Two years ago, T and I were looking for a 50 mile trail race to run. Somehow I stumbled on the SRT 50. T had never run a 50 mile race, and I had done the JFK 50 twice. We both signed up at the last minute the Wednesday before the race. I figured it would be harder than the JFK 50, but that all the “slow” times in the results must be due to inexperienced runners…. I told my wife I would be home for dinner the next night and TIm and I headed out at 2am to make the bus to the start. We started at 6:00 am, and 16+ hours later, T and I were schooled in the way of the SRT. I did not make it home for dinner. I don’t even think I made it home at all that day! It was the hardest most amazing race I had ever run. We got lost, we got dehydrated, we had hallucinations, we climbed mountains, we saw the sunrise, we saw the sunset. We were hooked! The next year we returned to run the entire SRT trail with the 70 mile race. T won one of the coveted tomahawks, and I finished the course in about 22 hours (2017 race report)
Well this year I ran Leadville 100 a mere four weeks before the SRT races. I was on the fence about running the 70, but at the end of the day I decided to run “just” the 30. J, T and I all signed up at the last minute as usual. It was going to be a fun time and it seemed like a good year to try the 30. I was curious to see if the trails were more runable without 20 or 40 miles in your legs. I made sure to upload the course into my Garmin watch the night before. Seems that Garmin has a bug now and won’t load the GPX tracks. I ended up loading my 70 mile tracks which were in the Garmin format. The only problem was that those tracks came complete with all my wrong turns from the previous year….
The 30 has a very civilized start at 9:30 in the morning with the bus leaving from the finish at 7:30, meaning we could leave Clifton Park at 5:45. Early but not crazy early. The Clifton Park sandal runners made it to the bus with time to spare. At the start I saw a young runner posing for a picture for a person I assumed correctly was his mother. I photobombed him, and said hello. He told me this was his first ultra race. I then said, you do realize what kind of race this is? You are going to get lost. He mother’s eyes widened, and I said, don’t worry he will find his way. Make sure you have the map on your phone and pay attention, and when you get lost, find your way back.
The 30 had about 60 runners and started in four waves. J, T and I were in the last wave. I figured I would try and stick with them for a while and see how it went. As we were waiting for our wave to start, I loaded up the 70 mile course on my Garmin. I did that a bit too early because before the race started the watch went to sleep. Suddenly it was time to go. I started the load process again and started running at the same time. After a 10th of a mile, the course loaded on the watch. Then it started flashing and going crazy on me. Yikes, what a way to start the race. I thought oh no I have loaded bad tracks and I won’t have navigation or possibly even a working GPS. After a minute or so it stopped going crazy and started to work. Of course by this time, T and J were now well ahead, and I was on my own.
I passed a bunch of folks on the hill and settled into a decent pace with a couple of runners right behind me. We passed a few more folks on the single track, but no sign of J and T. The two guys were from the NYC area and one of them ran a mile or so with me last year while I was running the 70. Although the trails were more runnable without the extra miles, they are still extremely technical with rocks all over them. I got the feeling that I was doing one of those tire agility courses.
I stayed with my NYC friends for maybe 10 miles or so. We eventually caught up to R one of the 70 mile runners who runs in vibram five fingers. I stopped to cheer him on and give him a hug of encouragement. My downstate friends moved ahead at that time. I could hear them now and again as I moved forward so I don’t think they were that far ahead.
At some point I realized my water bladder valve was leaking and realized I was totally soaked. It may have helped to keep me cool. I was a little worried about running out of water so I started drinking less, and I managed to mostly stop the leaking by putting the valve up high.
Next stop was Castle Point. I came across Z a 70 mile runner sitting on the side of the road. I asked about T and was told he had passed a while ago. Z was looking pretty beat and it seems from checking out his strava after the race that was where he headed off course and home. This was the same place that I missed the trail last year in the 70 so I was a bit worried about it. I knew I would not go as far astray as last year, but sure enough I had some trouble. At the top of the rock climb there were some cyclists who asked if I was running the SRT. I said yeah, and then one of them kept insisting I was going the wrong direction.
Well, a little more doubt was all I needed to miss the turn for a second year in a row! Also, the tracks in my GPS had the error in them as well. As I was coming back up the hill I saw a couple of other SRT 30 runners heading my way. Hey guys, I’m lost can’t find that stupid turn! They showed me where it was, and it was so obvious. I made some good time on the next set of downhills. At the waterfall, I ran into Leo Guerra from Brazil running the 70. He recognized me from my race report on the 70 last year, and inspired me to get this report done.
