Digested Read: nippy out, but we nine dragonflies nabbed after nine Smiletastic points. I nearly got hypothermia and died out on them there hills, but that was but a small price to pay in the name of snow art. Smiley solidarity saw me through.
Oh my life. That was unpleasant. Smiletastic has a lot to answer for. I was practically hypothermic by the time I got home from my run last night, but needs must when the call goes out from team dragonflies. One for all, and all for one. Ours is not to reason why, it might be dark and snowing and treacherous out there, but type 2 fun is still fun after all… of a sort.
In case you are exceptionally slow on the uptake and haven’t grasped what was going on here, once again, me and some fellow Smiley Paces buddies were on Golden Segment banging duties. The blah de blah for this in brief, is that basically, Smiletastic is a three-month team-based challenge amongst fellow members of the Smiley Paces Women’s Running Club. Smiley Elder, founder of the initiative, summarises it most succinctly as follows: ‘SMILETASTIC is a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.’ Alongside committing to doing so many runs a week, bonus points can be nabbed by entering into the Smiletastic spirit, running before 7.00 a.m. and after 9.00 p.m. at night, and also, as in this case, for running specified Strava sections, known as ‘golden segments’ which, to be fair, makes it sound like nabbing them should be way more fun than it actually is. There are a number of team, but I’m a dragonfly, so that’s the most important one and you don’t need to worry about those bees, grasshoppers and erm, can’t even remember the other team – oh yes ladybirds. Those other insects are of no consequence in this context. Generally speaking though, insects are massively important to the world’s ecosystem and should be nurtured not swatted away.
We are in week three of the Smiletastic challenge, and after we dragonflies stormed ahead in week one we were knocked into second place in week two. Whilst we do all claim to be non competitive, nevertheless we clearly can be goaded into collective action. Case in point. The weather this week has been horrendous. I mean, seriously vile. Whilst pristine snow glittering under a starlit sky might be appealing to run in, here we have had driving bullet like blizzards and lethal slush and ice in abundance. Being intrepid is all very well, but in honesty, were it not for the impetus of my Smiletastic team buddies I’d favour staying in and working on perfecting the art of embracing an absolute rest day, – which is actually a recognised and important yet often neglected part of any decent training programme – rather than venturing out anywhere possibly never to return…
The ‘Golden Segment’ was announced. When it went up it sounded innocuous enough, appealing even, but that was last week when the weather was altogether more clement and less life-threatening. Smiley Elder cheerily posted:
The Golden Segment for the week beginning 15th January 2018 is slightly further afield but is one you should all know and is not too difficult to get to (unless it snows!!). The link is https://www.strava.com/segments/14206248 and its called “Ringinglow Road -going up” which just about sums it up. If you run uphill from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms you’ll definitely go along it.
With a helpful Strava picture too, just in case:
Yep, that looked fine and dandy. Bit of a hill, but nothing we Sheffielder’s aren’t all too familiar with. Plus, classic stretch of the half marathon route, so not too complicated navigationally speaking, and it’s nice to make the effort to head out to the hills. It would be grand.
I know it’s only 0.2 mile but remember dear reader we had to get up to it and back again. For the record the snowy dash bit ended up at 3.1 miles plus I had to walk a bit over a mile to get down to meet my lift so I suppose I did about 5.5 miles out in the blizzard in total. You see what happened was, the the weather changed, and every sinew in my body and brain cell in my head screamed at me to stay inside. It went from being dank January to ‘run out of energy and supplies in antarctica‘ within a couple of hours. No idea how that happened. Vile is an understatement. Don’t tell, but I was even thinking that I might duck out of this particular segment snatching session all together. We’d prearranged to meet on Wednesday night last week, but that was before the ice storm came. By Tuesday, there was a blizzard blowing and thick ice which meant I could barely venture out of the house on foot, let alone in a car to make the rendezvous point, and it’d be too far to run the whole way out there with my fitness levels even if I did think I’d survive the elements. There was a bit of nervous chit-chat on our Facebook group (it’s closed, like a secret society, so don’t bother trying to find it anywhere to spy on us), but no-one really wanted to be the first to wimp out. I think if anyone had though at this stage, there might have been an eager torrent of wussing out runners behind in tight formation.
