|Climbing the big hill at mile 30 of the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k my left metatarsals ache, my right knee twinges, and I'm happy. John Lennon's song Imagine, on the radio at 5am this morning, plays in my head. "... Above us, only sky ...." Two miles to go! |
(photo by Ken Trombatore, who was hiding behind a tree catching runners near the crest)
"Where's your pack of girlfriends?" the volunteer course marshall teases me. She's at the last corner now, guiding runners into a final sprint down unpaved Tschiffley Lock Rd. Several hours ago she saw us upstream, a group running along behind pacesetter friend Kate Abbott.
"They'll be along soon," I reply. Several miles back my feet start to feel frisky and I run ahead of the gang. At the Clopper Lake aid station, coming out of the side loop near mile 19, I take a couple of Succeed! electrolyte capsules. Apparently they're just what the old carcass craves. Half an hour later my strength returns and I feel like running again.
This year's SCGT 50k trail race actually begins at 4:45am as I hop on my left foot across the dining room. I'm trying to reach the nail clippers in the kitchen without touching my grease-coated right foot to the floor or falling down and waking Paulette. After trimming an ugly toenail I don socks and shoes, then head out.
A last-quarter moon shines bright in Scorpio, next to red Antares. At Riley's Lock I'm among the first to arrive, but as usual cheery Caren Jew is there ahead of me. In her minivan she gathers Holly Franz, Kate Abbott, Caroline Williams, Rob Dolan, and me for the ride to Damascus. Caren lends a pair of gloves to Caroline and encourages us all. We huddle in her warm car until Race Director Ed Schultze announces the early start is about to take place. Then it's ten minutes in the cold wind, a shout out of bib numbers to the officials, and at 7:10am we begin.
Halfway down the bikepath a helpful runner points out that my shoes are untied. I sit down to reknot the laces and claim Dead Last Place. At the bottom of the hill, where the course leaves the asphalt to head through the snowy woods, I catch up with Kate and Holly. Here it's Kate's turn to pause and install her YakTrax, metallic coils for extra traction. I'm wearing my screw shoes, a choice with mixed consequences: I never slip, but the lack of padding promotes metatarsalgia.
Across the crusty snow we trek, following leader Kate on Magruder Branch Trail. I check my new GPS frequently, trying not to fall while doing so. Our pace is slow but steady. A few miles downstream at the first major water crossing the stream is deep. Several people stop to take off their shoes and socks. Kate and I wade quickly across, avoiding the submerged stepping stones which look slippery.
The aid station volunteers are jolly and helpful. Ed Schultze has directed them not to give out paper cups, not to let runners drop trash anywhere, and not to offer fancy food. "If we treat them too good they will keep coming back just like the geese," his instructions say. Holly and I do our part, picking up litter as we progress.
After Rt 355, a dozen or so miles into the race, Judith Weber catches up and joins us. She's from Ellicott City and has run the Catoctin 50k, an ultra that Caren and I have done together and are planning to try again some day. We discuss our aches and discover that both of us tend to have the same foot pains.
At Clopper Lake, miles 16, we're passed by a passel of 8am starters including Mark McKennett. He's growing his hair out so he can shave "MMT 100" into it for the mid-May Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miler. Shortly after Mark goes by, to my vast amazement fleet-footed friend Ken Swab materializes. He's been blasting along after taking the 8am start and has gained an astounding 50 minutes on me. Our mutual banter entertains the other runners in the train that tireless Kate is pulling along.
At Rt 28, mile ~25, I take two more S! e-caps. Jim Farkas refills my water backpack and Don Libes lets me drink Pepsi from the communal mug. "You promised you would volunteer at my aid station for a few seconds, and here you are!" he teases me. As I leave I look back and see no one, but after the race Kate tells me that she crested the hill and spied me outbound.
The final half-dozen solo miles go by briskly, if not totally comfortably. I pass several faltering runners, but my dream of finishing in under 7.5 hours soon fades. The right knee complains, but less than the left foot. I come in at 7:35:32 by my watch. The GPS measures 31.38 miles and says I've burned 3109 calories. Some of its other data are less credible, including an estimate of over 10,000 feet elevation change. Perhaps it's due to jitter in the altitude function.
|2010 SCGT course as recorded by a new Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS, plotted via GPS Visualizer on Google Maps, with markers every mile.|
Today's lessons relearned:
GPS split data, with Pace in units of min/mi:
(cf. Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2005 (2005-03-05), SenecaCreekGreenwayTrailMarathon2006 (2006-03-05), Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2007 (2007-03-04), Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k 2008 (2008-03-02), 2009-03-07 - Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k (2009-03-14), ...) - ^z - 2010-03-12