Category Archives: C&O Canal Trail

Run on the C&O Canal!

I hadn’t been running on the C&O Canal for at least 2 months, and I really missed running longer distances here, since I had such a fun time running here in the summer for both my 20 milers (here and here).  Remember how gorgeous it was?  If you didn’t feel like clicking on those links, let me help you:

Nice, huh?

So can you understand why I thought it was the perfect place to knock out 8.5 miles?  (Specially considering I haven’t run that long since October!)

However, there’s such a thing as winter here, and even gorgeous sunny days don’t hide that fact…

Can you feel my disappointment?

Jen and Sarah (one of our new group members) joined me at Fletcher’s Boathouse to start our run.  It was a gorgeous day, and though I ran with long sleeves, I could have easily worn short sleeves and been fine.  The company was great, we were chitchatting the whole way, but boy, was I tired!  My legs felt like lead, and despite feeling like I was running sprints, my Garmin kept beeping warning me I couldn’t keep up a 12 min/mile pace. OUCH!

I can guarantee you that if it wasn’t for the great company, I would have given up and not even bothered with it.  But luckily, the two of them carried me through, despite the SUPER BORING views the C&O Canal was providing us.

No, really, super boring — the views never changed from this…  (and no, this was not taken at the same spot as the picture above.  Told you:  BORING).

We did knock our planned 8.5 miles at the end, and I even managed to finish the last 0.1 with a strong sprint.  (You read that right:  a tenth of a mile.  I miss the days when I could pull that off for my last mile!)

Have you ever taken a route you love only to be disappointed by it?  I wonder if I’ll even get to experience the C&O Canal in its full green glory, before we move…

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Add one more 20 miler to the count!

After switching my marathon training plan around, I had to run two 20 milers, the last one was scheduled for this weekend.

It was not easy.  First, I got no sleep, because our power flickered a few times, and our AC never turned back on after that (it was a building-wide issue, since the whole building got hot).  I finally fell asleep only to wake up again because my new neighbors thought that yelling “F……..ck! F……ck!” over and over in the middle of the hallway, in front of my door, at 2am was acceptable.  (When I went to complain, the girl, one of my neighbors guests, says “we hadn’t seen each other in 10 years!” — am I old, because I don’t get it:  who the heck has reunions at 2am on a Friday night???)

So my 5am wake up call was tough.  I ended up leaving home late, and since I was planning on parking in Rosslyn, instead of taking up space at the Roosevelt Island for that long, I added another challenge to my morning:  all the garages are closed during that time!  I was willing to pay for parking, but had no option of doing so!  Eventually, I saw Jane walking to the Island, put her in my car and she showed me a free parking lot that was open.

I showed up late to meet the group, but no one seemed too bothered by it.  So off we went, from Roosevelt Island, crossing the Key Bridge, into the C&O Canal, where I ran my last 20 miler.  Of course, the run was bittersweet, the whole time I kept thinking “Karl is supposed to be here with me!” — I bet it’ll even be harder come marathon day.  At least Karl got to catch up on his sleep at home…

I was running 20 miles one way (no out and back, woot!) and planned on walking another 3 miles after that.  Max was going to park at Riley’s Lock, in Maryland, and from there run back to DC.  We were supposed to meet on the trail, I’d get his keys, and would then drive his car back to VA.  Ben, his wife Amy, and Jen (who I met in VA Beach), were going to tag along with me for the 20 miler.

Margaret was also running 20 miles that morning, but she had stuff to do (she’s moving!), so couldn’t go all the way with us, instead, she tagged along for 10 miles, then turned back around.  It was fun to catch up with Margaret, and we ran the first 10 miles together, and I ran back with her until we caught up with Ben, etc, again (they were about half a mile behind us).

The weather had warmed up a lot since last weekend, but it was still a beautiful day for a run.  The C&O Canal Trail looked gorgeous, and I couldn’t help but stop along the way to take pictures…

The sun was out in full force by the time Margaret left, and I was thankful the Canal was mostly shaded — and that we didn’t have to turn around and run facing the sun!

Running 20 miles is never easy.  But views like this does make the time go by faster, no?

