Sunday at Whitsett

I went to Nashville for a weekend to celebrate with some very special women in my life and had a great time.  Before beginning our final activities on Sunday, I had the opportunity early that morning to go to one of my favorite places, the park.

After consulting the Googles for a park near the hotel, I spent a beautiful crisp morning at Whitsett Park, which is one of six segments of the Mill Creek Greenway.  The paved trail which is approximately 1.2 miles accesses the creek, includes a playground, pavilion and community garden (which I did not locate).

The trail is flat, fast, mostly tree covered, and absolutely gorgeous.  Though this was a fall excursion with perfect weather, Whitsett Park would still be good cover on a hot summer morning. 

There were few people in the park, likely due to weather which was in the 40s (too cool for some folks), it being 8:00 am, and a Sunday.  Yet, the park felt safe for those who want to be alone with nature.

If you are in Nashville and stay near the airport during your visit, I highly recommend a stop at Whitsett Park.

Until next time, see you on the trail.

In memory of Donna and Joni

Photos: MsThorns

Reflecting at Pickthorne

I returned to the place of my people, Arkansas. I sought breathing space in the place where I always find it to prepare for what lay ahead.

On an overcast Sunday morning I set out from Pickthorne onto a winding, flat trail, with overgrown trees that did not allow any vision of what lay between or behind them. This overgrowth required me to be extra mindful of the surroundings so photographs were not taken in order to move quickly through this section. Fortunately nothing happened other than my heart and mind racing and I was able to turn back to see what was behind me and look forward to what was ahead.

The trail from Pickthorne Park connects Henson Tennis Center and Devon Park and has stream running along side it. There is also a bird sanctuary according to the website, which I did not see.

The end of the paved trail had these interesting rock sculptures that I imagine have taken many shapes as they have been reformed and reimagined by the people passing through.

Though eery at the onset, Pickthorne Park is recommended if accompanied by others. For more information on Little Rock or Sherwood parks, click the links.

In memory of James E. McCoy

Photos: MsThorns

Taking it Easy at Rabbit Hill Park

IMG_8678I went to a place that I’ve only heard mentioned on the news, Dacula Georgia. Turns out it’s really not too far, straight out 316 about 20 minutes from where I live. The 20 minutes was well worth the drive to experience Rabbit Hill Park.

IMG_8688The park is split and runs on both sides of Rabbit Hill Trail and hosts an abundance of amenities. In the evenings the entire park is in use. In the mornings, folks primarily make use of the trail and the dog park. What’s cool about the dog park is that it doesn’t allow for dogs and owners to mingle all willy-nlly. There are separate spaces for large and small dogs as well as a “dog run”.IMG_8916

The Trail
The park website indicates 2.65 miles of paved trail. Coming from Hurricane Shoals, this refers to the part of the park that is on the left, which includes the dog park and volleyball lots. The outer loop of the trail is 1.34 miles. The loop and the inner trails make up the the 2.65. I actually chose to run the 1.34 outer loop, crossed the street and looped around the basketball/baseball/lake side of the park which is about 1 mile with another 1/4 mile (approximate) around the lake. Whatever route you choose, it’s all pretty much smooth sailing.RabbitHilltrailmap(map courtesy of Gwinnett County Parks)

A few other notes on the trail to be mindful of: only the dog park side is marked, also both sides have stretches where there is no shade, i.e. you’ll cook but only briefly. Lastly neither side of the park is hilly, winding yes, some short inclines yes, but no hills. I’d say it’s perfect for getting in speedwork which I did see a guy doing but I didn’t photograph him as he was giving me side eye when we crossed paths earlier.

IMG_8951Overall Impression

I love this park. Rabbit Hill has something for just about everyone. After having completed Peachtree, I really wanted to go out and run for the joy of it and Rabbit Hill Park is a great place to run/walk/bike etc. and enjoy the sights. For more information on Rabbit Hill Park visit the website. For more photos, see the album on Google+.

Until next time see you on the trail.

