Monday, December 15, 2014

Running to HELL, Humiliation and Public Disgrace

About two years ago, I got all my wisdom teeth pulled out. A normal person would stay in bed and eat icecream. I am not a normal person. Instead, I decided to run a 10km obstacle race, because in my antibiotic addled mind - my team needed me.
My team wasn't some sort of county or club team. This was a smattering of work colleagues running a silly obstacle course for the laugh. I was not doing it for the laugh. I had been trained to race. I was taking the whole thing, wisdom teeth or no wisdom teeth, very seriously indeed.
Upon arrival at the race, I realised this was very different from my usual sort of event. There was nobody emaciated sprinting past, there were no impossible looking warm ups and literally nobody was dressed properly for running fast.
Everywhere I turned, there were women more concerned with taking selfies than how tightly their shoes were tied.
I decided to do my usual dynamic warm-up.
Given the lacklustre attempts of my competitors, I started to build a false sense of confidence. As I did weird Swedish skips to intimidate the masses, I forgot all about my antibiotics and the fact that I rarely race over 2 miles. I didn't think about the numerous obstacles that had earned this race its ridiculous title. During my intimidating warm-up, I was 100% sure I would beat everybody.
I looked pityingly at the gym bunnies and couch to 5k runners in my midst. They had no idea what I was capable of.
My false sense of confidence lasted exactly 50 metres into the race. At this point we had to plunge into a freezing cold pond. It was January in Ireland. The water was the exact temperature I imagine death feels like. I watched as my competitors splashed about and laughed.
I emerged from the pond, shivering from head to toe. I was not wearing enough clothing. We kept running. I could not get warm. I was so cold that even the smallest, most pathetic obstacles seemed to be heralding my doom.
They made us run up mountains...
Scale tyres...
It was after crawling through several tyres like a small defeated baby that I realised I was in a bad way. I could no longer feel my legs. I was shivering uncontrollably and I had started to fantasise about blankets.
I tried asking a course marshal to save me. I ran up to him and said "blaaaaa". He probably thought I was crazy, but I could not remember any real words. He pointed to the next obstacle - a bag of cement that I was supposed to run up a hill with. I'm not proud of it. I wept. There was then the longest 100 metres of my life dragging the bag because I could not get it off the ground. My competitors sprinted past with their cement bags tossed casually over their shoulders. One lovely gentleman did assist me in my hour of need, or I would probably still be there.
Things only got worse. There was a 5 minute crawl under barbed wire, where I was subjected to the most questionable chat-up attempt by a man who was crawling beside me in the mud. I was sprawled in muck, weeping and cursing under my breath. I was too defeated to pretend to be flattered.
None of this was as bad as THE WALL. This was designed to stop all short people progressing without help. I do not enjoy asking for help. I also have the upper body strength of a toddler. I clutched the wall and shivered in vain.
Eventually someone took pity on the stubborn girl weeping alone at the bottom of the wall and gave me a boost.
Once on the wall, I did not feel the need to get down. I was happy there. It was comfy.
In the end someone shoved me, and I rolled in the air, before plummeting to the floor. Where I lay and wondered what terrible thing I had done to deserve this Hellish experience.
I could not understand the people around me. They were revelling in the mud and misery. Did they not know that you could run without all this ridiculous hardship?
I would like to say that I gathered my dignity. That I harnessed some part of my athletic training and used it in those final metres, but no. What happened was much more embarrassing. I had lost all feeling in my legs and by some strange miracle could only crawl.
I was 100% focused on crawling as fast as I could to the finish line, where I knew there'd be big, tall, strong people to carry me to safety.
My arms were blue, I didn't know where I was and I wasn't even sure I had legs anymore, but I knew as soon as I saw him that he was the man to save me. Standing just past the finish line was the tallest man I'd ever seen. I don't even know if he was a course marshal. I do know that I was delirious with exhaustion and in that moment it was only his height that mattered.
 The last thing I remember is throwing myself at his feet.
And then, safe in the knowledge that I had found a strong enough man to carry me to safety, I passed out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Becoming the Champion of Knitting

