On the Run: Rayhill Memorial Trail (and some tough-run tips)

Anddd we’re back! Welcome to post #3 for the On the Run!. Today, we’re venturing a bit outside of Utica to explore. In fact, on this run, you cross through four towns all without going very far! What can I say? I am a world traveler.

I will forewarn that this entire loop is between 10 and 11 miles, which I realize is enough for some people to demand I be incarcerated for cruel and unusual punishment. That being said, there is a parking lot smack in the middle of the trail, so driving there is an option. A totally worth-it option.


The trail actually starts just over two miles from campus next to New Hartford’s Consumer Square, so you could totally park at the strip mall and head out from there. I won’t tell.


From here, you follow the trail as it takes you along 840 westbound and onto Middle Settlement Road.

IMAG1755Fun fact #1: all great photography also captures the fingers of the photographer.

Hang a right at the light and you’ll find the entrance to the rest of the trail.


Those of you from the area probably think I’m a little weird/sheltered, but we really don’t have any nice trails near me in New Jersey. It has really made me appreciate that places like this exist!

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IMAG1764Look. At. The. Ice. WHY???? (Winter and I don’t get along.)

IMAG1769BEAVERS! (I think. I need at least six more trips to the Syracuse Zoo before I can even attempt to figure any of that out.)


Cross Clark Mills Road and you’ll find…..


Eventually, the black-top trail ends and you’ll hang a right at the traffic light and continue up the sidewalk.

IMAG1774I love the tree in this picture. Fun fact #2: in May when the tree is in full bloom, you have to tuck and roll to go through. Or, like, go around. But what fun is that?


Can we talk about the two little Egyptian tributes in this park?? Every time I run by, I always wonder how that conversation must have gone…

We’ve gotta decorate the park. Maybe a jungle gym or a sand box–
Sphinx statues!

Running gives me lots of time to think about things no one should ever think about.


You’ll be on this path for a while. Enjoy the quiet.

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Once you pass an elementary school, you’ll turn right onto Henderson Street. There’s no sidewalk here, so run against traffic. The side of the road/grass has plenty of space!


And from here, it’s basically a big loop. Cross Commercial Drive (use the crosswalk buttons!! Do not play frogger.) and go up Burrstone Road back to campus. Seeing one of these at the very end of an 11-mile run is always wonderful.


Hills of doom, ladies and gents. Hills of doom.

While I know the run is a bit long for some, there are some serious perks with this route. Aside from the pretty scenery and the fact there’s almost always someone walking their dog (PUPPIES), the trail is consistently plowed and salted. Even in February after blizzards and freezing rain have turned every other sidewalk in a 45-mile radius to a pit of misery, this trail will be waiting.

A lot of people (i.e. my mother) ask me how I get through any run, especially the long ones. My secret weapon is this:


I listen to a loop of Jillian Michaels screaming obscenities at me. Works wonders.

KIDDING! Jillian Michaels has a great fitness/nutrition/life advice podcast that you can download for free from iTunes! It’s full of great information, conversational and usually has me cackling in the middle of my run. All alone. In the middle of the woods. This is also a great tactic for ensuring strangers think you’re mentally unstable and do not want to talk to you. It’s a win-win!

If I’ve already listened to Jillian’s weekly podcast, I jump to NPR’s Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me!, which is a hilarious news quiz show. The show helps me get up-to-date on current news in a really unique and entertaining format. Wait, Wait! is also available for free on iTunes.

Best way to end a run? Pain and torment, obviously.


Hurts so good.

Some questions for you:
Do you like paved trails/sidewalks? Or are you more of a traditional, gravel-and-mud trail person?

What’s your favorite thing to listen to during a run?
Podcasts, e-books, songs/albums.. whatever! I’m always looking for ideas 🙂

Have you ever used that doo-hickey (technical term. Also known as a foam roller) in the last picture? Do you weep every time or is that just me?
Just me? Ok, cool.



On the Run! Valley View Golf Course

Welcome to the first real post for On the Run! In case you missed my first post about why running isn’t actually the devil (I have done extensive testing), check it out here!

When I started thinking about this feature, I realized that I was gonna need to start with something big, something pretty awe-inspiring, and really hit the ground running, so to speak.

Valley View Golf Course seemed like the only logical place to go.
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But let’s take this journey a little more gradually, shall we?

From UC, Valley View is a straight jog up the parkway. The parkway has sidewalks along either side and a strip of grass in the middle (which I’ve heard referred to as a park?? Utica, you are not helping your case). This grassy strip is also home to a familiar face….

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It’s Grandmother Willow! From Pocahontas?! …Guys?

You get a cool, birds-eye view of Utica on your way up the parkway. And I literally mean UP. Utica is latin for “hills of doom” afterall!**

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**I made that up.

Once you hit the end of the parkway and take a small detour through Valley View’s parking lot, you’ll find a gravel trail.

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Trail running isn’t something that Utica is necessarily known for (at all), but they exist and they are wondrous. But we’ll go more into that next post…. 😉

This trail is one of the tougher parts of the run because it’s like HILLS HILLS HILLS, but it evens out pretty quickly. The view helps a bit too.
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I took about a thousand more pictures, but you get the idea. Super pretty. And we’re not even technically in the golf course yet! And yes, the sun was absolutely assaulting my corneas.

