Archive | August, 2014

perspective and “fast”

31 Aug

Today I realized something really cool about a lot of my running friends:  They’re pretty fast.

 

Now, this realization has hit me before–particularly when I’m trailing behind the group on some hilly run, desperately trying to ignore my wheezing lungs while staying in eyesight of them…but today it just struck me as really cool to be friends with people who are so talented and who are constantly inspiring me and pushing me to run faster and farther.

 

When we first started running, we were road runners.  I was pretty slow initially.  I got quicker, but even my quickest times are still comparatively slow when I look at the overall winners of most races here in Rochester.  Of course, that’s all a matter of perspective.  When I look at race times for some other cities, I realize that I’d be a top female finisher at some 5ks.  When I think about where I was when I first started and the awe I felt talking to people who were, at that time for me “fast,” I realize that it’s all just a matter of perspective.  Beginner-runner-Shme would’ve been really impressed with present-day-Shme, but present-day-Shme still wants to know what future-Shme has in her.

 

When we were road runners, we didn’t hang out with many other runners.  I NEVER talked to fast people. Most likely this was because many of the FAST road runners I knew were kind of elitist dickheads.  I will never forget the first time I ran 8 miles. I triumphantly stormed into the running store that will remain nameless.  It had taken me forever…probably an hour and a half at least.  But I had done it when my farthest run before that had been 4 or 5 miles.  Some of the workers were there at the front of the store–FAST runners–and I excitedly told them I’d just finished my first-ever 8 miles and held up my hands to get high fives.  I. Was. Pumped.  And I got half-hearted high fives and blank stares.  I was not WORTHY of talking to such elite-caliber athletes, especially about something as trivial as a slow-for-them 8 mile run.  This scenario happened multiple times, to the point that I no longer felt welcome in the store–I was not “fast enough” or “good enough”  to be a part of this group (and not slow enough to be a part of other groups).  I did not belong.  Road running was very solitary for me–even on group runs, we rarely talked.  Everyone would plug in their iPods and cruise along together just waiting to be done rather than enjoying the run and getting to know each other.

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When we transitioned slowly into trail running, one of the first things I noticed was how chill everyone was.  How even the fast people hang out and cheer on the slowpokes.  How the experienced runners were quick to offer advice, to compliment on a run, to encourage you.

 

One of my first trail runs was with Sean S. and Eric.  I had never even met Sean, but Eric knew him and they had decided to do what is now the River Chase course.  I, on the other hand, had planned to go about 5 miles.  Around mile 4, the guys convinced me to just finish up with them (I had NO idea how long this run would actually end up being).  Around 8, I wanted to die–we were on trails for the second half and I’d only been on trails a handful of times before that.  My long runs were around  6 miles at that time.  When we finished our 10ish mile loop, I collapsed into our car.  Later, I’d learn that Sean is fast.  Really fast.  But he’d stayed with us the whole time, just content to be out and running and chatting.  I’ve run with Sean (and other fast trail runners) since then, and I’m always amazed by how willing trail people are to just hang out, relax, run someone else’s pace and enjoy the company and the trails together.  At our 50k, so many people would just adjust their pace to hang out, pass some miles with company, and then take off again.

 

When we volunteered for the Cayuga Trails 50, we spent several nights having roaring campfires and talking to elites from all over the world.  ELITE elites, not just the dudes working in the local running stores and winning the local races (no offense to them…but they’d get smoked by these dudes, which might do them some good to get knocked down a few pegs and realize that they’re really just small fish in a big pond. And they really should high five a girl who is excited about a really-slow 8 miler).  We’re talking the guys who have sponsorships and are world-class athletes.  You never would’ve known.  We talked all evening, hung out, waved hello to them on some of our runs/hikes.  They remembered our names, our dog’s name, details about races we’d said we ran…  At the end of the race, these guys set up shop and hung out til it was all over–drinking beers and cheering on other runners.  The whole weekend, Eric just kept looking at me and saying “what other sport can you interact with the best of the best like this? It’s incredible.”  And it really was.  Trail runners are just so normal…even when they’re not normal in terms of their athletic capabilities.

 

I have so many more examples of THIS type of behavior from trail runners.  Maybe that’s why I’ll never go back to roads (except maybe for some fast 5ks someday).  Maybe that is why I love my trail runner people.  Maybe…no definitely…that is why I’ve stuck with running for so long.  Because these people make you feel like you CAN do it–you CAN get better.  And even if you don’t get better, if you NEVER get fast, you’re still good enough to hang out with, to sometimes run with, and definitely to encourage and cheer on.  Running is my primary social outlet.  When you’ve run hundreds of miles with people, you discuss everything–family, hopes, dreams, work, bodily functions, highs, lows.  You see people at their best (finishing races–Susan S. and Amy L. take the cake for best race finishes that almost made me cry) and at their worst (me any time I’m rangry–running angry–because I have not eaten enough/am tired/am running any amount of hills) and everything in between.   My runner people know me better than most people.  Kristin Armstrong writes about “sweat sisters,” and I’ve always loved that phrase.  My runner people are my sweat brothers and sisters, my “tramily.”

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This morning, I ran with Jen P–the 10k loop (because 16 and change miles in Mendon wasn’t enough for me).  She pulled me along, we chatted a bunch, and she got me to run the loop the fastest I’ve ever run it!  Afterwards, I got to watch 2 of our friends finish a humid 12k race.  Prem and Amber both won age group awards.  They both finished the race with big smiles.  They both talk to me, they both are constantly encouraging me and other people, they are both so down-to-earth. I am not fast.  But I can count these incredibly fast runners as my friends.  And that’s really cool.

 

I’m so thankful to have such an amazing group of runners in my life to constantly inspire me and challenge me to reach for new goals.  If you’d have told me at the finish line of that first 5k that I’d be staring down the barrel of a second 50k, I’d have laughed.  If you’d have told me 2 years ago that I’d register for the Mendon 50k, I’d have snort laughed.  Yet here I am.  Stronger than I’ve ever been, and it’s all thanks to some incredible runners who are there to push me to be the best me possible.  ❤

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Happy National Dog Day!

