Archive | July, 2011

Take a walk in Schuylerville

31 Jul

With an 87-degree day weighing down my walking plans, I decided to take my dog to the water. We live close to the Hudson River so I headed to Schuylerville. Instead of starting at Hardy Park, I turned into the Lock 5 parking lot, crossed the bridge and parked near the garden.

What a find! If you have kids, stay here. The natural and interactive playground is a little overgrown, but could provide hours of entertainment for little ones. (Between the hillside ship, the teepee tunnel and several slides, I wanted to stay and play!)

Beyond the swings, there’s a little dock that I believe you can launch kayaks off and head north of the lock on the Hudson. We headed south toward the Canal Tow Path, which stretches for a mile and a half down into Schuylerville. While it’s tough to access the Hudson at the north end of the path, the canal is right there if your dog needs a drink (and you’re not too grossed out about stagnant water).

Either way, the trail is a great place to walk, run or explore. Just stay on the trail; the adjacent property on the north end is private.

More information and a map can be found on the Schuyler Yacht Basin’s website:


Run for a cause

25 Jul

I’m all about running for the heck of it. And racing, yeah, you’ll do that too just because. But when you can do both for a purpose, for a really good cause, it should be an extra incentive.

Last year, I attended the Miles With A Message 5K run/walk behind Queensbury Elementary School. It was organized by Katie Mannix and a group of classmates in memory of Mannix’s departed cousin. The idea was to get the word out about teen suicide and proceeds went to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

This year, the second annual event is scheduled for Saturday at the Queensbury school trails.

Here are the details:

And the basics: 9 a.m. start on Saturday, July 30. Pre-registration $15 (click the link above) until July 26, then $20.


19 Jul

Thanks for checking out Alex Matthews’ brand-spanking new Anything Active website!

Anyone that followed my weekly column at The Post-Star newspaper in Glens Falls, N.Y., will have an idea what this is about. But rather than stick to the Adirondacks, I hope my first-person testimonials about recreation and fitness will interest readers from all over.

I’m moving on to a new position as associate editor at There, I’ll be interviewing cross-country skiers and coaches from around the world, traveling throughout the winter and living the good life working from home for the racing website out of Williamstown, Mass.

At the same time, I plan on keeping a personal blog here with everything from cross-training tips to my own exercise experiences.

Let me know what you’re interested in, what you’ve tried or what activity/event is on your mind right now. I’d love to hear from you, see your photos and get the dialogue going, so let’s have it!

As always, feel free to email Alex at her new address:

Homegrown Cup makes for family tradition

12 Jul

By ALEX MATTHEWS–Commentary | Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 12:39 am

HUDSON FALLS — Friends through the years and competitors by design, two father/son teams descended on Kingswood Golf Club on Sunday for an annual event.

Months ago, 23-year-old Ian Mikutel marked his calendar and arranged to fly nearly 3,000 miles home from his Microsoft job in Seattle for the summer classic. His father, Gary, fit the 18-hole tee time between being regional manager of Xtra Mart convenience stores and co-owner of Sprinkles Ice Cream in Queensbury.

Gary Mikutel, left, and his son Ian, second from left, pose with the winners of the 2011 Kenutel Cup, Brian Kenyon and his father, Doug, far right, at Kingswood Golf Club in Hudson Falls on Sunday.

Their opponents and the defending champions, Doug Kenyon, the executive director of Section II Athletics, and his son Brian, a web program manager, also made time for the Kenutel Cup (pronounced ken-you-tell, a combination of Kenyon and Mikutel).

Brian, 33, drove from Somerville, Mass., with his pregnant wife, and Doug coordinated her baby shower so as not to conflict with the Cup.

Thank goodness Derek Jeter hit 3,000 on Saturday, when the Mikutels were sitting about 12 rows behind home plate at Yankee Stadium. They couldn’t have watched baseball on Sunday.

“It’s one of the things I look forward to most every year,” Ian said of the annual golf match that involves no money. “Especially because we’ve been losing.”

Heading into Sunday, Team Kenyon had won the Cup six out of seven years. After they won the first in 2003, Doug bought a trophy and engraved the two family names on the side to keep a running tally.

