Friday, June 3, 2022

Silver Spring Run: Project Penguin

I was astonished when I looked at a Metro map a couple of weeks ago and noticed that I hadn't run from Silver Spring yet. Why astonishing? Because it's one of the closest Metro stations to my house and eaaaaasy to run from. So...

Photo of the entrance to a Metro station. There is a sign that reads Silver Spring Station.
It was bustling on a Saturday morning.

This station is pretty standard. There is one platform and two tracks on either side.

Photo of the train platform. There is a Metro train on the right side and several pillars identifying the station as Silver Spring. There is a covered platform on the other side of a fence visible on the left.
You can see the MARC train station to the left there.
The Silver Spring Metro station is adjacent to the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center, which is a station for a bunch of buses and trains. 

This map shows the location of all the bus stops. It was all very complicated. It is multi-level and was constructed since I've lived in DC, so it's not very old. I remember when it was built and there were some very serious design and construction defects so people made all kinds of jokes about not wanting to stand under it. 

The transit station opened in 2015, which was five whole years behind schedule.

In addition to the current public transit offerings, the map indicated that there was a "TRIPS Commuter Store." I figured it was a place where they sold tickets and stuff but I was hopeful that maybe there was some public transit merch I could procure. No such luck. 

I'm glad I made the trip up to it though because I passed this oddly stationary pigeon on the steps on the way up and back. I couldn't tell if he was injured or just didn't give a fuck. I'm hoping for the latter.

Photo of a pigeon on a stair
It didn't seem like normal pigeon behavior though.

I don't come to this Metro station often, so I was surprised and amused to find that there is a mural titled Penguin Rush Hour hanging at this station.

Photo of a digital mural of penguins on their morning commute.
I mean...

But then I turned the corner and was confronted with the rest of this mural, which is actually 100 feet long and I think I might have audibly gasped. I find this to be just about the most delightful public art I have ever seen.

more of the penguin mural

This mural was originally placed at the station in the 1990s and was painted by Sally Callmer Thompson.

more of the penguin mural

In 2004 the mural was removed for restoration by the artist, but it was decided to not put it back until the new transit center was built.

more of the penguin mural

This is actually a digital copy of the mural painted on aluminum sheets for durability and was installed in 2017.

more of the penguin mural

The only flaw I can find in this mural is that there is no angry penguin sitting on the train screaming at the top of his lungs, because that person is ALWAYS on my train car.

more of the penguin mural

Also, they are clearly pre-COVID penguins.

The only other thing I will say about this station is that the transit center signage was excellent.

Photo of a sign that reads "Bay 101, Alighting Only"
Weird choice of words.

I don't think I know what "alighting" means. I'm not sure if it means getting on or getting off the bus. *checks the dictionary* Okay. It means to come down from something. So you can't get on -- or *checks the thesaurus* bestride -- the bus from here. 

From there I had a very simple run home. I took off westbound down East-West Highway and swung right on Rock Creek Trail when I reached the bottom.

Screenshot of a map showing my route.

I like running down East-West Highway because there is a lot of downhill.

Screenshot of the elevation, which is up and down, then largely down, then up, then down, the mostly flat.
I always forget about that middle hill though.
It was a pretty uneventful run. I'm working on base building this summer, so I am intentionally running slow and not worrying about my time. It was a nice run if not very long. Just as I predicted: eaaaaaasy.


Selfie of me in from of the Silver Spring Metro pillar.
Metro station: Silver Spring
Line: Red
Distance: 3.25 miles
Time: 40 minutes exactly
Pace: 12:18 min/mi
Crow sightings: 0
Interesting tidbit: I now have three kids who can drive by themselves, so even though Alex was out of town when I did this run, I didn't have to hitchhike to the station to start! (Kidding. Don't hitchhike, friends. Stay sexy and don't get murdered.)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Takoma Run: Mid-city Trail Running

 I almost forgot to post this one! I ran it two whole weeks ago. So without further ado, I present to you: Takoma Station!

