Category Archives: photography

Where We’ve Been, and Where We’re Going

Today marks the 20 weeks to go point until Boston – expect me to start getting a whole lot chattier here!

But what’s been going on these last few months? Here’s a quick review.

August (155 training miles)

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I followed up my July track race with a 4-mile jaunt through the trails of Wolfe’s Pond Park in the Hot As Blazes Adventure Race. Tons of fun, despite coming out of it somewhat bloodied and beaten. Finished a solid if unspectacular 7th. Another step on the route to recovery.

The month ended with the Celic Run, a hilly 4 miler and one of Staten Island’s oldest road races, in and around Clove Lakes Park. However, despite the nudging of my team captains, this would be a race not for me, but for my eight-year old daughter Abby. Not since 2005 had an eight year old girl finished this tough race, but Abby shares my stubbornness and not even a nasty fall on concrete in the second mile would stop her reaching the line and claiming second place in the 14-and-under category. A proud moment.

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September (175 miles)

As the month started, I had a decision to make on my fall racing plans. I had run plenty of miles in August, but nearly all of them were easy-pace efforts. With no specific speed training, I decided to pass on signing up for a half-marathon, despite it being my favourite distance. The chances of a satisfying outcome just weren’t good.

Instead I opted to register for the Richmond Rockets 6 Hour Ultramarathon, a particularly twisted slice of self-torture that would involve endless 1.67 mile loops of Silver Lake Park on Staten Island. Going into the race, I’d only run for two hours once all year. What could do wrong?

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For three hours, the answer was “nothing”. I was grooving along nicely, somewhere around third or fourth place. And then the pain started. Hips, quads, and eventually the rest of me came together to say “please stop this madness”. At 25 miles I allowed myself a change of socks and shoes and was horrified at what I saw of my toenails. Once I passed the 26.2 mile chalk marking after 3:44, I was pretty much done. Sure, I’d told my ultra-running brother that I was going to do 40 miles. And my boss. But this was no day for macho silliness. I half-jogged, half-walked one final lap, getting out my phone to check my email and find an invitation to hang out with friends in the city, which is all I needed to tell the scorers I was done and grant myself a merciful exit.

I hung around for the rest of the race to admire the experienced ultra runners as they continued to effortlessly tick off laps, their running gaits just as smooth at 2pm as they’d been when I’d been pursuing them six hours earlier.

One day I might get the hang of running such distances, but to be positive, to complete 28.2 miles on legs that couldn’t run at all four months earlier was a big confidence boost.

October (171 miles)

A quiet month with no races, but starting to get serious about training now. The six hour ultra proved I can do distance, but what about speed? I started to hit the East River Track near my office in the city, and increased tempo work at home. Even including a number of runs with my daughter, this month’s mileage was clicked off at a 7:59 average pace, compared to 8:35 in September and 8:31 in August.

November (165 miles)

This month featured a big return to the trails to get ready for the Greenbelt Trail Festival 50k, the race that was my undoing last December. Three long runs of 2 to 3 hours, plus the experience of last year, should hopefully result in a less painful race this Saturday.

A major highlight of the month was my team, the Staten Island Athletic Club, putting on the first race at Freshkills Park, the city’s long-term landfill-to-park conversion project on Staten Island. I opted out of running this race, instead offering my volunteer services as event photographer, teaming up with our club’s tireless Publicity Director to document the event.

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As selfless as this might seem, I can’t deny that I was proud and excited to see the Staten Island Advance run one of my photos in a story about the event that was published a week or two afterwards.

Having opted out of running this race, I laced up for a couple of others later in the month. First, again I acted as support runner for my intrepid daughter, who conquered the trails in the Fall Flat 5k, the race that first got me involved with the SI running community three years ago. Another race, another medal, this time 2nd in the 12-and-under category. We have big plans for next year!

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Finally, Thanksgiving Day saw me put on my racing flats for the 64th Annual Lou Marli Run, a three-miler that’s not-quite three miles, but it’s a traditional course and no-one complains too much. On a bitterly cold and windy day, I managed to shave off 19 seconds from the last time I ran (2011), with a nice negative split to boot. Everything’s coming together just at the right time…

And there you have it. Four months of until-now unblogged life events somewhat related to running.

Now it gets serious. 2 weeks until training begins. I can’t wait.

June Review

I’m sure most of you can remember your school days, when you’d do well on a test and be excited to bring it home to show your parents. I feel a little like that about my June mileage.

