"You go ahead — I've got your back!" Kristin kindly offers, as we pick our way along the faint path. In the gloom just before dawn it's a Scotts Run adventure run, on a rough trail between the Capital Beltway and the stream near West Langley. We wade through sand beneath the overpass and emerge at what seems to be a dead-end of thorn bushes. Brilliant graffiti on the underside of the I-495 implies a local route to civilization, perhaps via a water crossing that we can't find in the darkness? Backtrack time!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-12-01
"And here we are again!" Kristin notes, as our meandering path takes us once more to Kent Gardens Elementary School. The dawn is beautiful today, the air is crisp, the frost glitters on parked cars, and the run is brisk and smooth and easy. It brings to mind some words of Holley Mangold, superheavyweight Olympic lifter: "It's like peace, there's no struggle. That's what we're all searching for, that feeling of weightlessness." (see That Feeling of Weightlessness) We discover a new little greenspace, Bryn Mawr Park, and a new cut-through path in the McLean Manor neighborhood. Five high contrails decorate the sky. "Let's run up the hill to that pickup truck!" Kristin says, and sprints ahead.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-29
|"Cheese burn — Ow!"|
Molten cheddar leaks onto fingers at the mile 27 aid station from fresh-off-the-camp-stove grilled cheese sandwiches. "First time I've had that injury during a trail run!"
|Today's Stone Mill 50 miler is fun and tough, a new Personal Worst — though after adjusting for age, weight, lack of talent, recent illness, injuries in unmentionable places, and a unique combination of under training and overtraining maybe it's really a world record result?|
|The longer the run, the nicer the people are. Stone Mill is no exception. Taking an early start, 45 minutes ahead of the official time, allows almost everybody else ample opportunity to overtake and greet, including kind trail friends Adeline Ntam, Mike Edwards, and Stephanie Fonda. Aid station volunteers are über-helpful.|
|The woods are beautiful, the hills are steep, the air is brisk, the leaves are thick, and in spite of a few stumbles there are no falls. Most water crossings are low enough to make it safely across on stepping-stones or with short leaps.|
|The Stone Mill course includes a four-mile segment on the flat C&O Canal towpath alongside the lovely Potomac River, between the mouths of Muddy Branch and Seneca Creek. It's smooth and nearly level, a chance to make good time if one so desires.|
Walking most of the final 20 miles brings to mind thoughts shared by Gary Dudney in a 2004 essay, wherein he quotes Dave Olney: "Instead of feeling like I had to run, run, run and feeling guilty every time I was reduced to a walk, I assumed an almost Taoist state of calm. I realized that I could walk the hundred miles at a good clip, and whenever I felt like running I could put a little extra time in the bank."
Likewise today, mental math suggests that a brisk stroll will make it under the cutoffs (thanks to the aforementioned 45 minute head start). All is well. It's a blessing, being able to ramble through the forest alone, enjoying a quiet autumn day, thinking about life and peace and love and mindfulness.
|The midpoint of the course is a fine place to pause, comb out the beard, and ask a friendly fellow runner to take a photo.|
As Amy Pope Fitzgerald says , "... ultras allow you to do something that's awesome, but you do it at your own pace." After a low spell for a few miles when feet get wet at a stream crossing, the day is an ultra-happy one in spite of ultra-slowness.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-26
"And what kind of loop is this going to be?" Beth wonders, as the GPS passes 2.5 miles and we're still outbound on a "4 to 5 mile" ramble. "Maybe the curvature of the Earth will get us back?" I speculate. We agree to blame Kristin for the overrun this time. Venus and Jupiter glitter bright at the start, with Mars faint between them, dawn's glow strengthening on the horizon, and airplane lights crawling sporadically above the trees. Coughing triggers groin muscle twinges, not a great portent for tomorrow's Stone Mill 50 miler.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-24
|"Mark, get your ass up that hill!" Quattro Hubbard admonishes as he catches up after starting an hour behind me. Today's Potomac Heritage 50k is a lovely walk (with a wee bit of running) in the woods. Dr Kerry pulls me along for the first dozen miles, but wisely passes the torch at the Chain Bridge aid station after a bad step on slippery leaf-covered rocks injures her left calf muscle.|
|Amy Couch takes over for the next dozen miles, to the American Legion Bridge and back. With both kind friends the conversations are splendid and wide-ranging — everything from ontology to trail-running strategy, with digressions to reminisce about past races and share thoughts on life. We take detours for photos at a house where Kerry lived decades ago and for Amy to pose inside a lone stone chimney standing by the Potomac River.|
|Pacing is perfect, good enough to achieve the honor of DFL and excellent preparation for the upcoming Stone Mill race. To make the cutoffs there will either require more speed or fewer selfie pauses. Hmmmmmm...|
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-22
|Walkabout morning! — a fun meander near RFK Stadium in DC with DD Gray!|
The "4.01k Race for Retirement" is sponsored by Prudential Insurance Company to raise awareness of long-term financial planning (and potentially sell annuities and other products). Originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago, it was delayed when Hurricane Joaquin threatened the area. Today there's intermittent light drizzle, but nothing serious. Gray and I speed-walk the course with a few thousand others, and get some nice swag including commemorative shirts. The "Holy Crepes" food truck provides a sweet recovery snack afterwards.
