I FILLED the air with holiday words on Sunday morning at Dartington, which was a shame because otherwise it was a stunning morning.
A skein of beautiful Canada Geese honked overhead, possibly fooled by the plummeting temperature into thinking they were somewhere in the frozen Yukon rather than sunny South Devon.
It was a stunning morning but man, it was cold.
The Dartington estate looked magnificent in its autumn plumage, all brown and red leaves in the trees and more of them strewn across the wide path curving down through the gardens.
Why, then, would I ruin such a perfect morning by filling the air with a volley of goose-frightening profanity?
Mrs H and I were taking part in the Dartington Duathlon, which is a run, followed by a bicycle ride, followed by a second run. Entering this event had seemed like such a good idea at the time, back in the warmth of summer. On Sunday morning, body clocks out of kilter thanks to the end of British Summer Time, shivering in the biting cold of the crack of dawn, it seemed less like one.
But off we ran at the appointed time, looping the estate and finishing with a beast of a climb up through the trees. Into the transition area we ran, donning bike helmets and gloves, changing our shoes and grabbing our bikes. For the average three-year-old, changing your shoes, putting on some gloves and a hat then finding a bicycle isn’t much of challenge. When you’re frozen, hurting and racing, it’s surprisingly tough.
We cycled out to South Brent and back. I passed a few people and was passed by riders in skintight bodysuits stretched out over carbon fibre racing machines.
There was traffic coming back towards Dartington and I sat for a while in the warm air of a Nissan Micra’s slipstream, turning a big gear and hoping he wouldn’t brake too sharply.
Then, as I came back towards the transition area ready to ditch the bike and put my running shoes back on again, I rode on to the narrow blue carpet showing the way.
A chap in a bobble hat chose that exact moment to amble across the carpet, staring vacantly into space. Several people shouted at him to get out of the way but he seemed oblivious.
Until the last minute when he turned, saw me and stepped right into the space I was riding into. I came to a screeching halt in a squeal of brakes, my clipped-in left foot released itself in the nick of time to prevent me from hitting the deck.
Say I was tired, say I was stressed, say I was anxious at riding through a crowd of people more interested in their coffee than the approaching race, but I let him have it with both barrels, then reloaded and let him have it with a couple more. I’m not sorry.
We survived, and after another run up through the autumn trees and back, it was back to base for tea and medals.
Don’t bother looking for me in the results, by the way. You’ll be bored long before you get that far down the list. It’s the taking part that counts. That, a good swear, and the warm slipstream of a Nissan Mi