Monthly Archives: March 2016

Happy Hobbit’s Birthday Bounding

Spring has sprung.  Hobbits will spring also.

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Today was a special day.  A birthday for an Old Bird (Smiletastic moniker, not me being rude) and so we had a Birthday Bound up the Porter Valley, with a happy hike up the woods to the view point at the summit.  Really this is one of my very favourite local runs, the view up the top, back across the city is quite something.  No wonder this old bird looks so happy!

birthday bird

She wasn’t only happy to be at the top. We had a nice time getting there.  It wasn’t the most promising of mornings to begin with. I’d already been out for a dawn rendezvous with my Fighting Feather buddies and had a poorly leg.  Also, it was raining hard immediately before our 9.30 meeting time, and it was cold, and our other hobbit buddy had had to stand us up.  (Get well soon hobbit buddy, we missed you, won’t detail your symptoms here!)

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Despite all this, as if by magic, when we met on a chilly street corner, set off our GPS devices and headed off the sun came out and all was well with the world.  I was in extra slow mode trying to preserve my burning calf muscle, I have it on great authority that my priority should be to ‘preserve your fitness’ at this stage – assuming I’m still keeping the Sheffield Half in my sights.  However, I also wanted to nail my 6 mile pledged run today if possible, and my running companion for the morning had the Smiletastic runs the Porter Valley segment to take on today, so it was always going to be a busy morning!  Lucky we went out prepared:

We took it slowly, admiring the views, and in the case of Old Bird, pausing now and again to check out the myriad of ‘Happy Birthday’ messages firing in on her phone at intervals.  It sounds a bit cheesy, but really, today felt like the first day when spring was really bursting through.  Buds on the trees, birds singing their hearts out, and bright sunshine forcing it’s way through the trees to give great illuminating shafts of light at intervals in the woods:

There were some big fat drops of rain now and again, but actual torrential rain held off, in fact the rain and the sunshine created an enormous arching rainbow.  I tried to photograph it, but it doesn’t do the vision justice.  You will just have to use your imagination to see it in its full glory in your mind’s eye at least.

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I wonder who lives in that house by the way… we had mini adventures as always, mud slides and a tree blocking the path at one point, but our tenacity paid off, there was no barrier we could not overcome in our determination to make it to the peak!

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At the top, we admired the view, posed for photos, and felt lucky.

Back down the valley once we started to feel cold.  We loped down, taking advantage of gravity and the ability to breathe to catch up on small talk.  Running may be therapy but talking is too!  Once we got to the segment section, I waved my Old Bird off, she sprinted into the distance, and I followed behind, dog dodging.  We then regrouped, and took it slowly to the finish to preserve my leg.  Also, there were distractions along the way.  A guy way up high in a tree, doing a bit of maintenance, it looked death defying, and was a great source of joy to some passing children who couldn’t have been more excited if they’d seen a fire engine, which most people would assume to be the highest currency thing to spot out walking under normal circumstances!

So that was it, run over.  We did a bit of an extra detour to get the distance up to the requisite 6 miles pledged for Smiletastic by each of us.

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Then to Oakbrook coffee house, where we played table roulette as we did a sort of musical chairs trying to sensibly seat the maximum number of people as the place filled up with new groups just after arrival.  Large lattes and celebratory Victoria Sponge all round.  The latter being unexpectedly good, an under-rated cake perhaps.  Taking advantage of the cafe wi-fi, Old Bird could check out her Strava segment progress.  She’d knocked about 45% off her time!  Blimey.  We had  a suspicion that maybe the only other time she did it we’d been walking down because of ice, but hey, who cares, it’s a fabulous result and an amazing time too.  Whoop whoop, this Old Bird can still strut her stuff flying down hill.  Yay, go you Birthday Bird, sign of hidden strength still to come!

So thank you birthday bird for letting me join your celebratory run.  You were glorious.  May you achieve all your running goals for the coming year!

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Home, and I can report that I found my shoe horn.  Yay, no idea how I lost it, or how handy it was until I did so, but we are reunited now, and all is well with the world.  Be happy y’all, and run wild, run free!

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

We meet at dawn…

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In pursuit of Smiletastic (running club challenge blah de blah) we Feisty Fighting Feathers will do whatever it takes.

  • Dodgy pre dawn rendezvous in car park?  Tick
  • Dubious aliases courtesy of technically literate child gaining temporary possession of fellow Fighting Feather’s phone?  Tick  (wonder if that might be why that particular associated adult/parent ended up with alias of Poohead?  I don’t want to jump to judgement, but you have to concede I may have a point at least…)
  • Charging around a park in the dark?  Tick
  • Anticipatory giggling?  Tick

Reader, we Fighting Feathers had signed up to it ALL.  We are awesome, we are ninja, we are possibly marginally over-competitive and maybe even have lost all sense of reason or perspective.  Also, there was bait.  Hare to our greyhound selves if you will.  Not that I approve of blood sports, or greyhound racing, but the analogy yet seems fitting.

greyhound hare

Let me explain:  The final Smiletastic challenge is to improve speed times over certain Strava segments.  Our cunning ploy of talking to other members of our Fighting Feathers  team (via Facebook messenger, not in real life, obviously, why risk spoiling things by being faced with the awkward physical reality of actually meeting up in person) revealed that a number of us still had to take on the segment in Graves Park.  This segment is basically one of the Graves parkrun loops and involves a big hill.  It is a steep but short section, and I hoped that now I’ve conquered (sort of) the hill up to Ringinglow, this will seem positively tame by comparison, though I fear not.  At least there is some down hill running too to make up for it…

graves segment strava

Speaking personally, it’s a bit of a annoying one to get to, as if you do it as part of parkrun and you are slow like me, you are going to get blocked by other runners ahead of you on th first circuit, and will be to knackered to do it justice on the second, thus, for Smiletastic purposes, completion of this segment requires a special trip out.  It’s a bit too far from where I live for someone of my fitness level to run over to and still have enough energy in my tank to run the segment with any particular turn of speed, so that means driving over.  Seems a faff to drive for such a short run… However, the collective enthusiasm (if not wisdom) of my Fighting Feathers compatriots was such that we cunningly outed each other  in terms of who had this loop outstanding.  Soon enough, we had been named and shamed.   Before I knew it Super Spy 007 Smiley Half Pint had suggested a pre 7.00 a.m. run – last chance to nab the bonus point for early or lates in this the last week of the Smiletastic challenge after all –  and I’d accidentally somehow agreed to be there.  Pre 7.00 a.m. starts aren’t the best, even though I wake early venturing outside and running about at that unearthly hour is another thing altogether.  Also, the clocks have just changed, so essentially we were signing up to get up in the middle of the night.  Nevertheless, I do like a group outing/ project, and one for all and all for one etc.  So I was in.  So were four others.

UndercoverRunner

By the way, in case you’ve been wondering, Super Spy 007 has recently returned from her overseas mission in the US of A, and hence is available to provide in country support and mission leads back in Sheffield now.  Her cover story for her 7 week sojourn was an extended ‘holiday’, but really she did it to ensure no rival members of other Smiley Paces Smiletastic teams would be able to get to the same timed runs as her.  She doesn’t even like Florida, she was honestly martyring herself by staying there just so she could grace Clermont parkrun with her presence.  It’s that willingness to make sacrifices for the team and all pull together that has kept we Fighting Feathers up at the top of the leader board.  We have the end in our sights, we must make one final push to the finish and then our work will be done.

triumphant feather

Inevitably, there was quite a lot of planning, not least working out who would be in attendance, whether or not fancy dress was required (the consensus was not for this one, concern about drag effect of bunny ears within onesies for a start – no monkeying around appropriate here).  Also a particular cause of anxiety was how on earth we four details were  to be expected to run round any part of Graves Park without Dr Smiley (aka broken jelly baby) present to hurl jelly babies for instant energy/ nutrition purposes/ psychological support purposes.  For those of you who haven’t been concentrating, Dr Smiley is a regular participant at Graves parkrun, and when unable to run due to injury or tapering – she always turns up to volunteer, and lobbing jelly babies at runners as they reach the half way point has become her signature dish of support.  Alas, at present she is in injured mode, and hence largely non operational for running purposes.    We did try and persuade her that she needed to come join us anyway, but were left with impression – as far as it is possible to glean an impression through the medium of Facebook messenger –  that she was laughing in our faces at the very idea of voluntarily getting up at that unseemly hour when she can’t even run at the moment.  Some people have little commitment, Fighting Feathers aren’t normally put off running rendezvous by having a leg in a pot and requiring crutches to move about on.  It’s only a broken foot for goodness sake…  In fact, I don’t think it was that which put her off coming, I think it was the early start.

Still, it’s amazing what a bit of collective emotional blackmail on Facebook messenger can do (and actually, it is completely different from cyber bullying, so I’ll thank you to take your unseemly accusations and protestations elsewhere) and soon enough we running quartet were not only pacified, but fired up by a turn of events (is that an oxymoronic description to give?  Half-hearted apologies if so).

Our very own Dr Smiley/ Broken Jelly Baby Dr Smiley is not completely without a heart.  At the very least she can be manipulated by others.  She may need her beauty sleep (don’t we all) but it seems she is also able to fully appreciate the importance of her motivational role, as trainer, coach, mentor, role model etc etc pot or no pot (medical not hallucinogenic variety).  So it was that the day before our morning rendezvous she  whet our appetite and sharpened our resolve with the following poetic treasure map, a pen portrait that would surely lead us to a sweet bounty – things were looking up:

Betwixt the car park and the cafe
Awaits a treat for those who run
A bonus point for fighting feathers
In the hail or snow or sun
Look to the left from on the path
Beside a shocking grey construction
Amongst our Jenny’s lovely flowers
Find the baby sweet confection

jelly babies

This last minute revelation was SO EXCITING I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before.  Plus, there was always the awful possibility that this motivating tactic could backfire if we spent so long milling about the park trying to find them that we missed the crucial pre 7.00 a.m. cut off time and started too late for our bonus points.  We Five Fighting Feathers would need to be highly disciplined, as well as early risers and elite runners to take on this challenge, the stakes were high indeed!

Incidentally, the jelly baby photo above is stolen from the Round Sheffield Run people, they won’t mind, they are lovely, and they have done a great job in documenting the progression of jelly babies running the trails of Sheffield over the last couple of years.  Mind you they are not alone in so doing – below is a Fighting Feathers image by our very own Elevation Queen, she does like her jelly babies.  I fear it may not have ended happily for those pictured below, Elevation Queen and Maths Geek of the FFs together gorged on these and their kindred I believe, but all for a good cause eh?

jelly babies on high

We Fighting Feathers are focused and strong however, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, the other thing I was fretting about whether, post clocks changing, we might actually have to do this run in the dark! Uh on, that wasn’t part of the master plan.  Still, it was 007s fault, sorry ‘idea’ that we’d try and nab the pre 7.00 a.m. run bonus points for the last week of challenge, so I guess that did mean it was only fair that she would call the shots.

Mercifully dear reader, the BBC weather forecast (which never lies) assured us that the sun will rise at 6.45 a.m.  what could be more perfect?  Also, rain due to hold off until 10.00 a.m. and I’m hoping as my previous time was around the 9 minute mark, I should be done within 3 hours time band – hopefully even before 9.30 when car park charges kick in.  Actually, I was a bit fretful about whether the car park would be open pre 7.00 a.m. but one can only fret over so many topics at one time I find.  Probably a blessing.

sunrise and weather

 

So, after much, squawking, clucking and prior preparation, the plan emerged. 06.45 hours, Tuesday 29th March 2016 the Fighting Feathers detail of five runners would rendezvous in Graves Park car park.  There to warm up, and then take on the Smiletastic Graves Strava Segment.  Mission accomplished, a jelly baby hunt would follow.  We had nothing to lose and all to gain.  How exciting!  We would indeed meet at dawn!

I was secretly hoping a Clucky Duck would come across us unexpectedly, for them to witness yet another display of our team work in action like a well-oiled machine would freak them out entirely.  Mean-spirited perhaps, yet true.  I cannot tell a lie…

So it was this morning dear reader, I found I woke up spontaneously about 5.30 a.m.  rather than risk falling back to sleep I made a coffee, and peered out of the window.  It was still dark, and decidedly nippy, but I was still up for it.  I headed off pretty early, and found I had to scrape some low grade ice of the car which was a bit unexpected.  I got to the park entrance about 6.35 a.m. to find the entrance had a massive gate across it. Uh oh, needed to find somewhere to park.

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Mercifully, there was a handy road just opposite, a little cul de sac with lots of space to park.  More of concern to me was that this might also impact on my fellow FFs, what if this made us late and we missed our bonus points?  I walked up the short distance to the car park.  I had the place to myself, apart from a couple of dog walkers.  The animals in the animal park were pretty noises, and the hens and other birds waking up made quite a din.  I wandered over to have a snoop, and came face to face with an owl.  It took one look at me and dive bombed the chicken wire that separated us exactly where I was standing.  It was magnificent, and I couldn’t work out whether it was attacking me or maybe had been hand reared and was trying to get close.  I do know I felt sorry for it.   It doesn’t matter how big the aviary is, and to be fair this one isn’t too bad, I don’t like seeing birds in cages.  Hypocritically though, it was amazing to be so close to it, even if it was a very pissed off owl indeed:

The owl and other animals distracted me for a bit, and then I made my way back to the car park.  At this point it was dawning on me that time was ticking and I was all alone in a deserted car park with a distinct lack of other FFs to join me for our fun running plans:

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So, just as my nerve was failing, an FF came into view.  My I was relieved, two others followed, and we did some enthusiastic mutual and relieved greeting of each other, whilst debating where our 007 Smiley half pint was?  We did some running round the carpark, partly to keep warm and partly to make sure our run would pass the 2 mile minimum run length threshold once we finally got underway.  Not the most imaginative of running drills, but an efficient one!  She eventually materialised, rather appropriately apparently appearing out of thin air in keeping with her strictly undercover modus operandi.  She had the gall to question whose stupid idea it was to do this ‘er, that would be you?’  We others were willing to plead guilty to the charge of contributory negligence for agreeing, collusion even, but initiators of this idea we most definitely were not.  Anyway, pre-run shots were duly taken.

