The slow ^z return to distance running is progressing slowly; I'm still hauling a few dozen extra pounds around with me, and my speed is accordingly lacking. But since the last report (OnTheRoadAgain) I've managed a few outings, increasingly pleasant as the thermometer starts to creep downward. I've participated in one race, a 10k cross-country experiment in which I proudly finished 14th out of 14 in my age-sex group. I've also gathered dozens of GPS coordinates to use in my mapping experiments. Two comfortable excursions beyond 10 miles, at sub-12 min/mi pace, suggest that a sub-six-hour marathon may not be beyond the realm of imagination come mid-November. We shall see ... but meanwhile:

2005-09-07 - Pre-baseball Post-meridian Jog

4+ miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

Pleasantly warm weather, off work early with an hour to spare before taking the Metro to a baseball game, so it's a quick jog around the little local loop (Seminary mermaid fountain, Rock Creek Trail, Georgetown Branch) ... I (barely!) manage to maintain a 2:1 ratio jog:walk, with (barely!) sub-11-minute middle measured mile, as my "Team MCRRC" singlet and shorts (barely!) expose a less-than-stylish band of midriff bulge. Fortunately there are few witnesses. Pretty butterfly count = 4. The local major league team loses 12-1, but at least I've burned off a few hundred calories of peanuts and snow-cone ...

2005-09-10 - Paint Branch Plodding

~8 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Change of plans: since I have to take daughter to chamber music practice in College Park on Saturday morning, instead of attempting the 11 mile Bethesda loop I park at the UM music building and jog a mile east along University Blvd. to Paint Branch Trail. Then it's north from milepost 2 to the end of the path near the Beltway, turn around and go back to mile 1, plus a final stagger through campus to the car. I carry my old GPS unit and get coordinates for several of the markers, but heavy trees make the satellite signals too weak to capture waypoints at posts 1.0 and 1.5, and my other locations are probably error-ridden. High-tech headband keeps sweat out of my eyes, but after an hour my Red Sox shirt is soaked --- the weather is a little too warm and humid for comfort. A big football game clogs the parking lots and sidewalks. Two big V's of honking geese cruise by; total goose count = 14.

2005-09-12 - Headlight Glare

7+ miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

7:30pm finds me in Kensington, dropping Son Robin off at the Boy Scout meeting, so from St. Paul's Church I cross Connecticut Ave. and proceed a mile downhill through Ken Gar to Rock Creek Trail near mile 7, then north to marker 8 and reversing there, back to milepost 4 near the Beltway, from which north on Connecticut gets me to the church at 9pm just as the meeting finishes. My flashlight batteries are weakening, so it's a little exciting in the darker areas along the trail. A child with red flashing LEDs in his shoes is walking home with a parent. I scan for retroreflection from deer or rabbit eyes but see no wildlife during the entire run, other than some moths. The moon is lovely, a day past first quarter, and the only real problem is bad glare from oncoming headlights in the trail segments parallel to Beach Drive.

2005-09-18 - Healthy Loop

11+ miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

The weatherman promised cooler and drier but didn't deliver, or at least not enough for my comfort ... but the Sunday morning circuit (home to Bethesda and then north around NIH and back via Rock Creek) was fun and pain-free at a 1:1::jog:walk ratio. Lots of walkers, runners, and cyclists on the road 7:30-10:00am, including one who said "Hi Mark!" as he zipped by too fast for me to recognize him. (I think it was Tom Temin, based on a later communication.) My high-tech sweatband worked well, but GPS signals were weak (tree canopy blockage? Homeland Security jammers? overhead power-line interference? low battery?) and I only got one fix, on Cedar Lane near the fire station at the corner of Old Georgetown Road [1] ...

