In case young bikini-clad ladies are cavorting in the parking lot (cf. 2009-05-31 - Schaeffer Farms) I arrive at Drop Zone X-Ray shortly after 4am—alas, no such luck. Caren Jew is already there; maybe she sent them home? Regardless, Caren drives us out to her beloved Catoctin Trail where we reach the trailhead in Gambrill State Park before dawn. We pause until it's light enough that we can avoid tripping over rocks and roots, and at 0515 set off. Caren and I are training for the Catoctin 50k to be held 1 August this year. (cf. Catoctin 50k 2008 for details of last year's race) The morning is cool at first—Caren dons her zebra-striped sleeves for warmth—but we soon warm up.
We trot along the (relatively few) smooth segments, walk the hills, and wade through high-water streams. Conversation ranges over favorite comic strips, quirky-comic TV shows, crossword puzzles, etc. Caren identifies a birdcall, then loses confidence and retracts her judgment; I tell her never to admit a mistake and that she could easily have continued to fool me. A three-inch-long tangerine-orange newt stands sentry in the middle of the trail, definitely alive (we poke it gently) but slowed to a crawl by the chill. After 1:48 outbound we reach the pond a few minutes short of Hamburg Rd and turn back, since I have to get home early—comrades David & Diana have invited Paulette & me to their engagement luncheon at a Thai restaurant.
Our return trip brings encounters with hikers and other runners, some in big packs. We go off course twice, once when going too fast and debating whether the trail here is "quite runnable" vs. "highly runnable". The other time we're again blasting along and fail to pay enough attention while challenging each other to attack the hill ahead. In both cases our detour is soon recognized and only adds a quarter mile or less to the journey. In spite of extra distance we're back at Caren's car in 1:41, significantly faster than the outbound trip.
^z - 2009-06-14