Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Grim Challenge? That sounds like a pleasant. way to spend a Sunday morning..

3 days on and my body has mostly recovered from the pain. Most of my toes have thawed too so that's good news.

Last Sunday marked my first taste of ridiculous events in ridiculous conditions, and i'm sure it won't be my last. On the face of it, the Grim Challenge seemed aptly named. An 8-mile off-road run on an early December morning. The course description on the offical website is as follows:
"This land is used to test Army vehicles so expect it to be interesting! You will reach a long hill shortly after the start before descending again eventually reaching a water filled ravine. You will run on over puddle-strewn paths before having to crawl under camouflage netting. You'll eventually reach some man-made mounds before arriving at and running through some rather large puddles. Expect to get very wet! You'll run on to the fast vehicle driving circuit where it is rocky underfoot. This brings you to some more large areas of water and the finish area."
When Glen sent me the details I agreed without hesitation. Due to a hectic holiday calendar I had missed the 10Km runs and half marathons the other guys have completed so far so I was up for the challenge. My training has ben progressing well and i have regularly been running 25 - 30Km a week so I felt well prepared leading up the the event.

Sunday morning started early with a big bowl of cereal and a few nerves. We left home at 8am and after scraping the ice of the windscreen, headed down towards Aldershot. As we pulled up in the race carpark I got quite excited. I had been looking forward to the race for a while and the nerves I had been feeling had now disapperared. They came back pretty quickly when I stepped out into the freezing air.

We made our way over towards the start area and grabbed a coffee while we waited for the rest of the guys to show up. Eventually the whole crew arrived - there were 11 of us racing which was a great turn-out and Kirt, Zoobs and Indre were there in support and photography roles. As we waited for the start time, which had been pushed back half an hour due to a road closure, we checked out the course. It was fairly grim. A rough dirt track with large expanses of water covered in a thick layer of ice. Apparently earlier in the morning a tank had been driven through some of the larger 'puddles' to break up the worst of the ice. Suddenly the thought of running through that wasn't quite so appealing.

We lined up for the start and at 11am got the signal and set off. My plan was to try and keep pace with Glen for as long as I could. He is a fair bit fitter than me, having already competed a half marathon in October, but I wanted to stay with him for as long as I could. We made decent pace early on, clocking up 8 minute miles for the first few. For the first couple of miles I did all I could to to avoid the water, even following a bunch of runners on a detour through the bush. I knew I would get wet and cold eventually, but wanted to delay that as long as possible.

After a couple of miles, my agressive hydration strategy backfired and I needed to pee. As I approached the first cargo net, I saw Glen was taking advantage of a bit of a backlog of people to carry out a tactical so I did the same. Unfortunately Glen had a better pit-stop than me and by the time I was back on the course he was past the net and out of sight. I didn't see him again till the end of the race.

After negotiating the first cargo net we started to hit more water. By this stage I was already starting to get wet, so I no longer tried to 'circumvrent' the puddles and charged through the middle. It was cold. I would say cold, to quite cold. And it hurt. Running through the freezing water was physically painful, and for about a minute after each water section my legs were both numb and stinging at the same time.

About 4 miles in I started to struggle a bit. I'm generally not very good at running in the morning and prefer to run once I have a few meals under the belt. My bowl of cereal 4 hours earlier had worn off and I was regretting not eating more. I was lacking energy and found myself fighting the urge to stop and have a breather.

As I approched the 5 mile mark I set myself the target of a 1.10 finishing time. I reached the 6 mile mark in just over 50 minutes so just had to run the last two miles in under 20 minutes and I was there. By this stage I was determined to crack on and make that time. I could feel the end of the race approaching and was counting down the distance in my head. I can run the 4.5 Km home from work in just over 20 minutes so was picturing the run home in my head so I knew how far I had left to go. I found this a really good technique to keep my motivation and pace up.

After a few more minutes and several more puddles I approached what I whought must be almost the 7 mile mark when a stweward who was yelling encouragement said there was 1.5 miles to go. I had already been running 9 minutes for that mile so thought she must be wrong. I swear it was a very generous mile but after 14 minutes, I made the 7 mile mark. My goal of 1.10 was now out of reach but the thought of the end spurred me on. The track led up a small hill and the finish line came in to view.

Unfortunately the finish line was to my left and the track looped round and then through another huge frozen expanse of water before I would reach it. I battled through the last 500m, struggling to breath and with aching legs. I hit the last water section at pace and dragged my legs through the thight deep water, overtaking people as I surged to the finish. I could hear Indre and the guys cheering me on, but was to tired to acknowledge them. I just wanted to get the end.

I made it across the line in 1.11.47, which was slower than I had wanted, but was still a good result. Most of the other guys were in already, the guns finishing in around 1.06, Glen about 1min 30 ahead of me.

After the rest of the guys came in we got changed and headed to find some food. We stopped at the Swan in Farnborough for a pint and a large plate of protein as Kiwi put it. I opted for the pig-based protein and was greatly satisfied...

A few days on, most of the pain has now gone, but my legs are still a little tender. I have taken the week off running and have been swimming instead which is a nice change. The runners will be back on this weekend though and I'm already looking forward to next years Grim...


Zooby said...

nice one Blinky!!!

White-Pages said...

Ha ha, great work Blinks. I tried to find a circumvrent video to link to, but couldn't - stink.

Well done mate, great effort!