kids' first bibs.

I've found it harder and harder to muster enthusiasm for road races, but I'd gotten pretty excited about this year's Amos Herr 5K Honey Run.

I have run this race several times before and have fond memories of one year pushing Lily in the stroller as she cheered at each person we passed (we passed many as I was in the bathroom when the start gun went off, giving us the chance to catch the entire back of the pack and a good chunk of the mid-pack too!) and, another year, doubling back around after finishing to accompany Lindsay on her first 5K finish.

This year I'd managed to convince both Lily and Piper Bea to let me push them in the double stroller.  This was especially exciting for me because I had a suspicion I might not get the chance again with Lily growing taller by the minute and Piper rarely agreeing to sit still for minutes at a time.

The girls were also excited to take part in the kids' 1/4 mile fun run, their first opportunity to "run like daddy".  Both girls grew more enthusiastic as race day approached which in turn made me that much more excited.  Every day of the week ahead of the race, I would answer "which day is Sunday?" with a full countdown of the remaining days.

Then on Saturday afternoon while trying to reinflate the tires, I broke the stroller.  Really broke it.

As in, killed it. And not in a good way.

My heart sank and, almost on cue, a head cold swept in and threatened to put me down for the entire weekend.  Between my disappointment and being sick, I got myself in a pretty nasty funk.

Boo-hoo for me and all that.  Pathetic.

But that melancholy washed away on Sunday afternoon when I, in a medicated haze, witnessed Lily and Piper crossing the fun run finish line to proudly, giddily accepting their first ribbons.

In the end, I realized I was happier for the girls to have race day memories of their own that didn't need sharing with just another day of running for Dad.

Too bad it took me busting the stroller to give them that.  My bad.


an abbreviated (but still super) hike.

My September running got off to a strong start with a number of hour+ long runs strung together over the Labor Day weekend.  My legs held up throughout and I wondered if that would make me feel that much more restless while volunteering at the 3rd annual KTA Susquehanna Super Hike on Saturday morning.

Even some wicked pain in my toe that required a doctor's attention (lancing proved even more painful than the injury itself) on Wednesday night didn't keep me from feeling like I had a long run in me.  If you're curious, Google the term paronychia and hope you never hear a doctor say it to you...I have never had such a seemingly insignificant source of discomfort make me question my pain threshold more critically.

It was with some guilt, then, that I learned of the Keystone Trails Association's decision to cancel the Super Hike after tropical storm Lee swept in and buried Lancaster County in many, many inches of rain that led to subsequent flooding in area creeks, rivers and towns.

Certainly I'd never hoped that the Super Hike would be shelved entirely, freeing me up for a long weekend run.  The event really is a treasure as is the Conestoga Trail and surrounding ridges, streams and hollows that host the race.

The KTA puts in an incalculable amount of work in putting together the race and participants train for weeks and months beforehand in preparation.  Obviously, all involved were sorely disappointed while still being respectful of the fact that safety comes first and the attention of emergency responders was best focused elsewhere in the aftermath of cresting flood waters.

A like-minded bunch of adventurous runners, however, decided to gather at the high point of Holtwood Park on Saturday morning, head down into Kelly's Run and north toward Pequea to see how far we could get before passage proved impossible.  I knew a couple of individuals firsthand, but most of the assembly consisted of new faces or faces that I knew only through the sneak peek that is Facebook or from fragmented memories of past area races.  Regardless, as I find with trail running in general, we all mingled and mixed like old pals and instantly felt like a team.

There was a ton of standing and running water up high on the trail that made me suspect we were in for a short trip.  Thankfully, that water must have been filtering into the ground or heading off in varied enough directions because the trail was actually in better shape the further we ventured into Kelly's Run.

When things bottomed out (still high above the Susquehanna), there was clearer evidence of receded waters, downed trees and choked debris.  The trail was certainly still passable, but required a little bit of clambering which led to slightly deeper than usual creek crossings at the lowest elevations before the start of the climb up towards the Pinnacle.

