I’ve always enjoyed and valued the UVM indoor track. It’s a tenth of a mile with a very slight bank, enough to allow for efficient cornering without causing excessive torque. If I pick unbusy times, I alternate direction. Some don’t like the distance – they want the standard 200 meters. But I prefer the more frequent feedback loops.
However, due to COVID-19 the UVM indoor was track shut down on November 24th, the day students went home to finish the term remote. I did my last track workout that day. The athletic facilities were then closed until February 4th. Thus, what had been weekly ventures to maintain some fast twitch fiber function went on pause. So, heading up today for my track reservation, it was with some trepidation and uncertainty about what to expect. Could I still muster anything resembling speed after nearly 12 weeks?
After two miles of warmup, I hit the marker, pushed the start button on my old-school Timex (Garmin GPS isn’t accurate indoors) and took off on the first 800. The first lap felt pretty good! Then the second, then the third. Finishing the fifth lap, I was somewhat surprised the pace was similar to the first 800 at that November workout. The next four 800s were progressively faster, as is typical for me. Remarkably, I was running fast again and enjoying it! I even forgot I was wearing a mask – a UVM requirement for entry.
It really doesn’t take much to make us runners happy: several pairs of shoes; decent weather; enough races to test our training; and in winter indoor options, including treadmills. But for me the biggest loss this winter has been the track. There’s something about changing into racing shoes and putting the hammer down, seeing what’s in the tank. Indoors, the conditions are always the same. The result may not be – some sessions are easier, others harder. It’s something of the mystery of running. It’s why we do the workouts and why we run the races!
An appreciation of the track is not universal. Some see it as a torture chamber, a relentless reminder that we’re losing speed with age. But I find there is something reassuring and alluring about stepping onto the rubber, looking out onto the oval, often with others on it, and wondering how the session will unfold. It was familiar territory today. And I’m already looking towards next week and hopefully weekly visits thereafter. It’s great to be back on track!