Driving to the woods on Monday morning the car started shuddering and then stalled. We had only made it about 1km up the road. I knew instantly what had happened. We have been living on a strict weekly budget. We would be way inside it every week if it were not for our car. We really love our car, it is a 10 year old focus we bought especially for this trip, £750 from the Isle of Sheppey. It starts every time and is a haven of warmth and comfort in the midst of a rugged and harsh little world. It does have a very fat arse though. And it’s 2ltr petrol engine gives good Miles per Gallon (MPG) on the motorway, but not so great up and down small winding country roads. We spend much more on fuel than we do on food. There is a built in MPG Computer on the dashboard that we have been getting a bit obsessed with. We compete every morning to see who can drive to the woods most efficiently, one wrong gear change can totally ruin your score. The record is mine at 33.2.
Anyway, on Sunday we were low on fuel but Computer said we had 10miles left, enough to get by till tomorrow when we would start new weekly budget. Computer was not accurate as we were to find out.
The road we broke down on had no pavements, just a high verge on one side and a steep drop to the river on the other. And it was dark. I jumped out enthusiastically and told Nina to put it in gear and steer while I pushed. I got round to the back and told Nina to take the handbrake off. I pushed and heaved away but couldn’t move the thing. I yelled at Nina to take the handbrake off and she shouted back that she already had. I realised this for myself as, when as I stopped pushing as hard to better lambast Nina, the car instantly started rolling backwards. It reminded me of my mum’s favourite song lyric: ‘I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs’ (REM). A few cars whizzed past in a friendly fashion. They must have known only the English would be so stupid as to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere.
We tried again with Nina letting go of the handbrake and running back to help me. She was adopting a ‘back to the car’ method which, to my dismay, seemed to be working, and the car started slowly and painfully creeping up the hill. It was also veering off to the left and down the bank toward aforementioned river. Nina had to run back and yank the steering wheel to the right, while I held the car where it was. This car really does have a fat arse. We got over and coasted down the hill, only to have to go through the whole ordeal again up another one.
We finally reached a layby and parked the car. Now it was out of danger we had time to assess our predicament. The nearest petrol station had shut down and turned into a second hand car lot. The next one was all the way in Porthmadog, 5km. So began our morning run. Nina spotted a jerry can chucked into the bushes which we picked out and took with us. A great result which lifted our spirits a lot. Yes, we were in this mess entirely because of our stupid and arbitrary attempts to save on budget which meant pushing the bloody car up and down hills and then an 11k run, but hey, we had just saved a fiver on a jerry can.
I also had a phone call about my silver bullet jacket (I have put signs up all over the woods), and was extremely elated to think I would be shortly reunited with most treasured possession. However a cruel twist of fate had led to a misunderstanding. I had been trying out different, less suitable, replacements. One of which proved to be so disappointing that I left it in the carpark of the woods for the thief to help himself to (my silver bullet was taken, not lost), this was the jacket the caller helpfully phoned to return to me. Yeah thanks a lot. Karma is a bitch
I was thinking about running 120 miles this week. Reading that Mo Farah regularly logs that kind of distance and isn’t he the fastest 1500m runner in the UK (as well as double Olympic champ)? But then I found out there is a fell race going on not too far from us on Sunday. And I would quite like to try and win, which would be very difficult with 120 miles in my legs. So it was one or other and I chose the race. (Nina’s going to do it too).
Delayed Onset Nina Fatigue
Well I’d like to say I reached the end of week 4 without complaint. I’m failing. It’s not a big life-changing complaint. It’s a very satisfactory, I’m absolutely exhausted, type of complaint. This week has been a test of my ability to look on the bright side. But I think I’ve come through OK never-the-less.
Basically, Tuesday’s session went great. Really, really well. This meant that Russell and I were on enough of a high to ‘rush’ home (you all know what that entails now), eat a quick pasta dinner and go to the pub. Going to the pub involves an extra trip back up the mountain of course. But we were both buzzing and thought we should reward ourselves. Russell crashed on Wednesday and I looked after him. I crashed on Thursday and he looked after me (looking after means preparing lunch and dinner, making the fire, lighting the lamps, and allowing the other person to sit on top of said fire staring absently at the flames – there’s only room for one).
Thursday afternoon’s medium run was a joke. I had to stop myself from collapsing with laughter it was so funny/slow. And then let me tell you about Friday! I started out into the rain storm this morning thinking ‘nothing can be as bad as last Tuesday’. The power of this thought vanished as I toiled into the headwind, soaked to the bone with rain lashing into my face. It was as bad as last week. Don’t wear loose fitting lycra trousers in the rain. It’s might be obvious I know – more material to soak up more rain and hang off you like a wet dog – but I chose to prove the point for all of human kind today. Just don’t do it to yourself.
I wouldn’t say I suffer with mental health problems as a diagnosis. But running has historically highlighted some internal demons to fight. For me, it’s the mental that grinds me to a halt before the physical gets a word in. I hate admitting that by the way. Rather than seeing this as a terrible sign of personal weakness, I’m trying to work the mental like a muscle. In respect of this, I’m building up some ‘Nina Philosophies’. Here’s one that came out of this week:
Remember – there are always two ways to look at a bad session: a) it went really badly, times per km were worse that you ran this morning on an easy run, or b) you finished it – and that’s a darn site better than crying in a ball after rep 2 on the muddy path getting cold and wet anyway. In this sense the session went really well. Why ask for more? Leave happy.
Russell, probably quite rightly, thinks that my new found positivity owes a lot to the last four and a half years working in the drugs, alcohol and mental health field. I’m digesting this idea and will get back to him.
One more positive-thinking thing though. As I was running through the worst part of the weather today, a gremlin crept into my head ‘Screw the fell race on Sunday if the weather is anything like this’. And then almost as quickly, another little devil spoke on the other shoulder ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the weather was this bad on Sunday – I’d deserve anything nice, I’d be a real hero – and a human being’… Good little devil.