Primeval forest and city park

Posted on: 27 Jul 2015

It seems so long since my last post, I can hardly remember what's been happening - good thing there is Garmin to remind me! I do know, though, that there have been some amazing feats going on in Realbuzzland in the past few weeks, and I'm gradually trying to catch up with all the accounts. Brilliant stuff, you starry bunch!

As for my own rather meagre achievements......... they don't live up to that standard, but I'll document them anyway, if only for my own records, since this doubles as a training diary. Feel free to be unimpressed!

Wednesday 17th June: out with the RunningLadies for the final session before the summer break. Still feeling a bit tired from the Jura trails, and not sure if I could keep up with the speedy ones this week, I opted for the 'easier' group, thinking it might be a nice relaxing jog along the lake. Nope! - it was hills! Up to Sonnmatt, over to Adligenswil, and back through the Meggerwald. 8kms, and 1 hr 5. It was okay really, once I got into gear. I'm not sure what will happen to the group, though, as Ariella (now an Ironman) is off to Bern in September to do a Sports Studies course at the university. I hope it continues - it evidently fills a need.

Friday 19th June: At the pool. 1 km (40 lengths) of aqua jogging in 59 minutes exactly, plus another 10 lengths of doggy paddle and general cooldown - 1:08:45 in total.

Monday 22nd June: a short ramble round the Bireggwald and the nature reserve. 6.15 kms, 1 hr 8.

Wednesday 24th June: Returning to Rothenburg, we followed the river in the other direction, to Littau, (an unexpectedly attractive route, and pleasantly cool and shady on this hot day), then decided to carry on to Malters so we could go and eat at the restaurant there. 13.4 kms, 2:41:36.

Friday 26th June: a few years ago, our 'works outing' took us to the Bödmeren Urwald ('primeval forest') in Muotathal, Kanton Schwyz, alas in pouring rain. It is such a fascinating place, though - ancient woodland, a rich variety of plant and animal life (including salamanders), a Karst landscape of deeply clefted limestone pavement - I have always had a hankering to go back and see more of it, ideally in better conditions. Discovery of a 10 km round walk through it gave this plan a shape and impetus, so off we went; first by train to Schwyz, where (after a bit of trouble) we found our reserved Mobility car, and then on towards Muotathal.The valleys here are very narrow and shut-in, and have a mysterious, introverted atmosphere. The knowledge that the ground underneath is honeycombed with hundreds of miles of caves adds to this feeling. We stopped off in Muotathal the village for a pub lunch, then drove further along the valley in search of Eigeliswald, where the walk begins. The road grew ever narrower and steeper as it climbed up towards the Pragel Pass, looping its way above some terrifying drops - real white-knuckle stuff. We began to wonder if we had missed it - not that there was any possibility to turn round if we had! But at last I spotted the signpost and the narrow strip of parking space along the edge of the trees, and we set off walking, initially along a deeply rutted and boggy cow field, then into the forest. It was as I remembered - just a little more benign in the sunshine. Licheny trees, flowers everywhere, and a profound silence broken only by the odd bird. It is a completely wild place, left to its own devices; the trees are not cut, the forest is not 'managed'; it could well be thousands of years old. Soon we came to the Karst, a bony, deeply-fissured landscape of white limestone, where the path picked its tortuous way across the slabs, with bottomless-looking chasms yawning underneath. A stretch of more open country, and a welcome trough with icy cold fresh water, then curving round back to the forest again. J. apparently saw a farmer making cheese in a little wooden hut, but I reckon he might have been a ghost.......! Apart from this phantom, we saw no-one except a pair of botanists towards the end of the walk. Also towards the end of the walk, on a stony, downhill track, J. managed to turn his ankle. He was drinking from the water bottle at the time, not looking where he was going, when suddenly he went hopping across the adjoining field, swearing volubly, water fountaining everywhere; then hurled the water bottle away in fury, and took off running.......... by which I deduced the injury could not be too serious. He was just angry, he explained later, that after months of patient rehabilitation of his injured ankle, in one moment it was all undone again. (Though in fact it wasn't - it was just mildly sore for a couple of days.) Retrieving the bottle, I followed at my own pace, and eventually caught up with him almost back at the car, by which time he had calmed down, having established that the damage was not too catastrophic. We then had the scary journey back down the road to Muotathal and Schwyz, where we returned the car, before walking down to the lake (Lauerzersee) to spectate at a 10k race. This was one we had originally considered doing, but the weather promised to be very hot (it was), and the Urwald walk won out. Quite happy to drink a cold beer and applaud the runners returning beetroot-faced from their round of the lake. (Ariella among them, though I didn't see her.) Quite a popular race, though I've never done it - I'm usually away. (I know the route, though, from the now defunct Schwyz half marathon, which I ran twice - the second time being responsible for my PB.) Finally, as dusk came on, the gentle plod back up to the station, and home, with some 14 kms on the clock for that day.

