but not be dangerous. 

Nine miles in 2:11.  Ok, so I'm not Anton Krupicka.  But the fast last miles made for a great "back at the car" feeling.  And hey, it's another trail done.  What more could a person ask for?  (Don't answer that...)

Run it again? Sure, why not.  Actually a decent little run.

Trail Diary 10.23.10: Kingston RailTrail, or, Getting Ready for Stone Cat

Nothing especially gnarly about this trail.  Very nice rail trail, as rail trails go.  Flat. Nice surface.  Wickedly runnable.  Ran it with my friend Jack, who I met at the Monster Marathon (his first marathon--baptism by fire!) and who just ran his first 50K last weekend.  All this after running his first half-marathon this past spring.  See Jack Run.  Run Jack.  Jack Can Run.  Nice Running Jack.  Ok, I'm done with that now.  But Jack can run, that's for sure.

Started out south from Leggett Rd. trailhead.  I'd never run that part, and Jack had done a bit.  Quickly became, umm, "underutilized."  But we managed over three miles (per Jack's Garmin) before turning around.  So about 6 miles back up to Leggett Rd, a nice warmup.  The section north towards Kingston has a great running surface, and is very nicely wooded for most of the route.  A perfect, cool fall day.  We imperceptibly picked it up, and were bombing along, until Jack looked at the Garmin and said "Uh, we're running about 7:30 pace."  Like!  We dialed it back, but before we knew it, were steaming again.  Think we ran much of that ~6 mile leg at sub-8 minute pace.  May sound pitiful to you, but it's hammering for me, and pretty impressive for a guy 7 days removed from his first 50K.  May not be singletrack, but it grooved, and it flowed, and it was really fun.

So we wound up with 18 by the time we got back to the car.  That was a perfect tune-up run for me, two weeks prior to the highly-runnable Stone Cat course.  Nice to see I can still run, and not just do the "ultra shuffle."  New orthotics and a good arch taping job prior to the run today and I had no problems.  About 8:30 pm as I write this and, so far, so good on the injury front (or it might be the IPA "anti-inflammatory" kicking in).

Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Race Report 9.25.10. Virgil Crest Ultras 50 miler: More fun than a sharp stick in the eye (well, let me think about that...)

And, as any true ultrarunner knows, that title is the ultimate compliment.  If I wanted easy, I'd run on the roads.

First, let me say this: You volunteers ROCK!  What awesome aid stations!  You guys were just the icing on a really, really good  chocolate cake. With strawberries.  And cool whip.  A few nuts.  Some coconut.  Ok, you get the idea. And the christmas lights at the Gravel Pit at night...lovin' that, guys.  Saw them from a mile away and knew there was sanctuary ahead.

Whoever ordered up the weather for this day--nice work.

To Ian, the RD, for that "alpine loop" (sounds pleasant, right ?): may your quads quiver and your Achilles scream for the rest of your days.  I strongly advise you to NOT be at Lift House 5 when people are making their second circuit (or third or fourth, for the hundred milers) of that little jaunt.  WTF dude?  Nice touch.

After a windy night (=how much sleep did I get in my tent, exactly?) at Hope Lake Park, runners were treated to a beautiful, cool morning.  The race went off at the stroke of 6am.  My first 50 miler.  What?  I'm going to run 50 miles today?  Just, like, yeah. Ok then.  Headlamps in the pre-dawn dark.  The first 5 miles to AS1 at the Gravel Pit includes some of the most runnable trail you could wish for.  Groove & Flow.  And all with the usual ultrarunning family suspects.

After some more sweet trail, a long road downhill (or so my recollection goes, but fair warning: this could bear no resemblance to reality).  Then a left past Gatherings, the start of the Monster Marathon I did 3 weeks ago as the perfect last long run for VCU, over onto Tone Rd to AS2 at Lift House 5 (and the first time up the evil alpine loop).  People taking my pack off and filling it, giving me food, finding my drop bags (hint: pink is hot). 

