Stillwell running with my fiscally fit buddy

Post-run photo at the Emerging Runner HQ

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 4.25 miles

It’s hard to believe that a couple of weeks ago I was cursing the August heat and humidity. This morning our local station reported a temperature of 58° at 6:00 AM, signaling fall is truly here. I was pretty psyched about that because my friend and financial guru Steve was coming by to discuss the Emerging Runner family portfolio. We planned to follow that with a run.

Near perfect conditions during our run

Steve is a dedicated CrossFit guy who has focused lately on weight training. Although running is only a component of his workout regime, he is always up for a run on the road or trail. A few years ago, when we both had offices in midtown Manhattan, we’d meet for runs along the West Side bike path and around Central Park. Steve and his family moved to Atlanta a couple of years ago, but he comes up frequently to see his clients in the NYC area. We’re always talking about fitting in a run when he comes up, and today was the perfect day to do it.

We decided to run at Stillwell Woods today. It’s been months since I’ve done a real trail run and the cool conditions made it a perfect choice. I wore my Brooks Cascadias but Steve had his Brooks Glycerins, so I routed us along a less technical section. Giant Bicycles was running a clinic at the western end of Stillwell and I feared that we’d be overrun by mountain bikers. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but we ran into swarms of high and middle school cross country runners who frequently blocked our path.

Today’s route

Considering my current struggles with speed, we moved along nicely and I was able to maintain my end of the conversation. The weather clearly helped both my breathing and my energy level. Although Steve hasn’t run in a while, he had no trouble with the course or the distance. We ended up covering 4.1 miles per Garmin, but I mapped the route using Gmaps and determined that we’d actually covered about 4.25 miles.

Considering the fact that one trail mile equals 1.18 road miles in terms of effort, it was as though we ran 5 miles today. Actually, I made that up, but I’ll bet you believed me, I may aim for an actual five miles tomorrow. If weather conditions are anything like today’s, I might even do more.

The Runsketeers take on the trails!

TPP, brat (aka, SIOR), ER, KWL

Today’s run (Dirty Sock route: Belmont Lake): 6.5 miles

Adventure called and the Runsketeers responded this morning with a loop or two (or three) around Belmont Lake. KWL, SIOR, TPP and I planned to meet around 7:00 AM. I was the laggard of the bunch as they were all hanging out together by the time I arrived. I tried to explain the Dirty Sock course — how it starts at the western trail head and branches off toward Southards Pond before dipping south to the eastern exit. After getting a collective, “what the hell are you talking about?” look from my companions, I suggested they just follow the trail as best as they could.

We began to walk to our starting point and bossy SIOR said, “Can we start running now?” So we did. Doing that, as well as running back to the western trail head when I finished, accounted for my additional third of a mile on top of running the full Dirty Sock route. We ran together at the start and then TPP and SIOR picked up the pace and went on ahead. KWL stayed back with me and we ran together and chatted until we reached Belmont Lake.

While KWL turned on the burners, I kept my moderate pace and circled the lake. About halfway around, I ran into SIOR and TPP who were running the lake clockwise. I soon saw KWL coming back on his way to catch up with the others. I again saw the three of them near the end of my loop. TPP ended up doing two lake loops and the others went around for a third time.

I am officially the least popular Runsketeer

The Dirty Sock route can be challenging when the path is wet and the humidity is off the charts. Neither was the case today. Just in case, I’d packed my gel flask with a mix of water and a Roctane Expresso gel. I haven’t used gels in over a year, so the one I had was well past its expiration date. I didn’t realize that until I took my first swig and got a mouthful of coffee flavored grit. I finished it nonetheless.

I think the gel helped, because I felt a bit more energetic after ingesting it. Curiously, I detected an aftertaste that reminded me of alcohol and I wondered if the gel had fermented in its pack. Probably not, because a little alcohol goes a long way with me and I didn’t feel any related effects. However, I did start to crave pizza.

I ran along the southern end of Southards Pond and went south for the last half mile of the route. This last section used to frustrate me when I did the Dirty Sock 10K because the trail seemed to go on forever. The greatest moment of that race was when I started to hear Terry Bisogno announcing runners as they crossed the finish line. I didn’t get that today, but when I came around the final bend and saw the emerald green field ahead of me, I was pretty darn happy.

My route today

I extended my run to our starting location and waited of the others who were looking to cover more miles than me today. I ended up going over to the playground to get some shade and a minute later TPP appeared. We found a shady area close to where we’d see KWL and SIOR when they exited the woods. TPP and I caught up a little before our buddies arrived.

As tradition dictates, we headed to the closest Starbucks which had a very comfy seating section. After receiving gifts of coffee and pumpkin bread from SIOR and TPP respectively, the four of us recapped our run. Three of the four of us went over the moon about KWL’s Apple Watch Sport that he was wearing. I am defiantly anti-Apple, and didn’t join in that love fest. However, KWL did manage to take a remote selfie using his watch to control SIOR’s iPhone, which was a pretty neat trick.

