After only 65 years the bathroom at Che^z is being remodeled, so I take off work at noon on Tuesday to see if my help is needed. It's not, and when wife and contractor go out to shop for tile and sink and faucets I put camera into plastic sandwich bag and set off for a jog. Torrential rains have caused flooding along Rock Creek where my feet lead me. At Candy Cane playground, inundated a day or two ago, a local TV cameraman is trying to get commentary from two girls who are out walking their dog. I overhear him ask: "Do you come here often?" A Washington Post reporter seeks some color from me: "What do you think about mud?" I fail to come up with a snappy sound bite and miss my chance for fame. Back home two and a half hours later I take a standing sponge bath in the basement at the laundry sink. A chill breeze from the air conditioner duct overhead blows on my carcass. Other adventure runs in recent weeks from the logbook include:
Jeff and Bonnie (recovering from knee surgery) greet me on the way to the sign-up pavillion at this Friday evening's MCRRC-sponsored cross-country 5k. I leave home early but take a "short cut" that leads me roundabout but eventually to Gaithersburg High School. A violent thunderstorm en route gives me hope that turnout will be small, but (alas) more than 200 runners show up. I discover that I've forgotten my #333 bib again. The same kind volunteer with exquisite penmanship who did it a few months ago creates a replacement for me, and advises me to keep it in the glove compartment of the car. Way-No and C-C chat with me, and then friend Ruth appears, in country for only a few days and eager to run. We cruise the course together, pushing the pace a bit but taking walk breaks on hills and as needed. C-C, who ran a mile around the track before the race, trails us by a few yards and likely could have passed us but for pausing to visit with her husband and daughter with half a mile to go. We finish under 33 minutes, and I loop back to jog in with Christina, who is suffering a bit in the humid air. She mentions the need for a water table volunteer in next week's "Run for Roses" 5k (she's the Director), so I offer to help.
For the last half-dozen miles of today's jog, with a copy of friend Ruth's book Witchcraft and the Inquisition in Venice 1550-1650 in hand I feel pretty intellectual. (The 1989 book, based on her thesis, is wrapped in a plastic bag to protect it from sweat.) Weather today is perfect, cool and breezy. I finish my weekly family laundry duty and commence running at 8am, hoping to intercept comrades Ken and/or C-C on Rock Creek Trail. They had planned to leave Ken-Gar at 7am, but since the Nats game went into extra innings I figure Ken (who attended) might be late. So instead of driving the car I trot from home to RCT near the Beltway (about mile 2.3), then turn toward Meadowbrook Stables. No sign of Ken or C-C. I figure they must have changed plans, or started early, or went fast. All three turn out to be true: C-C had to run at 5am closer to her home, and Ken has already passed by on his rapid return journey a few minutes before I reach the trail. (He went to mile marker 2, not 1, and that threw off my spacetime rendezvous calculations.)
:So at about a 10:20 pace I go solo south to milepost 1, then reverse course and am taking a drink at the Cedar Lane fountain when who should materialize but Ruth! (A bit after 8am she drives to Meadowbrook, sees no one there, and leaves for Ken-Gar perhaps 10 minutes before my arrival, where she begins a run southwards. Along the way she meets Ken and chats with him.) I backtrack and accompany Ruth to milepost 4, from which we turn and head for her car. I'm getting tired and walking the hills now, so Ruth and I manage ~11:30/mi with pauses for water and goo consumption. At Ken-Gar Ruth gives me a copy of her book and I head back for home. In spite of walks every quarter mile I continue at ~11:10/mi until the final hills. Z-lectrolyte (my custom tea+lemonade+salts concoction) works wonders, but the upper-back regions of my arms still suffer from their usual mysterious long-run rash.
A jet-black butterfly with small wings and a skinny iridescent blue body flits across the path. Today when I cross Colesville Road (US Highway 29) following the Northwest Branch I choose the eastern bank trail, terra incognita to me. It turns out to be nicely marked with sky-blue blazes, but has enough obscure twists to get me slightly lost more than once. The terrain seems far more interesting than the equestrian trail on the opposite side of the stream, but perhaps that's a function of novelty. In places the foliage is high and the pathway narrow enough to form a tunnel. Tributary streams feature entertainingly tippy rocks or fallen logs to cross on. I see numerous baby squirrels and one large doe, a reminder to beware Lyme-disease-bearing deer ticks. Voices from the far side of the stream lead to fantasies of skinny-dipping wood nymphs; alas, none are seen.