Then, contrary to popular belief, up to hell.  Start up a side trail, then follow the chair lift up.  And just when you think you've reached the top, an even steeper pitch up through the woods.  Did you catch that word "up"?  There was another word I was saying a lot on this leg, but I won't repeat it here.  And of course, what goes up, must come....

...back to Lift House 5.  Fuel and go.  Fuel, because I had run Monster.  I knew.  Virgil awaited. That's all you need to know.  Except that it includes that word "up" again.  And that other word.  A lot.

Then, the Rockpile.  Oh. The Rockpile.  Party Party Party, Party!  Party!  And lentil soup.  Wow, was that good.  Changed my outlook on life.  At least until I left there and fell flat on my face three minutes down the trail. Actually, that was good too.  Gotta have one good fall on a trail run, right?  Got it over with.

Some very runnable trail from here to the turn around at Daisy Hollow.  Well, except for all those stretches with the ropes tied to trees to pull yourself up and let yourself back down later.

As for the Daisy Hollow AS, I just have three words: Chicken. Noodle. Soup.  Oh, and dry socks, but the volunteers didn't cook those, they were in my drop bag.  Thanks guys.  25.7 miles.  Halfway. (Yes, 51.4 miles, more bang for your registration buck).

Still feeling really good at this point. Funny how knowledge of the endpoint influences you.  If this was a marathon, I'd be hanging on for dear life.  Instead, I was just changing my socks and eating soup.  Nice weather today, isn't it?

Back to the Rockpile.  This time, they had just come back from a pizza run.  I love you guys.

Back down Virgil.  Back to the evil alpine loop.  Evil, evil alpine loop.  Evil race director.  But the quesadillas at Lift House 5 were great, guys--even if they did make me want to puke.  Just the kinda thing that happens at mile 36, dontcha know?  Yeah, you know.

The good news is, my running partners and I all agreed it would be easier running the alpine loop in reverse.  The bad news is, we were wrong.  Really, really, wrong.  And that word came up again.  Not the "up" word, the other one.  At the AS, they said "it's only 3.9 miles, you'll be back in an hour."  They were right. There are 90 minutes in an hour, right?  And that climb after Lift House 4 when you think you're at the top and don't remember there's another hill yet?  Evil, Ian.  Just plain evil, man. 

Now it's pushing on towards dark.  Got the long road hill to climb again, then back into the woods.  Headlamps? Check.  Fortunately, this is now back on some of the most runnable portions of the course.  The RD did arrange for some rapid glacial rebound to create a hill where I didn't remember one before, but hey, that's the RD's job, right?

Thankfully, I was running with an ultrarunning family member I never knew about until today, Tom Sperduto. Tom, who did the Brazil 135.  Tom, who has been doing back to back 40+ mile training runs in preparation for a 200 miler (among other things).  Tom, who pushed through dozens of miles with feet full of blisters.  Thanks, Tom.  Nice to have some company out there in the dark (and the day).  One of my favorite parts of trail races is meeting new people who seem, right from the start, like friends you've known for years.  VCU was no exception.

Three hours running with headlamps  That was new to me.  And it was,!  But those hundred milers going back past me, out for a second trip--uh, sorry, not today guys.  See, there's this evil alpine loop out there, and ....  More power to ya.

And then, there it lights floating out in the distance, either a hallucination or an aid station (sometimes there's no difference, right?).  I mentioned the party at Rockpile before.  It was great.  It had nothing on the night crew at Gravel Pit.  If I hadn't been running my first 50 miler, I might have called it a night right there.  Amazing what a bunch of semi-drunken ultrarunners & friends cooking soup can do for your spirits.  Although, at this point, I was a scant 5.4 miles from the finish, and there was no denying me.  To the finish I would go.  Just with a lot more joy in my soul.  Thanks guys.

From this point on, it was just the victory lap.  Success was near.  As I came back to the Hope Lake Park area I could see the finish up ahead, but cleverly, the paved last stretch switchbacks seemingly forever through the dark.  It was good, though.  Just prolonged the feelings of success.  I almost didn't want to finish.  51 miles and I didn't want to stop.  What more could you ask for?

