I’ve been reflecting a lot on my post from yesterday. About that struggle between working and not working, when you are in a situation with looser boundaries and only a general expectation. A situation where the execution and delivery is up to the individual. In replying to my blog, my sister Erin (check out her and her husbands brilliant travel blog: www.downbubble.com) used the phrase ‘guilt vs gratitude’. Which really cuts to the meat of the issue, and really resonates with me. Because it’s exactly that. I’ve so much gratitude that I can take two weeks away from work, live in the heart of European trail running, at the doorstep of Europe’s biggest mountain range. Mont Blanc is an iconic range and Chamonix is host the the ‘World Cup’ of ultra running every year. There are few places that rival this. I have this incredible opportunity to put in a great two weeks of training, in stunning mountains. I have worked hard to the point where my boss has no problems letting me take time off to go run and work remotely. Yet the guilt is there. Am I doing enough? What if ‘work’ thinks I am not. How can I prove I am not taking advantage of the situation, and prove that I deserve to be here? Should I be less excited and stoked to run because it is not a holiday, or a race. Just because I am committed to working as I would normally? Guilt vs gratitude. An apropos phrase that I am sure many people identity with on various levels. The same way parents may feel guilty enjoying time away from a young child/baby.
Today’s adventure took me to the other side of the Chamonix trails. The Mont Blanc side, which is where the highest peak of the ranges namesake (and Europes highest peak outside of the Russian Caucuses) sits at just over 4808m elevation. All the beta I had seen was on to the Brevent/LA Flegre side, where I have spent the last two days running. The Mont Blanc side is definitely bigger and the big peaks are still covered in snow, and rarely clear of cloud cover. Not knowing the trails at all, I found a starting point and went from there. It was very clear that not only where the trails much steeper, they were also far more technical. Not a problem, but it meant I had to work pretty hard when it came to the six miles of 3 mins on, 3 mins float fartlek that Coach Vargo had set me. The sheet vertical profile and nature of the trails meant there was significantly less range in my effort (comparative to London where I would normally do such a session), and that those on three minutes hurt! I got turned around at one point, with felled trees covering a lot of the trail. After a 10 minute hunt to get back on the trail, I conceded and turned back around, and eventually found another trail back up the mountain which would end up at the same point, coming around from the other side. I followed it up past tree line, and ran into a decent amount of snow. A few sections of the path were covered, meaning I had to go through to get past. It wasn’t dangerous, just a bit of fun when you are running and suddenly end up knee deep in snow. I was hot, so handfuls of snow in my trucker cap went down nicely. After more snow and some scrambling, I made it up to 2100m/6889ft (and only 150m from the summit of Aigulle du Midi). The views were spectacular, and the rocky and snow covered landscapes were a nice change too. I still had only short shorts and a singlet on. The descent down was tough, technical the entire way (my weakest element), but the extended route back to Chamonix really gave my quads a hard workout. Western States is cumulative downhill, so hard descending (more so than the climbing) is a key reason of why I am out here. The route down was enjoyable, although my quads were ready to be done just as I hit the flat in Chamonix. 10 miles, with over 1600m of climbing. A monster run, of which I felt pretty wrecked. Obviously, that meant spending six Euros on a massive bowl of Gelato! That means in three days, I have done over 4000m of climbing, with another four big days coming up (including back to back long runs on the weekend). It is by far the highest amount of elevation I have done consecutively, and with all of next weeks runs, my figures will be impressive. My overall mileage will still be pretty high, but the time on my feet and accumulative vert will be the big carryover to Western (and CCC when I return here in August to race). I’m enjoying these bigger periods of training, and just love being out here. If I could run anywhere, I’d always choose big mountains. The range of landscapes and trails even here in Chamonix, is diverse and plentiful. Easy to see why it is the mecca of mountain running. Day Two has been a success, and I look forward to some longer outings coming up.