Day 4: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

It’s a brisk 21° here in Pennsylvania this morning but it still doesn’t feel like this weather is actually cold after our October trip to Yellowstone. Day 4 began in frosty Canyon Village with temps in the single digits. Matt and I were getting used to being outside in the cold by Saturday so honestly the hardest part was just sitting in the rental car waiting for it to defrost enough to make the short drive to the dining hall building. (Then, unfortunately, the breakfast of french toast and strata at Canyon’s cafeteria was cold, soggy, and flavorless, but I’ll address the park food later!)

Lackluster meal behind us, Matt and I headed up to Artist Point once again to gawk at the massive Yellowstone Canyon and Lower Falls in the distance. This time we were prepared with Yaktrax on our hiking boots which made the short but extremely icy walk to the lookout feel much safer.

Next we drove back down South Rim Drive towards Uncle Tom’s Trail, a steep stairway down to the base of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. We were excited to see that our car was the only car in the parking lot – what luck!! But the reason soon became apparent… Uncle Tom’s Trail was closed. At the time we figured this was due to snow/ice on the stairs* so, emboldened by our Yaktrax, we started along the snow-packed trail towards the lookout point, curious to see how far we could get.

The beginning of the trail was fine, but what was not fine was how isolated we felt the moment we started hiking away from the parking lot. We had become accustomed to having a few other tourists around us at all times but this trail was lonely and silent. We thought about all of the “BE BEAR AWARE” warning signs we’d seen around the park and decided to turn back. Just as we arrived back at the parking lot we noticed a couple hiking towards us. I asked them if they were also heading towards Uncle Tom’s Trail and, when they replied that they were AND that they had bear spray, we promptly turned around and headed back towards the waterfall with them.

We had fun chatting with our fellow hikers as we journeyed up the south rim trail. We stopped at overlooks to snap pictures of the waterfall below, but we never did see the actual turnoff for Uncle Tom’s Trail. (Probably because the trail was buried under a few inches of fresh snow!) In the end we found ourselves up at the Artist Point parking lot once again, so Matt and I peeled off to return to our car via the road while our newfound friends continued on to see the famous overlook for themselves.

After lunch at the Canyon Village General Store we drove south to explore the Hayden Valley and mud volcano. The mud volcano area was home to one of the coolest thermal features we saw (and heard!) on the whole trip: Dragon’s Mouth Spring. The spring is inside a cave that constantly spews a column of steam out into the basin around it. The best part was the ominous low rumbling sound that accompanied each “dragon’s breath” of steam. Click below for a video.

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Our next stop was Lake Village on the shore of the massive Yellowstone Lake. We drove by the Lake Lodge (closed for the season) and stopped by the visitor center before soaking up some sun at the edge of the lake. By this point it had warmed up to the 30s which felt downright balmy compared to the weather we’d experienced for the past few days.

We enjoyed the drive back north along the Yellowstone River before again feeling the pull of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  As the sun was getting low in the sky we visited the canyon one last time, this time on the north rim with stops at Lookout Point, Grand View and Inspiration Point.

Although the day ended on a high note scenery-wise, the food was, once again, not the strong point of the trip.  We’d been exclusively eating park food since Thursday and by dinner on Saturday that was starting to wear on me. This was the last night Canyon Lodge was open for the year and several items on the limited menu were already unavailable or running out as we waited. (For example, they ran out of penne partway through making Matt’s entree and brought him a tiny portion of chicken-sausage pasta that was also missing the sausage because they ran out of that, too!!) I understand that it was the last night of dinner service so obviously the restaurant didn’t want to have excess food left over, but after several meals in the park I was ready to get out and eat some “real” food made with fresh ingredients. More on that in my recap of Day 5!!

*Now that I’m home and have the internet at my fingertips I realize that Uncle Tom’s Trail is actually closed for a large scale maintenance project, not because of conditions on the trail in October.

Day 3: Geysers and Hot Springs Galore

When we woke up on Friday it was -4° (yes, that’s Fahrenheit). Brr!! We ate breakfast before dawn and asked the receptionist at the hotel’s front desk if he knew when Old Faithful might put on its first daytime show. Based on the last known eruption which had occurred at 6:45AM he recommended that we be ready and waiting outside between 8-8:30. So out we went!

