Paul’s Blog – An Alpine Sojourn for London – Part 2

Sunday dawned bright & warm, the Cyclists breakfasted on Iain’s porridge, to say that I dislike porridge at the best of times is an understatement so you can only guess at my reluctance to taste Iain’s ‘version’, I stuck to two croissants & raided some of Andy’s pear juice. Ian & Dev began their roles of coffee & tea makers adding these to their previous evening roles of Pot Washers in chief (& no I didn’t offer any advice).

Our weekly routine was now set, daily ‘The Cyclists’ would beast themselves on Iain’s pre-planned routes taking in many classic Tour de France climbs, anyone who remotely knows Iain will understand that a week of hell lay ahead for his friends Ian & Dev, at least Andy knows the ‘game’ an old cyclist plays. Meanwhile I would go for a long run because as we all know the slightly hilly Alps are very similar to the Streets of London. We would then rendezvous at the Chalet mid/late afternoon albeit me always arriving earlier than them, a chance to re-fuel & read in peace on the terrace. Sorry if I’m making you envious but I am trying to.

My first run saw me head back down to the valley, the Chalet was at 4,700′, the valley at 2,350′ so this was a long descent of 9.7K on tarmac (good for London you know). 5K in my legs began to feel it, by the bottom they were trashed but with map in hand there was no plan B simply carry on as planned. This was a further 2K descent (thankfully more gradual) before a 3K gradual ascent up to Mascot la Plagne. Next up was a long steep tarmac ascent on numerous switch-backs but all taken at a stiff walk rather than run. Finally I reached my traverse single track path that would leave the tarmac behind & lead me back to the Chalet. Before doing so I stopped for an energy bar & soon heard the footsteps of another runner, clearly a local lady in her 60’s who had descended from above my route & proceeded along my pathway home after we had exchanged ‘Bonjours’. I admit it, what else could I do, I swallowed the last of the bar, set off in pursuit & soon passed her not knowing whether local custom called for another ‘Bonjour Madam’. Of course I also ran the next incline just in case I was still within her sight, I’m a runner for Christ’s sake.

The path led me to a road immediately above the Chalet, I stopped my watch, 21K, under 3 hours, not enough so I consulted my map (no not my phone Iain), now there was a plan B.

I followed the road on up mostly walking but an occasional trot here & there to reach Les Bois at 5,900′, took a break & a Gel before facing the inevitable, a 3K tarmac descent back to the start of the single track to complete this extra loop. It became as painful as I’d feared with the insides of my thighs screaming at me ’10 miles in 3 weeks & now you give us this shit’, ‘sorry guys but do you really want to be seen in running shorts walking down hill?’. It was a long argument but we eventually reached the single track where with no local to fear I walked the incline bit.

Back at the chalet I had run/walked over 33K (nearly 21 miles) & climbed4,000′ not a bad 35,000 steps to begin with, time to eat, shower & read before the Cyclists returned & Dev congratulated himself for surviving Day 1 with Iain by jumping in the hot tub.

Monday with another good forecast (sunny & mid-twenties) I found a new steep single track to Les Bois & continued up on a glorious Alpine path to the summit of Mont St-Jacques at 2,407 metres (just under 7,900′) where great views led to me clicking away at the views with my phone (yes for the first time, my two camera’s remained packed in my luggage the whole week, what am I becoming?). Next up a traverse to the slightly lower summit of Tete des Arpettes, more clicks before an initially tricky descent to Lac du Carroley, having only passed two fit walkers so far it became crowded here as I had a lone fisherman for company. A shortcut descent was then halted by a herd of cows so I stopped, clicked, took on an energy bar before deciding to skirt to the cows right. They had my number & moved to head me off, we shuffled, I chickened & turned round to find my original path which was a feint trod at best. With paper map in hand I navigated (remember I can do this) my way around & down safely to finally hit an un-tarmac road which descended 2K to more ‘London in mind’ tarmac descending. Soon I was back at the Chalet after some three & a half hours of movement, almost 19K (it’d be my shortest ‘run’ of the week) with another 4,000′ of ascent.

This time Dev was too tired to jump into the tub so Iain, Andy & Ian took their turn. We ate out at a fabulous little restaurant in the valley with a very professional young waitress & vowed to return later in the week.

