Birthday Hike at Binky Lee

Smile, it's Friday!

Smile, it’s Friday!

A few weeks ago Matt and I took Piper hiking at Binky Lee Preserve in Chester Springs, PA. It was my birthday so Matt was extra patient when I stopped to take dozens of photos of fall foliage, grasses, and (of course) Piper. Piper was less tolerant of these numerous delays – she prefers to be moving full speed ahead at all times – but I was still able to capture a few shots of her against the gorgeous fall landscape.

Here are some photos from our hike. This really is what Southeastern Pennsylvania looks like in the fall. Isn’t it pretty??!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is what a German Shorthaired Pointer with a mouthful of water looks like! I think she was trying to bring some of the creek along for the rest of the hike. 😄

389 mouth fulla water

If you find yourself in northeastern Chester County looking for a place to hike I’d definitely recommend visiting Binky Lee. For more information check out the links below. Happy Friday!

Binky Lee Preserve
1445 Pikeland Road
Chester Spring, PA 19425
Web Site  |  Trail Map  |  Google Maps

455 Piper in fall

Cam’s “Moonlight” 5K… in a Thunderstorm!!

Last night I ran Cam’s Moonlight 5K in Exton, PA.  With a 9PM start time, this was my first night race and, with a violent thunderstorm going on during the race, this was also my first race in torrential rain and lightning!  It was a unique experience to say the least.

I arrived at the corporate center where the race was being held at around 8:30pm to pick up my bib.  Although there were storms far to the southwest, the radar overhead was absolutely clear at this point.  I could see some ominous storm clouds on the horizon and it was just starting to drizzle ever so lightly, but I figured this was a passing shower at worst and kept my iPhone and headphones with me as I lined up with the 500 or so runners and walkers for the start of the race.

The start was really disorganized.  I didn’t see a start line and didn’t know which direction we would be running but realized that I was WAY in the back of the crowd when suddenly the pack started off at a jog ahead of me.  After my crowded-start experience at the Media 5 Miler, I was frustrated at the prospect of starting from the extreme rear and I quickly began weaving my way through the slow moving crowd to get into a better position.  After about 0.2 miles of dodging and weaving the crowd suddenly stopped (reminiscent of the doomed Color Out Cancer 5K race earlier this year!), and that’s when I realized that we had all been running TO GET TO the start line.  Crazy!

By the time the race really started from the actual start line, the skies were dark and the rain was falling steadily.  I was significantly closer to the front of the pack and after the real “GO” I set out on the course, happy to get a do-over on my start and ready to put down a good time in my first 5K road race since the Run for Victory.  About a minute into the race the clouds opened up and the torrential rain began.  Bolts of lightning lit up the pitch black sky and the edges of the smooth corporate center roads immediately turned into mini rivers of water rushing towards the nearest storm drain.  It was raining so hard that my headphones stopped working (they got quieter and quieter before dying completely at around 1.5 miles in) and I was taking in so much rainwater with each breath that I found myself consciously working to spit water out of my mouth every time I exhaled.  It was wild!!

If this race had been scheduled for 9:10PM instead of 9, I firmly believe that the race organizers would have cancelled it on the spot, but because the runners had just been released onto the course just as the storm hit it was too late to stop the race.  Luckily, the course was VERY well marked with glow sticks and dozens of volunteers who braved the storm to hold their positions at the various intersections we crossed.  (Thank you, volunteers!!)  Despite the excellent course marking, I quickly discovered that the darkness, rain, and monotony of the corporate center’s identical roads made it extremely difficult to get a feel for where I was on course.  When I hit the 1st mile split I tried to make a mental note of where I was, but by the second lap around the corporate center my headphones were dead and I had no idea if I was 1 mile or .25 miles from the finish.

