"I think you mean 'Dr. WHOM'!?" says the Grammar Dalek t-shirt that Rebecca points out on a passing walker. We're trekking along Rock Creek Trail, chatting about training, life, race course route mismanagement, and how tough summer humidity is sometimes. I meander around the 'hood solo for a mile until RR arrives to pull me along at ~10.5 min/mi, a hasty pace to get her back in time for family visits later this morning. She tries to teach me the names of various comrades we meet along the way; I try to practice saying "Thank you!" instead of arguing with someone who compliments me.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-24
|"DFL!" The honor of finishing Dead, uh, Last at the the Maryland H.E.A.T. = "High Endurance Adventure Test" 50k trail run is mine: 54th place of 54 finishers, in 9 hours 44 minutes. (Two 50 km runners drop out; 21 declare victory with 25k after one lap.) Best of all: I win my age group! Can you guess how many finishers were over 60 years old?|
It's a great day for a trek in the woods, across streams, over boulders, and up hillsides, solo and with new friends. Near Baltimore in the Patapsco Valley State Park the H.E.A.T. race meanders along trails in the Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove Area. At 0535 comrade Matt Bevan and I salute Race Director Nick Yeates and set off to check course markings before the official event begins at 7am. Matt carries a big roll of pink ribbon; I bear bright orange plastic plates and paper signs decorated with big black arrows. Orion and a last quarter Moon stand high in the sky. The grass is heavy with dew, relative humidity ~90%. Temperatures start in the 70s and rise to the low 90s as the sun rises. A startled frog hops off the path in front of us. A deer stares at us from the brush. Owls call and freight train whistles blow.
|Matt knows the course well and leads the way, wielding a tree branch to brush away cobwebs. Course markings are quite good, with minimal need for additional ribbons and none for supplemental signage. The Gun Road bridge takes us over the Patapsco, and then the Grist Mill path leads us to the Vineyard Spring Trail, uphill to a four-way crossing where the course loops around segments of the Soapstone Trail, Bull Run Trail, and Bike Jumper Trail. Back at the crossroads we follow Santee Branch Trail for a couple of miles, past the ballfield where Aid Station #1 will be set up later this morning. The Charcoal Trail and then Sawmill Branch Trail takes us down steeply back to near the river. A scary scramble over big boulders then leads to the most technical climb of the course, up Buzzards Rock Trail. Thick trees block most of the view from the scenic overlook this time of year. Matt discusses the evolutionary biology of omnivorism, running speeds of various species, effects of aging on training and heat tolerance, the benefits of racewalking, and a flock of other fun technical topics.|
|Then the oddly-named Drugs Trail takes us back to the train tracks. Fast runners begin to pass by, dancing down the rocks. After a super-steep dirt chute we reach the paved Grist Mill hiker-biker path and thence a swaying pedestrian suspension bridge over the Patapsco. Aid Station #2 is ready here at mile 8. Matt and I refuel, thank the volunteers, and begin a series of climbs with switchbacks. The Cascade Falls Trail brings us past a nice little waterfall and then to the Ridge Trail, which eventually rises again via the Morning Choice Trail and Belmont Trail to Aid Station #3. Trails on private land outside the park boundaries, with traffic noise from I-95 highway as accompaniment, take us to the Rockburn Trail and the river once more. Now "The Wall" looms. But recent flooding has cut its height in half on the upstream side, where silt is piled six feet deep. A scramble up, a traverse, a crawl down, and a few hundred yards later we're back where we began five hours ago. Hooray! Matt's odyssey is done for the day.|
I turn in surplus signs, visit the clean latrine (running water, yay!), and start loop #2. In daylight, everything looks different. After a pause to post progress on Facebook and snap selfies at the tunnel under the B&O Railroad's "Old Main Line" (OML) it's time to climb. Here for the first time I meet Kerry Shepherd, a cheerful-lovely lady from Frederick Maryland. She races ahead, I catch up and pass her, she takes the lead again, and for a while we lose sight of each other. A ham radio operator, tracking contestants at the four way intersection, asks for my bib number. "N6WX!" I tell him. It's my Amateur Radio callsign.
