The Furlough, Fall Events, and a Marathon Taper

Quickbeam and me

Taking the topic away from coffeeneuring for a moment, I wanted to post some thoughts about three separate, yet interrelated, topics: lions; tigers; and bears. Or really: how I spent my furlough days, the impact of the furlough on the fall event plans, and my marathon taper. It also gives me an opportunity to post some of the many photos I took during that time.

How I Spent My Furlough Days

I never envisioned a situation where I would be off work for two-and-a-half weeks yet on standby to return to work at any moment. It was one of the weirdest work situations I have ever encountered.

In June of this year I wrote a post about being a Weekend Warrior, limited to big workouts or time on the bike primarily on Saturdays and Sundays. I asked what I would do if I had broad spans of time to fill. Say, if I was not working. I wondered if I would be more active or not. The federal government shut down, the furlough arrived, and I had a little preview of a possible answer to that question.

Quickbeam at Dyke Marsh

Now the furlough was (for me, at least) a time fraught with uncertainty, but I would know after checking the news each morning that I had a full day of no work ahead of me.

Generally, I could not stand being at home after an hour or two. I took a nap one day. I did end up reading more in the evening hours. As you may have noticed, my blogging frequency picked up. And I headed outside.

Being on the bike or running helped shut my brain off or give my frustrations space to roam about. I appreciated that I could leave and not have to worry about returning by a certain time in order to ready myself for the next day. It was liberating to start running or pedaling, and tell myself I would stop when I was tired rather than when I had “x” place to be.

It was not a sustainable situation and I am certain my sentiments about the shutdown contributed to my need to run or ride off my worried energy. However, for the time it lasted I found it reassuring that my body wanted to be outside rather than hanging out on the couch watching Law & Order re-runs.

Fall foliage on the Grand Fondue

Fall Events

The shutdown affected me in more unexpected ways. Now I am not saying I was in a terrible spot; I felt fairly fortunate overall. However, I had signed up for and was working toward a few fall events.

Freedom’s Run, October 12: Deferred until 2014

I planned for Freedom’s Run, a stunning marathon routed through four National Parks that starts in Harpers Ferry and finishes in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to be my great fall concept ride and marathon.

I intended to ride to the start of the ride the Friday before, stay at a hotel near the run start, run the marathon, stay at the hotel another night, and return home by bike the following day.

Freedom’s Run had to re-route, as it could not proceed with the original course through the National Parks during the shutdown. The uncertainty of when we would return to work, combined with when and if we would be paid, combined with the C&O being officially closed and that being my route to get to the marathon start (although that made no difference in the end, I don’t think. I could have ridden it if I had needed to do so). In the end, I decided to save that concept ride/marathon endeavor for another day.

Grand Fondue
Grand Fondue

The Grand Fondue, October 20: 80-90 mile goal. Completed 35 miles

The low-key and tremendously hilly Grand Fondue happened this weekend. Felkerino and I rode far less than we thought we would, due to tired legs and not feeling well. The day was glorious and the fall colors in extreme awesome mode. However, our legs and spirits were not into it so we decided not to fight that and rode 35 miles of what we hoped to be much longer.

I was still glad we gave it a go, as it was refreshing to ride through the leafy canopy of brilliant golds, oranges, and reds, and we had a great time talking to other riders and hanging out at the ride finish.

Marine Corps Marathon, October 27

On a whim earlier this year, I purchased a transfer bib for Marine Corps Marathon. The opportunity presented itself, and it was too enticing to turn down a marathon so close to home. At the time I wondered how foolish I was for entering both Freedom’s Run AND Marine Corps. Funny how things work out sometimes. The Marine Corps course was also in jeopardy due to the shutdown, but now we are back at work, the National Parks have opened again, and it is my main October event.

Hains Point Needs more tape
Hains Point Needs more tape

Furlough Miles

During the 16 days of the furlough, I biked and ran a good amount and when I headed back to the office on October 17, I had logged 505 miles on the bike, including two centuries and two rides of 85+ miles.

To give you an idea of the contrast, in September I rode 292 miles in the first 16 days of the month and completed only one ride of 100+ miles, a 200K brevet.

In addition to my bike rides, I ran a solid 47 miles in those 16 days. That has been typical of my mileage in the latter half of this year. I did not spend much time in the gym, paying the weight room a visit only twice. Oh well, that’s what winter is for, right?

Tikit and me on the C&O

Marathon Taper

My workout life in the first half of October was accelerated. I was riding more and keeping pace with my running. Well, I was supposed to be doing a little tapering, too. Tapering is what allows the muscles to recover from all the work a person has put in and to rest and be ready for the big day.

I began tapering on Monday, two days ago. Since I am not a fast runner, I’m not worried about blazing a speedy trail from start to finish. My goal is to feel happy, healthy, and strong throughout, and I’m optimistic that will happen.

So a couple of running and riding events did not pan out as I planned. So I haven’t tapered for Marine Corps in the best way. That’s okay. Tapering during the shutdown was not possible for me. I was unable to sit still for very long and unless I had exerted myself physically either by running or by bike I had a difficult time sleeping.

Felkerino on the Grand Fondue

One final note about the time furloughed is that I did try to make the most of it. Not only did it give me ample time to discover that I don’t much like sitting on the couch watching television, but because the shutdown coincided with the change of seasons I was also able to observe the trees’ fall transition more intimately, at times on a moment-to-moment basis.

The trees were alive and familiar to me in a rare and comforting way. The brilliance of their emerging colors prompted my own daily stresses and fears to fade. Watching the trees reminded me to pay more attention to what really matters in this life.


  1. I think you are set to rock Marine Corps! Sometimes things just work out like that. Glad you got to observe Fall up close, too. I bet you are almost coffeed out at this point though. If there is such a thing. 🙂


  2. As I consider taking time away from my career, it’s wonderful to look to someone who had to do it unexpectedly and know you can make the most of your days. I am incredibly impressed with how you spent your furlough time and that you saw it as an opportunity to focus on what matters. Good luck with Marine Corps; your goal to run a happy, healthy race is a great one!


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