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2014-08-30 - DNF The Ring

~40 miles @ ~22 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_13_z.jpgThe Ring — the Massanutten Trail 71 mile loop — again ends for me at mile 40, as in my 2011-09-03 - DNF The Ring experience. I miss the 9:30pm cutoff at Moreland Gap by half an hour.

And it's all good! As I tell friends, "I fail to achieve my one goal, which is to have no goals!"

Maybe that's the value of focusing on "Possibilities, not Expectations" (PnE), of appreciating experience precisely as it is, of not hoping things were otherwise than they are, and of not obsessing over plans that don't work out.

These first two photos are from the first aid station, mile ~13 at Milford Gap. The Massanutten Trail is marked with orange blazes.

Today brings back great memories of past runs and hikes along various segments of the trail — especially 2008-01-20 - Massanutten Mountain South Training Run and 2009-01-04 - Massanutten Mountain Mayhem with Caren Jew. In my first attempt, 2009-09-05 - One Third of The Ring with Kate Abbott, bad blisters and a fall stop us at mile 25.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_16_Massanutten_butterfly.jpgA "Red-spotted Purple" butterfly perches on a leaf at mile ~16. Today also features ants, spiders, mushrooms, and a glimpse of what was perhaps a black bear crashing through the underbrush 100 meters away, in Duncan Hollow, mile ~26.

At the Aid Stations and in the race along the way are a bunch of super-nice folks, including:

Jackie Ong — who planned to run with me in the night but had to drop at mile 35, bad blisters and exhaustion

Leonard Martin — cheerful, steady, funny, experienced

Rachel DuBois — from North Carolina; she lives within 10 minutes of the Umstead 100 miler course where she did her first 100 earlier this year, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in the 90's, has daughters ages 6 and 13, is fast on the trail and in the dark

David Snipes — suffering today, when I meet him sitting on a rock in the Little Crease notch and he tells me me to pass word at the next aid station that he is dropping and hiking down to the road

Jeff Gura — a friendly gentleman from Potomac, who knows me from MCRRC races

Sean Lawler — suffering today from vertigo, which forces him to drop at mile 25; he's the one who recognized me and said "hi" as a colleague and I were leaving a business meeting a few months ago; he ran the Catoctin 50k last month and finished half an hour ahead of me there

Behind me in this mile ~18 image is the Fort Valley, farmland between the pair of Massanutten Mountain ridges.

Today's trek features some major learning experiences:

running out of water between aid stations (miles 13, 25, 34) — even though I carry three big bottles (and chug a full quart bottle (!) of Gatorade at 0630 before the 7am start!) and consume copious amounts of watermelon and soda at every opportunity. Can I somehow carry even MORE water?

slowing down radically in the dark (to ~30 min/mi) — and still taking several small falls (unlike in the daytime), and being totally unable to keep up with Leonard & Rachel at night

having something to wipe one's face with — esp. on hot/humid days, with sunscreen washing into eyes; perhaps a small towel, washcloth, or handkerchief would help?

mosquito netting — Jackie Ong wears a veil to keep gnats out, and at first I don't recognize her when I catch up to her at mile ~28. Rachel DuBois, with us for some miles there, says, "I'll give you $50 for it!" Smiling, Jackie refuses.

trekking poles for long hikes on rocks — Rachel carries two, Leonard one, and Jackie repeatedly wishes she had brought hers.

carrying a plastic sandwich bag — to fill with cookies or other treats at aid stations, and to nibble from in subsequent miles

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_20_z_south_fork_Shenandoah_River.jpgIn the background here is the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, at mile ~20.

Other observations today include:

remembering to "notice the music" — wind in the trees, birds, distant train whistles, feet on the trail, rattle of a rock that I bump off the narrow path when it tumbles down the cliffside (when that happens, think, "Lucky that's not me!")

deliberately touching the trees and rocks — and feeling the connection with the world, as a good friend suggests trying (esp. after dark!)

fierce clouds of gnats between miles 25 and 35 — Leonard Martin says he missed getting a superb photo, dozens of tiny flies forming a halo around a backpacker's head in the sunbeams

climbing the über-steep Waterfall Mountain ahead of Jackie & Leonard, wondering if there should be a defibrillator at every switchback

joking with Leonard, mile ~36 — about following behind him to admire his well-defined calf muscles. I say, "That's why you carry the trekking pole: to fight off the ladies who swarm around you!"