A super race.  Well organized.  Fantastic aid stations. Grassroots affair, just the way I like 'em.  Not too big, not too small.  A great course.  Camping at the start/finish area.  Great support by the local volunteer fire departments, including all the meals.  Virgil it if you can.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trail Diary: Biscuit Brook to Big Indian and...somewhere else...

The Plan: Run from the Biscuit Brook trailhead on the West Branch Neversink up Big Indian Mountain (3,700 ft), over Eagle (3,600) and maybe to Haynes (3,420) and return. 16-17 miles.

The Reality:  Started out fine.  Some slow climbing up rocky sections for the first mile or so, then some excellent groove & flow on a very runnable, easy downhill.  But in a recurring theme for the day, it didn't last long.  For every 5 or 10 minutes of runnable trail, I slammed into something rocky, slick, or just steep enough that I couldn't run for the next 5 or 10.  And starting at maybe 3 miles in, the trail was frequently very overgrown.  Lots of small beech, raspberry, blackberry, viburnum, and woodfern.  Much of it was from ground to head, so you couldn't see the trail below your feet nor the  markers up ahead.  Lost the trail a bunch of times. Scratches from my ankles to my shoulders.  In other words, your basic fine day on the trail.  And Hammer ain't got nothin' like ripe blackberries for refueling mid-run.  Never did see the yellow trail junction at 5.6 miles, so I either never made it there or I missed it twice (on the out and on the back).  It would be hard to believe that I hadn't even made 5.6 miles by the time I gave up the ghost and turned around at 1:43 into the run, despite the roadblocks.  I was able to hammer some sections pretty well.  Finished the "run" in 3:16.  I'm sure I made it over Big Indian, but I don't know about Eagle, and I can't imagine I made it to Haynes (none of these are above treeline and much of the run is on a ridge, so you can't always tell if you're on a summit).  I'm guessing I got 11 or 12 in, but it was 3+ hours running a trail--that's nothing but goodness.

Run it again?  Only with a partner, and only if we were through-running all the way to Pine Hill or a side trail to somewhere else.  Beautiful forest, although at times you really couldn't see the forest for the trees.

Cool Feature: Once up on the ridge, you're running along the "Catskill Divide" which is the divide between the Delaware and Hudson River watersheds.  Well, it's cool to some of us....maybe you had to be there....

After the run: I ran again, an easy 5.  On the...gasp...poisonous roads.  Kids were playing in the pep band at the school football game, so I clenched my teeth and grabbed a few extra miles to school, then caught a ride back home.  Ahh, the exhaust fumes, rocky shoulders, and redneck drivers.  I am so done with all that.  Not sure what I'm going to do this winter, though.  Snowshoeing on my lunch hour just ain't gonna work. 

Be happy...go run a trail!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Race Report: Monster Marathon, Virgil, NY 9.5.10 - the non-ultra ultra

Distance: 26.2 hilly trail miles -- not ultra distance, just ultra difficulty
Elevation change: 5560 feet
Falls: 2
Close calls: 5
Near misses: 4
Almost really bads: 1
Broken bones: 0
Red stuff leaking out: just a little

