It’s definitely time to blog: I now have FOUR PRs to recap!

I’ve been terrible about recapping races lately, but after today’s awesome 5K I have FOUR new personal bests to share. So without further ado, here they are!

Haverford Twilight 5K

April 22, 2017 | Haverford, PA | 41st overall, 8th F, 3rd AG (results)

This was my third year running this race and I really wanted it to be my best yet. Last year I tied my PR (23:17) on this course by running the first 2 miles really fast and dying in mile 3. I did not want to repeat that mistake this year, but somehow I still managed to start the race much faster than I planned. In fact, I was within seconds of duplicating my too-fast times from 2016. Whoops! Fortunately for me, I was much stronger this year and was able to run a 7:30 third mile (compared to 8:00 the previous year!!) which made all the difference. I crossed the finish line in 22:54, thrilled with my new sub-23 personal best.

(Technically I had run faster than 22:54 twice before, but both previous efforts were “asterisk” PRs. One was a point-to-point downhill course (22:38) and the other was majorly Piper-assisted (22:43). Therefore, I happily accepted this Haverford Twilight time as my “official” 5K PR.)

The Broad Street Run 

May 7, 2017 | Philadelphia, PA | 6838th overall (oh yeah!), 1627th F, 348th AG (results)

The mother of all Philly races. Two weeks after the Twilight 5K I joined 40,000 runners (see, that 6838th place looks better now) in a 10 mile run down Broad Street. I ran this race in 2015 and this time around my primary goal was to beat my previous PR of 1:23:54. My secondary goal was to go sub-1:20, but that ended up being a little too aggressive for the day. I started off on pace for a fast time, but at around mile 7 hit a wall and had to work reallllly hard to earn my new PR. I finished about 2 1/2 minutes faster than my 2015 time with a time of 1:21:28. Hurrah!

FranksWine Downhill Mile Road Race

August 24, 2017 | Wilmington, DE | 46th overall, 9th F, 3rd AG (results)

Usually I don’t race in August, but when I realized that the weather was going to be unseasonably cool and discovered that this race ended a block from my brother- and sister-in-laws’ place in Trolley Square, I figured it was meant to be. Matt and I parked at the finish line, jogged to the start, then proceeded to race the fastest mile of our lives. I felt completely in control the entire race, and happily watched my quarter mile splits tick by evenly. I sprinted at the finish and earned a new PR of 6:20, 26 seconds faster than my previous best at the Media Mile in 2016.

Pints in the Square 5K

September 9, 2017 | Newtown Square, PA | 17th overall, 2nd F!! (results)

This was today’s race and the PR that finally got me to write this recap. I hadn’t raced a 5K road race since the Twilight Run in April and I was interested to see what sort of shape I was in after a long summer of treadmill runs. With that in mind, my goal was more to run a strong race (low 23s?) rather than do anything crazy. But apparently my legs didn’t get that message.

A few minutes into the race I realized that the first place woman was not especially far ahead of me. It wasn’t time to get too excited about that – I still had 2.5 miles to go! – but this surprised me. Two more woman passed me during the first mile, but by the time I hit the halfway point I had decided that I really wanted to finish this race in the top 3.

During mile 2 I squeaked ahead of the 3rd place woman. I tried to look really strong while doing this, telling myself it would psych her out; no idea of that worked but it helped boost my confidence! As I began mile 3 I could see the 2nd place woman quite a ways ahead of me. At that point I got super corny and said to myself “I can either be the hunter or the hunted,” meaning that I could either run mile 3 like I was going to chase down that 2nd place woman, or I could run it scared and worried about who might be coming up on me.  I didn’t think I could actually catch 2nd place, but I chose the more optimistic approach and, for mile 3, I became the HUNTER!

And hunt I did. Ever so slowly I gained on her, inch by inch, turn by turn. I focused on her back and pushed with every stride. With a half mile to go she was still too far ahead for me to entertain the possibility of overtaking her, but I kept hunting. Finally, with the finish line in sight, I had pulled within 50 feet. There were two walkers on course and I made my move around them, swinging wide to the right and zooming towards the finish. I never looked to see how the other runner responded, I just sprinted as hard as I could.

