I DID IT! Two PR’s in one weekend! {Recap of Jingle Elf & Brian’s Run}

Last weekend I ran two races: a festive 2 miler on Friday night and a hilly 5 miler on Sunday. I think this was my best weekend of racing ever. I went into the weekend hoping for PRs in both races and ended the weekend with times that exceeded even my most ambitious goals. What a great feeling!!

At the Jingle Elf Run, participants receive an elf hat instead of a t-shirt. Naturally, I made Piper wear mine in exchange for some really good treats.

Jingle Elf Run [2 mile]

December 1, 2017 | West Chester, PA | 29th overall, 2nd F!! 67.7% age percentage (results)

On Friday night I braved the parade traffic and made my way into nearby West Chester for the Jingle Elf Run, a fun little race that goes off just before the massive West Chester Christmas parade. The course makes two loops through downtown on the mile-long parade route, which is lined with enthusiastic spectators happily awaiting the parade’s floats, marching bands, and Santa’s arrival.

My previous best 2 mile time of 14:28 was from 2015, when I sprinted the first mile in 7:02 and faded to the finish with a 7:26 second mile split. This year I was determined to run a more evenly paced race and set a goal time of 14:20. I spent a lot of time thinking about my race strategy beforehand, and I had decided that I would set my Garmin to auto-split at each 1/2 mile increment. I wanted to run the first two halves in 3:35 (7:10 pace) and then see if I could go faster in mile 2.

The race began promptly at 6:30PM. I felt like I was jogging through the first split but I was reassured when my watch beeped 3:33. Close enough! Before I knew it I hit the mile mark and a 3:30 split. So I had just run the first mile in 7:03… nearly identical to 2015. But unlike in previous efforts, I still felt fresh and ready to start pushing the pace for the second lap.

When my watch beeped a third split of 3:33 I knew I had met my goal. I remember smiling a huge smile in the middle of Gay Street as I ran past little kids, policemen, and locals ringing cow bells. I was going to PR!!! With a half mile to go I lost all sense of pacing and just RAN. I zoomed down Matlack Street and took the final turn onto Market and its long, gradual uphill to the brilliantly lit finish line. In seconds I was crossing the finish with a new PR of 14:04… 16 seconds faster than my goal and 24 seconds better than my previous 2 mile PR!!! That last half mile split? 3:24.7!

I ran a cool down with my friend Chris, then we both ran back to the local running store to check out the official results. One of the guys in the store greeted me and said, “You got second place, right? Great job!” to which I replied, matter of factly, “Oh no, not me. But I PR’d so I’m happy!!” But then 30 seconds later the results loaded on my phone and ohmygod I WAS the second woman to cross the finish!! Placing in this race was totally not on my radar. Before I knew it a white envelope marked 2nd Female had appeared in my hand and I thanked everyone in the store profusely before running the half mile back to my car with the sealed envelope clenched in my fist.

From the quiet of my Subaru’s driver’s seat I opened the envelope and was delighted to find a $75 cash prize. What an unexpected surprise! But I’m still happiest about my 24 second PR. 😄

Brian’s Run [5 mile]

December 3, 2017 | West Chester, PA | 89th overall, 7th AG, 64.8% age percentage (results)

Sunday afternoon I was once again chasing down an old PR from 2015, this time over a hilly 5 mile course in the northeast part of West Chester borough. This was my fourth year running Brian’s Run and my goal was less specific than my detailed breakdown of Friday’s race. At Brian’s Run, all I wanted to do was to beat my 2015 time of 38:28. I re-read my recap of the 2015 race several times before Sunday. I am still very proud of that race and knew that it was not going to be easy to to beat 38:28. Nevertheless, my 2 mile PR gave me confidence and I went into Sunday feeling cautiously optimistic.

