At last, it's time to try the Frankentoe! How does it perform, and what's the effect of multiple months of inactivity on the rest of the old ^z carcass? Logbook entries of the past few weeks are alternately promising and discouraging; there's clearly a long trail yet ahead ...
(2005 June 17) - 4 miles, 52 minutes — Irresistibly wonderful weather, so I take off an hour early from work and stress The Toe for the first time since my 30 March 2005 freak accident and 11 April TornToeTendonRepair surgery. Alas, two months off and 15 extra pounds of fat don't portend a PR: the initial two-thirds of the journey is pleasant enough, but then all systems crash. A measured middle mile along Rock Creek Trail (2.25-1.25) comes in at 10:59. The trek home, however, is at a hyper-lethargic ~15 minutes/mile pace with lots of walking and only intermittent jogging. A huge black swallowtail butterfly, almost as large as my hand, flutters across my path as I descend through the shadows of Walter Reed Annex's forest path. Good news: when I get home and inspect the Frankentoe it appears to be only slightly swollen and bruised ...
(June 19) - 5+ miles, 68 minutes — Clusters of tiny white butterflies and cyclists appear and disappear along the Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Trails. A crowd watches a soccer game at Ray's Meadow. The weather is warm and humid, far better than it will be later this summer, almost comfortable when the breeze picks up. I set off at noon, upper legs (esp. quadriceps) still quite stiff from Friday's four miles. The Toe is only slightly sore. I alternate a minute of walking and a minute of jogging, yielding a midcourse measured pace (Marathon in the Parks miles 24-23-22) of ~12:30 ... and major exhaustion as I return home.
(June 21) - 4+ miles, 52 minutes — I drink an entire 32 oz. bottle of Gatorade while jogging the Forest Glen/Rock Creek/Capital Crescent loop. It's a little warm and humid in the early evening, an hour before sunset, and I'm sweating it all out as I go. Ratio 80% jogging 20% walking for the first half, pace ~11:15 on a measured mile, but then I slow to a feeble 50-50 = ~13:15 min/mi. North of East-West Hwy a soccer game is underway on the big field, while softball is played near the water fountain. I see the pitcher lob a slow one that goes behind the batter; she looks at it scornfully. For the next attempt he tosses a ball that bounces on its way to the plate. Four tiny tykes, each with his own soccer ball, race about kicking and missing their targets. The bridge over Rock Creek near RCT mile 2.3 (MitP 22.3) shimmies as I cross it — have its foundations eroded away?
(June 24) - 4 miles, 50 minutes — A big 16-day-old moon hangs low in the southwest as I set out at 5:10am, hoping to beat the heat (if not the humidity). The twilight is bright enough already to see the way, but not to read my watch, and under the trees of Walter Reed Annex and along Rock Creek it's rather murky. I hear a few twigs crackle but spy no deer. Alternating walk/run minutes feels all right, but when I shortchange myself to gild the middle mile (10:52) I have to pay back the missed walking time with interest. A two-foot-thick blanket of fog covers Ray's Meadow. During the trek home a robin disses me by walking, not flying, across my path. The final mile finishes me in 13:05. My MCRRC blue-and-orange singlet must have shrunk—I can think of no other explanation for my exposed midriff bulge.
(June 30) - 4+ miles, 53 minutes — Dateline Amherst MA — As it has been for the past five days, at 7am the humidity is oppressive and the sun is veiled by thick clouds. But at least it's slightly cooler than it will be later. I jog from the motel to the local high school track and do "speed" work: six half-mile trots with half-lap walk breaks between them, during which I sip gatorade and try to catch my breath. My 880s average 4:50. Two-plus months of inactivity have slowed my pace by two-plus minutes/mile. (Does that relationship hold in the opposite direction? Can two-plus months of lackadaisical training get me back to the ~5 hour marathon zone? I doubt it! The "Yasso 880" theory holds that one can train for an X-hour marathon by doing X-minute 880s. Alas, that seems to be grossly over-optimistic in my case.)
(July 1) - 5+ miles, 68 minutes — From the University Lodge I trot southwards through three blocks of "downtown", then past Amherst College to join the NorwottuckRailTrail, where my feet turn west. Water from recent heavy rains puddles stagnant by the paved path. The golf course on the left is quiet, but construction work on my right hand is announced through echoing hammer blows and power-saw buzz, punctuated by pneumatic nail-gun pops. The weather is mercifully less humid than earlier this week, but the air remains warm and still. As I approach the turnaround point I spy a dozen big black cows grazing in a sunny pasture. Hampshire Mall appears ahead; Paulette and I watched War of the Worlds on Wednesday at a multiplex there (tolerable acting and decent special effects, marred by severe illogic and plot holes big enough to march an army of aliens through).
Timed midcourse miles, marker posts 3 to 4 to 3, are 11:32 and 12:20 respectively, a minute or two slower than last year (NorwottuckRailTrail2004) or the year before. Somehow the trail is uphill in both directions; I take generous walk breaks. Then it's back via a side branch to Snell Street, where a huge mottled-brown rabbit freezes, hoping for invisibility, until I get within four feet of it. University Avenue leads past strip malls, assisted-living "communities", and dental offices to the edge of the U. Mass. campus, where I turn onto Dana Rd. and climb with much walking back to central Amherst, arriving as the Town Hall steeple clock bongs 8am. And thence to the motel.
(July 3) - 5+ miles, 65 minutes — Our last morning in Amherst dawns cool and clear. My plan is to do a "long" "run", aka slow jog, of perhaps 7 miles ... but during the first few minutes I receive a sign that something's not quite right: my lower legs hurt, especially around the ankles which feel somehow unstable. Alternate minutes of walking and running maintain a comfortably steady pace. But at the half-hour point the joints are still not solid, so I decide to turn back. My path today is southeast along the NorwottuckRailTrail, with measured middle miles (markers #2 - #1 - #2) of 12:22 and 12:31. I hoot and listen to the echoes in the tunnel under South Pleasant Street. In separate encounters two small bunny rabbits and a wayward house cat scamper away as I approach the Amherst College tennis courts. A big yellow sign at the trail entrance mocks me with one word: Slow. I take it personally.
(July 5) - 5 miles, 69 minutes — Embarrassingly slow morning jaunt to Rock Creek Trail (Mormon Temple area water fountain), then south to East-West Hwy and home via Georgetown Branch Trail; middle mile (MitP #22) 11:21 ... whereupon real exhaustion sets in and I have to walk a fair fraction of the way home, final mile 13:26 ... some left ankle pain, but mostly just heat & humidity & general wimpiness ... afterwards a big glass of iced Gatorade helps a little. One bright red cardinal seen at Rock Creek crossing, and several neighbors say "Hi!" at start and finish ...