On the Smiletastic page, those pesky bees had only gone out in a blizzard being all smiley spirited and cheery against the odds.
bee’s braved the snow blizzards tonight to run the golden segment with an after 9pm finish 💪💪 thank you ladies for a lovely hill run with a muddy off road trial section added. #Teambees🐝
What’s more, they accomplished the task all solidarity and smiles, and returned a bit bedraggled and with a hood full of snow which was inadvertently emptied onto a hall floor in one case, but fundamentally not dead. AND they were getting an extra bang for their buck by collectively achieving post 9.00 p.m. runs.
The bees are upping their game. Their fancy dress offering was a sight to behold. Granted they may have done a bit of tinting post run with photoshop, but I believe this is how they rocked their look on the way round Graves parkrun last Saturday. Impressive, I mean some of those deeley boppers are pretty substantial, you’d think it would alter your centre of gravity, but maybe not as much as actually having your arms bound to your sides by black gaffer tape as at least one runner had to contend with. Respect team bees. Loving the personalised nature of the outfits too. Can’t wait to see them all out and about again soon!
One solitary grasshopper reported mournfully that they had limped out all alone along the segment and returned sodden. Discovering en route that even her walking boots were insufficient protection against the elements as a previously unnoticed hole let a whole glacier pass through her footwear whilst she trudged up the hill. It is testament to her great mental strength that she was still able to see a plus side, commenting ‘On the positive side I had a free microdermabrasion facial walking through the hail on Ringinglow road this afternoon!! #newrunner #illequippedgrasshopper #justaboutstillsmiling!‘ To be fair, I think that probably did merit a bonus point. It’s hard enough going out in this, going out all alone is tougher still. No wonder she was hearing voices from under the snow by the end of it. Not sure who took these photos for her, she maybe was being tailed by a drone.
Well, that’s all very impressive and all, from the bees and one grasshopper (it’s a start) and it did rally our resolve. We couldn’t cave in now could we, seeing as how the bees had been out in a blizzard. Besides, we’d already agreed we would go for late points, and we’d already established most of us were free in principle at least and now we’d had the standard set by those pesky busy bees buzzing about … well, we felt compelled to follow through what we started. We would do this. We can do this! What’s the worst… Cue a flurry of ‘OH MY GAWD have you seen the weather out there!?’ posts. And checks and double checks that we were all going through with it, no-one fancied heading off out up there on their own.
So urged on by a surge of ‘I will if you will‘ promises and counter promises, 8.00 p.m. came and I headed off on foot to a rendezvous point on Ecclesall Road at 8.25. I was cold. It was freezing. So cold in fact, that I abandoned the plan of running in a conventional running jacket in favour of a ‘proper’ walking coat. I had a head torch and hi-viz and a bobble hat and also brought with me a bad attitude. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too slippery underfoot, but then I was wearing my Irock shoes which are brilliant. I stood shivering in the vicinity of where I thought we were meeting. I was a couple of minutes early but standing still even briefly brought with it a real risk of being frozen rigid to the spot. As the seconds ticked by I started to lose confidence in whether I was waiting in the right place, which is better than losing consciousness due to cold I suppose but not the greatest of feelings all the same. I don’t have a smart phone, so started to imagine ending my days here, collapsed in a foetal position outside the Trinity United Reformed Church – or whatever it is – whilst my dragonfly buddies were cavorting with cheery abandon in front of a cosy open fire somewhere, ignorant of my demise. Fortunately, just as I was at the point of wondering what to do, always a worrying trend, the other liftee appeared and we shivered together for a few minutes. Eventually, she had the bright idea of checking for messages on Facebook, and result. We were indeed waiting in the wrong place, and our driver was similarly fretting in their car a short distance away, lamenting our absence. A quick scurry across the road and we were all united and lift secured we were on our way, heading on up to the Hammer and Pincers.