Before the 4.01 km trek we stand in line at a small pavilion where local artists draw caricatures. Mine is by Dan Ginter of Baltimore, who does an amazing job in just a few minutes. (click on the image for a larger higher-resolution version)
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-20
"Maybe your crotch problem?" suggests Mary, rather indelicately, to explain my sub-par performance at the 5k race a couple of days ago. "Oops, I meant to say 'groin' or 'hip adductor'." But no matter — we've done 50 milers together, we're trail friends, we can say anything!
Today Mary's coach prescribes four repeated intervals of 9 minutes running + 1 minute recovery. We execute to perfection along the W&OD Trail in Reston on a Sunday afternoon, averaging ~12.5 min/mi pace for 40 minutes. Cars stop politely and cyclists give warning as they swoop past. Conversation as always is thoughtful and frank.
And afterwards: a shopping expedition to Trader Joe's for wine and chocolate and kefir!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-18
"Choice!" is the mantra of the day, as philosophical conversation about self-actualization, running, love, and life dominate the agenda. So much better to choose for oneself and find worth, instead of having one's value dependent on other people or external events. (OK, the Stoics said that a few thousand years ago; doesn't make it wrong!)
Frost rimes the tops of cars as we set out, Jupiter aligned with Mars, brilliant Venus dominating both. Stephanie lets me hold the leash for Louis ze French Bulldog in his walkabout. Two does dash across our path, and a few miles later an 8-point buck, then another with an equally handsome rack. (And then there's typical banter about front-mount hydration pack flexible bottles — no comment!) We walk the hills and keep the pace near the ~13 min/mi goal. Hip adductors are slightly achy, much less troublesome than during 3 October's trek on almost the same route. Every cough, however, twinges the old pulled groin muscle. Perhaps, as Coach Fonda suggests, rest and recovery would be wise to try some day? (But there are races coming up soon!)
We round Lake Needwood at sun rise with pauses to take photos of the fog. I help Stephanie tear open a packet of "Generation UCAN" complex carbohydrate endurance-fuel drink mix but make the mistake of blowing into it and get a blast of fine white powder in my face — oops! Trail talk brings to mind the movie Fight Club and the line, "After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down." We agree that running is precisely the opposite: it cranks up the volume, of joy and self-awareness.
The GPS inadvertently pauses and omits ~0.7 miles during the return trip. Quotes from Henry V lead to a mini-tutorial on naughty Shakespearean slang. At Strathmore we fist-bump and part ways, Dr Fonda to do another 10+ miles along Rock Creek. What an awesome day to share with a friend!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-16
"Best costume? But I'm not, uh, ..."! At the MITRE/McLean Halloween 5k-ish fun run I win a door-prize pumpkin and a weird whirling-orange-flashlight-thingie toy. The course is the same as it was for the 2015-05-20 - MITRE McLean 5k-ish Run, about 15% long and a bit hilly. In spite of near-optimal cool weather the result is sadly slower by about 45 seconds/mile. Excuses abound: bad sniffles, bad hip flexors, bad groin strain, marathon five days ago, etc. But no matter, it's all good and 6th place among a dozen or so participants isn't shabby, behind a young woman dressed as a unicorn and a Count Dracula running in his socks.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-14
"What do they teach in this elementary school?" I ask, when Tiara Chapel and Dr Beth point out a pool table by the dumpster. It's a dark damp dawn, and we've just picked our way gingerly across the leafy-slippery Pimmit Run bridge to Lemon Road Park. A rabbit peers at us with demonic retroreflecting eyes in the light of our headlamps. Tiara has just finished the Marine Corps Marathon, her first, and is stretching her legs. A few front lawn Halloween tableaux are still lit, but the giant tree-stump grizzly bear statue stands quietly undecorated. Forecast rain pauses long enough for us to finish the loop, and thankfully nobody falls down on the wet sidewalks.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-11-12