  • Drove up from my in-laws house at Cuba Lake the night before and stayed with Chris and Joe of Finger Lakes 50s fame.  Thanks for the hospitality, guys!  Set me up nice for race morning. The Ipswitch Ale was tasty.
  • A perfect day.  Cool and damp, 40s to start, probably never warmer than low 60s.
  • Double out-and-back course. Wasn't sure I'd like that, but it was good.
  • Age-adjusted start.  I walked up to the line at my 7:38 start time (well, ok, got there at 7:39 (ish)--if it's possible to be late, I will be, even from 50 feet away).  And, then, off I went in a blaze of glory (or a slow jog, depends on your perspective).
  • Less than a mile of road (mostly dirt) to the Finger Lakes Trail.  Up it went.  Up.  For a mile plus.  Up. Nice warmup.  Up.  And did I mention it went up?
  • Some nice groove & flow once up (there's that word again) on top. Pretty variable trail surface--rocks, roots, dirt, pine & spruce needles, stream crossings, very short patches of dirt road, a little grass.  Sweet.
  • About 47 minutes to the first aid station at 3.2 miles.  About 10 more minutes to my first fall.  Nothing broken.  Little blood.  Life was good.  I was running a trail, how could it be anything but?
  • Forest monster at 6.3 miles.  You'll just have to run it to find out.
  • 1:22 at the turn, 6.55 miles. 
  • Somehow, 2:54 back at the start. What? (Do the math.)
  • Tired at the split, but got a second wind on the third leg.  Good math.
  • Somewhere north of 16 miles, started to think toenails were overrated.  
  • At 18 (19, 20?), the second fall.  Hydration packs make nice air bags.
  • About 25, the almost really bad.  It was a long way down to that creek.  With lots of rocks on the way.  And gravity would have been in full control.  Whew.
  • 6:22 finish.  They said add 1-2 hours to your road marathon times.  Got it.
  • Wraps, salads, and Roosterfish at the end.  What's not to like?
Recommended?  Oh yeah.  Check it out on the Finger Lakes Runners Club page.

Up next: Virgil Crest 50 miler on some of the same trail sections.  That will be....interesting.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

19 today...with some great company, some great views, and no bears

No crazy mountain runs today, just a super day of a different sort.  Ran my snowmobile trail--I'm calling it the Bear Loop now--for the first time since I spooked that bear.  Just hasn't worked out for me to get back up there.  Still as sweet as ever.  I did buy a "bear bell" and ran with it today....pretty obnoxious, really jams up the vibe...I got used to it after awhile but I'm really not sure I'll bother with it in the future.  I uncannily hit that 7 miler in 70 minutes again--virtually every time I run it, the same thing--then jumped in the car for a 20 minute drive to meet my friend Lori.  She led me on an awesome 12-miler through Minnewaska State Park (and check out pics here and here--none of which really do it justice).  One of those places in my own backyard that I just haven't spent nearly enough time at all these years.  That's gonna change.  We ran carriage roads (there's single-track also), but some sections were soft, some were rocky and uneven (the thing I most like about trail running--unevenness, eliminates the repetitive stress you get with road running), we splashed cool in a lake (love those Cascadias...wade into the lake with my shoes on, so what?) and the views were just awesome.  Oh, the details: a nice run up to Lake Awosting, around the lake and up to Castle Point--ya just gotta see it to appreciate it.  Up on top, fortunately that B-52 with a stinger didn't whack Lori, who, well, I wouldn't say she didn't have her epi-pen with her but....   As a reward for the climb, a long, gentle, groove and flow downhill much of the way back to the end.  And one of the best parts about trail running--despite a wicked hot day, you never really knew it on the trails.  I love that.  Thanks girl, great company, great running, great day.  Needed that.

Bring on Monster.
Bring on VCU.
Bring on Stone Cat.
And next year...bring on my first 100 miler.
Did I just say that?  Ok, guess I'm in. 
Hey--go run in the woods!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Race Report: A Dam Good 14 Mile Trail Race - Letchworth State Park, 8.22.10

Just a quick plug for A Dam Good Trail Run in Letchworth State Park.  In a word: Sweet!  In another word: Runnable!  And one more: Wet and Muddy (ok, that's two, even I can count--but they go together really well in this case).

This was a simply awesome trail run.  Second year.  Well-organized grassroots affair with not quite 100 runners--little smaller than the first year.  Starts and finishes next to the Mt. Morris dam on the Genesee River.  About 99.9% singletrack, part of the Finger Lakes Trail, with the rest being short stints across grass (and a few feet across the asphalt parking lot as you come out of the woods and head to the finish--but if you're careful, you could even avoid that).  Lollipop course, with three aid stations, the first two of which you hit both going out and coming back. And if you carried your own water, you got a 22 second deduction off your final time (why 22?...because it was run on Aug 22...)

