Ski touring

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of welcoming to our chalet a very friendly and enthusiastic couple called Claudia and Werner.  They came to do some ski touring and have sent me some pictures – below.

Together they run BergFrau.ch,  which is a trekking and ski-touring/snow-shoeing company.  Despite the name (translated literally as Mountain Woman), they organise trips for both men and women, to explore some of the world’s most beautiful places, like Nepal, Morocco, Corsica and Montenegro (not to mention Switzerland of course!)

Their website is in German, but the menu options and pictures more or less speak for themselves and both Claudia and Werner speak perfect English should you wish to contact them.

Long distance running…

As many of you may know, the London Marathon takes place today.  Indeed it is on as I type.  Inevitably this takes me back to the day I ran this famous race back in 1982.  At the time, the 18,000 competitors was a world record for the number of runners.  Today there are 38,000 enjoying the streets and sites of London.  So ‘good luck’ to all of them.

But first, some background…  I started running when I was about 22 years old.  I played rugby for a team called Askeans in Kent and some of the guys (in an attempt to prove they were much fitter than the rest) used to go for a 2 mile run before the training started.   As most of them were quite big hulking forwards, and I was a lightweight back, I found I could beat them quite easily.

A few years later, in 1977, I moved to live in York, (England).  There I worked with a bunch of guys who ran for the ‘Rowntrees’ running club.  We were fortunate that there were changing rooms and showers on site, so we used to gather at lunchtime and go out for a run.   We had 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and even 11 mile routes.  (The introduction of flextime allowed us to get out of the office at 12 noon and to ‘clock back in’ before 2pm, so 11 miles was just about do-able).  A typical week would see us run the “Boring 5” on a Monday, an 8 or 9 miler on a Wednesday and the Clifton Ings 6 on a Friday.

To say these lunchtime runs were competitive would be an understatement.  My mate Pete was always there at the front, elbowing you out of the way and cutting across your path, if you tried to take the lead.  The phrases “eyeballs out” and “a stonking run” were regularly used to describe these sessions afterwards.  Training at ‘marathon pace’ didn’t exist in my day !  We entered races of course.  Usually 10ks, but the Snake Lane 10 (miler) and the York half marathon were legendary events.

So it was that some of the guys entered the first London marathon in 1981.  Enthused by their tales afterwards, we all entered again in 1982.  In those days, you got in on a ‘first come, first served’, basis.  So the timing of your (n.b. postal) entry was critical.  Luckily we knew someone, who knew someone (of course ;-)), who worked in the Post Office and our entries were stamped with a time of 00:01 on the day entries opened.  Of course, we all got in. (I understand 90,000 people applied that year, so in theory we had a 1 in 5 chance !)

I don’t recall much of the race itself, other than I started on the red start (as a first timer) while my mates Pete, Liam and Tony started on the blue.  The two routes joined around the 3 mile mark and, incredibly, I spotted Tony and we ran the rest of the race side by side.  About half a mile from the finish, Tony pulled up with cramp.  I didn’t want to wait a) because I wanted to run the full 26.2 miles without stopping and b) in case I never got going again.  Seeing me carry on, Tony gave his leg a rub, picked himself up and ran after me !  So we finished together in a time of around 3 hours 16 minutes.  It would be another 12 years before I ran my next marathon.

If there is a moral (or even a reason) for this story (other than background for what might follow in a future post), is that running can not only keep you fit, but it can also give you lifelong friendships.  This time next week, I’ll be setting off with the very same Pete and Liam (and Colin) to do a 4 day walk around the English Lake District.  This is a regular ‘event’ that we’ve organised over the years, but more of that later…

I didn’t want to publish this post without a photo, (and I don’t have one of the London marathon I’m afraid), so here’s one of some cupcakes that Jude made earlier for a child’s birthday party.  Lucky children !  🙂

Lake Como – Sant’Amate Walk (Part 4 of 4)

The ‘Italian Lakes’ are also rightly famous for their glorious mountains and walking trails.  We’d noticed a wonderful viewpoint on the map which could almost be reached by a service road.  So we headed inland from Menaggio in the hope of reaching Liveja.   However, the track proved to be a little too rocky, even for our 4 wheel vehicle, so we parked up at Alpe Erba and walked the rest.

