Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recipe: Peanut Butter Hemp Balls

Last night I went down to the Ithaca commons for a festive, holiday-themed social run hosted Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Co. The event had a solid turnout and was comprised of runners in ugly sweaters, a Saucony rep demoing some new shoes, a cookie swap, and a lot of positive feedback about my balls. Wait, what!?

Baking is not exactly my forte. I have neither the patience nor the willpower to follow written instruction to a T, at least not while in the kitchen. I do enjoy cooking, which usually involves throwing a bunch of stuff into a bowl, pot, or pan without measuring anything, but measuring things precisely and managing micro adjustments never had much appeal to me. So rather than bake traditional Christmas treats for the cookie swap or buy some at a store, I decided to make some

Monday, December 7, 2015

'Twas The Night Before Gingermas

'Twas the night before Gingermas, and out on the trail
The finish line awaited with local craft ale.
The RD was sleepless, in the crisp autumn air
In hopes the lead pack soon would be there.
The midpackers were scattered all along the course,
While the elites sped along as quick as a horse.

And my pacer with his Suunto, and I with my Garmin,
Were hours behind coach Ian Sharman.
Long ago I had bonked, and my face lost its smile;
Barely half done with the one hundred miles.

Food rations were low - just a handful of pretzels -
As the light slowly faded from the bulb in my Petzl.
I felt so light headed, I had nothing left,
And was ready to drop - my first DNF.
We wandered forever and could not find the path.
I'd never make the cutoff - just do the math!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Staying Motivated With #RunChatHunt

Now that the fall season is winding down and the ideal weather for runners has nearly passed, it can be tough to stay motivated to get outdoors. Add to that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and all the treats and goodies that come with it and it's easy to lose that last bit of leftover base fitness you've been clinging to since the conclusion of the fall marathon season. Sure, there are plenty of local holiday-themed 5Ks worthy of your morning mileage, but it's easy to fall out of a regular running routine.

Enter social media and scavenger hunts. A scavenger hunt run such as #RunChatHunt is a fun way to get in some easy mileage without growing bored or skipping your planned exercise altogether. #RunChatHunt is free to play and the rules are simple - download a list of holiday and running related things find. Then take your phone on a run and snap pictures of the items on the list, finish your run, and post the pictures to Twitter. You can find all the items in a single run or split them

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

As a trail runner who's as involved with work, family, and social life as the next person, it's easy to take the little things for granted. To have the physical capacity to be out there on a run, surrounded by nature, fresh air, and beautiful scenery - this is a gift. I know it sounds cliche, but it's important to remain thankful for this gift that could suddenly be taken away without a moment's notice.

This realization hit me hard this past weekend. I had quite the scare during a routine trail run in a park I've traversed dozens of times. Running down a moderate grade slope, seemingly in the zone, I suddenly clipped a toe on a rock. Before I knew what hit me I was on the ground, face first in the dirt. On impact I banged my patella on an upturned root and began to panic that there may be some serious damage. After a quick systems check I was able to walk it off and then finish the run. (A few days later the knee feels okay, albeit a little tender when palpated.)

I spent the last half hour of that run thinking of how that day could have ended badly. A broken kneecap is no joke, so I've heard, and one of the most painful fractures one can sustain. The solution

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ultra Reading

What better way to relax after a run than to grab a snack and kick back with a good book. Anyone who knows me or regularly reads my blog knows that next to running, reading is my favorite pasttime. I enjoy polishing off pages by the dozen and will pick up pretty much anything that looks to be entertaining, interesting, or thought provoking. Reading helps me relax and open my mind to various viewpoints and different ways to express oneself through the medium of paper and pen (or keyboard and monitor.)

