I was working in a settled area of Southern Maine today. I don't like to run on the roads (no big surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this Blog regularly) and I couldn't think of any good trails in the area. Then I remembered the Standish rail trail. It's not really my kind of trail, too wide and flat and easy. But it is made of dirt and is out of the traffic. I hadn't run there in over a year. Several years back, I used to do speed work there regularly.
I changed clothes in the parking lot and started down the rough dirt road that leads to the rail trail. This road is rolling hills for over a mile before getting onto the flat fast rail bed trail. When I rounded the corner onto the trail I was surprised to find it had been leveled and paved. I was also surprised to see how many people were out running, walking, and biking the path. This is very different than I remembered it, but perhaps not in a bad way. When it was rough and washed out and remote feeling, I never saw many people using it. Strangely, the people I did see on the trail back then were kind of scary looking and acted like they were out there doing something they shouldn't be. Today, the people I saw were exercising and enjoying the fresh air. I also noticed today, that the name of the path has been changed to the "Sebago to the Sea Trail." I like the sound of it.
Out to the Windham parking area and back is about nine and a half miles. I decided I would go all the way to the Windham lot, but walk the last mile back to the car for eight and a half miles. I am trying to be very disciplined about following my training plan. I want to build up gradually and get faster and stronger without getting injured. In other words, I want to be smart about it. I hear you asking, "what's the big deal about an extra mile and a half?" and the answer is that I know myself, one day it's an unplanned extra mile or two and the next day it's an extra thirty followed by an unplanned week off. Give me an inch and I'll take a mile...or thirty. It's easy for me to run really long and really slow. I'm tired of being slow!
It was nice to check my watch at the mile marks and see I was right around eight minute pace. I don't see that on technical single track. It also felt good to stretch out my stride and get up on the balls of my feet. I am naturally a toe runner, but technical trails slow me down enough that I start rolling off my heel more. My lower back was spasming from the hard surface by the turn around point, but not unbearably. I need to build up my tolerance for pavement running anyway, because in the winter I am often forced out onto the roads.
I am not normally a proponent of pavement, but I have to say that this path has evolved into something very nice. I saw several elderly people at the Windham end, a few in wheelchairs and one with a rolling walker. They wouldn't have been able to use the trail a few years ago. I also saw many middle aged couples walking or jogging together, two men commuting home from work by bike, a group of power-walking women wearing business clothes, moms with strollers, and lots of dog walkers. I love the remote wooded dirt trails of Southern Maine, but they aren't appealing to everyone. My mother, who taught me every cliche I know, always said, "each to their own." It sure would be boring if we all had the same interests and preferences. Apparently, a paved bike path is what the Standish/Windham area needed.
This back country runner of the woods has to admit, I really enjoyed my paved bike path run today!