Sunday at the Races

DC has gone racing crazy. Today was the annual Marine Corps Marathon. (The one that I never finished. Sad face.) I rode ten miles to Crystal City to cheer my friend Heather on. The crowd was really loud. There was music and a sort of festival going on across the street. I am always surprised how some people with horrible running form run right along side people who run smooth and fast.

Heather was shooting for 4:10 so I staked out a spot near the 23 mile mark and waited. And waited. I did a lot of clapping and cheering. As did the people around me. One woman brought a big plastic container of donut holes. The elite runners weren’t interested but the slow pokes went all in.


I never saw Heather. I later learned that she finished in 4:33. She encountered cramps at 25 miles. She also found beer during the last few miles. Drinking beer after running used to make my entire body feel awful. I don’t know how anybody drinks it while running.

After I gave up (when the 5:00 pace runner went by) I rode to the grounds of the Old Soldiers Home in DC (which I’d never seen before) to see DC Cyclocross. Many of my friends, male and female, young and old (and foolish), love this stuff. They love to race and to hang out and be bikey. I have to admit it’s pretty cool to watch. It’s like watching a bicycle roller coaster. Friend of the blog Brian rode for the first time today. I missed it. Apparently he thought it was awesome. He will be insufferable now. Wait, he’s always been insufferable. We’re doomed.


Dear Prudence, My friend rode his first cyclocross race today. He didn’t die. He loved it. He won’t stop talking about it? Is it okay to put a WABA sock in his mouth? Signed, Sick of Cross (SOX) )

Did I mention the weather was perfect? For the fourth day in a row. We get another one tomorrow. Then it rains. And cold-ish air comes in.

Good thing I’ve got my 1,000 miles for the month in.


Weekend Wrap Up

I spent my weekend going to sporting events. Of course, I rode my bike to them because cars are bad and the weather was exceptionally good.

Frogs Win – At Long Last

Before our son went to high school at the Maret School, Mrs. Rootchopper and I vowed never to let him play football. This was long before concussions were such a big concern. We changed our minds because the new football coach was the antithesis of raging lunatic coaches. Soft-spoken Mike Engelberg told us before freshman year began, “I will never yell at your son.” He kept his word. (He whined a hell of a lot, though.) He didn’t so much coach football as he taught it.

For years under Mike, Maret came oh so close to winning its conference. In my son’s senior year, the team nearly pulled it off but lost in a monsoon to Flint Hill School in overtime. That was 7 years ago. On Saturday, I rode to St. Albans School (Maret is so small it does not have its own field) on the grounds of the National Cathedral to watch the undefeated Maret Frogs play Flint Hill. Maret led 14-7 at half time then stepped on the gas and left Flint Hill in the dust, winning 43-14. The Washington Post called it “a thumping.” I swore I could hear Al Michels in my head.

So congratulations to Coach Engelberg and his Maret Frogs. It’s been a long time coming. It was a great way to spend a splendid fall afternoon too.

Trail Sightings

Some sightings on the Mount Vernon Trail are inspiring. Others not so much. On my ride to Maret, I spotted a huge bald eagle in the branches above the Belle Haven nest. Maybe its feathers were fluffed up but it looked bigger than any other eagle I’ve seen this year.

As I approached the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail this morning, I saw an ambulance and fire truck pull off the adjacent parkway and park. At the middle of the bridge there was a cluster of people. As I rode by, I could see at their feet a man, probably in his 60s or 70s, lying on the bridge deck on his side. He had a hat on his head and his head was turned to one side. He appeared to be unconscious. Given the abundance of help already there, I rode on. I hope he is okay but I am not optimistic.

About a mile later I was passed by an approaching runner. It was Running Mom, one of the regular people I see on my commute. This morning she was not pushing her son in his stroller. (He’s over a year old. How she runs so fast pushing him, I’ll never know.) We don’t wave to each other. Usually one or both gives and awkward smile. That’s what we did today. I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t running in the marathon.

Security Nonsense

I got a dose of stupid security theater today. I rode to the 14th Street Bridge. I rode up the grassy slope so I could stand on the guardrail of the closed I-395 and watch the runners at the 19 mile mark as they headed into Virginia. Except today, two police officers told me I couldn’t stand there. Closed to spectators. “You have to leave.” I said, “I’ve been coming here for over 20 years, what are you talking about?” No use. So I left.

I rode to the 14th Street Bridge trail that goes across the Potomac River to the Jefferson Memorial in DC. A group of spectators were standing on the ramp shaking their heads. They told me the trail was closed. So I rode up onto the bridge and spotted the police officer. He was standing on the trail as hundreds of cars rushed by on the roadway a few feet to his left. “Trail is closed.” “Why?” “I don’t decide these things. It’s closed.” He told me the nearest bridge that was open was Key Bridge two miles away.