Coming up the hill from Endcliffe Park, it was amazing how quickly the weather deteriorated. You could hardly see out of the car as a combination of thick sleet, hail and snow tumbled out of the sky. The roads which had been clear just a bit lower down were now lined with slush, and then piles of snow. By the time we got to the car park, it was feeling ominous. Good news, our fellow running buddies were already there, some waiting inside granted, but basically raring to go. There were nine of us. Yay! That was heartening, team solidarity, go us. I nearly had a tantrum as I wasn’t going anywhere without my GPS being picked up, but disaster was averted as my TomTom bleeped its satisfaction I was being tracked. And that was it, off we went, heading out about 8.40 ish.
I was soon at the back, I’m always at the back anyway because I’m a slow runner, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling too confident as it was so dark, and the mix of ankle-deep snow / slush combo meant I couldn’t get a sense of what was under my feet. The others streamed ahead and I got further behind. This was not joy-filled running. It was head down, teeth gritted, try not to get run over venturing out. ‘You go on without me‘ I called after them, as my voice was carried away on the wind.
There were a few cars around, most were OK, but one or two roared past, crazy. The pavements were so deep in snow we ended up having to run on the road at some points and I felt vulnerable. This is not a run I’d have liked to do on my own. Onwards and upwards, it was a bit of a trek to get to the segment, but then we could heave ho up from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms. We paused only when we got to the top – and then we ran on a bit just to make absolutely sure we’d gone far enough.. and then turned back again as pretty quickly, away from the light of the pub it was like we were heading into an abyss. We bottled it. Back to outside the pub and then… we espied virgin snow.
What can you do with virgin snow? Well, it was quite obviously still there for our merriment and as an outlet for our artistic talents. One immediately went for a daintily drawn dragonfly in the soft white snow. I thought it looked beautiful. Dragonflies are supportive, but we are also honest, and have integrity and are prone to giving one another unsolicited feedback. At least you know where you stand. ‘That looks like a gnat‘ said one of our number, who shall remain nameless. Harsh I thought.
Meanwhile, I was engaged in my own excavation endeavour. I was pretty pleased with it:
As ever, I find the non-running aspects of Smiletastic challenges play to my strengths more than the actual running challenges. An observation which has not gone unnoticed by Smiley Elder. Still, where would we Smiley Paces be without Smiley Spirit eh? The thing is, genius as my creation clearly was, you couldn’t really get a sense of scale, and it was a perfectly Lucy-sized construction. The best way to demonstrate this would be to wear the wings, a la creating a snow angel. To be frank, I was ready for a bit of a lie down after all that strenuous running, so it didn’t seem to be such a bad idea at the time, and the dragonfly fitted me like a glove!
A couple of astonishing things though that I noticed in retrospect. Firstly, bizarrely, none of the other dragonflies wanted to have a go at lying down in 6 inch deep melt water in the interests of a photo-opportunity and the outside chance of a Smiletastic point. I know! How strange. Secondly, despite our shrieking, and me lying down spreadeagled and motionless with Smilies leaning in around me like they’d come across a corpse in Midsummer Murders, no-one in the Norfolk Arms pub came out to help/investigate or even point and laugh. Missed opportunity for all of them. Still, it goes to show just how bitter it was out there, not the kind of night you’d choose to venture out for anything at all, unless it was an emergency such as the need to honour a pledge to nab a golden segment in week three of Smiletastic.
After a bit, we were bored with the photos and messing around in the snow, so we headed off again back down the hill this time. I had a brief moment of feeling ‘oh wow, my running’s really improved now I’m all warmed up, I feel like I’m flying now we’ve done a couple of miles’ before I remembered that having gravity on your side is a real asset in this running games malarkey. Oh well, it was still an improvement on running up hill into driving hail. I was in the most spectacular hi-viz, that lights me up like I’m my very own solar system if headlights hit it. I’m even spherical by way emphasis. I therefore ‘volunteered’ to stay at the back as others in the group had less hi-viz about them. This was a great cover story for me too, since it implied ‘well obviously I could sprint all the way home, but I’m prepared to martyr myself and jog at a leisurely pace for the greater good.‘ On a serious note though, at the back as I was, it was quite shocking how invisible the group looked, despite head torches and a few reflective strips, they just disappeared into the night sky. It was a timely reminder that hi-viz is essential on night runs, especially when you are having to venture on to the roads because the pavements are thick with ice, snow and slush. Scary.
