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

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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

2018 Broad Street Run Recap

I did it!! This morning I ran 10 miles down Broad Street, set a new personal best and hit my “A” goal of sub-80 minutes. Hurray!

2018 Blue Cross Broad Street Run

May 6, 2018 | Philadelphia, PA | 4220th overall, 1069th F (results)

My day began at 4AM. I had been in a deep sleep and was startled when my alarm went off, but as soon as I remembered why, I popped out of bed and started my pre-race routine. Today that consisted of coffee, oatmeal, a banana, Piper time (she waited for the birds to wake up around 5AM before she wanted to go out), and dynamic stretches to this YouTube video.

I woke Matt at 5:50 and by 6:20 we were on the road, headed to north Philly and the starting line. Any Broad Street veteran will tell you that runners typically park near the finish and cram, sardine-style, onto the subway for a 10 mile ride north, but I have been lucky that Matt drives in to spectate and doesn’t mind dropping me off at the start. Saves me tons of time in the morning!!

40,000 people run this race and the organizers do a great job of getting everyone separated by pace in multiple starting corrals. I made it to the orange corral by 7:35 and waited patiently in the crowd for the start. First the wheelchair racers were off, then the elites, red, and purple corrals followed. At last it was my turn! I crossed under the starting banner at 8:16 and the race was on.

Going into this race, my primary goal was to beat my personal best of 1:21:28 (8:08 pace) from last year’s Broad Street Run.  I was pretty confident that I could do that, so my real, “A” goal was to finish in under 1:20 (sub-8 pace). With that sub-8:00/mile goal in mind, I had decided that I would run the first 5 miles at 7:55 pace and then see what I had left for the second half of the race.

Mile 1 went perfectly. I relaxed, tried not to weave around other people too much, and broke into a huge smile when my watched beeped 7:55. Exactly on pace!! Miles 2, 3 and 4 went by uneventfully at or just under my time goal.

In mile 5 the course weaves around the right side of City Hall and the crowd support is overwhelmingly awesome. Signs, cowbells, news cameras, dogs, kids, open fire hydrants spraying water… so much going on! I finished this mile in 7:50 and felt good, but at the same time it was daunting to know that I was only halfway done.

At mile 6 I saw Matt and his family (thanks for coming out!!!) and got a little boost, finishing this mile in 7:52. Still right where I wanted to be.

6.5 miles in. Just pretend my eyes are open.

Last year the wheels came off in mile 7. I slowed to 8:23, then finished the last miles in 8:14, 8:25, and 8:41. Ouch. That was not the plan this year and I powered through the seventh mile in 7:55. Yes! It felt much harder to maintain my pace in mile 8, but the moment I saw my watch beep 7:59 I knew that a PR was pretty much a given. Sub-80 was also looking good… I had 17 minutes left to run two more miles. Could I do it??

And the answer is YES!!! I slipped to 8:06 pace for mile 9, but at that point I had just one mile left to go. I was exhausted, but one mile seemed so short compared to what I had just run. I pushed on, searching over the shoulders of runners in front of me for a glimpse of the Navy Yard gates and the “quarter mile to go!” sign.

I entered the Navy Yard with renewed energy, ready to sprint into the finish… but then suddenly a quarter mile seemed SO LONG. My kick forgotten, I focused all of my efforts on simply moving forward and started thinking about how fabulous it would feel to be able to stop when I was done. I’m pretty sure that my finish ended up looking fairly unimpressive, but it doesn’t matter because I finished in 1:19:18!!!!

I am so proud of those last 4 miles. (Yes, even you, mile 9.) In 2017 I completely died during that portion of the race but this morning I was able to execute my 7:55 game plan and it carried me through all the way to the Navy Yard. I am tired, my legs are sore, and I have a blister on my big toe, but this afternoon I am one happy runner. Hurray!!

Miles since last post: 10.4
Days since last post: 1
2018 MILES: 482

Sub-22!! 5K PR at the Cape May Zoo

In 11 hours I’ll be racing down Broad Street in Philadelphia! But first, here’s a recap of my personal record-breaking 5K from 2 weeks ago. (What better way to get psyched up for tomorrow’s race than to write about a PR, right?!)

