Sunday, January 3, 2016

Where Are the Self-Lacing Running Shoes?: 2015 Year in Review

2015 brought many a mile on trails and roads. Despite the absence of flying cars, self lacing Salomons, and hover boards that actually work like they do in the movies, it was indeed a very good year. I accomplished some pretty big personal goals and learned quite a bit in the process. Rather than type up a long recap, I've decided to share an assortment of pictures I've taken on while on hikes and runs throughout the year. Many of these I've posted to my Instagram account over the past 12 months. Follow along at @UltraRunnerPete. All photos were taken by me with an iPhone 5S, unless otherwise noted. 
The Electrical Box, the Rumble of the Century, can be found on a telephone pole on North Cayuga Street in Ithaca. (In round two, the AC vs. DC smackdown leaves the boxing ring and goes freestyle in a rap battle of epic proportions.)

A frozen overlook above Fall Creek, just off the west side of the Cornell campus. This is along a loop I commonly run in the morning and was also part of the 2015 Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon course. 

Last winter, Ithaca Falls was so frozen you could walk right up to the falls and sit on the ice. There's also been talk of allowing ice climbing in Tompkins County as a way to boost tourism to the area.

This novelty sign was spotted on a snowy rural road in the Town of Enfield and is something we could use at our house. 

Late March still saw plenty of snow up in the hills. After a failed trail run at Connecticut Hill, in which I was repeatedly post-holing through a foot of snow, I took to the roads and met some bovine buddies.

The ol' swimming hole in Enfield Creek, home to some of my favorite trails at Robert Treman State Park. 

Lower falls at Lick Brook, at the Finger Lakes Land Trust's Sweedler Preserve. The preserve is part of the Cayuga Trails 50 course. 

Lick Brook's upper falls. 

The eight mile, orange blazed Cayuga Trail traverses the Cornell Campus and one of the Cornell Plantations Natural Areas as it follows Fall Creek east to Dryden.

Hiking the Gorge Trail at Robert Treman State Park.

The sun sets over Cayuga Lake at Stewart Park in late May. 

On May 31, I ran the Cayuga Trails 50 as my first of two focus races for the year. The race went well and I wrote a report on it, complete with a bunch more pictures and lots of Oasis lyrics.  Four week later, I dabbled in SkyRunning at the Whiteface Vertical Weekend and wrote a separate post about that experience.

Tons of these red efts were spotted littering the FLT at Connecticut Hill. Apparently these little dudes were the inspiration for the name Red Newt Racing

On July 3rd, the evening before the Finger Lakes 50s, I did a training run around the Finger Lakes National Forest to cover part of the course and explore the north end of the forest where I'd never been before. 

Here's a good taste of the Finger Lakes 50s course, 12 hours prior to the start time. Steady rain overnight would make things even worse by the morning and give way for an astronomical drop rate in a race known for its perennial mud. Happy Fourth of July indeed. At least I wasn't running the race this year! (For more info, check out my race report from 2014.)

Green Lakes State Park, home of the Green Lakes Endurance Runs.

The next two shots are from the rim trails at the upper end of Taughannock Falls State Park. Now that the Black Diamond Trail is nearly complete, one can run continuously from Cass Park in Ithaca to Taughannock Falls and back, entirely off-road. (Black Diamond 50K Fatass, anyone?). Side note: Taughannock Falls recently was named one of The World's 15 Most Amazing Waterfalls by The Thrilllist. 

This giant mushroom had all summer to grow, found along the main Finger Lakes Trail, part of the Forest Frolic course, in Kennedy State Forest. My size 13 Lone Peaks pale in comparison. Adam says it's a hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa), AKA ram's head or sheep's head.

In July a storm wrecked havoc on many of the area's trails. Here's what was left of lower Lick Brook a few weeks after the storm. It might not be recognizable, but this is where the Cayuga Trails course crosses the Cayuga Inlet, adjacent to the trestle. Upper Treman got wrecked pretty bad too, and some of the trails have since been rerouted.