So, let the records show that:-

At the appointed hour, those present and correct (if not exactly bright-eyed and bushy tailed) were:

  • 007 Smiley Half Pint
  • Hobbit – myself
  • Fighting Feather Elevation Queen
  • Fighting Feather currently incognito 1
  • Fighting Feather also incognito 2

Apologies (I use the term loosely in relation to Mountain Goat) were received from:

  • Dr Smiley/ Broken Jelly Baby – injured, but sterling work in hiding jelly babies so we love her best
  • Mountain Goat – she apparently isn’t aware that there are early morning options for hours such as 5.30,  6.30 etc.. as opposed to pm. variants.  She has a point, though I don’t entirely feel describing her fellow team makes as ‘crackers’ for coming up with the plan in the first place was quite in the spirit of comradely support we had been hoping for  – though granted it was a completely authentic response…
  • Poohead – sleeping as rest is just as important as running. Also didn’t need to do this segment, already done, very good point, very well made.  At least that is what I was led to believe… maybe I’m too gullible
  • FF nameless – away skiing (probably not absolutely sorry not to be joining us then, felt ‘apology’ might be stretching it)
  • FF playing away in Saltburn – North Yorkshire seaside basically, very nice, and probably not entirely compatible with nipping back to Graves for a dawn death run round a Smiletastic segment

Other FF members are available, but unaccounted for.  Some injured it is true (cheetah buddy, your running regeneration will happen, give those calves time), some not on the segments anyway so thereby exempt, as for the others.  I like to believe they will have slept soundly as a deliberate strategy and so conserved their running talents to turbo charge other outstanding segments later in the day.   They may of course just have had better things to do than be on Facebook messaging other Flying Feathers on Easter Monday and therefore known nothing of the plan, but I always prefer a good conspiracy theory given half a chance…

We checked our watches, we agreed our game plan and headed off. Gentle romp down to the start point and a final pre-run shot

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After not nearly enough faffing for my liking, we were suddenly off.  The others shot ahead, I lumbered up the rear.  It is undoubtedly motivating having other Fighting Feathers flying ahead.  I was never going to keep up with them, but it was reassuring to keep them in sight, and fun to watch too.  The sun was breaking through, the park looked lovely.  My leg was really hurting, I have definitely knackered it somehow, it’s the speed running that’s done for me, but I didn’t want to give up, and I was pretty confident I’d still be going faster than last time I did this loop which was with a streaming cold at a particularly congested parkrun in the rain.  Head up, arms pumping I just ran as fast as I could.  There was an anxious moment when just before the steep killer hill a dog walker with a mass of half a dozen mutts appeared.  She carefully waited for the other four to pass her before letting them off their leads.  They were polite dogs, but curious canines and I was a bit worried they were going to chase me up the hill.  They didn’t. Onwards and upwards, at least I didn’t break my stride.  Then sharp right turn and slightly uneven path which eventually turned down a steepish hill.  Recent rain had scoured the surface of this and it was wet and gravelly and I did consciously brake, I did want to improve my time, but more than that I wanted to stay vertical.  I soon enough joined the others, and before we knew it we were whooping in mutual celebration and posting for ‘after shots’.  We even found a conveniently located passer by who took a snap for us.  The jelly babies were courtesy of our Elevation Queen Fighting Feather by the way.  A precautionary measure in case we were unsuccessful in the later hunt for goodies courtesy of Dr Smiley/Broken Jelly Baby.

We look pretty pleased with ourselves yes?  Alas, short lived.  One of our number had a calamity befall her.  Despite wearing not one, but two recording devices, neither had logged her run.  Uh oh.  There was no alternative, she would have to run it all again!  Well there would have been another option in my world, I’d have just thought, ‘shame’, and gone home annoyed, she is made of sterner stuff.  A plan was devised.  One would run with her, the other three of us would just gently jog the loop in reverse and cheer her round the last bit.  Also, this meant I could gaze about for a bit and take some photos of the park.  I concede, I’m distracted way too easily.

So, we applauded and cheered our Feisty Fighting Feather on her way, and she went off like a rocket.  It was so impressive it was a bit unsettling.  The rest of us got into position, and then we waited for our compatriot to come into view. When she did, the effort that showed on her face was humbling.  I was once again reminded that maybe the reason I don’t ever get any better is I just am not willing to try that hard and put my body through that.  It is fair to say that some people look elegant and gazelle like running.  Some people. I have a bit of a dilemma here, as generally speaking I avoid putting unflattering photos of other people in this blog as it seems unfair.   On the other hand it seems a shame to miss out on comedic potential when offered up on a plate.  Also, ‘unflattering’ is maybe not the right word to use, I was just capturing the reality of the pain she was experiencing at the time. It is not therefore an unflattering photo, so much as an authentic one.  Should really be on the cover of ‘Time magazine’, or at least ‘Women’s Running’.  See what you have done to us Smiley Elder Super Geek? see what lengths your disciples will go to to make you happy?

So the FF’s in waiting scooped her up and ran with her for the final few hundred metres, even though she was weakly protesting that she could run no more.  I waited for the other FF who’d helped pace her out at the start, and joined her for the final fling. It was fun.

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I slowed again on the downhill gravel path finish.  My bloomin’ leg, it’s not right.  And by the time I caught up with my FF friends, they were in self-congratulatory mood.  They seemed completely unconcerned that our Feisty FF who’d just been compelled to run it all again at high speed was collapsed on the concrete at their feet.  Oh well, all in a good cause I suppose, plus she’s made of strong stuff.  Anyone who admires the FF Team Spirit should look at this photo, it sort of encapsulates what we are all about… for better or worse!

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So, Fallen Fighting Feather was revived, and we hared off for our final challenge, the search for jelly babies.  The clues were pretty fab, and we quickly located the grey man made bin in ‘Jenny’s flowers’ – daffodils, and were rummaging around in the foliage.  I espied the Jelly Babies eventually, but not before having a too close for comfort encounter with dog poo in the bush above them.  I think the legacy of one of those biodegradable dog poo bags being hung in a tree.  The bag had decomposed and a rock of dog poo is now forever welded into place in that bush.  Honestly.  Still, didn’t put us off finding our treasure though.  Dr Smiley/ Broken Jelly Baby, we salute you!

How happy we were.  Final photo session to record our success, whilst our poor Fallen Fighting Feather ran backwards and forwards like a caged wolf pacing, trying to capture the necessary missing mileage to avoid having to go out running all over again.  Suddenly, it was mutual farewells, and scattering to the four winds as we exited the park.  Tired, but happy, and pre 7.00 a.m. bonus points bagged, along with new PRs all round for our Strava segments.  Yay, go FFs!

Mission accomplished, dawn raid paid off.  We shall miss these Smiletastic gatherings in a way, but when it comes to an end we will have memories, and our injuries too, to keep reliving the extra special moments…

 

Categories: motivation, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Romping Rother – parkrun tourism takes on Rother Valley

best things in life are free

You never forget your first time do you?  Wherever you take on your parkrun duck, that memory stays with you.  For me it was at Sheffield Hallam, but for my Endurer buddy it was today at Rother Valley.  I for my part was ridiculously excited to be there on hand for the big event.  Plus, I was a first timer at Rother Valley too, oooh, the joys of parkrun tourism.  Granted, these may seem mysterious, even tenuous to the non-parkrunning community but what do they know.  We mustn’t take the uninitiated too seriously, rather we should pity them.  They just don’t know what it is they are missing out on, and the longer they delay coming along to join in all the fun,  the more distant is their dream of ever acquiring a milestone Tee!

milestone tees

So today is the day after Hot Cross Bun Day and the day before Chocolate Eggs Day.  For some parkruns that made today Easter Bunny Saturday, Pontefract parkrun, I salute you, and by way of tribute, I have lifted one of your photos.  It deserves to be disseminated  more widely to my reader at least.  Luckily this was not a rabbit on the run in New Zealand, or it might have ended rather differently.  As it was, presumably the rabbit was eventually just trampled in a stampede of faster runners coming up behind, like nearly happened today in the Cardiff half marathon to that athlete – Geoffrey Kamworor – that fell over on the start line.  Only the half marathon guy wasn’t in fancy dress.  I think it’s probably a bit hot for Kenyans to train in onesies, but then again, what do I know about the professional running elite, they could spend the whole time running at altitude where it’s decidedly nippy for all I know, and if that’s the case then this garb would be just the ticket?

pontefract bunny

So, for those of you who like the blah de blah, Rother Valley parkrun actually takes place in Rother Valley Country Park.  Although a former slag heap, it is now a 750 acre country park, according to Wikipedia (so it must be true) ‘The Rother Valley Country Park is a country park in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, close to its border with Sheffield and Derbyshire. It covers 3 square kilometres (740 acres), has four artificial lakes, recreational activities and nature reserves. The majority of the park is on the site of a former quarry, with the main excavation sites filled by the artificial lakes. There is still much of the original quarry machinery below the water‘.   Rother Valley parkrun course is generally reckoned to be one of the faster parkruns in these parts, because it’s flat, tarmac (near enough) and just one circuit.  The official blurb describes it as follows:

The 5km loop begins on a rolled limestone road (with a few speed humps to negotiate) en-route to the gate near cable water ski area move on to tarmac, the surface changes again to rolled limestone / gravel path alongside both lakes. Head through two gates at Northern Lake area and then the route takes a right turn after Northern Lake through the causeway between the Northern Lake and Main Lake (next to the play area). Follow the lake path towards the main car park and finish on the grass between the miniature train track and the lake path.
This is quite a flat route and in a lovely country park on the borders of Rotherham, Sheffield, Worksop and Chesterfield.

All very commendable, but what I really wanted to know in advance of attending was whether or not I’d be able to have my precautionary pee on arrival.  I can give positive feedback on two counts here.  Firstly, when I messaged the Rother Valley parkrun Facebook page to ask about the loo they not only didn’t laugh in my metaphorical face, but also replied very promptly and reassured me there were facilities at the start.  Secondly, on arrival, this turned out to be true.  Hooray, no having to run round with my legs crossed, which to be fair wouldn’t have been so much running, more contorting sideways like a remedial-level wannabe contortionist in training, which I am not.  If you do spot me flailing around whilst out running, I’m probably just about to fall over, and you are witnessing my last ditch futile attempt to defy gravity, so stand well clear.

So, Saturday morning parkrun day!  Yay, despite being woken up at 2.00 a.m. by next door neighbours ringing my doorbell to gain access to our flats, I was in fairly good spirits today.  Excited at prospect of being present as a new running buddy was inculcated into embracing parkrun.  I went wild, and had two cups of coffee on waking (feeling hugely confident in the pre-start facilities) and headed off from Sheffield pretty early.  Rother Valley park is easy to find – follow the brown signs though, not satnav.  And all the instructions worked well.  A very friendly and jolly parking official at the gatehouse did indeed charge only £1 for parking on sight of my barcode (it’s normally £3.50 for the day), and suggested I pulled over to let the car behind me overtake so I could then tailgate it to the start.  That part of the plan didn’t really work, as the other driver whizzed by like he’d got lucky in a wacky races rally, but you couldn’t really get lost on the way to the start.

Just follow the road for a mile – trying not to run down any of the more hard core runner that are jogging to the start, turn left over a bridge, and voila!  Car park awaits.  Also awaiting was a quite significant gale.  My it was windy!  I remembered too late that Rother regulars do lament the tendency towards storm like conditions at the park.  It is partly because of the open lake I think, it’s always windy there, but today we have Storm Katie – (or is it Katie McKateFace), to liven things up a bit.

I was initially a bit disorientated on arrival.  I was a bit early, and it wasn’t immediately obvious where the start was.  I got out of the car and went to peer at the lake.  There were loads of water birds, and some impressive looking swans.  Some feral like dogs took their chances plunging into the water after the wildfowl.  I didn’t really approve, but their owner eventually materialised and did his best to call them back.  Whilst not quite a Fenton moment, he was largely ineffectual with his recall, but to be fair, the swans and other birds looked like they could handle themselves, and the dogs eventually got bored and waded out.

I did however locate some very superior loos.  This is one of the best parkruns I’ve been to in terms of pre-start facilities.  There is practically an athletes village.  Loos are signposted, open and have toilet paper.  Later, there is a portacabin where you can leave your stuff while you run, and post run there is a on site café (albeit coffee was a bit below par) loads of seating too.  All very well equipped.  There is even a handy wishing well if you belief in the efficacy of superstitious practises in helping you to achieve a PB.

So, having availed myself of the facilities for my precautionary pee, I was able to peruse my surroundings a bit more.  The location did seem a bit bleak to be honest, it was a grey day, and there was a windswept feel to the place, including lots of blowing about litter and bare trees.  There is a lot of tarmac and road at this point in the park, though less travelled routes and footpaths are hinted at, peeling off from the main thoroughfares.  There was however quite a lot of glorious blossom which was really gorgeous and spring like.  Also catkins and other evidence of nature’s bounty, cute little primrose alongside a dinky miniature railway track – none of which my camera or photographic skills can do justice to.

