After the awe-inspiring achievements of recent weeks, it seems almost ludicrous to expect anyone to take any interest in my very minor doings. Still, I can but offer. (Although I want to point out I HAVE in fact done an ultra once........ only it wasn't actually called that, it was called a sponsored walk. 30 miles: 12 times round Sheffield's Graves Park, with another 16 year old friend. My father dropped us off at 10 at night, and picked us up at 8 the next morning. He was all for encouraging independence and adventure........ my mother rather less so! I realize this doesn't remotely compare with what Gerry, Kathy, Hobs et al do, but still........ I have Buzzer credentials somewhere in the deep, dark past!)
It's even more ludicrous that I'm about to offer you non-events from MAY, but I will try to 'pick out the raisins', to translate a German expression, and spare you the repetative stuff.
Several outings in the Bireggwald, enjoying the greenery and glimpses of wildlife, most memorably one checking on the relative leafiness of oak and ash, to see whether we could expect a soak or a splash. And one where the elevation diagram looked remarkably like a crocodile!
A couple to the school track, once sharing it with the fire brigade, who were doing their annual fitness test. We stayed in the outside lane, trying to keep out of their way, but sometimes they got in OUR way, standing cheering on their colleagues, necessitating diversions onto the grass outside the track - not the most consistent of runs.
One (just one?) to the Horw peninsula. J was scything one of Boy Farmer's steeper fields, so I ran over there to see him at work, and did a round of the woods while he finished off, so I could get a ride home in the Twike. A steamy, dull, humid day, and I was overdressed - not one of the best.
One round the Rotsee and Friedental, when with in 2 minutes, neither of us was as clean as when we started, J with mud spattered up the back of his legs, me with birdshit on my sleeve! (You really wanted to know that, didn't you?)
And one really perfect evening in early June when we ran over to the Biotope, with the Unken (Yellow-bellied toads) oo-oo-ooing invisibly somewhere nearby, and swathes of wild flowers everywhere, vivid in the evening sun. It was just so lovely, we took some time out to sit and enjoy it. And we may not have seen any Unken, but we did see a leech!
There were also two more of the Zuger Trophy runs. The first of these was at Baar. The route was described as 'coupiert' (hilly) and demanding........ and indeed it was! But there could not have been a more perfect day for running: sunny, but with a lively breeze (not the vicious Bise we'd been enduring for the past few days) - if you could have designed the ideal weather, this would have been it. I felt a bit creaky setting off, and my knee was ominously somewhat painful; I expected a long day at the office. But soon it settled down and behaved. We took it at a fairly relaxed pace to start with, through woods, along the Lorzentobel (Lorzen gorge), and past the cave entrance at Höllgrotten, stopping once to rescue a Slow Worm from the path, and again at a drinking fountain by the electricity works. Here was the turn-off for the middle distance, which we did a couple of years ago (that being all we could fit into the remaining time before that month's challenge ended.) This time, though, we were tackling the long distance, so our route went straight on for a while, before crossing the river and heading up the opposite side of the gorge along a rooty little path and then a seemingly endless series of rough steps. It was brutally steep, and impossible to run. But finally we popped out into the village of Allenwinden, and yet more uphill, but on road now. The occasional brief walking break, another pause to ditch the jacket, and then we reached the top, emerging on a road high above the valley. Now we reaped our reward: a wonderful long downhill on smooth pavement, where we could push on - it felt good. I recognized the junction just before Neuägeri as we reached the bottom, and with a sharp left hand turn we were back in the gorge again, following the river in the other direction. This too was great running; it just flowed, in a way I so rarely experience - it was magic! Km 10 was 6 minutes spot-on, km 11 6:02, and would have been sub-6 but for a short hesitation over direction. (This is good, for me!) This purple patch ended back at the elecricity works, where, after another quick drink at the drinking fountain, we crossed the river again and laboured up another steep path with lots of steps, then another rooty little path along the ridge which demanded concentration. Back into the woods, and the final couple of kms. I pushed on harder than was comfortable, aiming to finish in under 2 hours. It was 1:58:36 in the end, so a decent margin. The official distance was 14.6 kms, but it came out at 15 kms exactly, with an elevation gain (and corresponding loss) of 509 metres (or 1,670 ft, if you prefer.) Really quite tough! - especially as the walk to and from Baar station added on another almost 4 kms - but done!