2005-09-20 - Bouncy Bouncy

5+ miles @ ~10.8 min/mi

My fanny pack bobs like a D cup boob in a jiggle bra: I'm carrying two extra batteries, since the old GPS unit shows its low-power indicator and I don't want to lose the chance to capture coordinates. The morning is a seasonal too-warm too-humid as I drop the kids at the University of Maryland and park on the eastern side of campus. I start at the Paint Branch Trail's 1.5 mile marker behind the engineering buildings and proceed downstream, taking GPS waypoints along the way, past Lake Artemesia to where the Northeast Branch begins at the confluence of Indian Creek and Paint Branch. Then it's northwards along the Indian Creek Trail to its end (~1.3 miles), where I reverse course. Are the measured miles short? Or can my pace be getting slightly less snail-like? Black butterflies flit beside me; Green Line metro trains rumble overhead. The Berwyn Heights Historical Committee offers good architectural info brochures in a give-away box by the ICT, and I take one to read later.

2005-09-24 - Lake Needwood 10k

6+ miles @ 11.1 min/mi

Comrade numismatist and baseball-fan Ken Swab & I enjoy the MCRRC's Lake Needwood cross-country 10k on a cloudy, cool morning. We get a chance to see several friends and acquaintances before, during, and after the race (hi again, C-C & Way-No! — aka Caren Jew and Wayne Carson) as my Red Sox shirt generates applause from fellow Yankee-loathers. I carry an antique GPS receiver and take waypoints every 1-2 minutes (roughly 100-300m) on the double-back double-loop course. Check out [2] for the ugly connect-the-dots Google map result. My low sampling rate combined with other GPS errors makes for an impressionistic scribble that a two-year-old might be proud of. K & I have a smoother than expected journey, concluding the initial 5k in 34:13, just before the speediest runners can lap us. We cover the second orbit only 20 seconds slower than the first, as we fall in with Jen Geiling, a friendly young lady in training to join her father in the Army 10 miler next weekend. Her pace is close enough to ours that she finishes between the two old codgers.

2005-09-29 - Happy Birthday

14+ miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

The MINI Cooper needs servicing, the dealership is within spitting distance of the W&OD Trail, a cool front is coming through, I haven't run since Saturday ... what better way to celebrate my 53rd birthday than a long slow jog? I drop the car off at 7am, ask for directions from the service associate, and in a couple of minutes I'm on the path and approaching mile marker #24. From expeditions three years ago I've got the GPS coordinates for mileposts 0 through 18 already (cf. MarathonCoordinates), so to fill the gap I head southeast, toward decreasing numbers.

The rising sun plays peek-a-book with cloud layers and I briefly imagine that I see an ice halo. Birds flock and flit above the high-tension power lines that parallel the trail as nearby electrical transformer-farms hum. A divine wind rises at intervals to cool the brow, though not enough to keep my shirt from getting sweat-soaked. Construction work at Church Road forces a short detour and a pause to cross traffic at the light. The lovely buxom dome of the Herndon Fortnightly Library arches skyward beside the path.

At milepost 18 (after six miles and a bit over an hour) the old legs still feel frisky. I take a Succeed! electrolyte capsule and reverse course. Sporadic clouds toss down handfuls of bloated raindrops, enough to polka-dot the asphalt but too scanty to do much more. I refill my water bottle at the fountain outside the Herndon Historical Society Depot/Museum building.

After about two and a quarter hours I reach the twelve-mile-point, Post #24 where I started. I ask myself, "What would ----- do?" I immediately decide not to do that! — not only is it probably illegal in Virginia, my heart couldn't survive the excitement. Instead, I jog onward to mile marker #25, beneath inbound airplanes on final approach to Dulles Airport. A splendid old rough-hewn-wood bridge carries the trail above Broad Run; beams rattle and shake as I tread on them. Take a waypoint, turn around, arrive at MINI of Sterling, pick up the car, and head home.

(cf. TentativeToeTests (9 Jul 2005), JoggingRecovery (5 Aug 2005), OnTheRoadAgain (6 Sep 2005), ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2005-09-30

(correlates: GoogleMapExperiments, CountrySightsAndSounds, DisSanity, ...)

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