Saturday, February 13, 2010

An oval workout on a square track

We live one block away from the Downtown Athletic Club in Baltimore. It's a large cavernous place - I learned yesterday that it was a train depot connected to the old Calvert Street Station where an angry mob of secessionists waited for Abraham Lincoln on his way to DC for his first inauguration. Lincoln never showed up - as his handlers were so confident that he would be killed in mobtown that they slipped him through the night before.
Although I've belonged to the club since we came to Baltimore I had never brought myself to run on the track. The surface is pretty decent - but the turns are square and tight. At ~9 laps per mile (from the outside lane) I figured that it was ~2 1/4 laps for 400m. The plan was to do 12X400 with 400 rest. Bad weather is usually so fleeting in Baltimore that I would have just postponed this workout - but, with the amount of snow on the ground I don't think an outdoor track will be clear till about mid-march.
I'm no stranger to oddly configured tracks. In college, at Loyola Chicago, our winter training facility was a 150m banked wooden track suspended over the basketball court in Alumni Gym. Alumni Gym, built in 1923, was used for basketball as recently as 1996. Though only large enough for a few thousand fans it was home to the 1963 national championship basketball team. In 1978 the Ramblers beat Larry Bird and Indiana State there - as well as Georgetown.
When I first saw the track during my recruiting visit I thought they couldn't be serious that we actually ran workouts up there. Not only were the turns banked pretty high - but, there was only a flimsy looking guardrail keeping you from falling to the court below.
Built by some guys on the team in the late 80's because they were tired of working out on the concrete floor of an old Armory - the track was built the exact specifications of the track used for the Millrose Games in New York. Among these runners was Eddie Slowikowski, a sub 4 min miler and Marc Burns, the anchor leg of a 4X800 team that would get 3rd place at the NCAA indoor meet and current track coach at Wichita State.
I decided - if it's good enough for them it's good enough for me. So, I ended up embracing it. My coach, Gordon Thomson used to love telling open eyed recruits - "this thing is built for speed". And in a way - it was. The banked turns were at a high enough degree that you could go sub-60 400m pace and hardly feel it. A 400 m interval had us starting at the top of the bank down to the straight away. It was almost cheating because you had that little downhill at the beginning of each interval.
As I started my first 400m yesterday I thought about those countless workouts. It's good to be reminded from time to time that running is about overcoming obstacles. Conditions are almost never perfect and if you learn to stop making excuses and just do the best with what you've got you can end up being even better than if everything is given to you on a silver platter.

Last Week

Monday: 9 miles

Tuesday morning: 3 miles

Tuesday evening: 11 miles 5X5 min treadmill speed 9.2 incline 6.0

Wednesday: 8 miles

Thursday : 0 miles

Friday morning: 4 miles

Friday evening: 8 miles

Saturday: 12 miles 12X400 R pace

Sunday: 18 miles

Total: 73 miles

This Week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 9 miles
Tuesday: 10 miles
Wednesday morning: 4 miles
Wednesday evening: 11 miles 6X (600m I pace 1 min rest 400m I pace 30 sec rest 200m I pace 30 sec rest)
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: 17 miles 5X2mi @ T pace
Sunday: 13 miles
Total: 80 miles


Anonymous said...

Great story!

KLIM said...

Ben - do you have a photo of the Loyola track? I am wondering what the heck this thing looks like...

Ben said...

I don't have a picture of the actual track - but, I did find this picture of alumni gym. Across the gym you can see people with their legs dangling over the side. They are sitting on the track. I'll try to see if any of my old teamates have a picture of the actual banked turns.

RM said...

So you belong to a racist, hate-filled Confederate gym? Ha. Glad things are different at my version of the gym.

Ben said...

There was supposed to be a link in that last post. Here it is

Bryan said...

The Loyola wooden beast reminds me of those old roller coasters most "Six Flags" type of amusement parks still keep. They're not the fastest or prettiest, but they are still way more fun than doing homework.