Monday, April 25, 2016

Bull Run Run 50 Miler - April 9, 2016

"I don't think your heart was in it," Sandy says over our dinner of hot turkey sandwiches Saturday night. "You didn't seem as excited during the week as you usually are."

"Hmm," I verbally shrug. But maybe she was right.

Prologue
The weeks leading up to my eighth Bull Run Run include a minor setback of not being able to assemble a team. The team competition is mostly for fun, but having won Team Championship blankets for being on the oldest and slowest teams in past races, it is always worth a go.  And it provides and incentive to push on when the going gets tough, as all four members of a team must finish or the team is disqualified.

Daily reviews of the changing weather forecast for the Saturday race keep my attention. While there is precipitation and cooler weather predicted for the end of the week, the precise timing changes with each day's forecast, sometimes calling for rain or even some snow on Thursday or Friday, sometimes pushing the precipitation into Saturday. Other forecasts call for clouds or even sun on Saturday.

On Saturday morning I'm up at 4:15. A trip outside to gather the newspapers and stow my gear in the car is greeted by chilly, but not frigid temperatures, but a light drizzle. Back inside I check the weather radar (isn't it remarkable that we take both that technology and the technology that delivers it to us as a matter of course?) and am heartened to see that it is not raining along Bull Run, about 24 miles to the southwest.

At 4:50 I pick up Mark and Gayatri at her house two blocks away and we drive to the start at Hemlock Regional Park.  Having two or more runners in the car merits us parking closer to the start/finish and we soon stash our drop bags in the covered pavilion by the aid station that we will return to at mile 16.6 before continuing south for the remaining 34 miles of the race.  In light of the weather I've put a complete change of clothes in my bag as well as towels to wipe off with and plastic bags to stash wet clothing.

We go to registration and pick up our bibs and race premiums.  With plenty of time and the car close at hand we stow the loot in the car.

Starting Off
I greet the legendary Tom Green at the start. Last year Tom invited me to join his team of Bull Run Run legends, and I was the last of the team to finish, but that was good enough to win the "Oldest Team" award, setting a record for oldest team ever. (See my report on the 2015 BRR.)  Nine days later Tom nearly lost his life when struck in the head by a rebounding tree limb.  Despite his traumatic brain injury, the first person to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning has been entering ultras and other races and has returned to Bull Run Run as one of only two persons to have finished all 23 previous BRRs.  He loves the sport - and other runners love him - too much for him not to be there.

Crossing Popes Head Creek
Just before the 6:30 a.m. start it starts to rain lightly. A singer struggles a bit with the National Anthem but she finishes strong and we are soon off. I'm wearing tights, gloves, two long-sleeve shirts, a buff, hat and a lightweight jacket to fend off the weather.

The rain stops in a few minutes and I tie the jacket around my waist. The footing is good as the bit of rain overnight has eliminated any dust and provides a little softer surface without creating mud. And there wasn't so much rain to raise the stream crossings over the concrete stepping stones.I run along at a easy pace in the company of Stephanie. She's a much better pacer - and runner - than me and figure she'll help me keep from doing anything foolish early in the race.

Watch Where You Watch
We move along at a steady pace, walking the uphills and running easily on the downhills. Most of BRR is either uphill or downhill, so one does not need to worry about the flats.  We pass the earthen Civil War artillery emplacement.  In a bit we pass a large rock formation on the right.  I hear a rustling from that way and automatically look in the direction only to jerk my head back around to the left. I've seen way too much thigh and hip than is appropriate as a woman runner rises from her crouch.

The BRR website information cautions runners that there are no porta-potties on the course or at the aid stations (although there are rest rooms at Marina (miles 21 and 45). For males this is usually less of a problem (find a large tree, get on the side away from oncoming runners, lean in). Females have greater logistical issues. And no runner wants to waste precious moments going too far off the course to find an appropriate locale. So a rock outcropping blocking the view of oncoming runners was a good choice, betrayed only by the rustle of a running bib. And since the race instructions admonish  that "A non-entrant in the race should not see you relieve yourself" (emphasis added), the runner was not violating race rules.

Approaching Hemlock AS
(Photo by Kevin Sayers)
Not long afterward it begins to sleet.  I put my jacket back on. The white pellets bounce off my hat and jacket and after five or ten minutes the frozen precipitation ends. I glance at my watch. It's about 1:35 into the race and I'm still a way from the Centreville aid station.  I recall that I am usually either at or near the aid station by that time. A bit of doubt creeps into my mind.

 Soon a couple of the front runners come flying towards me, already miles ahead.  I had been expecting them and seeing them at that point was reassuring, as it is about where I have encountered them in years past.

Soon enough I arrive at the Centreville aid station (mile 7.2). After grabbing some cookies and Pringles and refilling my bottle, I'm quickly on my way.

Thru the bluebells, the best in many years.
I pull out my data-based pace card to see how I'm doing. the card consists of four columns: 12 and 13 hour paces, 12.5 hour pace and the cutoffs for reaching certain cutoffs as set by the rules.  The 12.5 hour pace column is based on my last four BRRs, at which I averaged 12:29. So that column reflects the times I've run at the race, not a theoretical pace. The other two columns are proportionally faster or slower but reflect the same real world experiences I've had in completing BRR.

I'm troubled that my time to Centreville is 1:44, two minutes behind the 13 hour pace. After walking a bit trying to tweet my progress and eat the cookies I endeavor to pick up the pace on the 2.2 mile flat section through the bluebells to the turnaround.  I'm slowed a bit picking my way over a small water crossing, electing for one wet foot rather than chancing a bigger slip. I get to the turnaround (mile 9.4) in 2:12. A glance at the pace card shows I'm now only a minute behind the 13 hour pace.

Tom Green at Centerville AS.
Bib #1 recognizes that no one had completed more BRRs.
Headed back I meet Stephanie still headed to the turnaround.  She tells me that she plans to drop when she gets back to Hemlock. That's not good news.

And then it begins to rain. Not a downpour but light and steady. The trail begins to get muddy and slick. And then the rain fades and is replaced by a light snow.  I climb up and down the hill leading back to the Centreville aid station.  Arriving I consult my watch and pace card. A time of 2:41 puts me 3 minutes behind my 13 hour pace, meaning I've lost two minutes on the return from the turnaround.  Then we hear the rumble of thunder as the snow drifts down. I refill my bottle, grab snacks, take a Succeed and head to the steps leading down to the trail.

Inspiration . . .
At the top of the steps I'm surprised and pleased to see Tom Green coming up the steps accompanied by his long-time friend Alan.  Tom is using trekking poles to help with his balance but even so he totters nearing the top and Alan and I both reach out to steady him.  Regardless, Tom is in his usual fine spirits.  No one has a more positive attitude than Tom, and it is undoubtedly a large part of the reason for his recovery from his injury. That pleasantry envelopes and conceals an indomitable will - a will that has brought him here to his 24th BRR, with no chance to finish but a desire to be part of the event.  I cannot tell you how he managed to cross the stream crossings that involve hopping or stepping from stone to stone, or getting across the rip-rap under the railroad bridge or under Route 28 or many of the other challenging parts of the course.  I don't know. But he did, and that's why he has arrived at the Centreville aid station. We greet each other and go our opposite ways.

