Tuesday, 2 May 2017

An Ode to My Trail Shoes

Well, I think the day has finally arrived when my trusty Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes have taken me on their last adventure in the mountains. 

This may not sound like a significant statement, but I'm going to leave it there a minute to sink in. 

Those of you who've known me a while will probably be asking "so what?", having realised that these are but the latest in a long line of salomon trail shoes, stretching back to somewhere in the middle years of medical school, quite possibly even before I was fully commited to mountain adventures. All of them have done long service, but these, at somewhere between 4 1/2 and 5 years, more so than most. They've also, without doubt, carried me on adventures spread over a wider geographical area than any other footware I've ever owned; and there lies the significance of their retirement. In the memories. 

Their initial purpose was, as might seem obvious, as a running shoe. Hollie and I had decided to enter an off-road marathon, off-road marathons benefit from off-road training, and so it began. These miles were mostly racked up, during shoulder season, along the muddy trails of the Middlesex Fells, just north of Boston. Longer runs required more terrain, and saw us venture further north, into New Hampshire, for a traverse of the Bonds, and then a traverse of the Presidential Range. The "Presie" was a highlight - moving quickly over mountains I knew well from winter climbing and skiiing, but which I'd rarely seen free of snow, and resplendent in the colours of early fall (not that this photo does it much justice!).

My trusty shoes carried me through the Stonecat Trail marathon uneventfully enough, but truth be told, the final training run across the Presies is the stronger memory.

By this point, I suspect the dedicated runners amongst you would be ready to retire these shoes, but somehow or another they kept finding their way onto my feet when I knew the trail would head upward, or when the thermometer dipped and snow was on the ground. Trails in Vermont, and the Charles River Esplanade, during a couple of cold Boston winters got added to the list, as did multi-day hikes in the White Mountains during snow-free seasons.

Slowly but surely the wear mounted up, and my willingness to run significant distances in them waned, and they took on a new lease of life, ensuring I was comfortably shod driving to and from winter trips to Mt Washington, Katahdin and countless other climbing and skiing adventures. I'm pretty sure they spent several weeks in my gear cache in Talkeetna while I lived in ski and mountaineering boots on Denali.

Moving back across to the eastern side of the Atlantic, a very boggy circuit of the Annalong Valley in the Mourne Mountains to mark my 34th birthday interrupted a comfortable retirement as street shoes.

Fast forward another year and a half or so, and street wear (plus a few short runs in and around Chester, North Wales, and Glasgow) has almost completely beaten the sole lugs into submission, and any hint of waterproofing has long since given up...but still I think, "what better to wear for a fat-bike circuit of Cairngorm"?! Certainly my feet were comfortable, but as I slithered in slick soles over the talus of the Lairig Ghru, pushing and carrying my bike in what (for me) was completely unrideable terrain I became clear that they really had carried me on their last adventure.

And what a fitting swansong it was.

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