Other parkrunners started to arrive, and you could see they were headed like pilgrims away from the car park towards the start.  At this point I started to feel fretful as hadn’t yet sighted my endurer buddy.  Eek, surely she wouldn’t have bottled it, that’s not the Endurer Spirit I’m accustomed to.  I hung onto my fleece, amused myself by taking selfies, and chatted to others gathering at the start.  The face is supposed to have captured my ‘I’m anxious because my friend isn’t here’ expression, I fully appreciate it looks instead like I’m impersonating a letter box.  Selfies aren’t my thing.  Nor is running really, but I persevere with both.  These are my road shoes by the way, they have great cushioning but the laces are annoyingly short and I feel they are a bit too narrow for my plate-like bunion adorned feet, but so far (touch wood) I’ve stayed blister free in them, though I’m not over-confident about their tread and grip other than on roads – which is what I bought them for to be fair, so mustn’t grumble eh, mustn’t grumble…

Endurer Buddy had said she would appear as a vision of loveliness in pink, thanks to a recent Aldi purchase, but I wasn’t sure if that was true.  In fact she did eventually materialise, and joy on joy, she was indeed a vision of loveliness in pink, but with the added bonus of poo too.  Pink and Poo!  I should clarify that this was as a consequence of mucking out horses earlier on, and I for one love the smell of horse, so pink and poo in this context is a compliment, eau de horse is, in my view, not only acceptable as a fragrance, but desirable too.  If you don’t get it you never will, that is not my concern.  We could now indulge in the pre-start joint selfie, it was easy enough to snap a couple in which we both looked equally unappealing.  Result.  Equity is everything:

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Also, some attempts at atmospheric start shots, you can see the control hub portacabin, plus a few keenies engaged in warm up stretches and running too.  I should try that I know… mañana…

As parkrun hour drew near, I had to relieve myself of my fleece and remove it to a place of safety.  I’m not worried about anyone nicking it, but I do live in fear of a dog peeing on it whilst I’m pounding parkrun paths.  That’s an animal odour I can do without. So, handy to have the portacabin, a great asset, and placed near the start and finish too.  I happily surrendered my coat to its care.  I say ‘happily’ actually, I immediately felt really cold, that is quite a wind they have gusting over the start.   As if mobilised by an invisible force, I followed the throng heading towards the actual start line.  There was the obligatory briefing.  Welcomes to Brand New parkrunners – applause entirely for my Endurer Buddy I explained (though there were other parkrun virgins too), also tourists and volunteers too of course.  The bit about having to  run with one dog, I explained that this is not actually compulsory, and only going over the finish once.  I also clarified – to our mutual satisfaction I should add, my own rule, no talking and running, and each to run at our own pace – rendezvous strictly on completion.  Inevitably, the cry for ‘off’ came almost unexpectedly, but my Tomtom was agogo, and off we went.  Yay!

rother valley parkrun route

It is a wide start, but I didn’t position myself all that well, and it felt quite congested.  If you want a speedy time you’d need to put yourself near the front.  I wasn’t too bothered, anyway my calf is a bit sore from a long run last week, so I was glad to be forced to start off slow.  The route doesn’t require much in the way of navigation.  It’s basically a lap around the lake.  There were marshals on the way at strategic intervals, I did shout out thanks as I passed, but noticed it was a quiet run in terms of interaction between runners and also between runners and marshals.  The volunteers seemed pleased to be thanked, but I got the impression that the culture here isn’t necessarily to do so as you are running as they also looked a bit surprised.  The terrain is hard paths throughout, not the most inspiring of surfaces, but predictable and good for speed if that is your thing.  I could really see why this particular parkrun is prone to cancellations because of ice though, the wind had got the water up to quite a choppy sea and splashed over the paths at points, the water and wind chill would cause ice pretty quickly I think  as soon as the temperature dropped.

I also used the time circuiting the lake to contemplate my half-marathon chances.  A kindly Elder Smiley Super Geek has offered up some wisdom to make this goal a bit more achievable.  Employing expertise communicated by an interactive spreadsheet, I can now puzzle out personalised predicted finish times based on my previous running times and also projected nutrition / hydration needs.  I am struggling a bit with the notion that a jelly baby could ever be described as ‘nutritious’, and also as a vegetarian I’m wondering if I can even with a conscience stray into that territory of food group.  The advice given so far though is encouraging, practical and helpful, (though also a bit of a wake up call about how I would benefit from doing a bit more planning in advance as opposed to just turning out on the day) and (best bit).  This plan does not extend to doing 12 pre race-day recces to check the pacing is working out OK.  Not my story to tell, but serious commitment there you’ll agree!  Anyway, I’m very grateful for it, and it is tipping me towards making it onto the start line… then again my leaden legs weren’t exactly whizzing me round even 5k today so I am still on tenterhooks as much as you my reader about whether or not I’ll be on that start line!

I didn’t do too well on the eavesdropping front this time.  The field spread out pretty quickly, it’s not a huge parkrun (averages around 200 mark), and because it’s just the one lap, you get stretched out.  I did overtake a few people, but then quite happily found my pootle pace and stuck with that, taking in the views.  Apart from overhearing some quite complex negotiations between a child and adult about at which EXACT tree (the pompom one) they would be allowed to walk at before recommencing running pace.  I gathered there was some not insignificance difference of opinion about that.  I also was pursued by a spitting man.  I’m not good with spitters to be honest, I have a not entirely irrational fear that they might be trying to aim their trajectory of phlegm at my Smiley Paces bee on the back of my running vest.  Oh, have you not seen that – hang on…

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I’ve always thought of it as a bee – it might be a wasp.  It’s hard to tell as it isn’t the most accurate of entomological representations to be fair, but I (and therefore you) have to concede it offers a very specific target.  I understand that some runners do need to rid themselves of accumulated mucus when running, and I don’t inherently think they should be prevented from doing so, I just wish they would aim it sideways rather than forwards. Hilariously, there are whole angry on-line running forums devoted to this very topic of spitting etiquette.  If you feel like grossing yourself out on the full range of issues associated with this theme then Google away and be my guest.  You can exchange views on the perils of blowback, saliva and phlegm consistency and the hypocrisy of demonising say hoodies for spitting whilst encouraging it to ‘clear the airways’ for ‘proper’ runners.  I even found a runners world article/video on the art of the perfect snot rocket, and yes, I think it is absolutely for real – though they do say you shouldn’t use the technique inside!  It covers directional aim; appropriate clothing and blast radius to avoid collateral damage.  Need I say more?  Bet you do follow the link though, however furtively…  On the plus side it did make me pick up a bit of speed, I wanted to either be way ahead, or get overtaken.  I had another companion on the way round.   A walk runner, he kept overtaking me, and then walking for a bit, I’d overtake him slowly, and after a bit he’d pick up the pace again and glide by.  It was good to have the aim of keeping him in my sights.

As you go round, there were two sets of marshals positioned to stop you taking a sneaky short cut and missing out the final loop.  Just as well they were there – the temptation would be pretty strong.  There is a peculiar sharp left handed turn towards the finish that requires you to slow and almost U-turn on yourself.  At this point was a man with two small children who clapped furiously at every runner that passed, it was very sweet and much appreciated at this stage in the game.  From there, it was but a short burst, past the life buoy and towards the finish.  The waves lapping on the shores of the route were pretty impressive by this point, even a few breakers.  Amongst them I spotted what I think was a crested grebe, not seen one of them in ages.  Didn’t even know I could still identify them, but it seems my early years membership of the Young Ornithologists Club was not wasted, even though I only joined because I liked the kestrel badge and my best friend at junior school had already done so.  Shallow, but true.  Not my photo by the way, taken from Google search ‘licensed for reuse’ so here’s hoping that’s true!

Distracted by natures wonders the finish came suddenly.  Smiling time keepers, and I whizzed through the funnel clutching my finish token and a scanner called me over to get my wristband barcode scanned with great efficiency. I had time to retrieve my fleece and camera and took a few random shots of other finishers:

Then headed back down the course to cheer my pink and poo clad endurer buddy back to base.  It was really fun watching her charge around the corner, smiling (which was more than I achieved on my first parkrun if the truth be told) and definitely very much in strong running mode.  I was able to snap a few shots, and then ran in the last couple of hundred metres with her, apart from when I had to stop to take a photo of the miniature train, sorry, couldn’t resist.   My first spoken word (noun)  was ‘train’ I think, and I’ve a soft spot for them.  I had a blue wind up train that went round and round in a small circle of track when I was very small, and it was the BEST THING EVER.   It was lovely being there at the moment conversion was complete, and endurer buddy passed into the Finish Tunnel of no Return.  A great cheer went up from the surrounding marshals as I called out it was her first time, and it seemed to me to be a pretty good baptism into the parkrun community.  Friendly and encouraging folk all round at Rothers I thank you!  Good to see high quality photobombing by the Queen’s representative on earth too, thank you swan, so pleased you weren’t eaten by those rogue dogs earlier.

Embraced by runner’s high, we had the obligatory post-run selfie (yes, I think you’ll find it is actually obligatory, especially after your inaugural run, or if you are in the company of someone who has just completed her inaugural run)…

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and then ambled over to the café.   For future reference looked like they did a good vegetarian breakfast for a bargain £3.50 including hash browns and everything, but we just had a tea and coffee respectively, and then made our way across the courtyard for some undercover but outdoor seating to debrief.  Have to give a shout out for the three large crestfallen dogs outside.  Talk about forlorn, these guys would have you with the RSPCA on speed-dial if their expressions were anything to go by.  Their shiny coats and good body cover told a different story.

So we sat down and nattered and put the world to rights for just long enough to make sure that we had completely stiffened up by the time we tried to stand again.  Gets me every time.  I then agreed to drop my running buddy off at her car, which she’d parked the other side of the lake in some free parking just outside the park.  I admit, this confused me somewhat, had she swum across?  Duathlon attempt seemed a bit ambitious for a first parkrun.  Apparently not, but it was a 15 minute walk to the start from where she’d left her car.  It involved a magical mystery tour through Killamarsh, which was a new adventure for me, as I’ve never had cause to go there before.  It’s always good to experience new things, keeps you alert to future possibilities.  So deposited her by her car, and then swept off to the tip, because I had some stuff to recycle and I know how to multi-task (athletics meets environmentalism) and also have a good time at the municipal waste site.

So goodbye to Rother Valley parkrun.  Thank you for your hospitality, thank you volunteers and fellow runners too.   I’m sure we’ll be back.  Would I recommend romping Rother?  For a rollicking Rother romp, not just for alliteration purposes, absolutely.  Happy running!  Until next time, the parkrun gear is safely tucked up and away,

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but the parkrun dream lives on in our hearts because Saturday is henceforth parkrun day not only for me, but another willing recruit and what’s not to like about that?

 

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still sitting on the half-marathon fence

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Splinters in your arse are just the start.  It is amazingly and tortuously uncomfortable to be sat on a fence for any length of time, and I’ve been astride these metaphorical railings for far longer than is healthy.  It goes right back to that first decision ‘to run or not to run‘ when I sort of ended up entering the Sheffield Half Marathon by accident back in the mists of time. Technically it’s the Yorkshire Half Marathon I think, but I don’t really care about nomenclature here, much more worried about the distance.  It is a long way.  Too long for a hobbit, probably.  All those weeks ago I think my reasoning went along the lines of ‘what’s the worse that can happen?‘, ‘it’s ages away, I might even train a bit‘ and ‘as long as I don’t inadvertently blurt it out and tell anyone, I don’t have to actually turn up at the start line on the day‘.  The clincher was that old ‘what the hell…’ philosophy, even though I’m not completely sure it’s actually true.  It’s not my immaculately manicured thumb in the photo incidentally, just in case your judgement, senses and all capacity for reason had temporarily abandoned you and you thought it was.

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So, having worked on the basic, unfailing principle that if you ignore something for long enough it might just go away, time has passed, and I have come to realise that the principle is not as unfailing as I had first thought.

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The marathon is now just a few weeks away, and inexplicably, I have not transformed myself into a lean, mean, muscled running machine, I have instead rather hung on to my hobbit like physique and fundamental tendency towards inertia.  I know it’s a myth about ostriches burying their heads in the sand by the way, and if I was an ostrich, I don’t think I’d be worrying so very much about having to run a half-marathon, they are awesome athletes.  If I had legs like that I’d certainly leave the rest of the field for dust AND probably get my own spin off reality TV series  as well, so no need to ignore anything very much then.

Running last week was particularly dire.  I only made it out for one run, and due to being away from home and other stuff, my diet consisted largely of digestive biscuits and chunks of cheese.  Whilst such cuisine was not inherently unenjoyable (au contraire), it was also not conducive to achieving a svelte waistline and athletic frame.  I don’t think Mo Farah would eat like that training for an event.  In fact,  I think he mainly eats Quorn.  Actually, so do I, but I haven’t turned in to him either.  Strange, but true.  The prospect of even starting the half marathon, much less finishing it, seems to be ebbing ever further away.

