"You've heard of the Molly Maguires?" Kristin asks. We're enjoying a cool misty morning trek around Pimmit Hills, and conversation random-walks into the history of Pottsville Pennsylvania. "Knowing you, you really wouldn't like John O'Hara's novels!" The Pottsville Historical Society and other local residents know well the mapping between fiction and reality. Neat!
A fuzzy sphere on the wet grass unfolds upon closer inspection into a bunny that scampers away. Another rabbit flees along the new Idlywood Road sidewalk. The wooden bridge over Pimmit Run is slippery. We pause at Starbucks to snag a free birthday coffee and then walk the hills while sipping. It's a good day to give thanks for health, friendship, diversity. Cute canines strain at their leashes. "There should be a runner-rent-a-dog service!".
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-28
"Why do little boys insist on 'going commando'?" Kristin wonders. She recounts a weekend children's library activity, where a kid's wardrobe malfunction requires quick action by his mom. Kilt-clad trail running banter comes to mind.
The morning is brisk and Kerry's bad sniffles persist, so we loop around one side of Tysons and enjoy the sunrise. Long-duration management training offers two of us a chance to be guinea pigs for the third. "You can display leadership. 'Attack that hill!'; 'Don't quit!', etc. We'll agree with whatever your instructor says!". A huge St Bernard tugs at its leash, eager to run. Glowing eyes on a front porch are early Halloween decorations.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-27
"Have I explained 'Run Rate'?" asks Ken. Rebecca immediately slows her pace to drop back while I sprint ahead — but to no avail: Ken launches into a discussion of cricket scoring calculations. Both questions "Is that 'cricket' the insect or 'cricket' the game?" and "Where does the phrase 'that's not cricket' come from?" fail to distract, as does Rebecca's analysis of how tax law requires pro rating of profit and loss.
"Is there a race today?" Faster runners speed past us on the Capital Crescent trail this brisk autumn morning. We turn back at the DC line, divert to tour park trails, and loop onto Leland. Ken's 100 mile/month streak demands 8 miles/day maintain, so 8 miles we achieve plus a bonus bit from tunnel GPS glitches.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-26
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|"It's the carrot — we're the horse!" Sirisha (Iris) Golla and I are climbing a heart-pounding super-steep trail, where contour lines on the topo map snuggle too close to resolve. Every switchback tempts us forward with a promise of the crest — and then the next corner reveals another slope.|
We're official sweepers for the second half of the VHTRC Big Schloss 50k trail run  in the George Washington National Forest. We start behind everybody else at 7:30am, following paths around Rockcliff Lake and up toward Long Mountain. Soon the first-half sweeps, three fast young ladies, catch up with us. "Go ahead!" I tell them. "We'll find our way!" And we do, getting lost only once for a few minutes at a complex intersection. We pass a backpacker doing the loop as a three-day trek.
After enjoying 8 miles of wilderness at ~20 min/mi pace Sirisha and I reach Aid Station #1 several minutes past the official cutoff. We briefly and unsuccessfully sue for forgiveness, then acquiesce to Doug Sullivan and hitch a ride with him to AS #2. A ~4 mile hike up-course along Little Stony Creek, cheering runners along the way, gets us to the cabin atop Sugar Knob where the first-half sweep trio meets us. We now estimate that we're likely to be ~2 miles short of the full ~32 mile distance. So Sirisha makes me promise to run extra with her at the end if needed to reach her 30+ goal. OK, Ma'am!
Sirisha's ultrarunning backstory resembles mine: start with a local 5k, try a 10k, enjoy a half-marathon, punch out a few road marathons, then graduate to trail ultras. In her case, though, the progression takes less than two years! At the most recent Bull Run Run 50 miler she finishes a couple of minutes ahead of me, so our paces are quite compatible. So are our personalities, our vegetarian diets, our fascination with philosophy, and our optimistic attitudes. "It's all good!" is a mutual mantra.