Photo of the Takoma Station entrance, which is basically just a dark recess. Above it you can see the train platform.
It's not a very exciting station.
This is your basic two-track, one-platform station on the Red Line. It was one of the first Metro stations opened in 1976. This station serves both Takoma Park, MD AND the Takoma, DC neighborhood. They're not the same place, something it took me a while to figure out.
Photo of a train at the platform, which has an arched cover. In the foreground is a metal pillar that says Takoma.
The platform looks like every other platform.

The station itself is down a couple of escalators and seems to be pretty much under construction.

Photo from top of escalators of a tiled area surrounded by blue work walls. There is a painting over the fare machines.
I just noticed that painting, but I don't think it is part of the station. I think it is across the street.

I headed off on my run, actually in the opposite direction of home, but there was a dog park a couple of blocks away that I wanted to check out. It was disappointing though because there were only two dogs wandering around.

My route that day cut through Rock Creek Park on the Valley Trail. I love running through Rock Creek Park so much because even though it is in the middle of the city, it can seem like you are completely alone in the woods. I mean, if I were dumping a body, I'd do it here. 

Photo of wooded trail. Visible at the top of the photo is a handrail that indicates how close the road is.
You can see the road there in the middle of the photo, but once you're a quarter mile in you're alone.

This is my route map, which shows my path through the park. The dotted part indicates that it is trail, but doesn't differentiate between dirt and asphalt.

Screenshot of a route plotted through a green spot surrounded by city.
I ran  bottom to top.

I don't do a lot of trail running, largely because it's easier to find a road to run on than a trail, but also because I am prone to tripping on things and I feel as if it would be a lot easier to lose a tooth on a rock or break a shin on a log out there than on a sidewalk.

That said, I might have to do more of it, because good lord it is beautiful out there.

Selfie of me in a pink tanktop on a dirt trail next to a river.
I mean...

Many of the Rock Creek Park trails converge and dump out at the DC/Maryland line, which is about two or three miles from my house. This trail did as well. The trail turns into asphalt when you enter Maryland and it is much closer to roads and also a route I run so often that I could run it with my eyes closed. You know, if I wasn't likely to trip on the first crack in the trail.

I passed another dog park, but there were no dogs there either. Fortunately, the trail to my house passes a horse stable, so at least I got to see some large mammals.

Photo of a dirt ring next to a stable. There are three horses in the ring.
They fetched nothing, however.
I also saw these ducks.
Photo of a male and a female mallard sswimming next to each other in murky water.
They are rarer than dogs in my neighborhood, so I felt pretty good about them.
That's about it. It was a pretty chill little run--one that I could see myself taking again. I do like the elevation map even though it is fairly misleading. That big drop was from the road into the park, and it really wasn't as dramatic as this chart makes it seem.
Screen shot of an elevation map. There are a couple of hills and a really steep drop followed by a short steep hill and a gradual uphill slope.
But look! I ran a mostly uphill slope and didn't complain about it! Too much.


Selfie of me in front of a Metro post that says Takoma Station

Metro station:
Line: Red Line
Distance: 6.39 miles
Time: 1:18:26
Pace: 12:16/mi
Crow sightings: One! 
Interesting tidbit: I ran into my friend Vickie partway through my run, which not only gave me an excellent opportunity to chat with her, but a nice pause in my run.

Monday, April 18, 2022

How the Half Marathon Turned Out

 It didn't.

Remember how I was all, "I'm running a half marathon!" And then I was like, "Running long distances is hard," and finally I said, "I don't think I want to run a half marathon."

Well, the week after that last statement I tried to run from my house to the West Hyattsville station, which would have been 12 miles, but I didn't make it. My legs weren't having it and I had to call Alex to pick me up. He showed up with pickles and Diet Coke and drove me home while I thought about my musculoskeletal system and how I think it needed more time to prepare for 13 miles. 

So...I pivoted, downgraded from the half marathon to the 5k distance and crushed it!

