As I trot along the trail beside the creek a sudden splashing sound makes me pause. Two white-tailed fawns and a gray-haired doe stand in midstream drinking. Sunlight dapples the surface of Northwest Branch, echoing the dapples of the fawns.
Recollections from that and other recent ^z rambles follow:
The two mile run is a new event for me. At the MCRRC "Go For the Glory Track Meet" on a warm Friday evening at a Bethesda high school I'm unsure how fast to set out, so I chase a trio of girls for the first few laps. When they start to slow I pass and manage, albeit barely, to maintain a steady 2 min/lap pace. Caren Jew and Jeanne Larrison are both recovering from injury; Christina Careavoulias is focusing on her preparation for the Annapolis 10 miler at the end of the month and likewise is taking it easy. My official time is 16:01.71 (false precision! --- in 0.01 seconds I move ~3mm). Considering how far behind the starting line I began, I'm actually a hair under 16 minutes. I skip the 400 meter sprint, but when Caren taunts me I enter the night's final event, 1 mile, and survive in slightly under 8 minutes — again ~2 min/lap. Christina lets my son Robin use her spiffy Nikon digital SLR. He takes hundreds of photos, some of which are rather good. Since there are so few participants everybody gets points in the MCRRC Championship Series, even I: 6th out of 6 in my age/sex group!
Comrades Ken Swab and Mary Ewell and I converge on the indoor tennis courts at the Locust Grove Nature Center for a Sunday morning jog along the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail. It's a nice but somewhat strenuous path that various among us have variously essayed before. (cf. HalfBeast, LateOctober2005JogLog, GoldenTicket, TheyBullRunRun, ...) Driving to the rendezvous point I cache food and drink at the River Road crossing of the CJT, allowing us to refuel at miles 3 and 9. In the heat and humidity we quickly exhaust our water supplies, so the resupply option turns out to be essential.
We set off shortly after 7am and immediately lose the trail at the corner of Democracy Blvd. and Seven Locks Rd. Eventually an off-road cyclist appears, lifts his bike over the railing, and vanishes into the woods. We follow him and thereafter only sporadically become confused. The park service brochure says that a Frank Lloyd Wright house is adjacent to the CJT, so as we progress downstream we look for it, making jokes whenever we see a candidate. (A small house-trailer in the woods, decorated with pink flamingo statues, is our final consensus for the most outrageous architecture.)
The trail south of the Beltway is rather overgrown, and since both Mary and I fear poison ivy our progress becomes tentative. We climb the steep wooden stairs and reach the turnaround at Cabin John Local Park (just north of the Potomac River) but find no water there. During our return trip a big box turtle is sitting in the middle of the path, but retracts into her shell before I can take a photo. At the River Rd. cache we finish all the drinks, with the help of two young buff gentlemen who are going fast but for less distance than we are. I haul the remaining chips and candy for the last 3 miles. Ken admits that both Mary and I sweat a lot more than he does.
"Hi Mark!" On Friday afternoon Pete Darmody catches me by surprise on the Metro. I don't recognize him since he's not wearing a singlet and shorts. Pete is a fast runner, to my misfortune in the same age/sex cohort as I am this year. We chat about road racing, local architectural history, and trains (he's a self-confessed reformed "foamer"). Pete grew up in the neighborhood near Northwest Branch, and the conversation reminds me that I haven't jogged along that trail for many a day.
So mid-morning Saturday as the temperature warms from the 70's into the lower 80's I set out to run a big loop: from home via Forest Glen Rd. to Sligo Creek Trail (~15 min), upstream through Wheaton Regional Park to the horse stables (~55 min), down the west-bank Northwest Branch Trail to Colesville Rd. (~45 min), and continuing along the stream to Piney Branch Rd. (~50 min). At that point I suddenly feel exhausted — "bonked", in distance-running slang — and decide to head home. Thereafter I mostly walk. I trek to Sligo Creek Trail via Piney Branch (~20 min) and follow SCT to Colesville, and thence Dale Dr. to home (~50 min).
My extreme fatigue for the final five miles is probably due to dehydration, even though I've been drinking steadily. Two miles from home as I refill my water bottle (for the third time during the journey) I belatedly remember that I'm carrying Succeed! electrolyte capsules. I take one, and start to feel slightly more chipper as I arrive home. My weight is down ~3 lbs., however, and my blood pressure an hour afterwards is in a dangerously low 70/55 zone.
Only one fall interrupts the trip, near the halfway point as I trip over a big rock while reading a sign that offers information about side trails. I tumble like a house of cards, but suffer only minor scrapes on left hand, right forearm, and right calf. I almost take the Lockwood Dr. shortcut home there and then, but remember that part of today's mission is to look at the underside of the high Beltway Bridge over Northwest Branch. It's a steel bridge of the same design as the one that collapsed in Minnesota last week. (cf. HighBridge, 12 Aug 2007)
The winner of today's Mad Dog Zimmarathon shatters the course record by 25 minutes! Of course, the MDZ has only been run once before (29 Aug 2004) ... there's only one entrant in both cases (me) ... and there are no prizes, no medals, no t-shirts, no volunteers, no course marshalls, and no official sanction for the event. No matter! It's all good — even if the bruised toenail that I come home with falls off next week.
The graph of pace versus mile tells the story. Other observations:
"Bloody sock!" Say that to a Boston Red Sox fan, and you'll hear the story of Curt Schilling's triumphant pitching, after tendon repair surgery, against archrival New York Yankees during the 2004 American League playoff series. Schilling's bloody sock now resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame. At the end of the 2007 Annapolis Ten Miler my running comrade Christina shows me her bloody sock — stained late in the race by an injured toe. That same evening Christina's sock is washed and returned to its place of honor in her sock drawer. Sic transit gloria socci(?!) ...
Just as last year (cf. BabyGetsNewShoes) Chris and I meet predawn and carpool to the Naval Academy football stadium, starting point for today's race. At 6am when we arrive the temperature is 73°F with a dewpoint of 71°F — close to 100% humidity. But at least it's cooler than yesterday! We ramble about the pre-race expo, where almost everybody seems to know Chris. Lining up before the start Gretchen greets us; she and I served together at water stop #6 during last year's Parks Half Marathon. (cf. VikingRailroad) I take photos as we await the signal to begin.
The race itself is relatively uneventful. This year's course winds through the well-groomed grounds of the Naval Academy before crossing the Severn River Bridge into a hilly residential area where neighbors kindly spray runners with garden hoses. The orange slices are all gone by the time Christina and I reach those aid stations, but there's still beer in the seventh mile from some hash harriers. The road is slippery-wet in many places due to condensation from the misty air. We repeatedly pass and are passed by the same friendly folks. Presaging the bloody-sock theme I'm wearing a Red Sox running shirt, and numerous fans of the team cheer me for that reason. One volunteer, however, taunts me with a "Go Yankees!" shout. "You're stabbing me in the heart!" I reply.
The sun comes out after we recross the arching bridge and are on the final half mile. Our finishing chip-time is 2:08, within seconds of last year's result. We unwind, take photos, and partake of post-race goodies. In spite of pink blotches on shoe and sock, Christina isn't troubled by the cut on one of her toes, caused by a wayward adjacent toenail. The wound heals quickly.
(cf. TrailImprovement (21 May 2007), OperationAcclimation (3 Jun 2007), BabesInTheWoods (18 Jun 2007), AwesomeAdonis (3 Jul 2007), SummerShambles (17 Jul 2007), CrossedPaths (28 Jul 2007), RileysRumble2007 (30 Jul 2007), ...)