getting a ride back to my car from Moreland Gap (mile 40.7) where I drop, with Caroline Williams (who also takes Tony Escobar and a hilariously foul-mouthed lady runner)

stopping to stay alert on the way home 11pm-1am — in Front Royal to get a chocolate "shake" at a McDonalds drive-through window, and in Haymarket to buy a bag of Corn Nuts at the COLDEST Sheetz one could imagine

weighing 4 lbs less when I get home than when I left home at 4:30am on Saturday morning

Bottom line happy outcomes from The Ring in 2014:

  • GOOD minimization of blisters and other significant foot issues — I wear two pairs of socks inside old loose shoes and that seems to work
  • GOOD absence of chafing, even without doing anything to deter it
  • GOOD improvement in "trail sense", ability to figure out which way to go even in the dark and in areas where blazes are far apart
  • GOOD progress in handling nightime running (mostly walking) alone — helped by extra-bright headlamp and the "notice the music" mantra, etc.
  • GOOD avoidance of double-vision and vertigo problems — I don't wear reading glasses for ~12 hours pre-race, and I take Succeed! electrolyte capsules every hour or so, drink as much as possible, etc.

So as always, It's All Good!

^z - 2014-09-18

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2014-08-27 - Orange McLean Orbits

~8.5 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"We all got the Orange Memo today!" an appropriately dressed dog-walker points out, as Kristin and I run by him in downtown McLean. Kerry, up ahead, has orange stripes on her shorts. It's a dawn mini-adventure trek, past the elementary school and middle school that Kerry's kids attended. Perhaps some day we'll stretch the Georgetown Pike segment of the route to include a lap around their high school track as well.

At the loading dock pink tinges the horizon. I can't get the Garmin GPS started (bad power switch?), so after a minute's delay off we go without it. Fog hangs low over meadows. Kerry reminisces about picnics, parties, and pushing tots on swings at the playground. A crosswalk delay brings to mind the classic romantic comedy movie "WALK, DON'T RUN" and, when we reach the stream Dead Run, the similar 50's-era fishing film "MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT". Some miles later I toss in a caveated plug for the crude-but-fun "CRANK 2" in the context of car-battery improvised-defibrillator banter.

There are no bunny or deer sightings, but at one point Kristin scolds me, "Slow down, White Rabbit!", as I trot ahead. Then she takes the lead for a strong mile 7 sprint, which she credits to a quad espresso belatedly kicking in. Back at the start "Team We're Not (Too) Obsessive" does an extra 50 meters to get all GPS readings past 8.5 miles. Kerry stops and just smiles at us. Cooldown walk discussion includes tentative plans for long runs on fall/winter Friday morns. Runkeeper shows data on the trek.

^z - 2014-09-15

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2014-08-25 - Pimmit Hills and McLean Treks

~7 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Two fearless bunnies on Davis St watch Kristin and me during the final mile out-and-back, past zebra grass bundles and a lady carefully pouring mystery liquid onto cracks in her driveway. Rewind to 0535, when I come up the back way and sit in the hall outside Dr K's office, while she awaits me at the top of the regular stairs. We sync up after a few minutes delay, and from the loading dock admire Venus and Jupiter low near a pink horizon before setting out on a loop around campus.

Climbing the driveway-hill I caution, "Look out for that car ahead — we wouldn't want Kerry to run us down on her first day back from vacation!" And, coincidentally, it is Dr Kerry, arriving early to join us. She and her husband Clay had a great time in the Caribbean, scuba diving and enjoying the beaches. We interrogate her during the trot down Anderson Rd and along Pimmit Dr, but happily there are no horror stories this trip. But she does have a thousand messages to deal with in her inbox. Arghhhhh!

As we turn from Route 7 onto Magarity Rd the rising sun reflects off distant buildings and recalls the song "Red Rubber Ball", the chorus and a verse of which I attempt to sing, much to my fellow travelers' amusement. I tell Kristin about Hash House Harriers and some of their naughty-quaint traditions. She recounts a good "Tot Story" or two from the weekend's adventures with her kids. Runkeeper reckons the route.