27 Aug

Growing up, I had a menagerie of stuffed dogs and cats that covered my bed.  I had a plan for how to get them all out safely in case of a house fire, and they came with me everywhere.  But I could not have a “real” pet…

 

I have terrible allergies.  When I’m around most dogs and all cats, I get itchy, sneezy, watery eyes, wheezy and miserable.  It is not pretty.  So I spent my whole life wanting a pet, but unable to be around them.  I had never held a dog or cat, never even petted one growing up.  Even taking allergy medicine, I still get super sick around animals.

 

When I met Eric, it was almost a deal breaker for the man who grew up with Irish setters and loves dogs.  Luckily, he stuck around, and shortly after we officially started dating, we went to our friends’ house for a game night.  We knew they had a dog, and on our way over, I told Eric that this would probably be a short evening.  To our surprise, I didn’t get sick, even after hours of being there.  That night, Eric started researching springerdoodles from the breeder Eric and Julie had used (who sadly no longer breed springerdoodles).  When we finally decided to put in a deposit, we got an email back that all the puppies from their current litters were gone.  Eric was devastated.

 

2 days later, we got another email that the people who had claimed Picasso didn’t want a brown dog, so if we were interested, he was ours!!  We drove to some little podunk town to meet him and I was instantly in love.  I had never even pet a dog, so holding this tiny, warm body that wriggled and squirmed and was so alive…it was strange and exhilarating.  I’ve held more babies than I can count, and the feeling I had that day was similar to the feeling I have holding babies–just knowing that I could hold such great responsibility for something that was living and needed me…it was amazing.

 

I had heard how dogs become members of your family, how they are intuitive, how they understand and respond to human emotion.  I always scoffed at it.  Until Picasso.  He is so smart, can do amazing tricks, knows his right from his left, and is just such a good boy.  I talk to him all the time, and I often don’t even realize I am doing it until someone calls me on it.  He is a great protector, loves to run and hike with us, snuggles like a champ, and is amazing with kids.  He has a personality, that’s for sure…

 

So in honor of my best four-legged friend, some of my favorite pics of “Dog Dog.”

Day One: A little unsure

Day One: A little unsure

With his daddy, who generously gave him his toes and fingers to chew on through the crate those first few nights of crying because he missed his pack...now he has a better one!

With his daddy, who generously gave him his toes and fingers to chew on through the crate those first few nights of crying because he missed his pack…now he has a better one!

a tired little bugger

a tired little bugger

I take credit for teaching him early to snuggle

I take credit for teaching him early to snuggle

First bath--he peed all over me.  Who would've thought he'd eventually learn to love the water!

First bath–he peed all over me. Who would’ve thought he’d eventually learn to love the water!

Tug of war

Tug of war

bath round 2--maybe if I get in with him, he'll be less scared??? Nope.  Trying to escape...

bath round 2–maybe if I get in with him, he’ll be less scared??? Nope. Trying to escape…

meeting his brother (and the reason we got a puppy), Murphy, for the first time!

meeting his brother (and the reason we got a puppy), Murphy, for the first time!

At one point in time, we had a hamster, too.  Picasso loved chasing it in it's little ball haha

At one point in time, we had a hamster, too. Picasso loved chasing it in it’s little ball haha

Every Christmas morning (and Thanksgiving and Easter, too!) we go for a family run!

Every Christmas morning (and Thanksgiving and Easter, too!) we go for a family run!

This boy loves playing in the snow...and playing soccer...

This boy loves playing in the snow…and playing soccer…

camp!

camp!

camp!

camp!

run! jump!!!

run! jump!!!

Now he loves the water and we can't keep him out!

Now he loves the water and we can’t keep him out!

A great hiker, too!  Handles the mountains like a champ!

A great hiker, too! Handles the mountains like a champ!

loves snuggling

loves snuggling

Great with kids--my siblings won't leave him alone and he just lets them chase him around and love him up.

Great with kids–my siblings won’t leave him alone and he just lets them chase him around and love him up.

Don't matter the weather--this dog loves to be outside!

Doesn’t matter the weather–this dog loves to be outside!

In fact, he may like the snow best of all?

In fact, he may like the snow best of all?

swimming in the pool

swimming in the pool

 

I love you, little man.  You are the best doggy I could’ve ever asked for.  ❤

 

scared straight: trail running

23 Aug

 

Right after the Dirty German 50k, I was riding some crazy runner’s high and decided that the Mendon 50k was next on my list of things to conquer.  At the time, it sounded like a brilliant plan–I’d go right from the previous race’s training cycle, then train hard all summer/fall long and kick ass at Mendon.  I love that even though I’ve said this a thousand times before, and it’s never gone quite this way, I still actually believe these types of fairy tale stories…

 

Summer rolled around, and I realized I wasn’t feeling the long runs.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned after years of running, it’s to listen to your body and your brain–when it says it’s time for a break, it’s time for a break.  Besides, I didn’t HAVE to start training until the beginning of August.  No problemo.

 

So I’ve been running, but nothing serious and nothing long.  We spent a lot of time in July hiking and camping, which meant not a lot of time for running.  Now, hiking the way we were is fabulous cross-training, and it’s not like I was just sitting around eating potato chips and watching smutty tv all day (although there was a fair amount of that, too).  But it was not running.  And all of a sudden, August 2nd rolled around, the “start” date of my next training cycle, and I realized that I had planned to be at least able to run 14 miles, and the furthest I’d run since the Dirty German was 7 or 8.  Oops.

 

2 weeks ago, Eric and Brian took me out to “view” the course.  We planned to do 2 loops, so 12ish miles.  No big deal.  I figured I’d have to walk a fair amount of the second loop…but I had no idea of the misery that was about to ensue.  We finished loop 1, and I just wanted to get in the car and go home.  The guys talked me into going back out, and I was ok until I hit the midway point, at which time I got really cranky (Eric turned to Brian at one point and whispered “This is where Shme is going to get really angry” and at another point asked me when the last time was that I’d eaten some Skittles).  I wanted to take the road back, but the guys convinced me to finish it up with them on the trails, which I reluctantly did.  Getting into the car after that run, I had the sobering realization that I had to do that loop…3 more times.  Yikes.  Scared Straight: Trail Running Edition.

