Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Country Roads, Take Me Home

My long run last weekend was a lot harder than it usually is. Not because of the distance (it was a 20 miler, but my third of this training season, so it felt surprisingly comfortable in that respect), but rather because of logistics. Steve and I were in Murphysboro, Illinois, my hometown, to retrieve Jack from my parents.

It's hard running in an unfamiliar setting, and I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to run 20 miles in Murphysboro - it's really small. The last time I tried was at Thanksgiving, when I decided to do an explore run, feeling flexible on the distance, but wanting to cover a decent chunk of mileage. I went all the way across town, through a park, and back to the house and discovered I'd only done a 5K.

My dad suggested that I go to Lake Murphysboro State Park, where there is a 4 mile loop that I could just do five times, "but it's hilly." I drove through it to see just how hilly it was. The park was beautiful - trees everywhere, glimpses of the lake... but it was so hilly that my Achilles tendons were like, "Lady, no. You've got to be kidding me." Okay, fine - but I'll be back there during my unofficial cross country season in the fall.

I decided to wing it, doing three six mile loops, with stops back at the house for water or Gatorade, then a two mile loop.

As I started the first loop, it became quickly evident that Murphysboro is not designed for runners. There were no sidewalks, and the shoulders weren't especially wide, either. I ran facing traffic and felt like I had to keep dodging pickup trucks. I ran on some random country roads, and it was really pretty - trees, little ponds, deer - and people who looked at me like I was crazy. Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of trash on the ground, including an empty case of beer next to a home pregnancy test box. Classy! I had to slightly modify my planned course when a bunch of dogs chased me.

Six miles down, and it was time for the second loop. I ran across town, then turned in a direction that I was hoping would lead me to some decent empty space. A few turns later, and I discovered myself under a huge blue sky, facing one of those Stealth Hills. The kind that is not steep, but is very, very long. I hit eight miles and noted my time for Nancy's Olympic Challenge - 1:25:33. I ended up at Lake Murphysboro, where I saw the only other runners I encountered the entire time I was out. They gave me a look of started recognition, as I suspect they weren't used to seeing other runners out and about. Oh, and trash report? Condom wrapper. I like to think that the people whose story began with the beer and home pregnancy test was concluded with that Durex wrapper, that they learned their lesson.

I hit Stealth Hill after Stealth Hill and comforted myself with the idea that the way back would be downhill. Turns out it wasn't - heading back, I saw another Stealth Hill. I told myself that if I hadn't noticed it sloping down, it shouldn't bother me sloping up.

As I ran back for a drink, an old man in a pickup truck called out his window to ask if he could run with me. "Sure," I said. "Come on out." Then he got a good look at the Ridiculously Short Shorts(tm) and said, "You sure look good out there." Still got it, baby! Sure, he was a semi-creepy old man, but I take what I can get.

It was time for the third loop, and my dad had suggested that I run to the high school, that it was about three miles away. Unfortunately, he miscalcuated - it was only two. I did my best to add some distance on by wandering around the athletic fields, but no such luck. I just wound up with a bunch of cut grass stuck on my legs.

I ran to a park for the final portion of my run, hit 20, and felt incredibly proud of myself for finishing it up despite the odds against me. I celebrated by diving into the swimming pool in my running clothes, which highly entertained Jack.

I may celebrate further by getting myself a present.


Frayed Laces said...

Wow. I hate it when you have to deal with sucky scenery and terrain on long runs. It always seems that runs are longer in unfamiliar places. Kudos to you for sticking through it!

tfh said...

Heheh. You do still got it. I just hope you got a good look at Pickup Truck Man and made sure he wasn't your former high school English teacher or one of your childhood friend's parents or something like that.

RooBabs said...

Great run- way to power through! I have a love-hate relationship with hills. I hate the short term effects on my lungs and my legs, but in time both become stronger. What a great workout (and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?).

Joe said...

Adventurous long runs are the best. I'm with you on avoiding hills. Went running in Tennessee not too long ago. The hills...huge!


Run For Life said...

Oh man, I'm with FL on this. You definitely deserve a present for not cutting that run short. :)

Non-Runner Nancy said...

More toughness points in Murphysboro. :D

Thanks for the 8 with the gang!

The 311 Boys Mom said...

WOW! great job on that 20 miler!!! I surely woulda quit or crapped myself with a pack (or one) dog chasing me!

& just think, you probly made creepy old guys week--OR YEAR!!!