Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Plantar Fasciitis is Not at All Funny

Recently I had a conversation a with a runner friend, we chatted briefly about the fall events we were training plantar fasciitis.
for when she revealed that she was having difficulty sticking to her training plan because she was suffering from

For a moment crickets could be heard because I too have experienced the excruciating pain that plantar can inflict.

When I was suffering from plantar, I felt a stabbing pain in my arch and heel when I took my first few steps in the morning, I hobbled down the stairs like an old man.I was in absolute misery. At it's worst my feet felt uncomfortably hot and ached throughout the entire day.

I tried inserts, cushioned socks and while at work I rolled my arches back and forth on a couple of tennis balls I kept under my desk, but nothing worked.

One morning and in a semi-consciousness state, I wriggled loose the sheets at the foot of the bed. I poked both feet out into the cool morning air and I rotated my ankles and pointed my toes up and down and every which way. I rubbed my feet together and enjoyed how comforting and relaxing it was.

When it was time to get out of bed, there was no pain. And every time I repeated the luxurious ritual I wouldn't experience the stabbing pain and little by little the debilitating pain was no longer haunting me and I was able to return to running.

The morning pamper became something I did without even thinking about it, I would find my self stretching and rotating my ankles unconsciously a few minutes before the alarm would go off or during those blissful moments after I hit the snooze alarm.
I shared my experience with my friend and told her that I know it sounds silly, and if you don't have a sleigh-bed, just hang your feet of the foot of the bed and rotate them and rub them together and point your toes up and down... it feels good and you'll feel better.

Well, I saw her this weekend and she was happy to report that it worked for her too. She said she really noticed the days she didn't do it and agreed that it's so easy to do you don't even need to be fully awake to make your day better.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mountain Madness Reconnaissance Run

I woke on Saturday morning and departed for Ringwood State Park in an effort to do another reconnaissance run for the Mountain madness 50k hosted by the NJ Trail Series.

Last time I paid $8 to park at Shepherd lake, but they told me there was free parking at the NJ Botanical Gardens.On Friday night I reference my NY/NJ Trail Conference map and saw that there was a parking lot extremely close to the red trail. The red trail was a fairly significant portion of the first leg of the 50k.

As it turned out, parking lot C was a remote lot at  the Southern end of the Botanical Gardens. The lot was far from full but it buzzed with mountain bikers preparing to hit the trails.

This fox was not impressed
I stepped out of the car and hoisted my fluid heavy hydration-pack onto my back and took a moment to check my map before departing the parking lot when I noticed a small fox watching over the morning activity.

I paused for a moment to determine if there was any malicious intent and found the dog appeared accustomed to the morning's activities... so much so that he/she sat and watched as the riders and I prepared for our day on the trails.

Under the watchful eyes I crossed the gravel parking lot and was on my way to scout some of the trails of the Mountain Madness 50k run which was just over three weeks away.

I worked my way up a terribly eroded unmarked trail that had just enough of a grade to make me question my choice of activities for such a muggy morning.

The unmarked entrance to the forest merged with the wide white trail briefly before merging with Ringwood Ramapo Trail (red).

I followed the red blazes for a bit before my sense of direction became completely disoriented. I climbed a set of hills and questioned my sense of direction (feeling like I was going North instead of South). I squatted and survey my map and couldn't find comfort in continuing, so I doubled back.

At an intersection with an unmarked trail I could hear a steady series of voices... again I hesitated before deciding to leave the blazed trail and look for directional help from the voices. I thought maybe some mountain bikers were doing repeats off a a particularly fun piece of the trail.

 After a brief jog down the unmarked trail I found myself looking through a fence at a school-yard hosting a youth soccer practice.

So much for my assumption, and as I pulled out my map (yet again) a couple of mountain bikers approached. I asked if they knew where they were... and they of course said they didn't either. We talked about  orientation and decided that I was heading in the right direction prior to my decision to double back and that I should head back up the unmarked trail and rejoin the red trail in my orginal direction.

Then through the woods I saw a group of three trail runners, undoubtedly preparing for the same ultra I was training for, and they were climbing the hill that I had just doubled back on.

My confidence returned and I began to follow, climbing the twisting trail now for the second time. As I gained a little ground I cleared my throat to let the trailing runner know that I was in tow.

She pleasantly confirmed they were training for Mountain Madness and let me know the names of the next few trails and relative distance between the upcoming intersection.

The small group easily out paced me even before I could meet the two leaders, but it was comforting to know I was now following the route I intended.

