At the first race of the year the Montgomery County Road Runners Club assigns bib numbers to runners. I arrive early and there's nobody else waiting, so the nice volunteer at the desk lets me pick. For 2006, I'm # 333 — suggesting a nom de trail of "Half Beast", as Comrade C-C dubs me. Pilgrim ^z's progress log during the past month consists of only 7 noteworthy expeditions for a total of ~60 miles.

2005-12-11 - Jingle Bell Jog

~5 miles @ ~10:30 min/mi

After I spend two weeks coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and otherwise suffering from a bad cold — and not attempting one step of jogging — today's 8k MCRRC race is amazingly comfortable. Comrade Ken Swab and I arrive early and visit with fellow runner-friends. Temperatures are near freezing, ideal weather from my perspective. We set a steady back-of-the-pack pace, walking for one minute every mile or so, which leaves enough reserve energy to sprint up the final hill. I have a coughing fit about once every 10 minutes. As usual, a few yards from the finish line Ken and I get into an argument over who has precedence; if not for that we might have come in slightly under 52 minutes. After the race everybody who stays around wins some cool loot in the Club year-end drawing. Ken's birthday is tomorrow and he takes home a great windbreaker. I snag a Rock Creek Park Marathon technical shirt.

2005-12-17 - Icy Patches

16+ miles @ ~12:30 min/mi

^z's DC/MD Urban Loop East: from home through Walter Reed Annex to Rock Creek Trail, south on Beach Drive to the Rock Creek Park Police Headquarters, east on Military Road/Missouri Ave/Riggs Road to Sligo Creek Trail near East-West Highway, northwest along Sligo under the Capital Beltway, and then home again via Forest Glen Road. It sounds complex but it's actually quite a nice route with a pleasant mix of city and woodsy scenery. The people I greet are uniformly friendly; one lady suggests that I'm Santa Claus in training for Christmas delivery work. Along the way I pick up three gloves and a small cap from among the bus-stop litter.

At noon as I set out the weather is comfortably crisp, sunny and in the mid-40's, but as the afternoon and the miles go by clouds move in and temperatures dip. Ice blankets occasional trail segments, but I tread carefully and avoid a fall. The first six miles flow by at a sub-12:00 pace and a 2:1::jog:walk ratio, but then I start to flag. About mile 12 I'm feeling seriously tired, probably due to mild dehydration, loss of salt, and low blood sugar. There are no water fountains in DC or PG County, seemingly, and today I'm too cheap to stop at a gas station or pharmacy or liquor store to buy a drink. I carry a pint of Gatorade mix in a hand-held bottle, but one sip every quarter hour isn't sufficient. So two hours into the jog I take a Succeed! electrolyte capsule and start sucking on a hard sugar candy that I've had in my pouch since last February's marathon. That seems to help, though I still must cut my pace to about 13:00 minutes/mile (1:1::jog:walk). As the three-hour mark approaches I'm entirely out of water but have reached familiar terrain near my home neighborhood. I start feeling chipper again and trot most of the final miles home.

ScottReiss, musician and family friend, suffered from depression and died by his own hand last Wednesday. I thought of him frequently during today's run, especially on the icy patches.

2005-12-24 - Recce Run

11+ miles @ ~11:45 min/mi

On Saturday morning Comrade Ruth and I meet at the Greenbelt Youth Center and preview the George Washington's Birthday Marathon by doing one major loop around the course. Temperatures are near-freezing as we start but soon warm into the lower-40's. Both Ruth and I carry newish GPS units and have a good time messing with them en route. We first walk to the finish line and take latitude-longitude coordinates there, then stroll to the starting line and do likewise.

