|Jeanne Lou Who|
"I thought that you had fooled me," Rebecca R. says as she spots me waiting for the beginning of the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K put on by the Annapolis Striders. Ever since the Marine Corps Marathon I had encouraged her to come out and run the race, pointing out that it was an easy 50K and that since it was three loops, she could drop out after only one or two. She wouldn't commit, saying maybe she'd run two loops. I had gotten there early, registered and then sat in the car to keep warm, and she had thought that after all that urging, it was me who had not shown up.
But I was there and she and I both know - I having told her in advance - that I would be trying to persuade her to run the entire race. "I have a conference call at 2:00 p.m.," she announces, trying to preempt any early attempts of mine to begin lobbying for her to run the entire race. I smile. "I'm sure you'll make it. An ambiguous "it." The call or the 50K? The Devil has begun his work.
Jeanne Lou Who sings a stirring a capella version of the National Anthem and the approximately 100 runners are off at 8:00 a.m. Under six hours is before 2:00 p.m., the time of Rebecca's call.
Rebecca and I take it easy and chat through the first loop. Caroline W. catches up with us and mentions that she is going to run the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in February. It sounds like fun, I think.
The Circle of Life I
A large solitary bird circles above the edge of a clearing as we run under some power lines. I'm no birder, but I recognize the bird as a vulture. I'm not sure whether it it a turkey or black vulture, but it is clearly a vulture. And then on the ground just off the trail I see the reason for the vulture. A deer carcass lies just off the side of the trail, and it's obvious that the vultures have been feeding on it. The presence of today's runners is going to disrupt the vultures from doing their job of disposing of carcasses.
Rebecca and I chat about her coming conference call, which is to prepare for a group presentation she has to make in a couple of days. I ask her who is on it, and what her goals on the call are. Ostensibly I'm trying to help her prepare, but Lucifer has many wiles, and I working to reduce the pressure of making the call at precisely 2:00 p.m.
|Existential Breakfast Aid Station|
There are two aid stations on the 10-mile loop, about five miles apart. They have the usual ultra-food of soda, sports drink, cookies, M&Ms, boiled potatoes, Pringles, orange slices and the like and are much appreciated by the runners. But out in the woods beside the trail are a pair of whimsical aid station-like shrines. One consists of various bottles and containers. The second has a pair of coffee urns, other pots and metal objects and a toaster. I joke about the need for a very long extension cord to power up this unmanned aid station.
Back at the aid station at the end of the first loop, Rebecca and I discard some layers of clothing as the day has begun to warm up into the 50s. It's perfect running weather and the bright sun penetrates through the leafless trees to the trail. The yellow and brown leaves on the ground provided a burnished golden glow to the course.
A couple of miles into the second loop, Rebecca realizes that she can spot her car parked about 100 yards from the trail. "Well," I say, "you can always start the third loop and quit here to do your conference call."
We press on, both of us enjoying the day. I've forgotten my watch, so I don't have much of an idea of how we are doing timewise. I tweet about being "halfway done" at 11:08 a.m., which suggests to me that we are behind a six-hour pace. But I'm not that concerned about it. It is to get Rebecca to run her second 50K.
|Ken and Rebecca on the First Loop|
Now, halfway through the second loop, at the end of which Rebecca will make her decision whether to go on or not, it's time for The Tempter to lure her over to the dark side.
Earlier I had told her that since I'm parked closer to the finish line, I'll give her a ride to her car so she can make the call. And, of course, conference calls never start on time. And since the call is going to review a 50-slide deck, it will take awhile. And the points she wants to make can easily be made at the end of the call.
The choice should be simple: get on a work-related conference call with her boss or run in the woods. Abaddon's role is to sow confusion and doubt as to which is the right choice. The seeds have been sown during the first three hours of the run. Now is the time for The Tempter to reap. And the best course to do this is to let the day, and the paradise that is the Rosaryville trail this day do the work.
As we approach where the trail leaves the woods for the aid station at the beginning of the third and final loop I ask Rebecca if she has made a decision. The Old Serpent is preparing for the struggle.
"Yes," she says, "I'm going on." As the Book of Genesis, in 3:6, says, "when the woman saw that the tree was good . . ., and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired . . ., she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat." No need for further cajoling.
"Let's push the pace," I say. "We still have a shot at six hours."
The Circle of Life II
A mile or so into the loop a runner exclaims, "Look at the wild turkeys." We look to the right and down toward the side of a stream. There are about a dozen large birds milling about. Turkeys are often hard enough to spot in the underbrush, but a whole flock in a clearing is remarkable. I look closer. "Those aren't turkeys," I say, but turkey vultures." As they hop about and some begin to fly off we see what they were doing - feasting on the carcass of another deer.
|Second loop after shedding layers|
Our quicker pace has us passing other runners. I tell Rebecca that we are like lions, hunting down antelope on the plains of the Serengeti. It's a mind game that I frequently play in those infrequent times that I actually have a chance to overtake other runners. But I recall that she is a vegetarian, so I amend the image. "We are giraffes," I say, "seeking the blossoms of the jacaranda trees ahead."
I also tell her, after we have passed Brady H. with about three miles to go that in my experience, once you pass someone in the latter stages of a race, they stay passed.
As we come off the trail and onto the road for the last half or three quarters of a mile to the finish, Rebecca asks if I want to know what our time is. I tell her no, that I want to try to push to get under six hours.
. . . Or Not
Not far up the road, Brady runs passed me. "You were supposed to stay passed," I sputter good naturedly. She invites me to keep up, but not only is that not to be, but she goes on to pass another runner further ahead.
As I approach the finish line, I can see the clock. But unlike last year, when a mad dash allowed me to finish one second under six hours, there is no chance of that this year. I finish in 6:07:51, with Rebecca nine seconds behind.
Lucifer Keeps His Promise
Rebecca and I hustle to my car, and we quickly dash to the next parking area to her car. She hops out and gets into her car to join her conference call at about 2:10. I head back to the finish area to get a bit to eat.
|Rosaryville swag - hat and bib|
I finished 3/7 in my age group, fortieth male, and 62/92 overall.
And Rebecca got to both run her second 50K and make her work-related call.
Not a bad day for the Devil and his new recruit.