 

I revisited the training plan, compared that to our calendar (which is already jam packed with Buffalo, #TrailsRoc clean-ups and races and other miscellaneous stuff), and picked out some dates to hit the trails at Mendon again.

plans2

Last weekend we were in Buffalo.  There’s always been a lot of stress there, so long runs have always been a challenge, but they’ve always been run in the past (might not be pretty, but it gets taken care of).  Sadly, right now there are more family issues from both sides of our families that are contributing to even greater stress.  I hadn’t been sleeping well at home because of it, and being in Buffalo did not help at all.  Eric and I got up Saturday morning to run at Chestnut Ridge and made it 1.5 miles before I was already done mentally.  I was mad at myself for giving up so quickly, but then I decided to be gentle with myself–we are kind of going through a lot of shit right now, so just getting out of bed to go run was admirable.  We managed to squeeze in a little over 5 before making our way back to the car.  We figured we could just do our long run the following day, but ended up helping out at home instead.  I was feeling pretty defeated and wondering at this point if I should contact Brian and see about dropping down to the 30k race instead…

 

This morning was the second Loopy Run at Mendon.  Because of the Dam Good race tomorrow, I wasn’t sure who would show up, but was pleasantly surprised to have Liz, Alison, Prem, Ryan and Dylan join me!  Yesterday’s mountain biking adventure (11.5 miles! which for all of my cyclist friends is nothing, but for me is a very big deal) left me with very sore knees this morning–I know people say running is bad for your knees (p.s. it’s not, check the studies), but holy hell were my knees feeling like crap this morning!  No matter, the run went really well, especially compared to the previous 2 weekends’ long runs.  We ran a relatively easy, relatively consistent pace.  I walked all the major hills, with the intention of doing 3 loops this morning.  Conserving energy was the name of the game.  We finished loop 1 and I found myself feeling good.  1:20:00 is a long(ish) time for 1 loop, but I still had plenty in the tank for another loop.  Alison, Prem and Dylan left and Liz and Ryan and I set out for round 2.  This loop went surprisingly well, too.  Towards the end, I started to get tired, but as I crested some smaller hills, I would feel better and just keep chugging along.  With about 2 miles left in the loop, I realized there was the possibility of a negative split and that also helped encourage me to run up some of the smaller hills.  We finished loop 2 in 1:13:00!  At this point, I knew I was tired and it was getting late.  It was also super humid–my clothes were SOAKING wet (it’s like I was Eric or something).  So we refilled water bottles at Stewart Lodge (I drank almost 80 ounces of water running this morning!) rather than going back to the temptation of our cars, then Liz and I set out for a shorter, flatter loop around the pond.  This loop felt pretty awful most of the way–I think it was a combination of fatigue and skittles–I’d just eaten a boatload of them while we refilled bottles and my stomach was not very happy with me.  But we finished, and it put the total mileage around 14.5 miles.

 

There was a point in time where I realized (very sadly) that I’m not actually sure that I will be able to better my 50k race time with Mendon.  To be fair, it’s a lot more hill climbing, which is absolutely NOT my strong suit.  I also did not particularly set myself up for racing success with the way my summer “running” went.  But then I realized that I don’t really care.  Comparing races isn’t fair anyway–courses are all so different–elevation profiles and types of trails and weather can change things completely.  Saying that I finished another 50k is enough for me.

 

I’m glad today went well.  There were a few moments of doubt for me, but for the most part, things felt good.  I didn’t leave today thinking, “Oh God. 3 more loops of that.” Instead, I left saying, “3 more loops of that.  Gotta put in the work, but I’m going to get there for sure.”  Looking forward to other loop runs with friends (and alone), more speedwork/hill repeats, and a bunch of easy Tuesday/Thursday group runs.  And really looking forward to saying I completed another 50k, one that a couple of years ago I had said I’d never do because it was too hard, too above me.

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Letchworth Trail List and Info

8 Aug

During our Run ‘Em All/Hike ‘Em All Letchworth Trail Challenge, we had the opportunity to see some really amazing trails…and also some not-so-amazing trails.  In case anyone is looking for more info on the trails, here’s what we found.

First, the trail maps that they give you at park offices are pretty nice. Except that they do not coincide with the trail maps posted at trail heads or the laminated map our friends bought in the gift shop (although that one was closer at least).  That being said, we found that the paper trail maps are more accurate than the ones at trail heads.

 

The lists/maps at the trail heads are not always accurate/the same as the lists on the maps they give out at the park.

The lists/maps at the trail heads are not always accurate/the same as the lists on the maps they give out at the park.

Most of the trails in Letchworth are out and backs–there are very few loops, which means you need to double the mileage that they tell you.

Last, the signs at the trail heads list the trails here as either “easy” or “moderate.”  I have talked about this in the past with the trails in the ADK as well, but I truly believe these designations are often flawed.  In my opinion, easy means grandma and my small children can easily handle the hike.  There were some trails marked “easy” that I’m not sure I’d classify as easy.  They weren’t “difficult,” but they were certainly nothing to sneeze at.

That being said, here’s the list of the trails we completed, along with my thoughts on each one/what you can expect.

Trail 1–The Gorge Trail–7 miles all the way down the gorge.  If you start at Upper Falls, you will walk by all of the waterfalls, on some stone stairs and through some really beautiful scenery.  The first 2 or 3 miles of the trail are very scenic.  When you get to the Lower Falls/Rafting area, the trail is not very well marked, but you just follow the road through some of the other picnic areas–Tea Tables, Wolf’s Creek and St. Helena.  It’s a relatively rolling trail (not at all flat), but there’s a lot to see and it goes through the tourist-y areas of the park.

Trail 2–Mary Jemison–2 1/2 miles of rolling double track that starts from the same parking lot as Trail 1 and winds along the train tracks and leads all the way to Council Grounds.  This trail is really pretty and well maintained.

Trail 2a–Hemlock–2 1/2 miles of rolling double track that connects Trails 2/Council Grounds and 3.  Again, this trail is really pretty.

Trail 3–Trout Pond–3/4 mile of double track that is relatively flat and follows around Trout Pond, which is allegedly stocked with fish (but looked pretty overgrown and unfishable).

Trail 4–Birch–3/4 mile of wide trails/gravel road leading from the main park road to other points on the main park road and also to a group camp site.  This was relatively easy (a little hill) but pretty boring, too.  I suppose it would be good for kids to hike.

