Chamonix Diaries: The Finale

I am writing this entry a few days after getting back to London. Travelling, a chipped tooth and a few other things (like the fact I fly to the US for two weeks less than a week after getting back to London) have kept me busy. My goal with these daily diary style blogs had several purposes, of which one was for me to have a daily creative writing task. To that degree, they have been successful, and I really did enjoy writing a post at the end of each day, even if it took a day or two for it to be edited and posted online. The process of creating time to write, edit and share was a part of my day that allowed for grounding and reflection. I had no real idea for topics, and limited myself to not much more than a A4 typed page, which gave me constraints I needed as well as a new challenge (pith is generally not my forte). Working and training full-time in a mountain town really was a huge experience. There were a lot of lessons, challenges, successes, adventures, growth and in summary, it was a truly amazing experience. Without a doubt, it was the best period of training I have ever put together. Consistent high mileage (not the highest pure mileage but the focus was slanted towards vertical gain/descent) and a variety of different trails really gave me a solid base. Week One saw me climb over 9000m, and descent more than that, as I intentionally sought out longer descents. The terrain varied from highly technical, to moderately technical, with some flatter speed work completed in town. I put a lot of focus into working hard on the climbs, and found my overall ability to run in the mountains has grown significantly. Week two was reduced mileage and whilst still a lot of climbing, cut back to just over 5000m. Western States is close, so the plan was for a monster first week, and a scaled back second week. This deliberately put a huge amount of stress on the body, but dialled it back so that all the stress would result in positive adaptions, all of which would result in me peaking come Western. The reduced climbing and descending allowed the heaviness of week one to consolidate, but didn’t put me at risk of overload or injury. I had zero issues with injuries or niggles, and feel noticeable stronger when I run. The confidence alone from so much time out in the mountains has been great, and I am pleasantly surprised I feel so good after such a physically demanding period. I make sure I looked after myself, made sure my efforts reflected what my training was, and used easy runs strategically so get the most out of both weeks. The two weeks I spent training, are going to be a big difference, regardless of the result at Western. I’m positive of that, and am really glad I took that opportunity to train and commit two weeks of my life to dedicated mountain running. I am thankful that my company (Mace Construction) and my boss support my endeavours, and facilitated me taking this time off on the proviso I work remotely when I can. The challenges that aspect brought around balance and time management were enlightening, and by the end of the first week the initial stress and guilt that prevailed, had diminished. Those lessons will carry over into other aspects of my life, and I am glad that I took the risk to go out there and attempt to both work and train.

My final day in Chamonix was pretty amazing, despite the tooth incident. I had spent the morning in Moody Coffee, chatting with owner Ian and who I presume is his wife. I got to meet Doug, the founder of Run The Alps, a company that specialises in mountain running adventures around Chamonix and Switzerland. Both great contacts for when I return to Chamonix, and made me feel more at home there. From there, I got out on my run and finally made it to Flegere, and onwards to Lac Blanc. It was one of my favourite runs, and the snow crossings were a lot of fun, despite being pretty big at times. From Lac Blanc, I attempted to run the trail back to Plan Praz, but as I was running solo and there was a lot of snow on the trail, I didn’t quite make it back that way. About two kms in, I was attempting to walk over some rocks to bypass a bigger snow section, when I slipped on a loose rock, and fell forward. Falling forward, my hand got a nasty gash, and my head went straight onto a rock, with my front tooth taking the entire impact. I rebounded up, in a lot of shock, knowing my tooth/teeth had hit the rock. I did a body scan, and realised I was mostly ok, before I checked my mouth. There was no pain, no blood and whilst I knew something was wrong, it wasn’t painful or serious. Knowing the rest of my body was fine and that I was still in shock, I told myself to move. If it was bad, staying in the same spot wouldn’t help, so I needed to get moving, burn off some of the adrenalin and harness the energy into productive action. I walked forward and after a few minutes, did another system check. My hand was sore but fine, legs a touch bruised but fine. My mouth felt funny, but there was no pain or any sign of injury. I had a feeling there was a tooth issue, and after 10 more minutes of walking, I decided to check. My iPhone selfie showed that what I felt, was a small piece of the front top tooth missing. The tooth had absorbed the entire impact of the fall and thus had chipped off, to remain in Mont Blanc forever. The majority of the tooth plus the mouth and gum were all fine, and as indicated by zero pain at all, it appeared only cosmetic. That relief and the 10 or so minutes of walking had given me clarity of mind. I still had some shock, especially because I was on a remote part of the trail, covered in snow and at altitude. Alone. That being said, I had my phone and knowing I was fine, kept running back. There was nothing I could do about the tooth there, and only when I got back could I address the situation. So I kept going, easier at first, but once I had my rhythm again, nothing changed. I lost the trail and ended up back by Flegere, and took a similar route home to what I had come. 23kms, with just under 2000m of elevation. A great run, despite the chipped tooth. I kept the tooth incident quite for about five hours, before I told a few people. I was still in a bit of shock about it, partly thinking of how much worse it could have been. Due to the situation I was in, didn’t allow myself to panic or really dwell on it. I chatted to a few people, and just processed the feelings from that. Minor, but shock is shock and I was aware enough to know I needed to allow it to pass, and not linger. I spoke to a friend who’s dad (a dentist) said based on the photo and my comments, it did just appear to be cosmetic and should barring any unseen issues, be a simple fix. Within 48 hours of the incident, I had visited a dental surgery, and whilst pricey, had my tooth fixed and unrecognisable that there had been a chip in the first place.

So all’s well that ends well, and whilst Chamonix really took a piece of my heart, it also took a piece of my body that will forever remain in those mountains. The hay is in the barn, and Western States looms. My debut 100 miler, and a goal that has seen years of dedication and sacrifice to come to fruition. I am incredibly excited, and look forward to the challenges and experience that I will be faced with. Game on!

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