|Aid Station #1 is closing down now, with all of the 25k club and most of the 50k gang long gone. Kerry and I pick our way over rocks along the stream at mile 22; I lead up Buzzards Rock. After a slippery-steep descent I pause for more selfies by the train tracks at the historic Ilchester Tunnel, described in . More photos at the swinging suspension bridge, more fuel at mile 24 Aid Station #2. Kerry slows a bit now and accepts my offer of a mocha-caffeine energy gel. We play leap-frog in slo-mo as we ascend. Then Kerry's friends David Miller and Rachel Ridgeway join us. Fun conversation follows: we've done many of the same races together, and these folks all know the Catoctin Trail well. We concur that the H.E.A.T. course is perhaps half an hour easier than the Catoctin 50k and significantly harder than Rosaryville, but the three races are all equally charming and well-managed. David did the Cat Run this year and finished ~15 minutes ahead of me, slowed significantly by hot conditions. Today Rachel enjoyed the first 25k of H.E.A.T., took a break, then jogged a few miles upstream on the River Road to join David and Kerry and run the final 8 miles with them. "So you're doing a 40k!" I tell her.|
|At Aid Station #3 who should greet me but Lucas Moten, buddy from Janet Choi's "Ran It With Janet 50k"? After posing for photos with "Wilson", a soccer ball painted like the famous character in the film "Castaway", and recovering with fresh food and drink, it's time: Excelsior! Friendly Karin Smith of Baltimore chats and runs with me; she claims DFL among 25k-ers. At "The Wall" I find a shorter route over and trot ahead to finish. A happy fist-bump from official timer Leah Kauffman and we're done! RD Nick Yeates introduces me to his young son, who identifies me as Santa Claus. Three vegan black bean burgers, a mountain of homemade quinoa salad, a cold Diet Coke, a school bus ride back to the parking lot, and then home.|
A great day, with rocks, hills, heat, and humidity adding to the challenge of distance and the delights of beautiful scenery!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-22
"Lot of good eating on a mouse!" Kristin says, as a bird with rodent in beak swoops across the street ahead of us. "But not so good for the mouse!" Cait responds. After we finish a gloomy lap at the high school track dawn brightens into a luminous peachy pink. Opalocka Drive beckons, mainly because of the sound of its name. We ponder what the color-word might be to describe the green-blue paint job of a house with glass vases on front window display — teal, perhaps, or viridian. But what's in a name, anyway? It matches the hue of Caitlin's childhood home!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-20
"Bunny!" calls Kristin, as she leads Caitlin and me along Lewinsville Road and spies a front-yard rabbit. Low humidity today offers a chance to loop past the building where Cait currently is stationed. Kristin and I feel deja vu as memories resurface of the 2016-03-07 - Ancient Moon and Baby Park trek through the same neighborhood. The sun rises and glints off mirror glass of Tysons Corner office buildings. Cait shares stories of friendly intra-family college rivalries: bulldogs vs. an alliance of huskies and turtles!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-18
"I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri!" Barry and I quote dialogue from Dr Strangelove and critique that film versus various versions of Fail Safe as we run in Rock Creek Park on a hyper-humid Sunday morning. The final movement of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 finishes on the radio just before we begin, and continues echoing inside the brain. Barry recommends Krista Tippet's "On Being", an NPR podcast; its latest episode is titled "Running as Spiritual Practice". We compare notes on Rio Olympic events, discuss how divergent the Facebook feeds are that each of us sees, marvel at semi-scandalous social media sharing, and review upcoming race plans.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-16
"Whoa — we're twins!" Six miles into the run I belatedly note that fresh-out-of-the-box Brooks "Cascadia" trail shoes, on my feet for the first time this morning, are a perfect match for John Hord's shiny new kicks. Likewise both of us are fans of the Boston Red Sox, share a common circle of ultra-nice ultrarunning friends, have enjoyed the FORTH programming language and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and suffer from a similar self-deprecating style of humor. (Ignore the fact that one of the dynamic duo is younger, faster, handsomer, stronger, has finished multiple 100 milers, and plays lead guitar for Sparklebot!)
