At 6am Orion rides high and Venus glisters brilliant above the forested gloom of Rock Creek Park. I can't find my flashlight, so by cellphone's glow I hide a bag of goodies behind a tree near Beach Dr just north of Military Rd. It's a cache for Mary Ewell and me at mile 14 of today's planned journey. I'm a little nervous because the Park Police Headquarters is just a quarter mile down the road. But nobody catches me in flagrante delicto, so I creep back to my car and drive to downtown Bethesda where Mary and I are to meet for today's training run. I'm startled to find the parking lot already active: apparently we've stumbled into an Arts Festival street-fair today.
But all's well: we park, Mary finds my flashlight (I forgot that I left it in her car at last Saturday's 26 miler), we prepare our packs, and shortly before 7am set off southwards along the Capital Crescent Trail. Dawn is progressing and we can see well enough by street lights and skyglow to trot comfortably, with initial measured miles of 11:30, 11:37, 12:15, and 12:40. We discuss Buddhist vs. Hindu styles of meditation, pause to drink and refill water bottles at Fletcher's Boathouse, then pick up the pace on the gentle downhill journey to the CCT's end.
Onward we go, along Water St beneath the Whitehurst Fwy where Mary spies a battered canvas tropical hat in the middle of the road. I pick it up and carry it home; it comes in handy half a dozen miles later when I discover I can put a banana and some chips in it to hold conveniently. Slightly farther along we see dozens of police gathered, apparently preparing for duty later today when demonstrators are expected to be marching downtown.
Our course is almost identical to "Caren's Loop", a training run that Caren Jew and I did on 7 October 2006 in preparation for her Marine Corps Marathon and JFK (see HatBulge, 23 Oct 2006, for details). Like last year, Mary and I reach Thompson's Boat Center after a couple of hours of comfortable jogging. Unlike last year, since we started ~2 hours later the building is open. The waterside is lined with girls stretching and preparing for their rowing lessons. Mary tells me that some of the young ladies were observing my high-cut-up-the-hip shorts; I try not to imagine what they were saying.
We take advantage of the facilities, split a Dr. Pepper, and turn our feet northward to follow the path alongside Rock Creek Parkway. Traffic is noisy and we have to step aside to let cyclists, skaters, and faster runners pass. The fog has lifted but it's still rather humid; we're walking more now and our pace is in the 12-14 min/mi zone. A pair of deer fade into the brush near the Zoo tunnel upon our approach. We take the longer path into the Zoo and pause to drink up at the fountain that marks the midpoint of our journey.
About 3.5 miles upstream we reach our cache and stop to sit at a picnic table, eat Oreos cookies and Pringles chips, chug Gatorade, and commiserate about our multiple aches. Mine are relatively minor: foot twinges and the usual chafing/abrasion. More significant are Mary's: several of her joints are troubling her today, perhaps an aftereffect of the long tough run we did a week ago. But we've got seven more miles to cover and she's an Ironman, so it's Excelsior!
Our climb now to the edge of DC is gradual but definite. We walk more and pause longer to drink. Topics of conversation include Camus, Sartre, helium dilution refrigeration, and meals which have made us hurl. Both Mary and I are vegetarians now, but together we harken back in memory to our carnivorous days when vomitous experiences with, respectively, pork ribs and pastrami led to decade-long food aversions.
My mental arithmetic powers are weak, but as we return to the CCT with a only a couple of miles to go I compute that we may be able to finish in under 5 hours — but probably not far under that magic number. Mary pushes hard through the hip pain she's now experiencing and, ultra-politely, requests that I stop chattering quite so much so she can concentrate. I apologize and comply. Our final miles are at ~15 minute pace, and with 2+ minutes to spare we thread our way through heavy traffic and tag our cars so I can stop my watch. After a brief cooldown we both feel better and are ready to head home. A rough run, but a good one!