Time really does fly. It’s been a week now since I arrived, and it feels like a lot longer. I’ve really settled in here in Chamonix, and second only to Flagstaff, it really feels like home. Not to say I’d immediately pack my bags and move here, but this place definitely speaks to me differently than most places. I can only really compare it to being in Flag, where despite being unfamiliar and new, the energy and vibe really made me feel more at home than I’ve felt anywhere before. Both Alicia and Chris Vargo said “be careful”, as that’s how they both ended up there. They were passing through, fell in love with that beautiful mountain town, and decided to make it a permanent home. Similar to Flag, Chamonix is a mountain town that is purely geared up for alpinists, runners, and sport enthusiasts. Whilst they are both far more diverse in what they offer, that is really a core part of the town. I now know three people (one plus a couple) who have moved here, and just love the lifestyle. So whilst It’s not in my immediate future, there is something here that I can’t put my finger on, and I could definitely see myself being based out here at some point in my life. There are multiple factors to consider (I had the same conversation about Flag with Alicia and Chris), but Chamonix like Flag, definitely has captured my attention in a way that few places have.
After a big week, I was feeling ready for my final week here and my last big week of training before I start winding down in prep for Western States. Looking ahead to what my training was, and seeing that the weather was foggy and colder today, I opted for a gentler trail. Peitit Balcon Sud is a path that runs consistently across one side of the Valley (Petit Balcon Nord does the same on the other side), at a lower altitude and minus most of the big climbs (relative to Chamonix at least). It connects many paths, but is also a great trail for a recovery run, or a faster speed based session. For today, it was a mix of both. It was a recovery run, but as I had been climbing pretty aggressively the prior week, the flatter and more run-able terrain meant I could pick up my cadence and still keep it a easy effort recovery. With a lot of fog up the top of the mountain still, it was nice to cruise along closer to the Valley and through the forrest. Chamonix is beautiful all over, so this was a nice change, and provided an opportunity for me to see where a number of other paths and trails leading up higher begin from. As it follows the valley along, most trails from the mountain head down and pass the Balcon, which is the link back to Chamonix. There are a few trails that I want to try over the next few days, and knowing the entry/exit points is really helpful when planning routes. One thing I really love about Chamonix, is that there are multiple ways to tag peaks and get to places higher up in the mountains. There are a range of ascents and descents of varying technicality and length, which gives someone like me a chance to focus on specificity. My focus has been big climbs (steeper), and longer descents. I’m a good climber so working at running the steepest and more technical ones is great, and the longer descents is a chance to really get as much eccentric loading on my quads as possible. That loading really prepare my legs for races such as Western States, where the race is a cumulative descending course. Cooked quads is the main reason people struggle on races like Western, as the wear and tear early on renders them unable to run from mile 60 when the course becomes more run-able. I have a few big days left, and a track session on Wednesday to get my legs back working at a faster pace. Time has flown in a week, and I can only make the most of my final days here, of which I know will come and go fast. Chamonix has really stolen my heart, and I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve created to be here.