Herald Express - - Letters & Opinion -

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


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