Waking up to the Windy City

The U.K doesn’t really suffer many natural disasters. There’s the occasional flood but, unless your car or house is your baby then it can only be considered property damage. Once every blue moon when the stars are aligned, there might be an earthquake so powerful, that with its overwhelming brutal force, it’ll knock over a glass of milk on the kitchen table. Devastating as that is, it’s not quite such a worry as it is in some other countries. But typhoons do threaten one place in particular. Although strictly speaking, it’s not classified as a series of typhoons, the gales in Sheffield have had such a lasting impression that it has helped influence the city’s other darker name; the windy city (this is nowhere near as dramatic as I hoped. It carries as much dread as ‘the rainy village’. But nonetheless it’s a big deal so read on!).


Sheffield lies inside of a valley, surrounded by slopes on all sides like a basin. This has been the biggest factor in the development of Sheffield’s own personal climate, completely independent from the rest of the world. Warm, sunny weather in Yorkshire? Don’t worry; it’ll be snowing in Sheffield (that’s not sarcasm. That actually happened in 2010. It was the first time I lived away from home so it was destined to happen I suppose). But the most enduring quality of the Sheffield climate is strong wind. Not a day goes by without a gale of one sort or another. Most of the time, it’s just windy. If you’re not careful it’ll blow your hair into your face, take off your hat or pull up your skirt (nature can be such a perverted trouble maker at times), but usually nothing more dramatic than an inconvenience. Except every month at least once, the wind will have a tantrum. Winds strong enough to push you into oncoming traffic. Strong enough to take off the tiles on roofs. Strong enough to rip trees out of the ground. It tends to make you a little late for lectures when trees or houses start falling on you (it’s why witches don’t visit). Sheffield has managed to reach that perfect sweet spot; not as severe as Kansas but just strong enough to be dangerous without inciting any counter measures.


This made getting into university in the morning more than a bit of a challenge. Whenever I woke up to the sound of extreme weather outside, my bed would feel that little bit cosier. I’d stay in bed until the very last moment that I had to get up, clinging to every second of sleep that I could. It was of course due to the weather; it wasn’t at all related to my series of late nights, insomnia or the fact that I’m inherently lazy. It took 25min to walk into lectures, 15min if I ran and only 10min if I sprinted. So for 9am lectures, I naturally got up at 8:50am. I can get dressed, brush my teeth and pack my bag in record time. With years of practice, I have mastered each of the morning rituals; completing them precisely without sacrificing speed or efficiency. Don’t attempt to copy me. You’ll fall into panic that can only be overcome with the cold mechanical perfection that training brings.


But I shall help you train.


Step 1. Preparation:


Set multiple alarms. One alarm clock is just not enough. Have at least three, preferably with as many alarms set as possible, with 5 minute intervals between each one. Leave all of the clocks by your bedside, within easy reach. The aim is to be disturbed from your sleep regularly but not so much that it forces you out of bed. In this way, you are constantly aware of the time, but you don’t need to sacrifice any time in twilight-sleep; that warm comfortable in-between place between slumber and consciousness. As for the last clock you set, I’ll come back to that in a moment.


Eventually you’ll have to get up (unfortunately we can’t make the world stop spinning. Even if you accept losing your job, or missing a doctors appointment, the TV licence people will come for you. They will never stop, regardless if you’ve paid them or not). When you do rise speed will be everything; you can’t afford to lose time searching for your keys. So before bed, do the following: Set aside clothes at the foot of your bed, including two socks (use a lamp to inspect the match o don’t match to your preference). Pack your bag, with lunch if applicable, and leave it by the door. Set your toothbrush and toothpaste inside the sink basin to be easily grabbed and shower before bed.


Step 2. Practice:


You’ll need to do a few trial runs if you’re not confident in rushing. On a Saturday morning, ready everything and follow the pattern. Wake, dress, teeth, bag, door. That order. Don’t worry about combing your hair; you’ll be running so hard that it’ll be windswept regardless. Standing up takes less than a second. Dressing takes one minute. The walk to the bathroom varies on your accommodation but it can be shortened by sprinting. A full 2 minutes to brush your teeth (oral hygiene is paramount I tell you! If you fear dentists as much as I do, you won’t sacrifice that extra minute!). Grabbing a bag and getting out the door will take only a second or two. In total, aim for a maximum time of 3.5 minutes. Practice the schedule, and you’ll be able to shave that time down which will give you what you desire most. Precious more seconds in bed.