By 8:15 the sun was out and it had warmed up to -2°F. Ha! We were super bundled up and waited with a few brave souls to see the world’s most famous geyser do its thing. Soon enough Old Faithful began shooting a tower of water into the air, creating a brilliant white plume of steam against the perfect blue sky.

Next we headed to Midway Geyser Basin, home of another one of Yellowstone’s most well known sights, Grand Prismatic Spring. Google it and you will see gorgeous images of vivid rainbow colored water that looks like it was photoshopped by mother nature. But unfortunately this was not what we saw on Friday. In the single-digit temperatures the heat from all of the geothermal springs, vents and geysers in Midway had created a frosty, eerie world of fog, steam and ice that obscured most of the colorful attractions. This was pretty cool on its own account, even if we didn’t get to see Grand Prismatic in all its glory!

After leaving Midway Geyser Basin we headed south to Biscuit Basin. Along the way a herd of snowy bison materialized out of the fog. I love this photo of the bison in the snow, so much so that I just ordered a huge canvas of it for our house. (And I’ll share a secret: it’s actually TWO photos stitched together side-by-side!)

The entrance to Biscuit Basin was guarded by another bison who seemed content to hang around and let people from a tour bus get way too close to him as they snapped photos. We skirted around him to access the snow-covered boardwalks of the basin. Biscuit Basin was much less foggy than Midway had been and we soaked in the views of vivid greens, blues and oranges caused by thermophilic bacteria living in the hot springs.

We headed back to Old Faithful to catch its next eruption before venturing into the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin that stretches back behind Old Faithful. As we crossed a bridge over the Firehole River Matt spotted river otters playing in the water. Cool!! They slithered over logs for a few moments before disappearing in the cold dark water. (But not before I got photographic proof that we had seen them!)

Upper Geyser Basin and nearby Black Sand Basin featured spitting geysers and several more colorful hot springs. After having better luck seeing springs at these basins we returned to Midway Geyser Basin a second time with hopes of glimpsing Grand Prismatic, but it was still shrouded by steam and fog. (Granted, it never got warmer than 20° on Friday so I guess it just wasn’t our day to see the spring!)

As we left Old Faithful to head towards Canyon Village for the night we were treated to another great animal sighting. A coyote crossed the road in front of our car and then trotted confidently through the snowy grass right by my open window. What luck! We had now seen moose, elk, bison, otter and coyote and it was only our first full day in Yellowstone.

We reached Canyon Village in the late afternoon. Remembering how the access road to the canyon’s overlooks had been closed the day before, we drove past our lodge to see if South Rim Drive had reopened. It was still very snowy but definitely open! Since we were so close we figured we’d get a sneak peek of the next day’s main attraction. We drove up to the end of South Rim Drive and, after a short but extremely icy walk, we found ourselves at Artist Point taking in a sweeping view of the canyon and the lower falls of the Yellowstone River in the distance. Wow.

Satisfied that we had seen enough for one day, we drove back down the snowy road and checked into Canyon Lodge. Like Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Canyon has no cell service, no TV and no wifi. (Or rather, there is “wifi in the lobby but it’s VERY slow” according to the receptionist… and the lobby was in a completely different building from our room!) So instead of checking emails, Twitter and Facebook Matt and I sat side-by-side together in a booth at dinner and reflected on the trip so far as we scrolled through photos on my iPhone. Not a bad way to end our Friday. 🙂

Next up for Day 4… the Grand Canyon, a bear print (!) and Yellowstone Lake.

Day 2: Grand Teton to Old Faithful

The cold front had definitely arrived by the time we woke up on Thursday. Matt and I bundled up and walked to breakfast, noting that our hotel still had its grass sprinklers on (because it’s not SUPPOSED to be 10° in mid-October!) which had created a nice sheet of ice on the sidewalk. After coffee and a hearty salsa-verde-smothered breakfast burrito at Bubba’s BBQ we were ready to tackle the day’s adventures.

