Chamonix Diaries Day 5 & 6: Weekend, June 3 -4 2017

What a way to finish the week here. The weekend started with some indulgence in French pastries, which are just so cheap and to delicious to miss. By 10am, I was meeting some friends who had invited me to join them on a run I hadn’t done before, to Aiguillette Des Houches. It was further along the valley then I had run before, so it was nice to have some company to point out the trails. Whilst all the trails here are so well marked, much of the challenge is finding the where they start, as some are kms from central Chamonix, and it isn’t always easy to identify which ones end up linking up. Whilst I’ve had some beta for routes, I’ve most of the time just run and explored, and in the process figured out key sections and where they end up. Chamonix is good like that, so you can just explore, and trust you will find your way back down to town eventually. After a week here, I feel I have a far better understanding of the trail systems, yet still no there are so many more routes to explore.

The run to Des Houches was beautiful. Surprise surprise right. Some big climbs, then this stunning section of open green fields, juxtaposed against the Glacier on the other side of the Valley. Some great running, before a steep and rolling climb to take you up past 2200m elevation, to Des Houches. Being a weekend, there were a few tourists around and the most I had seen all week. There was a fair bit of snow up there, but it was nice and warm and the paths were clear of snow. There is a stunning ridgeline that can take you to Brevent, but as I was chasing more mileage, I ran back down with the girls. As we got closer to town, I said goodbye and headed back up into the mountain. I’d run about 10 miles by that stage (16kms), and had at least the same to do again. I followed the same initial route we started on, before diverting right to follow the trail to Refuge De Belechat, which then leads on to Brevent. It was another aggressive climb up, and my legs were feeling it. The climb wasn’t runable in many sections, and they had lots of fixed ropes, hand holds etc on many sections that required scrambling. Being a hot day, anytime I passed a mountain stream was an absolute joy, as the cold water provided a nice refresher. After steadily climbing and seeing a few Ibex, I could see my end goal. I pushed the last climb, to end up right at the Refuge with two Ibex, who were clearly unperturbed about my presence. I took a moment up top to sit and eat some M&Ms (as I left my apartment I realised I should probably get some nutrition just in case, so M&Ms were the quickest and easiest find), before heading back down. I’d been on my feet for close to four hours and was ready to get back into town for a beer. The descent was steady, but long. With tired legs, I kept it easy and consistent, slowly dropping the altitude until I was back in tree line. From there, it was another steady effort to take me back to Chamonix, where realising I was short on mileage, I ran a few laps around town to top up. From there, I went straight to Monkey (bar/restaurant) where Jana, Rachel, Tom (GB athlete and the GB runner from the book ‘Running with the Kenyans’) were waiting. Jana and Rachel were still in running gear, and had prioritised beer over showers, just like me. I was in good company. We chatted running and Tom’s upcoming race at the World Trail Championships, before I made my way back to my apartment for dinner and sleep. 19 miles, with over 2500m of climbing, a monster of a day in Chamonix.

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I woke up on Sunday to the news of another terror attack in London. Not the news you want to hear at all, but after replying to a few messages, it was down to business. A storm had rolled in over night, and it hadn’t stopped raining. It was still raining heavily in the morning, and a fog had engulfed the entire town. I took a few moments to plan what I would need, being mindful to take extra layers, gloves and gear suitable for a wet and possibly rough day in the mountains. Not knowing the conditions, I planned to head out on my expected route (to Flegere and Lac Blanc), but ready to pull the plug if I felt it was a bit sketchy anywhere along the way.

I was out the door by 930AM and was drenched before I even got to the trailhead. As I started up the climb, I realised how thick the fog was. I could see maybe 20m ahead of me at times, but no more. The further I climbed, the more the visibility decreased. I was already running slower due to the wet trails, but was loving how magic the forrest felt. Reminiscent of scenes from Narnia or Lord of the Rings. I had a blast just pushing up the trailhead not worrying about how wet it was. Once I breached tree-line, visibility was barely 10 metres ahead, and I was running up trails which had  a ton of water flowing down. I hadn’t even run 5kms and I was soaked to the bone, and getting cold. I pushed on up the climb, happy enough as I had prepared for the weather. I summited Plan Plaz, and assessed the situation. I couldn’t see anything below me, the town, or the other side of the mountain. The fog was the thickest I’d seen up top, and didn’t look to be shifting. The rain was continuing, and there were hints of thunder. I decided to push on for my intended goal, but within a km, had realised I couldn’t see anything, and that going further into the mountain was probably not the smartest idea. I headed back down the mountain with mixed feelings. Partly happy to be heading back into the dry, but partly bummed I couldn’t continue on. The weather wasn’t awful but the lack of visibility posed a risk as I was running somewhere I had never been. I didn’t know what the conditions were like further along, and made the right call to not be up there for hours, both cold and wet. I ran the descent pretty comfortably, despite being sure I would trip on the wet rocks and go flying down the trail at any moment (thankfully, I escaped sans falling). The fog was still heavy from about 1600m, but as I got lower down, it seemed to have cleared a bit. By Chamonix, the town was looking nicer, and the fog had risen to further engulf the mountains. I decided I was going to get pizza, which I 100% stand by as being the best idea of the day. Fed and back in my apartment, I had a nap and then went out for an easy recovery 10 miler, of which I stayed off the mountains. I hit my mileage target, and used the afternoons run to give the legs some recovery after the huge week of mountain running. It did feel nice to be moving faster on the flats, and post run I felt refreshed. 75 miles, and just shy of 9000m climbing for the week. My best training week yet, especially in regards to time on feet and the massive amount of elevation I managed to hit. A phenomenal week in Chamonix, and I have another week to go! I’ve come a long way since Monday, and the difference in both my physical and emotional is huge. Chamonix has really been good to me, and I am excited to embark on my final week here.

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