At 6:32am Caren and I commence our run this morning on the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail at Md-355 — an hour later than we had planned because of my misplaced phone. We trot downstream, pausing about once every mile to circumnavigate freshly fallen trees that block our path; the heavy rains and high winds of a few days ago resulted in numerous deadfalls. At Clopper Rd we stop at Caren's first "aid station" to refuel, then continue into Seneca Creek State Park. Our loop around Clopper Lake takes us past the aroma of burning marijuana at the Longdraft Rd end of the waters. Caren spots a great blue heron near us; it takes flight to perch on the opposite side of the lake until we approach it there, whereupon it flies back to its starting point again. White-tailed deer, several with small horn-bumps developing on their brows, eye us cautiously and retreat.
Caren and I reminisce along the way about SCGT marathons of years past, including our first one together in 2006 — Caren's first trail marathon and, technically, her first ultra since the course is significantly longer than 26.2 miles. A lady runner zips out from a side trail and soon races out of sight in front of us. Caren knows her from MCRRC events, and we get to greet her again as she returns speedily to meet us ten minutes later. We pause to feast at Riffle Ford Rd aid stop, then proceed. I phone Mary Ewell to confirm our new schedule, and soon we meet her coming up the trail toward us. We continue together to Black Rock Mill and refuel from Caren's cache there.
Then up a steep slope we climb to join the Schaeffer Farms white-blazed trail for a 3.5 mile loop. Numerous off-road bikers maneuver past us. Mary, fresh and cheerful, cruises ahead as Caren and I plod happily behind her. As we finish our circuit we see a kid's bicycle lodged up in a tree, the landmark that reminds us to head back down the hillside to Black Rock Mill. Caren and I have now finished more than 15 miles, and our late start comes back to haunt us: Caren has to return to her family by 2pm, and there's no way for her to continue on to my car within that time limit. Regretfully but wisely she phones her husband Walter and arranges for him to pick her up at Darnestown Rd, the next major intersection of the trail and civilization. I kick myself for having forgotten my phone half a dozen hours earlier and costing Caren her planned 22+ mile day.
But Caren accepts my apologies and forgives me, as only good friends can do. Mary and I proceed onward, past more blowdowns along the relatively flatter parts of the trail. We do a pair of fifteen-minute "tempo runs", as prescribed for Mary by her coach, at 10-12 min/mi pace. We reach Berryville Rd, the first aid station set up this morning, and thank Caren for her foresight since both Mary and I are out of water and are desperate at this point. My ankles are each bruised from my clumsily kicking them with my own other feet. Mary's knees are blooded after a nasty fall she took back in Schaeffer Farms. But onward we go, over the big hill and down again. We walk the last half mile to my car and I stop my watch after seven hours, a net pace of ~18 min/mi over ~23 miles, including pleasant pauses at Caren's aid stations. Mary's total mileage is 10+, and Caren's is 17+.
Times from my watch, distances from Wayne Carson's GPS measurements:
|1:05||3.6 miles||Clopper Rd aid station + Seneca Creek State Park Lakeside Trail|
|0:57||3.4||Clopper Lake loop|
|0:29||1.3||Riffle Ford Rd aid station|
|0:40||2.6||Germantown Rd (Rt 118)|
|0:26||1.5||Black Rock Rd|
|0:10||- - -||aid station break at Black Rock Mill|
|0:56||~3.5||around White Trail at Schaeffer Farms|
|0:33||2.4||aid station break + Darnestown Rd (Rt 28)|
|0:51||2.2||Seneca Rd + Rileys Lock|