Thursday, March 9, 2017

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50K - March 4, 2017

Trail sign at Black Rock Mill
(Photo by B. Butters)
I drive up the block and pick up Gayatri for the quick and easy drive to Seneca Creek State Park where the MCRRC Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K begins and ends.

As I walk up to her door I realize that I've forgotten to bring my phone.  So after she gets in the car, we backtrack to my house, and after a fruitless  search of all the usual spots, I pick up a house phone (yeah, we are old enough to still have a land line) and call it.  Crickets. No ringing is heard.  Then I realize why.  When I get back in the car Gayatri tells me she heard it ringing near the driver's seat. A brief search locates where it fell out of my pocket.

We park a couple of minutes from the start at the Blue Jay Picnic Pavilion.  Gayatri goes and collects our bibs and chips and returns to the car. We are committed to staying in the car for as long as possible due to the crisp temperatures in the lower 20s.  I debate whether to use my hydration pack - pros, carrying up to 50 ounces of drink, plus pockets for gels, phone and other stuff; cons, more weight and it seems to be leaking. I decide against it - who wants to be wet with temperatures below freezing?  I have a hand-held bottle and can carry my phone in a pack around my waist.  Except that I discover that I left the pack home, so I have to leave the phone in the car.  That means no tweeting while running and I'll have to rely on course photographers for pictures.

I also check my bag to get out Little Hotties for my feet.  But once again, I've managed not to pack them.  I'll have to count on the day to warm up to dodge the discomfort of cold toes.

Invisible Friends
At the start I run into Bob Y. and ask if he has seen Don who has indicated that he was going to run today.  Bob says that he had talked with him, but as I scan the crowd (less than 300 participants) I don't see Don who usually stands out in his hunter's orange jacket.

Early in the day
(Photo by B. Butters)
Nor do I spot frequent running friend Jennifer (who makes frequent appearances in my reports) although she has said she would be here. A final meander through the runners waiting for the start signal turns up no sign of either so when the GO! word is given, I'm off on my own.

Since I'm not wearing my Nathan hydration pack and I don't have my waist pack, I've had to stuff four gels in the mesh pockets of my RaceReady shorts along with my keys and ID in the Velcro-closing pockets.  The result is that the shorts are continually sliding down, particularly in the rear, and every few minutes I have to tug them back up.  This goes on for a couple of hours until I eat a couple of the gels and the downward pressure is relieved.

Visible Friends
After about a half mile on the paved park road we turn right onto the Greenway Trail and head south.  It is an uneventful six miles to Black Rock Mill.  The toes on my left foot get uncomfortably cold for awhile, but eventually warm up.  I exchange MMT 100 pacing stories with some other runners but generally run in silence.

In another mile and a half or so we arrive at the Route 28 Aid Station where I get some bacon and a donut and top off my water bottle.

We cross Route 28 on the bridge over Seneca Creek and turn left onto Seneca Bluffs Trail for the five and a half mile stretch down to River Road.

The trail is typical eastern trail - dirt, up and down, with varying amounts of rocks and roots.  One has to pay attention and spend most of one's time looking at the trail to avoid going down. Having come from running in Arizona last week, where I ran in 16 miles of sand, and on slickrock and dirt trail, the contrast is particularly noticeable.  The sand made for some slower going, but one could look around at the scenery without much concern of tripping.

Although the trail is in an area listed as being under a severe drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor and I'm approaching the ironically named Dry Seneca Creek ,I 'v come prepared, carrying two plastic bags and some rubber bands to use on my feet.  As I contemplate the stepping stones across the creek I'm confident that I can get across without the bags or getting my feet wet.

As I hop from stone to stone, I heat "Ken Swab" called out behind me.  It's Caroline. To say she is an avid ultrarunner would be like saying that the ocean is full of water. According to (which tracks this sort of thing) she has run over 160 ultras. And that does not include road marathons.

I stay up with her for awhile but soon she pulls away. "You'll catch me again," she says as she bounds away.  I'm not so sure.

We get to River Road at mile 13.5, cross over Seneca Creek, and get on the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail for the northbound part of the course. In a mile and a half, after some up and down, we reach a tributary stream where I manage to pick my way across with dry feet without using the plastic bags.