Just before crossing the finish line (in 2nd place!!) I noticed the clock, ticking from 21:59 to 22:00. Wait, what??! I had been so focused on hunting that I had lost all sense of time. It was not until that exact moment that I realized I was on track to PR by nearly a minute. I bounded over the finish line and stopped my watch at 22:03, 51 seconds faster than my April PR!

Now, I have to admit that an hour later I learned that the runner I passed did technically beat me by chip time, but the race awards were given out based on gun time, so I think it’s fair to blog-brag about my 2nd place honors, don’t you? 😉

At the beer festival with our neighbor, Bob. (Photo by Roe!)

Following the race Matt and I met up with our neighbors at the craft beer festival portion of the event and, after a few hours of good beer and company, we returned home and I got right to work on this long-overdue post. It feels fantastic to finally catch up on my race recaps! Watch out world… I’m back and I am the HUNTER!  (I couldn’t resist!) 😄

Miles since last post: 688.4
Days since last post: 189 (!)
2017 MILES: 917.4

Past Races:
• September ’17:
Pints in the Square (9/9) [5K PR]
• August ’17:
FranksWine Downhill Mile (8/24) [1M PR]
• May ’17:
Broad Street Run (5/7) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/19)
• April ’17:
Book It 5K (4/1), Thornbury Road Race 10K (4/8), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/22) [5K PR]
• March ’17:
St. Agnes 5K (3/4), Kelly’s Logan House 5K (3/19)
• February ’17:
 Pickle Road Run 5K (2/18)
• December ’16:
Jingle Elf 2M (12/2), Brian’s Run 5M (12/11), DE Downhill 5K (12/18) [5K PR]
• November ’16:
Trinity 5K (11/5), 7 Summits Turkey Trot (11/24)
• October ’16:
Run for the House 5K (10/1), True Blue 5K (10/16), Boo Run 5K (10/29)
• August ’16:
Cure4Cam Rustin (8/18)
• June ’16: Media 5 Miler (6/17), Cure4Cam (6/20)
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15), Elwyn Max 5K (5/21)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• 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) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K 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) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• 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) [5K 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) [5K 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) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

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That time Piper met a Porcupine…

Flashback to last Saturday morning. Matt and I are sitting next to an older man in the Emergency Vet’s waiting room watching a nature show on TV. A porcupine appears onscreen and the man says “Have you ever seen a dog that came face to face with a porcupine?? OUCH!” Oh yes, I tell him. In fact, that’s exactly why we’re here!!!

Piper, or Porcupipe, as she may be called from now on, BIT A PORCUPINE on Friday afternoon. Piper is fine and no, I don’t think that she learned not to mess with porcupines in the future!! We were on a hike as part of our annual sojourn to the Hunting Camp, aka Globe Run Rod and Gun Club, a private wilderness retreat located in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.  As is always the case at Camp, all dogs run free and daily activities include swimming in the lake, hiking, and logging some quality time in the rocking chairs on the front porch. But this year was a liiiittle different, thanks to Piper’s prickly new friend.

After a morning at the lake, Friday afternoon found six of us on a hike, venturing into the state forest lands that border the Hunting Camp. We had just turned onto the abandoned and overgrown remnants of McCool Road when I heard Matt yelling “Piper, NO!! Piper, OFF!!!!” Seconds later, Piper emerged (obediently!) from the forest and heeled next to Matt on the trail and Matt hurriedly explained that he’d seen Piper harassing what looked like a porcupine several feet off the trail. At first we didn’t think Piper had come in contact with the spiky beast, especially since we hadn’t heard any reaction from her, but soon enough we realized that her little face resembled a pin cushion, with tiny quills poking out of her lips, gums, tongue, and mouth. Poor Piper!!

Matt quickly set about extracting the quills with his fingers. Piper, still preoccupied with the porky 20 feet off the trail, was seemingly oblivious and put up little fight while Matt performed his grisly task. After several minutes of plucking Miss Piper was almost good as new, with just a few quills remaining in her mouth. We hiked the 2 miles back to camp and tried to get cell service to call the vet. (Oh yeah, did I mention that we have no cell service and no internet access at the Hunting Camp?!)

