"Birds!" Kristin and I notice the twittering as dawn glows pink in the east. Frost makes the McLean High School track slightly slick. We meander down Old Chesterbrook Rd, admiring the architecture, then miss a turn on Linway Terrace and backtrack to escape neighborhood cul-de-sacs. Pause to pet dogs being walked, their eyes retroreflecting green by headlamp light.
The left foot is fine, and the pair of major right-foot blisters from the weekend (2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF)) are ~90% healed after a few days of limping and groaning. But a deep bruise/hotspot in the center of the ball of that foot suggests gently that it might be wise to stop at ~10 km. Kristin continues for bonus solo mileage, while I branch aside to unlock the office door for colleagues. But first, at my request we sprint a final loop around the MITRE complex, just to push the average pace on the GPS down a hair below 12.0 min/mi. OCD? Who, me?
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-25
|Another ^z 100 miler start, another Did Not Finish result! At Umstead State Park in North Carolina on 28-29 March 2015 I withdraw at the end of lap 6, official mile 75, after 20 hours and 21 minutes of fun.|
And it truly is fun! I feel fine mentally, and am not actually too tired. But alas, as at the 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF, big bad blisters end the game.
Ultra-kudos to kind Mary Ewell, who snookers me into entering Umstead, drives me six hours to the race, reintroduces me to her lovely sister Anna (who lives in nearby Chapel Hill, and at whose beautiful home we stay), cheerfully crews for me, helps tape my über-ugly feet, and gently lures me out with her at 10pm on Saturday night to trek a final dozen miles.
Thank you so much, dear Dr Mary. What a wonderful friend!
|Approaching mile 25 I miss a turn on a spur trail, go off course, and find myself approaching the start/finish area from the wrong direction. Oops! Dash back along the dirt path. Locate the branch point where I wasn't paying attention. Award myself a bonus ~0.8 miles when I get to the official checkpoint and run past the chip sensor. And yes, It's All Good!|
Splits for the 12.5 mile Umstead orbits turn out awesomely level-paced and in near-perfect accord with the game plan proposed by experienced 100 miler friends Stephanie Fonda and Marshall Porterfield. They advise me to finish each circuit in ~3 hours during daylight and to aim for ~4.5 hours/lap through the night. As it happens, times for the first four loops are respectively 2:52 + 2:58 + 2:58 + 3:11. It adds up to a mile-50 total of 11:58. Spot on, eh?
At that point, however, the ball of my right foot has developed emergent "hot spots" — troublesome, but not yet crippling. I invest ~10 minutes at the race headquarters cabin in cleaning the foot, piercing incipient blisters with a safety pin from my bib, squeezing out clear liquid, and changing into clean dry socks. Then it's back out for the evening lap. Its elapsed time is 3:42, as the sun sets and walk breaks get longer.
Back again at the start/finish, mile 62.5, I confer with Mary. We return to the cabin and commence another round of safety-pin blister-pricking. Mary gives me moleskin to stick over the bad spots, and we cover that with duct tape from a kind race assistant. I'm skeptical that it will last more than a mile, but can't say "no" to Mary's cajoling. So 20 minutes later, into the night we go ...
|The final round takes 4:39, as Mary walks and I limp. We practice aid station discipline, as I have throughout the day, and only spend a couple of minutes refueling at the midcourse stop.|
At 2:20am we arrive back at race headquarters. I withdraw officially from the event, with the GPS reading 76.9+ miles. It's more than 7 miles farther than I've ever made before, and continues the linear progression established in recent years: 69+ miles at 2014-04-26 - CO Canal 100 Miler DNF, 62+ miles at 2013-10-12 - Tesla-Hertz Run - 100 Miler DNF, and 52+ miles at 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF.
At this rate, by 2020 perhaps I'll score 100, eh?
|Before leaving home on Friday afternoon I draw a Tarot card from the "Dream Enchantress" deck: the Knave of Pentacles. The accompanying commentary says, "Whatever news comes your way right now, do not be misled. Go slowly, taking careful, steady steps. Keep your belongings secure." Excellent advice for any ultramarathon!|
During Umstead I accompany ultra legends Tom Green and James Monroe for parts of the first few dozen miles. Conversation with them (and scores of other fellow travelers) is delightful. I pick up bits of trash and touch trees as I pass, imagining that they give me energy and perhaps are inhabited by comely dryads who appreciate a human contact. Occasionally I try a bit of trail Taiji as I trot along. Orange course-marking cones offer the opportunity for a new sport, "Cone Bopping": generating tones by whacking the opening at their apex. Hey, gotta do something when alone in the woods!
"You are a Hill Climbing Machine!" one racer tells me, as I pass by. "Beard Power!" encourages another.
|The obligatory race evening photo of blisters shows them already receding. Three days later I'm able to run half a dozen miles comfortably around the office neighborhood. Perhaps if I toughen my feet by more long walks? Perhaps if I pre-tape? Perhaps ...|
Other lessons-learned include the value of getting good sleep for a few nights before a long run, the utility of carrying lots of baby-wipes and grease, and the importance of having a supportive companion. During the post-race drive back Mary gently suggests that I might try to eat more protein. Even if most people don't have a major deficit in that department, as a vegetarian who trains fairly hard maybe ~100 g/day or more would be appropriate. Buddies Kristin and Stephanie concur, and Kristin refers me to the vegan "Pure Green" powder, with protein from yellow peas, alfafa, rice, and other plants. Perhaps ...
