"Mark!" the familiar voice hails me. I'm jogging along Veirs Mill Road at 5:50am, on my way to the start of the Parks Half Marathon. It's dear friend Caren Jew, volunteering today for the race, accompanied by her daughter Jenna. I dart across the road and shake her hand. Jenna sensibly prefers not to touch a sweaty stranger's mitt at this pre-dawn hour. Like last year, I'm serving as the "12:00+ min/mi" pace group leader. Unlike last year, the weather is seasonably cool with temps in the 60s when I start running from home at 4:00am.
The Pleiades float high overhead and Orion hangs near a last-quarter Moon that provides plenty of light to run by, except in thickly wooded segments of the trail. At PHM mile marker 10 I join the course, in one hand a headlamp, in the other a bag with a change of socks, shorts, and shirt. I stumble into a puddle near the Connecticut Avenue underpass, but it's shallow. Approaching Ken-Gar I startle a herd of half a dozen deer, which in turn startle me as they race away. A few miles later another pair of deer crash through the brush to flee my approach.
By 6:15am I arrive at the starting area for the race, my pace thus far ~12 min/mi. I drink several cups of water to rehydrate and share a Clif Bar with amazing Mark McKennett. He's back from running the Groundhog 50k yesterday in Punxsutawney PA. I change into dry socks and a bright orange "12:00+" singlet, duck behind bushes to put on fresh shorts, and leave my drop bag with Christina Caravoulias who's volunteering at the truck. Then I get my pacer sign and wave it madly about while I stand in the crowd before the start. CM Manlandro and Emaad Burki and others chat with me.
The race commences at 7am for the fast runners, but the wave-start doesn't let my pace group cross the line until several minutes later. I meet a variety of nice ladies and gentlemen who run with me for various segments of the course. Near mile one I spy a nickel on the road and pick it up. Soon thereafter Amy Schmidt finds a penny, heads-up, and gives it to me. Simone Kirk, who ran part of the race with me last year, again accompanies me at the beginning.
A noisy-smelly All Terrain Vehicle follows too closely behind the slower runners, even if they're well within the cutoff. Perhaps it would be better to give the Park Service driver a schedule, and to use an all-electric ATV? Julie Polt trots with me in the later miles, where I subject her to rants about NIMBY politics of the Purple Line on the Capital Crescent Trail right-of-way. She goes on ahead as I slow to finish in 2:40:09, nine seconds over my "prediction" of 2:40—an average speed of 12:13 min/mi, right where I promised to be as pacer.
After a quick break to drink a bit, on the way home from Bethesda on the CCT (still doing ~12 min/mi) I find a timing chip that fell off somebody's shoe during the race; I pick it up to return, hoping to save the unknown party a $35 penalty. During the race I pause to snag empty gel packets, more than a dozen of them. Two unopened ones are a bonus. I text in tweets before the start and after the finish.
(cf. 2008-09-14 - Parks Half Marathon Plus, ...) - ^z - 2009-09-17