As we prepare to descend from Sugar Knob super-fast Alyssa Springman surprises us by appearing from behind. She explains that she got lost driving to the start and began a few hours after everybody else. Conveniently though, she has been taking down the few remaining course-marker ribbons left by the sweeps to guide stragglers. Onward she runs!
|Back at AS #2 we leave before the 1:30pm cutoff and commence plucking blue course marker ribbons from trees and harvesting red "Don't Cross!" ribbons that block wrong-way paths. The Big Schloss Cutoff Trail offers an average ~10% ascent to Great North Mountain, the border between Virginia and West Virginia. At the top we pause for selfies on Big Schloss itself , a sandstone peak that offers awesome vistas of Trout Run Valley and ridges where we struggled several hours ago. Then Sirisha leads us down-down-down a scree-covered slope. The song "Landslide" plays on the mental gramophone.|
"Have a vegan no-bake chocolate cookie! It's got chia seeds!" Heather welcomes us to AS #3 with tasty morsels. Sirisha recognizes her as a kind Bull Run Run volunteer at the Marina earlier this year, and gives her a big hug. We meet Jim ("Rhymes with Bagel") Nagle, who started late and took multiple wrong turns, missed earlier Aid Stations, and is now quickly recuperating. He leaves ahead of us, well before the 3:45pm cutoff, and is soon out of sight on the final ~8 mile leg to the finish.
"Beware any trail with 'Mountain' in its name!" The yellow-blazed route to Tibbet Knob starts steep and gets steeper, with scrambles over jumbled boulder piles and across gnarly rock gardens. I roll my right ankle several times; Sirisha rolls her left. Hopeful vultures circle lazily overhead, anticipating a feast. "Not yet!" we tell them. After another pause for panorama pics we pass a pair of women tending their campfire and follow the trail to a dirt road. A chain saw lies on the shoulder next to a pile of fresh-cut sweet-smelling logs; nearby a pickup truck holds a cheerful couple. My phone's battery is dying, and I try without much success to recharge it. Doug Sullivan earlier suggested that pocket lint is a common cause of Intermittent Plug Syndrome, a hypothesis to test when I get home. Meanwhile, we continue to gather blue ribbons.
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|Sirisha shares chikki, a square of sweet sesame-seed brittle that gives a energy boost. We discuss oneness and nonattachment, religion and reverence. In the woods again, as the sun sets a peaceful silence settles over the land. It's a holy time.|
In the final miles we catch up with Jim Nagle, limping rather badly but still making relentless forward progress. "Fourteen Boston Marathons!" he tells us, when we ask about his running history. He's a triathlete, active in the Reston Runners Club, but suffering today from dehydration. "Want to hear something gross?" he asks. We're trail runners, so the answer is obvious. Jim describes major knee surgery in clinical detail. Neat!
We deliver Jim safely to his truck, sign him out with Race Director Kirstin Corris, confirm that no runners are missing, toss a mountain of course markers into the trash, and turn in a fistful of blue flags for reuse. Sweeper Mission Accomplished! Veggie burgers and pasta salad fuel my drive home. Sirisha's GPS reads safely over 30 miles; we fist-bump salute a successful day. She insists on giving me more chikki plus a package of gulab jamun, a sweet Indian dessert. Thank you!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-24
"How much is that doggie in the window?" A portly Jack Russell terrier yips at passers-by as the sun rises. Kristin spots a rabbit munching the grass at McLean High School. Another bunny scampers along the middle of Susquehanna Drive. Crickets chirp, in the hallway near the gym as well as outside.
We meander through familiar neighborhoods, enjoying the cool first morning of autumn. Lawns glisten with dewdrops. On Kirby Road a tight peloton of eight cyclists, headlights blazing, looks like a cluster of cars from a distance. A pickup truck serving as storage-locker has its cab full and its bed overflowing with boxes, papers, pipes, and an old water heater. A pyramid of pumpkins in a front yard is labeled, "HAPPY FALL, Y'ALL!".
