Fallen Angel

At 6:45am the full moon floats like a balloon between traffic lights over Clopper Road. Caren is ahead of me, waiting in a church parking lot that she found during reconnaissance yesterday with her daughters. Seneca Creek State Park is closed to cars at this hour, but we want to get some mileage in along the Greenway Trail before today's road race. I cruise by and almost miss the turn, but Caren sees me and flashes her headlights. I park and we prepare to run. Temperatures are in the teens, but we strip off excess layers in anticipation of exercise-generated heat. We walk downhill through the tiny original section of the St. Rose of Lima Cemetery, where some graves date back more than a century and a half. Caren spies a stone angel, toppled from its base, and carefully sets it upright.

Further notes on that jogging experience and other pedestrian adventures of the past fortnight follow ...

2007-11-24 - Seneca Creek Odyssey and MCRRC Turkey Burnoff

8+ miles @ ~15 min/mi & 10 miles @ 12.4 min/mi

From the cemetery Caren Jew and I continue to the highway, and as the sun rises we pause for a gap in traffic, cross, and enter Seneca Creek State Park. Caren leads me down an orange-blazed path from the Visitors Center to the Greenway Trail. Downstream we trot, chatting about everything and nothing, admiring the scenery, marveling at how warm we feel in spite of the frigid morning air. Soon we're climbing back up from the creek, passing the side trail to the Chickadee picnic area and crossing the main park road where we'll be racing in a few hours. Caren points out a family of deer moving through the woods. As we enter the underpass beneath Great Seneca Highway a great Great Blue Heron glides by above the stream.

We cross Riffle Ford Road and marvel at the absence of the water pumping station that was here last year. A mile downstream I check my watch and see that we've been on the trail for an hour; it's time to turn back. We look around and find no landmarks, so at my suggestion we climb the hillside and enter an open meadow. Near 39.132N 77.282W we take photos of each other, including one of the best images I've ever snared: "HuntingSeason", Caren standing en déhanchement as she examines a frozen plant.

That's when a mysterious voice asks us to move along so he can shoot some deer. Yes, Sir! We scramble downslope to the trail and retrace our path to our cars.

Now the park is officially open, so we drive in and register for the race. Caren has to go home early and opts for the 5 miler; I'm planning to try 10 with comrade Christina Caravoulias. I lose my cellphone and can't find it under the blanket of autumn leaves. Helpful Chris calls it half a dozen times for me, however, and soon someone locates it and turns it in to Race Director Lyman Jordan.

Caren has her MCRRC number pinned on her leg, for convenience in changing upper garments. An official complains that it's hard to read there. Caren expresses concern to me. "No, don't move it," I advise. "This is America — you can do whatever you want. Write the number on your middle finger and show it to them when you finish!" Caren doesn't go that far — but she stops worrying and enjoys the run. She's far ahead of me at the finish line and since it's well away from the midpoint cone of the 10 miler this year we don't get to see one another for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile Christina and I are trotting along at a steady pace of ~12 min/mi for our first five miles, a great recovery run for me after the Don Quixote 55k Run 2007 a week ago. Chris's training is mainly focused on strength and speed in shorter races, so today she declares walk breaks of 1 minute every 5. That yields a pace that works quite well for us both. We decelerate to ~13 min/mi for most of the second half, chat, cheer other runners nearby, and enjoy ourselves. I take a couple of photos with my newly-recovered cellphone as we pass Clopper Lake. My official time is 2:04:10, dead last in my age/sex group. It's a fine day!

(correlates: 2008-08-02 - Catoctin 50k, JanuaryQuips, LyricalHook, ...)

2007-11-28 - Northwest Branch Tempo Run and Hill Work

5+ miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

"The track is closed, Sir; there's a men's soccer game today," the UM staffer tells me as I approach the gate of Ludwig Field where Kehoe Track is located. He's wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, but my attempt to flatter him with "Go Boston!" doesn't work. I've already lost four quarters feeding the parking meter in hopes of some speedwork, but today I have to look for my fun elsewhere.

