"Bless you, Wind!" I whisper whenever a fitful breeze caresses my sweaty chest. The soaking-wet singlet comes off after the first mile. Race day could be more sultry, but not by much. At the end of a record-setting hot July, a weak cool front comes through and knocks down humidity a trifle. Frederick Municipal Airport reports 8am-5pm: temperature rising 81°-99°F, dew point dropping 70°-55°F. But as Race Director Kevin Sayers observes in his pre-brief, in retrospect conditions will be worse. In any case, it's a bit cooler on the shady slopes under the trees of Gambrill and Cunningham Falls State Parks and the Frederick Municipal Watershed.
The Catoctin 50k race pattern continues: DNFs in even-numbered years (2008 & 2010), finish in odd numbers (2009 & 2011). This year's margin of safety is scary-slim, just 3 minutes under the cutoff at the midpoint Manor Area turnaround. Cross the finish line 11 minutes before the horn sounds to end the race at 5:15pm, nine and a quarter hours after it begins.
Themes today are hyper-hydration and aggressive electrolyte management. Take a Succeed! sodium-potassium capsule every half hour. Drink two 20+ ounce bottles dry before refilling them at every aid station. Sip cola, nibble watermelon, suck ice-pops. Don't eat much else; perhaps that's responsible for energy-loss in the final miles? Or maybe it was unwise to donate a pint of blood to the Red Cross only a dozen days ago, even though it's a noble cause? At least the Chinese food carry-out last night doesn't take its revenge during the race!
To keep up the pace, push hard on runnable stretches of trail. But tread carefully over rocks and roots, to avoid a game-ending fall. Stumbles become more frequent as the day progresses. About mile 28 I almost do a face plant, but manage to hook my elbow around a sapling and turn the tumble an abrupt pirouette, ending up facing the runner behind me, much to his amusement. Technically a topless pole-dance, but not something anybody would want to witness.
Cat Veteran Bill Wandell, grinning under a bushy mustache, gives the sad news at the halfway point that a tumble damaged his already marginal Achilles tendon and ended his attempt to get an 11th finish. Hashers Dean Johnson and Dave Brault entertain me with trail chatter about their friends' adventures. Cheerful Meg Page accepts a pair of ibuprofen from my cache when her arthritis flares at mile 27. During the final climb Rhonda Hampton and Peter Wray pause ahead of me to check the status of a young tattooed lady runner sitting by the path, who thanks us, turns down our offers of aid, and responds to our question "What's wrong?" with one word: "Everything!"
Accidentally venturing off course is a common problem at Catoctin, but thanks to training runs with kind comrades (esp. Caren Jew and Gayatri Datta) I only go briefly astray at a couple of poorly-marked branch points. At several places other racers rejoin me on the course, having taken involuntary bonus mileage; veteran Farouk Elkassed on his ninth Cat Run greets me in the final miles having done so.
A big black snake near Little Hunting Creek, close to mile 16, makes the runner near me stop to take photos using her phone-camera. Streams are unusually low this year and all are crossed with dry feet. Nevertheless the stinky ancient trail shoes go into the trash as soon as they arrive home.
|3:05||3:29||2:48||3:05||-||-||11.6||Fishing Creek Rd|
|3:36||-||3:16||3:37||-||-||13.8||Gambrill Park Rd|
|4:56||-||4:26||5:04||-||-||18.2||Gambrill Park Rd|
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