^z - 2014-09-13

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2014-08-24 - Sligo Creek with Stephanie

~4.8 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

Gentle Sunday morning Sligo Creek ramble with Dr Fonda, returned yesterday from family visit to NY and sadly suffering from lower back pain: we discuss the potential benefits of changing pelvic orientation (I'm confused re "Cat" vs. "Dog" tilt), mindful Taiji upright posture, drugs, shoe-shopping therapy, etc. The standard runner's prescription — "Up Your Mileage!" — is perhaps suboptimal treatment.

At the Silver Spring International Middle School track we join a flock of walkers and trot one lap, saunter halfway around, then run another circuit at Stephanie's insistence. Two buff young men sit on the sidelines facing each other and doing synchronized foot-leg twirls together. I reminisce about scary-limber ladies performing yoga stretches there a few years ago (see 2010-06-19 - Boys of Summer Speedwork and 2010-11-21 - Ten 800m Repeats). Funny what sticks in the mind! Stephanie teaches me how to pronounce one of my favorite words, "lithe".

The Reward (besides delightful conversation): breakfast at the Woodside Deli near Amy Couch's home, where we start and end today's trek. Blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese, potato latka, fine coffee — yay! Stephanie has scrambled eggs with salami, "and 15 pieces of bacon. Food to heal the back...". Data is stored at Runkeeper.

^z - 2014-09-11

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2014-08-22 - Kristin's Georgetown Pike Adventure

~8 miles @ ~12 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Shrubbery_Duck_Cooper_Middle_School_McLean.jpg"Duck!" We climb the hill toward Cooper Middle School and pause to photograph the beaked tree and the low fog blanketing the meadow. It's a lovely hyper-humid morning.

When I get to her office at 0540, Kristin is already mapping out a candidate route for today's trek — and the funny thing is, it's exactly the path I was going to suggest! Instant consensus achieved, off we go. Just above a lavender-pink horizon, Venus and Jupiter line up to point at a fingernail-clip moon. In McLean Central Park two big deer flee at our approach.

"Imagine: in an hour we'll be heading back along this same path," I warn, "so let's take our time now!" In spite of walk breaks and traffic-light pauses we stay ahead of our ~12 min/mi goal pace. Chafing anecdotes and a few seconds of work-related conversation fill in between noticing the music of birds, traffic noise, and airplane rumbles. A beautiful end to the week! Runkeeper and Garmin record the route.

^z - 2014-09-09

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2014-08-20 - Kerry's Loop Backwards

~7 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"Adventure Run!" After Kerry's intro to the Dead Run Stream Valley Trail on Friday, and our exploration of the same route in reverse on Monday, Kristin identifies other connector trails on the map and suggests we try those today.

A last quarter moon emerges from clouds as we set out towards a pink glow on the eastern horizon. From the Churchill Rd crossing of Dead Run we first follow a new trail downstream, but it dead-ends at Ingleside Av and there's no obvious way forward through the brush. Backtrack, then west past a fearless front-yard rabbit to Churchill Road Elementary School, where we do a lap around the miniature track behind the playground. Then meander toward a big tree that's shaped rather like a duck, up the hill to Cooper Middle School near the Beltway and Georgetown Pike where a big bunny flees at our approach.

South along the shoulder of Balls Hill Rd, admiring old stone fa├žades and new mini-mansion construction, stepping aside for commuter cars. Pass Kerry's street and discover a neat nursery with a scarecrow standing amidst rows of blooming flowers. It's Mehr Brothers Flowers at the corner of Balls Hill Rd and Old Dominion Dr.

Return along Old Dominion, with walk breaks to pour water over our heads and admire the sunrise. Stop the GPS's when all exceed 7 miles, then regret that decision as the cooldown walk turns into a sprint down Chain Bridge Road! Runkeeper and Garmin capture the data.

^z - 2014-09-08

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2014-08-18 - Kerry's Loop Extended

~7 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

"Get lost?!" says Doug going into the gym at 0540, when he overhears me telling Dr Kristin that maybe we should try Kerry's Loop backwards, "... if we don't get lost." Does he assume we're clueless, or that we're about to run some vast distance? Unclear.

