"I don't remember this stream crossing!" I remark. Later: "See those signs that say, 'Hazardous Trail Conditions – Keep Out'? They don't apply to us!" followed by, "Gee, this cliff looks a lot higher than last time!" and "Be careful, the path seems a bit narrow here. Don't look down!"

Well, maybe it's not the best way to introduce someone to the trail experience. But Christina has already done plenty of cross-country races, and on Saturday (26 May 2007) we're taking a walk in Rock Creek Park. It's 2pm and I'm still exhausted from yesterday's run. Chris has already been through a tough early-morning session at the gym. So we rendezvous at the DC-MD border parking lot (cf. Rock Creek Trail Miles 0 to 4) and hike southward on the Western Ridge Trail. Officially temperatures are approaching 90°F, but in the woods it feels several degrees cooler.


Poison ivy abounds, as do bugs and dog-walkers. We chat as we trek, and soon we're at Military Road and turn east. At Beach Drive the sign says "Valley Trail" and "Boundary Bridge 3.0 miles". Christina treads with some trepidation on the stepping-stones at the first few creeks, but after a while she's leaping across crevasses and showing contempt for mud wallows. We ask a passer-by to take a photo of us at a giant fallen tree, where exposed roots give an unorthodox backdrop. Back at our cars the GPS trackfile says we've gone 6.7 miles — a good Step One toward getting accustomed to summer heat and humidity. Other excursions during the past fortnight:

2007-05-22 - Anti-Presto

~5 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Tempo run? For me, only if the tempo is adagio, largo, or maybe lento! A road crew is placing mini-boulders for drainage beside the CCT again, circa mile 0.7, but they pause and wave me past. Pete, my neighbor across the street, is out cycling with his younger son. We meet at Rock Creek Trestle and he jokes that I look like the Billy Goat Gruff, and he should be the Troll and charge me to pass. "I'll pay you to stop me — please!" I respond. The 75°F afternoon is low-humidity and quite pleasant, but I'm still sweating. Maybe if I keep running as it gets warmer I'll eventually acclimate ... but I'm skeptical. Coming home I manage to trot all the way up the Ireland Dr. hill before collapsing into a walk.

2007-05-25 - Home Run Meltdown

~11 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

As anticipated, the federal bureaucracy releases folks a few hours early for the three-day weekend. This morning on the subway and bus I lug my gear to the office in hopes of making the trek home on foot. After 25 years it's my first attempt to do so. At 1:45pm I'm off, with a thermometer reading in the mid-80's and the sun hammering down. Twenty minutes jogging and walking eastbound from McLean on the shoulder of busy Route 123 brings me to the GW Parkway. I cross the overpass and start looking for blue blazes or signs that indicate the Potomac Heritage Trail. Just southeast of the intersection, there it is!

The trail is narrow but well-marked. It follows closely along the heavily forested river side of the Parkway, up and down rolling hills with stone stairs on steep segments. An iridescent green fly catches my eye, as does the oily green of poison ivy. A blue lizard scampers across a log in front of me. After a dozen minutes I'm at Fort Marcy, where my appearance startles a couple of Asian tourists who have just gotten out of their car. A sign at the other end of the parking lot points me toward Chain Bridge. I dip my cap into the waters of Pimmit Run where the Potomac Heritage Trail crosses on small boulders. The pathway then parallels the stream down to Glebe Road and Chain Bridge, a trifle scary when it skirts the edges of eroded cliffs 10-20 feet above sharp rocks.

Traffic is backed up at the light, and in the crosswalk I look down and see a circular rainbow-glory surrounding my shadow on the pavement. Perhaps they have diamonds in the street of this rich neighborhood? On the high bridge over the Potomac I keep pace with the cars in spite of much walking. Instead of descending the ramp to the C&O Canal towpath I look across the Clara Barton Parkway and discover a narrow path up the hillside. At the top, an hour into my journey I find myself at mile 7.1 of the Capital Crescent Trail. Terra cognita at last! And less than 8 miles to home.

Alas, here is where I realize how hot and tired I've become. I can't run for more than a minute before my heart rate shoots up and I start to see glowing auras. My pace on the CCT is a consistent but feeble 14-15 min/mi. Tufts of cottonwood seed drift slowly down across the blackness of the Dalecarlia tunnel entrance. Cyclists and joggers zoom past. I finish a 32 oz. bottle of Gatorade and start sipping from a 20 oz. bottle of water. At the Bethesda fountain I fill the empty Gatorade container, step onto the grass, and pour it over my head, much to the amusement of a shy little girl. "Do you want to try that?" her mother asks her. She shakes her head no.

The final four miles feel a little better, but I'm still weak and drenched with sweat. A construction crew is working on the CCT east of the Rock Creek trestle. When I arrive home my weight is just under 174 pounds — too heavy, I know, but down ~5 pounds from what it was this morning. My pulse is too feeble for the blood pressure machine to register. I have to sit down for a few minutes in the shower to avoid fainting. After drying off I try the BP box again and get a ridiculously low reading of 71/58 at a heartbeat of 103, similar to what Ken and I registered at the end of the Wineglass Marathon 2006. Whew! Clearly I need a lot more acclimation, and stronger electrolytes, for summer running.