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Back to normality? Close enough, for now. The timing of my injury left something to be desired, missing two months of great weather for running and then trying to make a comeback just as the viciously humid NYC summer starts to bite. Thanks to the oppressive conditions, my long run isn’t where I’d like it to be (ten miles is the furthest I’ve run), but it feels as if my various right leg issues are no longer the main limitations holding me back.

Being able to run doesn’t necessarily mean I can race, though. My fitness is still lacking, so I’m sitting on the sidelines while my friends and teammates compete in the traditional Staten Island Triple Crown series of summer races.

For the first race, on Memorial Day, I replaced my racing flats with my trusty camera, the best way I’ve found to remain connected to the running community. Better still, my wife and daughter brought their photography skills to the party too. My eight-year-old’s photos seemed to be the most popular of all!

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Above: a couple of race photos captured by our little one.

The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Jeff’s Run 5k on Father’s Day, saw the fulfilment of a promise to our daughter, who’d been asking for a year to run that race. As an injured runner with no goals of my own, this wish was easy to grant. We trained for a couple of weeks, and set out on race day confident of finishing, but not necessarily all that quickly. But on a thankfully overcast day, she outdid herself to finish third in the 10-and-under age group and bring home a trophy. My little champion, keeping up the good family name!

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Finishing the 5k race!

Our daughter’s recent enthusiasm (she now insists on wearing running shirts to bed) has helped reshape my future running goals too. After running the Boston and New York marathons next year, on what seems to be a creaking body, what’s next? Well, it looks like “raising a happy, active, healthy, athletic daughter” jumps to the top of the list. As a father, you’re looking for a chance to positively shape your children’s lives, and right now it seems I’m being looked up at to do just that. As running goals go, it’s about as worthy as it gets.

High Rock Challenge 2013

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(UPDATE: Looking for more photos? Links to Facebook albums can be found at the end of this post)

Back before I became a software developer who daydreams about being a competitive runner, I was a software developer who daydreamed about being a street photographer. It was fun for a while, but lack of self-confidence in my skills meant this hobby eventually waned. Running ability can be measured in hard numbers. The former scientist in me appreciates that.

However, I’ve recently been able to pick up my camera more frequently, by fusing my old passion with my new one, and offering to photograph road and trail races.

Today I had the opportunity to volunteer at the High Rock Challenge adventure race, a fixture of the Staten Island running calendar since 2001. The event combines running, physical strength, mental acuity and teamwork to provide a unique challenge that draws close to a thousand runners to the Greenbelt each April.

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It’s a mix that’s a little reminiscent of Spartan and Tough Mudder races, but HRC’s distinctiveness is the emphasis on fun (many run in costumes), inclusiveness (events designed to be difficult but manageable for all ages and levels of athletic ability) and most of all, mystery. You never know where you’ll be going or what you’ll be doing: under the twisted direction of Race Director Matt Lebow, no part of the Challenge is as simple as it looks.

Today I was stationed half-way up Moses Mountain, the manmade overlook created as part of the never-built Richmond Parkway in the ’60s. There’s a (fairly) easy way up the mountain, and a hard way. Naturally, the runners would be sent the hard way.

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But that’s not enough for High Rock. They would be required to carry a single strand of uncooked spaghetti up the climb, without it breaking, or face an unknown penalty. A fiendish twist when both arms are needed to maintain balance and grip onto any available rope, tree or rock to avoid slipping back down the slope.

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The most competitive runners of course charged up the hill, showing remarkable strength and balance. The real fun was to be had in observing the remaining teams first joking about the situation (“Where’s the sauce?” … “Use your noodle!” etc), and then tackling the task in many different ways.

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Should you try to hold the spaghetti? Grip it between the teeth? Convert it into a primitive hair-pin? All these methods and more were tried. They all worked. Some of the time. At least a half-box of Ronzoni must have been snapped or spilled on the climb, and yet spirits remained high, knowing this challenge would soon be over, to be followed by yet another diabolical creation of Matt Lebow’s mind.

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I’m still not sure whether I’ll ever run the HRC myself, but it’s an event that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of as a volunteer. Thanks to the Greenbelt Conservancy for inviting me to be a part of it!

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The full set set of photos is available on Facebook:

Set 1 (8:40am-9:20am) Album on Facebook

Set 2 (9:20am-10:00am) Album on Facebook

Set 3 (10:00am-10:40am) Album on Facebook

Set 4 (10:40am-11:20am) Album on Facebook