Sunday, 10 July 2011

Where have all the footpaths gone?

It happened again yesterday!

Thinking I'll take a different route, get a bit more off road running in, I took a close look at the OS map, defined the landmarks in my brain and set off.  I'd run most of the route before, apart from the interesting bit, a footpath across one of the fens outside Ely, connecting two paved roads.

As I ran out of the village, the roads got progressively less structured, eventually turning into just farm tracks between the fields.  We've finally had a bit of rain recently, so that what was hard baked earth with large cracks is now covered in green growth and soft and springy to run on.


The only problem with this is that it stopped, and nothing replaced it.  The track sort of led down the edge of a field of wheat, which then stopped at a drainage ditch with no way across.

When I say drainage ditch, it's not a foot wide, just step over it kind of drainage ditch.  Remember that all of the fens is like the Dutch polders, only made dry by extensive drainage ditches dug a couple of hundred years ago.  In this case, this was one of the bigger ditches I came across, and it was about 6 feet deep, further across at the top and steeply sloped down to a three foot wide channel at the bottom full of water. 

My choices at this point were either back track 2 miles, try and cross it or run in roughly the right direction, following the edges of the fields along the ditch in roughly the right direction.  As I was running into town to meet up with the rest of the family, I took option three.  I eventually got back to a harder trail and then the road I was aiming for anyway, but to get there it took about a mile and a half of running down the field margins with my shins being shredded by wheat, barley and weed stalks and having my strength sapped by the very soft ground.

This doesn't look much different to the previous picture, but the nice green vegetation running down the middle hides a deep, water filled ditch.  I had the two foot wide strip between the edge of the crops and the edge of the ditch to run in.  Ely cathedral sits on the horizon, known as the ship of the fens, as it appears on the horizon long before you get there.  The current building dates back from about 1086AD.

Needless to say, that mile and a half was very slow while I was casting around for the best route and trying not to fall in the ditch. The next mile once I was back on hard ground was slow as well.

I eventually made it into town after about 10km of some tiring running
Mile split/ AHR / Max HR
1) 8:01 / 133 / 144
2) 8:02 / 140 / 147
3) 8:50 / 135 / 157
4) 8:44 / 148 / 158
5) 8:25 / 147 / 157
6) 8:13 / 146 / 152
7) 0.28mi / 2:18 / 8:09 / 147 / 151
Total 52:35 / 8:22 / 141 / 158
I think it's fairly self-evident where the soft stuff hits me, and how long it took me to recover from it.

Having promised myself an easy week this week, I ended up running the furthest I've ever done with 31miles and good interval session on the indoor rower.

I think I'll have an easy week next week


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