So what does any of this have to do with trail running? Well, there are three books in particular that I read a few years back that first got me interested in the sport. It was through these books that I first discovered ultramarathons even exist, let alone that I (and many other non-elite athletes) are more than capable of running beyond 26.2. These three books are a must-read for any current or aspiring ultrarunner, and the first two are both entertaining and educational for the general population,

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Letchworth State Park: The Grand Canyon of the East

While Upstate New York is home to many beautiful parks, forests, and wilderness areas, there are none quite as popular as Letchworth State Park. Nicknamed "The Grand Canon of the East," and rightly so, it is the most visited of New York's 180 state parks.

On the western edge of New York's Finger Lakes region, the Genesee River cuts through many miles of bedrock to create a gorge that exceeds 600 feet in depth within the park boundaries. The river snakes and winds through the gorge, forming three major waterfalls along the way before reaching the Mount Morris Dam near the northeast end of the park. In a 2015 USA Today reader's poll, Letchworth was voted the best state park in the entire country. (Watkins glen State Park, also in the Finger Lakes, took the bronze in the same poll.)

Since this blog focuses primarily on off-road running, you may be asking yourself impatiently "Sure, but what about the trails?" Well, Letchworth boasts over 60 miles of trails inside the park proper

Sunday, October 11, 2015

And Miles To Go Before I Sleep

[This post is more of an experiment in creative writing as I retell my experience at the Virgil Crest 100. It is heavily influenced by several novels I've read and borrows from some of them. Click here for a more straight forward recap of the day's events.]  



I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves - those tiny seeds of doubt planted deep inside my cerebral cortex at such an early hour, destined to grow and blossom into a vast web of self-pity. As I slowly make my way toward the Rock Pile, those seeds are beginning to grow at an alarming rate. There seems to be a direct correlation between the arc of the sun and the declining state of my well being. Surely the mercury has not yet hit its high point of 85 degrees, but I already feel the lack of sodium intake is contributing to my loss of appetite and the dull pounding in my skull. 79 miles to go.

"Just make it to The Rock Pile."

As I plod onward I am passed by runners in the opposite direction, some looking like a million bucks and others ready to throw in the towel. As I walk up Hauck Hill Road I am reminded of my last training run on this part of the course, getting eaten alive by black flies in 90 degree heat. The flies appear to be satiated today. At least that's something positive I can dwell on for now.

I reach the end of the road and make my way through the winding singletrack to the Rock Pile aid station at mile 25. My head is still pounding and I my confidence quickly diminishing. As the orange blazed path snakes its way deep into the heart of Kennedy State Forrest, staked heads and severed limbs are exchanged for magazines. Yes! First one, then dozens of copies of Ultrarunner Magazine

Smile... Tomorrow Will Be Worse: The Virgil Crest 100

[This is one of two race recaps I wrote about the 2015 Virgil Crest Ultras. Click here for the other, which is more an experiment in creative writing than a conventional race report. Click here to read the race itinerary document I created for my crew. ]

One late September evening, while volunteering to provide food and assistance to a bunch of runners at the Hitching Post, is when I first got the itch. I decided then and there that I'd like to run this thing as a 100 mile debutante. It felt so epic just to be there, filling water bottles for 100 mile runners coming into mile 44 or 56 late in the evening. Knowing what these warriors had already endured, and what trials lie ahead throughout the night, brought a certain level of respect for all those attempting to go the distance. Having marked half the course the day before, I knew it wouldn't be easy. I'd have loved to spend the night at the aid station if I didn't have to leave at 10:00 PM to go to work at the hospital.

I spent nine months training for the 100, starting in late January, and come September 19 I was ready to go. My successful run at the Green Lakes 100K three weeks prior gave me some much needed confidence going into Virgil Crest, while the adverse weather conditions and uphill battles at the Whiteface SkyMarathon in late June helped me prepare mentally. After scrambling last minute to finalize my pacer situation, I had created a step by step game plan to help me get through this monumental task. The night before the race, I drove out to Virgil for packet pickup and to check out a

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Virgil Crest Game Plan

[I've included here a separate post which is an exact copy of the Google Doc I provided to my crew. It lists my ETAs for every aid station and what I planned to do at each, the contents of my drop bags, and descriptions of the individual course sections. The document is posted here as it was originally written, errors and all. It's remarkable how accurate I was in predicting the ETAs - I listed times without really knowing what I was doing, and most of them were within a few minutes of my actual time. The only additional part is the miscellaneous photos at the end of the post. Click here and here to read two differently written accounts of my race experience.]