On the left, the Kenyons owned a long list, while 2004 went in the Mikutels’ right-hand column. The Cup was not contested in 2006 because, frankly, “life happened,” the group agreed.

Upon greeting the Mikutels to start the day, Doug held the golfers’ trophy in a hand towel.

“I brought the Cup,” he said. “The Cup is here, baby!”

Doug put it in the back of his golf cart and the four proceeded to the driving range. Twenty minutes before their 9 a.m. tee time, the Mikutels wasted no time practicing their swing with a bucket of balls.

The Kenyons, meanwhile, appeared more relaxed. Doug was considered the best player in the group, and Brian hadn’t played a round of golf in nearly a year.

On the second hole, Brian, who said his job at COMSOL Multiphysics catered to rocket scientists, pulled out his phone and checked into Facebook’s Foursquare location application. The last time he played golf was seven months ago, he said.

“Every year, I really look forward to (the Kenutel Cup),” Brian said. “At least I get one competitive game of golf in.

“As social media progresses, the trash talk might slightly advance,” he said.

“I send (Brian) messages on Facebook all the time,” Ian said. “Like, ‘28 days ’til the Kenutel Cup.’ ”

Whatever form of intimidation Ian initiated petered out by the 16th hole, where the Kenyons secured possession of the Cup with a three-stroke lead in the match play/scramble format.

Even if the Mikutels won the last two, they couldn’t catch the reigning champs. The Cup would probably return to the Kenyons’ home in Glens Falls, but there was talk of displaying it in Sprinkles.

“It’s more bragging rights than anything,” Gary said. “Competition is fun, I guess. Like Ian, he’s already thinking about next year and how he can win this thing.”

“I have to put a lot more hours in,” Ian said.

A former Glens Falls basketball player and teammate of Jimmer Fredette, Ian spent the last few years getting golf tips from high school coach and golf pro Stephen Zurlo. With a camera on his golf bag, Ian filmed his swing and sent the video to Zurlo to critique.

“I practice a lot,” Ian said.

“I’ll try to do even less,” Brian said.

As for the future of the Kenutel Cup, the four planned to keep it going, even with Brian’s baby coming in October.

Doug suggested bringing other families in.

“We can expand it into a little father/son tournament,” he said.

Brian wanted to invite Fredette and his dad.

“I think I can beat Jimmer at golf,” Doug said, laughing. “I know I can.”

Original story:

Durfee breaks gender barriers in Death Race

4 Jul

By ALEX MATTHEWS — Commentary | Posted: Monday, July 4, 2011 11:45 pm

HAMPTON — Inside a tidy log cabin at the end of a narrow dirt road, Grace Cuomo Durfee sat on her sofa, wide-eyed and beaming as she recalled a harrowing tale of grit and endurance from almost a week earlier.

Grace Cuomo Durfee

Grace Cuomo Durfee holds daughter Quinn at their home in Hampton on Sunday. Durfee was the first female finisher and fourth overall in the Spartan Death Race on June 24 to 26. She said her husband, Seth, met her at every checkpoint on the 40-plus-hour challenge, and her daughter was her motivation.

The Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vt., from June 24-26 had left her sore, but after an overdue massage on Sunday morning, the 27-year-old said she was feeling pretty relaxed as she flipped her long blond hair behind her feathered earrings.

It wasn’t easy to picture Durfee, a 5-foot-7 mother of one, completing arguably the most extreme race in the world. Not only had she finished the 40-plus-hour event, she was the first female finisher and fourth overall in this year’s Death Race.

Out of 154 people who started, 35 finished, five of which were women. She estimated that the next closest female had been about eight hours behind.

A 2003 Whitehall High School graduate and four-time track and field state qualifier, the then-Grace Cuomo was known as a sprinter. She had set eight school records in the hurdles and short distances, she said, but nothing compared to the nearly two-day survival test she put herself through for the first time last year.

While pregnant with her daughter, Quinn, more than two years ago, Durfee resolved to get fit. She said she ended up in the best shape of her life. In 2010, Durfee was the third female finisher and 12th overall in Pittsfield’s comparably easier 35-hour Death Race. But it was harder for her at the time.