Cam's Moonlight 5k Runkeeper

After what felt like an eternity of slogging through puddles and spitting out rain water, the finish finally came into sight.  I was thrilled to see that the race clock was still in the sub-25 range and I thankfully crossed the finish line at around the 24:46 mark.  Woohoo!!  A man at the finish line was yelling “RUNNERS, DO NOT STOP!! GO STRAIGHT TO YOUR CARS!!!!” so I got my bearings and marched right to my car, where I promptly soaked the driver’s seat and took this photo.  What a race!

Soaking Wet after the Cam 5K

Matt had driven separately from a lacrosse game to watch the race (he ended up staying in the car!) and he followed me home along Route 30 as the torrential rain continued.  It was raining so hard I could barely see the road and at one point I drove through what Matt said was about 8″ of rushing water.  I could feel the current start to push the car to the left so I stepped on the gas… scary!  (And yes, I know you should never drive across a flooded road, but it was raining so hard I couldn’t even see the river… whoops!)  Long story short, we made it home safe and sound and I was very thankful for dry clothes and a warm bed.

This morning I found myself constantly refreshing the RunCCRS web site, eagerly waiting to see my final time and finish position.  Sadly, I got an email after lunch saying that the extensive rains caused the chip timing system to malfunction and no results would be provided. Boo.  😦  At least I paid attention to the timing clock as I crossed the finish line so I know my approximately time AND, most importantly, I ran another sub-25 5K!!!!  Forget the rain, lightning, no results, and everything else… I did it again!  Yay!!!  🙂


Miles since last post:  93.5
Days since last post:  18
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.81
2014 TOTAL MILES: 916.3

P.S. For anyone wondering what happened to the Swarthmore 5 Miler (7/3/14) and the Firecracker 5K (7/4/14) races that I was supposed to run over the holiday weekend…  BOTH got postponed due to storms (that, by the way, were far less severe than last night’s!).  I missed the make-up date for the Firecracker 5K but I’ll be running the Swat 5 Miler next Friday.

Related Posts:
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Victory at Victory Brewing Company! [SUB-25!!!!!]

Yesterday Matt, my brother Billy, his girlfriend Suzanne, and I ran the Run for Ryan 5K at Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA.  The four of us were team “Red, White and Brew” and we had a blast running and enjoying BBQ and Victory beer after the race.

Red, White and Brew after the 5K

I’ve been gearing up for this 5K for months (I signed up for it in early January) and it’s been my unofficial goal race all Spring.  This was my wishlist plan going into the race:

  1. Chill out during mile 1.  Don’t let the excitement of the start and the big crowd make me go out faster than I should.  (This has been a problem in the past; I hoped for an 8:25-ish first mile.)
  2. Run negative splits.  Finish strong!
  3. Beat my current PR of 25:13 from the YMCA’s New Year’s Eve 5K.
  4. Finish in sub-25:00

Lofty goals, I know, but I have been working hard and I knew this course was going to be fairly flat (a rarity around here, apparently!) with a very exciting, fun atmosphere.  I also had just come off of a super strong training run at Ridley Creek on Friday where I had shocked myself with huge negative splits (8:45, 8:11, 7:30..!) and a positive experience at the Elwyn 5K where I really concentrated on taking it easy during mile 1 so that I’d have some juice left for the rest of the race.

The subject line probably tipped you off to the fact that I ran sub-25 so I’ll just tell you right now.  My official chip time was…

24:17  !!!!!!

That’s nearly a MINUTE faster than my previous personal best!  I was (and still am!) thrilled!

Victory 5K Runkeeper Stats

During the race, however, I was pretty worried that I had (once again), gone out at a pace that was way faster than I could maintain.  The race began just fine and I felt like I was succeeding with Part 1 of my plan as I settled into what felt like  a comfortable, easy pace for the first mile.  In fact it felt a little TOO easy and I thought I might have chilled out a little too much, until Runkeeper cheerfully reported that I had completed my first mile in 7:42.  Yup, almost 45 seconds faster than I planned to run.  Crap!  As I started to mentally chastise myself for going out too fast I realized that I still felt inexplicably good.  I put the first mile behind me and instead focused on trying to keep that pace up for my second mile.