Virgil Crest 100 Race Itinerary

Listed here is what I think is my best strategy for completing the 100 miles, given my level of fitness, knowledge of the course, race rules, and safety precautions. Below is a breakdown of what I will hope to do at each of the 15 aid stations and a brief description of what I will be facing in between each one. It may sound a little long winded, but I want to provide as much detail as possible. Please keep in mind that we are guaranteed to be thrown curveballs mid-race and that everyone will NOT go exactly as planned. Where possible, I will try to provide backup plans for certain possible

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Miles and Miles of Mountains and Mud: Whiteface Vertical Weekend

"There's no way around the ankle deep water, and the best bet is always a straight line, right? The shortest distance between two points. And oh yeah, I guess I couldn't get any wetter if I tried, so into the water I go. In fact, I might as well use the buckets of rain to rinse the mud and blood from my legs so I can ascertain the damage. Just as I hoped, it's merely road rash down the front of my legs and nothing serious."

At this precise moment, the shear absurdity of the situation struck me and I couldn't help but laugh. I had already climbed 4000 feet up the Whiteface ski slopes and back down the other side in a rainstorm, with the top half of the mountain blanketed in mud. The slow ascent wasn't terrible, but it was tedious to carefully place every footfall where I could find the most traction, which was to say very little. Several dozen pairs of shoes had already tread the ground on the mountain's upper half, churning up the knee deep mud really nice. Unprepared for the storm, the only jacket I had brought along was a windbreaker I bought at an auxiliary sale at work for $10. Not quite ideal for keeping warm and dry during a rain storm at 4,500 feet.

It was the descent that had nearly killed me, sliding down every which way, falling more times than I ever had in my life - sometimes sliding into rocks and tearing skin off my legs in the process. Now here I was on the relatively flat Flume Loop before another identical ascent and descent of the mountain. And wasn't that Stevie Kramer, passing in the opposite direction, than just assured me I was heading the right way when I thought I may have taken a wrong turn? I mean SkyRunning world

Friday, September 11, 2015

Green Lakes 2015

Ah, the Green Lakes Endurance Runs. Back for another round, I decided to give the 100K a go as my final training run for Virgil Crest. That meant double the pleasure and double the fun I had during the 50K last year and the year before. (Race report from 2014.) My main goals for the 100K (62 miles) were to make sure some of my new gear is in working order for a race situation, to further dial in my nutrition, and to spend a long day on my feet. The tricky part was to remember that I'd need enough left in the tank to recover adequately during my three week taper between Green Lakes and Virgil. The common "I have no goal time" statement of course was always a lie. In the back of my head, I thought a sub 12 hour finish seemed reasonable, but I had to remember it was low on the priority list. I was telling people I wanted to finish before 7:00 pm when the park's swimming area closes so I could cool down in the water immediately afterward. A chance to hop in the lake meant breaking 13 hours.

Race Summary


The course is a loop of mostly flat trails, about half of which is exposed to the sun when the trails deviate from the woods for a few extended stretches. The loop is repeated eight times for the 100K, with access to a drop bag at the start/finish area.

Midway through lap 7. Photo: Tom Garby
In brief, the 100K went pretty well. It didn't really hit me until a few miles into the race that today would be my longest run ever by a full twelve miles. I was forced to push that thought aside and focus on pacing to avoid starting out too fast and burning out in the second half.

I got worried as I started feeling the first bits of fatigue around mile 20. I thought I could easily breeze through the first 50K before experiencing any signs of slowing, but to no avail. Laps three and four weren't terrible, but felt like more of an effort than I was hoping for. I made it through the first half in about 5:30 - not a bad split to go sub 12:00, but I already knew this time was not in the cards today.

