Run to Live, Live to Run

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the Trails in Delaware....

The Trail runs parallel with beautiful and serene Brandywine Creek 
    Probably my favorite trail run in the area (and probably my favorite run overall) is the one shared by Brandwine Creek State Park and Woodlawn Trustees Wildlife Preserve in North Wilmington. One of the trailheads is only about 5 minutes down the road from me, so it's very convenient and close. There are a few different trail heads you could start from but my favorite is to park at the Jewish Community Center on Garden of Eden Rd., just off Concord Pike Rt. 202 in Talleyville. The trail is well marked at the end of the road next to the lot, and you have a few directions to choose from after getting started. You can go left, which is a bit more narrow and technical, which goes south towards Mount Lebanon Rd, you could go straight, which goes downhill, a bit rocky and leads right to the Brandywine River and the Brandywine Creek State Park trail that heads north towards the DE/PA line. If you did that, you could do a nice out and back to Smith's Bridge just over the PA line for a nice 5 miler. But I like to go right just after getting on the trail and stay about a half mile before going left and down towards the creek.   I cross a smaller creek and then head back uphill towards Woodlawn'll know you're in the right place when the trees clear and you see a horse farm and a road where you have to turn left.   You'll go straight until you hit Thompson's Bridge Rd., which I then cross, go past a small gravel parking lot and continue through a small cluster of trees and stay right at the fork and continue downhill, crossing Ramsey Rd. and keep following the trail past another horse farm.  One warning about being on these trails is that they are frequently used for horseback riding and mountain biking as well, so it would probably be wise to leave the headphones at home.   I've also crossed paths with many a deer and foxes, so be on the lookout for wildlife of all shapes and sizes.
Share the trail with horses and mountain bikers

It may all look like private property, but as long as you stay on the marked trail (you'll see signs saying "Wildlife Preserve" and it will usually be roped or fenced off from the private property)  I usually keep going north across Beaver Valley Rd. where the trail perimeters cornfields and crosses a few more creeks, going behind the Hi-Point Dairy.  There are some great lookout spots on the high parts of the trail before heading down towards the Creek.  Eventually I make my way down to the Brandywine where I turn south and head back along the creekside trail. After crossing back over Thompson's Bridge Rd., go about a half mile and just past a small pedestrian bridge, you'll see a trail on the left which will take you back up towards the JCC parking lot.  The run in full is just over 8 miles, which may seem like a bit much.  You could definitely shorten and/or vary it up by staying on the upper trails or staying down on the creekside trail like I described.  Find whatever suits you, but I'm sure you will savor and enjoy it given the beautiful natural surroundings.

Smith's Bridge-One of just 6 Covered bridges in Northern DE

Here are some fully marked trail maps to help you along...
Accurate measured route map of the run I described
Brandywine Creek State Park Map
Woodlawn Trustees Trail Map
If you're not familiar with the area, I would keep the map handy, a phone and/or gps or compass and start short to get your bearings.   Once you go a few times, you'll find it easier to navigate.   

Alongside Ramsey's farm with the Granogue water tower in the distance

You'll see on the map there are several other parking areas with access to the Woodlawn Trails.  One of the larger lots is is at Ramsey Road.  Take I95 Exit 8 onto US-202/Concord Pk. toward W Chester/Wilmington.  Go 5 miles. Turn left at Beaver Valley Rd.  (The big intersection before Brandywine Town Center) Go .3 miles. Turn left at Ramsey Rd and go 0.4 miles. Then turn right to stay on Ramsey Rd. The parking lot will be .8 miles on the right. A gravel road across the street from the parking lot leads to several trails. There is also a trailhead at the back of that parking lot.
This truly is a diamond in the rough of the narrow cramped roads and private property taking up most of the space in the area, so it is a rarity.  I would love for others to enjoy the natural beauty of the trails as much as I do.  Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or advice...then get out the door and go!   Good night and good running.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Great Moments in Running #785 "The Big Race"...

Now we all know that Seinfeld was brilliant, but this is sheer & utter genius...

On the Road in Delaware...