In a hundred yards I come to the Berryville Aid Station (mile 15.5).  I ditch the plastic bags, refill my bottle, grab some Pringles, M&Ms and trail mix and head out on the 4.4 mile stretch back to Route 28.

In a short while I catch up to Caroline and we mostly run, and occasionally walk the largely flat (gently net uphill) section.  We chat and surprisingly soon are back at the Route 28 Aid Station.

I refill my bottle and get some bacon crumbles. Mike offers me an entire grilled cheese sandwich, but I decline and take a quarter of one and head out.  Caroline lingers a bit, but by the time we reach Black Rock Mill (about mile 17) she catches up with me. There is an informal aid station there and I top up my bottle, as it is almost 6 miles to the next aid station.

Caroline and I leapfrog each other a bit, but mostly we run together, talking of the profound and the trivial.  She indicates that she only plans to do the marathon distance as she wants to run ten miles on Sunday. After a few miles she stops to stretch or otherwise adjust to a twinge and I go on.

A pair of runners follow, one who has read my report on the 2016 SCGT race and says that if they stick with me, they will finish. Eventually we catch up to a runner who is walking as his new Inov-8 shoes are hurting his knees. He inquires whether the marathon ends at the next aid station, which is about mile 26.8. After several seconds laughing (well, maybe the laughter was faked) I inform him that both the marathon and the 50K are significantly longer than the traditional 26.2 and 31.1 mile distances, respectively.

Billabong Bob's Tiki Bar and Aid Station
(Photo by Hai Nguyen)
A Fine Finish
But soon enough we arrive at Billabong Bob's Tiki Bar and Aid Station at Riffleford Road (mile 26.8). Not only do I refill my bottle, but I have a Coke and when I hear that beer is available I have a cup of that as well.

Michele is volunteering at the aid station and I greet her.  I also remind her that I still owe her a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc for her act of kindness at last year's SCGT race. Rather than being angry at my tardiness, she thanks me for my memory.

After leaving the aid station it is less than a mile we reach the decision point to choose the distance.  I choose to go right onto Mink Hollow Trail, which leads to the 50K loop around Clopper Lake.  At one point I trip and fall. I do no damage, but laying on the ground feels pretty comfortable.  Staying there is no option, however, and I get to my feet and press on.

Eating Pringles while leaving the Tiki Bar
(Photo by Hai Nguyen)
I run a bit with a woman who tells me about running with her dogs, and the conversation somehow veers into a discussion of guns, as she is a trap and skeet shooter ("Even though I'm not so good at it," she says).  The man with the Inov-8 shoes catches us and passes us, even as he says he plans to throw the shoes away when he gets home.  Finishing the loop, we drop back onto the Greenway Trail (that section is also named the Long Draught Trail) for the last half mile, then make a sharp right up the hill to the finish line.

After getting a grilled hot dog and a Dogfish Head Indian Brown IPA in my finisher's glass, I head back to the finish line to await Gayatri.

And there I run into Don. He tells me that he was in the Portapotty when the race began, which explains why I did not see him at the start.  He tells me he saw me leaving the Tiki Bar as he was approaching, but was delayed when he stopped for beer after Michele told him that I had had some.

I go move the car closer to the finish while waiting for Gayatri, and go get another hot dog and a 60 Minute IPA to wash it down.

She finishes in 8:29:22, just 38 seconds under the official cut-off of 8:30.

My finishing time is 7:47:51, 126/156 overall, 76/94 of  males; 5/7 age group. I'm a couple of minutes faster than 2016, although the 2017 course may have been a half mile or more shorter. (Officially it was 31.8 miles.)

And the missing Jennifer? She had stayed in her car to keep warm before the start, mistimed it and had to run to the start line with the runners headed toward her.  I didn't see her then. Afterward, she said she saw me off the course contemplating a tree while she ran past.  She called out to me but I never heard her.  She finished in 7:03 and was long gone by the time I finished.

On Sunday I go to Total Wine and get the wine for Michele.
Swag: Beer glass, bib and discount alehouse coupon


  1. What a great day! I was so glad to hang out with you a bit at the end.