Trail 5–Lee’s Landing–1 mile of gravel road/path that goes straight down to the river.  This is where you can put in a canoe/kayak (with the proper permits).  It was a big hill to get back up, but the views of the gorge/river were pretty awesome!

Trail 6–Portage–1/2 mile of really nice single-track that starts out flat, then cuts down towards Trail 6a.

Trail 6a–Footbridge–1/2 mile going straight down to the stone footbridge over the river.  It connects on the other side of the river with Trail 1, and it’s amazingly beautiful.  I really loved it, and it may actually have been my favorite part of the trip!

Trail 7–Genesee Greenway–5 3/4 mile of double track/wide old carriage paths.  There were some really awesome vantage points to look out over the gorge.  We parked on the main park road at the parade grounds entrance and if you go toward Portageville, you can also go under the Portage Train Bridge, which is really cool.  The other side of the road is actually also part of the FLT, and was kind of boring after a while.  I guess I much prefer the single-track trails…

Trail 8–River Road–2 3/4 mile of…road.  River Road turns into an unpaved, gravel, hilly road.  It was kind of boring, but part of the challenge, so here we go!

Trail 8a–Blue Jay–1/2 mile of carriage trail straight down to the park road, then you get to hike back up it.  Blah.

Trail 9–Dishmill Creek–3 miles of single-track that was really nice (there is a section along River Road).  It was really, REALLY nice trail, and even though it’s kind of far from the “beaten path” of the park, it’s totally worth the drive down to E Cabins to check it out!

Trail 10–Big Bend–2 1/2 miles straight up a gravel road–I’m pretty sure you can drive up it, and there’s a nice lookout at the top, then you come all the way back down the hill.

Trail 10a–Trillium–1/2 mile straight down single-track and the trail just kind of ends randomly and then you climb back out to 10.  10a also connects at the bottom with the FLT.

Trail 11–Deer Run–1 1/2 miles that goes gently up, then gently back down to the road.  This trail was EXTREMELY wet when we did it this time (I don’t remember it being this wet the first time we did it, and to be fair there had been some BIG rain storms in the days leading up to our run).  Wet enough to actually have part of the trail almost like walking through a creek.  In addition, the trail was very overgrown in places.  Again, I don’t remember this being an issue when we did it the first time around, but this time it was in rough shape.

Trail 12–Seneca–3/4 mile

Trail 13–St Helena–1 1/4 miles that go straight down to the river.  It’s cool to be down there, and it’s actually where the white water rafting company gets you out of the boats and onto a bus back to the headquarters (the road goes a separate way from the trail).  This trail is really cool, although there were a LOT of downed trees when we went through–again we had a lot of big storms in the days preceding our trip.  I wonder how often trail work is done and how long those trees will sit before they are removed.

Trail 14–Gardeau–1/2 mile straight down to Gardeau Overlook, this trail was completely overgrown.  Eric and I actually turned back after a 1/2 mile because we’d had enough of bushwhacking and I was nervous about ticks.  The other guys apparently found a trail out to the overlook.

Trail 15–Smokey Hollow–2 1/4 miles down, then straight along a relatively flat (but very overgrown) trail, then straight back up to the road.  It’s about a mile in between the two trail heads of this trail, which is as close to a loop trail as you get apparently.  It was not marked very well, and the trail was very overgrown, which kind of sucked.

Trail 16–Bear Hollow–2 miles that starts off of River Road and is an access point to the FLT (see below).  It was muddy and not very well marked.  It’s also the turn around point for the Dam Good Trail Race.

Trail 17–Big Flats–1 1/4 miles straight down a massive, slippery (muddy) hill.  The trail starts from the camping check-in spot, and then connects to 15, so you can either continue onto 15 or you have to go right back up the hill to get back to the trail head.

Trail 18–Kisil Point–1 3/4 miles that goes past the campgrounds and loops back around to bring you to the start (it’s partly just an out-and-back, but there is a small loop portion so you’re not on the SAME trail all the time).  Near the start, you can walk down a separate path to a really beautiful waterfall that is part of the Silver Lake Outlet–totally worth it!

Trail 19–Gibsonville–1/2 mile that leads by the former barracks of the Gibsonville Civilian Conservation Corps crew.  It is not particularly well-marked, kind of boring, but there is an old chimney and Trail 19a (Chipmunk Trail), which is not listed on every map, connects, going straight up a massive hill.  At the top, Trail 20 connects (pretty much right at the road), and we really had a hard time finding it (not sure how).

Trail 20–Highbanks–4 3/4 miles of rolling single-track trail that was REALLY nice.  Towards the dam section of the trail, you’re mostly just walking near the road, but there are some really nice look out points on the gorge/river and then of course at the Dam, you can check out the Dam, the grill and gift shop and the giant wooden chair.  It’s a really nice trail, and as we hiked, we actually discussed when we could get back to run it, because it seems like the kind of trail that would be perfect for a run!

Trail 21–Powerline–3/4 mile down to the powerlines and also an access trail to the FLT–the first lean-to on the FLT is not far from here.

Trail 22–Sycamore–3/4 mile

Finger Lakes Trail–24 miles of beautiful, winding, hilly single track.  You’ll pass tons of waterfalls and hike through many creeks.  There are two lean-tos, one about 5.5 miles from the Dam Visitor Center and another about 14 miles from the Dam Center (9.6 miles from the Parade Grounds Entrance to the park).  There are a lot of different access points to River Road, as well, so if you wanted to just do a day hike, that’s a possibility.  The access trails are mostly straight downhill to the FLT, and they can be pretty wet/sloppy.

Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail

8 Aug

For Part One of the Hike ‘Em All/Run ‘Em All Challenge, go here!

 

Sunday morning (8/3), we got up and ran the Dam Good preview run.  I started out nice and easy with Eric, but he left me after the first mile.  Both of us were surprised by how good our legs felt–tired, but still capable of more.  I ran for a good chunk with Heather and Rick.  I left Team O around mile 4 and ran into Lindsey.  She and I ran a bit, then literally ran into Eric and Scott on their way back.  I turned around and ran back with them, figuring a 10 mile run was sufficient when we were about to strap giant packs on our backs and hike the rest of the day.  With around 2 miles to go, Eric kept mentioning that he couldn’t believe that the faster people hadn’t caught us yet.  Our pace picked up a bit.  With about 1 mile to go, one guy came flying up and passed us and we started to hear voices behind.  I decided to put my head down and gut it out but not get beat to the cars.  It felt good to run fast.  The trail was a muddy, sloppy mess and in the last half mile, as Scott said “careful–slippery” I hit the turn and wiped out hard.  The guys were both like “are you OK?!?” and even though my ankle and hip were hurting, I quickly got up and took off again.  No one else passed us on the way back to the cars.