After reaching Liveja, we climbed steeply through the woods and across a little snow to emerge at Alpe Nesdale.  We reached our goal, at Sant’Amate, another kilometre further on and sat down for our picnic whilst taking in the magnificent views.  We returned the same way and treated ourselves to a well earned drink on the hotel terrace. 🙂

 

Lake Como – Boat ride to Varenna (3 of 4)

The towns and villages along the shores of Lake Como are well served by a variety of boats – some fast, some slower.  They hop from place to place, so you get to see quite a lot of beautiful scenery without ever having to move from your seat. 🙂

After our walk along the Greenway to Lenno we took the boat (via Tremezzo and Bellagio) to Varenna, arriving just before noon.  Our boat back was at 15:20, so that gave us plenty of time to explore and have a leisurely lunch by the waterside.   It has to be said that we preferred Varenna to the much busier and very touristy Bellagio.  It was also nice that we were able to disembark right outside our hotel in Sala Comacina.

 

 

Lake Como – Greenway (Part 2 of 4)

We awoke to quite a dull day, so our plan was to walk along part of the “Greenway del Lago di Como” before catching a boat at Lenno, to cross to Varenna on the opposite side of the lake.  The full Greenway runs from Colonno to Cadenabbia and parts of it follow an ancient Roman way.  We joined it at Sala Comacina and these photos cover our walk to Lenno.

 

 

 

Sala Comacina, Lake Como (1 of 4)

One of the many benefits of living in the centre of Europe is that you can just jump in the car and drive to almost anywhere.  Jude and I enjoyed Lake Como so much last year that we decided to go again for a few days.  We stayed a little bit further up the lake in Sala Comacina.  The photos below reflect our first impressions upon arrival.

 

 

 

Sunday training run…

Although it was only my 4th run in as many weeks (and 6th in as many months), today I felt like I was actually running for the first time.  It was along the same (Rhone riverside) route as last week, though by stark contrast to my laboured plod of 7 days ago, I was skipping along like a Spring lamb.  Of course, ‘skipping along’ is a relative term (and the vision of me as a Spring lamb is certainly something to test the old grey matter) but for the record, I did around 12.5k in a little under 67 minutes.

To save you doing the math(s), this equates to a 3h 45m marathon pace, but whether I was training at, or slower or faster than, my target marathon pace is for me to know and you to guess… 🙂

Here are some random photos taken after I’d finished… (You will note the huge difference in weather from yesterday !)

Winter returns…

After a couple of weeks of unseasonally warm weather, the snow had all but disappeared from our valley and the grass was beginning to turn lush and green.  Even the local football (soccer) pitch had been prepared for the start of the season today.

But yesterday it snowed.  There wasn’t much forecast and during the day it didn’t settle.  However, as the temperature dropped towards the evening, it began to get whiter and whiter…

I think we can assume that the game is off today.  But the skiers in Arolla will be very pleased. (See webcams).

Bike ride to Saillon

The footpath along the west side of our valley to La Luette is now clear of snow, so today I decided to take my mountain bike for a spin down to Sion and then alongside the river Rhone to Saillon.

Some of you may be surprised to know that Switzerland produces quite a lot of wine, though only a fraction of it is exported (mainly to Germany).  The Rhone valley is one of the sunniest areas of Switzerland, so there are vineyards to be seen almost everywhere.

Saillon is a beautiful village and its Bayard Tower and fortifications make it a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

In case you are wondering – I caught the bus back from Sion ! 🙂

1st Blog-iversary

Today is my 1st Blog-iversary*, so I thought I shouldn’t let the day go by without a post… (*With thanks to 1 Nothing Please for this expression).

People often ask me what I do now that I’m retired and I think it fair to say (and my wife will bear me out on this one) that Blogging has helped to fill quite a lot of my time.  Fellow bloggers will also know that it’s not just a hobby, but a way of life (well, almost).  E.g. do you find yourself looking for different and interesting subjects to post, or composing the text in your head – maybe as you walk or run along, or just go about your daily business ?  I do.

The stats say that I have done 127 posts and have 55 blogging followers, so I thank you all for following and sticking with me !  I’ve noticed that some bloggers have 1,000’s of followers, but I like to think small is beautiful and that we’re an extended family. 🙂  Indeed I’ve got to know one or two of you quite well over the past 12 months.  (You know who you are !)  I’ve also been amazed at the amount of talent, in particular for art and photography, that there is out there.

Looking forward, (to keep you all interested – I hope), you can expect to see some more pictures of Lake Como, the English Lake District and Scotland as well as Gozo and Locarno later in the year.  (Yes, I bit the bullet and entered the Ascona-Locarno marathon in October).  In between times of course, there will be loads more photos of the Val d’Hérens and Switzerland in general.

It’s before 11am in the morning here now, but I’ll raise a glass later to all you bloggers.  Keep up the fabulous work.  Cheers!