Selfie of me post-race holding my eagle-shaped medal up.
The half marathon medal was way cooler. :(
I still plan to run more half marathons and one day I really, really wanna run the NYC Marathon, but I'm going to build up a little more slowly. No fear though, I'm still doing Project Crow. I did a run last weekend and will have a post up about it soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Smithsonian Run: I Don't Really Want to Run a Half Marathon

Remember my last run when I said I wouldn't be running Connecticut Avenue again any time soon? Well, just one week later (I did this run a couple of weeks before writing this post), I was back on Connecticut. This time, however, I was running the opposite direction. 

See, I decided that I was torturing myself by insisting on running to my neighborhood from Metro stations, so I made an executive decision that I could also run from my neighborhood to Metro stations. My project, my rules, right?

That is why I set off from my home on February 26 and ran DOWN Connecticut into DC. My goal: The Smithsonian station.

Selfie of me in a mask in front of a horizontal Smithsonian Metro sign inside a station
Fun fact: I was on the wrong platform.

Before we get there however, I would like to tell you that a mere mile and a half from my home, I found this here crow trying to collect some materials from a construction barrier. My presence and fumbling for my phone camera scared him off the ground into a tree.

Photo of a crow on a branch in a tree
He was doing crow stuff.

Here is my route into DC. It's that long, straight orange line again.

Strava map showing my route from Kensington to the Mall in DC.

And check it -- my elevation graph was so much more pleasant this time. It was nice to get most of my uphills out of the way in the first few miles.

elevation chart showing ups and downs but the trend is strongly downhill

Right at the DC line there is a traffic circle. As I was waiting to cross a street, I ran across a couple with two tiny dogs. "Look at you, champion," the man said, nodding toward my hydration vest, warm morning outfit, and clearly badass running self. That's right, I thought: I AM a champion.

But to where was this champion running and into what? Well, she was running to this escalator entrance to the Smithsonian Metro station that is located on the National Mall. If you're headed to one of the Smithsonian museums, you're probably headed to this Metro station.

Photo of three elevators descending into a concrete arched entrance. There are small letters reading "This station is dedicated to CARMEN E. TURNER" and "Smithsonian Station"
Who in the world is Carmen E. Turner?

This station is dedicated to Carmen E. Turner, something I learned as I was traveling down into the station. It turns out that she served as General Manager of WMATA in the 80s, when it was named the nation's best public transportation system by the American Public Transit Association. I know. There was a time when people praised Metro. Who woulda thunk it? Ms. Turner was the first Black woman to lead a major public transit agency. She moved on from Metro in 1990 to become Under Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. What an incredible woman who I'd never heard of and what a very appropriate dedication. 

The station itself is a regular ol' two-platform station on the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines.

Photo overlooking two train platforms side by side.
I swear that this isn't the same photo from my McPherson post.

This station was built in the 70s after some controversy. The station had been planned, but the National Capital Planning Commission decided that the station entrance near the museums would impinge upon the National Mall view and WMATA very sneakily, without notifying anyone outside of Metro's core planning group, eliminated the entrance, then claimed that since no one had commented on this change, it was aaaaallll good.

The Smithsonian and a couple other organizations formed a strong coalition in favor of the Mall station entrance and WMATA was all, "That's cool, but the money we already said we'd use for this station has now been used for other stations so if you want this thing, you're going to have to raise the funds yourself."

In 1972, after some pretty hard lobbying, Congress passed a law that, among other things, provided almost $8 million for this station entrance (and the Arlington station). And thus it was that I was able to descend the elevators directly from the mall between museums into the Metro.

So back to the running. I was about 7 miles into my run when I started to think, "Do I really want to run a half marathon?" I was about 8-1/2 miles in when I determined, "No, I really don't want to run a half marathon." You guys, running is hard. My mileage increase has been faster than I'd been planning. I'd originally wanted to run a fall half marathon, but Alex suggested this March one and stupid Past Jean hopped on board like an asshole.

I spent a couple of miles really cursing out Past Jean and Alex From All Times. But then I got into DC and running in DC is just always really lovely and fun. There is so much to look at and it's mostly flat and my half marathon is in DC, so maybe it won't be so bad. 

