Sunday evening, time to test the feet after yesterday's 2013-11-16 - MCRRC Stone Mill 50 Mile Race — set off fast, then pause to photograph a crepuscular buck by Forsythe Av just inside the Beltway near Rock Creek. Press the pace up the Mormon Temple hill along Stonybrook St, and head home via Capitol View, trotting along the narrow shoulder and fearing cars. Splits by Garmin GPS (which records a more conservative 3.32 mi than Runkeeper) are 9:07 (downhill warmup) + 11:21 (deer photos and Mormon Temple hill climb) + 9:37 (making up time downhill again) + final fragment at 9:11 min/mi pace.
^z - 2013-12-11
|The MCRRC Stone Mill 50 miler turns out extraordinarily, uneventfully well this year, after a DNF in 2012 and a fun-but-rough off-course detour in 2013. The weather is great, the volunteers are helpful, the route is lovely, and there's wonderful conversation and fellowship among the ultrarunner participants all day long.|
Official results put me across the line in 181st place (of 252 listed finishers) with a time of 11:40, and 140th of 179 males. The Garmin GPS measures 47.8 miles with 3800 feet elevation gain; Runkeeper on the iPhone more generously estimates 49.6 miles and 5000 feet climb.
|This great photo of ^z at mile ~6 is by Dan Reichmann (click for high-res version). My son Merle captioned it, "My dad, giving that ridiculously photogenic runner meme guy a run for his money."|
|At the mile ~23 aid station, just before runners leave Muddy Branch Trail and join the C&O Canal towpath, Quatro Hubbard supplements the usual fluids with a special high-octane recovery drink.|
|Cheerful friends Stephanie Fonda and D. Marshall Porterfield lead me most of the way today. This photo of them is by Tom Foreman.|
|About 5 miles after not sampling Quatro's kind offer of whiskey, I'm descending a steep hill just ahead of my ultra-mentor Professor Paul Ammann (cf. Injury Avoidance, UltraMan, etc.) I'm chattering away, slip on wet leaves, and suddenly find myself in Mother Earth's cold embrace. "That was a full-body fall!" Paul helpfully observes, as I clamber to my feet, fortunately undamaged.|
A few hours earlier in the race, as the morning fog lifts, a haiku springs forth:
Many miles later, in the deepening twilight:
Finally, with a minute of poetic license on the total time so the syllable count scans:
The photo is by Paul Encarnación (click for high-res version).
|Comrade Stephanie Fonda is caught in a happy morning moment by photographer Dan Reichmann (click for high-res version) near mile 6.|
|On Tschiffley Mill Rd, near mile 28, I make new friends: Janet Choi (aka "Tape Girl", as per her knee and calf bindings), KC Guevara, and Toni Aurilio. They're flying along so cheerfully that I can't resist pausing to take pictures. KC and Toni finish a few minutes in front of me; Janet is not far behind.|
|Today I'm testing out a new minimalistic vest, the Nathan HPL model #028. It has a pouch on the back which holds an extra water bottle, and ample zipper pockets for candy, gels, Succeed! electrolyte capsules, and cellphone with supplementary battery pack. The photo of me is by Tom Foreman (click for high-res version).|
|I cross the finish line a few seconds behind Stephanie and Marshall. Kind friend Barry Smith comes in a bit later. It's a long, great day!|
^z - 2013-12-08
|No, it's not wise to run with eyes wide shut and mouth wide open! Image by Dan Reichmann is from the final stretch of the MCRRC "Candy Cane 5k", a fun run with good friends. Garmin GPS suggests the course was short, closer to 3.0 miles than 3.1, as does gun time of 21:50. The GPS estimates average pace of ~7.4 min/mi (with approx. splits: 7.5 + 7.5 + 7.2 min). Before the event I warm up by jogging from home; afterwards I stay to cheer runners coming in for the final 100 yards.|
Official results put me barely in the top 100, behind 80 men and 16 women, and 3rd of 15 among the 60-64 year old males. Runkeeper has the entire day's trekking, with pauses but no splits between the trip down to the course, the race, and the return jog. The Garmin GPS records three separate trackfiles, before and during the race and afterwards.
