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!!
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!
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 time...at 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 morning...as long as you don't want to know where you are at all times...
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!
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 more...you 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!!!