I was feeling perfectly fine for the first 10 miles, and was surprised that the thought of not having an “out and back” route didn’t make things harder.  I usually like out-and-backs because it makes me think of the run in segments.  I never start thinking of all that I have to run, but instead I think of each half as one run.  Luckily, I still did ok without having a turn around point, probably because after mile 13, where Karl and I had run to last time, it was all new to me…

You can tell that I’m super tired, sleep deprived, way too pale…  And excuse my eyebrows — a coworker told me they had no shape and I need to grow them out and fix them for the wedding, so growing them out I am…  Add that to my lack of sun lately, and I just look blah.  At least I attempted to fake a smile…  I don’t think I’m fooling anyone!

I definitely want to try to run this again (maybe just not quite 20 miles…) in the fall, when the leaves are changing.  How nice would this look like with leaves in every color?

At this point, still no signs of Max.  I knew he was starting later than us (he’s waaay faster than we are), so I wasn’t too worried.

Look at Amy running and enjoying the view:

I also got to see that humongous bird again!

So we’re at mile 15, running out of water, but we finally get to Great Falls Park.  We can hear the falls, and there are many overlooks, but still no signs of Max, so we don’t get out of the trail.  We pass real bathrooms, take advantage of them, and I refill my water for the second (and last) time, when I get a text from Max “I’m 11 miles in, I should be bumping into you guys soon, right?” — I get worried, we’re 15 miles in, it doesn’t add up.  The trail was empty the whole time, and even when I took pee breaks, there was always someone out on the trail that would have seen Max.  So I call him up, he’s at milepost 34 — we’re at milepost 15.  Uh, he’s running in the wrong direction!  In his defense, he said he ran with the Canal to his left the whole time, but he made a right into the trail from the parking lot, when the map I looked at, he was definitely supposed to be making a left.

I tell him to just do an out-and-back then, and we can all meet up back at his car and drive back together.

We were definitely getting tired, but the views were still gorgeous…

The views started to get boring again, after we were done with Great Falls.  It was all the same, woods and canal.  It’s not that it isn’t nice, but it all looks the same…  But once in a while, we’d get a break from the trees and still see something different.

I hit mile 19, and decided to push it, keeping below a 10:00 pace.  I was successful, but not like on my last 20 miler, when I finished the last mile in 9:09.  (I can’t for the life of me remember what I finished at after all — 9:50, maybe?  I can’t figure out where I put my GPS!)

My main goal was to finish 20 miles in 4 hours, at a 12 min/mile pace (last time I finished in 4:06).  Of course, I paused it for every pee and water refill break…  But I did it:

Super sweaty, tired, hot, but DONE.

So I walked back, and caught Jen finishing her 20 miler!  (Jen is not running Chicago, she’s training for the Marine Corps Marathon, 3 weeks later.)

And guess what?  I ran with those sexy (NOT!) compression socks again!  They worked, so guess how I’m going to look like come marathon day?  Just like this, but maybe with a different top…

I did get a nasty blister on my foot once I got home.  My pinky toe was about a quarter of an inch longer and a bit wider.  The whole thing was a blister!!!  Ew.  So I popped it, and a couple of hours later it was full again.  I must have popped that thing 5 different times!

Anyway, after we were done with our run, we walked back to Ben and Amy and all of us started our “3 mile walk” to the car.  There was still some pretty sights to be seen though…

We were tired, all of us were out of water by then (luckily, my water ended the minute I stopped running, but everyone else ran out mid-run), so we were walking really really slowly.  No, REALLY slowly.  I kept trying to cheer them up “let’s walk faster and not cramp up!” but even I wasn’t too convincing.  Turns out, I forgot I had ran a half mile back with Margaret, so my 3 mile walk, turned out into a 4 mile walk.

About a half mile from where Max had parked, the Canal dried out.  No wonder he ran with the “canal” to his left — he thought the Potomac River was the Canal and went for it!

Saturday, at 12:08pm, I was finally done with my 20 mile run + 4 mile walk.  It “only” took me 5 hours and 18 minutes to complete it.  Not including pee and water breaks, of course…

So can I kick some Chicago’s ass?  Probably not.  Can I finish it though?  No doubt about it.

