To Happyland and Beyond…

No, this is not a post about recreational drugs, though recreation and endorphins are involved… It’s about a Swiss running event, organised by Datasport, called One Million Run, where the aim is for all the participants to run a total of 1 Million kilometres this weekend. In typical, precise Swiss fashion, the event started at 00:00 this (Saturday) morning and goes on until midnight on Sunday.

Anybody (based in Switzerland I presume) can register and run any distance they wish. An app is available to monitor your progress and distance and, upon completion, the results are then transferred into the Datasport ‘Live’ results website. Or, you could use your own GPS device and upload that later. At the time of writing over 70,000 people had entered, 6,000 were running and 16,000 plus had finished (at least for today).

For my part, I’ve been doing a bit of running here and there, trying to get fit again, but my run last weekend was my longest at 7.6km (4.7 miles). So my first challenge was in deciding how far to run. 10km (6 miles) seemed a little short to be a sufficient challenge, but 20km (12.5 miles) might be just a bit too far, so I settled for 15km (9.3 miles). My next dilemma was where and when to run… The only route I have around here, is up and down the riverside, which is no more than 4km one way, so that would mean doing the 100m (328ft) climb twice! On the other hand it would be cooler here (at around 15 degrees C) versus the 20+ deg C heat down in the Rhone valley… After some internal debate, my decision was to go with the ‘flat’ of the Rhone riverside, but to set off early and run in the relative ‘cool’ of 17-18 degrees at 8:45am.

My route would start near the Sion Golf Club and take me past a couple of lakes to my expected turnaround point at 8km, just beyond the Happyland amusement park. I chose to turn around at 8km as, psychologically, it makes it lot easier to do the 7km on the way back, plus it gave me a km to warm down/cool off!

I measured the distance on my old GPS watch and it appears to have sold me short by 50 metres. Although my watch said I’d done 15km when I stopped, the GPX file uploaded to my SwissMaponline app (see below), says 14.95km (and the official result says 14.9k). Either way, I’m very pleased that I decided to take part and managed to finish without stopping or getting injured. 😊👍

Oh, and for those who may be interested, my time was 1h 22m 8s.
To save you doing the maths, that’s a shade under 5.5m per km (or 8m 52s per mile).

Trans-Swiss Mountain Bike Ride, July 2011, Part 1 of 2

When I first moved over to Switzerland in 2005, I thought I was reasonably fit and active. But I soon discovered that a lot of the people in the office were what some might consider to be absolutely bonkers. It seemed like everyone was either running or cycling or swimming or all three, you name it, someone was a keen whatever. And it wasn’t just a mere jog or a few lengths of the pool, they were fanatical. Triathlons and Ironman events were their ‘standard’ events.

It was hard not to get sucked into their enthusiasm. Every year there was a ‘Tour du Lac’ Cyclotour – a bike ride around not just any old lake, but Lac Léman (or Lake Geneva if you like). It’s only 176km/110 miles! Though it’s not a ‘race’ as such, more of a challenge to yourself. “We’ll all go round together” they said and, after buying a very expensive road bike and a few training sessions, a group of about 12 of us set off hoping to break 6 hours. Needless to say I couldn’t keep up with the best of them (who did break 6 hours) and I finished in around 6 hours 40 mins.

A 9 stage Corporate ‘Gigathlon’ relay event – involving mountain biking, running up a mountain (not only to reach the snow, but through some of it too), cross country skiing, ski touring, running and mountain biking back down again, a swim in a lake, a 17km road bike ride and a 10km run – “Let’s form a team” and that was from just within our office. I was due to run the last 10k leg but, at the last minute, due our mountain runner not liking to run in snow (who does?!) I had to swap and run up and down the mountain. As I said, bonkers!

My boss at the time, Gerard, always took a week or so off work every year to do what was termed ‘The Trans-Alp’. It was legendary and involved mountain biking from A to B over passes as high as nearly 3,000m/9,840ft – not to mention haring back down again. Never having done any mountain biking, I resisted the temptation – until they mentioned going across Switzerland, from Davos to Ollon (near Montreux). “What a great way to see some of Switzerland” I thought to myself. And with 14 takers, which would be split into 4 groups (the Elite, 2 Medium level and a Beginner…) I was in. (Another expensive bike had to be purchased of course!)

