Things I learned at the end of the year

Last night I stayed up way too late, reading Madame Bovary. The Christmas period is a good time for rest and reflection, catching up on sleep and getting organized. Not for depriving yourself of sleep by rereading French novels. Needless to say, La Serpiente Aquatica Negra awoke at seven as usual and came to wake me up, when I should have been asleep or mourning my exploded bicycle inner tube.

This was my last weekend to run MacRitchie this year, and instead I was on the sofa, groggy and gloomy. So instead, we went over to our friends’ condominium to use their swimming pool while they were away. This taught me several things.

My daughter has an irrational fear of jacuzzis. One of the smaller pools has a button you can press to activate jets, which immediately reduced our child to tears, the wailing only subsiding when we turned the jets off. She wasn’t in the pool, complaining about being pummelled by the water. She was standing beside it, shouting at her parents for being idiots. On the other hand…

My daughter knows no fear of slides. The condo has a children’s pool with a slide, and she happily whizzed down that at great (read "ankle snapping") speed, into a 50cm deep pool.

A fifty cm deep pool is much colder than a meter deep pool. The kids’ pool was baltic, the adult pool was reasonably warm, when I would have expected the reverse to be the case. Ah well. I lingered in the main pool and worked on my doggy paddle.

If your friends go away for the weekend, they won’t leave the air conditioning on. Which is reasonable. Which means it’s quite unreasonable to go up to their flat to get changed, leave the air con off, and then expect not to sweat profusely and almost faint.

These things learned, we went home again, via Nylon, a coffee roasters in the middle of the Everton Park HDB complex. We’ve only just discovered this; it serves very good coffee and nothing else whatsoever. On the positive side, I like 100% focus on something. On the negative, what is coffee without scrambled eggs?

All this done, we got home by eleven and then put our daughter down for her nap. That gave me time to cut out and assemble all the pieces of Space Hulk, and stare at the enormous board on our dining table, just before our child reemerged and attempted to destroy everything. I hastily packed Space Hulk back up and returned it to the spare room for later.

This afternoon, we did the laundry and the washing up, and I fed our daughter yoghurt. It’s hard to get food into her sometimes, unless she’s distracted. In this case, it turns out that if she’s stood on a stool, peering into the sink as her mother does the dishes, there is no practical limit to the amount of yoghurt she’ll eat, as long as I keep loading a spoon with it and putting it into her mouth without interrupting her view of the dishes. Clearly this isn’t something my wife can do on her own, so these four days have been a boon for our child’s diet.

At three, I persuaded them we should all go to MacRitchie. Then they could have a walk around, I’d get my run in, and all would be well. The skies were grey now, like the belly of a fish, and things seemed ominous.

Things stopped being ominous the moment we left our building, because then the downpour began and there was no suspense about whether it would rain or not. By some miracle, we flagged down a taxi (usually they all dissolve upon contact with rainwater) and were taken the long way round to MacRitchie, where the sun still shone and there was no rain. So hurrah for that.

We walked about a kilometre from the entrance, to the boardwalk around the lake, along the way watching monkeys and waiting for our child to stop picking up pieces of gravel from the paths. Then I finally tore myself away from my family and set off on my run. After yesterday’s race, I was intending on taking it easy rather than pushing myself.

This is easier said than done. With the rolling hills of MacRitchie, it’s very hard to keep your heart rate down and still maintain any speed. About halfway round, I gave up on trying to stay in the easy range and started pushing harder. If I was going to exercise too hard, I should be going all out, not just in between easy and hard. There is no happy medium.

In the end, this meant I came close to my personal best, even with those consciously slow miles near the start. As I got to the end of the course (half a mile from where I usually start and stop, because of the family excursion) the rain began to fall on MacRitchie and I trudged slowly back to the car park where I’d stowed my gear in a locker.

On the way back, I checked the Recovery Advisor on my watch, a grand name for a feature where it tries to estimate how knackered you are. For the first time, it read in days rather than hours: I’m sure I’ve had 72 hours as a reading before, so 3 days must be super serious advice to take things easy. And to think, that was my recovery run.

I was delighted when I got back to the cafe at the car park to find my wife and daughter. They’d taken slightly less time than I had to run round MacRitchie, to walk the half mile back from where we’d separated. Then again, efficient motion with an eighteen month old child can never be expected. I got changed, the downpour ceased (so much for the rainy season, eh?) and we caught a taxi back home, while all the while I continued to sweat profusely.

Things I learned from this:

I’m faster at running than my eighteen month old daughter. For now.

They’re resurfacing the descent on the path leading down from the hill by the golf course. This is horrible because instead of a rough muddy chute, there’s ten or twelve steps, covered in gravel and perfectly arranged to send me arse over tit. I know that trail maintenance is always a compromise and what’s fun to run may not be durable under weather and other causes of erosion, but I wish they weren’t removing all the fun things to run down.

The lockers at the cafe at MacRitchie cost one dollar to use. That’s not a deposit; you don’t get it back afterwards. I’m not sure what the maintenance costs of lockers are, but perhaps the small fee puts off the parsimonious from using them, which means in future I may be confident of getting an available one when I come for a run at 7am. Which means I can take my phone and a change of clothes with me, which is wonderful.

And a change of clothes after MacRitchie is useless, given my sweatiness. I need at least two changes of clothes.

When we got home, I almost keeled over from hunger and exhaustion. Turns out today’s coffee wasn’t all that against the exertion of my run. We quickly got pizza (the Indian restaurant we wanted to patronize has shut) then went home and bathed the child, before finally playing Space Hulk.

The first game was a draw, mainly because we both played too defensively. In the second turn, I blew up my best Space Marine by rolling three 2s on my dice, and not reading the rulebook closely enough. After that, I got bogged down and failed to save humanity. Tomorrow we have the rematch, and when my wife destroys the bad guys with ease, I’ll get into another sulk.

But tonight I can sleep easy in my compression tights, happy that I’ve managed to get in one last MacRitchie this year, and learn lots of things. And so to bed. (Well, sofa.)

2 thoughts on “Things I learned at the end of the year

  1. I knew a swimming pool in Ealing where you didn’t get your money back from the locker, but that wasn’t intentional. It got condemned quite soon after I visited it (the lockers were the least of the problem, cloudy water anyone?)

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