54 kms last week - pretty pleased with that. It's not in the same league as some, I know (our magnificent Woodwoses, to name but two), but it is the most I've achieved so far this year. Not without cost - my knees were somewhat painful at the end of it, and I'm really having to consider how to deal with this. But still......... pleased.
Tuesday 3 March: out at midday with J; a mild, halfway sunny day. There had been a big storm the previous day, and two minutes into the run, we found our way blocked by a fallen tree, which had shattered another on its way down. Climbing over/through this debris took a bit of time, but no problems after that. Up the side of the woods, 1 1/2 times round the fig. of 8, down to the hut, and on downwards to Allmend. We were going to cross the road to our 'parkrun' route, but noticed they had made some progress with the nature reserve on the former army shooting range, so decided to explore that instead. It included a circuit from a now defunct race I remembered doing years ago, the 'Eisenbahner' (railway workers, though I'm not sure what the railway connection was.) That was 5 times around this circuit, and having just looked it up in my volumes of running diaries (yes, I was a wordy nerd in those days too), I can now recall that it was in May 1997, my 5th-ever race, there were 7 women (+ 54 men) taking part, of which I came 4th, and my self-selected prize was a bottle of rosemary bath essence. Also, sadly, that my pace was 4.54 mins/km - something I can only dream of these days. Still, it was a pleasant little trip down memory lane. Basically it was as I remembered, except that along the top, a series of small ponds have been dug. These are still just raw holes of seriously muddy water at the moment, but I can imagine they might attract a lot of wildlife - frogs et al - when they get established. We went round the circuit twice, the second time to check the distance (1.75 kms), then headed back towards the woods. On one of the paths there was some spilt dogfood (the dry, crunchy stuff to mix in with meat), and a huge flock of crows were squabbling over it. They rose in a raucous black crowd as we reached them, then swooped down again as soon as we had passed - it was like something out of Hitchcock. Back up through the woods, past the goats, and home along Waldrand. I didn't fancy negotiating the fallen tree again, so took the shorter route home along the road at Hirtenhof. 11.11 kms, 1:42:11.
Wednesday 4 March: three novel experiences in one - 1) a morning run 2) with 21 other women, 3) one of them a former Olympian and European champion. I had noticed via various media that a new running group was being set up, aimed particularly at women with pre-school children (it offered a crèche facility), but open to all women. It was organized by former champion gymnast Ariella Kaeslin, now retired from gymnastics, and currently training for Ironman Switzerland, and local runner Magi Bänziger, whom I recalled having stood next to on the rostrum in Schlieren, she having won the F50 category when I won the F60. I'm not normally a morning runner, and don't usually have mornings free anyway, but I kept it in mind, and when that morning did unexpectedly turn out to be free, decided I'd go. J. made sure I crawled out of bed at 7.30 (I'm ashamed to admit it, but as a total night owl, I find that brutally early! - 8.00 on working days feels quite early enough), I had a minimal breakfast of bread and honey, and just ONE cup of coffee (I can't wake up without it), dressed for the cold, wet weather predicted, (in the event, it didn't actually rain until I got home), and caught the bus to the advertised meeting place, a little park at Würzenbach, over at the other side of the lake. Impossible to miss them - a rainbow assortment of coloured jackets cheering up a very dull day.
The group of 22 - ages ranging from 13 to 62 - set off, first for warm-up exercises in a nearby school yard, then for a run along that side of the lake to just before Schwanenplatz and back again. I found myself running alongside a woman who introduced herself as Klara; as soon as she said her surname, I recognized it as one I have seen a lot in ranking lists........ generally somewhere near the top. She has done the Biel 100 kms - Switzerland's oldest and most famous ultra - SIX TIMES! Also the SwissAlpine K78, lots of marathons, etc. When she mentioned that she was retired, I did wonder how old she was. Turned out to be 62 - 2 years older than me. She certainly didn't look it! At the other end of the spectrum were some beginners, so the group, which had nominally been divided into 2 ('Espresso' and 'Latte Macchiato' as Ariella jokingly referred to them), did get quite spread out, the 13 year old and her mother(?) haring off into the distance, Klara and I chatting away in their wake, and various other configurations following. At the turnaround, we reconvened, and on the return I paired up with another woman, Regula, who was trying to get back into running after a break to have her daughter, now 1 1/2. She turned out to live quite near me, and gave me a lift home, after we'd all gathered in the little park again for stretching. A very comfortable 8.13 kms, and 58 minutes. I enjoyed it, and will definitely go again if I get chance.
