running log #19

I am in Japan! Freshly arrived, with two ambitious pairs of running shoes in my suitcase, I was wondering if and when I would have the courage to go on a run. After all, I’m on holidays, so hanging out with my mates and eating weird, delicious new things is a lot more fun.

However, tired from all the walking and visiting in the rain, my two mates headed home to relax before dinner and I tried not to think too much when lacing up the trainers.

I headed out into the street and… it started pouring down. There is a huge storm in Kyoto, and local people are facing landslides and evacuation all over the hills surrounding the city. Apparently, I was the only crazy tourist who, being used to winter running through the forest back in Switzerland, throught that running was a sensible activity to do.

So, I went to the Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens and did a few laps. I felt light and energetic, no pain from Sunday’s race and, apart from the start, no signs of jet lag.

After a tour of the Imperial Palace, I still felt like running, so I ran across a few more streets and ran around Nijo Castle, which was closed.

This is the first time I am running while travelling and I really enjoyed how you can breeze through the streets, crossing people and places on their busy daily life, passing by sightseeing spots, but also crossing local, hidden streets where life happens.

I saw workers going home from work, tourists leaving the castle, restaurants setting up for dinner, people having drinks, people getting soaked by passing traffic,… in such a new place where I don’t even understand what is written on the signposts, I spent most of my run just looking, observing, processing.

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running log #18

A few years ago, around the time I moved to Switzerland, I went on a hike with some friends. We started off in Montreux and hiked up to Les Rochers de Naye. At the time, it took us all morning and the beginning of the afternoon to hike the 13km (1700m uphill). At one point, we were overtook by a guy that was – get this – running up. I remember we all commented on how crazy that was. It seemed worlds away from what we would ever be able to do.

Well. Today, I was that person.

But it was not easy. No. The mythical Montreux-Les-Rochers-de-Naye race was the hardest race I have ever done.

It started off quite leisurely at Montreux train station. We started running flat and about 800m in we started running uphill. I was feeling quite fresh even though I haven’t been training much. We soon got onto a little forest path that follows the Chauderon river. People in front of me were slowing down on uphill sections and it made me control my pace. It was fresh, there were magnificent waterfalls and leafy, lush vegetation.

Out of the forest, we hit the road and carried on uphill until the first aid station. By now, it was getting warm (yesterday was the hottest day of the year in this region and I don’t even need to check the statistics because hot days have been rare). Some sections were so steep or just so long that we had already begun to alternate running and walking. So had everyone else.

After the first aid station we started running downhill. This was the fast section of the run. I was feeling light and with energy. We began to have views over the lake. Everything was beautiful. There was an accordion player in one of the aid stations. I danced to its music. People laughed and cheered. It was magic.

Then, we started climbing again. We were on the road, but it was steep and long enough to make it difficult to run all the way. I gave up running and decided to walk, keeping up a fast, regular pace. It was the best decision. Thank you to all the years of hiking with scouts in the August sun in the roads and plains of Portugal. I event taught my friends the “passo escuta” (you run for 20 steps, you walk for another 20, and so on).

After a few km on this road, we went into a forest again. It was a soft faux-plat (this means that it is a very gentle climb) that we could run, so we did. My thighs started feeling tight from the effort. At this point, we were about 9 or 10km into the run.

We soldiered on, running when we could, walking when we couldn’t. Spirits were high. We were a team of four. Normally each one runs their own race, but for some reason, the four of us stuck together today and helped each other out during any difficulty. It was a good thing we did, because at 5km to the end of the race, things began to get hard. Really hard.

After an aid station where two of our mates got a kiss from their husbands, we started climbing again. Really climbing. In the sun which was now high up in the sky (it was around 11h30). One of our mates began to get discouraged, saying she’d had enough. It was taking us much longer to reach the km signposts by this point. 4. I tried to distract her by talking about whatever silly thing I could think of.

Then, a forest path that was quite steep. It was fresh, but the climb was making my thighs and lower back yell. I drank some isotonic drink at one of the aid stations that didn’t go down well. Or maybe I was just getting too tired, I felt a little nauseous.

3. I started lagging behind. I can’t remember what happened between 3 and 2. I remember just thinking of putting one foot in front of the other. I breathed. I accelerated when I could. I slowed down when it was too much. Walking, always walking. We were beyond running at this point.

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2. A little bit of flat. I tried to run a little. My body seemed to say “really”?

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Then we reached the last aid station, 1 km before the finishing line. Normally, 1 km is a relief. You speed up. You get your last bout of energy and you just hammer it down. Well, not on this race. On the last km, 17.8 km after you’ve been hiking and running uphill and you just want it to be over, because it was good but now you’re tired and you could just lie down right there and then, you still have the hardest climb ahead of you.

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Which also has the most beautiful views over the Lac Léman, the French Alps and the surrounding peaks of the Alpes Vaudoises.

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The last few meters were just… painful. I felt sick. I was tired. I was hot. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. We crossed many people on this last bit. Hikers, people from the shorter race who were still coming up as well, people who had reached the top and were running down, families who were just visiting the beautiful Rochers de Naye. Every single one of them encouraged the runners who were still struggling up and when you are on your last bout of energy, every word of encouragement counts.

