Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Rosaryville Veterans' Day 50K - November 10, 2018

Emaad shows up at my door on time, I drive up the block and we pick up Gayatri for the uneventful drive to Rosaryville State Park for the eponymously named Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K put on by the Annapolis Striders.

This is Emaad’s first Rosaryville race, but Gayatri and I are both distinguished veterans – of the race that is. It is her fourth Rosaryville, which includes an age group win, and my seventh, with two age group wins.

As always, bib pick-up is easy, and we get our obligatory Rosaryville runner’s premium, a hat. We fiddle about with what to put in our drop bags, which we will get to at the end of the first and second of the three loops of the course.

After a nice a capella rendition of the National Anthem we walk the few yards to the start, and at 8 a.m. we are sent off on a cool morning.

First Lap
Emaad and are well toward the rear of the approximately 140 starters, and in no hurry. After about three quarters of a mile on the paved park road, we turn onto the perimeter trail to begin our first loop.
About to start
I run with Emaad for a couple of miles and then decide that the pace is slower than I’m comfortable with so I go on. I fall in with a woman and we get to chatting as is usual the case in ultras, particularly toward the back of the pack. It is her first ultra and one of her first trail runs.  But it turns out that she is no rookie when it comes to endurance events – she is an Ironman (Ironwoman?) competitor. She explains to me the strategies and her experiences of the swim and the rules governing wet suits. She tells me the rules governing drafting during the bicycling phase and how they don’t really apply when there is the equivalent of a peloton. She plans to go back to the Virgin Islands for an ironman in January. It is unfinished business, as she DNF’d at it a year or two ago.  She describes how the bike part of the race is hard, as it goes uphill and then gets steeper and steeper at each switchback.  When to get off the bike to walk up the steeper hills is an important consideration, because waiting too long does not provide enough time to unclip the cycling shoe before the bicycle falls over.
The "abandoned aid station" in the first half of the loop
At one point I trip and tumble over, but execute a nice 360 degree roll to the right and suffer no injury.
Cross the Bridge
(photo by Jon Valentine)
We go thru the first aid station in 1:05. It’s about midway through the loop and I figure that a good pace will be to add about 5 minutes to each segment.  Rain a couple of days before affected the footing on the course but has raised the water levels in the two streams on the course. The first is easy enough to cross with no problem but the second has no place for much of a running start and a steep muddy bank on the other side. I wind up stepping in the cold water. After a few seconds of reflection I shake off any negative thoughts about it, knowing that it will dry out in a bit.

At the mid-loop aid station manned by Middie volunteers. Go Navy!
Second Lap
I pass through the aid station at the end of the first loop in 1:07 from the first aid station. I’m pleased that I’m pretty much on target timewise.  I refill my bottle, decide to skip a visit to my drop bag and quickly go on my way.
I catch up with experienced ultrarunner Caroline, who has nearly 200 ultras to her credit, including July’s Vermont 100 miler.  She is always upbeat and seems most cheerful when on the course. We run along together chatting amicably. And surprisingly we reach the midway aid station in 1:03. I get a pierogi and a refill. That’s a pleasant surprise and we go on.

This loop I navigate the stream crossing with no problem and get to the aid station in 1:14. I get some potato chips and cookies, then decide that I need to use the portapotty. This is definitely sub-optimal sequencing, but I manage a balancing act. Then I go to my drop bag to discard my hat and gloves.

Third Loop
I head out to catch up with Caroline. As I do I start to get an idea. It’s more like a message in fact. My watch indicates that I got thru the first two loops in 4:29. So maybe, a voice tells me, I can finish in under seven hours. I try to do the arithmetic but I can’t get it to compute.  Instead, I decide that 1:10 to the final aid station is what I need. Given that the last segment was 1:14 that may be ambitious. I kick up the pace tell Caroline as I pass that I’m on a mission from God.  I repeat the line as I pass several other runners. Getting to the aid station in 1:03 affirms that I’ve got a chance.
And then, confusion brings me to a halt. There is a tree down across the trail. No tree was there in the first or second loop and I stop thinking that I’ve gone off course. I look back to see if I can spot ribbons marking the course and start to backtrack. Another runner comes along and assures me and a couple of more runners that we are going the right way, and that the winds during the day have brought the tree down.
Rusting farm equipment in the second half of the loop
At the stream crossing I avoid the water but step in the mud on the other side. A runner passes by just splashing through the water, and I congratulate him on making the better choice.