More bluebells - even pink ones!
. . . Followed by Despair
The snow changes back to rain and the rain stays steady turning the trail into a sloppy, slippery and somewhat treacherous mess. I try to tweet my progress but the rain falls of my device as I type activating keys, making it appear as gibberish. It forces me to give up the message.

The slippery conditions force Tom to put caution ahead of persistence, and he drops 10 miles into the race - the only BRR he has not finished. Frank Probst, age 72, will finish in 12:49, becoming the last remaining runner to have finished all 24 BRRs - and the oldest.

I don't try to avoid the mud in the trough of the trail as the banked sides of the trail are slippery and it is better to plant a foot on level muddy ground than on slanted muddy ground.

I run along with a woman who tells me of a previous experience in running in mud and rain at a 100-miler in Massachusetts. That ended up with an ambulance ride to a local hospital, the result of a serious muscle injury to her hip.

In the meantime, I'll feeling that our pace is lagging due to the slow going in the mud, the cautious approaches to the slick downhills, the energy-sapping cold feet and shirts and a general malaise from the lack of pace.

We recross Popes Head Creek and head up the hill toward the Hemlock aid station at the start-finish area.  Runners have to climb this hill at the finish of the race, 35 miles and hours later, and the climb up it feels like it does when confronted at the end of the race.

It's Over
Getting to the aid station (mile 16.6) I look at my watch - 4:08. Then the pace card - I needed 3:50 for a 13 hour pace.  Even more troubling, I'm 31 minutes behind my average pace for this point in the race.

I go through the motions of changing my wet shirts, socks and shoes for dry ones even as my body starts to cool down. I eat a warm cheesy quesadilla. But I know that I've already decided that my day is over even as I pretend it isn't. No teammates are relying on me to finish.  I call Mark to see whether he plans to go on or drop.  He says he will continue and urges me to keep going.  I tell the volunteers that I'm planning to drop. "Run until someone tells you to stop!" they urge. A brief ember of interest flares inside, but the cold, another look at the pace card considering the additional 20 minutes or so that I've taken to eat, change clothes and contemplate a decision, the forecast for high winds in the afternoon and a feeling of weariness snuffs it out.

I walk to the scorers table, turn in my tear slip from my bib, and walk back to the aid station to greet Mark as he runs through. He'll stay 3-5 minutes ahead of the cutoffs the rest of the day and finish his ninth BRR in 12:54.

Gayatri comes in, drops and we carpool home. We both comment on how strange it is to be getting back from BRR at noon.

Summary
It was a tough day at BRR. No records were broken. In fact, the winning men's time was only the 23rd fastest time, and the winning women's time was 44th. Of 310 starters there were 258 official finishers under 13 hours, a finishers' rate of  83.2 percent.  This was the lowest finishing percentage since 2008 when the finishing rate was 81.9 percent. (That year had some mud but warm and humid conditions, although it  also produced a women's then-BRR record.)

Swag: Camp Chair, socks, koozie,wrist band, bib.
Not won; finisher's shirt.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50K - March 5, 2016

A Debt Incurred
"You owe me for this," Michele says, leaning in and lowering her voice.

"I appreciate it," I reply, as a voice speaks behind us.

"I can't take it anymore. I gotta get away," I tell Michele as I push on past, struggling up the hill toward the the turn around Clopper Lake. We have about an hour to go, I figure. Gotta. Outrun. The. Voice.

A Great Day for a Run in the Woods 
For the first time in years the weather the week prior to the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K is dry.  That results in a course free of mud, snow and ice, all of which have been part of the race in previous years.

The start in Seneca Creek State Park is in a different location than last year, but includes a pavilion with a fireplace - perfect for warding off the slight chill of the morning.

The race starts on time at 7 a.m. and the 260 or so runners cross a timing mat on their way down about a half mile of park road to spread out the field.  I find it humorous to have a chip-timed ultra, where time is measured in hours and the field is not large but I suppose that it is a way to check on how many runners are on the course.

Lemmings!
Both feet on the ground following Don.
(Photo by Ray Bingham)
Notwithstanding the field getting a bit spread out on the park road, there still is an bit of a bottleneck as we turn south onto the single-track of Long Draught Trail. We get a bit of a walk (at least those towards the back of the pack) on the trail until the field further spreads out after another half mile or so.

I run along with Don and babble about various topics, none memorable but all helping the time and distance go by. I rather quickly shed my outer shirt, but Don will keep his jacket on the entire day.

A mile or two south of Riffle Ford Road, as the course follows Seneca Creek through some bottom land, a  string of runners, us included, cross a small wooden bridge and make a sharp left to go on. Soon we are all trying to pick our way across a marshy stretch of ground and not entirely successfully.  On of my feet splashes into some water and my foot is quickly wet.  After about 100 yards we get onto dry ground and back on the trail.  As we do, Jim comes down from higher ground on our left.  He didn't follow the herd and instead followed the trail, which actually runs on the higher ground above the marshland.  So much for following the person in front rather than looking for the trail markers oneself.

Bag It!
Flying!
A rare shot with both feet off the ground!
(Photo by Brian Butters)
South of Route 118 (about mile 4.5 or 5) Don introduces me to Alice, who is from Anchorage and has returned to Maryland to do some running, including the Massanutten Mountain 100. She is a change management consultant, which leads me to try out some of my lame jokes, like asking her if that means whether companies hire her to tell employees, "we are having some changes here at Megacorp. You're fired." She assures me that she helps people cope with change and the stress it brings.  I reply with one of my favorite expressions, "evolve, or become extinct."

After passing thru the Route 28 aid station (mile 7) the course takes the Route 28 overpass to the west side of Seneca Creek to follow Seneca Bluffs Trail southward.

We take advantage of the stepping stones to ford not-so Dry Seneca Creek and soon arrive at the general store at River Road. The course crosses the bridge (about mile 13.5) and picks up Seneca Creek Greenway Trail for the northbound journey.

Crossing Seneca Creek at River Road to head northbound.
(About mile 13.5)
Just before reaching Berryville Road and the aid station located there, the course crosses a small tributary feeding Seneca Creek. Runners try to pick their way across it without getting their feet wet, but it seems difficult to do. Don has prepared by leaving a pair of shoes and socks in his drop bag at the aid station, so getting his feet wet is a very temporary inconvenience of only a couple of minutes.