I understand the Tsarnaev Brothers. I understand terrorism. But there is really only about 100 feet of the bridge that poses a security concern. Why not ban people from standing on that part of the bridge? And if you are going to ban pedestrians and bikes, why allow cars and trucks? And if you are going to have police stationed to close these places why not have them just provide actual security (like bag checks) to the spectators instead?

I unloaded on the cop. We’ve come to this? There are probably a half million people lining the marathon course and you pick these two isolated spots to shut down. Really?

I back tracked two miles to Crystal City. There were Marines and the occasional police officer but nobody was checking bags or barring people from standing on the side of the road. I saw one bomb sniffing dog. Once. In about two and a half hours.

Porous security isn’t security. It’s security theater. It makes nervous people feel better. It pisses everybody else off. If you live in DC, you really get tired of this nonsense.


I parked myself at the 20.9 and 22.8 mile mark on Crystal Drive.The runners were headed south on the opposite side of the road toward the 21 mile banner. Then they turned a corner and disappeared from view before heading north on Crystal Drive on my side of the road.

It was getting quite warm. In marathon running, 65 degrees is warm. It was already in the 70s. A misting machine was turned on at the corner. Many runners were cramping up. It did not look like much fun, to be honest.

Misting Machine
Cramping – Are We Having Fun Yet?

I had planned to cheer on my friend Heather and twitter peep Teresa. Teresa posted a picture of her clothing and a selfie at the 9 mile mark. Red shirt. White baseball cap with blonde hair. Camelback. Purple running shoes. So I knew what to look for. Strangely enough I saw three people running at a similar pace to her planned pace wearing the same thing. What are the odds? So I may have seen or or not. If not, there are three women wondering who the heck was that guy yelling “Teresa!”?

Heather is a petite Chinese woman. Unlike Teresa who I only know from her pictures on line, I’be known Heather for 20 or 30 years. I spotted her on the far side of Crystal Drive headed south. I yelled and she turned and waved. Then about 10 minutes later she came running down the edge of the road in full view. I took her picture. With pain all around her, she was smiling. She apologized for being sweaty and gave me a hug then continued on.

Heather in Purple in the Bike Lane

After that, I rode home. In a t-shirt and shorts. On the 30th of October. I am writing this on the deck. It is 80 degrees. Good thing the race ended when it did.



Biking a Marathon: The Two-Wheeled Spectator

Last week my friend Katie Bolton asked me to talk to her about strategies for watching the up coming Marine Corps Marathon. Her article hit the interwebs over the weekend:

I met Katie through Friday Coffee Club. She is an unassuming soul who is infinitely more talented, likable, and bright than she’ll ever know. She is between careers and blogs about the travails of finding the sweet spot in the work/life world, a topic that seems to consume so many of my young friends in DC.

I used to run. A lot. One year I ran 3,000 miles. My marathon best is 3:04:29, good for 24th place at the Heritage Trail Marathon in Troy, NY. No brag. Just fact.


Then I hurt my left knee playing volleyball. Sad face.

I miss running, especially on days when it is just a little too cool for bike riding. That’s prime long distance running weather.

You might think that runners don’t appreciate the cheers from the crowd in a marathon. You’d be wrong. The energy boost that the crowd gives is potent. I’ll never forget the boost I got from the crowds in Newport RI during the final run through downtown in the Ocean State Marathon. (Too bad they weren’t around when I hit the wall three miles later!)

Of course, a great way to cheer your friendly marathoner on is to ride a bike to various spots along the course. In DC you don’t even need a bike. You can use the bike sharing system. Any bike will do.

I know a few people runing Marine Corps so I’ll ride up to DC to cheer them on. if there is a marathon in your neck of the woods, check it out. Make some noise. The runners will definitely appreciate it.

Coffeenuering No. 4: Stalking the Queen of Caffeine

Today was the running of the Marine Corps Marathon. Since the Mary, Queen of Caffeine, was running, I knew there was just one thing to do: ride to the marathon and have some coffee en route. And so I did.

I hopped on The Mule and headed up the Mount Vernon Trail despite the fact that my legs are pretty much toast after two weeks of biking commutes, event rides, and a hike. I stopped in at Firehook Bakery on Washington Street in Old Town for a coffee and everything bar (it was a blondie with all kinds of other stuff in it, coconut, pumpkin, and maybe some meth). The coffee was okay. After drinking half of it, I put the cup in my waterbottle cage and set off for my marathon watching perch at the  Virginia end of the 14th Street Bridge at around mile 21. When I got there the runners were thick and moving pretty fast. I didn’t know what Mary was wearing so spotting her was sure to be a challenge. I checked my Twitter feed and found out that Ed, King of Caffeine, had spotted her at mile 20 some 30 minutes earlier. Oops.