At the end of the loop I chirp a “Go Navy” to the midshipmen directing the runners left onto the road to the finish. They respond with the appropriate “Beat Army.”
The "Scary Baby on a Bike" shrine
The final three quarters of a mile is up the same road that we started off on. But it is mostly a long uphill and even though it is not particularly steep it is uphill and feels more uphill than it felt downhill at the start of the race. Having looked at my watch I know that I can walk it in if I need to – and I walk most of the way. But on the final fifty yards, uphill of course, I toss my bottle away and run to and across the finish.

My seventh RVD50K finish
(photo by Jon Valentine)
One of the finish line workers gives me my finisher’s medal and says she thinks I’m the first in my age group to cross the line.  I’m a bit surprised but that sounds like unexpected good news. Race director Tom comes up to me and asks if I’m Robert Gensler. I tell him who I am and he then recognizes me from my previous finishers. Robert was the age group winner, a comfortable 28 minutes ahead of me.

Swag: Hat, medal and bib
End Details
I spot Gayatri in the pavilion at the finish. She dropped after two laps.  I walk to the next parking lot and bring the car back while we wait for Emaad to finish. He finishes in 7:23. Caroline, who finished in 7:07, joins us and we carpool to Bojangles for the traditional post-Rosaryville meal.

I finish in 6:50:12, 2 of 3 in my age group, 63 of 77 males and 104 of 137 overall.

Seven years worth of Rosaryville hats

Friday, November 16, 2018

Potomac Heritage Trail Fat Ass - November 4, 2018

When 50K Is 31K
Mark gently reminds several of us of this year's Potomac Heritage Trail 50K and its very reasonable entry fee - zero. It is one of the Virginia Happy Trail Runners Club low-key, long distance, fat-ass races. We'll be asked to contribute something for the aid stations, but other than that, it is a matter of show up and run. Since Emaad and I are running the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K the following week, Emaad suggests that we run part of PHT50 - to the third aid station and back to the finish (about 19.4 miles) - as a training run. I'm easy, so I agree.

Getting ready at the start
The week before the race we get "the bill" for the race.  I'm to bring a pound of pretzels. Emaad is asked to bring potato chips.  I buy the pretzels, and since Halloween has just ended, I also pick up a bag of half-price M&Ms to donate.

We show up at the finish, which is the race director's home in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, walk to the corner of the street to the start line, and chat with some of the other 51 starters while we wait to begin. It is a bit of a reunion as I haven't run a VHTRC race since the 2016 PHT50 (See my 2016 report). VHTRC runners are prototypical ultrarunners - laid back personalities who have the toughness to run 100 miles without any hubris.

One of the volunteers has a check-in sheet, and as 8:00 arrives, he gives some last minute instructions ("follow the purple chalk in DC, then stay on the blue-blazed PHT in Virginia with a purple- chalked detour to the aid station in Turkey Run, then to the American Legion Bridge, turn around, and go back to the start using Chain Bridge"). He also has turn-by-turn directions for those who feel they might need them.  Having run PHT50 in 2016 and 2014 (here's that report) albeit from Woodley Park rather than Mt. Pleasant, I'm pretty confident that I can navigate it.  I take directions anyway.

To Battery Kemble Aid Station (Mile 4.7)
Perhaps to the surprise of early Sunday morning drivers, a small horde of runners trots down the middle of the neighborhood street, then onto a sidewalk and into Rock Creek Park.  The morning is pretty cool, but Emaad drops off an extra shirt at the RD's house as we pass it. (A link to the course map is here. It may be helpful for following this report.)
Dumbarton Oaks - trail to right of stream

What is remarkable about the course is how much of a trail network the center of Washington contains. The paved, and even unpaved trails of Rock Creek Park are obvious and well known, but soon we are on a trail behind Dumbarton Oaks Museum and a block after exiting its grounds and crossing Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, we are on the Whitehaven Trail on a narrow one block long stretch that involves a rather steep climb and descent - and some complaints from Emaad.

The strip-like park containing the trail continues until we come to the Glover Archibold Trail (built on top of what may be a sewer line, as the top of a large concrete pipe occasional peeks through the dirt) and there is a less-than-floral scent in some wet places. Speaking of which . . .