The trail runs just less than a mile before you hit paved trails. These are also beautiful. This entire paved path is also part of the Boilermaker 15K course, which takes place in July and is a ton of fun. It is also approximately 60 degrees warmer outside. Excuse me while I weep.

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As you can see, there are about a million different paths, give or take, to choose from and you can mix and match depending on the length of your run. I promise it’s pretty hard to get lost in the golf course (golf carts don’t have GPS systems ….although, I may go patent one that does because that is GENIUS), so have fun and explore! The path I chose goes straight up and around…

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 …then through the woods….

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And viola! We made it and it’s all down hill from here.

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The run back is a breeze and takes you downhill most of the way and then flattens out right back by the college. The whole loop is just over 7 miles and can be made longer or shorter depending on where you start on campus and what trails you take. You can also park at the Rec Center (located on the parkway off of Oneida Street) and start running from there, which cuts the run down to just over 3 miles. It’s a great area and one of the biggest things I’ll miss when I head home to New Jersey in December.

And just for good measure, here’s a picture of me looking like a looney.
Yes, that was published in the college’s paper. No, Under Armour did not promptly contact me to do their cold-weather ads. I know, right?

Talk to me:
Most embarrassing picture ever taken of you? (You can just describe it, although I would love to see it.)
Locals/students: Based on my hints, any ideas where I’m headed next?!


On the Run: New blog feature!

Hi everyone! I’ve been hard at work collecting some things for a new feature I’m starting on my blog called On the Run! I think a little background is necessary, so let’s take it back a couple years….

I grew up seriously overweight. Things escalated quickly and I found myself as a 180-pound high school freshman. Something needed to change. I found that change in something I never thought I would:

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I decided to start running!

Now, while I’m sure you’d be more than happy to giggle at the absolutely ridiculous running pictures I’ve taken (I’m the worst picture-taker when standing still, let alone moving around), there is a UC connection. I dropped most of my weight thanks to running while at UC!

My sophomore year I started dabbling in running a bit more. I’d always been curious, but I had a vision in my head that only super skinny kids could run–I know, I don’t know. I ran my first race in April 2012: The Save Our Switchbacks 7.5k. The race was k i l l e r; the hills of the switchbacks are pretty much vertical and I was wholly unprepared for what I got myself into. I finished and hobbled into the post-race party… to find out I took first place in my age group! This created a monster and I spent the summer determined to get better. I ran my first half marathon that September.


Not only did I finish in one piece, I ran the race with a pace over a minute-per-mile faster than the 7.5k (and held it for almost ten miles longer!).

Then came UC. I was a woman possessed. I didn’t know how to improve, but I knew I wanted to. That’s when I decided to take the plunge…

I joined the track team!

I ran indoor and outdoor track and saw leaps of improvement in my running. By the end of the 2013 track season, I had decreased my mile time from 6:50 to 6:10! I knew what the real test would be though: a re-try at the Save Our Switchbacks race.

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I tried again… and came in 40th out of nearly 200 runners! Second place in my age group, an average 7:48 pace compared to last year’s 9:45 pace… I was a happy, proud camper.

Two weeks later I did something else I never thought I’d do: I won a 5k. Won. This will never happen again, but I’m glad it happened once.
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Running has given me so much. It helped me feel like I was really good at something. It made me feel stronger. It made me lots of great friends!
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But most importantly, it helped me finally do this:
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Running, especially at UC, helped me become a better version of myself and I want to share that with all of you! Before you panic, I’m not making you run laps (although, that might be fun…). This segment is all about showing everyone what cool things I’ve found running in the Utica area! I’m really excited about it and hope you are too!

Some questions for you:
Do you run? If not, do you like another sport?
Local folks: what places should I run to?!?

And a sneak peek at the next installment of On the Run:
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Oh yeah, I went there.


Fun at the Zoo!

Nothing like the zoo to make you feel like a little kid again.
…. I act my shoe size more often than I care to admit.

I was able to visit the Syracuse Zoo on Sunday thanks to Cody, a resident assistant in South Hall for the ULive themed floor. The floor is aimed towards biology/health studies students, and they do all sorts of cool stuff geared towards students in those majors. I was so excited to be a bio major for the day!

I’m a huge animal lover and always find myself mesmerized by the unique animals at the zoo (and trying to kidnap the cute ones), like this little fellow:

Poor thing has a cataract from a car accident, but he’s made almost a full recovery.
We’re also pretty much in love. Send dead mice in lieu of wedding gifts.

Another great part of the zoo is seeing animals in their natural environments. It’s kind of like “The Real World,” but with lemurs and flamingos.

This photo was taken seconds before the the two penguins that are in each other’s faces went at it. I’m actually being completely serious this time.

The penguin on the left lost and was not too pleased.

Poor guy.

And no trip to the zoo is complete without this movie star:
Not a fan of paparazzi.

You better believe I was that person yelling “you guys, I found Nemo!!!” in the middle of the zoo. Even the toddlers were embarrassed for me.

Your turn!
Do you like the zoo? When was the last time you went and what zoo?

Favorite animal?
Owls! Although, the red panda is making a mad dash for my heart.
Do you act your age?
In most situations, I do (I swear). The zoo just warrants some light-hearted fun!