 

no that's not a creek...that's the trail.  bit of a wet, sloppy run (and hike later that day).

no that’s not a creek…that’s the trail. bit of a wet, sloppy run (and hike later that day).

Dog dog was in all his glory playing in puddles and mud.

Dog dog was in all his glory playing in puddles and mud.

Fell in the mud...woooops!

Fell in the mud…woooops!

We hosed off and hung out in the parking lot, eating some food and drinking a little beer before we strapped on our packs.  The forecast called for rain all day, and we were counting our lucky stars that so far it hadn’t rained.  As we got our packs on, it started to sprinkle.  It then poured for the next 6 hours or so.  The 5.5 mile hike in to lean-to 1 took us about 2:12:00.  We took no breaks and we really pushed the pace, anxious to get out of the rain.  If you’ve never backpacked before, the feeling you get when you first take off your pack after a long hike is bizarre–it feels kind of like you are floating off the ground or something.

 

send me on my way

send me on my way

Our home for night #1

Our home for night #1

The lean-to was pretty new and really nice, so we started to set up camp as best as we could without getting everything muddy/wet.  Eric put down his camp pad for Picasso, who immediately curled up and went to sleep (he was pretty tired by this point and the thunder storms we’d just hiked through had kind of scared him a bit).  We collected soaking wet firewood, even though we were all pretty sure that there was no way the guys could get a fire going in these conditions.  Around 8ish, the rain had finally stopped and the guys managed to get a raging fire going.  It was really nice.  We hung our bear bags and went to bed around 10:30ish.  It was a quiet night (or maybe we were all just so tired that we didn’t notice any noises).

 

Our cavemen making kindling for our fire

Our cavemen making kindling for our fire

The next morning (8/4), we got up and had a lazy morning.  We built the fire back up, had breakfast and dilly dallied–I think none of us were too excited to put the heavy packs back on.  We finally suited up around 9.  We weren’t positive how many miles we had to the next lean-to–all the mileage counts I had found were if you started the FLT from the other side, and all of them detailed different total mileage counts for the whole trail, so subtracting the different mileages, I knew we had anywhere from 8 to 10 miles to hike.

 

This section of trail became much hillier, and my pack was killing me.  There’s a moment in a marathon where your brain is telling you that all is lost, that you are too tired to keep going on like this, that you should just quit.  I had many such moments on day two of our trip.  Eric and I bickered a little bit (which is weird for us).  We were taking rest breaks every 2 hours or so, just to give our backs a break.  Our pace from the day before had slowed considerably.  Around mile 7, I started to get REALLY nervous that I had done the math wrong and the lean-tos were going to be 15 miles apart.  We passed a few AMAZING waterfalls, and Tori and I talked about taking showers in them.  I started checking my watch to see how far back each of these waterfalls would be, knowing deep down that if it was more than a half mile, I would probably just forego the shower.  I was THAT tired. ( If you know me, you know that not much keeps me away from a nice shower.)

 

Breaking for lunch!

Breaking for lunch!

one of the many waterfalls we passed that looked so refreshing and inviting...

one of the many waterfalls we passed that looked so refreshing and inviting…

Around mile 8.5, as we crested a hill, Eric triumphantly called out, ‘Fucking lean-to, bitches!”  We were all elated to have arrived at our final destination, even if it WAS covered in spiderwebs and giant spiders.  Someone had made homemade brooms out of sticks, leaves/pine needles, and twine, so Tori started sweeping out the lean-to.  I took one look at the spiders and told Eric I was sleeping in my hammock.  We set them up, tarped them in case of rain (because why WOULDN’T it rain on us at camp?) and had some dinner. We all hiked down to the last waterfall we’d seen (about a quarter mile from camp)–the girls climbed up the creek/waterfalls to the most amazing waterfall, with a completely flat shale base and got “cleaned up.”  We had to hang our food bags, but this site had very few good places to hang from…the guys finally got the bags up in a tree about 15 or 20 feet from our hammocks.  We didn’t think that one through, as we would come to find out.

 

homemade brooms

homemade brooms

We went to bed super early–we were all so tired.  Around 8:30, Eric helped Picasso get into my hammock, he got into his, and we went to sleep.  I woke up to Eric, moving around in his hammock, grumbling under his breath and cursing about bears and me and the dog sleeping through, blah blah blah.  Apparently there was something big moving around our bear bags, snorting and snuffling.

 

The lean-to became a lean-four.  I dumped my gear into the lean-to and Scott turned on his lantern–so I could see all the spiders right by my head.  FML.  Death by bear or death by spider?  Oh the choices.  The guys built up our fire again and we all tried to get more sleep, knowing that the following day we had another 14 miles to hike back to the cars.  I glanced at my watch at this point, thinking it had to be at least 2, that daylight was just a short ways away.  It was 11.  WTF.  I could not go back to sleep, and Eric kept yelling at me to lay down.

We had all just finally settled in, when there was this high-pitched scream.  I was trying in my head to figure out where there could be other people, panicking a little bit because someone or something was apparently attacking a woman. Before I could question too much, we heard a pack of coyotes attacking whatever the screamer was (maybe a rabbit?).  It was super close by.  Picasso, who had been laying at my feet, was instantly up and growling, looking out into the darkness and wanting to go out.  We grabbed and leashed him, the guys got up again to rebuild our fire.  It took a long time to settle back in, and it was a VERY restless night.  At one point, a log in the fire broke and the whole thing collapsed.  Spooked us.  We heard smaller animals moving around in the woods.  Spooked us.

 

Truth be told, I kind of hate the dark.  I hate not being able to see things, and when we’re in the woods, that just gets compounded.  I love camping, but I hate the sleeping part.  In fact, I hate sleeping most places.  I feel too vulnerable sleeping–just laying there, exposed if someone or something wanted to attack.  This nighttime excitement just confirmed that for me.

