Saturday, December 13, 2008

Training update

So, last Saturday was the Escalade race in Geneva, 7.25km up and down through the twisty cobbled streets of Geneva's Old Town. The race draws over twenty five thousand runners of all ages to celebrate the defeat of the Savoyardes in 1602. According to legend, the invaders were turned back by an enterprising woman who poured a pot of hot soup over them! I ran the course in 27m34s, an average speed of 15.8km/h, finishing 52nd out of over 1800 in my category.

Winter has arrived early in the French Alps and there's already over a metre of snow, even in the mid mountain. Speed training is over now and it's time to focus on base fitness for the winter season. My main activity is ski touring. This uses special ski equipment that allows you to release the heel of the binding so that it pivots at the toe. With artificial seal skins glued to the base of your skis you can ski up the mountain. Once at the summit, you peel off the skins, lock down your heels and ski down. There are no lifts so you earn every turn of the descent. Climbing up gets you very fit and you experience the high mountain at its most hostile: deep winter. It's the perfect X-Alps training.

I did my first proper tour of the season last weekend, climbing up the Dent de Verreu in the Chablais massif with the Amis Montagnards mountaineering club of Geneva. The top 300m was so good - 50cm of fresh virgin powder - that we had to climb up again to ski it a second time!

Right now I'm in Zermatt, Switzerland at the foot of the Matterhorn. Tomorrow I'm back on the freeride skis for the fun Infinity Downhill ski race: 2200m vertical metres in one go from the top of the Kleine Matterhorn down to Zermatt. It's a bit of fun but it's also a chance to check out one of the turnpoints and chat to the locals over a beer about flying and running in the area. Not all the preparation has to be hard work!