On the other hand, if I don’t do the Sheffield half this time round then realistically I never will do it, and there is that irritating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) echoing in my head all over again plus the unhelpful ‘conscientious if not keen‘ gene, that makes me feel obligated to go through with things that I have made a commitment to do, however unwisely.  Also, (touch wood), I am miraculously still uninjured.  Apart from my crumbling arthritic feet, which isn’t really an injury just a perpetual state of being, I’m basically OK.  A lot of my fitter, more committed running club friends, gurus and competition goddesses (Smiley Paces members I salute you all) have been pushing themselves through the winter months and, whilst they did some awesome running times, some are now limping about, nursing strains and pulls and even stress fractures.  Mind you, Dr Smiley can still go faster with a pot on her leg and on crutches than I can in a sprint, but I won’t draw undue attention to that…  I feel I sort of owe it to those who can’t now take part, to give it a go and to at least show willing by turning up on the day.  Plus I have promised Roger an outing, and that bit at least I’m looking forward to – showing off my very own pony after a half century wait for an equine of my own!

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So why am  I posting this now? Maybe, because at this precise moment I have no idea whether or not I am going to run, and it might be interesting to look back and see what was happening with my motivation once Half Marathon Day has been and gone. Exciting isn’t it?  Which way do you think it will turn out?

When I was down South last week, I walked into Kingston and found I was crossing over the bridge over the River Thames,  just as a stream of runners was emerging from the tow path, whizzing round the corner (some runners were more ‘whizzy than others to be fair’) and dipping back into Home Park from, where they’d run on to Hampton Court Palace.  It was a clear but cool morning, there was a cheery band by the riverside that burst into energetic songs as groups passed, and loads of Hi Viz marshals on hand to clap them round.  Turns out, this was the Hampton Court Half Marathon confusingly, there is another event called the Original Hampton Court half which happens in February, but this is a different one, very bizarre.  Anyway, that wasn’t the point, the point was, watching all those runners, pounding onwards I found I felt quite emotional. They all had looks of grim determination about them as they were entering mile 11 (or thereabouts).  They weren’t finding it easy, but they were doing it.  At that moment I felt a wave of not only admiration, but a sense of really wanting to be a part of something like that.  ‘That looks great!  That would be amazing!  I’d love to be part of that!’ I thought, probably erroneously.  As the conductor waved his choir into a rousing chorus of approval, and the rhythm of so many tiring feet thudded their trainers on the ground it all seemed perfect…

I kid you not.  Almost as a reflex response to my having this thought enter my head, the next runner I saw came round passed me, then lurched into a fence at the side of the pavement, grabbed hold of it, and promptly threw up.  Hmmm, maybe not quite such a great advert for running, and also a much needed reality check… or not. That’s the point, I really don’t know!

Hours later, I was in the car, driving back to Sheffield, and I went past the finish area for the event.  It was on the Hampton Court Green for those of you that know the area.  It had that post-event/ post-festival air.  The finish funnel was empty, there were a few stragglers hanging around, and walking away from the event some limping, but smiling runners wearing the biggest and best medals I have EVER seen.  No really, these give the Percy Pud Christmas Pudding a run for best prize ever…. Then I spotted a woman walking towards the finish. She was really struggling, sweat pouring down her face, she wasn’t having a good time, but, and this is the point, the end was in sight and she was bloody well going to finish what she started.  I didn’t think that was weak to be coming in so late, possibly even last, I thought that was strong.  She was awesome, every step was an effort but she had that medal in her sights.   Yet again, I find that it isn’t always the strongest runners that really inspire me, but the unexpectedly resolute against the odds.  Swift runners impress me certainly, they are awesome, but they impress me like a cheetah does.  They show extraordinary running prowess, but they are also an entirely different species to me. I might as well compare myself to them as reach out and touch the moon (I’ve tried that, it didn’t work). That woman showed serious resolve, if anyone or anything can get me to that start line it will be the image of her, putting one foot in front of another, persevering with gritted teeth.   I know she got there, I just know she did.  What’s more, she wasn’t even in fancy dress – I’ll have an advantage over her with that alone.

So, whilst I’m still not saying ‘yes’ I’m not saying ‘no’ either.  I like to keep my reader on their toes.  On balance, I think if I don’t try, I’ll never know, and that will be really annoying.  If I do try, and it’s terrible, I don’t have to ever do it again.  Admittedly, sloping off undetected by abandoning the race half way round might be a challenge with Roger accompanying me, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  Walk of shame could be a tad conspicuous in the circumstances.   As for coming last, I’ve done that before, it’s fine, as long as there is an anecdote in it, it really shouldn’t be a deciding factor.

As things stand, if I stay injury free, and unless Roger trots up lame on the day of the race, I think I’d like to give it a go more than I’d like to risk missing out.  This is highly likely to end up as one of those ‘I’m not sure if I enjoyed myself, but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it‘ sort of occasions. We shall see.  Also, I blame Eddie Izzard. That man is a machine.  Twenty-seven marathons in as many days (double marathon on last day due to logistic problems – seriously?).  And all to mark Nelson Mandela’s period of imprisonment, one marathon for each year.  Now, I’m honestly not putting myself in the same category as either Eddie Izzard or Nelson Mandela, just in case you were wondering, but I am thinking it does rather put in context my angst over tackling a measly half within staggering distance of my own home.  Lawks a lordy, I can walk it.  They are doing a series about Eddie Izzard Marathon man by the way, must get round to watching that some time.  He does walk/running too apparently, so it must be a legitimate tactic.  Also, he looked like he was about to die at the end, and that part I’m really confident I can replicate, I look shite on finishing too!

So there are some positives here after all.  Some bits of marathon running I have nailed… as for the rest?  Let’s just say I’m working towards excellence in the bits relating to the actual running part, but everyone starts somewhere, why not me?

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Categories: half marathon, motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hobbit Hashers Hurrying Headlong

Is it blood?  You know, that metallic taste you get in the back of your throat after you’ve run ’til you thought your lungs had burst?  Well I think it probably is, and that mine probably did, but it was all in the fine cause of Smiletastic betterment.  Let me try to explain…

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So for the uninitiated firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, Smiletastic is a series of running challenges, designed by the All-Seeing, All-knowing, All-awesome, Smiley Elder Super Geek of the fabulous Sheffield Women’s running club Smiley Paces, to keep club members running throughout the dark and dank winter months.  Split into teams by date of birth – or witchcraft, I forget which – we individually and collectively have to complete various tasks month by month.  You might think this would be for some reward, but apparently not, running is its own reward.  (I know, not the most convincing of incentives, but stick with me).  The challenges have been unrelenting, strava art; timed races; long runs; monkeying around.  Imagine a running enthusiast with exceptional creativity, a slightly too keen interest in spread sheets and with a penchant for organising runners and you’ll get the general idea.  Be honest, if you had a group of 60 plus runners willing to carry out your every command and indulge your slightest whim, wouldn’t you start pushing out the boundaries as far as you could and then sit back and watch the fall out unfold?

Despite my initial grumpiness at being required to run, it has been fun on the whole, and whilst when each new challenge is unveiled my default reaction is despair, my more considered response is that you do get a sense of not inconsiderable satisfaction once they are achieved.  Plus it has definitely got me out and running loads more than I ever imagined possible, or possibly desired, but hey ho, serves me right for not reading through the small print in the terms and conditions when I signed up for Smiletastic in the first place.  Plus I have become a convert to Strava, though I did rely on a local running shop to set it all up for me.  I was a bit dubious at first, never needed it before blah de blah, but now I fear I have a growing addiction to its delights.  If it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, and it seems, that is never truer than when trying to bag some Smiletastic segments…  oh haven’t I said yet?  Well, this month’s challenge (apart from the Strava Art Easter Bunnies) was to re-run five selected Strava segments, but way faster than previously, to sort of measure progress over the year I suppose. Well, that was the official reason given, really I think it was the ultimate spreadsheet challenge, five segments, 60 plus runners, endlessly shifting times and alteration of table rankings, it’s a Geek’s paradise, surely?   Did you know that last year there was a Spreadsheet Day by the way?  I hope there is one this year too, I’ll look out for it.

Spreadsheet Day is usually in October apparently and in case you can’t summon the energy to follow the link because inexplicably you don’t really care about spreadsheets, let me enlighten you as to the history of this day with the following short but pleasing extract:

A holiday sure to appeal to some people more than others, Spreadsheet Day commemorates the date that VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program for personal computers, was released – October 17th, 1979. Since its beginnings, Spreadsheet Day has grown to become a day for celebrating both the advantages and the aggravations of working with spreadsheet software.

History of Spreadsheet Day
The idea for spreadsheet day came about on February 2010, when the importance of spreadsheets in day to day business operations, and in fact living, became apparent to its creator. By the following October, celebrations were underway…..

How to Celebrate Spreadsheet Day
It all begins with recognizing how ubiquitous spreadsheets are in modern life. Every business uses them to manage their books, and data for everything including names and numbers of members and much more. Following on the heels of that, you could take the time to learn how to use spreadsheets and design them for your own lifestyle….

They’re surprisingly easy to use, and can help you balance your budget, prepare shopping lists, keep track of important dates and people, and just about anything else your imagination can come up with. So take Celebrate Spreadsheet day as an opportunity to get your life organized!

A holiday sure to appeal to some more than others indeed, as they say… and plenty of time to plan for celebrations if it is essentially a winter festival.  Could do it instead of Halloween, swap favourite spreadsheets door to door instead of going out trick or treating perhaps?

Anyway, up shot of all this was that for today’s hobbit hash, me and fellow hobbit decided we’d have a bash at a couple of the segments and take a bit of a detour from our normal yomp up the valley.  We had ground rules of course.  NO TALKING during the segment runs, (LOTS OF TALKING between them).  As much energy conservation as possible coming up to the segments, shuffling half heartedly up to the start points, then regroup before turbo charging off to Take Them On.  (In our dreams anyway).

We met at 8.30 a.m. in our usual spot, actually a bit before because we saw each other approaching it and got into step with each other lamenting the morning’s news (bombs in Brussels, blimey).  We were so absorbed in conversation that we headed off up the hill and then I nearly had a panic attack as I hadn’t set my watch.  I turned it on, and then it wouldn’t pick up a signal.  I actually retraced my steps in the interests of exactitude, and then floundered about waving my arm like a drowning Tai Chi practitioner’s last gesture manifesting the art, I was increasingly desperate.  It did eventually register with a pleasing buzz, and we could recommence our yomp with a more regular heart beat!

As always, we started up the hill with some aplomb, before recognising defeat and falling back into a walk with a half-hearted shuffling run in it now and again to show willing.  To a spectator, I wonder if we would have looked like those much reviled badminton teams at the Olympics 2012, who worked out that they’d do better in the event by losing their heat.  Both teams deliberately tried to do so, resulting in pitiful performances that rather brought the sport into disrepute.

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Similarly, we were doing just enough to persuade ourselves, and maybe the casual and ill-informed viewer that we were trying to run, but not enough to convince a more critical eye.  Still, we needed to keep that fuel in the engine if we were to take on those Strava segments and smash our former times!

It was jolly enough to begin with, we shuffled upwards and onwards, putting the world to rights, eventually though, and with awful inevitability, we approached the mile long up hill stretch towards Ringinglow.  Eek.  It was almost comical really how we slowed as we approached the start point.  Our nerve failing us.  We stood on a corner in advance of the segment eyeing it with suspicion.  We each listed our various ailments and all the reasons why this would be really hard.  We also gave each other pep talks.  It wouldn’t matter if we were slow as it would only pick up any improvements, slower running could be our little secret.  No, it wasn’t a legitimate tactic to stop the watch en route and have a little breather before restarting – besides which that probably wouldn’t work.  We faffed about for ages.  It was a bit like waiting at the water edge before jumping into a cold sea.  You know it has to be done, and once you commit to the idea it probably won’t be as bad as you think, and also that ultimately, you just have to take the plunge and if you enter tentatively it will be way worse.  Three, two, one, we’re off!

taking the plunge

Unusually, and unexpectedly, I took the lead.  It was a bit alarming to find myself running alone, and up front as fast as my little legs would carry me with no-one to follow and nothing but a hill ahead.  On the plus side, I didn’t have to worry about navigation, it was basically a straight line, and although I was slightly unsure of the exact segment end, I figured we’d have it nailed.  Knowing my hobbit buddy was right behind me was quite motivating, as I was desperate not to let her overtake, and when we got to the only road crossing I took the opportunity to glance behind me and she was on my shoulder which gave me the motivation I needed to keep on moving.  Left to my own devices I’d have caved in and walked at that point for sure.  It seemed a long, long way up that hill, though actually I think it is pretty much exactly one mile, we finished in a heap, breathless, just ahead of the Norfolk arms.  I knew it had to have been faster than first attempt as we’d also done that together a few week’s back, and we’d been able to chat together whilst doing so. This time we couldn’t even talk at the end of it, legs a-wobble and panting hard, but we felt chuffed.  Neither of us knew how to extract that time from our watches, so we’d have to wait until we got back to check for sure, but we were confident we would have smashed our original Smiletastic times.  Yay, segment one, tick!  I will overlook the fact that we are on different teams so in some ways our efforts cancel each other out, we still did it, and we are therefore awesome, ninja etc.  Also, it suggests I do have another gear in my repertoire of speed, albeit one I intend to save strictly for emergency purposes.  Definitely felt the high on completion, definitely don’t want to have to run that segment at that pace ever again!

