The Pickle Run #2: Trail Edition!

Last Saturday I ran the February Pickle Run at Ridley Creek State Park.  After running the all-road course at the January Pickle, I decided to give the trails a try in February and I am happy that I did!

The race traversed “3.8ish” miles of hilly, winding, snow-covered trails.  The trail course started out with the road-runners for the first half mile or so before veering into the woods where the first 10-15 minutes of trails flew by in a blur.  I was sandwiched between two guys and the three of us zoomed through the forest making great time with no other runners in sight.

The guy in yellow took the lead through the entire trail section and I stayed tucked in right behind him (as this photo illustrates... you can hardly see me!) Photo Credit: RunningMadPhoto

The guy in yellow took the lead through the entire trail section and I stayed tucked in right behind him (as this photo illustrates… you can hardly see me!) Photo Credit: RunningMadPhoto

Of course all of that fun downhill couldn’t last forever… with about 1.5 miles to go we turned onto the “white” trail and immediately started climbing.  And climbing.  I technically never walked, but I’m pretty sure that I was shuffling along at 15++ minute mile pace.  Finally the trail leveled out and I realized how completely dead my legs felt with another mile still to go.  Trail running is HARD!

Pickle Trail Run (2-26-15)_

Right before crossing over the multi-use roadway on the yellow trail the course plunged down a really steep hill.  Halfway down the hill I spotted one of the race’s signature googly-eyed pickles leaning up against a fallen tree but was too tired to go back up the hill for it.  I yelled “PICKLE!!” and the guy behind me mustered up the strength to turn back for the prize.  (Runners who find pickles on the course get silly awards like old VHS tapes and fake wall-mounted fish.  It’s all fun on the Pickle Run!)

The race finally returned to pavement with less than 1/4 mile to go (or something like this… this was a prediction run so no watches allowed!) and the tired trail runners rejoined the 5K road runners who were also in the homestretch.  I was thrilled to be back on pavement and I picked up my pace and sprinted into the finish.  Trail pickle complete!

Annie Pickle Run Finish

Photo Credit: Run the Day

My finish time of 35:40 means that I ran at an average pace of 9:23 per mile.  Slower than road race pace, for sure, but also much faster than my mid-week trail runs so I’m happy with that!  Before the race began I haphazardly guessed that I’d finish in 36:00 not really knowing what the conditions would be like.  Wildly, this meant that my prediction was only 20 seconds off which was good enough for 3rd place and another pickle-in-a-beer stein award.  Awesome!

My next race is March 7th… the last of the Athlete’s Closet Winter Series.  I have been sticking with my speed work and tempo runs and I am looking forward to running FAST on the nice, even pavement!!

Miles since last post: 32
Days since last post:  7
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.84
2015 MILES: 267.2

Past Races:
•  February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7/15)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

I won the lottery!

A few weeks ago I entered the lottery for Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run, a 10 mile point-to-point race that takes place in early May.  And guess what?  I made the cut!! Here’s the email I woke up to on Tuesday morning:

I'm in! Broad Street 2015

Apparently 46,600 runners entered and ‘only’ 40,000 got in. This is a BIG race!

Broad Street is May 3rd, just 3 weeks after my first 10K on April 11th.  The 10K will already be my longest race ever… it’s going to be an exciting spring!

In other news, my renewed focus on improving my 5K speed feels like it’s going really well.  I did a strong 4.5 mile tempo run in a mini snowstorm at Ridley Creek on Saturday, finally returned to The Running Place for a chilly 5 mile group run on Monday and completed a speedy 400-800-1200-1200-800-400 ladder on the treadmill on Tuesday.  Then Wednesday I ran 4 snow-covered miles at Okehocking Preserve and ended the night with this view.  I love it here!

Okehocking Sunset (2/18/15)

Miles since last post: 38.6
Days since last post:  8
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.85
2015 MILES: 235.2

Hiking Delaware’s New National Monument

Matt and I have gotten into the habit of taking Piper hiking nearly every weekend.  We have a few favorite spots like Ridley Creek State Park and Okehocking Preserve, but sometimes it’s fun to let our pup explore a new place.  Earlier this month when the weather was especially nice (aka not below freezing!) we decided to bring Piper to the Woodlawn Trustees Preserve.  The preserve stretches for thousands of acres on either side of the Pennsylvania-Delaware border and features miles of hiking trails, scenic sections of the Brandywine Creek and breathtaking vistas of rolling hills and woodlands.

Woodlawn Trustees Sign (2012)

Matt and I have hiked at Woodlawn several times but last weekend was our first visit since the area was officially declared a National Monument in March 2013.  With the exception of a few new signs in the parking lot the National Monument designation didn’t seem to change the area much which is good because it’s already perfect just the way it is!