We hoped those adventures would include Yellowstone National Park since we were scheduled to spend the night at Old Faithful, but as of 8AM the park roads were still closed. Luckily Grand Teton National Park is at a much lower elevation than Yellowstone so the first half of Thursday’s itinerary could proceed as planned. We drove north past Teton Village, bought an Annual Parks pass at the Grand Teton entrance station (I’ve always wanted an excuse to visit more parks!!), and continued along the dirt Wilson-Moose Road for several miles, enjoying the sight of snow-dusted Aspen trees with brilliant yellow foliage.

Soon we came to Jenny Lake. As a kid my family vacationed here and we spent a night in a cabin at Jenny Lake Lodge. I honestly don’t remember much about the night other than that my mom would always say it was the nicest hotel we had ever stayed in. (For the record, I checked to see if Matt and I could stay here but, like most of the lodges in GTNP and YNP, it had already closed for the season back in September.)

Jenny Lake itself was beautiful. We stopped at several pull outs and carefully navigated icy paths to get different views of the lake and the Teton mountains beyond. This might be a good time to mention that we used three cameras on this trip: my trusty Nikon D90 DSLR, our super wide-angle GoPro Hero4 Silver (usually manned by Matt) and my brand new iPhone 11 Pro. This trip was the first test of the iPhone’s camera and it did not disappoint. Between the great color rendition, wide angle option, smarter macro/portrait mode and “photos capture outside the frame” setting I was completely hooked on this phone after day 2.

OK, iPhone ad over. Continuing north, we next arrived at Jackson Lake and gorgeous views of (most of) the Tetons. We never did see their peaks due to the clouds but the parts we could see were pretty impressive.

Matt and I had brought lunch along in the car and around noon we stopped at a pullout along Jackson Lake to eat. Surprisingly we had maintained limited cell service through much of Grand Teton National Park and over lunch I called the Yellowstone roads hotline to see if there had been any changes in the road status. Alas, as of 12:30PM on Thursday the roads were still closed. After lunch we reluctantly headed south, back in the direction we’d come from, resolved to salvage the day by seeing more of Grand Teton before spending a second night in Jackson.

On a whim we turned down a dirt road that took us to one of the most beautiful views of the trip. After several hundred yards of bumpy driving we pulled over and had easy access to the rocky bank of the Snake River. Looking west across the crystal clear water we could see the snowy Tetons in the distance. Perfect! Just as I crouched down to take a photo my phone buzzed with a text message from Yellowstone… the roads had opened!!! We finished up at the river and headed back north, finally Yellowstone-bound.

Yellowstone’s road opening announcement came with two caveats. First, the road from Grant Village (where we’d be coming from) to Old Faithful (where we were going) was still closed as it included a high-elevation mountain pass. This meant a 79 mile detour around the Grand Loop Road to get to our final destination. Second, snow tires were required throughout the entire park. Hmm. I had spoken with a ranger the day before who told me she’d never put snow tires on her car since moving here from the east coast 7 years ago. She assured us that we’d probably be fine in our 4WD rental if we avoided the mountain passes.  So basically caveat #1 cancelled out #2, right? Despite the snow tires warning we entered Yellowstone, confidently flashing our Annual Pass before proceeding north.

The higher elevation was immediately apparent. Where Grand Teton had snow-dusted yellow aspens, Yellowstone had miles and miles of snow-encrusted lodgepole pines. Except for the places where forest fires had left miles of blackened tree trunks with snow-covered new growth underneath. It was a striking difference and was just the beginning of the otherworldly landscape that is Yellowstone National Park.

Our first geothermal encounter came at West Thumb geyser basin, where we were pleasantly surprised by the huge number of colorful pools, bubbly hot springs and amazing views of Yellowstone Lake. The entire area was crisscrossed by snow-covered boardwalks that we shared with just a handful of other tourists. I guess that was one major benefit of the recent road closures!

Our 79 mile detour took us past the road to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (which was still closed due to snow), Canyon Village (where we’d spend Friday and Saturday nights), multiple geyser basins and the impressive Firehole River. It was 18° out when we drove by the river and we marveled at the fact that the water was STEAMING in the frosty air. We pulled over so Matt could dip his fingers in the water which, he reported, did not feel especially warm.

