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Panic! On The Open Road

Monday, July 30, 2012

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 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...
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I hear that worry of being a women out running. My roommate went and bought me pepper spray to run with. I laughed when she gave it to me, but then I started to think.

    I have never run on a track, but the uneven and suprise obstacles are fun on the road. It adds a little something to the run I guess.

    Way to go on still running even though a curve was thrown your way!
    2394 days ago
    aww don't despair. I find it is also good to switch it up every now and again. I use map my run too Oh yea we're starting our own running club it has to be I'm buying knee socks this weekend!!!! HAHAHAHA When i spoke with one of my team mates before my last 5k he was slightly appalled that I hadn't been hill training since we have a handful of hills in town. In truth I had been running the loop with the incline from hell and it was doing more damage than good. In the end having trained at all on the road and on the track had boosted my endurance enough to et me through even when the STUPID SADISTIC route planner put the finish line at the top of a hill! You'll do fine. I hope that you find a route that is at least somewhat pleasing even if its not the best running surface. Pay attention to your body and use the track when the road isn't kind to your hips, knees, and shins.

    Oh and Congratulations on shaving a minute off your mile!!! that's huge!
    2395 days ago
    Great blog! Between people getting lazy with the heat and going on summer holiday, the track might be less populated but totally empty does seem creepy.

    I understand your hesitating. It only make sense in this day and age.

    Also, kudos for doing your training outdoors, in the heat and humidity, with the ups and downs and potholes. It will only help your conditioning! I'm still coddling myself and using the indoor track!

    I'll release myself into the wild eventually though and will think of you when I do!
    2396 days ago
  • KATD13
    I am always concerned about my safety. Whether biking or running, no matter the time of day. I never listen to music, when I'm alone. I need to have 100% attention on my surroundings. A rustle of leaves or the snap of a twig in the woods always gets my attention. Twice it's been deer, more often then not it's nothing. But on more than one occasion someone has been standing in the woods and that is just creepy.

    Trust your gut, trust your instincts! Your personal safety is more important than completing a scheduled workout.
    2396 days ago
    Live dangerously! ;P
    2396 days ago
    You know, the issue of safety while running has never occurred to me. I can see how that's a very valid concern. You called it in your entry - that was absolutely my thought.

    What else can you do? What do other female runners do to feel safe on the trails?
    2396 days ago
    You're doing great! Maybe you could find a road or neighborhood that you feel more comfortable in and run there. I've driven out of my neighborhood, parked and run before. Whatever gets you out there is worth it!
    2396 days ago
  • CHERRY666
    Oooh, I feel you. Since I started, I've been running on grassy trail paths at a local park. It's nice. It feels safe. There are usually some people, but not too many. Mostly other runners/walkers/people enjoying nature plus usually a park worker or two. I don't have to worry about distracted drivers. The biggest thing I might have to worry about is a grasshopper jumping into my open mouth (or getting divebombed by swallowtails like earlier this summer). Haha. BUT, I live in Wisconsin. Winter will come and I won't be able to run there while there's snow on the ground, sooo I'll have to start running on the road at some point. Errrrrrrrr. . . Freaks. Me. Out. emoticon Even walking on the side of the road feels too exposed and "out in the open" like you said. So many people do it, though, I'm sure we'll both get used to it in time.

    Good for you for adapting. Also, congratulations for dropping a minute! That's big.
    2396 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/30/2012 2:07:00 PM
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