Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice Run - June 19, 2010 - 36 miles

An urban trail running adventure. The goal was to run Day 4 of my 15in15, with the starting point being the parking lot for the W&OD bike trail at Route 28 in Sterling.Since I would be running in the heat of the day, with limited access to water, I carried my large hydration pack as well as a smaller waist pack. So, I was carrying about 10 extra pounds of gear and water. There were a lot of bikers on the trail. Apparently on Sunday, the Tour de Cure - a 100 mile bike ride, was going to take place on the W&OD. A lot of the teams were out, getting a feel for the trail. "Passing on your left!" was yelled in my ear, over and over again. I preferred the "ding!" of a bike bell. Sometimes the biker would get right next to me and yell "PASSING!" causing me to about jump out of my skin. I ran on the adjacent horse trail when possible - it was graveled trail, less crowded and more shaded.

Even on an urban trail there is wildlife to be found. I'm running along when a small groundhog runs onto the trail and stops right in front of me.

"Pay the toll, or I won't let you pass!" he chirps, his eyes darting around.

"What's the toll?"

"You got anything to eat?"

"Just gels," I reply, rummaging through my pack.

"Hmph, not good enough," he says, scratching a flea with his back foot.

"Get out of my way, or I'll kick you to the moon!" I threaten.

"You wouldn't," he protests.

I raise my leg back. He scurries off the trail into his hole.

The trail runs in and out of towns. Often, there is a stop light just for the trail. Sometimes I have to wait a minute or more before crossing. That's okay, I welcome the breaks. In Vienna, the trail runs right by the old train station. There is a farmer's market  and I take a break to wander through the stands. I guess there's no way to add a pint of tomatoes to my backpack, and the one booth selling drinks is all sold out. I press on. It's about mile 17 and I'm somewhere in Falls Church. My water is running low, and I'm hot. Off the trail to the right, I see some kids with a lemonade stand - 25 cents a cup. I give them a dollar, drink 3 cups and tell them to keep the change. Refreshed, I hit the trail again. Finally, about another mile down the trail I see a water fountain. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. But wait! The ultimate aid station is across the street, a 7-Eleven store. I buy a 50oz bottle of water and a protein bar. Sitting down at one of the tables outside the store, I refill my hydration bladder and eat the bar. Now, I'm really ready to roll - less than 10 miles to DC!

The miles click slowly by. I'm not trying to set any speed records, just trying to sustain a maintainable pace. When I cross interstate 495, I stop to take a picture of the traffic below. Hey, the ultimate urban scenic trail overlook. Eventually, I reach my intersecting trail, the Custis Trail, which will take me into the city. It runs right along Route 66, the barrier walls the only thing separating us. I can feel the heat coming from the highway, it's probably over 100 degrees in spots. I'm counting down the miles because I'm not really sure when I cross Key Bridge and enter DC - 20, 21, 22 (where is it?), 23, 24. Finally! As I cross the Potomac, I notice the boats on the river, most of them anchored, some in a cluster of 2 or 3 boats - a floating party.

Now, I'm in Georgetown (mile 25). I stop at the Running Company, leave a brochure, and buy some Body Glide and Sport Beans. They might put my 15in15 run in their monthly newsletter! Next stop is McPherson Square, the ending point for Day 4. Weaving through the hoards of people, stopping at all the crosswalks - how do people run in the city - and eventually ending at the park with 27 miles under my belt. This park has a large homeless population, and a church group is there getting ready to do a fish fry. I talk to them for a while, explain what I am doing, and give them a brochure. They may also be in touch about speaking at their church.

I'm feeling pretty good, so I decide to keep going and start the Day 5 route. I run down to Constitution Ave. and buy some more water from one of the street vendors. Leaving DC by way of the Lincoln Memorial, I cross the bridge into Virginia and head to the Mt. Vernon Trail. This trail runs along the river and will take me about 15 miles. But I don't go quite that far today! I maintain a steady running pace until I hit the 50k point (31 miles) and then take each mile as it comes. I'm basically running until Steve and Lindsey, who just started from home catch up to me! Even in the late afternoon/early evening the sun is beating down hot as Hades. Steve said it was 94 degrees as they drove in. I approach Reagan National Airport and as the planes land, they fly right over my head. Apparently, this is a great Saturday pasttime, watching the planes land, because the trail winds right behind the airport. People are gathered on the hill, taking pictures, picnicking, or playing soccer.

