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.

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).

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.

Canal Walk to Llangollen

Jude and I have just returned from a 17 day trip back to the UK, which was partly for a holiday in the English Lake District (more to come on that in the following days) and partly to see Jude’s family.  Our first port of call was to Jude’s parents in their lovely new home in Oswestry.  While there, we took the opportunity to drive across the Welsh border to walk a short section of the Llangollen canal with Angela, Jude’s mum.  As you can see from our pictures below, it was a beautiful Autumn day.

Hallwilersee Half Marathon and Swiss Trains

One way to run an Autumn marathon is to run two Half marathons. 🤔  When I discovered that there were two in quick succession, I didn’t think I’d be able to run either, let alone both.  So I’m very pleased to post another report, this time on the Hallwilerseelauf.  (In case you missed it here is my Greifensee Half report from a few weeks ago).

You may recall that Sarah, Karl and I just failed, by only 13 seconds, to dip under the 2 hour mark.  So after a little bit more ‘speed’ training since, I had (perhaps too) high hopes of running 1 hour 55 mins, or in any event under 2 hours.  The course had a downhill start, which was nice, but inevitably you are drawn into going off too quickly.  With the sun shining brightly (again) and the temperature around 23 degrees, I once more suffered in the middle to late stages, but I “dug in” (as you have to in these races) to finish in 1h 57m 27s.   OK, it wasn’t 1h 55m, but one of the things driving me on towards the finish was the thought that the sum of the two races just had to be under 4 hours… 😀

As before, I didn’t carry my camera or a phone, so I have no photos of the race itself, but here is a link to my own personal video of the race courtesy of the organisers/sponsors.  I’m the guy in the red vest and black cycling type shorts and long socks by the way. 👨  Depending upon your internet speed, you may have to wait a few seconds for the video to come up and it’s best viewed, of course, by maximising the screen (via the top right hand corner of the video window). Enjoy!

Once again, I had free travel to and from the event, but it involved catching a bus and 5 different trains to get there and 6 different trains to get back to Sion (where Jude would pick me up).  With connection times between trains of as low as 3 minutes, perhaps only in Switzerland would you even dream of getting there and back in a day.  But that’s exactly what I did.  It didn’t matter that there were weekend engineering works along one section of the route, the schedule had been adjusted and all 11 trains were exactly on time.  (See my outward and return timetables below).  Words cannot describe my admiration for the Swiss train (and Postbus) network. ⏱👍👍

 

Greifensee Half Marathon

Some time ago now I noticed that there was a Half marathon which went around a lake, near Uster, in the northern part of Switzerland.  The route was also was quite flat but, perhaps most importantly, free transport was provided there and back, courtesy of the Swiss transport system.  The start was at 3pm and I worked out that I could catch the 9am bus, get there for 1.30pm, collect my number, run the race and be back home (well, in Sion) by 9:30pm.  The only ‘drawback’ was that my daughter Sarah and her fiancé Karl would be staying with us on that day.

Now, I knew Karl was pretty fit and had run several half marathons in the past, as well as the Oslo marathon last year, so I thought he might be interested.  But, other than a few Park runs, my daughter had never run a race in her life.  She had run up to 7 or 8 miles with Karl, but that was just for fun…  Anyway, you may have guessed it, they both agreed to run it with me.  Our goal was to run together and finish in under 1h 55mins (though like most runners, this was perhaps wishful thinking) but sub-2 hours was definitely possible.

For the first 7 to 8k (5 miles) we were ‘on’ for the 1h 55m, but it was clear we were slowing slightly.  The weather was warm and I, for one, was feeling the heat.  We plodded on, over a mixture of rough farm track and tarmac roads/cycle path until around the 14 to 16k (10 mile) mark when we slowed a bit more.  At 18k we had around 18 minutes to do the remaining 3.1k (2 miles).  However we’d seen that there would be a significant rise in the profile of the route at 19k.  We pressed on knowing that what went up, did come down slightly afterwards and we almost sprinted the last 500 metres knowing that the clock was ticking… and, unfortunately, we missed out on sub-2 hours by an agonising and unlucky 13 seconds! 😞

Sarah had said before the race that it would be both her debut and retirement race, but she couldn’t have tried harder and I’m immensely proud of her.  So well done Sarah!

Karl, by the way, could have run around 1h 35 minutes, but he came down with a cold the day before, so he too deserves a special mention for running along with us and providing encouragement (as well as some very corny jokes) all the way through.