Gerard decided to do it with his son, Noe, so the 2 of them and a not so fit, Pascal, formed the Beginners group and I was teamed up with the 2 organisers, Alistair and Joern. They were both experienced bikers, so I thought I’d drawn the short straw, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Indeed, the three weaker groups mostly stuck together and we just let the Elite group do some extra sections while the rest of us hitched a lift in the back-up minibus. 😊

As you will see from the pictures below*, it proved to be quite challenging – though more due to the weather. And if you think this looks tough – wait until you see Part 2 tomorrow… 😉

*For the record and anyone interested in the detail of this crazy pursuit, these pictures cover Day 1 from Davos to Radons Savognin via the Scalettapass; Day 2 from Radons to Safien Platz via Pass da Schmorras and Day 3 from Safien Platz to the SAC Terri mountain hut via the Pass Diesrut.

In the first picture are (L to R) Pascal, Chicco, me, Martin, Gerard, Noe, Joern, Werner, Norbert, Guy, Alistair, Stevie, Nikolaus and Jan.

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, England, UK

Let me take you back to 1995, if not a little earlier than that, when my mate Colin and I had the ‘idea’ to do the English Coast to Coast walk, created and made famous by the great Alfred Wainwright, from St. Bee’s in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. Our plan was to run the 182 mile (293km) route in relay, over the space of 4 days, with one person on the route and the other driving a car to a prearranged changeover point. This way we could travel light, leaving the rest of our gear in the boot of the car, and we’d overnight in B&Bs or, preferably, Inns. 🍻👍😊

But we soon realised that there was a flaw in our grand idea – What if one of us got lost or was injured? (Remember, this was when mobile phones were still evolving even into those early ‘bricks’). Answer therefore: Recruit another two mates, called Pete and Tim, so that we’d have 2 on each leg, for a second opinion on any tricky route finding and someone to run for help, just in case. So it was that the 4 of us lined up in traditional fashion, with our toes dipped in the Irish Sea in April 1995. (See pic 1).

The event went so well, the following year we did the Offa’s Dyke Path (this time with Liam included) and in 1997, the West Highland Way (in 2 days). These were followed by The Wold’s Way (1998), where Dave was added to our happy band of runners, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path (1999) and a trip to southern Ireland in 2000, to do parts of the Dingle Way and Beara Way, plus a hike up to the top of Carrantuohill (which scared the living daylights out of Pete. It was only then that we discovered he suffered from vertigo).

Wind forward a few more years and, after St Cuthbert’s Way (2005), Glyndwrs Way (2007) and the Dales Way (2009), in 2010 we decided to re-visit the best route of them all – the Coast to Coast (C2C). But this time in a more leisurely 5 days (well, we were 15 years older) and with all 6 of us present. (Pic 2).

Below, we have a small selection of my photos from that event. But, because we were doing it in relay format, even after doing the C2C twice I still haven’t done it all. Due to the way we rotate the groupings each day and the different stopover points, some of the legs I covered the second time around were the same or similar to the first and I still haven’t had the joy of bog-hopping near Nine Standards Rigg. (Or maybe, as one of the main organisers of these events, I deliberately avoided that leg? 😉)

Spring is in the air…

When I look out of the window today, it seems inconceivable that only a week ago it was snowing and we had around a foot (30cm) of snow covering our garden.  However the temperatures have risen quite sharply since and all that snow has now gone.  Our daffodils are starting to emerge and there are signs of Spring everywhere.

Over the weekend we were pleasantly surprised to see at least a dozen different birds in and around our bird feeder.  We had the usual Great, Blue, Coal, Crested and Willow/Marsh* Tits, who are regular winter visitors, but in addition there were several Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Rock Buntings plus a Robin, a Greenfinch and a Pied Wagtail.
*I never can tell the difference.

Most of my photos were not particularly good, but I did also go for a short walk up the path behind our chalet yesterday and I thought I’d share a few of the better images for you to enjoy.