Now, I realize I'm out of water again, and I see no place to get any. I try to keep running but eventually I slow to a walk. I sit on a bench and rest - boy, it's hard to keep going. Finally, I see the marina and I straggle into it having done 34 miles. With 2 bottles of water and a soda in me, I perk up. Since Steve and Lindsey are close, I jog around and near the marina until they arrive, 35 miles. Then, together, we walk one more mile to make it 36 miles for the day. We drive the rest of Day 5 and Day 6 and happily discover that it puts us right at the edge of Fredericksburg. The 15in15 is shaping up, and so am I.

Monday, June 14, 2010

1/2Sauer1/2Kraut Marathon - June 13, 2010

I was sitting in my car about to pull out of the driveway. Do I have everything? I just felt like I was forgetting something important! Then it dawned on me - my running shoes! That would have been interesting come tomorrow morning. The 3 hour trip to Pennsylvania was uneventful except for driving through a few thunderstorms. Thankfully, they seemed to have passed through the area by the time I got to the campground. I was going to sleep in the back of my car again, but this time I had a tent that attaches to the back and makes a nice entrance way and room for changing. Of course, I had never set the tent up before that evening and hoped I wasn't going to look like a fool. On my first attempt I forgot to run the poles through the sleeves on the tent. I struggled to get it standing and realized it looked awfully funny just hanging there. Down it went, now I had to slip the long poles through the sleeves. Not as easy as it sounds - the joints in the flexible poles kept wanting to separate and snag on the sleeve. In the meantime, a young man from the campsite across the way comes over and asks if I need help (okay, so maybe I do look a little foolish). I thank him, but wave him off because I really need to know if I can set the tent up by myself. But I told him I would call over to him if I got into trouble. Finally, I get the poles in their proper place and lift the tent up. I'm running around from side to side, trying to keep the whole thing from toppling. It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be! I back the car up to the tent and and attach the entrance way to the hatch. No time to figure out how to tighten it though; now, I have a new problem - there is thunder sounding in the distance, raindrops starting to fall, and I still need to put the rain fly on. This thing is like 8 ft. tall - I'm trying to throw the fly over the top of the tent and it just keeps sliding down. Where did that young man go? He's disappeared into his own tent. Now it starts pouring. I'm standing inside the tent and it's pretty misty.I open my umbrella inside the tent and hang it from the ceiling. Well, at least it's not raining under the umbrella. Then, I throw a poncho on, set up my folding lawn chair, and pray it doesn't collapse while I stand on it. Three attempts later, I finally get the rainfly on the tent. By this time, I'm soaked and there are little puddles on the inside of the tent. But the back of the car is still dry and cozy. Good thing that's where I'm sleeping. The storms keep coming, so I finally just try and go to sleep. It's comfortable, but I sleep fitfully, and because I didn't tighten the gap between car and tent, I'm sharing my space with more than a few insects.

Morning arrives and I sleepily get dressed and head to the race site. There are 500 runners in the half-marathon and 300 in the full. They say they will get us all parked, checked in and ready to go in one hours time. I end up having to park in the farthest possible location to the race site. That means I need to go get my race packet, go to the potty, go back to my car, and be back at the start in less than an hour. Packet pick up goes smoothly, but the lines to the bathroom are atrocious. I wait, and wait, and wait - my bowels feel like they are going to explode. 20 minutes to the start and I'm still waiting, and I still need to go back to my car. I get out of line and head to the car, hoping that they will start the race late. Now, I realize that the potty is out of the question - I can't wait. There is a nice grove of trees and bushes that afford enough privacy to do my business - relief! I'm a trail runner, I'm used to it.

Thankfully, the race hasn't started when I get back. I'm standing there, not moving, and I'm sweating. Finally, we're off! Not really - we are trying to squeeze 800 people onto a small biking trail. Even with the bit of road we run on first, we get jammed up when we make the turn to go on the trail. I'm weaving in and out of people, and bumping elbows. Mile One is a 10:20mile. Eventually, it starts to spread out and I can pick up the pace a bit. I'm still trying to hit the halfway point between 2:00 and 2:10, but know with the heat it might be hard. My pace for the next few miles picks up a bit - 9:18, 9:25, 9:15, 9:45. From miles 4 to 5 I climb the only major hill of the course. It also happens to be in the direct sun. At about mile 5 is the first turn around point. So now there is runner traffic going both ways. If you want to pass, you have to wait for a clear spot and then sprint in front of the person you're trying to pass. I could feel my body temperature rise as the sun beat down on me. I was making sure to walk through the aid stations, drink and pour water on my head. My pace started to slow over the next few miles: 9:53, 9:44, 10:53, 10:09, 10:47. People around me are talking about switching to the half-marathon. At about mile 12 you had that option - the half marathoners turn around to go back to the finish line, the marathoners continue on. I spend a lot of time at that aid station, getting my bottles refilled and watching the halfers turn back.

