Increasingly the last few weeks my mind has been drifting back towards the mountains, and increasingly, as the time since I was in any of them increases I have been feeling a sense of almost exile with regards to my disconnection with them.
The heady days of summer seem such a long time ago now when I felt like I could move endlessly over whatever terrain I chose and felt strong and confident doing so.
I have been maintaining my fitness out here in the flat lands as best I can , even though the longest run I have had since the Bucharest Marathon is about 16 km. Its just nigh on impossible to justify spending longer away from the work environment……
The trails are pleasant and I continue to see some lovely sights as the sunsets, with deer, hares, foxes and all manner of birds of prey presenting themselves as I pass through the landscape, empty but for the odd tractor cutting a late corn field or harrowing a rich brown plowed field…
I can turn the legs over pretty quickly now and feel ok, but increasingly I suffer from a bit of a motivation issue – The closer I get to arriving home, the less inclined I am to worry about squeezing another run in here, except that without the day to day runs here I will lose fitness for the days I want to spend up high somewhere else.
This has been keeping me going and within a week now I am going to be at home…Fantastic indeed and I can’t wait to traverse the hils again with a sense of freedom that a snatched hour here or there cannot quite deliver..
When you have only an hour to run, one is aware of a particular end point and how long it will take to get there. At home by comparison, I think about where to go on a run , not really how long it will take me to get back and that is liberating. The same with our cycle trips, its all about the journey …….
So I am ready for Wales again. From early August til now I have not set a foot on the hills there….Bring it on, they lok great on the webcams I have been viewing the last day or so….
Well here I am in Romania where I have been based since late August. What was supposed to be a 6 to 8 week job has stretched into probably a 12 week trip and I will be home around mid to late November… Bit of a shock to the system and goes against my usual principles of rotations and work, but hey one must adapt to the times……
Its work again, so time for running has been pretty limited.
The area I am in is up in the North West of Romania, Satu Mare County in a place called Tasnad, fairly close to the Hungarian border. This area apparently used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after WW1.
The area reminds me a bit of East Yorkshire where I grew up, its a mix of flat agricultural land – corn and sunflowers plus some pasture land, with some low ( 100m ) rolling hills along the edge where Tasnad town is and I am staying in a small hotel with a thermal water pool…
The running is certainly not mountainous but is cool nevertheless. Its really different to anywhere I have spent time recently and as such its a pleasant spot. Admittedly I miss the mountains – Alps and N wales home but there are lots of subtler things around that help to compensate for the lack of mountains here.
The place is riddled with agricultural tracks and quiet country roads ( a lot of the roads here are still gravel and dirt and get almos
t impassable in wet weather – and very little tarmac), hedgerows, ditches and old style villages.
Horses and carts are common here too, the main form of transport for a lot of people and produce and its great to see so many of them.
Old communist barns with pigs lurking inside, quintessentially rural villages with churches, ducks, geese, hens and all the crucial ingredients for classic olde worlde charm, dilapidated hen farms, rustic built hay barns and friendly people.
Occasionally one gets a glimpse of the edges of the Carpathian mountains in the distance…
So what am I up to? Well my runs until the last couple of weeks have focused on around 45 to 90 minutes in length ( as much time as can be taken off during the work) and I have been working on building some pace into my general running turn over speed so some interval sessions have been incorporated – 80m x 8 reps, trying to keep a pace of under 3 mins per rep ( around 2 min 50 s in fact), with some shorter 200 m rep sessions. In between these its been 1 or 2 runs to get around 10 to 6km in on the flat farmland tracks or on the rolling hills, and really been exploring all these quiet villages and small valleys and farmland that surround us here.
I have a quality 10km race track on a road out to a spot called Saucas, its got some small climbs, and I have in fact managed a 39min 21 second 10km on this so I feel as though I am definitely speeding up..
Out and about there are some cool sights and again, different to the usual. On my jaunts out, the peace away from work is really appreciated, and I have found Foxes, Hares, loads of birds of prey , from Buzzards to Kites, Kestrels, Sparrow hawks, marsh and hen harriers.
There is the added fun of a huge number of seemingly mental dogs, basically every building seems to have at least one in it which love to run up behind and bark at ones calves, which are well exposed to a bite should they fancy it! However, the technique is to stop running , crouch down as one turns around and these seemingly deranged dogs either quieten down and wag tails or charge off in fear, most amusing…..