I ran alone for the next stretch until I reached the Coxing Kill parking area checkpoint. I passed a runner in the parking area, and saw Dick Vincent the Escarpment RD who was coaching/cheering the 70 mile female winner. The trail continues up a double wide path for a few miles until you have to make a left turn. I was happy to see a runner at the turn. He actually had just stopped there for some reason and did not realize it was a turn. I helped him with the turn and we talked a bit, and he said he would not try to stay with me. The next part was a smooth downhill and nice trail.
During the climb up to the final checkpoint, I passed one of the guys from NYC that I had been running with earlier. Once I reached the checkpoint, I was told that I was only minutes away from third place! I was totally confused. I had only passed two runners since the start of the race, and I had the feeling that there were a bunch of people ahead of me. I hustled a bit more and eventually came across T who had a broken but mended sandal slowing him down.
I moved into 3rd place, and the next runner I came across was the third place 70 miler and second place Ben in the 70 miler. I then proceeded to make several early right turns saving Ben the effort each time. Next I passed an older women (78 years young) finishing up the 13 mile race, very impressive!
I made my way down the last hill, and crossed the bridge making my way to the finish. I had conserved so much water I think I finished with almost a liter left. I really was the 3rd runner to finish the 30. J had won the coveted tomahawk, and the other guy from NYC had come in second. I am still not sure where/when/how I passed 50+ other runners. I ran alone for at least 5 hours without seeing anyone. I figure the SRT swallowed them up and I passed them while they were off trail.. Maybe some space time anomaly.
After the race I checked the results for the young guy running his first ultra and found he had DNF’e. I searched his name on facebook and found this post:
“So, yesterday I toed the line at my first ultramarathon, a 30 mile race in NY. I’ve been working towards this for months, running when I wish I didn’t have to. Short story is that I was having an incredible race: beautiful scenery and weather, great company, and a feeling of physical adrenaline and challenge I’ve not felt in years. Well, about 10-12 miles in, I realize that I went off-course (notorious in this race, with no race markings and a confusing trail system). By the time I made it back to the actual course, at mile 3, I had already run 16 miles, with 27 now to go. I broke down, devastated. I went back to the starting line to get picked up”
That explains how I passed one person.
All in all, it was another great day on the SRT, I shall return. If you are looking for an awesome adventure, look no further the SRT races have it all.
In 2011, I ran my first marathon after 11 months of running. It did not go that well taking about 4 hours and 43 minutes to complete, and I was wrecked for the next six weeks. After about 30 marathons and ultras over the next six years, I found myself heading to Rosendale NY on a Friday afternoon with my friend Tim to take on my biggest challenge yet, the SRT 70. The SRT 70 is a self supported race that traverses the entire Shawangunk Ridge Trail from NJ to Rosendale NY. If I could time travel back 10 years and tell 40 year old me that when I was 50 I would be running a 70 mile trail race up and over mountains in sandals through the night and the next day, I would certainly not have believed time traveler Bill.
The start and bus ride
Tim and I reached Rosendale NY and found the parking lot behind the theater about an hour before school bus was to leave for NJ and the start of the race. We first wandered into town a bit to find a bathroom. We ended up in a small bakery after sprinting across the road to avoid getting hit by a car. The owner of the bakery asked who won the race? Tim and I were a bit confused and thought he might know about the SRT 70, but no, he was talking about our “race” across the road. I purchased an olive focaccia bread thing as I felt like I should purchase something for the use of the bathroom. Tim and I split it on the way back to the car.
We found the race director Ken handing out bibs in a small pavilion in the parking lot. Barefoot Jake Brown was sporting some classic Bedrock sandals and checking over his pack at the checkin spot. Tim and I had on Luna sandals. We exchanged some small talk, and I went back to my car to get everything ready. Despite having lots of time, I somehow felt rushed as I did a last check of things and said goodbye to a perfectly good car to get on an old school bus for a nearly 2 hour drive to another state where I would be dropped off and have to make my way back over the next night and day.
The bus ride seemed long and I tried various ways to get some sleep. Feet in the air up the window, curled up on the seat, and several other positions and none of them really worked. At one point rain started coming in the roof vents and windows and folks had to batten down the hatches. It was looking like a wet start. I noticed that my phone battery was only at 70%, must have come unplugged on the drive down. I hooked it up to a battery pack for the bus ride and topped it off. The phone is useful because there is an app that has the trail map for the SRT trail that works in airplane mode. It was exciting to see that the app showed us on the map as we drove down on the bus. From my house in Clifton Park it would just say off map. So, at least that was working.
