JFK 2007 Preparation

Steam rises from Mary's shoulder as low-angle sunbeams slice between trees. We trade places so she can see the clouds wafting off me. It's a slightly-too-warm definitely-too-humid October morn, and we're catching our breath at the National Zoo water fountain. We've reached the midpoint of today's 21 miler. Notes on that and other jogs of the past fortnight follow ...

2007-10-13 - JFK 50 Miler Simulation

~26 miles @ ~17 min/mi

In Harpers Ferry I follow the wrong set of train tracks and manage to lead my running buddy Mary Ewell halfway out of town along the Shennandoah River. We belatedly ask directions, reverse course, and then pick our way through crowds of tourists and Civil War reenactors. Soon we find the Amtrak station where we can refill our water bottles, regrease our feet, and gather our wits in preparation for the next few hours of trekking along the C&O Canal towpath. We're training for Mary's JFK50 race next month by previewing miles 2.5-27.1 of the course.

Today is a Very Good Day precisely because it's also a rough day. Both Mary and I experience significant, unexpected aches and pains, though thankfully neither of us falls down or twists an ankle on the Appalachian Trail (AT) between the Old South Mountain Inn and Weverton Cliffs. We get started late, at 6:50am instead of 6am, because I get lost on the way to our Antietam rendezvous and enjoy an unscheduled tour of Sharpsburg. "Sir," I address an elderly gentlemen checking his mailbox at 5:30am, "could you tell me how to find Canal Road?" He sends me back three miles along the winding country lane from whence I came. As I approach the corner of Canal Road I spy Mary awaiting me.

Then it's park in the dark, double-check gear, jump into Mary's car, and ride to our starting point, Zittlestown, at the notch in South Mountain on US Hwy Alt-40 where the JFK meets the AT. We're almost an hour behind schedule and dawn is upon us. After a short debate we abandon the notion of simulating the dark 5am November JFK start, and instead leave our flashlights and headlamps behind. Soon it's bright enough for us to see how treacherous the path is. On the AT we set a steady, cautious pace and meet some friendly folks, including Paul Betker whom Bernie (aka Lisa) and I saw last year on 4 Nov (cf. InnerGoat). Paul has done 25 JFKs in a row and is training today for #26. After walking and chatting with us for a half-mile he races on ahead to catch up with his comrades.

Half a dozen miles into the day's journey we're at Gathland Gap, where my favorite soda water vending machine hums cheerfully. Paul and Co. are here, about to head west along the road to loop back to where they, and we, began. Mary and I drink Cherry Cokes and after an 8-minute break proceed onward, chatting about superfluidity, mean people, the effect of microwave radiation on delicate body parts, and other entertaining topics as we follow the AT south along the ridgeline. The air today is cool and comfortable but rather dry — so we don't fully realize how much water we're both losing through sweat and respiration. At Weverton Cliffs we descend the steep switchbacks and retrieve the cache of supplies that I hid behind a tree at 0530 on my way to Sharpsburg. We sit on a guardrail at JFK course mile 15.5 (our 13th mile of the day), sip Gatorade, and nibble Pringles potato chips.

The AT takes us across the train tracks to join the C&O Canal towpath near milepost 58. Mary jogs along at a strong pace, so we average 11.5-13 min/mi, interspersing four minutes of running with one minute of walking. By Harpers Ferry, canal mile ~60.7, we're starting to get tired and realize that we're already low on water. We climb a scary metal mesh stairway and cross the Potomac. After ~20 minutes of wandering we tank up and return.

Then it gets tougher — especially for Mary who has maintained her electrolytes but probably is already quite dehydrated. We walk more frequently and longer, and Mary cheerfully describes the pre-migraine sensations she's starting to experience. (I challenge her to stroll through a tree, but she demurs.) At canal mile ~69.5 we're back at my car where we each chug cans of soda water, eat handfuls of chocolate chips, and begin to recover. Total time on feet: ~7.5 hours. When I get home I weigh myself and find that I've lost 2.0 lbs. in spite of drinking 40 oz. of Zelectrolyte brew, 20 oz. of Cherry Coke, 20 oz. of Gatorade, ~10 oz. of water, and 12 oz. of orange soda. (Proof that I can sweat buckets even when the temperature is below 70°F!)

The Good News, however, is that we covered more than 25 miles of the toughest terrain on the JFK course, and we did it in less than 7 hours, not counting time spent random-walking about Harpers Ferry or the entire long breaks at Gathland Gap and Weverton. This tells me that, barring horrid weather or catastrophic injury on the AT, Mary should have no trouble making the cutoffs for the JFK next month.

