Sunday, February 19, 2023

Farragut North Run: Victory Over the Connecticut Avenue Hill

I have been training for a 10-mile race. You may remember last year at about this time I was training for a half marathon but ended up discovering that my body wasn't ready for it. This 10-miler is my re-entry into longer distances again. So it was that I had a 9-mile run on the schedule for last Sunday.

So it was that it was forecasted to rain all day last Sunday.

I figured my best chance of not giving up partway through a run was to start far away from my house so there wasn't a convenient way to get home other than running the damn miles. I set my sights on the Farragut North Station and set out.

Photo of me on an escaltor coming up out of the station. Letters on the wall say "Farragut North Station."
I was not as cheerful as I look.

But first let me tell you about Farragut North. I have a soft spot in my heart for this station because it is the station I use when I take Metro to work. I've spent many a 12-minute wait for a train gazing at the patterns in the acoustic tiles on the ceiling. I can only assume those patterns come from water damage but if you look hard, you can find pictures in them as if they were clouds. Other than those tiles, I don't find it to be a terribly fascinating station, what with its center platform and two sets of tracks.

The station is nice, however, because it is close to a bank and a post office and UPS stores and FedEx and a cafe that sells delicious blueberry muffins in the morning and it has three different entrances so there is easy access to the station no matter where I am coming from. Farragut North is also one of the OG stations, being one of the original five stations to open with the first section of the Red Line in 1976. There have been many changes and repairs made since, up to and including some happening as we speak.

A fun fact about the station is one that answers a question I thought to myself after I took this photo:

Photo of various signs at the station identifying it as Farragut North, including one which is pointing the way to "Farragut Crossing"
These aren't the fun ceiling tiles. Those are on the tunnel ceiling.
The question: What the hell is Farragut Crossing?

Well. It turns out that Metro wanted to connect Farragut North Station to the nearby Farragut West Station that serves the Orange, Silver, and Blue Lines. They wanted to do it in a manner that would have disrupted Farragut Square, which is between the two stations, and the National Park Service, which owns it, said no. In a fun twist, some websites refer to this crossing (leaving Farragut North, walking a block above ground, then entering Farragut West) as a "virtual tunnel." Kind of a stretch, but whatever. You can do the crossing without paying any extra fees though, making it as though you had transferred trains without exiting a station.

I was doing no such transfer though. What I was doing was riding the Metro for the first time since the first week of November. For various reasons I'd been driving to work for a couple of months, so this was actually my first time back.

Photo of me in a mask on a Metro platform with my foot on a concrete bench.
Just a little light stretching. Legs for running; arms for selfies.

I like to run in the rain, but I don't usually start runs if it is raining. I have to be caught in the rain to enjoy it. Setting out for nine miles in 40-degree rain wasn't something I really wanted to do. I really tried but I couldn't think of another way to fit the run in, so I decided to suck it up and take it on.

It was almost exactly a year ago that I ran pretty much the same exact route from another downtown station and really had a hard time. I started that post by writing, "There are good runs and bad runs, my friends. This one was a bad run." If I wrote that sentence for this outing, it would have ended with "This one was a good run."

From almost the first steps, I felt awesome. There's something about accepting cold and wet and just living in it when everyone else is huddled and wants to get somewhere dry. It was really energizing for me. I ran straight up Connecticut Avenue until I got close to my neighborhood then veered off toward home.

Screenshot of a map showing my route running out of DC.
Pretty simple, no?

I have been intentionally running slowly these days, babying one of my knees, but I kind of crushed the first, uphill portion of this route, running with energy and joy.

A graph showing my paces laid over an outline of the elevation.
The taller the line bar, the faster the pace.

You can see the elevation underneath my pace bars. It wasn't until the last two miles that I significantly slowed down -- and those last miles were mostly downhill or flat. Honestly, I love rolling hills way more than flat land. Yes, it can be really hard but at least it is varied and interesting.

This was a pretty straightforward run. Yes, some Girl Scouts tried to ambush me in my fourth mile by waving boxes of cookies at me and, yes, I did take a short break in a bus shelter after mile seven because my legs hurt and, yes, some cars did splash me as they passed, but mostly I just checked off the miles and kept taking steps.

I don't know how my 10-mile race is going to go this coming Sunday. The course pace cutoff is a 13:10 pace average. I don't know how my knee is going to hold up. I might be shuffling in after everyone else has gone home, but this run gave me a good confidence boost. If nothing else, I know I will have fun.

Photo of me post run smiling. I am litterally dripping wet.
Happy and soggy at the end.



Metro station:
Farragut North
Line: Red Line
Distance: 9.01 miles
Time: 2:02:13
Pace: 13:34 pace
Crow sightings: Zero. They were smart enough to stay out of the rain.
Interesting tidbit: This run is probably the most extreme example of a transition from "oh dear god I really don't want to do this run" before I set off to "fuck yeah this run is awesome" after starting.