Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Stripey world

Popped out last night for a nice hilly-ish half hour.  It was freezing, with snow-laden clouds and a sharp north easterly wind, but the light was fantastic. It was dusk. All the northern-facing slopes of the hills were still covered in snow and gleamed silver in the early moonlight. The other hills were grey-green except where the snow still lay at the foot of the stone walls. The result was that the world was grey-green with white pinstripes.
On my way home, the lights were coming on, twinkling snugly in the folds of the hills, with the bright lights of Kendal bringing an orange glow to the sky. Against the dark menacing sky, with the moon shining weakly through, it was rather lovely.
I've done this route numerous times and there's always a collie dog, at the entrance to one of the farms, that barks as I pass. So I shouldn't really have leaped out of my skin as I went past...
Smileyrating 8/10

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

On perfection

Is there such a thing as a 'Perfect Run'? I pondered this on my little trot out last evening. I'd been hunched over my computer all day and was dying to get some exercise. So I went out and had one of the most beautiful runs in a long time. 
I'd recce'd the route the day before, trudging through the sparkling snow, (joining a small girl throwing snowballs at her Dad who was sledging down the field) to link up some footpaths that I'd spotted last year.  Now, 24 hours later, a lot of the snow had melted and the ground was just beginning to get squidgy, making it lovely to run on. The sun was just beginning to set, suffusing the air and remaining snow with a soft pink glow. It was cool and still. Perfect. I ran as strongly as I have since before Christmas and glided up the hills almost without effort. Perfect.  Inevitably, runs like this - from stile to stile, gate to gate - turn into interval sessions and I rang strongly across the fields. Perfect. 
I got back and looked at my watch:  26.15. And my first, instinctive, reflex, thought was 'Pity I didn't break the 26 minutes'. And that is why I think there is no such thing as a perfect run. It's not the run, it's the essential dissatisfaction we all feel whenever we do go for a run. We always want to do that bit better. So, not perfect, but then no run can ever be (discuss). But it was pretty damn close.
Smileyrating 9.8/10

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Sheer delight

The world is on the cusp. Poised between winter and spring. You get the feeling it could go either way; slip back into winter's sleety grey, like yesterday, or continue inexorably forward into spring's warmer embrace.

I did my River Loop again this lunchtime, in glorious sunshine. It was lovely. Interestingly, where the ground was in shade it was still frosty and hard. Where the sun had hit it was soft and muddy. Some of the stiles round here are lateral stones laid through the wall. On the shady side they were still frosty and icy. On the sunny side they were dry and grippy. A schizophrenic world.

Part of my route goes through a copse by the side of the river. Later in Spring, this will be carpeted with bluebells - they're already pushing up through the leafmould.

It's a lovely place to run, even though my lungs are still full of grilch and I'm coughing my way round like a phlegmy sealion. 

So, what with my appalling physical condition (I've never been so unfit at the beginning of the season) and taking pictures, it was a leisurely pootle round. But what the heck, it was beautiful and there's not enough beauty in the world, so I'm going to enjoy it when it's there!
Smileyrating 9/10

Friday, 12 February 2010

A brief diversion...

This is a Magellanic penguin, who lives (with 159,999 or so of his/her mates) on Isla Magdalena, a bare windswept island in the Magellan Straits. They aren't very big, but are inquisitive and incredibly cute. They were one of the highlights of our recent Patagonian adventure.

Patagonia straddles both Chile and Argentina and is an enormous, empty region with huge skies (below is a shot of the Argentinian steppe. If you turn through 180 degrees, it looks pretty much the same!) It looks (and felt) utterly desolate, scoured by a chilling wind, but there are sheep up here)...

The mountains are stunning. I'm almost tempted to rate the Andes as more photogenic than the Himalayas. These are the Torres del Paine, in Chile. The black 'cap' of rock is ancient volcanic magma that forced its way up through the ochre sedimentary rock and spread out on top of it like chocolate icing on a sponge cake. Erosion by ice and wind did the rest.

It is also home to awesome glaciers. This is the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. The ice towers up 60m from the water - and extends to 120m below it. This giant river of ice is continually grinding its way to the lake; deep, explosive cracking sounds reverberate through the valley and great slabs of ice fall off and plunge into the lake with a great roar and huge splash. We waited for ages, but only saw one little bit break off - but that was impressive enough.

The lake below is not steaming...

This phenomenon is caused by the wind. It is so strong, it blasts onto the water, and atomises the surface into droplets which are then driven by the wind. The sunlight on the droplets creates rainbows which span the lake. It was an extraordinary site - but the gusts made it so hard to walk in. We were forever being flung off balance.

I wouldn't want you to get the idea that we had wall to wall sunshine. Our visit to the Fitzroy massif in Argentina didn't have quite the scenic majesty we would have wished. This is a viewpoint for the hugely impressive range...

An hour's further trekking took us higher and nearer...
We finished our trip by visiting Tierra del Fuego. This was a fantastic place, with the clearest, purest air I've ever breathed and stunning scenery. A real highlight were our trips on the Beagle Channel - named after Darwin's ship.

Back to running for the next blog...

Monday, 8 February 2010

Back from the end of the world...

Startling times in the Smileyrunner camp, and I almost swoon at the thought of writing it, but... yesterday I went for a run.

Now I know that's what you expect in what is ostensibly a running blog, but this was special. It was the first run I've had since the swine flu/chest infection/rib muscle tear triumvirate comprehensively knackered up my 'training' before Christmas. For the record, it was my favourite little 2.7 mile River Loop, in a leisurely 29 minutes, and it felt absolutely great to be back out on the frozen fields.

I appreciate that this is nothing compared to what you lot are up to, with your heroic mileages, silly hills, reps, gyms and skittering about the Lakeland tops on pointy things (you all know who you are, and well done everyone), but it's a start... and I have spent the last three weeks trekking in Patagonia.

The full details will appear in another blog (I'm sure I could blog ad nauseam about how fantastic it was) but I've got to download the photos first. So I must ask you to wait.

D'you know, I think I'll go out for another run tomorrow. It can get a bit addictive can't it.