After a brief, staticky phone call with the vet we determined that Piper didn’t require immediate medical attention since she was very comfortable (actually rather proud of herself, if you ask me) and eating normally. We stuck around at Camp long enough to enjoy a big dinner with our family, then drove home late Friday night so we could get Piper checked out the next morning.

Unfortunately, the ER vet was unable to remove the two broken quills from Piper’s mouth, but she explained that they should work themselves out over time. A few hours and $227 later we headed home with a woozy pup and a two week supply of antibiotics. Piper is now completely back to her wild, normal self and shouldn’t have any long term effects from her porcupine incident. Thank goodness!

Our trip to the Hunting Camp may have been cut short this year, but I still took a ton of photos in the single day we were there. Here are a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4

Ingredients
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Fennel Bulb, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Whole Fennel Seeds, crushed or ground in spice grinder
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Salt, divided
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 cup dry White Wine
1 cup Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese*
2/3 cup Half and Half
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 lb. Pasta
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan Cheese
*To stick to Ina’s original recipe, substitute 1 cup heavy cream for the ricotta.

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until soft. Add the sausage, crumble, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring mixture to a boil, then add the ricotta, half and half and tomato paste and stir well.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer sauce for 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain. (Or go all out and make fresh pasta!) When the sauce has finished simmering, add cooked pasta to sauce and stir well to coat the pasta evenly. Cook the mixture over low heat for 5 minutes then, off heat, stir in the parsley and Parmesan, reserving some Parm as a garnish if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!

…and, just for fun, here are a few more photos to celebrate the snow day. 😀

Zion National Park

Every January Matt and I spend a week working in Las Vegas at a big trade show. After many trips to Sin City, Vegas itself is not very exciting but that’s OK because our fun begins when the show ends on Friday. In 2014 we drove to Temecula for a weekend in southern California wine country and last year we road-tripped east through Arizona to beautiful Sedona for a few days. This year we wanted to find another 3-day weekend getaway within driving distance, so after much research Matt and I decided to visit Zion National Park in southeastern Utah.

zion-overlook

Why visit Zion from Las Vegas in January? Here were our primary reasons:

  1. Proximity: Zion is only 2 1/2 hours away from Las Vegas. You can easily drive back to Vegas to fly home, or catch a connecting flight out of the tiny regional airport in St. George, UT (that’s what we did).
  2. Off-Season: Like many National Parks, Zion is experiencing record numbers of visitors and over-crowding of the single park road, parking lots, and trails is becoming a real issue. We correctly figured that we’d miss out on all of that excitement and have the canyon more or less to ourselves during the third week of January.
  3. Weather: Zion usually has relatively mild winters and, unlike Bryce Canyon or northern Utah’s ski resorts, Zion usually doesn’t receive huge amounts of snow. We figured Zion’s winter weather would be perfect for hiking and we wouldn’t have to worry about trail or road closures in January. (This didn’t quite pan out!)

All of my research on the weather was well-intentioned, but sometimes you just can’t plan for mother nature. In the weeks before we visited, Zion received unusually heavy rain and snowfall. The rain caused mud and rock slides and, much to my dismay, a 200-ton boulder slide covered and closed the only road in and out of the canyon the Friday night before we left for Vegas. I stalked Zion’s social media all week — would we be able to get into the canyon or should we cancel our trip and plan to go somewhere else?? — and was extremely relieved when the Park Service reopened the road on Thursday, just 48 hours before we arrived. The weather forecast called for near-constant snow and rain, but once the road reopened we were determined to stick to our original itinerary.

January 2017 Rockslide in Zion NP (article / source)

January 2017 Rockslide in Zion NP (article / source)

Matt and I pulled into Springdale, Utah on Saturday afternoon, just in time to see a snow storm roll over the tops of the mountains around the canyon. We paid our $30 entry fee (good for a 7 day pass) and ventured into wintery Zion. The road along the canyon floor was wet and slushy, but the snow was sticking higher up on the canyon walls and at times the storm made it hard to see the mountain tops. Very dramatic! We hiked the short Riverside Walk trail, took lots of pictures, and ended the afternoon with an early dinner and beer tasting at the Zion Brewery.