Cannonball Lake
The humidity was high as I negotiated the undulating path from red to blue and an unmarked path that went through a Boy Scout Camp and around Cannonball Lake.

I followed a busted-up asphalt road down a welcoming downhill to  a hard right turn but the orange blazes indicated I had to hump it over a steep incline.

I roughed it up and over the steep but brief incline that left the pavement. After a short climb the Shruber Trail (orange) took a hard left and meandered through a rock field at the base of the Rocky Mountain ridge.

As I watched my footing I sensed that there were distant voices behind me. I suspected there were others on the trail also training for the upcoming 50k.

I paused to down a energy gel, as I listened to see if the voices were getting closer. I also checked my map since I was pretty tired and was thinking if there was an opportunity to shave a few miles off this run I would welcome the opportunity.

Rain on the Red/Silver Trail
I followed the orange path down a welcomed descent to the intersection of the Red/Silver trail. I now knew the group was very close and figured this was as good a place to take another break and let them pass.

After but a moment the first of the following runners approached and joined me at the intersection. It turned out that there were about 6 or 7 runners from the NJ Trail and Ultra Runners Club.

We talked for a bit and as the rains began to pound the canopy of the forest, I revealed my decision to abandon the course and start my trek back to parking lot C.

We wished each other well as I departed on the shorter route home.

No sooner has we departed did the sky explode into a complete downpour. Branches drooped low and the rocky terrain became dangerously slick under the 40+ minute deluge from the sky above.

I adjusted my pace (which wasn't all that fast to begin with) to compensate for the questionable footing.

The sun returns while on the yellow trail
I circled the northern edge of Bear Swamp Lake and made a turn onto what turned out to be the wrong portion of the yellow trail. I realized my mistake when I reached the end of the path after just a few hundred yards.

I reviewed the map (still under a downpour) and realized I had to double back and follow the trail along the lake for just a bit longer before heading home.

Back on course and still on the yellow path the rain came to a stop and the sun appeared to be trying to come out. A humid mist rose from the forest floor as I made my way across the crest of Ramapo Mountain.

White Trail transformed by the storm
I continued drinking and had another gel at the top of the mountain before the long descent following the undulating terrain from the crest. I transferred back to the familiarity of the white trail that had been transformed by the  storm.

What had previously been a wide roadway of rutted dirt, stones and gravel now appeared to have been carpeted with thin layer of bright yellow leaves.

I made my way over the fresh blanket of downed foliage as my eyes adjusted to find the rutted hazards hiding beneath the leaves. 

A few more uneventful miles and I found myself on the rutted descent into the parking lot.

Another good challenging run. I wish I took those other miles and continued with the group, my will weakened and I found a way out.

Less than three weeks till the 50k, I hope it's not too late to get serious.

Distance: 11.02 Miles
Time: 3hr 38 min
Elevation Gain: 1,971 ft

The Route

Elevation Chart

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Trail Run at Goose Pond Mountain State Park

After the self-inflicted brutality of Saturday's trail run I was not exactly feeling ambitious about challenging myself again in the same weekend. But I also knew I would feel guilty if I didn't take advantage of the three days off and return to the trails in some fashion, so I halfheartedly asked my wife if she wanted to join me on a run in Goose Pond Mountain State Park.

Sandy Trail-Head & Boardwalk Map
I drive past this park almost every day and had been meaning to explore it's trails. I knew it wouldn't be as technical as some of my other runs so I thought it to a be as good a place as any for my wife to join me (for the first time) on the trail.

I've searched for a map of this park and strangely i haven't been able to find anything, so I decided we should park at the boardwalk entrance that I suspected had a public map at the trail-head. My thoughts were we could review the map (and possibly take a picture for reference) before entering the trails.

Boardwalk over the wetlands
The map was of the boardwalk and wetlands and little more. So we headed out across some sandy soil on to a beautiful boardwalk surrounded by lovely wetland yellows and purples.

I asked my wife to watch her pace since the map didn't have any scale for reference and I didn't want her to get gassed early on her first trail run. Just as I said that the board walk started circling back to the direction of the start.

At an intersection we looped our way away from the start hoping to find more distance, but yet again we found ourselves circling back to the trail-head.

We decided to take the 1st ring of the figure eight one last time knowing it would return us to the trail-head. The Garmin reported a mere .6 miles.

We got back in the car and went to another trail-head about a 1/2 mile up the road (towards Monroe). The parking lot is across the road (Rt 17M) from the start of the trail. So once again we entered the uncharted Goose Pond Mountain State Park (part two of the same run).
Meadow Along Lazy Hill rd

The path is an extension of The Highlands Trail (teal) also known as Lazy Hill Road. From the parking area the tree-lined path climbs briefly to the top of small hill with grassy fields on either side.