Step 3. Timing:


Measure your average sprint speed and your endurance levels, and get an accurate commute time that you can achieve. With exercise you can again, decrease this time. If you drive, factor in traffic but don’t break the speed limit. Run recklessly, drive safely (print out this phrase as a bumper sticker). When you have a figure, construct your time frame. Mark down the exact time you must get up in order to reach your destination without being late. Accuracy is essential in these calculations and they can be affected by several unforeseen elements such a personal fatigue, bad weather or car crash victims lying in your path. Factor these in as best you can, but only with practice comes experience.


But for a place like Sheffield, some advanced training is needed. When you wake up to the windy city, the weather itself is your opponent during your commute. Anything could challenge you as you innocently sprint forward. There’s rain. Wind. And snow. Rain to drown you, wind to knock you down, snow to freeze you in place, oh my. Rain, wind and snow, oh my! (I don’t care if you scoff, so long as you get the reference. I’m judging you if you don’t).


Now the rain is more than just a nuisance. Like flash floods, it’ll come down hard and vanish just as quickly. You won’t be able to use that umbrella you always carry (because you’re a sensible reliable adult who knows its best to always have one at all times), because it’ll slow you down if its open. But will a raincoat be enough? It won’t protect your legs and what about your face? If you hadn’t guessed, in the windy city rain gets blown. It doesn’t just fall. It targets you. If you have any weaknesses on your body, left bare without rainproof gear then it’ll take a beating. The rain will come for you. As I myself experienced, be prepared to have colleagues ask if you swam over when rainwater is streaming off your annoyed face.


Then the wind. The famous relentless wind. As I mentioned before it’s main hobby is pushing you into oncoming traffic, so running on the inside of the pavement is essential. Watch out for road crossing too as there’s no guarantee you’ll have the strength to get across with the wind coming the other way (and remember traffic lights wait for no pedestrian). When there’s a storm, and the hurricane is tearing up the city outside, don’t let it dissuade you from heading out. A brisk run and the risks of being crushed by falling debris are fairly low so long as you keep glancing up. Don’t worry about the people who call you crazy for entering the storm; I had that but the truth is you’re not crazy. Because I say so (this is my blog so that’s all the reason you need). One morning in Sheffield after such a storm I woke to find a tree lying on its side in the middle of the road, poking its way into our driveway and effectively blocking our path to university. When you encounter something like this during your sprint, you have two options; find an alternative route and increase your speed to compensate for the detour, or, embrace your inner Tarzan and vault up and over.


Finally, the snow. Under normal circumstances, Sheffield shares the rest of the U.K’s commitment-fearing winter. Lots of frost, and a little bit of ice but not much snow fall. The frost and ice however poses a bit of a problem when you’re running. I had a lecture at 3pm one winter that I was very nearly late for after I woke up at 2.50pm; it was undoubtedly the frost’s fault. I couldn’t maintain high speeds without slipping, forcing me to slow my pace to a pathetic jog. But there are some techniques around this. For one, try to run over the road instead of the pavement when you can as they’re usually gritted (it’s a smart idea if you casually forget about the oncoming traffic I mentioned before). Also remember that grass and parks are your friends; better traction when its frozen over. if you’re unlucky enough to experience the freak snowfall Sheffield gets then I’m afraid you’re screwed. Good luck running through 4 feet of snow. I tried it once and it resulted in a half skip, leaping in and out of virgin snow like a frostbitten kangaroo.


All of this might seem insurmountable but with hard work you can achieve this lifestyle. Of course you could always wake up earlier, allowing yourself a nice leisurely walk or drive into work and enough time for breakfast and other such luxuries. But sacrificing sleeping time? That’s the real crazy here.

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