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… 😄

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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. Continue reading

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… Continue reading

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. Continue reading

The End of Blog-Crastination

Is it possible that I haven’t blogged since September? Yup. And the worst part is, the longer I wait to compose a new post, the harder it becomes to get motivated to actually sit down and write! Case in point: I have now run seven (SEVEN!) races since my last race recap. I’m a stickler for chronological recaps, and knowing that I need to reminisce all the way back to a mediocre race in early October before I can regale you with tales about my first California race (in San Diego!!) and my most recent 5K with Piper makes it that much harder to buckle down and get the writing done.

But today I’m putting an end to my blog-crastination! I am ignoring all of those accumulated races and turning to my favorite four-legged friend for inspiration. So without further ado, here’s a selection of photos (in chronological order) of Piper doing her thing from May thru December. Enjoy!

Did you make it through all of those photos? (Thanks!😉) Which is your favorite? I’m partial to Piper in her orange goggles. 🤓

Piper’s DNF

Does this angle make my nose look big?

“Does this angle make my nose look big?”

Three weeks ago Piper and I ran the Empower the Children 5K hosted by Child Guidance Resource Centers. Well actually, I ran a 5K and Piper ran a 2.5K. Yup, Piper had her first ever Did Not Finish (DNF), but don’t worry, she’s just fine.

The weather on April 23rd was sunny and in the mid-fifties, aka PERFECT running conditions for a human. I suspected that the gorgeous weather might be a little too warm for Piper but still wanted to give her a chance to participate in the race. I figured I could always hand Piper off to Matt mid-race if she got too hot since Matt was volunteering on course and was conveniently positioned at the halfway point.

At 9AM Piper and I dashed across the start line with 81 other runners and walkers. Piper was full of beans, darting and pulling in every direction. I realized that this was our first race together outside of Ridley Creek State Park’s narrow, paved trails and as a result I spent our first mile constantly repositioning Piper’s leash and saying “Piper, wait!” and “Piper, heel!!” Piper responded with an escalating series of eager snorts and grunts as she abandoned all discipline and happily zoomed all over the wide neighborhood streets.

Piper's preferred running method: off-leash and out of control!

Piper’s preferred running method: off-leash and out of control!

Piper’s snorts seemed to grow louder by the minute. Even though I knew she was only grunting because I was holding her back, I started feeling a little guilty for having her along with me in the 54° “heat.” A little boy running in front of us actually turned around multiple times to see what sort of noisy beast was coming up behind him. Just a crazy little GSP, sorry kid! 😄

Finally Piper and I reached the big hill near the end of the first loop. Last year I had paced my first mile terribly and this hill was hell, but this year I was actually happy to see it because I knew Matt was directing traffic at the top. As Matt came into view I wildly gestured with my hands that I planned to pass Piper off. I unsnapped my waist leash and the Piper transfer went off without a hitch. Matt later told me that Piper stopped panting immediately when she realized the excitement of her race was over. Silly pup.

Dogless, I continued into my next lap, thankful that my running buddy was no longer jerking me around. (I love her dearly, but Piper was definitely cramping my style during that first lap!!) I tried to focus on my cadence and pace, which had slipped to 7:46 in the second mile. During the first lap it had been easy to ignore the multiple ups and downs with Piper by my side weaving around in front of me, but now that I was running solo I realized how incredibly hilly this course was.

Empower the Children 5K Stats_

My chaotic first lap and the hilly terrain took their toll on my legs and by the time I turned up the big hill for the second and final time I was feeling slow. I was averaging over 8:00 for my third mile but I knew the end was near. I pushed up the hill, waved to Piper and Matt at the top, and started my “kick” as soon as the ground leveled out. I zoomed across the finish line in 24:36, the exact same time I ran last year.

24:36 is more than a minute slower than my time from the Evolve IP 5K on April 2nd.  In 2015 I was not pleased with this time, but this year I am much more at peace with my slower than usual result. First and foremost, I ran half the race with a wild animal tethered to my side, which certainly must have slowed me down or at the very least cost me some precious energy in the final mile. (Just think how much breath I wasted begging Piper to heel!)

Second, after back-to-back years of sub-par times, I’ve come to realize that maybe the Westgate Hills course is just a really difficult, extremely hilly 5K that doesn’t yield very fast times. I know that I’m in good shape and able to run close or at my best (more on that in my next race recap!!!), so it’s not worth it to stress over why one particular course doesn’t seem to agree with me.

My 24:36 finish was good enough for 13th place overall and first in my age group so I’ll be happy with that and move on to the next race… which I’m about to recap very soon. Spoiler: I TIED my 5K PR in April 23rd’s Haverford Twilight 5K.  What are the odds???

Miles since last post: 117.7
Days since last post: 25
2016 MILES: 620.6

Past Races:
• April ’16: Evolve IP 5K (4/2)
• 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)

Let it snow! Long enough for a run, at least.

We experienced some very odd weather in southeastern Pennsylvania yesterday… it snowed! And not just cute little spring flurries. This was real, accumulating, white-out conditions SNOW! The storm started mid-morning and dumped 4-5 inches on my daffodils, budding trees, and sugar snap pea shoots. There was nothing I could do to protect my garden so I decided to take Piper out for a trail run at nearby Okehocking Preserve instead.

Okehocking Snow Run

We ran a big loop around the preserve, enjoying the muddy trails, slippery hills and snowy grass. This might have been a freak storm, but it sure was pretty!

Okehocking in the Snow

I brought my Go Pro along and had fun running towards it on the trail. Matt gave me the Go Pro for my birthday last November and I’m still learning how to take advantage of the tiny camera’s super wide-angle lens and various shooting modes. Yesterday I played around with the Go Pro’s continuous photo mode and tried to avoid stepping on it each time Piper and I zoomed by.

Luckily no one else was out in the storm to witness this behavior… Piper thought we looked pretty silly.

Look at the camera, Piper

The storm ended at 5PM and immediately started melting. Our backyard is still blanketed in snow more than 24 hours later, but the temperature is supposed to rise to 62°F tomorrow so the snow should disappear soon. As much as I enjoyed my winter romp with Piper, I’ll be OK if I don’t see another snow flake until November!!

Okehocking Preserve (4/9/16)