Archive for December, 2010

30
Dec
10

dressing in the dark

Christmas Eve and I decided to run. With snow and ice still thick on the ground I set off and followed what I suspected would be a fairly clear route. And by and large it was clear up to a point… a few nimble skips into the road to avoid the icy patches but mostly clear. Until I reached the other side of town where, it appears, the gritter gave up and thought “Sod it… they can get to the train station, they can get to Tesco, what more could they possibly want!”. So I found myself at the opposite end of the town to where I wanted to be and surrounded lots of very icy patches that needed to be traversed if anything like a reasonable running distance was to be accomplished. So I carried on, picking my way through black ice and snowy patches, running on the road where I had to, sometimes resorting to gingerly tip-toeing whilst hanging on to something all the while getting more frustrated that this wasn’t really a run if most of it was spent at less than walking pace. I did however learn 2 very important running truths, namely;

1) Running shoes are useless in snow & ice – for all the grip they gave me I may as well have been wearing roller skates smeared in lard
and
2) Sometimes a bad run is worse than no run at all – had I stayed at home I would have just felt a little guilty about not getting out to run and reached for another mince pie. As it was, I was cold, pissed off and disappointed that I had wasted nigh on an hour to creep, fearfully, for little over 7kms. Pathetic.

I vowed not to venture out until all that nasty snow and ice had melted which was, it turned out, the 29th Dec. The day I had agreed to get up early to run my parents to the train station.
Now, agreeing to get up at 5.30am to drive to my parents house, collect parents and luggage and then drive them to the train station is entirely different to actually dragging myself out of bed at 5.30am, getting dressed in the dark, making a hurried breakfast before setting off in a cold car in the fog. But, the upside of this was that by 7.30am, I had completed my good deed for the day and was able to get out for a run before the rest of the family had even woken. It did require an enormous amount of creeping around and, for the second time that morning, getting dressed in the dark. Running gear is very difficult to identify using only the gift of touch but a quick check before leaving did verify that everything was in the correct place and the right way round. The only flaw in my plan came not long after I left the house and was merrily getting into my stride. It was still a bit cold and I reached into my pocket to pull out what I thought was my gloves only to find that in the darkness I had mistakenly stuffed a pair of socks into my pocket. Still, 10.7kms and back just as the family were waking and in time for my second breakfast of the day.
Soundtrack to this post – Pablo Gargano – The Runner (trance mix)

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17
Dec
10

once more before the snow

Random. That’s what my last few runs have been. Now, deep into “the season to be jolly”, I’ve had to get creative to squish in those runs. The day after our works party last week (which consisted of a Jack The Ripper Tour (after all, nothing says Christmas quite like the murder and mutilation of East End prostitutes!!!!!) followed by a curry in Brick Lane), I felt the urge to get out and run even though I suspected the remains of the curry was still gurgling and fermenting within. So an 11.8km run was executed late in the day, in the dark and still with the odd patch of black ice to spice up the proceedings. Clearly I wasn’t going to be breaking any land speed records.

Then Sunday morning, and with a packed day ahead, I managed to convince SonNumberOne that it would be fun for him to accompany me on his pushbike. And it was – but it did make for another very slow run what with the frequent stops to wipe dripping noses, the pushing of Son and bike up hills and one impromptu stop to administer help and sympathy when he wiped out – his front wheel losing grip on the wet leaves beneath.

Finally, yesterday lunchtime, with my head spinning from proofreading a document so riddled with typos that it resembled a foreign language, I decided to get out for a quick run before the snow that had been forecast plunged us into a New Ice Age. So, with rain and wind threatening to turn into a snowstorm, I set off for a quick exploratory 10kms to see if my favourite towpath route had reopened after it’s closure for engineering works a few weeks back. Fortunately it had and the towpath did a passable job of shielding me from the wind. Unfortunately, the return leg is not along the towpath, so I spent the last 4.5kms running headlong into the wind and now icy rain. 10kms exactly in 58 mins exactly. Not fast, but a run nontheless.

Work has now begun on events for next year… Grim happens midway through January and I’m also now signed up for the Wokingham Half Marathon in February. And there are plans afoot for another European Running Excursion / Road Trip with Hauling My Carcass. More details will follow as and when they become confirmed…

Soundtrack to this post: Harmonia – Watussi

09
Dec
10

mistaken identity

With no Grim with which to punish myself, I’d vowed to get out for a run over the weekend and with a quick phone call to my brother-in-law, a run was arranged for Sunday morning. We decided on a run to, and then around, the lakes near his house and when Sunday arrived, it was a beautifully bright but cold winters morning. I’d noticed a number of well-wrapped-up runners on my drive to the brother-in-laws (most of whom seemed to be walking!!??) and just presumed that as it was such a beautiful morning, everyone had decided to go for a run. After dumping the car at the bro-in-law’s, we set off towards the lakes (about a mile, I suppose) and as we got close to the lakes, a number of people passing began to shout things out to us. As we were talking and running at the same time, we paid no attention. Also, certain members of the non-running community will always decide to shout out “amusing” comments so, as a runner, one gets used to ignoring most of what is called out at you.

Once we arrived at the lakes, everything began to fall into place. We had accidentally stumbled into a Santa Run in aid of a local hospice – the people I had seen walking earlier were on their way to the Start and the comments turned out to have been cries of support or quips about “running in the wrong direction”. Within minutes were picking our way through clusters of runners in Santa hats and a few big-boned gentlemen inappropriately dressed as fairies. My brother in law, who is still recovering from injury decided to take it easy and complete one lap of the lakes, encouraging me to pick up the pace and complete 2 laps then meet him back where we started.

Despite not wearing a Santa hat, fairy wings or even a race number, I was still mistaken for a competitor in the run… As I met up with my brother-in-law, a concerned onlooker leaned over and said “Don’t stop here, mate… the finish is just round the corner, if you keep going you’ll get a good time!”. I didn’t have the heart to tell them…

Soundtrack to this post: Massive Attack – Splitting The Atom

03
Dec
10

ungrimmable

“I think it’s been postponed. Check the website”

This was the content of a text from a friend of mine about 10.30 this morning. So I checked the Grim Challenge website hoping to see that Grim would still go ahead this weekend. After notices earlier in the week about how the weather would not stop them, the organisers finally conceded defeat and put a message on the site today saying that Grim 2010 is officially postponed. “Access roads and facilities are not passable”.
This announcement seemed to cue all sorts of relief from many quarters… So why am I left feeling disappointed at not being able to get freezing cold, soaking wet and very muddy??? I’ve no doubt that immediately prior to the race start I would have been regretting the decision to take part but, like last year, once that first icy puddle is entered, there really is nothing for it but to run, scramble and wade your way to the finish. I know it would now take a very long time to convince anyone reading this that I am not some sort of hateful masochist filled with self loathing but I’m actually not. Honest. Well maybe a little bit. But the real reason that I was looking forward to it were exactly the reasons others seemed to be dreading it – Grim has a reputation for being tough but do-able. And it is. Although because you know it is going to be wet and muddy, it is easier to be prepared for the discomfort. And that makes it perhaps less uncomfortable than setting off for a run and then getting caught in a torrential downpour – it is the element of surprise that catches you out. Having completed Grim last year, the added difficulties of ice and snow once again added to the uncertainty of the event… exactly how cold is a waist deep puddle filled with chunks of ice? How tricky is it running down a sand dune covered in snow? If conditions were bad, would I even finish this year?
So now I wait to hear when it is due to be rescheduled and surely I can’t be the only one who hopes that it happens sooner rather than later.

Soundtrack to this post: Fela Kuti – Don’t Gag Me




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