It was a great run for all of us and I was excited to share one of my favorite running locations with my best running buds. KWL is officially our d’Artagnan (although that honor is shared with TPP’s JC). I look forward to more runs with these guys. I may even do Cow Harbor after all.

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.

Near witness to the Pauli Exclusion Principle

Today’s run (Bethpage trails): 5 miles

This morning I was reading Trail Runner magazine’s trail shoe review and decided, that’s it – I’m going to run on a trail today. Although it was early, I wasn’t sure whether Stillwell’s lot would be packed with cars, due to the dozens of soccer games that are played there on Sunday. I was also concerned about taking on too much technical terrain after yesterday’s basketball hoop assembly.

I seemed to have avoided damage from putting so much pressure on my lower back yesterday, although I felt slight discomfort in my upper hamstring during today’s run. It was nothing that would limit me, more like a message from my body reminding me to be more careful.

Since I wasn’t looking to do a full trail run this morning, a hybrid of trail and pavement would be a good combination. The best place I could think of to do that was the Bethpage trail just north of the park. I headed over to Runsketeer base camp (sadly with no other Runsketeers today) to park near Haypath Road.

Dirt path going north, paved trail going back

I quickly got a signal on my Garmin and ran over to the eastern trail head off of Haypath to begin the first half of my run. The dirt trail parallels the paved bike path, but it feels like you’re in the middle of the woods most of the time. The path is largely straight and it reminded me of Trailview in that respect. But Trailview is more technical, while this trail was mostly packed dirt. I encountered some gnarly roots that jolted me momentarily, but I didn’t come close to actually tripping.

I followed the dirt trails all the way to Washington Ave., jumping over to the bike path only to cross Old Bethpage and Old Country roads. Once on Washington, I ran to the 495 underpass that leads to the part of the bike trail that runs parallel to the Sunnyside Boulevard exit. I turned around at that point and followed the bike trail back.

There were lots of cyclists and walkers on the path, but not that many runners. I encountered some trail bikers on the wooded path. They appreciated that I moved over for them and each rider told me how many others were behind them as they passed by from the opposite direction.

On my way back, I ran into perfect conditions for an accident. A group of women walking together (and blocking most of the bike trail) were 20 feet ahead of me. I saw two cyclists heading toward them at a high rate of speed and another biker coming up from behind. I could tell the single biker planned to thread the needle to the left of the women. What he couldn’t see because of the curve of the trail, were the two other cyclists who were planning to pass through the same gap from the other side.

The Pauli Exclusion Principle states that no two identical particles can occupy the same space at the same time. I expected to see that theorem tangibly proven all over the Bethpage trail. Through some miracle, the two riders coming from the south got through about ten seconds before the rider who was behind me got there. I was astounded by this. The women were blissfully unaware that they came very close to becoming a 7-10 human split.

The rest of my run was happily drama free. I completed five miles, satisfied that I got in some good trail time. With Wednesday’s elliptical session and three decent runs, I’m pleased with my progress this week. I’ll aim for another weekday workout next week, perhaps an afternoon neighborhood run. There aren’t that may spring days left and I’d like to take advantage of them as much as I can.

Snowy, icy Bethpage run

Stretching the definition of “great shape”

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 3.75 miles

This morning I looked out the window and determined that the roads were too messy for running. With the temperature stuck below zero since last Thursday’s snowfall, there was still ice along the curb and snow on the sidewalks. I’d heard a tip that the dirt trails at Bethpage were in “great shape.” That got me out early for a run in the park.

It was very cold so I wore numerous layers, more than I needed as it turned out. When I arrived at Bethpage, I encountered a group of runners making their way downhill along the main driveway. Seeing people running off the trail was my first sign that the paths were in pretty bad shape.

The lot was barely plowed but I parked in one of the few open spots. I decided to run up to the north path extension and then cut over onto the dirt paths at the first trail head. There were a surprising number of runners braving the thick coating of icy snow on the paved trail, but no one followed me into the woods when I turned in.

Off the snowy beaten path

From what I was told, I’d expected the paths in the woods to be in better shape than the main trail. In fact, they were a mess, with thick snow along the edges and rutted ice at the center. Neither easy nor safe to run. I followed the route back to the main trail and then headed south on the snowy paved path. My plan was to head back toward the lot and run on the road as that group was doing when I arrived.

No chukkers in the snow

Before I made it all the way there, I noticed that a path leading into the soccer and polo fields was clear. With nothing to lose, I followed it around and saw that it looked clear all the way to the golf course. I’d been chased out of this area in the summer because no running is allowed during the season, but I had little concern about that this morning.