Eventually, we reached High Point state park in NJ. It was still raining a bit but a huge rainbow had appeared. We all used the facilities one more time. Then, we hung out under the roof of some building where Ken gave the final instructions. The big one being, don’t quit and go to a bar without telling the race officials that you did that or you will be shamed on facebook for the rest of your life. Ken made us all get out into the rain for a start picture.
Then we all hiked about a quarter mile down the road and on a very slippery rock trail. I managed to have a pretty good slip on a rock but caught myself without injury. (Hmm. this could be a long night). All 19 of us gathered around at the start of the SRT trail. It was almost 6:30, so not much was said other than go. I was not even sure exactly where to go, and realized we would go right back the way we came. Tim and Zack (last year’s winner) took off in the lead, I followed behind with Jason (second for 2016) right behind me.
On my own
Quickly I realized I was going to be alone for much of the race. The taper had going horrible which was a good sign. My knee hurt a bit all week, and my short run with the full pack was crazy hot and I felt like I was running in sand on the road. However, I was actually starting to feel good as the race started. The knee and everything felt generally good. I came down a nice trail and passed a T junction, after about 50 feet past the T, the first of many “off course” beeps came out of my watch. I quickly doubled back to find Jason heading down the trail. We ran together for a little bit, and I missed another turn that he told me about before the watch.
The trail turned started to get a little technical, and I let Jason slip away as I wanted to go at my pace. I figured I would not see him again the rest of the race. I continued on my way with my Petzl NAO headlamp lighting the way. This was a new purchase for this race. It is a really awesome headlamp, the only downside is that it has a proprietary rechargeable battery and you need two of them to make through the night. I wonder how many of their customers face that problem…
With the pack
Soon I found myself traversing the side of a slope covered in bowling ball sized boulders strewn across down the mountain. I then found myself moving pretty slow and hoping rock to rock. I came out on a wider flatter path and about that time Mark, Marcin and Robert caught up to me. Well, there you go I was slowing down and everyone was catching me. Robert led the way for a while. Eventually, Marcin, pulled ahead, and I followed him. I found myself tucking in behind Marcin as we climbed a road hill in search of the next point where would get back on the trail.
Tim and Zack again
When we reached the trail again Mark and Robert had caught up and the four of us headed into the woods. My GPS beeped at me and flashed “off course”. Robert and others assured me we were going the right way as they had done it before. We did see a sign with SRT on it, and I could tell by the map tracing my watch was making that we were going to end up intersecting the trail that the GPS tracks had in pretty soon. The four of use continued through the woods until we saw some headlamps coming towards us from the left. Turned out to be Zack and Tim!
Well, you never know what is going to happen in a race like this which makes them so much fun! The six of us continued on to the railroad section. It seemed that Jason had passed Zack and Tim when they made a wrong turn. Zack stopped along the tracks to fill water and the rest of us moved on. Robert caught the turnoff from the railroad track as Tim zoomed ahead missing it. Zack passed us all again, and Tim and I started running together. I ignored the watch as we proceeded past a nice rock cairn and the SRT trail! The group behind yelled at us as they made the turn. Tim and I were now at the back of the pack.
To power lines and Mark
Eventually Tim pulled ahead and I found myself running with Mark along some super impressive gigantic concrete power line poles. These things were massive super functional no aesthetics pillars reaching into the dark sky. Turns out Mark had hiked the SRT a month or so earlier solo in one shot. We talked about running and generally made pretty good time.
At some point we were on some more technical trail with some climbing involved and we saw a headlamp ahead. It was Tim again! The three of us muddled our way through the woods with a few wrong turns here and there. I remember thinking I saw a checkpoint but it was a house. I thought about the people in the house maybe reading a book and enjoying a glass of wine while we were out here running from NJ to Rosendale NY on the SRT. To each his own I guess.
Start of the 50
Eventually, we reached the starting point of the 50 mile race. At this point Tim said he was not feeling it, so I pulled ahead figuring he would start moving again if I pulled ahead. The next section is pretty flat and runnable, but also almost a marathon into the race. Tim did pull ahead, and I found myself running with Mark again. We did some walking some running, and eventually Mark pulled ahead of me and I was alone again. The next section is on the road. I figured I would take a walking break eat some food that was deep in my pack. I turned the pack around with it on my stomach and walked briskly through the town eating my avocado, spicy veganaise ezekiel bread sandwich.
