Wednesday, 13 January 2010

2010 week 1.

The beginning of 2010 ‘paralysed’ our world with a winter playground the likes of which I have never experienced.

After a couple of run cancellations leading up to Christmas I had not been getting my usual exercise for too long. My appetite had vanished as a result and I was not able to enjoy the overindulgences of Christmas as much as I would have liked. Something had to be done. I forged a plan.

Saturday 2nd Jan.
I was all set to run the 16 miles up to Buxton and meet up with friend and family for a meal and (more) drinks, but the sky turned black and snow fell with a vengeance as I was about to leave, so I thought better of it. I got the train instead. I was very glad I wasn’t driving because mostly only pedestrians were moving in Buxton. The snow turned to rain in Stockport but it remained as snow in Buxton.

Monday 4th Jan.
I was glad to get back to work and some kind of routine. The ground was covered with slush, on top of black ice from the melted remains of the pre-Christmas snowfalls, so it was very slippery. I decided to walk for safety reasons, but at least I was getting some exercise.

Tuesday 5th Jan.
We had been dumped on in a way I had never known before. Snow had fallen since 7pm the previous evening and it was still falling. Everything was plastered including telephone wires, which were now 2” in diameter and sagging alarmingly. It was deathly quiet when I emerged from the house, just like it would be on Christmas morning when everyone is still in bed. What sound there was from idling car engines on the main road, was being absorbed by the snow, so I heard nothing. I was glad I didn’t have to drive. I ran. Fresh, dry snow is much safer to run on. The scene before me was breathtaking. Six inches of snow had fallen in one go, something I have never known in my 46 years here in Stockport.

Wednesday 6th Jan.
I took my Vibram fivefingers for a spin today – my first run in them. The fresh snow provided the ideal nursery conditions to break out of heel-strike mode and adopt the forefoot running demanded by them. It felt so good and natural to be in such close contact with the ground, but forefoot running somehow felt less efficient and seemed to slow me down. More importantly, it really tires the calf muscles when you are not used to it. Two miles there and back finished me off and I needed a few days’ recovery before another run in them, or the calf soreness I was feeling would have become a total calf trashing.

Thursday 7th Jan.
Back to the normal running shoes today to allow the complaining calves to recover. The air was calm yet biting when I emerged from the house. The snow was still fresh with not a hint of melting as I creaked my way to work in the deep powder. My legs were all a glow by the time I arrived (I was in shorts as usual). I was informed that the temperature had reached minus 18°C in Woodford, just up the road from where I was. It was still -13°C in our work car-park at 9am! It didn’t rise much higher all day.

Saturday 9th Jan.
I was due to run The Tandem today but the severe weather forced its postponement until Feb 20th. The temperature had remained well below freezing since Monday night and the air had remained calm. The ground, trees and shrubs were still thickly smothered or hidden by at least 6” of snow even at the low levels where I live, where an inch of snow that lasts for a day would normally be regarded as a significant event. Now would be my last chance to run the 16 miles up to Buxton and take in some frozen winter wonderland views.

And so, at 08:45 I found myself jogging up the A6 towards Lyme Park and Disley on the most direct road route to Whaley Bridge. I decided to avoid the countryside route, where progress would be difficult. The roads should be more runnable. The section over the top from Whaley Bridge to Buxton via the track would be a different matter – much more remote and potentially dangerous, so my rucksack was loaded with spare warm clothes, survival bag, first aid kit, whistle, mobile phone, food and drink, just in case.

I made good progress on the roads, which had been well cleared. I encountered the first signs of the easterly wind and blowing snow on the old road from Disley to Whaley Bridge. I expected much worse after Whaley Bridge.

I had not done this route for well over a decade. The last time was when I was just getting into long distance walking. It was great to activate my distant memories again and get to see the route in a completely different - more like unique - way.

The track out of Whaley Bridge had been ploughed and remained runnable for a surprisingly long way, as far as the Whitehall Outdoor Pursuits Centre just past the left turn down to Combs. The snow was very thick and even the gorse bushes were completely hidden underneath the white blanket.

After the Whitehall Centre, where access was no longer required, the scene changed instantly to one of wild, desolate isolation with not a soul in sight or earshot, where the easterly wind and Nature were now in charge. It was like a desert but the ‘sand’ was blinding white in the sunshine. I was in a world of dunes, snow sculptures, drifts, buried features and even a snow cave. I was standing tall, much taller than I should have been, yet I was up to my knees in it. My face was getting ‘sandblasted’ as I looked around at the rare, beautiful sight in utter captivation.

A good mile of serious trudging and post-holing eventually brought me down to Long Hill, the main road that rises out of Buxton. My legs and feet were amazingly dry and warm. The dry powder had not ventured too far and must have remained frozen. A mile's down-hill run brought me into Buxton for my 1-week-delayed dinner date at The Old Clubhouse. Even with all that trudging and stopping to gawp at the views and take pictures, my journey time of 3.5 hours was half an hour faster than I’d ever done before. That’s the difference between only walking and running a bit.

I went to the train station to meet my fellow diners. The railway was buried, save for the two exposed lines in grooves in the snow.

After a quick change into ‘civvies’ and some more comfortable footwear I was relaxing with a pint, looking out on a snowy Buxton scene and relating stories & showing pictures of what I’d seen.

What a week! What an introduction to 2010!!

All 78 of the week's pictures are here.


  1. great pics nick and interesting to hear about the vibrams..i guess it takes time to re-educate our motions and muscles..see you soon

  2. Sounds like a pretty adventurous week! I have been running in the Vibrams for about 3 weeks now and I must admit it does take a little getting used to as your bodys natural gait is different to having shoes that prevent pronation etc. I intend to run barefoot when the weather warms up and build the mileage up slowly to ensure I do do too much too fast.

    Any idea yet of what your big races will be this year?

  3. BN - I left you a message on the Snod site yesterday - don't know if it made sense to you?

  4. Great post, Nick.
    I saw your refused name on the UTMB site today (and then your post on FRA Forum so this won't be an unpleasent suprise), real shame you can't get back out and give it some this year. You must have some alternative bigies kicking around in your head to do instead?

  5. UC, Rich.
    The Vibrams are pleasurable at the time but I regret it the next day. What does that remind you of?

    Sorry, I've only glanced at the SNOD thread occasionally. It romps along at such a pace I've lost touch and I feel like a rank outsider now. I'm put off posting because I haven't got the time to catch up.

    Mike and everyone else, have a look at my latest post for a taste of what I have in mind for this year. Things have changed and I'm sure more will change.