Laps five and six were a struggle. I managed to keep moving in part because of all the 50K runners still on the course that I was able to converse with. This helped to take my mind off the pain and the monotony of such a repetitive course. On lap seven, my friend Tom, who was out for a long training run on the trails, kept running into me at different points and told me to keep moving because I was looking strong. I knew it wasn't true, but hey - sometimes those little

Friday, June 5, 2015

Definitely Maybe: Cayuga Trails 2015

Over the past few weeks I've been on a kick listening to one of my favorite bands of all time - the one and only Oasis. The short drive from my house to the starting area found me blasting several of the band's more up-tempo tunes to get pumped and ready to rock. As if that wasn't enough, I had an array of Oasis songs playing in my head throughout the race like some bi-polar DJ performing a freestyle mash-up for the first time. Amazingly, it seems many of the Gallagher brothers' songs fit the tone of the race and reference themes that I revisited throughout the day (albeit when taken out of context). What, then, could one of most most successful and iconic rock bands in history have in common with a bunch of grungy, sweaty weirdos running through the woods? I mean, what's the story, morning glory?

Hello! It's good to be back!
On the starting line, once again surrounded by 200 plus trail runners, I took a good look around. Strangely enough, it felt like only yesterday since I last toed the line at the Cayuga Trails 50. The day's forecast seemed to change every hour, and last I checked it was expected to be cloudy with scattered rain showers. Nobody ever mentions the weather can make or break your day. We could only hope the stairs wouldn't be too slick and the mud would be minimal. Some might say we will find a brighter day. 

After five long months of training and preparations we'd finally be setting off in under a minute's time. I intentionally stood near the back of the pack to avoid going out too fast, and was so far back I couldn't hear the traditional sounding of Ian's ram's horn as the countdown clock reached 00:00:00. Little things they make me so happy, but it's good to be free.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cayuga Trails 50: Final Preparations and Additional Resources

With only a few days to go before the Cayuga Trails 50, I feel like I'm as ready as I could possibly be. The previous five months of training have been a lead-up to this coming Sunday. The last few weeks have been a combination of running on the course and getting in an ample amount of hill work. I'm hoping to run a PR for the 50M with the secondary goal of beating last year's time here, and feel like I have a good chance to do both.

The fun starts tonight (Friday), as Scotie Jacobs and Ithaca Beer are bringing back the Lucifer's Steps brew in conjunction with the race. The brewery is hosting a MUT runner social gathering of sorts, along with a pre-race briefing. The Race festivities continue tomorrow with the Trails in Motion Film Festival. Even if you are not running the race, considering checking out the Film Festival on Saturday afternoon, held downtown at Cinemapolis. I attended the festival last year and it was well worth it! (Click here for a full rundown of the race schedule of events.) There will also be mid-race live

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gnarly Times: The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain

On the first weekend in May, I headed down to the Hudson Valley for a 50K trail race as a warmup for the Cayuga Trails 50 Miler. I've previously run the half marathon and full marathon at the North Face Endurance Challenge: New York, and thought the 50K would be a solid training effort for Cayuga. (I crashed at my friend Adam's house the night before the race, which helped immensely on the logistics. Thanks Adam!). Based on my memory of the marathon from 2013, I figured I could break six hours in the 50K without putting in an all-out effort. The 50K race started at 7:00 AM. After some brief pre-race announcements from Ultramarthon Man and North Face athlete Dean Karnazes, we were off, and by 7:05 I had already realized how wrong I'd been.

Pre-race sunrise. Looks to be a beautiful day!