I have prepared but in a different manner. I pull two large bags that newspapers are delivered in from my pack along with a pair of rubber bands. I slip them on and simply walk through the inches deep water, at the same time offering my hand to Alice to stabilize her as she hops from rock to rock across the stream. I quickly remove the bags and run the minute or two it takes to get to the Berryville Road aid station (mile 15),

Don is already there changing his shoes and socks. I grab a few cookies, have some cola and top up my hydration pack. As he is wont to do, Don will linger at the aid station only to catch me later.

Runner Down!
Black Rock Mill.
The next 4.5 mile stretch of the trial is very runnable, with only brief, short up-and-downs and the occasional rivulet crossing, none of which threaten wet feet today. I chat with various runners as we leapfrog one another.  After a couple of miles I spot someone ahead who looks familiar but the distance is a bit too far to be certain.

Then she falls down and I and a couple of other runners catch up with her.  It is Michele - who I thought it was - and she is unhurt.  She dusts herself off and we set off together.

Soon enough we cross under Route 28 and arrive at the aid station at that location. As I wait to use the Porta-potty, Don passes and heads for the food table. Volunteers are making grilled cheese sandwiches and Don decides to wait for one as Michele and I head on. (Later we hear of his disappointment of only getting a quarter of a sandwich after a five-minute wait when the volunteers quarter it and give the other portions to later-arriving runners.)

Whadda Mean 26.2?
Arriving at Black Rock Mill (mile 21) volunteers direct the runners onto the Seneca Ridge Trail on the east side of the creek, whereas we had run south on the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail on the other side of the creek. With trails on both sides of the creek for nearly its entire length, there is very little duplication for the race - the mile and a half between the mill and Route 28, about the same distance from the lake to Riffle Ford Road and the half mile of park road at the beginning and end. Although it is not an official aid station a volunteer helps top up my hydration pack as it is almost 6 miles to the next aid station.

They had a bad day.
Michele and I leapfrog one another a bit as we each employ slightly different walk-run intervals but never get out of sight of each other. This section of trail is somewhat hilly and one spends a fair amount of time either ascending or descending.

At one point we come up on a runner who is walking.  It is his first SCGT race and he's pretty well spent.  He looks at his GPS and says we have gone about 25 miles and he is looking forward to the marathon being over in about 1.2 miles.

I break the bad news to him. "It's maybe that far to the next aid station," I say. "Didn't you see on the website that this race is notoriously long and the marathon is more like 28 or 29 miles?"

Later, after we have gone that mile and a quarter and I'm starting to moan about still having pretty far to go to the aid station, Michele tells me that she knew that the aid station was well more than a mile away but she didn't further want to discourage the runner.

Must. Keep. Going.
At one point Michele expresses concern about us still being on the correct path as we have not seen a blaze or ribbon in awhile.  I assure her that we are and then spot a blue ribbon.  I ask her if I should take it and tie it to my pack so that she can be assured of always being in sight of a trail-marking blue ribbon.  She declines my offer.

Almost to Clopper Lake with Michele in tow.
(Photo by Hai Nguyen)
Despite the refill at Black Rock Mill, I run dry well before reaching the Riffle Ford aid station (mile 27). Fortunately the temperatures have not climbed much and the risk of dehydration is low. But it is a relief to get to the aid station and get a refill.

As we navigate the less than two miles to the decision point for the 50K - for Michele and I the decision was made long before - Michele moves ahead.  I am run with someone who is talking and for some unknown reason is beginning to annoy me.  Maybe it is a result of running without water for a while or I am just getting tired, but I'm beginning to get irritated by the runner. This has happened before (see the "Hell is a Lonely Place" section of my Madrid Marathon report), but since I don't know the person I don't feel that I can speak freely, e.g., say "shut the f**** up!"

Instead I sprint ahead to Michele and ask for her help. She graciously agrees and slows down to chat while I struggle to push on to the best of my ability.

Reaching Clopper Lake we turn right to circumnavigate the lake while marathoners turn left to head to the finish.

Halfway over the dam Michele passes me and takes the lead.  I pick up my pace to try to stay with her, figuring that it is better to die trying to run harder than is comfortable than be stuck listening to the person who was driving me nuts.  Every time we wind our way around one of the several fingers of the lake I look back to see if the person is gaining.  I'm in a near panic not to be caught.

50K is 31.1 miles.
So why is this mile 32 with still nearly a mile to go?
(Photo by Hai Nguyen)
About three quarters of the way around the lake we look across the inlet we just rounded and see that the person is gaining.  By this point Michele is pretty well spent and so am I.  We walk more and more and soon the person catches up to us.

Remarkably that gives me another jolt of energy and I resume running, pulling away from the pair.  Even as I go I can hear the person speaking. It only drives me to push harder. Just before reaching the park road for the last half mile or so I'm left to listen to my footsteps and breathing.

Finish Details
I finish in 7:49:53 (chip time), with a reported  pace of 14:15/mile, indicating a distance of 32.9 miles. I'm 4 of 4 in my age group, 111 of 129 overall.

There are 129 finishers of the 50K and 131 finishers of the (29 mile) marathon. This is the first year that there are more marathon than 50K finishers (in 2015, for example, 106 in the 50K; 67 in the marathon). Historically 60 to 70 percent of the runners choose the longer distance.  Perhaps having the decision point so close to the finish influenced the choice of distance.

I get my travel mug premium, and grab a part of a roast beef sub which I eat on the walk back to the car. After the drive home I shower, change and Sandy and I head off to Erika's for dinner.
Swag: Mug, bib.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K - November 15, 2015

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can
- Rev. Charles S. Wing, The Little Engine That Could
RD Tom gives the pre-race brief  ("follow the white ribbons")

I spend the week prior to the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K lurking about the list of registrants trying to see how many are in my age group and what their expected times are.  Besides me there are three other registrants.  One I know and am confident that I can beat.  The other two are unfamiliar to me but based on their times in other races I feel pretty confident that I can best them.  The great unknown is whether someone shows up and registers on race day.

As I did in 2012, I develop a plan for running the race. It's a simple plan for the three-loop race: run each loop only about five to ten minutes slower than the previous loop. Ideally, my plan is 2:00, 2:05, and 2:10 loops for a 6:15 finish. With an aid station about midway of the loop it is easy to keep track of progress - an hour between aid stations is the rough measuring stick.

Jeanne performs the National Anthem.
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
Let's Go!
Gayatri, me and Barry stay warm at the start.
The forecast promises near perfect running weather - sunny, upper 30s to near 40 at the start, rising to 50 or low 50s' midway, but with a bit of wind. I leave the house at 0630, pick up Gayatri from her house a minute later and gather up Barry by 0645. By 0730 we are at Rosaryville State Park, pick up our bibs, hand over our drop bags, chat with people we know and move the start line with the total of 134 starters.

Barry leads early.
Fresh from performing before a Friday night sold-out house in The Music Man, Jeanne sings the National Anthem and we are off.  It's about a mile on the asphalt park road before turning into the woods onto the mostly single track of gently rolling terrain,  I follow Barry for a couple of miles while I warm up, but after shedding the outer of my two shirts and removing my gloves, I go past him and a number of other runners.  I settle into a pace that feels a bit quick but not too strenuous.