Sunday we woke up early, had a massive breakfast at Oscars (one of the few Springdale restaurants that was open during this particular off-season week) and headed back into the canyon. We warmed up with a short hike to Weeping Rock, then headed up the switchbacks next to Weeping Rock for a few hundred yards to catch a better view of yet another storm that was obscuring the opposite canyon wall.

Next, we drove to the Grotto trailhead and hiked along the Kayenta Trail to access the Emerald Pools Trail. Lower Emerald Pools trail was closed due to falling ice, but we were able to hike right up to Middle Emerald Pool… just close enough to see a sign warning us about falling off the edge of the cliff! After a lot of snowy climbing we finally reached Upper Emerald Pool, which had a dramatic waterfall cascading off the top of the canyon into the secluded pool below. We hardly saw anyone on this hike and the waterfall was well worth the climb.

After lunch we decided to check out the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. Completed by the CCC in 1930, this 1.1 mile tunnel is bored directly through the canyon walls. It has a low ceiling, no lighting except for a few gallery “windows” cut out through the cliff walls, and is accessed from the west by driving up a series of harrowing switchbacks on Route 9. Normally I have no issue with steep drop offs, but the precipitation that started out as rain on the canyon floor became progressively snowier as our Jeep climbed up and up towards the tunnel entrance. By the time we got to the tunnel it was snowing heavily and the road was completely covered, so entering the dark, dry tunnel was a bit of a relief… until we came out on the other side and discovered that the snow was MUCH heavier on the east end. We paused for a quick photo, then headed back west through the tunnel and down the snowy switchbacks towards the canyon floor. I think I held my breath for about 5 minutes straight as we made our descent!!

On Monday we set out on our longest hike of the weekend – the trek to Zion’s famous “Angels Landing” viewpoint. Except that we didn’t make it all the way to Angels Landing, which can only be reached by way of a treacherous climb along a narrow, rocky spine with sheer drops on each side. Due to the heavy snow that blanketed the trail and the safety chains Matt and I decided to play it safe and stopped just short of the final viewpoint at a spot known as Scout Lookout. From Scout Lookout we still had a great view of the canyon floor below which was enough for me. After seeing the many signs warning about people falling to their deaths I had no desire to try to attempt the final climb to Angels Landing!

After a satisfying lunch at Cafe Soleil Matt and I decided to give the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel one more try. Although the near-constant drizzle did change over to light snow as we ascended the mountain, the road remained fairly clear and we felt much safer this time around. We repeated the eerie drive through the dark tunnel (with no other cars in sight!) and emerged on the snowy east side again. We wanted to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail which is supposed to have great views of Zion Canyon, but unfortunately yet another storm cloud was obscuring the view. I was a little leery of the steep drop-offs and approaching storm, but Matt was undeterred and insisted we give the rocky cliffside trail a try.

Shortly into our hike we had paused for a photo when Matt excitedly exclaimed, “LOOK!! A GOAT!!!!” And sure enough, a big-horned sheep (we called him a goat the whole time we were up there) was standing squarely on the trail 20 feet ahead of us, utterly unimpressed by our presence. We cautiously watched the “goat” from our spot on the trail, wondering how the heck he managed to end up on a 3 foot wide ledge with a sheer cliff wall above him and a steep drop off below. We didn’t have to wonder for long, however, because soon he decided he’d had enough tourist-watching for one day and casually stepped off the edge of the cliff into a snowy bush for a leafy snack. It was fascinating to see him effortlessly navigate the mountainside! We carefully continued our hike and passed within a few feet of him, right before he launched himself down the near-vertical wall to some lower destination that we couldn’t see over the cliff’s edge. What a cool way to end our trip!