Things then got rather busy, and the next time I ran was in Sheffield: my annual parkrun! I expected to see the usual crowd of Smiley Paces there, but they were having an 'away-day' at a different parkrun, I discovered later. But my brother walked down with me and spectated. This particular parkrun (Sheffield Hallam) has grown enormously since I first did it four years ago, so unless you start near the front, it gets underway very slowly and is quite congested for the first couple of minutes. Even so, I can't entirely blame my poor time on that! - another PW! (28:35, 271st of 434, 74th of 154 women.) One getteth old and slow! But then again........ as it was my first parkrun in a new age category, I wanted to leave myself some leeway for improvement, and I think I've safely done that! (3rd in said category, and in at 29th of 64 on the all-time list for that category.) A cup of tea at the cafe afterwards, then the uphill walk home, looking forward to fish and chips - my summer gourmet treat!

Next, a short local run round the Bole Hills one sunny, windy evening, when the view over towards the moors was particularly spectacular; up and down the hillside, taking paths at random, a couple of rounds of a playing field........... just an easy, relaxed 6.15 kms.

I finally managed to catch up with the Smileys at one of their Thursday evening runs. It was out at Ringinglow, and neither of my usual lift-givers were around, so I had to prevail on my brother once again to play taxi. Handily, the meeting place was at a pub car park, so I gave him the money for a drink (he didn't use it, though - just went for a short walk instead) and waited for the group. They were going to do a timed mile, preceded by drills at the far end of the car park (a bit reminiscent of the Ministry of Silly Walks!) and a warm-up jog to the beginning of the pre-measured stretch of road. It was to be a downhill mile (they'd done the uphill one a couple of weeks previously) and I wasn't sure I wanted to do this - I didn't think my knees would like it - so I said I'd just tag along at the back. Off they went in groups of 4, the fastest first. The five of us that were left at the end set off together, and despite good intentions, peer pressure is hard to resist! - so after half a minute of moderately fast pace, and no particular protest from the knees, I decided to go for it after all. I wasn't timing it, but worked out from the Garmin track afterwards that I did it in 7:13. (It would have been slightly faster if I'd put the full effort in from the outset.) Roger Bannister need have no fears for his crown, but I was not displeased with this. There was water waiting for us at the end, then the uphill plod back to the start and the pub. Strangely for them, they did not go in! (they usually do, at their usual meets at the Greystones) so I had a quick chat in the car park until the predation of the midges got too much for me (several very itchy bites the next day), then sought the sanctuary of the car. 4.5 kms, and 28 minutes - a short but intensive workout.

I saw some of them again at the next Saturday's parkrun, which happened to be its 5th anniversary, with a smattering of fancy dress (including 5 runners in Morph suits, making their parkrun debut, and a very jingly morris dancer), and the route run in the reverse direction. 510 runners this time! - so even harder to get going. And there was an added complication in a stretch of the pavement being dug up (the route leaves the park for a while, and runs up the road immediately the other side of the railings), necessitating single file and making overtaking all but impossible - AND I couldn't seem to get away from a man pushing a baby buggy which blocked the narrow strip of pavement completely. (Though at least I didn't have to contend with the huge, shaggy dog that overtook me with such élan last week, it nearly swept me off the path!) There was a small contingent there from the other group I sometimes run with, the Porter Valley Plodders, and Hannah and I kept taking it in turns to overtake each other; she had the last word, however, and ran away from me in the final few hundred metres. (Baby buggy man beat me too.) Despite obstacles, I improved my time by exactly half a minute (28:05), won my age category, and moved up from 29th to 25th in the all-time list. So........... going in the right direction. I found a photo:


and my brother spotted one of us checking out the cake table afterwards! - but I'll spare you that.

That was all the running I did while in England, but there was some walking too. I managed to prise my brother away from his computer to accompany me on my obligatory visit to Rivelin Valley nature trail, and on another day we walked into the city centre and back via the parks and mansions of the Victorian steel magnates (such a contrast with the poky terraced housing of their workers further down the hill.) There was an outing to Holmfirth, with a walk by a reservoir, and various trips to the local shops; there was gardening, and a visit to my 96 year old aunt; but there was reading, chatting, and relaxation too (I was on holiday!) The weather was mostly kind (not too wet; not too hot), and I enjoyed my few days 'oop north'. So now I'm back, with a new chapter still to write.......... but that will have to wait.

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