As anticipated, the federal bureaucracy releases folks a few hours early for the three-day weekend. This morning on the subway and bus I lug my gear to the office in hopes of making the trek home on foot. After 25 years it's my first attempt to do so. At 1:45pm I'm off, with a thermometer reading in the mid-80's and the sun hammering down. Twenty minutes jogging and walking eastbound from McLean on the shoulder of busy Route 123 brings me to the GW Parkway. I cross the overpass and start looking for blue blazes or signs that indicate the Potomac Heritage Trail. Just southeast of the intersection, there it is!
The trail is narrow but well-marked. It follows closely along the heavily forested river side of the Parkway, up and down rolling hills with stone stairs on steep segments. An iridescent green fly catches my eye, as does the oily green of poison ivy. A blue lizard scampers across a log in front of me. After a dozen minutes I'm at Fort Marcy, where my appearance startles a couple of Asian tourists who have just gotten out of their car. A sign at the other end of the parking lot points me toward Chain Bridge. I dip my cap into the waters of Pimmit Run where the Potomac Heritage Trail crosses on small boulders. The pathway then parallels the stream down to Glebe Road and Chain Bridge, a trifle scary when it skirts the edges of eroded cliffs 10-20 feet above sharp rocks.
Traffic is backed up at the light, and in the crosswalk I look down and see a circular rainbow-glory surrounding my shadow on the pavement. Perhaps they have diamonds in the street of this rich neighborhood? On the high bridge over the Potomac I keep pace with the cars in spite of much walking. Instead of descending the ramp to the C&O Canal towpath I look across the Clara Barton Parkway and discover a narrow path up the hillside. At the top, an hour into my journey I find myself at mile 7.1 of the Capital Crescent Trail. Terra cognita at last! And less than 8 miles to home.
Alas, here is where I realize how hot and tired I've become. I can't run for more than a minute before my heart rate shoots up and I start to see glowing auras. My pace on the CCT is a consistent but feeble 14-15 min/mi. Tufts of cottonwood seed drift slowly down across the blackness of the Dalecarlia tunnel entrance. Cyclists and joggers zoom past. I finish a 32 oz. bottle of Gatorade and start sipping from a 20 oz. bottle of water. At the Bethesda fountain I fill the empty Gatorade container, step onto the grass, and pour it over my head, much to the amusement of a shy little girl. "Do you want to try that?" her mother asks her. She shakes her head no.
The final four miles feel a little better, but I'm still weak and drenched with sweat. A construction crew is working on the CCT east of the Rock Creek trestle. When I arrive home my weight is just under 174 pounds — too heavy, I know, but down ~5 pounds from what it was this morning. My pulse is too feeble for the blood pressure machine to register. I have to sit down for a few minutes in the shower to avoid fainting. After drying off I try the BP box again and get a ridiculously low reading of 71/58 at a heartbeat of 103, similar to what Ken and I registered at the end of the Wineglass Marathon 2006. Whew! Clearly I need a lot more acclimation, and stronger electrolytes, for summer running.