Monday, March 31, 2008


The DCRRC Board election was held last night, Soviet style, and an unopposed slate of board candidates was presented to the assembled members of the club who were present to vote on. No nay votes were heard. So now I am the club VP of training. Yay, I think.

I also had the opportunity to say these words at the banquet last night.

I am pleased and flattered to receive a portion of the 2007 Justine Peet Outstanding Volunteer Award. Looking at the superlative and tireless work of the co-recipient, Karol Murray, and knowing of the endless and continuing list of good works of recipients from years past that I personally know, such as Kristin Blanchat and Matt Pyle, among others, I am honored indeed to be included in such company. In a sense, I am receiving this award as a representative of all the selfless volunteer work done by persons within the club too innumerable to name. For this reason, I shall always value it highly. Thank you.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jimmy rode his two bulls, the only man in forty to do so

I went to see bull riding last night. Professional Bull Riding (PBR) is exciting alright. Sort of like hockey games that feature fights are exciting. Borderline mayhem.

The athletes that ride bulls in the PBR are top-shelf young men. What a hard life. To stay astride a bucking, twirling 2,000 pound enraged beast with horns for eight seconds (using only one hand-this crucial part will become apparent in a minute) and then to get off of it and get away unscathed is an awesome athletic feat.

What happened last night at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, which featured a PBR event? The first rider was thrown and trampled. The third rider was thrown headfirst into a metal fence. Another rider sailed off the bull upon dismount and landed on his tailbone from six feet high. One rider had a horn whizz an inch by his head as he scrambled up after being violently thrown. Yet another rider got his spur caught in the cinch rope as he was dislodged by the bull and hyperextended his knee as he was whipped around three feet in the air by one heel like a rag doll. At least two more riders limped off wincing, and two others sagged dazedly against the fence after their rides when they got to its relative "safety" (you clamber up the fence to get out of the way of the rampaging bull). The horse of the only "safety rider" ( a mounted cowboy who can lasso the bull or distract it with his trained horse) got gored broadside by a charging bull (a perfect T-bone collision, as State Troopers would say) and both horse and rider went down. The horse got up and was led away, but the rider did not. He was wheeled away on a gurney, feebly waving his hat to the crowd with one hand.

The show went on with no horseman, only rodeo clowns on foot trying to get the bull out of the arena after each bull ride. The PBR is not for the faint of heart or those debilitated by pain.

The first round was forty bull rides. If you get thrown off before eight seconds, no score. See ya at the next meet. Successful rides are judged by some point-scoring system that grades the actions of both the rider and the bull. Ninety is a perfect score (I think). There are no points awarded for anything that transpires after the eight seconds (no style points for a dismount where you stay on your feet versus getting flung into the ground). The top ten riders go into the championship round.

My second cousin, 20 year old Jimmy Anderson from Colorado, is a typical PBR bullrider. He is currently ranked 59th in the association (based upon his earnings, he's earned a little over $22,000 in three years) and is considered a comer. He had come to Charlottesville from a PBR event the night before in San Antonio, taking a 6 o'clock flight to Dulles that morning. He drove to Charlottesville in a rental car and napped in the locker room. After the event he drove back to Dulles to catch a 6 am plane back to Texas where he attends college, napping in his rental car along the way. His story is not atypical.

Another cowboy at the meet was summoned the day before to replace a competitor who pulled out. He spent a thousand dollars on airfare and arrived without his luggage. He borrowed a cinch rope and a helmet. He was thrown in less than 2 seconds and went home.

Jimmy was hyped by the announcer before his first ride as having a record of staying on the bull on 80 percent of his rides. Apparently that's a whole lot.

He had a great ride on Marshmellow, a name which belied the energy and ferocity of his bull. He was thrown off right at 8:00 seconds but the ride counted. He garnered an 85, which put him in fifth place going into the final round.

So Jimmy made the finals. NO ONE except for Jimmy stayed on his bull for eight seconds in that round. Jimmy had a strong ride but Jimmy's time was frozen at 4.30 seconds as his ride atop raging Encore went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on (yeah, that's how long it takes for eight seconds to go by when nothing's really in control). The dismount horn never sounded. Finally a dozen seconds later Jimmy got thrown off.

He had been disqualified for touching the bull with his free hand as it whipped back and forth from the force of each buck. Slapping the bull, they call it. The ONLY DQ of the night in 50 rides!

The crowd booed lustily. I didn't see the touch, either in real time or on the replay on the jumbotron.

"There's no replay flag in bull riding," the announcer said to the booing crowd. "It is what it is." The crowd booed louder.

In the final round, Jimmy was the only man to stay on a bull. Imagine the score tied in an NBA playoff game with one second to go in regulation time. Tweet, the ref calls a ticky-tacky foul as a player dribbles out the clock. Happens all the time, right? Not!

Too bad, Jimmy would have won. The DQ call cost him $3,000. As it is, he gets fifth place money, about $600. I didn't get a chance to see him after the event but I saw him ride and it was beautiful. What a talented young man doing such a hard thing with grace and aplomb. Proud to know ya, Jimmy.

PBR. I have never seen anything like it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

National Half Marathon-A Quick Report

The third National Marathon and Half Marathon is over! Local phenom Michael Wardian three-peated in the marathon, setting a new course record (he sets one here every year) in 2:24:59. When I left, they announced that the mayor was on course for a finish of around 3:40. That's for the full, not the half. As Mayor Fenty says of all other mayors in the world, bring 'em on. When we ran by Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan, the mayor's Dad was outside of his store cheering the runners on. A local high school band was doing a racy number up by McMillan Reservoir when we were all fagged from the long climb up there. DC is great!

The weather was perfect, overcast, 42 degrees and only a little wind. Everyone in the Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program I am associated with did great! Matt was done in time to set up his camera and take pictures of runners as they finished. His two stars, the ones whose dust I ate at the Wednesday night track workout, both broke 1:40 (one of them closer to 1:30, I think). Sasha overhauled me in the last mile, chatted politely for a minute and then blazed off to a 1:44. I don't know everyone who ran, but one student did a 1:58 and another did about a 2:02. (Above: Sasha 200 yards from the finish. How is it that she is still smiling? Photo credit Matt.)

(Left: Me 200 yards from the finish, trying to hold on. Photo credit Matt.) My time was 1:45:35, my second best Half Marathon, 1:17 off my PR. It's a tough course so I'm pleased. Maybe I'll write more on it later but now I'm off to Charlottesville to watch some bull riding!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Busy Weekend

I have a busy weekend ahead of me. Tonight I'm going to a pre-race dinner at 6:30 pm at Bertucci's in Dupont Circle to a fete with the dedicated survivors of the Reebok SunTrust National Half-Marathon Training Program. Stop by and join us!

Tomorrow at 7 am I have a two-hour tour of the city planned. I am going on a little jaunt down the Mall from RFK past the White House, and then making a right turn to run by Fleet Feet (the first shop of that west coast franchise on the east coast) in Adams Morgan. I'm going to then sample some rolling hills as I run past the little-known McMillan Reservoir, and then I'll make another right turn and run down straight and true North Capitol Street back towards RFK. Woo-hoo!

In the late afternoon I'm going to the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville to watch PBR. Don't know what PBR is? It's the young Professional Bull Riding Association and they are bringing their event to Charlottesville for the first time. I am going to watch hardy young men try to use only one hand to stay on horned, one-ton bucking behemoths for eight seconds, and then try to get off same. My second cousin is riding the bulls tomorrow. That's him in the picture, and his Mom (my cousin) is the woman in the stands, to the right. Here's a preview. Yeehah!

Sunday I plan to do my taxes. Woot!

Sunday night at 5 pm I'am going to attend the DC Road Runners Annual Board Elections and Banquet at Maggiano's in Friendship Heights. I am on the ballot for VP of Training, a newly-created position. Stop by and vote for me!

Then it's back to work, thankfully!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Watch this one

A week ago Saturday was the last training run of the sixteen week half-marathon training program my club, the DC Road Runners, provides the coaches for (including me). We were treated to a talk by Samia Akbar, a premier American marathoner sponsored by Reebok.

Following an All-American career in track and field at American University, she debuted in the marathon at New York in 2006 and placed twelfth, third American, running a stunning 2:34:14. Watch out for her at the Olmypic Trials next month in Boston!

She spoke about tapering. Everyone's different, she said.

She said to stay hydrated.

She spoke about her warmup routine, a combination of static stretches and short bursts of intense running to get her cardiovascular system elevated.

She signed autographs for everyone. She's a charming young lady. Just look at her with Not Born To Run. Old pals!

Here's the group outside of our meeting place, Gotta Run Running Shop in South Arlington, just before going off on our last long run before the big race. Do you see any grumpy people in there? They all have at least nine miles of running immediately ahead of them. Why are they so so relaxed and . . . happy looking?

Good luck to everyone in the Reebok SunTrust National Marathon and Half-Marathon Training Program who is running the race this weekend. And good luck to Samia . . . in Beijing, I hope. (Photo credit Lee.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back at the Track

Tonight I did a track workout with the fast group of my club's Half-Marathon Training Program, which I direct. The group (of two) is in the capable hands of Matt, who is fast. I like him very much because he is so accomplished yet unassuming, and he is also a volunteer-type guy (he was my club's Volunteer of the Year in 2002). Plus he brews beer and he gave me four bottles of home brew recently.

The program's target race is this Saturday. I'm running it and I'm so not ready. In January I did a 20K (12.4 miles) in 1:42, an 8:15 pace. That's pretty much only my silver standard because it's not sub-eight miles. But I would take it now! My club's 10K Training Program, which I also direct, started last month and for the last five weeks I have been checking in on Saturday morning at 8 o'clock with the HM Group and then rushing off to run with the 10K Group at 9 o'clock. The 10K group is comprised of more incipient runners so my long runs have been on the order of four miles in forty-five minutes. That program's fast group (of one) is handled very capably by Bob, my club's Most Improved Male Runner of the Year for 2007, so I run with the novices. One weekend my long run consisted of two miles of repetitions of walking for two minutes and running for one minute. (I know, I could run earlier or later as well, but I do have a non-running life on weekends also.) (Left: Coach Bob of the 10K Program, center in white shirt, with the fast group (the runner against the railing) at Fletchers Boathouse earlier this month.)

So anyway, tonight at the club's track workout the three in the HM fast group (Matt and his two students) were tapering down for the big race three days hence and they still left me DFL 40 yards back, sucking wind with my chest pounding. The workout consisted of ten reps of one minute on and 30 seconds off at a "moderately" fast pace after a two mile warmup.

But I finished it, and caught up with them when "we" were done (we weren't actually on the track, which was being used, we were on the nearby hilly Custis Trail). The four of us went out for pizza afterwards. At the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington, running bridged the differences in our ages (30 years-I skew it upwards), college backgrounds (University of Colorado for me, MIT for Rita) and where we grew up (Staten Island, New York for me, Homer, Alaska for Gene).

The workout, food and company were great, but I am a little worried. I'm dreaming of breaking 1:50 (eighteen months ago I was hoping to break 1:40 although I never got there) but I hope I can do at least a 1:55 on Saturday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another Wednesday, another race.

Last Wednesday was the monthly running of the noontime Tidal Basin 3K. It's a 2.6 mile warmup run down there from my building for the 1.86 mile race, then a 2.6 mile cooldown run back to work. It's a full midday workout alright.

I ran into our agency's rock star G on the way down there. He is nice enough to run slower when he falls in with us mere mortals, so we hoofed it down there at a slow 7:40 pace. Some warmup! My tongue was already hanging out when we lined up at the start.

The race was much like the other 77 I have done. I chased my doppelganger Peter the entire way and never caught him. I was overtaken in the last quarter mile by a charging man and then a woman. I let them go by because I was used up. I finished in 13:38 (7:19), a six second improvement over last month but still a far cry from my gold standard of sub-13 minutes. This race had technical difficulties that were kind of funny though.

For starters, a tour bus was trying to drive through as we were lining up in the roadway at the start. Usually we clear the roadway to let them by but this time someone yelled the G word and half the crowd broke. Then the rest of the pack followed. Meanwhile the starter hadn't started the clock yet, so it was 10 seconds off the real time. It was windy too. By the Jefferson Memorial the wind hit the runners full blast and actually slowed us down. The wind blew the finishers' cards, which designated the runners' places, out of the hand of the official handing them out and they got all scrambled up. With the finisher cards so out of order, and the time off by so much, the race result was chaotic. I just know how fast I went and who I finished immediately behind. You know, same old same old. (Above: The wind hit us hard on the homestretch. There's Peter, my doppelganger in the white shirt wearing gloves.)

G finished in his usual 11:00 (5:54). He relented on the way back to our agency and dawdled along with me at an 8:40 pace.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's Easter Sunday Today

It's ironic that it is Easter Sunday today. This Easter Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of when my then-minor children departed from my life forever. I remember my father ironically remarking to me once that it was on Easter Sunday in 1945 that he waded ashore as a 20-year old into a three month crucible of horrific combat on Okinawa.

I dropped them off after our weekend together five years ago as usual. I had full joint legal custody and standard visitation, acquired after a circus of a two-day custody trial during which "they" faxed a letter to the judge's chambers from Sharon Rogers' house in Arlington stating their visitation preferences, which I guess was to never visit. This sort of parental manipulation--some call it child abuse--by the primary caregiver aimed at turning the children against the other parent is called Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS. Practically everyone it hasn't happened to disputes its existence or ignores it.

The following week the judge threw out a "harassment" suit wherein she had used our three minor children as her stalking horse by having "them" sue me over a supposed fiduciary matter. She was ultimately sanctioned and assessed costs of almost $50,000. The lawyers who signed the pleadings and conducted the hearings that led to this outcome for her were Joseph A. Condo (past president of the Virginia bar!) of McLean and William B. Reichhardt of Fairfax.

The Mother and these divorce lawyers "won" though, because the family was irrevocably torn apart, predictably so in my opinion. The children never visited me again after "their" suit was tossed after a full evidentiary hearing, and I have had a nugatory influence on their upbringing since that day. In effect, I haven't spoken to them or seen them since then. I wouldn't recognize any of them if I passed by them on the sidewalk. I don't want your sympathy, I just want you to know that this pernicious extra-judicial family-killer of PAS exists and is practiced in this country. For men, here and here are some resources on where to get support. It's Easter Sunday and I'm going out on for a run. Running allows me to get a new start every day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Running into Rick

"I was watching you run. How far did you go?"

The man on the subway platform during the morning rush hour, dripping with sweat, wearing only a t-shirt, shorts and a bulging running backpack, looked sharply at me, his face a picture of defiance. Everyone else in the crowded station was giving him a wide berth.

"Sometimes I run to the station too," I said encouragingly. "But I just run in jeans and my shirt. I only live three-quarters of a mile away. Where do you live?"

He could see from my general appearance that I might be a runner. He certainly was, lean and toned. He said guardedly, "In Falls Church. I do a loop coming to the station. Two and a half miles."

"How often do you run?"

"Five days a week. I don't run on Saturday or Sunday, unless I race. I run the loop every day, and then reverse it and run home each night. I run five miles a day."

I had seen him running to the station in his get-up, and I had run behind him at a distance all the way to the terminal. I wanted to see what his routine was. He was easy to spot on the platform.

"That's pretty good. You're always sure to get your exercise. What's your next race?"

He looked a little like Scooter Libby, who was in the news that morning because his license to practice law in the District was suspended due to the fact that he is a convicted liar. This runner had that same sort of aggressive projection of presence and hard-set face.

"Cherry Blossom 10-Miler."

"Hey, good luck in it. I'm Peter. Maybe I'll see you running around Falls Church sometime."

He shook my hand, visibly relaxed now that he was sure he was talking to another runner. "Rick. Maybe, but I only run to and from the station."

It was cold and windy on this mid-March morning. He was underdressed and wet. I nodded and moved on down the platform to where I customarily get on the train. I'm always interested in other people's running routines. This guy's got a good one, very efficient.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.

Last year a tragedy occurred at my agency when two employees were struck and killed in front of the building by a city bus making a left turn as they crossed the street in a crosswalk with the light. This year an employee suffered a broken leg when a turning car struck him in a crosswalk in front of the building.

What to do? The Metropolitan police showed up recently outside the building one morning and started handing out $100 jaywalking tickets. A runner friend observed a cop give a ticket to a runner who ran across the empty street against the light, and issue a gotcha ticket to a pedestrian who stepped off the curb into the crosswalk (but went no further) while the light was still red.

This sucks. I run around there, a lot. I'm careful, but occasionally I run across roadways when I'm not in the crosswalk and the light isn't green.

DC has a running mayor who runs several miles every morning. I wonder if he stops and waits for every light.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


If you were the first male back-to-back winner of the Marine Corps Marathon (1988 & 1989) and the oldest man ever to win the JFK 50-Miler, a nationally known runner and local legend, a MCM and a DC Roadrunners Club Hall-of-Famer, a Washington Post columnist and an incipient father, what would you talk about to new runners? Perhaps continuity. (Below: Jim Hage speaks. Just try running away from this guy!)

Jim Hage, having achieved all of the above accomplishments and more, spoke about continuity when he addressed the assembled participants and guests of the Reebok Training Program for the SunTrust National Marathon and Half Marathon and the DCRRC 10K Group Training Program last Saturday at Fletchers Boathouse in DC. His radiant wife Susan, former DCRRC president and currently with twins aborning, stood off to one side chatting with current DCRRC president Ed Grant. The assembled athletes, just back from their respective Saturday long runs of distances ranging from four miles for the 10K Group, to ten miles for guests like Not Born To Run, to fifteen miles for the marathoners, listened rapt to the presentation, hoping to pick up an answer to the question of how to ensure meeting their objectives in their upcoming races. For the Reebok program trainees, it was two weeks before the National Marathon weekend. The 10K Group participants had two months to go before their target race of the venerable Capitol Hill Classic 10K, with its renowned namesake hill featuring a "gut-check climb" in the sixth mile. (Below: Susan Hage is flanked by Karol, the 2007 DCRRC Volunteer of the Year and Kristin, presented the DCRRC Volunteer of the Year award in 2006.)

The answer is there are no pat answers in running and training for races, Jim said. Only approaches, and application. Speak to veteran runners, listen, and apply what works for you to be successful, he suggested. Then, to become the best, you must do it diligently and well, be confident, and then do even more of it.

Although a double winner of the MCM, he actually was only half successful, he pointed out. He ran four MCM races, expecting to win them all. Twice he finished third, being in the mix until the end when he faded. Reassessing, he took some time off and came back with a vengeance. He bumped up his training from 70 miles a week to over a hundred, and won. The next year he trained even harder, and won again. In four marathons, he led in the races for maybe a mile and a half total. But he led at the most important point in two of those, at the finish line. This was his zone of focus, he said. Always there near the lead pack, hanging back and constantly assessing throughout the races, he had the fortitude after twin failures to redouble his efforts at training and win twice.

But more importantly, even participating in the endeavor spoke about lifestyle choices runners make, he said. Looking at the assembled athletes, mostly committed and fit enough persons of varying ages, he spoke of the importance of continuing on with their lifestyle choice even past the attainment of their next objective two weeks or two months hence. Eliminate the yo-yo effect of losing such hard-won conditioning by sinking into inactivity once the objective is achieved and the race is run. Avoid having to start all over again when the next season looms. When the next race is over, take a day off. (But not two.) Then go out for a loosening up jog. Then take a longer run. Get back into training, perhaps not as intensively and intently, but don't stop training altogether, as is so common. Put a summertime race on the calendar even now, he urged.

On technical matters, Jim stressed the importance of sustenance during races. Two letters are key, he said. G-U. Take them early and often during a race. Energy during a race is very important, it keeps you thinking more clearly and maintaining focus while your body draws down its readily accessible energy in the form of stored glycogen. Replenish it with frequent energy gels before your body starts depleting more inaccessible energy stored in muscle, which breaks down the body by withdrawing this energy source. The result is the effect of hitting the infamous wall. (Above: Past, present and future. Susan Hage, past president, deep in discussion with Ed Grant, current president of DCRRC.)

The presentation was free. Nationally famous local runner Jim Hage gives back, as do so many so often in the running community.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Duty Time

I gave back on Sunday. I volunteered at a club race.

No race goes on without largely faceless support. Here are the volunteers manning the finish line. It was cold and windy.

I did duty at the Gatorade and water stop. I got it down after awhile. Gatorade up high and away, water down low and tight.

It got a little tricky at times. Good thing I practice yoga.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Four Miles Between Raindrops

It rained today. Today was also the day for the two training groups I direct to do their long runs, the Half-Marathon Group in its fourteenth week, and the 10K Group in its third week.

The calls started last night. "Are we gonna meet tomorrow?"


"Well, I thought since the forecast says there's a 90% chance of rain . . . ."

I learned years ago as a cop to never finish other people's sentences. You want to keep 'em talking. So that sentence never got finished.

Sighing. "Okay. See you then."

This morning it was raining slightly but warm. Two people came to Gotta Run in South Arlington at 8 am for the half-mary workout, Sasha and Stephanie. Sasha had a cold. Off they went on their 13-mile run like troopers. (Right: Stephanie bringing it home in a 12K race last month.)

I drove over to Fletchers Boathouse west of Georgetown at 9 am. Five of thirty runners and three other coaches came to the 10K workout. One coach had a cold and left.

Off we went towards Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail on a straight 34-minute run. At seventeen minutes out, we would all turn around and come back. A run of four miles or less. Simple.

I was chatting up the runners, starting in the back and working my way up the pack. We rapidly got strung out along the trail. One coach was at the tail of the group and another with the fastest intermediate runner.

I got up to her and asked where T was, the only fast group runner to show up. Both fast group coaches were out of town.

"He's way up there."

The blacktop trail stretched out for a ways and then gently curved around a corner. T was out of sight. I started after him. The coach I left was not thinking that I would catch him.

In olden times, prior years, the students thought I was fast. I would work the line, talking awhile and then putting on a burst to catch up with the next cluster of runners ahead. Here was a challenge, to catch T and make it worth his while that he paid $35 to participate in this 12-week program. Have him have a coach available today as he ran.

I went around the curve. No T. I traversed another long straightaway and curve. Still no T. I passed a half mile marker doing a 7:40 mile. These days that is an I wish race pace for me.

Finally, there he was, way up there. It took me awhile to determine that I was actually gaining on him, slowly. I considered giving up and dropping back to the intermediate group. He was about half my age. He actually did races. I could let him catch me on the way back, and impart running wisdom to him then. Yeah, that sounded good.

But I kept on. My breathing was ragged and my limbs were heavy. I hadn't run like this outside of a race in a long time.

I ran him down. Thirty meters away, he looked back. He knew someone was back there. I thought he was going to increase his speed but he let me catch up.

"How fast were you going to catch me?"

"Oh, 7:40s I guess."

"What do you think we're running now?"


"It feels like 8:30s to me."


I didn't want to show that I was tired and was glad I could now slow down slightly. We turned around at about seventeen minutes, about two miles out, and started back on the downhill half. Our strides were long and our conversation was sparse. T knows what he's doing.

T started falling back. I slowed slightly but he fell back further. I kept on then because I could tell he was used up but could bring it in. I was thinking I could catch an intermediate runner but I never did.