2007-10-14 - 6k XC

~3+ miles @ ~12 min/mi

Today's MCRRC cross country race, "Little Bennett's Revenge", is both a new distance and a location: 6 km at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood MD. The course is a pleasant one, three grassy loops on gently rolling hills around the periphery of huge fields. Comrade Christina and I meet before the start and visit, then plan our run. We set off near the back of the pack and manage a controlled pace, with 2km splits by Ms. C's watch of 14:34 + 16:14 + 14:59 for a total of just under 46 minutes. I'm 10th out of 10 in my age/sex group, but that still means I get a point towards the XC 2007 Championship Series. Next year I'll be in the 55-59 year cohort, where there are somewhat fewer competitors; I would have been 4th of 6 today, for example. And I'll be eligible for the senior citizen menu items at IHOP, and for membership in the AARP — ugh! Wake me up in another decade or so please ...

2007-10-20 - Mary's Loop

~21 miles @ ~14 min/mi

At 6am Orion rides high and Venus glisters brilliant above the forested gloom of Rock Creek Park. I can't find my flashlight, so by cellphone's glow I hide a bag of goodies behind a tree near Beach Dr just north of Military Rd. It's a cache for Mary Ewell and me at mile 14 of today's planned journey. I'm a little nervous because the Park Police Headquarters is just a quarter mile down the road. But nobody catches me in flagrante delicto, so I creep back to my car and drive to downtown Bethesda where Mary and I are to meet for today's training run. I'm startled to find the parking lot already active: apparently we've stumbled into an Arts Festival street-fair today.

But all's well: we park, Mary finds my flashlight (I forgot that I left it in her car at last Saturday's 26 miler), we prepare our packs, and shortly before 7am set off southwards along the Capital Crescent Trail. Dawn is progressing and we can see well enough by street lights and skyglow to trot comfortably, with initial measured miles of 11:30, 11:37, 12:15, and 12:40. We discuss Buddhist vs. Hindu styles of meditation, pause to drink and refill water bottles at Fletcher's Boathouse, then pick up the pace on the gentle downhill journey to the CCT's end.

Onward we go, along Water St beneath the Whitehurst Fwy where Mary spies a battered canvas tropical hat in the middle of the road. I pick it up and carry it home; it comes in handy half a dozen miles later when I discover I can put a banana and some chips in it to hold conveniently. Slightly farther along we see dozens of police gathered, apparently preparing for duty later today when demonstrators are expected to be marching downtown.

Our course is almost identical to "Caren's Loop", a training run that Caren Jew and I did on 7 October 2006 in preparation for her Marine Corps Marathon and JFK (see HatBulge, 23 Oct 2006, for details). Like last year, Mary and I reach Thompson's Boat Center after a couple of hours of comfortable jogging. Unlike last year, since we started ~2 hours later the building is open. The waterside is lined with girls stretching and preparing for their rowing lessons. Mary tells me that some of the young ladies were observing my high-cut-up-the-hip shorts; I try not to imagine what they were saying.

We take advantage of the facilities, split a Dr. Pepper, and turn our feet northward to follow the path alongside Rock Creek Parkway. Traffic is noisy and we have to step aside to let cyclists, skaters, and faster runners pass. The fog has lifted but it's still rather humid; we're walking more now and our pace is in the 12-14 min/mi zone. A pair of deer fade into the brush near the Zoo tunnel upon our approach. We take the longer path into the Zoo and pause to drink up at the fountain that marks the midpoint of our journey.

About 3.5 miles upstream we reach our cache and stop to sit at a picnic table, eat Oreos cookies and Pringles chips, chug Gatorade, and commiserate about our multiple aches. Mine are relatively minor: foot twinges and the usual chafing/abrasion. More significant are Mary's: several of her joints are troubling her today, perhaps an aftereffect of the long tough run we did a week ago. But we've got seven more miles to cover and she's an Ironman, so it's Excelsior!

Our climb now to the edge of DC is gradual but definite. We walk more and pause longer to drink. Topics of conversation include Camus, Sartre, helium dilution refrigeration, and meals which have made us hurl. Both Mary and I are vegetarians now, but together we harken back in memory to our carnivorous days when vomitous experiences with, respectively, pork ribs and pastrami led to decade-long food aversions.

My mental arithmetic powers are weak, but as we return to the CCT with a only a couple of miles to go I compute that we may be able to finish in under 5 hours — but probably not far under that magic number. Mary pushes hard through the hip pain she's now experiencing and, ultra-politely, requests that I stop chattering quite so much so she can concentrate. I apologize and comply. Our final miles are at ~15 minute pace, and with 2+ minutes to spare we thread our way through heavy traffic and tag our cars so I can stop my watch. After a brief cooldown we both feel better and are ready to head home. A rough run, but a good one!

(cf. CrossedPaths (28 Jul 2007), RileysRumble2007 (30 Jul 2007), PiedBeauty (27 Aug 2007), Phone It In (21 Sep 2007), GunpowderKegFatAss2007 (24 Sep 2007), MatherGorge (9 Oct 2007), ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2007-10-26

(correlates: Corporate Asset, Will Power, 2008-10-12 - Ag Park XC, ...)