Adam Safir writes ( on 22 Jun 2004) about the magical moments that sometimes come when one goes on a run through nature, free and easy and joyful. Adam overhears a Grateful Dead song with the lyric, "If I was a headlight, on a north-bound train, I'd shine my light through the cool, Colorado rain." He reports:

I smiled, thinking about how for years I thought that line of "I Know You Rider" was "...I'd shine my light through the cool color right-on rain."

Now I know better, and thankfully still sometimes see the cool color right-on rain, in the woods and on the trails, shafts of afternoon sunlight bouncing off the watery beads of a sudden and unexpected shower, the whole forest seeming to shimmer with a raindrop reflection of silver and green.

Occasionally that "cool color right-on rain" blesses even a plodder like me. During the past fortnight of pedestrian adventures, for example:

W&OD Lunch Break

(16 Nov 2004) - 5+ miles, 52 minutes --- a noontime jog along the W&OD Rail Trail of northern Virginia, in weather sunny and about 60 F. I proceed from mileposts 16.5 to 18.5 and back, plus pre- and post-distance to my car. Progress is surprisingly fast for me, with a 10:30 pace for the first half and a breathtaking 9:30 on the return trip.

I change clothes in the restroom, blot my head dry with paper towels, wring out my beard, and return to class only a few minutes late ...

Maryland Mega-Orbit

(20 Nov) - 22+ miles, 266 minutes --- a new experimental ramble from home, looping around the University of Maryland campus (College Park) and back, on a cloudy, somewhat humid morning. I try to go slowly, but measured miles for the first half average a sub-11:00 pace. After 3 hours I start to get tired and take advantage of hills to justify more guilt-free walking. The overall average speed comes to ~12 min/mi.

Two 20 oz. jugs of putrid-green Gatorade, hand-held, make for good hydration in spite of my notorious propensity to sweat like a donkey in a sauna. Before setting out I chug another bottle of Gatorade in preparation, and along the way I consume a Clif Bar. I buy a Mountain Dew from a soda machine in the Clarice Smith Center at UM where I also refill one empty bottle with tap water. The weather is comfortably warm except during a few minutes of rain, from which I get brief chills (perhaps also related to the cold 'Dew I'm carrying at that point).

Circa mile 17 on Northwest Branch near Riggs Road there are scary-bright orange signs declaring the trail closed for "bridge repair" --- but I persevere and have no trouble tip-toeing across a tributary stream and picking my way around some scaffolding in the tunnel under Piney Branch Road. There are a goodly number of lady joggers, a couple of cyclists, multiple pram-pushers, occasional pedestrians along the various trails, and countless fallen leaves which make many of the bridges slightly scary-slippery.

(route details: from home via Forest Glen to Holy Cross Hospital and Sligo Creek Trail (~1.5 mi.); south along SCT to its end at Northwest Branch Trail (~6+ mi.); down NWBT to its beginning at Northeast Branch Trail (2+ mi.); up NEBT to its end at Paint Branch Trail (3+ mi.); up PBT to the University of Maryland (1.5 mi.); across the UM campus past the football stadium to the Clarice Smith Center, then west along University Blvd. to Northwest Branch Trail near milepost 4.5 (2+ mi.); upstream on NWBT to New Hampshire & Piney Branch (~1.5 mi.); via Piney Branch to Sligo Creek Trail (~1.5 mi.); via SCT to Wayne to Dale to Linden to home (~2.5 mi.))

Dazzling Headlights

(22 Nov) - 8+ miles, 87 minutes --- a nighttime jog along the Paint Branch Trail (PBT) near the University of Maryland campus in College Park. Yesterday I got a triple-LED strap-on headlamp, and so this evening I have to try it out. The temperature is 50-ish, with intermittent drizzle. I random-walk from the parking lot on the western side of campus, past the football stadium and the basketball arena, seeking an entry to the PBT. It takes me almost half an hour since I get slightly disoriented and, for a while, develop huge glowing afterimage-like blobs in my visual field (see OcularMigraines) that interfere with night vision. But I slow down and the iridescent amoebas go away, so eventually I find the path to the trail near milepost 1.5.

