Archive for December, 2009

20
Dec
09

frustration or hypothermia

Cabin Fever – Whiteout – 4 wheels good, 2 feet bad?

I’ve been increasingly frustrated over the past few weeks at my inability to fit in a run. The new job seems to be taking up a lot of time and also sapping my physical and mental energy. I’ve managed 2 half-hearted runs and a couple of sessions of free-weights in the past 14 days. I’d planned a run on Friday as I was scheduled to be working from home but I awoke to find snow about 20cms deep and roads and paths tricky to walk on let alone run.
Today, beginning to get impatient at my lack of physical exertion and with the thermometer nudging the wrong side of zero, I donned tights, shorts, 2 long sleeve tops, 1 fluorescent and reflective jacket, gloves, buff and fleece hat and set off in the dark of the evening for, what turned out to be 7.7kms.
Owing to East Herts District Council’s reluctance to grit paths, the entire distance was run almost exclusively on the road. And here, I have had a revelation. Generally, I have found that the larger / more expensive the car, the bigger the arsehole driving it. Enormous 4×4’s, designed for testing and rugged terrain and driven by insecure men, rumble past just inches from me, usually accompanied by much blaring of horn and shouting of abuse from within. I was clearly visible in my (ridiculous) fluorescent and reflective get-up and running against the traffic so could see what was approaching, yet many of the drivers were so concerned that I hadn’t seen them that they would drive straight towards me and helpfully blast their horn without trying to avoid me. Or shout out that I was running on the road – obviously they thought that I had not seen the snow covered kerb and had strayed accidentally. And it was the drivers of Land Rovers, Mercs, Jags, Audis… never the Vauxhalls or the Citroens or the Fords. I feel that there is some sort of research required into this. Maybe a University thesis.
But apart from the road rage, the run was great. The cold was, well, cold but as there was no wind didn’t cut through you. And once warmed up, the run enjoyable and the air crisp and clear. There were patches where there had been no attempt to clear the ice and these were tackled tentatively as I had no desire to go knees in, feet out like Bambi but I arrived back home feeling rejuvenated.
I am hoping that the job will settle down a bit in the New Year and things can get back to normal. As it is, I am struggling to find the time / energy to get out and run. With that in mind, I’m not sure if I’ll get another blog written in the next few days so I’ll take this chance to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas and leave you with this years Xmas Number One.

Soundtrack to this post: Killing In The Name Of – Rage Against The Machine

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06
Dec
09

It’s Grim… Race Report

No Car Blues – Swampland – The Grin Challenge

Anyone who read my last post will now that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tackling the Grim Challenge. This was solely because of the intensity of the last few weeks, starting a new job, doing a large amount of driving and not very much sleeping. So the thought of tackling a notoriously muddy, cold and wet 8 mile run on very little sleep and 2 weeks of no training did not fill me with joy.
Add to this the fact that the dealership that were supplying me with my company car (and my transport to the race) failed to get it sorted and I was, less than 12 hours before planning to leave for the race, still trying to organise (for the 3rd time!!!) delivery of the car that was to get me there. After a fairly abrupt phone call to the dealership during which I threw many toys out of the pram, they assured me that the car would be with me at 7a.m. on Saturday morning – 35 minutes before I was due to leave for the race!
True to their word, the car was delivered at 7a.m. and I quickly checked it over, signed all the paperwork and then threw all my bags in the back and headed off to Aldershot.
I arrived a little before 9a.m., met up with Hauling My Carcass and his LG and went about getting prepared, dumping my bag, visiting the Portaloo… the usual pre-race routine. The assembled competitors and the smell of Ralgex lifted my mood and I was by now very much looking forward to what lay ahead. There were many overheard conversations about the mud, the water, injuries obtained in previous years. Hauling My Carcass and I assembled at the Start and I felt it only right that we should celebrate this moment so I reached down, took some mud and smeared a little on each of our faces. We were ready.
We had been advised to avoid the puddles for as long as possible but once the race had begun, trying to stay dry and clean seemed futile so headed straight through the first puddles we could find. The first mile is fairly easy and we had decided to tackle the race at a steady, easy pace. Aiming to run at 10 minute miles, I quickly settled into a rhythm. A few big puddles and a hill in the first 20 minutes set the tone for the first half of the race and very soon I was really enjoying being there, amongst other runners, ploughing through mud and puddles, across scrubby fields and along rutted woodland paths. At the 4 mile mark, we were slightly off 40 mins so within our target time. This was the only time I checked the watch and things were about to get much more demanding.

