Today I’d hoped to take a wander around the Ferpècle valley, looking for some Spring flowers, but the single track road was blocked due to some tree felling. So I decided to backtrack to La Forclaz and do a short loop up to the Mayens de Breona, which sits at just over 2,000m / 6,600ft. The light was particularly bad for landscape photography with the snow-capped mountains bouncing the sunlight back, but it was a pleasant walk and I still managed to capture quite a few flowers.
As you may know, I like to bring you something new on this site, ideally with a little bit of knowledge or information, so, today, I will introduce you to two of the fifty or so bisses in the Valais region of Switzerland. As the Valais website says:
A bisse is an open ditch delivering priceless water from mountain streams – often by daring routes – to arid pastures and fields, vineyards and orchards. Many bisses are still in use today and so are carefully maintained. Numerous trails accompany these historic watercourses, inviting visitors to varied hikes on historic trails.
I should add that some of them were built as early as the 13th century and they vary from simple ditches, to wooden or metal troughs and even through solid rock sometimes (as you will see below).
Now, I’ve been meaning to walk one of these routes for a while and, since they tend to be at a relatively low level (in this case around 1400 metres / 4,600 ft) they are currently free of snow. Looking at the map, I decided to take the Postbus up to Haute Nendaz, then walk south along the Bisse Vieux before following the Grand Bisse de Vex all the way around to Héremence. From there I took the footpath down to Euseigne to catch the Postbus back home. In total it was a distance of 25.5 km or 16 miles, though, of course, the going was either gently ascending or descending alongside the bisses.
Along the way I was initially disappointed with the number of flowers and butterflies on view, though that soon picked up as I rounded the corner into the Val d’Hérens. There I spotted a Comma butterfly (or two) for the first time ever and several ‘new’ flowers, which unfortunately I haven’t yet found (or had the time to find) in my Alpine flower book.
My apologies for posting so many pictures, but it was hard to decide which to leave out. I hope they give you a good feel for the many and varied things you can see on the walk(s).
After running the London marathon in 1982 and the Jogle in 1983, I continued to run and race shorter distances, like 10k, 10 miles and a few Half Marathons. But as I neared my 40th birthday, I decided I should have a crack at doing a sub-3 hour marathon. Based on my best times at the shorter distances, I knew this should be possible, but of course you have to train hard and I’d need to execute the race perfectly.
So, as a relative novice at the distance, I decided to gain some experience by having a ‘test run’ in the Langbaurgh Marathon in the October of 1993, which was 6 months before my birthday. I’d trained for about 3 or 4 months before this race (up to about 18 miles) and my aim was to see how far I could run before stopping and at what point I fell below the sub-3hr pace. To my astonishment I managed 21 miles before I had to walk and 23 miles before I dropped below the required pace and finished in 3 hrs 4 mins. (I’m amazed my brain had the capacity to work this out at the time, as normally that’s the first thing to shut down!)
As you can imagine this gave me a huge confidence boost and I continued to train hard, including some Long Distance Walker Association events, like the Kilburn Kanter and Rudolph’s Romp (which were both around 21 miles). Indeed, I enjoyed doing these events so much I continued to do them for many years afterwards. They are a fabulous way of building stamina, without the pressures of a race and have the added advantage of being off road, usually with lots of hills to build strength.
So, my chosen target event was the South Coast Marathon, which was just 11 days after my birthday in April 1994. I have to say that I don’t remember much about the race itself, except that it was quite a sunny day, though not too warm. After around 21 miles, I felt a little dizzy and decided to walk up a slight incline and was very relieved to see a drinks station only 50 yards ahead. Suitably refreshed and feeling back to normal, I continued running, though I must have missed some of the later mile markers as each mile seemed to take an absolute age. I then recall looking at my watch with about 10 minutes of the 3 hours to go and wondering if I might make it. Then, out of the blue, I saw the 26 mile marker and, boosted by seeing it, I finished strongly in a time of 2 hours 55 minutes and 40 seconds. (This remains my PB/PR to this day).
I mention this story, not to show off in any way, but as a lesson to all you young (well, under 50) runners out there. Make the most of your best running days while you can. You’re a long time retired or losing speed as you get older… (The stats suggest that you lose about 3s per mile, or 2s per km, for each year after the age of about 45).
Yes, it’s an old T shirt, but it was never going to get thrown out after all that effort! 🙂