Holy Hills: Maryland HEAT Race

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When I signed up for a trail race between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, I wasn’t expected much in the way of elevation. The hills of the Patapsco Valley humbled me fast on Saturday at the Maryland HEAT Race 25K. East Coasters: If you’re seeking an annual quad-burning, rock-scrambling, stream-crossing sweatfest, look no further. The HEAT Race has all that, plus an after-party with enough beer, burgers and cake to please all the rungry meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans there.

I ran with my friend Sarah, who was doing her first trail race and longest race ever. We approached the run casually, planning to make a day of it rather than really race, since we were both undertrained. Dehydration hit Sarah hard (sort of a harsh rite of passage on the trails), but she rallied and finished strong.

We stayed together until my Garmin said 15.25 miles. Thinking there was only a quarter-mile left, I began my charge to the finish line, but, cruelly, it didn’t actually show up until my Garmin said 16.1. Ouch. We both finished in a little more than four hours and then collapsed in the grass with popsicles.

Wanna do a challenging trail race without schlepping out to Shenandoah? This is your guy.

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East Coast trail racing

As many of you know, I’m skipping out on the marathon scene this year. I’m pretty pleased with that decision, as I’ve been able to bliss out on trails and nail a couple half-marathons in the meantime. I did my first long(ish) trail race just before I left the Pacific Northwest, and now I have a couple more on the docket.

First, the sure-to-be-grueling Maryland HEAT Race. Apparently HEAT stands for High Endurance Adventure Test, and that’s a pretty accurate description. Outside Baltimore in Patapsco State Park, the 25K race will be boiling hot. But the pictures from past years look lovely, and the course even squeaks in 3,000 feet of uphill running. Interested? The race is Aug. 9. I think you can still sign up here.

Photo courtesy of MD Heat Race Facebook.

Photo courtesy of MD Heat Race Facebook.

Next on the agenda: The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club Women’s Half Marathon (wow, that’s a mouthful). I’ve been wanting to get involved with the VHTRC for months, and I’m excited to be a part of this popular event. Out at Fountainhead Regional Park in Northern Virginia, the course features rolling hills on miles of singletrack. The Sept. 13 race is already almost filled up with early registrants (me!), but you can sign up for some of the last spots on Friday here.

Worlds Away

I had the chance to spend some time in Vail, Colo., a week ago for work. Though my days there were busy, I found some time to explore the beautiful mountains surrounding the ski town. It’s easy to see how people here can live in a pleasant little bubble outside the real world.

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Wild & Wonderful: West Virginia

I’m not sure my recent trip to West Virginia even qualifies for real estate on this blog, considering the getaway involved mostly eating, drinking and floating down a river while doing both of those things. BUT, there were rapids! And there was paddling! And there was walking … on the Appalachian Trail! So, I say it counts.

Just an easy 1.5-hour drive out of D.C., Harpers Ferry is one of my favorite spots for a quick escape from the city. It’s situated at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, which carve a deep gorge through Maryland Heights. The result is dramatic cliffs and long views. The added Civil War history of the town adds another layer of intrigue.

On our agenda:

Riverside lounging.

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S’more, sausages and veggie dogs.

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Strolling with coffee on the Appalachian Trail (and feeling pretty lame compared to the thru-hikers).

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And “whitewater” tubing on the Potomac. Most of this was pretty mild, except when we accidentally went off course, and I flipped out of my tube in some not-for-leisure-tubers rapids. Don’t worry; I survived. No pictures, but it looked something like this.

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor.

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor.

District Love

It’s time to hit the trails!

Since a few of my fearless friends have agreed to conquer this death race with me in August, it occurs to me that I should probably reacquaint myself with the dirt.

Enter Rock Creek Park.

D.C. people rave about Rock Creek Park and its network of trails and wilderness smack in the middle of the city. I’ve spent plenty of time on the paved bike path but shockingly little time on the singletrack. Until recently.

The ultra-cool Jamie Corey of Run the District was kind enough to show me around some of her favorite Rock Creek stomping grounds a few weeks ago. And I surprised myself the next week by actually remembering all the twists and turns Jamie navigated, plus several more miles in the upper reaches of the park.

Thanks to Sarah for suggesting this 10-mile trot through Rock Creek Park.

Thanks to Sarah for suggesting this 10-mile trot through Rock Creek Park.

The only downside to Rock Creek is that it’s across town from my place in Capitol Hill. So, one option closer to home: the National Arboretum.

The Arboretum in Northeast D.C. is surreal: It boasts endless open spaces, eerie repurposed Capitol columns and an overall sense of remoteness just along one of the city’s busiest corridors on New York Avenue.

It’s definitely not trail-running central, as most of the running routes there are on paved roads winding around various sections of non-native trees and mini-forests. But tucked into the forests are two trail-running gems. They are short but worthwhile: a set of trails that winds around azaleas and offers views of the Washington Monument and Capitol building, and a set of trails that offers a tour of Japanese plants and riverfront access.

 

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My most faithful running buddy.

Have you visited the Arboretum yet? Duh, do it.

Zen on the Potomac

Remember last year when we were doing burpees and push-ups on paddleboards? For our latest foray into the Potomac River, my pal Sarah and I opted for a more zen approach to standup paddleboarding: yoga.

If you’re looking for a strenuous practice, the SUP Yoga class at Key Bridge Boathouse may not be your scene. But if you’re looking for a new challenge with some truly special views, you don’t want to miss this class. While the yoga itself was fairly basic, the added effort of balancing on our boards and paddling to our class location by Roosevelt Island made it a worthwhile sweat session. And the scenery, of course, was breathtaking.

More info here.

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D.C. Homecoming

Well, I’m officially an East Coaster again, and, naturally, the first three weeks have been exhausting. I’m readjusting to working full time (yay, journalism!), rediscovering old haunts and reconnecting with favorite running routes/scoping out new ones.

Trail Running

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First on my agenda upon returning to town was checking off a spot from my Take a Hike Washington D.C. book. Our first choice of Calvert Cliffs State Park in southern Maryland did not disappoint. Just an hour from Capitol Hill, the park includes about 13 miles of dirt trails, plus a gorgeous beachfront destination with cliffs rising over the Chesapeake Bay. The run was muggy and buggy but awesome nonetheless. Bonus points for the relatively traffic-free drive, a huge advantage over more popular D.C.-area getaways like the Eastern Shore and Blue Ridge mountains.

City Running

Back in the District, I’ve been hitting the streets. Among them:

The new 11th Street Bridge, looking over the Navy Yard and Anacostia River.
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The Congressional Cemetery, one of those Capitol Hill hidden gems.
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The track at Gallaudet University. Can’t believe these speed workouts are still happening.

And, of course, a few old stand-bys:
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