Archive for September, 2009


rat race report – fear and loathing in london town

Everything But The Kitchen Sink – Money, Money, Money – Tasks, Challenges and Absurdities

Kit… a ridiculous amount of kit. Apart from what I was wearing there was the hydration pack, first aid kit, survival blanket, pen, mobile phone, 2 x “food” bars (everything so far compulsory), sunglasses, baseball cap, light shower proof jacket and Jelly Babies. All of this was packed into another backpack that would hold all my “normal” clothes to wear after the Rat Race. And it didn’t seem like too much considering we were told that registration started at 11am, to arrive early to ensure swift registration and then wait around until 3.30 for a compulsory briefing session, then another briefing at 4.45pm before the race started at 5p.m. So Hauling My Carcass and I were there bang on 11a.m., forms filled out, team name and number sorted (Team Name: “No Hair, Don’t Care”, Team Number: 453). Fortunately, we had arranged to skip hanging around and head back to HMC’s flat for lunch before getting back to Race HQ for our briefing. I say fortunately because a little investigation revealed that there were a pitiful amount of portaloos (approx 10 that I saw) for 1,000+ competitors and nowhere for bags to be stored. If I were a cynical blogger, I would point out that there was, however, a bungee jump (which you had to pay for), a beer tent ( obviously beer needs paying for), abseiling training (for which you pay), a coffee stall (coffee is NEVER free… so another paying opportunity)…. Hmmm… All activities that generate REVENUE. Not like toilets or a bag stash which are both SERVICES. Still, like I say, lucky I’m not a cynical blogger…

After lunch with HMC and his LG, it was a bit of a dash to get ourselves back for the 3.30 briefing and I have to say that it was an impressive sight… 1000 competitors gathered round all wearing identical black “Rat Race” running tops. Maps were studied against checkpoint locations, the queue for the (pitifully few) toilets avoided by ducking into a nearby cafe and asking nicely if we could use their facilities (incidentally, many cafes and restaurants were taking advantage of the situation by charging non- customers to use the loos) and then lurk around by the start for the last briefing before being let loose onto the streets of London. I was fairly nervous as I am not good at heights and was convinced that some of the challenges would involve climbing up things. Watching the continuous stream of bungee jumpers was not helping, so was glad for the race to be underway as I then had something else to concentrate on. The first few checkpoints were very congested as most people headed for them at the same time but after the first two, we seemed to disperse, like bleach in water, only occasionally spotting other teams running to or from the same checkpoints you were running to.

I honestly believed the running part of the race would be easy… How wrong I was. I thought that you would run a mile, do a challenge or swipe your tag at a checkpoint and then run another mile or so until the next one. The time taken whilst performing the task or swiping the tag allowing you to regain some energy. What actually happens is, once stopped, your legs don’t want to start again so after an hour, each checkpoint is a relief followed by a struggle to get going again. So… chests were shaved (HMC), pizza with extra chillis was eaten (me), a magnificent operatic karaoke rendition of Karma Chameleon was performed (both), some sprightly balancing / parkour undertaken (both), bowling (HMC), anagrams solved (both), a cavort in an inflatable ball pool (both), 11.53 miles covered and 269 points out of a possible 400 acheived.
It was dark by the time we got back to Rat Race HQ and people were heading out for their Saturday nights. To the lady who I ran slap bang into near Tower Bridge, I apologise. To HMC’s LG, for devotion above and beyond the call of duty for delivering our backpack and changes of clothes to us post-race from halfway across London, thanks. To the organisers, thanks for a great concept but it would have been better to see you devoting space to things that competitors actually need rather than what makes a tidy profit. All that remained was to retire to a proper London Boozer for a post race drink… In our goodie bags, we had a leaflet entitling us to a free pint at a particular pub. It was just a shame that the pub was closed for a private function! Having found an alternative drinking establishment, we quenched our thirst, discussed our aches, talked about the fun we’d had and guesstimated the distance we had covered. Unfortunately, the whole thing was tainted with the vaguest whiff of Greed.

