"Sorry about my Purple Line rant!" I apologize to Rebecca Rosenberg and Sara Crum for about the fifth time. Earlier today, running along the Capital Crescent Trail with Gayatri Datta and her friends, I get carried away and overdo my answer to an innocent question. Note to self: don't do that!
The run begins at 3:59am as I leave my front steps and head for Bethesda to meet Gayatri. Forgetfully I take a wrong turn on the way to the CCT and add a half mile by going via Walter Reed Annex to Rock Creek Trail. In the light of my headlamp the pathway under the trees is spooky, especially when I flush a big rabbit that dashes away at my approach. I take plenty of walk breaks and average ~12 min/mi. At the CCT plaza near the parking lot I refill my bottle and am eating half of a Snickers candy bar when Gayatri arrives, right on time.
After some yogic stretches we set off southward on the CCT, pace beginning ~11.5 min/mi and then accelerating to 10.5-11 as Gayatri warms up. The weather is cool and comfortable. We chatter about Indian culture: literature, Bollywood movies, etc. After Fletcher's Boathouse the glowing eyes of a big stag by the trail startle us; he's accompanied by a couple of does. After an hour we begin to see other runners and cyclists, and by the time we arrive at the end of the CCT in Georgetown it's light enough for me to turn off the headlamp and slip it down around my neck.
We zig-zag around construction on the Potomac waterfront and refill bottles at the Thompson Boat Center from a garden hose; I finish my Snickers bar. Groups from the Arlington Road Runners are starting their long run here, and we overtake several of the slower squads as we progress upstream along Rock Creek. Chalk arrows on the path confirm that Gayatri and I are on course. At the National Zoo I take an energy gel. From here onward I remember where the "P-P" point-to-point mile markers were painted (they've mostly been paved over) and can estimate our pace, which remains sub-11 min/mi after more than a dozen miles. Gayatri is training for the Richmond Marathon in a bit over a month, and I'm trying to get ready for the Andiamo (10/10) and the Marine Corps (10/24) as well as other long runs.
Gayatri's friends Rebecca and Sara want to do ~16 miles today but can't start pre-dawn, so they converge in downtown Bethesda and head the opposite direction, planning to meet us near the Zoo. But they begin late and we're faster than expected. I phone and Sara confirms that they're still ahead of us; onward we all go. Finally Gayatri sees them approaching when we're north of Bingham Rd, less than 3 miles from the DC-MD line. After introductions and some dithering debate we all proceed back toward our start, which will be the desired 21 mile loop for Gayatri but only ~10 for Sara and Rebecca. But from there I still have to run home, so I promise to take S&R back to the eastern end of the CCT and get them their extra six miles.
Fresh company makes fresh feet. Gayatri and I are energized and trek onward, still ~10.5 min/mi between restroom pauses. Both Rebecca and Sara are vegetarians, so we discuss that as well as our favorite ice cream varieties and other fun issues. Sara has two young sons and soccer-game schedule constraints this morning, but a phone call to her husband reserves enough time to finish her run. Rebecca and I discuss Yom Kippur; she's studying some Vietnamese, the language of a Buddhist boyfriend. I comment on Zen and how staying "in the moment" and focusing can promote happier running. Gayatri explains Bengali holidays; later today she will don her sari and go to the Durga Puja celebration in Damascus.
Gayatri sprints ahead to finish strong. Sara and Rebecca and I cheer her, proceed back to the 3.5 mile marker, pause at the water fountain, dash back through the tunnel under Wisconsin Av, and continue at a brisk ~10.5 min/mi to the end of the CCT. "As soon as you're out of sight, I'm going to start walking home!" I promise. And in fact I do slow down and walk the hills for my final solo mile, ~12 min/mi. Overall time 6 hours, including all breaks, for ~29 miles.