Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ran It With Janet 50K - June 3, 2017

For a Good Cause
I pick up Gayatri for our drive out to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the third running of the Ran It With Janet 50K. The race is the brainstorm and unicorn child of Janet Choi, who puts the race on as a fundraiser for the Embry Rucker Emergency Shelter in Reston, Virginia. But unlike many other charity races, where the race organizer makes vague promises about donating "the profits" or "a portion" of the race fees to a charity, Janet has a simple and transparent model.  The race fee is $5 and she asks that you make a donation to Cornerstones, the non-profit organization that operates the shelter.  She does not require that one make a donation or even recommend an amount. Instead, there is a link to a 'friendraiser' page on the race website and a jar on the registration table.  I put a check for Cornerstones in the jar when I register, pleased to know that the entire amount will go to Janet's charity of choice.
Clockwise from top: Jennifer, Ken, Mark, Gayatri
(photo by Mark Zimmermann)
We meet Mark and Jennifer at the start at the Brownsville Picnic Pavilion.  It is a covered pavilion where we can leave drop bags. This is a low-key race and there are only 57 persons signed up. Since the course is three loops some runners plan to run only one or two laps. Janet calls everyone to the parking lot for the start, gives some instructions and words of advice and encouragement, and sends us off.
Janet give instructions while Mark photographs her
First Lap - The History Tour
Jennifer, Gayatri and I start off together while Mark takes photos and takes his time. The weather is not bad for the beginning of June and is considerably cooler than last year (report here).  After a couple of miles Jennifer and I pull away from Gayatri, but it soon becomes evident to me that I will not be able to stay for long with Jennifer. As usual, she has packed plenty on her schedule for the day - as if running a 50K isn't enough - and she has to pick up her rock-climbing daughter later in the afternoon. That is even more incentive for her to run fast, and after about five miles, I wave her on and settle into my usual plodding pace.  It isn't long before she is out of sight.

Aid Station at Stone Bridge (about 4 miles into the loop)
On Second Manassas Trail west of Sudley Road
 Pretty much left to running alone, I spend some time contemplating the two battles that occurred on this ground more than 155 years ago, while our nation, as Lincoln said, "engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

The two battles would claim 26,000 dead, wounded and missing. The casualties of Second Manassas, fought only 13 months after the first battle, show the increasing escalation of the war - with 2800 dead on both sides, compared to fewer than 900 at First Manassas. Yet that was a mere harbinger of what lay ahead, as 18 days later, the same two armies would engage in the single bloodiest day of American history, with a combined 22,700 casualties, including 3700 dead, at Antietam on September 17, 1862. Ten months later, three days at Gettysburg would add another 51,000 casualties to the toll of what Lincoln described as "every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.'"

Henry Hill Monument
Commemorating Union soldiers who fell at First Bull Run
As to the cause of the war, and the reasons for it, hear Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, "One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war. . ."

Confederate Cannon near Brawner Farm, Second Manassas
And on this day, I run on the ground on which, and for which, so many suffered and died and were buried. Lincoln has the final word: "Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully."

Second Lap - On the Unicorn Trail
Returning to the start-finish I change my shirt and handkerchief that I carry to wipe off the sweat.  As I'm about to head out Mark and Gayatri come in and we go off together.  The day has warmed up a bit, but it isn't at all oppressive. We go on together for awhile and then, like during the first loop, Mark and I pull away from Gayatri. And just like on the first loop, Mark pulls away from me, in almost the same place where Jennifer had.  I slow down a bit and Gayatri catches up.

Kissing the Unicorn at the Featherbed Road Aid Station
(about 7 miles into the loop)
We take our time, running, walking and chatting. We see no other runners, neither overtaking anyone nor being overtaken. (That's not entirely accurate, as we do get lapped by several of the leaders on their way through their third and final loop.)

Gayatri passes a unicorn directional sign
I make this the unicorn loop, enjoying the unicorn-themed course signs, aid stations and other unicorn concepts that Janet incorporates into the race. Winners get unicorn-themed prizes, and the finishers' tumblers have unicorns on them as well.

On the trail near the unfinished railroad trail
About a mile from the end of the loop, as we run on the trail through a field, I move a bit to my right to avoid a large black stick on the trail.  Then the three-foot long stick comes to life and the northern black racer disappears into the grass on the left.  I give out a start, and Gayatri yells and jumps toward me.  We both quickly calm down and proceed to the finish of the second loop.

Third Loop - The Nature Tour
I change back into my shirt from the first loop, as it has dried out. In keeping with the battlefield theme, I'll wear blue on the first and third loops and grey on the second.

Bee on a thistle approaching Chinn Ridge
Since neither Gayatri nor I are in much of a hurry, and are simply content to finish,  I declare the third loop the nature loop and stop frequently to take pictures. We still see no other runners and speculate that we may be the last runners on the course.  At the Featherbed Road Aid Station we get a report that Mark is about 20 minutes ahead of us.  Approaching the Henry Hill Monument we come across Merle Zimmermann, Mark's son who offers to refill our bottles from gallon jugs of water he has carted out there.

Near Chinn Ridge
We thank him, pass the Brawner Farmhouse, cross Route 29, now Lee Highway, then the Warrenton Turnpike, pass the locale of the snake encounter, climb the final small hill, and head to the finish.

A pair of bees visiting a thistle


Queen Anne's Lace?


Wild Roses near the Unfinished Railroad
 Mark is waiting at the finish line with his camera and urges us to sprint to the end.  Gayatri takes up the challenge, while I continue my steady, er, slow pace.
Gayatri out sprints me to the Finish
(Photo by Mark Zimmermann)
It turns out that we are not the final finishers.  Two other runners finish behind us, but I am the final male. On the other hand, I'm the oldest male. Gayatri is the oldest female besting two others.

I finish in 7:41:48, good for 32 of 34 finishers, 16 of 16 males (yeah, it is an ultra with more women than men finishers!) and 3 of 3 in my age group.   My loops are 2:10/2:35/2:55, all slower than last year and an overall 13 minutes slower. But it was an enjoyable run, and that's why I run.

Jennifer finishes in 6:08, good for fifth female overall and second in her age group. Gayatri wins her age group. Mark finishes in 7:16, also good for first in our age group.

A college alumni group is having picnic at the Brownsville Picnic area and they generously offer to share their food with us.  On the way home, we drive through McDonald's and I get a milkshake and an iced tea.
Swag: Bib and a Ran It with Janet tumbler