Alpine trail running day 1: The one with the massive hills


So this week I am in Chamonix on an Alpine trail running camp with Icicle Mountaineering. In a moment of madness, I believe it was in January as these things often are, I booked the course. Last year I did Mont Blanc with Icicle and was so impressed with how friendly they were I decided to go back, this time for some trail running action. Seeing as I’m on my own for a week, I thought I’d do live reports on how I’m getting on.

Today was the first day of running and was all about running up a ruddy great hill and then running back down again! My instructor, Kingsley who is part human and gazelle, gave me some hill running tips and tried to get me into a rhythm, which is surprisingly difficult across broken and uneven ground. Today’s run took us up from the valley in Chamonix and up above the Mer de Glace glacier, which was where I spent last year training ahead of the summit attempt. It’s been really liberating for me to go on such a trip without having to lug loads of equipment and worry in the mornings about if I’ve got all that I need packed in my bag for the day. All I had with me today was the clothes on my back, a cereal bar, a bag of pistachios and my water.

It was really hot when we set of in the morning, already in the late 20s and I was doing my usual – breathing heavily for the first 2k or so. I always sound as if I’ve never run before when I set out as it is, but I’m sure that the fact that I am used to running at sea level and Chamonix is already at 1000m didn’t help. The route was mostly up hill, with a few zig zagging sections in between, but certainly the first 8.5k was entirely up hill. I didn’t do too badly though, until we got to the train station for the Mer de Glace and headed up again – there my heart was racing and my breathing was getting more laboured where the altitude was really having an effect. Normally walking I wouldn’t feel anything at that height, but running is a whole other ball game! I pushed on nonetheless, albeit ‘running’ probably the slowest kilometer of my life!


What’s been wonderfully liberating about the day has been the lack of pace checking, or worrying about if you need stop for any reason. We took a nice break sitting with possibly one of the most spectacular views spread before us and then set off for the 8Kish descent, which I always enjoy – for me, running down hills is infinitely easier than running up!


I have to say, my legs are feeling good at the moment. I will stretch them out again before I go to bed and hope they will feel ok in the morning!

Total kilometers run: 17.5k

Tomorrow I am running on an easier route (ie, flatter), but covering half marathon distance.


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