Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Training Interrupted ; The Big Freeze Attack !!

It snowed in our area over the week and one of the daily newspapers declared that UK is on its way to ‘return to the Ice Age’. I was rather delighted as I thought if we have enough snow to carpet the grounds, I will have a chance to do an ala-Atacama training, imagining the snow to be the salt and sand which I will encounter there!

Alas, my hope was dashed. Not only was I called to work extra hours, the snow quickly turned to hard frost and widespread ice under the sub- zero temperature before I even had the chance to run on it!! Training has taken a back seat when it should have been speeded up a little, given that it is now only about 3 weeks before the Race!! This is surely getting me a little nervous. We have been looking at a frozen lake (in front of our apartment) for the past week and the forecast of another Arctic blast to come is definitely not a very comforting one. Here’s a look at our our frozen lake :

Icy or not, I told myself I have to do my last long run before the Race by the end of the week. I have been doing the ‘graveyard shifts’ the whole of last week (20:00-08:00) with the exception of Saturday and Sunday, when I worked from 18:00-02:00. So, I had planned to have a good sleep after my shift on Saturday and do my long run on Sunday morning before starting my shift again at 18:00.

Due to the change in my sleeping hours, my biological clock was thrown into a state of confusion (as it often does) and I found myself wide awake at 06:00 on Sunday, not being able to continue my sleep despite all my effort to do so. I loaded my backpack and got ready for my intended 50km run along the Rochdale Canal, starting from Halifax, a town near where we live, all the way to Manchester.

The Rochdale Canal is a navigable canal in the northern part of England and it runs for about 51km across the Pennines. I have run along this route many times for my long training and I enjoy the relatively flat terrain, crossing many picturesque villages, farms and beautiful hills.

I set out at about 08:00 in high spirits. I have been looking forward to this training as I have not been running much at all the whole of last week. However, when I reached Rochdale Canal, I was in despair. Not only did I find the canal to be completely frozen, the track along it was also equally frozen. It felt like I was walking on a wet ice-skating rink!! I was faced with a dilemma and knew that I had only 2 options at that point in time. I either continue with my run and risk a fall and therefore, compromise my impending participation at the Race or alternatively, I turn around and go home and be frustrated for the rest of the day and days to come for not doing my training.

I made a calculated risk and decided to carry on running. I reckoned I could always stop when things get out of control. So, in addition to having to run cautiously in fear of being chased by dogs (or horses or cows, for that matter!), I also have to be extra cautious this time round of the very treacherous icy track. Oh! Speaking about being chased by dogs - after having written my last blog, I happened to read the blog by last year’s winner, Anders Jensen, who mentioned that he and runner-up Martin Chinchilla Gioia were chased by some stray dogs at a remote village they ran through in Stage 4 of Atacama Crossing 2011. Sigh!! Guess I will not be able to escape from the possibility of being chased by dogs after all. Even in Chile!!

For about 15km, I was doing quite well at balancing myself perilously on ice and saving myself from slipping on numerous occasions. The route which I ran through was rather deserted as it was simply too freezing for anyone to be out and about at that early hour. So, I was concentrating more on looking at my feet and the ground where I was about to step on. Due to that, I was not aware of the presence of 2 rather innocent-looking geese ahead of me until when I was about 20 metres away from them. They were blocking my narrow track. I stopped and waited for them to move away, as I thought that is what the bird species always do when confronted by human. But then again, who am I kidding, right? This is me we are talking about. I have now come to the conclusion that I am a magnet to animals. My mere presence will somehow attract them to be near me, not affectionately, mind you, but quite the opposite, I am afraid to say!

Well, that was what exactly happened with one of these supposedly innocent geese. As I was standing there waiting for them to get out of my way, one of them began to duck her head and charge towards me. That really took me by surprise. I moved backwards in such haste that I almost slipped and fell. I found a fallen branch nearby and used it as my ‘weapon’ to shoo them out of my way and managed just about to squeeze pass through them on the narrow track.

After this unexpected encounter, coupled of course with the treacherous condition of the track, my high spirits at the start of the day has now descended into a not-very-likeable black mood. The fact that I have only had 3 hours of sleep further aggravated my mood. I was beginning to get very tired having to do the balancing-on-ice act and decided to leave the frozen track and head for the hills, hoping that I will be able to benefit more from my training there.

I soon found out that the hills were not so much better than the track. I was practically sinking my feet into mud up to my ankles with every step I took to get up the hills. The higher level of the hills was covered in half snow and half ice. Everything was getting really depressing and I was not enjoying myself at all. Despite all that, I gritted my teeth and continued running up and down the hills as I kept telling myself that no matter what, I have to complete my targeted distance for the week.

After about 25km of going up and down the hills, I was completely destroyed. I could not carry on anymore to reach my targeted 50km. I have, by then, run out of glycogen and was feeling extremely moody and tired. I decided to head back home to get some rest.

As I am writing this, I look back at my training yesterday and feel a great sense of relief. My Garmin recorded that I did 41km in total with 1600m altitude of ascent. I have finally completed my last long run before the Race. I will now do only some interval trainings and short runs (max 20km) and pray that the weather will be more agreeable with my training from now on, though I seriously doubt that will be so. Go away Big Freeze!! I need some Atacama Sunshine !!

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