9 days in Chamonix – Part 1

I’m currently in Chamonix, out training with Mike Jones of Apex Running, as he prepares for UTMB at the end of the month.

Now, I’ve landed on my feet and I’m house sitting (technically Mike is, but I’m helping), which has kept the costs right down and allowed me to stay out in the valley longer than I would normally.

For those who have followed me for a while, you’ll be all too aware this isn’t my first visit to the valley. My first adventure was with Myoutdoors, where I severely rolled my ankle on the first day, my second, shooting for inov-8 at UTMB, with minimal running again. Third time lucky for some time in the mountains, running the trails and seeing an awful lot more than the town.Flying out first thing on Thursday, the plane was almost delayed due to a lack of sandwiches “we may delay the flight by an hour due to no sandwiches….” it was a 80 minute flight!

On the Easy Bus, on my way to Chamonix from Geneva Airport, I found myself sat next to Maggie, a fellow trail and ultra runner, from 10 miles down the road. Tiny world. This made the bus journey fly by and I soon found myself in the outdoor capital, with paragliders circling overhead like vultures, Alpine climbers with bags laden with ropes heading to lift stations and trail runners blending in. Short shorts and vests are currency out here.

Mike appeared, bundling my large gear bag into his car and setting off to Les Houches. Oh it was hot outside. My intentions had been to run, but the 4AM start and heat had me flagging. My head pounded, I felt in a bit of a daze.

And so, I did nothing. A valley of possibilities and endless adventures.

Patience.

Friday

Up early, Break Fluid coffee coursing through my veins and a mountain to climb. I set off my Mont Lechant, utilising poles to help the ascent and descent. Mike gave me a head start, as he would be running intervals, as I made my way from road to trail, now under the canopy of the trees. Heat and humidity were intense, as sweat dripped relentlessly down my body.

The poles lightened the load on muscles, under large stress, with continuous ascent, legs unaccustomed to the challenge, living near Milton Keynes’ endless fields of flat land.

As I climbed, zig zagging my way up the flank, Mike was catching up and I soon heard the tell tale sounds off metal pole tips striking rock.

Passing Mike a soft flask of water, I continued my ascent, whereas he would soon turn homeward bound, one of several intense sessions executed recently.

On the climb went, breaking free of the canopy of green, revealing open mountain side and a glimpse of higher ground. Sipping on Mountain Fuel Raw Energy, engaging my triceps with every pole movement, the summit soon came into sight. A glorious simple green mound, offering unspoilt views of the higher peaks on both sides of the valley and networks of trails everywhere.The decent was more challenging, with steep loose sharp sections to the lift station, then a broad mix of runnable trails, with some landslides, river crossings (dry) and fixed ropes. All the while I used the poles to save my legs for the week ahead, something I normally wouldn’t think of.

Heat ever rising, I was glad to reach the sanctuary of the chalet, creating a concoction of ice water, salt and ginger to bring me back to normal, before resting.

But that was not all. There was more to come.

On tired legs and into a humid evening, a 10 mile out and back run into Chamonix, using the trail that forms the start of the race. Low level it might be, but it still gave 250 meters of climbing, ontop of the 1300 meters conquered in the morning (and let’s not forget descending).

The pace was easy, as Mike threw in some stride efforts, as we tore along the single track for 10-15 seconds at a time. Sweating like an open tap, I was glad to find the public fountains in Chamonix, providing much welcomed and needed hydration.

On the return leg, more strides and a drills session, before we made it back.

Pizza, beer & sleep.

The first full day was done.

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