So west on University Blvd I go, to Adelphi Manor Park where on 12 Sep 2007 I had a good jog along Northwest Branch Trail. (cf. "Oakview Hill Work" in Phone It In) Today I'm about 1 min/mi faster than I was then. Perhaps some of the training is having a small effect, or maybe it's the few pounds I've attempted to trim off, or the cooler weather? For whatever reason I'm able to maintain a sub-10 min/mi pace on the flats, and even after the steep gravel hill climb to Oakview Dr at the midpoint I manage a final sub-9 blitz. I've forgotten to wear a wristwatch this morning, so I time myself using the cellphone and counting seconds until I see the minute flip over. Later I learn that my phone has a built-in stopwatch function. Next time!

(correlates: 2007-09-12 - Oakview Hill Work, 2008-09-11 - NWB Hill Work, UnimaginableTimelessness, ...)

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2007-12-01 - MCRRC Frozen Slopes 6k XC

~3.75 miles @ ~10.4 min/mi

Master sandbaggers Ken and Wayne greet me before today's club race on a new course around Lake Bernard Frank. Christina and Robin and I walked it a week ago, so I know what to expect: hills! The Meadowside Nature Center features some exceptionally cute babes today. I take cellphone pix of two, Kent and Anita's children Michael and Andy, while I admire Anita's new Nikon D40x camera. Kent is racing; Anita is the photographer.

Wayne is playing a deep double-sandbag gambit: he tells me that he feels great today and plans to run fast, knowing that I will disbelieve him, and thus will be even more suprised when he blasts away from me. (I wonder how much he is really keeping in reserve?) Ken takes it easy, recovering from his JFK 50 miler and other running in recent weeks. We jog together and banter for the first half mile; then I take the lead during a hill climb. At the aid station I pause to tie my shoe, then trot on across the dam that forms the southern end of the lake. Wayne blasts past as I approach the turnaround; he's already at least a minute ahead, and goes on to finish at an overall sub-10 min/mi average pace.

Ken is not far back of me when I see him after I make the turnaround. I slow a bit and have to walk some hills in the second half, but keep pushing and finish in 39:51 for — drum roll please — 6th out of 7 in my age/sex group, at an average 10:42 min/mi. I lie down on the ground near the finish line to catch my breath. Wayne observes, "For someone as pitifully slow as you are, you did pretty well today." Thanks, buddy!

(correlates: TruckNumber, 2007-01-01 - New Year's Resolution 5k, FourPiFeedback, ...)

2007-12-02 - PHT plus C-and-O Loop

~9 miles @ ~14 min/mi

My phone rings at 8:30am as I'm driving across Chain Bridge over the Potomac River; I fumble and drop it on the floor. A few seconds later I pull into the Glebe Rd/41st St N parking lot and see Mary Ewell, early and wondering where I am. We leave her car and I drive us down the GW Parkway to Teddy Roosevelt Island where the Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT) begins. It's a chilly ~40°F with 5-10 mi/hr winds as a cold front approaches. Leaves cover the rocks and roots along the trail. Today's mission: get Mary's mojo back after the super-tough JFK 50 miler she ran last month!

On 27 Oct during the Potomac Heritage 50k 2007 I experienced this segment of the PHT and found it heavy going. Today the waters of the streams we must cross are lower and the ground is less muddy, but the leaves are just as slippery and the terrain is still rugged. But with Mary's company the distance goes by comfortably, and even the terrifying climb up the shear rock face at mile ~3.8 is not quite as daunting. Before we begin I warn Mary about the cliffs of insanity there, and she doesn't tease or laugh (too much) at my wimpishness. After ~4 miles and ~1:24, including time to powder our respective noses a few times along the way, we're back at Mary's car.

We refuel and cross Chain Bridge to the C&O Canal. A Great Blue Heron glides within a few feet of us beneath the Arizona Ave trestle. At Fletchers Boathouse we detour to view the tunnel under Canal Road that I found so frightening during the PHT50k; today it looks far milder. After ~26 minutes we're at C&O milepost 3. I remind Mary that she's been here before — only 55-80 miles up the river during the JFK and our training runs (cf. JFK 2007 Preparation and Don Quixote 55k Run 2007). Today we both feel stronger, and on the board-flat towpath I challenge Mary to some speedwork. Our next mile is 11:25, but after that we slow to 13-14 min/mi pace as the wind rises and a chill drizzle begins. After spying another Great Blue Heron perched on a Georgetown wall we cross the Potomac on the Key Bridge and are back to my car after a total time of 2:25 for the 9+ mile circuit.