Photos: MsThorns except where noted

Welcome Back to Lion’s Club Park

When I first discovered it about four years ago, it was closed, blocked off and pretty much in shambles.  I kept passing by and in 2013 saw that it was being renovated and shaping up to be nothing like that first visit. The place had been gutted with signs of life appearing that looked very much like many of Gwinnett’s other great parks. This past weekend, on a quest for the next park to try, I found an article about a re-opening. Woo-hoo! Lion’s Club Park had re-opened so I had to go check it out.
Lion’s Club Park in Lilburn, Georgia received a $5.3 million overhaul and was re-opened in February 2014. By Memorial weekend 2014, residents were taking full advantage of its amenities which include: a baseball complex with five lighted ball fields, 1,800-square-foot concession/restroom building, plaza, batting cages, 60-foot pavilion area, maintenance building, more than 850 parking spaces, paved trail system with benches, adult swings and shelters. (Amenities listing courtesy of the Gwinnett Daily Post. The county’s website has not been updated as of this writing).
The Trail
The trail is paved, circles the park and is a short but challenging .77 miles.  From the parking area at the main entrance headed toward Rockbridge is all downhill. There’s a brief flat area on the back end near the furthest baseball field and then it’s back uphill to the starting point.  There are no mile markers, which is okay given the distance.  Additionally since this park is basically new, there are mostly new trees, meaning that shade is limited and located in the back of the park by the residential entrance and the front main entrance. Runners, walkers and other sportos should get there EARLY to avoid getting baked.
The Fork
Now if a quick 3 miles is all you want, circle the park 4 times for a near 5K or, at the bottom on Rockbridge stay left at the fork, pass under Rockbridge and enter the Camp Creek Greenway — Glorious!  Not available until this year, the Lion’s Club Park Trail now feeds into the Greenway.  A potential long route is to loop around Lion’s Club Park onto the Greenway, through Lilburn Park, onto the Greenway offshoots and back, which is some nice mileage with a mix of scenery, inclines and flats. I chose a “tweener” route by taking one loop around Lion’s Club Park over to the Greenway, circling Lilburn Park and coming back to Lion’s Club which was a bit over 4 miles.DSCN7855
The new Lion’s Club Park is a great neighborhood park for families, fitness enthusiasts and baseball/softball fans with the bonus of a feeder trail system. If you’re in the area or are from Lilburn and remember how the park was, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the park has become.
Until next time, see you on the trail where I’ll be getting my running legs back. 🙂
Photos: MsThorns

An Old Best Friend

IMG_7407 (2) (1280x999)I moved to Atlanta from New Orleans.  For my two years as a resident I had the joy of running through Audubon Park, a fast, beautiful shaded 1.8 mile trail near campus and my apartment.  Coming to Atlanta was a rude for me as a runner, having started running through the flatness of Indiana, then in NOLA, I was dismayed with the hills of this new locale.  Just the same I was determined to resume running somewhere and enlisted my BFF to find me a suitable park . That first park was Best Friend Park.  Located off Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross, Georgia, Best Friend at that time (21 years ago) was more about hoops than it was about running and walking.  Just the same, I gave the park a whirl found it less than desirable.  I don’t believe that the trail was even finished at that time.

Having run most of the parks in my area over the last few years,  I recently headed back to Best Friend.  Entering from Jimmy Carter and heading back toward the giant powerlines leads straight to the beginning of the trail. What I saw was a pleasant surprise, nothing at all like I remembered.

IMG_7377 (2) (960x1280)

The trail starts on top of a slight hill, winds down and back up near the tennis center.  There’s a pedestrian crossing at that point as there is an entrance on that side.  The trail continues past a field up another slight hill,  curves around and ends back at the trail start.  The trail is listed at .75 miles and it goes fairly quickly since it’s not hilly.  The shade is adequate on the back side, but I imagine it may be pretty hot during the summer as you’re making the loop around back to the start as there are no trees on that portion of the trail.

IMG_7384 (2) (1280x960)

IMG_7392 (2) (1280x960)

The Best Friend Park paved trail is a great, short trail that would be good for days when you don’t want to do anything long or difficult or if you want to do some speedwork amongst the trees in lieu of a track.  If you’re in the area, check it out hopefully you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I.

