|It's lucky 7/7/07 and we're on a heat-acclimation walk in Sligo Creek Park when Christina spies a fearless young deer munching the bushes by the trail ahead. A nearby dog-walker keeps her pet quiet as we creep toward the buck, his antlers still covered with velvet. I take a photo with my cellphone from a few feet away before he bolts. Notes on other ^z frolics during the past fortnight follow.|
"Let's see how fast we can go this last mile!" I challenge Ken. It's totally unfair, of course, since he's still recovering from a 50k trail run on Saturday. But hey, I did 20+ miles on Sunday, and we've both just finished five brisk ones on the Capital Crescent Trail with Dina, a Congressional-staffer friend of Ken's who is training for her first marathon. Our splits are 10:33 + 10:26 + 10:47 + 10:46 + 11:36, that anomalously slow one including an extra bit of walking and conversation.
The morning begins at 7am in downtown Bethesda, as I exchange cash for baseball tickets that Ken picked up for me to attend today's Washington Nationals game with sons and their friends. Dina and Ken and I then proceed down the bike path to Dalecarlia, with Ken recounting his serious of falls during the Finger Lakes Fifties. We're feeling good at the turnaround in spite of what I think is a rather fast pace. There's a track meet coming up in two days, however, so when we see CCT milepost 4.5 and have one to go, I decide to blow some rust off the old legs. Thighs and calves feel surprisingly comfortable, as but my lungs are the limiting factor as I soon get severely "out of puff". Or maybe my mind just isn't ready to rumble? I open a good gap in front of Ken and, in spite of slowing down for the last half, finish ~40 seconds ahead of him. We circle back together to welcome Dina, who continues in at her steady-fast pace. My final mile time startles me a bit when I look at my watch and see 8:21. Maybe there's hope for me to break 8 minutes on Friday night after all!
"This is my first track meet ever!" I tell the wife of race director Dan Lawson. She's sitting next to me on a bench near the starting line, and asks me what my goal time is. I confess 7:30ish. "But the miles are a lot longer now than they were when I was young!" Comrade Caren is running in spite of her plantar fasciitis; her husband Walter is here too, for his first race. I cheer them both, and applaud Christina while recording her lap splits for her later analysis.
Then it's my turn. I plan to keep a constant pace, but after rounding the first turn and finding myself in dead last place I throw aside the script and try to at least pass a few laggards. The resulting quarter-mile splits are a slightly suboptimal 1:44 + 1:51 + 1:53 + 1:50. Add on several seconds for starting far behind the line and my official result is 7:23, rather faster than expected. Wayne runs in the same heat as me but more than 30 seconds quicker. After the race he admits, "OK, I'm a sandbagger!" He kindly offers to coach me if I'm serious about attacking the Seven Minute Barrier. I promise to think about it.
Two miles into my Sunday morning Bethesda circuit I pass a couple when they pause at the Rock Creek Trail water fountain on Springhouse Road. Half a mile later they blast past, and I foolishly accelerate to follow. "How far are you going today?" I ask. "Three more to go, for about twelve total," the man replies. They're returning to Ken-Gar where they began. Half a mile later I hazard a guess as to their pace. "No, more like 9:15 to 9:30," the lady tells me. Wow! As soon as I hear that, I have to take a walk break, and soon they're out of sight.
It's already warm, which is good for my training. But my average pace of ~10:30 for the first few miles (including the time I'm drafting that pair) makes me slow to ~12 or worse for the final leg home along the Capital Crescent Trail. On the way couple of cyclists riding fancy bikes come through the tunnel under Wisconsin Ave. behind me but stop abruptly. "It's gravel!" they whine. "Aw, it's not bad gravel," I console them, "and a two miles ahead you can branch onto Rock Creek Trail." I jog onward as they pause to debate their route and consult their maps, and ten minutes later zip by. "We took your advice!" one tells me en passant.
At home I weigh myself — and discover that even though I drank more than two pounds of water, my net change is a loss of two pounds due to sweating. "More hydration!", as Christina advised me during a three-mile walk yesterday afternoon.
An agency of the local government is doing a transportation survey, and today is my family's day to keep a log of all our journeys. So when I get home from work in the evening, I've gotta go out to put something odd into the diary! Besides that, the weather is unseasonably cool and dry, an opportunity not to be missed. I follow Dale Dr. ~2.5 miles to the Silver Spring International Middle School (formerly Blair High School) and find the old asphalt track there clotted with walkers, perambulators, bicyclists, and soccer players chasing balls that escape from infield practice kicks.
With two-minute walk-and-drink breaks between each 400m circuit, my splits are 2:05 + 1:57 + 1:59 + 1:56. A woman about my age is trotting along at a comparable pace, and after we both are forced to change lanes to evade a slow, wobbly young cyclist I observe to her, "Usually the bikes pass us!" After the fourth lap I head for home via Sligo Creek Trail, pausing at the tennis court drinking fountain to refill my bottle and soak my head.
Like a string of oases in the desert, the public park water fountains of Kensington, Wheaton, and Silver Spring decorate today's too-hot run and make it, just barely, survivable. I start out feeling strong and telling myself that mid-day heat and humidity will add a little challenge to the journey. After half an hour, though, when I've sipped from the Rock Creek Trail fountain on Old Springhouse Rd. and still feel weak, my expectations start to slip. The dry, broken old tap by the tennis court in Kensington Cabin Park further saps my spirits. After cautiously crossing the railroad tracks I find a new fountain, thank goodness, in the little park on St. Paul St. south of Plyers Mill. But there's no water source to be seen at Kensington Heights Park where I turn to follow University Blvd. eastwards.
A chorus of "Dee, Dee, Dee, Dehydration!" starts to run through my fevered brain, to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" when I pass the Giant grocery store and other shops of downtown Wheaton. I'm walking almost as much as running now, trying to stay in what patches of shade to be found along the sidewalk. Then hooray! — the drinking fountain at Wheaton Forest Park is working today. It lets me refill my now-empty bottle, wash down a 4x sodium energy gel, and wet my head, to the amusement of picnickers enjoying a summer barbecue nearby. Once I turn onto Sligo Creek Trail I begin to recover and can jog a bit more. At Sligo Dennis Avenue Park the rec center water flows smoothly, as do my final 2+ miles home.