I have a tendency to get notions. Most of these notions come out of nowhere, just an idea, and then suddenly I throw myself at that idea. Without warning anyone. I simply decide that I think something is possible, therefore it will be so. In other words, I'm a bit stupid. When I was about nine years old I decided I was going to become the knitting champion of the world.
It didn't matter that I had never knitted before. I was sure that I would be the best.
I mostly decided on knitting, because everyone was always going on about how good the other girl in my class was at it. She was forever clicking her needles and casting off beautiful scarves. I decided to scope out the competition.
After listening to her speech about how much she loved to knit things for others, I decided she was a fake. I also decided that my knitting success would cause her to be forgotten forever more.
I knitted for all I was worth. I did not even know what it was I was knitting.
It soon became clear that I needed a goal. Knitting to take over the world was not enough. I needed a smaller temporary thing to focus on.
That didn't work either.
I had to tell someone my plans, that way it would be easier to keep going. So I told me father of my plans to knit him a hat.
I was incensed.
We had to bring our knitting to school. I was too embarrassed to take mine out as it was not quite at extravagant as I had wanted it to be. So I spent the class glaring at our prized knitter and contemplating ways to steal her work.
But the teacher insisted that I join the class activity. So I knitted along with the best of them.
This obviously didn't last long. There is nothing more soul destroying than knitting.
Knitting soon took over my life. I spent my evenings trying to make my dad's hat, knowing that queen knitter was visiting her granny, bestowing countless scarves upon her.
It became clear that this was one battle I would never win.
But then I had a notion.
I would knit more than anyone else, I'd just knit super tiny things so it wouldn't take ages.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Truth About Riding Sheep

There comes a time in every girl's childhood that she notices a void in her life. For me that was a horse. Having never wanted anything much, up until that point, it seemed like it would be something easy to obtain by simply smiling and requesting it.
But the pony request was met with silence. It seemed there was a limit to the happiness my parents would allow me. So I decided to pray to the God-person everyone was always talking about.
It became clear that he was a fake.
So I turned to the other magical entity of childhood....Santa....
It was harder for me to understand why Santa didn't answer. I had physical proof of his existence every Christmas morning. It seemed silly he wouldn't bring me a pony, when I did all the things that adults told me constituted being a good girl.
It was clear I needed to take matters into my own hands.
I decided to turn our dog into a horse.
The dog was less than cooperative and I soon gave-up. I cast about for different ideas and soon I had an idea.
I scoped out my mother's small gathering of animals (her attempt at rekindling her childhood farmyard memories) and decided on my next victim.
I wanted to commandeer the fastest animal. I was surprised when I discovered which animal that was.
The geese were by far the speediest of our creatures and also, as I soon discovered, relatively difficult to straddle. After several attempts I finally had myself the most unlikely of pony substitutes.
However, geese are an oppressed creature and it wasn't long before my goose-horse turned quite violently against me.

The Goose was not a long term solution.
It was clear to me that I would need to pick an animal with less dexterity of the neck, no beak and no tendency to manic fits of violence.
I decided upon what I deemed to be the most gormless of creatures.
The sheep were faster than me and after running several futile laps of the field, I had to reconsider my tactics.
I decided to pull out all the stops.
After several ninja-type approaches that failed, I decided to scale a tree that they grazed under. I knew they would never expect me to drop from the sky onto their fluffy little backs.
I'd like to say I only tried this method once, but we both know that would be a terrible lie. Instead I plunged from the tree countless times.
Each time. the sheep would wait till I was inches from straddling them, before side-stepping neatly out of the way and continuing to graze. The sheep broke me, I lost interest in finding a pony and learnt an important lesson about underestimating our fluffy friends.

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