Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

27th December: Brutalising an Ostrich

This Saturday, the one betwixt Christmas and New Year was day 1 of my trail running double header... The Brutal 16k. Normally the Brutal runs are 10k in length, but as a special Christmas gift to us all they give us a bonus distance of 16k: 2 laps of this year's course down at Longmoor Camp, although the less (fool)hardy out there were able to opt for the single lap and a mere 8k of mud, sweat, hills and ditch-water.

I thought I would have a bit of fun with this and tomorrow's Gut Buster and run it in fancy dress. Having appeared as one of the Blues Brothers last year I decided to ramp-up the difficulty for myself and complete this Christmas’s tomfoolery dressed as an ostrich... Yes, an ostrich.

With me doing this, LSS had to come down to watch me run, just for novelty value of seeing me dressed as an ostrich more than anything else, so the 2 of us made the short drive down to the event base on the edge of the Longmoor army camp just bordering the A3 south of Bordon.

The obligatory pristine 'before' pic.
Purposely missing-out the warm-up I took my place towards the back of the starting pack, my costume already intriguing dogs and amusing some of the smaller children gathered to wave-off their mums and dads... And as soon as I was in the pack we were off onto the trail.

We ran so fast from the start that it was all a blur :)
I managed to pick my way through the pack, with mixed views from my fellow competitors: some loving the fact that an ostrich was steaming past them, others muttering about the crassness of it and how it ‘demeaned’ the whole event - an event that involves running around a military training ground, scrambling up muddy hills and through bogs, ditches and deep puddles getting soaking wet and covered in mud… Yes, a very refined spectacle we all are as we finish, whatever our time. Personally I think some people get upset by the fact this run is a very big deal for them and have been working towards this for a while, foregoing Christmas drinks and eschewing mince-pies to be at their best and run a single lap, only to have some fat fool in fancy dress drift past them and proving perhaps that maybe all the privation of the last week was not necessarily worth it and they could have enjoyed the run without enduring cutting back on the festive cheer!

Emerging from the woodland after the start stretch we found ourselves in the first clearing and I began experiencing my first problem of being an ostrich: A saggy crotch… As I was running, the body of the ostrich was falling downwards to the point the crotch of it was now between my knees, so it was almost impossible to run as it was severely restricting the length of my stride, and no amount of holding it up was achieving anything as doing this was making me just as slow, so thinking on the hoof, or on the wing in this case I figured a quick fix and stopped to enact it… I whipped my top off and crossed the braces over to opposite shoulders before replacing my top, which alleviated the problem and I was able get back to running once more with some sense of purpose and concentrate on getting my footing right rather than adjusting and holding my costume.

Up hill...
...And down dale.
The course crossed short and sharp wet sandy hills and into the next forestry section, complete with some ‘proper’ hills of the punishing variety (that you would expect on a Brutal) and some long deep wading puddles discoloured coloured yellow from the sandy mud beneath.

Descending to the first water trap marshalled by the 'Purple One'.
An ostrich's eye view of the wade ahead.
I waded through the waist deep water with no problem, with it appearing to onlookers that the ostrich was gracefully swimming across. Once out the other side it was back along the woody trail, up and down a few more fiendishly sharp hills till I came back close to the start and the smiling LSS with her camera before I was confronted by the first of what can only be described as the total immersions.

Having gone through plenty of these in the past, there’s no point in pussy-footing around trying to get in as daintily as possible, as this only costs you time and doesn’t keep you any drier in the end! So I ploughed on into it and tried to maintain my balance as my feet tried to find the bottom, and to my relief it was only really up to the top of my legs, so scrambling out was no problem… Continuing along the parapet of the ditch for about 20 metres, cheered along the way by the few gathered spectators amused that someone in fancy dress was gamely running the course, I turned to re-cross the ditch, so following my tactics I did the same and did a full-blooded leap in to the water below, only to initially find my feet were not touching the bottom and I fully submerged, almost having to swim a couple of strokes to make the other side of the ditch… And then the fun started.

