Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Running in Florida

Yesterday:  9.1 miles at 8:20 pace
Today: 7.25 mile tempo run, avg 7:24 pace (3.75 miles of tempo at 6:50 pace)

I apologize for the gap in posts (not that I think there are that many people reading this).  I was out of town at the end of last week and through the weekend visiting my grandparents in Florida, south of Tampa Bay.  While I know that it is no longer the weekend, or even close to it, things were a little hectic when I got back to Austin.  See, here at the University of Texas, finals have already started.  While I am not taking any classes, this does mean that the entire university is preparing to shut down for a long winter break.  And its the first week of December.  Seems a little early to me.  This means that any lab supplies or other resources that I want, I have to order and coordinate now.  Hence the craziness.

Running has been going well.  The weather is reliably cooler now, high 30s and low 40s in the mornings, which is pretty ideal running weather for me.  I had to dig out my cold weather gear last night (hats, gloves, tights) just in case one of these mornings is especially brutal.  But, for now, I am still getting away with shorts and long sleeved shirts.

I did not allow my journey to Florida to impede regular running and managed to run every morning I was there.  Running in Florida (at least this particular region) is always a unique experience for me.  This is largely because my grandparents worry constantly for my safety.  Their front yard is the first place I ever puked after running.  That happened on a very hot and humid summer day when I was in high school and didn't understand that running in temperatures 15-20 degrees warmer than accustomed and 100% humidity would have ill effects on my body.  It simply doesn't get into the 90s at 7am in the summer in Boston.  After the puking, I had to spend nearly an hour convincing my grandparents that I was okay, would not pass out and did not need to visit the hospital.

The next time I visited them was in the middle of training for my first marathon.  I was hell bent on sticking to my exact training schedule, which included a 10 mile run for the weekend I was out of town.  My grandfather, in his patience and love for me, took his car and mapped out a route that would total 10 miles.  The night before my long run, he drove the course with me, so I would know exactly where to go and wouldn't get lost.  I did not get lost, but this run turned out to be the most boring and painful ten miles I have ever run.  I hated nearly every minute of it.  Now I am sure there are lots of lovely places to run in the state of Florida and even in the Tampa Bay area, but the neighborhood of my grandparents is exclusively private housing developments and major roads with shopping centers.  Because I couldn't run in the housing developments, my grandfather had instead picked a route that ran up and down a very busy 6 lane road dotted with shopping centers.

Last winter when I visited, I wasn't training for any particular race, but I did want to run in the mornings.  I figured I could handle the route on my own and decided to run for time.  I headed out of their development and took a left and ran the length of the road, the took another left.  When I reached 30 minutes, I turned around and retraced my steps.  The route wasn't particularly interesting but it got the job done.  When I got back, my grandfather asked me where I had gone for my run and I told him I took a left coming out of the development.  Unfortunately left was the wrong answer.  He was very concerned.  He knew that by going left, I was on a road that didn't have sidewalks.  The fact that it wasn't at all a busy road and it was complete daylight and I was 23 years old didn't phase him.  He was gravely concerned and urged me not to run that way the next day.  I agreed not to run on that road again, even though I thought he was being overly cautious, and have indeed kept my promise.  The next few days of running were rather boring, as I was forced to return to the 6 lane major road with sidewalks and go back and forth along that road until I fulfilled my allotted time.

So this past weekend, when I again visited my grandparents, I decided I needed to come prepared with a few more interesting routes.  I utilized the very awesome Google maps and searched the general vicinity of their home for a place that looked interesting to run to.  Sadly, I came up rather short-handed.  Once again, I'm sure there are lots of great places in the Tampa area to run, but my resources were limited.  I didn't have the use of a car and had to find a reasonable route that started and ended at my grandparents house.  This is further complicated by the lack of through streets.  Many of the developments can only be accessed from a single, major road.  Eventually I picked out two routes that were interesting enough, an 8.9 mile loop and a 7 mile out and back run.  Both runs were very enjoyable with sidewalks and very little traffic the entire way.  This time, when my grandfather asked me where I ran, I was intentionally vague.  I simply did not want him to worry about me.

So I guess in summary, running in Florida has provided some very unique experiences for me.  I am, however, most grateful to google maps, which are always a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world of travels.  Google maps, you always help me find great places to run when I am not in my home town...thank you.


  1. Glad you found a decent, yet I'm sure completely safe route while on vacation. I agree, Google Maps rocks when traveling! In my planning travel in an area that I'm generally unfamiliar I use Google Maps first, then frequently call the concierge's desk of the hotel I'm contemplating staying at to confirm the suitability of what appears to be good running (sometimes it's misleading, as green space on the map may have limited permitted access for pedestrians).

  2. Those Google maps always seem to provide the help we need when looking for routes - it's hard to think about what we used to do without them!

  3. Cute that your grandparents still worry about you. When I used to travel a lot for business my grandmother would get all nervous because I was going to "strange" cities.

    The problem I have/had when trying to run when travelling for business is that I am usually staying in a downtown area and it's hard to find a route where you don't have stop at a light / cross walk every hundred yards or so, but it is a great way to get familiar with a city.

    A, somewhat, related question, does Google maps provide elevations? I am looking for a hill in my area to do hill training that is of a decent elevation and length and can't figure out the best way to do it. Length is easy enough, but all I can find about determining elevation is these complicated science experiments where I to bring protractors and other stuff to the hill to measure it.

  4. Hey BostonMouse, Thanks for the comment. To answer your question, google maps doesn't have an elevation feature that I am aware of, but BuckeyeOutdoors does. BuckeyeOutdoors is a free online running log (works for other sports too). It has a mapping feature built into it, and when you trace a route it shows you the elevation profile. Give it a try!