    One of the many things I want to accomplish with this blog is to spotlight a different part of Delaware in regards to running routes.  It's a small state with not much space on the road for recreational use, so I'm gong to try and show you the safest, most scenic and efficient routes while not risking getting hit by a DART bus.  I also like to wear headphones, so I tend to stay far from busy streets and traffic.  Today I'm going to talk about the Brandywine Park & Rockford Park area since it's in the city, a mix of shade and sunny areas, with nice wide sidewalks and paths away from the street with plenty of great stuff to see along the way.  If you're lucky enough to in or near this area (I grew up right near the zoo, so this was where I first started logging miles) you can access it easily and are already aware of the beauty and charm and pedestrian friendly aspects.
    As for me, my usual routine would usually consist of a nice 5-10 warm-up coming through the neighborhood down towards 18th & Broom St., near the athletic fields. I enter the park near the playground between the baseball fields, make my way down towards the river, and go left towards the zoo and begin what I called the Figure 8 loop.  I would run east down Park Dr. to Market St., cross the bridge & run up the other side of the river past Wilmington Hospital to Van Buren St. bridge & then cross to the other side and continue west towards the Swinging bridge (the footbridge).  If you're lucky like me, then maybe you'll catch a glimpse of the local wildlife in the form of the Great Blue Herons that nest along the river.

    I would then follow the path up the hill, underneath the traffic bridges towards Wawaset St., then continuing past the large beautiful homes of Kentmere Parkway.  After passing the Delaware Art Museum and then entering Rockford Park at Riverview Ave. and Red Oak Rd., I would pass the dog park and head into the woods towards Rockford Tower.  I would stay on the road until reaching the Tower, where since it has a bathroom, water fountain and plenty of grass to rest on, when I would take a breather to regain my strength and bust in to the homestretch.  The great part about this run is that it is a nice gentle and rolling terrain with a gradual uphill leading into Rockford.  After you go around the Tower and go back out the way you came, it's a nice gradual downhill that helps to push you towards the finish.  Also if you're lucky enough to be in the park on a day in the warm months when the Tower is open, it is free and definitely worth it to head up the 100 or so steps and see one of the best views in the city.  It is still a working water tower for the surrounding neighborhoods so it makes sense that it was built on the highest point in the city.

    After turning around and heading back the way I came, I finish up with a nice staraightaway along the Brandywine just underneath the I-95 bridge and ending at the bottom of Monkey Hill.
Altogether, the run is about 5.5 miles, but if you'd like to shorten it, you can just do the river loop for about 2.5 miles or you can lengthen it by heading out he back entrance to the park towards Pennsylvania Ave. and turn northwest past Tower Hill.  This route follows the same course as the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, so it would be an ideal training route if you're planning on doing the race.  Here is a link to a map of the Park.
    Feel free to comment or drop me a line with any thoughts or favorite runs of yours in the area.  Next time I'm going to talk about my favorite off road trail, the Woodlawn Trustees Preserve in North Wilmington.
Until then, goodnight and good running.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The New Year of hope and dreams...

Ah, the New hopes, new dreams, new goals, new races to scare me & challenge me...
Winter has sucked so far for me running wise.  I strained my lower back in November and due to sometimes crippling pain in my lower back and hip, I couldn't run for 5 weeks.  Thank goodness for the pool, muscle relaxers and red wine...lots of red wine.  But now, I'm recovered and pain free, so back to it.  Right?  Not as easy as I thought...
    Starting small, after a month long layoff due to the holiday paunch and the nasty battle with sciatica in my lower back, I knocked out a very hard 35 minutes on Sunday, then a more challenging 45 minutes on the trail today.  It was hard to take into consideration that I put on almost 15 pounds since the fall.  My quads felt like they had been beaten slowly by midget boxers...definitely thank goodness for Physical Therapy.  I'm going to the wonderful people up at Elite PT in North Wilmington.   They've trained the Men's US Soccer Team, tennis star Maria Sharapova and USA Baseball amongst others.  Thorough, courteous, professional and comfortable, just what PT should be. 

Delaware's oldest road race, the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon takes place just over 2 months away on March 2, and I've started my training.  As of now my training will consist of 4 days of running, 2 days of conditioning and cross training and one day of rest and recovery.   2 runs will be tempo runs, between 40 and 60 minutes at a fast, controlled pace concentrating on form, posture and breathing.  1 run will be repeats, usually on grass, sometimes with hills, totalling about 45 minutes or 4-5 miles.  And the last run, the best one...the long run.  Done on the weekend, I'll start with 50-60 minutes this weekend and add 5 minutes each week, topping out at about an hour and 45 minutes (my goal finish time is under 1:35)...I'll be updating on my progress as much as possible...that's all for now, some hot chocolate with Bailey's is calling me before bed.  Good night, Good running.