This morning's trek begins in gloom just after 6am. One stumble, on a stone near mile 3, scrapes a knee. High waters of Rock Creek rumble far below as we climb the hills of the Valley Trail. It's John's home turf, a loop he knows by heart and has run many times in total darkness. We step aside for fast young runners, pause for selfies at a sign, and return via the Western Ridge Trail. Conversation covers training tactics, blisters, long-term race plans, punk and grunge music, love and friendship, nutrition, and philosophy. A dapple gray mare watches us from an equitation ring.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-14
"And with that color arrangement, from a distance it looked SO WRONG!" Cait is describing an unfortunate choice of hues for a high school boys swim team, with lower-body garments too close to typical skin tones. We share anecdotes of winter running clothes, chill body parts, unconventional hat or hand-warmer placement, chafing complaints, and other slightly delicate topics. An orange sunrise portends a hot and humid day.
Kristin leads us to the W&OD Trail, where cyclist-commuters politely swoop by. We experiment with hydraulic pressure coupling between dog-water tap and human-drink dispenser at the Route 7 water fountain. Across the street from Lincoln Park, at the convergence of Great Falls St + Dorchester Rd + Oak Haven Drive, an eye-catching lawn decoration is accompanied by flags honoring Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, and perhaps other military services.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-12
"I don't know what you don't know!" says Kristin, metacognitively, as we set off toward a pastel sunrise. How do spiders build webs across pathways? Obvious to some of us, less so to others!
Cait is done with jury duty and joins in a short-and-soggy trot through trendy Lewinsville communities. We reminisce about high school gym coaches (shot and discus were two of her events), express awe at Olympic decathlon competitors, and successfully avoid falling on cut-throughs and irregular sidewalks. Cooldown conversation turns to the amazing way most kids learn language from few examples — and how adroit they are in picking up curse words from peer and parent usage. Samuel L. Jackson's performance of "Go the F*@# to Sleep!" is mentioned, in lieu of Chomskyan generative linguistic theory. Likewise reading practice, rhyming games, and how wise parents handle inadvertent results: "Out of the mouths of babes!"
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-10
"Mom, I need more training," Kristin's six-year-old daughter tells her, as they watch the Olympic women's 400m race. "When can we go to the track?" Perfect reaction!
Sunrise scatters off pastel pink clouds on a warm and humid morn. We set off not knowing where to go, just thrilled to be out in mindful-friendly company. Kristin recalls a ramble involving an out-of-place car and Christmas lights, which a quick logbook check identifies as 2015-12-21 - Sunrise Survey. So we reenact the route, then extend it to Lemon Road School. At a lawn sprinkler I stop to soak my head. That didn't happen eight months ago with temperatures near freezing!
Trail talk includes how to give feedback on less-than-professional clothing ("You are stretching the envelope for others, but you're also imposing barriers on yourself.") and the sometimes-happy results of frank-and-open exchanges. Sharp-eyed Dr K spies two rabbits and one front-yard deer.
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-08
"No need to apologize — that was a German burp!" Dr Amber forgives me. In her household, following Teutonic tradition, it's polite to express one's enjoyment of a meal by audible belching. To insult the cook one can label an eructation as "American".
Temperatures rise from upper 70s to low 90s during this morning's "Price Benowitz Summer Georgetown 10 Miler", and high humidity makes the wheels fall off in the second half. Of 121 starters only 85 finish. But it's still great fun to run through difficulties with a friend!
Amber and I park on Water Street under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown and make our way to packet pickup, where I recognize Bob Platt who's managing the timing and awards today. Comrade Dr Beth greets us, and I apologize when I discover that yesterday she served as a course marshal, totally unrecognized by me, at the 2016-08-13 - MCRRC Comus Run 5k XC Race. (Prosopagnosia, anyone?)
We set off too fast, as usual, with mile splits by the GPS = 8:59 + 9:09 + 9:14 + 9:48 + 10:00 + 10:08 + 9:54 + 11:10 + 11:42 + 10:49. But it turns out ok. Many thanks to kind Beth for cold Gatorade at the finish line!
Official results: Gun Time 1:42:16, overall place 25th of 85 finishers, among males 18th of 35 — and DFL of all males over age 60. And that's also first place in my age/sex group - yay!
(trackfile) - ^z - 2016-09-06