I had made a SEVERE miscalculation about the costume in how well it absorbed water. Tying to get out of the water and back on to dry land, I discovered as my legs now had to bear all the weight of the water the costume had soaked up, it was at least another 25 kilos heavier than before, and this weight was pulling me -off balance back in to the water… It took all my might to haul myself up out the water and to the top of the parapet where a lot of the freezing water now poured-out. I decided that attempting to run with all this extra weight was a fool’s errand, so I took some time to wring as much water out of the ostrich’s arse as I possibly could - those spectators there killing themselves with laughter at the sight of me bending over to squeeze some very brown looking water out of a large bird’s bottom that made it look like the bird was having an attack of diarrhoea!

Having wrung-out as much of the water as I could, I continued my merry way around the last couple of miles of this first lap, but I still had the ‘handicap’ of around an extra 10kilos or more of water around me in the costume, so the effort required to drag my sorry arse around the course was considerably more than before and I was struggling to make any pace at all, with plenty of people now passing me. Up and down some more steep woodland hills and some decent slippery mud, the finish line was in sight and through one final knee-deep 10 metre long muddy wade I was in the finishing straight and veered left past it for the second lap as most people veered right to finish their single effort… And believe me I was sorely tempted to veer right and join them, but I managed to dissuade the ‘chimp’ from stopping me and carried-on for the second circuit: buaidh no bas!

Bedraggled at the halfway point... Not sure if the water is from the costume or just puddles.
Starting on this second, and mercifully final, lap it made me realise that the number of people taking this option seemed to be far less than those running just a single lap, so all on my todd I continued on my course, waving to LSS as I went past. Stopping to drink at the aid station, I caught a fellow 2 lapper and ran a bit with him. As we chatted and jogged along we came back on to the sandy hills and a father was there with his toddler who had seen the costume and was chuckling and pointing at it, so I purposely ran over to the lad and moved the head of the ostrich was level with his so he could stroke it, before he got a ‘kiss’ from the ostrich’s beak before running on leaving a very happy chappy behind.

The second lap as you would expect was the same as the first, so I knew exactly what was coming, but I was really fatigued with the carrying of the extra weight, and getting through the double ditch immersion was even harder with tired legs, but continue I did to the finish line, eventually crossing it at a near stagger in a very slow time.

Finally finishing!
Grabbing some complimentary chocolates and a cup of water I met with LSS, the two of us walking back to the van where I promptly changed-out of the cold, wet ostrich and in to something warm whilst taking the chance to reflect upon the experience of running in this get-up in anticipation of tomorrow.

I had second-guessed where chaffage might occur, so had mercifully escaped that, except from a minor amount on my neck where the braces crossed over, which was an adaptation on the fly to how the costume was initially worn. Making this change meant the costume was easy enough to run in and I also found that I did not overheat through wearing it.. Its just in the future I really need to be avoiding water that goes over the top of my legs and in to the ostrich’s body. The legs of the ostrich if anything took the edge off of the wind out there and the elastic trainer stirrups remained in place and undamaged - so all in all I was pretty happy with the performance of the costume on what was quite a work-out for something that is merely made for standing around in at office parties!

The neck of the bird has a wire running through it to help keep its shape, and with the reigns of it around my neck, the head naturally held itself to one side in an almost camelid fashion, which made it pretty easy to not worry about and run with both hands free as you would want to… And another great thing about the costume is it fitted in the washing machine to clean-off and being made of all synthetic fibres, it was pretty much dry by the time it came out of the machine after 2 spins… I put it in the airing cupboard to dry off as best as possible ready for the second leg of my double-header, the Gut Buster.

I have to say a big thanks to LSS for accompanying me to the race and standing around on a cold Saturday morning when there are far, far better things to be doing and most of them involving staying warm, and also for her taking the pics of me - although I do suspect this was partially done for schadenfreude and the amusement value of seeing what on earth I looked like in the costume and how much of a bedraggled muddy mess I would be in at the end ;)

Eat pies.

Drink beer.
Run far.

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