Monday, December 29, 2014

Fall Recap: A Wedding, a Fat-Ass, and a Six Second PR

So 2014 has come to a close, and with it, the sudden realization that I haven't posted anything on this blog for nearly three months. While in the past few months I haven't been keeping up the mileage quite so much since Green Lakes, that isn't to say I haven't been keeping busy. The highlight of the fall is not running related, but it wouldn't be right not to mention that Hayley and I got married in early September. Wedding preparations, followed by a honeymoon, caused me to take a running break for a few weeks, and subsequently a blogging break ensued. (Bonus link: Strava GPS data for my flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic.)

The first running-related highlight of the fall season was volunteering at the Virgil Crest Ultras. The day before the 50M and 100M trail races, my friend Rusty and I had the pleasure of checking the already-placed course markings on VCU's south half, AKA the alpine section. This entailed running/hiking up and down the ski slopes of Greek Peak in three different places, then running along the singletrack and dirt roads to The Rock Pile - an aid station at the 25 mile mark of the VCU that marks the turn-around point for the out and back. (50 milers run the out-and-back once, 100 milers

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Just Beat It: Chasing a PR at Green Lakes

They told him don't you ever come around here
Don't wanna see your face, you better disappear
The fire's in their eyes and their words are really clear
So beat it, just beat it

Such was the the gospel according to Michael Jackson that played on repeat in my head for much of the 50K race. The wisdom was a constant reminder not to hang around the aid stations too long, to keep running whenever I felt a walk break was necessary, and most importantly, to finish ahead of my time at the same race last year. "Just beat it." I had blasted the song on the short car ride to the park, and needless to say, the 1982 hit provided adequate fuel and motivation to get me going at the predawn 6:00AM start.

The Green Lakes Endurance Runs 50K and 100K participants started together, with the 50Kers covering four loops around Green Lakes State Park and the 100Kers running eight loops. This allowed for a conveniently placed drop bag at the start/lap area, which could be accessed at the end of every loop, or about 7.75 miles. The course was primarily flat, double-wide park trails, with a bit of hills and single track mixed in. Held on August 23, the GLER also served as the fifth race out of eight in

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Tale of Two Races

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I recently ran a 15K. Then a week later, I ran another, yielding a slower time but much better result. Both races consisted of putting one foot in front of the other with the goal of traveling from point A to point B as fast as possible. However, the two events could not be more different.The purpose of this post is not to write another race recap, but to attempt to explain the vast differences between trail racing and road racing, as well as the pros and cons of each.


Held annually in Utica, NY, since 1978, the Boilermaker 15K Road Race is one of the largest 15K races in the United States. The race has become so popular than online registratrion, capped at 14,000, sold out in about an hour and a half. The 15K attracts runners from all over the world, and its sizable purse brings in East African elite runners who usually end up taking the top places.

Every second weekend on July, the entire city of Utica, (population 60,000) becomes encapsulated in Boilermaker fever. The weekend includes a large expo the day before the race, a National Distance

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Keeping the Cows In: A Finger Lakes 50s Race Report

I collapsed into my foldout camping chair with a huge sigh, immediately clawing at my mud soaked shoes. Trying to undo the laces would sap a sizable amount of my remaining energy, but I felt I had no choice. I forcefully sprayed some warm, stale water from my bottle onto the laces to clear away the mud. This allowed me to nimbly pick at the knots and eventually yank both mud ravaged shoes free, tear off my soaking socks, and finally dry my feet. Aaahhh, instant bliss.
After 33 muddy miles on foot, the race offered reprieve in the form of hot food, cold beer, and a respectable 6:10 50K finish. The trail gods gave me a choice: I could simply call it a day here and bask in the sweet summer shade for the remainder of the afternoon, or I could force myself afoot and run/walk/hobble through another 17 miles during the hottest part of the day. So why, then, did I choose the latter? After glancing across the campground to make eye contact with my pacer, it was clear I had unfinished business. Ignoring the Sirens' calls of cold drinks and hot eats, I shoved clean socks and the muddy Kinvaras back onto my feet and Adam and I hit the trail. It was time to get the Hell out of Dodge before common sense set it.