Then we're off, chatting as we jog about a variety of themes with the main focus on past running experiences. Our first few miles flow by too quickly, but soon we increase the frequency of walk breaks and settle in to a more sustainable pace. Our splits for the first nine miles are 11:05, 10:57, 12:21, 11:29, 11:13, 11:48, 11:29, 12:02, and 13:12 — that final slow segment including some significantly rising terrain along Powder Mill Road. I take waypoints at each course marker: start 1 2 turnaround 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 finish

Shots at a nearby target range intermittently disturb the peace, as do cars that zip past and force us to the shoulder of the road. Hundreds of geese feed on an open field in the agricultural research center. I get too warm and doff my outer windshirt, exposing a Boston baseball jersey that perhaps provokes at least one passer-by to honk, though whether s/he's pro or con the Red Sox remains uncertain. Ruth and I each swallow a "Succeed!" electrolyte capsule at the one-hour point, and neither of us suffer from any leg cramps. At the end of our first lap sanity prevails and we decide not to attempt a second.

Ruth is sharp-eyed: along the way she spies a shiny-steel 1/2-inch wrench, a brightly-plumed but recently-deceased woodpecker, and a fine-quality sewn-leather glove. We pick up two out of three — guess which two! (^_^)

2005-12-26 - Winter Wardrobe

14+ miles @ ~11:20 min/mi

Inspired by sunlight glistening on bare tree branches in Rock Creek Park, I compose a haiku as I jog this morning (cf. Winter Wardrobe). After yesterday's rains the temperature settles into the mid-40s but feels much cooler with intermittent wind gusts of up to 30 mph. I dither before setting out and eventually decide to leave my camera and GPS behind — probably a wise choice, since I have enough trouble as it is juggling my bottle of Gatorade when I take items out of my fanny pack.

My intention is to do a ~15 mile Northwestern DC Loop — southbound on Rock Creek Trail and Beach Drive to the Park Police Hqs., westerly on Military/Western/River Roads, and then homewards via the Capital Crescent Trail — but I turn the wrong way as I leave my neighborhood and belatedly discover that by taking the Georgetown Branch I've cut off a mile from the course. That inadvertent shortcut turns out for the best, however, as a blister begins to develop on the bottom of my right foot after a dozen miles. Earlier in the journey my legs start to get chafed from a seam on my shorts. I consider experimenting with wearing the shorts inside-out, or perhaps backwards, but refrain since I'm next to busy River Road in Bethesda. So I run bowlegged and eventually the cold air numbs my inner thighs.

My pace is as brisk as the weather. The first five measured miles flow past at ~11:15 min/mi. At the one-hour mark I take an S! electrolyte cap. I slow a bit on the DC sidewalks and at occasional traffic lights. But when I arrive at the CCT with five miles to go I'm energized by three hard candies and a Clif Shot. I finish with splits of 10:33, 11:57, 10:06, 11:55, and 11:35 for an average again of ~11:15. It is not a coincidence that lady runners pass me during both of the sub-11 minute miles.

2005-12-28 - Cabin John Trail (South)

5+ miles @ 14:30 min/mi

The pace might seem torpid, but Ruth and I find the hills of Cabin John Stream Valley Park challenging, to put it politely. At 2:30pm we meet at Cabin John Local Park, just off Macarthur Blvd. near the high one-lane bridge over Cabin John Parkway. I dither but finally decide to leave my camera behind, a wise choice given the stressful path ahead. We descend dizzying stairs from the playground to the creek and I take the lead, proceeding upstream at much too fast a rate for the first mile. Then reality ushers in some extended walk breaks, particularly as we climb the steep slopes.

I turn an ankle once, and Ruth gets a wet foot at a tributary crossing, but we fortunately avoid slip-sliding on the muddy leaf-covered inclines, and likewise manage not to trip over roots or rocks. Ruth's GPS concurs with the county map [1] on the 2.6 mile distance to River Road, where we turn around after 36 minutes. During the return journey, led mostly by Ruth, we discover a couple of trail segments that we had missed in our outbound trip and follow them, so our route is slightly longer. We see few other people on the trail until near the end, when we find a crew of quiet paintball-warriors apparently making preparations for battle.

At the final climb Ruth and I stare at the cascade of stairs and ask, "What would Evan do?" We concur that neither of us is Evan, however, so we don't leap gazelle-like to the finish line. The hill work along the way is ample. When I get home I retire the fluorescent-pink nylon shorts I was wearing. They've served honorably in my first several marathons, but now the inside elastic lining is shot and they have a tendency to, shall we say, induce discomfort ...