2007-05-27 - Rock Creek Park Revisited in Reverse

6+ miles @ ~13 min/mi

I follow the route that Christina and I walked yesterday, but solo and in the opposite direction. The first couple of miles on the Valley Trail are flat and fast, and the final leg of the Western Ridge Trail is mercifully downhill. I meet a Red Sox fan walking the other way, and we agree that Johnny Damon made a big mistake when he defected to the Team Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned. Instead of the paved bike path parallel to Military Rd., I climb a steep horse trail that takes me to Ft. DeRussy's earthworks. Today the weather is slightly cooler but more humid than yesterday. I pause at the gardens near the Park Police Stables to pour water over my head and refill a bottle.


2007-05-28 - Sue and Connie's Run

4 miles @ 10:24 min/mi

Christina and I are running together and wilting in the high humidity. But when she reminds me that I can eat ice cream again if I finish under 45 minutes, the thought so energizes me that I commence a finish-line kick with almost 1.5 miles remaining. (Chris orders me to proceed without her, and threatens that if I look back she will stop running. I obey.) A self-baptism via a cup of frigid water at the aid station accelerates my pace, as evidenced by mile splits 10:13 + 11:37 + 10:17 + 9:22. During the uphill home stretch I shamelessly pass an 8-year-old and finish 19th of 20 in my age/sex group. That's about the median for the 65-69 year-olds, but far behind the only gentleman in his 70's. Today's MCRRC Memorial Day race is held in honor of Sue Wen Stottmeister and Connie Barton. A table at the start holds photos of several who have passed away and should be remembered. (cf. SueWenRun, 29 May 2002)

2007-06-02 - Lost and Fawn

~8 miles @ ~14 min/mi

Near noon on a hot and humid Saturday I'm jogging from a friend's house toward the W&OD Trail. (My kids stay behind to play cards and board games.) Micro-mansion owners here clearly don't understand the ironic intent of Robert Frost's "Good fences make good neighbors" — all routes to the trail are blocked and marked No Trespassing. After exploring half a dozen suburban cul de sacs in vain I'm tuckered out and mostly walking. On Batten Hollow Rd. near Fonda Dr. I spy a doe standing by the street, next to a sign that says "Clarks Crossing Park". She retreats into the woods at my approach, followed by a tiny fawn.

The baby deer is a few weeks old, Bambi-dappled, the size of a small dog or large cat. I enter the park and mama white-tail bounds away noisily and with great drama, leaving her child crouching in the underbrush trying not to be seen. I set down my GPS and bottle of Gatorade and creep toward the infant, cellphone-camera ready. I get a single photo before the fawn decides to scurry off. (click for larger image; location is near 38.9265°N 77.2869°W)

Fawn in Clarks Crossing Park - click for larger image

Alone among the trees now I follow narrow winding paths, probably made by deer, to a tributary stream of Piney Branch and Difficult Run. A sheet of plywood and some stones help get me across, and after a slight scramble I find myself at mile 13.7 of the long-sought W&OD. A noisy gasoline-powered generator drives a pump for some construction project. Cyclists zoom past. I consider jogging to the Vienna trolley/fountain but come to my senses and turn back. A dirt path near mile 12.6 catches my eye. It leads me down to another creek and along a rustic trail into suburbia, a subdivision with streets labeled Prelude, Podium, and Percussion, from which I stagger to my friend's home near the Dulles Toll Road and Wolf Trap.

2007-06-03 - Capital Crescent Run 5k

~3.1 miles @ ~8:30 min/mi

Showers from Tropical Storm Barry begin to move into the area on Sunday morning, raising the humidity as the temperature peaks in the low 70's. I arrive in downtown Bethesda early enough to applaud the little kids in their fun run, then chat with fellow back-of-the-packers as we assemble for our race. Nick recognizes me by my beard. Her 8-year-old son Bill often reports to her, "I ran with Santa!". (He beat me by 7 minutes at last Monday's 4-miler, and his 12-year-old sister Anna was 15 minutes ahead of me.) I meet Dina of Damascus, doing her first race today, and we chat before starting out. I feel strong and start passing people, thinking that I'm doing about 9-10 min/mi. Wrong!

Bad Pacing 101 is the class I'm signed up for this morning. My mile splits are 8:00 + 8:43 + 8:54, plus 49 seconds on a final kick to make 5k. It adds up to 26:26 on my sweat-soaked watch, plus several more seconds since I started so far behind the line. After panting a bit I shuffle back to the 3-mile point and cheer Dina in. She finishes her initial competition strongly in ~42 minutes as her husband takes photos and her family cheers.

(cf. SharperImage (10 Dec 2006), All Good (13 Jan 2007), RacyJetsam (4 Feb 2007), AggressiveResting (17 Mar 2007), NotSoDifficultRun (10 Apr 2007), TheyBullRunRun (6 May 2007), TrailImprovement (21 May 2007), ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2007-06-03

(correlates: PeripheralPunditry, Hold this Thought, OldAge, ...)