Army Strong, or, An Army of One I
During the first loop I run awhile with Chris, a U.S. Army infantryman.  He is running the race at the urging of his mother, who is also running.

He tells me he is used to 12 mile hikes carrying his 40-50 pound rucksack but that he has never run an ultra before.  In fact, he has not run a marathon, or a half marathon, or a 10-miler, 10K, 5K or any race at all.  He does admit to running two miles as part of his Army physical qualifications.  And, he adds, he hasn't done any training for today's race. Also, He is a pack and a half a day smoker.

Running with pace on loop 1
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
He is wearing a pair of Adidas that he bought the night before.  His mother got them for him when she found out that he had planned to run in a pair of $15 plastic-soled shoes from Walmart.

He is, I think to myself, the perfect specimen to test my "Training is Bunk" motto.

I tell him that I'm running a fly-and-die pace, but that if he can execute my plan without suffering fly-and-die he will finish in about 6:15. But, I warn, running fly-and-die means that the last part of the race can get ugly.  He understands and takes off.

Man Down - Hard!
About a half mile from the midway aid station during the second loop I trip and fall on my right side. Usually I manage to tuck and roll on my trail falls, but this time I go down hard on ground that is hard packed and unyielding.  I lay there and assess the damage. My right wrist is sore but I have full, if painful motion. A small spot of blood oozes through my tights over my right knee.  My right hip has a small sore spot, probably from landing on a small pill box I carry in my right pocket.  But most painful are my right ribs.  They are quite sore.  I recall that a couple of years ago Sam fell out here and cracked a rib.  Tentatively I take a deep breath and there is no sharp pain, just soreness.

Getting to my feet I start walking. The thought of dropping at the aid station enters my mind. I try running.  The wrist and ribs are sore but I can run. I determine that I can go on, but try to stay extra vigilant for rocks, roots and other things that might trip me up.  I spend a lot of time contemplating how close I came to a serious injury.  Maybe spreading the pain was just enough to dissipate the force away from the critical energy necessary to have done serious damage to wrist or rib.

(Rosaryville claims two runners with significant injuries, both ankle injuries, including an alvusion fracture. Eight other runners also DNF.)

The Zen of Running Alone, or, Where Am I?
The 10- and 20-mile aid station at the start of the loop.
With only 134 runners spread out over a ten-mile loop one often spends time running alone, or at best, in the company of one or two other runners.  If one clears one's mind of the past and the future than one can consider that he is leading all other runners, or is trailing all other runners.  With no awareness of others, one can be first, or last, or both.

Once the field thins out during a trail race, usually during the first three to five miles, there is not a lot of passing. People get running to their pace, with the faster runners ahead and the field stretched out behind them based on their pace.  Run 15 seconds a mile faster than someone for ten miles and you have a two and a half minute lead.  If they then can run 10 seconds a mile faster than you - a huge 25 second per mile swing in relative pace -  it will still take them another 15 miles to catch you.

The midway aid station
(Photo by Jon Valentine)
Both of these threads come together and stay with me throughout the day.  Somewhere on the course are the others in my age group, but with the exception of Barry, I don't know whether they are ahead of me or behind me.  If they are ahead it is unlikely that I will catch them and if they are behind, it is equally unlikely that they will catch me. I am where I am, running at the pace I'm running. The mantra: Relentless Forward Progress. Thru the first loop in 1:59. Then the second in 2:11. Two loop: 4:10. Right on plan with one loop to go.

Fueling with Liquid Complex Carbohydrates - A Fictional Tale
[Rosaryville State Park does not allow alcoholic beverages without a permit. Legal disclaimer: This section is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.]
About a mile into the third loop I once again come upon one of the course marshals sitting in the canvas chair she has been using at this location throughout the day.  In her chair's cupholder is a familiarly shaped bottle wrapped in a Maryland-themed cozy.

Fictional course marshal holding
a fictional bottle at a fictional race 
at a fictional location.
"Is that a [four letter word for an adult beverage]?," I inquire.

"Yes," she replies, "Would you like one?"

I resist the urge to say something about bears in the woods. "Yes, thank you," I reply.

She hands me a bottle of carbonated liquid complex carbohydrates.  The cold amber liquid is refreshing. I stand by the side of the trail hydrating while another runner passes.  About two-thirds of the way through the 12 ounces of  golden aid I decide that prudence calls for not carrying the entire contents in my stomach the last nine miles, no matter how "Light" it may be.  Regretfully I empty the rest of the bottle on the ground.  The next few miles are pain-free. And if there is any weaving, well, that is because the trail meanders, not I.

Epilogue: After the race the course marshal give me a ride to my car from the finish area.  She introduces me to another of her "Bud-dies," who accompanies me back to the finish area to await Barry and Gayatri. This time nothing gets poured on the ground.

Share the Trail
Sharing the trail with equestrians.
The Rosaryville trail had been built by mountain bikers and as the day goes on, there are a number of them to be seen.  The bikers are invariably polite, pulling to the side for runners and offering encouragement. Some are going counterclockwise as are the runners, but some are going clockwise, so it is an opportunity to see them again a little later.

The trail is also used by equestrians. In his pre-race brief RD Tom alerts us that there are horse groups out today and they have flagged parts of the course, as well as other park trails, with other color ribbons than the white ribbons we are to follow. Sure enough we came upon a pretty fair number of riders, including a group of five from the Melwood Equestrian Program. As bikers yield to runners, runners yield to horses, and I'd stand quietly by the side while the horses went by.

Army Strong, or, An Army of One II
Is this an old aid station?
Before the midway aid station on the final loop (about mile 25) I catch up with Chris.  He's moving along OK, but his knees are starting to ache, his thighs are getting a bit sore, and he admits to hot spots on both feet.

We fall in, with him allowing me to set the pace.  I mostly run the downhills and flats and walk the uphills of the rolling course.  Even though I tell him, maybe even urge him, to go on, he insists that the pace is fine and he stays with me. And maybe that is right because when I stop to take a picture, I am able to hurry along to catch up to him.  He says that he may speed up as we get closer to the finish.

We get to the midway aid station in 1:09 since I entered the final loop, elapsed time of 5:19 from the start.

Another abandoned aid station?
We chat as we go along, and he tells me about his career and family plans.  He has just reenlisted for his second tour of duty and he lays out for me what he plans to do for the rest of his life. Since what's said on the trail stays on the trail the only thing I'll say is that at some point his plans and dreams involve a 67-foot sailboat.

This last stretch seems to go on forever. While the course makes more turns than the small intestine, the turns seem further apart and turns that I mistakenly remember as being closer to the end of the loop are not.