Watching the seasons change is cool, as harvests are gathered and fields are getting ploughed turning dark earth browns under the plough blade. The rich green that enveloped the area when I arrived is well on the way to its rich golden and yellow autumn coat as the temperature drops and the nights begin to draw in… I remember this time last year in the Alps was spectacular…
Anyway despite all this working is not the same as being on break and I miss the mountains!!!
I did manage a weekend off last week courtesy of my employers, and I headed to Bucharest to have a bash at the Bucharest Marathon , which turned out to be a great event, albeit almost pan flat…
I was not really prepared to try and run a PB due to all the hill time and not too much speed training, but I was well pleased to manage a 3hrs 11 minute race, coming 60th overall, well chuffed with a spur of the moment excursion. I have knocked off 15 min from my previous PB on the Snowdon Marathon and well chuffed. I am proper convinced that with a few more paced runs and some tempo things I could actually break 3hrs……Maybe I will try and enter the Barcelona Marathon in March, or something equally flat around that time when the weather is still a bit mingy for long mountain runs and out of season races are few and far between on the fells…
The atmosphere was great, loads of crowds watching, cheering, music, friendly aid stations and the start and finish were in the lee of the old Ceaucescu Palace, the 2nd largest building in the world ( pentagon is 1st)
Its a bit late for posting it but I decided to pop a few pictures in and summarise the last few weeks of our trip to the alps before I was dragged off to work in Romania, where I am now…… It is a stark contrast and I will post some pics and give a bit of a review of the area I am staying in. Unfortunately its not the mountains, neither Carpathian or Transylvanian, but an especially flat bit in the North East near the Romanian border…
Of course as usual, all the plans I had to take part in the Tor Des Geants were dashed due to work coming up.. Hey Ho, all part of the fun. Best try again next year!!
Anyway I digress:-
The last couple of weeks of the alps trip ( The van is still hiding away in Geneva airport somewhere) were spent in the amazing region of Bardonecchia and then back over to Courmayeur, where we camped below the Grandes Jorasses in the Val Ferret again, a really stunning spot..
Bardonecchia was chosen due to dodgy weather threatening the area we were in – Around the Grand St Bernard again and what a place it was. Beautiful valleys and stunning mountains. The Peaks are prety rocky and big limestone, albeit smaller than the main alps area to the North but stunning. The main valley out of Turin is a fine spot and surrounded by great mountains, although there are not many camping spots.. We spent a few days here then headed over to the area around Sestriere and Fenestrelle, a truly stunning spot, and after this, over to Melezets just up a side valey above Bardoneccia town itself.
Great mountains , great walking and stunning trail running, both in the valleys and up onto the peaks, I am really excited about getting back to this area. We have only just scratched the surface of. We had some great mountan biking too above Oulx and road biking to Sestriere…..
Where else can one can run up and round a fantastic Circque at around 2500m and be back in 1.5hrs after great ridges and views, or power up to a 2700m col late afternoon in mists and pop out into blue skies…wow. Awesome spot. Biking in the morning, running in the afternoons, great food, wine and cold beers, hot showers…
Here are a few pictures. I am as usual using my North Face Better Than Naked Shorts, which are really lasting well and are so comfortable, plus the Adidas XT4 Trail shoes, although on some of the flatter trails in the dry I have been in my Salomon Sense Mantra’s. The Sense Ultra SG’s I purchased when my older Adidas shoes wore out are only used in super wet conditions and as a change to my XT4’s currently, as they sem to be wearing rather badly. A great shoe the Salomons but not too good on longevity, especially as they are not cheap… The Adidas XT4’s win hands down for lasting well and the fit is super comfortable, and not too dissimilar to the Sense Ultra.
Typically, whilst Me and Helen spent our summer in the Alps, the UK weather was best for a long time. Despite the worst Alps weather since 1930’s we had an awesome time and managed an awful lot of trips in the hills , on foot, mountain bike or road bike and saw some great areas on the way.