We are running along with another participant, sometimes ahead, sometimes trailing, but close enough that we are chatting.  I scout for an appropriate tree and tell her to go ahead.  She says there no need for her to do so and she is happy to follow me, but I reply that she probably doesn't want to follow me where I'm headed. She agrees.

The trail is better marked than in previous years, and making the turn to the west into the Wesley Heights Park is easier than in years gone by. We hit the water only aid station crossing 49th Street and head onto the Battery Kemble trail.

Win and I have run here several times and she said that she might meet us there and run a little with us. But she and husband Bill have decided to visit the National Arboretum instead.

To Theodore Roosevelt Island/Key Bridge Aid Station (Mile 8.6)
By now we have a fairly consistent pod?/pack?/group? of runners consisting of Emaad and myself, Smitty, Caroline and a couple of others. We talk about races we have done, and ones coming up. Down the trail, across MacArthur Boulevard by the old red schoolhouse and up the short, but steep and rocky path to the old trolley trail. Once on it, it is broad, flat and grassy, but it does require some detours on to residential streets and a tricky section behind Georgetown Day School.

Along the C&O towpath
After crossing Foxhall Road, we go through the tunnel under Canal Road and the C&O Canal and emerge onto the canal towpath.  There we are passed by runners with bibs running a race on the towpath, and we have to maneuver around and through the crowds at the finish.

We cross the pedestrian bridge over the towpath and turn onto Key Bridge heading for Virginia. Only six days ago I was running in the middle of the bridge headed the opposite direction with ten of thousands of other runners during the Marine Corps Marathon. Not only are we headed the opposite direction today, but we wear no bibs, there are no crowds to cheer us, and no one who sees us knows that we are in a organized event. Of course, that's what happens when the event is 300 times smaller.

The aid station is at the foot of the pedestrian bridge over the George Washington Parkway, where the Mount Vernon Trail becomes the Potomac Heritage Trail. We get to eat the pretzels and chips we brought, nibble on a donut hole and some cookies and eventually head out.

Old boiler along PHT (click to learn more)
To Chain Bridge Aid Station (Mile 12.5)
 The first mile or two of the Potomac Heritage Trail is generally runnable, as it stays on a narrow strip of land between the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac River.  There are nice views of Georgetown University and the Maryland shoreline by the C&O Canal.

But in a bit, as the parkway climbs upward and the trail stays by the river, the path gets rocky and our pace slows down, sometimes to a crawl. A real crawl, that is, over the rocks and boulders that are the path.

Mark, accompanied as he always is, it seems, by a woman or two, goes past us. Some VHTRC folks, running their own course on the other side of the river, hail us. We chat about running, politics and random topics as we pick our way over the increasingly technical (read, rocky) landscape. At one point Emaad forges his own trail, having missed the subtle change in direction of the course. Smitty comments on how this year's flooding has brought much new sand to the trail. In some places the Potomac at flood stage has cut into the bank by the trail, and a slip or trip could result in a ten-foot drop onto rocks at the river edge. Caution prevails.

Emaad and Caroline head up at Gulf Run
Finally we have to climb up the steep rock face at Gulf Run.  Handrails set years or decades ago by the National Park Service have been displaced from their original positions and we all take care with our footing, because a misstep here could result in serious injury.
Rock scramble
Our ascent is successful, and after a short run along a ridge, we descend, cross under Chain Bridge Road and arrive at the Chain Bridge aid station.

To the Finish (Mile 19.4)
Emaad and I planned to return to the start here, and technically, even if we hadn't we have missed the 11:30 a.m. cut-off by about six minutes.  But since it is a fat-ass, the aid station volunteers say that if folks want to go on they can, but it is unlikely that the aid station will be there when they return.

In any case, there is no hurry by the half dozen or so runners to leave the aid station, as not only is it well stocked with the usual assortment of chips, candy and cookies, but there are stuffed grape leaves, quesadillas and pirogies.  For beverages there is the usual soda, water and Gatorade.  I observe wistfully that I once had wine at the aid station.  No wine, a volunteer says, but how about this, pulling out a beer.  Smitty and I split the 12 ounces.

Emaad and I, accompanied by two runners, head out across Chain Bridge. I'm familiar with this part of the course from previous years, and play tour guide for the new runners. One takes advantage of the facilities at Fletcher's Boathouse before we scramble climb over the railing and through the tunnel under Canal Road to pick up Battery Kemble Trail. By now it is past noon, so there are more people out, particularly dog walkers, so we exchange greetings with more folks.