 

We finally woke up a little before 6.  I was up.  I just wanted to pack our shit and get out of that lean-to, hopefully with no more animal issues.  I did take a walk back to where our bear bag had been, but there were no discernible footprints, just some spots where the leaves had been moved by whatever walked through.  Eric and I laid everything out, and like a gentleman, he took all of the heavy stuff.  My pack was considerably lighter on day 3, which made for a considerably more enjoyable hike out.  Thanks, babe.  Love you.

 

Enormous pack + rickety bridge = tense moments haha

Enormous pack + rickety bridge = tense moments haha

I had been running numbers in my head, and I was not really sure that we could make it to lean-to 1 before noon, but that was our goal, so we could use the table for lunch and hide in the lean-to if it started to rain again (because, shockingly, rain was in the forecast again).  We started hiking and I was amazed at how much quicker our pace was.  We hit lean-to 1 by 11!!  We made lunch, relaxed for a bit, and got back “on the road” by 11:30.  We decided to take bets on how long it would take us to get back, and most of us thought around 2:30.  The last 5.5 miles involved a lot of uphill (long, slow uphill) and a LOT of mud (it hadn’t rained in a day, so the puddles dried out to leave behind thick, shoe-sucking mud).  The sky started to get really dark with about a mile and a half left, and there were some rumbles of thunder.  We started to move faster.  We hit the parking lot a little before 2 and it had just started to sprinkle.  I went to the bathroom to change my sports bra and shirt and came out to an absolute down pour!

 

Made it!!!

Made it!!!

Here, on my couch, 3 days later, I am still tired.  My legs are still a little funny, my foot hurts a little bit (lots of slipping and sliding in mud), I am eating everything in sight (I really hate camp food and ate very little…except for skittles).  But my heart is so full.  We were so sad to have “missed out” on the cross country trip, but the reality is we didn’t miss out on anything.  We just had a different adventure.  And I guess this is a big metaphor for my life right now.  Rather than think of the things that we are missing, we need to embrace the things we have, make the best of crappy situations, and keep living it up.  Life is insanely beautiful and we are surrounded by so many good, funny, like-minded people who add so much joy and happiness to our lives.  Call it lucky.  Call it blessed.  No matter what you call it, it’s awesome.

Camping at Letchworth

8 Aug

Before I even get into our camping excursion, let me give a little background info on the campgrounds at Letchworth.  The tent camping/RV sites are all in loops–they limit where you can have dogs, so there are only about 3 loops to choose from.  This means that there are a LOT of dogs in the loops where they are permitted, which is kind of lame.  It makes for a lot of barking and butt sniffing.  Our loop turned out to be party central–most of the families there knew each other and didn’t do anything during the day.  I will never understand this type of “camping.”  They stayed up late every night drinking and scream-talking, slept in, then just hung out in the loop at their RVs all day, every day.  People, you have miles upon miles of beautiful trail right outside the loop.  Get out and explore a bit.  But I digress… The sites at Letchworth are kind of shitty–they are very close together, and we are not sure how most sites would be able to fit 2 tents and 2 cars (which is how they are advertised).  Also, many of the sites were underwater when we got there–more on that in a minute–so setting up tents would be tough.  I think part of that is because the sites are on un-level ground, but there are also a lot of ruts from RVs pulling in and out (especially in the mud, which there was plenty of).  There should be sites for tents and sites for RVs.  Just my opinion. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by years of the ADK.  Maybe a couple of backpacking trips have ruined car camping for me.  But being on top of people in a campground, so close that you can hear their every word, is just not my idea of “real” camping anymore.  Fun in some ways (especially for families and/or groups), but annoying when you are getting up early every day to try to knock off every trail in the park and looking for some peace and quiet to relax your mind!

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my recap on the first 7 days of the trip!

7/28

We woke up to a massive rainstorm in Rochester.  We decided to take our time packing up, hit the gym for an hour, and didn’t get to camp until about 2:30.  By this point, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, so we set up camp as quickly as possible.  We are becoming a well-oiled machine, and there are jobs that are mine and jobs that are Eric’s, and those jobs have come about through some unspoken communication between us.  Anyway, we set up shop quickly, all the while I was keeping my eye on the massive rottweiler right next door, tied to a trailer hitch by a giant climbing rope.  WTF.  The dog would later lunge at Picasso and also try to attack other dogs that were walking by on the road.  Terrifying.  Another reason for me to hate the “dog only” camp loops–closer to shitty dog owners.

We had about an hour to kill before we had to leave for our first trail run, so we read for a bit under our pop up tent.  It was freezing, so I put on a long-sleeved shirt and lamented the fact that I’d only brought 2…didn’t seem like I was going to need any tank tops.

Our first run was on trails 10 and 10a, which were all the way on the other side of the park.  It ended up being about 45 minutes to drive there.  It was super foggy from all the rain, so the park was kind of spooky.  Scott met us to run and we ended up getting in a little over 5 miles.  We collected some firewood before we left, including Thor’s Hammer.

foggy gorge

foggy gorge

eric told me to make an angry face.  apparently this is what i think i look like when i'm angry???

eric told me to make an angry face. apparently this is what i think i look like when i’m angry???

Eric and I got back to camp and he had to work pretty hard to get a fire going–everything was so wet.  It finally caught, but the flames struggled all night–the coals were hot, though, and it was nice to just sit and relax and mentally prep for a whole lot of miles in the next few days.

7/29

We met up with Scott and Tori at 8 AM the next day at the trailhead for Trail 1, the gorge trail that runs 7 miles along the side of the gorge.  Scott and Eric decided to run, while Tori and I opted to hike out.  The boys turned around and ran back to us, then we all hiked together the rest of the time.  It was nice to have some girl-talk time and get to know Tori, and the miles kind of flew by.  The guys caught us around mile 5.5, we hiked to Wolf Creek together and then headed back for lunch.

Scott and Tori

Scott and Tori

letchworth3

Best friends

Best friends

Never saw a fox this close before! Eric and Scott were right next to him!

Never saw a fox this close before! Eric and Scott were right next to him!