But I’m really uncertain if I can finish in 5 hours, like I planned to.  Heck, it took me 4 hours to finish 20 miles, and that didn’t include peeing (I hope I don’t have to pee so much in Chicago!).  When I was done with 20 miles, I was DONE.  Sure, I pulled another 4 mile walk out of my ass, but that was walking, not running.

Said that, the weather was in the 80’s and it was humid again.  Who knows how the weather in Chicago will be like?

Have you ever had a run that left you confident you could finish a race, just not confident you’ll be meeting your time goals?  Because this was it for me…

I followed the run with a 60-minute deep tissue massage (after showering, of course).  The woman broke me, I swear.  Ouch.  (But, oh so good!)

By the way, Max ran 25 miles on Saturday, and that was his taper.  What kind of race makes a 25 mile run be a taper?  He’s running a 100 miler on Friday!  Wish him luck!  This is his first 100 miler!!!

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Filed under C&O Canal Trail, Chicago Marathon Training, Marathon Training, Pictures

20 Miler – Check! And a tour of the C&O Canal

My brother and his wife arrived in town way too freaking late on Friday night (we didn’t get to bed until 2am!) which meant a 20 miler on Saturday morning was not in the cards.  Karl and I took Monday off from work to spend time with them, so we decided to use Monday as our long run day.

Since we start most of our long runs from the Roosevelt Island to meet up with the group, we decided to drive over to Fletcher’s Boathouse, 3 miles down the road instead and catch the C&O Canal trail, that we liked so much for our 19 miler.  I had been there before a couple of years back, so I wasn’t worried about finding the place, plus the directions were easy, and we knew there would be no traffic going into DC at 6am.

I even decided to wear my compression socks for the first time out on a run, since I liked them so much for recovery!

Getting to Fletcher’s Boathouse though?  A freaking adventure!  Nowhere when I was looking for directions did it tell me that Canal Rd, where I was supposed to turn into, was closed for westbound traffic in the mornings.  How the heck would we access the place if you need to get there in order to get to Fletcher’s?  Add another 45 minutes to our ride while we got lost in MD (I think), finally made our way into Chain Bridge Rd, added an illegal u-turn, and off on Canal Rd heading east we went (by that point, it was a matter of pride!).  Then making a right turn into the narrow driveway was impossible (it was obviously made for people merging left into it), and there was no way to adjust my car without going into the traffic flow lane, so off in reverse we went.  Fun times.

We started our run an hour later than scheduled.  The trail was foggy, and a bit creepy looking, but at least it provided a change of scenery from our last run there!

The weather was perfect for running at that time, in the 60’s, no wind.  We were super happy to be out there!

It was a peaceful run, with the canal on one side, the woods on the other…  I was so happy I brought my camera out, even though it slowed me down a bit because I kept taking pictures!

I even took pictures that made us look fast!

The fog was clearing up and we got to some really pretty views, that we hadn’t run by before!

We saw a couple of baby deer, but they were too quick for us to get a picture.

I did get a shot of this GINORMOUS bird that I had never seen before.  The wingspan of this thing was huge!  We were in awe of the first one we saw, but then we passed tons by the canal!

The views kept getting prettier… (Karl was trying out his leg sleeves for the first time too!)

Luckily there weren’t many people out on a Monday morning, because I looked like a total dork.

And I had to get pictures of me in front of the pretty view too!

At around 8 miles in, we were starting to get really sweaty…

But we kept passing so many pretty looking places that we didn’t even notice the miles ticking by…

It was just such a peaceful morning…

We really didn’t want it to end!

The sun finally started to come out as we approached our tenth mile…

And as much as we wanted to keep on going, we had to head back, since my brother and his wife would be waiting for us for to hit the outlets that afternoon…

The way back wasn’t as exciting!  After seeing such nice views, turning back and heading to DC was completely boring.  Specially the swampy looking areas, with freaking green water.  But at least I got to see turtles!

We had to walk a bit here and there, specially towards the end, but I think overall we must have walked at most a half mile or so, if that much.  Not too bad, specially considering how the heat picked up on those last 10 miles, after the sun came out.