Just after crossing Foxhall Road I slip and fall, landing on my backside. No harm to my legs or torso but I jammed by my left ring finger on a rock. the finger works OK, but I glance at it and the nail is turning purple. I get squeamish and turn away.  After a bit it begins to throb, but rather than look at it I take a pair of ibuprofen tablets. In a bit the pain recedes.

Rambling (certainly not running) in DC
In the last couple of miles we get passed by a couple of fast runners who have done the entire course. We catch up with James, who is pretty much walking.  Emaad starts to tire and I finally stop waiting for him to catch up with me and run and walk to the finish. I sit down at a table outside the RD's house, stop my watch and write down my time and distance on the finishers sheet. Emaad comes in a couple of minutes later. Then Caroline and her friend a minute or two later.

We go inside to a feast of beef hot dogs and rolls, turkey chili, two kinds of vegetarian curry and rice, Halloween candy, beer and soft drinks.

According to the posted results, 33 runners ran 50K, or in a few cases, more. And who knows how many different courses were run, as quite a number of people free-lanced, and ran where they wanted and as far as they wanted. Or some may have run the exact same route as someone else, but reported a different distance based on individual GPS measurements. But that is the nature of, and perhaps the lesson of PHT50 - it is what you want it to be.

I finished in 5:29:36, about ten minutes slower than it took to do 6.8 miles more at MCM the previous week. But that was on a smooth, flat road course.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Marine Corps Marathon - October 28, 2018

Not My First MCM
This was my thirteenth Marine Corps Marathon, and it was a bit of Groundhog Day. A couple of weeks before the race I send out the usual email to the usual riders for the usual carpool to the usual staging area for the usual walk to the start. On Friday I made the usual drive to the usual inconvenient Gaylord National Resort for packet pick-up (for three persons, as usual) and the expo.  I met Barry at the expo, we posed for the usual pre-race photo and ate the usual post-race food at the usual (Brass Tap) pub.
Barry and I have been here before

I had not planned to run it this year, but Andrew signed up and I told him I would run it with him. Unfortunately his plans to have someone work for him fell through and then a busy Saturday night of calls put him in no shape to meet the starting cannon.

Both Rebecca and Barry show up in time for the 0540 AIS departure. Road closures on the way to the MCRRC hospitality suite at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn are a constant fear of mine. With recent terrorist incidents, security might be ratcheted up yet again, and indeed, we have to contend with a few bits of detouring. But nothing overly difficult and we arrive timely and park in the usual place.

At the start
The MCRRC first-time marathon group leaves the suite a bit earlier than usual because of those concerns but we linger a bit, make last minute adjustments (warm enough to leave gloves behind!) and walk to the start. The Marines manning the checkpoint are efficient in wanding us, and we get to the start in plenty of time.

The wheelchair racers go off at 0745 and at 0755 the M2A1 Howitzer blast signals the start of the race.  Since we approached the start from the course end, we don't bother to walk back to our assigned corral, but rather wait for the corral to reach us.  We watch for ten minutes as runners advance toward the start, and it gives one an appreciation of how big a race it is, (20616 runners will finish.) We decide it is time to go, and we step into the stream of runners moving toward the start.

No Hurry
Barry, Rebecca and I set off on a leisurely pace. We have a long way to go, and reason to hurry.  Rebecca is coming back from an injury and does not plan to go more than eight or nine miles. I plan to goad her into pushing further. Barry, who runs quite a bit despite a cranky hip, plans to simply go.

We go along together for the first four miles, with Rebecca and I taking walk breaks to stay with Barry who takes necessary walk breaks. After going down Spout Run Parkway onto the George Washington Parkway past mile 3 I take them over to the edge of the road and urge them to peer over the low stone wall at the Potomac Heritage Trail, which runs between the Parkway and the Potomac River all the way to the American Legion Bridge.

Crossing Key Bridge beyond mile 4 Rebecca and I look back for Barry, but cannot see him, so we proceed onward.  We get drinks at the water stop on M Street in Georgetown and I stop to tuck my extra shirt, which is tied about my waist, into my shorts, which are in danger of falling down. (No danger of embarrassment here; I'm  wearing tights under the shorts.)