^z - 2013-11-30
|Frost decorates the meadow as Barry Smith and I trek along Seneca Creek, previewing the first half dozen miles of next week's Stone Mill 50 miler. We ramble upstream to Brink Rd and then downstream to tag MD-355 and back. Barry spies a deer. I mishear it as "beer" and respond, "Where?? Where???"|
When we get back to Barry's car two hours later, we each do ~10 push-ups on the parking lot. Our hands show stigmata from the gravel surface.
|At the scenic overlook we pause to snap photos of each other. An elderly gentleman trots past and asks if we're planning to run Stone Mill. He not, and says that he's in his 70's now and sticks to shorter distances. We salute him.|
^z - 2013-11-26
The old thrift-store shorts have become too large and start slipping down every lap — oops! — but fortunately for all the lights are out at the University of Maryland track, as a crescent moon sets and a young couple walks the outer lanes in the gloom. Six 800m repeats (with half-lap walks to recover between) yield splits of 3:48 + 3:41 + 3:40 + 3:43 + 3:40 + 3:32 (!). Son Robin runs steadily, then accompanies me to Marathon Deli for greasy salty French fries. See Runkeeper and/or Garmin for boring GPS oval trackfile maps.
^z - 2013-11-24
|Begin at the end: Mary Ewell & I do a late lunch of eggplant and tofu, Chinese food at the Jade Rabbit -- yum!|
Then rewind past a mini-hike-tour of brush-overgrown statuary at the National Park Seminary. Pause for photo ops.
Before that, run a brisk 5k along Rock Creek Trail from just inside the Beltway downstream to East-West Hwy and back, past friendly cyclists and dog-walkers.
Start with a stroll through autumn leaves down Ireland Dr to the creek valley.
Throughout, enjoy wonderful conversation and shared memories of past races.
Thank you, Mary!
^z - 2013-11-21
|"We need to carry a bucket of blue paint," I tell Barry Smith as we trot along Muddy Branch Trail. "Then we wouldn't go off course -- by definition!" Heading downstream we miss the blue blazes and lose our way three times; on the return trip we go astray only once. The path, as Barry points out, is both muddy and branching. Clouds reflect lovely in "Lake Placid" as we begin at sunrise. Soon autumn leaves shine bright. Small herds of deer amble through the brush.|
|Today is a training trek for the Stone Mill 50 miler in a fortnight. Barry says, "You won't remember this," and tells the story of his fall during a training expedition on the Appalachian Trail for the 2006 JFK 50 Miler. He strains a hamstring muscle and is lying on the ground, and as he tells it (perhaps with poetic exaggeration) other runners jump over him or complain that he's in their way. According to Barry, I stop and ask if he needs help. At the time we don't know each other. I don't remember it. Hmmmmmm!|
Runkeeper awards bonus distance for unknown reasons, and says we do ~12.7 miles. The Garmin says it's only an ~11.8 mile trek. Barry's GPS reads a similar number to my Garmin, so he runs an extra couple of blocks to make it a solid 12 for his logbook.
^z - 2013-11-19
"Car back!" is the chorus on a foggy dark Halloween morning as the usual gang — Amber, David, Kerry, Kristin — starts at 0630 for a pre-work-day ramble around the Pimmit Hills 'hood, accompanied by jokes about transcranial low-voltage brain stimulation, a mini-review Master and Commander, anecdotes of recent races, etc. At journey's end both Kristin and I actually manage (barely!) to control our obsessive-compulsive tendency to do "just a few steps more" and push the distance up to the next integer value. "2.97 miles" is what Runkeeper records. Enough!
