"Oops, it feels deathly cold!" In the classic computer role-playing game Moria (cf. HereBeDragons) that's what happens when you hold a cursed weapon — and it's what happens to me early on the morning of 4 June 06, when I try to carry a frozen bottle of my custom electrolyte mix on a long run. I wrap the bottle in a paper towel, and curl my MCRRC bib (#333) around that for extra insulation. Two and a half hours later the contents are finally thawed out enough to drink. Some other observations from the past fortnight of jogging:
A pair of pieces of pineapple pizza sit heavy in my stomach from dinner (on top of a pair of soft tacos from lunch) so I resolve to take it slow and pursue a 3:1::jog:walk ratio. At the UM Alumni Center I pat the bronze Testudo turtle on the nose and take Paint Branch Trail to Lake Artemesia. The ancient Asian lady who blew kisses at me two days ago is again sitting on her bench, this time wearing a red quilted jacket and a green Chairman Mao cap. She smiles, waves, blows kisses, and this time says "Bye-bye!" as I pass. Small clouds of midges drift above the stream and occasionally invade my eyes. Farther down the Northeast Branch there's the clang of aluminum bats and the hustle of soccer players on the ballfields. Latino toddlers wave at me and fishermen stow their gear as it begins to get dark.
During my upstream journey along Northwest Branch a group of kids at a basketball court call me "Forrest Gump". A fox crosses the trail and bats flit overhead. My LED headlamp comforts me in the darker woodsy areas, but it's unneeded after I emerge at University Blvd. and follow that street back to campus. I change clothes in a music building restroom and nap for a while in the car, awaiting my daughter until it turns out that she can get a ride home with a friend (the one who almost ran over me on Tuesday).
At 5:20am, a moment after I park at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail crossing of Wightman and Brink Roads  C-C arrives. It's still a bit dark as we set out, with a last-quarter Moon and Venus shining bright in the eastern sky. Our socks soon get wet from the heavy dew on the grass that laps over the trail's edge. C-C sets a brisk pace but deigns to allow me brief walk breaks on the steeper hills. She spots some deer during our northward journey, as we go past Huntmaster Rd. and across the creek on steppingstones to join Magruder Branch Trail, then onwards beyond Watkins Rd. We turn around after 1 hour 1 minute, near a weird construction of sticks  that C-C walks over to investigate. It's something like a big "V" lying on the ground, dozens of branches piled up a couple of feet high, with the angle of the "V" covered with another layer of sticks. Was it created by space-alien technology, or highly-evolved woodland creatures, or simply some over-energetic Boy Scouts as a primitive shelter? We can't decide.
The return trip is fun, as I spy a semi-fresh severed deer hoof attached to ankle bones and C-C shows me the location of bleached deer skeleton fragments, including a hip bone placed on a tree branch overlooking the trail, as she first noted a couple of months ago. The low sun makes long shadows that race along with us whenever we cross a gap between woods. Lovely mists linger over a meadow, and we pause to debate whether or not the scene could ever be adequately photographed. Dogs (maybe assisted by a coyote?) howl in the distance. We arrive at Huntmaster again, and with less than a mile to go I feel a need for speedwork (maybe it's an urge to surge?). We sprint most of the final leg of the trail and make it back to our start, well-winded and wet-footed, a few seconds under 2 hours.
New product opportunity: during the first half of the course C-C, in the lead, finds herself constantly racing into spiderwebs spun across the trail overnight — ugh! Clearly there's a need for a shield or helmet for early-morning runners who don't relish feeling spider-silk on their faces — or perhaps a head-mounted high-powered defensive laser, to zap and destroy webs before one encounters them? (^_^)
Well I'm not really "lost", but I do get confused, miss my turn, and find myself a few blocks farther than expected along Old Georgetown Road at the intersection with Wisconsin Ave. It's Thursday evening on my usual loop, from home to Rock Creek Park, upstream to Cedar Lane, past NIH to Old Geo., and back via the CCT. I start later than expected (~8pm) but have a headlamp and encounter no difficulties. In fact, the evening is cool enough that I can omit almost all walk breaks; traffic delays at major road crossings make up for them. Masses of frogs shriek as I pass by in the dusk.