Soundtrack to this post: The Bromley East Roller – Salmonella Dub


too little time…

Busy, Busy, Busy – Survival Of The Fittest? – Scaredy Rat

It seems that these days, the best I can do is one measly blog a week and for that I apologise. The freelance thing is ongoing and the commute that goes with it eats into my time at a point where I am also trying to do many things.The result being that I constantly feel that I am having to cram everything in to get those things done. And some things slip by the wayside… this week, for example, has been woefully lacking in running. The 4 training sessions that The Regime required of me this past 7 days were whittled down to 2 training sessions through a combination of tiredness and prior engagements. Although I did manage 1 good hour of free weights last week instead of one run and have just finished another hour tonight.

I did my intervals on Wednesday and really notice that the nights are drawing in. I was out by 7.30pm but within 20 minutes, it was too dark for me to train in the park so resorted to performing 3 and a half minute fast runs with a 30 second sprint finishes through the town centre. I must have looked fairly foolish but needed to get them done. Sundays run was 110 minutes so I was up early as the rest of the day was looking pretty packed. I also realised that, although I have had a hydration pack for a number of years, I’d only used it for all day mountain bike excursions and never actually used it whilst running. And I need to use a hydration pack for The Rat Race on Saturday so decided that I’d better get used to running with it. Fortunately, the 110 min run was to be at an easy pace so didn’t get too upset when I spent the first mile or so running and trying to adjust the straps on the hydration pack so that it didn’t move around. The first 2 or 3 miles were fairly uncomfortable and I think I found a compromise in my running style that meant I could still run (fairly slowly) without the pack moving around too much. Although no amount of adjustment seemed to stop the right hand strap from sandpapering away at my shoulder every time I tried to pick up the pace a little bit. So a relatively unimpressive 11 and a half miles in 110 minutes but with the additional weight of 2 litres of water swishing around on my back and one of the straps sawing away at my flesh, I wasn’t expecting too much more.

The remainder of my Sunday was spent with Mrs eatingtrees, SonNumberOne and SonNumberTwo at the newly opened Darwin Centre in the Natural History Museum. I was surprised that there were not more people there considering it had only opened 3 days earlier and we walked around with only a handful of others. It seems to be suffering from a few teething problems… most of the exhibits are interactive and some of the touch screen displays had stopped working. Also, the content that you “collect” on a card whilst in the museum to view on your pc at home, isn’t functioning yet on the website but I am sure that these things will be sorted soon enough. But, it is still worth a visit if you’re around South Kensington – the “coccoon” structure is in itself very impressive and the inside of the gallery well laid out and interesting.

So, last week was pretty packed and this week seems to be shaping up to be similarly full. I am really looking forward to Saturdays Rat Race… it will be unlike anything I have attempted before and am sure that it will enjoyable and perhaps a little frightening. I am not particularly good with heights and there has been mention on the website of “abseiling”… Hmmm! Still, we should be well equipped though as there is a compulsory requirement that we all carry water, energy bars, a first aid kit and a survival blanket…

Soundtrack to this post: Release The Pressure – Leftfield


tired and emotional

Time Of In Lieu – A Quickie – Bike Building And Bristols Finest

Another week of the big commute has seen me struggle to fit in all my training that The Regime requires. In fact I bailed on Wednesday nights intervals as once I (finally) got home, I was struggling to keep my eyes open. Ordinarilly, I would have tried to get out to run quickly before I had time to think about what I was doing, but on this occasion I felt I had worked hard at The Garden City 10 earlier that week and needed a day off.
Friday nights “30 minute steady run” then metamorphosised into one of my beloved “after dark” runs. I didn’t want to take the Garmin and also left my wristwatch at home so I don’t know how far I ran of for how long – I just felt I wanted to get out and run around until I didn’t feel like running around anymore. So that is what I did – the pace felt fairly quick but who knows…