Rebecca calls it a day
We proceed up Rock Creek Parkway and I text daughter Hilary letting her know our progress. She said that she would see us at the turnaround in Rock Creek Park at about mile 7.5. But her response dashes those hopes: "I don't think we'll make it! I'm still running with Jess on Beach! Good luck!"

Rebecca and I make the turn and in a minute or two spot Barry headed toward the turnaround, so he's only a couple of minutes behind. We chat with fellow runners, and skip the orange slices offered by the Kennedy Center at mile 10.  We catch up to and exchange greetings with 79-year old "Nick the Brit" (who finishes in 5:39) who we know from MCRRC.
When we reach the 11 mile marker Rebecca announces that she is calling it a day, as she has gone further than her planned 8-9 miles and has an eight hour ride back to Ohio where she is a professor of taxation.

The Blue Mile
Perhaps the one thing that sets the Marine Corps Marathon apart from all other races that I have run is the Blue Mile. "Wear blue: run to remember" is a national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. The Blue Mile, always mile 12 of MCM, consists of picture after picture of American service members killed in action, arrayed chronologically. It is a somber stretch and it is common to see runners stopped to take pictures or stand contemplating comrades or family members pictured alongside the course. But the heart-rending scenes come closer to the end of the mile, where time has not had a change to soften the loss of a loved one. Grief, sorrow, tears are common, and runners stop to touch the pictures of their loved one who will never be with them again.
So many do


Grief and sorrow on the Blue Mile

I cross the halfway mat in 2:38. I'm neither pushing the pace nor slowing it down. Rebecca had noted that we were running at a 12 minute per mile pace and that's about what I continue to run.  On Independence Avenue crossing Kutz Bridge over the Tidal Basin, I chat with a woman wearing a birthday banner.  October 28 is her 60th birthday, and I joke that running a marathon is not much of a present.  She says she ran it on her 40th and 50th and figured she should do it on her 60th. And then she tells me it is her 38th MCM.

On the eastbound side of Independence I scream at some oblivious runners to get out of the way of  wheelchair runners being pushed by their team. Why people insist on running with blasting headphones while surrounded by tens of thousands of other runners and spectators is beyond me. Worse being unaware of warnings is a lack of situational awareness is dangerous to you and rude to others.  I resist the urge to yank out the runner's earbuds, something I've done at MCMs gone by. Maybe I'm getting soft. Or mellow. Or just trying to be civil to the uncivil.

I continue my chatting with random runners as we pass the foot of Capitol Hill, return to Fourteenth Street and cross the Fourteenth Street Bridge into Virginia. I figure that if someone doesn't want me chatting at them they should run away. Or tell me to stop talking. No one does either.
Beer in Crystal City
In Crystal City I get beer not once, but twice. Nothing like liquid complex carbohydrates to refresh a runner.

Around mile 23.5 there is a runner on the ground attended to by a police officer and a volunteer. He's cramping so I offer him one of the salt tablets I'm carrying.  Just a bit further one three runners are on the sidewalk, trying to stretch out their cramped legs.  I offer all of them salt tablets, and two of them accept.

I press on - relentless forward progress-  with plenty of walking on the uphill on Route 110 beyond mile 25. I marvel how quickly the Marines have taken down the start line and cleaned up that stretch of the road - on the other hand they had nearly 4.5 hours to do so, so maybe not so quickly.

My 13th MCM Finisher's medal
The crowds grow and get louder - remarkable enthusiasm for those of us on the backside of the pack, - approaching mile 26 and the turn up the hill to the finish.

A treat from the North Carolina Watermelon Queen
A bit of walk up the hill, then run to the finish line and clock 5:19:03. My slowest MCM by 20 minutes, but I'm indifferent.  I had no goal other than finish, and had Andrew been there I would have run with him and likely been even slower.

And since it's a Groundhog Day event, I make sure to find the Watermelon Board stand at the end, get some of the refreshing red fruit, and pose with the North Carolina Watermelon Queen.

Overall 13859 of 20613, 8077 of 11010 males, 95 of 218 in my age M65-69 group.