 

Gozo

With the Malta Challenge Marathon being off my agenda due to my injury, I had more time to explore than I expected.  So I took the ferry over to Gozo to check out some of the places that Jude and I had visited 3 years ago.  I knew that the Azure Window had collapsed, but I wasn’t expecting to see the San Blas beach completely covered in seaweed.  To show you the contrast I’ve included images from 2016.

As I drove along I was also lucky enough to spot the Ta Pinu National Shrine.  The interior and mosaics outside, which appeared to have been done by people from all around the world, were very impressive.

Mdina, Malta

My apologies for not publishing a ‘real’ post for a while but, like many bloggers it seems, I’ve been busy doing nothing in particular.

Anyway a few months ago now, my wife organised a trip to Iceland with her friend Kate, so I had a look for something to do while she was away.  Naturally I wanted to find some warmer weather and I looked at the AIMS marathon calendar for some inspiration.  To my delight I discovered that the Malta Challenge Marathon was on at the same time.  It consists of 3 races over 3 days, covering a 10 miler, a 5k then a Half marathon.   So I entered, arranged all my travel and set about getting fit.  My training was going really well (even running while I was away in Finland and Mykonos) and I’d managed to get up to 20k in a respectable 1h 50 mins, so I figured I was ready…  That is until my final training run, the Saturday before I left, and my left calf seized up yet again!  (Insert a suitable curse or emoji here).

Thankfully I had another reason to go… My father spent some time in Malta after the War, as a Signalman on a minesweeper and he had mentioned enjoying some time ashore down a street which he called “The Gut”, but is actually called Strait Street in English.   So when my wife and I went to Malta / Gozo a few years ago, we searched for a copy of a book by George Cini, called Strait Street.  We couldn’t find an English copy anywhere, so I got in touch with George and managed to get hold of a copy to give to my dad.   During my email exchanges with George, I mentioned my dad’s book and he suggested I present a copy of it, personally, to the Fondazzioni Wirt Artna (FWA), which is an organisation dedicated to preserving the history of the island.  And so that was also arranged…

So, like London buses, you don’t hear anything from me for a while and now a few posts of my, sometimes very wet, time in Malta & Gozo, beginning with the Mdina…

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 3 of 4)

I should mention at this point that my mate Pete suffers from vertigo.  He also currently has 2 bad knees (as you can possibly tell from his knee supports in the photos) and, as Monsieur Alfonse used to say on ‘Allo ‘Allo, a dicky ticker.  Plus, he will tell you that he only has one lung.  (Of course, if this were true, he would never have been able to run a half marathon in around 76 minutes, but we have to humour him…)

That said, our route for Day 2 looked simple enough on paper – a descent back down the path we had climbed the day before, a casual stroll along the valley floor, over the Col du Rawil and then up to the wonderfully (and as it turned out appropriately named) Col des Eaux Froides (Cold Waters), before dropping down again to the Cabane des Audannes.  It’s a distance of no more than 7 miles and around 750m (or 2,500ft) of ascent.  Simple.

However, the forecast was for rain by mid afternoon and what we didn’t know, was that there was a huge area of limestone to cross, which involved scrambling up and down over the sharp rocks.  Apart from the danger of falling down one of the many gullies, one slip and you could have been cut to ribbons.  This was not ideal with rain imminent.  So we pushed on, very carefully of course, foregoing our lunchtime picnic and we managed to reach the Col des Eaux Froides just as the clouds were gathering.  A flurry of white stuff started to descend, the wind got up and the air was increasingly cold.   Somewhat different to our previous 2 days.  (New readers to this series, please see the images from Day 1 and Day 2).

Even once inside the mountain hut, all was not as cozy as it might seem, as the toilets were in a small building outside.  This is just about visible to the right of the main building in some of the last photos.

As before, Pete’s photos are suitably watermarked.

 

Mike’s Music Monday #19

It’s quite timely that I should have posted this picture of my two good friends Ian and Martin, as Joe Jackson was a particular favourite of Ian’s and the song always reminds me of a camping holiday that the three of us had in Guernsey in the summer of 1979.  We travelled over on the ferry when the infamous Fastnet storms were beginning.  The boat was pitching and rolling all the way.  Almost everyone on the ship was ill except the 3 of us, who could be found propping up the bar.