 "And we're off!" Photo: Ultra Race Photos

Cruising in the early miles. Photo: Ultra Race Photos
In the two years since I'd run the trails at Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks, I'd forgotten how the tough, gnarly terrain took a pretty good toll on my body. Despite being in better shape with more trail running experience this time around, I was still running that same marathon course plus an extra

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Springletrack Recap

A couple of weeks ago, I returned to the Shawangunk Mountains in the Hudson Valley for another fat-ass trail run. Now in its third year, the Springletrack Fat-ass Trail Marathon is a sister run to the Wagathon, again traversing the Shawangunk Ridge, but this time on the North side of the ridge and heading in the opposite direction. With no aid stations or course markings, Adam and I were left to our own devices to complete the run and earn the highly coveted Springletrack Finisher's Medal.

Castle Point, atop the Shawangunk Ridge

What is a springletrack you may ask? Well the obvious answer is a play on the words "single track," as in running single track trails during the Springtime. I've yet to confirm the origin of the word, but my inner-nerd wishes to believe it is a derivative of "springle-ring," a "a pretty dance, but rather vigorous," performed by the Shire hobbits at Bilbo Baggins' farewell party in Fellowship of the Ring. Yes, that must be it! We were expected to dance like hobbits across the ridge while singing Shire songs and smoking those hobbit pipes.  But I digress. (More on the springle-ring here.)

A group of about 12 of us met up at the Spring Farm parking lot in the Mohonk Preserve shortly before 9:00am on Sunday, April 12. Saturday the 11th was the originally scheduled date for the event, but it was moved to the next day because and official, organized race was set to take place on Saturday near the same starting area, which would make parking and logistics difficult. Apparently, several people had run the Springletrack route on Saturday anyway, so turnout on Sunday was lower than expected.

Mike, the fat-ass organizer, started us off and we began a jog through the woods. I was surprised to learn that Mike, who of course was running with us, had also run the entire route the day before. A Springletrack double!!? That's over 50 miles of this rocky terrain in two days! (I later learned that he was at the peak of his training plan for the Massanutten 100.)

I struggled for the first few miles, thinking it would only get worse, making for an extremely long day on the trails followed by a three hour drive home. Perhaps some hobbit songs and dances would have helped me through this funk, but fortunately it never came to that. Eventually I began to feel better. In retrospect, I think the early sluggishness had something to do with a lack of training on the trails throughout the winter plus the cumulative mileage on my legs over the last several weeks. I actually began to feel much better as the day progressed and day's mileage piled up. For the most part, the group split up due to different paces. Adam and I ran together as planned; we were just out for a good time and besides, I would have gotten hopeless lost if I wasn't running with someone immensely familiar with the area's trails.

Around mile nine, we came to a parking lot at the entrance of Minnewaska State Park. We had stashed a gallon of water here the night before, as it was the last place on the course where it would be possible to do so. For the next 16+ miles, we'd have no access to water aside from what we could carry, and no bathrooms. With nowhere to refuel and no reasonable spot to drop out, mile nine was the Springletrack's point of no return.

View of the valley from Castle Point

High Point, still on the ridge.
We cruised on through the park, up and down rock scrambles and along the exposed rocky roof of the Shawangunk Ridge, occasionally stopping to take pictures of the valley and mountains on either side. I was naive enough to think that I was immune to sunburn in New York in early April, but several hours in long sections of exposed terrain proved me wrong, as I'd learn later that evening. The fact that my shoes got soaked early on, and continued to get soak every time they were nearly dry, made the run that more challenging.

Another runner told us early on that the last few miles of the Springletrack were a gradual downhill along the Smiley Carriageway. Our legs were pretty trashed by the time we reached this carriageway around mile 22, but the downhill was nothing to smile at. Some parts of the path were so covered in water that we had no choice but to plow right though, while other parts rocky enough that it looked doubtful even a four wheel drive horseless carriage could make it up the carriage road. Eventually the terrain went easy on us and turned into a much more forgiving dirt road. We cruised the last mile down to the finish area to find Mike waiting at the bottom of the hill.

