So, there I was, checking out the blog stats – seeing whether you, my loyal five readers, are still checking in – when I was informed that:
Nine months!! Well, in my defence, i’ve not been sitting around twiddling my thumbs.
To begin with, you may have noticed that i’ve given canmorerunner.com a bit of a makeover, so it seems less like a blog and more like a website and resource for trail running in Canmore, the Bow Valley and beyond. I hope you like it.
Less happily, Canmore Runner HQ has also been busy dealing with one of those major curve balls that life can throw at you. This has meant many things, including postponing our plans to relocate to Canada this year – though they are postponed, not abandoned. It has also meant hitting the trails on a more regular basis as a form of stress relief rather than just for fun and exercise.
My use of running-as-therapy was greatly assisted by signing up for a big ol’ Swiss mountain race – the Humani’Trail. There’s nothing like the prospect of running 55km with 3900m of elevation gain in just under 16 weeks time to get you out of bed on a dark, damp Sunday morning. It gave me a goal which brought structure to my running and ensured regular time out to check in with my thoughts and process all that was going on around me.
Unlike in the past, I didn’t overthink the training. But I didn’t under-think it either. As I learned at last year’s Seven Summits race, rocking up to an ultra with your fingers crossed will get you only so far before things start to feel a little desperate – about half way up the otherwise stunning Col du Jorat as I recall…
I put together a basic plan using the Santa Clarita Runners ultra-marathon training schedule generator that guided me in building up the distance in a gradual, safe, way. I threw in some regular hill repeats and tried, whenever possible, to hit trails rather than tarmac, and mountains rather than hills, for those weekly long runs. And I kept it all in perspective. If I could make the weekly mileage all good. If I couldn’t, it didn’t matter. I’d make it up if possible but without running myself into the ground and being of no use to anyone around me.
My training and and general state of well-being were greatly enhanced by the fact that I am lucky enough to have some wonderful places to run, from my old friend and regular Sunday morning haunt, the Jura…
…with a brief stop in stunning and stormy Zermatt…
…before ending up in the Swiss skiing village of Les Diablerets, toeing the line at 6.15 on a cool, damp Saturday morning in September for the start of the fifth edition of the Humani’Trail.
This was not my first visit to Diablerets. I was there in early March for the Trailblanc, an altogether gruelling experience owing to my distinct lack of preparation. Six months on, I was better prepared and fully determined to enjoy wrestling the “Tiger” version of the Humani’Trail:
I wasn’t disappointed. The Humani’Trail proved to be one of those truly epic, life-affirming experiences: A challenging course with endless kilometres of rooty, rocky, and occasionally muddy, singletrack that passed through beautiful forests and up and along steep sided ridges. There were six wonderful climbs, ranging from the steady to the steep to the somewhere in-between, all delivering breathtaking views deep into Switzerland and across to France and the magical Mont Blanc:
The organization was excellent, with a well-marked course, friendly, helpful volunteers and well-stocked aid stations. If all that’s not enough, your entry fee supports groups working with disadvantaged children in Nepal. Even the weather cooperated. Could it be any better?
Yes, it could apparently.
The Humani’Trail was just what I needed. I had the time of my life – even on those last three climbs, the intensity of which I had completely underestimated. It wasn’t just because of the amazing course, the landscape, and the people. Nor was it down to turning out some career-defining performance because I didn’t, though I did feel unfamiliarly strong throughout (i’m guessing the training paid off). Nor was it due to finally cracking the nutrition conundrum – keeping my stomach happy and my energy levels high by alternating between gels and proper food, and plain water and Skratch Labs. Nor was it the result of finally using my poles effectively; not experiencing any nagging or potentially race-ending aches and pains; and having the boost of seeing my wonderful kids and the amazing Ms. Canmore Runner and friends at the half-way-ish mark.
This all helped for sure. But above all, the Humani’Trail provided an important if momentary respite from the current and more-intense-than-usual stresses of life. It gave me 12 wonderful hours and 27 beautiful minutes where all that was expected of me was to make my way from the start to the finish, marvel at the views, and have a good time.
But it wasn’t just a good time. It was an exceptional time in a magical place. Sure, it left me a little sore in places and very, very, tired. But I was mentally revived in a way that I had not anticipated going into the race and better prepared for dealing with life’s curve balls.
Until next time, happy trails.