No Run, but Riverside Walk

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (see post last Sunday), I should have been going for a long run today… This week the problem was that I went out on Tuesday and, after a stonkingly good outward 6.3k/3.9 miles*, my calf tightened up and I had to walk all the way back. ☹  So, I’m resting it for another couple of days.
*The only saving grace was that my pace for the 6.3k averaged around 5m 17s per km or 8m 30s per mile (which is much better than I expected).

I needed to get some exercise though, so I went for a walk, of around 9km/5miles, alongside the river.

A Strange Find…

After a pleasant lunch on the balcony, watching and photographing some birds, I had a little time to kill before the football started.  So off I went up the path behind our chalet.  In a way, this was a little foolhardy, as the road has been cordoned off for 3 or 4 weeks, due to some (and by that I mean several tonnes) of loose rock above.  However, my neighbour told me that it had been given the all clear, so it seemed like a change from walking by the river.

Now I often say that you never know what you are going to find, or see, on a walk and today was no exception.  With all the snow around I was amazed to find a small skull, no bigger than 6 inches or 15cm long.  It clearly had some sharp teeth, but I have no idea what it might have been.  So if anyone out there can identify it for me, I’d be eternally grateful.

Snow and birds

Yesterday morning we were woken by the sound of a helicopter and bombs going off.  No, we don’t live in a war torn area (thankfully) and the bombs were not like those I remember from my days living in London in the early 70’s.  The bombs in question were being dropped to deliberately set off avalanches.  After 2 solid days of snow, the mountains can be a very dangerous place to wander and the powers that be send up the helicopter(s) to trigger the avalanches in a controlled way.  See this link for a video of some bombs being dropped in our neighbouring valley above Grimentz:
Huge Avalanche triggered by helicopter bombing

I think I’ve said before that it never ceases to amaze me that some birds hang around throughout the winter in this extremely harsh environment.  Temperatures recently have been as low as -14 C (7F) with a high during the day of no more than -4 C (25F).   The ground is now covered completely, so there can’t be many insects for them to find.  Needless to say, our feeder has proved very popular, with the birds below all photographed in the last couple of days.

Snow stopped play…

Today would normally have been the day when I went for my ‘long run’ in preparation for a marathon in May.  However, the weather has disrupted my training twice this week.  My plan would have been to do 5 or 6k (3 miles) on Wednesday, but a few inches of snow and freezing temperatures scuppered that, as the pavements were far too icy to run on.  And today, the heavens have opened and snow is forecast all day.  Already we have about a foot of snow, so Jude and I are confined to barracks.

This means my weekly total is a big round 0k (0 miles).  But regular runners will know that it’s best just to write off the week (as you would if you had an injury or were ill) and continue with my plan from week 4 onwards. (Note that Week 1 was actually week 52 of 2018, but I couldn’t find a way to set that on Excel).

Winter amble

Our car needed to go to the garage this morning to have a tyre valve changed.  It would only take about an hour, so I took my camera for a walk alongside the river via the new Nordic Arena, which has been set out in Les Haudères.   It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful nature is at producing artistic shapes, which I hope is reflected in some of the photos below.

Back running again…

I lack motivation and I need a push to get me doing almost anything these days… Happily my wife managed to nudge me bit by bit into renovating the kitchen and the cupboards are now all painted and a new floor laid.  I even managed to cut a new worktop to size, which was a first.

When it comes to running, especially at this time of year, the freezing temperatures and the lack of a decent training route is a real mental block that I need to get through.  Indeed, I’ve not been out running since my Hallwilersee Half in October.  So I needed an incentive…

Thankfully, Datasport* came to the rescue again.  (*They are the people who advised me last year, via their regular and very informative emails, of the free travel to the Half marathons).  This time, one of the “Events not to be missed” was the Winterthur Marathon on 26th May.  Now, I hadn’t really got it on my radar, even though I have a goal to run all the Swiss marathons.  I thought it might be too small to put it on my list.  However, by May, I’ll be in a new 65+ category and I read that “The first three podium ranks of the respective categories win attractive prizes in kind.”  Not only that, but I read on their website that only 2 in that category finished in 2018… and 4 h 2 mins was good enough for 2nd and 4h 18m secured 3rd in 2017.   Now call me mercenary if you like, but that was just the kick-start I needed.

So last Sunday I plodded up and down our road for about 30 minutes (or about 5k/3miles) in sub-zero temperatures.  (My lungs complained bitterly for 2 days afterwards).  And today I drove down to Sion to pootle along my favoured flat training route, beside the Rhone, for just over an hour (or around 11k/7 miles).  As weekly totals go they are not far, but it’s a start…

As you may know, I don’t like to post anything without a picture or two, so I stopped off a couple of times on my way down to Sion to capture a few distant snowy mountain tops.

Ferpècle valley walk

Note to self:
Don’t forget to take your snowshoes when you expect to walk in deep snow.

The snow has been falling on and off for the past week or so in the Val d’Hérens.  And, now the kitchen has been decorated as far as we can go, (still no sign of the tiles being delivered!), it was time to get outside and go for a walk.  But where to go….?

A lot of my usual walks are off limits due to the risk of avalanche, not to mention the depth of the snow, so I decided to repeat a walk I did waaay back in March 2016.  My hope and aim was to find some pristine snow to photograph in the Ferpècle valley.

After parking my car in La Forclaz, I was pleased to see that the road up to the small reservoir had been cleared (though there was still a barrier blocking the way for vehicles).   Once there though, it was tough going – wading through snow up to and sometimes above your knees!  (It was only when I got back and looked up my previous post that I realised that last time I had taken my snowshoes!  Doh!!)

 

La Luette Walk

I’ve agonised over posting pictures of this walk (from last Thursday) because ‘silly Mike’ forgot to take his camera with him and these images were taken on his phone.  After downloading them, it soon became clear that the zoom on a mobile phone does not take very good landscape images.  You all probably knew that, but I don’t use my phone very often, (even for calls), so it sort of came as a surprise how blurred and grainy they were.  However, I was very impressed by the close ups and, in particular, the quality of the first image…

I was also pleased to see one or two butterflies still around, though I suspect picture 7 will probably the last one for this year.  The weather has turned decidedly cool in the Val d’Hérens over the past week and is currently barely over the freezing point.

 

Arolla to Evolène Walk

Perhaps not surprisingly, it had rained while we were away and, given the lower temperatures, it was inevitable that some snow would fall on the mountain tops.  Although it happens every year, you are still taken aback by the huge contrast between the brilliant white and the blue skies.

I was keen to find out how low the snow had fallen and so I took the bus up to Arolla to find out and to walk back down the valley to our chalet.  Although some of the snow has now melted, it’s clear that it fell to just under the 2,000m or 6,500ft mark.

I should add that we have an incredibly talented wood carver in our valley, by the name of Hugo Beytrison.  He often works with just a chain saw, but he also carves the wonderful wooden masks for the annual Evolène Carnaval in January/February.  The last 2 photos show two examples of his work, which were on display outside his workshop yesterday.  Check out his website for more details.  It’s only in French, but, as they say, a picture saves a thousand words. 😊