We paused for photo opps by Hangram Lane to match the one taken outside the Norfolk Arms. I concede reluctantly, the bees might have managed better with their photos, but then – and I don’t like to rub it in too much but I’m only saying what is true here – they had only seven bees to fit in the frame whereas we were nine dragonflies. Much more challenging on the group selfie front!
By the time we got back to our starting point of the Hammer and Pincers, it was well past 9.30. I was sodden. I was inwardly cursing at how poor the ventilation and waterproofing was on my jacket, before it occurred to me that it might possibly be that lying in the hill-top slush earlier could be a contributing factor. Some departed, some of us went into the pub for post run refreshments.
I haven’t been in there for ages. Some shared a bottle of wine, I opted for a lime juice and soda. It came with a plastic straw. ‘Oh no, why have you done that?’ I exclaimed with a bit too much passion to the bemused looking bar staff. I tried to explain that I’d not asked for a straw, so it was complete waste, and as a non recyclable item it will probably end up in the ocean, so giving me a straw is basically like sentencing an endangered turtle to a slow and painful death. I felt a bit guilty that I’d been so abrupt, but I was hyped from running, and hypothermic from snow. In fact, it was a good thing, as after me another dragonfly also ordered a lime juice and soda – no straw. He asked her ‘what’s with this plastic straw thing’ and she explained in more measured tones, and afterwards he said he’ll ask customers in future if they want one or not, which is only a very minor change, but minor shifts in behaviour do add up. Nobody really needs a straw more than the oceans need to be plastic free, and if they do, paper or bamboo straws could always be used instead. To be fair, I think the Blue Planet series has really raised awareness on this, and that’s grand. I just hope it isn’t all too little too late…
It was nice in the pub to begin with. Despite plastic strawgate, it was friendly and welcoming with a flame effect fire and lots of places to sit. However, quite soon I started to shake with cold. I was quite pleased when it was time to go home. I was dropped off by my driver at Endcliffe and by then there was a fair old blizzard going. It wasn’t a long walk home by any means, but I was quite shocked at how much the cold seemed to take hold inside. By the time I got to my house I could hardly hold my house keys, and once I got in my skin was burning and red as the warmth of the house hit my frozen flesh. Brrrr. We better have nabbed both a segment, and some post nine bonus points and some smiley spirit or I’ll… well, cry probably, but at least the hot tears running down my cheeks might help my face to thaw out a bit, ill wind and all that 🙂
The things we do for Smiletastic. It is my primary source of running motivation for the early part of the year. Without Smiletastic, I’d basically hibernate.
So the conclusion. Mainly type two fun, but type one in parts. Definitely worth doing, there’s no way on earth I’d have ventured out to do that on my own. I still have three more runs to do this week, and I wasn’t feeling the love for running today either, still chilled through from yesterday. Oh well. Resting is also part of training. At least I have that part of the regime cracked.
Oh, by the way, the grasshoppers have got as far as new book cover for their ‘grasshoppers guide to running fun’. I like it. I’m hoping it will include vegan nutrition ideas.
No idea what the ladybirds are up to. I think they are keeping their Smiletastic strategy under wraps. It will all come out in the spreadsheets at the end. The suspense is killing me!
So next week, we get to do it all again, with another segment. I wonder where that will take us? New adventures ahead, new runs to explore. You know what, running is fun, mostly. Running buddies on the other hand – they are awesome always. I thank you all, but my dragonfly comrades in particular. We can crack this! Probably.
By the way, hypothermia in runners is no joke – this blog post by Simon Green – hypothermia as a lifestyle choice really hit home to me, even experienced runners just need one bit of bad luck and everything changes in an instant. Sobering thought. Always pays to be prepared. Keep safe out there!
Don’t have nightmares.
Do have a nice time out running… though be prepared for type 2!
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