Cape May Earth Day 5K

April 21, 2018 | Cape May Court House, NJ | 11th overall, 2nd F (results)

Cape May, New Jersey is quickly becoming one of my favorite getaway spots. Matt and I spent a week in Cape May last summer with his family and we headed there again last month for my cousin’s wedding. We arrived on an unseasonably cold and windy Friday evening and discovered that the quaint Victorian town is MUCH quieter in the off season than it was in July!

I woke up at 6AM on Saturday, ready to race. My sole early-morning breakfast option was the coffee shop in the iconic Congress Hall hotel. I was the first customer of the day and I enjoyed my coffee in solitude. I left through the doors facing the beach and was treated to a private view of Congress Hall’s sweeping lawn and the ocean beyond. What a perfect way to start the day!

The 5K was at the Cape May Zoo, a 20 minute drive north of town. As I lined up at the start I heard the woman in front of me chatting about how she typically runs sub-21.  I made a mental note NOT to try to keep up with her in the first mile and moments later we were off, zooming around the wonderfully flat grounds of the park surrounding the zoo.

I really wanted to PR this race and when I saw my first mile split of 7:11 I knew I was right on track. Then mile 2 began and it felt a LOT harder to keep up that pace. There were only one or two runners around me (sub-21 woman had disappeared ahead early on) so I tried to focus on my cadence and my arms. I was a little worried when I saw my second mile split of 7:21.

Luckily I had more energy left than I realized. I pushed hard in the third mile but wasn’t sure exactly how my time would stack up with my old PR of 22:03 until the finish line clock came into view. 21:38, 39, 40, 41… I ran as hard as I could and pounded through the finish with a new personal best of 21:52!!!!

After the race Matt and I explored the zoo, which was pretty nice considering that there’s no admission fee. The black bear reminded me of Piper’s chocolate lab buddy, Hershey, and we saw a red panda, wallabies snacking on kale, a very handsome lion, and a sociable cow. (Visitors were allowed to reach over the fence and pet her, much to her delight.)

After the zoo we returned to Cape May to stroll around town (and hit up the peanut butter shop, naturally) before getting cleaned up for the wedding.  The ceremony was on the beach (my first-ever beach wedding!!) and Matt and I had a great time at the reception back at our hotel. Congrats Kevin and Connor!

Ready for a wedding!

I had to squeeze in one more flat run before we left for home. While walking on the beach on Friday evening I realized that I really wanted to try running ON the beach, so I did just that on Sunday morning.  I had the entire beach to myself as I ran along the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean to Cape May Point. Matt met me there for breakfast and then we headed home, back to reality, hilly running routes, and Piper.

Cape May did not disappoint. My sub-22 5K PR was just one of many high points of the weekend, and even now I sometimes forget it happened. But it’s real… I actually ran 3.1 miles in 21:52!! I’m glad I don’t have to attempt to better that anytime soon.  I’ll settle for trying to chase down my 10 mile PR on Broad Street tomorrow morning instead. 😄

Miles since last post: 64.1
Days since last post: 20
2018 MILES: 471.6

I’M IN!! Broad Street here I come.

You’re supposed to plan ahead for Philadelphia’s 10 mile Broad Street Run.  You’re supposed to enter a lottery in February, pray that you’re one of the lucky 40,000 runners to make it in, and, if you make it, you’re supposed to train for the May 6th race day all spring.

But I didn’t do that. Thinking that the “every other year” plan* was the way to go, I did not sign up for the lottery in February and I missed out on the fun of lottery result day. Much to my chagrin, on that day I learned that multiple friends were doing Broad Street and FOMO immediately set it. (That’s fear of missing out, Mom!) 😄

Despite not being in the race, I did train all spring with several 8-9 mile runs and regular speed workouts. And then this weekend I wrote a blog post recapping 4 strong races that I’ve had over the past 2 months and came to the realization that yeah, I really did want to race 10 miles down Broad Street in 3 weeks.

Lucky for me, today was the last day to go through the race’s official bib transfer process. It took about 7 hours of diligent facebook and bib transfer bulletin board watching, but as of 8:48PM tonight I’M IN!!!

Broad Street, here I come!

