Saturday, June 26, 2010

Duel Ferries

The plan was to run the Duel Ferries 10 mile loop...twice. "Duel Ferries" starts at Edward's Ferry along the wooded C&O Canal then heads northwest along the Potomac until you hit White's Ferry (ie - dual ferries). The loop then cuts back south along sunny River Road. It's a great loop because:

1. it's practically 10 miles on the dot (actually 10.1),

2. it's entirely on natural terrain, and

3. it's epic.

It's a 45 minute drive to Edward's Ferry, so when we come, we typically try to run some type of fast effort here. The unofficial course record is today we planned to take that record down. I met 12 other eager beavers at the remote parking lot in Poolesville and at 8:19am we took off down the shaded towpath. I tucked into the back of the pack and road coattails for the first 5 miles. We picked up old GRCer Jason Dwyer at White's Ferry and the 14 of us proceeded to make our way back to our cars along River. The pace began to pick up and it was clear we would be on record pace after finishing the first loop. After 8 miles or so, I began to move up in the pack...though the pack was beginning to split. We stopped at our cars (10.1 in 1:06:25) and refueled. There were 6 of us running the full 20 miles and after we downed some water and sucked up some Gatorade, we got right back into it. Wiggy, Karl, Dickson and Karl's friend Ashish pounded ahead. Before I knew it they had a huge gap. I glanced at Bain, who grinned, then at Dwyer who said "I'll do whatever you want". I said I'd try to pick it up after the water stop (circa 14 miles). Slowly the quartet disappeared down the wooden trail. "My God", I thought, "they were killing it". We all regrouped at the water pump then hit the trail hard. We were running 5:40-5:50 pace but the pace would soon drop. Dickson and Wiggy started to grind and I did my best to stay with them. We hit White's Ferry as a 5 man pack, but as soon as we turned I decided to surge ahead. I knew my body would begin to revolt in 15 to 20 minutes, but I would revel in it. I wanted to make this hurt. I wanted to see stars. I wanted to grind through it.

The sun beat down and burned our shoulders. Blue dust caked our legs. Wiggy finally came alongside and we began to put real estate the rest of the crew. I was feeling good and decided to keep notching it up...but after 10 minutes I began to fall apart. I had two side stitches and the sun was now beating us from above. My cadence slowed and I watched Wiggy bound away. I emerged from the shadows and entered Kansas; a .9-mile sun drenched section of River Road that usually humbles many a man. I emerged from Kansas humbled but at least now I was in the shade. The cool air invigorated my spirits. I typically begin to shut it down around here, but decided today to grind it on in.

When the dust settled, my watch read 2:04:55. It's a 3 minute "PR". Wiggy ran 2:02-something while Dickson, Sloane, Karl and Bain all snuck under the old record of 2:08. I hammered the last 10 miles at 5:47 pace, which I was pretty happy about. This was a good confidence booster for me as I haven't done any long/hard running in months. It's also one of the better (easier?) 20 milers I've done in recent memory. Despite the heat and the pain, I was till able to relax and grind forward at 5:45 pace. It proves that slow, boring miles can pay off (something I've been struggling with over the past month).

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