2005-01-29 - Greenway Trail Ramble

~18 miles @ ~19 min/mi

I pick up comrade Adam Safir at 6am and drive to Riley's Lock on the Potomac River where we find ourselves alone in the predawn chill. Shortly before 7am Ed Schultze arrives; he chats with us about the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail [1] and today's training run. Ed directs the Greenway Trail Marathon in early March and has organized a series of training runs including today's to help get people ready for the event. We follow Ed back up the road to Poole's General Store, a splendid anachronism that sells Slim Jims, snow shovels, deer attractant, and chainsaw-carved totem poles. I invest $0.75 in a big cup of hot, fresh coffee plus a banana.

Then it's back to the river where we take a few photos, gather our gear, and pile into minivans for the ride upstream to Montgomery Village where our day's adventure begins. John, Joyce, and Angelo are with us in the back. They're experienced ultramarathon trail runners and offer us friendly advice on weather, clothing, electrolyte-replacement supplements, pacing, and falling down on ice.

The thermometer says 17°F at 8am as we park and get a prebrief from Ed, who has cached munchies and drinks at several points along the route. I've forgotten our map, but Adam and I figure that there's enough snow on the ground that we can follow the leaders' footprints and not get too badly lost. The trail is well-marked with blue blazes on the trees, so although we do go astray occasionally on the way, we always manage to get back on track within a few hundred yards or less.

Adam and I cement our hold on last place shortly into the journey, as we pause under a bridge to adjust his pack and for me to get rid of some excess prehydration. I slip and fall on a patch of ice, thankfully without major injury, and take more care thereafter. Jogging on snow costs significantly more energy than one might think, and soon both of us are well warmed up. We proceed under bridges and across small roads, through open meadows and under coniferous tree canopies, following the partially ice-clad Seneca Creek. A severed deer leg, bloody fur and hoof intact, adjoins the trail.

Shortly before the two hour mark we emerge from the woods at Riffle Ford Road where we spy a sewer pumping station. I think that I remember Ed Schultze mentioning it in his commentary, and so divert from the trail to circle the buildings, where I'm delighted to discover water and candy which he has prepositioned for the convenience of runners. I eat some chocolate and a fig newton cookie while I quaff the remainder of my first bottle of Gatorade. Adam refills his water bottles.

We continue comfortably for the next hour and a quarter, passing a half-eaten raccoon corpse with ribcage exposed. The icicles and rime along Seneca Creek are lovely to behold. A couple of fast runners heading the opposite direction greet us en passant. Soon we emerge onto Black Rock Road and see the scenic Black Rock Mill, where parts of one of the "Blair Witch Project" movies was reportedly filmed. Another runner is awaiting a comrade there, pacing about and trying not to freeze. We find Ed Schultze's next bag of goodies and I enjoy a couple of ginger snaps and another small chocolate candy bar.

Onward and upward and downward we progress, taking care not to slip into the creek during water crossings. Adam and I talk about a wide range of subjects including steroids, linguistics, and politics. Two and a quarter hours later, at about the five and a half hour point, we're back to River Road. We jog the final fraction of a mile to the car, where I'm happy to discover that I have brought the correct key with me, so we're not locked out. A couple of fellow runners, assigned to make sure nobody is abandoned on the trail, accept our thanks for waiting for us.

On the way out of the area we revisit the inimitable Poole's General Store, snag some more coffee, and chat with some nice people there. Generous Ed Schultze has given the cashier a considerable sum of money, in case hungry cashless runners show up in need of sustenance. Bravo, Ed!