Another day at the track

I’m usually annoyed when I arrrive at the track and it’s full of people. But yesterday was an exception.

Yesterday morning I headed over to the Bronxville High School track to do some tempo running. I got a late start and needed to run about five miles as a warmup before doing the tempo miles. By the time I got there it was probably around 8:30 already.

It was a good session, not only because the running went very well, but also because of various things that happened during the run to keep me distracted and entertained.

My assignment was four miles at LT effort. All of my training is by heart rate this time around, so my goal was to hit 88% quickly and then ramp it up to 90% for most of the run. As it turns out, I did the last mile at 91% but I didn’t notice the upped effort until I got home and looked at the data. Splits: 7:08, 7:13, 7:06, 6:49. I’ve gotten into the habit of running the last quarter mile of most harder runs at a very high effort, which explains that faster last mile.

Anyhoo. When I got to the track, I saw two groups forming, with an assemblage of odd-looking accessories on the ground. As it would turn out, the first group was the return of what I always think of as The Ladies Exercise Group. This is a group of women who look to be in their 20s and 30s — yeah, a lot younger than me — who all gather and, under the direction of the group leader, engage in various forms of synchronized exercise. On this day that meant the use of resistance bands and lots of hopping around. No slow jogging this time, though (in the past they would alternate hopping around with a slow lap on the track).

For some reason, I often find myself wishing that one or two would “defect” from their group and come talk to me about running. Unless all these women are coming back from some sort of injury, nothing they’re doing is really helping them fitnesswise. Doesn’t at least one of them harbor some curiosity or secret desire to run fast rather than engage in dreary routines with a giant rubber band?

The other group was a class learning how to ride a harness along a rope. I have no idea what this is called, but I’m sure it has a name. This activity involved stretching a rope between two poles approx. 150m apart, and placing a folding stepladder toward the far end, just off the track. The instructor stood atop the higher “launch pole.” Each helmeted and harnessed kid would climb up the handholds to the top of the pole, attach him- or herself to the rope (and a “safety” held by classmates, presumably to stop the larger kids from slamming into the opposite pole), and wheee!! Kid would fly toward opposite pole, then naturally sink back a bit where the ladder was waiting to enable an exit from the rope.

What this meant was that sometimes I’d be rounding the track with a child flying over my head. This certainly kept me alert.

Finally, in the center field was a group of little kids learning to play some sort of kickball game with a pockmarked, round Nerf-like ball (bright yellow). This would sometimes fly across the track (and I could sense some minor annoyance that I didn’t go out of my way to return it to them). The guy coaching the kids was enthusiastic as was the guy at the top of the pole. I was again reminded that I would make a lousy teacher because I would forget to say things like, “We have to stop now. But don’t worry, everyone will have an opportunity to do this!”

So the center and periphery were truly a three ring circus. The track itself wasn’t crowded; I shared it with maybe six people. One of them was a guy who’d come on when I was well into my tempo miles and was running in the inside lane at maybe an 8:30 pace.

With about seven laps to go I rounded the track and came up alongside him a few lanes out. He suddenly started running faster, determined not to let me pass him. This instinctively made me speed up too, but after a few seconds I realized what was happening. So I slowed back down to my 7:0X pace. In the meantime, he’d taken off like a bat out of hell. He lasted at that pace for about a lap and then stopped dead, doubled over. I continued on and finished my run, wondering if it was a guy vs. girl thing or if he was just competitive regardless of gender. Silly twat.