After a safe drive through the tunnel and down the mountain Matt and I exited the Zion National Park for the last time. The storm that was assaulting the tunnel’s east side on the mountaintop was nonexistent down at the southern end of the canyon, and we snapped a few final photographs of the late afternoon sun hitting the canyon walls before calling it a night. At 5AM the next morning we headed to St. George for our flight home, very thankful to have gotten a chance to experience secluded, snowy Zion for a few days after the noise and lights of Las Vegas.

Notes:

1. We used Joe’s Guide to Zion to research hikes in advance. Highly recommended!
2. You can view my complete Zion photo album on Flickr here: Zion National Park (1/21-23/17)
3. If you’re visiting Zion in winter, consider packing Yaktrax or other traction devices. I’m glad we packed ours!!
4. We stayed at the Desert Pearl Inn which was awesome – great location, nice rooms, and friendly staff. Our favorite restaurants were Oscars (breakfast and dinner) and Bit and Spur.

Piper’s PR at the St. Agnes 5K

Today Piper earned herself a new 5K record of 22:43! That time came within 5 seconds of my own personal best, which I set on a PR-friendly, point-to-point net downhill course in December. With that in mind, I’m going to consider today’s finish at the St. Agnes 5K my own new “loop course” personal best as well, albeit with an asterisk next to it for *Piper-assisted.  😄

post-race-selfie

As the asterisk indicates, I do know that at least some of our speedy time can be attributed to the fact that Piper sets a grueling pace and pulls me forward just a little bit throughout the entire race. (Except when we passed a cat in the first mile, then she pulled left!) Piper is a very serious running buddy who never lunges at other dogs, never veers off course, and never, ever stops to sniff or pee during a run. Once we’re moving Piper rarely breaks out of her rapid-fire trot stride; all she wants to do is go, go, GO!!

annie-piper-st-agnes

Here we are near the halfway point. Piper’s tongue is making a rare appearance. (Photo credit: St. Agnes 5K)

So about the race… As is usually the case, I wanted to avoid running the first mile too quickly.  I mentally set a goal of 7:40 and began the race with Piper at my side, way out to the left of the field (the first turn is a right). Piper snorted and urged me forward but I kept our speed to a comfortable jog and let other runners and lots of kids move out in front of us. We cruised down a hill and along a flat section of road before my watch beeped a 7:19 first split. Too fast! But it felt SO EASY!

I’ve started many past races too quickly and, after seeing the first mile split, justified my actions by thinking “maybe today will be the day that I go out really fast and actually maintain it for a 5K!!” Until today, however, every time I’ve thought this I’ve been dead wrong.  Instead of magically maintaining a too-fast first mile pace I end up struggling through a painful second and third mile and later kick myself for blowing it at the start. But not today… today I actually DID maintain that pace AND got even faster as the race went on!

Piper and I cruised through some uphill and downhill during mile 2, and soon I was smiling to myself as my watch beeped a 7:18 second mile split.  I joyfully took a break from my near-constant commentary of “heel!” and “Piper, WAIT!” to tell Piper she was a good girl. Then we blasted into mile 3. At this point I knew that we were likely on pace to beat my previous “loop” 5K PR of 23:17, but I didn’t think that I could realistically manage to run any faster than a 7:18 third mile.

st-agnes-5k-stats-17_

But run faster we did! Piper and I somehow sped up, passed two guys on a long straightaway, and powered into the final incline up Market Street to the finish line. With the end of the race in sight my Garmin notified me that we had covered our third mile in an unbelievable 7:13 (7:13!!!) and that gave me the oomph to push up the hill and cross the finish line. As I bent over to catch my breath I looked at Piper and realized that she wasn’t even panting. What a show off! 😄

Pipe and I cooled down together, then she got to meet lots of little kids and happily accepted many pets and hugs in exchange for her hard work on the race course. Our 22:43 finish time put us 34th overall and 8th female (well, 9th for me, technically speaking) and I belatedly realized that I also won my age group. Cool! Most of all, I am just thrilled to have had such a great experience with my lovely pup this morning and I look forward to many more runs (and hopefully more races if the weather stays cold!) together this spring.

post-race

Miles since last post: 268.9
Days since last post: 76
2016 Miles: 1578.8
2017 MILES: 229