Zuger Trophy, episode 3: Ennetsee. This mostly covered territory we'd done before, on walks. It was almost all road, so road shoes proved the right choice. Not the most appealing of routes: there was a longish section of quite busy road, and quieter sections had lots of walkers and cyclists, so some weaving and dodging was required. But I was happy to see the dragon statue again. We arrived back at the stamping machine to find that some b*****d had taken our cards! Worse, in the faffing and confusion over this, I accidentally stamped someone else's card, as it was where mine had been. So I stamped a blank card and posted it in the box with his, after writing an apology on it, and hoped the organizers could sort it out. No idea what happened to our cards - maybe some child was playing postman, or someone just thought it would be a good joke to throw them away. Thank goodness for Garmin! - at least I could send the evidence to the organizer. In the end, I think they were actually a little over-generous with the time they credited us with, but I wasn't about to add to the confusion by querying it. That one was 14 kms, and came out on Garmin as 13.98 - you can't get much closer than that!
Also a trio of walks. The first of these took us from Grosswangen to Gettnau, and would have been enjoyable had J. not been in a vile mood for some reason! He waited with exaggerated patience while I explored a lovely nature reserve at some former gravel pits, and could not be persuaded to come and look at the frogs and Unken. He barely uttered a word as we walked on through Ettiswil and Alberswil; finally, conversation seemed too much like hard work, so I shut up too, and we trudged along in mutual silence. On the way up to the ruined castle at Kastelen, we almost stepped on a fledgeling bird; unable to fly yet, it just moved further along the path in fluttering hops. Thinking about it afterwards, I wished I had shooed it off the path into the grass at the side, where it would have been a bit safer. One more thing to worry about........ The castle was spectacular, a hollow edifice several storeys high, with a metal grid stairway up the inside to a platform at the top - a bit scary, but worth it for the view. Back on terra firma, we sat on a wall and ate our cheese sandwich and apple, before the final leg of the walk into Gettnau, and the train home.
A visit to the stork colony at Altreu had been on my wish list for a while. I planned originally to go on my own, but J. was surprisingly up for it too, so off we went on the train to Grenchen. From there it was about 4 kms to Altreu, mostly on field tracks. The occasional plane flew low overhead from the nearby airfield, and once or twice a glider on aerotow. I watched with interest, as I've done this, and know it's not easy to keep the tension right - the pilot of the tug plane tends to get annoyed if you twang the line! We stopped off at a little wayside farm shop, bought some apples, and sat on the rickety bench outside with a self-service apple juice, watching storks in a nearby field. I counted 12 of them, plus one that had just flown off; also a Red Kite carrying something which it then dropped. A short walk along the river Aare, and there it was. So many storks! So many nests, on roofs and posts and in trees! From time to time a stork would fly in, and up popped the heads of the young birds in anticipation of dinner. We ate ours on a nearby bench while watching this entertaining spectacle, surrounded by a colony of friendly sparrows willing to share it with us. A large roof nearby with a whole row of nests on it proved to be a restaurant with a riverside terrace, so we continued the entertainment over a drink. While we were there, one of the storks brought back what was identifiably a frog. I'm sure it was very tasty. Walking on through the village, we saw more nests - a sizeable colony indeed. I'm so glad to have seen it. I had estimated the distance to Solothurn to be about 5 or 6 kms, but in fact it was much longer. The afternoon had turned hot, and towards the end, I was beginning to feel a bit weary. A nice walk, though, mostly along the river, except for a long, straight, discouraging road between fields, Solothurn visible, but never seeming to get any nearer. Finally we got there, with time for an excellent coffee in the station buffet before our train home.
And finally (was that a sigh of relief I heard?), one from Lungern to Giswil. 1st of June now, and true to form, it had turned hot. From Lungern station round the top end of the lake, past the Turren cablecar station, and the length of the Lungernsee on the other side, pausing at Kaiserstuhl to look back along the lake, with that amazing turquoise colour of the water setting off the snow-covered mountains beyond. The onward path down to Giswil was part of the Jakobsweg, confirmed by the presence of a scallop shell on one of the signposts. Somehow pleasing to think we were following a way that led all the way to Santiago (albeit in the opposite direction.)