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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Every Day's a School Day

I’ve decided to do this week’s GSW training write up, because... well, I wanted to!

We're missing Dave at the moment as his ITB is playing silly buggers. He wished us well on our way with a "I hope it's shit and you get really cold and wet!" tweet... thanks Dave. We love you too.

Intending to pick up as close to The Windmill as possible, we got a bit lost around the spectacularly badly-signed Hurtwood car parks in Ewhurst. After stumbling across a car park we didn’t recognise but had a Greensand Way signpost, we were happy to pick up the trail from there.

After a bit of faffing, some oohing and ahhing, the removal of warm fleecy clothes, and repeated checking that the van key was safely stowed and not about to fall out of Lee’s bag, we set off from whichever bloody car park it was.

Little did we know, that this day was to be a day of many lessons learnt...

Lesson 1: Geography part 1
If it’s the Greensand Way, it will be uphill.
Immediately we had a steep climb. It’s almost tradition at the start of a run now. Steep climbs are s**tty any time, but they’re just annoying when you’ve not even had a chance to warm up yet.

Lesson 2: Photography part 1
There’s always a photo opportunity.
Here we go again. Another trig point, another point of interest, some more posing.
Lee usually faces towards Magnetic Portsmouth

We also found the actual bench where the now infamous topless man advertised the Greensand Way so enticingly, and Lee did the necessary undressing and posing with great success.
(Really, it was just an opportunity for Lee to show off his new running top with Right Said Fred style fishnet armpits. There are no photos. You don’t want to see.)

Who is that topless man? Is he the reason we embarked on this whole endeavour?

Lee giving his best "Smack". That's "Smile with your back".

Lesson 3: Drama
Setting the scene
We reached Holmbury Hill, and the clouds became suitably dramatic for us to strike poses against.

Squatting on top of the world.

Rucksack-to-toe posing

Lesson 4: Science
High altitude + exposed to wind = chilly
6 miles into the run we reached Leith Hill tower. It’s the highest point not just in Surrey but in the South of England (according to a teatowel! More facts should be printed on teatowels. Children would learn better that way).
So Leith Hill is, rather understandably, a hill. We took this quarter-way point as an opportunity to shovel down some jelly babies, drink some magical Lucozade and consider going up the Tower. We did all this while standing on an exposed, windy, high area.
It turns out that standing still while a cold breeze whips around you makes you very chilly, and we pushed on from the tower downhill into relative warmth and safety.

"Wave, and pretend you didn't drive here in that Skoda!"

Lesson 5: Music
Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
We found to our amazement and amusement that not only is there a waterfall in Surrey, it’s not shit! Tillingbourne Waterfall is lovely, and it also makes you sing “Waterfalls” by the Charley Farley Sunday Four
constantly for the rest of the day.

Not pictured: Lee washing his hair a la Timotei advert

Lesson 6: Religious Education (and a bit of Science)
A temple at high altitude is still bloody cold
Our halfway mark was at The Nower, or The Temple, near Dorking. I’m not sure what it was a temple of or to, but it marked the point where we’d met up with the Greensand Way once before on the snow hash!
In typical style, we stopped at the freezing, windy peak of a hill to have a rest and a sit down, so while I layered on some thermals, Lee did his best tramp impression in a sleepy bag.

Eating crisps: doin' it wrong.

We munched on our delicious lunch of more jelly babies, some battered Jaffa Cakes, a Boost bar and a nice salty pack of crisps before buggering off back home again.

Lesson 7: Geography part 2, Sports Science, Psychology, Biology, Information Technology
Geography: Weather happens
On our way back, it started raining. It got cold, it got wet, it got a bit neg. Luckily we were prepared for all weather eventualities, and (notwithstanding the squealing “get me off this f**king freezing hill!”) we bore the temperature and humidity changes admirably.

We decided to treat ourselves to a small amount of time sheltering up Leith Hill Tower on the way back. What a joy that was, at a mere £1.30 each!
"Er excuse me mate, can you take a picture of us looking miserable please?"

Here comes the sports science bit - concentrate.
This was the ¾ point, so we’d just done about 17.4 miles. Lee had forewarned me previously about The Wall which people hit at around 18-20 miles, where your body runs out of every easily accessible form of energy (sugar, fat, glycogen stores), and starts breaking down the tough stuff (like proteins in muscle) - which
a) takes a lot longer, and is actually very energy intensive, and
b) is not particularly fun for your muscles when you’re trying to use them!

I made sure to keep back enough energy-rich sports snacks (Jelly Babies) to take on plenty of calories just before 18 miles, to make sure this didn’t happen to me. While I shovelled sweets down my gob, I attempted to throw some at Lee but he was more interested in learning about the history of Leith Hill Tower, pushing buttons on a model to make it light up, and accusing me of trying to feed him only because it would make my pack lighter.

Psychology: running brainless
Running back along a path is always a bit interesting. At one point we thought we’d completely lost the trail, through no fault of our own - at times when the Greensand Way goes across roads and changes direction, it becomes tough to spot the trail. A combination of looking fretful, reverting to lesson 1 (it’s always uphill), and checking science (the GPS) meant that despite our worries to the contrary, we were almost always on the right track. (And if we weren't, it was easy to get back onto it...)
However when we feel like we’re losing our brains a bit, this could mean something else other than poor orienteering...

Biology: you only get out what you put in
Missing signposts and losing the trail is often the first sign of low blood sugar and Lee was about to bump into The Wall a little bit.
This was easily sorted with some choice words from me (“Come on for f**k’s sake, you big doodyhead, it’s only 3 miles”) and some rapidly applied emergency sugar. It looked tough to get through and proved a big fat point:
You’ve gotta eat regularly, whether you want to or not.
I’m going to be enforcing this rule, putting my foot down with a firm hand. If you’re going to give your body a chance to complete the task you set it, you need to fuel it.

Information Technology: please please please don’t run out
As we progressed back to the van, Lee’s spare phone battery was inching its way towards death. As he runs two GPS apps (one which tracks the run, and another which overlays our position onto a Greensand Way OS map), he switched the mapping app off but kept our tracks going. We managed to get back to the van with 3% of his battery spare, but successfully tracked the whole of the journey back so could give an accurate report!

We ran 23.2 miles, leaving at 9am and returning at 3.45pm, with a half hour lunch break at the Temple and two 15 min breaks at Leith Hill, as well as plenty of photo/clothing/water/map-reading pauses!

It was a tough day at school, but I think we learnt a lot.

This is how everything looked when we finished. A bit blurred and quite skewiff.

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