Occasionally, I would see Mark’s headlamp ahead, but I continued to walk and eat. I was determined not to make the mistake I had made in the 50 last year and go up the road past the SRT turn off. Well, that is almost impossible with the 70 because there is checkpoint right near the trail head. I figured with all this walking Robert and Marcin should be catching me at any minute, but nothing yet. I turned on the trail and after some climbs and technical stuff I ran into Mark again. I passed him while he filled water at a stream. I figured he would catch me soon enough. A little further on a light started to overtake me, and to my surprize it was Marcin and not Mark, and he was moving with purpose. A bit later Mark caught me as well and said hey let’s go catch Marcin. No thanks, I was not going that fast on the hills at this point. I was mesmerized by the black acorns on the trail that looked like olives. Also, it seemed that an army of squirrels was trying to pelt me with acorns. They were constantly hitting the ground all around me. But they missed all missed me! Better luck next time squirrels!
When I finally reached the fire tower, the watch complained at me a bit but I followed the signs and stayed on the trail. Around this point my headlamp started to flash, I guess it was wanting a new battery. I stopped and made the switch. I continued into the night with the most amazing crescent moon as my guide. This section passes some old stone fences that must have taken someone a lifetime to create. It also traverses along some rocky outcrops. At some point along this section I stepped on a rock wrong and twisted my ankle. As soon as it started twisting I let off all my weight and crumpled to the ground. I tentatively got up and it felt OK, disaster averted! Somewhere in this section I also, seriously thought about quitting. I don’t think I have done that at a race before…. But how would I quit? I was miles from anyone…
Made it to the “rest” area
The next section of trail is a double wide slightly rocky and slightly downhill runable section. I looked at the watch and started to think I could make it to the rest stop! One part of the trail is off limits to runners before 5am, and if you get there early you take a break and your time there is deducted from your race time. I thought it was at mile 40, but it turned out to be at 38 and I was pleasantly surprised to find it at the end of that section of trail. There was barefoot Jake Brown to greet me with a yell of “runner coming”. Wait what how did he get there? Turns out Jake had dropped with a twisted ankle and getting lost too many times. Well I had made it! I only had 20 minutes to take a break. There was Tim, Jason, Zack, Marcin and Mark. I felt late to the party but glad to be there. Felt like singing “What’d I Miss?” from Hamilton, but I can’t sing.
I charged my watch and ate a PB&J sandwich. 20 minutes went by way too fast, and we were off again. The next section is a huge climb. My new osprey pack is great but I still have trouble with the buckles in the front. I found myself at the back of the pack as I worked on getting my pack secured. I was behind Jason and the others disappeared up the hill. When the hill gave way to a flatish section, I passed Jason and found Mark and Marcin getting water at a stream. Mark and I moved on while Marcin took some extra time at the water. The trail here was crazy with all sorts of twists and turns and ups and downs. The three of us eventually made it to the top to be greeted by daylight!
After a quick look to see if we could get to the coke machine in the building where the 30 mile race starts, (we could not), we moved on. Marcin’s long legs let him move up the hill walking at a pace I would have to run. He quickly left Mark and myself. The sun was coming up now and we had about 30 miles left. Mark and I could not resist taking a few pictures from Sam’s Point. The sunrise is absolutely amazing. Mark and I almost miss another turn at the top of the road. The trail then becomes rocky. I did not seem to have much appetite for rock hopping at this point, and Mark pulled ahead.
The next section is a series of rock outcrops with low tough scrub bush. The trail is often a bit hard to follow and I found myself a bit cut up from the sharp bushes. I traverse this section with little trouble feeling better than last year when I did the 50 The next section is Castle Point. The trail comes up to a carriage road and you take a right but only stay on the road for a short bit taking another left, and climbing a ridiculously hard climb where the trail markers are literally painted on the rock face. I finally make it to the top!
Relentless backwards progress
Awesome, I enjoy the downhill carriage road a bit too much and went past the trail head. But, no worries the road continues around back to the trail head that I had just come up. It says SRT and with 50 miles and over 12 hours of moving, I took the trail. My watch is telling me off course, I am watching the little green triangle which is me going down the black trail (been there done that color) and not the green (forward progress color). I come up with all sorts of possibilities why the stupid watch is wrong. After ¾ of a mile of this, my spidey senses start to kick in, this is wrong, wrong, wrong! I pull out my phone and check the pdf maps app. I move a bit and watch the blue dot move on the trail. I am on the SRT, good. I trace my path on the map and if I continue, I will be back in NJ in another 50 miles!!!! Damn! I am going the wrong way!
