Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “Winterthur”

Daily Chase: Vol. 40

You might have been tempted to think that my #chasing42runstreak was in jeopardy based on the lapse in Daily Chase information, but you can let out a collective sigh of relief. The streak is still in play, and more importantly, my legs are fully recovered after my epic GDR adventure. Lord knows my quads were shredded after 40,000 feet of elevation change, but I feel like I’ve bounced back nicely 🙂

Chasing42 Log: 20160325-20160401

Run: My legs were feeling much fresher this week, and I was able to incorporate some more tempo and speed work back into the mix. It was also spring break at the University of Delaware, so I had a bit more flexibility in my running schedule, which meant I was able to spend a bit of time taking in the early spring blooms at Winterthur. All-in-all, it was a great running week and I’m looking forward to the 36-mile Brandywine End-to-End on April 9th!

Such vibrant colors, even this early in the season! The daffodils filling out the "clouds" on the hill in the background are amazing :)

Such vibrant colors, even this early in the season! The daffodils filling out the “clouds” on the hill in the background are amazing 🙂

Thought: The debate between workout approaches seems to be never-ending, with some folks extolling the benefits of hill work to cover strength and speed, and others focusing on specificity. The physiological evidence might be mixed, but the mental evidence seems to be pretty clear for me. Even if I could benefit the most from focusing on one time of workout and one surface, the reality is that I would still need to mix things up. The variety is as much about mental stimulation for me as it is about the physical benefits. I’ve perhaps fallen into the ultra-bug trap a bit too much lately, and found it hard to justify shorter races when a training run will suffice. However, I am hoping to be more mindful this spring and summer of the mental benefits of pinning on a bib for overall training readiness. Distances from the 5K to the marathon each offer me different challenges, and will ultimately benefit my ultra efforts. If the path #chasing42 was straight, it wouldn’t be much fun, right? 🙂

Winterthur: It’s a Magical Place!

Not only did I question whether or not Delaware was an actual state prior to moving here, but I certainly would have never heard of Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library if it wasn’t for the beautiful epicurean’s career field and her new amazing position at said library. You learn very fast when moving to Northern Delaware that the name Dupont carries quite a bit of weight in these parts! The Dupont family had a significant influence economically, socially, and politically in the area, as evidenced by the Dupont plant right down the round, and the plethora of streets, parks, and schools named after various members of the Dupont family. One such member of the Dupont family was Henry Francis Dupont. Unlike many of his other more industry-oriented family members, H.F.’s interests were more focused on horticulture and decorative arts.

A playful note in the Enchanted Woods!

A playful note in the Enchanted Woods!

Gates near the reflecting pool (and former family pool).

Grates near the reflecting pool (and former family pool).

More specifically, he became fascinated with antique American decorative arts and soon amassed the single largest collection of American antiques in the world. Even before his interest in antiques took hold, his green thumb guided many of his life decisions. He honed his craft, and on the grounds of his estate, created an amazing, sprawling, multi-dimensional naturalistic garden and landscaping masterpiece. That estate was Winterthur, named after the town in Switzerland where the family originated. Henry Francis donated the main mansion and estate as a museum in 1951 and continued to live in a smaller building on the estate until his passing in 1969. His legacy can be seen in vivid color as you explore the 60 acres of naturalistic gardens and the remainder of the massive nearly 1000 acre estate. Visitors travel from around the world to explore the massive collection of decorative arts, conduct research in the library collection, and explore the beautiful grounds.

Winterthur 3

The entire estate is incredibly visitor friendly, and accessible, regardless of your background knowledge of antiques or horticulture. Miles and miles of trails traverse the estate and allow for seemingly endless exploration. Very early on in my time in Delaware, I made it a point to explore Winterthur on foot, as I was there almost daily. Although the trails, both paved and unpaved, are intended to allow greater access to the grounds, they also present a unique opportunity for an early morning or later afternoon run of unprecedented beauty. There is something in bloom at any given time, and the diversity of plant and animal life creates a truly special environment.