No killer hills, but plenty of up & down through several small creeks.  Some rocks.  Some roots.  And this day--plenty of mud from heavy rain overnight and lingering showers in the morning.  Lots of groove & flow.  Lots.  Not to mention slip and slide.  What a blast!

Before the race: organic cotton race shirts and cloth goody bags--thankfully without tiny rice packets, lip balm, or little jars of sugar-free jelly.  In fact, there was nothing in them...perfect!

After the race: plenty of good pizza, fruit, and baked goods.  Quick results.  Age group awards and lots of random drawings.  I ran 2:21ish, which I was happy with--first time I've run hard in weeks, as I've just been running volume to get ready for the Monster Marathon and my two 50 milers this fall.  Felt great to blow out the pipes a bit (if you can call 10 minute miles "blowing out the pipes"...)

I couldn't recommend this race more highly.  Be sure to check it out if you're in the area next August.  And in the meantime...Go Run In The Woods!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trail Diary: Hanging Bog WMA - Allegany County - LOST!

Staying with my in-laws at Cuba Lake (NY).  Drove 5 miles up to Hanging Bog Wildlife Management Area to look for some trails, or at least run the very nice, shady dirt roads there.  After a few false starts down old logging roads and the like, found a barely discernible trail in the woods.  Some very old flagging.  Eventually, the markings became better.  I should have looked behind me at that point...I should have realized I just merged from an old, disused trail onto a more active trail...I should have realized that when I came back this way, I might miss the old, disused trail and stay on the more active trail and not get back to where I started...ahh, hindsight is so 20-20. But I have an old water bottle that says "you can't be lost if you don't care where you are" and that pretty much summed up this run.  I knew I'd come out to a road eventually--in fact, I did, twice, the same road each time but I didn't know it until I went the "wrong" way the second time and came back to the place I was the first which point, I headed back the other way and figured I would run until I got somewhere.  I had about 800 calories and 2 liters of water with me, I could have gone a long, long way if needed....the security blanket of being an ultrarunner.  Don't worry, be happy, just run. Sadly, it didn't take long before I figured out where I was, and aimed my shoes back towards the car.  Might have gone farther but since I no longer had the excuse of being lost, figured I should head back to the lake for the swimming, wake boarding, and water skiing parts of the day.  Got 1.5 hours in, probably 8 or 9 miles, a good day's work for a mid-week run.

As for the running: there was some awesome groove & flow on this twisting, turning, extremely runnable trail, and the synapses were firing away at being somewhere new and unknown.  Several forest types--mixed hardwoods, including a lot of oak, some open, almost park-like stands, and beautiful red pine stands with lots of soft carpet.  Tell me again why I used to run on pavement so much?.....

Highly recommended run for a Thursday long as you don't want to know where you are at all times...

Go run in the woods!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I knew since the first day I ran it that my sweet little 7 mile snowmobile trail loop near work was bear country. Not really a concern, since when was the last time you heard about someone being mauled by a black bear?...exactly.  But since I'm running solo, in the early morning, and there is that berry patch up in the 1992 burn...figure I should stay alert.  Even tied some keys onto my hydrapak today just to make a little noise.

I think the noise was not quite loud enough.  About two miles into the run this morning, I heard that "scratch scratch scratch" sound that I've heard before, and knew could only be one thing.  And suddenly, there it was, about 50 feet off the trail...coming back down the tree...a young bear, probably 2-3 years old (?), maybe 120-150 pounds.  I think he (she?..I didn't try to check...) heard me coming at the last second, climbed the tree, and then when I kept coming closer decided even the tree wasn't cool, climbed down, and took off...more or less up the trail I was running. I turned around and headed back, stopped and thought I was being silly, but then just kept going.  Went and explored a section of trail I hadn't been on before, logged some hill miles on the dirt road back near the car, got in 6 miles or so and called it a good day.  But I just might get me one of them "bear bells" to let 'em know I'm coming a little farther ahead next time.  First bear I've treed since a run in the Adirondacks in about 1988...

