Saturday, 23 February 2008

Recycling

I went for a run yesterday - I'd finished early for the day and decided to make the most of a few extra bonus hours of daylight, so packed provisions for a riverside run west to Kew, east to Putney and then home. It's a distance of about 20 km.

There were a few things I should have thought of before setting off. The first was that I spent the first few miles running into a stiff headwind, which wasn't exactly my idea of fun. Secondly, and more soggily, I should have checked the tide times. About 50 m of my route was made impassable through flooding at high tide. Being a bit of an idiot, and being on the home stretch, and also deciding that a bit of water might help cool me down, I decided to run through the flood rather than detour.

Note to self 1: River water is unpleasantly cold at this time of year.
Note to self 2: Thames floodwater isn't exactly the cleanest liquid to splash through.
Note to self 3: Next time you're running about 20 km, remember that a few hundred metres of detour isn't exactly a problem, and besides, the point of this exercise was to run a long way. Fool...

Half a mile further on, a little lad out for a stroll with his family was amused to find me wringing out my socks, insoles and trainers. His mother (I assume...) tried to explain to him what I was doing. God knows why she thought I'd been for a paddle in the river in my trainers and socks. She made it sound so... so stupidly premeditated. It wasn't. I'd just been an idiot and not checked the tide conditions before heading out, and continued to be an idiot in deciding to run through the water anyway. Perhaps it would have been better for her to tell her son this rather than trying to invent an unlikely tale about how some people like to go paddling in their shoes and socks because it protects their feet...

Pulling my socks over my cold, wet, unresponsive and grit-covered feet was horribly unpleasant, particularly as the visual cues I was receiving which told me I was indeed putting my feet back in my soggy socks in no way married up to the lack of sensation in my feet and numb, cold hands. Heck, I'd been stupid. My feet were going to be fertile territory for blister-cultivation, and the combination of broken skin and dilute sewage has never been one I've eagerly anticipated. Luckily, I only had another half hour to go. As I squelched the remaining water out of my trainers, I took the opportunity to wring out my cap, too. At least that was only drenched in sweat, a far more predictable and altogether less grim substance than the dilute effluent known as The Thames.

I got home with my pack now considerably lighter, having been relieved of two litres of fluid, one maltloaf and half a pack of peanuts and raisins along the way, and my kit considerably heavier (thanks to all that sweat and floodwater).

A shower and a few drinks later, I felt brave enough to sort out my kit. My trainers, socks and insoles went for a long, cool shower. I didn't want to take a chance on leaving my trainers to dry without a decent rinse first to get rid of any Thames nasties which might have made themselves at home.

As for my sweat-soaked cap:



20 km later...


I wasn't sure what that white stuff on the cap was - it certainly hadn't been there when I'd set off. Then I wondered... I poked it a bit, looked at the crystals, had a bit of a sniff and then resorted to the chemist's standby of tasting it and hoping not to die in the process of identification.

My suspicions were confirmed. The white stuff on the (free with a job interview) cap was salt. Not so long ago, it'd been sitting happily dissolved in my bloodstream, having an escorted tour of my arteries, capillaries and veins, before ending up in a sweat gland on my head, from where it was dragged out of my body in a watery fluid in an attempt to keep me cool (this was no doubt before I ran through that floodwater - brrrr!). Having then leached through my cap to the cap-sweat-air interface, the water has evaporated leaving the salt to fend for itself. After my identificatory tasting, some of it has been recycled, and is enjoying its second journey on the scenic route to my eccrine glands. A bit more of my sweaty salt will now be on its way out to sea via my shower and washing machine, a friendly local wastewater treatment works, and discharge into a handy stream or river. No doubt some of it will end up as table salt in due course.

I was pondering this as I tucked into my egg and chips after this morning's outing. I wondered who'll next be consuming the sweat from my brow, and whose ex-coolant fluid was I sprinkling over my chips?

14 comments:

DJ Kirkby said...

20k? Are you completly mad? Don't you ever just sit and read a book? Brilliantly written as usual thouhg.

But Why? said...

DJ,
Yup, when travelling on the tube, or the bus...

Casdok said...

As we have met i could just picture all this in my head!! And im afraid i was laughing!! Even though im sure it wasnt a bit funny at the time. :)

Kahless said...

A few years ago I did the Chester raft race, which involved building a raft and navigating ti down the Dee. I fell in mid trip (because of the missiles thrown from the Chester Zoo raft as opposed to our own raft design.) All I could think about after gulping down some river Dee was the rats pee I had just drunk.

So tonight, I look forward to putting rats pee and body coolant on my tea!

I hope running with wet feet didnt cause too many blisters!

But Why? said...

Casdok,
I was laughing, too. There wasn't much else to do - I had elicited a similar response from some pedestrians who had got themselves stranded by the flooding, though they got out of my way fairly rapidly as I dripped past them.

Kahless,
Ah, I suffered a similar fate last year in the River Wey, but thanks to some dodgy engineering work and the wriggling of a colleague who was trying to evaded the flour, eggs and water bombs being thrown from the banks. I was so concerned with losing my wand, tiara or fairy wings that I didn't think about the rats' pee. I shall do now. Thankyou...

Thanks too for the concern - my feet happily remained blister-free. I think the wringing of the socks and insoles did the trick. (And it also gave the little lad an opportunity to ask "Why?" several times - there's a man after my own heart...)

trousers said...

I'm less disturbed by the salt (it happens often enough when I'm cycling or on my more arduous walks) than by that other weird mark on the cap.

It seems to spell out the word Budweiser. And I thought you'd got good taste in beer!

KindaBlue said...

Funny, I never knew that Chester staged a raft race. Hope contestants didn't end up going over the weir.

Kahless said...

KindaBlue, it is held in July, organised by the Rotary Club. You start at the Meadows and finishes the other side of the weir. Good for a few bruises!

But Why? said...

Blue, Kahless,
Rafting with a weir included? This I must do - I wonder if we can get the company raft to go on tour this year??

Trousers,
Yes, it is indeed very poor beer. It is sufficiently poor that I couldn't bring myself to accept the offer of a job to be a brewer. Sad, but true.

Reading the Signs said...

But Why, I wave to you across a great divide. Today's post will tell you why. In brief: I lasted 10 minutes of a Pilates class. But hey, with my low blood pressure I can eat plenty of salt.

Pixie said...

the paragraph on sweating and salt, most informative. 9/10
keep up the good work in your biology course work and you'll go far.
perhaps as far as 20k!!!
pxx

But Why? said...

Signs,
I must come and visit - Pilates is one of those things I've tried to avoid as it falls into that category of exercise where the pain-to-chance-of-winning-something ratio is biased completely in favour of the pain. And it's indoors. And there is a reasonable risk of exposure to leotards. Definitely one for me to experience vicariously...

Pixie,
And I thought I could rely on you above anyone else to comment on the sheer grimness of the cap. My illusions are shattered...

titration said...

Wow you are a great writer. I loved this post a lot. (standing and clapping)

But Why? said...

Titration,
Wow, thanks (I suspect you may have been trying to comment on someone else's blog, and commented here by accident, but all plaudits are very welcome(!)). I thoroughly enjoyed collecting the material for this one - the little lad was absolutely the cutest thing on two legs I have seen for quite some time. Sigh, why can't they stay that cute?