The last thing you need after scoffing loads of cakes at charity cake sale is another evening of ‘hills’ down by the Abbey, but that was the most useful exercise on offer that evening at Striders. There were a lot more people this week eager to grunt and groan up hills, so a small variation was added to try and reduce the risk of us colliding with stray pedestrians. The first ascent was the same as last week (except with a belly full of delicacies), then the second ascent took us up to Orchard Street, left turn, then another left and back down the road to the pub. Five or maybe six of these was enough for one evening and once again I had forgotten my Garmin, so I have no reference to whether I am getting any faster at them.
We were going away on Sunday for a few days, so I had to re-organise the long run for earlier in the week. Saturday’s weather wasn’t looking too clever, so Friday slipped into pole position for a this 15 mile experience. The recent heavy rain had made all but the main roads navigable, so I plotted a route on Run, Jog, Walk that took in the A5 to Redbourn, up the Nicky Line to Harpenden, pop into to Skyes to refill with water and then back down the A6 to St Albans.
Setting off for a two and half hour run can be psychologically difficult, especially one that spans 3 towns that I would normally not relish driving let alone running. It was breezy and the sun was shining enough for me to spray on a layer of factor 30. That may sound ridiculous but I do have the rare distinction of suffering from heat stroke in February on Dartmoor. I can’t imagine that this is a common occurrence and if it is, not many would choose to admit it, however, I have developed a distinct lack of shame over recent months.
The A5 to Redbourn is a straight and busy road, decorated recently with large bodies of standing water on both sides by the old Punch Bowl Pub. Although not desired, the speed training came in useful as I had to dash through the middle of the road before the next half wit aquaplaned uncontrollably through this watery obstacle.
I ran through Redbourn before joining the disused railway that runs from Hemel to Harpenden. It was littered with puddles and thick mud, which I navigated with a series of less than acrobatic leaps to the left and bounds to the right, akin to the way a cat would cross a hot tin roof.
I was halfway through my Shot Bloks by then and thought I would try the High5 gel that had been sitting in the cupboard for a few weeks. It was not a good start as the tearing action sprayed gel all over my front. This was followed with a choking fit as I accidentally guided too much gel in one go down the wrong ‘ole and proceeded to choke my way through the streets of Harpenden. The humiliation was complete when the remaining residue oozed on to my hands where it turned tacky and began to set.
Fortunately, Skyes was just around the corner for a refill of water, wash of hands and a quick wiz, a quick pink wiz at that! I assumed it was down to the berry content in the gel and Bloks that hadn’t had time to digest properly.
Refreshed, I took the more direct route back to St Albans along the A6 and was unpleasantly surprised by the more thorough soaking this road had taken over the previous days. There was little option but to run along the waterlogged grass verge, filling my running shoes with bitterly cold water that took a few miles to disperse.
On arrival in St Albans I realised I needed to add a few miles to pad out my time to two and half hours so I took a detour around Batchwood Golf Course. Not much golf being played, I guess someone needs to come up with a liquid version of the sport. There was plenty of work going on by Batchwood Hall as the new tennis center was emerging from the ashes of the old one that was burnt down during the recent riots.
I ran into town to pick up a sweatshirt I was having made and speculatively asked if they would offer something for an upcoming raffle I was organising and they very generously offered to help me out. So thanks to all at Printed Clothing Ltd. Despite this longish stop and another to chat to an old friend, I managed to get started again and negotiate, my now nemesis, the Verulamium hill up to King Harry Lane and get home in the desired time and about the right distance of 15.2 miles.
I was strangely unphased by the colour of my pee turning from a flowery pink to bright blood red. There was no pain or discomfort and a quick internet investigation cited an empty bladder being bruised and battered by the running motion for 150 minutes as the probable cause. A few pints of water later and all was back to normal and hopefully a lesson learned.
A three mile run on Sunday morning was all that was needed to keep the legs turning over before going off on a delightful two night break in the lovely Suffolk town of Southwold, where I partook in the drinking of beer for the first time this year.
It was inevitable that the 1 kilometre reps organised by Striders on Tuesday night were not going to be the most inviting thing to do on one’s return. On the plus side, the 1K circuits went straight passed my house, so I could warm up with a slow jog around the block before meeting up with tonight’s victims. I’m not sure how many, it is easy to lose count when all you are concentrating on is avoiding loose paving stones, low hanging branches and impending car-size sink holes. Although I wore my Garmin this week, operator error caused failure to record the event.
I had to catch up with my gym work on Wednesday in a less than packed Westminster Lodge, now that the January dieters had resorted to feasting instead of famine. I ploughed through my strengthening routine and even had time to chat to an old volleyball colleague who had moved on from the ball sport into casual alpine triathlons. I topped up my gym work with some cross-training on Thursday and then another strengthening session on a wind-swept Saturday.
Sunday morning was absolutely beautiful, sunny but cool with a breeze like a fairy’s kiss. Dare I say, a tantalising prelude to Spring. Sue had fired up her bicycle clips and I had plotted a 16 mile course to allow a guest appearance of Claire Jenks for an eight mile run out before returning home. Lots of Lycra was on show today with runners and bikers swarming out to take advantage of a break in the recent wet weather.
I dived in the bushes about half way around to check the pee situation. Bright red had given way to bright green, so less alarming but still not good enough hydration for long distance running.
It is only when you start running along roads you would normally only drive down, you become acutely aware of their inclines. Hatfield Road from Smallford all the way up to Beaumont was a intensely energy sapping. Even Sandridge Road into the town center had developed some calf seizing properties.
My legs were getting very tired as I approached the final dip down and back out of Verulamium. The park was busy with families and dog walkers, all seemingly unable to control the trajectory of their offspring or pet as they via’d and usually stopped in my path. With 15 miles behind me and legs stiffening up by the second, the last thing you need is any course correcting, but thankfully I was too tired to do more than show disapproval with some random face contortions.
The final half a mile up Abbey Avenue was a real struggle and try as I may, I could barely lift my feet as I scuffed back passed the shops and to my front door. The relief to get indoors, stretch out, devour a banana milkshake and collapse in a chair was immense. However, later a light headed version of me with guts grumbling and not even a shower and afternoon nap reviving my tired frame shows that I still have a long way to go to get ready for April 13th.