We spent time in the following areas, visiting some of the placws twice or 3 times:-
Aosta Valley – Courmayeur / Gran San Bernardo
Bardonecchia Region – Piedmonte Region, Italy
Grand Bornand – Haute Savoie, France
Valloire and Col Du Galibier Area
Switzerland – Valais
Finale Luguria – Italian Mediteranean Coast
An awesome time, and now abruptly halted due to our requirements to go back to work:-
Unfortunately the summer long plan to take part in the Tor Des Geants went down the pan again!! Typical that a job came up to scupper the possibility to take part, I seriously think that I was getting to the point of being able perhaps to complete the thing…. I am feeling on top form even now, sitting in Romania at work………
Beautiful Mountains, beautiful valeys, cloudscapes and snowscapes, jagged peaks, every valley offering something totally different, and on top of that, 2 of the most enjoyable mountain races I have taken part in, with fantastic support from local villages along the way….
Here are a few pictures from the most recent of adventures:-
Adidas XT4’s have been my general companion for this trip to the alps with a trip to the dark side to wear some Salomon Sense Ultra SG , whilst my XT4’s had worn out…. I still prefer the XT4’s to be honest. The grip is slightly better in the ADidas XT4’s, especially in wetter weather, and they last longer that the Salomon Sense Ultra SG ( the salomon uppers are beginning to split around the top of the toe box near big toe/ball of foot area) . The Salomons are a little lighter mind you, but as an all round shoe its the Adidas one for me everytime, high mileage, great grip, positive..
OK, sorry for no updates, but flakey internet and limited data access plus battery on computer ….blah blah blah….
Whats been happening this last couple of weeks -
Well Lots of running in and around Cournayeur, in fact I was pleased to come 9th overall in the Gran Trail Courmayeur 60km race – very pleased as I felt good all the way through and only started to feel competetive rather than just finishing it at around 35 km… A great race with 4000m ascebt in it and good preparation for stuf to come…
The feeling of being out so high in the mountains above Val Veney and on beautiful ridges is just so energising….
Helen has been out here with me and we have also been hitting the road biking and mountain biking with some good cols trips – Telegraphe and Galibier in a day plus a day watching the Tour De France come over Col de Lauteret, along with a good ride back up and over the Galibier to finish the day off. an awesome descent down to Valloire where we stayed for around a week…
Great running around Valloire too despite some wettish days we had some awesome weather
Oh, I also forgot to mention our trip to Finale Ligure , a fine coastal resort on the Italian Riviera with some fantastic mountain biking trails. We explored for a couple of days and even went for a swim in the sea, as weather had really gone bad in mountains
A trip over to Le Grand Bornand with dodgy weather allowed some more road biking cols and some hour and 2 hour runs for training, I have been generally getting in 1 to 2 hour blasts since the Gran Trail Courmayeur, just to allow my legs to recover…
I reckon I may have a go at the Pady Buckley on my Birthday, 1st August, and on the 10th I am back out in Switzerland for the Sierre Zinal Race, which will be awesome…
I am still on for the Tor Des Geants too in mid September so far… fingers crossed it all goes well….
Photos to folow of some adventures.
I am currently visiting my mate James in Argentiere up the valley from Chamonix and fancy a run over the Aiguille rouges……
As the weather forecast was looking reasonable for yesterday, I planned a longish run up high as I suspected the weather today ( Sunday ) would be rubbish ! ( I am currently sat inside in the camp site in rain and low cloud so an ideal time to write up yesterdays trip out.
As there was likely to be snow high up I was equipped with the Kahtoola Micro Spikes and also my Adidas XT4 Trail Shoes, although they are beginning to get worn down with all the mileage I am putting into them….
Despite the high mileage week, I still felt pretty fresh – no aches and pains , just a feeling of fatigued legs…
The day was beautiful as I headed off at 0845 hrs from the campsite in Les Hauderes (Camping Molignon – a great spot with views of mountains all around and great facilities).
The view up the valley towards the Ferpecle glacier and the Dente Blanche in the distance was fantastic, but my goal lay u the valley towards Arolla, and along the valley track instead of the tarmac, to reach La Gouille. Its quite a pull first thing in the morning and I was glad to actually begin the steep ascent towards Lac Bleu and the Aguille Rouge Hut, as I had a good excuse to power march… The valley up to here is such an angle that it feels entirely runnable, but on a long day I try to manage the feeling that I ought to run it all, and just run the flatter sections….
The climb upto the Aguile Rouge hut at 2810 metres is great, I love this and around 2hrs after leaving the van I am 1300m vertical higher up than I started and surrounded by great peaks of around 3200m plus. Pic a’Letoile is upto the right, with the Aguille Rouge behind then various peaks in the direction of the Col Des Ignes and The Pigne D’arolla. Behind the hut across the valley there is the Aguille de La Tsa, the Dente Blanche and hidden in cloud today the Matterhorn is lurking somewhere.