Mile 1 – 2015 Split: 7:25
You can’t win a race in the first mile, but you can ensure that the rest of the race will be miserable by going out too fast. I repeated this to myself during mile one and checked my watch multiple times to stay on my goal pace. I finished this mile right on target in 7:27.

Mile 2 – 2015 Split: 7:29
Here the trick was to keep up the pace without pushing too hard. I stayed steady for the first part of this split but about a mile and a half into the race the course had some nice downhills. I figured I had already met my goal of not going out too fast by that point and I allowed my legs to pick up speed and momentum as I zoomed downhill. Mile 2 was over in 7:20.

Mile 3 – 2015 Split: 8:03
Here’s where the course gets challenging. I entered the aptly named “North Hills” neighborhood and hit a series of rolling hills that felt mostly uphill. In three years of running this race I have never finished miles 3 or 4 in under eight minute pace. That all changed on Sunday when my watch surprised me with a third mile split of 7:41. This was faster than I thought I had been going gave me a little boost during the race.

Mile 4 – 2015 Split: 8:13
Always my slowest split of Brian’s Run, the 4th mile includes a never-ending climb back up to the main part of town. Just as this mile was getting going I checked my watch at the 5K split… 23:11! Not bad but I still had hills ahead of me. I focused on using my arms and visualized how happy I’d be when the race was over and I had PR’d. I was thankful and once again pleasantly surprised when this split beeped by in 7:53.

Mile 5 – 2015 Split: 7:18
As I entered the fifth and final mile of Brian’s Run, I ran past a group of my fellow West Chester Running Club-mates who were standing at the top of the Matlack hill, cheering loudly. I heard “Go, Annie!!” and I gave a weak little wave before setting my sights on the slight downhill ahead of me. I had a PR to beat and a stadium to get to, preferably in under 7:18.

I pounded down Chestnut Street and entered the Henderson High School track, determined to beat my PR by as much as possible. I ran the final quarter mile around the track on overdrive with every part of my mind and body focused on GO-GO-GO!! With 100 meters left a woman behind me started to make a move to try to pass me. That was all the encouragement I needed and I somehow found the energy to hold her off and sprint to the finish.

I ran my last mile of Brian’s Run in a shocking 7:04 (!!) and I crossed the finish line in 37:24. Not only is that a new 5 mile PR, it’s MORE THAN A MINUTE faster than my old personal best!!!

All smiles at the finish line.

I still can’t believe I ran that fast. In fact, if someone told me beforehand that I would need to average a 7:29 pace on Sunday, I probably would have been a nervous wreck and I definitely would have gone out too fast in the first mile! It was much better to be surprised in miles 3 and 4 with those fast splits and then have a little energy left to finish strong.

A few West Chester Running Club members at Brian’s Run

I smiled the whole drive home and kept spontaneously breaking out in a huge grin at random intervals throughout the remainder of Sunday evening. Two PR’s in one weekend… I DID IT!!!! 😄

Miles since last post: 3
Days since last post: 1
2017 MILES: 1238.6
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November Races

I just earned two HUGE PRs this weekend but before I can tell you about them I have to quickly recap my November races. Without further ado, here they are!

Panther Pajama 5K

November 11, 2017 | Wallingford, PA | 34th overall, 3rd AG (results)

I signed up for this race at the last minute and enjoyed it despite the 28° weather. The race began and ended at Matt’s alma mater, Strath Haven, and the course wound around the Wallingford neighborhoods that I have raced in several times before. I kept up a pretty good pace for the first two miles but struggled a bit with the uphill in mile 3. I blame the cold weather. 😊

West Chester Friends School 5K

November 18, 2017 | West Chester, PA | 4th overall, 2nd F (results)

This was Piper’s first race of the season! Piper is a joy to run with. She snorts and trots along happily and I get a kick out of the reactions we get from volunteers, other runners, and random people on the street. (Case in point: THREE separate pedestrians spontaneously complimented Piper during our warm up!)