The Pinnacle stood unharmed, standing as it does a few hundred feet above the river, but the dense fog offered up only an impenetrable curtain of white and gray that refused any glimpse of the Susquehanna.

We pushed onward, heading down again, this time toward Tucquan Glen and the first landmark that had true potential to be completely underwater.

Before we reached the bottom, we caught site of the railroad tracks and knew that the river had dropped at least below that point.  Though the tracks were clear, there was a broad island of debris on the inland portion of the bridge that cluttered the clear pool that usually sits at the foot of Tucquan.

On the other side of the rails, there was a 4 to 5 foot wide ribbon of deep mud that had trapped numerous small fish, fingerlings and crayfish. We shuttled as many as were immediately visible into the river, but I'd imagine the story remained the same all the way north and south from that point.

A preliminary determination had us doubting that the Conestoga Trail was above water in Tucquan and we leaned toward taking the "high" trail on the other side of the creek to reconnect with the trail above the glen.  Someone, I'm not sure who, scouted ahead enough to say that the low trail was doable so we stayed the course and braved on.

The first portion of the trail was pretty waterlogged and, except for the few hearty souls that waded over-the-waist-high along the shoreline, most of the group did a bit of rhododendron bush-whacking to stay above the trail.

After the initial 50-100 yards, the trail reemerged and led to the always wondrous beauty that is Tucquan Glen.  As the elevation increased by even just a few feet, the glen looked not unlike it does after any significant rainfall.  At the sight of runners strung out around the bend on the ridge-hugging trail, I fell behind to try and snap photos, none of which turned out to do the spectacle any real justice.

Another creek crossing welcomed us to the start of another climb.  We passed a United Way group doing trail clean-up and offered our thanks and good luck.  A short while later we got our first from-up-high look at the chocolate-milk-like waters of the Susquehanna.

A short descent led across Reed's Run and then into the ups-and-downs over House Rock, past the limestone caves and down into the village of Pequea.  Clean-up was in full swing with pumps emptying water out of basements and first floors.  Small numbers of onlookers milled about, scoping the Susquehanna and viewing the swath of debris that filled the marina.  Something (everything?) didn't smell quite right.

We hung a right on the path toward Pequea Creek Campground and immediately hit standing water and deeper mud.  Most startlingly (and I can't believe I didn't manage to get a photo), deep cracks in the soft soil of the unpaved road seemed to offer strong support to the landslide warnings that had been issued the day prior.  I cringed at the idea of 500 hikers and runners attempting to cross through here on their way to the Super Hike finish line just a half mile ahead.

Before long we transitioned from the road into the campground and collectively gasped at what we found there.  Everything that wasn't under water, clearly had been not long ago and where the water had retreated, thick mud was left in its place.

The pavilion that a year ago had been the gathering place of volunteers, race finishers and their family and friends stood bathed in mud, its picnic tables pushed this way and that.  A slick of mud along the top of the seats of the picnic tables made it clear that the entire pavilion had been beneath at least 2 feet of water.

Downed outhouses had washed up against the pavilion and were now resting on their sides a few feet away.

The grassy plot that had served as the tent camping/parking area for the Super Hike looked fine until you stepped on it and discovered that beneath the top layer of grass was several inches of soupy mud.  My first footfall caused the next several feet of grass to ripple and roll like water displaced in the bathtub.

Even the herons looked perplexed, standing on banks that normally provided a high vantage point above the creek but were now flush with the dark brown waters of the creek.

Being beyond the end of the summer season, the campground had already seen many of its usual resident RVs and campers leave for the year, but those vehicles that had stayed behind were likely not going to be put to use again.  At the western end of the campground, there was still a foot or more of water and the line of mud caked along one camper's windows proved that water had been at least another 3-4 feet higher within the last 24 hours.

Before the four of us who remained together for the return trip left the campground, I snapped a quick photo of my GPS, concerned that the battery was going to run out of juice before we topped out at Holtwood (it didn't).  I'd forgotten to turn the Garmin back on when we'd first left the Pinnacle earlier in the day but had received confirmation from another runner's GPS that I'd shorted us exactly 4 tenths of a mile.