 

Eric had an unfortunate encounter with the people in the car next to ours (didn’t know they were there…I mean, who just sits in their car????  woops).  We contemplated adding an afternoon hike, but after 12-14 miles (the guys had done a little bit more), we opted to just head back to our respective camps and recup for that evening’s run.

At 6 PM, we met up with a whole crew of people to run some trails.  Todd and Ben had come down from Rochester to join us, and Tori and Scott were there, too.  Tori ran her first ever trail run!  We started with Trail 13, which takes you straight down to the river.  We had to climb over a lot of downed trees (from the recent storms) and when we got to skip some rocks before heading back up to the road.

What a crew!

What a crew!

At the bottom of the gorge!

At the bottom of the gorge!

We crossed the street and hit up Trail 11, which always reminds me of the trail in Allegany that takes you to the NY/PA border.  You kind of loop up and then to the right, then back down to the road.  There was a fair amount of bushwhacking on this trail, and it was extremely wet and muddy.  We were dirty to say the least.

Across the street from where Trail 11 kicks out, Trail 14 picks up.  The trail was almost unfollowable it was so overgrown, and after a half mile, the trail became even thicker.  Eric and I headed back, and the other guys somehow found a way out to a road/overlook.

We all met back up and ran the last mile on roads back to our cars.  Todd, Tori and Scott all came back to our campsite, where we had a roaring fire, great conversation, some beers and a crap load of food.

In my journal that night, I wrote: “I can’t believe we’ve only been here for 1 1/2 days! We’ve already done and accomplished so much.  1 more big mileage day tomorrow, then we have a couple of low-key days before our backpacking extravaganza begins!”

7/30

The next morning, we met up at 8 AM again with Scott and Bob (who had driven down from Rochester).  We ran trails 4 and 5 to start out with.  My calves were burning from the previous 2 days’ runs/hikes, but I just kept going.  Eventually they just stopped hurting so much, so that was good.

 

Bob's here!

Bob’s here!

back at the bottom of the gorge!

back at the bottom of the gorge!

my body guards for the morning

my body guards for the morning

After we ran, we drove over to Trout Pond, which for the record did not look very fishable (although we’d later see a family fishing who told us they’d caught some small bass).  We hiked trails 2, 2a and 3, and the whole time we hiked, I wished we had run these trails.  They were nice double-track (or wider) trails with lots of pretty things to look at.

 

Trail 2a takes you to Council Grounds (which you can also drive to if you want).  I am a big nerd, so I find things like this fascinating, and I enjoyed poking around the 2 old log cabins built by Native Americans and the statue and gravesite of Mary Jemison.

In a cage???? Sad they have to put up fences so people don't mess up the insides of the buildings.

In a cage???? Sad they have to put up fences so people don’t mess up the insides of the buildings.

Leaving Council Grounds to hit the trails again

Leaving Council Grounds to hit the trails again

The trail was very rolling, but I hardly noticed because of all of the great conversations we were having–some serious, some not so serious.  It was probably at this point that I started to realize how many great conversations we’d been having and how quickly you can get to know someone over a few miles in the woods.  It made me happy to say the least.

under the train tracks

under the train tracks

We went back to camp around noon to grab some lunch, and Pete was already there and set up (on the campsite next to ours).  We had lunch, then met up around 2 for trails 15 and 17, which leave right from the campsite check-in.  We joked that 17 (the first trail we were doing) was called Big Flats, and we were all hopeful that it would truly be flat (so far we hadn’t found anything even remotely flat, as my calves kept reminding me).  Joke was on us–the trail went straight downhill through a lot of mud.  At the bottom, you could go straight ahead, or right, or left.  The map I had showed straight or right, but not left.  Things in the park are not always marked well, and the maps aren’t always accurate.  In fact, the map we’d been given at the campsite check in was often completely different from the maps on the trailheads.

 

In any event, Trail 15 should’ve connected straight ahead, so we went that way.  And proceeded to bushwhack for about a mile.  It started to sprinkle, and I got really frustrated that it was raining AGAIN.  We just can’t seem to catch a break with the rain on our camping trips this year…  Just when I started thinking that maybe we’d taken a wrong turn, that we were on a game trail, that we were lost forever (hahaha), the trail turned to the right, and we hiked straight uphill for about a half mile.  When we finally got back to the road, we decided to just take that back, rather than bushwhack backwards.

Pete's here, too!

Pete’s here, too!

New friends!

New friends!

Trail???

Trail???

or jungle???

or jungle???

We got back to camp and settles in just before the rain and thunder storms hit.

when it rains, it pours...especially when you're camping with the eagans...

when it rains, it pours…especially when you’re camping with the eagans…

luckily, there was plenty of beer to keep the boys happy.

luckily, there was plenty of beer to keep the boys happy.

7/31

This morning, there was a GIANT thunder storm.  We laid in our tent, and I was thinking how I just wanted to stay in my sleeping bag and skip this morning’s hikes.  “Text Scott and tell him to meet us later,” I told Eric.  “We can’t, Matthew is joining us this morning, remember?”  Another friend had driven down from Rochester to join us!

Matthew's here! Must run...

Matthew’s here! Must run…

We met up at Trail 7 on the other side of the river and mostly ran.  This trail was pretty awesome, and we stopped a bunch to check out some vantage points of the gorge, high falls, the train tracks and just climb around on the bottom of the train bridge.  Trail 7 is also part of the FLT, so I was glad that we were hitting a good chunk of it before we backpacked, making the mileage for backpacking more manageable!

Underneath the Portage Bridge...who knew you could go UNDER the train tracks????

Underneath the Portage Bridge…who knew you could go UNDER the train tracks????

Detour on our run...How could we NOT explore this?!?!

Detour on our run…How could we NOT explore this?!?!

Upper Falls from the OTHER side!

Upper Falls from the OTHER side!

<3 him.  <3 our adventures!

OK exploring is over...back to running...

OK exploring is over…back to running…

When we finished our run, we hiked down the road a bit to the trailhead for Trail 6.  The trail was really nice single-track and eventually connected to Trail 6a.  We took that down even more and came out at a stone bridge across the river!  We’d seen it from the other side but never actually hiked down to it before.  It was awesome!  We hung out, took pictures, debated if the water was deep enough to jump from the bridge or not and kept moving.  Our hike continued on past a pretty little waterfall and led back up to the road and a little unmarked parking lot we’d seen on the first day’s run (and wondered where the trail off it went to), which we hiked back up to the cars.