As soon as I turn around I recognize the trail, and I don’t like what I see. It is that uphill section with lots of boulders and generally not-runable stuff. I make my way back to the carriage road. I am not going to do the rock climb again, no way! I take the left and climb the road. I miss the turn again, and begin to think I have entered an infinite loop. I will continue on this road forever. I carefully look at the GPS line on the watch and walk slowly, until there it is plain as day, the SRT trail! How did I miss it!! Well, that was fun.
However, I am not discouraged or mad, only strangely amused at my folly. I press on, traversing great rocky outcrops with fantastic views. I stop for a water fill at a stream. As I am filling up Jason passes me. The next section is I think runable if you don’t already have 55 miles in you. There are lots of rocks, but I am making OK time. Suddenly a gazel shots by me, actually it was the first place runner for the 30. He is really moving across the rocks with fresh legs. I am a bit confused as someone had said the 30 started at 10 am, and although I am slow and he is fast, there is no way he covered 12 miles in 1 hour on this trail! A few minutes later number 2 in the 30 passes me. He cheers me on and says I look great. I say I wish I had your legs right now. He asks if I have seen the two runners ahead of him. I say I have only seen one.
At some point in this section my watch runs low on battery and I hook it up to an external battery pack and now have a wire from my wrist to my pack for the rest of the race. Turns out I could have removed it at some point as it charged faster than it drained. Next time.
You running in flip flops?
I am expecting Jake to be in the lead at this point, I figure, either he got lost or he passed me on my section of relentless backwards progress. Although, the math does not work out that well for that, but I can not trust my math judgement at all at this point. In five minutes or so, I hear the familiar, are you running in flip flops. It is Jake! He is in third at this point. We exchange stories and I tell him my new mantra is trust the watch! I say go get them, they are only a mile or so ahead of you. Jake takes off down the trail gliding like an elf across the top of the rocks, I am trying to avoid at the moment.
Which is the most scenic way
I make it to another checkpoint, then cross a road almost missing the trail. I am moving again on some nice trail, and a couple out for a walk asks me which way is the best way to go for some views on the trail? I explain that I have no idea and I am over 50 miles into a race, and promptly head the wrong way down Jennie Ln trail. My watch beeps at me, and I pass the couple again. The man says that his wife runs marathons but not ultras. He says I have amazing balance for that much running (I expect to trip on a rock and fall right in front of him after that curse.). I say good bye and head down the correct trail. I come across a great stream, and stop again to fill water. As I am filling up the couple passes me. Then the flood ( 3 or 4) of 30 mile runners starts coming at me. One guy yells hey, cool you are doing the 70! Like he is an old friend. I say, do I know you? He says, I follow you on strava, you are Bill Hoffman right? Yeah, that’s me see you at the finish.
Running with the 30s
I am passed by several 30 mile folks at this point, but no sign of any 70 milers anymore. A guy passes me and I say you should do the 70 next year. He says, this is my first 30, I just want to finish this first. Cool, I am going to try and see if I can keep up with you. Well, that is a big cup of NOPE. I can not keep up with him at all. Several other 30s pass me. I make it to the next checkpoint and pass Roland who is doing his first 30 and has hit a rough patch in his journey. We talk a bit, and I pull head. I do some running some walking, and eventually Rolland catches up to me. We start to talk and are moving pretty well. I am very happy that we make the left turn on the SRT. We have a great time together, but eventually he pulls away.
I might just finish
I make it out to the road, there are six or so miles left in this beast. I might actually do this. In the daylight I don’t miss the trail we missed at night on the 50 last year. I move on to the last checkpoint and they explain the ribbons and say I can’t miss them (I don’t believe them, but move on anyway). As I make my way down the trail, the lead women for the 30 passes me looking strong. I am wary of making a wrong turn and look for ribbons, but manage to make all the turns.
Well what do you know, I did it
The last section has a steep climb and then some OK trail. I am unable to run up the slightest hill at this point but can walk at an OK pace. Pressing on, I don’t see any runners until the finish. I reach the road and cross to the bridge where I manage to pull off a 12 minute mile pace. After 22 hours and 45 minutes I finish with a time of 22:15 (subtracting out my 20 minute break.) I am very happy with the run. I did not end up running in the dark again. When I ran the 50 last year, there was a 70 mile guy that we ran with near the end, and he was miserable. He said, I did the 50 last year, never ever do the 70. I feared that as a possible outcome, but I think I enjoyed the 70 more than the 50.
