I got back home at about 2.30am this morning after nearly a week cut off from cyberspace, so it was good to spend a leisurely hour later in the day catching up with the Ultra world. The official results from the Hardmoors 55 were out on the website, I was pleased to find that I had indeed squeezed under the 12 hours by 8 minutes. The results told an interesting little story, of the 42 finishers well over half finished in the same time as one or more other runners - when times get tough we stick together. Thanks for the kind comments on my last post, I enjoyed reading everyone else's take on the day too, I don't think we will forget it in a hurry. My final reflection is what a superb job Jon Steele and his team did in not only organising and crewing such a great experience for us in what must have been very trying conditions for them, but also making sure late into the night that everyone got back safely. Can't thank them enough, and it seems an especially cruel reward for Jon that he crashed his car avoiding a deer in the early hours of Sunday morning. I'm sure we'll all be back next year to help establish this run as the classic it deserves to be.
It seemed a bit unreal a couple of days after the fog and rain of Yorkshire to be skinning up from the Col du Lauteret towards an outlying peak of the Meije under a perfect blue sky, trying to get back into the zen-like rhythm that ski-tourers and maybe UTMB runners will understand, the steady upward movement with a minimum of effort and disengaged mind, letting the surroundings drift by for some hours until the top is reached and you can click back into the world ready for the adrenaline rush to come. The whole week wasn't perfect of course, we had our share of descending cautiously into unknown valleys in fog and trepidation, but also our share of swooping our tracks into virgin powder slopes, playing in the snow like teenagers. But that's done for this year now, skis and all the other ironmongery back in the loft for the summer and the clocks have gone forward.
This afternoon I went for a run, my first since the Hardmoors, just about four miles around the block. I staggered out like a little old man it all felt so unfamiliar, but by the time I was back I was running again, well as close to running as I ever get, and it felt good. I'm looking forward to the summer, a race every month now starting with the Highland Fling in April, no need for any more long lonely training outings, just keep ticking over between the events, some time in the hills to prepare for the sterner tests from May onwards. Life seems pretty simple, we should appreciate it when we have the chance to pursue this very basic but enthralling pastime of ours.
Lest you think I'm getting over lyrical I'll just close with a word on a highly technical piece of running equipment that I've discovered. In the cold of the winter, getting frustrated with not finding suitable headgear for the conditions, I started running in my flat cap. Now this may make you look like a used car salesman on his day off but the peak keeps the rain out of your eyes, it has a much lower tendency to be lifted off by the wind than a baseball cap, and the warmth can be appreciated by those of us no longer quite as hirsute as we once were. I'm on the lookout for a lighter weight model for the summer. I even got one or two flattering comments when I brought this development out of the training closet to tackle the rain and wind of the Yorkshire moors last weekend. The weary passport official was less impressed when I returned late in the evening from a trip earlier this month. "Very French" he observed, "now take it off so that I can see your face."