Tuesday, time for a change, I drove down to the valley & headed West to Aime-la-Plagne where I parked up with a plan of running back up the valley floor on a cycle track to Bourg St-Martin & then turn around & run back to the car, this would be more like London. However after 3K or so the Cycle path was closed for construction work, stop the watch, what now? ‘Do the Maths, 4 reps of this will give you more than a Half Marathon, turn it into a speed session, this is exactly what’s good for you!’ I ran back to Aime-la-Plagne at sub 5 minutes a K, turned around & kept up the pace. Admittedly my last rep tailed off a bit but it was hot, my food & water had remained in the car & I had done more than a bit in the previous couple of days. 2 Hours & 4 Minutes for 25.61K that’s sub 3 Hours 25 Minutes Marathon pace not a bad effort perhaps sub 3:20 for London could be on. Well that would still be 20 minutes slower than my 2020 plan but back then I was racing, Park running & doing track sessions & by my level ‘flying’.

Back at the car my Nike Vaporfly’s were stained with blood from my left foot toenail issues & my legs you guessed it were trashed. However as was the case in my charity running week back in June this was a mid-week low point, despite more of the same they would improve from here-on (well mostly) & by the end of the week the pains were gone.

Back at the Chalet the Cyclists would join me, Dev’s humor at his fate lit up the evening, thank god I’m doing this to myself rather than be part of Iain’s gang!

Wednesday, today I really beat myself up. I drove down to the valley, parked at Landry & ran the section of cycle track that I couldn’t get to yesterday, again London in mind, an up & down the valley floor alongside the pleasant aqua blue l’lsere river. A little over 15K later I was back at the car where I stopped to take on fuel that I was this time carrying. Then rather than get in the car I did the smart thing & set off to run that 9.7K hill back up to the chalet. Now back in Snowdonia we have plenty of forest tracks many of which are a bit steeper than the 6% average of this hill but rarely can I find one more than 2K long, you can see where this is heading on already tired legs. It was brutal (the Cyclists faced this every day bar one), the switch-backs were massive (the first one almost 2K on it’s own), 10 of them before four ‘minor’ ones at the top. It was grit your teeth, head down, bloody determination & absolutely f…… awful! A delivery driver passed me going up & came back down half an hour later failing to swerve & put me out of my misery. Unusually me I managed my effort via the heartbeat tool on my Garmin rather than running pace trying to keep my heart rate between 158 & 164 however on the 10th switchback it did balloon towards 180 with no apparent increase in effort so either I was heading for imminent death or my Garmin was having a wobble bigger tan my own. The climb took me 1 Hour 15 Minutes, never abated & took my total run to 2 Hours 47 Minutes but I had stuck at it & never stopped, some achievement at some cost.

Back at the chalet the Cyclists arrived soon after, I had only managed Pear juice & fizzy water, even Iain looked a bit concerned, I headed for the shower before facing the others. Back in the Kitchen Andy & I prepped a late lunch for us all, Cheese, Meats, Bread etc. At the table I slowly forced small morsels down whilst Andy looked on with motherly concern. Later we went shopping for more supplies for England & this could have been followed by a very poor pizza stop but I can’t be sure I’ve linked the nightmare hill to this nightmare dish correctly.

Thursday, again drive back to the Cycle track at Landry but this time no sting in the tail. Dev would have a day-off from the Iain regime & simply cycle up & down ‘our’ hill as well as follow my route which would take me up to & through the streets of Bourg St-Martin. He saw me in Bourg but I didn’t see him. After yesterday I kept the pace down but it felt tough nonetheless but it kept the miles ticking over, another Half Marathon in the bag.

That evening Andy & I resumed our roles in the Kitchen cooking a seafood paella, this was proper food for gods, runners & even cyclists & just what our bodies needed.

Friday, more ‘London’ cycle paths but convoluting a bit of new road & cycle path just to give a bit of variety. Picked up the pace a bit but still nothing to write home about so apologies for writing about it, still another Half Marathon under my belt. The days main events were more trying & to cover them correctly I feel (sorry for this) I’ll need a part 3.

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