Swag: Shirt, Bib, Patch, Medal, Program Snack Box

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cayuga Trails Marathon - July 21, 2018

[A combination blogspot/computer/human error lost most of the report that I had laboriously written. 😢 I'm not rewriting all of it, but I've included some of what was saved and brief versions of parts of the original draft. And all the pictures, which are the better stuff anyway. ]

Rather that write a linear report, I've simply included vignetes from the day at Cayuga Trails Marathon.

Spelling Does Not Count
Even though the race is held in Ithaca, the home of race organizer Red Newt Racing (which holds three other races in the town at the end of Cayuga Lake), the bib says the race is in "Ithica, NY." Doesn't anyone proof read any more? BTW, the spell check for this blog flagged the misspelling. Fortunately, Red Newt Racing gets the important stuff right, and the course is well marked, and the aid stations well-stocked.

No Little Blue Pills were Involved
The volunteer offers a "Keep it up," and I respond with my usual, "If it lasts longer than three hours, contact your doctor." Another runner smartly adds, "Or get a new girlfriend."

Tracks and Streams
About a half mile after leaving the Underpass aid station (so named because the trail passes under Route 13 there) at about mile 7.5, the trail crosses a single track rail road line and then immediately crosses Lick Creek.

Lick Creek with Railroad Bridge in background.

Don't take selfies on railroad tracks!
Gorges Are Gorgeous
The course takes runners through, over and into three gorges: Enfield Gorge in Robert Treman State Park at the start and end of the race, Lick Brook Gorge after (and then before) the Underpass aid station, and Buttermilk Falls Gorge at the far end.
Falls in Enfield Gorge
Enfield Gorge Above the Falls

Mouth of Lick Creek Gorge

There were not many flowers in the woods or on the ridges, but there were some on the flat past the Underpass aid station.

Cutleaf Coneflowers

Cardinal Flowers
What's in a Name
(Outbound near King Road, mile 9)"Is your name Kent?" the woman runner asks me. ""Close," I say, "I'm Ken." "Oh," she says, "You look like a Kent."

In a short while the women says to the volunteer at the road crossing, "You're Andy," . "No, I'm Justin," he replies. "Oh, she says,"you look like a Andy."

On the way back (mile 16) I come upon the same volunteer, "Hi, Andy. You look like a Justin," I say. (It seemed witty at the time.)

The first set of steps.
Steps and Cramps
The course has anywhere from 3980 feet of climb (according to my Runkeeper track file) to 4500 (according to the race website) or more, according to other GPS tracking, but it certainly has at least four steep climbs, some of 500-600 feet over a mile or so. Ithaca is Gorges, indeed. In some places there are steps to make life easier for walkers and hikers, but they are tough for runners. The steps are generally made with 4 by 4 timbers, so the rise is less than on normal stairs, and the width of the tread varies from step to step. It does not take much on a hot and humid day, especially if one delays the first salt capsule of the day, for those steps to induce repeated cramps.

You Think You Are Good for Your Age?
I feel smug about being the oldest finisher in the marathon event, but two older runners finish the 50 miler, including 70-year old Gene Dykes, for whom this is a cool down run, as he did a 24 hour and a 100 mile race earlier this year, and ran the Triple Crown of 200s last year - two 200s and a 238 mile race over three months.

 By the Numbers
I finished in 7:40:10, good for 138 of 153 overall, 91 of 96 males, and 4 of 5 in the 60-69 AG. And oldest marathoner.

Swag: Singlet, Finisher's Cup, Buff, "Ithica" bib.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dam Good (Dam Insane) 40K Run - April 22, 2018

"They weren't Scottsdale cougars, they were hyenas," Sara observes as we leave the second stop of Friday evening, "They weren't even from Scottsdale." She is giving Emaad and I a tour of the night gathering places of Scottsdale's beautiful people. Her observation is well taken, as there are several women trying to contain too much flesh with too little fabric. But we have had a drink and a bite to eat and we are ready for more nightlife.

Our next stop, the Ocean Club (the Pacific Ocean is 300 miles away, so why the name?), is quite different.  It is located in Scottsdale's version of San Jose's Santana Row. Walking in is like being in a movie. The main floor is a couple of steps down, so we can see the entire floor.  It's packed, with a small band playing on the left, tables on several tiers to the right, and a semi-circular bar protruding from the back wall. As in a movie, the crowd seems to part as we make our way to the bar.  Drinks in hand, we observe the groups and couples around us. A younger woman sits with an older man next to the piano. His hands rub the outside of her thighs; her hands massage the tops of his. She slips a $20 into the tip jar for the band. I don't see if it came from her purse or his wallet. We speculate on the nature of their relationship. Greg, Sara's husband joins us at the Ocean Club.  After another drink or two, the band with lead male singer Giovanni winds up its sets, and we call it a night.