As you will see below, I didn’t run with my camera, well mobile phone, to capture the race itself, so I only have a few pictures of our journey there and afterwards.  It goes without saying, of course, that the Swiss transport system worked like clockwork!

Walk to the Pas de Lona, Val d’Hérens

I am very fortunate to be able to do quite a number of walks, some quite challenging,  from my front door.  One of those is to the Pas de Lona at 2,787m or 9,144ft.  It starts easy enough, along a track and then takes a path up to Volovron, before turning up through the woods to the alpage across to La Vieille.  It’s still a good walk to get there (and back of course).  But the real challenge starts when you set off to climb up to the col, where the path just seems to get steeper and steeper and your legs start to burn.  Once there you can go even higher to the Cabane Becs de Bosson (which many do, to rest for the night, as part of the Tour of the Val d’Hérens) but, since I’d set off quite late and we had some visitors coming, I simply headed back home again.

Now, just imagine how the cyclists must feel having to do that climb pushing or carrying their bikes as part of the Grand Raid, which takes place on Saturday…  There are 4 distances to choose from, either starting in Verbier, Nendaz, Hérémence or my village of Evolène, but they all have to do that climb before descending (and climbing again briefly) to the finish in Grimentz.  I’ve put my name down to support the riders by handing out drinks and/or maybe giving directions, but I’m not sure where I’ll be stationed yet.  It could be in the village or on the mountain side somewhere, but wherever it is, I hope to bring you some pictures next week.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this walk…

Exhibition Walk to Lac d’Arbey and Les Haudères

For the third summer running the Commune have decided to exhibit some pictures along the footpath from Lac d’Arbey to Farquèses.  Two years ago it was a series of photos of the Himalaya and last year, some paintings of the Evolène region by Belgian artist, Paul Coppens.  This year it’s images by the comic creator, Derib.  Some of his stories cover our local region, including the race of Val d’Hérens cows and the Patrouille de Glacier ski touring race.

An old friend of mine, Matt, is camping with two of his friends in the village and yesterday we walked up to Lac d’Arbey and along the path, before dropping down to Les Haudères (for a well earned beer 🍺😊) and then back along the riverside to Evolène.

As always at this time of year, there were many butterflies, but I was particularly pleased to capture a Violet Carpenter Bee feeding on a Woolly Thistle, which, my Alpine Flora book says, is “rather rare” (see pic 18).  I have to say, given its stiff spikes, there was nothing woolly about it!

Via Ferrata, Evolène

For those of you unfamiliar with the term Via ferrata, let me briefly explain…

It literally means ‘Iron way’ and it provides a means of climbing up a rockface with ‘protection’.  By that I mean there is a fixed cable to which you can attach yourself, so that you don’t completely fall to the ground.  You wear a climbing harness attached to two short ropes which you then clip onto the cable.  In Switzerland, there are often metal rungs or plates or even sometimes ladders to help you climb.   In the Dolomites, (where many via ferrata were built during the First World War to aid the movement of the troops to protect the frontier), the climbing is more often on the rock, but the cable is always there as a safety mechanism.  At various points along the cable, it’s firmly fixed to the rock, so you have to unclip from one section to move onto the next.  Having climbed to the top, you simply walk back down a path to the start, as there is no need to climb back down again. (Indeed you shouldn’t, otherwise you might block the way up for anyone climbing up behind you).

We are lucky enough to have a Via ferrata route here in Evolène and Malcolm, one of our guests this week, was keen to do it.  Both he and I haven’t done it for over 4 years, so I know that I’ve never posted anything about this before… 🙂  I hope you’re not scared of heights!

 

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

Judith and I have just returned from a 2 week holiday in Corsica.  We decided to drive there from our home here in Evolène, taking a daytime ferry from Livorno to Bastia.  It’s quite a long drive, so we stopped over in Lucca for a couple of nights* in order to explore just a little bit of Tuscany.  Apart from a long and interesting history, Lucca has the most amazing Walls.  They are several metres high and very, very wide (see pic 6) allowing cyclists, dog walkers, joggers and tourists alike to do all, or just part, of the 4.9km/3 mile circumnavigation.

*We stayed at the wonderful Agriturismo Ai Linchi, which is just a few kilometres out of the town.  So the first few photos below are of our evening walk to the local church when we arrived.  We certainly needed to work up an appetite, as the evening meal served up by Andrea was simply amazing. 😋