Virgil Crest recon in the heart of summer, looking down at Hope Lake Park in the Town of Virgil. 

One hot day in early August, I drove out to Watkins Glen, NY, to take in as much of the scenery as I could in a single long run. The next few pictures are from Watkins Glen State Park. Pro tip: If you want to run the trails at this park in the summertime and see everything there is to see, I suggest you arrive around 7:00-8:00 AM, right as the Gorge Trail is opened, to avoid wall to wall crowds of tourists. 

After traversing all of the Watkins Glen State Park trails, I then set out around the towns of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls to check out some more of the towns' natural beauty. By late morning the state park was packed, so I was glad to have gotten that part of the run over with early. The remainder of the run was a mix of roads and trails...

Aunt Sarah's Falls, just off NYS Route 14. It hadn't rained in awhile so the falls was merely a drip. 

Eagle Cliff Falls in Havana Glen Park.

Deckertown Falls.

Pre-run group shot from one of the Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Co Tuesday evening group runs. (The social runs are still happening throughout the winter, every Tuesday at 6:00 PM in The Ithaca Commons.)

Part of the Virgil Crest 100 training consisted of nighttime headlamp running on singletrack. 

I ran my longest run at the time, the Green Lakes Endurance Run 100K on August 29, in preparation for Virgil Crest, and recapped that race separately. The next weekend, I took a break to rest and begin tapering for Virgil. Hayley and I took a mini-vacation to the Salem, MA, area that weekend to celebrate our anniversary.

 In these pictures, the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean shoreline in Rockport, MA. I got in a brief early morning run along the coast on ou rlast morning in MA.

The Old Mill at the west side of Robert Treman State Park was once a functioning mill and is now a mini museum. 

After nine months of training an preparations, I started and completed the Virgil Crest 100 on September 19-20. I wrote about all those details here and a more experimental narrative of it here. It took well over a month for my body to start feeling normal again after than amount of time on my feet. Of course it was worth every minute of it!

Early fall foliage along the Susquehanna River in Binghamton during a lunch time walk. 

October brought peak foliage season to Robert Treman State Park. It's no wonder the park is such a huge tourist stop throughout the summer AND fall seasons. I feel truly lucky to have this park in my own town.

We went to a FLRTC costumed-themed pub run on the night before Halloween. The store hosts pub runs once a month, even in the winter! (Hayley and I are the Google Maps in back row.)

The Chili Challenge 5K was a family-oriented, cross country run/walk in early November. Historically the temperatures have been near-freezing and sometimes snowy, but not this year. I always forget how painful a fast 5K is and how stupid my facial expressions must look when the finish line is in sight.

In mid-November the area trails were still snow and ice free. The cairn on the FLT at Shindagin Hollow State Forest is bigger than I am.

Shindagin Hollow lean-to.

This stone car is in the woods, just off the edge of Ringwood Road in Ithaca. I think it belongs to the Rock Biter from The NeverEnding Story.

On the morning of Black Friday I did a long out and back on the Erie Canal Towpath, starting and ending in Fayettevile NY. On the same day in 2014, the morning saw sleet and a sheet of ice covering the path. This year brought a clear 7:00 AM sunrise and 50 degree temperatures. 

I made one more visit to Lucifer Falls in December, and still no snow or ice.

Another FLRTC pub run. This time it was festive for the Holiday Season.

While training primarily on roads and rail trails for the Beast of Burden 50, I decided a 5K PR was in the cards at the It's a Wonderful Run in Seneca Falls, NY. After the suspense of waiting to learn my official time I discovered I'd earned a PR by two seconds.

And how about an Ugly Sweater and Cookie Swap Fun Run to close out the year?

Last but not least, some 2015 Strava stats.

That about covers it for the highlights of 2015. More to come on some plans for the new year in a future post. I know this was a lengthy post, and if you've made it this far I commend you! Please let me know in the comments below how YOUR 2015 went and share some stories or highlights. And last of all, have a happy and healthy New Year and best of luck in your 2016 endeavors. Thanks for reading!