We pulled into the Old Faithful parking lot at dusk and were greeted by crowds of people walking back to their cars. Apparently we’d just missed an eruption. The parking lot and all of the sidewalks were snow and ice-covered so we carefully skidded ourselves and our suitcase into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge for the night. We’d missed seeing the famous geyser on Thursday but we still had the whole next day to explore all of the geysers and geothermal oddities in the area.

Stay tuned for day 3… STEAM! AKA all you can see when hot springs meet single-digit temps.

Day 1: Pennsylvania to Jackson Hole

On Wednesday, October 9th Matt and I woke up at 4AM and drove to the Philadelphia airport. We parked in long term parking, bypassed the bus stop and power-walked to the terminal (isn’t that how normal people begin their travel days?) before being thoroughly sniffed by an official TSA German Shorthaired Pointer in security.  Eight hours later we were greeted by this view as our plane landed in Jackson, Wyoming.

In August I planned a last minute vacation to Yellowstone. Our itinerary would take us from Jackson Hole through Grand Teton National Park, then onto Yellowstone with overnight stays at Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the North Entrance near Mammoth Hot Springs and a final night in Bozeman, Montana. But my meticulously planned schedule was almost derailed before it began thanks to the weather. During our layover in Denver I received several text message alerts from Yellowstone NP advising that ALL roads in the park were closing due to winter weather conditions.

I had been monitoring the weather and knew that a snow storm and unusually frigid conditions were forecasted to coincide with our arrival on Wednesday. In preparation Matt and I packed all of our winter layers and mentally braced for the cold. Our plane landed just as the cold front was moving in. It was 35 degrees out as we deplaned directly onto the tarmac. That seemed cold at the time compared to the weather we’d just come from, but 35 degrees sure felt nice later in the week after we experienced REAL cold!

The temperature steadily dropped throughout the afternoon as we wandered around Jackson. We checked out the elk antler arches in the town square, stopped at a warm bakery for super rich hot cocoa and braved the blustery wind on a trek to the Visitor Center.

Before dinner we hopped in our rental car and headed north on Route 191. (The same 191 that runs through Moab!) Seeing other cars stopped along the road we pulled over near the Gros Ventre River and snapped a few photos. Apparently we had JUST missed a female moose and calf. Darn!

As we headed back to the car Matt noticed something on the other side of the road… a bull moose!! He was at least 100 yards away and was slowly making his way through the brush towards the river. As we watched, the moose lazily crossed the river before turning away from us to continue on his evening stroll. Cool!! We had been in Wyoming for less than 12 hours and had already crossed a major animal sighting off our list.

During dinner at the Snake River Brewing Company I realized that we had been up since 2AM Jackson time. No wonder I was tired! When we got back to our hotel I checked the Yellowstone road status one more time – roads were still closed – before collapsing into bed.

Stay tuned for day 2… onto Grand Teton and (maybe???) Yellowstone!

I’m Still Here!

I haven’t been blogging but I’ve been busy! Here are some of the blog-worthy events of the past 6 months:

I ran a half marathon!!!!

I raced the Hallowed Half Marathon in Cape May, NJ on October 27th. Yup, after years of saying I was satisfied focusing on speeding up my 5K time, I finally did a 13.1 mile race. I had a fantastic time training last fall and learned that I love long runs. (Long runs being 9-11 miles. None of those crazy marathon-training runs for me, thankyouverymuch!) The weather on the day of the race was less than ideal (the Nor’Easter’s 50+ mph wind gusts caused another half in Wilmington, DE to be cancelled!) and I know I can run faster in different conditions. I am confident there will be another half marathon sometime in my future.

So windy. Also, pretzel. ❤️

Matt and I adventured in Las Vegas!

But actually the areas OUTSIDE of Sin City were the best part. We bookended our annual work trip with weekend sightseeing in the Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon.  This trip definitely warrants its own post, so I’ll stop writing about it here.

We’ve been eating so much good food.