^z - 2013-11-10
|Stephanie Fonda spots a brilliant orange Araneus marmoreus, aka marbled orb-weaver spider, as it crawls along a rocky road in the Green Ridge State Forest. At this point — mile ~22 of the "Fire on the Mountain" 50k race — Stephanie and I have been crawling likewise for half a dozen hours. We pause to empathize with the arachnid.|
Today is a day of beautiful scenery, steep slopes, slippery mud, rocks and roots, helpful volunteers, perfect weather, and splendid conversation in the woods of western Maryland. What's not to love?
|Our morning begins about 0300 — rise and shine! — as we gather gear and rendezvous for the two-hour drive to the race. Mike Edwards gives me a lift to Stephanie's home, where we pile gear into the trunk of her car and head out at 4am. It's an uneventful journey, past multiple deer resting in peace by the side of the highway, victims of unfortunate mating season encounters. Once off the major roads we meander through the forest on gravel-and-dirt byways, park at the finish area, pick up our numbers and race packets, and gird our loins for the day ahead.|
Then it's time to pile into big yellow school buses and bounce along another 45 minutes to the starting line. Stephanie naps while I try to peer through foggy windows. We arrive at the scenic overlook and marvel at the meandering Potomac River below. Good friends from past ultramarathons greet us.
|Stephanie and I capture my favorite location — DFL! — during the initial mile. The course takes us down treacherous declines to stream valleys, across creeks several dozen times, and back up the steep sides of ridges via leaf-strewn pathways. Some of the trails are so narrow and sloping that we fear slipping into the valleys below. At one point there's a muddy chute that some runners are sitting down to navigate. We cling to saplings and hug trees to make our way.|
|At mile 16 we climb a steep hill to the mid-course aid station, with dramatic views of the valleys below. Kind people refill our hydration packs and offer us a huge variety of goodies. I fill my pockets with M&M candies and creme sandwich cookies. Stephanie snags a handful of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.|
Then off we go for half a dozen miles along one-lane dirt-and-gravel country roads, stepping aside for occasional cars to pass by. During the first few miles of FotM today I feared that we would miss the cutoffs, but now it's clear that we're doing fine. Sporadically I recompute our required pace, e.g., "We could walk the rest of the way at 20 minutes/mile!" and a bit later, "Now we only need to average 25 min/mi", etc. We catch up with buddy Anton Struntz, whose yellow-and-orange outfit today makes him look a bit like a giant piece of candy corn. Anton is cheerful as always, pressing onward through injury and aiming to finish comfortably. (He does.)
|At one point contrails from two high-flying jets cross at a 90° angle above the course. We cruise at sub-12 min/mi for three miles in the middle part of the trek, but slow down to enjoy the final stretch once it's clear that we are safely within all time limits. Cheery runners pass us, including a memorable one in über-fluorescent pink jersey and black tights. We offer encouragement to the walking wounded whom we overtake.|
Approaching the race's end, a quarter-mile loop around the field where we parked before sunrise, we're handed split-wood sticks to toss onto the fire at the finish line. We smile for the cameras, snag medals and munchies, and enjoy complimentary coffee and strawberry smoothies from event sponsor Sheetz's van. I pose for photos with another bearded gentleman whose friends think we look alike. Stephanie changes into comfy clothes for the return trip; I sit on a thick towel. We pause at a McDonalds near Hagerstown that I remember from Boy Scout camping trip journeys. Diet Coke hits the spot today.
Runkeeper data documents our route and pace. Official results put us in 93rd and 94th place of 103 finishers, at about 8:14, safely under the final 9 hour cutoff. Comrade Mike Edwards waits patiently, having arrived an hour earlier. It's a lovely day!
^z - 2013-11-08
|Stephanie Fonda demonstrates the benefits of cross-training by lifting a rock beside Northwest Branch Trail. This Sunday morning we do a fun loop from the New Place, across Wheaton Regional Park, and down Northwest Branch Trail, over boulders and under the Beltway. We scare three big deer drinking from the stream and greet innumerable dog-walkers.|
When we reach New Hampshire Av we take Piney Branch Rd across University Blvd, pausing to buy a cup of coffee at La Pollera, a friendly hole-in-the-wall where chickens rotate slowly on a spit above glowing charcoal. The trek back to the start is via Sligo Creek Trail. Splendid conversation lifts our spirits throughout, and it's perfect prep for the Fire on the Mountain 50k in western Maryland next Sunday. Thank you, Stephanie!
^z - 2013-11-04