When I race with Piper I forgo music and instead keep up a fairly constant banter with my running buddy. OK, it’s a rather one-sided conversation, but there’s lots of “Piper, HEEL!” “Piper, WAIT!” and, my favorite, “Piper, THIS WAY!!” which does actually get a turning response out of her. This particular race was three identical loops and Piper definitely got the hang of the course’s turns by the third lap.

Together we finished in 22:38, a new personal best for Piper and a fun morning for me. I love my pup!

Seven Summits Turkey Trot 5K

November 23, 2017 | Chesterbrook, PA | 85th overall, 16th F (results)

Bird dog.

Happy Thanksgiving! Last year we made Piper wear a turkey costume for about 3 minutes and the above photo is proof. What a goofball.

On Thanksgiving morning I ran the Seven Summits Turkey Trot 5K for the fifth year in a row. Since the course has been identical all five years, it is easy to see my progress over time:

2013   25:23
2014   23:40
2015   23:25
2016   23:50
2017   23:01 !

Yep, I ran a new course PR by 24 seconds this year! In 2015 my splits were 7:20, 7:22, 7:51. This year, by comparison, I was much stronger in mile 3 and managed 7:33, 7:19, 7:27!! I also went out a little slower which makes the rest of the race much more enjoyable. 😊 Afterwards I hugged Piper (who didn’t look as thrilled about my time as I did) and later ate a heaping plateful of mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, sausage stuffing, Brussel sprouts braised in cream, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and numerous other Thanksgiving delicacies. There were so many sides that I didn’t make room for turkey until the next day.

OK, those were my November races. Now I can’t wait to tell you about the two races I crushed THIS weekend! Coming soon…

Miles since last post: 123.5
Days since last post: 35
2017 MILES: 1235.6
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A New Running Record for October…

I set a new record this October: most races run in a single month! Here are recaps of all five of them. 😄

Michelle’s Miles 5K

October 1, 2017 | Newtown Square, PA | 22nd overall, 2nd F! (results)

The first day of October really felt like fall, with crystal clear blue skies and a nice chill in the air. I couldn’t pass up this perfect racing weather so Matt and I woke up early and signed up for the 10th Annual Michelle’s Miles 5K on site at the Episcopal Academy. On the way to the start line I saw a familiar face – my Uncle Rory! He and my cousin, Danae, were also running the race. Yay for family!

The course took us on two different loops around Episcopal’s beautiful, college-like campus and we ran on pavement, grass, gravel, and the all-weather track.  There was more off-roading than I had anticipated, but I felt strong throughout the race and was happy to discover that I was the 2nd place female finisher! I was even happier about this when I realized that Michelle’s Miles had CASH PRIZES for the top 2 (or maybe 3?) finishers. I cheerfully spent my $50 prize money on new trail shoes at my favorite local shop, The Running Place, a few weeks later.

One Stride at a Time 5K

October 8, 2017 | Media, PA | 7th overall, 1st F! (results)

This was “MY” 5K and I am so thankful for all of the friends and family that helped make it a great success. Team Thorne raised $375 and in total the event raised $12,368.79 to help local families!! Thank you to Bill, Suzanne, Rob, Jean, Tom, Kristen, Lyra, Mike, Jocelyn, Olivia, Teddy, Rob, Meredith, Dixie, Nick, Amy, SuperLucas, Elias, Bob, Cheryl, Bob, Roe, Tony, Karen, Brian, Shelby, Kate, Elle, and Liia.  And thank you to my course-design partner, Eric Traugott… between the summer runs and the actual event I’m sure you agree that we spent waaay too much time on Williamson’s campus in 100% humidity!

The weather on October 8th was less than ideal, with oppressive humidity, tropical heat and the occasional rain shower. Nevertheless, 107 brave, sweaty souls reported to the starting line at 9AM to happily run and walk the course. I liked running the race, but my favorite part of the day was seeing everyone else enjoying this event after months of planning.

