Seneca Creek Stumble

A mound of frozen horse manure on the trail takes me by surprise half a mile into the 2008-01-26 jog along Seneca Creek. I trip over it and fall heavily to the ground, fortunately without significant damage. Caren Jew and I are trotting along the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail near Route 28 on a cool Saturday morning just after dawn. As I drive to our starting point electrical lines hang pendulous between their poles by the roadside. They glow like spiderweb threads whenever headlights from oncoming traffic on the other side of a hill illuminates them.

Further notes on that and other recent jogging adventures follow ...

2008-01-26 - Deer Bowhunters

~9 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

I get to the rendezvous parking lot (Seneca Creek and Route 28) before dawn and read a chapter of Jane Eyre while waiting. When Caren arrives we gear up and are greeted by a bowhunter getting out of his pickup truck. He's dressed in a fuzzy camo outfit that makes him look a bit like a walking mound of foliage. Today is almost the end of deer season, he tells us, and reassures us that we'll be safe in the woods. Caren points out several mallard ducks and three deer near the trail as we jog downstream. We meet two more bowhunters in their camouflage hiking the opposite way.

A huge snow-covered hillside rises in front of us and looks exactly like a distant cloud bank. Near our turnaround at Berryville Rd yet another bowhunter is parked in his truck. It features a sticker on the back that says, "Give 'em the Shaft!" We walk a few hundred yards along the road to survey the rushing waters at the usual creek crossing, then retrace our path. Our time is ~55 minutes each way. We meet a friendly birdwatcher on the return trip and finish up by sprinting the last quarter mile and up the final hill to our cars. Whew!

2008-01-27 - Eagle Run 2008

~10 miles @ ~15 min/mi

The VHTRC Eagle Run XVII is a fascinating ramble through the woods, with pauses to view and photograph eagles on and about the inlets of the Potomac River. I carry a heavy old 35mm manual camera (Nikon FM2) and long lens (80-200mm zoom) and shoot a roll of film, in between conversations with friends and new acquaintances. See Thirteen Eagles for a mini photo-essay about the day and for all the images I came home with.

2008-01-30 - tibrO aisemetrA

4+ miles @ ~9 min/mi

At the dentist today I get my teeth cleaned, which reminds me of the quote I told Caren about during a recent training jaunt (cf. RunningVersusTraining). So what to do but go on a tempo run? My daughter is recovering from some horrible disease (cold? 'flu? bronchitis?) and today my wife, my elder son, and I seem to be coming down with it. I can't find any ibuprofen ("Vitamin I") so I take two aspirin and drive my younger son Robin to the University where he has a teaching assistant session to attend. Thus I find myself at Paint Branch Trail at 1:45pm.

Today's weather is warm but winds are gusty; I two layers on top but roll up by sleeves. The trot from milepost 1.5 to 0.5 feels exhausting --- perhaps the aspirin hasn't kicked in yet? --- but flows past in 9:26, good for me. Then the 1.35 mile Lake Artemesia loop, which I take in the backwards (clockwise) direction for a change, zips by at 9:18 min/mi. Hundreds of mallard ducks float on the waters near the southwestern shore. Halfway through the circuit, at my farthest point from the start, the cellphone rings: Robin is finished early! I tell him to be patient for another 20+ minutes and to buy me a candy bar. Pushing hard I manage the return mile (0.5-1.5 markers) in a surprising 8:35. A few hours later the aspirin wears off and I come to my senses.

2008-02-02 - F-CCT and Lake Fairfax

6+ miles @ ~13 min/mi

Four huge black vultures are lurking beside Colvin Run as Mary Ewell and I jog the trail toward Lake Fairfax. They lumber into the air and perch in the trees over ourheads, griping at us for disturbing their repast. Half an hour later on our return trip we encounter them again on the ground. One puffs herself up and bravely stays there as I pass within a few feet.

This Saturday morning I've got errands to run in Northern Virginia, so Mary invites me to meet her at Colvin Run Mill for a journey along one of her favorite haunts, the Fairfax Cross-Country Trail. After yesterday's heavy rains she warns of possible mud, but for the first mile it's not at all bad. Then, however, after we reach Browns Mill Rd we find the steppingstones across Difficult Run submerged by flood waters. We retrace our path to the road and follow it to the other side of the stream, only to find yet another sea blocking the FCCT. So back we turn, and near Route 7 take a side trail to Lake Fairfax Park, where we meet the vultures.

I'm in the midst of a horrible cold/cough, but it's responding to "Vitamin I" (ibuprofen!). Mary is herself recovering from an earlier illness. We do our best on the hilly path that parallels the stream but still end up taking a few walk breaks. Lake Fairfax is lovely but heavy construction is underway there. A flock of geese cruise in to land as we jog along the path near the spillway. We climb stairs and another hill above the canoe rental kiosk, then ramble back to our start with ~80 minutes of good trail time.

2008-02-03 - Country Road Run, Country Road Run

10 miles @ 10.8 min/mi

At the end of the race early morning sunlight glisters off salt and sweat on Caren's cheeks as we catch our breath and applaud our friends Betty and Jeanne during their finishing kicks. It's a PR for Caren by a couple of minutes — not bad for somebody who's sick and who ran twice the official distance!

Comrade Caren Jew's schedule says she should do 10 miles today, and we're both coughing, so we meet at 0630 at the start/finish area of the MCRRC Country Road Run to jog the five-mile course before the 8am actual race ... and thus to prepare a perfect excuse for our anticipated slow times. Venus and Jupiter gleam low in the east, near the crescent moon. My knees are freezing and I flick my LED flashlight at oncoming cars to let them know we're out at dawn. Caren spies a herd of deer dashing across a field toward the road ahead of us. Our mile splits: 11:39 + 11:43 + 11:16 + 10:46 + 11:18 = 56:42, pretty decent we both feel.

Back at the Olney recreation center crowds have now materialized. We sign up to race and greet friends, then huddle in Caren's car to keep warm until just before the start. By my watch we cross the line ~12 seconds after the official "GO!" and pound out miles at 10:05 + 10:40 + 10:22 + 9:48 + 10:02 for a total of just under 51 minutes; the race clock, however, puts us a dozen or so seconds over. No matter --- I'm obsessing over where I might have misplaced the paperwork for the relay team that I've recruited to do the George Washington's Birthday Marathon in two weeks. (I finally find the forms at home, 10 hours later, in an envelope I put them for "safekeeping".)

Ken Swab finishes many minutes ahead of Caren and me, as does Wayne Carson who is running with a couple of cracked ribs from a fall along Seneca Creek. Caren and Ken lead me to Michele McLeod's home for a lovely brunch/reception. I'm still pretty sick and leave early to avoid infecting anyone else.

(cf. Potomac Heritage 50k 2007 (2007-11-04), GrapevineRun (2007-11-12), Don Quixote 55k Run 2007 (2007-11-22), HuntingSeason (2007-11-30), Fallen Angel (2007-12-08), LightningCrashes (2007-12-23), Red Eye 50k 2008 (2008-01-05), Massanutten Mountain South Training Run (2008-01-22), Icy Half Marathon (2008-01-25), Thirteen Eagles (2008-01-28), ...) --- ^z - 2008-02-03

(correlates: InconspicuousNightclothes, TranscendentalMeditation, HalfwayPoint, ...)