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-20
"It's 'Ed's Loop', not 'Ed's Loop Reversed'!" Kristin corrects me at the end of today's soggy jog. Once when we did it the temperature was 0 degrees F (see 2013-03-14 - Ed's Loop without Ed). Today is the opposite, a hyper-muggy morn as thunderstorms prepare to move through the region. Dr K is mostly recovered from yesterday's Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. We compare notes on shoes and foot injuries, welcome the drizzle that begins midway through our trek, and shiver when we reenter the now-arctic-cold air-conditioned building. Kristin spots one creature by my headlamp's glow. "A baby unicorn, disguised as a rabbit!" I text to Kerry.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-19
"Have a banana, Sir!" Volunteers at the end of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon distribute box lunches and fruit. Drs K&K join me in a cooldown walkabout for a few minutes after the race, then head for home. So do I, reversing the route taken six hours earlier. Now, however, temps are higher, traffic is heavier, crosswalk lights are slower to change, terrain is net uphill, and legs have logged 20+ miles. Much walking ensues, therefore, and the temptation to stop for a Slurpee at 7-11 is harder to resist.
But in compensation there are sidewalk vendors, cute little kids in their Sunday best, church doors wide open revealing stained glass, picnic luncheons set up on lawns, lovely marble statuary, and fellow runners sharing the sidewalk. I wave one by who notices my backpack and sweat-soaked shirt. "You look like you're going a lot farther than I am!" he says.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-17
|"That guy who asked for my number? He's already mine — really!" the lady reassures Kerry and Kristin and me, a mile after a strange man cuts across the road apparently to try to pick her up. We promise her that (1) we never judge; and (2) it's hilarious in any case!|
We're at mile 10 of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, a mini-tour of many monuments in downtown DC on a cool but muggy morning, accompanied by ~10,000 new friends. Our pace is a bit fast during the first half, so after the sun comes out we slow down and lengthen the walk breaks. From the street I rescue an unopened energy gel and a cute "Run Now, Wine Later" sweatband. Speedy yellow-jersey US Naval Academy runners blast by, the leaders with motorcycle escort, as they race a five miler on an overlapping course. We pass and then are passed by runners in frilly pink tutus, American-flag-themed compression socks, crazy-pattern tights, and a Superman shirt.
Big GPS errors, esp. when we run under the Kennedy Center and various bridges, add half a mile or so to the true distance. "You're almost there!" countless spectators swear. "We should strangle the next one who says that!" someone suggests.
After the run I pause for a tipsy selfie in front of the Washington monument, while Drs K&K head for their cars.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-17
"Good morning, deer!" At 4:45am a big doe, eyes glowing emerald by headlamp light, munches the grass next to a speed-camera on 16th Street. A few blocks later four rabbits with orange retroreflecting eyes graze the lawn of an apartment complex. I'm running from home to the start of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon near the Washington Monument in downtown DC.
An almost-full Harvest Moon peeks between clouds. Zinnias and moonflowers blossom by the sidewalk. Suddenly the air is full of tiny whirling specks. Night gnats? Nope, just droplets from a pre-dawn garden sprinkler.
Approaching the White House sidewalks suddenly fill with runners walking toward the starting line. Horns honk as cars stack up in search of parking spaces. On 14th Street NW near Independence Avenue who should appear but Drs Kristin and Kerry, bearing my race bib. Rendezvous accomplished!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-17
"And now I've told you more than I know!" Rebecca quotes an aphorism on the slide from explanation into speculation. She and friend Sako (aka Sakurako) start trekking at sunrise along Rock Creek Trail. We chat about Mormon missionaries, marathon training, and the merits of various construction materials — wood vs steel vs stone — for centuries-old temples and railroad trestles. Orange cones and red-blue police car strobes prepare to protect runners in the Kensington 8k. Four big deer startle us as they stand in the gloomy woods close by the path.
"Ragnar! Ragnar! Ragnar!" We cheer tired-looking relay racers near mile 180 of their 206-mile course. Barry meets us at the Old Spring Rd water fountain and gives chase as we sprint to get back by Sako's 9am deadline. She's training for a January marathon and this 11+ miler at an average 11:11 min/mi pace is her longest thus far. Rebecca and I do a cooldown walk, then join Barry to bring his GPS total into double digits.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-10-16