The end my only friend
At the finish, I find Tim holding a tomahawk, the first prize trophy! He had crushed the rest of the race after the break and set a new course record (https://thelongbrownpath.com/2017/09/22/tim-elas-2017-srt-race-report/). Jake did not break the course record but instead had a most excellent adventure and experienced his first return from the dead in an ultra, his story can be found here: (http://jstookey.com/node/244). We hung around for a bit at the finish, and Jake gave Tim and I a ride back to my car. After being up for over 24 hours, it was time for the last part of the journey, the drive home. It was mostly uneventful, except for a section of 30 MPH town road where a police car was behind me. I wondered if I could get a ticket for driving under the influence of 70 miles of running… I guess I was doing OK. We made it back to Clifton Park and my wife had made dinner and some neighbors came over for beer, wine food and stories of our adventure.
The experience has extended my range and opened up new possibilities for adventure. Thanks so much to Ken Posner and Todd Jennings for making this event possible. Oh yeah, for running in sandals I got a cool barefoot pin, and for finishing the 70, I just received and awesome finisher certificate, that is way cooler than the four Boston finisher certificates I have! Some more pictures can be found here: https://archive.tombushey.com/index/G0000cClEBUBUWfE/I0000f1Po8Ma.Fro
I think I might be obsessed with running in Luna Sandals. I either run with no shoes or I am wearing sandals. This would be perfect if I did not live in upstate NY where my aversion to treadmills and addiction to running mean I often find myself running in temperatures well below 0 Fahrenheit or on slush filled roads or both. What is a crazy sandal runner to do?
When I first started Winter running, I remember a post snow storm run on slush filled roads in Vibram Five Fingers. I remember it well, because I could not feel my toes for the next day. I figured that there had to be a better way. I did some google searching and found some guy in Colorado that ran in snow with boiled wool tabi socks and Luna sandals. The original blog I found seems to be gone now, but he has this web site: mindyourheadcoop.org. Apparently running barefoot is good for head injuries. He had found a couple of options for tabi socks on etsy. (here is my blog about the discovery http://blog.timesunion.com/running/winter-barefoot-running-and-half-marathons-boston-week-4/8947/). There were two options and I ordered both of them. The cheaper one fell apart pretty quick.
However, the custom boiled wool version here: http://mollyspurl.com/running-tabi-socks.html have been awesome. We have gone many places together. Braved blizzards and stepped in frozen streams, all the time keeping my feet toasty warm. Sadly all good things come to an end. The socks have worn a few big holes in them, one in the heel and one in the big toe.
Somehow they still manage to keep me warm. However, the sight of bare skin while on top of a snowy mountain has started to worry me. The obvious choice would be to order a new pair, but Molly seems to be taking an extended break (possibly permanent) from making awesome wool tabi socks for crazy sandal runners.
I do have a plan to repair those socks, but finding a new source of wool tabi socks would be the best long term strategy, and I like to help others run in the winter with sandals as well. There are some other options like fleece (plastic) tabi socks. I have several pairs of those and they are great for some days but not all days. They do not do well when the temperature too far below 0 F. The are no good at all in salty slush. For dry road runs in “normal runner” winter weather they are great. However, for mountain adventures snow storms and extreme cold, boiled wool is the only way to go.
The seem very solid. The foot bed is industrial pressed boiled wool, and the upper part is made from old boiled wool sweaters. This gave me some concern at first since the upper part is more breathable than the thick molly’s socks I have grown to love. However, I have been able to put them to the test (since winter is refusing to leave now that it finally got here), and so far they have been fantastic. I have run in deep wet snow, stepped into a frozen stream in the middle of a two hour run, and done a post snow road run with slush and below 10 F temps. I think they could also be used in milder weather without overheating like the molly’s socks do. Although winter is nearly over, I am going to declare victory on the search for a replacement sock, thank you Daphne!
Now that we can stay warm, what about slipping and sliding on ice? For roads you can get away with any sandal with some sort of tread. However, for trails with snow and ice, yaktrax work pretty well. But for serious stuff I am now a huge fan of microspikes. I have run up and down mountains with ice, rock and snow and the spikes make me feel like spider man. They fit perfectly over the the original Luna monos, and should work with any thickish Luna sandal. An extra benefit is that they keep the snow from gathering under your toes and creating little snow balls that eventually turn into ice rocks.
Wet snow Moreau and “running snow shoes”
In what I hope will be the last snow run of the season, I “ran” my favorite trail 15K loop at Moreau Lake. The trail has about 2K of elevation and can be tricky to navigate in the summer. In the snow when the trails are painted white everything looks the same and it can be hard to follow the markers. I was about half way when I encountered some fresh tracks in the snow. Looked to be a man, woman and a dog out for a hike. I picked up the pace as I did not have to keep trying to find the trail.
