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 Emerging altruistic philanthropher

Running prohibited

Today’s run (treadmill): 45 minutes

I get a lot of junk emails (don’t we all?) that I usually ignore or delete. If you ever sign up for something online and don’t forget to opt out of marketing, you’re going to see some unwelcome emails. Worse, those companies sell your address to other companies, forcing you to unsubscribe to mail lists you never joined in the first place.

I don’t know what I did to get on the railstotrails.org list, but they sure send a lot of emails. And guess what, it worked. I am now a member of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. The reason I took the bait was a series of emails that had subject lines like, “Your trails at risk…like Bethpage Bikeway” and contained dire warnings like, “Next year, our elected officials could slash funding for great walking and biking trails!” Those awful, irresponsible elected officials! How could I stand by and watch them do this to my beloved path!? So I made a donation.

As a result, I am now the proud owner of a Rails to Trails membership card that, as far as I can tell, allows me to make more donations to the Rails to Trails Conservancy and buy Rails to Trails Conservancy merchandise. Along with this card, I received an electric blue winter cap and my first copy of rails to trails magazine that seems to suggest that these paths are only for cyclists. Seriously, every story is about biking.

My wife looked at the hat and said two things. 1. “Bad color.” 2. “Are you really going to wear that?” Of course I am! The cap may be vividly ugly, but it’s also visible. If I ever get to run outside the house again before spring, I plan to wear it.

This morning I’d hoped to do a neighborhood run but the streets had too much ice. I made a query on the GLIRC Facebook page to see if anyone knew the condition of the Bethpage trail. Perhaps I should have emailed Rails to Trails since they seem to know so much about about the Bethpage path. I probably would have received a response like, “Dear Mr. ER, please let us know what type of bike you ride and we’ll let you know if trail conditions support it…”

I received some helpful responses from GLIRC members that I don’t know personally and some unhelpful responses from GLIRC members I do know. Those members, SIOR and TPP, were going to SUNY Old Westbury at noon. My schedule didn’t allow me to join them. I hope they had fun running that freezing, hilly course.

I kept inside for my workout today, running about 45 minutes on the treadmill. The machine is ridiculously loud, but it seems to have moved past its tortured screeching metal phase. It sounds more like a wooden roller coaster now. You can think of it as the least fun ride at Adventureland.

My run was fine and, although I had some sciatic pain over the first half, things eventually settled down. Happily, the soreness did not return after my run. In keeping with my one fitness resolution for 2015 (that I’d stop completely ignoring my upper body) I did ten push ups when I got off the treadmill.

One of the GLIRC posters said that the wooded trails at Bethpage are in good shape so I may head there tomorrow and do a trail run. The mountain bikers should be able to spot me before they run me over because I’ll be wearing my new hat.

Bright morning on the Shining Sea Trail

Today’s run (Shining Sea trail, Falmouth, MA): 5.3 miles 

School is closed because of a religious holiday, so we decided to take an impromptu trip to Cape Cod. We’ve spent a lot of time at the Cape and usually stay in our favorite place in Falmouth. I headed over to the Shining Sea bike trail around 6:30 AM this morning and parked in a lot that’s adjacent to the trail head.

This trail is part of Falmouth’s rails-to-trails system that covers many areas around the town. I set out on my run and noticed a similarity to the Bethpage bike trail, including a downhill section at the start. I enjoyed the change of scenery that included picturesque woods and cranberry bogs that spread out on both sides. There were a number of people out walking their dogs at that early hour, plus a group of cyclists and a single runner.

The trail was alive with all sorts of animal life. I counted six cotton tailed rabbits, many squirrels, and even some horses being ridden on a side trail. I ran south until I reached the 2.5 mile mark and continued another .15 miles until I reached a crossing where I turned back toward where I started. The way back felt more uphill so I was looking forward to the finish by the time I reached 5 miles. The last part of the run was an uphill section and it again reminded me of Bethpage where a tough long run is always completed with a big hill at the end. Compared to James Street or Bethpage this was fairly easy and soon I was done.

I may run this trail again tomorrow morning before we head back to Long Island. I do wish that we had a system of trails like that one in my town. But I can’t really complain since I have Staywell Woods so close by. A run there before the end of the weekend would make a nice bookend to today’s run on the Shining Sea.