Sunday, January 22, 2012

Urban Pioneering on the Run

Last Saturday night I met my friend Tim at his house in Durham for an evening run. We usually run at Umstead park or in Raleigh, but occasionally, when time is tight, we'll meet at his place.  Saturday night found us starting our run a little after 8:00 p.m.  We have done this a few times now, and I always enjoy seeing new sights around Durham.  It's also nice to start a run at night after being up for the last 14 hours or so.  We ran around Duke University's east campus and then over to west campus where we did about 9 miles on a dirt trail that runs through a golf course. On the way back to Duke Chapel we stopped at Wallace Wade Stadium, which is generally left open to the public in an increasingly rare gesture of faith in humanity.  We decided to go down and run a comfortable mile around the track, just to mix things up a little bit.

As soon as we entered the stadium I had one of those vivid childhood flashbacks. I was in middle school and really into running so my parents took me to see a track and field meet at Wallace Wade.  I have no idea who was competing, but I remember being in that huge concrete bowl, looking down on those athletes and thinking how cool it was to be there as a spectator and how awesome it must be for them to be competing.  My folks bought me a white cotton tank top with DUKE on it that day.  Even though I didn't have the physique to wear a tank top, I loved that shirt and wore it quite a bit. (Sadly, I still lack the physique to pull off a tank top but continue to wear them while running.)   I hadn't thought about that shirt or that day in years. As soon as we entered the stadium it all came flooding back to me.  We had a nice run around the track, completing 4 laps at an easy pace.  It was pretty cool to round the bend and hit the straight away looking up at the giant cement horseshoe that encircled three quarters of the track, with Duke's campus towering above in the background.  I was quickly brought back to reality when I looked at my watch and discovered that mile had taken just over 10 minutes.  Like I said, comfortable, not fast.

As we continued our run we decided to stop at a gas station to grab a quick drink and a snack.  We went to the same one we have stopped at the last few times we have run in Durham in the evening.  The last time we were there a man in the parking lot asked us if we were both doctors.  Confused, we told him that we weren't.  He went on to say that he thought we must be doctors because we had lights on our heads.  That's right.  In his mind, doctors wear shorts, are dripping with sweat and have lights on their heads in gas station parking lots in the middle of the night.  While this individual was very polite, I suspect he was only loosely tethered to reality.  This is what happens when you stop in a gas station around midnight in any urban area.  You get to meet interesting people.

This past Saturday wasn't quite as eventful, but we did get flirted with by a middle aged woman buying gas station wine.  As we pounded down our sodas in the parking lot I commented on her flirty demeanor and Tim agreed that it wasn't just in my head.  As he took a swig of his drink, I stretched out my arms, puffed out my chest and said, "Yep, I've still got it."  This caught Tim off guard, causing him to choke on his drink and spit it across the parking lot.  At mile 18 at 11:30 at night you take your comedy where you find it.

We finished up right around midnight with somewhere around 21 miles. I had hoped to do 24, but it was a good run and was nice to see Durham, which is a great town.  Lots of people ask me if I felt safe running in Durham at night.  Let me take this opportunity to say that I felt completely safe and that Durham has an undeservedly bad rap. Just like any location, urban or rural, have a plan and be alert and aware of your surroundings and you can almost always avoid trouble.

Sunday, I was supposed to do 12 with Wendy, but we pushed it off until Monday, which was a holiday and made for easier child care.  We went to Umstead and ran the 12.5 mile loop that is used for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. It has 1,000 feet of vertical gain in 12.5 miles.  We both felt good and finished in an hour and 54 minutes.  (Wife/editor commentary: I explained to Ashby that my 8-year-old sports bra, which was the only one I  had clean, chaffed me within an inch of my life that day -  somehow he interpreted that to mean "felt good" - that, or he thinks this blog is just about him and not my bra issues . . . )

Yesterday after work I ran 12 and got faster with each passing mile. It was a nice, mild night and I had the chance to listen to some great tunes as I ran 3 laps around my neighborhood.  It was one of those runs where I could just feel the stress bleeding off of me.  By the time I got back to the house I was in a great mood.  We put the kids to bed and then did 30 minutes of core work to finish off the day.

If I can keep from falling apart and keep anywhere close to my proposed training schedule, I'll run just shy of 80 miles this week.  That's the most I've ever run in a week, if you don't count races. We'll see how it goes.

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