My five measured miles on the PBT average ~10:10 pace, fast for me but comfortable since the weather is so pleasant. I spy 10 (ten!) rabbits during the run, and hear a few more scurrying away. There are only a handful of other folks on the trail, walkers who return my "Good evening!" greetings.

The headlamp teaches me a quick lesson in the inverse-fourth-power radar law: every time I reach up to adjust it or to rub my nose, my gloves reflect a blindingly bright glare. Likewise, droplets of rain appear suddenly in front of me as they streak through the beam, like cloud-chamber tracks. My breath condenses into momentary fog with every exhalation. The triangle of glowing light-emitting diodes on my forehead make me look like a small, slow UFO to oncoming traffic.

Turtle Turkey

(25 Nov) - 14+ miles, 154 minutes --- It's too warm for me at the start (~60F and ~90% humidity at 9:30am) so in spite of intermittent drizzle and breezes I bare my chest to the elements at mile 3 as I cross the DC boundary and enter Rock Creek Park. A couple of hours later a front passes, bringing gusty 20-30 mile/hour north winds plus a few minutes of chill rain that stings pellet-like as it strikes my face. The temperature plummets ~5 degrees and the humidity starts to drop as well.

The trees are mostly denuded now: crimson-umber leaves swirl in intermittent vortices across the road. As I exit the District (ca. mile 11) I put my shirt back on, so as not to terrify the citizens of Maryland. My pace is a fairly steady 10:30, with the fastest measured mile of 9:44 in the middle of the journey.

(route: from home via Georgetown Branch Trail to Rock Creek Trail, then downstream along Beach Drive to Broad Branch Road, where I reverse course and return to Chez ^z about noon.)

Misty Gray Afternoon

(27 Nov) - 10 miles, 109 minutes --- A trace of cold drizzle drifts down, faint as a harpsichord playing behind a brass band. The weather is cool, ~50 F with light winds. Maybe I'm trying to go a little too fast, or too far, or too soon; I feel slightly weak for much of today's trip. Attempts during walk breaks to do vague TaiChiRunning gestures don't seem to help much. Maybe it was unwise to get up at 4:30am to do the family laundry for the week ... but nonetheless, the journey along Rock Creek Trail is a fun one. I greet a variety of baby-carriage-pushers and their cargo.

Average pace: ~10:40 for six measured miles (posts 3 to 6 and back). Litter picked up: 2 Clif Shots and 2 GU packets, possibly detritus overlooked after the Marathon in the Parks a few weeks ago.

Night Rumblings to Bethesda and Back

(30 Nov) - 8 miles, 90 minutes --- It's damp and dark along the Georgetown Branch Trail, 7:30-9:00pm, cool (50F) with intermittent drizzle. Jogging is comfortable, a little too warm with a hat on but just right without. The new headlamp works well: high beam illuminates the inkier parts of the route, and at major road crossings I can set it to flashing mode in hopes of alerting cars. Street signs and license plates retroreflect with great drama. At one point I think I see a distant pair of eyes glowing and winking at me, but as I approach they transmute into distant street lights, flickering behind the intervening tree branches.

A head-mounted lamp does introduce one non-obvious difficulty: it produces almost no visible shadows, since the beam source is so close to the eyes. So puddles and irregularities in the trail surface are often hard to spy. Fortunately I only slip once, on a metal plate in a traffic island in downtown Bethesda.

Beginning at mile 6 I hear distant rumblings --- apparently thunder, but of a strange variety that sounds at first like strings of firecrackers being set off, then develops into a pop-pop-pop resembling a remote ammo dump explosion. Bizarre atmospherics. My average pace is slightly slower than 11 minutes/mile.

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2004-12-02

(correlates: RemembranceDay, Spectrum of Deceit, 2007-09-17 - Artemesia Dusk, ...)