Earlier on Friday, Emaad and I had take a road trip to Sedona to view the red rocks, hike a bit and visit the vortexes to recharge our . . . whatever energy one gets from vortexes. Sedona is crowded and while we get close to a couple of the vortex locations, we never quite get centered on one. But the scenery is good and we have a tasty lunch, including cactus fries, at the Cowboy Club Grille. We stop at a craft fair in a parking lot in Oak Creek, just south of Sedona, where a vendor tries in vain to sell us crystals, "you put this next to your bed and it blocks the harmful rays from your cell phone while you sleep. And it cures headaches, too."

Saturday Sara takes us on a quick tour of her horse-friendly neighborhood and points out Hoover to us when we drive by where he lives. Hoover is a Bactrian (two-humped) camel. When we ask why anyone would own a camel, Sara gives the obvious answer, "Because they can."

Dam Nice Run
Emaad and I are up early for our drive to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, where the Dam Good Runs are being held. There are five of them:  40 Km (Dam Insane), which I am doing; the  26 Km (Dam Crazy), which Emaad is doing; the 13 Km (Dam Tough) which Sara is doing, and the 4 Mile (Dam Challenging) and 2 Mile (Dam Fun).
Emaad and I at the Start/Finish Line Pre-race

Since we arrive for the first race we park less than 50 yards from the start, pick up our bibs, slather on sunscreen and watch the sun come up over the mountains to the east of the lake. It is sunny but the temerature is in the upper 60s, although we know that won't last long.

At 6:30 the sixty-one 40K runners set off.  The 26K starts a half hour later and the 13K 30 minutes after that, so I won't see Emaad and Sara during my run. I'm comfortably near the back of the group.

We run on a road and then over the New Waddell Dam, built in 1993. The first dam was begun in 1895 and finished in 1927 and each subsequent has gotten longer and higher. The dam is generally not open for traversing.  A road continues on the other side, and after about two miles of pavement, we double back on the other side of a fence on the dirt trail. A left turn takes us onnto the Maricopa Trail and down a dry wash away from the dam. Some gentle up and down for a few miles takes us to Agua Fria aid station (mile 5.3).  I get there in 1:02, drink some water, eat some chips and M&Ms and move on. I'm surprised to see a timing mat there, something unusual for a trail run.
Typical Trail Scenery with Saguaro Cactus

The trail crosses the Agua Fria River on a small wooden bridge, more like some planks, through dense overgrowth. It is a bit of a run through a jungle as the growth forms a canopy over the trail and the temperature is appreciably cooler. But that lasts for only 50 yards or so and we come out on the Old Lake Pleasant Road, run uphill on it for a short bit and cross it onto the Beardsley Trail on the other side.

It's approaching 8 a.m. and the weather is definitely getting warm under a cloudless sky. The trail is not technical, but there are plenty of small rocks embedded in it as it winds through the scrub..  We encounter a couple of bicyclists coming in the opposite direction, but everyone is polite. A couple of miles past Agua Fria the first of the 26K runners fly past, and more will do so as we go on.

On the Maricopa Trail
(courtesy of Aravaipa Running)
I say we, but by and large I'm running by myself. The 54 runners have now gotten fairly spaced out, and although I occasionally catch up to someone and someone catches up to me, it is a day to run alone.
In five miles I arrive at the Two Cow aid station (mile 10.3) in an elapsed time of 2:07.  I refill my Nathan get some more things to eat and head out again.

At Two Cow aid station outbound
A couple of miles and 25 minutes brings us to the aid station at Scorpion Bay (mile 11.9). This is the turn-around point for the 26K runners and we see a number of them headed back while we are still headed out. Once again it is a chance to refuel before heading onto the Pipeline Canyon trail for the turnaround at the Cottonwood aid station.

In about a mile we come to the floating bridge over Pipeline Cove. The bridge is steel decked and doesn't bounce around while running across it. On the other side there are a number of horseback riders and we are careful to let them know we are there and to ask permission to go by, as horses have the right of way.