Stopping for a coffee at the hut, after crossing yet more steep snowy patches on the way to the hut – some soft and some pretty hard – I get an update on the weather – the Guardian reckons it will be fine all day, which suite my plans for crossing the Col Des Ignes, then running round to the back of the Pas De Chevres / Col De Reidmatten to cross them and descend back via Arolla….
I set off at a cruise from the hut, legs feeling great and traverse the hillside on great singletrack mixed with some rocky sections until a blue and white marker indicates the mountain track uptowards the Col Des Ignes..
There’s plenty of snow about and I alternatley seek rocky bits and wade through softish snow to make progress, in a great surrounding. Unfortunately the cloud is building on the far side of the col and as I climb higher I get to the last 100m vertical height to gain the col, and it begins to rain…. The complete snow slope ahead and the thought of getting caught on the far side of the mountains in a thunderstorm ( forecast) is enough to get me to reconsider my goals, and I turn tail and head down…
Fast going through the moraine and snow leads me to the Aiguile Rouge Arolla path which is great running ( although one section is covered in the debris of an old snow/rock avalanche …) I ping down on snappy legs to the dirt road that leads down from the Mayens de Arolla ( a lovely group of old mtn cottages high above the valley floor) feeling spritely, as it sprinkles lightly with rain.
The long descent to Arolla is finished on a great steep singletrack path into the village, where an easier angled Randonne path ( a great MTB descent) leads into the fields below the village then fantastic alpine meadow running alongside the river, just Idyllic!
I am beginning to tire as I get to La Gouile and begin the steep valley descent back to Les Hauderes, realising why in fact it is so hard to run up it ( it looks and feels well steep on the return journey)…
I have some very odd stomach cramps on the descent that I suspect is either hunger and long descent related or glacier water drinking… but once back at the campsite and after a bit of stretching the symptoms are gone and I suspect its just a reaction to the long week of running….
A fantastic day out, despite not getting to cross the col’s planned. Probably around 28km running with around 1600m ascent involved.
This brings the total since last friday to 160 plus KM with around 10000m ascent, including the mid week runs in the Sanetsch Pass area. 2 days rock climbing and a great mountain bike spin out with Graham – a British Mountain Guide – Frost Guiding have made for a great high mileage week / training week, and I am hoping that this is going to go in the bank for a) the Sierre Zinal Race and b) the Tor Des Geants……
I have fancied this for a few months and a bit of route knowledge and planning have had me inspired over the winter months. Its a 100km circuit of the Combins Massif with over 6500m ascent in it and usually done in a 6 day trip.
I wanted to run it in a couple of nights out, with 3 days on the hill.
Its the first time I have attempted something like this so I was super excited to be able to get the chance and also to have a weather window to do it in… This route would be pretty intimidating in bad weather, I would not like to be caught out on the cols in bad storms etc….
I am hoping that this is also going to go into the bag for training for the Tor Des Geants that I have managed to enter now as I was on the waiting list… That is going to be an epic!
The start and finish is in Bourg St Pierre in the Great St Bernard Pass – Swiss side – My original plan to do it clockwise was thwarted due to Panossiere hut not opening in time for me, so a last minute direction change meant I would arrive at Panossiere hut the first night it was open.
As it turns out I reckon its the best way to do it as a running trip because apart from the first morning, both the next days start with some downhill running, which helped wake up the legs……
Day one consisted of around 3o + km with around 2500m ascent in 6 hrs – snow on the first col slowed me down substantially … I stayed in the Rifugio Champillon, above Doues/Etroubles on the Italian side of the St Bernard Pass with great views of Grand Paradiso all the way round to the Fenetre Du durand and the Combins.
Day 2 started with a down hill run losing 250m alt. then aorund 8km of rolling beautiful singletrack, with the Fenetre Du Durand drawing me along through beautiful meadows under great ridges and peaks…The goal was to reach the Panossiere hut, to break the back of the bulk of the route and have a steadier day to finish on day 3. This was a big day, probably around 40plus km with a good 2500m climbing, and some snowy cols requiring a lot of care to cross, along with many gullies filled with hard snow – a lot of step kicking and poling in some potentially dangerous situations … 9hrs on the trails brought me to The Panossiere hut with stunning views up the Corbassiere Glacier to the Combins, an amazing sight, and especially so due to awesome weather again.