Piper had a blast on our hike.  She sniffed everything, tried to convince us to let her swim in the Brandywine (it was 40° out – not happening, pup!), and confidently stared down the mountain bikers that were out on the trails in force.  She is definitely getting accustomed to me taking photos of her on hikes… sometimes I think she poses on purpose!

Piper in the winter woods

In the shot above Pipe stopped to listen to the eerie sound of a train whistle floating through the cold winter forest.  I learned afterwards that the train we heard is the East Penn Railroad (you can actually see the locomotive in the Granogue Estate photo, above) and it runs about three times a week to take steel to and from a recycling plant in Pennsylvania.  Cool!

Below Piper was pointing at some unseen (or imagined) prey.  She looks so grown up!

Piper pointing

Matt, Piper and I hiked a nice 4 mile loop that began at the parking lot on Brandywine Creek Road just south of the intersection with Smithbridge Road on the Delaware side of the border.  We finished with an easy flat mile along the Brandywine Creek.  During warmer months this is a very popular area for kayaking and canoeing but last weekend we only saw one lone canoer (canoeist?), frantically paddling upstream against the current.  I bet her arms were tired once she made it to her destination!

Piper takes a little dip in the Brandywine

If you find yourself in the southern PA/northern Delaware area on a nice day I would strongly recommend that you pay a visit to the Woodlawn Preserve.  Detailed information on the area is somewhat scattered between Woodlawn’s web site, the new National Park Service page, and an preservationist group called Save The Valley so I suggest checking out all three organizations for information before planning a day trip.  Here’s a map from Save the Valley with our 4 mile hike overlaid in red:

Woodlawn Trail Map 4 miles

Click here to view the original Save the Valley map.

When the weather gets nicer I will hopefully return to Woodlawn with a running buddy for some quality trail running.  Maybe by the end of the summer I will be running here with little Piper!  I’m pretty sure she will think that’s the best thing ever.  😃

Piper at the Brandywine

Athlete’s Closet February 5K and a Renewed Need for Speed

Last Saturday I ran the third of four 5Ks in the Athlete’s Closet Winter Series.  Coming off of a month of slower trail runs, time in Vegas and really no speedwork to speak of, it was not surprising that I finished Saturday’s 5K much slower than my January 5K time from the exact same course.

Athlete's Closet Feb 5K Garmin

I started out a little too quickly (ok, a LOT too quickly!) and then faded pretty significantly towards the end of the race.  I felt OK the entire time (well, until I looked at my watch after mile 2 and saw 8:11!) but I just couldn’t make my legs go any faster.  My finish time of 24:00 was 13 seconds slower than January’s AC 5K but, surprisingly, was still good enough for 3rd woman overall and top in my age group.  I guess we’re all getting a little slower as winter drags on!

Despite my lackluster performance I left the race with renewed determination.  I want to beat my course best time of 23:47 during March’s Athlete’s Closet 5K and I know I can do it!  I drove home feeling excited by the prospect of resuming speedwork (crazy, right??!) and found myself looking forward to picking up the pace on training runs.  The final Athlete’s Closet 5K in on March 7th and I am going to be ready for it!!

I have four weeks to work on my speed.  I kicked things off Monday with 5 miles on the treadmill while watching Seven Years in Tibet.* Then things really got going on Tuesday with my first speed workout since before Thanksgiving: 6 x 800m intervals on the treadmill with 400m jog recovery in between.  3:42, 3:41, 3:37, 3:35, 3:32, 3:25… I CRUSHED this workout with a better average pace than I ever ran on the track last Fall.  After a nice cool down I climbed off the treadmill more determined than ever.

6x800m speedwork

*Side note: I last saw Seven Years in Tibet when I was 13.  It was SO much better to watch now! Fascinating 1940s history plus young Brad Pitt.
Enough of this machine! Take me hiking!!!

I don’t have a specific training plan per se, but between now and March 7th I plan to do at least three more speedwork sessions (maybe a 400-800-1200-1200-800-400 ladder? Bring it on!) as well as a few tempo runs and some easy miles on the trails.  Today, however, will be as close as I get to a rest day – I’m taking Piper hiking after work! 😄

Miles since last post: 87.1
Days since last post:  18
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.85
2015 MILES: 196.6

Past Races:
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township Day 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

I was nominated by Jenny at Cello’s Corner for the Liebster Award – thanks Jenny! Cello’s Corner is a blog about Jenny’s two German Shorthairs, Cello and Hooch. These two lucky pups spend their days camping, hiking, dock diving and hanging out at dog-friendly wineries. Bailey and Cello were dock-diving buddies and hopefully Piper will get to meet both of Jenny’s dogs in the coming year.