Smiletastic Ringinglow Segment – looks so innocuous does it not?  Ho hum.  Let the records show that I improved on my previous time by 25% whoop, whoop.  I will gloss over the fact that some of this remarkable increase is made less than remarkable if you knew how slowly I’d lumbered up it in the first place, nevertheless, progress has been made, let’s celebrate that!

smiletastic 2016 ringinglow segment

So, once we had recovered our breath enough to mutter mutual congratulations at each other, we turned back down the hill, along the footpath that cuts through the alpaca place (gawd how depressing that place is, collapsed shelters and over-grazed paddocks – lovely alpaca though who come across to check you out).  We recommenced our chit chat, loping along down the valley.  We noted the last lot of dumped rubbish had been collected and sighed with inward relief that for now at least there was no more. Oooh, how I’d love to put a camera trap up there and catch the perpetrators, I’m sure it’s the same people every time, it infuriates me the fly tipping.  It’s bad enough to put litter and rubble, but last time out it was detergent chemicals and sump oil that was perilously close to the stream.  Makes me mad, it really does.

Soon we found ourselves approaching Forge Dam, and so the next segment was in our sights.  My hobbit companion was asking me where it was, and I had to say that whilst I was really confident I knew exactly where it was she would have to understand that running based on my recommendation was entirely at her own risk for Smiletastic points, and also, at the end of the day we are in different teams.  She being a Rowdy Rooster and me a Fighting Feather, so each to their own eh?  On this understanding, we identified the start of the run – it was just adjacent to a higher route that was temporarily blocked off – we did briefly consider running our segment, then nipping back to move the diversion signs to prevent any other Smiletastic runners from coming after us subsequently and also improving their times. We abandoned this idea quite quickly.  Partly we thought we’d never get away with it, partly it would potentially disadvantage our own respective team mates and partly that we conceded hilarious as the idea was it might be deemed a tad anti-social in respect of other users of the Porter Valley footpaths. Plus, we couldn’t really be bothered.  What run full pelt and then voluntarily retrace our steps so we’d have to then run it all again?  I don’t think so!

We lingered at the start, each willing the other to take the initiative.  It was ridiculous how we had to somehow pluck up courage to do a section of run that we normally do pretty much every week.  Somehow though, the pressure was on.  Eventually, I took the metaphorical plunge and headed off, with hobbit two in hot pursuit.  This is a joyful part of our regular runs.  A gentle down hill gradient, lovely woodland location, pretty firm path (icy in winter sometimes) – I was a little hesitant about running it in my road shoes (which I’d put on in deference to the first smiletastic segment which was all on road) – but it had been dry and in fact I felt pretty confident haring off.  Well I say ‘haring’ that’s a relative thing, obviously.  I led the way and felt strong, it was further than I remembered, there’s a sort of false finish, when you can see some houses through the trees and I always think that means you are about to hit the road, but in fact it weaves away from you rather than across the track.  I/we had two points where we had to almost stop due to erratic passage of small dogs.  One forced me to brake suddenly as it looked scared and I thought it would be anti-social to storm by, so I jumped sideways and walked a couple of steps before picking up speed again.  Honestly, hard to know if that really will affect my time or whether the brief pause gave me new momentum afterwards.  I might try again next week just to see.  I finished and seconds behind was hobbit hasher buddy.  We both found a suitable stone to sit on for a bit, instinctively putting our heads between our knees for a bit, grimacing smiles at each other, but not able to speak.  When we did, we were truly proud of ourselves.  We’d done, it, really pushed ourselves, and we weren’t obviously broken and nor had we either fallen over or been sick – all of which had felt like very real perils as we ran.  We felt awesome.

We got our breath back and continued homewards at a gentle self-congratulatory jog.  We said our goodbyes at the corner of the road where our paths diverged, and jokingly quipped how annoying it would be if the runs didn’t show up on strava after all our efforts! Ho ho ho, oh how we laughed!  As if that would ever happen!

Porter brook smiletastic segment

Hobbit buddy made it home before me, so as I fired up my computer and was waiting for my Tomtom to do its mysterious syncing, updating and transferring of data, a message pinged up to me through Facebook from my buddy?  ‘What happened to segment two?’  Uh on, this is more than a little ominous….  surely a wind up?  I anxiously uploaded my run – for me, result.  Phew, both segments recording,  both showing a significant improvement (25%) – there is some weirdery at work.  Specifically, although the time is correct for my Ringinglow segment it doesn’t say it’s a PR (no big crown/ medal thing alongside the time by way of celebration).  On reflection, I think it might be because it has recorded a PR for a longer section that subsumes the shorter bit within it.  However, hobbit buddy, though her run is shown as taking place with me on Strava, hasn’t had her Porter Brook segment recorded.  To us, and our collective brains this seems unfair, inexplicable and wholly mysterious.  We consult with others, we learn of new phenomena such as satellite drift, we try to think up options.  We may feel small in the great universe, but we have a strong sense of justice and an internal streak which is either annoyingly stubborn or impressively tenacious, depending on your perspective.  This situation does not compute, how can the run be visible on the Strava map, but not appear within the relevant segments section?  In the end, I discover a help link for Strava  which covers exactly this scenario Strava Segment Matching Issues  – better yet, there is a link to get support.   An email is sent, and within an hour, no really, incredibly quickly, all is not only explained but resolved:

Miko Tron Chase (Help Center) Mar 22, 12:58 PM

Hobbit (actually, they did use her proper name, but I’m protecting her identity for security and confidentiality reasons),

Sorry for the trouble. I’ve corrected the minor gps tracking error that caused the mismatch. Take another look over things to make sure it looks right.

Best, Miko Strava Support Team

This lifted our spirits.  Better yet for hobbit buddy, the correction actually brought her down the valley faster than me  … no worries, I’ll get it back off her next time…. and we were deliriously and quite possibly disproportionately delighted at how it all unfolded.  Thank you Miko at Strava, you can never know the joy your tweaking efforts (no, not twerking) have brought to we two in the age of Smiletastic.  How amazing for you to be in a job that is so transformative to the lives of others.  You must sleep well at night thinking of the good you have spread through the world…

So, as the bard himself reminds us ‘All’s well that ends well‘.  It ended well for us.  Segments smashed AND recorded as such.  Plus, we discovered our inner strength both literally and metaphorically.  After all, who would think two hobbits could overrule a satellite and influence Strava?  Shows that through the Smiletastic challenges we have come to understand that we can do anything, we are invincible, we have grown as runners and as human beings.  Today Strava, tomorrow (or thereabouts) world peace… we can but hope… meantime we would all do well to remember, we are more capable than we know!

more capable than you know

 

Categories: motivation, off road, road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Day of Reckoning? Endurer Dash the rematch.

Time vampire warning.  If you want to read this, it might take you longer to do so, than to actually participate in one of these 10ks, so read on if you will, but at your own risk. If you are bored by it, then you must at least concede contributory negligence on your own part.  Absolutely no refunds, no exceptions.  Recommended for procrastination purposes or scrolling down for the photos, not recommended if you don’t like long-winded self-centred personal observations.  You have been warned.  Continue at your own risk and you’ll get my subjective account of having Endured the Dash at Sherwood.  Maybe you’ll recognise your own experiences in it too, or maybe you wont.  You get to decide.

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One day we will all look back on this and laugh.  That was what I was telling myself the morning of the Endurer Dash.  Feeling cold just looking out of the window at the dark skies and snow covered ground.  Did I really pay to put myself through this ordeal – that’s not right.  Surely someone should be paying me, A LOT, I can no longer remember what possessed me when I first entered all those many moons ago….  The story goes something like this.

What was I thinking?  Awash with the endorphins surge associated with having survived a near-death experience after last year’s Endurer Dash in the Peaks, I misguidedly rushed to re-enter the event for when it came round again in March 2016.  At the time of entering I had fondly imagined I’d be better prepared 6 months on.  I’d have trained loads, I’d have the advantage of knowing what to expect; I’d have slimmed down to more manageable proportions for the purposes of being carried round by my counter parts. What could possibly go wrong?  You can tell how misguided my brain was in the post-run oxygen deprived fug that is common to elite athletes after running ultra marathons, and also to me after running for a bus, by reading my earlier blog post on the Endurer Dash in 2015 In fact, in terms of ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ the answer is it seems: ‘Quite a lot actually, thank you for asking.‘  Right at that moment, I was kicking myself, have I learned nothing from my past mistakes?  What hope for me to make new discoveries then? What are these portals of discovery of which others speak?

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I did train a bit more in the interim.  But is it bad to admit this was partly because of the opportunity to stroke a cat?  This incentive is routinely offered by the Abbeydale Sports and Social Club as they have a cat Jerry who regularly pops across from neighbours to hang out in their reception area snoozing on the sofa and caught in a sun trap. Go to a class early, sit nearby and if he thinks you are worthy of such attention, he’ll come and adorn your lap, and give you a good affectionate pummelling into the bargain.  It’s very nice.  No wonder cat hotels are becoming a ‘thing.   Only this tantalising possible feline presence could entice me out week after week to subject myself to the battering of core work sessions with the outwardly lovely Marshal who’s dastardly idea it was to enter this ‘fun’ event in the first place.  Whereby ‘fun’ only really works if you inhabit a parallel universe where ‘fun’ is associated with being cold, wet and out of your comfort zone in a disorientating woodland setting in the company of strangers.  I’m just saying.  Day before, this is what I can see through my window.  Not inviting, not one bit…

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So the day before, all I could think about was that from my attic window I can see snow.  Not nice, powdery, delicate flakes, that would be fun to scamper about in as bright winter sun smiled down on it on the morrow.  More wet, anarchic, white out, slushy agitated horizontal waves coming at the window from all direction.  I may not be actually a meteorologist or climatologist as such, but it was suggesting to me that it would be very (and unpleasantly) cold come the day of the Endurer Dash.  I suppose that should make me glad of my ‘silken layer’ of body fat.  It may not be an obvious asset given that I was rather counting on people to carry me round and/or over some of the more challenging obstacles the next day, but could be a boon in the survival situation of potential hypothermia.  What’s more, as most of my sporting companions are healthy eating athletic types I don’t think they’ll want to eat me either if we should get stuck somewhere. I’m likely to be way too high fat for their dietary regimes and I’m sure they are too sensible to do anything like Atkins besides which, that eating plan is soooooooooo last year now, surely?  People do eat one another in survival situations though, so be careful who your journey with.  All in all, if you’d asked me for my thoughts about turning out the following day to do said obstacle course, I think it would be fair I was struggling to find the words to use that would adequately capture my enthusiasm.  Draw your own conclusions.  I had also conferred with other buddies, to tell them to remind me if I came back all enthusiastic again this time, to talk me down, and not let me put myself through all this agonisingly fearful anticipation ever again!

Angst had in fact kicked in earlier.  The day before the day before I went back to said fitness class looking for a pep talk from our tiggerish team leader.  What if I break every bone in my body, get buried in snow, or just have a horrible time?  I posit to my fitness trainer.  She is deaf to my protestations.  She is only able to ooze positivity and speak of the joy we will feel overcoming all and surviving as a team with evangelical zeal. In her world, ‘teams’ only thrive under adversity, they do not shatter into toxic self-serving sub-groups, bitter with mutual mistrust and end up eating each other.  Clearly she has been self-employed a long time now and has forgotten how relations work in the ‘real world’.   She can see no barrier which cannot be overcome, no adventure that we will not enjoy.  She has forgotten the bit when I googled last year and came across an account from someone who confessed they spent the whole time on the course ‘crying and telling her team mates to F*** Off’!  Good grief, I am coming to think she actually believed my giddy  account of last year’s endeavour and has failed to remember it was just the survival endorphins speaking!  I was really beginning to lose confidence in her leadership skills. Unfortunately, I am conscientious if not keen (as regular readers will know) so I feel committed.   What’s more, she has a list of attendees, this amounts to an attendance register.  If I bail out now, I will be forever expunged from her Christmas card list at the very least, and, what’s more, will never be able to show my face at one of her core conditioning classes ever again (every cloud as they say…).  Also, I have already paid for my place, plus there is that constant fear of missing out, FOMO is a truly terrible thing. On balance, it is quite probably worse than undertaking an Endurer Dash.  So it would seem to me at least…

FOMO

Who knows where it might lead?  In this case to a scary wood in the snow.  Basically, I was expecting it to look like this.  It might appear to be a winter wonderland, but who wants to be out in that wearing only ill fitting lycra and having to negotiate large obstacles?

My enthusiasm was definitely ebbing.  After some robust negotiation, we agree that naturally I will be there, but I reserved the right to throw all her positivity straight back in her face if she finds herself stuck atop a particularly terrifyingly high obstacle, or worse, splattered on the side of it, clinging on by her fingernails.  I got from her, her consent to say ‘helpful’ things like ‘It’s fine, you ARE having fun, you are just over-thinking everything.  So what if you break one arm, you have two don’t you?  You simply aren’t trying hard enough to enjoy the adventure- just get over yourself and throw yourself into it a bit more…. Oooh, ouch, maybe not quite like that though, that looked like a hard landing…. Nevermind, only 49 more obstacles to go and 9.5 km, put on a smile, that’s the spirit!‘ etc.  Actually, thinking it through in those terms did cheer me. She may have taken it as good humoured banter, but I filed it in my ‘in case of emergency’ thinking folder for future reference.   Plus, she gave a proper promise that we’d stick with it,  all for one and one for all.  Or was it fall for one and all will fall?  I get confused…   Bottom line, we would all bring our unique talents to the table, but what could possibly prevent us all from getting round in our own special way?  Bring.  It.  On.

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So that was just about my mental state prior to the day of reckoning.  It’s complicated isn’t it?

