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

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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!

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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!

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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.

sian

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