Five fingers for five Rosaryville finishes
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
With a couple of miles to go we come upon a runner who is walking and experiencing some cramping.  Chris goes on. After supplying the runner with an electrolyte capsule I look ahead for Chris and he is out of sight. Gone. Vanished.  He has put the hammer down and finishes 8 minutes ahead of me.

But that is yet to come.  Glances at my watch tell me that my time isn't going to be anywhere near 6:30. Out of the loop and onto the park road for the last mile back to the start finish, I glance behind me to see if anyone is coming.  No one is, so I walk. And walk. With a couple of hundred yards to go, and most of it downhill, I finally run and cross the finish in 6:41:59.  It take me a leisurely 1:22 to run from the last aid station to the finish.

I Thought I Could
And now to find the answer to the Zen question. I approach RD Richard who is working away on his tablet.  He shoos me away for a few minutes so he can concentrate on what he is doing. I wander away, change clothes and return.  He tells me that no one in my age group has yet finished - that's another Zen moment, or maybe I'm Schrodinger's cat. He checks with the timers, since he only gets results in batches and hadn't received the batch with my finish, and confirms that I am the age group winner. I'm awarded the winner's seat cover towel and proudly pose for my photo.

Results
First in age group (60-69) of three runners and one DNS. Of males 57 of 67. Overall, 79 of 124.  My fifth, and slowest (by 31 seconds) Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K. But the second time I've won my AG.

Barry and Gaytri both finish after a bit.  We head off to Bojangles for nourishment before the drive home.
Happy with Medal and Age Group Auto Seat Towel Premium
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
Swag: hat, medal, bib and AG car seat towel.





Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon - October 25, 2015

Sometimes you're the windshield / Sometimes you're the bug
- Mark Knopfler, The Bug

Cinco Amigos V
Once again we've put the team back together for the 40th Marine Corps Marathon.  Barry, Emaad, Rebecca, Jennifer and I are prepared, as the MCM exhortation reminds us, "to charge the District, beat the bridge and TAKE THE IWO!"

We register in the Masters team category as Cinco Amigos V, as it is the fifth year we will be carpooling and running MCM together.  Only the top three finishers count in the team scoring, but we are allowed to have five on the team.  We expect another last place finish.

Sometimes You're the Bug I
Unexpectedly the casualties begin early.  Jennifer complains of plantar fasciitis in her foot. It's a sudden onset as she and I had been doing long runs in September in preparation for October marathons. She tries stretching and a short run but the pain persists.  As she plans to go to Seattle the week following MCM and do hiking and walking out there,she wisely decides not to risk aggravating the foot by attempting MCM.

Sometimes You're the Bug II
Rebecca is the next one down.  A couple of weeks before MCM she develops a fever and her knees swell up so much that she needs to have one drained and use a crutch for several days.  Tests for various illnesses - tick-borne and otherwise - come back negative but the illness saps her strength and she decides not to run.  She feels well enough however to come out and support the efforts of the remaining three Amigos.

Soft Targets
With me at the wheel, Emaad, Barry and I have no difficulty in getting to the MCRRC hospitality suite in Rosslyn.  At the appropriate time we head out for the mile walk to the start, which takes us past the Iwo Jima Memorial.  But shortly before turning left from N. Meade Street to walk down N. Marshall Drive toward Route 110 and the start, the crowd of runners comes to a halt. People begin to get antsy about getting to the starting line on time as there seems to be no reason for the delay.

New this year, however, about half a dozen metal detectors have been set up to screen everyone walking in that direction.  In year's past, there has been bag screening, but runners have been able to by-pass the bag checks since they are not carrying bags. With a handful of metal detectors, perhaps balky in the damp, misty conditions, the crowds have come to a packed standstill trapped with metal detector lines to the front, an armored police vehicle to the right, a fence and earthen berm to the right, and more runners to the rear.

Security has created not only a perfect mess of disrupting the smooth progression of runners to the start but have created what would be an ideal situation for a terrorist: a densely packed crowd in an area conducive to concentrating an explosion. A terrorist might not be able to get beyond the metal detectors, but would have no need to - security has neatly penned up hundreds of potential victims just outside the perimeter.

Finally a Marine takes control of the situation and orders runners without packs to move to the right and bypass the metal detectors.  The crowd quickly moves past the unnecessary (and unsecure) bottleneck.

Other locations lacked a take-charge Marine.  Long lines at other entry points resulted in hundreds of runners getting to the start line more than a half hour after the start. The race director extended the "beat the bridge cutoff time and kept the finish line open an additional 30 minutes to accommodate those runners.

Walking up Route 110 toward the start, a pair of Ospreys thunder overhead in helicopter orientation, then fly back in airplane orientation.  We get out of the road as the wheelchair racers start and come toward us.

Trying to get to the proper side of the start line.
We get beyond the howitzer that is fired to begin the race just before Marines stop the stream of runners trying to get to the far side of the start arches.  We walk past the corrals for the elite and other fast runners and duck into the starting area.  The howitzer fires, we allow a stream of faster runners to go by and seven minutes after the start gun, we cross the mat to begin the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon.

Got A Plan
Barry falls back while Emaad and I set out with a plan. While we both had somewhat disappointing results at the Wineglass Marathon three weeks previous, we figure that if we can run the first half in 2:10 we can go under 4:30 today. Both of us have run MCM the past four years in under 4:30, so our goal is fairly modest - about a 10:17 per mile pace overall.

We take the first few miles easy.  At the downhill at Spout Run (mile 3) we try to pick up the pace a bit.  A pushrim racer is trying to get through the dense crowd but people are slow to move out of his way.  In my best imitation of a Marine DI I start screaming, "Clear the center! NOW! Clear the center!" I come alongside one woman with ear buds oblivious to the request. I resist the urge to rip them out of her ear and simply yell at her.  (There are more than 23,000 persons running today and tens of thousands of spectators and by running with headphones she might as well have run alone.) The crowd parts for him, he gives me a thanks, and gets to go on and take advantage of the downhill.
In the sprint to help clear the path, I lose Emaad. I won't see him until back at the hospitality suite. Based on our splits, he passes me somewhere around mile 7. I pass him around mile 20. Neither of us sees the other. Given the way the day turns out, that might have been best for both of us.

Sometimes You're the Bug III
Emaad was beginning to develop a cold or other respiratory problem in the days before MCM. Today he pays the bill.  While getting through the first half in 2:15, he so runs out of energy in the second half, staggering through the second half in 2:59. He walks the last several miles. On the plus side, it is his ninth MCM finish even if his slowest since 2005.

Time for Plan B, or Maybe Plan C
I make decent progress for the first quarter of the race, getting through the first 10K in a 10:17 pace. In fact, for the second 5K, I've dropped the pace to just under 10 minutes per mile. The next 5K is a bit slower, but that includes the crowded out and back part of the course in Rock Creek.  Then it is past the Kennedy Center at mile 10 to begin the long straight flat to the halfway mark at Hains Point.

