Thursday, 10 May 2012

Spooky speed work

I'm not a speedy runner. I'm more of your back of the pack runner that just likes to do his own thing - what that actual 'thing' is though, I'm not really sure? It could be as simple as preservation - preserving me that is - or it might be laziness or it could be a case of not having much running talent. While running around the French Alps (Tour du Mont Blanc) in 2001, I was told that my legs were suffering because of something called LOFT, which is a mnemonic for 'Lack Of Focused Training' but in my case it's meaning was changed to Lack Of F****ing Talent! Mind you the person uttering those words was one of two Geordies who were doing the run with me, both of whom just loved abusing the softy southerner among them.

Even though I am a slow runner, I do take my training seriously - thresholds, kenyan hills, long runs, recovery runs, steady runs, gym work, I do them all several times a week and I take rest days as well. The latter because as an 'oldie', my body needs to do nothing now and again. I don't know about you but I like to do my training - and running - off road; it's just great to be running through nature rather than running through exhaust fumes and other nasties associated with running on roads. Mind you, off road running can bring it's own form of nasties and I'm not talking here about tree roots, rocks and pot holes, I'm talking about the nasties that lurk in your mind when running at night through deeply dark woodland and forest trails or when crossing open ground, such as that found on Caesars Camp, in thick fog. Canal towpaths and old railway lines are not the friendliest of places either as the slightest splash or rustle can make your heart rate jump to it's max in the blink of an eye; or perhaps more fittingly, a heart beat. These same nasties can also bring - at a cost to your mental health - great benefits too. Speed, pace and cadence for instance can be transformed into super flight when your hackles are raised and your imagination is running riot; the strongest of head lamps won't help you either... it's far too late for that. Recently I found myself doing a 3 x 8 minute threshold session around the tracks and trails of Caesars Camp just as darkness descended and, yep you've guessed it, I got spooked, so spooked that afterwards I just had to share it on facebook. This is what I wrote:

'60mins of spooky running tonight - in the darkness of the woods, eyes of deer and foxes reflected back my torch light, soldiers in full camouflage drifted silently in and out of the darker pine stands - a lone owl hooting above their heads. In the grassy fields bordering my running grounds, unseen dogs barked frantically as a powerful light swept over the ground - perhaps a 'lamper' out looking for a rabbit supper?

I can tell you that with each 8 minute circuit through these dark running grounds, my speed increased proportionally to the level of fear felt. I was exhausted when I got home! This is not my first spooky speed work experience, in fact I've had quite a few over the years; some best forgotten but some are well remembered too, like the time I ran from home to my then running club, Blackwater Valley Runners, on a rather dark Halloween night. I'll leave that tale another time though. 

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