Last week, I showed you some photos, saying that’s what happens when I take my camera running. Well, that was only half the truth. The other half was that my left foot still hurt. So, no more running for a while. Instead, I used the MTB to explore new territory. For about five years now, I’ve been running more or less the same route. It is idyllic as hell. That phrase says it all. It IS idyllic (cf. this). But by now, I know every meter by first name. Put me on any stretch of that route blindfolded, and I can tell you where I am to 20 inches just by the feel of the surface through my running shoes. Plus, I always have to run the last 9K uphill. So I decided to explore the plains north-east of Ludwigsburg. I reckoned that if I ascended from the river early during the run, I could continue level and run negative splits on the way home from work. (For the uninitiated: I do most of my training on the way home from work, the latter being a good 200 meters lower than the former). Winter came early this year, and on my first attempt, I found some 10 cm of snow on the route I had worked out with the usual software. The ascent proved much steeper in reality than I had imagined from the map, but with my Schwalbe Alberts in fresh snow, it was good fun. Meanwhile, I also had bought a new headlight, the Sigma Karma with Iion battery pack. I just love that beauty. It is astoundingly small, yet delivers a surprising illumination. And I am still waiting to have to reload that battery pack, after 4 hours of use.
Back to topic… I finished the first round ok and got a few inspirations for possible detours. The last part was rather demanding, though. I had to pass by our new house to clean the sidewalk from something like 2 feet of snow. Or was it inches? To get there, I had to mount a steep stair consisting of well over 100 steps, carrying the bike. One of these days, I am going to count these steps. On that occasion, I realised that my bike is not really made for being carried on the shoulder, the rear shock is definitely in the way. Meanwhile, I have found a work-around, carrying the bike by the bottle holder, which at this time of year is empty. For the alpine cross scheduled for Sep. 2011, I’ll have to think of something better.
Since the first try, I have explored several variations of that first route, in diverse conditions. When the snow was still high enough to cover the terrain to a point where you could only imagine the way, I found myself riding across a meadow traversed by a rivulet, which fortunately was narrow enough to jump over. On another day, I fought my way uphill on a narrow path alongside a rivulet, which I could only hear, not see.
The snow, managable at first, turned to treacherous slush, which on some stretches made the rear wheel slide all over the place, instead of giving forward thrust. Car tires had compressed the snow on some roads to the consistence of sheer ice; on others, pedestrian footprints and temperature changes had transformed the surface to a lunar landscape. You could never be sure which part of the path was trustworthy, or how to get there. Sometimes I nearly made it to a safe strech of tarmac, but at the last moment, a frozen snow mound diverted the front wheel, forcing me to stop. On several occasions, I had to dismount on uphill sections and push the bike. I was lucky to fall only once, without hurting myself.
Yet after all these adventures, I realised that this route was nice enough for mountain biking, but as for running, it could not hold up to my old, well-trodden path along the Neckar. The new route is too close to the city, runs along trafficked roads and across windy plains, and is much less picturesque than what I am used to.
Then, temperatures slowly inched higher and snow/slush/ice gave way to mud. As I am writing this, my clothes are in the washing machine. Today, my Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pros arrived in the post, together with a wheel set. Now I am hoping for a long, cold winter 🙂