*Yes, 10 miles is so long for me that I only race it every other year. Until now! Check out my BSR race recaps from 2015 and 2017 for race details.

Two Pickles and a 10K

OK, I’m actually covering a fourth race in this recap as well, but Two Pickles, a 10K and Another 5K just wasn’t as catchy.

Credit: RunningMadPhoto

Yes, I am triumphantly waving a cucumber at the photographer. (Photo Cred: RunningMadPhoto)

The Pickle Run [5K Prediction]

February 17, 2018 | Media, PA | 2nd overall, 1st F (results)

Piper and I participated in the second of three “Pickle Runs” in mid-February on a chilly Saturday afternoon. Like all Pickle Runs, this was a prediction run. You state your time in advance, run without a watch, and the finishers closest to their predicted times win ridiculous gag prizes. I predicted 22:39 before the race and, amazingly, Piper and I finished just 2 seconds slower than that! We probably spent those 2 seconds veering off the road to collect a “pickle” (a cucumber with pipe cleaner arms and googly eyes) that was nestled at the edge of the woods.

Piper has run the Pickle course at Ridley Creek State Park multiple times now and she gets better every time. Since I have to run without a watch, I like to use Piper’s gait as a pace indicator. She spends most of the 5K in a rapid trot with her mouth barely open, but towards the end of the race I know that we’re really running fast if she breaks into a canter. I love running with my Piper. 💛

(Photo: RunningMadPhoto)

Chester County Winter Series 10K

March 4, 2018 | West Chester, PA | 10th overall, 4th F, 63.4% age percentage (results)

Still on a high after the Arches 9K in Utah, I set my sights on a 10K in early March. I ran a 10K on this course in March 2016 and was eager to better my previous time of 46:58. The conditions were not perfectly ideal at 37° with gusty winds, but I was still confident about my PR chances, right up until the moment we lined up for the start.

In 2016 the start and finish lines were the same, but this year the starter explained that the course had been remeasured and certified, so we’d need to start farther back to reach the official distance. Fair enough. The combined field of 5K and 10K runners moved back to a marked start line. But then, the starter announced that the 10K runners would need to start even farther back. He pointed out a shed at the end of a parking lot in the distance where we needed to go for the start. Boo. Check out the map below… see how far back we were from the finish line?

Once the race started it took me 1 minute and 39 seconds to reach the “old” start line from my previous PR. The chance for a new PR pretty much gone, I pushed ahead, just trying to better my paces from 2016’s race. In that race my splits had been 7:45, 7:37, 7:39, 7:41, 7:48, 7:47, and 6:16 for the final .2. This time around I tried to be careful not to start too fast, but still put down a comfortable 7:30. Then I proceeded to completely shock myself by keeping my pace under 7:36 FOR THE NEXT FIVE MILES!!

My Garmin was consistently off the entire race, telling me that I went through the 10K in 46:22 (which would have been a 36 second PR!) and reporting that the full course was 6.44 miles long. I know, I know… it’s a certified course so my watch was just plain wrong, but it still felt really good to see that average pace of 7:27 for a 6.44 mile race. 😀

My official 10K time of 47:59 was 1:01 slower than my 2016 time, but, considering that I had a 1:39 head start in 2016, I’m still counting this race as a new PR.

Post 10K reward at La Cabra Brewery

Another Pickle Run [5K Prediction]

March 17, 2018 | Media, PA | 2nd overall, 1st F (results)

Another winter month, another Pickle Run with Piper! This was almost a carbon copy of February’s race. Early on in the race Piper and I moved into 3rd place and soon found a pickle on the side of the road. We then hunted down the 2nd place guy ahead of us and passed him with a mile to go. Piper broke into a canter soon thereafter and we zoomed to the finish with our game faces on. (Check out Piper’s face in the first photo above… SO serious!!) 😄

The finish time was a little weird with this race. When Piper and I crossed the finish the clock said 22:41 (and it was a chipped race, so our official time should have been a few seconds faster than that), but when the results were posted online my time was recorded as 23:01. (???) Since I didn’t have a watch on I’ll never know how we really did, but I’m using the finish line clock time of 22:41 as our official time for my records. Piper didn’t care about the time; she just wanted to post-race popcorn!