I'm feeling surprisingly good almost two hours into the jog. (I got here from home by Linden Lane and Dale Drive to Colesville, then Sligo Creek Trail, Piney Branch Road, and thence Northwest Branch Trail.) The contrast of birdsong and brook-babbling to traffic and construction noise is extreme. Today's morning is cool but humid. I dip a hand into the creek and wet my neck. My cellphone loses the network in the deep valley, near where I fell into the water a few years ago. Two park service workers have hiked several hundred yards upstream from their truck and, almost underneath the Capital Beltway, wield a chainsaw to remove chunks of a tree trunk that lies across the path. I thank them for their trail maintenance and trot onward. Eventually the eastern route crosses Northwest Branch via a wooden bridge and joins the horse trail to Wheaton Regional Park. From there I follow another equestrian loop south past a park building to the baseball fields, where just short of the three hour mark I suck down a Clif Shot and refill my bottle with water. "Z-lectrolyte" brew has kept me comfy so far, but now I'm getting tired and my walk breaks are longer. Home again, home again, jiggedy jig in 3.7 hours, via Sligo Creek Trail and Forest Glen Road with an unexpectedly fast 10:55 measured SCT mile along the way.
"A chance to meet hundreds of sweaty women for a few seconds each!" is how I describe today's volunteer opportunity. Christina C., race director, needs somebody to set up an aid station at today's "Run for Roses" 5k, and since it's a women-only event this is my way to earn a nice t-shirt. I arrive early at Wheaton Regional Park, meet comrade Ken, return his book (The Perfect Mile), lug some supplies to a pavillion, and then load my car with folding table, water jugs, paper cups, and rake. I pick up a map of the course and drive to Brookside Gardens. After walking and jogging for half a mile I finally figure out that I'm in the wrong parking lot. So it's off to Brookside Conservatory, just down the street, where I configure the water stop and begin filling cups. Carol and Prashat soon appear to help me; they've walked from the starting line. Carol remembers seeing some of my poems in the MCRRC newsletter; I'm embarrassed to admit that I have written ragged-right-margin doggerel.
I crank up the volume on my tape player and music by The Cars booms out ("My Best Friend's Girl", "Just What I Needed", "Let's Go", etc.) for a high-energy sound track to support the passing racers. About 8:15am the first runners blast past, too fast to need a drink with less than a mile to go. Soon thereafter thirsty masses materialize to keep us busy. As the flood slows to a trickle and then stops we're left with only a pint or two of water in the bottom of the cooler and a single cup — that's cutting it a bit close! Prashat and Carol and I police the area and declare our mission accomplished. Back at the start/end area I return the club gear and chat some more with Ken, who has been handing roses to the happy finishers.
Early on I see one baby bunny rabbit every mile, frozen at my approach, but their numbers decline as the morning progresses. At 5:35am I set out from home, via Linden Lane and the Forest Glen Seminary, for Rock Creek Trail where C-C and Ken plan to head southwards from Ken-Gar at 6:30. It's already warm and humid, and when I meet them at the 1 hour mark I've already gone through a whole bottle of Gatorade and have begun sipping the "Dr. Zap" ZelectrolyteFormula that I carry. We proceed back downstream — past a deer, some adult rabbits, and a possum playing dead quite convincingly — to the DC line, at close to or just under 12:00 min/mi pace. A robin's egg lies broken on the trail. I'm carrying some 10x concentrate of my personal sports drink, and it reconstitutes well in a bottle with water from the fountain along the trail. I get quite tired after 2 hours and take increasingly long walk breaks. Back at RCT mile 2.3 I leave Ken & C-C to branch home again. Climbing the hill into Walter Reed Annex I hear a swish-swish sound, which I soon identify as the legs of my totally sweat-soaked shorts brushing past one another; my shirt is saturated now too. The long-promised torrential rains never materialize, alas.
A deluge begins a quarter mile into the run rather than at the end when I really could use a shower. But ten minutes later the rain pauses and I take my camera out of the plastic bag to capture photos of Rock Creek under the Georgetown Branch trestle, where a big tree has fallen and the high waters are brown with silt. Beach Drive in DC is closed to cars but is quite passable, with only occasional puddles. Picnic tables are washed askew into trees and trash cans are toppled, but otherwise the park looks decent enough. There's even running water in the restroom at Picnic Area #10. I proceed south to Military Road, suck down a chocolate Clif Shot, and accelerate for part of the return trip to do the two miles from Bingham Road to the Maryland state line at 11:45 pace. Then I slow to get comfortable again. Girls and horses are training one another at Meadowbrook Stables.