And I'll take my chances with a black bear vs. a Ford SUV at 72 mph any day of the week!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trail Diary: Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide 8.7.10

The Plan: Run from Giant Ledge parking on the hairpin turn into Woodland Valley, then up and over Wittenberg (3,790 ft), Cornell (3,860), and Slide (4,180).  Once down from Slide, either run the road from the Slide parking area back to the car or take the public easement trail across Winnisook property, back to the GL trail and run up to the Ledge or all the way up Panther (3,720) if there was enough gas left in the tank. 15-20 miles.

The Reality: Did it.  Mostly.  Didn't make it up Panther but did the main loop and got up to Giant Ledge.  18 miles in 6:13.  Ran out of water (and gas) at the Ledge and decided enough was enough.  The rest of the story:
  • Rocks.  All day.  Rocks.  Miles and miles running on, over, and between rocks--except the spaces between rocks were filled with get it.  Ran in Cascadias, but I have to wonder if a beefier shoe wouldn't be better for this route.
  • You know that thing about not looking at the view while running a trail?  That you should always stop if you want to sightsee?  That rocks are much harder than skin or bones? (Ok, I made that part up.)  I never did actually fall, probably because after the first 2 or 3 ( or was it 6 or 7?) close calls and realizing how bad the consequences would be, I finally started paying closer attention.
  • Woodland Valley is aptly named.  No different than the rest of the forest, I suppose, but somehow, it was just very, very nice down there.  And those stone steps...
  • Deception.  Climb out of Woodland Valley on the red-blazed WS trail.  At the junction of the WS and Terrace Mountain trails, you turn right and the groove & flow starts to really Groove & Flow.  Some of the most fun running you'll have this day.  The sign at the trail junction said 1.3 miles to Wittenberg and 2.1 to Cornell. As you scream down the trail doing your best imitation of Anton Krupicka, you estimate your pace, do the math, and start thinking you'll need to drive to the Biscuit Brook trailhead later, to get some more running time in, since you'll be done here much sooner than expected.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.
  • Ho ho ho.  Silly you.  Never, ever think that.
  • The view of Ashokan Reservoir from "The Wittenberg" is awesome, and by far the best of the three mountains. 
  • Some very tough hand over hand climbing and boulder scrambles on the approaches to all three mountains.  Even a couple log ladders going up Slide.  Could be pretty dangerous in wet conditions.
  • Running the trail in this direction (with Wittenberg first) is the harder--and better--way to go.  I'd hate going down some of those rocks I climbed up.
  • New York State made the "WS" trail from Woodland Valley over the three mountains very interesting.  Perhaps they ran out of money for trail markers because there are only about half as many as they need out there. And they cleverly didn't put them at the places they were most needed.  Just ask the cursing hikers I kept encountering. But navigation is part of the game...
  • If you ever want to know what a set of 10,000 squats feels like, this is the run for you. 
  • Cascadias qualify as rock climbing shoes.  
  • The fragrance of balsam was overpowering at times on the spine of the three mountains.  Sweet, soft, and green.  Wow, was that cool...
  • Plan to take a couple days off after this run.  You'll need to.
The Bottom Line: If you want to run, run, and run some more, don't do this route. If you want a great day of ultra training, with some spectacular views, an upper body workout to go with those quivering quads, a sense of having done some real Catskill Mountain adventuring, all intermixed with some running, this is the route for you.  Plus you can bag three (or four if you manage Panther) of the 3,500+ ft peaks in the process, including the highest peak in the Catskills (Slide Mountain). What's not to love?  Go run a trail!!!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Trail Diary: Long Path from Rondout Valley over Samson Mountain

The plan: Run the Long Path from Peekamoose Rd. in the Upper Rondout Valley over Bangle Hill, Samson Mtn, and down to Vernooy Falls and back, about 16 miles.