I’ll be sure to post next year’s date for the One Stride At A Time 5K as soon as it is confirmed. Hope to see even more of you out there in 2018!

Willistown Conservation Trust’s Run-A-Muck 5K

October 21, 2017 | Newtown Square, PA | 31st overall, 8th F (results)

Run-A-Muck holds a special place in my heart because it was the first 5K I completed after starting my run streak (and my post-college running ‘career’) in 2013. Run-A-Muck is a trail race that traverses privately owned farmland that’s been preserved by Willistown Conservation Trust. This year’s course was new (to me – it was actually new last year but I missed the race) and included a stream crossing, a haunted bamboo forest, and an insanely steep climb during the final quarter mile.

Although I was wearing snazzy new Saucony Peregrine trail shoes (bought with my Michelle’s Miles winnings!), this race just didn’t click for me. I didn’t have any spring in my step and I felt a little gassed right from the start. In hindsight, I don’t think I ate enough food in the hours before the race (the 3:30 start time threw me off!) but meh, lackluster races happen! Lack of pep aside, my favorite moment of the race was when I splashed shin-deep through Crum Creek on the way back to the finish line. The weather was hot and that cold creek water felt GREAT!

Run for the Mill 5K

October 28, 2017 | Glen Mills, PA | 21st overall, 3rd F (results)

Trail run redemption time. A week after Run-A-Muck I decided to tackle another trail race, this time the inaugural Run for the Mill 5K at nearby Newlin Grist Mill. Matt, Piper (and in the past, Bailey) and I have hiked in this park before and I love the perfectly straight industrial trail, remnants of an old railroad bed, and the dam and waterfall. Although I did not know the exact course we’d be running, I knew that the parking area (and start/finish) was at a lower elevation than most of the park, so this pretty much guaranteed that there’d be some nice downhill in the second half of the race.

I was not disappointed. After a flat and fast first mile the course turned up a hill and we climbed and climbed and climbed! Unlike at Run-A-Muck, I felt energized and actually passed a few guys during the ascent. Yeah! I knew there were a few women ahead of me but didn’t know how many. Towards the top of the climb I passed one woman and didn’t look back. Finally, almost exactly as my watch beeped the start of mile 3, the uphill was over and the real fun began.

I zoomed through mile 3, enjoying 100 feet of elevation drop in the first half mile. I felt in control and very happy with my new trail shoes, which felt light and were hugging my feet perfectly as I tore down the hill. Before I knew it the finish was in sight and I cruised across the line with a time that was 3 minutes faster than the week before.

I ended up in 3rd place, which earned me a gift certificate to Chester County Running Store and – even better – an amazing medal that was HAND FORGED in Newlin Grist Mill’s blacksmith shop!! This is hands down the coolest (and heaviest!) medal I have ever received!

The Boo Run 5K

October 29, 2017 | Wallingford, PA | 4th overall, 1st F!! (results)

It wasn’t my plan to run back-to-back races, but I woke up on Sunday wanting to race again. I knew that The Creative Living Room was hosting their 3rd annual Boo Run at 2PM so I started off my day with a super hearty breakfast and kept an eye on the massive rain storm that was forecasted to dump 2-3 inches of rain on Southeastern PA. It poured all morning and was still pouring as I left for the race, but by that point I was determined to go and figured that a little rain couldn’t stop me from enjoying a race.

I arrived, paid my entry fee, and got some quick pointers on the course, which was different than the previous two years. Come to think of it, this course has changed each year. The Creative Living Room is fortunate to have so many 5K route options at their doorstep! I love racing in Wallingford and was excited to see where this year’s course would take me.

Boo Run start line. (Photo: The Creative Living Room)

At 1:40 the rain magically stopped and didn’t start up again until my drive home. Perfect!! Soon we were off and headed straight to Matt’s childhood neighborhood! We looped around, passing directly by his old house and a house of one of Piper’s Nosework classmates, before turning back towards the start line and a different neighborhood loop. Despite the soggy weather the course was perfectly marked and there were volunteers pointing the way at every single turn. Now that I’ve helped to organize a 5K I realize what a feat that is all by itself!