Mary fishes for sympathy by continuously bemoaning her slowness — I tease her back, reminding her of her recent JFK and today's brisk 11:25 mile. Both of us are chilled at the end of the run and, independently, get a case of the shivers in our respective cars on the way home. Both of us recover via hot showers. Apparently the body needs help to shift from running-metabolism to resting-metabolism.

(correlates: WikiGonzalez, SecondLargestInvestment, SeeingStars0, ...)

2007-12-07 - Lake Artemesia Orbits

~15 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

A few inches of snow is melted and refrozen into icy patches along Paint Branch Trail (PBT) but most of the asphalt is clear. After an 16-hour fast for a cholesterol blood test (which turns out ok, thank goodness) I snarf down a Clif Bar and a can of Cherry Coke, drive the kids to the University of Maryland, and set off a little before 10am. My original thought was to do some speedwork around Kehoe Track, but the gates are locked.

So Paint Branch to Lake Artemesia it is. Temperatures are in the low 30's and intermittent light sleet or drizzle patters down — near-perfect weather for someone whose engine runs as hot as mine. At the end of the first measured PBT mile (markers 1.5 to 0.5) my watch says 10:40, which seems too fast to me but feels strangely comfortable.

Three big geese lumber into the air and fly overhead, honking their welcome as I go under the train tracks and enter Lake Artemesia Natural Area. At first I have the place all to myself except for hundreds of ducks, squirrels, sparrows, wrens, and unseen wildlife. The ice is slippery along the windward southern edge of the park but the rest of the pathway is clear. I jog around to the start/finish of the 1.35 mile Lake Loop. Without any walking I still feel good when I reach the 1 mile mark painted on the pavement, so I take a split and do it again. And again. And again.

A frigid flock of birdwatchers arrive and then flit away. On a hot and humid 12 May 2007 expedition I did three laps around Lake Artemesia (cf. "My Goose is Cooked" in TrailImprovement) and suffered. Today seems effortless in contrast, as the miles flow by at a consistent 10:33 + 10:28 + 10:30 + 10:28 + 10:29 + 10:35 + 10:28. I think about stopping after six loops when my left hip begins to ache a bit, but except for twinges in the left metatarsal area I'm still feeling solid, so I press onward to nine.

A heavily-bundled lady jogger with a big bouncy blonde ponytail appears and vanishes. Real, or illusion? My mental math says that every orbit is about 4/3rds of a mile, so I want to do a multiple of three including entry/exit laps. And there are ~1.5 miles each way between where I left the car and the Lake. A young Asian fellow begins to circle the lake clockwise, and I nod at him him twice per revolution as we pass in opposite orbits. Green line Metro trains rattle by on the elevated tracks.

Cold crows scold me from a scrawny tree as I accelerate for a final Artemesia mile in 10:12. Overall average pace around the Lake Loop today, including 0.35 mile fractionals, comes to 10:28 min/mi. Amazingly fast for me, but it's cold, the course is nearly flat, and I'm been trying to lose some weight (I'm probably in the low-160s zone now) — all of which conspire to help make it my day. Too bad it's not a race!

After ~2 hours I've used up both bottles of ZelectrolyteFormula that I carry and it's definitely time to head back. The return trip on the Paint Branch Trail gives a mile time (between markers 0.5 and 1.5) of 10:26. And not one walk break today — wow!

(correlates: DetectiveWork, TakeTime, GoodDay, ...)

(cf. PiedBeauty (27 Aug 2007), Phone It In (21 Sep 2007), GunpowderKegFatAss2007 (24 Sep 2007), MatherGorge (9 Oct 2007), JFK 2007 Preparation (26 Oct 2007), Potomac Heritage 50k 2007 (4 Nov 2007), GrapevineRun (12 Nov 2007), Don Quixote 55k Run 2007 (22 Nov 2007), HuntingSeason (30 Nov 2007), ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRecreation - 2007-12-08

(correlates: 2008-09-11 - NWB Hill Work, 2008-08-21 - Wye Island, Deadfall Day, ...)