Posts Tagged ‘Grim

05
Feb
12

dark and cold – a grim night terror review

I set off in the car for this race with a little trepidation. For a week or so people had been warning of heavy snow and all reliable sources pointed to it arriving in Aldershot by 6pm. As I left the motorway at the Aldershot exit around 4.30pm, the first few tentative, tiny flakes began to fall. I met up with Hauling My Carcass and we agreed that this was, without a doubt, the most ridiculous thing we have agreed to do to date… and there have been a few ridiculous things. Some very ridiculous.
Once we had collected our timing chips from the happy and efficient people in charge of timing chip dispensing, we sat in the car with the heater going and sighed and shook our collective heads at the absurdity of it all. It was minus something or other on the thermometer and we were about to run around an Army Vehicle Testing Track in the dark. Ironically, on the drive through Aldershot to the event, I saw a lone soldier pounding the streets in boots, combats and a khaki t-shirt… “poor bastard”, I thought, “he’s probably annoyed a superior and this is his punishment”. And yet I was about to undertake something similar, for fun. What is wrong with me???
When we could not sit in the warm (and in denial) for any longer we ventured out and joined the other be-headtorched runners for the start. We were told that the route had been amended as the large puddles were covered in four inch thick ice that, even if it were broken with a sledgehammer would be impassable because it “would cut you to ribbons”. And on that cheery note we were sent running off into the night.
Anyone who has run the Grim Original would recognise parts of the course although it takes on a very different appearance in the dark and covered with a dusting of snow. Everyone seemed in good spirits as we picked our way round 2 laps of the course. Personally I had a couple of (self inflicted) issues – namely, the day before the race, my new superbright headtorch went “pop” whilst on a final pre-race charge. Never one to miss an opportunity to bastardise something when just buying a replacement would be far more sensible, I took a high power hand torch and gaffer taped it to the existing headtorch’s head band. Obviously, during the race it rattled around on top of my head, dimmed sporadically and gave intermittent light as the contacts inside made and broke the circuit in time with my feet pounding the icy surface. Secondly, I dug out an old pair of running shoes in which to tackle the frozen ground…Another schoolboy error as I have been doing almost all my running in VFF’s and, without wishing to sound like this, I now find it really hard work to run in regular running shoes both because of the additional weight and the way they contort my feet whilst running.
Those minor niggles aside, the event itself was great – plenty of parking, friendly and efficient staff looking after bags, timing chips etc. Plenty of good natured marshalls who stood in the freezing cold to make sure we were all safe and who offered well needed words of encouragement all evening. The route was just challenging enough and the organisers decision to shorten the route for safety reasons (it ended up as just over 10.6kms) was a sound one. The course is a good mixture of forest path, technical and rutted tracks and sandy climbs and descents. Add in the odd strobe light and loudspeakers around the course intermittently blasting out heavy breathing and blood curdling screams and you have a fun and challenging evenings running.
Apparently, there was an after race party, but the ever deepening snow meant that many, like myself, chose to forego post-race festivities and aim to get home before the roads became a slushy, icy mess.
I would definitely do it again… a Spring/Summer one would be great. It could start later, go the full distance and incorporate some of the mud an puddles we all love.

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14
Jan
12

darkness

With Grim Night Terror less than 3 weeks away, I decided now was as good a time as ever to order a proper head torch. I had a silly little one that was enough to use for changing a fuse in the dark but nowhere near substantial for an 8 mile run around MOD property in the pitch black.

So good old ebay was trawled and a suitably cheap (£12) and suitably bright alternative was purchased. Once it arrived, there was nothing for it but to take it for a night time test run. Out and back along the canal towpath should do the trick so I set off a little after 5pm for an 11km trot. I was worried that the light would slip off my head once I began to work up a sweat but it stayed put and worked admirably. The only modification required was a dab of Blu Tac to hold the adjustable lens in position – a trick discovered whilst training for last years Dunwich Dynamo. 

There was something very peaceful about running along in the darkness with only about 3 metres ahead visible. Bushes to the right of me faded away into the darkness and to the left of me there was about a metre of mud and grass before it all dropped away into the inky (and no doubt icy) blackness of water flowing along the canal. Steam from my breath occasionally caught the beam from the headtorch creating ghostly glows in front of my eyes. It was all very surreal.

