Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Canadian Woman

She seemed so unapproachable. A beautiful woman wearing headphones passing by us on the Mount Vernon Trail as John and I ran our weekend 10K, she ignored our salutary comments and slightly outdistanced us.

She was run/walking so we passed her back on the wicked uphill switchback leading to the hilly Custis Trail near where the Key Bridge connects Arlington to Georgetown. John urged her on as we went by, and she broke out of her desultory walk to join our trotting run up the steep incline.

Noticing my Garmin, she asked how fast we were running to which I answered, "9:40s." She seemed stunned and, one earbud out, evinced that she had been hoping that she had been running at a 5:30 pace.

It turned out that she was Canadian and had taken my pace retort to mean minutes per kilometer instead of minutes per mile. Apparently 9:40s would be just-shoot-me slow north of the border.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Eight-Miler

Last Saturday I met John at 7:30 a.m. at Bluemont on the W&OD Trail to run 8 miles before I drove down to NC to visit a friend who was impacted by the visit of Hurricane Irene a week earlier. Eight miles was the longest either John or I had run in two years.

John was bothered by a hip injury he's been dealing with so we ran slowly, enjoying the time we were out there. We set out westbound on the trail so that we could do the last half downhill after we turned around.

The local high school was conducting its first cross country training run so a steady progression of skinny young runners ran by opposing us and then shortly, they all overtook us and passed us from behind. We passed a few of them back because we'd catch up with them at street crossings where they were patiently waiting for the green light and we'd run the red and get ahead for a short while.

We turned around at the 42 minute mark and ran a negative split of 40 minutes coming back. Afterwards I stopped in at the INOVA Health Center in Merrifield to give my 89th blood donation lifetime before tackling the seven hour drive to NC.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene was an annoyance in DC the weekend before last, the source of much rain and wind, lots of hours spent watching the weather channel and the subject of plans for hurricane parties. I called up a friend in the District to tell her that I was out of milk and ask her what should I do (I never drink milk) and to see if she thought 4 rolls of toilet paper would be enough to get me past Irene's passage.

But I have another friend for whom it was not a funny joke. He lives in Vandemere, NC, on the edge of the water, and Pamlico County, where tiny Vandemere is (it's near Oriental, NC) was the hardest hit county in this top-ten disaster storm.

Hurricane Isabel in 2003 was popularly known to be the storm of the century down here because of the unprecedented devastation it inflicted when it came ashore, he explained to me, but the storm surge when Irene came ashore in the region was higher than Isabel's. By two and a half feet.

My friend estimates Vandemere has 120 houses, and that probably 80 of them were breached by seawater. Houses in town were flooded that never took in water before, not even during Isabel. My friend's house is on stilts and the water came to within two feet of invading his floorboards.

As usual during hurricanes, townsfolk parked their cars at the firehouse, which had always remained dry in every storm. All the cars were flooded with seawater up to their dashboards and totaled.

His house high atop its stilts became like a stationary ark on storm-tossed seas, with the ocean rolling around just under it and waves lashing the pilings. The thick trunks of the trees in his yard emerged from the wind-whipped waters and rode out the storm alongside the house.

I came down this past weekend to help my friend clean up because he lost everything he had stored in his outer buildings, which constituted many of his lifelong treasures like old books, his parents' furniture, photographs and old construction-paper cards to him from his school-age children on special occasions. He sadly explained that he thought they were all stored on shelves high enough to remain dry even during the worst storm, as we surveyed the sodden mess. For the past two days while he carefully separates stuck-together pages of photo albums which have recorded his life hoping to salvage ruined remembrances, I plow through the treasures-turned-trash and dump most of them in garbage bags.

In town the scenes of disaster are worse as practically every house has mountainous piles of water-stained mattresses, warped wood, ruined carpeting, soggy insulation and waterlogged furniture heaped on the curb. But everyone down here is working at recovery, thankful for what remains rather than despondent over what's lost, and the spirit imbuing this town is indomitable.