|"Fat Cat", a friendly orange neighborhood tabby, rolls about taking a dust bath at the end of my Mother's driveway in northeast Austin. He chases me for half a block, then turns back. A little after 6am "the stars at night /are big and bright / deep in the heart of Texas". A cold front makes lovely low temperature and humidity. At a convenience store on the corner of Loyola St and Manor Rd the marquee reads, "CHICKEN - WINGS - GIZZARD - LIVER - BURRITOS - FISH" — not too vegetarian-friendly. Another mile down the road a pickup truck idles in the Jack In The Box drive-through lane. Tempting, but a leftover Krispy Kreme donut was already an unhealthy enough breakfast!|
Approaching Walnut Creek I cast about trying to find the new bikepath-trail entrance without success. Further down the street, however, there it is. In the darkness my headlamp picks up blue and green sparkles on the ground. Pause, lean close, and they turn into tiny glinty-eyed spiders. An owl hoots and a rooster crows. Silver eyes blink from a tree trunk, then take flight and swoop across the trail. A bat? Another one dips and soars by. Half a mile north five pairs of larger eyes retroreflect as they bob just above the path: dogs, with the couple who own them, out for a walk as dawn begins.
Clouds move in as the sky brightens. Near the trail just before Daffan Lane little houses sit beside fields of stubble. In front of one stand jugs of water, paper cups, chairs, a map, and a sign: "Say 'HI' to David The Friendly Farmer who is making this Way Station possible!" I drink, take photos, put $2 into the donation box for the Ghisallo Foundation.
The path turns east, and at Johnny Morris Rd I head southwest to close the loop and begin the return journey home. An inadvertent trek across a muddy swale turns Nike "Free" minimalist slipper-shoes into heavy maxi-padded clogs. The trail curves back downhill to rejoin Walnut Creek, and I accelerate to make up time spent taking photos of the sunrise. Splits by the GPS: 13:47 + 11:52 + 10:55 + 11:44 + 13:54 + 11:57 + 14:50 + 9:29 + 10:25 + 9:03 (see official map of Southern Walnut Creek Trail). Runkeeper records today's route.
Footnotes: during the 2014-04-01 - East Austin Loop run the "intermittent sidewalks under construction make for tricky footing by Daffan Lane" were part of Southern Walnut Creek Trail still under construction. 2014-07-22 - Austin Texas Walnut Creek Trail Segment was my trek along the SWCT in the other direction from Loyola Lane.
^z - 2014-10-25
"Morning, Ladies!" the cyclist zooming by in the gloom greets us. Kristin starts laughing so hard that we have to take a walk break. "Well, my voice is higher-pitched than yours," I offer as explanation. Seven miles later another biker says, "Good morning, Sir!" in response to my salute. Once he's out of earshot Kristin asks, "So what are we? Chopped liver?"
Kerry's first-ever half marathon trek goes nicely, modulo twinges from new shoes, with a time of about 2:35. She spots half a dozen deer grazing by the W&OD Trail just west of Gallows Rd. At the Vienna Community Center we take a break, then turn back. It's fun to see again folks whom we met outbound. Our route is mostly the reverse of what Kristin and I did last Friday. Runkeeper captures the data.
^z - 2014-10-21
"Short and fast!" are Dr Amber's orders this morning - she's on the clock and has to get her kids to school on time. We wait briefly by the loading dock, but everybody else is either out of town or too sensible to run in the rain in the gloom. My suggestion: try for a descending pace, maybe 11 minutes for the first mile, then 10, then 9. That goes out the window when Mile 1 comes in 8:32 by the GPS. "Oops!"
We throttle back and cruise along neighborhood streets, greeting pre-dawn walkers, dodging commuter cars and the 3T Metrobus, and trying not to trip on sidewalk cracks. I feel guilty cursing the sweat that washes into my eyes after Amber confesses to cursing the nurses during the late stages of childbirth. "In English or in German?" I ask. We finish uphill in what could be a Personal Best 5k time for her, at least in recent decades. Whee! Runkeeper records route.
^z - 2014-10-19
"Groin, throat, eyes, ...", my running companions are reviewing the best vulnerable points to aim for if one is attacked. We're trotting back from a trek along a new street, Arbor Lane, where lovely houses sit behind well-groomed lawns. I dip my hand in a sprinkler's spray. A big American flag hangs in the gloom at the top of a front yard pole. Pink clouds low in the east proclaim the dawn.
Kristin and Amber lead the way on the narrow woodsy path and take cobwebs in the face for Kerry and me. We review the weekend and upcoming schedules. Back at the starting line Kristin and I add a final parking lot loop to get her GPS into double digits. Runkeeper records route.