Where is the trail?
I eventually caught up to the young couple and their dog. I thanked them for making such nice tracks. The woman said, “wow, those are cool running snow shoes”. I explained that they where actually sandals with microspikes and wool socks. She just looked back at me with nothing to say. I thought about asking them where they parked so I would not follow the tracks to the wrong place, but I didn’t. I proceeded to follow the tracks and enjoyed a really nice decent that should not have been there… After half a mile I did not recognize the red trail markers or a nice down hill at that point. I stopped and headed back up. Of course I ran into the couple and the dog again, this time I asked them where they parked and sure enough it was not where I parked. They even apologized for leading me astray, I assured them it was totally my fault. Back to the untracked trail and getting lost every other marker. I eventually made it out in one piece.
About three months ago M says he is going to run the town of Celebration Florida marathon at the end of January. I like to run marathons, and I like going to Florida in January as well. Figuring I would be shot down, I mentioned the idea at home, and it was surprisingly well received as we could also visit with family. Southwest tickets were pretty cheap for a quick round trip to Orlando. A plan was hatched.
Upon turning 50, my qualifying time for NYC marathon became 3:14 or better. That became part of the plan. In addition, I wanted a better starting time for Boston this Spring. I qualified at the very hot Boston last Spring with a 3:26. Not a great seed time, but enough to get an old guy to the starting line. The last day to change your Boston qualifying time happened to be 1/29/2017, so that became another plan. The final plan would be qualifying for Boston in 2018.
I dusted off my Advanced Marathoning book, and started in with a 12 week program based on the 70 mile a week plan, although I modified it to be a 60ish mile a week plan. T and J were always up for a long or hard run, making the training fun.Global warming also helped with not so much snow and mild temperatures for upstate NY weather. For most of the Winter I was actually to run on the Zim Smith treadmill. This is pretty flat run/bike path that goes for about 17 miles without having to worry about cars or traffic most of the way. It is the closest to a treadmill that I run. Normally in the winter this is a snowmobile/ski trail, but for most of this year it has looked a lot like the picture above just without the green.
Race weekend arrived in what seemed to be no time at all. As my wise brother told me time appears to go by faster the older you get because each day is a smaller percentage of your whole life. This seems to hold for running as well, the longer I have been running the quicker a 12 week training plans goes.
What state is Orlando in?
The flight to Fla. was uneventful and even early. We quickly moved through the airport to the rental car desk. To my chagrin, we quickly discovered that I had booked the rental car in NC instead of Orlando. Obviously, that was less that useful to us. Unfortunately, there was some sort of sports event going on in Orlando and all they could rent us was a compact car. We walked over to the car and it was tiny, think clown car tiny. We managed to squeeze in our 3 roll-ons and 3 backpacks. Before we pulled out, the family gave me the look that the vehicle was less than adequate. I returned to the desk and pleaded for another option, although still smallish the next choice had a trunk that held all of our stuff.
Made it to the Expo on time
The rental car incident ate up all the extra time we gained with the early flight. The plan included picking up the race bib before the Expo closed at 8:00 pm. Like a well-oiled machine, we arrived at the Expo 4 minutes before 8. Bib pick up went smoothly and I even won a drawing granting me an extra shirt from the previous year. The only hiccup being the sandal un-friendly timing chip. It attaches to your shoelaces… At least I would have a day to figure that one out. We obtained a reservation at Columbia a very nice Cuban restaurant at 9, giving us just enough time to check into the hotel before dinner. After staying up way too late watching Shannara Chronicles on Netflix, it was time to sleep.
Visit Daytona Beach
The next morning, I ran the traditional 4 easy miles before a marathon.(https://www.strava.com/activities/846991184). It gave me a good opportunity to check out the start line for the next day. When I returned we made a quick trip to the local Publilx grocery store for some breakfast shopping. The kids were still sleeping. After shopping and eating, we departed for Dayton Beach where I spent my teenage years. The trip went well with a visit to the Kale Cafe, a fantastic vegan food and smoothie restaurant. We even made it for a short visit to the beach which even on a cold day always manages to inspire.
The race started at 7:00 am, which is pretty early for a marathon, and kind of nice because it meant I would be done at a reasonable time. However, it did mean I had to get up early. I like to stop eating and drinking an hour before a marathon, so I set the alarm for 5:30. I ate a few sprouted grain almond butter and honey sandwiches chased down with chia and tart cherry juice then climbed back in bed for a little while. We left for the start at about 6:30 taking the same route I had run the previous morning. The weather was cold for Florida (48 F) and raining. I decided to wear my llama hat and some gloves. I debated barefoot or Luna sandals and decided on the sandals because of the rain and lack of barefoot training during the past 12 weeks.