Good fun though… and now I’m looking forward to Grim even more than I was. I just need to find something to strap my (weak) right ankle as if I can twist it running Grim in the daytime, imagine the damage I could do to myself in the dark.

Soundtrack to this post: Orbital – Dr Who

06
Dec
11

grim original 2011 – wetter and better

Saturday marked my now annual participation in Grim Original. This was the third time I have taken part – you can read the previous years experiences here and here.
Grim is always fun – attracting, as it does, reasonably serious runners who don’t take themselves too seriously. On the start line this year were, in addition to the scores of slightly nervous looking runners in normal running attire, a number of men in dresses, a few in just speedos, one in the MOST HORRIFIC MANKINI and another in the best cardboard and gaffer tape approximation of Optimus Prime I have ever seen. All this effort to run, wade and crawl through puddles and mud and over obstacles.
This year the organisers had tweaked the course slightly to abbreviate what has become known as “the boring bit” and included some additional obstacles such as logs, railway tracks and some concrete blocks. This does actually make the course beter, if a little tougher, as they all come in the last half of the race when you are soaked and muddy and begin to get tired.
This years race was an odd one for me for a couple of reasons – Firstly, it was surprisingly mild. Last years event was postponed until January as there was snow on the ground, puddles were frozen solid and roads were impassable. Not so this year which was a positively balmy 11 degrees and had me wondering weather my combination of long sleeve top and wooly hat were perhaps a little pessimistic. Secondly, this was the first Grim at which I managed to slightly injure myself, going over on my right ankle within the first couple of miles and then subsequently as it was weakened, about another 4 times before the run was complete. Not enough to stop me from completing but enough to temper my usual child like glee that I have squelching through mud and jumping in puddles. And besides, the ankle now, 4 days after the event is a quite fetching mixture of blues and mauves and purples.
It is a great race, made much better by the loss of “the boring bit”, the addition of the extra obstacles and the increased amounts of rain in the days prior to the event making the puddles that little bit deeper and the mud that little bit squelchier. I’ll be back next December but before that I am already signed up for Grim Night Terror in February – more of the same but at night. With just headtorches. I can’t wait.

Soundtrack to this post: Rocket Juice And The Moon – Here We Go (Live)

20
Nov
11

catching up

Ah, where to start? Blogging has taken a bit of a back-seat recently as work and gigs have filled my time. Work has been both busy and disorganised and has meant that things that should be a cinch become a painfully slow process of chasing and re-chasing to very little avail. Fortunately, the gigs (Red Hot Chili Peppers at the O2 and an impromptu Sisters Of Mercy at the Roundhouse) have punctuated this agonising grind with little pockets of joy. And with seeing The Beat this Thursday and The Selecter scheduled just prior to Xmas, there should be enough live music to keep me smiling into the New Year.
Unfortunately, Survival Of The Fittest did not materialise as I had a press invite that then evaporated at the last minute, leaving me without a race in November.
Still, I do have a place for Grim on 3rd December and that will be wet and muddy and will make up for November. And it’s not like I haven’t been running. In fact, I’ve been doing around 30-35kms a week, almost exclusively in the Vibrams and really enjoying it. Today’s little excursion was a foggy affair along the canal towpath with very limited visibility for the best part of 12kms. I arrived home cold and covered with a sheen of moisture, some of which was sweat although I am sure the bulk of it was mist.
And talking of Grim and poor visibility, I am planning to enter the Grim Night Terror which takes place in February and, unsurprisingly, at night. From the website, it looks like a fantastic event as it takes place over the same course as the Grim Original that I enjoy so much but obviously in the dark. As I am a fan of Grim and inexplicably fond of running in the dark I am very much looking forward to it.
Finally, a little thank you for the many nice comments that met with my intentions to run The Berlin Marathon – I think I am maybe still a little bit in denial that I am going to attempt 42kms and I am deliberately waiting until well into late Jan / early Feb before contemplating any “training” but the support from everyone so far has been gratefully received.