I mistakenly though that day 3 would be an easy cruise all the way back to Bourg St Pierre to finish the circuit off but again it was around a 25 to 30km day with penty of climbing and endless ridges to cross. I stopped for a coffee and cake at the mighty fine Cabane De Brunet. After that it was a case of col after col, as I constantly expected to be descending to Bourg St Pierre which happened eventually after 5.5hrs out again. The final run down to the valley was exhilarating and fast, in the afternoon sun…. A fantastic day again…..
For shoes for the trip I chose my Adidas Adizero XT4 trail shoes because of the grip and the lightweight feel, plus the Adiprene cushioning really seems to protect the feet from sharp rocks and impacts, whilst maintaining a great ground feel. I had my The North Face Better than Naked shorts, and a variety of tops – Adidas, TNF, and Salomn, plus my Black Diamond Ultra Distance Poles.
I tried to travel light but of course with emergency gear in my sack plus gels, fluids ( I filled up from streams on the way) and some self heating meals, my North Face Summit Lightweight waterproof, I guess I was carrying around 10kg. This will hopefully have strengthened my legs, and will mean that in future with less weight on my back I will go better…..
21hrs on the trails
Anticlockwise is best way round…
Bourg St Pierre via Plan de Jeu – Bourg St Bernard – Col Nord De Menouve – Vallon De Menouve – Col de Champillon – Cabane De Champillon
Cabane De Champillon – Fenetre Du Durand – Lac Du Mauvoisin – Pierre Et Vire – Col Des Otanes – Panossiere hut
Panossiere Hut – Caban Brunet – La Treutse – Cabane De Mille – Col De Mille – La Vuardette – Le Coeur – Creux De Ma – Bourg St Pierre….
Super inspired for more of this stuff….
OK so a quick round up this evening and pictures plus more details to be posted tomorrow as irs a rest day planned more or less.
Out in Switzerland and had a great wek biking and running with Helen before she had to go off to work.
Then Cue the Tour of the Grand Combins – a 6 day walk with 100km and 6500m ascent, and a plan to do it in 3 days 2 nights out… A successful and most amazing adventure, in a weather window so it was before I was planning but had to make the most – amazing views, great weather, lots of step kicking over cols and great trails starting.finishing in Bourg St Pierre in the Great St Bernard Pass… More later.
This week has involved some climbing with mates and what a great adventure – a real shock to the system – limestone near Martigny – single pitch stuff and then Arnad in the Aosta valley on a high valley crag, multi pitch super exposed with abseils to finish, a real shock for me… James, Graham and Mark needless to say climbed great…
As the forecast got better we headed to Sanetsch Pass and some limestone cliffs that are possible the jewel in the Swiss Crown of Limestone, , a cold day and a warm day had J and G climbing and myself out running and again more adventures, camped out in the vans at 2300 metres… Snowy summits a temporary loss in the mist and a bit of a word with oneself saw me off the top of a fine 3000m peak and the second day was a great jaunt ober the top of the crags to explore a potential mega ridge travers, but this turned out to be unfeasible as a solo trip and would need ropes etc… Again more to follow ….
Shoes in use for the trips – Adidas XT4 Trail shoes – awesome on a multi day spin in the mountains, and good on snow, plus my North Face Ultra Trails, a comfy and light fats shoe with a it less grip, but great on bare rocks and buffed/ prepared trails..
This view is of the mini gorge running on South side of Rowanduz vilage, with a free hanging waterfall amazing climbing lines (all unclimbed) one in particular stood out – a hanging arete with an open book corner cut into the promontory. Looked cool, even tho’ I dont climb anymore…
The area is great an full of potential
Possibly the best 3.5km loop of tarmac I have come across with around a 100m heigh difference and a few diferent hills on a single lap. Telly Tubby style bridges, a couple of short grass tracks and great views means its actualy pretty inspiring to run here, depsite the fact that one is not going anywhere.
Combined with the very hospitable Kurds and our friendly OPF, a bunch of Asaish and lots of holiday makers, its quite an experience. These pictures are all from the quiet end of the camp near the gorge behind Rowanduz Village. This place is surrounded in trails and climbing opportunities. Might have to come back on holiday!!