I hopped on the bike and headed for mile 25 or so. This was at the northern end of the vast Pentagon parking lot. As I was about to ride a  road down to the race course, a Pentagon Security Officer told me that the area was off limits. I literally said, “You’re kidding me, right?” Nope. I have watched the marathon from this very spot over a dozen times in the past. There was, of course, absolutely nothing about this vantage point that was in need of security any more than the other 26.2 miles of the course. There were even people already lined up along the road! Still Mr. Security would not budge. Whoever made the security decisions or empower this knucklehead to enforce them really needs to find another job. Maybe they can put him on the ebola watch.

I rode away and was soon perched along side the course near mile 26 with hundreds of other folks causing security mayhem by cheering on friends and family.

I even found Ed who told me that Mary was wearing a red Washington Nationals shirt. (Most excellent fashion choice!) Despite now knowing what to look for I managed not to see her run past. About 30 minutes later Ed tweeted that she had finished in 4:29:50. Bravo, Mary. I recommend a warm beverage in celebration.

Date: Sunday, October 26

Location: Firehook Bakery, South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria

Drink: House brew with super duper blondie bar. Bar was better than coffee.

Observation: It was a good thing I didn’t have two cups of coffee or I might have told the cop to go eff himself causing me to become the first incarcerated coffeeneur.

Miles: 24.5

Coffee, now cold, at the marathon
Coffee, now cold, at the marathon


Riding in the cold makes you tired. So tired, in fact, that I fell asleep during the World Series game. The score was nothing to nothing when all of a sudden some pretty intense stuff started happen. It was in my subconscious, not on the field in St, Louis, I heard a roar from the crowd. It was late in the game and the score was tied. I watched the rest of the game. (The Sawx lost. Boo.)

After the game, I went to bed and came to at 7 am.  It was about ten degrees warmer outside than yesterday, perfect running weather for the Marine Corps Marathon. Not so much for riding the 10 miles to the race and standing on the sidelines. My friends Heather and Mary, both randonnistas, were running so freeze we must.

I took Little Nellie because it is the most maneuverable bike I own. I meant to ride slowly but a tailwind pushed me to Crystal City with little effort. The runners were already coming through the streets in the 23rd mile of the race. I stopped at Cosi for a coffee and a cookie. I sipped my joe and snarfed my cookie while hundreds of runners streamed past. Music was blaring. People were cheering. I checked my twitter feed. Mary had just past the 15 mile mark. I hopped on my bike and headed upstream.

Coffeethonning in Crystal City
Coffeethonning in Crystal City

I rode the Mount Vernon Trail two miles north. On the way I was passed by five BMWs, engines screaming, going perhaps twice the speed limit on the parkway next to me. I realize that not all BMW drivers are complete assholes but these five certainly were. What a great idea. Let’s drive 80 miles per hour into an area filled with distracted people milling about trying to spot their loved ones running a marathon with 30,000 other people. Brilliant.

After my ten seconds of LeMans, I ended up at the southern end of the 14th Street Bridge at about the 20.5 mile mark. The runners were thickly spread across all four lanes. Occasionally, handicapped participants would come through the pack. One man in a wheel chair of sorts was helping a blind man in a similar chair ride “run” beside him. It was astonishing to see the sighted runner holding the front of the unsighted runner’s chair. Scores of runners wore Boston Strong blue t-shirts. Go team. Some people shirts with identifying words on the front. “Go Mexico!” “Go Mariella!”

Somehow I spotted Heather in the throng. She was moving along at a respectable clip with a smooth gait but she looked a little stressed. She said she wasn’t having a good day as she went by. Hang tough, Heather.  Watching for somebody in a moving mass of people for a half an hour is really not easy. Fortunately, Mary’s husband Ed had tweeted a picture of her from mile 15. I knew what she was wearing so I could key on that. After ten or 15 minutes there she was. She had an ear to ear smile on her face. Marathon? What marathon? She stopped to chat and admired the Acorn handlebar bag on Little Nellie. And then she was gone in the flow of humanity.

I jumped on the bike and headed for the 25 mile mark at a curving ramp coming downhill from Washington Boulevard. I cheered on the same people as on the bridge. Mexico and Mariella came running by. “GO!!” They smiled at me in recognition of my cheering on the bridge. The downhill was causing some runners distress in their thighs. They ran stiff legged and wobbly. Heather came by in a fast moving group. She looked much better than before. “Go Heather GO!”

After Heather went by I focused on finding Mary again. I started to worry after about 45 minutes. I decided to check my Twitter feed. She had finished 25 minutes earlier. Somehow I missed her. She must have blasted the end of the race. Mary, you da man. (Or something like that.)

With temperatures climbing near 60 degrees I thought about doing some sun tanning. Instead I peeled off my boots, long-fingered gloves, and neck gaiter, hopped on the bike, and headed for home.

29 miles of coffeethonning in the books.