The reality: 30% grade for the first mile plus (no, I doth not kid thee, I checkethed the map...after the fact).  Way unused and overgrown trail.  Stumbled in the woods at times finding our way.  Went right when we should have gone left.  A stretch of Rubus (shades of the FLT).  A whopping 10 miles (almost) in about 2.5 hours.  Quad burner up and down.  Only fell twice.  Some nice running over the top, a touch of groove & flow.  Never found the falls.  Running partner had to get back so we cut it short--which made my cranky achilles happy.  Was even smart enough to NOT go run my 7 mile snowmobile trail afterwards.  50 miles and 11 hours running in the past seven days, pretty good for me.  A Lagunitas IPA big boy tonight (and some ancillary beverages)  to help convince me not to run again in the morning.  Need a day off.

The conclusion: Fun to run a trail it seemed like no one had been on since before the earth cooled.  Now I've done it.  So I don't have to do it again. Not that I wouldn't.  But I won't.  You should.  Just to say you did.  Once. But every trail is a good trail, and every run on a trail a good run.  So go...RUN a happy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stone Cat...Yes!

Signed up for the 50 a couple days ago, and just booked a room.  I'm in!!  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trail Diary: Finger Lakes Trail - Allegany County

In the March 2010 Ultrarunning, Gary Dudney wrote " shouldn't be doing long runs only in optimal conditions if you truly want to be prepared." He also said "Time spent on your feet, not miles covered, is what is important" in ultra training. Great--because my run Sunday (7.25.10) met both those conditions!

My plan was to run the Finger Lakes Trail in Allegany County, NY from Peet Hill Rd. to Huyck Rd. and return, about 14 miles total.  If all was still good at that point, I'd go west on the trail to Kingsbury Hill Rd and back, another 6 roundtrip.  The topography here is pretty flat, couple hundred feet of elevation change max, so this seemed like a reasonable Sunday-morning-have-to-finish-before-11am run.

As I drove to the trailhead, the rain started.  You can guess where this is going.  But it wasn't a hard rain, and it was 68 degrees, so no problem.

First hundred feet of trail was through tall grass, and my shoes were soaked in 30 seconds.  But it was 68 degrees, so no problem.

Next mile featured lots of ankle-high Rubus (raspberry).  My gaiters were...not on my ankles.  But it was 68 degrees, so...wait, no, that doesn't work here.  Try running a gauntlet of razor blades to perk up your Sunday morning.  But this was life, not death, by a thousand cuts.  Nothing like running a trail to make you feel alive.  Groove & flow...(and curse as needed...)

There was some decent running at times in this stretch, including a nice pine stand with a soft carpet.  The trail changes direction a lot, and isn't always obvious, so I was mentally thanking the volunteers who did such a great job freshening up the markers.

Next came some switchbacks, dropping about 250 feet of elevation into a valley bottom with an easy hop across a peaceful little stream.  Remember, it was raining.  Have you guessed where this is going yet?

About 4.5 miles and some mixed dirt/paved road running from the Peet Rd. trailhead lies the West Branch Rd. trailhead.  This is where the real fun began.  As I entered the woods here, I wished I had my headlamp.  Kidding.  Not.

The rain picked up.  A lot.  Ok, more than a lot.  The trail was extremely runnable here, which was good because as the thunder started and it got cold and windy, I needed to move fast to stay warm.  Didn't feel like 68 degrees any more.

I made it to Hess Rd., just short of Huyck Rd.  A  little voice suggested I head back to the car and run (or maybe swim) west on the trail from there.  Good little voice.  Back down into the valley bottom.  Remember the little stream I hopped across on my way out?  It was now about 12 feet wide, chocolate brown, boiling, wicked fast.  I found a stout balance stick and waded in.  Knee deep.  Living on the edge here.  Had I been even 20 minutes later getting back to this spot, I wouldn't have been able to cross the stream.

From this point back to the car was, simply, a slog.  The trail was either a stream or a suck-your-shoes-off mud pit.  There was flow here, but it wasn't the groove type!  And, oh yeah--the Rubus was all still there, waiting patiently for my return.

Back at the car, drinking my Hammer Recoverite before heading back onto the trail westbound, a pickup truck stopped.  "You need some help?"  "No thanks, I was just running the trail."  Silence.  Blank stare.  My guess is he was thinking he misunderstood what I just said, because no one would be...what?...running?...the trail? a downpour? (not to mention smiling about it!!)