It's hard not to stop and photograph everything!

It’s hard not to stop and photograph everything!

I’ve now been in Delaware for a little over two months, and have spent countless hours on the trails throughout the estate. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the beauty around you and I always seem to find something new and unique with each additional run on the grounds. The estate happens to be right next to Brandywine Creek State Park as well (look for more in a future post), and it’s even an easy run home if I don’t feel like driving. As with the rest of the region, there is no shortage of hills, but the well-maintained trails simply can’t be beat and there are even several cafes on site in case you want a bite to eat when you are done. There is no question that I am lucky to have access to such an incredibly resource, and I am looking forward to many more runs and explorations to come! #chasing42

The diverse landscapes are simply incredible!

The diverse landscapes are simply incredible!

Did I mention the goats and flock of specially bred sheep?!

Oh, and did I mention the goats and flock of specially bred sheep?!

Initial Reflections on Delaware

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Wilmington for two months now! The summer has truly flown by, and now that I’m caught up on my final Iowa escapades and the amazing experience that was the Race Across the USA, I can return to my regularly scheduled programming. It’s been a simultaneously relaxed and eventful transition, complete with all of the chaos of setting up a new home and figuring out the world around us. We’ve slowly begun to carve out a home for ourselves, figure out how to meet our regular needs, and begin to navigate a completely new part of the country and new stage in our lives. The epicurean’s new position at the Winterthur Museum, Library, and Gardens has been a wonderful transition and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen her more happy day in and day out. I completed my summer teaching responsibilities online at Iowa State, and have now officially left that position and am on the hunt for a new professional adventure (if you have any leads, I’d be happy to forward my resume 🙂 ).

DE-1

Amidst the unsettled nature of hitting reset on the life button, I’ve found time to continue my training in a way and have learned quite a bit about my new running home along the way. There are many new trails, hikes, races, and running friends to look forward to, and I’m certainly excited for the new running opportunities that living on the East Coast presents. It’s been a profoundly different and challenging experience to run so many miles without my Vardo partners in crime, and I still miss them terribly. When I first undertook the challenge of running, it was the friends surrounding me that kept me going, got me out the door, and motivated me on a daily basis. Throughout my growth as a runner, my biggest joy has been the relationships I’ve built and the opportunities to witness others accomplish their own running goals and grow closer to them with each passing mile. It’s strange, then, to find myself in a new area of the country where I know no one and am now running more solo miles than I’ve ever run before. I often find myself, out of habit, thinking about who I would share any new discovery, route, or trail with and then realizing that Facebook is truly only a shadow of life, always shifting as the earth turns each day and the sun rises and sets. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to discover some pretty exciting locations and opportunities in my short time in Delaware and I’m optimistic about what the future will bring. So, let me give you the Cliff’s notes version of what still feels like an extended vacation!

Heat & Humidity

Technically speaking, we aren’t that much further south so I didn’t expect the summer weather to be all that much different. I should have known better. It was in the 90’s the day I drove up in May, and it has been consistently hot all summer with little sign of relief until fall. I’ve never been a huge fan of the heat, and it’s always taken me what seems like far too long to acclimate, but it’s been an entirely new challenge in Wilmington. In addition to the heat, the humidity is rather atrocious. I’m used to a few days of high humidity every once in a while, but I seem to be bathing in a dog’s mouth every time I step foot outside. It doesn’t matter if I’m beginning a Saturday morning run at 6AM, or heading out for a short afternoon run. My body has been struggling to cope, and it’s definitely left me more exhausted than normal. I realized just how bad the humidity was a few days ago when it dropped to around 40%. Despite temps that hovered around 90 degrees, my run felt almost effortless by comparison. It really does make quite the difference!

DE-2

Hello, hills! 