^z - 2014-10-17
|Hills, horses, and happiness! Before the race, the sun rises over a foggy Bachman Valley in northern Maryland.|
Pushing hard to maintain pace, the result: overall 48th place of 202 finishers, 3rd male in the 60-69 year bracket. Official results: chip time 1:49:37, in agreement with the watch. Splits by mile markers: ~8.0 + 8.4 + 8.4 + 8.8 + 8.0 + 8.4 + 8.3 + 8.2 + 8.6 + 8.8 + 8.8 + 8.3 + 8.1 and ~45 seconds for the final fraction to the finish line.
|Before the race we greet comrade Christina Caravoulias, who accompanied me here in years past. (cf. 2008-09-21 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, 2009-09-20 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, 2010-09-26 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, ...) Along the course I see only one wooly bear caterpillar on the road. I carefully step over it.|
Many thanks to Don Libes for snookering me into this insanity, and for driving to and from. Don also gets photo credit for recording my prize: a small apple pie. Note that it originally is for another age group, where nobody hung around long enough to collect it. I correct the label using my ballpoint pen.
Runkeeper records route, pace, and elevation profile.
^z - 2014-10-15
"Dog lights?" Kristin speculates, as we see a pair of white glows dancing about irregularly, low near the ground ahead. It's dawn on the W&OD Trail. Cyclists with strobing headlamps have already caught our attention, twinkling like stars in the distance. As we get closer we see that, yes indeed, the dog lights are real: it's a miniature schnauzer and what his owner calls "a rescue mutt". We pause to visit with them, then jog onward.
Today ventures into new mileage territory for Dr Kristin, who asks at the loading dock starting line, "Could we try for 13?" — and who, when we get back and the GPS reads 13.9 miles, insists on an extra lap around the parking lot to reach the next magic integer. OCD runner status confirmed! During the eastward return trek she spots big spiderwebs that I pause to photograph. Runkeeper records route.
^z - 2014-10-13
"Sandbagger!" I accuse Amber after today's run. She denies (of course!) hanging back to stroke her management's egos and make them think she's slower than they are. Dawn arrives to paint the clouds pretty pink as we trot eastward along the W&OD Trail. David, Kerry, and Kristin see rabbits; Amber mistakes ground-feeding birds for frogs; I only spy a few squirrels. We correct some wrong turns taken last Friday exploring the same route, but make a few new mistakes in compensation. Runkeeper records route.
^z - 2014-10-11
"You're a man; you can take it!" Kristin reports that her little six-year-old son said to his father when rough-housing yesterday. Chuckles ensue, followed by other stories in the kids-say-the-darnedest-things genre. Amber, David, Kerry, Kristin, and I are trotting through the gloom early Monday morning. A silver sliver of an old old moon hangs low above Chain Bridge Rd, earthshine lighting its dark side. We loop down Benjamin St past beautiful houses, lawn sprinklers misting as the sun rises. A lovely start to the week! Runkeeper records route.
^z - 2014-10-09
|GPS error on this hilly cross-country race shows a miraculous short-cut across the water during the final return loop — hmmmmm! It's a blitz along construction project routes, including wooden bridges with scary-wide spaces between the slats.|
Official results put total time at 55:12, placing 45th of 120 runners, 37th of 80 males, 3rd of 7 in the 60-64 male age group. I lose to arch-nemesis-rival 8 year old Jason Parks by about 90 seconds.
Runkeeper tallies the pace, and route (more or less). Photo by Dan DiFonzo.
"Birds!" From the darkness a small flock of big crows explodes around Kerry's head as she brushes beneath the tree hanging over the sidewalk and disturbs their slumber. Instant Hitchcock movie!
It's barely after 6am, under a waning moon. Kristin and Kerry and I are trying a new route to the W&OD Trail, via neighborhood streets. We take a wrong turn seeking a bridge across Pimmit Run and discover ourselves in somebody's back yard. Oops! Backtrack and try again a block later. The Drs K clear spiderwebs for me on the proper path.
We approach Idylwood Park and Kerry says, "I know who lives here!" It's a family acquaintance from her kids' soccer games in years past. We join the W&OD near milepost 8, close to the eastern turnaround from Friday's run a fortnight ago. Bicycle commuters blitz past, some with friendly "Good Morning, Runners" and "On your left!" polite warnings, others silently surprising us.
We pause to drink from the fountain just after the bridge over Route 7. I test it and confirm the spritzing phenomenon that got Kerry a wet face on our 2014-09-17 - WOD Water Fountain journey. Teenagers on their way to school edge us off the sidewalk along Westmoreland Rd. Runkeeper records route and pace.
^z - 2014-10-05