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2015-11-14 - Stone Mill 50 Miler

~50.5 miles @ ~16.3 min/mi

"Cheese burn — Ow!"

Molten cheddar leaks onto fingers at the mile 27 aid station from fresh-off-the-camp-stove grilled cheese sandwiches. "First time I've had that injury during a trail run!"

^z at mile 14 - tunnel under Darnestown Rd - photo by Alex Reichmann - click for higher-resolution version
^z at mile 14 - cruising down the path to Muddy Branch Trail - photo by Dan Reichmann - click for higher-resolution versionToday's Stone Mill 50 miler is fun and tough, a new Personal Worst — though after adjusting for age, weight, lack of talent, recent illness, injuries in unmentionable places, and a unique combination of under training and overtraining maybe it's really a world record result?
The longer the run, the nicer the people are. Stone Mill is no exception. Taking an early start, 45 minutes ahead of the official time, allows almost everybody else ample opportunity to overtake and greet, including kind trail friends Adeline Ntam, Mike Edwards, and Stephanie Fonda. Aid station volunteers are über-helpful.^z at mile 16 - Muddy Branch Trail near Quince Orchard Rd - photo by Ken Trombatore - click for higher-resolution version
^z near River Rd on the Muddy Branch Trail - photo by Paul Encarnacion - click for higher-resolution versionThe woods are beautiful, the hills are steep, the air is brisk, the leaves are thick, and in spite of a few stumbles there are no falls. Most water crossings are low enough to make it safely across on stepping-stones or with short leaps.
The Stone Mill course includes a four-mile segment on the flat C&O Canal towpath alongside the lovely Potomac River, between the mouths of Muddy Branch and Seneca Creek. It's smooth and nearly level, a chance to make good time if one so desires.

Walking most of the final 20 miles brings to mind thoughts shared by Gary Dudney in a 2004 essay, wherein he quotes Dave Olney: "Instead of feeling like I had to run, run, run and feeling guilty every time I was reduced to a walk, I assumed an almost Taoist state of calm. I realized that I could walk the hundred miles at a good clip, and whenever I felt like running I could put a little extra time in the bank."

Likewise today, mental math suggests that a brisk stroll will make it under the cutoffs (thanks to the aforementioned 45 minute head start). All is well. It's a blessing, being able to ramble through the forest alone, enjoying a quiet autumn day, thinking about life and peace and love and mindfulness.

"No Worries, Mate!"

^z near mile 24, starting the C&O Canal towpath segment of the course - photo by Brian Butters - click for higher-resolution version
^z at the midpoint of the race on the C&O Canal towpath - click for higher-resolution versionThe midpoint of the course is a fine place to pause, comb out the beard, and ask a friendly fellow runner to take a photo.

As Amy Pope Fitzgerald says [1], "... ultras allow you to do something that's awesome, but you do it at your own pace." After a low spell for a few miles when feet get wet at a stream crossing, the day is an ultra-happy one in spite of ultra-slowness.

"It's All Good!"

(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-26