When it’s too hot to run…but you do it anyway

 

Pudsey10k2017
Nearly there – thank you to the wonderful Simon Cullingworth whose photo makes me look like I’m actually enjoying myself!

 

You know it’s going to be a hot one when you’re only on the start line and the sweat is already trickling down your back and gushing into your butt crack. Gross, I know, but sometimes you just have to tell it as it is.

The heat was no surprise, with a forecast of 27C, but I’d paid and I was bloomin’ well going to run, or shuffle at the very least, I’m from Yorkshire, me, I like to get my money’s worth.

The midnight migraine hadn’t helped, though the drugs had, unfortunately they are performance-diminishing and add lead to my legs and that general feeling of fuzziness to my head. Thank goodness there were no random drug tests, though they may have taken pity and upped me a few places.

The Pudsey 10K isn’t for wimps, mainly off-road, just short of 200m altitude gain and lots of hills, including a sneaky one at the end, just when you don’t want it. But I’d run it before and I knew what I was in for. Noel’s ITB was playing up so he didn’t want to risk further injury and gallantly offered to take photos. I considered running it twice, so as not to waste his place, but the marshals couldn’t stay there until midnight, they’d much better things to do.

I made sure I took precautions, hat, sunglasses, factor 50 liberally applied and, for good measure, a pack with a litre of water. There was only one official water stop on the run and that was at the highest point, I was certain I would have expired by then if I didn’t carry my own. I even considered making a batch of marzipan balls for extra energy but in that heat, they’d have been liquid before the first hill, I’m not sure the world is ready for marzipan drinks yet. It seemed over the top when most of the runners around me were bare-headed and pack-free, but fair Irish skin (Irish since the Brexit debacle!), a complete aversion to heat and a migraine-induced fuzziness made it a necessity.

It’s never a good sign when a paramedic comes hurtling past you on a quadbike just three kilometres into the race.  When I got to the water stop, I found him helping my lovely friend Karen, who had twisted her ankle. Her race was over, though she was there at the finish cheering folk in after getting a lift back, and she’d claimed her tee-shirt (she’s from Yorkshire too!)

There were a couple of ambulances near the finish which were unfortunately occupied by runners who looked like they’d succumbed to the heat, I understand they were OK – I hope they got their tee-shirts!

As always, the support for this local race organised by the Pudsey Pacers was amazing. I was thrilled to be squirted with Supersoakers – after being politely asked if I’d like to be soaked. Oh yes, that did very nicely. As did the water from a hosepipe aimed at us (thanks, guys!) and all the extra water to pour over my head.

Even so, it was brutal, I walked where I should have run, if it hadn’t have been for the encouragement of the marshals, supporters and photographers pointing their lenses at me so I had to run, I would have given up and I don’t give up easily.

The best bit, though, was to turn the final corner and eyeball the finish line. Two of my team mates ran beside me, oh my goodness, that gave me such a boost. The rest stood there cheering, I felt like I’d won the race rather than brought up the rear, it was fabulous. I’ll be back next year, whatever the temperature.

Mud, blood and vermilion hair dye

leggy

The post cross-country shower is always entertaining, watching what whirls around the plughole on its journey back to nature. If there’s no mud, I feel robbed. Grass and small stones are a requirement, a small tree, a bonus. But today, as I washed away the detritus collected on the Yorkshire Veterans’ Grand Prix race in Pudsey, there were a couple of extras.

At the shockingly tender age of 35, a female runner is considered a veteran, so can take part in this fun series of races, none of those young whipper-snappers disappearing into the distance fuelled by teenage hormones. Just the oldies, some of us a lot older than others, some of us considering ourselves super veterans, or veterans plus. And just to rub it in, we have to wear our age on our back. Fortunately there are usually so few people behind me that my age is something of a secret.

The heavens opened as we registered for the run, everyone trying to stay as dry as they could before the inevitable drenching and mudfest. There’s something almost unseemly about getting wet before you start.

These races always begin with a turn around the field, sometimes two, just to get a coating of mud, maybe a bit of poo, grass and pick up the odd Mars Bar wrapper on luggy soles. It also allows the faster runners to sprint away, always a sight to behold. I love seeing great runners, they inspire me, I want to be one.

Cross country is just that, no pesky roads or cars splashing through puddles, we can make our own splashes. The paths are narrow and steep, nature is always nearby, nettles, and brambles. Yes, brambles, they are a definite trip hazard, so I’m always on the look-out. But they can jump out and catch you by surprise, which is exactly what happened as I slid down a mud slope, the thorns scratching my leg, drawing blood instantly. It didn’t hurt (it bloomin’ well does now!) but boy did I look gnarly, a proper cross country runner!

The rain failed to wash it off, though it did a fair job of soaking my hair and sending the semi-permanent vermilion dye which covers the grey, southwards, giving me an all-over red glow.