The moment Runkeeper reported my second mile split – 7:54 – I knew that I was definitely going to get a PR.  I had 1.1 miles go and only needed to complete them in ~9 minute pace to beat 25:13.  Woohoo!  I hadn’t run my second mile quite as fast as the first but amazingly I had maintained a sub-8 pace and still felt good.  With renewed energy I pushed into my 3rd mile and back towards the brewery.  (Oh yeah, did I mentioned that there was free beer waiting for me at the finish????)  With about 0.3 miles left to go my abdomen started to cramp up, but I knew that I was on pace for a big PR and I tried really hard not to slow down.  Runkeeper reported my third split – 8:00 – just before I came around the bend and into view of the finish line clock that was slowly ticking its way through the low 24’s.  I sprinted as fast as I could and finished with an official chip time of 24:17.  Victory!!!!!

Annie finish line

Our entire team finished with PRs, with Billy coming in 39th overall, Matt finishing with a new personal best time of 23:47, and Suzanne completing her first 5K ever!  I finished 101/644 overall, 25/344 women, and 5/58 in my age group.  Woohoo!  As part of our race entries, we all got free BBQ sandwiches and 2 beers each.  Matt had a lacrosse game immediately following the race so we all generously helped him drink his beers.  🙂

It was really nice to run with Matt, Billy and Suzanne (and to have my mom cheering and snapping photos from the sidelines!) and I am super psyched that I was able to crush my time goal (even if I wasn’t so successful at running negative splits!).  It was also quite enjoyable to kick back and drink a few beers in the gorgeous 65° weather after the race. 🙂

My next race will be the Rocky Run Trail Run 5K on May 30th.  The course will follow some of the Middletown Trails that I have hiked on and blogged about in the past so that should be fun.  After my big PR yesterday I think I’ll just plan on having a good off-road experience and enjoying the scenery.

Miles since last post:  62.5
Days since last post:  14
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.83
2014 TOTAL MILES: 667.5

Related Posts:
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

February’s Icy Start

Snowy Winter Road

Let It Snow!On December 1st Matt and I bought a charming little decorative sign that cheerfully proclaimed “LET IT SNOW!” We hung the sign in our kitchen and since then our town has received over 3 1/2 feet of snow, resulting in 5 snow days and 2 late openings and early closings at work.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Last Wednesday’s ice storm was the season’s most disruptive storm by far (as of today, at least!).  After a snow storm on Monday weighed down our trees with 7-8″ of heavy, wet snow, a wintry mix arrived late Tuesday night and coated everything in a thick layer of ice.  We lost power in the middle of the night (along with 620,000 other PECO customers!) and the only sounds we could hear when we woke up were the violent cracks of tree branches snapping under the weight of snow and ice.  Look at our sad, sad pine trees…

In addition to the extensive pine tree damage we also lost half a tree in our front yard as well as several large branches.  My mom’s yard fared even worse… Matt and I had to remove a tree from her driveway (before / after) in order to get to her house and upon our arrival we discovered her once-beautiful weeping willow tree had uprooted under the weight of the ice and was keeled over on its side in the snow.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  My mom and stepfather have a generator so our whole family ended up at their house for the day.  We spent our ice storm day chatting, drinking coffee, and completing a huge 1000 piece puzzle before enjoying a yummy dinner together.  On Wednesday night Matt and I received word from our neighbors that our power was back on (woohoo!!!) so after our day of fun we were able to go home and gratefully enjoy heat, running water, and internet.  🙂

Here are some photos that I took on Wednesday during the ice storm.  Brr…

Icy Pine Needles

526 Frozen

Icy Needles

Ice Fence Rails

Matt and I contemplated taking down our Let It Snow sign today but decided to leave it up a little longer.  We’ll see if it’s still hanging in the kitchen after the storm that’s forecasted to hit us on Thursday…  8-12″ of snow!!!  What a winter!