Saturday 7 March: a free day, and lovely sunny weather - just right for a Long Run. The morning was taken up with shopping and other necessities, but in the afternoon we got on a bus to Meggen (chosen to take advantage of the sunny side of the lake) and ran the usual route home, past gardens now full of snowdrops and crocuses, and the castle at Meggerhorn with its vineyard; faster along the boring bit of road from Hermitage to Seeburg; through the Lido and the lakeside parks; slaloming around the hundreds of people out enjoying strolling in the sunshine along Schweizerhofquai; even denser crowds over the Seebrücke, temporarily making running all but impossible; back along our own side of the lake............ This route always seems longer than it is, and we reached the school track with less than 12 kms on the clock - definitely not enough to qualify as a Long Run! So the next instalment was done on the track. Another 6 kms later, I was ready to call it a day, making my now rather stiff and painful (in the knee department) way home along the lake. 20 kms, and 2 hrs 31. Pleased with the distance, less so with the time, and disappointed that it hurt so much towards the end. At this rate, even a half marathon will soon be beyond me! (But we won't go there just yet. Just keep cultivating my good friends Voltaren and Glucosamine, and keep going as best we can.) Not entirely relevant, but the middle 4 kms on the track were remarkably consistent in pace (6:38, 6:38, 6:40, and 6:39) despite the fact that I barely gave the Garmin a glance, just ran on feeling. (The one after was slower; having stopped, thinking I was going to finish there, I found it hard to get going again.)
Sunday 8 March: another lovely day. Knees still feeling the effects of the previous day, but I thought a walk might help to unstiffen them. Again we just looked at the map and came up with a fairly random idea; and again it proved a good one. Train to Sempach-Neuenkirch, walk to Hochdorf via Römerswil. Once more, there was plenty to entertain us en route. Our first stop was to commune with some piggies again. They came running up to say hello as we passed their yard, and seemed really happy to see us - they were very talkative! Soon after that, there was an ostrich farm - not something you see every day. Oddly proportioned birds, hoovering up the grass with their improbably long necks; enormous, scaly, 2-toed feet; unexpectedly attractive eyes, huge and dark, with very long eyelashes. A notice warned that the male could be aggressive, so we didn't get too close, but spent several minutes watching them, and regretting (again) the absence of a camera. (Especially with that mountain panorama as a backdrop.) Walking on, we crossed paths with a group of runners, before coming to reed beds, a watchful heron, and then a small lake. There must have been a path round the lake, as soon after, the same runners passed us again. Uphill through some woods and field paths, emerging onto a road......... and there was the 'Schlachtkapelle', a small white chapel commemorating some battle or other in 1386. This is also on the route of a race, the 10 mile 'Hellebardenlauf'. I've never actually done it, as it's in summer, and I've always been in England; I did once go on a training run for it with a running group, however. At the time, it was the longest distance I had ever run, and I got terrible stomach cramps about 5 kms into it. Had I been somewhere where I knew the geography, I would have dropped out and slunk back to the car park to await the return of the others and my lift home, but I was completely lost, and had no choice but to struggle on, accompanied by a man who knew the route and was kind enough to keep me company. It did pass eventually, and the rest of the run went okay, but was not a very auspicious landmark in my running career. We apparently did pass the Schlachtkapelle, but all recollection of it was eclipsed by my other concerns at the time. So it was nice to see it again in better circumstances. A quick look inside, then onwards up over the ridge, the sun now improbably hot on our backs; I would have liked a drink (other than the tepid water left in our bottle), but the restaurant by the chapel was closed - due to reopen the next day. (Sod's Law.) Across a golf course at the top; along a road; another white chapel (I thought for one moment it was the same one, and the signposts had played a trick on us, sending us in a circle!); down to Gormund, where we finally found an open restaurant; and, thirst slaked, on to Römerswil. Not much to see there, despite the name (I was hoping for Roman ruins or something), so onwards again; a very steep downhill, not much appreciated by my knees; a brief reminiscence of winter on a slushy track through some dense woodland; then a final gentle downhill into Hochdorf (which surely qualifies as one of the least attractive villages in Switzerland, but at least the station snackbar/shop had very good coffee), and our train home. 14.74 kms, 3:10:45.
As weeks go, this one did have variety!
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