2006-01-01 - New Year's Resolution 5k

3+ miles @ 8:55 min/mi

A New Year brings a new MCRRC low-key club road race. A few hundred people show up on Sunday morning to run, and since I haven't done anything for the past three days I "let myself go" and discover that, happily, I'm only ~1 minute/mile slower than I was a year ago.

The competition begins and ends at a spiffy fitness club with mirrored walls and ranks of high-tech exercise machines, most of functionality incomprehensible to me. Pre-event chats include Way-No (wearing a hard boot to protect his stress-fractured foot), Ruth (suffering from still-unexplained internal mid-body pains), C-C (recovering from a cracked shinbone two months back, and from exercise-induced uticaria two days ago), and me (nursing the ankle I twisted on the trail Wednesday). Luckily we don't run for the physical health benefits — we do it to improve our minds, eh?! (^_^)

Ruth and C-C introduce me to Gayatri, who plans to run the Mumbai Marathon in two weeks. After today's 5k we talk about Bollywood movies, and my feeble knowledge seems to impress her (I mention Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, and Shah Rukh Khan — analogous to having heard of Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and John Wayne). When Gayatri says that the Mumbai race will probably take place at ~90°F temperatures I insist on giving her four Succeed! electrolyte capsules to carry halfway around the globe, in case of need.

As for today's race itself, I'm surprised at how smoothly it for me goes in spite of poor pacing. I cross the starting line ~10 seconds after the metaphorical gun and proceed to clip the first mile in 8:39, the second in a more sustainable 8:52, and the third at an embarrassing 9:17 including an ignonimous walk up one hill. I finish behind 79 men and 39 women, 11th of 18 in my age/sex group — alas, no top-ten points for me today. But the ankle feels all right, Ruth sets a Personal Record for the distance, and C-C finishes smartly and with good form in her first race after a multi-month hiatus. Good news for all!

2006-01-02 - Mount Vernon Trail

5+ miles @ 10:30 min/mi

A little after 8am on this Monday holiday Comrade Evan and I rendezvous in downtown Alexandria and point our toes south toward the Mount Vernon Trail. The miles commence to flow by far faster than I expect. Could the near-freezing weather, the sporadic light rain, the pleasant natural scenery, and the excellent conversation be conspiring to speed me along? Or has yesterday's blitz 5k recalibrated my legs' default turnover? For whatever reason we find ourselves at MVT milepost 8 after roughly 10 minutes. Then markers 7 and 6 swim into our ken after a brisk 10:45 and 10:25 respectively. I capture GPS coordinates for the landmarks; see the map with clickable pushpins at DC Metro Area Trails.

Shortly after post #6 I turn back. Speedy young Evan continues south, to blast out and back an extra pair of sub-8s. Without witnesses I do a solo mile in a startling-for-me 9:30. Astounded by that readout I start taking longer walk breaks. As my hands become overheated an unmentionable part of the male anatomy now starts to feel frostbite. I take my gloves off and attempt to stuff them into my shorts for added insulation, but the gloves fall through to the trail whenever I try to run again. Alas, there's far too much traffic on the George Washington Parkway and on the MVT itself for me to do anything other than suffer, or risk arrest for public indecency. Wary of Commonwealth of Virginia law enforcement, I choose to suffer.

After finishing my fifth mile in 10:55 I commence an extended cooldown stroll until Evan rematerializes and pushes me back up to speed for a final sprint to our cars. There we part ways, as I drive along the southwestern border of Alexandria and locate six more DcBoundaryStones — markers placed at one-mile intervals during the 1791-92 survey which established the Federal City. See my Google map of the stones, with clickable thumbnail photos and GPS coordinates.

(cf. September2005JogLog (30 Sep 2005), GoldenTrump (16 Oct 2005), LateOctober2005JogLog (30 Oct 2005), ThreeMooseketeers (1 Dec 2005)...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2006-01-04

(correlates: MovieReview, LightMind, 2005-11-03 - PBT at Night, ...)