With one mile to go, I told Karl to run his last mile fast and drop me, and I would pick it up for my last mile too.  I was barely shuffling along until then, but I kicked it — and finished my last mile at a 9:09 pace!  Of course, I wanted to die, but I was DONE!

Overall, we finished it in 4:06:43, at a 12:20 pace (perfect for me).  The 2300 calories burned don’t hurt either!  (Sadly, with visitors in town, I probably made up those calories in one meal…)

This weekend I have a 12 miler on the schedule, and I’ll probably run it around the National Mall, but for my next 20 miler, next weekend, I really really really want to run the C&O Canal one way.  I’ve spent way too much time in the last couple of days trying to figure out where I can drop my car at mile 20 or so overnight, so that I can run in one direction.  It got so pretty after mile 8, and I really wanted to keep on going.  Turning back to DC sucked.  Plus, it would be nice to run by Great Falls too!  (If you have any idea where I can leave my car — park service parking lots do not allow overnight parking — please let me know!)

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Holy Crap! 19 Miles!

Saturday I ran 19 miles.  No, really, 19 miles.  And the best part?  Aside from walking a couple of times to swallow salt pills, I did no other walking.

I met up with the group super bright and early at Roosevelt Island and off we went.  This time, we were going to run at the C&O Canal Trail (unpaved), which starts parallel to the Capital Crescent (paved) but follows (duh) the C&O Canal.  I hadn’t ran on that trail in a loooong time.  I think it’s been a year and a half.  Karl hates it because it’s so damn boring — trees on one side, C&O Canal on the other.   On Saturday, as I was out on my own, he agreed to tag along with me on that, even though he was concerned whether his Five Finger shoes were appropriate for the unpaved full of pebbles trail (he had no issues with it, as long as he avoided stepping on big rocks — which you should do regardless of the type of shoes you’re wearing, no?).

Guess what?  Once you leave DC the trail gets really really really pretty.  No wonder so many DC bloggers love that trail!  Unfortunately, past the Fletcher’s Boat House around mile 3, there are no bathrooms anywhere else.  I had to dart to the bushes to pee (how classy), and I was surprised of how freaking gorgeous the place where I was peeing was.  If I had any energy left, I would have pulled out my camera, but turns out that when I’m out running that long, I can’t multitask at all.

Kathy also tagged along with us for most of the run.

I won’t say that I wasn’t tired, or that I didn’t want to walk many many times.  But the weather was perfect, in the low-70’s at that time so I figured I should at least suck it up for 15 miles, since my longest run where I didn’t have to take a break to walk had been 15 miles so far.  Of course, once I got to 15, I figured it’s only 4 more and might as well aim for it.

I hit my wall BADLY at mile 17.  I was DONE.  But I kept telling myself it was only 2 more miles (trying to ignore how many minutes 2 miles actually translate to), and pushed it through.  My last mile was my fastest, around 10:30 pace (not because I had any energy left, but because I wanted to be DONE with), but I finished my run with my usual slow pace average of 11:53 min/miles (it took me 3 hours and 46 minutes to finish the 19 miles).

Only 2 more long runs left until the marathon (YAY!).  This run also made me rethink my training once more…  I have two 20 milers on the schedule (and I’m tempted to take C&O again for that), for my last 20 miler run, my plan is to complete the 20 miles then walk another 3 miles.  At least I’ll have 23 miles under my belt by the time the marathon comes along.  We’ll see…

I got home, went straight to the shower, and my legs were SO tight.  I got some compression socks this week, and finally tried them out.  I was surprised, within half an hour, my calves had no soreness anymore at all.  I know people swear by them, but I had no clue they worked this well.  If you haven’t tried compression socks yet, do it now!  Totally worth the money.  Amazing!

Yesterday we tried out Bikram yoga again.  I’m TOTALLY sore today.  A good sore.  We’ll see if we can go again on Thursday night, before our trip to VA Beach to run the Rock n Roll Half (which was my first half last year).

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Filed under Bikram Yoga, C&O Canal Trail, Chicago Marathon Training, Training