"It's All Good!" That's Caren's mantra for our mid-December ramble in the woods. She tells me she's inspired by Eric Clifton's words. The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club sponsors a "Fat Ass" 50k fun-run this time of year along part of the Bull Run Run (BRR) course. It's free to all; support is minimal; there are no medals. Family time commitments limit us to a bit over six hours, so at our speed we can't do the whole 31 miles. But no matter. It's all good! Likewise, when our aggressive early pace leaves us a bit tired after a dozen miles, and a few times later when we get slightly lost as the Bull Run/Occoquan trail turns a tricky corner, and when our feet begin to twinge. It's all good! Further details of this and other recent runs follow:
Today is simply a splendid day to be outdoors. We see a great blue heron take flight from the lake upon our approach. We also scare a deer and countless geese. I experiment with taking photos using my new cellphone. Our 45-minute early start lets us reach the VHRTC aid station at Bull Run Marina just before the fastest runners. Michele Harmon, Ron Ely, Mike Broderick, and others of the MCRRC's JFK 50 miler contingent greet us as they blast past. So does cheerful Rayna Matsuno, whom I haven't seen since the HAT Run 2005. I thank her again for saving my bacon at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2005 when she gave me some of her electrolyte capsules. Today she gives me a hug, then races onward.
A few minutes past three hours into the jog Caren Jew and I reverse course, ~1 mile short of Fountainhead. Back at the start, in the Hemlock Regional Park lodge we celebrate with pizza, bagels, and orange juice, and chat with fellow runners. If the distance estimates on the BRR map are correct we've done almost 23 miles; if the marker posts are accurate, however, our pace was ~15.5 min/mi for the first half and ~18.5 min/mi on the return journey, implying a total of ~21.5 miles. Be conservative and call it ~21. It's all good!
The new pedestrian bridge over the Georgia Avenue on-ramps to the Beltway is rumored to have artwork along it: small sculptures of various animals. Photo op! And Christina wants to do a walkabout this afternoon, to stretch her legs before a race tomorrow. So at 2pm on a relatively warm mid-December day I set out from home with camera in hand. I divert for 10 minutes en route to Sligo Creek Trail to take quick shots of the bronze creatures: rabbit, squirrel, snake, bird, etc. Then I have to hurry in order to make the 3pm rendezvous at the Wheaton Regional Park's indoor ice rink. Pushing the pace to ~11 min/mi, plus delays in crossing major streets, I arrive on time, and while waiting for Chris I manage to persuade a vending machine to accept my crumpled dollar bill and give me a green Powerade. Christina and I walk the classic Run for Roses 5k route plus a mile or so. I get a bit chilled even though the temperature is in the upper 50's, since the wind is gusting 10-20 mph. So when we finish our circuit and part ways I race the ~4 miles homeward to warm up, arriving just after sunset.
Comrade Caren Jew tells me that doing two days in a row of hard training is good for the soul (or soles), so before dawn we meet at Landover Mall and drive to Gambrill State Park, scene of our prior (21 Oct 2006, in HatBulge) journey along the Catoctin Trail. It's just as rocky and steep as before but this time we're better prepared and don't get lost. Half a mile into the run my stiff hip has loosened up, and when I look down I see that I still have on two pairs of shorts. That turns out to be good, given temps in the 40's and occasional gusty winds. After ~90 minutes of brisk jogging and hill-climbing we reach a pond, probably within half a mile of Hamburg Road, from which the return trip takes almost precisely the same time. The sunrise above an Appalachian ridge is lovely, as are the streams that we have to cross (and I only get one foot wet!). For the first hour we have the trail to ourselves, but by the later half of our expedition we encounter small hordes of hikers, dog-walkers, and mountain-bikers. During the ride home I start to get chilled. Caren stops at a 7-11 and buys me a hot chocolate. Thanks!
see Marathon in the Parks 2006 for details of this six-hour ramble with Betty Smith ...
The Half Beast is back! I arrive early at Philbin's Fitness Center and snag MCRRC bib #333 for another year. Then I visit with Pete (railroad buff and fast runner), Stephanie (who rode back from the JFK 50 with me), Gayatri (whom I tell about my Daughter's studies of Hindi), and others awaiting today's club race. Brian Kim, non-organizer of yesterday's non-official marathon fun-run, awards me a leftover 2004 Marathon in the Parks medal along with leftover commemorative shirts. Christina arrives and we take photos, then line up together at the starting line. The rain has paused but it's still warm (50ish) and quite humid. As usual we set off at too fast a pace and do the first mile in 10:04. Then reality sets in. I snap photos of race leader Pete as he zips by during out-and-back segments of the course. Wayne gets to hear me greet him with the shout "Sandbagger!" as he blasts ahead. Chris finishes strongly a little ahead of me, and as we eat and drink she explains some of the arcane exercise machinery at the sports club.
