Wishing for an Independence day from mountain bikers

Welcome to Stillwell – but beware

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.75 miles

I often feel that trail runners get less respect than hikers and mountain bikers. Most articles I read about trail activities emphasize hiking and biking and rarely, if ever, mention running. Last year I donated to the Rails to Trails Conservancy which (I’ve concluded) spends most of its budget sending emails and letters to patrons asking for more money. Whenever RtTC writes about trail usage, it’s only about cycling.

My town has a great Preserve called Stillwell Woods. Described on the nassaucounty.gov website as: “A 270-acre preserve and multiple-use area, Stillwell Woods offers a blend of old field and oak barrens communities, the latter of which includes plants and animals that are more typical of habitats farther east on Long Island.” It also mentions (I’ve bolded relevant text): “The Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail for hikers runs through the preserve; there are also bicycle trails and equestrian trails.”    

So why does mentioning or not mentioning running matter? It matters because of the mindset of the people who use the Preserve. 270 acres is a large area and there are many paths to travel. There should be plenty of room for everyone on the trails and everyone should acknowledge that. But, except in rare occasions, bikers ride the trails with abandon with little regard for anyone making their way around on two feet. I’ve had enough encounters with mountain bikers to sense the resentment that many have for trail runners.

I arrived at Stillwell around 8:00 AM this morning for my Independence Day run and saw a few people preparing their bikes. It seemed less crowded than usual and I assumed I’d have a nice peaceful run. I did not. Almost from the start, I was in conflict with mountain bikers. My first turn off the trail head was partially blocked by two stationary riders who were chatting until I’d passed them to enter a side trail. 30 seconds later, these riders came up from behind, forcing me off the narrow single track so they could get by.

I had a few other encounters with bikers after that. In each case I would hear someone just seconds before I saw them. The bikers didn’t slow down, apologize for making me jump off the path or bother to warn me that more riders were coming up right behind them. In one case, a second rider appeared so suddenly that I had to leap out of the way to avoid them. I snagged my foot on a root and it almost took me down.

My body whipped around exactly like it did a few months ago when I tripped on broken sidewalk during a run. I wrenched my back when that happened and the resulting pain was so bad my wife had to come get me. I didn’t run again for three full weeks. Today was a different story. Once I righted myself, I expected the sharp pain that I’d experienced from my ruptured disc. Besides feeling slightly shaken up, I was fine, with no discomfort whatsoever.

Looks a lot more peaceful from this height

I carefully made my way out of the woods after that and continued running past the trail head for another half mile. Stillwell is always an experience. The continuously changing terrain provides an interesting and challenging workout. I’m planning for a Runsketeer rendezvous at Beg Hog (my new name for Bethpage) tomorrow and I’m happy that I’ll be able to get a fourth run in on Monday. I will be dealing with cyclists on the bike trail, but they seem to be a more thoughtful breed than those at Stillwell.

The curious case of the runner in the nightime

Thanks for nothing

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

A short treadmill run at 4:00 AM on a weekday can sometimes seem harder than a six mile hilly run on a weekend. Going from sleeper to runner in just a couple of minutes is tough, but I’ve managed to fit in at least one mid week treadmill workout over the last few months.

This morning felt a little easier than in prior weeks. That may be due to the lowering humidity. The time went by fast and I was surprised how quickly I reached the 15 minute point. I considered taking advantage of feeling that good and increasing my speed. I thought about the long drive to my office, the busy day that lay ahead and the possibility of wearing myself out. I stayed with my normal pace.

Later, as I made my way through the neighborhood, I came up behind a guy running in the middle of the road. It was still very dark, but he had no reflective gear. I didn’t see him until I was practically on top of him. My headlights were lighting up his path and yet he didn’t make any attempt to move out of my way. I drove behind him at 4 MPH until it was time to take a left, while he continued going straight. I wanted to roll my window down and say something, but I’ve learned that fools can’t be taught.

I’ve been thinking about returning to 4:00 AM outdoor runs with my reflective vest and headlamp. After today’s experience, I think I’ll stick with my treadmill workouts.

Black ice and snowy running at Bethpage

One of the clearer spots on the trail

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 4.3 miles

Enough was enough after two weeks of nothing but indoor running. I felt the need to get outside and reacquaint myself with the road. My neighborhood streets have pretty much cleared and yesterday’s “warmer” temperatures exposed a lot more of the sidewalks. Safer for running, but not ideal. Assuming the Bethpage bike trails would be similarly clear, I figured that would be a better bet. This is why I don’t gamble.