Just before Thanksgiving we ran out of propane, which meant no stovetop cooking. For some reason it took 2+ weeks to get a refill, so we resorted to lots of slowcooker-ing and microwave-ing during that time.  When the miracle of boiling water finally returned to our home Matt and I rebounded by making a different pasta dish every night for a whole week. All recipes we’d never made before, like Rigatoni with Short Rib Ragu, Orecchiette with Escarole and White Beans, Penne with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, and Rotini with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Peas. Yes.

We’ve also made a slew of blog-worthy pizzas and other foods. I always make a point of taking a photo but have apparently lost the urge to type out the recipes here.  Which is too bad, because I love referring to my blogged recipes when it’s time to brainstorm for our weekly meals!

All the trails, all the mud.

On New Year’s Day I ran down my driveway in my trail shoes. Matt picked me up 9 miles away, muddy and happy. I was thrilled… I always knew there was a way to connect into Ridley Creek State Park from near my neighborhood but I’d never done it before.  I realized that if I took a more efficient route on my next run I could make it even further. That evening I consulted multiple maps and plotted out the following route:

Enter from RCSP Yellow Trail. Right on RED/WHITE (BLUE) Ignore Blue Stay RED when White splits to Right. Left on WHITE Cross Road, Left on PINK, Right at Split Follow Pink to White merge, Right on WHITE Continue to Rocky Run SHORT VERSION: Downhill RED/WHITE RED Left- WHITE Road- PINK Right at Pink Loop Split Left- PINK/WHITE Right- WHITE

It all made sense to me at the time, don’t worry! On January 6th I set out on an epic trail run (titled ALL THE TRAILS on Strava if anyone cares) that took me from my house through Ridley Creek State Park, Tyler Arboretum, and the Rocky Run and Darlington Trails of Middletown Township, Delaware County. I crossed streams, squished through ankle deep mud, scrambled up hills, and finally emerged at a trailhead on Darlington Road 10.2 miles later. I loved every mile!

So once again, I’m hooked on trail running! I solidified this by running (and going off course) the Pickle Trail Run as a warm up to February 24th’s 13K Ugly Mudder trail race in Reading, PA. The Ugly Mudder was muddy, snowy, and wet and involved going up and down a mountain multiple times. It was better than that last sentence makes it sound. 😜 Just typing this brief recap of my trail exploits makes me want to plot out my next off-road adventure.

Lots of races, no recaps!

I’ve run fourteen (fourteen!) races since last recapping one on this blog. Check out the list and links to results on my race recaps page. Most memorable, besides the half and Ugly Mudder, were my first-ever race in Florida on 11/3 and a new year’s resolution run at a local brewery with Matt on 12/30. (I won a growler of fresh, delicious Levante IPA. Happy New Year to me!) I also ran a 5K with Piper this morning. We bettered our January time from the same course by 6 seconds. Best moment was when a guy came up to us afterwards and, in the most friendly way possible, exclaimed “What kind of SPANIEL is that??!” A perfect little german shorthaired spanielpointer, of course. 😄

What’s Next?

Well, besides getting my act together to blog about our fabulous Vegas adventures, I’ve got the 10-mile Broad Street Run coming up on May 5th. Piper and I have a Nosework “level 2” (NW2) trial on April 6th that we’re practicing hard for (and praying we make it off the wait list for!), and I’m looking forward to visiting my mom and Piper’s best buddy, Hershey the Chocolate Lab, in Florida later this month. And right this moment I’m going to hit “publish” and then make Shrimp and Grits for dinner with Matt. Cheers!

The Seven and a Half Mile Warm Up {Recap of Paoli Race for Refugees}

11 miles were on my to-do list this weekend. For me, that wouldn’t usually go hand-in-hand with a 5K, but it was forecasted to be 66°F on Saturday morning. After a hot and humid summer I couldn’t let that lovely weather go to waste, so on Thursday I started toying with the idea of running 7.5 miles to get to a local 5K. That way I could get in my long run and my race. I talked it over with Matt and the idea grew on me as I described what route I would take and which race I would run. Maybe I could do this!

