Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Loud Whispering Contest of Parliament Hill

There's a lot of to be said for cramming all your misfortunes into one occasion. The belief being that any one life has a limited number of misfortunes (although Violet Jessop may disagree) and the path forward is cleared if you get them "out of way" early in your journey.

I have already described the background to my presence at the Southern Cross Country Champs today - mainly attributable to blind ignorance on my part. The place lived up to its reputation - being a hilly bog and a venue more appropriate for the Massey Ferguson agility trials than a foot race.

Teams were all grouped in starting pens, having first passed through a tent, presumably to get the racing chips activated. Unfortunately there were still about 50 of us in the tent when the race was started. I'm a punctual person and there was no way of anticipating the jam from the outside the tent so I was pretty pissed off at the starter's premature ejaculation.

It doesn't sit well criticising the starter, considering he is probably an unpaid volunteer - a bit like slapping your Grandma in the chops for fussing. But his actions certainly invite speculation that he was a retired ex-filing cabinet manager for a small local authority.

The problem with being at the back of the field is that there were about 900 runners and the first section of the course is a steep up hill, leading to a bottleneck at the top so you are stuck behind a wall of slower runners. It was at this point where I got stamped on with the spike ripping my shoe and cutting deep into my little toe.

The rest of the 3 lap course consisted of trying to find decent ground to run on, trying to make up places on the downhills and trying to manage my painful stitch. All great fun, but I never felt like I was able to run fast on the underfoot conditions and it just felt like a dull slog. I'd hoped, at least, for a decent training impetus but the race seemed so far removed from reality I doubt I even got that.

It's not all doom and gloom as my new club, Bedford & County AC, won the team event. Obviously with no help from me and it was a relief to know that the team's total points tally didn't have to try and swallow my abysmal 343rd place.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Southern XC Ambush

Have you ever noticed that when asking for help to move a washing machine, put up shelves or assist in a similarly dull endeavour people take great care over their syntax. It's never "can you help me pick my nose?", it's always "are you free at the weekend?" - planting the germ of excitement in your mind (concert tickets perhaps?).

By the time you have cleared your diary and commenced speculation on the availability of back stage passes you realise that in reality you've agreed to run in a particularly nasty cross country race. As the light dawns you learn it's 15k long, hilly, muddy, a pain in the arse to get to and always freezing. Not only that, it's going to disrupt your diligently constructed training schedule and you're likely to come as near to last as first.

Having been ambushed, this saturday is now reserved for the Southern Counties Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill in London. A hill named, depending on who you believe, for being occupied by troops sympathetic to parliament or because it's where Guy Fawkes used to go dogging on cold November evenings a few hundred years ago.

As always, a positive mindset is of vital importance when approaching any sort of race. I'm dreading it and it's going to be miserable.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Extra Windy Mile

It's a sign of increasing age that after starting up some regular sports massage with a South American lady my primary concern has been holding in wind during psoas manipulation as opposed to praying against the possibility of an erection (which I'd have been doing 10 years ago).

Not that gaseous exchange was never a concern - just ask Dr. Mortimer, the chiropractor who had his hair parted while freeing up my back all those years ago in Washington DC. It's just that it's become the primary concern requiring 100% concentration these days.

The increase in mileage has seen an exponential increase in niggles so I decided that a semi-regular indulgence of sports massage would help keep me running. In the years since my last I'd forgotten how painful they are - exacerbated by muscles and tendons with the flexibility of a Scottish Prime Minister. Quite frankly, it isn't remotely enjoyable so it'd better result in some injury resilience rather than just a hole in the pocket.

The lady in question is well qualified and professional but has the slightly disconcerting belief that massage will cure everything. I can well believe it relieves hamstring tightess, it may even help you avoid stitches but solving the Goldbach Conjecture? I think not.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Back To The Grind

It's been a fair old haitus. To be honest blogging matters came to a head during a period of mild writer's block. "Eureka", as I palmed my forehead. Running is fine as an activity itself but, unless your angle is a fun runner's exhortation of endorphins or a dry-as-old-muff training schedule, trying to find semi-entertaining things to write about it isn't easy.

After due consideration I think perhaps it's worth another go - it hasn't been entirely mundane after all. There have been pitched battles with walkers, a frozen scrotum, an encounter with an armed farmer and some amusingly shaped dog terds along the way. It's not as if the blog has to compete with firework displays, white tigers jumping through hoops or PT Barnum's Managerie, Cavaran & Hippodrome - all it must do is be slightly more interesting than the spreadsheet you're working on or your dullard of a work colleague.

So as we rejoin the story I've been in heavy winter training, have been alcohol free for 110 days (but who's counting) and training is going well. Although recent racing leaves a little to be desired it's a deliberate plot to obtain better odds with Ladbrokes when the summer racing season arrives.