I could see from the start that I was the first woman and I held onto that position for the rest of the race. I jockeyed back and forth with a few guys and cruised through the course with relatively even splits, finishing in 22:25.  (My garmin said the course was a tad short so that’s not as close to my PR as it looks!) I was very pleased with my race considering I ran a trail race yesterday!

As was the case at previous Boo Runs, the organizers went all out with post-race food, drinks, kid-friendly activities and prizes. I won a goodie bag from Bryn Mawr Running Company and was impressed by all of the sponsors and donated prizes the Boo Run had for the runners. Once again, now that I’ve organized a race I have a whole new appreciation for these details!! I will definitely try to return to the Boo Run again next year.

Actually, I will be putting all FIVE of these October races on my calendar for next year. Each offers an interesting local course and supports a great cause. Now if I could only figure out how to guarantee another Newlin Grist Mill blacksmith  medal… that thing is awesome!!

Miles since last post: 194.7
Days since last post: 50
2017 MILES: 1112.1
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Photo Walkabout at Okehocking Preserve

Before I get to the Piper pics, just a quick update to say that yesterday’s 5K was awesome. Despite the unseasonably (insanely!) muggy weather, our runner/walker turnout, enthusiasm, and venue exceeded all expectations! I’ll do a post on the 5K soon, but for now, I have some Piper photos to share!

Last Friday on the drive home from work I realized that the lighting conditions – flat, bright lighting with an even, white cloud cover – were perfect for photography.  Before my 8 minute commute was over I had decided that I would take Piper to Okehocking Preserve for a quick photo walkabout (aka an aimless hike with a dog and a camera in search of nice light!). I cajoled Matt into coming with me (someone needs to hold Piper’s leash while I snap her picture!!) and by 5PM my camera and I were standing shin-deep in the middle of Ridley Creek while sweet, happy Piper splashed around in the water.

The lighting and scenery were beautiful, and over the course of 40 minutes Matt, Piper and I meandered around the park, seeking out the best lighting and backgrounds. (Thank you Matt for your patience!!)

Piper enjoyed every second of our hike, and tackled the hills, stone walls, and high grass with her usual gusto. The shots above and below were taken at Okehocking’s historic bank barn.

Compare Friday’s pics to these two from three years ago, also taken at the bank barn when Piper was just 4 months old.  Same memorable white whiskers (and coincidentally, same leash!), just three years apart.

Here’s another fun comparison: three year old Piper in Ridley Creek last Friday vs. the shot that got my Instagram following started back in 2014. Same bend of Ridley Creek, but one looking upstream and the other downstream.

Six hundred photos later, the sun signaled the end of our photo walk as it slowly dipped behind the tree line. Just before the sun disappeared we found a spot on a hill with perfect “golden hour” light. Piper plopped down in the grass, happy to oblige in exchange for a few pieces of sliced meatball. No amount of photoshopping can produce glorious lighting like this!

Is it just me or is Piper totally posing in this next photo? Clearly, she is not camera shy.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for putting up with my constant photos of Piper! Which photo from Friday’s walkabout is your favorite? I am torn between the very first shot and this last one… 😄

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Next Sunday I am running the One Stride At A Time 5K in Media, PA. To me, this is much more than “just another 5K.” Why? Because this is the FIRST race that I have personally helped organize and I designed the course!!

For the past five months I have been working to plan this event with a wonderful team from Child Guidance Resource Centers, a private, non-profit behavioral health organization based in Havertown. All funds raised on October 8th will directly support local families struggling with addiction, mental health, and behavioral health needs with a focus on awareness and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.