Until next time, see you on the trail, where you will not EVER find ME doing speedwork. 🙂

photos: MsThorns

Avoiding Shinpocalpyse

The last two posts here were reviews of Peachtree Ridge Park and Rock Springs Park.  Both of which were quite an experience, both of which had some hills.  Peachtree Ridge had fewer hills but those hills were very steep.  I ran Peachtree Ridge on a Saturday and two days later (Monday) I ran Rock Springs which is very hilly throughout the trail.  Later in the afternoon following the Rock Springs fun I noticed some pain in the front of my lower legs.  Though it had been at least 15 years maybe more, I felt the pain of shin splints coming on.
What are shin splints?
According to
Shin splints aren’t really a single medical condition. Instead, they’re just a symptom of an underlying problem. They might be caused by:
  • Irritated and swollen muscles, often caused by overuse
  • Stress fractures, which are tiny, hairline breaks in the lower leg bones
  • Overpronation or ”flat feet” — when the impact of a step causes the arch of your foot to collapse, stretching the muscles and tendons
For my case the condition was a result of overuse and flat feet.  Though this bout was really just the onset, considering my age I didn’t want to take any chances by continuing to run and felt it best to also see my doctor.  The doctor did concur with my self diagnosis and suggested ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medication.  One of the trainers at the gym suggested an exercise to stretch the muscles surrounding the shin bone.  I opted for a combination, continuing my exercise regimen substituting a stationary bike for cardio and including more stretching every day.  I took the anti-inflammatories for a couple of days and skipped the ice (I loathe using ice and only do it when pain and swelling is significant).  There was no running whatsoever for eight days (it sucked but it as necessary). The running return took place at Camp Creek Greenway, which is a flat fast trail and that run as good.  However following the run I examined my shoes and knew that they they were toast and were no good for this flat-footed runner.

I haven’t been inside of an actual running store in forever, but this time wanted to get the fit right and get my running mechanics checked.  The associate at Fleet Feet Sports in Decatur measured my feet in a neutral shoe and had me run on a treadmill and outside.  His diagnosis, mild over-pronation that could be addressed with a stability shoe (which I had been wearing already, again though, they were toast) .  I was thanking God almighty for this recommendation because motion control shoes, which are usually recommended for flat-footed runners are the most uncomfortable shoes (in my opinion of course) on earth.

Having run in Nike, Saucony, Asics, Brooks, Adidas and for the last several years New Balance, I ended up with these:

I broke them in with 5 miles at Bethesda Park on Saturday and they were fantastic.  Also keeping in mind my form, I allowed the hill to carry me down instead of “putting on brakes”  I recall specifically at Peachtree Ridge “braking hard” and letting my feet pound on the pavement, which was especially jarring to my legs and my lower back.  I found a great post on that addresses form for downhill running.  A web search will provide video demos for downhill running form as well.

What I Learned
Ego is a dangerous thing at times and it can lead to all sorts of problems, in this case injury.  The most important thing when it comes to any sort of physical exercise or even going about your daily existence is to listen to the body and give it what it needs. If you’re experiencing chronic pain or a brand new pain, go see your doctor and get a referral if you need to so that you can get on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Until next time, see you on the road.

Takes Your Breath Away, Rock Springs Park

After the running FAIL at Peachtree Ridge Park, I didn’t rest until I had an opportunity to try another park.  The destination this time, Rock Springs Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The Park
Per the Gwinnett Parks and Recreation website, Rock Springs Park features the following: 113 acres, football field with lighted walking track, six lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion, restrooms, 2-mile paved, multi-purpose trail and grill.
One thing of note that I’ve not seen at other parks is that there is a recycling bin in the lot near the pavilion and playground for bottles and cans, which is fantastic and I hope will get implemented in other county parks.

The Trail
Before heading down into the the trail I stopped a couple of ladies and asked them how hard the trail was. Here’s the conversation:

Lady 1: “oh you’ll love it it’s beautiful.” 
Lady 2: “no you didn’t hear her, she said how hard is it?”
Lady 1: “are you walking or running?”
Me: “running”
Lady 1: “oh it’s pretty hard then there are some hills”
Lady 2: “it may be okay for you just hard for somebody who hasn’t worked out in a while”

Lady 2 proceeded to ask me if I wanted to leave a number just in case I had problems. I told her, no thank since my shoe is tagged with emergency information.  I should have known after this conversation that this run would challenging, but the hard-headed runner had a score to settle.  I wasn’t about to let another trail beat me.

