This week I had training in Covington, an hour away on the Northshore. My work training conflicted with my marathon training, which called for an interval workout on a day when I needed to leave New Orleans by 7 am to be in Covington on time. But I would get out of training early - 4:30 pm. I decided instead to combine training with a quick visit to my family (who live on the Northshore), and run my workout on my old street.
As I recalled, my parents' street was a totally flat half-mile of heavily-wooded loneliness, perfect for intervals. When we moved to that house when I was 15 (I can't believe it's been so long!), there were two houses on the whole street, with a Catholic retreat center at the very end of the road. Since then, I knew the retreat center had closed.
Oh, but so much more had changed. I rarely visit my parents for many complex reasons, including that my mother is an insane hippie and a hoarder, and to my shock there were TWO new subdivisions on the street! One was directly across from my parents' house, and the other - a large subdivision with many streets of identical, soulless houses - was in the location that the retreat center and a large wood used to occupy. I was saddened to see this development, as I used to love exploring the old retreat center, especially an area buried deep in the woods in which a tiled pool surrounded by marble statues was hidden. Now, it was all long, shingled roofs, closely mown lawns, and leased Lexuses pulled into two-car garages. Bleah. I detest subdivisions.
But I had a workout to do, and sterile surroundings weren't going to stop me! Neither was 90 F with no shade (sadly, nearly all the trees were gone, since further up the street two large areas were cleared for two MORE as-yet-unrealized subdivisions). Or the fact that humidity was sky-high, thanks to the quaint Covington tradition of digging deep ditches on either side of narrow country roads to catch the drainage. I changed into my running gear as I watched steam rise from the ditches.
My workout was 4x1.5 miles at 7 to 7:10 pace, with half mile active rests. I warmed up, then decided to hit the subdivision at the end of the road for the intervals. Lo and behold, the streets were firm white concrete, and I was flying! I always find concrete so responsive (if, perhaps, more likely to induce injury). So much for intended pace - I couldn't slow down more than 6:47 pace for any of the intervals. I think part of my trouble pacing is just that these intervals are meant to be run SO slowly, and part is other factors - in this case, the unusual environment, the firm surface, or the fact that this was an afternoon run, which meant I had actually eaten, unlike most mornings.
It was so very odd to be cranking out miles in a place I had been so many times before, but that was so incredibly changed since the last time I'd been there. My total workout was ten miles, and I easily completed that within the subdivision, with little doubling back, which tells you something about the size. A full 1.5 mile repeat plus a half mile cool-down didn't even take me to the end of the main road, and if I had ventured any farther I'd be too long away from my water: dangerous in this weather.
Right at my last interval, the sky opened, and heavy tropical rains poured down. I was soaked in seconds, and my shoes squelched all the way home. By the time I'd cooled down, the rain had stopped, and the steam was now all over the road. I collected my shirt (discarded by the first half-mile) and discovered that I'd conveniently placed it in a fire ant mound. Not good.
But it was good to wedge my workout in despite challenges, and it was good to lay eyes on my crazy family. It wasn't good to see the street all developed; it saddens me to see trees cut down. But oddly, as soon as I'd showered with hippie shampoo, visited, and left, I reverted to picturing the road the way I'd always remembered it - trees, shade, and two little houses.