I couldn’t wait to clean up, and watched as the mud was joined by blood and hair dye, it was like the shower scene from Psycho, except without the scary music – and the knife of course. Hopefully the next race won’t be quite so wet and scratchy, but who knows what will head down the plughole!

The Pudsey 10k, another great race

Pudsey10k
Ready to run!

There’s that point, just after I’ve collected my race number, completed the contact details on the back to say ‘the other Akers way up front, he’ll wait for me, he always does’ and arrived at the start line that I find myself seriously questioning why on earth I want to run another race, at my age. I ask you.

Wiry, bald-headed men are whipping past me as they warm up, I’m convinced they’ve removed all visible hair to give them aerodynamic advantage. Even their shorts are like my grammar school gym knickers, skimpy and skin tight. They are serious runners, these guys.

I always make my way to the back, well, I might as well start as I mean to go on, and then remind myself that I’m here because I love it, I’m even paying for the privilege. And on this occasion, I’m expecting to be beaten by my nemesis again, yes, that bloody giant daffodil.

To say it’s held in a market town six miles from metropolitan Leeds, the Pudsey 10k is a brutally tough race. There’s hills and there’s Pudsey hills, short and steep, muddy and stony, finishing with a soul-destroying three-kilometre drag on roads and pavements, up another hill to the park and blessed relief. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, which is just as well, as this was my fourth time lining up with the wiry, hairless ones and the damned daffodil. The daffodil, by the way, is a Pudsey Pacer in a green and yellow felt costume, whoever they are, they always beat me. But I’m not there to win.

At my level, ie near the back and only eight years of running on my shoes , it’s not about the winning, how could it possibly be? It really is about taking part in a local race with my mates. I love the experience of running with good runners and seeing them disappear into the distance, of being greeted at the bottom, middle and top of every hill as well as every road junction and even bits in between and being cheered by Pudsey folk, a lovely bunch. One of the local pubs even puts on an extra water stop and a couple of kids hand out sweets. I took one that looked like a mini fried egg, I think it might have been, it still tasted great.

The support is fantastic, and I love every minute of it. At least I’m saying that now I’m home, changed, showered and lounging on the sofa watching a great football match (not England then). Oh my goodness I’ll be back next year, you can bank on it. That daffodil had better watch out, I’m already in training…

Daffodil2
That bloody daffodil. Thanks to Andrew Byrom for the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring me the head of the Daffodil

Something I see in my nightmares....
Agh, agh, the daffodil ate my head!

For Sherlock Holmes there’s Moriarty, Superman has the double whammy of Lex Luther kryptonite and in some episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation, the quirky and capricious Q pops in and out. But when it comes to my own personal nemesis, The One That Cannot Be Beaten, it’s a giant sweaty daffodil.

Ever since the Narcissus Giganticus puffed past me on the Puma Pudsey 10km two years ago, I swore I’d have my revenge. How could an uprooted bulb beat me? It was embarrassing, that’s what it was. I mean I’m more of a nut and bolt than a Usain Bolt, but a daffodil cutting a swathe through a host of golden runners to beat us to the finish line? No, no, NO!

The daffodil, symbol of the chosen charity Marie Curie Cancer Care, runs the undulating course each year, and, I found out, could be any one of the fine bunch of Pudsey Pacers. This did not bode well, they’re a nippy lot, those Pacers and I half hatched a plan to run as a giant squirrel, because as we all know, squirrels love to dig up bulbs, but the thought of wearing any costume, let alone with with a big furry tail in the record-breaking July heat was too much. I would just have to trust my own speed. Yes, I was doomed.

The start went well, I was off like ungreased lightning, holding a steady position near the back of the field. At every turn I was looking for the green and yellow behind me, waiting for the inevitable. I was slightly comforted that it didn’t happen until the big hill at the seven kilometre mark when, but don’t tell anyone, she took off her flower head to reveal a very sweaty face and soaking wet hair. The all-over foam and fur costume had no vents and poor Sharon (yes, we were on first name terms, it seemed churlish to call her Nemesis) must have been half the woman she was when she set off. All thoughts of tripping her up and pushing her into the nettles disappeared, I felt ashamed for having such a thought. Especially when she revealed that none of the guys were prepared to do it, so she had volunteered. We got to the top of a hill, she put her head back on and was off like a shot,

We met up again, I finished some little time after she did and she was kind enough to keep the sweaty costume on for just a little while longer to be photographed with us and then to let me try on her head. The word ‘nemesis’ was never even mentioned.

So that makes it Daffodil 2 Anne 0. I think I’m going to have to get in training for next year right now, because it’s not going to beat me again!