So I did my warm up (always a quarter mile walk) and headed straight uphill. Upon reaching the top I ran out of trail but ended up by the football field. Heading back was only a brief respite as the steepness going up meant I would be “putting on brakes” on the way down.  Continuing on the downhill to my original starting point and beyond, was more of a downhill, back towards some water.  There was plenty to view on the trail but not enough to make me forget about how hard it was.  After few rough downhills it was time to make the ascent out. I don’t remember any normal breathing at all during the entire run which ended up at 3.25 miles.  The website indicates the trail is 2 miles, it’s actually 2.25 starting from the football field entrance.

Rock Springs Park is a great place for four things, children’s play (they have a really nice playground), tennis, football and of course the trail.  Though this trail is really challenging, it’s a good test of fitness, that I’d recommend in anyone’s running or walking program.  However to prevent entry I wouldn’t recommend it more than once a week.

Fore more information on Rock Springs Park or other parks in Gwinnett County Georgia, please be sure to visit the Parks and Recreation website.
Until next time see you on the trail.

It’s Not You Peachtree Ridge Park, It’s Me

With a week that was packed to the gills with stuff, I decided that a change of scenery would be good for the Saturday outdoor run.  Having checked the Gwinnett Parks website, Peachtree Ridge Park in Suwanee, Georgia looked to be a prime candidate for this week’s run.
The Backstory
I had a number of annoyances occur on Friday during the day job and a few more after leaving job two last night.  Once I finally made it to bed, there was no real sleep, just moments of sleep in between some very bizarre dreams.  By the time morning came I was relieved to see daylight and was looking forward to getting to the park.  Getting there was quick an easy, traffic was on my side.  It was cool out with a bit of dew on the grass, another plus. I thought, this is going to be a good one.
The Park
Peachtree Ridge Park has most of the standard features of the larger parks I’ve been to in Gwinnett.  The parks website lists the following:
Amenities: ∙ 156 acres  Handicap accessible ball field and playground for children with special needs  Three baseball/softball fields  Football field with lighted walking track  Two soccer fields  Outdoor basketball courts  Playground  Pavilion  Restrooms  1-mile paved multi-purpose trail

On this morning run I managed to see it all, because I didn’t exactly follow the paved trail.
The Trail
The paved trail was clean (goose-poop or trash) only the first few fallen leaves of the season were on the ground.  I started at a pavilion next to a small playground and followed the curve towards what I thought was the back of the park.  What I noticed was how far out some of the brush hovered over the trail, it was clearly in need of some cutting back. I took a trail the left, which made a small loop into a nice wooded area in which there was a small covered picnic area, which was really cute.  During my second pass I saw a lady doing what looked to be Tai Chi with another lady and a dog that started yapping as I passed by (the dog was messing with my chi).  Following the small loop I made another left and immediately regretted it.  There was a steep downhill, on which I “put on brakes” to make sure I didn’t go to fast (yes even I’m fast on a downhill), which followed a manageable climb out.  The trail leads to the football field and the walking track which surrounds it, but it’s not really a track.  It’s a loop around the football field, paved and marked, like the trail.  There was a pee-wee game going on with cheerleaders and everything (didn’t know they had cheerleaders at the little bitty kids games).  As I wound my way through I was uncomfortable and it wasn’t just the brush or that hill, which I would have to climb on the way back.  There was something urgent pressing… my bladder.
I NEVER have to pee when I’m on a run.  Well not never but almost.  I’ve probably had to go twice in the last 15 years or so.  Well today was that day.  I made it around that football field.  Ran up that hill that scared me and going up it I’d say it was at least 45 degrees, I mean I was learning forward so far, I felt nearly horizontal.  Made it back around to the front near the car and high-tailed it to the restroom…
which was clean had toilet paper and soap, thank GOD! I resumed my run, this time running through a small tunnel instead of the loop and followed the trail, again to the left and a funny thing happened, the trail ended in a parking lot, followed by more parking lots.  This was fine because on this portion of the run I got to see a rabbit, the basketball courts, a large playground and the baseball and soccer fields.  I made a loop through the parking lots and headed back to the trail.  I said to myself, pick your feet up and watch the curb and I did , except all of my body went up.  I FELL.
My bracelet flew off and I landed on my tail facing the other direction.  A passerby asked if I was alright and handed me my bracelet.  I had a small cut scrape on my palm that was bleeding, but otherwise I was fine, a bit heated but fine.  I’d planned to run for a certain amount of time, but by then, my mind was made up to run back to the car.  I was out of there.  Stopping 20 minutes short of my scheduled time for today, I decided to cut my losses.
Peachtree Ridge Park is a great park for families, as there are numerous fields, play areas and open stretches of land that are conducive to play.  The trail on the back side near the football field is a BEAST!  If you like challenging yourself on steep hills this is a great place to do it.  As for me, I’ve been there and done it.  I won’t be going back to this park, though it’s fairly close, the experience unfortunately soured me on it.
Until next time see you on the trail! (I promise to remain upright.)
For more information on Peachtree Ridge Park, please visit the Gwinnett County Parks website.

