Simple instructions from Coach Tony Leary as we prepared for another Road2Worlds session on the Sunday :
“Sat morning again this week team
720 meet for 730 start at the museum car park again – bring a wrec bag if you have one, trail running and wrec bag carries through the wooded trail section – let me know if you are coming and if you have a bag or not”
A comment from Kirsten Whitehouse on the sunny Friday was somewhat ominous and, as it turned out, entirely correct, “tomorrow mainly running…in snow,” although it was not until I left the house that I became aware of the weather we would be training in. It made no difference to me because I had already decided to wear a hat and gloves, and I ran the 2.5 kilometres through the falling snow down to the museum car park at Verulamium Park, arriving just before Tony drove up. We agreed it was very cold as we waited for anyone else to turn up. Rebecca Cohen would not be joining us as she was feeling ill – she had made a very wise decision ! The clock was ticking towards 0720… Kirsten arrived at 0721, protesting her innocence, but Tony had been watching the time since he got here. Robert Boarder was late for the second week in a row, this time by two minutes, and Steven Lamb arrived a minute later. Tony had already checked that there was a suitable puddle available for lay downs, and as we picked up 3 wrec bags and a log (a different log to last week, which you can read about here) between us and set off, I presumed we were just heading to the puddle, so I started my Garmin and slotted in behind the others, just walking to the puddle. However, they carried on straight past the puddle, so I was already struggling to keep up !
We ran down the main path which runs from the museum car park beside the football pitches, going past the playground and the Adizone before cutting across the grass to the woods beside the Roman wall. There 5 of us, 3 wrec bags and 1 log, so Steven was not heading into the bushes to quickly relieve himself before we set off, he was actually looking for something to carry, and came out with a big slice of wood which looked more like a crocodile than anything else because of its bark, and especially when Steven had it lying on his shoulder. Tony set out the plan – we would be running the lap we all knew very well by now, up through the woods and down the boundary on the outside of the woods, which is around 1 kilometre. We would run 1 lap, then 1 lap with a carry; run 2 laps, then 2 laps with a carry; run 3 laps, then 3 laps with a carry.
The ground was muddy and wet in the woods, making running very difficult for me. I definitely need to invest in a new pair of trail running shoes. I am more used to running this loop the other way round, and it certainly poses different difficulties in this direction, running up through the tracks in the woods. Which is not to say that running down the outside of the woods is any easier than running up, and especially not this morning in the cold wind. My gloves were doing nothing to keep out the wind, and while my hat was keeping my head warm, my face was cold and my eyes were watering. I kept going as well as I could, and, of course, it all got much harder when I had to carry something. The light wrec bag had gone by the time I got back to the start, and thankfully the crocodile had also disappeared. I picked up the remaining sandbag and set off, pretty much at walking pace. The footing was even more uncertain now that I was holding an external weight which was affecting my balance. I did keep going, though, and Rob and Tony only passed me as I was coming to the final stretch of my second lap, which I definitely took as a win. The next time Rob passed me he told me the session had changed so that we would only be carrying for one lap in between the unloaded runs. As it turned out, that made absolutely no difference to me because by the time I came around for my second carry, my hands were so frozen that I could not pick up the wrec bag, let alone contemplate carrying it for a kilometre. Of course, it was not only the cold which was having this detrimental affect on my hands and fingers, but also the physical position of carrying the bag, with my arms bent and my hands up at my shoulder level, which was draining the blood from them. Steven passed me as I finished my third lap, and Kirsten caught up with me as I started out on what would be my final lap. Overall, I was happy with that performance right now.
As I came down to the finish of that final lap I saw Tony, Rob and Kirsten walking towards the football pitches to make their way to the car park. I began to cut over to them before Tony told me to get to the end of the lap first, so I curved back to the end and then ran over to join them. I took one of the wrec bags to carry back and we all looked out for Steven and the crocodile. At one point we thought we saw him coming down the slope on the outside of the woods, but nobody appeared further down, so Tony went off to find him. The three of us continued, walking back through the somewhat amazed stares of the crowd awaiting the start of the St Albans parkrun.
The weather had made it a very tough session, and I had covered 8.35 kilometres, which I would consider to be tough in itself at the moment. Tony and Rob had covered 10.89 kilometres, and Steven and Kirsten had covered somewhere in between. More to the point, Steven got Kirsten with a snowball.
It is interesting to read Tony’s comment after the session :
“Described this morning as a ‘not fun but got to be done’ kind of session
Bitterly cold, very muddy tricky underfoot conditions, 5 hardy souls
1 lap 1k hilly technical trail loop, repeat same lap with 25kg wrec bag, 2 laps just running, 1 lap wrec bag, 2 laps running, 1 lap wrec bag, 2 laps run – just over 10k total – very tough session, mentally and physically”