Red Eye 50k 2008

As we jog together along the trail a few miles into the New Year's Day "Red Eye 50k" race I learn the Big Secret of running 100 miles from ultramarathon veteran Lou Jones:

You just have to not quit!

Notes on that pedestrian experience, and others, follow.

2007-12-24 - Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch Loop

16+ miles @ ~13 min/mi

The phone in my fanny pack rings and I discover that carrying two water bottles plus a GPS receiver doesn't leave many hands free to answer. It's Christina calling as I cross University Blvd, ca. mile 13 of my circuit. Our schedules don't mesh so we defer plans to walk and jog together, and for now just wish one another happy holidays.

Today's Christmas Eve expedition is far more pleasant than the "Hypotensive Bonk" of 17 Aug 2007 recorded in PiedBeauty, though it follows precisely the same route: from home via Forest Glen Rd to Sligo Creek Trail, then upstream to Wheaton Regional Park where I take the horse trail to the stables and refill one bottle. Then it's down Northwest Branch Trail and back to Che^z via Piney Branch Rd, a segment of SCT, and Dale Dr. I start off at 10-11 min/mi pace but slow on the unpaved trail segments, then speed up again for the final few miles home.

The GPS loses lock a few times in the depths of Northwest Branch valley but recovers and gives an overall distance of 15.5 miles on the "digital odometer" but 7% more, 16.7 miles, in the track log. I naturally prefer the latter number, which implies an average speed of ~12.2 min/mi. The only serious misadventure today happens just south of the Beltway HighBridge where a thick bed of leaves conceals pits between boulders along the creekside. My foot slips and I ding my left shin against a sharp rock, leaving me with a silver-dollar-sized bruise and a scrape but fortunately no breakage.

2007-12-29 - Community Forklift

10+ miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

A chance to run home from a new location? Fun! At noon Paulette and I meet friend Amy at Community Forklift [1] in Edmonston MD, to browse "surplus, salvaged, and green building materials". It's directly across Northwest Branch from the trail I've jogged many times. At 1pm I'm heading home, trotting first across the Camden Line train tracks and then crossing Route 1 to circle the marker where Northeast Branch Trail and Northwest Branch Trail and the Anacostia River Trail intersect.

Today's journey is fun, fast (by my standards), and uneventful except near the beginning of the Northwest Branch Trail where some sewer construction work seems to be underway and I get scolded by an official for ignoring the "Danger! Do Not Cross!" streamers blocking the path. He does let me continue on, however, so all's well. From the Community Forklift start it takes me about 5 minutes to reach the trail junction. The first two miles on the NWBT average a few seconds under 10 minutes each, but I slow somewhat on Sligo Creek. On the whole, however, I feel great and don't need to take walk breaks — major progress for me in comparison to most longish runs in the past.

2008-01-01 - Red Eye 50k

31+ miles @ ~15 min/mi

New Year's Day finds me jogging and walking along some beautiful terrain in Prince William Forest Park; I would run there every day if it weren't 50 miles from home. Today's race [2] is another VHTRC "Fat Ass" event, free and with no prizes. After a 1-mile circuit the course repeats a 10-mile loop three times, beginning and ending at the Turkey Run Education Center (TREC). Black blazes mark the Turkey Run Ridge Trail, which leads to the South Fork Quantico Creek where the white-blazed South Valley Trail wends its way upstream for 4-5 miles. A gravel road then climbs to the unmanned aid station near the paved Scenic Drive, which in turn takes runners to yellow-blazed Oak Ridge Trail and then the gravel Old Black Top Road back to TREC. A major start/finish aid station is thus seen at miles 1, 11, 21, and the finish.

Today is a day of sounds: wind in the treetops as the cold front comes through, half-blown-down trees creaking against their neighbors as they prepare to finish falling, water in the streams splashing as it flows over rocks, and so forth. The weather is cool, near freezing when we start at 7:30am, half an hour before the "official" time. No worries --- we can do whatever we want!