The Finger Lakes 50s consists of three different distances, each distance one to three laps around the Finger Lakes National Forest. Located in the southeast corner of  the Finger Lakes region, The FLNF is the only national forest in New York State. The 16,000 acre forest boasts 30 miles of hiking trails,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recovery and Taper

The last couple of weeks I've been engaging in more of a variety of activities to help recover from the Cayuga Trails 50 and prepare for the Finger Lakes 50s 50 miler on July 5. The entire month is sort of a recovery/taper period, without any big training weeks or 20 mile runs. It's important to give the running-specific leg muscles a rest, and this can be done without losing much, if any, fitness. With that said, I did run a couple of local races at a comfortably hard pace in order to get a few "speed sessions" in.

Saturday, June 7, saw the Tortoise & Hare Trail Run at Buttermilk Falls State Park. The course winds up the park's Rim Trail and Bear Trail, ascending about 900 feet in the first few miles, then circles around Lake Treman and descends via the same route. Only a week removed from the Cayuga Trails 50, I felt pretty fresh at the starting line. I definitely felt the fatigue in my legs during the long ascent,

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cayuga Trails 50 Race Report

In the Devil's Footsteps

There I sat, dejected, head in hands, less than halfway up the 222 stairs standing between my first DNF and the final five miles to a hard fought personal victory. My secondary goal of a sub 11 hour finish had just gone down stream, washed away in the current and sucked over Lucifer Falls, well beyond reproach. Although my body and organ systems were, for the most part, still intact and fully operational, my spirit was suddenly crushed beyond disrepair and my mind completely fried. 45 miles into the beast known as the Cayuga Trails 50, I had come to the base of the 222 step stone staircase that ascends adjacent to Lucifer Falls at Robert Treman State Park. The first climb up these stairs, 20 miles and six hours ago, had left me lead-legged and light headed. This second climb seemed certain to finish me off. I'd gladly have sold my broken, lactic acid filled soul to Lucifer himself for an elevator ride up the gorge, but surely even the Prince of Darkness himself could not contrive a hell any worse than what I was experiencing at this God-forsaken moment. Had six months of training and nearly 10 hours of continuous running ultimately come down to this? How had I ever come to this point, on the verge of such a breakdown?

Buttermilk Creek.



First, a bit of background leading up to the moment of truth. The Cayuga Trails 50 is the brainchild of Ian Golden, local trailrunner, ironman, race director, owner of Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company and Confluence Running, and all around great guy. The race is a double loop, beginning and ending at the east end of Robert Treman State Park in Ithaca, NY. The course runs entirely along trails, features roughly 11,000 feet of vertical gain and an equal amount of descent, and showcases

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Saranac Lake 6ers

While trail running is certainly the outdoor activity I favor beyond all others, hiking, the close cousin of trail running, is one of the most rewarding activities one can partake in. Mountain trails leading to a nice view of valleys, forests, and open sky can provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with a job well done. Sometimes it just seems more appropriate to move slower, forget about pacing, and stop to smell the roses, pines, and singletrack.

Last year, some friends and I began the Saranac Lake 6er challenge, which consists of hiking the six mountains surrounding Saranac Lake in the upper east side of the Adirondack Park Preserve. The challenge kicked off on May 25, 2013, as an attempt by the village to draw more people to the trails and mountains in the immediate locale of Saranac Lake, rather than to the more popular High Peaks region surrounding the village. The 6er program requires hikers to reach the summit of all six mountains on or after the kickoff date, even if it means taking many years to bag them all. The program also offers an Ultra 6er challenge, which requires hikers to complete all six peaks in a 24 hour period, while beginning and ending at the 6er bell in the center of town. Additionally, the Winter 6er and Ultra Winter 6er challenges have the same requirements listed above but the peaks must be completed during the winter months.

On Memorial Day weekend 2013, a few friends and I spent the weekend in the town of Saranac Lake hoping to finish the 6ers in two or three days.  Unfortunately, torrential downpours made for slow going, and we were only able to complete Ampersand Mountain and St. Regis Mountain. The muddy and waterlogged trails, cold air, and lack of views made for a miserable hiking experience.

While the 2014 edition of Memorial Day weekend saw some rain in the northeastern Adirondacks, it wasn't enough to cause any real misery. A group of us rented a cabin in Lake Placid, home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and only about 10 miles from the trailheads to the 6er peaks we hadn't previously completed.

 Our Lake Placid Cabin

On Friday, my friend Adam and I decided to run/hike Scarface Mtn. That is, run as much as possible, mainly just the relatively flat and non-technical sections, while hiking the steep and rocky pieces of terrain. The rain  predicted for this day came to a halt early on before we left the cabin, and for the most part, it held out until the hiking was finished. However, the fog prevented us from seeing much of anything from the top, and I declined to take any pictures from the viewpoint near Scarface's summit.