Sundays run was 10k at “race pace”. I got up early to get out and back before the rest of the world woke up and it was very pleasant. It’s been a long time since I’ve got out for an early run and I really enjoyed it. I was feeling very relaxed on the run, finding my stride quite quickly and after a little while, I’d convinced myself that I was running at a good speed and still had some energy so tried to push a little harder. As I neared the 7.5km mark, I also realised that if I could keep up my pace, I might actually beat my pb for the 10k that I set back in May. The last kilometre felt quite hard but finished in 53:33 – 2 minutes and 2 seconds inside my personal best which I was very pleased with. Seems that The Regime does bring results. The intervals have certainly made me faster over 10k than I was but feel I need to work on distance and stamina as the last couple of miles of the Garden City 10 were tough.

So, all in all, a good week. I have had my freelance job extended until the end of October, I have started work on building a fixed gear bike and spent my Saturday afternoon lovingly dismantling a perfectly good push bike to cannibalise for the fixie. A 10k pb today and I’m off to see Massive Attack on Friday. Maybe things are looking up…
Soundtrack to this post: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin


garden city 10 – disorientation

OK Commuter – Playing At Home – Mission Accomplished

It’s been a while since I blogged as, after my last post (over a week ago!), I got a call asking if I wanted a month of freelance work which I jumped at.
And I am really enjoying it – the place is cool and all the people are good folk. The only problem is that it takes me an hour and a half each way to get there and back. And it’s not a nice “read a book or nod off on the train” type commute. Oh no, it’s 30 miles straight into the centre of the City of London and out the other side.
In rush hour.
On a motorbike.
Which takes an awful lot of concentration and means that I leave home before 7.30 in the morning and get home after 7.30 at night, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for fatherhood, training, blogging or any of the other things that we all struggle to fit into our days.

Having said that, I have been following The Regime and had also been trying to tailor it with last Sundays inclusion in the Garden City 10. I had been looking forward to this race for some time – I grew up in Welwyn Garden City, so I was, in effect, running on my home turf. Also, at 10 miles, it is a good distance – longer than a 10k but not yet a Half Marathon and fitted right in with where The Regime says I should be. And a last minute decision by Hauling My Carcass to join me (rather than tackle his scheduled Half Marathon) meant it also became a bit of a day out what with Mrs eatingtrees, SonNumberOne, SonNumberTwo and HMC’s LG all attending.

The race itself is unusual in that it is basically 2 loops around the Industrial Area of Welwyn Garden City. After leaving the school field, you quickly find yourself running through a succession of subways, cycle paths and residential streets, switching back on yourself and disappearing into an underpass only to reapper a moment later on the opposite side of the road. I know the town well, having spent almost 20 years living there, and even I found I it hard to keep track of where we were. Anybody expecting to see the “sights” of Welwyn Garden City will be disappointed as the race stays well away from the town centre and many of the prettier parts of town. The two loops are quite comfortable at around 5 miles each (there’s a slight deviation at the start and finish but it is basically the same route) and you head back round for the second lap knowing that you’re half way and that there are no surprises ahead. Someone I spoke to after the race criticised it for being “a dull route” but then added that she also ran it last year so… surely if it was soooo dull, you wouldn’t feel the urge to repeat it? Who knows???

All I can say is that I found the whole thing very organised and enjoyable, the race HQ was in a local secondary school so there were plenty of toilets, plenty of parking,friendly marshalls, a good bag storage facility and refreshments from the school canteen. Add to this that there was a 1k race for kids that took place on the school field whilst the main race was in progress and that the 10 mile looped round in such a way that if you were a spectator, you could see the runners loop past 4 times without moving more than 200 yards from the school, everyone was kept entertained.
And they announced your name over the tannoy as you finished. Nice.

I did enjoy it although I did find it hard. The quick succession of a descent into an underpass and then the ascent out of it made my legs tire quickly. It was also the first time in a long while I had tried to run that sort of distance at a race pace. I’d aimed to run it at consistent 9 minute miles meaning I should have finished dead on 1 hour 30 mins.
My actual time was 1:30:18.

Soundtrack to this post – Downpressor Man – Sinead O’Connor

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