When I went to bed last night I still hadn’t registered for the race, but my mind was made up. Then, this morning I woke up at 6AM to the sound of rain hitting the windows. I checked the radar and there was a huge blob of green and yellow rain over the entire Philadelphia area. Hmm.

As if running for an hour to get to a 5K wasn’t going to be challenge enough, I decided that I was going to do it in the pouring rain. I signed up for the race at 7:22 and headed out the door a few minutes later with a running backpack stuffed with 1.5 liters of water, two energy gels, and a dry set of clothes wrapped in a grocery bag. Paoli or bust!!

Paoli Race for Refugees 5K

September 8, 2018 | Paoli, PA | 8th overall, 1st F (results)

My rain-soaked seven and a half mile warm up took my through the rolling hills of Willistown Township. Along the way I saw a caravan of police cars headed towards the race for traffic control. As I got closer I passed the race’s 2 mile sign (at the top of a wicked little uphill section of Grubb Road that always kicks my butt) and passed a group of raincoat-clad volunteers setting up a water station. At 8:45 I trotted into the Paoli Presbyterian Church parking lot. As water dripped off my hat, shirt, and elbows, I happily picked up my bib, changed my socks, stashed my bag, and lined up at the start.

This was a no pressure race for me and it was fantastic. I started farther back in the crowd than usual and I think I smiled ear to ear throughout most of the first mile as an upbeat song pumped through my headphones and positive thoughts rolled through my brain. “I ran TO a 5K! I am so much lighter without my hydration pack on! It is cool out!” Mile 1 beeped by in 8:16.

Mile 2 felt even better. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery as the course followed Valley Road past a historic schoolhouse, along an old stone wall, and around a huge grassy field. Then I tackled the Grubb Road hill and felt much faster going up it during the race than I had during my warm up. Mile 2 was over in a surprising 7:57.

The water station came into view next. I thanked the kids who were holding out cups but didn’t need anything to drink. I was almost done! Right around this time I realized that I had reached 10 miles. That’s the longest I’ve ever run and I still had nearly a mile to go. I was now in uncharted territory!!!

I turned my attention to a woman in a white shirt ahead of me. I had slowly gained on her since summiting the hill and I wondered if I could catch her. I kept getting closer and eventually pulled even to her as we pounded down Valley Road with less than a half mile to go. We exchanged a “good job!” and I made my move past her, hoping I had enough energy left in my legs to hold on.

And I did!! I zoomed past the police car at Waynesborough Road, turned into the church parking lot, and crossed the finish line as the clock hit 24:10. Woohoo!

Matt arrived just in time to take a photo of my finish and he hung out with me as we waited for awards. This was the only part of the day that did not go quite as planned. I loaded what I thought were preliminary results on my phone before the ceremony began and was concerned to see that my name was not shown. Furthermore, the runner listed as the first place female had a time of 25:17. I soon found out she was the woman in the white shirt. Although I wasn’t listed in the results, I figured that since I beat the woman in the white shirt I might have actually finished first place female overall, which was (thrilling!) news to me. Yay!

I ate popcorn and waited for the official awards, figuring that the timing company would have the rest of the runners added by then. But nope, the incomplete online results were the exact results that were read aloud. White shirt had already left for the day, so the female overall prize envelope went unclaimed as the announcer worked his way through the age group awards. It quickly became clear that my result was not the only one missing, and by the end of the ceremony a small crowd of soggy runners had formed around the awards table.

Fortunately the race timers had a handwritten record of the top finishers and they confirmed that I was indeed 1st place female and 8th overall! I thankfully accepted the prize envelope (which contained $75!!!!!), then gratefully crawled into the towel-lined passenger seat of our car for the ride home. After 11.2 miles I was tired, wet, and so, SO happy that I went outside of my comfort zone and added a 5K to my run this morning.

