It's funny how some race courses retain their basic charms and feel year round, while others- don't.
I was looking to do a longer run today and the way my schedule and day care worked out, the only option to do that was to do it at the end of my work day at work. That means running in West Haven and New Haven. A run up to an hour I can do in the area of Yale Bowl, but I was hoping for 75 minutes, so I decided to try something different.
I headed up 139 to 34 and hung a right, ran down to 10 and once on Route 10 I was on the race course. Of course, on race day, the road is closed, there are cheering people spread out all over the course and there are water stations. At 4:15 on a weekday, there's mostly just a lot of traffic, punctuated by the fairly regular interruption of sirens from police, fire, and ambulance (I saw at least one of each during my run).
New Haven is one of those races that just wears you down. Technically, it's a relatively flat, unquestionably fast course. In the real world, the course eats we amateurs up. It's almost always hot (like it was today, although today was worse), humid (again like today), and the course sends you on a series of upgrades and uphills.
Running from work starts with a decent climb, a tough downhill, and then a decent flat stretch before turning downhill on 34. That part of the run was easy, but once I turned onto 10 I pretty much felt the course. I was in the grass on the opposite side of the road, there was a lot of traffic, but the tunes were good, the knee was manageable and I was looking forward to getting on the bridge and climbing.
I got over the bridge, around the underpass below 95 and started working my way towards Long Wharf. I usually feel like I'm struggling in that stretch. If I started out too fast, that's where I fade. I turned onto the that street IKEA is on and by some ironic twist, I hit the exact place where the 10K mat is at 37:10 or so. Right on schedule, except I hadn't run 10K to get there. I went under another underpass and I was on Long Wharf.
Long Wharf, at least today, looked to be subtly uphill. But that wasn't what I really noticed. Let's just say that Long Wharf on race day is a sanitized placed. Hopefully whatever happens on Long Wharf stays on Long Wharf, or at least in the cars on Long Wharf it happens in. At the end of Long Wharf I wrapped back onto Water Street, headed for Route 1.
Route 1, Downtown New Haven.
Even the churches have bars on the windows. No one should have to live in a place where the churches have bars on the windows. No one.
Of course, it's all too easy for me to breeze into a rough neighbourhood during a hard run, feel bad about it, and then get on with my own upper-middle class life and go back to my nice suburban house, two-car, two-garage, one child in great day care. There's something pointedly wrong about that.
Towards the end of this section of the run, the song Nightswimming came on my iPod. I've been given a little ribbing about having this song on my iPod and there's no question it's a downer. I have a little bit of history with the song- songs about swimming in general- but this is one that I associate with Lake Placid. I'm running along and there are literally shards of glass underfoot with each and every step. There were places where the sidewalk simply ended, just a dirt path. Abandoned buildings and businesses and lots that grow over and aren't grabbed up by greedy developers to be re-developed and re-sold. Bars on doors.
Depressing. No question. I realise I'm getting an emotional undercurrent seeing these things which is basically the same one I get when I hear the song and think about Lake Placid the years I'm not doing that race (like this one). Some places have a pull on you, but let's face it, there's a big difference between doing a race and well, having to live and work somewhere that's, well, just unpleasant, some place where there are bars on even the screen doors.
And then it happens. you break through to the route 10 crossing, the song changes from Nightswimming to Nickleback's Figured You Out, you pick up the pace and leave it behind you. And as you head for the final, long hill, you get U2's Beautiful Day (talk about a song that evokes Lake Placid) and the sun very coincidentally comes back out, and it really is a beautiful day. And you wipe the sweat off, you jump in the car and head off to day care, the workout good, the workout over.
But there's this nagging feeling you're still missing something...