Off we went.

The journey back found Cassie, Steve, Gary and I together throughout, basking (sometimes gasping) in the sun that now shone brightly in the sky, enjoying each other's company, pushing through growing fatigue and using each creek crossing to calm swelling, cool down and clown around.

It was a blast.

At Pinnacle we dug into the cooler that Cassie and Steve had hid there earlier in the day and fueled up for the final push.  The section from the Pinnacle to Kelly's Run provided a breathtaking viewpoint of the trail, river, dam and bridge way down below.

Earlier in the day, knowing that I'd slow to a snail's pace if I pulled out my camera and started shooting pics, I had passed through Kelly's Run without taking a single photograph.  Coming back the second time, I lingered a bit behind the group to get a couple of shots. 

Fueled by the want to try and run the last leg (especially with the Conestoga Trail Run just a couple of weeks away) AND, maybe more importantly, to stay ahead of what felt like a growing threat of cramping, I was able to crank out a pretty good pace on the run up to Holtwood Park.  I'm not sure, though, that I had anything more left in the tank once I got there.

Steve, Cassie and Gary appeared just a few minutes later and together we enjoyed the cookies and beer that the others had kindly left behind for us.

In the end, it may not have been THE Super Hike but any full day spent on the trail with good friends (and making new friends) while gaining perspective well beyond running itself is pretty damn super.



This was going to be the month.

July had seen a slight uptick on mileage and August was going to be the month that I finally pushed things up a notch.  Only it didn't happen.

Some really solid running took place and there were many memorable on-trail moments, but I went in the wrong direction in terms of miles.  I did a couple of mid-distance races, the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, of which I've already written, and the seemingly underappreciated On the Rocks 16-Miler at Rocky Ridge Park in York, PA.  I was reasonably pleased with both efforts (I finished 9th at On the Rocks), but admittedly felt some fatigue in the days after and struggled to cover additional miles.

No matter.

A couple days of tired legs are no big deal and other than keeping track of them for curiosity's sake, the number of miles really don't matter much to me.  I do, however, need to remind myself of that now and again.

And so August wasn't THE month, but it sure was A month of running and one that I'm looking back on fondly as I sift through the photo evidence below:

Wednesday, August 10 - AM - First run after Jupiter Peak Steeplechase included a good bit of climbing at Pumping Station and on the Horseshoe Trail - legs feeling good.

Wednesday, August 10 - PM - Back end of my twofer, a run home from work.

Thursday, August 11 - Run to work - felt fatigued but held pretty solid pace.

Sunday, August 14 - Morning run at Pumping Station/Horseshoe.

Wednesday, August 17 - Morning loop run on Horseshoe Trail starting on southern side of 322, crossing over to Eagle Rock overlook and back on the conservancy trail - may have been the last go for these MT 101s.

Saturday, August 20 - On the Rocks 16-miler at Rocky Ridge park.

Sunday, August 21 - Colebrook Road to R2T to Junction Road loop - good effort the day after On the Rocks.

Wednesday, August 24 - Horseshoe Trail out-and-back with Jefferson starting at Segloch Road and heading toward Middle Creek.

Thursday, August 25 - Midday run on Penryn and White Oak roads.

Friday, August 26 - Nighttime loop on Colebrook, R2T and Junction roads returning on Sun Hill - UTMB excitement and the pending arrival of Hurricane Irene had me feeling cabin fever.

Saturday, April 27 - Post-UTMB and early stages of Irene on Colebrook, Hossler, Power and Sun Hill roads.

Sunday, August 28 - Post-Irene afternoon/evening run at Pumping Station and on the Horseshoe Trail.

Monday, August 29 - Midday run on White Oak and Penryn roads.

Wednesday, August 31 - Pre-dawn run at Pumping Station and Horseshoe Trail - planting seed of hope for a sub-2 hour effort at the Conestoga Trail Run in a few weeks.  Fingers are crossed.