Race founder Bill Sublett leads Lou Jones and me along the 1-mile prelude in about 15 minutes. He gets us a couple of miles into the main loop before trotting on ahead. Lou and I chat as we journey. Some decades ago he worked in the field of geodesy, the science of the Earth's shape. So we have what perhaps is one of the strangest conversations to be held in the woods, concerning ellipsoidal figures of equilibrium, spherical harmonics, the Chandler wobble of the Earth's axis, etc. Neat-o! Lou has run some hundred-milers and I ask him about his experiences in training for them.

I carry two bottles of electrolyte drink, and share energy gels and electrolyte capsules with Lou. Near mile 10 we join up with a couple of other runners who tell us funny stories; one says he is famous for his recipe for inducing vomiting: wash down a gel packet with a fizzy coke. We finish our first loop together at ~16 min/mi pace (in 2:42), and after refueling and reentering the forest I trot on ahead of Lou. My second lap is uneventful until near its end when a blazingly fast runner comes up behind me and passes me. It's Howard Nippert, legendary ultramarathoner! He's 10 full miles ahead of me, and wins the race in 4:38. He's also friendly and helpful; I chat with him when I arrive at the aid station (my second loop takes 2:28). Race Director Gary Knipling takes our photo with my cellphone camera. Then it's onward for me again, into my last 10 mile loop.

Ooof! is the sound I make at my first and only major stumble, near mile 28. I trip on a rock and land flat on my chest, knocking the wind out of me and scraping arms and knees. Fortunately I fall onto a smooth patch of dirt; my face and other unimportant body parts aren't injured. The last circuit takes me 2:29 and so my total time is 7:54 — 12th place! That accomplishment is put in proper perspective, however, by the fact that there are only 13 finishers of the 50k. (Roughly 33 runners do shorter distances.) Bill Sublett is 9 minutes ahead of me, and Lou Jones comes in somewhat later. I'm lucky that there weren't more aid stations, since I spend 5-10 minutes in each one that I encounter. A few photos from the race are posted on [3]; the official results are at [4].

Overall the Red Eye 50k is a wonderful experience for me. Many thanks to all the organizers and volunteers who helped make it happen!

2008-01-05 - Al Lewis 10 Miler

10 miles @ 12.1 min/mi

Ken Swab's friend Kenny Ames meets me at the Forest Glen Metro station and I give him a ride to today's DCRRC race. A herd of half a dozen deer emerge from the suburban brush to stare at us as we cruise along Beach Dr on our way to Ken-Gar. Christina Caravoulias drives past just as I return to the car to get my entry fee; I'm walking along holding a $5 bill in my mouth while I put away the key. I register and then meet Chris on the path. In the clubhouse before the start she introduces me to several folks, including Washington Post running columnist Jim Hage and his lovely wife. (They're expecting twins and I can't resist telling stories about our twins.)

The temperature is in the mid-20's as we line up at 9am. Chris and I take photos of each other with my cellphone camera (see and then we're off. The course goes from Ken-Gar downstream on Rock Creek Trail to Old Spring Road where it angles uphill on neighborhood streets to the 5-mile turnaround. Police cars with flashing lights protect us at the major road-trail intersections, though at one point late in the race a huge peleton of cyclists blasts in front of us as we're about to cross Beach Drive. During mile 6 I announce that I'm feeling a sudden craving for peanut M&M candies. Chris kindly gives me a packet of orange sports beans which shuts me up and keeps me happy.

It's a fine race, especially in comparison to last year's event that featured meltdown temperatures in the 70s and relative humidity near 70%. Outbound our pace averages 11.9 min/mi but we slow a bit during the return trip and finish in a bit over 2:01, with Christina in 109th place and me 110th, dead last.

(cf. JFK 2007 Preparation (26 Oct 2007), Potomac Heritage 50k 2007 (4 Nov 2007), GrapevineRun (12 Nov 2007), Don Quixote 55k Run 2007 (22 Nov 2007), HuntingSeason (30 Nov 2007), Fallen Angel (8 Dec 2007), LightningCrashes (23 Dec 2007), ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2008-01-05

(correlates: DogStarRising, Fallen Angel, Deadlines, ...)