2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009

31+ miles @ ~15 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/PHT_50k_2009_Pimmit_Run.jpg"Wait, let me squat down to make it look deeper," I tell Doug Sullivan as he takes a photo of me crossing Pimmit Run about 24 miles into the Potomac Heritage 50k. The past day's rains have raised the waters to flood stage. The torrent rises to mid-thigh as I continue. My foot slips between two rocks and I fall forward, dipping my beard into the water as I catch myself on both hands. Oopsies!

(photo by Doug Sullivan) |

"Damn—I just broke a nail!" Karen Donohue exclaims to no one in particular at mile 14 of the Potomac Heritage 50k trail run.

"Sounds like you should drop now," I jest. Karen and friends move ahead of me early in the race, but I catch up with them near Ft. Marcy, after a challenging crossing of Pimmit Run.

Today is a delightful day for trail running. Heavy overnight rains lift streams with waters that rush like shoppers to a sale. Morning drizzle lubricates the autumn leaves, orange and red and yellow and brown, that blanket rocks and conceal roots. My three-year-old cellphone, already erratic after I sweat-soak it during the Marine Corps Marathon last week, is thoroughly hosed. Late in the race after the sun appears I take the phone out of its plastic bag and run with it open, in an attempt to dry it. By turning it off, removing and replacing the battery, blowing on it, etc., I manage to text-message Twitter and Facebook updates.

In other equipment news, a new Nathan vest/backpack "hydration system" works wonderfully—many thanks to friend Caren Jew for recommending it. It comfortably holds ample energy gels, candy, electrolyte capsules, and other supplies. With the weight on my back my hands are free to maintain balance and avoid (most) falls. Plenty of water lets me blitz through aid stations, only pausing to snag a few cookies. My shoes (Brooks Cascadia) and socks (thick Thorlos) do a fine job even when soaked, as do the old-new Nike shorts that I found in a thrift store (with $11 in the inner pocket—woot!).

I meet a flock of fine people during the race. Cindy Cohen, president of the Prince George's Road Runners Club, chats with me at the back of the pack for the first few miles. James Moore helps several of us get back on course as we figure out the tricky path approaching the first aid station in Battery-Kemble Park. I grab-and-go there, and for the next segment find my way alone through the woods. After I scramble through the scary culvert under Canal Road and clamber over the fence to Fletcher's Boathouse suddenly Anstr Davidson appears; he's waiting for friends whom I estimate are a few minutes behind me now.

At the second aid station near Theodore Roosevelt Island I catch up with Roc Myers who runs with me for a spell. Roc and I met at the Andiamo 44.5 mile race, where he was stricken with the 'flu and couldn't finish. He came back strong a fortnight later to do the Marine Corps Marathon. After the next aid station I meet Doug Sullivan who is enjoying the day and pausing to take pictures. I volunteer to snap a few of him, using his camera, at various landmarks when we find ourselves together. Approaching the mile 17 Turkey Run aid station tireless Carolyn Gernand is crusing along. She took an early start to avoid cutoff worries. I thank her for being Race Director of the Andiamo and make her promise to lead me along the Massanutten Mountain Trail some time soon.

Various aid stations offer humorous challenges that runners can perform to earn time subtractions from their race result. I try and fail to hula-hoop, try and fail to throw lawn darts into a target ring, and don't even try to do push-ups or dare a bite of mystery-meat (Spam?). "Sorry," I declare, "I'm a vegetarian!"

Before my face-first fall into Pimmit Run, near mile 19 I slip on wet rocks fording Dead Run and tumble backwards. Fortunately the PHT 50k is a "Fat Ass" race, and my ample qualifications in that department help cushion the impact. During my second visit to the Chain Bridge aid station I see ever-cheerful Gary Knipling and mug with him for Doug's camera. Gary has achilles tendon issues today and sensibly is finishing his race early.

The final half-dozen miles for me are solo, with considerable walking of hills and sporadic pauses to figure out where the course has gone and why I'm not on it. I manage to avoid major mistakes until the final stretch, when I overshoot Woodley Road and continue on for a few blocks of bonus distance on 29th Street. Local pedestrians direct me back to the finish line; I only lose a couple of minutes.

I sign myself out at 7 hours 45 minutes on the honor-system log sheet, ~40 minutes faster than in 2007. I feel fine, but later in the evening when I try to sit cross-legged on the bed I get a sudden twinge in the left metatarsal bones behind the lesser toes. Probably nothing serious, but when it recurs on Monday morning during a walk to the Metro I take the excellent advice of good running friends and go in to the doctor to have it looked at. The pains don't recur, and nothing shows on x-ray: apparently it's simply bruising or bone misalignment, not a stress fracture. Whew!

Timing Information

location miles 2009 time split 2007 time split
Aid Station #1 - Battery-Kemble Park, DC ~4.71:061:061:011:01
Aid Station #2 - Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot ~8.61:540:481:520:51
Aid Station #3 - Chain Bridge ~12.53:031:093:041:12
Aid Station #4 - Turkey Run Park ~17.04:091:064:191:15
American Legion Bridge (turnaround)~18.54:390:304:450:26
Aid Station #4 - Turkey Run (returning)~20.05:100:315:130:28
Aid Station #3 - Chain Bridge (returning)~24.56:141:046:321:19
Finish - Woodley Park, DC (Kerry Owens's home)~31.17:451:318:271:55

Kudos to the race organizers and volunteers!

(cf. official results and Potomac Heritage 50k 2007 (2007-11-04), ...) - ^z - 2009-11-05

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