Thursday, September 9, 2010

Always an adventure

Somehow it got to be September. The heat dragged on and on all summer, but for some reason, I was a little surprised to notice a refreshing chill in the air and to find myself behind school buses on the way to work. Fall is almost here. That means that the two 5Ks I'm intending to run this month are coming up soon.


The first race is just over a week away and will be held at my high school. I've been anticipating this race for months. My high school was/is known for its successful sports teams, and track is no exception. I was always more of a bookworm than athlete and didn't even consider joining the track team until my senior year, and at that time I had knee issues and didn't really get my chance to be a track star. Maybe it's high school insecurities coming back, but I don't want to go back to the school, see people who I haven't seen since my days of getting hit in the face with soccer balls in gym class, and come in, huffing and puffing, among the last quarter of finishers in this race. I want to go back and prove how far I've come since then. So, as I said, I've been anticipating this race for months.

My original goal was to place in the female 20-29 year age group. Honestly, I did not train enough to reach that goal. In fact, August was one of my lowest-mileage months of 2010. I'm not so insecure that I won't still run the race, though. I ran the course on Labor Day so I could see exactly what I was getting myself into, and it's tough, but I think that I'll be able to survive it and maybe even enjoy it. The first mile and a half has a 200 foot incline, which is what I had been worried about, but which isn't nearly as daunting after my recent mountain-running exploits. After that, the course follows the "Alpine Path" through the woods, and it will be interesting to see where that path is on race day, because I'm still not sure if I took the right one on my trial run. I didn't see it as I jogged up the road, so I asked someone who was out watering plants in his yard. (Entertaining note: He initially thought I was approaching him because I wanted to be sprayed with water.) He told me that I had passed by the path and gave a vague description of where it was. So I turned around and looked for it. Between two houses near where he said it would be there was a path, and it looked like it could have been separate from their properties, but I could not tell for sure. I took a few tentative steps down it. Was I trespassing? Was I going to find myself in a private section of someone's backyard? A man was in the yard of the house on the right. I called over to him and asked him if the trail led to the Alpine School, and he said it did. Just watch out for the bear. He said that the path led down to a marshy area, but I wouldn't get wet because it was covered with boards. I was relieved that it was the correct path (at least, it seemed to be), so I started on my way and quickly found myself on some pretty uneven ground, littered with tree roots, rocks, and branches. Then I got to the marshy area, where I ran into what seemed like a sea of 8-foot high corn stalks. I heard noises around me and thought about the bear, and was kind of scared, because I could not see around me, and the boards were coming up in sections. Quickly, though, I ran through it and emerged from the scary sea into the open and made my way over the rest of the course. Now that I go back and look at the course map and satellite map images, it seems like I should have ended up more to the right side of the school's grounds than I did, and I seriously think that I took a private path that just happened to lead to the same place as the one I was looking for. It's always an adventure.

As if it wasn't enough fun getting lost, I finished running the course and ended on the track at my high school, cooled down and stretched, and tried to leave, only to find that the gate to the track had been locked. Luckily the person who locked it was still around. Talk about accidentally trespassing, though!

I was pretty exhausted, but the weather was perfect for running, and I didn't want to stop, so I drove a few minutes to a state park with great single track trails. I stopped in to the park office to pick up a trail map, but the only one they had did not have the trails color-coded and was not very useful. So I set out with an idea of what trails I wanted to run and proceeded to miss a turn and get very lost. What I thought would be a fun 20-minute jaunt in the woods turned into a 45-minute quest to be reunited with civilization. I can't deny that I was having fun on the trails, but I had started off the day sore from some sprints I indulged in the day before, ran a hilly 5K course, and then had no idea how much farther I'd need to run to get back to my car. Again, it's always an adventure.

I think that the workout I got that day was really good for me. On Tuesday I was sorer than I have been since the half-marathon in May, but it was a good feeling, and Wednesday I went for an easy run during which I loosened up and just felt so good. Being outside, feeling my heart pumping, and putting one foot in front of the other was pure happiness. I can't wait for tomorrow's run to see what new adventures lie in store for me.

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