Past Races:
• February ’17:
 Pickle Road Run 5K (2/18)
• December ’16:
Jingle Elf 2M (12/2), Brian’s Run 5M (12/11), DE Downhill 5K (12/18) [5K PR]
• November ’16:
Trinity 5K (11/5), 7 Summits Turkey Trot (11/24)
• October ’16:
Run for the House 5K (10/1), True Blue 5K (10/16), Boo Run 5K (10/29)
• August ’16:
Cure4Cam Rustin (8/18)
• June ’16: Media 5 Miler (6/17), Cure4Cam (6/20)
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15), Elwyn Max 5K (5/21)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• 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) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K 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) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• 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) [5K 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) [5K 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) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Review: Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

In December Piper won an Instagram contest to become an official reviewer for the new Extreme Warmer jacket from Hurtta, a Finnish company that produces functional, high-quality dog clothing and equipment. Piper is one of those dogs that loves being outside no matter how cold, windy, or snowy the weather might be, so this jacket was especially intriguing to me since it would provide significantly better coverage and warmth than the horse blanket-style coats that Piper already owns.

Per the terms of the contest, I happily agreed to share a few photos of Piper in her Extreme Warmer jacket (like I need an excuse to take pictures of Piper!!) and write an honest review of the product after several weeks of testing. After reading my review, if you have any questions about the Extreme Warmer please feel free to ask me in the comments. You can also check out Hurtta North America’s complete product listing and details here: https://www.hurtta247.com/extreme-warmer

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Piper’s Extreme Warmer arrived just after Christmas.  Right out of the box I was immediately impressed by the fabric and construction. This jacket has much more in common with a human’s winter parka than the lightweight dog coats I was familiar with.  The Extreme Warmer has a soft, foil-like inner layer to reflect Piper’s body heat inwards and a waterproof outer shell to protect her from wind and snow. Like a human jacket, the Extreme Warmer also has reflective details for visibility at night.

SIZE AND FIT

The Extreme Warmer is sized based on a dog’s back length. Piper measures 22.5″ from the base of her neck to the base of her tail so we opted for size 55 cm / 22″. Fine-tuning the fit of the Extreme Warmer is accomplished with several cinches and an adjustable belly strap. Piper’s tail is usually up when she’s romping around the yard and I was pleased to find a bungee adjustment on the back of the Extreme Warmer that allowed me to tailor the length of the jacket so that it ended exactly at the base of Piper’s tail. Getting the fit just right took a few tries – Piper came in with rubs on the front of her legs after the first wear because we hadn’t tightened one of the neck bungees enough – but after some final adjustments the Extreme Warmer fits perfectly, doesn’t rub, and is easy to put on and take off.

sass-mouf

EXTRA FEATURES

In addition to its parka-like technical fabrics, the Extreme Warmer has a few other features that set it apart from other dog coats I’ve owned in the past. First, this jacket has a large flap that goes between Piper’s front legs and covers her whole chest and rib cage area. The Extreme Warmer also does an especially good job of covering Piper’s hind end, thanks to generous flaps of layered fabric and two soft leg straps that her hind legs fit through. And don’t worry… all of this rear end coverage does not make the Extreme Warmer susceptible to getting peed or pooped on. The design is such that the jacket somehow stays perfectly out of the way when Piper is doing her business. (Thank goodness!)

The most exciting and undoubtably most entertaining feature of the Extreme Warmer is the jacket’s snood*, which provides maximum coverage of Piper’s neck and, if the weather warrants, even her ears. This adjustable inner hood can be kept loose and nearly out of sight for warmer winter days, but I love that I have the option to cinch it up if Piper’s going to be spending time outside in really cold weather. Piper doesn’t seem to mind the snood nearly as much as I thought she might; I think she must realize that it does actually keep her head and ears extra toasty.

dr-seuss

*No matter how many times I see the official pronunciation of snood online (/snuːd/), I will always pronounce it like the colorful puzzle game that Matt and I were addicted to in college. Plus, “snewd” sounds cuter and slightly more ridiculous, which seems like a better fit for this jacket feature.