A tale of two customer services

Canadian dollars thanks to good service in Pudsey
Canadian dollars thanks to good service in Pudsey

As I stand there, cash in hand, waiting for the person behind the counter to finish their important conversation with their colleague about the viscosity of their ear wax, I want to shout at them ‘Am I TOTALLY invisible?’ or, in my crosser, more hormonal moments, ‘You’d know about it if you worked for me, you wouldn’t for long, there’s good people queuing up to do your job. And they’d do it better. And they don’t have ear wax! ‘

Of course, I don’t, I just resort to one of my telepathic messages of dissatisfaction and fix them with my Angry Stare which Noel says is very scary, and he doesn’t scare easily, except when I ask him to dance.

So when I handed over my insulated mug and asked for a tall skinny latte, the little madam behind the counter at Costa’s outlet at Trowell services on the M1 looked at me as if I had just crawled from under a slimy stone. She said petulantly, ‘I don’t know what that is’. Now it was early morning, I needed coffee, decent coffee, Costa coffee. But I had committed some kind of cross-competitor coffee sin, I had asked in Starbucks speak, where such a request gives me my drink of choice. For some reason, maybe it was the stupid o’clock time, I felt I had to apologise for asking for a drink using the language of a competitor.

“Can you help me out, here?” I asked, “I’m not sure what size fits in my environmentally-friendly mug, which Starbucks gives me a 25p discount for using”

“I don’t know,” she said unhelpfully, managing to avoid The Angry Stare, At that point I should have left it and gone down the road to Leicester Forest East where the Starbucks staff are always pleasant and welcoming. She wasn’t open to making a suggestion on which size, so I guessed, but it was hugely expensive, which I commented on in a HOW MUCH kind of fashion.

“Yes, we are more expensive,” she said, as if that was a good thing. “And we don’t give discounts for using your own mugs either”. Well that’s all right, then, I get the privilege of paying more, helping you contribute to global warming and putting up with bad attitude. Thank you very much, you’ll not be seeing me in your little Kingdom of Bad Service again. Which is a shame, because every other Costa I have ever been to, and there’s mots of those, I drink a lot of coffee, has been excellent.

Contrast that to the superb service I received today from two competitors. My quest for Canadian dollars was fast failing, it seems not many places stock them, not in Pudsey anyway. But the very helpful Amy at Thomson immediately phoned another outlet to ask, though they didn’t have any either. She suggested a competitor, the Post Office, then phoned them too as she didn’t want me to have a fruitless trip up the high street. Yes they did have dollars, she confirmed, then gave me directions not just to the Post Office, but to the location of the foreign money counter. I thanked her and said I was impressed with the service, even though they got no custom from me on this occasion.

On arrival at the Post Office, they had the dollars waiting for me, along with useful advice, which I will definitely take next time. We had a pleasant chat on the general wonderfulness of Canada, particularly for scenic skiing and I left the building, a very satisfied customer.

Good customer service costs nothing, but bad service costs custom. Three cheers for Thomson and the Post Office in Pudsey. A tall skinny latte in a Starbucks mug in the eye of that one member of Costa staff at Trowell.

The best of all goody bags

Noel, Andy and me and my goody bag

It wasn’t until I was tucking into my fifth chocolate bar that I realised my goody bag was special. I thought everyone had three Kit Kats, two Rocky bars, a bag of sweets and a Care Bear badge along with an apple, banana and technical teeshirt as a reward for slogging up 10km of hill in the blazing Pudsey heat. No, it turns out, it was just me.

Entering the Puma Pudsey 10k was a capricious decision. We were going to cheer our friend Andy as he crossed the finish line, chuckling and congratulating ourselves on avoiding the race dubbed ‘The Hardest, Steepest 10k in the Known Universe’ by those in the know on the chat forums. Then Noel, whose system was still surging with endorphins from the morning’s Park Run said, ‘Why don’t we do this really steep, difficult run?’. I was similarly swimming in an endorphin haze, so I agreed.

The old lags at Race HQ said the steep hill was at about the 4km mark, with a steeper one at the 7km, finishing on a slight incline. And so it turned out to be. I saw no-one run up the steep hills through the woods. Even the giant flower I’d been tailing from the start looked like he was going to put down roots as he melted inside his thick foam costume.

So the goody bag at the end, with its promised sugar rush, was in my sights. Noel and Andy were quite a bit ahead of me, so had eaten, drunk and were very merry. I sat down with my bag and pulled out the Kit Kats and Rocky Bars and ate the lot, the guys watched with what I thought was respect. It turned out to be envy as I seemed to have an over-chocolated goody bag.

When we got home, me bouncing around with sugar rush, Noel not, we tried on our teeshirts. Mine fitted, Noel’s didn’t. I now had a belly full of chocolate and two teeshirts. It was the day that just kept on giving, for me anyway.