If you go to this trailhead, don't run west.  At least, no time soon.  I tried it.  Fail.  There's a huge amount of blowdown going this way, though it appeared salvage ops were underway.  After climbing over, under, and through trees for 25 minutes trying to find and follow the trail, I called it a day.  About 13 miles in 3:20.  Remember, it's not the miles covered, but time spent on your feet...

Great test for the new Cascadias.  Passed with flying colors.  The socks, on the other hand.....

Bottom line: decent trail (though certainly not my favorite), especially the section north from West Branch Rd.  But any time on a trail is time well spent.  So....go run in the woods!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trails....the joy of finding them

For me, one fun part of running is discovering new places to run--especially new trails and their kin, old logging roads, deer paths, etc. It's easy to miss the stuff right in your backyard because you're always looking for the long/high/steep/technical/gnarly stuff. On lunch one day this week, I decided to scope out a little dotted line I saw on a map. Only about 3 miles (and, at times, a 14% grade) from my office. For those in the area, it's the loop from the parking area at the junction of Moore Hill and Glade Hill Roads in Grahamsville, NY. From the DEC parking area, head out on the snowmobile trail, then just follow the red trail markers. Becomes a jeep road for a while (very beat up, full of ruts and rocks and water, great running) before heading back into the woods. I couldn't finish it that first day since I was on my lunch hour, so a couple days later I went up early, before work, and ran it. Sweet! The middle few miles are in upland hardwoods and runnable as hell. Yes, it all just flows there. This could be a nice long run route, with a stop back at the car every 7 miles to refuel (I do prefer longer loops or point-to-points, but this would work and it's close to home).

Another day, I ran the course for a pending mountain bike race, at a little 900 acre park 10 miles from home. Wow! Deep, cool woods and beautiful singletrack.

And I've even started running the old logging roads on my property with renewed vigor, not to mention finally starting work on that loop trail I've planned for years. I'll be lucky to get a one-mile loop out of it, but hey, if I could step out my door any given day and get a few trail miles in without even starting the car, how can that be a bad thing? Talk about finding trails in your own backyard...

So look around...RUN!!...and you might be surprised what you find.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why Groove and Flow? Why now?

Because. After 30 years of running, often on trails, almost always by myself, I discovered something. Ultras. And the ultrarunning family. I am still dumbfounded that I never connected with this whole trail running/nature loving/beer drinking (craft-brewed IPAs and their relatives only, thank you)/we're-all-in-this-together clan before. In 2007, after living with a variety of running injuries for years, I decided I was done. Running was over. Well, no. But only now and then. You know, that didn't last. New stretching, new shoes, new outlook, new races--my first half-marathon, Oak Tree in Geneseo, NY, Labor Day 2008. Hardest thing I'd ever run. Knew I needed more. Talked with a woman (name? sorry, those brain cells are long gone) wearing a "Finger Lakes 50s" shirt. "50K and 50 miles" she said. "But it's so different" she said. "Everyone is there for everyone else" she said. "It's a big family" she said. Hmm. Sounds cool. But...50K? 50...MILES?! Wackos. Impossible. A marathon would be enough. I ran five. Not enough. And not right. I turned 50. A 50 something..."K" seemed like the only thing possible...for 50 years. Seemed cool. Signed up for the Finger Lakes 50K. And I'm a born-again runner. My trail running love has been validated and lifted on high. I only wish I'd paid attention and made the cutoff to run one more loop (plus a bit) to do the 50 miler. I could have, easy (no, hard, but know). But I was having so much fun. Just running. Talking. Laughing. Grooving and flowing. So now, reborn and renewed, a blog to document it all. I can't remember when life was so much fun!

Groove and Flow

Groove and flow....what's it mean?
Simple. And you know it. You get in a groove, running, soft singletrack in deep woods, cool morning dew and the peace of a new day...and it all just flows. Simple. And very, very cool.