Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Moonlight Challenge - Report

As I left the house for the 90 minute journey to Chislet, Kent to the Marshside Fishery I had ensured that I had packed a duvet & Blanket, a shovel and a brush. I had also added in an extra sweatshirt and a large thermos flask of hot coffee, I had no plans of being stranded on a Kent motorway what with the threat of heavy snow in the forecast.

The journey was fast allowing to drop into the service station to grab a hot burger to fill my tummy for the run, I had promised myself that if in my opinion the weather was turning to snow at any point in the run I would pull out and hot foot it home.

The pre-start
The event start has changed this year away from the pub and I was amused to find that Mike was indeed not joking when he told us he had been able to borrow a 40 foot lorry container and after getting my number 11 race number I met and had a chat with my good running buddy, Matt, who looked as fit as a fiddle. We commented that as time had gone by our experience showed just by the very fact we hadn't got much kit compared to other years (I have a feeling it was because we were wearing it all!)

So climbing into the back of container I was met by about 40 other runners snuggling together in a pack reminding me of the "Ghosts in the Machine" speech by Dr Lanning in I, Robot *(see below). Quickly putting the remainder of my kit on, I chose to wear:
  1. Thin Skin top
  2. Long sleeved top
  3. Short sleeved top
  4. Kamleika smock
  5. Showerproof jacket
  6. Buff on head
  7. Buff on neck (as a face mask if needed)
  8. Skins
  9. Thinsulate gloves
  10. and my trusty Union Flag shorts
Some would say too much but my view is to start of warm and strip of as and when needed.

The Start
So being called out of the shelter of the lorry we gathered into the road to have a briefing and for Mike to fire of a horrendously loud "bird scarer" firework which signalled the start. I have learnt from this run that you need to get as near to the from as possible at the start so that you are not blocked in and blinded by the other lamps and I happily settled into the front 10 where I remained striding out at about 8:30 min/mile pace. I was soon thinking was it sensible to have worn so much kit but this doubt soon lifted when I hit an open area with the wind ripping through me like shards of glass, it was bitter.

I was really happy with my progress, my recent pace training really helping and my night running experience helping me with the route.At the first drinks stand I grabbed a cup of water and was amazed to find that the top half was now ice, the marshall told me he had only poured it 5 minutes ago!

The run continued and I felt strong as I pounded through the first lap calling my number, considering the number of people who had pounded through it was amazing to see that the normally muddy section was still holding out and I was able to keep my pace consistent.

Time to call it
The watery moon, the bitter wind and then I saw shards of frozen water vapour in the air, at first I thought it was my breath until it became quite evident. I chose to pull in at the Start/Finish and called it a day. I was totally matter of fact about it. I had a cup of coffee and stripped off to the skin and put on a dry sweatshirt and was gone within 10 minutes. The tought of driving on English motorways ina  2 wheel dive vehicle in snow is not something I relished.

After note
Half way home, the snow fell hard and by 40 minutes the roads were covered in snow, I made the right choice. I have also heard that snow fell on the course and later on the organised called it off for safety reason. I am happy with my decision but doff my cap to those who continued.

* Dr Lanning's Ghost in the Machine from I, Robot

There have always been ghosts in the machine. Random segments of code, that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness, they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together, rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote... of a soul?

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