I’d traded Facebook notes this morning with The Petite Pacer (TPP) and She Is Out Running (SIOR) and mentioned my plan to run at Bethpage Park. TPP expressed some interest in running there as well. I wasn’t sure I would be heading there, but I hoped I’d see her if I did. When I arrived I was disappointed to see that the trails were covered in white. The only views of the pavement came from the narrow tire-tracked sections.

View of the southern trail head

I parked in the lot and was delighted to see TPP’s very distinctive car pull in a minute later. I think I surprised her when I walked over while she prepared her gear. We noted the poor condition of the trails and started our run at the northern trail head along the 4″ of exposed asphalt. Soon enough, we reached sections consisting only of ice over snow. This forced us to the edges, that were a more stable crusty snow.

Most of our running required side stepping between tire exposed asphalt, packed (but not icy) snow and compressed leaves flattened by vehicle traffic. I followed TPP for the most part, and she did a great job of guiding us through the more treacherous segments. Every once in a while she’d point to black ice. I did have a couple of missteps along the way, but thankfully nothing that caused a fall.

Can you believe we just ran that?

My plan, after seeing the poor trail conditions, was to cover four miles rather than my original target of five. My reasoning was that every step I took was a potential chance for a spill. That, along with the additional work that was required to avoid hazards, made four miles a great workout. We returned to our starting point where I finished my run and TPP headed off to do another couple of miles.

I would have liked to cover a little more distance today, but perhaps I will tomorrow. The temperatures are supposed to remain above freezing through the weekend, so I may try a neighborhood run on Sunday. With most people staying home to watch Superbowl pre-game shows, the roads may be fairly free of traffic. At the very least, I won’t be dealing with the hazardous conditions I saw at Bethpage this morning.

The marathon story is no longer about the race

Correlation or coincidence?

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles

I’ve been catching up on my Runner’s World and Running Times issues going back to January and I’m saddened to see so many items and stories that reference the Boston Marathon. Who could have anticipated what happened at 4:09:43 in the race? I’ve wondered about the time the cowards picked to set off the bombs. Was it a coincidence that the highest number of people typically cross the line around the 4 hour point? My anger continues.

Today’s schedule has me on the phone much of the day, and my window to run this morning coincided with some rainy weather outside. I ended up doing a typical treadmill run while I watched the news on TV. It was mostly a repeat of the Boston story. How many ways can you talk about something like that when there’s no new information to share? Apparently, there are many.

The London Marathon happens this Sunday and, of course, there’s a heightened concern for safety after Monday’s bombings. The good news is that the London Olympics went off without any terror attacks last summer and they will probably use those same tactics to keep the crowds safe this weekend. The bad news is that the safety concerns for the race are now a bigger story than the race itself.

Trailview fun along the "Danger Zone"

Greetings from Trailview

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.25 miles

Yesterday morning I went out for a 4.8 mile run that took a lot more out of me than I’d expected. I recovered quickly from that, and a few hours later, my son and I headed to Trailview State Park for a hike. The weather was chilly and we did our best to dress for the cold while planning for the heat we’d generate during the hike.

We chose the path on the left and followed the winding trail up a few steep rises. The maintenance that was done after hurricane Sandy left many sections of cut-up tree trunks along the way. My son stopped to count the rings from one tree and determined that it had stood about 35 years before it was knocked down by the storm.

Sandy’s impact was everywhere

My son and I continued north until we reached the point where the trail overlooks the road separating Trailview from the southern end of Stillwell Woods. We followed the trail down to where Woodbury Road and Syosset-Woodbury Road intersect. We then crossed the street and entered Stillwell where we negotiated some difficult hills covered by gnarly roots and sharp rocks. We reached a point on the trail that had a substantial drop and decided to double back towards Trailview.

We crossed Syosset-Woodbury Road and re-entered Trailview through the western trail head. We followed a different path for a while, stopping a few times to explore interesting rocks and large branches. We found ourselves at a place marked “Danger Zone” and I asked my son if we should continue. He’s a 13 year old boy. Of course he said yes.

Double diamonds mean danger

The danger zone required some deft footwork but we made our way through it without incident and eventually picked up our original trail. It was there that we found a flat square rock that my son decided to keep as a souvenir of our hike. We finished our walk and went over to the Stop & Shop that’s located adjacent to Trailview’s parking lot. We bought some goodies in the bakery section to surprise my wife and daughter who were waiting for us back home.

Souvenir rock on the trail head sign

Between my morning run and the hike I covered close to ten miles outside yesterday, exceeding 17K steps. The best part, for me, was spending time with my son. We had great conversations and took on some tough hills. I slept eight hours last night with 97% sleep efficiency. Gee, I wonder why.