As part of accepting the Liebster Award I get to answer 11 questions. I love that these are dog-related questions because (in case you didn’t notice) I LOVE writing about dogs! Without further ado, here we go…

1. Most bloggers have a moment where they say to themselves, “I need to tell the world about this!” What was that moment for you?

Well, the moment that comes to mind actually has nothing to do with dogs. It’s when Matt and I made Shrimp Scampi for the first time. Dinner was SO delicious that I had to share the recipe IMMEDIATELY. Here’s a link to that post if you’re in the mood for a really yummy pasta dish: Shrimp Scampi. We had it again last week!

2. What is the craziest thing you have ever done with your dog(s).

Hmm, does driving 30+ hours from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin and back with only 2 hour break count? Because that was pretty crazy! Matt and I did this in order to bring Piper home from her breeder back in October.

PIper slept through most of the 15 hour ride home.

PIper slept through most of the 15 hour ride home.

3. More and more establishments are starting to become pet-friendly. What are your thoughts on this policy? And do you hope that it becomes more of the “standard” in the future?

I’m all for pet-friendly places but hope that dog owners will use common sense when deciding to bring the dog along. Dogs should be under control and on a leash. Also, owners should always, ALWAYS clean up after their dogs! I am a major dog lover but I still absolutely hate it when I see dog poop on the grass medians in the parking lot outside a pet store or other pet-friendly establishment. Come on, people!

4. Have you have taken your dog to a dog-friendly winery/bar/restaurant/attraction? If so, what was your favorite place, and why?

No, but a dog friendly winery sounds like my kind of place! Grace Winery, the vineyard where Matt and I got married, hosts dog-friendly outdoor tastings on Sunday afternoons so maybe Piper will get to experience that in the Spring.

5. What is your favorite game to play with your dog?

We like to play around with wobble discs, cardboard boxes, and other random objects to encourage Piper’s balance, hind leg awareness and general interaction/attention skills. Here’s a collage of her on wobbly inflated discs when she was 12 weeks old:

Wobble Pup

6. Does your dog sleep in bed with you?

Nope! Piper sleeps in her crate right now and when she’s old enough she’ll graduate up to a dog bed in our bedroom. Bailey (pictured below) wasn’t allowed to sleep on our bed either, except if we were traveling and staying at a pet-friendly hotel. Then we made a special exception and she got to snuggle on the bed with us. 😊

How Bailey prefers to spend her time inside.

7. What is the silliest thing you have ever seen your dog do?

Piper is full of quirky, funny, amazing puppy antics! The silliest thing that comes to mind was a few months ago when she accidentally peed on the kitchen floor, then galloped through her pee puddle, slipped on it, and totally wiped out, skidding several feet across the kitchen floor. It was messy but boy was it funny.

8. Does your dog participate in any organized activity, competition, or sport?

For now Piper is just in obedience training mode. She completed puppy class and I really need to call What a Good Dog to schedule her next round of classes. I never remember to do that during business hours though… maybe this post will remind me tomorrow!

9. What type of training [treats] do you use with your dog?

I’m adding “treats” to this question since I already covered some training above. Piper’s favorite training treats are (in order): Bil-Jac’s Gooberlicious peanut treats (aka Little Goobers), string cheese, Zuke’s rabbit-flavored mini-naturals, and Zuke’s jerky.

Treats

Treat time!

10. How many dogs total do you have? Have you ever thought about adding another to the pack?

Just one! Maybe we’ll get Piper a friend in the future but we’re good for now.

11. Do you carry a first aid kit with you when traveling with your dog? If so, what do you think are the most important items you have in your kit?