It’s no secret that Iowa is a pretty darn flat state. I’ve spent my entire running life in Iowa, which meant I was far from accustomed to any sort of variable terrain. It wasn’t uncommon for me to log 25 or 30 miles and see a grand total of 300 feet of elevation gain. Delaware, however, is a different story all together! My legs are now, after two months, beginning to adjust to the fact that every single run I go on here is the equivalent of a hill workout in Iowa. I’m not sure there is a single stretch of flat land anywhere to be seen, and I’ve been racking up the elevation gain! The result is a new-found confidence with a wider variety of races, and the realization that I might be able to tackle some of my mountain-running bucket list items after all.

DE-3

Trails, my old friends

Since my first ultra and first trail race several years ago, I’ve been hooked. There is just something incredible about hitting the trails for a run and losing yourself in the miles that I can’t seem to replicate on the road. Unfortunately, living where we did in Iowa meant very limited access to trails and spending most of my time on the road. The landscape around Wilmington is a totally different experience! There is a wonderfully high concentration of state parks within running distance of our house, and even more access simply by hopping in the car for a few minutes. We bought a state park pass, naturally, and I’ve already had the opportunity to hit the trails in 5 different parks. It is a strange feeling to have such incredible access to so many legit trails, complete with switchbacks, stream crossings, and relentless hills. I’ve been in trail heaven!

DE-4

A New Running Community

I’ve made it crystal clear how important it is to me to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share my passion for running. So much of my motivation comes from the efforts of those around me, so it was quite hard to leave such a tight-knit community behind. Luckily, I’ve begun to connect with other runners in the area, with the hopes of cutting back on my far too regular solo runs! I took it as a great sign that our next door neighbor is also a runner, and I even had the chance to run with her and a friend the first Saturday I was here. Since then, I’ve found the Delaware Running Club, and have run with them on numerous group trail runs. I even had the chance to participate in the Festival of Miles, which was my first official track race and led to my new mile PR of 6:08. Obviously I need to get it under 6:00 now! It’s a large group full of wonderful people with diverse running and life backgrounds, and I’m really enjoying getting to know folks!

Scenery & Orientation

The most shocking thing for me out here, even more than the hills and humidity, has been the overwhelming beauty of this area. I’ve lost track of the number of times I found myself stopping in the middle of a run to simply take in all of the beauty around me. It’s common to find a random historic marker, the remains of an old mill, or the remnants of a luxury amusement park from the turn of the 20th century (more on that in a future post!). The lush, green forests, rolling hills, and streams everywhere make each run something special. Unfortunately, stopping to gawk at the beauty of the area isn’t very good for my already tenuous sense of direction. When I left Ames, I could tell you how to get anywhere on foot, and how far it was within a tenth of a mile. I knew that area like the back of my hand. I’ve now found myself in an area where grids and city planning were an afterthought (Delaware is the first state, after all), and the winding roads mean I often don’t know north from south. I’ve begrudgingly started carrying my phone with me on most runs, and have needed to pull it out on several occasions to see just how turned around I really am. On one particularly ominous evening, I left my phone (and water and nutrition) at home for what I had intended to be an easy 6-mile run out and back. However, my curiosity got the best of me and one wrong turn led to another. Before I knew it, I had basically made my way to the PA border, and I had logged 18 dehydrated miles before I finally got home. Epic fail! I’m hoping that won’t become a regular occurrence 🙂

DE-5

Running @ Winterthur

One of my favorite places to run thus far is actually a place I find myself every single day (and jealous of the fact that the epicurean takes her lunch breaks on the grounds!). I wrote about Winterthur back in December when we traveled out so the epicurean to visit, and I was mesmerized then. However, the gardens truly shine in the spring and summer, with something new in bloom practically every week. There are countless paved and single-track trails meandering around the 1000 acre estate, and I truly feel as though I’m in another world, whether I’m out there running or curling up with a good book as I listen to the birds sing. I’ll be sure to highlight the beauty of this place in a future post, but few words can truly do it justice, especially for this Midwestern flatlander!

DE-6

So there you have it…it’s been a hilly two months, if you will, in more ways than one but we are finally beginning to settle in and get to work on making Wilmington our home for many years to come!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: