Friday, February 27, 2009

At Epcot Center

On Sunday morning I flew into Tampa, drove up to Orlando and enjoyed Epcot Center at Disney World. Ever since I did the Inaugural Goofy Challenge at WDW (1:45 & 3:53), I have gone back to the four theme parks there when I could and wandered around each one, reliving those 39 miles as best I could in each park. (Right: Top of the world, Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom at WDW.)

I had a girl friend during my visits to the first two parks and I subjected her to my "runner moments." You know, "I came through here," "I took some water there," " I rearranged my fanny pack at this spot." All the interesting stuff.

Sunday I completed my task. As the years go by it's hard to remember exactly each twist and turn of the two runs, but I think I got the last quarter mile down pat. I was in a fog of fatigue the second day but I remember a band being there at MP 26, and a body of water that I was running around or by. I certainly remember running up upon the big silver sphere both days that is Epcot Center, where both races finish. It was quite a beacon. Sorta like the Black Monolith in the movie 2001. Maybe you hadda be there, or perhaps you gotta be older, but anyway, it was my breakthrough because both days were huge PRS. (Left: How could you forget, or think, you ran by this landmark?)

The only other thing I truly remember was that I ran through the Magic Castle twice. When I went to Animal Kingdom a year after the race I thought that for sure I had run by the Mount Everest exhibit and was happily reliving that experience until I read in the park brochure that the mountain was created after January 2006. So it goes. (Right: Fourteen months later, I found a Goofy to hang out with in the Swiss Family Robinson exhibit in Animal Kingdom (mileposts 16-18) at WDW. Photo credit S.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Conduit

Anyone who reads this blog knows that my last post was about my oldest child. He was an excellent boy who, however, needed firm guidance. After the divorce proceeding was initiated, in my opinion he no longer received that and became a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome ("PAS"), which some regard as child abuse. On his twenty-first birthday he changed his name and passed out of my life.

I used to create brief write ups of the sundry athletic contributions of my three children, similar to my last posting. I would periodically present inscribed scrapbooks to my kids which I bound at Kinkos, containing the summaries along with photocopies of their pictures, compositions, art, medals, ribbons, certificates and awards.

During the divorce, teenaged Jimmy explained to me that these scrapbooks showed I was pathetically living vicariously through the athletic achievements of my children because I obviously had none of my own. I believe that this minor child came up with this adult notion through the counseling of the Licensed Clinical Social Worker ("LCSW") he was seeing at the time for school issues. She was also counseling his Mother, in my opinion an egregious conflict of interest.

The Court found that this Virginia-licensed LCSW "served as the conduit through which information relating to the divorce grounds and allegations are transmitted from the mother to the children," and barred the LCSW from testifying at the custody trial. She continued to "counsel" my child, though. In my opinion, PAS is achieved with the complicity of such "professionals," and children such as mine are thereby effectively and extra-judicially deprived of their fathers.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

He's over there.

"Are you Jimmy?"

The burly fullback on the South Arlington team had strode into the center circle and asked this of the skinny centerforward as the suburban house soccer team was about to kick off.

"No, that's Jimmy over there," said the centerforward, pointing to the right wing.

The fullback ran over to stand in front of the wing. The referee blew his whistle to start the second half and the fullback grabbed the wing and held him, preventing him from getting off the line. Meanwhile the centerforward tapped the ball to a teammate and received it back in full stride.

The South Arlington team knew the suburban team had one excellent athletic player who usually pitched a shutout in goal the first half and then came into the field in the second half to try to score. The suburban team had won a few 1-0 games with this very fast player named Jimmy scoring all of his team's goals so far.

While the fullback wrestled with the wing on the pitch behind him, the centerforward swiftly took the ball through the midfielders with long dribbles. He streaked into the box, getting past the sweeper with a scintillating fake. The sweeper received no help from the fullback, who was occupied with the wing thirty yards behind the play.

The centerforward was ten yards from the goal now in open space, moving rapidly with short dribbles. Suddenly his right foot flashed forward and he shot the ball past the flat-footed goalie, scoring the only goal in the game like he'd done a few other times that season.

Happy Belated Birthday, Jimmy. I witnessed this classic escapade.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Washington's Birthday Marathon Team Relay

In its 15th (of 20) weeks, the Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program I coach for met on Sunday morning, February 15th, in Greenbelt, MD to participate in the DC Road Runners Washington’s Birthday Marathon Relay race, the 8th oldest continuously-held marathon in the country. Coach Ellen volunteered at the race and dispensed the sweet elixir of life with a beatific countenance to thirsty runners at a water table. Coach Emily ran the full marathon in 4:13 and took third in her age group. Six 3-runner relay teams were fielded by Program participants. (Right: Coach Ellen, in blue, volunteering at last year's relay race with Je, in crimson. Last year Ellen was a Program trainee, this year she is a valuable coach.)

The marathon is a basic three-loop course, with additional distance accounted for by a run to the triple-loop at the start and a slog to the finish line at the end. The relay’s first leg is 9.7 miles and runs down a big hill into a large pastoral bowl bordered on one side by parkland and by rural highways on the other side. Emerging from the sheltered park onto the highway section in the fifth mile, runners brave headwinds, traffic and hills the rest of the way to the relay exchange point. The second leg is the 7.3 mile basic loop, and the anchor leg is 9.2 miles, running back up the big hill leading out of the park to the finish line.

Belying their name, the team formed by coach Matt, Sub 3 or Bust, won the Open Division with a time of 3:00:11. Matt turned in a torrid 6:15 per mile pace on what’s known as the Princess Leg, the middle 7.3 mile leg (which is almost always assigned to the female runner on Coed teams), as Jo and a guest runner ran only slightly slower on their longer legs in claiming the second team spot overall. A pesky Coed team snuck in five seconds ahead of these swift young men to claim the top team spot. (Left: Matt after his blistering run last year, when he did the first leg for his team.)

Coach Lauren did double duty, running the first leg for the White Jackets team of K and F, which finished in 4:07. Then Lauren anchored 2 Babes and a Tall Guy to a 3:42 time, which was good for the best finish among Program teams that didn’t have the rock star Matt on them. S and Joi handled the first two legs.

Right on Lauren’s heels was my teammate Ja, running eight-minute miles for the Satellite Cowboys which was the next Program team to finish, in 3:43. Jam ran an excellent Princess Leg for us after I got swallowed up by the hills on the backside of the first leg. I was glad to hand off the red Coed sash marker after experiencing my speed fall off precipitously during the run from a 7:57 first mile to an 8:46 overall pace.

Mere seconds behind the Cowboys was the Grumpy Old Men team, led by R, who passed me in the first leg as I was walking along in the fifth mile desperately sucking down a GU. Ju was the anchoring Old Man while a guest runner handled the short duty.

The next Program team to finish was Friends of Fleet Feet (an Adams Morgan running store, a community fixture), with St leading off and K and C following to turn in an excellent 4:19.

Many of these Program participants had never done a team race before. Everyone was totally stoked after his or her leg, even those runners like me who had a bad running day. (Did I mention the course is hilly?) The laughter was loud afterwards, bespeaking of the camaraderie on the course!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday's Race

I jogged down to yesterday’s downtown noontime 3K race around the Tidal Basin in the rain. At least it had stopped snowing.

A small band of hardy runners was there. A Parks Policewoman stopped by in her cruiser to hurry us along in our dispersal so that a gathering which didn’t have a permit didn’t tarry too long on federal parks land. The Race Director hurried over to speak with her, and made sure that nobody left any sweatshirts or fanny packs lying about for the quarter hour we’d be gone while we ran around the Tidal Basin. Suspicious packages, you know.

Off we set in the gloom. Peter, who is about my speed and age, got away from me quickly at the start and I didn’t expect to see him again. Running along the Tidal Basin, the water was gray and choppy. The Jefferson Memorial across the way was partially obscured in the cold mist.

Although he is faster than me, I stayed ahead of the Race Director this race, as he had run a 3:25 marathon only three days earlier. He was never far behind though.

I tried to sprint down the 100 meter highway bridge over a northern arm of the water. I tried to power up the short hill just beyond, which runs past the Tulip Library at the 1K mark. I imagined the bulbs sleeping underground, just starting to stir with the end of winter beckoning. Both attempts at shaking up my race effort midway through were only moderately successful.

There was none of the usual jockeying for position around me in this particular race, which would count only 23 finishers. Normally a steady stream of half a dozen familiar runners goes by me after the starting line crowd has sorted itself out.

I set my sights on the runner ahead and gradually pulled close. He surged. I pulled close again and passed him at the 2K mark, behind the Jefferson Memorial.

Up ahead was Peter, coming back to me slightly. On the last uphill, the bridge over the Potomac inlet, I drew to within ten yards of him. That was as good as it was going to get. Peter increased the distance between us steadily on the long finishing straightaway and finished eight seconds ahead.

I pushed hard at the end to beat 14 minutes, finishing in 13:50 (7:25). I was 13th overall, and the thirteenth male out of twenty.

It was the 421st monthly running of this race, of which I have done 93.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Little toe, big problem

It's just a little toe on my left foot. Not the little toe, a big toe. Not the big toe, the long toe next to it. For some people, the big toe is the long toe so the long toe is not next to the big toe, it is the big toe. But my pain isn't in the big toe, it's in a big toe which is the long toe, which is just a little toe but not the little toe. Clear?

Anyway, I hurt it a week ago Saturday during a 13 mile training run with my group. It just started hurting a couple of miles in. And kept hurting, although not unbearably so. Yet. Other than the pain, it was a wonderful run. Thirteen plus miles around the storied monuments of the nation's capital on a wonderful winter morning, about 40 degrees with a very slight breeze and a sunny sky. Perfect conditions for running.

Shortly after I started running nine years ago, I had pain in that very same long toe that eventually forced me to suspend running completely for eight weeks, twice. My doctor diagnosed it as tendinitis in that toe each time and prescribed two months of rest, period. Each time it had gotten to the point where the pain in my foot would cause me to just pull up. It would just come on, walking or running, and force me to sit down and tear off my shoe and massage my toe until I could go on.

These bouts came on about a year apart, and the rest period was the only thing that helped. For about seven years though, I haven't had a whisper of the problem. Until Saturday.

Sunday was 60 degrees and I tried running. I just had to run in such gorgeous weather after the long cold snap. I made it to the end of my sidewalk and stopped. My toe didn't hurt worse, it just still hurt.

I felt guilty and lazy, but I took the whole week off from running. In my yoga class, I did plank position from my knees like a decrepit old man so as to keep off my toes. I rubbed Tiger Balm arthritic lotion on my toe each night. I had a big relay race coming up on Sunday which I had to do so as to not let my teammates down. By this morning my toe felt much better although I could still feel a slight ache in it occasionally.

This is the only injury that has ever caused me to miss more than a few days running at any time. It put me down for two months, twice. It has my complete attention. I have to be able to run to conduct the training classes that I direct for my club and am responsible for. Such a little toe. Such a big problem.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy happy

Happy Valentine's Day, Dan. Love you! Miss you! (Hope to see you later this month for lunch at the Elevation Burger in Falls Church at noon on your birthday.) xxoo Dad

And the same to you-know-who-you-are.

We are but a moment's sunlight
Fading in the grass Get Together by The Youngbloods

Friday, February 13, 2009

Back on track

I'm back on track. Not with my running, which has been non-existent since Saturday when I ran 13 miles with my training group and hurt my toe, but with my blood donating.

Last month the blood center rejected me because my blood pressure was too high, 182/106. Hitting the the century mark on the lower number is always a fatal reading.

Fatal to attempts to donate blood, that is. Apparently they're afraid that the drop in b/p caused by decreasing your volume of blood by taking a pint of it could be too precipitous if your b/p is too high to start with, and you could pass out.

Or worse, I guess.

I'm on b/p medicine (welcome to your 50s) but my dosage obviously needed some fine-tuning. I've been working on it.

There are always obstacles though. I upped my intake of the ace-inhibitor, which meant I needed to re-fill my RX sooner. Because I'm the health-conscious sort, I ran down to Kaiser from my house with a check, my Kaiser card and, just in case, my driver's license, to get a refill. By running back as well, I would make it a 5K workout.

The orderlies brought my bottle of pills to the counter and asked for the co-pay. I gave them my check for the stated amount, along with my driver's license. They already had my medical card.

They got antsy and called the manager over. She looked at my check and imperiously refused to take it, demanding that I pay by a credit card, which of course I didn't have on me. (Kaiser takes checks.)

The problem? My check, although it had my name printed on it, didn't have an address printed on it. It's a privacy thing.

The petty official acted absolutely dumbfounded that I could have checks without an address printed on them. She asked if anyone anywhere ever accepted my checks. Pointing to the check number, 1144, I said, "Sure, eleven hundred and forty three businesspersons have so far without a problem. And besides, I'm a customer of yours, and have been for ten years. You have my address on file."

Don't you hate it when officious types just make stuff up? I only got my meds by stonily refusing to run home and come back with a credit card. My "healthy outing" definitely raised my b/p.

Anyway, I went to the blood center today in mid-afternoon so I wouldn't be so close in time to my normal jangled, caffeine-induced morning state. This seemed to work as my b/p reading was lower, 168/87. However, the nurse was sure the machine was malfunctioning because it gave my pulse as 47. He was perplexed until I said I was a runner. "Oh," he said as he pranged my finger with a needle to get a blood sample.

He released a drop of my blood into a little jar of blue solution which had a disgusting, clumpy mass of blood from prior tests covering the bottom of the jar like a giant omeba. If your blood sinks into this mess, it has enough iron in it for you to donate blood. If it floats, you 're anemic and they won't take your blood.

I'm pretty sure that every woman on the planet is anemic according to this test and can't give blood, but for guys, usually their blood sinks into this slowy swirling bottom-clinging mass. Mine stopped halfway down, suspended in perfect stasis midway. Now what.

The nurse squeezed another blood drop out of my finger and took it into the next room. He came back sans the blood drop, happy. "Fifteen over three," he said in triumph. "I tested it in the other room." Apparently 15/3 is good. That's irony, I guess.

"What's wrong with that blood," I asked, indicating the red tear-shaped drop in the tube hovering immobile just above the clotted bloody cloud at the bottom.

"Oh, I got a tiny air bubble in it when I pulled it out of your finger into the crystalline tube. That's causing it to come to rest." Oh.

So I gave blood for the 78th time. But who's counting? I just hope the bloodletting doesn't impact too much on my effort in the hilly 9.3 mile anchor leg I'm doing in a marathon relay race in 40 hours.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Boom, down. More Books.

I have a friend who can't believe the books I read. "What war book are you reading now," she'll ask. "Lots of people dying in them?"

I don't think she thinks it's a good thing I read histories and political tracts. "When was the last time you read a fiction book," she asked. I had to think awhile. October, it was. The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry. A great movie and a very good book. I'm currently reading another McMurtry book, Terms of Endearment, but I keep misplacing it. My 1100 page Korean War history, having so much more heft, is so much easier to keep track of.

I always list a classic American novel in my profile book section. Two years ago it was my favorite American book of them all, The Scarlet Letter, a book filled with gorgeous writing. Last year it was Moby Dick. Call me Ishmael. This year's favorite is The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald could certainly write. I love his Tender is the Night, too.

I pay homage to great biography too. Two years ago it was Russell Baker's Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography, Growing Up. Last year it was U.S. Grant's Personal Memoirs, the best war memoir ever written. This year I'm listing Goodbye, Darkness, William Manchester's memoir of the Pacific War. A Marine who was grievously wounded on Okinawa (a Japanese shell burst nearby and shrapnel and bone fragments from the man blown apart next to him were driven into his body), thirty years later he traveled back across those gory Marine battlefields, the Canal, Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa. The range of emotions that passes through this journalist as he describes his younger self experiencing his first lay, his first drunk, his first death, his first kill, is incredible and unforgettable. My father was a Marine at Peleliu and Okinawa.

Replacing J.M. Coetzee's book Waiting for the Barbarians as just great literature is Tim O'Brien's novel In The Lake of the Woods. I first became enamored with O'Brien's writing when I read The Things They Carried, his Vietnam opus. O'Brien was there and walked the walk. He explained the grunts' war effort thusly:

They carried their reputations. They carried the soldier's greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment. They crawled into tunnels and walked point . . . . It was not courage, exactly; the object was not valor. Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards.

After reading this elegant book, I read In The Lake of the Woods. It is a terrific book, a puzzling, haunting mystery, a whodunit love story about relationships gone bad that has no resolution, only suggestions and suppositions, where events in the past blur into the present and may, or may not, point to the future. A brilliant work in my opinion.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's done is done. Books.

As the second month of the new year rolls in, it's past time to change the favorite books section on my profile page. I actually look at the profiles of bloggers I read to try to discern things about them because, after all, I actually know very little about most of the bloggers "I know."

Books are important to me. Recently I started reading again after a desultory period where I wasn't reading much. I finished a 700 page book on the Korean War. (Does that sound like fun reading or what?)

It inspired me to begin an eleven hundred page book on the Korean War. It's exciting! The green U.S. forces have just gotten the bejeezuz kicked out of them by the North Korean army but the day of reckoning is coming for the overconfident Commies. But what is the saying about pride? Watch out, Mac!

I'm thinkin' that the U.S. doesn't "win" the war in this book either.

I always list a Shakespeare book in my profile as a favorite, and change it every year. Two years ago it was Othello, because it is my favorite Tragedy. I love the Moor's profound words about peace:

Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.
Good signior, you shall more command with years
Than with you weapons. I:ii

If only W had the wisdom to know that the threat of shock & awe is so much more efficacious than actually delivering it, because when delivered its future effect is dulled it through its use (attrition) and, having withstood its onslaught, the recipients realize that they survived it after all and they start looking for weaknesses in the deliverers. (As in the dolts in charge. "Bring 'em on!")

Last year I listed King Lear, my second favorite Tragedy. Anyone who knows my personal situation (3 estranged sons for whom I paid every cent of support, am furnishing full college tuition and fees for, and who don't deign to speak to me or any of my relatives) will see the irony and truthiness in this quote:

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child. I:iv

(Hey, Danny, please meet me at Elevation Burger in Falls Church at noon on your birthday later this month and I'll buy you, and whoever you bring [your brothers maybe] a burger and a malt.) (Mmm. Elevation burgers.)

Macbeth is my choice for this year. "What's done is done." III:ii

Furthermore, I always list a war book. Man's history seems like a miserable liturgy of wars. Two years ago it was Hell In A Very Small Place, the Siege of Dien Bien Phu by Bernard Fall, the best war book bar none. Last year it was Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, the best small unit combat book bar none. This year it is Breakout The Chosin Reservoir Campaign Korea 1950 by Martin Russ.

Its jacket says the book is The riveting saga of one of the most heroic battles in American history. It is that indeed, and more. The book masterfully tells of the beleaguered First Marine Division's breakout from the clutches of practically the entire Chicom Army, as the divison travelled precariously over 90 miles of a solitary mountain roadway back to the safety of the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet's guns at the port of Hungnam (North Korea) in sub-zero temperature. The Marines mauled seven elite Chinese divisions in the process. Thank you Oliver Smith (a Marine general). Boo on you Ned Almond (an Army general).

The Marines, in this epic battle, with their successful fighting withdrawal (they brought their casualties, and their dead, out) provided the one shining moment for American arms in the Great Bugout from North Korea that Johnnie Walker's Eighth Army engaged in when the Chinese entered the Korean War, stunning the overconfident Americans and routing our forces. This disaster greatly dimmed General Douglas MacArthur's (Army--Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away) final legacy.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Anatomy of a 12K Race

Today was the club's Hospice 12K race, which started at Bluemont Park in Arlington. The 7.456 mile course burns up a couple of miles on the flat W&OD Trail and then heads up the hilly Custis Trail for a five mile out-and-back. It's a nasty five miles. Then it's head for the barn on the W&OD again. Did I tell you the Custis Trail is hilly? It's like they sing about in the Army marching song, Over Hill, Over Dale...

A goal of mine is to run a 12K in under an hour. I should be able to do it because an 8:02 pace will get you there. I have run sub-8s in race distances all the way up to a half-marathon, but it didn't happen in either of my two prior 12Ks, a 1:02:54 (8:26) in 2003 on a muddy course around Burke Lake in Fairfax and a 1:01:40 (8:16) at the same Hospice 12K last February. (At the 12K last year, I missed my goal of breaking an hour.)

Last year's race was a milestone of sorts because it marked the first time that a runner I had formerly coached in a training program beat me. Sasha, a former student of mine and currently a valued coach in the Half-Marathon Training Program I direct, ran thirty-eight seconds faster than me at last year's race when she finished with a time of 1:01:02 (8:11) Thus was the torch passed. (Sasha, on the right, before last year's race with another Program runner, S.)

No Program trainees were there this morning that I saw. Full-Marathon Program coach Ben was there and we nodded hello.

I was concerned about ice on the trail (see my last post) but the race director had done good work in getting his volunteers out to scatter rock salt on some bad spots and had changed the start and finish of the course a little to avoid a long shaded rutted stretch of trail. The morning was crisp, 39 degrees. but warming up quickly. I wisely set my fleece outerwear aside and raced in technical shirt, compression shorts (for my always-tender hammies) and running pants, gloves and hat.

What I unwisely didn't do, however, was hydrate properly before the race. I should have carried a water bottle along, as I often do in races, but all the water bottles in my car were frozen solid.

Getting underway in the big field where the start/finish line was caused everyone to get spattered with mud. It was a slow undertaking to emerge onto the trail from there but once on the W&OD, there was room to operate. The usual early race jockeying went on and I saw many familiar faces from countless other local races. The same people tend to always be around you in races.

There were a few small icy patches on the trail where we all had to slow down and proceed with caution for a few steps but it was the same footing for everyone. The path was surprisingly clear.
I saw a marking taped onto the path that indicated one mile. My stopwatch said 6:40, which was way too fast. I said to no one in particular, "That's no mile!" The runner next to me looked at his Garmin and said in confirmation, ".87." A minute later I heard a chime which I recognized to be his Garmin signalling a mile. I clicked my lap counter at 7:38, right where I wanted to be. But that was only the first mile and that was on the flats.

Ben, who is faster than me, soon passed me but then I passed him back as he slowed down to a walk. He was evidently experimenting with a run/walk routine. Soon he flew by me again and I never saw him after that. He took Program honors today by finishing way ahead of me.

I was following a good-looking woman, which always is a pleasant distraction, but she was slightly faster than me and was very slowly pulling away. As I chased her trying to keep up, I came upon a groaner and a grunter who was about my speed.

Noisy runners are not a pleasant distraction, but I couldn't get away from her. I passed her four or five times in those early miles but she always passed me back. She finally settled in about 30 yards ahead, far enough away that her sighs and groans were diminished.

We passed a big "2" taped on the trail and I looked at my watch, which indicated 6:50. Too fast for the second mile. The mile markers were way off and I disregarded them thereafter.

We hit the cutoff for the Custis Trail and went up it. And I mean up. And down. And up. And down. Two and a half miles of wicked little, and big, rollers outbound to the turnaround point. We traversed the same rollers the opposite way on the way back. My speed was definitely dropping and runners started passing me.

The race leaders came sprinting by. First going by in the opposite direction was local legend Michael Wardian, the country's current 50K, 50-Mile and 100K champion. I imagine he won as he had a minute lead at that point. I noted the first woman to go by, a club runner, and saw two other locally renowned women chasing her. I wonder if the club runner held on to win.

I was getting hot and thirsty by this point. I really wished I had some water. We passed the course's sole water table about a mile up the Custis, but they were handing out water in little 2-ounce dixie cups. I grabbed one on the fly but most of the precious liquid spilled on the exchange and I only got one tiny swallow.

The groaner had stopped momentarily to drink her water so I caught up with her. Thus started anew the slow process of having her once again get far enough ahead to where her groans and sighs didn't distract me.

Soon I saw runners going by with whom I had been running amongst back on the flats so I knew the turnaround was near. As I went around the cone, the marshal there said, "Halfway done!"

Not! My watch said 35 minutes and I hoped I wasn't on course for a seventy minute run. I was shooting for sixty minutes and I thought I might make it, or at least beat last year's time of sixty-one forty. The turnaround cone was further than halfway because the marshal hadn't factored in the out-and-back part on the W&OD Trail.

The hills were daunting on the way back. I just took them one at a time. I run the Custis Trail often so I knew when the two most ferocious rollers were behind me but that still left a seemingly unending progression of smaller hills stretching out ahead of me.

Since I was ignoring the misplaced mile markers, I ran by feel, just like in the olden days before I got my Ironman watch with its 100 lap counter. Although I couldn't tell my pace each mile, I was sure that I had fallen way off of anything approaching sub-8s.

I passed the sole water table again and grabbed an extended tiny cup a little more delicately as I went by this time so I spilled less of it. I quaffed two ounces of delicious water and wanted some more. Up ahead was one more volunteer holding out a water cup. I extended my arm in signal as I approached her, but she moved her hand and I missed grabbing the cup. Instead I merely knocked it from her hand. Calling out "I'm sorry!" over my shoulder, I ran on, wishing I had gotten that water. But coming back I was running into the wind so I no longer felt so overheated.

A steady stream of runners passed me, a dozen or so. I only passed one runner myself after the midway point, and he passed me back anyway. The two of us got into a little duel as we exited the Custis Trail and got back onto the W&OD for the last leg home.

Coming through the tunnel which passes under the Interstate Highway (the Custis runs alongside it, but they didn't bother to grade the trail like they graded the nice, flat Interstate), he came up to pass me but I cut him off by taking the turn back onto the trail sharply. He patiently waited his turn, then on the sharp left turn onto the W&OD, he came sharply inside of me and forced me wide and behind him at the turn. Then he proceeded to put me away the last half mile.

By this time I had come up to within 10 yards of the groaner. I thought she was tiring and I figured I might take her. But once she came off the hills, she also took off and pulled away from me.

Soon I could see the turnoff into the field we had started from. I glanced at my watch and it was over an hour so I knew I had missed my goal. A fellow about my age had caught up and was running alongside of me. He was the only runner I held off all race. When I saw the finish I ramped it up somewhat and entered the field ahead of him. I was careful not to slip on the muddy field and passed the finish line in about 1:00:40 (8:08). It was a minute faster than last year, a PR, but still short of my goal.

The groaner was by the finish line, doing some post-race stretching. I congratulated her on her excellent finish. She said her time was a few seconds under one hour. I thought wistfully, If only in that last half mile, when I was a mere ten yards behind her, I had matched her strong move towards the finish...

But I was happy with my race. Yesterday I ran a tough 11.2 miles on the Mall with my training group in the cold and wind, including traversing once up the imposing Capitol Hill and twice up the smaller hill leading to the Washington Monument, so maybe if I'm rested for my next 12K...