Book It 5K

April 7, 2018 | Wallingford to Swarthmore, PA | 13th overall, 3rd F (results)

I ran this race last year on the same weekend, same course, and in similar conditions, so this was a fun chance to gauge my 2018 5K fitness. This is a point-to-point race and, like last year, I parked at the finish line in Swarthmore and ran a 2 mile warm up to the start line in Wallingford. Last year I finished in 23:19 with mile splits of 7:26, 7:57, 7:34. This year my slowest mile was 7:25 and I improved my finish time by 52 seconds!!

So what’s next on my race calendar? Well, Matt and I will be in Cape May, NJ for a wedding next weekend and I think we’re going to sign up for the Cape May Earth Day 5K on Saturday morning. That’s pretty much guaranteed to be FLAT so it could be a good chance for a potential PR! Training has been going great this year so anything is possible…

Miles since last post: 231.2
Days since last post: 56
2018 MILES: 407.5

Moab: Home to Arches, Canyonlands, and Westworld

When I chose Moab, Utah as our weekend destination after a work trip to Las Vegas, I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I knew that Moab was home to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, that it was a larger town than Springdale, Utah (the gateway to last year’s destination, Zion), and that January was definitely Moab’s off season.

It wasn’t until after I settled on Moab that I realized I could run a race while I was there AND that the valleys, canyons, and vistas surrounding Moab were where HBO’s Westworld was filmed.  Running races and Westworld are two of my favorite things, so I was pretty sure that I was going to LOVE Moab!

Here’s our Moab trip in map form. Click here to view a larger map and click on a waypoint to view a photo.

After I finished the Arches Ultra 9K on Saturday morning, Matt and I began exploring Moab. We drove along the Colorado River on Route 128, admiring the steep cliffs and bright blue water. For Westworld fans, this road is the “track” that the train takes to enter the park. There are no actual train tracks here, so they built a train car on the back of a flatbed truck and drove up and down Route 128 during filming. Matt and I listened to Westworld’s theme song on repeat during this section of the drive.

We soon came upon Castle Valley and Fisher Towers, two more show locations. We spent the afternoon hiking around Fisher Towers, then drove through Castle Valley before retracing our route back towards Moab and then north towards Canyonlands. We watched the sun set as we drove towards Canyonlands’ “Island in the Sky” mesa, then turned around and headed back to town for the night.

On Sunday morning we woke up early and drove for 45 minutes in the dark back up to the Island in the Sky. We paid $15 at an unmanned kiosk to enter Dead Horse Point State Park, then made our way to the Dead Horse Point viewpoint to watch the sun rise.  It was cold (25°F), quiet and beautiful. We looked out over rugged red cliffs and canyons that stretched as far as we could see and watched the January sun beams slowly illuminate the scene, turning each rock face they reached an intense, fiery red.

We shared this experience with one other couple and three professional photographers who had set up their tripods on a cliff below us.  It was so quiet we could hear the shutters on their cameras clicking as they snapped shot after shot of the amazing view. Once the pros were done we walked down to the same spot and took a few of our own photos. Views don’t get much better than this.

For Westworld fans, Dead Horse Point is a show location that’s featured in Episode 1. Look familiar?

Next we entered Canyonlands National Park and took a quick hike to Mesa Arch… our first arch of the trip! It did not disappoint.  We had Mesa Arch to ourselves and the underside of the arch was glowing in the early morning sun.

We returned to Moab for a quick breakfast (and much needed coffee… I was really dragging after our pre-dawn wake up call!) and then set our sights on Arches National Park. Arches is a fairly small park with a single main road that allows you to get close to many of the major highlights with minimal hiking required.  We hit several of these spots on Sunday, with visits to Balanced Rock, North Window Arch, South Window Arch, Turret Arch, and Double Arch.

Next we embarked on a longer hike to see Utah’s famous Delicate Arch. I was a little worried that this arch might not live up to its hype… how could it possibly compare to our transcendent sunrise from 8 hours earlier??! Matt and I hiked up smooth red rock for a mile and a half and carefully picked our way along an icy trail that was little more than a ledge on the shaded side of a red cliff face. This was the most crowded hike we’d been on so far and I was just starting to get tired of watching people in inappropriate footwear try to navigate the ice when we turned a corner and there it was: DELICATE ARCH.