Soundtrack to this post: Alice Coltrane – Journey In Satchindananda

09
May
11

notion

Not an enormous amount of running accomplished this week. One 10k in the Vibrams on Tuesday and then… nothing. Partly due to prior commitments and partly due to time consuming and mind-numbing tasks at work, I just did not have the opportunity to get out and run. So when my long Sunday run presented itself, despite feeling a bit groggy from a late night and too much food the previous evening (as it was Mrs eatingtrees birthday on the Saturday), I felt I should at least make an effort. The weather forecast had predicted rain but a glimpse out of the window on Sunday morning revealed a mostly blue sky, a few clouds and gusts of wind. So not bad weather for a long run. I set off hoping to match last weeks effort of 18kms but was unsure how well I’d fare based on the general feeling of sluggishness that seemed to reside somewhere between my brain and my feet.
The first couple of kilometres felt arduous but after 15 minutes or so, the lungs seemed to open up, the legs remembered what they should be doing and it all seemed to come together nicely. So much so, that at the 12km point, I started doing what rappers would refer to as “freestyling”… making it up as I went along: A little extra circuit of the block here, a looping embellishment there. I was feeling quite strong and enjoying being out and running. By the time I arrived back at the end of my street (and with almost surgical precision). I had covered exactly 21.1kms. It felt nice to run a Half Marathon distance, just on a whim, for the hell of it, particularly as the 3 races I have planned over the next 3 weekends are all 10k’s, so I also got a few miles on the clock.
So next Saturday is Grim Beast In The East, which I am very much looking forward to. There should be a few of us competing and will be a good opportunity to catch up and also run the course as an unofficial team, making sure everyone gets across the line. The following week, it’s the Wheathampstead 10k, preceeded by the 2k which the whole family will be running. Finally, the BUPA 10,000 on the Bank Holiday Monday, a great, flat course around the streets of Dirty Old London Town which will probably my first race in the Vibrams (and hopefully a 10k PB too!)
Soundtrack to this post: Beastie Boys – Nonstop Disco Powerpack

02
May
11

worms?

I am constantly hungry at the moment. No sooner have I tucked away an enormous meal, I start scratching around for something else to eat. Cheese. Bananas. Chocolate Biscuits. Perhaps I am looking to replace some of the calories used up in last weekends frenzy of activity? Maybe I am subconciously carb-loading for the 3 races I have in May (yes, an organisational SNAFU means I have 3 races in May… Grim Beast In The East, Wheathampstead 2k & 10k and the BUPA 10k) but what ever it is, I am devouring a huge amount of food.
Fortunately, the second Bank Holiday weekend afforded me a little time to spend eating and also a little time to spend running.
Thursday morning I crept out for an early morning run in the Vibrams. I have upped my mileage in them sufficiently to be able to run roughly 10k in them each time I venture out so a 10.7km run was executed before breakfast. A quick glance at the Garmin as I passed the 10k mark indicated that I had run my fastest ever 10k at 52:51 which set my good mood up rather nicely for the rest of the day. Thursday evening was spent with training partner, bad influence, inspiration, calibrator of the moral compass, epicurean and all round gentleman Hauling My Carcass at Kaslik in Soho, where we had arranged to meet, catch up and eat delicious Lebanese food.
Friday, there was a street party for the Royal Wedding and again the day was spent eating, chatting, eating and eating. Saturday we had friends round for a barbecue (yet more eating and chatting, obviously) and, by Saturday evening, my indulgences were beginning to play on my conscience. I went to bed vowing to get up and run first thing on Sunday.
Sunday morning was glorious and after making the family breakfast and powering down a capuccino, I set off. A beautiful bright crisp morning and I decided I should run off some of the excesses of the previous few days. There was quite a strong breeze and that kept me cool although as soon as the breeze dropped, the sun began to beat down and I tried where possible to run in the shade. I was feeling good so I just ran and ran and enjoyed running. A few deviations from my normal Sunday long route saw me complete 18.1kms. I was actually still feeling pretty good but cut the run short as to return home any later would have meant the rest of the day’s activities would have needed shuffling around.
So, it would appear that I am currently on a bit of a roll… enjoying running and getting just a little quicker without any kind of speedwork, fartlek or intervals. The VFF’s are fast becoming my shoe of choice as my regular running shoes begin to feel heavy and soft. I am intrugued to see how far I can comfortably run in the Vibrams – certainly a 10k race is do-able. Hmmm… then, who knows, maybe a Half Marathon..?