The GPS trackfile (Runkeeper app on an iPhone 6) shows a total climb of almost 7,000 feet, in close agreement with the official course estimate of ~8k. During the late afternoon I discover that I can speed-walk ~16 min/mi without any need to pick up both feet to run. With just a bit more practice? Perhaps ...
(race-day photos by Hope Squires) - ^z - 2015-04-20
"GARDENERS ONLY" says the sign in Lewinsville Park. After a winter hibernation, Dr David rejoins the Dawn Patrol as we do a brisk exploratory loop through a new neighborhood near Franklin Sherman Elementary School. Mansion-lined streets dead-end at Pimmit Run, however, and force us back out after a mile. Kerry rescues an empty styrofoam cooler that has blown onto Chain Bridge Rd. Kristin points out purple and turquoise and pink tinges in the eastern sky. Robins hop aside as we approach. David tells of his new little farm near Culpepper, where he hopes to grow grapes. The Savageman half-iron triathlon is on his calendar later this year. Perhaps due to his presence, or the cold, our pace is faster than usual.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-18
"5k, eh?" says Cara Marie Manlandro, when the GPS announces that we've just passed mile 4. "I've gotta turn off that speech feature," I reply. "It spoils my sandbagging!" We're out on an impromptu Sunday afternoon trot around the 'hood, when CM finds herself with an hour free between appointments and decides to make the most of it. Her pace is already a minute/mile faster than last week. Watch out!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-17
"Loopy and Knotty!" We assign names to the unknown volunteers who tie blue ribbons on trees to mark the route for today's Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon & 50k. Rebecca Rosenberg and I are sweepers, trekking the middle segment of the course in search of lost or injured runners. None found, so we focus on our other duties: picking up trash and taking down marker ribbons. "Loopy" uses beautiful slip-knot loops that come off with a light tug. "Knotty", on the other hand, makes square knots that have to be picked at or torn apart. We rescue a lawn ornament flamingo left by the trail with an encouraging sign tied around its neck.
And in addition to the fun of trail clean-up, it's simply a beautiful afternoon for a walk/run in the woods. Frogs in bogs croak in chorus. Vultures circle overhead. Conversation covers dialogue-dense movies, upcoming race plans, work and family news, injury avoidance, favorite household phrases, stress management, and a host of other themes. Even occasional thorn bushes and muddy patches are ok. Neither of us slips or trips or falls. Such a great day!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-15
After a tough winter with much preemption by family and work duties, Amber rejoins the Dawn Patrol and — despite dreams of abandonment plus fretfulness about not being in shape — easily hangs with Kristin & Kerry & me as we do a faster-than-average trot around neighborhoods south of the office. The waning crescent moon peeks through clouds as we begin. A meandering route revisits the grizzly bear statue carved from a front yard tree stump. On the W&OD Trail hints of sunrise begin in front of us, and by the last mile the eastern sky is luminous with pinks and lavenders. Then, as if a switch flips on, the world suddenly is full of light!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-13
With Ken Swab and Rebecca Rosenberg it's 14 miles of Sunday morning improv and banter along Rock Creek, from Ken-Gar to Lake Needwood and back. Matthew Henson and the trail named for him leads to discussion of North Pole expeditions and the Chandler Wobble of Earth's axis. "How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?" (The answer depends on breed.) Air travel on antique planes, squirrel-zapping bird feeders, Kenneth Branaugh's version of HENRY V, icy drives home during the blizzard two weeks ago, Tony Bennett's singing testimony at a Congressional hearing, a friend's thrill-packed visit to Topeka Kansas, ... and more! Not to mention mega-puddles on the path, framed by muddy bogs on each side. Plus the usual comparison of injuries. Today's trek is prep for diverse marathons and longer runs in weeks to come. Brisk winds bring shivers when the sun plays peek-a-boo behind clouds.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-11
Sunday afternoon Cara Marie Manlandro and I take a ramble down memory lane. "Recall how you almost puked here?" and "This is that hill we barely made it up on your first 16 mile day!" and "Here's where you first did a sub-8 minute mile." Wind gusts almost blow us off the bridge, and walk breaks are interspersed with too-fast sprints. Great to run with you again, CM!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-11
"Hi, Rebecca!" I shout from the Capital Crescent Trail observation deck on the trestle high above Rock Creek. My eyes aren't good enough to actually recognize the figure 70+ feet below, but sky blue cap and style of stride match mental profile for friend Rebecca Rosenberg. When she stops and swivels her head in search of the mysterious voice, the guess is confirmed. "Look up!" She spots me, we wave wildly, then both go back to running along our perpendicular paths. Small world!
It's Saturday afternoon, the rain has stopped, I'm home after some hours of work, and it's time to stretch the legs and rest the mind. Showers start again after half an hour, just strong enough to wash salty sweat into the eyes. The loop around Kensington and Wheaton includes a pause at an ATM in front of the credit union that, a few years ago, changed its name for some reason from Washington Telephone Federal. WTF?!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-09
Frost on parked car windshields confirms the bank thermometer's 30 degree reading, as we meander down cup-de-sacs and repeatedly miss turns trying to find our way around the Kent Gardens Park neighborhood on the return trek. Both Kerry and Kristin have morning meetings, and both are kind and forgiving when my map-reading skills are tested and found wanting. Therapeutic trail talk, shared gratitude, and a beautiful pink sunrise compensate for a 20% overshoot in distance. Fire trucks blast down the road, lights blinding, sirens deafening. Kerry spots a clementine lodged in a tree. I restrain myself from plucking it; Kristin chuckles.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2015-04-07