Continuing  we were surprised to find the path to be a mix of old pavement and rutted dirt and stone where the old road had been washed away years ago.

The path continues with very few turns through the rolling hills as it descends deeper into the shaded woods lined with old stone walls and small clearings to either side of the retired roadway.

Goose Pond Mountain
Since this was our first exploration of the park and we were uncertain of the distances, we chose to ignore the many unmarked mountain bike trails crisscross the main path until we happened upon a hand painted sign directing us through a grassy field to The Davis Family Cemetery.

The deep grasses were damp and the path was barely worn through the strength of the late summer growth.

At the top of the hilly field was a beautiful hand-made cedar bench built in memorial to a park lover who had passed away. The bench reminded me of the one on the northern vista of Schunnemunk Mountain. This bench overlooked the grassy meadow and the profile of Goose Pond Mountain. I'm curious about this bench maker and the dear friends he's lost.

Taking a Break at the Memorial Bench
We stopped at the bench for a moment to wipe away the sweat from a humid morning and take a drink from my hand-held before we continued in search of the cemetery. The trail divided, we tried to choose the path most used but apparently that was the wrong decision as we never found the cemetery.

We wound our way through small grassy meadows damp with morning dew and small patches of saplings before we eventually returned to Lazy Hill Road.

Again we continued to journey deeper into the park and crossed Seely Brooke by a storm damaged bridge. Just a head we heard voices and stayed to the side of the trail in case a group of mountain bikers came around the gradual bend in the road.

We made our way safely around the corner and two mountain bikers were having a conversation at a fork in the trail. We exchanged greetings and we followed our instinct keeping to our left.

Returning on Lazy
 In just a few minutes on the now soft dirt path encroached with vibrant green foliage my Garmin chimed at the 3 mile mark.

We decided that would be enough for our first venture into GPMP and thought it would be wise to save some for when we return. Later we would find out there was only another 1/2 mile till we reached the end of the road but there was no indication of that from where we turned around.

We returned the way we came, following an out and back course entirely on Lazy Hill Road (with the one unsuccessful cemetery diversion).

The run was peaceful and beautiful. I was pleased by my wife's ability to blaze her way through the grasses and keep her footing on the storm washed road. We enjoyed our first foray into Goose Pond Mountain Park and I look forward to finding my way to the top of the mountain.

This park seems to offer quite a bit of terrain but to my knowledge there are no maps, so you'll have to pack your adventuresome spirit and blaze your own way on the unmarked trails.

Distance: 5.36 Miles
Time: 1hr 12 min
Elevation Gain: 392 ft 

The Route

The Elevation Profile

Monday, September 03, 2012

Schunnemunk Ten Miler on Labor Day Weekend

I woke up on the first day of a long weekend with a bit of a hangover. I had a beer (or two) too many on Friday night, but I had committed myself to doing a trail run and since I'm registered for a 50k at the end of the month I needed to improve on my previous two trail runs.

I drove over to the trail-head feeling semi-transparent and in denial about how much of an effect the beers from the night before was having on me.

I parked my car and hoisted my trail-pack (heavy with fluids) onto my back and entered the woods, I made sure to take a moment to start my Garmin.

I made my way down the reasonably flat portion of the trail appreciating the morning cloud cover. I was afraid of dealing with a strong sun and figured that if the clouds prevailed I would be ok.

I settled into a comfortably easy pace while adjusted my gear and stride to suite the gently rolling terrain. I spotted the ruts and rocks and felt reasonably confident that I was able to overcome the lightheaded feeling I had back at the car.

Climbing Dark Hollow
I scrambled up off the unmarked trail and onto the railroad tracks that ran along Schunnemunk. I carefully ran briefly along the tracks watching my steps on the irregular grey stone lining the tracks.

Within a few minutes I spotted the Otterkill Trail (red) on the other side of the tracks. I crossed over to the gentler trail that followed the eastern base of the mountain.

Yet another climb
Before the second mile the Otterkill trail finished and I crossed over to the Dark Hollow Trail (black). Dark Hollow is a brutal trail that climbs Schunnemunk's eastern ascent.

The thing about the eastern-side of Schunnemunk is that the climbs are relentless. Just after you think you've reached the top, you've actually only reached a brief plateau with yet another climb behind it.