As I head in the direction of the marathon, a guy passes me and asks "Wasn't tempting enough?" I replied, "Well, it was tempting, but not enough for us crazies." Now, the runners are starting to spread out. I can only see one or two runners in my near vicinity. Soon, I exit the trail and start running down a road. It seems like a vacant section of town, and there are no trail marshalls directing the way. I cross a bridge and then loop back down towards the river and the trail. There is some Jamaican music blaring from a building and a couple of guys just hanging out, watching me run by. They weren't cheering, just watching and I felt a little uncomfortable. I hit the halfway point at around 2:16. I knew it was going to be a slow day, and decided to stop pushing the pace. My averages slowed to the 12-13 minute range. At this point, I was running alone and wondered if there was anyone behind me. Finally, a young man ran by, at least I was going the right way. The trail led out onto a railroad track, and I ran along side of it for a bit, there was a lot of broken glass on the ground. I passed a girl who said, "Where the heck are we? I'm afraid of getting lost, of getting mugged, this isn't very scenic!" She tried to run with me for a while, but then gave up and walked a bit muttering "This is going to be a long day."

The next aid station had the alternative energy drink. It was Mountain Dew! Yay, sugar and caffeine so I partook. Now, I began playing the mental game - if I run to the next aid station, then I will let myself walk a bit. If I make it to mile 16, there are only 10 miles to go. The trail changed from gravel to dirt to paved path, with a few road sections. Along one road, there was an "unofficial" aid station. They had ice! I put some in my hat. My legs and back were really starting to hurt. More mental games - if I make it to mile 18, the turn around point, I can walk the last 8 miles in 2 hours. But as I make the turn, the volunteer yells, "You're looking strong, keep going!" So instead of walking, I pick up the pace. When I do walk, it hurts as much as running, so I resort to my "ultra-running jog." Slow, but steady. A lot of people are doing walk/run intervals. I pass them on their walk, they pass me when running. It was a game to see who would be ahead at the end of the race. At about mile 19, a lady is flying on her bike through the middle of the runners, screaming, "Help me! Help me! I don't have any brakes!" A couple of the guys were able to grab her and stop her. Dark clouds loomed in the distance. I welcomed them, hoping they would bring some rain, but not thunder and lightning. By mile 20, I was spent. I refilled my bottles and started walking out of the aid station, as drops of rain began to fall. I want to cry, but know if I can just keep moving I will finish. I start running, and begin the mental games again - if I run to mile 21, there will only be 5 miles left. It starts pouring rain. It feels good, but there are puddles and streams of water everywhere. I reach mile 21, keep running there's an aid station at mile 22 - the Mountain Dew station. Four miles to go! I run out of the aid station and the rain finally begins to slack off. It immediately becomes hot and humid again. Steam is rising off the paths as the sun shines down. But I have hit my rhythm. I know I won't beat 5 hours, but I'm trying to get as close as possible. I pass one of the couples doing intervals and never see them again. I turn back on the road to cross the bridge and those men had disappeared. As I climb up towards the bridge, a rock drops very close to me. Where did that come from? When I get on the bridge, I see the culprit, a young boy who was obviously the rock thrower. I want to say something to him, but decide to let it go and keep moving. The road section seems longer this time and I wonder if I have missed my turn. I am the only one out here, no traffic directors, no other runners. Finally, I see the yellow arrow indicating the turn. I have less than two miles to go. I breeze through the last aid station and head down the trail. I keep looking for the mile 26 marker, as my Garmin is showing an extra 1/4 mile. I never see the marker, but as I approach the bridge there are people sitting on it, cheering as I come closer. I run up and across the bridge and to the finish. 5:12:29. I get my medal and find the German food - Brats, sauerkraut and German potato salad. For this race, I accomplished my goals - I made it to the finish before the 6 1/2 hour cutoff (there were a few people behind me, after all), I survived the heat, and recovered well. Could I do it 14 more times in a row? I guess we'll find out in August.

Strategies to remember for the 15 in 15: start as early as possible, stay hydrated and go slow. 6-7 hours a day is not unrealistic.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June 8 Training Run

It was beautiful this morning, not at all like it will be in August. I ran into work along the bike path, took my time and it was one of the most effortless 10.4 mile runs I've had in a long time. I will run back to my car this evening for a total of 21 miles today.

15in15 Schedule

Check out the schedule where I'll be running this summer. If you want to run with me, let me know. I also need crew and water stops.