I made it to the start line with about 5 minutes to spare, which makes for a perfect start to the race. Since it was overcast and still a bit dark, I found it hard to read the pace on my Fenix 3 GPS watch for the first few miles and went a little fast. The marathon had 400+ runners, and the half marathon had about 1700 runners. Since the half and the full shared the course for the first 12.5 miles, it meant for a big crowd. However, I started near the front and never felt crowded.
At mile 4, I ran past the hotel where Naomi was cheering me on, and I was able to ditch the hat and gloves. For some reason 48 and rain is warmer in Florida than in NY.
The course is mostly roads, except for the boardwalks starting around mile 7. These are wood planked walk ways elevated over Florida swamp land. They seem to be expressly designed to keep people from running on them. They have lots of twists and turns and are of course slippery when wet. Fortunately, the planks only cover about a mile of the course.
As I approached the 12.5 mile point in the race, lots of happy halfers were glad to be done with the race as they picked up the pace and headed for the barn door. For me and the other marathoners it was back out for another lap. I held on to my target pace until around mile 18. The second round of boardwalks gave me even more of an excuse to slow down (it is all such a mental thing).
In the last mile, I am pretty sure I was passed by number 1 and 2 in the 50-54 age group, I was just out of steam running in the 8’s. Can’t say I was hurting bad, just not going terribly fast. I crossed the finish line at 3:19:31 my second fastest marathon ever. Not the 3:14 NYC qualifier I was shooting for, but not a bad marathon for the first one of my 50s. Here is the strava data.
I put in my time on the Boston page as it was 7 minutes faster than my BQ time and should push me up in the starting line in April. As another bonus I am now qualified for Boston 2018 by more than 10 minutes. That should allow for an early stress free registration. Next race will be Boston this April, and since I am qualified already if the weather cooperates, I plan on going for a barefoot run from Hopkinton to downtown Boston.
Here I am with my award for 3rd in the 50-54 age group. You can see the timing chip that I had to attach to one of my wife’s hair bands wrapped around my ankle.
We spent the rest of the day at the hotel with my sister in law and nephew. As we watched the news unfold my youngest created a sign on a pizza box to bring to the airport to join in the protest of the travel ban. However, by the time we reached MCO he was the only one protesting.
The trip home thankfully was uneventful and we arrived home a little early.
My calves were about as tight as they have ever been. I guess that is the result of 26.2 very flat miles. From an 11 minute per mile 3 mile run on Tuesday to an 8:52 paced 13 miles on Sunday the recovery went well, and I would say eight days out and I am close to 100% back in business, can’t wait for Boston!
On New Year’s day 2017, after sleeping in a bit late, and futzing with the woodstove for a bit too long, and packing a bunch of stuff in some small packs my friend J and I left my cabin in Wilmington for a run up Whiteface memorial highway. The temperature was warm for winter at about 28F, but the winds were vicious and howling. J reported that the mountain tops were -15F windchill. I was wearing boiled wool tabbi socks with Luna Sandal Mono’s. I had a fleece neck warmer and my favorite knit alpaca hat from Peru. I was wearing long REI running pants, a long sleeve half zip winter tech shirt and my favorite blue all weather running shell. After about a mile down the road we both were feeling pretty warm and maybe a bit overdressed.
The wind was blowing pretty hard but mostly making a racket and not freezing us at all. Heading down the dirt road with mountains looming ahead the day’s adventure was looking to be a great one. HONK! Yikes, we both about jumped out of our skins as a pickup truck snuck up on us. The man and woman in the pickup truck apologized for honking at us, but said they had been following us for a while and really just wanted to get by. Apparently the wind and light snow cover on the dirt road was an effective pickup truck silencer. Fortunately for us the pick up truck meant us no harm and the people were very nice (love quiet country roads and the people that travel them).
At a mile and a half we made a left turn and headed for the “big” 4 way intersection in Wilmington. At the intersection we turned right and started the climb. The Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway, is the only road that goes up one of the ADK 46 high peaks and was completed in 1935. The last 5 miles of the road are a toll road that is only open during the summer. In the winter that section of the road is not plowed and is usually covered in snow. As we climbed the plowed section of the road we passed the famous North Pole one of the original outdoor theme parks which opened in 1949. I am pretty sure I remember a sign noting the elevation of the North Pole at 1700 feet. When would this run get started… Continue reading “Touching the sky (and microspikes are awesome)”→