Holy cow. Week Seven. Seven. That’s pretty weird experience writing that number. Seven weeks I’ve been running. Pretty consistent running too! Writing seven really puts into perspective how far I’ve come. I actually look forward to my Monday sprint workouts. I don’t completely cringe at the thought of running six miles on the weekends. Sometimes I’m more excited about running than going to yoga. It’s a particularly weird realization for me. After successfully running the 12K last weekend, I made jokes with my friends about how I guess I’m officially a “runner” now. To which one friend responded: if you run you’re a runner.
Woah yes. Did those words ever ring more true. That realization was so simple. And puts it all into perspective. At the beginning of this experience, I kind of felt I was at some huge disadvantage trained as a water polo player. Land seemed so foreign as I was literally out of my element. I saw so many things that I didn’t know–how to train, how to pace, where to stick my phone in my sports bra. It was overwhelming to seemingly start over at square one and sign up for a race and condemn myself to run alongside seasoned cross country athletes and crazy running types who have been waking up at 5 am for the past fifteen years to jog.
But I signed up. And now I’ve completed seven weeks of training. Seven weeks! And I’ve been a runner from the very beginning. It just may have taken me seven weeks and 100+ miles to come to that realization.
Terry Hershey Park
Growing up in West Houston, I’ve gone on many a summer bike ride or walk through Terry Hershey Park that traces alongside the western stretch of Buffalo Bayou. Stretching from Beltway 8 to Highway 6, the hike and bike trails are about 7 miles long from end to end and easily connects to George Bush Park (west of Highway 6) if you really want to get in more mileage. The trails are mostly pavement, although there are some dirt ones which mountain bikers and dog walkers often use. When I go, I generally park in the lot under Beltway 8 (between Memorial and Briar Forest) or at the lot just south of Memorial on the west side of Highway 6. This weekend when I went, I entered the park through a lot on the east side of Dairy Ashford just north of Briar Forest. The park has lots of water fountains–that actually work–which is really nice; as well as nicely marked mile markers placed every half mile or so. They’re aren’t many lights in the park, so I wouldn’t suggest heading here after dark.
I really like running here as it’s pretty easy to slip into nature and forget that you are in a major, bustling metropolis. For the holidays, I spent this past weekend with my parents in West Houston and decided to capitalize living on that side of town to go for my long run in a different part of the city. With all my marathon training companions out of town for the holidays, I called up one of my bffls from high school to bike alongside me as I go on a casual* 9-mile run. So on Saturday we meet up and trek out to Terry Hershey Park.
*not casual at all
Let me set the scene: Typical Houston day in December. 75 degrees out. Thunderstorms imminent. Perfect conditions for the longest run I’ve done to date right? Wrong. After training for the past few weeks in 60 degree weather and running a 12k in 50 degrees, 70+ is effing hot. Not to mention that the encroaching storm with thick overcast clouds is basically just blanketing in the moisture and ensuring that the humidity is exceeding 100%. After about five minutes outside, I am drenched in sweat, mentally exhausted and still have like 8.5 miles to do. Awesome.
We start the run from my friends house, weaving our way through the neighborhoods until we get to this niffy little gravel trail that traces an offshoot from the bayou and connects us with the main trail at Dairy Ashford. When we get to the main entrance of Terry Hershey Park, we decide to go east on the trail because my friend hadn’t been that way in a long time–if ever. Mistake.
Houston is a relatively flat city. It’s actually exceptionally flat. However, the trails along Terry Hershey Park between Dairy Ashford and Beltway 8 are effing hilly. There is a hill approximately ever 40 yards. I kid you not. By the time you get up and down one you have to start mentally preparing yourself for the next one a few feet away. If you’re into that kinda thing-great. But me? Running 9 miles through that? In the hottest weather I’ve seen in months? Well, let’s just call it an adventure. It also started to storm around mile 4. Like not light drizzle rain. But actual, the heavens are opening up and torrential downpour is cleansing the earth of its sins. It was actually pretty intense/fun. Except for you know the whole wet, slippery exhausting hills involved. My friend on the bike got a kick out of
watching me suffer snap chatting my experience.
After surviving 9 miles of hills and thunderstorms, I am actually feeling pretty good for my upcoming half marathon. If I survived that, I’m pretty confident I can run 4 more miles on level terrain in cooler weather without fear of slipping down an incline into a giant mud puddle. I’m not too scarred from the experience either. I would actually be down to go for run in Terry Hershey Park again–probably on the western less hilly side once my shoes dry out…but I definitely feel like this makes me a runner.