Present Jean is cautiously optimistic.

I took a reverse tour of some of the sights from my last run from McPherson Square, including Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Photo of the Black Lives Matter street with the viewpoint starting at the "B" and looking toward the White House
I love that this is there.

I also stopped for a few minutes to take in a pro-Ukraine demonstration in front of the White House fences. Two weeks later and the situation there just gets worse and worse. It's all so horrifying.

Photo of a group gathered in front of the White House fence. Many of them are wearing Ukrainian flags.
At least no WWIII. Yet.

I took a quick selfie in front of the Washington Monument because that is what you do when you are near the Washington Monument.

Selfie of me in front of the Washington Monument
Don't I look well rested and not at all like I want to die?

I had never been to this Metro entrance before, at least so far as I can remember, so I wasn't really sure how to find it. Fortunately, the National Mall sign people were there to help me out.

Photo of a pillar in front of a green lawn showing directions to the Smithsonian Metro, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Castle, and more.
I guess I'll go thatta way.

Fun story: I was stopped to take this photo and as I started running again, a passing woman said, "You're doing great, girl!" It was very nice and very encouraging, but I always wonder what it is about me that makes strangers shout encouragement at me. Do I look like I need it that bad? Am I visibly suffering? What is it?

I offer my splits to you here just because they are not as awful as the McPherson run.

Screenshot of my splits: Mile 1: 12:05, 2: 12:39, 3: 12:08, 4: 12:05, 5: 12:25, 6: 13:17, 7: 12:08, 8: 12:50, 9: 1205, 10: 11:37
I was aiming for an easy 12:30 pace.

I had thought ahead and brought two jackets so I wouldn't be super cold sitting in my sweaty clothes on the way home so I was feeling pretty good as I waited on the platform for my train.
Selfie of me in a mask sitting in front of a Metro map in the Smithsonian station.
Look at confident Jean!

I got on the train and rode it for several stops before I realized that I was headed away from where I wanted to go and had to disembark and wait for a train going the opposite direction.

God. Dammit.

Photo of me waiting for a train at the Capitol South Metro station
Look at dumb Jean!

Here I am passing through the Smithsonian station again on my way back.

Photo of the Smithsonian station from inside the train

I eventually found my way to my transfer station, then back to my Red Line train, and finally to my home station where Alex picked my now shivering ass up. It was a long trip back.

But there you have it! My triumphant return to Connecticut Avenue.


Selfie of me in front of the Smithsonian Metro pillar



  Metro station: Smithsonian
  Line: Orange/Blue/Silver
  Distance: 9.98 miles
  Time: 2:03:19
  Pace: 12:21 min/mi
  Crow sightings: One!
  Interesting tidbit: The subtitle "National Mall" was added to the station name in 2017.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

To Stave Off Despair

 I have my reasons for choosing to run from Metro stations rather than to them. Mostly it is because I am gross and/or cold after I run and don't want to take the train home after a run. After my most recent terrible uphill run and my subsequent looking for long runs that aren't all uphill, I decided to change my mind.  If I want to risk the cold or dirty looks because I smell or drip on the way home, that's okay. From here on out, my goal will be to cycle, run, or walk to every Metro station from my neighborhood or home from every Metro station to my neighborhood.

So say we all.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

McPherson Square Run: The Wind Was Angry That Day

There are good runs and bad runs, my friends. This one was a bad run.

Selfie of me in front of an escalator and a sign reading "McPherson Square"
Pre-run. Look at the optimism in my eyes!

I was excited for this one too. I had an easy 10-mile run scheduled for this week and I figured I could run straight up Connecticut from downtown DC to my neighborhood. 

"Ugh, that'll be all uphill," said Alex, who drives Connecticut two times every day.

"No, it's more of a rolling hills situation," said I, who runs on Connecticut every once in a while.

Elevation map showing a few downs, but mostly up, up, up.
Guess who was right?