At 6am Caren Jew and I meet at Seneca Creek and the Route 28 parking lot. It's warm and humid, and yesterday's rains have created huge bogs along the trail. A bright gibbous moon plays tag with scattered clouds. We jog south along the stream and experiment with turning off our headlamps, but although the moonlight is sufficient for general navigation it doesn't reveal the mudpuddles and fallen branches clearly enough for us to be safe at speed. After a brisk mile Caren's calf injury is troubling her, so she wisely suggests that we walk back and try another time. Approaching our starting point we're blinded by the glare of headlights from a car that has driven down the paved entry route to the trail under the bridge. Caren speculates that it's a serial killer looking for new victims, and alludes to various horror movie scenarios. But at this place and time it seems likelier to be Ed Schultze, pre-positioning some food and drink for the trail run group due to arrive here in a few hours — and fortunately that's who it is.
I drive home and nap a bit, and then at 8am go to Ken-Gar to meet Christina Caravoulias. Today is the DC Road Runner's "Al Lewis Memorial 10 Miler", an annual race that I accidentally ran through four years ago (cf. TwelveMileBrownies, 5 Jan 2003) during a training jog, and that I missed participating in by a day the next year (cf. Lincoln Memorial, 6 Jan 2004). Chris just wants to put some miles on her shoes, and we both know that in this near-record heat (temperature and humidity both in the 60's) we won't go fast. At the back of the pack we visit with photographer friend Jeanne Larrison, chat, walk, and finish in 2:18, dead last but happy to find some bagels and water left for us. Christina gets the only cash prize awarded today: $1, which she had left with Priscilla Prunella to hold for her during the race!
I was going to title this "Blistering Speed", but given the effect that the seam of my shorts had on my inner thighs "Chafing" is more accurate. And if that's the worst problem I have, then I don't have any problems! (cf. NoProblems) Son Robin has a Boy Scout court of honor to attend at St. Paul's church in Kensington, the temperature is in the comfy upper-40's, and I could use a tempo run ... so at 1:45pm I park in the church lot and trot west for Ken-Gar. With a minute or less of walk-break per mile my splits from milepost 7 to 10 and back are 10:59 + 11:03 + 10:28 + 11:03 + 10:10 + 9:52, plus 9-10 minutes before and after. Wheee!
Along the way I get some unexpected respect. Three skateboarding kids pass me northbound at Randolph Road, take a side trail, and meet me again on my return trip. "You're pretty quick!" one says; I demur. Two dog-walking ladies see me near the usual mud-puddle zone south of Dewey Park, and when I re-encounter them almost an hour later one exclaims, "You've been running all this time?" I reply, "Yes, but slowly." And I come back to Earth when I'm at the church and chatting with Alex, an Eagle Scout. He ran his first marathon in 2006, a sub-4-hour Marine Corps, after a long run of only ~12 miles and a training regime of only ~12 miles/week. Kids!
My left quadriceps (or something near it) has been "iffy" since last Sunday's jog, so I cancel plans to do Ed Schultze's 17 mile training run on Seneca Creek this morning. Then, of course, the old leg immediately starts to feel better! So when Christina pings me online and asks if I'd like to do a slow hour's ramble along Sligo Creek I figure I can risk it, reserving the option to crawl home at any time. We meet at Sligo Dennis Avenue Park, turn our noses downstream, and do a 4:1::jog:walk at Chris's suggestion. We each dip a toe into Colesville Road, then reverse course, overshoot, tag up at University Boulevard, and after about 75 minutes are back where we started. The jog+walk pattern gives a ~12 min/mi pace, but warm-up, cool-down, and midcourse stretching/drinking lowers our net speed. Dog-walkers are out in force. A passer-by tells us to enjoy the warm weather while we have it; both Christina and I tell him, "No, we like it colder!" My left quad loosens up after a mile and seems ok now; the real verdict will be given tomorrow.
(cf. RemindMeNeverTo (23 July 2006), IntestinalInfortitude (13 Aug 2006), BabyGetsNewShoes (5 Sep 2006), VikingRailroad (26 Sep 2006), HatBulge (23 Oct 2006), InnerGoat (12 Nov 2006), JFK 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), SharperImage (10 Dec 2006), ...)