More Steel, Less Custard

3 Sep 2013

We just spent a few days visiting friends in Kärnten and staying in their little mountain house. Apart from a little bit of rain and needing to extract Thomas’s car from the ditch where he’d decided to park it, it was a fun weekend. The best bit was that I got to spend lots of time talking to Rita, since there was quite a lot of driving. Work and Winnie things often result in us spending less time together than I’d like, so this was a nice change.

One day, the conversation came round to what it means to be “hard-core”. Rita said “We used to be tough!” and she was right. We used to do lots of things like white water kayaking, mountain biking and (especially) caving. Caving is funny: at least in the UK, if someone is a good caver, you don’t call them a “good” caver, you call them a “hard” caver. The sort of activity that often involves lying in cold water in the dark, crawling through mud for hours on end, has more of a requirement for toughness than most other things.

So, we did use to be pretty tough. Complaining was allowed, but you still had to suck it up and get on with whatever it was we were doing, even if it involved 600 metres of crawling through a narrow rocky tube resulting later in full-body bruising (Rita’s first and only trip down the notorious Daren Cilau in Wales). We even had a slogan: “More steel, less custard!” was the cry when spirits were flagging.

But now we’ve become soft. “Less steel, more custard.” Which is the wrong way round, dammit! Sure, we have our excuses. We spend a lot of time walking Winnie. We spend a lot of time working. (Recently, we’ve been spending quite a lot of time watching Grey’s Anatomy and eating chocolate, which is no kind of excuse at all!) What to do?

I’m not quite sure where she got the idea from, but Rita settled on running. We have mountains here where we live, so we can do mountain running (like hill running, but more painful). She spent quite a bit of time grimly searching the web before announcing that she wanted to do a marathon next summer, and to run the Karwendel Marsch the following year, a 52 km run over the Karwendel mountain range renowned for having horrific weather every single year it’s been run (except this year, for some reason). She found a “one year zero-to-marathon” workout programme and got the look of determination on her face she usually only gets when there’s a last piece of cake to be fought over.

So, what can a boy do? I do like running, and I can go out and run 10 km more or less without training without feeling too crappy afterwards, so I had to sign up to this plan too. I’m sure the regrets and recriminations will start once the winter weather sets in, but we should be able to encourage (or guilt-trip) each other into keeping it up.

More steel, less custard! whimper