I’ve now been in Chamonix for a full day, after arriving early yesterday afternoon. I was up early in London, and did the usual airport trip, before arriving safely and efficiently in Geneva. From Geneva, it was on the bus to Chamonix. I am staying in Chamonix until June 10th, so just shy of two weeks. I am spending my time here preparing for Western States at the end of June, and also using the time to scout some of the UTMB/CCC course if I can. So the plan is to write these diaries daily (that is my intention at least) for posterity, and to record and share this experience, as it is a new one to me. New because I have never spent time away from home (outside of travel/holidays of which this trip is not), really dedicating myself to a decent block of training for an event or race. I am not an elite athlete, and I have a full-time job in London. London has zero mountains, and whilst there are plenty of things I can do training wise, nothing beats actually time at altitude, vert on the legs, and time spent at the source. So here I am, on an adventure and trying to balance training (specifically not just going nuts and over-training) with my work responsibilities and just day to day life.
For context, I work for a large construction company called Mace, doing Quality and Document Control. My job is office based, and a lot of which is managed through a variety of web based programs (allowing me to work remotely for periods). I am allocated to a specific site, so I have responsibilities on that site that are for me and me alone, as well as being required to interface with the rest of my team, plus the designers, sub-contractors and other third parties like the client. So there is a fair amount that I am responsible for, andI have to manage that remotely for the next couple of weeks. I’ve not worked remotely before, so both for myself and those I work with, this is a new situation.
On arrival yesterday, I got settled in my apartment before heading out for a recce. I did quick lap of the town, noted key places and recommended restaurants and cafes, before deciding to head out to run. Chamonix is the mecca of mountain running, as well as a plethora of mountain sports. There are trails everywhere, and so many places to explore and run. I headed straight out to the mountains, following a trail that took me up on the way to Brevent. I had no intention of going that far, and when a storm rolled in, I made the smart decision to head back down (totalling about 7kms with just shy of 500m vert). I got caught in the rain, heard a lot of thunder, but managed to stay out of any serious trouble. The storm came and went quickly, but I have so much respect for the mountains, and as I had not planned my outing for that weather, risking a sketchy situation was not worth it at all. Whilst a lot of my friends think I am crazy for a lot of the things I do, whilst it’s not always obvious, there is always a high level of risk management and awareness in what I do. I have a lot to learn, but I am far from reckless in my pursuits in the mountains. I take a lot of risks on face value, but they are always measured and mettled with experience and planning that goes mostly unseen.
Today I was working, and whilst I enjoyed eating croissants, fresh bread and working in the sunshine (with a mountain view), I found it hard to balance the workload. I normally can detach from work without any issue, but working on my own, I struggled to put boundaries on the time I was working, and kept feeling like I hadn’t done enough. I know this is because work has been so generous to me in allowing me to spend the majority of June working remotely, as I travel and race around Europe and the US. So whilst I had an incredible run at lunch, I felt I hadn’t done enough (despite starting early and working right past lunch). The running part is easy. I found a trail, ran a few switchbacks, then realised I wasn’t on the Vertical KM course as intended. I got back on that, and ran up and up and up until my legs were screaming, and I had to use the ladders and fixed ropes to finish the climb. Breathtaking views, the panorama of Mont Blanc immense in its presence. At the top of the VK, It was switchback after switchback until I hit the tree line, before rolling trails that wound down and down, until I shot back into Chamonix. Over 1000m of climbing in just over 11kms. Vert, and lots of it. The reason I came here. To do big weeks of mileage on steep alpine terrain. I just have to manage my work balance, and reconcile that there is no difference here than in London.
In London I am relaxed when I walk in at 715-730AM, and bold when I shut my computer down at 4PM to go home whilst everyone else is working (I am always the first one in though). Everyone knows that once I leave, work is on hold until tomorrow. I don’t have a work phone, take my laptop home, or spend a second extra on something that will be waiting for me at 715AM the next day. The time I spent today was equal or better than any days effort in the office. Yet it felt different (outside of the obvious). I made it different. I felt slightly guilty when I was climbing up the mountain, despite being full of joy, excitement and determination. I love running, and I love running in the mountains more than anything. An unquantifiable pleasure, and a gift of 12 days to spend doing pretty much nothing else. Yet in the same way the mind has battles during a race, the same way that I know it doesn’t hold any rational meaning, the thoughts come. Running always challenges me and pushes me. The act in itself is pure joy and effortless. It is the mind that hurts, that gets tired, that wants to stop, quit, stay in bed longer when I should be out training. Or in this case, it is my mind that is telling me I don’t deserve to be having the most amazing time. That I don’t deserve to be in gorgeous Chamonix, living my dream life, even for a short time. That I should feel bad that I am not back at the office, with everyone else. That I should feel bad about not replying to an email until I start again tomorrow. Even more so, the fact that my biggest struggle right now is something that is really so insignificant and privileged in the grand scheme of life. I understand that wholeheartedly, but also recognise my challenges are that, mine (and that they aren’t any less real than what many would consider more significant). I have and continue to work so hard to create the life I have, and genuinely love everything that comes with it, the struggles and challenges included. Running is a huge part of my life now. I love running for so many reasons, and none of them is more powerful than the variety, range and depth of the lessons it teaches me. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are often not at all what I expect. As much of what happens in life is. This is an exciting period for me but not without challenges. I know have an inkling of what it is like to be a freelancer, to be an entrepreneur, and the challenges that come without having the structure of a classic workplace, and how that lifestyle poses a different (not better or worse) challenge. So this is day one, and it has been totally different to what I had expected. I look forward to the next few weeks, exploring the mountains and the challenges that life brings my way!