For T and myself, that was our problem with being the fastest in the group. On an out-and-back based strictly on time, because you're furthest out at turnaround time, you wind up being DFL.

I drove the last mile in 7:40. T revived nicely the last mile and finished only a few dozen seconds behind me. The rest of the group was in the parking lot already, sipping gatorade while waiting for us.

We arrived sweaty and wet from the rain but smiling. Those four miles felt great.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday Night Footmall

Yesterday was a lovely day after a long cold winter. I was going to do a club 12K race mid-morning that runs on forest trails around a lake about thirty miles from my house but I got involved in projects and didn't go. Then I was going to do a long run, maybe a 16 or a 20-miler, but I didn't go out. I watched the day go by out a window.

Finally at 4 pm I decided to do a virtual 12K race to make up for the race I had not done earlier. It would be a very efficient "race" since there would be no transit or waiting around time. I went to the curb and set out.

I turned the first uphill mile in 8:18. It would have been faster but I passed by a penny and went back to retrieve it. A lucky penny, I hope.

I didn't know any more mile reference points til at 5 miles, I hit the W&OD Trail. At MP 8 on the trail, a mile from my house, I backtracked up a big hill to MP 8.5. Most satisfying, I passed one of those low-rider bicyclists on the hill.

"You need a lower gear," I said helpfully as I went by. He looked at me sharply. The tension on the trails between bikers and runners immediately came to the forefront.

"Actually I need a higher gear," he said. What the heck do I know?

Reversing course again at the half-mile marker, I ran back to MP 8, turning that mile in 8:48. I got home in 1:05:55, my 7.5 miles done at an 8:50 pace. Not exactly race pace, but good enough for a decent outing on a glorious afternoon.

Tonight after work I ran from Union Station to the Watergate where I met up with Sasha to run on the Mall. She calls this run Monday Night Footmall. We ran up behind the Capitol and back, nine miles for me in 1:26 (9:33). Sasha definitely was leading and I had to force myself to keep up, thinking I used to be faster than her. The darkness, uneven surfaces and hills were all bothering me.

Afterwards I jumped on a subway and rode to my stop. The car was too crowded for anyone to be able to move away from me in my sweaty clothes. Then I ran from the station to my house, a familiar mile even in the dark, in 7:25. That was a nice cap to my evening.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Party for One

Danny my youngest had a birthday last week. The last time I had a communication from him was last summer when he sent me a one-paragraph letter after he graduated from high school asking me to arrange for paying for his full four years of college tuition. That missive was addressed "Dear Peter." I sent it back saying I was his father not his street corner buddy. The same letter came back a month later addressed "Dear Father," so I arranged full payment for his four years of college tuition. I haven't heard a word from him since.

(Left: A portrait of Danny from about 7 years ago.) Last I spoke with him was a year ago. Last I saw him was five years ago. So anyway, I called last week and left a message asking him to call me. When I didn't hear back from him, I took his birthday off from work. That morning I called and left a message telling him that I'd love to buy him a birthday lunch at a specific nearby restaurant and that I would be there at noon with a table reserved.

There's a happy ending to this tale . . . in fairy tales. Here's the party. Pretty festive, eh? That was enough pizza for me for lunch, dinner that night and breakfast on another day. (Right: A party at the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington!)

Finishing off the cold pizza on the morning of Leap Year Day was a mistake. There was a special Leap Year running of the free monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K, the 409 1/2th consecutive running of it. Do the math and the race goes back to April 1974.

These races always have a theme. This running was in honor of The Awakening statue, the earthbound giant struggling to arise from the ground for many years at nearby Haines Point. It was sold, and shipped off to PG County on the very day we were running February's normal version of the Tidal Basin 3K (February 20th, the third Wednesday of the month). It's gone forever, folks. The statue, not the race.

Fueled (or weighted down) by pizza I struggled to finish in 13:44 (7:22). My doppelganger Peter returned the favor from the race a week earlier and beat me this time. (Left: The 3K race staging area. This month I got a 2-fer for free noontime 3K races in downtown DC.)