Oh hang on, you still don’t know what I’m talking about?  Well, for those of you who like the blah de blah, this is an Endurer events obstacle course, taking place at Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire in March 2016, the official blurb says:

Planned to be our biggest Endurer Dash yet, we will be bringing the same passion for exciting trails, challenging obstacles and epic courses to Sherwood. The pines already has awesome climbs, water features and winding trails. We will be supercharging the course with the most obstacles in any Endurer Dash to date, and probably any other obstacle races you have been to!

Expect the return of favourites such as the 8ft walls, monkey bars and epic crawls. But the new additions should really get you excited! The slides will be super-sized, the water will still be cold! And we’re currently working on even more new additions, that you wont have seen anywhere else!

Note, their use of the term ‘favourites’ to describe the 8ft walls, monkey bars and epic crawls is somewhat misguided, but they are tremendously keen these event organisers.  You have to give them credit for that.  Just as you have to give me and my fellow Marshal’s Mudders slightly distorted credit for being living testament to the power of hope over experience.  Seriously, does this look inviting.  Is the strap line for their poster ‘Epic weekend of muddy hilly obstacle-fuelled hell’ really welcoming?  I repeat, what was I thinking?

inviting

So finally it came.  The Day of Reckoning… Good oh.

I woke ridiculously early, having had nightmares last night, not about the Dash as such, but some bizarre thing about being pursued by a psychopathic madman whilst staying in a hotel.  I don’t know why either.  This early start meant I could at least have a pre-dash porridge and coffee (loads of time to digest) and, listen to ‘Hood’ on Radio 4 eXtra (it seems there is in fact a station on the wireless other than Radio 4).  This was apt, as it was an adaptation of Robin Hood story, albeit a somewhat unrecognisable one, still, helped for getting me into the Nottingham mood, given that I’d be awf to Sherwood Forest myself in a bit.  My weather check (sticking arm out of attic window) confirmed that it was definitely cold, but no actual snow falling, and the roads were clear which was good for safe driving, and bad for using that excuse for get-out purposes

Despite living on my own, and therefore having no residential audience to bear witness to it, I had a major tantrum about which top to wear.  I had  a PK Fitness one, but it was deeply unflattering, and photographers are promised on the course.  Plus, my usual top has little thumb holes so you can hoik the sleeves down which is good for warmth.  I know ‘proper’ runners would be horrified at my propensity for wearing too many clothes whilst running in events, but the Endurer although nominally a 10k run, potentially involves a lot of queuing and hanging around at obstacles, especially if you are part of a big team.  I didn’t want to freeze out there.  Reader I went for thermals under my running gear, I know it’s wrong, but we could be out there for hours.  What’s more, writing after the event, I can report this was a good call.  Also wore pimple palm gloves and proper grippy off road shoes.  Very necessary. The shot was taken after the run by the way, I am quite OCD about cleaning my shoes after running and sometimes even my leggings between runs too, just so you know…

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After final paranoiac check of websites for last minute updates (and also in the not terribly subconscious vain hope that it might have been cancelled) I saw that for example – for registration we were advised we only had to remember our name, that should be OK.  I double checked the  postcode for satnav purposes.  Complete change of clothes (including bra and knickers.  I am not making the mistake of driving home in wet icy cold underwear after the run again like last time out.  Eduring the dash is one thing, enduring that level of discomfort without even the prospect of a medal when you’re done is quite another) –  and I was ready for off.

Slight delay in car park as I had to remove a lot of snow from the car.  In the process I got my nice dry gloves soaked pre-departure, oh well, taste of things to come.  I did briefly ponder driving to Sherwood Pines with the windows down and in my running gear, to help me pre-acclimatise to the cold.  Note, I said briefly.  I quickly decided that if I did so,  I’d just increase the likelihood of needing air ambulance to rescue me half way round, and opted instead for full fleece, alpaca scarf, and heating on full blast throughout.  Good call.  Satnav, was somewhat mysterious.  I have no idea why it took me the way it did, but it got me there in the end-ish.  The postcode provided actually directed me down a private forestry track, which I did take, but quickly realised was an error.  The map supplied on the registration email wasn’t the most helpful I’ve ever seen, but it was easy enough to find the venue, just a few hundred yards on from the expected turning (head for Go-Ape signs if you are going next year).

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So, finally some signs, and no actual hail falling from the skies, I started to feel quite excited.  I’d never been to Sherwood Pines before, and it is lovely, huge gorgeous atmospheric trees, felt a bit other worldly, quite different from the woodland I usually run in.

Masses of parking – and £4 to park for the day, which wasn’t too bad.  I felt gracious thoughts about the venue.  Amazingly, I found I didn’t want to cry or throw up in the car park on arrival, which is just as well as I’ve since been made aware that this is very bad for team morale.  Anyway,  I followed the groups of people silently moving as if hypnotised and guided by some irresistible yet invisible force.  Are you old enough to remember Close Encounters film from the seventies?  If so, you would have recognised the vacant eyed people being drawn to some mysterious epicentre, a place they’ve never been to, nor seen before, and yet they are compelled to draw near.

En route, you go past Go-Ape – been meaning to do that for years, it is pricey, but it looked fun.  Also, by the by, en route to the forest itself there were signs for a steam railway, couldn’t help wondering if that might increase my speed getting round to the finish…  Following the flags to the start line, spotted some rather plush conveniences.  Was VERY disappointed to be greeted with this sign though:

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Seriously?  Were we not users of the park?  Had we not paid £4 to park?  What’s more, presumably the Endurer Dash events organisers paid a hefty sum for the privilege of being there.  Very short sighted, and extremely poor PR in my view.  Obviously, I ignored the sign completely, and almost felt inclined to crap on the floor in protest.  However, I have a bashful bladder as it is, so dirty protest wasn’t ever going to be happening, I just used the facilities in my coy, clean and very conventional way.  Yes in the loo cubicle, what do you take me for?   Interesting to see that Sherwood Pines parkrun was given a plug on the back of the cubicle doors.   I’d be tempted to do that, if they don’t put up anti-parkrun propaganda on parkrun days that is…  Not a warm welcome Forestry Commission guys… just so you know. Incidentally, is it weird that I took a photo of this?  Hoping people waiting outside didn’t here the camera shutter sound going whilst I was in the loo and jump to erroneous conclusions of any kind!

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Ablutions completed, made my way to start.  Uh oh  – call me over-cautious, but it’s always a worry when the organisers have provided almost as many ambulances as they have portaloos at an event (literally – three ambulances, four portaloos).  One of the ambulances was especially fab though, looked like it was designed for use by lego people, I really hope that’s true!  The portaloos said ‘tardis’ on them, but that wasn’t true, disappointingly not bigger on the inside, not at all.

So, eventually, the registration area came into view.  I always arrive very early for these things, so I’d actually allowed 1 1/2 hours to register.  The enormous queues did take me by surprise somewhat.  It was all good natured enough, but it was on the shambolic end of the continuum.  It just got longer and longer, and didn’t seem to move forward at all.  On the plus side, being stationary for so long made it relatively easy to spot other team members making their way to join the heaving masses.  Also, first sight of start and indeed the finish.  This was encouraging, I was thinking if it was all a bit too much I could think of a B Plan which would be a bit shorter than a full 10k.  See the juxtaposition of start and finish, I know, a cunning plan indeed!  Plus, not a marshal in sight, easy to pull off.

After over an hour of queuing there was some impatience.  The problem seemed to be not enough people and not enough pre-planning.  I gave my name, and had my ticket print out, but that didn’t have my number on it, and that is how registrations were actually listed.  Then the numbers were all in a big heap (not in piles of say 50 numbers at a time), and, the killer, only when you’d had your name found and number dug out, did a chip get taken out of a box and physically attached to the ankle band.  And this process which took a few minutes was repeated for every individual competitor.  I felt for the volunteers who were trying to provide patient and cheerful help, but it wasn’t really OK.  I was fretting I wouldn’t make the start wave with my team, though in the event it started late anyway as so many people were struggling with the queues.  It’s a shame, because there weren’t these problems last year, and it wasn’t a great start to be honest.  On the plus side, there were lots of safety pins, so that was good.

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Fortunately though, I have a short memory, and once I had my tag and number, and my running buddy to hand, we could concentrate on taking in the surroundings, and messing about with fluorescent face paint.  I squashed my fleece, and scarf into my backpack and dumped it behind the registration tables.  There didn’t seem to be an official bag drop, but that was good enough.  Then it was fun to notice a bit more the other people about and the stands.  Funny how prominent the sign was selling life insurance, and I was curious about the OCR people, but there was no time to really check out the stand.  It did look a bit inappropriately red white and blue though, sort of reminiscent of BNP/ National Front though I’m positive that was not their thinking in coming up with their branding.  I’m again betraying my age but it’s true to say that when I was growing up the BNP/ skinheads were prominent, coming from that background and context, I can’t really look at the union jack, or flag or whatever it is, and the camouflage gear and shaved heads and not shudder.  It might well be a distorted view now, but it’s hard to shake off.  Shame, I really would have liked one of those capes…

I was very taken indeed with the cape/ cloaky things.  These I’ve never seen before, and whilst they did look a bit, well, wierd (fetishy at best) they also looked roasty toasty cosy, and the idea is that you can change under them and put them on after this kind of obstacle event when you are soaked through and magically be restored to warmth and dryness.  I’ve seen horse blankets that claim the same, though what’s wrong with thatching say I?  Even so, I concede some clothing envy took root at what I observed:

Face paint on, hugs shared, lots of whooping, found a race photographer (no mean achievement in itself to be honest) and begged them to snap a few shots, what’s more, tracked them down thank you  and we had fun posing.  I have been accused of looking way too happy in this shot by someone who cannot differentiate between mania (bad) and joy (good).  There isn’t a shot of the whole team by the way, other members are/were clearly dissociating themselves from each other at this point.  Maybe working on limbering up in anticipation of lugging some of us round.  You’ll get some idea of who we were though:

teamshotmore of the team pre run

We had a minor emergency when one of our number lost her hair band at the very moment of putting it on.  We enlisted a queue full of people to help find it, before realising it had been on her wrist all the time.  Oh well, I won’t humiliate her by drawing undue attention to that easy-to-make oversight.  I couldn’t help noticing our team leader went to great lengths to add her initials PK) onto each of our faces as well as the fluorescent stripes.   I think this might be the fitness instructors equivalent of a dog peeing up a tree or a man in a sink.  I’m not sure though.  Definitely pronouncing possession.  We all acquiesced, way too scared of her to protest.  Plus, helped us to spot our own team mate.  We didn’t all know each other.  As my running buddy was keen to point out a few may have only turned out based on our performance last year.  We weren’t exactly inspirational, more a case of ‘if they can do it anyone can’ but it’s still recognition of a sort, I suppose…

It seems there was an OCR photographer about who got some nice atmospheric shots like freeze frame cartoons of the ever growing queue, plus excellent shot of the caped crusaders sporting wondrous outer wear and some of the milling about at the start line.  Captures the mood pretty well, so cheers for that Harley of OCR whoever you are  (rumour has it he is only 9, but clearly is a David Bailey in the making at the very least, and has caught some lovely natural shots – a stealth lens user, good job!)

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It was announced that the start was delayed for 15 minutes, so one of our number disappeared off into the Tardis for what she said was a precautionary pee, but what I know was a desperate attempt to satisfy her curiosity about the time and relative dimensions in  space aspects of the constructions.  Two of our team had emergency chip issues.  Not of the fried variety, but of having misplaced the electronic ones.  All sorted, there wasn’t any official warm up, but there was some generic jumping around and good natured cheering and ‘suddenly’ we were off!

A slow and windy start, hah, this is going to be a breeze!  You couldn’t really get going because of the crowds, but that didn’t honestly matter, chance to warm up and get your footing, and enjoy the surrounds.  I liked listening in on other people’s conversations as they tried to recall how they ended up being here at all.  One went ‘so were you drunk when you agreed to do this then?’  ‘Nope, I wasn’t to be honest, though people did keep asking me that, funny…‘  Once we stepped over starting pad, and the continuous electronic hum screamed out that our chips were officially registered my spirits immediately lifted.  It was a slow start which may have frustrated some, but didn’t bother me.  I had that feeling like you get when the train, plane or auto-mobile on which you are travelling finally starts its engine at the beginning of a holiday – this it is, you are officially under way! Yay.  Amongst the mob were the compulsory oompa loompa, half-naked man and a few imaginative team costume efforts.  A few are captured below thanks to OCR photography again.

Pleasingly, a few of our very own Marshal’s Mudders were caught up in the start line photos, not me though, you’ll have to take my word for it I was actually there, though for the eagle eyed, I can spot my pony tail in peripheral view at one point – this photo here- see if you can see me (don’t think the guy in the front was looking for me, but maybe now I’m practically a celebrity blogger, that’s exactly what he was up to). I’m just ahead of gnome woman and blondish crescent of head can be seen slightly to right of her – and ahead I might add.  I might be over fifty, but I can run-ish when the need arises …

the gnome cometh

Seeing these shots again I am beginning to wonder if I should maybe have told our esteemed Tiggerish leader that she really did look like a gnome, or maybe an elf, but definitely a niche choice of outfit.  I’m quite glad she doesn’t take our core-conditioning classes dressed like this.  Oh the day I settled with the cryptic ‘now there’s a look not everyone could carry off!’ and left it at that, I don’t think she suspected a thing…

It was lovely in the forest, the track started OK, but pretty soon muddied up.  Fortunately I’ve been doing loads of off-road running in the last few months so no worries for me.  What with my Longshaw 10ks, routine yomping out up the valley and other bits and bobs it would take more than a few tree roots to break my stride, this is easy peasy, no worries, might even pick up a bit of …. ooooooooooh hang on, face plant.  Full on, face first, mud slide.  Honestly, I’m not sure I even tripped over uneven ground, it is just as likely I fell over my own feet.  I was covered, we’d not even made it to the first obstacle at this point, and I looked liked I’d accidentally forgotten to take my clothes off before undergoing a mud wrap spa treatment utilising one of the more adhesive and dark of the mud recipe options on offer.  On the plus side, getting muddy and soaked early on, means you don’t waste time trying to avoid the inevitable mud bath as you go round.  Saves a lot of time as thereafter you can just splosh onwards regardless.  Plus, I think that means I win the unofficial prize for first tumble of the day (not like that) and also, amazingly, got my first and only injury of the event.  Not a very impressive one, just a bit of a graze on knee and elbow, but good to have the scars to show from the occasion.  Bragging rights secured?  Tick.