It's all about to get very messy.


We could hear shrieks from a few hundred yards ahead and were soon about to find out why. A long puddle, thigh deep and stretching for about 75 metres in front. And the first sign of spectators. Loads of them, lined up with cameras and football rattles, gathered to watch us all, run, wade and slide our way through the mixture of dirty water, mud and clay that slowed us all to a sticky, trudging lurch. What makes these swampy obstacles more demanding is that you have no idea how deep it is going to get and every step becomes tentative. One minute you are up to your ankles, the next step takes you thigh deep and you emerge unable to feel your feet and a good portion of your lower limbs. But you cannot help but enjoy it. There is something hugely fun about disregarding any worries about your timing and just concentrating on staying upright and finishing. The remaining 4 miles are tougher than the first four, with a cargo net, more puddles, more swamp and a very technical final 2 miles that takes you up and down inclines, through a series of craters and finally through another long deep puddle just a few hundred yards before the finish. I was beginning to find it hard at about 6 and a half miles, weighed down with water and clay. I was regretting not being able to train for the past couple of weeks and also only tackling approximately 10kms in the runs I had managed. As I neared the finish, I was glad the end was in sight but also really enjoying myself. I must have looked absurd as I waded through the final “water feature” and crossed the line with a huge grin on my face. My time was 1:35:53 but that wasn’t important. I had finished the Grim Challenge and had a great time in the process. It is messy, and uncomfortable at times but that is the point. And the feeling of acheivement and the look on everyone’s mud spattered faces as they finished is second to none.

Soundtrack to this post: Police Truck – Dead Kennedys

03
Dec
09

oh, it’s going to be horrible!!

Nowhere To Run To – Mud and Mayhem – The GrimCam

There’s been very little running activity in the past 2 weeks. I’ve been finishing off my freelance work and starting my new “proper” job. Unfortunately, that has entailled trying to sort out about a million things including making 2 weeks worth of travel plans and arrangements. So far this week I have been to the Midlands 3 times and London once. Next week is looking like a day in Lancashire, a day in Leeds and a day in London with Thursday and Friday still unplanned. And as I sit at a desk, or on a train, or behind the wheel of a car, I can feel the fitness ebbing from me which is bad news as, bright and early Saturday morning, I need to get myself up and out to get to the Grim Challenge – 8 miles through mud and puddles and water. And eight months ago it seemed like a good idea. Well not exactly a good idea but at least an interesting idea. And now it is only 48 hours away, it seems like a horrible, barbaric idea and I can’t believe I could have been so stupid. I know that it is going to be one of those events that is horrific at the time but once it is completed will be the subject of many a “do you remember when we did that…” conversation.
Also, my partner in crime for many of these ridiculous endeavours, Hauling My Carcass, has discovered a way of streaming photos live from the event. So any particularly sadistic readers can log on to his blog on Saturday morning from 10.30 and see the two of us run / wade /crawl our way through all manner of messiness. It’ll be like the good old days… Saturday is, after all, Tiswas day.
Once Grim is out of the way and my work begins to settle, I am looking forward to getting back out and running properly. I have a couple of weeks grace before starting to train for the Wokingham Half Marathon in February so need to buckle down.

Soundtrack to this post: Tutu – Miles Davis.




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