Chamonix Diaries Day 8: Tuesday June 6th 2017

I woke up today, to the heavy sounds of rain. The weather in Chamonix has turned much colder, and there has been a lot of rain and fog in the valley. Nothing unusual from what I can gather, however it means training gets altered and adjusted. Obviously whatever the weather is like in town, will be magnified the higher up one goes in the mountain. Whilst mainly cold and wet today, I had intended to head for a longer run up higher to La Charlanon, a new trail and destination. I did my best to try and find the best time to go, but it rained constantly all morning. The wifi was significantly poorer than usual, which made getting any work done frustrating, which didn’t help. Had it been nice weather, I’d have shot off to the mountains without any care in the world. I decided to try the afternoon, so I ate lunch, and then decided to head out and get my run done. I put some extra gear in my pack, and made sure my jacket was on tight (Ultimate Direction makes a brilliant jacket designed for big mountain adventures) and then headed off. I was soaked by the time I hit the trailhead (reminiscent of Sunday), and the rain seemed to have kicked up a notch. I realised just as I hit the trail head that I had forgotten to put in gloves. I’d made a point to get a long sleeve, and long waterproof over-pants just in case, but had foolishly forgotten gloves. Knowing the weather, I should have headed back to collect them, but being soaked and a km away from the apartment, I kept on going. It continued to pour as I moved along the trail, and whilst it wasn’t too cold, the rain was relentless. My socks and shoes were totally waterlogged, and the glove extensions on the jacket were no match for the constant water. Within a few kms, my hands were beginning to get cold, and whilst soaked, the rest of my body was ok (the jacket keeping my core dry for the most). I pushed on, and as I heard some thunder, paused to put on an extra layer just in case. Which meant I had to stop on the trail (in the rain), take off my pack, take off my jacket (thus getting more of my core wet), fumble with wet hands and arms to get my long sleeve on, then put my jacket back on and continue. Maybe one minute of stopping, to get a warmer layer on, at the cost of getting more of my body wet. It wasn’t bad, and the gain was definitely worth it. However a warm core doesn’t help if your hands are cold. I kept going determined to get the extra four or so kms I needed before turning around. I changed trails before pushing up a climb and deciding to turn around prematurely. I was only getting higher up, and my hands were freezing by that point. I was at the stage where they felt puffy and numb, and knew they weren’t going to get any better, just worse. So whilst the conditions overall were not anywhere near as bad as they could have, the constant rain and colder temperature had gotten to my hands. My failure to bring gloves, was coming back to haunt me. I remember running on Sunday in slightly warmer but equally as rainy conditions, and feeling fine as I was wearing gloves. A small thing, that made a big difference. So I made my way back, feeling mentally pretty happy (I was singing and having a range of random and positive inner dialogue), despite having frozen hands. I kept a steady pace, and was glad to make it back to Chamonix when I did. My hands were frozen, and had lost any form of fine motor control as they were so numb. The run was a good mental test, and whilst annoyed I turned back, I got some good mental conditioning being cold, wet and having to run on technical trails in such conditions. When I finally made it back to my apartment, I had to remove all my wet clothes, which was an effort with my hands being as cold and ineffective as they were. Worst of all, they were so cold that even room temperature water made them burn. I spent 15 or so minutes trying to warm them up enough so I could have a hot shower, by using a combination of the tap, a dry towel, and sitting on them. Slowly but surely the circulation returned, and I could jump in the shower. Ironically, as soon as I jumped out of the shower, I looked outside to see the rain stopping, and the sun shining. Chamonix was still chilly (8 Celsius according to the weather app), but the conditions had improved. I was frustrated that I didn’t wait longer, and felt slightly haunted that I had cut my run short and could have finished it if I had left later on. I spoke to Coach Vargo, and she reminded me that the mountains are unpredictable even in Summer, and that she has learnt the hard way that some runs you need to cut short, as it really isn’t worth pushing your luck. Today I had cold hands, and was back to 100% within an hour of returning. Had I pushed my luck today, maybe I would have been fine, or maybe the mountains would have needed to teach me a graver lesson. I have much to learn about being in the mountains and alpine pursuits. Whilst capable and confident, I am still a baby in the mountain running and alpine worlds, so I will continue to learn and grow. The mountains are a humbling teacher, and I am thankful for the lessons.


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