Local runners! If you’re looking for an early September 5K next year, I definitely recommend the Paoli Race for Refugees. The course was beautiful, the volunteers were friendly, the DJ was energizing, and the after-race party had food, music and tons of activities for kids. I will plan to return in 2019, but maybe with a slightly shorter warm up. 😊

Miles since last post: 31.4
Days since last post: 7
2018 MILES: 957.4

Sugar-Coated Pony Kisses: Recap of the 5K Trail Run for Thorncroft

I am going to jump right into this post and pretend that I haven’t been MIA for 4 months…

There’s a white board hanging next to my treadmill filled with random notes and doodles about past races, workouts and goals. At the beginning of the summer I added “Hot 5K” to my Summer 2018 to-do list. (I prefer to avoid running in the heat at all costs so yes, this is an actual goal for me!) Last week I realized that this task remained un-checked so I found a local race to run at the end of August. And just my luck: the race fell on day 4 of (what has got to be) our last heatwave of the summer. A “feels like” temp of 87° at 6:30PM certainly met the white board’s threshold for a hot 5K!

5K Trail Run for Thorncroft

August 30, 2018 | Malvern, PA | 11th overall, 2nd F (results)

Thorncroft is a local nonprofit that specializes in therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with mental, emotional and physical disabilities. The farm is 4.3 miles from my house (I run by it occasionally) and the inaugural 5K Trail Run raised funds for the care of the 30+ horses and ponies who call Thorncroft home.  The race was sponsored by local businesses including Chester County Running Store and Stable 12 Brewery, AND runners would be treated to a free beer at the finish. (So, in other words, I didn’t need much convincing to run this race!)

It was hot at the start. So hot that I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to run particularly fast. I just wanted to complete a hot 5K and have fun doing so. I wore my trusty Arches Ultra hat and was thrilled to meet a woman who will be running an actual ultra in Moab next February at the start line. Small world! Before we could compare notes the race began and I was off, eager to run around Thorncroft’s 70 acre farm.

The first mile was mixed gravel and grass with a tiny, leap-able stream crossing. I didn’t feel as hot as I thought I would and was shocked to see a first split of 7:42. (Now that I see the elevation chart, I am less shocked.) The second mile felt harder, with lots of trudging around the perimeters of horse pastures in semi-rough grass.

Mile 3 had more of the same field terrain and I was just starting to get sick of it when the course turned back towards the finish.  As I paralleled Line Road I took a peek behind me and realized that there were no other runners in sight. Normally I wouldn’t let this affect my race, but by that point I was pretty hot and it was nice to be able to ease up slightly and not feel like I needed to race someone to the finish. I cruised back into Thorncroft’s driveway and passed under the finish banner in 24:41. Hot 5K complete!

My garmin had the course a bit short at 2.91 miles, but I don’t care. I had fun and got a scenic tour of Thorncroft’s horse pastures in the process.

The post-race set up was fantastic.  Finishing runners were funneled through the Thorncroft barn, where bottles of water waited in a wheelbarrow-turned-ice chest next to a pile of bananas and a box of pretzels.  The horses and ponies happily watched the hot and sweaty runners walk down the barn aisle and some even stuck their whiskery noses through the stall bars to say hello.  At the far end of the barn there was live music and, of course, the beer tent!

I checked the results online and saw that I had apparently placed 3rd female overall. Cool! I stuck around, watching the ponies and chatting with other runners (including the runner headed to Moab next February) as the sun set and the weather cooled off a bit. Finally it was time for awards and it turns out I placed SECOND overall, not third. Woohoo!

As I went up to accept my red second place horse ribbon the organizer said “The first place runner didn’t want her beer. Are you over 21? Do you want it?” Why yes, and YES! Before I knew it, a frosty 4-pack of Sugar-Coated Pony Kisses IPA was being thrust into my arms along with a $50 (!) gift card to Chester County Running Store, a horseshoe and a red ribbon. Sweet!!

The Thorncroft 5K was wonderfully organized for an inaugural event. A well-marked course, live music, food trucks, beer, horses, trails, chip timing… someone certainly knew how to make sure runners had a good time! I will definitely plan to return next year.


I can’t end this post without giving a quick shout out to my assistant, Piper, who is lounging on the couch next to me as I type this. She fell asleep a few paragraphs ago and is moving her paws while she dreams about something exciting. Ah, the life of a little GSP!

Miles since last post: 454.4
Days since last post: 119 (!)
2018 MILES: 926