“Last year, I don’t think I was emotionally as strong,” Durfee said. “Different things bothered me. … You have to keep a smile on your face. … I kept telling everybody, ‘My back doesn’t hurt, it feels awesome,’ after carrying a 40-pound log with me for 20-plus hours.”

She said the same thing after six hours of lifting boulders to chest height. A member of the smallest group for the first of about 14 tasks, Durfee and seven others had to rotate through a circle of rocks ranging from 30 to 80 pounds. Moving from one rock to the next, they each had to complete the circuit 175 times.

Because her group was so quick, the race directors assigned more repetitions. They finished around 2 a.m.

“They want you to quit,” Durfee said. “They want to get in your head. They want to break you down.”

They also make up the rules as they go, she said. Courses are never the same, the obstacles are always different and racers never know what to expect — not even on race day. They follow tags on trees and listen to instructions at each checkpoint.

After the rocks, six hours of splitting wood, a 3-mile hike up a waist-deep stream to a pond of 48-degree water (which Durfee crossed in the dark seven times by holding onto a cable), there were raging rivers to go down, waterfalls to climb and streams laced with barbed wire to crawl along. Durfee carried a log for at least half of the race, and by the time she had reached one of the final checkpoints at 11:30 a.m. that Sunday, she was ready for it to be over.

After about 45 miles of trails had badly blistered her feet, Durfee dissected the final task. She had a choice: repeat a climb that took her four hours at the beginning of the race and make it to the church (where the race started) by 3 p.m., or go up after the church service. If she chose to go right away and didn’t make it by 3, she would be disqualified.

“My trainer taped my ankles and I took off running,” Durfee said. “I was on a mission to get it done. They said, ‘You could win the whole thing. … But we know you can’t do it,’ So I was like, ‘ ‘F’ you! I’m going to go for it!’ ”

An hour later, after climbing the same waterfalls and barbed-wire streams with her heavy pack, Durfee was met by the race directors, her husband and a camera crew. It had been a test. The race was over.

“Nobody else took the challenge to think they could get this done in time,” Durfee said. “So everybody joked around and said I should’ve won, but it wasn’t a big deal.”

The organizers brought her back down to pretend she failed the last challenge. With a 40-hour time limit in mind, the organizers stopped others on the trail and awarded them for finishing. Durfee said she was one of seven to complete every task and ended up with a skeleton trophy.

In her toughest moments, Durfee said she never considered quitting. At one point, her husband, Seth, hiked with her and talked about their 2-year-old daughter.

“The whole purpose of me doing really good and the whole motivation is I want her (Quinn) to be proud of me,” Durfee said. “I want her to realize if you set goals for yourself, that you can do them, and there’s nothing wrong with being a strong woman.”

But after risking her life in a race, what’s next? Maybe triathlons, Durfee said. On Aug. 6, she’ll take advantage of her free entry in the Spartan Beast Race, a 10-mile challenge in Killington, Vt. She was told ESPN will be there following her.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, nothing like putting added pressure on me,’ ” she said.

Active Advice

Grace Cuomo Durfee, a massage therapist in Whitehall and fourth overall finisher of the 2011 Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vt., gave some tips for anyone looking to try a similar event.

* Don’t whine. Don’t complain. A cheerleader in high school and by nature, Durfee said she smiled throughout the 40-hour challenge. When your muscles cramp, you have to ignore it she said. “You have to be like, this does not hurt me,” Durfee said.

* Don’t let inexperience get you down. You can walk all 45 miles, she said.

“Try it, why not,” Durfee said. “I don’t think it matters how physically sound you are. It’s how mentally strong you are. It’s what’s inside your brain … just push.”

* Expect to get dirty. Durfee learned to split wood in her first Spartan race last year, and this year, she broke three axes doing so. Part of the race involved slogging through streams and cold ponds, planting cucumbers and dealing with thunderstorms. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

“Eventually he (Spartan Death Race founder Joe DeSena) wants it so that nobody finishes the race,” Durfee said. “I think he would be so happy if nobody finished.”

For more information on the Spartan Death Race, visit

Original story:

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