After about two miles I come to a trail intersection and become a bit confused.  The trail to the right seems to lead toward Yavapai Point, and I can see runners over there, but a sign says "wrong way."  I consult with a hiker and head straight but don't see any ribbons marking the trail so I stop and double back toward the intersection. A couple of runners come toward me and indicate that straight is correct and we head that way. I leap frog with them, as one is starting to get tired from the heat.  I get the the Cottonwood aid station (mile 15, elapsed time 3:26) ahead of them. As I replenish the fluids in my Nathan, dunk my hat and handkerchief in water, apply sunscreen and eat some oranges and watermelon they arrive.  The one woman sits down and declares her day done.
Floating Bridge at Pipeline Cove

The other woman introduces herself as Siggy and we head out for the return journey which includes a 400 foot climb to the top of Yavapai Point. Another woman passes us as we begin the ascent.  Siggy drops back. The other woman stops to give her water pack to a runner coming down.  She explains that he is her boyfriend and his waterpack had sprung a leak and he is out of water. Given that the sun is high in the sky, there is no shade and the temperature is reaching 90 degrees it is not a good situation to be in.  I offer to share my water with her but she happily explains that she is carrying plenty of extra.
Headed Down from Yavapai Point
(courtesy of Aravaipa Running)

It is a long climb up the single-track and switchbacks to the top but the views are well worth it.  Just as I head back down I meet Siggy coming up.  She get to me and sits on a rock. She does not look good.  I ask her if she has taken any salt.  She says only in Gatorade.  I give her a Succeed salt tablet and suggest that she might want to sit under the bench at the top to get some shade.  On the way down I cross paths with a couple of hikers and ask them to check on her when they get to the top.

Fire-scorched cactus 
 On the way down I pass several more runners still on the way to the summit. We exchange greetings and continue of our respective ways.

On the trail I grow weary of the hard rocky ground. With some experimentation I conclude that stepping on the horse pies (not the fresh ones) provides much softer footing.

Cactus in Bloom

Riders Ahead!

Another view of Lake Pleasant


Another cactus bloom.

 I make the turn onto Pipeline Canyon Trail and head toward Scorpion Bay.  A woman sits fishing on the floating bridge and I joke with her that I might take that up as a new pastime.  She reminds me that she had to hike in to the bridge.

Pipeline Canyon Trail from the Yavapai Trail.
Approaching Scorpion Bay aid station (mile 20.2, elapsed time 5:04) the shadow of a buzzard crosses the trail in front of me. Ominous perhaps, I think, although I can see the aid station. I repeat my now familiar aid station routine of oranges and watermelon and hat and hankerchief dipping, and get a bonus from the aid station workers who put ice in my hat. I comment on the advantage that a female friend has of putting ice in her running bra, and the female aid station volunteers agree that it is a definite plus.

Two Cow Aid Station inbound. Siggy on left.
This time it takes 31 minutes to go the 1.6 miles between Scorpion Bay and Two Cow( mile 21.8, elapsed time 5:36), compared to the 25 minutes in the opposite direction earlier in the day. and while I go thru my now familiar aid station routine, Siggy comes in. and she thanks me profusely for the salt tablet I gave her up on the point. It's rejuvenated her.

Lake Pleasant from the trail.
We head out together for the last three miles to the finish. A little bit of leapfrogging, and not a lot of taking, but just being together helps keep both of us moving.  I give her an estimate of how long I think it will take to finish. We head up what seems like a long climb that actually isn't and her friend who had dropped at Cottonwood walks toward us.  In a little bit I see Emaad coming toward me.

I get to the Park Road where a Maricopa County deputy is stationed to assure safe crossing. I stop, face him and launch into a rap inspired by Junior Brown's Highway Patrol:
"You have a star on your car,
And one on your chest,
A gun on your hip,
And the right to arrest,
You're the boss on this road,
So I do what you say,
When you tell me to cross,
I'll be on my way."

He waves me across and with that I run the last 100 yards to the finish.
I finish in 6:31:17, first (and only) in my age group; 35 of 39 males; 48 of 56 finishers. Five runners did not finish.

Siggy is about 40 seconds behind me. After meeting up with her husband, child and dog she comes over to me and thanks me again for the salt tablet.  I resist the urge the take a dip in the lake. Emaad and I get in the car, drive back to our hotel, clean and rest up and go to Sara's for dinner.