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2009-01-31 - Icy Towpath

5+ miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

The car radio plays a 1980 Bob Seger song as I drive homeward: "Against the wind / We were running against the wind / We were young and strong, we were running / Against the wind" and later the lyric "I was living to run and running to live". The same piece offers the thoughtful, "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." Don't we all, sometimes!

Ken Swab meets me at 8am Saturday morning at Carderock on the C&O Canal. We're the only two cars in the parking lot, and temperatures are in the low 20's with a northwest breeze. The path to the canal is clean of snow and I start to feel optimistic, but when we reach the towpath itself we discover that Christina Caravoulias was precisely right: it's an almost-continuous sheet of ice-covered snow in both directions. I think seriously about punching out, since I have no desire to fall and break another bone. But at Ken's insistence we head upstream, into the wind.

My left metatarsals have been troubling me for the past day; they don't hurt during the run but start to ache again during the walk back to the cars. I've taken 4 ibuprofens on Friday night and pop another 4 early this Saturday morning. Maybe it's my non-running stride that stresses the foot bones? We see dramatic views of the Potomac River and the rocky cliffs of its southern shoreline, including Great Falls, Mather Gorge, etc. in Virginia on the other side of a big island midstream. I remember running there with Ken and Mary and Caren more than a year ago. As the sun rises increasing numbers of runners meet us, plus dog-walkers and in one case a dog-carrier. At one point the canal has been washed out, as of September 2008 according to signage. Our route diverts briefly via an earthen dam to the opposite side of the ditch.

A skater glides silently along the frozen surface of the canal. I slip repeatedly but manage to recover and avoid falling. Ken is more sure-footed. We crunch along noisily, trying to gain traction by breaking through the surface crust to the snow layer beneath. Ken describes a Thursday summer-evening MCRRC running group that meets here, runs to a point upstream of where we are, goes across and returns on the opposite side via a small road/path that we can see on the hillside. After a bit over 2.5 miles we reach a wooden bridge/walkway and turn around.

A big pack of walkers/hikers meet us as we approach our starting point, and now 20 cars are parked in the lot. Small icicles have formed on our moustaches and my beard. If the mile markers are right we're averaging 12-12.5 min/mi outbound and a surprising 11-11.5 pace on the way back to our starting point.

^z - 2009-02-11