Friday, July 8, 2011

Annie: running

Nothing but potential

We're home from our little mini-vacation in the Prairie at our family farm. I've been spending a few weekends and the occasional week here every summer for more than a decade, but until now it was all about the farmhouse and its lack of telephone and Internet (though of course the trusty mobile devices have always come with me - can't go completely cold turkey!), and, since Child was a baby, the fabulous community pool that serves the entire area.

Now, suddenly, I'm interested in the roads.

In the Canadian Prairies, farm land is divided into sections of a mile square, with "section roads" marking each mile. The size of a farm operation is described in terms of the number of sections it occupies, and the farmer has access to all parts of his/her farm because of the section roads.

For a runner, the section roads provide an almost-perfect track. They're pre-measured, so I know that completing a lap around the section facing our farmyard is just under 6.5K (that is, exactly 4 miles) -- and, at this particular moment in my training, provides a nice 5-minute warmup walk, a 5K run, and a 15ish-minute cooldown walk.

It's beautiful, as you can see from the photo above - it's hard not to feel as though you're breathing cleaner air running there, as compared to running in the city at home (though if you have allergies, as I do, "cleaner" may not necessarily mean "better," ha!). Running on the section roads (near our farm, anyway) makes you feel like you have unlimited runway, fresh air for your lungs, and blazing sunshine. You feel like you have nothing but potential!

OK, I have to admit there are a couple of minor drawbacks.

1) It takes a bit of getting used to running on loose gravel when you're accustomed to nicely paved city streets. You may be able to see from the photo that there are established tracks where cars, trucks, and farm equipment tend to drive - if you run in those tracks you have less loose gravel to deal with, but you're actually running down the middle of the road. Not bad if you run without music, but I have to run with music, or the sound of my own panting discourages me.  :)  My solution this time: run with Husband, who ran without music in the neighbouring track on the road, and warned me whenever a vehicle was coming up behind us.

2) When a truck flies by on a gravel road in an area of low humidity, you get sprayed with gravel, and then live in a little cloud of dust for a few minutes afterward. I wondered whether I should have been running in a surgical mask!

Really, though, that was it for drawbacks. It was lovely, frankly.

I had done my "long slow distance" run on Sunday before we left, so normally wouldn't have run until Tuesday -- but Monday was gorgeous (see photo!) and I thought it would be a waste of a beautiful, not-too-hot, sunny day not to run. So I convinced Husband to come out with me (grandparents were with us to watch Child) that morning.

It was harder work than I was used to (apparently, the degree of difficulty for running surfaces goes treadmill -> road -> gravel, and I can only imagine sandy beach comes after that!), but I really, really enjoyed it. We even had the opportunity for a laugh, when we unwittingly caused a stampede of cows in a pasture alongside the section road. (If you're unfamiliar with the nature of cows, they're curious enough to want to know who you are, but not always smart enough to know to stop running once they hit the fence.)

Sorry ladies!
(photo taken later, after everyone had calmed down)
And because I really, really enjoyed it... we went back out again on Tuesday.

We drove home Wednesday, and I was all set to do the "cross-train" day The Faithful Mo had put in my training schedule for this week... but Thursday was, incredibly, another beautiful day. I checked with her to make sure it would be OK to run again rather than cross-training (I'm scheduled for 4 runs next week, so I switched one of them for this week's cross-train), and then headed out again, back around my neighbourhood.

As I ran, I plotted out this weekend's "long slow distance" run, which will be 6.5K and will require me to widen my little neighbourhood track - I'm running out of new territory.   :)

And I realized: I am actually enjoying this!  That may sound silly at this point, but until now I have been enjoying the "having run," without particularly enjoying the "running."  Now, I see a beautiful day outside and I want to run. It feels like a waste not to.

Today is gorgeous again (seriously, how long can this luck hold out?!), but I can't run again. I'm planning my long slow distance for tomorrow (hopefully the weather holds out at least that long for me), and I don't want to get injured and put myself out altogether. So I'm headed over to meet a friend (Jillian - see her blog at right!) for lunch and a walk in the sunshine.

What would I have been doing with a day like today a year ago?

Probably staying inside, hiding from the heat. Probably sitting on the couch or in my desk chair. Probably dreading every invitation to join people who would be dressed for summer, every opportunity to do anything outside in the heat, because I'd have refused to go out in shorts, and would have been miserable in long pants.

Today, I feel 10 years younger than I did this time last year. It's an amazing thing.

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