Rhodes Jordan Park, A Little Something for Everyone

For the last few years, it’s been a tradition to go check out a new park following the Peachtree Road Race.  The purpose of which is two-fold, 1)finding a new spot to enjoy and to run in and 2)to exhale from Peachtree.  This year’s exhale took place at Gwinnett County’s Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia.


Rhodes Jordan Park at 100 East Crogan Street is nestled in downtown Lawrenceville and is built around Lawrenceville City Lake.  At a large 162 acres, nearly any activity you’d like to enjoy can be accommodated there. The park features: a community recreation center, community room with catering kitchen, classrooms, dance/aerobics room, fishing lake, pavilions, playgrounds, seven baseball/softball fields, football field overlay, outdoor leisure play pool, double gym, tennis center with eight lighted courts, outdoor baseball court, outdoor horseshoe court (the first I’ve seen at any of the parks visited thus far in the county) and a 1.9-mile paved multi-purpose trail. 


The beauty of the park is the lake and how everything is nestled around it. There is a an abundance of water fowl and in the early morning they pretty much have the run of the place, with their numbers decreasing as the morning heats up.  There are several boardwalks bordering and crossing over the lake as well as a secure railing on the low lying areas of the park.  There’s also a variety of wildflowers, and especially lovely to see, butterflies.  I visited the park in July and September and the visuals were spectacular in both cases, which is especially enjoyable while putting in the miles.  

The Trail

According to the park master plan there’s a network of trails totaling 3.8 miles.  What’s actually paved, connecting and usable is closer to the 1.9 miles listed on the website and it is a fairly easy 1.9.  Taking the paved areas around the lake, behind the picnic area and near the horseshoe courts, will give you a nice crossing loop with minimal hills.  The trail is not marked, which is fine.  Those who keep track of such things as mileage (which obsessive runners like me do) can just do a timed run and do the math to arrive at mileage.

The trail is mostly shaded with only small sections bordering the lake open and you’ll feel the heat, only momentarily. The trail is really enjoyable because there’s a lot to look at and keep your mind off of how long you plan to be there, the relative ease of it is also good, for any distance or type of run (repeats, tempo).  In fact yesterday I saw a young man doing hill repeats up a grassy hill to the trail.  With all the beauty there is one drawback of the trail at Rhodes Jordan Park and that is the poop.  Waterfowl, especially the gigantic geese (and there are several varieties) we have here make poop that’s as big as dog poop and it is everywhere on the loop directly surrounding the lake, so watch your step.

Rhodes Jordan Park is a park for everyone, there’s really no outdoor or indoor activity that one could not enjoy.  The easy, breezy trail is great for runners and walkers, and the park’s accessibility and aesthetic appeal make it great for days when you don’t want to do anything at all other than sit under a tree.  If you’re in Lawrenceville, take a little time to enjoy this spot right in the heart of the city.

Until next time, see you on the trail.