Delicate Arch was breathtaking. The scale of it is hard to describe. It looks small at first, but then it dawns on you that the little speck at its base is a person and you realize how big it is, and how stately and alone it is, just standing there, rising up out of the red stone and framing a gorgeous range of snow-capped mountains off in the distance. All of the other hikers around us were clearly hit with the same emotion, and we all just sat down with our backs against a warm rock wall, murmuring quietly amongst ourselves and staring at Delicate Arch in the afternoon sun.

Matt and I stayed at Delicate Arch for close to an hour before heading back down the mountain. Delicate Arch totally rivaled Dead Horse Point’s sunrise views and I would strongly recommend both spots to any future Moab visitor.

Monday was our last day in Moab and we had a long list of arches that we still wanted to see. Matt and I got on the road in the dark once again, this time heading to the Devil’s Garden section of Arches NP. Devil’s Garden is home to a staggering number of arches and other crazy rock formations, including Landscape Arch, the longest natural arch in the world.

We hiked on the snow-covered trail in the dark and arrived at Landscape Arch just before sunrise. There were no other people in sight, just us and the long, unbelievably thin arch. We watched the sun hit the arch, turning it a bright golden yellow, and took tons of photos. Then we left Landscape Arch behind and set out on the “primitive trail” to see more of Devil’s Garden.

The primitive trail was barely a trail in most places. It was good that the sun was up by this point, because we had to climb and scramble up, over and across rock fins and ridges to get to the next few arches on our list. In one area we had to walk along an exposed rock spine with drop offs on either side and a steady, strong cross wind… so powerful that when I took my glove off to take a photo and I had trouble putting it back on because it was blowing straight sideways.  Luckily my earwarmer headband was holding my precious Arches Ultra cap securely on my head!!

While in Devil’s Garden Matt and I saw Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, and Double O Arch, then returned back by Landscape Arch to visit Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. There was one other couple out on the primitive trail but we otherwise had this sunrise hike to ourselves.

Next we took a few short hikes to Skyline Arch, Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch (all “private” viewing again… January is definitely the time to visit Arches!!) and then we wrapped up our long morning of hiking with a trek down “Park Avenue,” a canyon lined with towering rock monoliths that reminded early visitors of a skyscraper-lined street in Manhattan.

We returned to Moab for lunch at the Moab Brewery. By this point Matt and I estimated that we had hiked close to 10 miles but we weren’t done yet. After lunch we made a quick stop at the nearby Matheson Wetlands Preserve, a natural wetlands area on the Colorado River. The preserve was underwhelming, with little wildlife out on a chilly January day, but it was a quiet place to digest our beer and burgers before our final hike of the trip.

To get to our last hiking destination we had to drive along Route 279 (aka Potash Road), a scenic road sandwiched between the Colorado River and sheer red cliffs. The cliffs are home to “Wall Street,” a popular rock climbing area, as well as several great examples of historic Indian rock art. We stopped to see the petroglyphs before continuing on to the Corona Arch trailhead.

The Corona Arch parking lot was almost empty, and we passed the afternoon’s only other hikers on their way back to their car less than a mile into our hike. Excited to have one more arch all to ourselves, Matt and I pressed on, climbing up and up into a wide bowl-like formation with steep drop offs to our right. We scaled a ladder bolted to the rock and trekked up stone steps carved into the rock.

Finally the massive Corona Arch came into view. Once again, we had a private viewing of the breathtaking arch, and we spent a while soaking in the view and utter silence around us. Just as we were about to head back to the car the nearly full moon (the super blue blood moon) rose up and over the arch. Perfect.

And just like that, our whirlwind weekend in Moab was over. We were on the road by 4:14AM the next morning and back in Philadelphia nine hours later.

In three days we hiked to sixteen arches, visited two National Parks, saw magnificent views of the Colorado River, and were outside (or in the car) for every sunrise and sunset. Best of all, we experienced all of this with no crowds and, in most cases, with these iconic landmarks all to ourselves. Moab in January definitely did not disappoint!