Comrade Ken lends me The Perfect Mile (by Neal Bascomb), an excellent book about Roger Bannister et al., and when I finish it I've got the urge to confirm how pitifully slow I really am. Mid-morning Saturday the old Blair High School track is slightly cluttered with walkers and joggers but the asphalt is resurfaced and the stripes are bright. After half a lap of warm-up it's time for a time trial. Hammering at top speed the laps go 1:48 + 1:51 + 1:57 + 1:56 = 7:33 ... so the 7-minute barrier still stands impregnable. Probably a record-breaking run wouldn't have counted anyway, since for the past five days I've been coating my arms with (cortico-) STEROIDS to knock down a bad poison ivy rash. My pulse is ~160, a hair below the death zone for my age, so I walk a lap and drink, then trot a more rational mile in 9:01, walk half a lap more, then finish up with an 8:40. So much for speedwork!
Christina Caravoulias (CLC, not C-C!) and I jog together during this Memorial Day MCRRC race along the Aspen Hill segment of Rock Creek Trail. It's warm & humid, temperature & relative humidity both in the 70's. Christina starts off fast (the downhill first mile is seductive) but soon we're both overheated and start taking walk breaks. MCRRC lensman Jim R. snaps an incriminating photo of us at the boardwalk near mile 3, as a woodpecker thrums and we feign a run. Our splits are 9:45 + 11:04 + 11:37 + 13:24 = 45:51 total. We try to count the little American flags that have been placed alongside the course, but I lose track and end up with a rough estimate of 80ish. Chris & I both suffer in hot weather; we resolve to train and attempt to get acclimated this summer.
On a 90+°F afternoon only a fool would run, and so when I get to College Park to pick up my son I've got my jogging clothes on. The fancy track on the western side of campus is closed for construction work, so I park illegally at the chemistry building and trot downhill to Paint Branch Trail, planning to do some 880's in the shade. The distance between PBT mileposts 1.5 and 2.0 is probably short, since I cover it in a suspiciously fast 3:47. I walk and drink for a couple of minutes and then do the return trip in a more plausible (but still too brief) 4:19, at which point I'm drenched with sweat and sensible enough to walk back to the car.
I leave home at 6am, frozen "Z-lectrolyte" mix in a bottle that chills my hand. A medium-sized deer trots in front of me between the Rock Creek Trestle and Jones Bridge Road. After four miles I get to Bethesda and still have an hour until race time, so I go an extra three on the Capital Crescent Trail, with an overall pace thus far of ~11:30. C-C and Ken arrive, and I help pass Finisher's Ribbons out at the Kids' Run, then line up for the official 5k event.
Ken, back from blasting out the Buffalo Marathon last Sunday (cf. Ken Swab - Buffalo Marathon 2006), is soon out of sight on the way to improving his personal record for the distance by an amazing ~10%. Caren and I chat as we jog along, with splits of 9:27 + 10:27 + 10:24 and an overall time under 32 minutes as she sprints the final stretch. C-C accuses me of running "effortlessly" and of being a "gentleman" — neither, alas, are true. After the finish Way-No and C-C and Ken and I eat, drink, and chat; C-C tries to persuade me to do the Catoctin 50k in August, which sounds rather insane given how much I suffer in the heat.
With 25 minutes of lollygagging recovery I'm ready to head home. The remaining seven miles are on my usual loop course, Old Georgetown Road to Cedar Lane to Rock Creek. The weather is incredibly pleasant for this season, cool and dry with an intermittent breeze. I shift from a 4:1 ratio of jog:walk to 2:1 and feel good enough to do 10:44 and 11:01 miles along RCT, climb the hill into Walter Reed Annex, orbit the Mermaid Fountain, and reach home in time to eat a bowl of spaghetti and lose a game of Scrabble to my younger son.
(cf. LateOctober2005JogLog (30 Oct 2005), ThreeMooseketeers (1 Dec 2005), HalfBeast (4 Jan 2006), GoldenTicket (6 Feb 2006), PawingTheEarth (12 Mar 2006), MarchApril2006JogLog (16 Apr 2006), TheAvenue (17 May 2006), ...)