We were sort of settling into things at this stage, following the mass of people.  I think from the air we must have looked like a swarm of those leaf cutter ants.  You have a few faster (bolder?) scouts up ahead, who check out the first of the obstacles, then the masses gain on them.  Swarming over the first wall, some climbing over, some clinging to the sides, with the odd individual being carried aloft by others, passed from ant to and (or person to person in this case) like some treasured trophy.  Or heavy trophy.  I forget which.  Well, it was the beginning of the event at this point, so there was more care of other team members and less actual lobbing of them as if they were inanimate objects.  To be fair, by the end speaking personally I was pretty inanimate as an object, it was the only way to get round.

At the first obstacle (wooden wall basically) there was quite a fracas, lots of people swarming at once, but it was good natured, and at this point our team was upbeat and all together.  Everyone made it over, and there was a collective sigh of relief that this was doable.  Plus, it helped the team to gel. A big part of this event is learning to trust your team.  I got over my angst about being so needy earlier on this time round and surrendered utterly to the idea of just trampling over them, keeping only the very British concession of continuously apologising as I did so, but stomping purposefully on their body parts proffered for climbing purposes all the same.  Whatever it takes team.  Whatever it takes.

underway

Over and onward.  Yay.  We were still having a few kit issues – shoe laces to be retied, and more puzzlingly I would swear I witnessed one team member removing a spare panty liner from her shoe and passing it to another.  Whilst I am in awe of others who are so prepared, I was a bit perplexed about how the recipient of said offering would be able to insert that in situ en route.  I can report I read the situation entirely erroneously.  Just shows how careful you have to be about witness statements, I am living testimony to the potential to see something with complete clarity yet have absolutely no grasp at all about what is actually going on.  It seems that far from being a panty liner discretely passed as contraband, it was in fact a magical inner sole, that somehow heats up your foot.  Only it was a bit too effective, hence was being jettisoned.  I’m still a bit doubtful about this explanation in truth, but then google never lies – the product does exist, and whilst the pictures don’t do the similarity of the items justice, you’ll surely get the general gist of the situation.

Can’t remember quite what came next, we yomped on and it was probably the monkey bars.  Here we had a rare marshal sighting also.  The monkey bars were hilarious.  I aborted my attempt as I couldn’t even really reach the bars from the scaffolding and my sodden gloved hands had no chance of gripping on even if I could.  Plus, I hadn’t miraculously developed my upper body strength over night.  Turns out you need to actually do the training you were planning to do in advance, not just talk about needing to do it at some indeterminate future point.  Who knew?  It was fun watching others though.  Some made valiant but vain efforts, a few did dramatic ape-like confident swings, and some cunning idiosyncratic individuals did a sort of side bar shuffle which was really impressive and very effective.  No photos from this, well not when we were there anyway, so you will just have to use your imagination.  Imagine that we were as accomplished in our efforts as these guys (though jeez – how did we manage not to get any shots of our team when so many seem to have been snapped I do not know).   Maybe we were traversing all the obstacles at the speed of light.  Too fast to be caught by the human eye?

monkey bars

Onwards, next notable obstacle was a longish crawl through mud under a cargo net.  This is one of the iconic challenges  for this kind of event, great for action shots with mud and angst riddled faces.  It isn’t technically difficult, you just have to accept you will get ridiculously muddy, as we’ve already established I already was, so quite enjoyed the childish thrill of crawling through inches of liquid mud. I worry sometimes that I am too easily entertained.   Amazingly, I didn’t feel cold either, I suppose a mixture of movement, adrenalin and my thermals succeeding in staving off the hypothermia.  Only down side here was that some, in my view over competitive individuals, did some serious overtaking through aggressive elbowing on the way through which I thought a bit unsporting, but seen worse to be fair.  Here there were some photographers yay.  Two!  Like buses none for ages and then, well two rather three, came at once.  Also, we got to see some oompa loompa action at the wood wall immediately following.  Very entertaining.  I’m guessing that outfit isn’t going back to the fancy dress hire shop, and what’s more for future events, maybe white isn’t the most practical of options.  Hilarious, we were getting in the zone.  More begging for photos, just as well we did, as didn’t see any more photographers for the rest of the day, then awf…

At some future time, it may be that I am able to include here some mud crawl photos, but these are not yet findable, and I hate to think of my reader becoming impatient for my tale of the day.  So we shall just have to live in hope and carry on regardless (sad face).  In the meantime, here is the oompa loompa team so you can appreciate the whiter than white starting point from which he commenced and imagine how well that turned out at the end.  Maybe he was not very subtly seeking some Daz sponsorship for future events.  It might take more than that to restore his whites to their former glory to be honest, but started hopeful and clad in almost bridal whiteness.  Good effort!

oompa team

In terms of sequence of obstacles, it’s all a bit of blur really in terms of what happened when.  The general gist is that we headed onward.  I think my favourite obstacle came next.  It was relatively simple – though daunting at first sight.  A wooden wall you had to climb up, and then a plastic slide – which had dried out but was supposed to be soaked with water and foam) which you could whizz down afterwards.  With some hoiking from above and below (thanks team) and a bit of physical contortion on my part, I made it up and it was brilliant coming down the other side.  Look how much fun these guys are having, that’s what it was like!  Joyful.

Well worth getting foam residue into every oriface below the waist just one quarter of the way through the event.  Throughout the rest of the run I can report that I lathered up nicely between the buttocks, leaving little dollops of foam that looked like saliva in my wake.  It was like leaving behind me a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest.  Frankly, it was just as well I did, because shortly after this I think we got very lost.  Well, more accurately misdirected.

There was a bridge and a road, and a big sign pointing us clearly in one way.  I followed the crowd of other runners following the way signs, but after 500 metres or so they turned back saying the route markers have vanished.  We retraced our steps in some confusion – fortunately easy enough to do because of my slime/ saliva trail, and eventually some random guy on a bike waved frantically at us and pointed us in the right direction.  In our wake we could see him rehanging red and white tape and moving signs about.   I had a brief moment of wondering if all that red and white tape was to mark out crime scenes.  Who really knows what goes on under the cover of night in the deep, dark, deathlike solitude* of the Sherwood Pines forest?  Best not to enquire too closely what lies beneath perhaps, just run onwards, and don’t look back…

Don’t know if the false trail was the act of vandals, incompetence or maybe last minute route changes.  It was some detour though, the  signs clearly pointing in one direction, but disappearing, it was just as well some amongst our party had the wit to realise and with not a marshal in sight, lots of potential for going astray.  We did find out later that apparently some obstacles had indeed been vandalised, even stolen, so maybe signs were tampered with too.  Darned shame, a warning would have been helpful though – still, not the first time I’ve got lost on a trail run, at least I wasn’t on my own this time, thinking I was quietly going mad in the woods, and never to emerge again.  Great gang to get lost with on this occasion.  All the same not good though, not good at all.

Sequence is all a bit mixed up here, but I have a feeling once back on the track we essentially did a 5km loop of forest yomping.  I really like trail running so that was fine, but no marshals or obstacles or photographers to break it up.  Though cheerily I thought I heard an ambulance moving ever closer at one point.  There was a good long run out on what may in the summer month be a path, but at this time of year was a choice between a gully of actual running water, or treacherous mud.  I couldn’t decide whether it was better to splash through the water on firmer ground, or pick over the muddy stuff which was slippery and uneven – I basically hopped between the two depending on whether or not I felt I needed to give way to faster runners thundering through from behind.   It is quite funny listening out to the shrieks and wobbles of people behind scrambling about, and the odd screams and whoops ahead as people fall, slide or discover an obstacle, official or otherwise.  Builds suspense and creates a sense of occasion. Eventually we turned off this into quiet, springy winding forest trail that was really lovely, and quite social as there was some leap-frogging (metaphorical rather than literal unfortunately) with other runners as we took it in turns to speed up and slow down.  A few people did some fairly spectacular skids round here, and one runner overtook me only to then somersault most spectacularly into a tree.  Good Work!

Just as we had given up on ever seeing another obstacle again we got to another wall, and a chance for our team to reassemble. Thank you mystery strangers who heaved me from above as my team pushed me from below. They did sterling work before vanishing off ahead. We nearly inadvertently spliced one of our team who having successfully got to the top of the obstacle found herself astride it with her ‘lady bits’ at the mercy of the woodwork beneath.  I felt for her, I made the mistake of trying a spinning class once, never again, it was like self-inflicted  FGM.  I faired a bit better (forewarned is forearmed), by scrambling up and leaning over rather than astride the obstacle I was less at risk of any rearranging of my personal assets.  However, I then realised I was actually a lot higher up than I’d have liked.  Some of these walls are a lot higher than you might think, especially from the top!  I was worried that I would actually freeze and be stuck for ever up there, it passed in moment, but it wasn’t a good time to realise I might have vertigo after all.

higher than you think

Once we’d all got over, some with more grace than others.  The better prepared of our party produced mints from nowhere, so that gave us a bit of a lift, and we debated how far we’d come. There hadn’t been an expected water point which might have suggested a half way point.  People who complain about lack of water on the course though are overlooking the fact that we were comprehensively soaked throughout so be careful what you wish for eh?  Lots of water sloshing around, just mostly as a constituent of mud and not of the drinking variety.  Details, details.

Onward, the field had thinned out, and not many obstacles ahead.  The next memorable one was a sort of a water jump in equestrian terms.  A ditch, of uncertain depth that you couldn’t quite be sure if you’d be able to jump across.  I stared at it a while, watching others leap over or in.  This was a useful tactic, found out that despite appearances, the ditch was only a couple of feet deep, so it wouldn’t be a total disaster to land in it.  Also, there was a technique of launching and landing that enabled the leaper to remain dry if successfully accomplished.  At the same time I was carrying out my own assessment of how to proceed a couple of walkers strolled by and looked on with curiosity.  I suggested they feel free to have bash themselves as they said they had a brother in Australia who did this sort of thing (bet it would be nice over there).  They declined, but cheered me as I did my very own spring across.  I did it!  Completely cleared the ditch.  I have rarely felt such a wave of self-congratulatory triumph.  Shame no-one I knew bore witness to it, but that couple did, I could feel the gaze of their collective admiration burrowing into my back as I yomped onwards.  Trying to look nonchalant from the rear (I do leaps by this before breakfast most days) but inwardly punching the air with both joy and disbelief!

The sun was shining.  In fact, it is nothing short of miraculous that the weather stayed fair for the most part.  It was actually lovely out.  Only in the last 20 minutes or so did shards of bitterly cold rain start to throw down, but we knew we were on the home stretch then, so it really didn’t matter.  We were on the way back now for sure.  A few figures who’d already finished and were adorned with medals were walking back down the course to cheer others home.  There was even a scattering of spectators at one point.

The last few obstacles were comforting for the most part.  A scramble over some slimy, but easy to negotiate stacked cylindrical straw bales.  A tunnel crawl – but short and with daylight at the end – the photo makes it look like some poor woman is running away from an improvised woodland shanty town, but it is in fact one of the tunnels.  Some fun tyres strung on a pole which you had to crawl under, that confused me.  I was worried I wouldn’t squish through, but it was fine.  The tyres get pushed upwards as you crawl so it is a psychological not physical challenge at all.  Another wall.

