Friday, August 24, 2012

Track Appreciation

For a couple of years, I've had a running love affair with Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.  The loop around the lake is almost 1 mile exactly which makes it awesome for adding extra loops onto my run route.  The route is about as flat as you'll find for a mile stretch in Golden Gate Park and since it is a walking path there are no traffic crossroads to navigate.  Because of that when I want to hit specific paces I'll usually just loop around Stow Lake to get it done.

The following photos were taken on a rainy run back in 2010 which I meant to blog about but never did.

Someone decorates this tree every Christmas season. Love!

Exhibit A: Path width 

Exhibit B:  Note path width here, and funky bird

I suffer from a serious case of Sidewalk Rage when I'm running anything other than an easy pace.  I'm the type of person you can cut in front of in line at the grocery store and I'll probably bite my tongue.  But if you step into my line when I'm out running a tempo run, watch the heck out.

Stow Lake tends to attract all types of folks which cause my Sidewalk Rage to surface.  Groups of school children, mothers pushing baby strollers *with* dogs on leashes sticking out a yard to the side, dogs not on leashes, people walking four abreast, oblivious children with oblivious parents, tourist bike riders...  My blood pressure is rising.

For the above reasons, I try to only run at Stow Lake early in the morning.  There tend to be mainly only senior citizens out for their morning walk at that time.  There are some who insist on walking 4 abreast on Exhibit A pathway, but generally at this time of day it is easy enough to get around them.  There are in fact, a few people I see every early morning run and I've gotten into the habit of saying good morning to them (I run many, many loops in the morning so I see them upwards of 8 times some days).   I also run against traffic on the actual road in areas with Exhibit B pathway.  It is too narrow to even attempt to get around people being stupid there.

Lately, I've gotten into wars with the wildlife at Stow Lake.  I love the baby ducks and geese.  But then they grow up.  And people insist on feeding them.  So they congregate in large packs *on* the pathway.  And the pigeons.  And the squirrels. Dear god, the squirrels!!

The people who mainly feed the animals are seniors and children.  And there are lots of seniors out in the morning.  The squirrels especially have gotten way out of control.  They descend from the trees in the early morning and panhandle on the pathway.  Squirrels will see me coming and will run up to me thinking I'm a friendly feeder.  At the very last moment, they have an "Oh, $%&# moment" when they realize I am not about to throw them some food and they scamper off to the side.  But being squirrels they are pretty squirrely and it is so hard to predict which direction they are going to choose to retreat.

The other morning I was running through the especially squirrel invested area of the path and there were 4 squirrels sitting on rocks by the path.  I felt like I was in a scene from "The Lion King" and the squirrels were the hyenas on the rocks ready to descend on me in droves.

Source
I've actually gotten so close to a squirrel that I felt its tail wrap around my ankle.  Today I almost accidentally kicked a goose when it did not get out of my way as fast as the pigeons and ducks tend to retreat.  Note to self, geese are not afraid of you.

There is a little lady who I swear is pushing 90 who feeds the pigeons regularly.  She has a 25 lb bag of bird seed in one of those stereotypical little old lady carts.  I do give her huge credit because she must walk over 2 miles from her home, up around the lake, and back.  She walks around the lake and leaves huge mounds of seed in a few places.  The pigeons descend by the hundreds to eat this stuff up.  Imagine hundreds of pigeons on Exhibit A pathway.  Talk about a pace-killer.

Because of all these issues I started trying to do any workout requiring anything faster than half marathon pace at the Polo Field.  The Polo Field has either a 0.75 mi dirt track or a 0.5ish mi paved bike track.  I used to do speed work on the dirt track but the last year or so have moved it down to the paved track.  The only downside is that the bike track is banked on the curves which tends to cause me to have to pull back on the effort a little.

The other week Outside Lands descended on Golden Gate Park.  It is a three day outdoor concert which I've learned to loathe over the years.  They erect fences all over the park which cuts me off from favorite running routes.  One year they even fenced off my favorite water fountain.  Because it is such a large affair, the fences last over a week.  The Polo Field is one of the stages so that is way off limits for running.  I had a mile repeat workout to do the weekend of Outside Lands and had no idea where to go.

Boyfriend and I decided to head over to Kezar Stadium and use the track.  In all my years of being an actual runner I had never done a workout on an actual track.  It was amazing.  Flat and wide and everyone on it has a purpose.  No lollygagging or photo taking. Just people moving in one direction.  If someone happens to be in my lane I just move over to pass them.  I could really concentrate on my effort when I wasn't dodging obstacles.

Source

Last week I did a long run which had a section of fartlek work.  I was supposed to run 1:00 at 10K pace, with 1:00 recovery for 5 miles.  It was going okay but as time went on the paths of Stow Lake were getting more crowded.  And then Cart Lady showed up and dumped her bird seed on the path.  I was pounding down at 10K pace when all of a sudden a wall of pigeons was upon me. I may have done some euphemistic cursing out loud (not at Cart Lady but at the situation) and then had to move that part of the run onto just the street portion of the lake.  I dislike running with traffic versus against it and going back and forth I had no choice.  Buzz kill.

This week I had a similar run to do and I decided to do the fartlek portion at Kezar.  It was a totally different world.  I could concentrate 100% on my running effort.  It was even better than the Polo Field since I didn't have banked curves to deal with. I'm a convert.  From now on I'm going to do all of my pick-up work up to a mile down at Kezar.  What took me so long to try a track out?

Today's fartlek progression long run of 16.5 miles:  6 mi warm up, 5 mi:  1:30 at 10K pace with 1:30 recovery (14 pick-ups total with a 7:23 avg pace at Kezar), 2 mi easy, 3 mi hard (8:01 pace, at Stow Lake wherein I almost took out a goose and a preteen with her camera), 0.5 mi cool.

5 comments:

lazychickrunstoo said...

Thanks for this post!! Well, first, I thought stow lake is a bit hilly, and I was gonna try to incorporate some of my runs there when I do run in the city, if it's flat, then forget it... Second of all, I have a bird phobia. If there will be hundreds of pigeons flying down, I will no doubt end up in a hospital. So no thanks.
Track, I just started working on some interval work to hopefully get my slow legs working a bit faster! I love it!!

lazychickrunstoo said...

Thanks for this post!! Well, first, I thought stow lake is a bit hilly, and I was gonna try to incorporate some of my runs there when I do run in the city, if it's flat, then forget it... Second of all, I have a bird phobia. If there will be hundreds of pigeons flying down, I will no doubt end up in a hospital. So no thanks.
Track, I just started working on some interval work to hopefully get my slow legs working a bit faster! I love it!!

SF Road Warrior said...

I love Kezar! It's absolutely my favorite place to run fast. I also get the sidewalk rage -- it's particularly bad when I'm working my way out of my own (pedestrian-heavy) neighborhood. :)

Rabbits' Guy said...

I guess I thought you often ran at a track. Just so great for speed work and various timing runs. Not so hot for distance!

Story about the Stowe lake route is pretty hilarious. Takes all kinds!

Kezar Stadium - the 49'rs once played there - maybe still do?

naomi said...

I really want to run around Stowe Lake with you sometime so I can witness this rage of yours! I just can't imagine it! :)

I've been wanting to get back to the track too...as soon as I can get running at 6 am again, I'm so there.