Let's just let that sink in for a while as we get to know McPherson Square. This Metro station serves the Orange, Silver, and Blue Lines and is located in downtown DC. It is a two-platform indoor station with an excellent viewpoint for photo taking.

Photo of both platforms of the Metro station from above.
Weirdly, there were two other people taking similar photos at the same time.

It's not a hugely remarkable station in any way other than its proximity to some cool places, but it does have some art on the wall to commemorate veterans.

Red-toned mural
There are other panels I didn't photograph because there was a homeless guy sitting in front of them and I didn't want to be an asshole.

There was also a pigeon, which I mention because I didn't see any crows, but pigeons, while less smart than crows, are similarly delightful in their scavenging and willingness to hang out near humans.

This station is located near McPherson Square. Which seems obvious, but not everything in city planning in obvious. McPherson Square is named after James B. McPherson, who was a major general in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Photo of McPherson Square with a sign in the forefront identifying it as such. You can see a statue.
There's a statue of the guy right back there in the middle.

McPherson Square is similar to lots of other downtown DC park-like blocks. Fun fact: I work right near here!

There are a lot of cool places to see near here, including the White House and Black Lives Matter Plaza. There is also the Subway sandwiches shop where I bought an oatmeal cookie so I could use the bathroom. Fun fact: This is the Subway sandwiches shop where I buy my morning fountain soda to take to work!

A lamppost with brown and black banners on it with lists of victims of police violence and the hashtag #SayTheirNames
Banners at Black Lives Matter Plaza

I took a quick little run tour of the sights and local bathrooms, then headed over to Connecticut Avenue to start my run home. I'd show you a picture of the map, but it's really just a straight orange line. 

Screenshot of a map of DC/Maryland with an orange line leading straight out of it.
I can't not do it, for some reason.

Anywho, I set off UP Connecticut and soon discovered that the wind advisory put out by the National Weather Service was put out for a reason. That wind was not fucking around and it was right in my face the entire way. It was genuinely A Thing.

I don't know if it was the hills or the wind or I was just tired and burnt out, but this run was grueling for me. I also had a hard time finding my groove because running out of DC involves a lot of stop lights. I was way sad by the time I hit three and a half miles. Mile four was a tough one.

I made it all the way to five miles before I got sad enough to sit on a bench and feel bad about myself and my life choices. During this sit, I watched a metal sign across the street be battered and shook by the wind and I felt devastated for it and myself.

Selfie of me making a face.
This is the face of someone only halfway through a run she really doesn't want to do.

I texted Alex for encouragement, which went unanswered (evidently he has his own life) then decided I should keep going at a slow run with some walk breaks thrown in. I already wasn't going to get ten straight running miles in, so I decided to at least bank some time on my feet. I was also approaching the part of my run that was less extremely uphill.

I pulled my shit together and shuffled up the street again. There was a minor car crash blocking the road at one point, so for two amazing blocks, I was moving faster than the traffic. I was blazing fast! Or not.

Screenshot of my splits from mile 1 to 10. They rance from 12:09 to 18:14.
I'm not proud of this.
Eventually I made it close enough to my house to give up. I had apparently done some wacky pausing of my watch or maybe I paused it a stoplight and forgot to turn it on for a while, but that watch said I only went just over eight miles.

I gave not a single fuck.

I was very proud of myself for pushing through and making it home on my own feets. I figure that every training cycle has at least one terrible run. I'm hoping this one was it for this cycle. There are plenty of Metro stations that can let me run up Connecticut. Maybe I'll try again someday, but for next week I'm going to try running somewhere other than the "rolling hills" of Connecticut Avenue.


Selfie of me in front of the McPherson Square Metro pillar.


Metro station: McPherson Square
Line: Orange, Silver, & Blue Lines
Distance: 8.31
Time: 1:44:03
Pace: 12:31
Crow sightings: 0
Interesting tidbit: These stats reflect my run time/pace/distance. My elapsed time/pace/distance was different. It was longer, for sure, but it also included a fair amount of (watch paused) moping time, slowing my pace down significantly.