Seven Miles in Chantilly, VA


I hate when the phone rings when I’m on call. Can you blame me? On a beautiful early fall afternoon, the last thing I want to do is go to work. In the airline world, September and October are well known to be the “slow season.” The schedule slows down a bit after the summer rush and gives everyone time to catch their breath before the holidays and the grind that is winter ops. As a reserve pilot you’re programmed to expect to never get called. You think, “it’s September, I’m gonna have the whole month off.” This is total fantasy.

On this particular day, I checked the open trips and since there were none, I thought it was a safe bet to tackle the garage reorganization project I had been looking forward to. Yeah, I love reorganizing things. I know, it’s weird. After a summer of working on cars, motorcycles and other various things the garage was looking kind of like something out of an episode of Cops. Whatcha gonna do? I had been thinking about working on this for a while so since there seemed to be little chance of going to work, I took everything, yes everything, out of the garage and put it in the driveway so I could clean it out. And what do you suppose happened next? The phone rang. It’s scheduling and they have a trip for me. Son. Of. A. B…

The assignment I got made little sense in terms of duty time, so I asked what the deal was and after putting me on hold they came back to say that another guy had been assigned the trip but didn’t answer his phone, so I was up. Awesome. So some dude didn’t want to work and I had to go do his flying for him. This is a rant for another day.

In great haste I threw everything back in the garage, took a fast shower and ran out the door to get to work. I had four legs that day ending late in Washington, Dulles. The next day had a late afternoon report, so I decided that I would make the best out of a crappy assignment and get a good long run in the next morning. Lemons = Lemonade, right?

We got in late after a thoroughly uneventful day of flying and the next morning I mapped out my route. The half marathon I was supposed to run was a couple weeks away, and after hosting Johnny for a week of motorcycle riding and eating out, I needed to get back on track with a long run. A few days earlier I had run a 10k so today I was committed to seven miles or better. I slept well, and after a series of phone calls, and some delaying YouTube, was ready to go. The route I had chosen was something of a loop that looked like about 7.5 miles. Nice. Being completely unfamiliar with the area I memorized the street names of each turn and set out.

Google maps is a funny thing. It showed me a route that made sense but gave shockingly little in terms of actual detail. For example, the beginning, and consequently the end of this run were under construction, including a bridge that said very clearly “NO PEDESTRIANS.” That doesn’t mean me, right? I’m a runner, not a “pedestrian.” Uh, sure. Then there was the elevation. Yeah man, hills. I’ve been running on a flat rail trail for months and this run was ALL hill. Of the 7.5 miles I would say at least five of those miles were uphill. Yeah, I didn’t know that. What I also couldn’t tell we’re how few sidewalks were available. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but these small country roads were narrow, with almost no shoulder, and full of blind corners and hills. Good thing I was wearing a dark shirt that blended right in to the background.

And then, my favorite part: the freeway crossing. On the map it looks like just a big intersection with stop light. I assumed I could just wait for a crossing signal and be on my way. What I found when I got there was just slightly different than what I saw on the map. There were stop lights but it seemed they were just for turning traffic, and never actually changed. I stood there for a minute watching the sixty plus mph traffic thinking, “This is a bad idea.” I waited a few more minutes and finally the traffic broke. I sprinted across and the driver on the opposite side of the road gave me that look that said, “That was pretty dumb dude.” Yeah, it wasn’t super smart, and yes, I could have just turned around. But you know, I had a loop to run. I figured the risk would be worth what I hoped would be fewer hills and more sidewalks on the other side. I’m pretty sure my mother would have been disappointed in my decision making process.

While I did indeed find more sidewalks, I also found more hills. I made it a little over 10k before I had to start walking. Ooof, I hate that. I know there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m kinda stubborn in my training and really wanted to run the whole thing. I ran back across the bridge in the construction zone and tried to hit the last giant hill hard, but I crashed, and ran/walked the rest of the way back to the hotel.

By no means did I consider this run a failure. It actually turned out to be quite an adventure. Having spent the whole summer running the same trail, it was good to run someplace else and actually have to think about what was going on around me. I love my rail trail but the change of scenery was a welcome departure from what I was used to. Next season, when I start training again, I’m going to make more of an effort to see some different places. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that.

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