Beginning of the Blue Mile
A mile to remember them.
Mile 12 is the always poignant Blue Mile, lined with the images of those who have died for their county in its past twelve years of war in the Middle East.

My pace isn't what I want it to be. I'm running with the effort I want to be at, but the pace is dropping into the upper 10:20s.  It is too soon to be slowing down, but I am.

I reach the half in 2:16.  I know that 4:30 is out of the question.  By the time mile 14 passes in a slow and labored 10:39, I realize that it is time for Plan B.  I try to ascertain whether I can finish in 4:40. That will depend on how the teen miles go.

And they don't go well.  My pace per mile drops from the upper 10s to the mid to upper 11s.  I'm not suffering any pains. I'm just spent.  While I'm usually a pretty chatty runner, I don't feel the urge today.  My last real conversation was around mile 4 with a bunch of Australian runners who I teased should be watching the Wallabies playing Argentina in the semifinals of the rugby World Cup rather than running a marathon.  They assure me that they will be done in time to see it, and anyway, they are confident to advance to the finals, where the All Blacks of New Zealand await the winner. (Their confidence is justified as Australia easily beats the Pumas 29-15. The next week, however, the all-powerful All Blacks summarily dismiss their down-under rivals 34-17 to win the Cup.)

By mile 20 - proverbially where the marathon 10K starts following the 20-mile warm-up, I'm just hanging on.  I'll run mile 20 in 11:35, which shockingly will be my best mile split for the last eleven miles of the race.

It's not that I'm doing a great deal of walking at this point.  I'm only walking one minute at the beginning of each mile.  But I have little strength or energy, even as I drink Gatorade, take salt tablets and consume gels. I'm just trudging along.

Crossing the 14th bridge my goal now is to get to the finish in under five hours. As I tell a first-time runner who asks about the remainder of the course, the course on the bridge is a surprising  mile and a half long.  A police boat and a Coast Guard boat patrol the Potomac below.

Virginia
Once over the bridge only five miles remain. I look forward to getting a taste of beer from the Hash House Harriers in Crystal City, but I miss them.  At each mile marker I do mental arithmetic to determine what pace I need to maintain to finish under five hours.  Depressingly, it continues to hover in the low 13 minutes per mile, a pace I am just running ahead of.

Not looking great at the finish.
Food offerings of donut holes at mile 24 have no appeal and I trudge (there's that description again) onward.  At mile 25 I weigh the time lost for a visit to a portapotty, against the likelihood of making it to the finish and decide the stop is prudent.

Finally to the turn to the finish, I can't even run up the final part of the hill to the Memorial, but I manage to run the last, mostly flat, 150 yards to the finish and cross the line in 4:56:06.

Past the finish I lean on a railing to recover.  I walk to help banish some lightheadedness, get in line for me medal, accept the salute from the Marine lieutenant bestowing the finishers' medals and find my way out and back to the hospitality suite.

Barry has a workmanlike finish.  Rebecca meets him on the Mall around mile 17.5 and paces him about five miles to Crystal City.  She was there when I ran by, but I missed seeing her.  It was that kind of day.

Sometimes You're the Bug IV
This was not one of my finer performances.  Half splits of 2:16 / 2:40 contribute to an overall pace of 11:17/mile, more than a minute per mile slower than last year.  It is the second slowest of my MCM finishes. Places were AG 160/430; Males 7812/12
774 and overall 12456/23186.

On the plus side, it was my tenth MCM finish.

The team Cinco Amigos V finishes like expected: last (11/11) in the Masters category and was the slowest of all 37 teams in all categories.  There is no award for being DFL, be we award ourselves the Lanterne Rouge.

Swag: Shirt, patch, medal, bib, program, box of snacks
(All ruby for the MCM 40th Anniversary)


Monday, October 12, 2015

Wineglass Marathon - October 4, 2015

Vignettes of a Marathon
A week of rainy weather, led by a threat of a nor'easter and Hurricane Joaquin, and a mysterious illness that sidelines Rebecca casts uncertainty over our participation in the Wineglass Marathon but clearing weather on Saturday and near-perfect running weather Sunday save the weekend.  The course is nearly identical to that I ran in 2010 (report here), 2009 and 2006 (Mark's report), so I'll stick to the highlights and skip the mile-by-mile details.

How to Hydrate for a Marathon
Saturday afternoon is the day for a bit of Seneca Lake touring.  We go first to the FLX Wienery for lunch, for which I wash down a Zweigle's White Hot, home-made chips and french fries with a birch beer.  We drive down to Watkins Glen and then up the east side of Seneca Lake for a stop at Grist Iron Brewing for a beer.  From there we proceed to Two Goats Brewing for more beer and to admire the hundreds or thousands of dollars thumb-tacked to the high ceiling. The owner tells us the secret of how they are thrown up there using a stack of quarters as a weight behind the thumb-tack.  Then on to Damiani Wine Cellars for a tasting flight, and a visit to the next door Finger Lakes Distilling.  Barry and I pass, but Emaad has some whiskey, grappa, and maple jack liqueur. We drive the back roads of Schuyler County to get to Heavily Brewing in a converted dairy barn in Montour Falls. Barry gets a sandwich and a coke but Emaad, Sandy and I share two flights of beer amongst us.

After we are done we return to the house.  Barry calls it a day, but the other three of us head out for dinner.  We wind up in a sports bar, but wisely we all skip any additional complex liquid carbohydrates.

Barry, Emaad and I keep warm and rested awaiting the start.
Madness? Who's Mad?
About a mile into the marathon, Emaad complains that he is having trouble getting loose and that running is hard.  We are in the midst of other runners as we run down Route 54 in Bath, so I lean close to him and make a slightly inappropriate suggestion as to what would motive him to run faster.  He doesn't quite hear me, and I start to giggle at my own suggestion and his asking me to repeat it.  For some reason the humor (to me anyway)  of this grows on me and I start to laugh louder and louder.  Emaad  slides away to the side.  That makes me laugh more and louder.  Emaad moves further away.

Runners awaiting the start

And then I start to yell, "I don't need to take any medicine! I feel good without it! I don't need to take those pills!"  Emaad drops further away.  Other runners give me a wide berth.

[Later in the day, long after I've left him Emaad decides that his tightness is a result of his compression tights.  He ducks into a corn field to remove them and gathers shouts about Portapotties for his efforts.] 

Move on! Nothing to see here!
Running along East Steuben Street in Bath, the eastbound lane is given over to the runners. Periodic traffic cones provide some warning for runners and the few oncoming cars on a Sunday morning.

I'm with a group of runners regaling them with my favorite tales from Marathon du Medoc when I trip over a traffic cone, fall on my right side, roll and pop back up to my feet. 

Nice scenery on Route 415 east of Bath - between miles 6 and 8
People ask if I'm hurt but a quick inventory reveals nothing problematic medically: small scrapes to my right elbow and knee. Partially embarrassed from my inattention - I never saw the cone even after my fall - I yell out, "Nothing to see here! Just keep moving along!"

