I've spent the last three to four months working on my C25K program, running laps at the High School track here in my hometown. I run at sunrise. As I've blogged, I've made some friends there along the way and I've really gained stamina and confidence and feel like I belong there, like I can continue to make this program work for me, no matter what!
(Cue "ominous" music. Yepper, I said ominous.)
Because you knew it was too good to be true, right? A workout locale that worked with my schedule, that was safe and free to boot? C'mon, who was I kidding?
That's right -- last Wednesday, I was up before dawn as usual, and pulled into the track parking lot only to find...no one. Not a damn soul. The Personal Trainer, Joyce, and her crew? Nope, not there. The Old Dudes? Not a sign of 'em. Even the stinky Knee Sox Running Club was not in attendance!
Freaking ghost town.
I waited ten minutes in my car, in the hopes that someone would show up, but they never did.
Now, if I was a dude, I'd have just thought "Bonus! Track to myself!" and headed out to do my laps. But I'm not a dude.
I'm a woman, which means that I looked at the empty track and the still-dark sky, not to mention the shadowy parking deck that's attached to the high school and the beautifully landscaped berm that so cleverly hides the track from view of the road. I looked at all these things and did what any woman would do: I started the car and drove away. I was scared of this place that I consider to be "my" track, and man, how I hated that feeling.
Sadly, I went back to my house and ran some lame laps around the neighborhood before shuffling back inside, unsatisfied with my workout and feeling especially vulnerable.
I hoped it wouldn't happen again, that everyone not showing up was a one-time thing. Maybe Joyce was sick and cancelled her class? Maybe it was just too hot. It *was* hot Wednesday morning. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There was nothing to do but wait and see.
Saturday, the track was quiet when I got there, but eventually folks started filtering in -- the Old Dudes, the Running Club, even the Annoying Guy Who Interrupted My Run a few weeks ago. It speaks volumes that I was so happy to see even *him* there!
Saturday made me feel good, like Wednesday had been some weird anomaly. All would continue to be right in the universe, right?
Wrong. This morning, once again, I pulled into the track parking lot before dawn only to find out I was the only one there. I waited ten minutes, but again, no one showed.
I drove home not knowing what to do. I hate running around my subdivision for a million different reasons, not the least of which is the unfair advantage of the downhills. Plus, it's boring. Last time I trained, in 2009, I ran around and around my neighborhood streets until I wore a path in the road, or so it seemed -- and even at that, because of the downhills, it didn't prepare me for running an actual race, so what was the point?
"Maybe I'll go back to running at night," I thought, but then I remembered that we're coming up on August in Georgia and I'm really not good at running in 90-degree-plus weather. "No, it has to be in the morning, and it has to be right now!"
(Background on my being bratty about my run this AM: Today was supposed to be the first day of my final round of Week 8, which has been giving me fits for a while -- and because I'm stupid, I don't allow myself to move on to the next week until I do it *perfectly*. So, if all went well and if I did what I was supposed to do this week, not only would I finally move on to Week 9, but I'd *also* get the reward that I'd arbitrarily set to be awarded at the conclusion of Week 8. So, to say the least, I was motivated to get this chiz DONE RIGHT!)
Back to me trying to figure out what to do. In the end, I did the only thing I could do in the situation, a thing I didn't realize until today that I'd been kind of dreading: I took it out on the open road. Yessireebob, I pulled my car into my driveway, plugged in my ear buds and ran out of my subdivision and onto the busy road to town.
I didn't know where to go, nor how I'd track my distance, but I figured it didn't really matter. If I did all 10 sets of my intervals in 60 minutes, I'd accomplish what I was supposed to accomplish. I hung a left at the intersection, after having to wait for the crosswalk light, and did a dogleg into a neighborhood street, then turned around and headed for Main Street, past houses and churches and a graveyard, up hills and down hills and when a hill was too steep to run, I'd pause my timer and restart once I got to the top.
My feet felt unsure on this hard road, without the cushion of the track. And while the track did, often, present surprises (*are those...ugh, underpants in Lane 4?*), the track could be counted on for a mostly litter-free and smooth surface. Out on the road, there were potholes and uneven pavement, even the sidewalks posed hazards, with all sorts of odd angles jutting out and random shifts in grade. In truth, compared to the track, it felt more like trail running, and my hips and thighs are feeling that reality this morning.
Truth be told, I didn't like running on the road, didn't like the hills, the exhaust, the ambiguousness of my mileage and feeling so "out in the open" as cars rushed past. But in the end, all that mattered was that I ran my time, all 60 minutes of it, preserving the hope for a perfect Week 8!
Later, I mapped my run, and was surprised. On the track, I would've done my 10 interval sets in 60 minutes and probably would've hit 3.5 miles (told you I was slow!). Today, I hit 3.72 miles, according to MapYourRun, and dropped my 18 minute mile to 17 minutes, so that's one plus for being a RoadRunner.
I'm presuming I'll have to run on the road again on Wednesday. I'm hoping that Joyce & Company are simply between group training sessions and that in a week or two, they'll be back at the track at dawn, but I can't count on that. I may have to resign myself to running in town for two out of my three workouts a week (at least until the weather turns cooler and allows for evening running with other folks at the track).
The cold, hard truth, though, is that I should probably suck it up and continue on the road even if Joyce returns to the track. As much as I disliked RoadRunning, I know I do need to get used to it: 5Ks are, after all, run on roads, not cushy tracks -- and after my last race experience, I don't want to disadvantage myself by training in a bubble.
So at least for now, I suppose, the road, beckons...