The hay is in the barn

This morning I ran my third and final 20-miler in preparation for the Hartford Marathon! Three weeks until race day!!

It was long and hot and muggy, much like summer in DC. I opted for an out-and-back along Rock Creek Parkway and the Capital Crescent Trail today, which ended up being quite lovely, aside from the long, slow climb from miles 6-10 on the CCT. I also encountered not one, but two races during my run! The first was the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, which is done in part on Rock Creek Parkway. I got to see the hand-cyclists out front, and lots of runners heading north on the Parkway as I ran south. Then when I got onto the Capital Crescent Trail, I saw that there was a marathon going on on the C&O Canal Towpath today too! Fall race season has definitely started here!

I really hope that I’m ready for a great race in Hartford on the 8th. My mind keeps dwelling on the handful of workouts that I skipped over the last 18 weeks for one reason or another. I think most were easy runs that I skipped because I was still feeling extra sore and/or fatigued from whatever harder workout had happened the day before, and figured that a day of rest might be more productive. But there were also at least a couple of speed workouts and pace runs that didn’t get done. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes other running interferes, like when I skipped a 9-mile pace run the day after the Vermont 100 on 100 Relay, because there was no way I was running at all, let alone at race pace, after battling those hills all through the day before. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like it. That’s usually what happens with track workouts. I really, really hate 800s. They’re the worst. And there was one week when I just didn’t want to do them. So I didn’t, even though I knew the only person on God’s green earth who cared whether or not I got my run done was me. So yeah, a few workouts got skipped here and there over the last several months. But I have a hard time believing that any one of those is going to make or break my race next month. So now that the taper is here, it’s time to put my faith in my training (the majority of which went really well!) and just think positively. Hopefully this all leads to a big PR in Hartford! And if not, there’s always another race. (For real: Marine Corps is only three weeks later!)

But right now, I have other things on my mind: I’M GOING TO IRELAND!! Like, tonight!! What better way to start the taper than to go on my first big solo trip, to a foreign country no less? I’m flying out tonight, and will arrive in Dublin tomorrow morning, maybe not quite as fresh as a daisy (is anyone fresh after a red-eye?), but ready for adventure! I’ll be spending the first couple of days in Dublin, and then heading out for two weeks of driving around the country and seeing all the things! I certainly hope to run some while I’m there, but 1) that’s not the main focus of this trip, and 2) a big reason I chose to travel during my taper is so that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m running much. The important work is done, and if I can just get in enough miles to balance out all those full Irish breakfasts, I’ll be a happy lass.

Confession time: I’m terrified. This will be only my second time traveling overseas at all, and I’m doing it alone. I’m scared that I’ll get lost and panicky, and that I’ll be incredibly lonely, and that I’ll miss having someone to share these stories with. But I am also so excited to prove to myself that I can do this. I’ve planned out the important stuff, like where I’m sleeping each night and how I’m getting around. Everything else will fall into place. Probably. I may wish that someone was there to talk to when I feel isolated, but I’m also going to relish being able to do my own thing the whole time. No one will get impatient with me if I take forever trying to capture the perfect photo. I can take whatever detours strike my fancy, and eat whatever and whenever I feel like it. And everyone and their brother keeps telling me what a fantastically friendly place Ireland is, so if I can get over my own shyness and be open to chatting with strangers, I know I’ll encounter some friendly faces. So I am scared, for sure. But I’m also confident that this trip is going to be amazing, and something that I’ll be so glad I worked up the courage to do.

 

A beautiful run

Yesterday was my second 20-miler (of three planned ones for this training cycle) and it was a great run. Not super fast (my long runs are always at an easy pace), and it hurt as much as you’d expect for 3 hours of running. But it was such an enjoyable morning! The weather in DC cut us a break this weekend: it was warm and brilliantly sunny but with a lovely cool breeze rather than the still, stifling, sticky humidity we’ve endured for weeks. I’d had a good feeling about this run all week. I was psyched up for it rather than dreading the hours on my feet, and I held on to that positivity throughout the run.

My planned route was to head south through DC, across the 14th Street Bridge, and then down the Mount Vernon Trail in Alexandria, VA, to the Jones Point Lighthouse, and then back.

About 2.5 miles in, I crossed the National Mall and thankfully looked up, because THIS was the sky over the Capitol (you can see the dome way off in the distance).

#nofilter

Mall sky

I continued on across the bridge, and headed south on the MVT. At one point, the asphalt trail turns to boardwalk as you cross through some wetland areas.

Boardwalk

Right at 11 miles, I reached the historic Jones Point Lighthouse. It operated from 1855-1926, and is the last river lighthouse still standing in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Lighthouse

There’s a little park around the lighthouse, and I noticed these bear prints cast on the sidewalk. “Lumber like a bear” definitely seemed apt during the last few miles of this run!

Bear prints

After a quick pitstop to refill my hydration pack (it was cooler than it has been lately, but still in the 80s!) I headed back north on the trail. This was the view from the bridge over Four Mile Run, which splits off from the Potomac near the airport. I love DC (obviously!) but Virginia has its moments.

River view

On my way back across the 14th Street Bridge, I crossed paths with another woman running and heard her say, “Go Maniac!” as she went by! I don’t often wear my Marathon Maniacs hat on training runs, but I’m glad I did on this run because that moment of encouragement gave me such a boost through my last two miles! Maybe I need to wear it on long runs more often…

I just so happened, completely by accident of course, to hit 20 miles a block away from Starbucks. So it seemed only natural to grab a nice big frappuccino to enjoy on my cool-down walk back home! It was frosty and delicious and the perfect way to cap off such a great summer run.

Post-run

Happy running!

 

Out and about in the District

Last weekend was the DC State Fair, or rather, the DC “State” Fair. It was brutally hot but still fun to walk around and see what passes for agriculture in the District, some musical performances, and various arts and craft vendors similar to what can often be found at Eastern Market.

The ladies of the Batalá Washington drumming group:

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DC-sized agriculture:

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Food-themed wall art:

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The venue for the State Fair:

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Yesterday I decided to talk a leisurely walk around town while getting some errands done (Fridays are my one regular day off from running, so naturally I was too restless to sit at home, especially on such a gorgeous summer day).

First I wandered south through Meridian Hill Park, and visited the Joan of Arc statue:

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Hey there little squirrel!

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For reasons I’m not aware of, there’s a Dante Alighieri statue in the park. He seems friendly (*sarcasm*)

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I headed a little ways East on T Street to see one of my favorite blocks in the city. I love these little row houses with their garden plots.

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Then I wandered south on 14th Street, and stopped by the greatest hardware store ever. I love the colorful whirligigs they hung over the door.

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Obviously I had to visit the Q Street Barbies to see what they were up to. Without an obviously-themed holiday recently passed or coming up, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. The Titanic vignette seems a bit random, but completely enjoyable.

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I saw this colorful place at the southern end of Adams Morgan on my way back towards home.

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By the time I was walking back up north through the park towards home, the wonderful fountain was flowing again! It’s been broken all summer, and I’ve missed seeing the iconic cascading tiers.

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People weren’t the only ones enjoying having water back in the fountains again!

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After my wanderings, I was ready for a drink and some company, so I went up to the roof with my friend and neighbor Katie for our own personal rooftop happy hour. This view just doesn’t get old. That’s the Washington National Cathedral in the background.

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We were treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen here. It just kept getting better every time we looked up.

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Finally night fell on our fair city. This is the view from the roof looking south from our apartment building. It’s pretty ok.

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Yesterday was one of those idyllic summer days that makes me love this city so much. We shall see if I still love it tomorrow when I’m running 22 miles around it…