Eatern Ridge looking south
I scrambled/power hiked my way to the top of the second plateau and took a moment to sit down and rest while I admired the views. I drank a bit and took a few photos while I wrestled my heart-rate back into submission. Once I gained my composure I continued on the black trail, shuffling my feet as I waited for some strength to return after the previous two climbs.

As the trail leveled for a few moments I regained my strength just in time for the next scramble. The wall was steep and I had to use my hands to grab handholds in the rocks and push off slender trees along the side of the trail.

Conglomerate with trail markers
I eventually conquered Dark Hollow and merged left onto the Jessup Trail (yellow)/Highlands Trail (Teal). I was still heading south (away from the start). The trail pushed along the crest of the eastern ridge across a purplish conglomerate speckled with pitch pines and seemingly misplaced conglomerate boulders.

The trail offered little shade and I could feel the sun's rays as it burned away the morning haze. I drank water from my Camelback as I consciously conserved the sugary sports drink (for when I really needed it).

Megaliths that-a-way
I watched my footing on the rough stone ridge as I saw a Flintstone's style message painted on the rock indicating the the Megaliths were just a short detour to the right.

I took this as an opportunity to fuel up. I took a salt tablet, an organic baby food in a pouch (I have been experimenting with nutrition) and some more water. I was drenched with sweat and knew it was going to be critical monitor and replace the fluids I was losing in the heat.

Megaliths looking south
I stood and easily made my way down the short white trail to the Megaliths. I've been here before and everytime I visit I'm re minded of the granite cliffs of the Shawungunk ridge. The view is lovely and the size of these rocks is staggering.

After a moment of awe and a transparent effort to sneak in more rest, I returned to the run.

I had a brief climb from the Meagaliths, across the conglomerate back to the Jessup/Highlands trail.

I resumed my southern trek contemplating abandoning the planned route and starting my return trip early by traversing the Western Ridge Trail (Blue). Determined to extend my training, I opted to continue southbound till I reached the Long Path (Aqua).

Another 1/2 mile and I could sense I was getting close to the transition. After several small descents and a twist in the trail that was obviously reflected on my trail map the intersection appeared. The aqua blaze on a pitch pine turned me to the west and  onto my return route.

Turning onto the Long Path
The Long Path offered a quick view of a western vista before descending steeply into the deep cravass that defines the eastern and western ridges of Schunnemunk.

I cautiously followed the trail across a gnarly boulder field and to the bottom of the descent. The trail rounded the southern tip of the western ridge and gradually increased in elevation.

Not nearly as intense a climb as  Dark Hollow and I was grateful for the lenience as attempted to manage my body temperature and energy level. The sun was getting stronger and I was now falling victim to it's wrath.

My shirt was soaked and my backpack felt like it was a heater on my back. I drank till the bladder was dry and all I had left with were two 500 Ml (16.9 oz) bottles. I was hot and searching for a cool shady spot to rest, but there were none.

Looking across to the eastern ridge
I was on a trail cresting the ridge and as such there was little shade to be found. As I navigated the dry underbrush and pitch pines I decided it would be better for me to try to maintain my momentum than stall it and extending the suffering with a rest.

I was pretty miserable, yet I managed to keep trudging along as I rationed my fluids and wished for a cooling wind or rain, but most of all... I wished for this run to be over.

"The Long path is a very long path".

With each vista or intersection with another trail I used the opportunity as a feigned excuse to take a break, and take a photo, drink and/or check my map for an extended moment of rest

From the Trestle trail looking North
I eventually returned to familiar trails which lifted my spirits. It did little for the excruciating heat but I knew my way home. I could now gauge how much I could drink and  how often. Best of all, I knew that I would soon transfer to the Trestle Trail (white) which is predominately downhill and in the shade.

The Trestle Trail is far from an "easy" descent, the trail is strewn with loose rocks, roots and irregular ruts warn into the mountain by storm wash. It's by far not relaxing, but it's downhill, it's in the shade and taking me home.

I  made my way to the northern nose of Schunnemunk and began a brutally steep descent. With every step my toes slid to the front of my trail shoes and my knees creaked under the exagerated impact.

I followed the endlessly zig-zagging trail. More than once I caught a toe that sent painful shock waves through my aching body.

Managing to avoid an ugly face-plant I finally arrived at the street. I turned to the right and followed the road but a few hundred yards to where my car was parked.

I stopped my Garmin at exactly 10 miles and peeled the back pack from my saturated back.

A brutal workout that tested my ability to continue but I made it. My pace was horrible but the terrain was some of the most challenging in the area.

Distance: 10 Miles
Time: 4hr 05 min
Elevation Gain: 1,760 ft

The Route
Elevation Chart