Kirkwood Preserve

Guess what?  In 2 hours I will be running in my first distance race since 1999!!!  The 5K is hosted by Willistown Conservation Trust, a local non-profit land preservation organization in Willistown Township, Pennsylvania.  To prepare for the race I’ve been running like crazy on my treadmill AND, because the real world isn’t as flat and smooth as a treadmill, Matt and I have also been hiking (and sometimes jogging) in lots of local parks and preserves.

This week in honor of the upcoming race we visited Willistown Conservation Trust’s Kirkwood Preserve.

Kirkwood PreserveKirkwood features 83 acres of grasslands along a stretch of the picturesque Crum Creek.  The preserve has been classified as an “Important Bird Area,” meaning that you’re likely to see some endangered grassland birds on your hike.  More importantly (for me, at least) this also means that dogs are strictly prohibited from all areas of the preserve.

Kirkwood Tree

I actually have a very personal connection to the rolling hills of Kirkwood Preserve because I grew up about 2 miles away from here.  When my brother and I were kids we would walk here from our house with my mom all the time.  This was back before the land was preserved (it was just a cow farm then) and we spent hours and hours of our childhoods here hiking, playing, cross-country skiing, fishing, picnicing… you name it!  With all of those memories in mind it was really neat to come here with Matt and see that the land is still here and open to all.  (Of course the barbed-wired cow fences are all gone and the fields are full of natural grasses now, but that’s fine with me!)  Here are some photos from our walk:

Kirkwood Preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset and has well-mowed walking trails.  We did the outer loop on our visit and our total walk was just shy of 2 miles.  The only access to the preserve is via the gravel parking lot on Grubbs Mill Road.

Kirkwood Map

OK… time for Matt and me to start stretching and getting ready for the race!  Here’s my running tally as of yesterday evening:

Miles since last post:  60.2
Days since last post:  11
Average Daily Miles since July 18th: 5.56

Wish us luck at 4pm…!  🙂

Kirkwood Jump

Other local hikes, parks, and preserves:

Ridley Creek State Park (Edgmont Township, PA)
Okehocking Preserve (Willistown Township, PA)
Darlington Trail (Middletown Township, PA)
Linvill Trail (Middletown Township, PA)
Stroud Preserve, (West Chester, PA)

Stroud Preserve

Last weekend Matt, Bailey and I took a hike in the beautiful Stroud Preserve located just west of West Chester, Pennsylvania.  This was our first time visiting this nature preserve and we really enjoyed the rolling hills, scenic views, and well-marked trails.

Stroud Preserve is maintained by Natural Lands Trust, a non-profit land conservation organization in southeastern Pennsylvania.  According to the NLT web site:

Stroud Preserve consists of 571 acres of culturally and ecologically important land in Chester County. This rolling mosaic of once-pastured grasslands, working farmlands, and woodlands now serves as wildlife habitat and a unique site for research by the Stroud Water Research Center, one of the premier stream research labs in North America.

Here are some photos from our hike on Saturday:

If you’re looking for a peaceful, natural area to hike in southeastern Pennsylvania l would definitely recommend paying a visit to Stroud Preserve.  The preserve is located at 454 North Creek Road, West Chester, PA 19382 and a copy of NLT’s trail map is below.

STROUD-H1-MapPlease note that only the trails marked with solid lines are dog-friendly and dogs should be kept on leash at all times.  With this in mind we took Bailey on the Yellow Trail loop with a detour onto the Gray Trail to avoid the no-dogs area and we finished up around the northern part of the Purple trail.   Our hike was about 3.2 miles long.  If we go back sometime without Bailey (which is unlikely since she LOVES going hiking!!) we’d probably try the full red loop which is supposed to be 4.2 miles long.

Bailey loves hiking!

Bailey loves hiking!

Here are links to some other hiking spots in Chester and Delaware County, PA that I’ve blogged about.  Enjoy!

•   Ridley Creek State Park (Edgmont Township, PA)
•   Okehocking Preserve (Willistown Township, PA)
•   Darlington Trail (Middletown Township, PA)
•   Linvill Trail (Middletown Township, PA)

Stroud Preserve Cornfield