View from the 12th hole

The path continued southeast and I followed it all the way to its termination point on Round Swamp Road. There were a few steep downhills that became noticeable hills on the way back. When I reached the south side of the polo field, I saw that I could continue on the clear path southwest. I stayed on that until I reached a wider snowier road that took me back to the north trail head and ultimately back to the lot.

Looking north from Round Swamp Road

I crossed paths with the same group of men and women at different points during my run. They were moving along well despite the snowy surface. I last saw them entering the woods as I was getting into my car. Based on all the places I spotted them, I’m guessing they were covering close to ten miles. All my layers contributed to overheating, except for my face that was freezing for most of the run. I had hoped to cover at least four miles today, but conditions were ultimately difficult.

Later, when I got back to my neighborhood, I spotted a few people running on the road. The streets looked clearer than when I looked in the early morning (probably due to the sun) and I realized, if I’d waited, it probably would have been safe to run them. No matter, I got to run some new parts of Bethpage Park on a combination of trails, pavement and golf cart paths. I may not have covered my targeted distance, but I had a great workout. When I got home I did ten push ups. Just because I could.

Close encounters on the trail

 

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.5 miles

This morning I went out for a trail run at Stillwell Woods for the first time since late November. I’m still dealing with pain from sciatica and hoped that running on softer terrain might provide some relief. The temperature was in the high 20’s and Stillwell’s trails were mostly frozen mud. Even so, it provided a more forgiving surface than pavement.

When I arrived I saw a few groups of high school aged runners entering the woods. I wondered if I’d run into these speedsters on the trail. I ran by the first group who were standing around planning their workout. I followed my usual route, going north before turning southeast. When I came around the bend, I saw a couple of guys sprinting toward me on the narrow path. That was disconcerting because the protocol is to follow that section of trail in the direction I was running. I’m glad I heard them a second before they appeared so I could move over and give them room to get by.

I had a few other situations when my path crossed a group, but had no more close calls. I was disappointed that the soreness I’ve been having was present throughout the run. The pain was minor and my concern was more that running (instead of resting) was enabling the problem. But a runner’s gotta run, run, run, run, run so I decided I had to shake it off.

I’ll be resting tomorrow and going out next on New Years day with my buddies for the LIRRC Hangover Run. In the meantime, I’m putting heat on the source of the problem and using the massage stick often. Next week I return to work and that will mean a reduction in volume. Usually I’d be unhappy about that, but I realize that it’s probably the best thing for me right now.

Post-Thanksgiving Stillwell trail run

Taking the “More Difficult” path

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.7 miles

Unless you work in retail, the day after Thanksgiving is like an unofficial holiday. Much of the world went shopping for bargains today but I chose to go out in the freezing cold for a trail run at Stillwell Woods. I’m not sure why runners choose to be uncomfortable, but it’s a factor in every run. You know you’re going to sweat, feel the burn in your legs and (if you did it right) end up both exhausted and depleted.

I thought about that after the first of many close calls at Stillwell this morning. I was running on a muddy trail in 33° weather when my toe caught a root and I nearly lost my footing. I somehow kept upright through that and promised myself I’d pay closer attention to obstructions on the path. Besides the slippery mud, the trails had long sections covered with leaves that hid potential hazards. My Brooks Cascadias provided great protection and traction – far better than any other trail shoes I’ve owned.

Stillwell was almost empty. I didn’t see any mountain bikers until I was taking my last steps leaving the trail head. There was a young couple running briskly toward the woods when I arrived. We crossed paths twice and they gave me big hellos both times. If there were any other runners today, I didn’t see them.

Just for fun, I deviated from my normal route a couple of times and encountered some steep terrain. Due to the grade, I actually did better on the uphills than the downhills. One trail had lots of packed sand and many sharp rocks the size of softballs. Once again I was grateful to have the Cascadias that have both a rock plate and a beefy toe guard.

Today’s route

I tried to be careful but my toe would occasionally catch something on the path, forcing me to prepare to hit the ground. I was fortunate that I didn’t fall once. It would have been a muddy mess. I wasn’t aiming for a long workout today and made my way back after I’d covered about three and a half miles. I finished feeling like I’d worked off some of yesterday’s calories and the ever changing (but forgiving) surface of the single-track made my legs feel energized.

I’m probably going back to the road tomorrow, but I haven’t decided where. Rob’s Run is happening at Stillwell on Sunday. I’m sure that would be fun, but I’ve had my fill of those trails for now.

Stillwell Woods and wildlife, but not together

Long view of Stillwell, the woods lie beyond

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 4.4 miles

This morning I went for an invigorating trail run at Stillwell Woods. It was cool and comfortable at 7:15 AM and the trails were empty. I’m always concerned about getting mowed down by a maniac mountain biker, so it was nice to have the woods to myself. While I was happy for the lack of humans on the trail, I had hoped to see some of the local fauna.