 At the top of Scarface

Afterward, Adam and I ran/hiked up Mt Baker, the shortest and lowest of the 6ers.  Despite the small stature of the mountain, it was quite steep near the peak and took a little longer than expected. I did not take my phone/camera with me on this run, but returned two days later for some pictures of Baker's spectacular scenery. Running the two mountains also gave me the chance to try out my new Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Ultra Vest. (Which works great, by the way. More on that in a future post.)

Mt. Baker, from ground level

Mt. Baker's summit


The following day, I returned to the trails to complete the 6er challenge. Haystack Mountain sits on a side trail on the route to the peak of McKenzie Mountain, about a mile off McKenzie's main trail. Several of us ascended Haystack and the downpour held out until we returned to the trail junction. From this point, my cousin and I split off to bag McKenzie ourselves while the others returned to the car. At 3,822 feet and unimpeded by fog or rain, the top of McKenzie offered the best summit view among the 6ers. The vast expanse of green forest and distant ADK high peaks, as well as the view of Lake Placid in the valley, provided a breathtaking view. With McKenzie in the books I was done with the challenge. The round trip for both McKenzie and Haystack took about six hours. 

Obligatory mountaintop selfie

One gets a nice view of Lake Placid when Facing east on McKenzie

Six of six in the bag
The following afternoon, we made our way to the 6er bell in the center of town and rang the bell six supposedly times. The sweet sound of the Saranac Lake 6er bell is said to bring good luck to those who ring it after completing the challenge. However, caveat emptor to those who sound the bell falsely, for they will suffer the Kiwassa Curse.

In the end, the Saranac Lake 6ers is another mini challenge for peak baggers, day hikers, or even families spending a week in the Adirondacks. (I did see a handful of children and dogs along the 6er trails.) It does offer some solid scenery and experience on the trails. Anyone craving something tangible can send their information to the village to receive a 6er patch and sticker recognizing his or her achievement. There's something there for hikers of all levels and abilities. For me, it was a nice way to spend time outside with some friends during my final weekend of tapering for the Cayuga Trails 50.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Thom B 52K Race Report

The morning of Saturday, May 10, saw the inaugural running of the Thom B Trail Runs 52k. The event itself has taken place for the past fourteen years as a 13k and 26k that are part of the Finger Lakes Runners Club Trail Circuit, but this was the first time the four-lap, 52k race was held. The plan was to shoot for a five-hour finish, while using the race as a long training run to test gear and fueling strategies for the upcoming Cayuga Trails 50 three weeks later. I did not intend to race hard today, and aimed for 5:00, or 1:15 per loop.

At 7:00 a.m., fourteen trail enthusiasts took the starting line for the four loops through Hammond Hill State Forest in Dryden, NY. Consisting of dirt roads, single track, ski trails and snowmobile trails, I was expecting a muddy slogfest due in no small part to the heavy rain of the previous two days. After a few words of caution and a few words of thanks, the early morning din of chirping birds and rustling leaves was suddenly disrupted by the race director's shout of "Thom B says go!" followed by the shouts and cheers of the fourteen runners.

The course started off uphill on a dirt road. The leader took off and—spoiler alert—I never saw him again until the finish line. Justin Trana and I settled into a "chase" pack at a comfortable pace and chatted for most of the first 7.8-mile loop. To the delight of my shoes and socks, the mud was minimal and the trails were entirely runnable. Towards the end of the loop, I

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Trailhead

Well if I ever see the morning
just like a lizard in the Spring
I'm gonna run out in the meadow
to catch the silence where it sings.

I'm gonna force the Serengeti
to disappear into my eyes
and when I hear your voices calling
I'm gonna turn just inside out.

"I Won't Be Found"
 - The Tallest Man On Earth

Ah, the allure of the outdoors in the springtime. After the longest and roughest upstate New York winter in recent memory, the feeling of summer-like weather is simply indescribable. The area trails are clear of ice and snow, and for the most part, mud-free and very runnable.

Like some runners, I view the sport of running not as exercise and not as a hobby, but as a lifestyle. That is, I don't view it as a chore that must be done to complete some arbitrary goal like training for a specific race or burning X number of calories. Rather, I reward my self by obtaining the sense of accomplishment that comes with a job well done, not to mention the positive physical aspect of