Soundtrack to this post: Zoo Music Girl – The Birthday Party

16
Jan
11

grim challenge race review-smells like team spirit

Kurt Cobain would, no doubt, be spinning in his grave if he could see the dreadful wordplay above but it was too good an opportunity for a pun to miss. Besides, it sums up the ethos of Grim so well it would have been rude not to.
I’d been looking forward to this for weeks… the postponement from it’s original date only serving to make me more keen. So it was, a little before 9a.m. in a field somewhere near Aldershot, myself and Hauling My Carcass stood shivering and discussing how we “should have brought a wooly hat”. The weather forecast had said 9 degrees (positively tropical in comparison to the last month) but failed to mention the chill factor of the wind making it feel more like 2 or 3 degrees.
We had arranged to meet with FitArtist (see her review of the day, complete with pictures here) by “the yellow skip near the Beer Tent” so wandered over, met up and watched Hector play in the puddles before heading to the start. Having done the race before, I knew what to expect but there were a few nervous looking faces around. “Remember, if it looks like more than a puddle, it probably is” and with those words from the announcer we were off.
I learnt two things last year. The first was that there is no point avoiding puddles as it only prolongs the inevitable so it is best to get the first soaking over with early on. With this in mind, I decided at the first sizeable puddle, to run through it. The second piece of wisdom that I discovered last time was that the puddles tend to not just be puddles – they can be deceptively deep and very uneven. I remembered this half way through the first puddle of the day when I took my second step within the water and found that the ground just dropped away from under me causing me to trip and fall forward into the puddle. It wasn’t a text book face-plant but wasn’t far off and I scrambled back up and carried on, very wet and with one hand covered in a strange green clay-like slime from the murky depths. This obviously raised a “dropped plate in the school dinner hall” type cheer from all the onlookers assembled near the start.
Grim is not a race to be taken too seriously ( in front of me at one point was a gentleman who had the legend “if you’re at the front, you are taking this too seriously” written in marker pen on the back of his shirt), so HMC, Fitartist and I had decided to stick together, picking our way single file through the sometimes congested trails. The race covers many different types of terrain and the first 4 miles is full of knee deep puddles and varying surfaces. Through particularly deep or tricky puddles, we clung to each other for stability, sometimes catching others around as they stumbled and it is this cameraderie that really sums up the event. It is a silly idea – running around an army vehicle testing site – and anybody who takes part is advised to bring a sense of humour – there were a few people who looked like they weren’t enjoying it but they were very much in the minority with most prefering to muddily smile their way around the course. There were tough parts – running across exposed scrubland headlong into a wind, the only audible sound the crackle of runners race numbers flapping violently in the gusts. Other parts brought a smile to everyones faces – the muddy waist high swamp followed by the waist high puddle full of hundreds of little yellow rubber ducks. I was fortunate to have Fitartist just behind me for most of the time so my race was punctuated was little gasps, shrieks and giggles as she plunged into swamps and through puddles.

Oh no... another Grim/music related pun!!!


After the big swamp/puddle at between 4 and 5 miles, the race becomes mentally and physically tougher as it opens up to long stretches of running through woodland paths and up several inclines on already tired legs. The sounds of the finish line drifts across the route, making the end sounding closer than it actually is and the last mile is full of short, tough inclines and slippery descents. Both HMC and Fitartist seemed to be struggling toward the end, the former because this was the furthest he had run in the last 6 months and the latter because she has been running each day throughout Janathon. Had I been in either of those positions, I would have been significantly further down the field so hats off to them both for pushing so hard. A final loop with the finish in sight, one more wade through a big puddle and we were, 8.8 miles later, wet, smiling and over the line.
It is such a great event – well organised, fun, unlike anything else I have experienced. Fellow competitors are a friendly bunch and the sense of satisfaction (and this years very cool finishers t-shirt) are great.
And now I remember why we vowed to do it again the moment we finished last year. Fortunately, this year there are other Grim events so am now off to sign up for their Beast In The East….

Soundtrack to this post: Tommy McCook – Heatwave




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