Really beautiful old stone bridge

Really beautiful old stone bridge

So many great spots to take pictures

So many great spots to take pictures

letchworth10

 

After the morning’s activities, we went back to camp for lunch, drinks and relaxation.  Amber and Greg came down with their kids (and pizza!) and Jen came to visit, too.  It was a nice evening hanging out with the campfire and conversations and being 100% content with life.

Braving the mud to visit! Thanks, guys!

Braving the mud to visit! Thanks, guys!

Is there anything better than hanging out with friends???

Is there anything better than hanging out with friends???

8/1

This morning, we got up to do 18, 19, 19a and 20.  We were super disappointed with the lack of markings on the trails, so we just did our best to follow the map.

18 was nice–it leads along the gorge and then loops back to the start.  At the beginning of the trail, there’s a big downhill, and it leads right to a beautiful waterfall area.  We hung out there for a bit taking pictures and enjoying the beauty before we went back to the road to hike a short ways to Trail 19.

letchworth2

don't go chasin waterfalls...

don’t go chasin waterfalls…

optical illusion...eric is a midget, picasso is a giant???

optical illusion…eric is a midget, picasso is a giant???

19 is pretty uneventful, although there is an old site of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cabin.  All that’s left now is the stone fireplace, but there’s a little sign with information.  The CCC built much of the park back in the Depression Era, and it’s kind of cool to get a dose of history along with your hiking.

All that's left of an old barracks site...

All that’s left of an old barracks site…

Finding trail heads this morning was not always easy...

Finding trail heads this morning was not always easy…

19A was towards the end of this trail, and what was supposed to be an “easy” trail was straight up a massive hill.  We got to the top and tried to find trail 20, which was supposed to connect, but we couldn’t find it.  We hiked a little ways on the road to the C Cabins, where the trail also picks up, and got on there.

 

20 was nice, rolling single-track, and we hiked all the way to Hogsback Overlook.  It was already after 11 when we got there, so we decided to forgo the last 2 miles out (and then 2 miles back) and hit those miles after lunch.  We went back to the C Cabins and took Trail 20 on the other side of the road and found where it connects, at the very top of 19a.  Somehow we’d all missed it!!!

 

We had some lunch and met back at Hogsback Overlook later that day to finish the last 4 miles, which were equally as nice.  It started to rain a little on our way back to the cars from the dam, but then it stopped.  We must’ve been right on the edge! 😉  Or it blew over! 😉

DAYYYYYYUM.  Made it to the Dam.

DAYYYYYYUM. Made it to the Dam.

Of course it rained--I forgot my coat. Lucky for me, my gentleman of a husband gave me his...

Of course it rained–I forgot my coat. Lucky for me, my gentleman of a husband gave me his…

Jen came out after work, we hung out at the campfire, Scott brought a crap ton of chicken and steak and we had a huge feast and hung out at the fire for a bit.

Chef Scott

Chef Scott

camp feast!

camp feast!

8/2

Pete and Jen left in the morning, and we met Scott and Tori at the trailhead for Trail 9.  We took 9 to Trail 8, which is apparently just River Road.  We walked 2 3/4 mile on the gravel road, then came all the way back.  Along the way, we did 8a, which was pretty boring, then took the other side of 9.  I would’ve been disappointed by this day’s trails, but 9 was really nice.  Also, while we were hiking along 9, a baby deer jumped out from the brush about 10 feet from the trail and took off, scaring the crap out of Tori and I.  It was so loud!

letchworth2

This bridge looks legit...

This bridge looks legit…

We spent that evening packing up our stuff and organizing for part 2 of the adventure: Backpacking the FLT.

 

 

 

Run ’em/Hike ’em All Challenge!

8 Aug

When I planned our cross-country trip, I was beyond excited to finally get out west and explore new places with Eric and Picasso.  I was looking forward to leaving behind the stress of the past year and of reconnecting (maybe not the right word–solidifying more?) with Eric.  My one misgiving was that we were going to be leaving behind our friends and the trail running community for a month.  I was excited for adventure, but I wanted to bring all of our people with us on the adventure. Plans fell through and the next thing I knew, I was planning alternative trips to the ADK and Letchworth.  A long time ago, Eric and I had decided to try to hike every trail in Letchworth.  We’d gone gangbusters for a summer, but then life got busy.  The challenge was all but forgotten until we decided to take it up again this summer.  It was perfect–Letchworth is close enough for other friends to come with us and there were still plenty of trails left for us to explore, including a culminating backpacking adventure on the Finger Lakes Trail.   So I broke down each day and figured out which trails to do and when.  At one point, I got nervous that we were trying to do too much in too short of time–over 100 miles in 9 days.  Then I remembered that we have friends who run 100 miles in 24(ish) hours…9 days was plenty of time.  Worst case scenario, we’d skip a few trails and go back to finish them some other time.

A rough outline of our plan...

A rough outline of our plan…

Over the course of the 9 days, we ran and hiked just shy of 100 miles.  We had a bunch of visitors to help us pass the miles.  And we made some great new friends–it’s amazing how quickly you get to know someone over miles and campfires.  This trip was pretty epic.  In fact, it actually made me a little bit glad that plans had fallen through, and we were “stuck” on the east coast. friends   I wrote this in one of the other parts of my recap from last week, but it’s worth reposting again:  Here, on my couch, 3 days later, I am still tired.  My legs are still a little funny, my foot hurts a little bit (lots of slipping and sliding in mud), I am eating everything in sight (I really hate camp food and ate very little…except for skittles).  But my heart is so full.  We were so sad to have “missed out” on the cross country trip, but the reality is we didn’t miss out on anything.  We just had a different adventure.  And I guess this is a big metaphor for my life right now.  Rather than think of the things that we are missing, we need to embrace the things we have, make the best of crappy situations, and keep living it up.  Life is insanely beautiful and we are surrounded by so many good, funny, like-minded people who add so much joy and happiness to our lives.  Call it lucky.  Call it blessed.  No matter what you call it, it’s awesome. memories So without further ado, here are my recaps of each part of the adventure.  🙂   Part One:  Camping at Letchworth Part Two:  Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail Part Three:  Letchworth Trail List and Info