All mud and no running

Would it surprise anyone if I said that I spent yesterday crawling around in the thick Chiltern mud?  I don’t suppose so as any regular readers will know that I’m always up to my knees in the stuff.

But the main aim of yesterday was not to get too muddy, but rather bump and splosh around at an elegant ride height at least a couple of feet above the ground.  Courtesy of the Land Rover Experience.  The function of this truly excellent centre is to demonstrate to potential buyers the ability of this most English of Chelsea Tractor.  In extremis. 

I can tell you first hand that the streets of Kensington & Chelsea are cared for in a way that puts other councils to shame, with perfectly paved, level sidewalks, motorway standard tarmacking and regularly cleaned gutters.  Outside of the garden squares and patio pots, mud does not feature widely. 

This centre, by comparison, has an awful lot of the stuff.  Deep, slippery ruts and complex cross-cuts, tracks submerged in watery mud, teflon-coated muddy grass, steep muddy inclines and dizzying drops, tree-lined forest tracks with mud mixed with roots… you name it, they have it! 

I know from ice-driving in Sweden how much difference tyres make to safety so I was stunned to find out what kind they proposed to use to cope with this dictionary of muddiness: standard road tyres on all but one fairly old, green Defender.  Moreover, all but the aforementioned were completely standard vehicles in every aspect.

During the day I got to drive the green Defender through the very worst of the mud and deep water, a Range Rover down through the forest trail (avoiding all but three of the myriad tennis balls suspended strategically from the trees), a new silver Defender round a typical time trial section with awkward gates, tricky changes in camber and surface and the very worst of the ruts and cross-cuts (Penny and Pete will know what I mean) and a Range Rover Sport out on the road. 

To prove how truly amazing these vehicles are, we persuaded the team to let us drive the final vehicle, an £80k Range Rover Vogue TDSE, not out on the road as planned, but over some extreme bumps and at some fairly radical angles both sideways and endways.  I’m pretty comfortable driving most anything, but we were at such an angle sideways at one point that I thought I was going to fall out of my seat!

I was so enthralled that I completely forgot to take any pictures, but late in the day I caught a short video.  Watch the horizon very carefully to get a sense of what we were doing in a perfectly controlled way, in beautifully appointed comfort.  the-drop.mp4

All-in-all a totally mud-tastic day!

Breaking new, er… water


There seemed to be a plethora of possible titles for my entry today, amongst them ‘Harmless Barbie Lost Her Head-ing Too’ (I’ll see if I can get a picture at some point, then you’ll understand!) and ‘Beyond the Edge of the Known Universe’.  Let me set the scene though: I didn’t feel like running, it was raining outside, my stomach was ready to eat breakfast, I was happy sitting reading about deforestation in China etc.  But weighed against that was the need to write… and hence the need to run… allied to the fact that my gear is truly BRILLIANT.  Out I went.

I couldn’t decide whether I was in the mood for a long or a short run, but I topped my water bottle up just in case.  It quickly became apparent that water was going to be in abundance, with the brooks and streams pretty much filled to overflowing.  This meant that it was also rather muddy… oh boy, is that ever the understatement of the year!

I quickly got into my stride, heading straight through most of the mud except where there was a more obvious firm line.  One of the things that you quickly learn when you first drive a car off-road is that you have to slow down and this was no exception… trying to avoid a mudbath at the last minute was not an option given the general lack of traction, so it was often safer to go straight through!

I headed out to the Royal Oak and then decided to go a different way.  It seems strange to me sitting here now why I always seem to do this on rainy days!  I ran into Wivelsfield and up Slugwash Lane and then turned right where Nick and I normally cut across.  Rather than going back down to Wivelsfield though, I headed East with the view of finding a path that goes South further across.  I didn’t find it though and ended up running around a big WET field before passing the place I had come in.  With the dull, overcast sky, I had managed to lose my direction in the process and now headed North by mistake, into a tract of woodland that could more appropriately have been called WaterWood.

The marked path was basically a small river, so I had no choice but to plough on through it.  Splish Splash Splosh!  It is very strange how the heart is heaviest when you think you’re going in the wrong direction but you’ve come too far to turn around: out of the whole run, it was only here that I actually registered that it was raining.

Eventually, after more trees, more water and some beautiful, but distant country houses, I emerged back onto Slugwash Lane, although I was sufficiently disorientated that I didn’t realise it.  Faced with the choice of which way to go on this unfamiliar road I did what many of my other friends might have done… I chose the up-hill direction.  Training is training, after all.

I finally realised where I was when I came to the junction with Lewes Road, to the East of Haywards Heath… and off the top of my map (no, I didn’t have it with me, silly!).  The quick way home might have been to turn round and head back down Slugwash Lane to Wivelsfield, but instead I turned towards Haywards Heath and then, some way along the road, made a right turn into Colwell Lane which was marked as unsuitable for motor vehicles.

It seemed okay to me as I ran down the tarmac but then the tarmac ceased and I soon came to understand what the sign meant.  Unsuitable?  HA!  This was the muddiest lane I have run on this whole winter!  Oh, how I wish the Bok had been here with his freshly laundered trainers!  I could almost have paddled my kayak in places, it was that wet.  On and on and on it went and anyone hiding in the undergrowth as I passed (and they would have been hiding, believe me) would have heard the mud-covered monster laughing out loud as he sploshed through the worst of it.

Eventually the tarmac resumed and I emerged onto Fox Hill, passed the pub (very tempting to stop, but they used to have a policy of not allowing muddy boots and I know I would have not even have made it to the door) and headed back into the country in the general direction of Burgess Hill.

Some records are not destined to stand for long and I quickly found that, on reflection, Colwell Lane was not the muddiest of them all.  This bridleway really was hilarious and I ended up with one main consideration… not losing my trainers!  In places the water & mud was up to my ankles, but on I went.  Finally, when it had been assured of it’s place as the new record holder, it morphed into Theobalds Lane, and the ancient tarmac with its plethora of axle-breaking puddles served the useful purpose of washing the mud off my trainers… once again, where was the Bok when I really needed him!

There are two reasonably direct ways back home from this place, one of which has thick mud in the middle of summer, so I opted for the other, even though it was a little dull running on the road. 

So, my little run had taken me some 10.2 miles in one hour 45 minutes and whilst the speed of 5.8mph is not outstanding, I think it can hold its muddy head up with pride given the fantastical conditions.  As can my gear… my Rono soft underlayer, Gore jacket and iQ beanie, all from Run in Hove (actually), really do help make every day a fair weather runner’s day!

Slip-sliding away, la la laaaa…


As I sit here, quickly recording this morning’s activity so that I can get back to work, the sun is streaming through my study window.  Beautiful!

I think there must be a new moon about now, as it was super-dark when I got up and even when Nick arrived it was cold and grey with little prospect of good cheer… as was his mood!  It’s amazing how quickly the weather, and our moods, can improve and surprise us!

I didn’t really assimilate the information when he mentioned that it would be muddy out today and I have only just remembered, hours later, that it was throwing it down with rain for England last night.  And so it was muddy!  We headed out to the Kings Head, along the secret path, before turning and coming back across the common.

At some point, on an incline, I experienced a little ‘wheelspin’, which unfortunately showered Nick in large globs of mud and later he accidentally ran through a puddle, drenching my leg in very cold and watery mud!  Fair is fair!  And to be honest, we were both so covered that it would have been hard to determine which of the mud was inflicted!

Anyway, the result today was 4.7 miles in 47 minutes… a very straightforward 6mph, which was not at all bad considering that I had to pause a couple of times to catch my breath and we were both slip-sliding away!