PERFORMANCE

The Extreme Warmer absolutely lives up to its claim of being extremely warm. I always run my hand over Piper’s fur when she comes inside and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that her back, neck and chest are always warm to the touch after she’s been wearing her Hurtta.

In addition to its excellent cold weather performance, I also love that this jacket allows full range of motion and stays on securely. Thanks to all of the adjustments and straps, Piper can gallop around the yard at top speed without me worrying that the Extreme Warmer will start sliding around or loosen. Piper’s velcro-closure coats, on the other hand, can come detached if she runs or plays too roughly in them.

galloping

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I am extremely impressed by Hurtta’s Extreme Warmer. It is stylish, high quality, and very warm. Knowing that Piper is outside with her Extreme Warmer on gives me peace of mind, especially on those cold evenings when Piper gets the zoomies and refuses to come inside when I call her. If she’s going to spend an extra few minutes out in the cold at least she’s doing it with a full parka on!

Plus, the snood is really, really cute…

snood-dog

I received Piper’s Extreme Warmer for free from Hurtta North America in exchange for my fair and honest review. I have to admit though, that after seeing how warm it keeps Piper I would gladly pay for it! The Extreme Warmer is available for purchase in the US/Canada from Hurtta North America and around the world; just visit Hurtta’s web site to find a local retailer.

winter-wonderland

When the weather outside is frightful, make peppermint patties!

I woke up last Saturday morning and looked outside to find every tree branch, pine needle, and berry encased in a layer of wet, glistening ice. The 5K I had planned to run had already been postponed until Sunday, so Matt and I decided that we didn’t need to brave the slick roads and instead would spend the entire day at home baking holiday goodies.

I kicked off the bake-a-thon at 10AM by making blueberry-lemon scones for breakfast.  Matt and I then baked a double batch of sugar cookies before launching into the day’s big project: homemade peppermint patties. The goal was to make enough patties to share with our neighbors and friends, and 12 dozen chocolate-dipped treats later I think we succeeded!

Peppermint patties are surprisingly easy to make. Just combine peppermint extract, softened butter, corn syrup, and lots of confectioners sugar. Form this “dough” into balls and press the balls into discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with melted chocolate and, voila! You now have homemade peppermint patties! If you’re feeling extra creative, add some green food coloring to the filling or sprinkle the freshly-coated patty with chocolate jimmies. (But a note of warning… don’t get so excited about your batch of green-filling-patties that you totally forget to put the peppermint extract in. I might have done that on my fourth and final batch. Sorry to any neighbor who bites into a green one and realizes that it just tastes like buttercream candy instead of peppermint!) 😁

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Homemade Peppermint Patties
(From Butter With a Side of Bread; makes about 3 dozen patties)

You will need…
1/2 stick (1/4 c) Butter, at room temperature
3 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Peppermint Extract (adjust to taste; we liked this amount)
1/3 cup Light Corn Syrup
2 cups Dark Dipping Chocolate (we used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers, yum!)
Green Food Coloring to make the filling green (Optional)
Chocolate Jimmies for Sprinkling (Optional)

Directions:
In a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, peppermint extract and corn syrup. Mix for a few minutes until the filling forms a thick, paste-like consistency.  Break off small pieces of filling and roll into 1″ diameter balls. (They will look deceptively like mozzarella balls at this point.) Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and use your fingers to flatten them into discs. Freeze the discs for at least 20 minutes before attempting to dip them into the chocolate. The harder they are, the easier they will be to dip!

Melt the chocolate according to package instructions. We used a double boiler which kept the chocolate at the perfect consistency as we dipped batch after batch of patties. Use a fork or a special chocolate-dipping tool like these Wilton candy dippers to dip a frozen patty into the chocolate. Coat both sides, tap off any excess chocolate, then transfer the coated patty to a parchment-lined tray. (Or, if you’re making a quadruple batch like us, just cover your counters with wax paper and line up the patties there!) If using jimmies, sprinkle them over the patty immediately after you coat it.

Allow the chocolate to harden completely, then transfer the patties to an airtight container. Share them with friends or save them all for yourself, your choice! 😄

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