The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 15 April 2007

The Canal on Our Left

Last weekend we took a 22 mile linear training walk. The plan for today had been 25 miles, but when I came to measure a route last night the one that I planned was actually 26.5 miles. Near enough, I thought, so that’s the route that I printed out.

With much concentration we managed to get out of the house far more speedily than we usually manage (our ability to faff on a Sunday morning is reaching legendary proportions) and were out walking at 9am.

Rather than heading out across fields and coming back along the canal, as we have done an uncountable number of times this year (actually, I could count, but it’s still a lot) today we decided to walk through the village to the canal and follow it for around 14 miles to meet up with the Staffordshire Way, where we were to leave the waterside to take a few fields and lots of quiet lanes, to bring us back home.

We speed walked the first 12 miles in three and a quarter hours (with one break), which brought us nicely to a pub at around lunchtime. With the sun beating down a drink that didn’t taste of plastic (hydration systems are great, but they do have a taste all of their own) was calling, so we popped in for a fruity drink that is no doubt full of sugar and E numbers, and a selection of side dishes.

Half an hour or so later, we hauled ourselves back outside and dispensed with the last couple of miles until we hit the Staffordshire Way.

We followed the Way for a while, then it was on to lanes.

I don’t know how hot it got today, but I would say it was around the 22-23 mark, and even with regular sips of water I was feeling the heat. So, when we met another village and found a pub it seemed rude not to go in an give them some business. As it turned out, half of the world was giving them some business, but we managed to get ourselves a table pretty quickly (I did resist taking my shoes off; although I desperately wanted to, it seemed to be a socially unacceptable thing to do when people were eating in the same room) and discovered that not only is a glass of Apple and Melon J2O not particularly nice, but in this establishment it was also more expensive than a larger glass of ale.

Setting back off for the last 6 or so miles, I didn’t feel too bad, although fatigue did set in over the next few miles, which by way of a change to our planned route (it's bad enough being anywhere near fields of rape in flower, we didn't fancy walking through one) involved more tarmac than I would have liked.

Reaching a village that’s only 2 miles from our house (albeit that our planned route avoided the busy, narrow B road that gives that distance and was thus twice as far), Husband had something of a catastrophic failure of his knee. I left him sitting in a bus shelter as I said that I would pop back home, get the car and go back for him.

Looking at the map I found a shorter route, although it didn’t quite go as planned. As I hit a huge crop field, with no view of any of the other boundaries and without any path on the ground, I kicked myself for not having the 1:25k map with me, from which I could quickly have deduced where I was and where I needed to go.

As it went, I indulged in a little trespass and hopped over a gate to find myself on the B road sooner than I wanted to. A bit of a jog to get the worst part of the road over with before any traffic came, and I soon left the road to take a slightly longer route that would see me crossing fields rather than diving out of the way of cars.

I covered these last 3 miles in record time (amazing how you can find energy in weary legs when you need to), but for my haste did incur a small blister on the inside of my big toe (never had one there before).

My mileage for the day was 26 miles in 9 hours (including all of the breaks we took). Husband’s mileage was 23 miles.

Plan next week is for 30 miles. Here’s hoping for a miraculous recovery of Husband’s knee.

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