|On my 55th birthday some friends and I do a bit of trail running in northern Virginia. Our path takes us along the edge of the Potomac River's Mather Gorge, just below Great Falls. Notes on that expedition, and other jogs of the past several days, follow ...|
Mary Ewell and I meet at 7am near the visitor center of Riverbend Park, then drive to Great Falls to pick up Caren Jew and Ken Swab. Besides my birthday it's National Public Land Day, the officer at the gate tells us, so entering Great Falls National Park is free. With her car full of soon-to-be-sweaty runners Mary drives us to Colvin Run Mill, where we last jogged on 23 June 2007 (cf. AwesomeAdonis). We trot along the Fairfax Cross-County Trail (aka Faux-CCT) toward the Potomac, with Ken setting a too-fast pace, Mary sticking to him, and Caren hanging back with me as we chat about mountain biking, our families, and various injuries that we've known.
Once we enter Great Falls Park the Carriage Road Trail takes us to the River Trail, a steep and at times scary route near the edge of rocky Mather Gorge. I take photos of the gang and the scenery and then we continue onward to visit the remnants of the Patomack Canal and the town of Matildaville. At Great Falls, ~1.5 hours and ~6-7 miles into the journey, Ken and Caren have to head for their respective homes while Mary and I continue along the trail. Riverbend Park greets us in another few miles, not enough to suit Mary's training plan, so we drop some gear at my car and then continue upriver. I find a dirty pair of underwear abandoned in the woods and carry it gingerly for a while, then drop it in the middle of a small wooden footbridge. When we decide to turn around we find ourselves beside a big hill, so I challenge Mary to race up it; both of us manage the deed, if barely. During the return trip we essay a side trail and find ourselves at Riverbend Park Nature Center, from which a short jog and a final sprint gets us back to my car, 11.7 miles according to my GPS's possibly-generous trackfile. During our cooldown, limber Mary shows me some scary stretches of which I dare attempt a few.
At 0620 I pick up Ruth Martin at her hotel in Georgetown (she flew in last evening) and we proceed to meet Caren Jew at Rock Creek Trail milepost 0, where Beach Drive crosses the DC-Maryland border. Fog lingers over Candy Cane City. As the sun rises we start running up the Western Ridge Trail but soon come to our senses and revert to a fast walk until we reach the next crest. Ruth and Caren reminisce about their meeting here some years ago during the MCRRC Speed Development Program. After we cross Wise Road we turn onto a side trail and descend to Picnic Area 10, where I'm amazed to discover that the water fountain works for a change. At Riley Spring Bridge we cross Rock Creek and trot along the Valley Trail back to our starting point, a brisk loop of ~2.5 miles. Ruth and I amuse Caren as we discuss the British slang phrase "Bob's your uncle!"
Now it's time for Caren to redeploy for home duty, so Ruth and I proceed down Beach Drive. The journey brings back old memories of races and training runs. At Riley Spring Bridge we see a different connector path and take it uphill to rejoin the Western Ridge Trail, along which we trek north to conclude our ~2 mile circuit. I'm tired enough now to call it a day, but Ruth is ready for more; she's training well and has lost some weight. I'm down a wee bit too, I tell her, to ~12 stone in her preferred units. In downtown Bethesda Ruth hops out of my car and takes the Capital Crescent Trail back to her hotel, for an additional ~7 miles. Wow!
At noon I leave Son Robin at his engineering lab and set off jogging uphill across the UM campus. The temperature is only in the upper 70s but with a dewpoint in the upper 60s the humidity feels oppressive. I circumnavigate the northern side of the football stadium and see that the track around the soccer field is open, so my plans shift gear: instead of a (probably-too-long) journey along trails, it's time for some speedwork! Alas, my plan to do 10-12 Yasso 800s melts down at the halfway point. My splits, with 2-2.5 minute breaks between, are 4:30 + 4:26 + 4:26 + 4:28 + 4:29 + 4:34 + 4:35 — and with that deterioration at the end I decide to toss in the towel. (The presence of a young lady runner on the track keeps me going a couple of laps longer than I otherwise might have managed.) My jog back to meet Robin is slow and frequently interrupted by walk breaks.
Today brings near-record heat and humidity for the Army Ten Miler and the Chicago Marathon; in both events a participant dies. I don't know that when in late morning I set out at a brisk pace from home toward the Capital Crescent Trail. Near the beginning of the CCT (mile mark ~0.31) two ladies and a young girl on a bicycle are pondering the "You Are Here" map. I pause to advise them and catch my breath. Then it's onward, across the trestle over Rock Creek, from which I can see a fence blocking Rock Creek Trail (RCT) below. But it looks easily circumventable, so I loop back via the MitP route along East-West Hwy and turn north along RCT. Now I'm beginning to overheat. I slow down, add walk breaks, and weave around two "Trail Closed" fences — but then I'm stymied to find the footbridge at RCT mile 1.45 is entirely missing! It's due to be replaced by December, cold comfort to me today. Rather than retreat I take the lavender-blazed trail upstream but soon lose it and instead follow a narrow dirt track along the eastern bank of the stream. After encountering a walker and her dog I reach Ireland Dr and trot home via the lovely Mermaid Fountain.
(cf. AwesomeAdonis (3 Jul 2007), SummerShambles (17 Jul 2007), CrossedPaths (28 Jul 2007), RileysRumble2007 (30 Jul 2007), PiedBeauty (27 Aug 2007), Phone It In (21 Sep 2007), GunpowderKegFatAss2007 (24 Sep 2007), ...)