After admiring the moon peeking through clouds overhead and the first pink glow of dawn, once GPS lock is established off we go. "Notice the crickets chirping!" Kristin admonishes, and "Hear the birds!". We cut through park paths to Hwy 123, pause for morning commuters racing to work, and at McLean Central Park and the Dolley Madison Library pick up the Dead Run trail heading downstream.

At Churchill Rd a spotted fawn, two does, and a two-point buck nibble somebody's front lawn. We pause to photograph the historic marker at the Colonial-era "Bienvenue" house, zig-zag back across 123 and along Chain Bridge Rd, and soon find ourselves at McLean HS track. Kristin insists on "a few" laps, which turn into 4. Then after a bit of meandering in search of a water fountain or unlocked restroom, it's back to our starting point. K spots two rabbits on Davis St in the final mile. She adds a parking lot loop to get all GPS readings safely over 7, including Runkeeper and Garmin.

^z - 2014-09-06

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2014-08-16 - Rock Creek and CCT with Gayatri

~28 miles @ ~12 min/mi

GPS tunnel glitches exaggerate distance and pace. As dawn breaks, walk backwards up the hill from Rock Creek, scanning the eastern horizon for planets. Alas, none seen. At mile ~3.5, approaching Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail, meet up with Sam (Sandra) Yerkes, Jennifer Wieland, and Gayatri Datta beginning their 21 mile loop. Report spying two rabbits already. Jennifer counters with one sighting, plus "another that my cat threw up!"

The cool day spawns flocks of cyclists, runners, inline skaters, and pram-pushers who swarm the path. Sam and Jennifer trot ahead with the blessing of Gayatri and me, since their pace is ~1 min/mi faster than what we can comfortably maintain. Gayatri glimpses them leaving Thompson's Boat Center just as we arrive. Buy a Cherry Pepsi from the vending machine and promptly drop it on the ground, making for a bit of foaminess.

Fill water bottle from the garden hose and walk slowly up the Potomac, while Gayatri waits in line for the ladies' room. At a flat concrete green-and-gray meditative labyrinth set in the ground commence treading the maze, but only get a quarter of the way before Gayatri materializes and we continue running together. At a high horizontal bar pause to stress-test the puny arms. They can only achieve half of a complete pull-up.

After ~23 miles belatedly begin to feel slightly energetic and with Gayatri run faster to get her back to her starting point. The rest of the journey home is good with a final sprint to pull the Garmin average pace estimate down to an integer. OCD? No, some of us prefer to alphabetize the letters and call ourselves CDO. Runkeeper and Garmin track the trek.

^z - 2014-09-04

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2014-08-15 - Introduction to Kerry's Loop

~7.2 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

A rabbit scampers across the parking lot at 0545 as Kristin and I do warm-up loops, admire Venus and Jupiter low in the east, identify Auriga's bright star Capella halfway up, and tip heads back to peer at a third-quarter moon high overhead. Kerry arrives and leads us along beautiful woodsy paths through McLean back yards, winding along small streams and past the community center and library and playgrounds, where her kids first learned to ride their bikes.

We pause at "Benvenue", a colonial farmhouse that was also a Civil War field hospital, and at Starbucks where Kerry insists on buying us coffee. On the way back, we're overtaken by a pack of ~40 McLean High School cross-country runners. Kerry recognizes one of her daughter's friends. The school parking lot is blocked off and marked for marching band practice. Kristin recalls long-ago days as a majorette.

Runkeeper and Garmin record progress.


^z - 2014-09-02

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2014-08-13 - Pimmit Hills and McLean HS

~5.8 miles @ ~10.2 min/mi

Kerry and Amber both leave for family holiday Saturday, so much of today's conversation revolves around vacation readings. Kerry again mentions The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson, which her kids in high school are enjoying; it involves cyborg-human philosophical issues. I put in plugs for P. G. Wodehouse's humor, Liz Williams and Roger Zelazny for literary sf, and the early cyberpunk works of Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, and Neil Stephenson. Amber has recently suggested Winter's Tale and Oryx & Crake, which she offers to lend me. We loop through Pimmit Hills, pause at the office to unlock for colleagues, and then at Kerry's suggestion trot to McLean HS for a lap around the track to jazz up the GPS map. Runkeeper and Garmin capture path and pace.

^z - 2014-08-31

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