So where does that “Money-Where-My-Mouth-Is” title come in?  Ultimately the goal of this 5K is to fundraise, and I am hoping that my own “Team Thorne” can pull together a respectable contribution to support programs for local families struggling with substance abuse. But I’m not just asking you for a donation, I’m throwing down a challenge of my own: for every single donation made to “Team Thorne” by race day, Matt and I will personally make a $10 donation of our own!

That’s right, for every donation YOU make to Team Thorne, Matt and I will add another $10. Please consider giving to this worthy cause!

https://www.runtheday.com/donations/46915

My goal is to raise another $370 between now and next Sunday. Any donation, no matter the size, would be greatly appreciated!

It’s technically called Team Thorne, but I’ve been waiting for an excuse to share this logo for months!

For my local friends and family, it would mean the world to me if you joined me at the One Stride At A Time 5K on Sunday. Running is not a requirement! You can walk the 5K course, walk a 1 1/2 mile loop, or alternate between running and walking like my mom plans to do. (We’ll see if she lets my stepfather win or if she tries to out-sprint him at the finish!) 😊

Williamson’s Rowan Hall, aka the location of our mid-race water station!

The race will be held at the beautiful Williamson College of the Trades on Route 352 in Media. Williamson’s campus is private and normally closed to the public, so it will be a special treat to see the rolling hills, tree-lined roads, and interesting architecture at the school. Because I helped to design the course, I’ve already run multiple loops around campus and every time I’m there I feel like I’ve earned super-exclusive access to a secret spot.

The 5K has a Superhero theme and is extremely kid-friendly, so bring your kids (and their costumes!) and strollers. Leashed dogs are welcome as well, but I’m sorry to report that Piper will not be in attendance since Matt and I will be busy volunteering before and after the race. In addition to the 5K at 9AM, the mornings’ festivities will also include a kids’ timed mile (8:30AM), a costume contest, and a raffle.

To register for the 5K, visit https://www.runtheday.com/register/detail/one-stride-at-a-time.  Join “Team Thorne” during registration if you’d like to… we are the biggest team in the event!

To donate, visit https://www.runtheday.com/donations/46915. Donate in honor of “Team Thorne.” And remember, for every donation to Team Thorne, Matt and I will make a personal donation of $10. Thank you!!!

That’s it for tonight, friends. Hope to see some of you at Williamson on Sunday and more of you in the Team of Thornes online!!

 

Climbing Old Rag Mountain

Over the past three years Matt and I have hiked and road-tripped our way through some awe-inspiring destinations on the west coast including Zion National Park, Sedona and Big Sur. Traveling “Out West” has become a yearly pilgrimage, yielding beautiful memories from past adventures and unlimited possibilities for future trips. (Portland! Napa! A train ride from SF to Chicago! The Grand Canyon! So much to see.)

With all of that excitement happening on the left coast, I haven’t given much thought to potential trips back east.  Sure, we take annual drives to the Poconos and the beach and make our way up to Vermont or northern New York every once in a while, but none of these places have rivaled the awesomeness of the western landscape. But all that changed on Friday when Matt and I hiked up Old Rag Mountain in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. Continue reading

Pumpkin Stew baked IN the Pumpkin!

A small pie pumpkin has been sitting in my kitchen awaiting its destiny for about a week. I purchased it at Giant with no plan or recipe in mind. I knew only that I wanted to cook or serve food IN the pumpkin. I pictured a stew of sorts, with sausage and white beans (two of my favorite foods), plus fresh sage and, of course, pumpkin. I scoured the internet in search of such a meal and came up empty. How has no one made this feast before??

Real recipe or not, I was determined to give my lonely little pumpkin a purpose. I found two separate recipes – one for a stew, another for how to bake a different dish in a pumpkin – and combined them into my own pumpkin creation. I sent a cell phone picture of the finished dish to my mom just before digging in and she texted back “You need to put this in your blog!!” so here ya go, Mom, this one’s for you. Continue reading