But I managed to fall squarely on a gel pack in one of the compartments on my shorts and the pack burst, leaving sticky gel smeared on the right side of my shorts. Retrieving a couple of other gels from adjacent pockets that were coated in the mess, I carry them along until I get a bottle of water to wash off them and my sticky hands.

Pictures Along the Course
I'll let the camera do the talking for much of the course.

Along Route 415 headed to Savona - about mile 8

Well maintained red barn on County Road 125 outside Savona- around mile 11
Crossing the Cohocton River in Campbell - around mile 13
Horses in a field on Tannery Road - around mile 15

Recrossing the Cohocton River into Curtis - around mile 16
Less well maintained red barn on Route 415 around mile 19



































On on! Hashers serve beer on Painted Post Trail 
- about mile 23
On On!
Hash House Harriers are those fine folks who belong to "a drinking club with a running problem." Local hashers frequently set up impromptu beer aid stations at marathons, and I'm looking forward to seeing them today.  Five years ago I got to their station only to be disappointed that they had run out of beer.

That is not the case this year and the liquid refreshment just past mile 23 is welcome.  I greet the fine HHH volunteers with an "on on!"  

Help Wanted
The marathon may start at mile 20 but I knew at the halfway point that I wasn't going to be able to reach a stretch goal of 4:30. The lack of serious or even goal-oriented training was a large part of it, and also that I hadn't started out the day with a particular goal in mind.  The 4:30 had been a fleeting thought, but reaching halfway in 2:15 with the knowledge and experience that I don't run negative split marathons but an end to any chance of it happening.

So when I got to mile 20 the goal was to finish in under 4:40.  A glance at my watch indicated I have about 65 minutes to go 6.2 miles, around an 11 minutes/mile pace.Mile 21 was a bit of a drag and then well into mile 22 Elaine, the 4:40 pacer, caught up with me.  I figured that was the end of it for me.

Elaine leads the 4:40 pace group at mile 25
But she was cheery and positive enough that I was encouraged to try to hang with her and the group that was following her.  We chatted as we went along. Her previous race had been a little jaunt in France at the end of August, the 170 kilometer long, 33,000 feet of climb and descent, Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, which she finished in 44 hours.

I figured I could buy into some of that toughness and try to hang with her for the last four miles.  We compared watches and discovered that I had started about 50 seconds later than her, so that was She was running a rock steady pace and sometimes I'd get ahead but then I'd walk or slow down and she would catch up.

Despite her encouragement, by ones and twos the group with her started to shrink.  By mile 25 there were six left and I think that by the bridge over the Chemung River to turn onto Market Street for the last half mile or so a couple more had dropped off the pace. I had gotten a little ahead and took the slight uphill onto the bridge as a chance for a last walk.  When she caught up I took that as the clue to start running again.  A straight shot down Market Street to the finish and I was done.

She finished in 4:39:07, just 23 seconds faster than the 4:39:30 that she told the folks running with her that was her target.

Awkwardly worded volunteer shirt
What were they thinking?
Volunteers on bicycles cruise along the marathon route.  They are easy to spot wearing their special yellow shirts.  Only when one goes past me do I realize that the slogan on the back may be poorly worded - perhaps "course support" would be more appropriate.

At the end I point that out to one of the female riders.  She agrees. "I'll raise that in our post-race meeting," she says, allowing me to photograph the shirt. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here.)

Results and Some Unusual Statistics
The details for me:
Finish; 4:38:07; 18/40 AG; 529/729 M; 1170/1931 Overall
Splits: about 2:15 / 2:23

Overall, 62 percent of the finishers were women, significantly higher than the 43 percent reported by Running USA for marathons in 2014. And the half marathon, run at the same time on the second half of the course, had 78 percent of its finishers being women, again significantly higher than the 61 percent reported by Running USA for 2014 half marathons. I have no idea why the proportions at Wineglass are so much higher.

Swag: Bag, split of sparkling wine, wineglass, shirt, bib,
program, gift cards, candy, glass finisher's medal

Friday, August 14, 2015

Maryland Heat Race 25K - August 8, 2015

One Man's Misfortune is Another Man's Good Luck
"Your lucky day," Don emails, "Doc says 'no running' for a few weeks. So I'm offering you my 25K bib, no charge. The RD says: no transfer fee."

The day before I had indicated to Don that I might be interested in running the Maryland Heat Race with him. Normally I would be more interested in running 50K than half the distance, but a either run on a hot and humid August day did not sound appealing.  On the other hand the 50K was $60 compared to $50, so you got twice the distance for only 20 percent more.

Combined with a long range forecast indicating that the weather would not be awful, a free entry was too much to refuse and I quickly accepted Don's offer.

Paying It Forward, or Backward, or Something
Race director Nick arranges for the transfer of Don's entry to me and as a small token of appreciation I offer to donate some truly fabulous gifts for him to give away.  The race does not have prizes but at the post-race picnic he gives away various items by pulling runners bib numbers from a hat. After I give him a list of what I am proposing to bring he emails, "I'm not sure what the second one is, or how much people will want these items, but who knows. . . . . Maybe I can convince you to announce what they are, since I won’t remember :-)"

The evening before the race brings a flurry of emails - and a possible motive for Don offering me his entry.  Carol starts it off by asking Don if he is registered for the race.  In July he had mentioned to her what a good race it was and that he intended to enter.  She promptly did enter - it was to be her first trail race.  When Don got injured volunteering at a race July 18 he did not inform her that he was sidelined, and now, the day before the race, she found that she was going to be on her own.

Don replies apologetically but mentions that he transferred his "bib to another friend (Ken Swab) who I think you've met and he runs your pace (maybe a hair slower) and adds me to the email chain. She replies to both of us, "I was looking forward to running with you but will look for Ken. . . ."

I'm always willing to run with someone so we exchange pictures and mobile numbers so that we can meet up at the start.

A Day in the Woods
Parking is at a park-and-ride lot just off I-195 and a bus shuttles runners into Patapsco State Park to the pavilion on a less than ten minute ride. Check-in is quick and easy and Carol finds me without any problem.

Since Don had indicated that I was "a hair slower" I ask her about her speed.  "I run 8:30 pace," she replies.  That makes me much more than a hair slower, I think, but she is a bit concerned about her first trail run so she indicates that she is likely to stay with me, at least for the first part of the race.

We toss a couple of horseshoes in the pit next to the pavilion while waiting for the race to begin. The 50K started at 7 a.m. and at 9 a.m. race director Nick gives a brief description of the course and the aid stations positioned every four miles.  Instead of saying "Go!" he leads us on a loop around a ball field then down a short road over the river to where a trail begins.  It takes some exertion to keep up with Carol.