Martin played on the wing for York Rugby Union Football Club and was quick as well as strong and he decided to enter the Guernsey Open Athletics Championship.  He chose to compete in  the 100 metres and the Shot Putt event.  (Not many people attempt that ‘double’!)  Ian and I didn’t want to be left out so we recruited another 100m sprinter to form a 4x100m relay team.  We finished 4th out of 5, beating the team put together by the 1500m runners, who had finished their own race only about 20 minutes before!

It’s those sort of holidays that bond friendships for the rest of your life.  Even today, 40 years on, you may hear one of us say “Is she really going out with him?” 🤣

 

 

(Long Distance) Running update (Part 4)

I’m impressed by all runners, but especially by those who can motivate others to go out running.  This was the case yesterday when I read RunColbyRun’s post about simply getting out there, whatever the weather, humidity or however you feel – we all make excuses don’t we?  So it was with that in mind that I got of my butt (as she would say) and ran 6k (3.7 miles) today.  Thanks Colby, I just have to keep it going now!

Since I have no pictures of me running today, this also gives me an opportunity to catch up on part 4 of my Long Distance running series…  (I also thought you might be amused by the pics below from 1999 and 2000).

After reaching my goal of a sub-3 in 1994, I didn’t run another marathon until 1999, (then aged 45), when I ran what was being termed the ‘inaugural’ Edinburgh Marathon, which went from the old Scottish capital of Dunfermline to the current, Edinburgh.  It was a linear route, so runners had to catch a bus, at some ungodly hour, like 6am, to get to the start.  I recall sitting next to a chap (aged over 60, which seemed old to me at the time) who was about to run his 200th marathon or something. (He’d only started running 10 or 12 years earlier so I’ve no idea where he must have found them all to run).   Anyway I told him I was aiming for a sub-3 and I could see he didn’t rate my chances.  He planned an ‘easy’ 3h 40m…

The race itself was memorable for starting next to and then running nearby 2 ladies who were chatting non-stop within ear-shot for at least 10 or 12 miles.  It was then I realised that they were running well within themselves and setting a good pace, so I tagged along… At about the 18 mile mark I struck up a conversation and both were aiming for sub-3.   We ran along together until about the 22 mile mark, when we reached a drinks station and one headed off in front and the other lagged behind.  So I was torn between chasing the one in front or waiting for the one behind.  In the event, I did neither and did my own thing, expecting the 2nd to catch up.   I finished in 2h 58m 40s, about 3 minutes behind the first of my companions and the 2nd came in just after me, also under 3 hours.  So the moral of this tale is, run well within yourself (you should be able to talk) for at least the first half of a marathon and possibly even up to 18 or 19 miles, as that’s when the race really starts.

A year later, I set off with my good mate, Pete, to run the Prague marathon.  Before the race, we did the usual tourist thing and, I have to say that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever visited, even if the marathon (in 2000 at least) was an out and back course along a dual carriageway!   The weekend was also memorable for a visit to a Hall of Mirrors (you have to see it to understand), where Pete and I were in stitches, with tears in our eyes, just looking at our reflections.  🤣🤣  Little things…

As for the race, at the turnaround point I saw Pete on his way back, not that far ahead but, as he’s a better runner than me, I didn’t really expect to catch him.  Towards the finish, I knew I had another sub-3 in the bag, despite a guy ushering us along to run faster to get to the finish line.  And sure enough, Pete was there waiting to greet me as I finished in exactly the same time as Edinburgh, 2h 58m 40s.  Consistent or what?  (This remains my best ever age-related time performance).  Pete tells me that he came 151st in 2h 55m 12s and I was 206th.  We were fit in those days!  (Though Pete is still running around 21 minutes for a 5k Park Run!)

Pete and me, Prague Marathon May 2000

 

Mike’s Music Monday #6

This week we have the first of two songs in my list by Billy Ocean – When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going, which is always a good line for any runner or indeed, any difficult situation in life.  This video is made even more entertaining by the inclusion of Kathleen Turner, Danny de Vito and Michael Douglas.  Hopefully it gets you off to a good start this week.  Enjoy!