Truthfully, the obstacles were the same in some instances as those we encountered at the Peak District last year, but it was still fun clambering over them.  There was a log run, but I cunningly picked one that must have been made of balsa wood as it was extraordinarily light – either that, or, having discovered my own potential with my water jump earlier on, now had tapped my previously latent super-human strength.  Just as well, as there was enormous potential for comedic slapstick moments as tired runners carrying logs on their shoulders cornered at the end of the log run, narrowly missing each other’s heads with the end of poles.  Some runners missed this obstacle out entirely as it was not especially prominent, but if you are more a slow and steady jogger it was harder to omit.   I also noticed one finish line photo of someone crossing the line still carrying the log so they must have thought the run was to the end, (in fact it was just a little loop off the trail).  Hilarious.  I love this photo by the way, it makes me laugh.  Looks like a killer carrying a body to me, but then I’ve been watching Stag on BBC2 and it’s maybe given me ideas about what might happen in the woods.

man with log in woods

So we concluded with a loverly yomp through forest, really scenic windy trails, smell and squish of pine needles and autumn leaves, nice and spongy under foot, apart from when actually ankle deep in mud.  Towards the very end, skies darkened, and sharp shards of freezing rain started to fall.  We got off lightly, as we were all done before the temperature really plummeted, and I was very pleased and relieved that we’d got the finish in our sights. The end though came suddenly.  We emerged through the finish with no slide finale as an obstacle, so it felt a bit flat.  No photographer, just slightly manic requests for chips and an opportunity to get your medal (yay).  Finally water at finish.  I do like a bit of bling though, very satisfying.  I  like the medal a lot, nice and chunky for the collection.

all about the bling

You could also get an immediate print out of your time by keying your number in to some high tech equipment.  We weren’t too fussed about times, it was about finishing, but good to know technology all worked well for those who were interested in that.  Although there was no photographer to capture our moment of triumph coming across the finish line, it didn’t matter, some of our team have perfected the art of the group selfie -you have to be impressed by this elite group (other team members were available).  Thanks to all of you for helping me (well, more than helping to be fair, ‘carrying’ might be more accurate) round.  You were awesome.  To those team members who I physically crushed en route to the point they were unable to stand and pose for this photo, sorry, still, I tell myself ‘I am worth it‘,  hope you agree.  I hear a lot of voices telling me things in my head though, so it’s not always easy to differentiate which ones are wise and which are not.  Hey ho.  Still, we all made it, we are all wonderful!  We are ninja, we are all powerful.  Get us!

finish

I did enjoy it, I really did, but it was because of my ace team and the great location,  plus, it’s a hoot running through the woods with friends you haven’t met yet.  Most participants were friendly, funny and helpful.  There is inherent slapstick all the way round, mud, water and shared objectives are a great recipe for fun.  Watching the contorted faces of your team mates as they try to hoist others over an obstacle before being crushed by you coming next could put some off, but I say hey ho, worse things happen at the seaside, and besides, they were asking for it.  The woods were really lovely, and you do get a sense of achievement going round.

Less good, well, you can’t escape the fact that there weren’t anything like as many obstacles as at the last event, not many at all, so it was more like a nice trail run, with a few optional surprises thrown in.   I did have fun, but feel maybe it would be good to manage expectations a bit more.  The hype emphasised there would be a ground breaking variety of obstacles and  plenty of marshals with excellent signposting and presence of photographers throughout but couldn’t deliver.  A real shame.  Also, because I’d enjoyed the last one so much, and this was promised as ‘bigger and better’ it did suffer by comparison to the Peak District event.  I felt a bit sorry for organisers with all the flack on Facebook afterwards, but then again, they perhaps could have shared some of the background (vandalism etc) and maybe things that context setting would have eased frustrations.

Perhaps the other people in my team were cold, maybe they really were trying to avoid me, but but for whatever reason people scattered pretty instantaneously at the end.  I concede it is fair enough it the mysterious others had finally taken umbrage at having to carry me round literally as well as metaphorically all day.  In any event, it seems the ‘after’ group photo happened without me and my horse box buddy (more of that later).  Undaunted,  I took a few snaps of my own.  Loads better than their boring posed shot, don’t you agree?  (Rhetorical question by the way).

I took my revenge quietly, by taking stalkery shots of the others changing, didn’t mean that to be as seedy as it sounds.  They were intended to be more atmospheric.  Not sure it worked.  At least one looks like a profile shot for a lonely hearts site, you can decide which one if you like, and follow up as you think fit.

It was a bit of an anticlimax at the finish, last time I felt euphoric at the end, this time it was hard to conjure that emotion perhaps because there had been some hiccups, and maybe too obivously you can never recapture the novelty and sense of achievement you get from finishing your first OCR.  Maybe that’s why people chase more and more challenging and testing courses in an endless quest to recapture that first high.   OCR has become the acceptable face of addiction in some circles.  Who knows?

I subsequently heard that the organisers had been beset by difficulties in the last few days leading up to the dash.  Sounded like the seven plagues (or however many there were), with vandalism, theft, even some obstacles set fire too!  That’s harsh, and might explain some of the circumstances, but I do wish they’d shared that information in advance.  Something along the lines of ‘hey all, bear with us, this has happened, but we’ll do our best to bring you a revised event to avoid cancelling blah de blah‘  I think might have generated a wave of supportive understanding.  They could even have incorporated say the burning pyre as an extra obstacle, that would have livened things up a bit!  As it was,  a fair bit of a bludgeoning of the event is currently under way on social media.  I don’t know what I think.  I suppose bottom line is that they whipped up huge expectations of the biggest most challenging event and so when they couldn’t deliver rather left themselves open to criticism.  There is also no denying it is an expensive event to enter, and so that raises expectations too.  There are lots of free trail runs locally (parkun/ trust10 series) so most runners can access a 5km or 10km run pretty easily for no cost at all, if you are going to charge then you need to add significant value.  On the other hand sometimes things do go wrong, and maybe the organisers did a good recovery to run the event at all in the circumstances, but top tip for next time, communicate to your runners.

Alas, I think many who went to this 10k will hesitate before booking again.  Personally, I’d never say never, because I loved the Peak District event last year, and it is hilarious taking it on with a team, plus the forest location was gorgeous.  Benefit of the doubt can only stretch so far so we’ll see, jury out.  I’d like to think they’ll come back stronger, fitter, better, but then again, that’s what I was hoping for by way of transformation in my own weight and fitness levels between the last event and this one, didn’t happen, not really.  Maybe the event team is made of stronger stuff than me.   Not hard to be fair… Keep scanning the horizon for a phoenix flying.

phoenix

Back to the logistics of the day.  Suddenly tired and cold I hobbled back to the car park where my buddy had cleverly parked up her horse box.  Always handy to have a friend with a horse box on these occasions!  Possibly even better than one of those capes.  This meant I could change in the privacy of her support vehicle, which, whilst not quite a superstar’s Winnebago or celebrity trailer, was a pretty good approximation.  Also, she had a really yummy orange and date bar, so free food as well.  I can’t recall quite what I brought to the metaphorical party by way of exchange – can I get away with being team scribe?  Providing witness and testimony to history?  It’s my best offer to be honest, so will have to do.  Will try harder next time.  Meantime, note to self, having a support vehicle on hand should be mandatory for all future races and/or events, it is a fabulous accessory.  It was a bit of a faff changing but I’m glad I did, wet knickers for the drive home is never a good idea.  Take my word for it, please, just do.

DSCF9036

Waved farewell, and on my way.  Easy drive back, just nipping into Tesco metro on the way home for some post run eating options (Quorn vegetarian shepherd’s pie, lazy choice but I enjoyed it).  By the time I headed into there I’d sort of forgotten about my face paint.  Nothing was said, but I did notice I’d rather caught the eye of the cashier – turns out I haven’t ‘still got it/ ever had it‘ after all.  I just looked weird, not only because of the fluorescent paint, but also because of the extensive pervasive presence of mud in orifices, on body and in hair.  Oh well. They must have seen it all in a 24 hour metro, onesies and everything.

Just one thing left to do before post run bath.  Final selfie with medal. Get me and my bling.  Be inspired.   I think my selfies are improving, I am associating with long armed experts more these days, this has helped me evolve my art.

Endurer Dash Sherwood Pines March 2016, Done.  Same time next year?

It was nice to run in a new place though – maybe I’ll make more of an effort to do some proactive parkrun tourism, there are some lovely running venues out there.  I could run more and run free and for free.

To finish on a positive note, once some of the photographs started to appear online – of others taking part, not just our own team, the glitches on the day were soon forgotten.  The event is re-framed with excited nostalgia, animated retelling of the adventures we’d had.  After all, no experience in life is ever wasted if you can subsequently re-tell it as an amusing anecdote.  Plus my team is awesome, my team were ninjas. Ergo, I am awesome, I am ninja too!

What was it I said at the outset?  One day we will look back on this and laugh?  Reader, I surely did!  Laugh?  Thought my knickers would never dry, which is why my top tip for anyone contemplating undertaking this or similar events in future is that you should always bring a change of underwear with you.  Always.

’til next time happy running, wherever it may take you.

hardest step

*deep, dark, deathlike solitude* – niche reference for Bare and Ragged Theatre Leamington Spa/ Frankenstein fans.  Hope you enjoy it, don’t have nightmares.

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, race, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hopping Mad? Run Rabbit, Run.

I want it to end now.  The challenges are getting more and more extreme, but we have become so conditioned by our Smiley Elder Super Geek that we can’t even entertain the idea of failure.  The only option is to rise to face the new dawn and find out what it is we are really capable of. Of course, I’m back to Smiletastic, will it never stop?

So it seems our hearts are not enough. We are now required to conjure up a vision of an Easter Bunny for, well, Easter actually – you might have been ahead of me there.  I thought a heart was hard enough, but a rabbit?  Seriously?  I turned to Strava art to get some ideas:

They didn’t really help to be honest.  I think an element of lateral thinking will be required to execute this command on the streets of Sheffield.  I briefly considered submitting one of the above rabbit offerings as my own, but whilst I’m confident I could blag the creativity aspect in terms of shape, I don’t think our judge and jury Smiley Elder Super Geek will be buying the 63.1 miles in distance covered in 4:22:23 of  moving time along with 2,285 feet of elevation.  I may have improved somewhat during Smiletastic, but I have to concede Super Geek might consider that to be a statistically significant jump in performance and promises to take our Strava submissions on trust on the whole, might be tested…  I needed a better plan.  The better plan, was to have first a minor tantrum about the intrinsic hardness of it all, then a major meltdown because there are absolutely NO RABBIT shapes to be found in the whole of Sheffield.  Then finally, the germ of an idea….  Rabbits are shy creatures, even an Easter Bunny  needs to be given some sort of an incentive if it is to make an appearance.  The solution, when it came to me, was actually exquisitely simple.  I would lay bait.  First option, carrots.  All rabbits like carrots right?  Admittedly, it is a somewhat mis-shapen one, but that is because it is organic, which makes it both healthier, and hopefully more appealing too.  What do you think?  Personally, I think it is a respectable enough offering, if a little lacking in symmetry at the top, it nevertheless has an appetising chunkiness.  A reasonable start I’d venture…

rabbit lure

I also figured, possibly with naive optimism that would soon be knocked out of me, that by laying out my bait early on in the challenge, I could thus lay claim to any rabbits – be they Eater Bunnies or March Hares or otherwise, that subsequently appeared within a say ten mile radius of the epicentre of said organic carrot within the month of March.  This could conceivably give the Fighting Feathers a needed competitive edge, it’s all feeling a bit precarious what with various members of our team selfishly breaking body parts through stress fractures of the ankle or exploding calves and such like, thereby diminishing our collective resources.  I don’t mean cattle that explode by the way, that would be silly, I mean calf muscles as in back of the leg, just for clarification.

CowLogo

So, after much agonising poring over Google maps on an over-heating laptop, I finally had a cunning plan!  It would depend on being able to access inaccessible areas, it will also require an appreciation of what may loosely be termed ‘primitive art’ on the part of our arbitrating Smiley Elder Super Geek – but these are desperate times, desperate measures are called for.  Reader, meet my bunny:

Genius rabbit

It was quite hard coming up with this genius creation. I think it might be true that Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  After getting into the zone by bunny hopping drills with Accelerate as part of their Ecclesall Woods session earlier on, I decided to act whilst the muse was upon me, and headed off to Crookes post session to execute my plan  I maintain that even carrying a map around these Strava Art projects are really challenging. You (or I do at least) get really confused as you have to sort of back track on yourself, it’s quite disorientating.  It is also quite anti-social/ somewhat embarrassing to execute.  Now this is saying something as I have developed quite a high tolerance level to social embarrassment due to having over half a century’s worth of experience of being seen in public despite my many and manifest physical inadequacies compounded with my highly advanced and honed tendencies for more general social ineptitude.  However, even I have found this tough.  It seems it is indeed true one must suffer for one’s art…

genius quote

The problem is once you set upon a path, you need to stick to it, so social niceties like say, giving way to people pushing buggies, or smiling to drivers who are gesturing to give way so you can deviate from your route and cross the road in front of them for example, are abandoned.  No.  I DO NOT WANT to take up your offer of crossing the road.  NO!  I will not step aside and spoil my Strava line, even though I can see you are a loved up couple holding hands (well, especially then to be fair), and NO!  My bunny demands I must shun the etiquette book that suggests it is polite and indeed usual to give way to the OAP shopping group all clutching their sticks or gripping the bars of their zimmer frames.  It is  a tricky one.  Yet, I must keep my resolve, undaunted that people are surprisingly unsympathetic and uncomprehending when you try and explain about Smiletastic and Srava Art and the burning necessity of creating a rabbit just now, but last time it was a heart.  People are strange aren’t they?  I’ve since Googled ‘etiquette’ and it seems that I’d have been OK if I’d been wearing a bustle, as people tend to give way to women so attired.  Seems I need to invest in some new running kit for future Strava art challenges, will check out wiggle just as soon as I’ve finished this post:

street etiquette

The hardest bit, but also the least effectively executed in the resulting Strava shape, was the eye of the bunny.  Which is a bit like the eye of a Tiger only not the same thing at all.  I turned off my TomTom, went to the middle of the road in the face shape, turned it back on  and ran backwards and forwards loads of times in the same spot to try and create the eye.  Then turned it off, returned to the outer perimeter of the face, TomTom back on, and continued.  It just didn’t work, for some reason the Strava trace has linked that all as one bit.  I wouldn’t mind so much, but there was a woman carrying shopping who walked really, really slowly by as I was executing this particular bit of art work, and she was definitely looking at me askance throughout.  Oh well, I still think the effect was a gesture in the right direction, and I’m not putting myself through that again, especially when the forecast is for heavy snow and also I want to drink tea now and not go out again until I’ve warmed up at least.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty confident, compare and contrast, my Strava Art rabbit, and an actual rabbit. My Strava Art is the one on the right, just so you know:

You’re welcome.

 

 

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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