We used to travel with a camping-style human first aid kit that included gauze, aspirin and Benadryl (all things that a dog might need too). We haven’t brought the kit along lately but I figure that we’re usually never more than a short drive away from a pharmacy or some other store where we could buy supplies in an emergency.

~~~

And that’s it! Thank you again to Jenny from Cello’s Corner for nominating me. It’s nice to have an excuse to share more about Piper (not that I need one!).

Rather than nominating specific blogs, I’d like to welcome my readers to answer any one of the questions above in the comments. If you don’t have a dog that’s fine… tell me about your cat, goldfish, (child?) etc. Have your pets done something sillier than wipe out on the kitchen floor in their own pee? 😉

Trail Running: I’m Hooked!

Big news on the blog today… I think I’m turning into a trail runner!  It all began on January 17th when I avoided the trails and chose the easier road course at the Pickle Run.  After the race was over two Trail-Picklers cheerfully informed me that the trails were WAY more fun than the boring out-and-back road course.  They suggested that I give the trails a try in the future and I took their advice to heart.

Yaktrax Trail Run

The Sunday after returning home from Vegas I took Piper out on a walk/jog in Ridley Creek State Park to see for myself how fun this whole trail running thing could be.  I LOVED IT!! The snowy trail wound around in the woods, up hills and over little frozen creeks.  Every once in a while the trail would intersect the paved multi-use park road and Piper and I would dash across, pausing just long enough to glimpse a few road-runners before diving back into the woods on the other side.  Piper shouldn’t be running any significant distance yet since she’s still very young, but we couldn’t stop ourselves from breaking out into a slow jog on the beautiful trails.  Piper’s tail was up in the air and wagging the entire time.  😊  (Side note: Piper is going to be an awesome running buddy someday!!)

I headed out onto the Ridley Creek trails again on Tuesday, this time ready for a more serious run and armed with a new pair of Yaktrax to help with traction on the snow and ice.  I parked at area 14 and enjoyed a hilly route that followed sections of the blue, white and yellow trails.  I completed 4 miles in 44:44… a lot slower than my normal road runs but given the rough terrain and snow that was fine by me.

Saturday I was at it again, now venturing out on the Darlington and Rocky Run sections of my beloved Middletown Township trails network.  The area around the parking lot looked melted and muddy so I initially left my Yaktrax in the car, but promptly turned around and grabbed them after immediately hitting a section of trail that was pure ice.  (Apparently ice stays on the trails even when it has melted everywhere else.  Who knew?)  This run was hillier than my forays in RCSP but quite enjoyable nonetheless.  After 5.1 miles at a slightly improved 10:12 pace I think it’s safe to say that I am officially hooked on trails.

Middletown Trails Run

In other big news…  After thirty-four 5Ks and four 5-milers I’m finally trying a new race distance – a 10K!!  I’ll be running the Tyler Arboretum 10K on April 11th.  It’s a trail race (!!!) with four creek crossings and – I quote – “TONS of elevation changes” so it’s a good thing I’m embracing this whole trail running thing now!!  Tyler Arboretum is right next to Ridley Creek State Park but I’ve never actually been there since they charge admission and don’t allow dogs.  I’m definitely looking forward to my first 10K!

I still have a lot to learn about trail running but here are a few things I’ve picked up so far:

  1. Trail running is different (harder!) than road running.  Just because the pace is slower doesn’t mean you’re not working as hard.
  2. Ice and snow remain on trails even when everything else is melted.  Yaktrax are awesome!
  3. Trail running is much more peaceful than road running.  Just you and the woods.  And your audiobook if you’re me.  (I’m 7 hours into Seabiscuit.)
  4. Trails are a great alternative to icy winter roads with their icky, salty, slushy shoulders.  I’d rather plan for constant ice and snow on the trails versus trying to dodge ice (and traffic) on the roads.
  5. Don’t get lost.  Run somewhere you’re familiar with, plot your route ahead of time, use a mapping app on your phone… whatever you need to do.  I would want to hike a new trail with Matt and Piper first to get a feel for it before attempting to run anywhere new alone.
  6. Tell someone where you’re going.  I let Matt know my plan and also use the cool “LiveTrack” feature on my Garmin so he can watch my run in real time on his phone if he wants to.
  7. Be safe!  So far I have felt very safe at Ridley Creek State Park and on the Middletown Trails, in part because they’re places I go all the time and also because honestly, what crazy predator would be hiding out in the woods on a 19° winter day on the off chance that a lone runner passes by?  Still, if I’m going to be running solo I might need to invest in some pepper spray…?

Runners!! What trail running tips would you add to my list??

5 Months Old

01 beautiful little Piper

Piper is 5 months old today!  As I type this she’s stretched out on the couch, sleeping soundly with her head resting on Matt’s leg and her left ear flipped inside out.  Piper is the sweetest, most affectionate pup ever!

02 Piper's 5 month mug shot

Matt and I spent last week in Las Vegas on a work trip.  Piper got to stay with her best buddy Hershey at my mom’s house (thanks, Mom and Rob!) and she had a fantastic time.  Piper has approximately one million percent more energy than Hershey and she happily funnels this excess into constantly pestering her chocolate lab friend.  Luckily Hershey is extremely tolerant of Piper and gently puts up with all of her puppy antics.

03 'what puppy antics??'

“What puppy antics???!”

After a week of fun with Hershey Piper was still very excited when Matt and I returned home on Saturday morning.  She wiggled and wagged and snorted at us before happily curling up between us on the couch.  Piper then snoozed for hours which was good because we were really tired from our red-eye flight!!

04 little piper

After two days at home Piper still seems extra laid back but I think she’s secretly just saving up her energy for the snow storm we’re supposed to get tomorrow…  I’m sure that more snow puppy photos will be coming soon! 😃