We run on a dirt trail paralleling the river for a bit, then through a short tunnel under a railroad line and head up a hill away from the river.  Carol is strong on the uphill and pulls away from me as I walk the single track.  At the top we hang a right at a four way intersection under the guidance of a course marshal and I make up time on the downhill, finally catching up to Carol.
Nice runnable section just past the power lines.
She's wisely being cautious on the downhills, perhaps because I have told her the slogan, "it isn't a trail run unless you fall or get lost."  A loop takes us back to the intersection with the course marshal who directs us in the proper direction.  In a bit the leaders of the 50K race come flying past.

A bit of rolling course takes us out to a trail under a powerline cut and we head uphill with Carol in the lead. We briefly go back into the woods and pop out at a road where we don't see flagging for where to go.  Three guys sitting on the tailgate of a pickup point us in the right direction, and we debate whether they are volunteers, or just three guys sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck willing to help out confused runners.

Carol reloads at he first aid station.
Now It is a Trail Race
We quickly come to the first aid station on the edge of a field.  A glance at my watch indicates that it has been 56 minutes from the start.  My unofficial plan is to run each four mile stretch between aid stations in an hour, so we are on schedule, assuming the aid stations are four mile apart.

The trail heads downhill, first gently and then more steeply.  Carol and I tread carefully as more 50K runners bound past.  We navigate one of the several stream crossings, but like all of them they are low enough and there are adequate stones to get across dry-foot if one wishes.  We do, but other runners simply splash across.

Headed up after the really steep part.
What goes down must go up. A course marker points right and upward at a 45 degree angle, and it isn't much of an exaggeration,  It is a rocky stretch and I go in parts on all fours until it eases up a bit. Near the top there is a sign pointing to a scenic overlook not far off the trail and we at first consider it and then decide that we ought to keep running.

Carol takes off and I plod on behind.  A bit of rolling up and down and as I turn a corner I see someone bent over a runner on the ground.  It's Carol, and apart from a bump on her leg she isn't injured.  I tell her that it is now a trail race.

We pass a spot where a couple of folks are sitting by ropes that go over the side.  I move close to the edge and quickly retreat having no interest in the rock face that seems to descend a deadly distance.

The Patapsco River from the Grist Mill Trail.
The course turns downward and by the foot of the Bloedes Dam we are on the paved Grist Mill trail next to the Patapsco River.  Carol cranks up the speed once again and I don't try to stay with her.  We make a right onto a pedestrian suspension bridge over the river and arrive at Aid Station 2 in 53 minutes since leaving the first aid station.
Aid Station 2, with Don (back to camera, r.) snapping pics and Carol to his left.

Carol and I clown around at AS 2.
(Photo Courtesy of Don Libes) 

Second Half
After stopping to exchange photo opportunities with Don I grab a handful of chips and M&Ms and head uphill on the trail.  Carol soon overtakes me and we go on together, first downhill, then rolling along a ridgeline above the river. We turn away from the river and run past a couple of collapsed buildings in the woods.
A fixer-upper in the woods.
In a bit I glance at my watch as it ticks (metaphorically) toward one hour. We are still in the woods with no aid station in sight.  But within a couple of minutes (1:02) we arrive at the final aid station.  Just four miles to go now.

Aid Station 3.
Now It is a Trail Race, Part II; or, An Ethical Dilemma Revisited
I'm in and out of the aid station quickly. Carol lingers a bit more but quickly catches up.  We both are felling good and move along smartly.  There is a wider stream crossing than some of the others we have managed and I decide that getting my feet wet isn't a problem so I deliberately avoid trying to skip from rock to rock.  Carol does likewise and declares the water "refreshing".  I concur.

My pace seems to have picked up a bit and I gradually pull away from her.  At various points I slow down and look behind.  At first I can see her with another runner, and then, while I can see her as the course winds around and up and down I can hear her talking with another runner. I have a slight pang of conscience of leaving her behind but rationalize that she is with another runner so it is OK.

And after a little bit more I can't hear her either.  I slow down a bit but keep going.  With about a mile to go a runner catches up to be and asks if I'm Ken.  He then tells me that Carol had fallen and sprained her wrist and that she wanted me to know that she was OK and that I should keep going.

A couple of years ago Rebecca and I had a conversation about what I would do if she fell and was injured.  I told her that I'd dial 911 and leave her, since I'm not qualified to render medical advice.  This becomes one of Rebecca's favorite stories to tell on me (see the section, "What Goes Up" here).

Now I am confronted with the real, not the theoretical, question.  I trot on a bit more, slowly.  Another runner comes by and gives me the same information and same advice to "go on" from Carol.  I go another ten yards.  Then ten more. Then I stop.

Carol comes along.  Her shoulder and back are dirty from her fall and three of her fingers are sore from being jammed into the ground.  She assures me that I didn't need to wait and I tell her the Rebecca story.

The Wall from the back side. Carol on top.
We go on together and come to "The Wall" a twelve foot high flood control  measure on the bank of the Patapsco.  We find a place to climb up it and I clamber down the other side, while Carol walks along the top to find another place to descend.

We cross a beach area busy with picnickers and come out onto the field where we began.  I ask Carol where her 8:30/mile speed is and she immediately kicks into high gear and roars to and over the finish line 100 yards ahead. Despite the fall and the wall, we finish the last four miles in 1:01.

Fabulous Party, Fabulous Prizes
BBQ on a bun, beans, kielbasa, mac salad and a pilsner.
The finish line party is everything that was promised.  Volunteers have grills going full blast, and there are hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ, black bean burgers, macaroni, fruit and quinoa salads, pizza chocolate cake and much more.  And coolers full of a wide variety of craft beers.
Just some of the beer selection.


Around 2 p.m. Nick jumps onto a table and begins to pull numbers from a hat.  There are no prizes for winners, but raffle prizes for lucky entrants, where 25 or 50K runners. He gives away several restaurant gift certificates and some running gear and then turns to the items I donated.  Rather than draw numbers he simply asks who wants them, one at a time and gives away several of the items I donated: a mini-Nerf football, earbuds, an unopened Baltimore Ravens 1996 Inaugural Season bottle of Coca-Cola Classic, and a pocket sized copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

Then he calls on me to describe and present the final items. The first is a red presentation box containing a white Chinese ceramic bowl with lid. The last two are identical, and what I described to the crowd as an American version of the Maltese Falcon differing only in that they are eagles rather than falcons, brass rather than black, metal rather than stone, and American rather than Maltese. Other than those few differences, I assure people, I'm sure that Kasper Gutman and Joel Cairo would be after them. 

Me hawking the American version of the Maltese Falcon.

Race Roundup
Carol finishes in 3:35:50 and I'm seven seconds behind her due to her sprint at the end. We are both first in our age groups. OK, there are not many folks in them (3 females, 3 males total), but we did beat the others. Good for bragging rights anyway. I'm 58 of 83 males, and 88 of 146 overall. 

Swag: four gels, sticker, bib.