Rocky raccoon just passing by
Fired up

In the past, I’ve run into deer, foxes, snakes, rabbits, possums, chipmunks and birds of all types. With the exception of a little gray bunny that hopped across my path, there wasn’t much wildlife today. That wasn’t the case last night when we made s’mores by the fire pit. Once it got dark, the whole backyard filled with fireflies and we were visited by a raccoon that lazily passed by atop our back fence. We were sitting by the pool and a bird kept swooping down to the water. When I saw it in contrast to the twilight sky, I could see it was a bat.

I followed my usual route at Stillwell, but took a few side paths along the way. The cool, relatively dry air prevented the gnat cloud that I usually endure on hot and humid summer days. My Cascadias easily handled the challenge of steep, scree covered hills, and I’m always grateful for the protection they give from sharp rocks and high roots.

Near the end of my run, the bikers began to show up. I couldn’t see them through the trees, but I could hear them. I knew that we would be contending for the same trails in a matter of minutes, so I increased my speed to put additional distance between us. As I approached the trail head, a group of high school-aged boys were coming in. I was glad to be exiting at that point.

I ran by time, not distance this morning, and had hoped to cover five miles in the woods. I didn’t quite get there, but I got a great workout. I’d like to cover six miles tomorrow – at least that’s the plan.

Soggy and buggy on the Stillwell trails

Just me and the mountain bikers today

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.75 miles

The summer sun, heat and humidity can really wear out a runner. Friday afternoon I ran in extremely hot weather and dragged my way through four tough miles. Yesterday was a little better, because I ran in the morning and the temperature was still moderate. Besides my lethargy that was probably caused by caffeine deprivation, I also had a sinus headache. I’m sure that was related to Saturday’s high pollen count.

I had a tough night’s sleep last night and at 2:00 AM I was wide awake with a pounding headache. I took two Excedrin, the only analgesic that helps with these sinus-related migraines. The Excedrin did the trick and I slept until 6:15. I was hoping I’d feel refreshed and invigorated, but I had to settle for being headache-free.

I couldn’t deal with any more sun and heat this morning, so I headed over to Stillwell Woods for my run. It was a cloudy day, 75° and already humid. I counted on Stillwell’s tree cover to block the sun, were it to make its way past the low cloud cover. I arrived at 8:00 AM and was concerned that the parking lot would be packed due to soccer or Little League games. Happily, I only saw a handful of SUVs, most with bike carriers on the back.

I followed my usual route and cut into the woods after a minute on the main trail. I listened for bikers who commonly use the same entry point. Despite the SUVs in the lot, the trails were empty, save for a black snake that slithered across the path as I made my way east. My Cascadias did a great job of handling the terrain, especially in areas with loose gravel or rutted and root-covered paths.

I did encounter bikers a couple of times. They gave fair warning when approaching from behind and I moved over accordingly. The tree canopy gave good shade, but the humidity made it extremely uncomfortable. In addition, gnats buzzed constantly around my face, causing me to swat as I ran. That’s the downside of summer trail running.

Usual route with a modified loop

I departed from my standard loop and went south a bit, where the trails are rougher. Again the Cascadia’s rock plates provided good protection as I made my way over grapefruit-sized stones and other trail hazards. I would have covered more distance had I stayed on my original path, but the shorter route required a lot more effort.

After I finished, I realized how humid it really was. Sweat was pouring off me as if I’d just been soaked with a hose. I didn’t manage a 6+ mile run this week, which is a goal I have with my current, limited, workout schedule. Still, it was almost four miles in tough conditions over difficult terrain. I’ll consider this a good running week.

Low flying planes at Stillwell Woods

Glider club at Stillwell

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 4.1 miles

I naively thought I’d avoid the soccer crowd at Stillwell by going on Sunday instead of Saturday. Nope. When I arrived this morning, Stillwell’s lots were overrun with cars and I could see people streaming in from the high school parking lot across the street. I considered turning around and finding another place to run, but I decided to try parking at the far end near the trail head. I was in luck and found a spot next to some people who were staging their bikes for a ride.

I was feeling a little run down so I stayed on my usual loop and took it easy. There were many mountain bikers on the single track but no close calls. I almost tripped on a high root exactly where I’d almost tripped the last time I ran there. I’ll have to pay better attention next time I’m at that point on the path.

There were a bunch of cars gathered on the large field. As I got closer, I saw that they were flying large model gliders. One flew across the path that runs around the field and just barely cleared the tree line. It freaked me out to see a plane with a ten foot wingspan pass overhead without making a sound. I began to feel tired by then, so I capped my run after four miles.

The rest of the day was spent celebrating my daughter’s 16th birthday. She’s having a Sweet 16 next week, but today it was family-only. It was a great long day and a good weekend of running. I really want to add another day to my weekly running schedule, but so far it’s been hard to make that work.