As "official finishers" of the 2015 Springletrack Fatass Marathon, Adam and I were granted the privilege of signing the prestegious Finisher's Log with our names and self recorded completion time. Mike then presented us with the most coveted award in all of trail running, the Springtrack Finisher's Medal...

The Finisher's Medal. May or may not constitute
copyright infringement, but who really cares?

It was a good day in all. The weather was close to ideal, scenery was beautiful, and it was a challenging but rewarding day on my feet. The Springletrack made for a nice training run as the Northface Endurance Challenge 50K at Bear Mountain and the Cayuga Trails 50 both draw near.  Thank you to Mike Siudy for organizing the run, and to Adam's wife Erica for dropping us at the start and picking us up at the finish!

Peterskill at Minnewaska State Park
Gratuitous selfie in front of Peterskill, because why not?

Castle Point
Castle Point

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why I Run

 [Note: This piece was originally written a few weeks ago as an entry to an essay contest hosted by Geoff Roes via iRunFar. Geoff challenged readers to convey the idea of why they run in an essay of 350 words or less, using whatever writing style the contestants chose, to attempt to answer this oft asked question that seldom has a concrete or well defined answer. Geoff's original post can be found here, and a follow-up post with the winning entry here.]

Somewhere in the woods of Upstate New York, a creek snakes its way among the pines, slowly eroding the shale and siltstone one millimeter at a time as it has done for the past 10,000 years. The winding creek is paralleled for miles by an equally winding singletrack trail. Last night’s snowfall has created a uniform layer of crystal white virgin snow – a pristine coat that rises and falls perfectly to match the contour of the trail’s slope. Despite the icy December air, the creek water flows smoothly, making its way downstream and ultimately dissipating into the infinite waters of a massive lake.

The morning tranquility is hardly interrupted by a steady crunching of shoes across the untrodden white blanket. A solitary runner slowly fades into focus, materializing amidst the light fog that often graces the creek bed at this hour. The runner climbs steadily up the singletrack, cresting the highest

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

100 Miles Is Pretty Damn Far: 2015 Plans

With the new year now upon us for over a month, most runners I know have already stated their 2015 goals. Some of those involve running a given number of races, reaching 2,015 miles for the year, tackling a new, intimidating distance, or trying out a new sport. These are all noble accomplishments, and I wish nothing but the best of luck to anyone training for something new or something different.

Per usual, I'm behind the times on this blog and finally got around to writing about my running goals for the year. My primary "goal," as it is every year, is to remain injury free and to have fun with what I do. The moment a serious injury sets in, or when I cease to enjoy running, additional stress is placed on my body preventing me from leading a happy and healthy lifestyle. The same is true for all athletes, of course. When running is no longer enjoyable, it is obviously time for a break, but I'd like to avoid this situation altogether. However, this post is about a more tangible, objective goal than the abstract concept of happiness. So here is my big plan for 2015.

I've decided to take it to the next level and go after the 100 mile distance. Starting on the first of the year, the main focus of my training is to complete the Virgil Crest Ultras 100 Miler on September 19.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What It Means to Be An Ambassador

Earlier this week, I renewed my contract as an ambassador for Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company as part of Team FLRTC. I joined the team last year after moving to Ithaca in the hopes of meeting people with similar interests. I made some new friends through Team FLRTC, and being a member of the team helped make it easier to transition to life in a new city surrounded by new people and places. Needless to say, toward the end of 2014 I was excited to have the opportunity to run with this team again in the new year. Since attending last weekend's meeting and listening to store manager/team organizer Lisa explain what is expected of us and what to expect in return, I've been thinking a lot about what it really means to be an ambassador.

Anyone who follows media coverage of professional running has undoubtedly seen or heard the words "Runner X is an ambassador for brand Y," or something of the sort. In this context, an ambassadorship simply means that athlete X has a contract with brand Y to help promote the brand, it's products, and its values in exchange for free gear, money, or comped expenses related to racing. While I've never had a sponsorship like that and likely never will, I've come to realize that acting as