Then, the climbing stopped and there were a few meters of flat. We turned the corner, and there it was, in all its glory, the finish line. And my mates, waiting for the last two of us to arrive so that we could cross the finish line together.

  • Pain: 10/10
  • Pleasure: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Challenge: 10/10
  • Will I do this again? You bet I will! 10/10

*My polar marked 17.81km, but the official race distance is 18.8km. I think that during the time we spent in the forest I might have lost GPS signal and the automatic calculations are incorrect.

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running log #17

Aaaaah these last weeks before the holidays are really kicking me in the shins. With a runny nose, a prickly throat and not to mention how many hours sleep I wouldn’t mind having these days, I started off sluggish on today’s run. Thankfully, I had my running club friends to chat with.

We headed out through the forest for the usual warm-up. On climbs, my legs felt a little heavy from Sunday’s hills.

We stopped at 5km to do some exercises. Then, we did some accelerations, or cartouches as we call them:

  • 5 times 50m sprint with alternated slow jogging
  • 5 times 50m sprint from standing start
  • 5 times 50m sprint uphill

And then slow run back to the starting point.

Though I started off sluggish, the accelerations are fun and we all pretend we’re in a race. In the end, I’m all worked up and energised and when we get back to the regular run, I feel like I could still run for a while.

  • Pain: 3/10
  • Fatigue: 8/10
  • Fun: 7/10
  • Number of times I thought “is this over yet”: 5000 (before the sprints)

running log #16

After a week under the side-effects of antibiotics, a lot of work and lack of sleep, deciding to go out running was really not on the top 5 of things I felt most like doing.

However, we know that once that barrier is won, we always feel bettet after a nice run. Knowing that just under an hour’s drive we can find very sweet landscapes to run in helps.

We headed out from the little village of le Pont, on the shores of Lac de Joux, following this hiking suggestion. When we started running, it seems like my legs and the whole of my lazy body started screaming “What are you dooooooing?!”. When we started climbing uphill, it just got worse. So we hiked as fast as we could be motivated to do. I took pictures. We chatted. Sometimes, we ran. Others, we hiked really fast to get the HR up.

After a little while, we arrived at Dent de Vaulion. From there, we could see the Gros de Vaud to the East and the Vallée de Joux with its beautiful lake to the South.

We headed down, running swiftly and with much more energy than in the beginning. We ran through the cool, green, leafy forest, tackling stones and tree roots all along the way. I like this kind of path because you are always focusing on what you are doing and can’t afford to be distracted with anything else.

After the forest, we ran back through the fields of grazing cows, with their bells dingling in harmony to the end of the afternoon sun.

  • Pain: 4/10
  • Number of times I thought “is this over yet?”: 10000 in the beginning
  • Landscape: 9/10
  • Gratefulness for kicking our bums out of the house: 10/10

running log #15

I lost my rhythm for a week. We had visitors, we went to a marriage im the weekend, there were world cup matches… bref, priorités. Not that much running. In the meanwhile, the running club had a summer camp, so that when Tuesday came, and everyone was recovering from one thing or other.

This session was a really gentle run through the forest. A little too soft (I did not have 50+km on my legs from the weekend). However, I’d been having bladder issues since the beginning of the week (which, later in the evening, landed me in the emergency room), so it wasn’t so bad that we took it easy.

So, that was it, basically. A sweet, soft run through the forest. There was chatting. There was time to appreciate the late afternoon sun shining through the leaves. At some point, we even had to run on our toes to dodge hundreds of baby frogs that were jumping around!

  • Pain (bladder) 7/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Training benefit: always better than 0!

running log #14

Sweet little run through the forest, alone. I am trying to fit in more and longer runs alone. Running with people and in a group is nice, but I’ve come to realise that it is also an avoidance strategy. Long runs on your own are harder because you not only have to run, but you also have to deal with your mind. And your mind can sometimes bring you down faster than your legs. Most of the time, actually.

Yesterday I chose to go to the forest at Chalet à Gobet, just north of Lausanne. It has a 12km Helsana trail winding through pine trees and pastures which are really green and leafy at this time of the year.

I started off light and breezy. Even though I like to run without phones and listen to the sounds of nature, I wasn’t up for the full alone experience and listened to a podcast to help busy my mind a little.

I crossed donkeys, birds and even two doe who swiftly crossed the path just in front of me. The trail went uphill in some places, downhill in others and I felt good most of the time.

However, after 6km, my right thigh started seizing up while running uphill. At 8km, I had a stomach cramp which was probably related with some abusive cherry eating just before my run. I slowed down for a few metres and then it was fine.

I ended fast, feeling good albeit a little cold. The aim now is to increase mileage while running alone.

Something I’ve noticed is that my HR is substantially lower on an equal subjective experience of effort. I wonder if it is the effect of training, the magnesium I’ve been taking or my polar which needs new batteries.

  • Pain: 5/10
  • Fatigue: 3/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Number of times I thought “is this over yet”: 0
  • Feeling swift: 6/10

running log #13

This weekends challenge was a trail planned by me. Switzerland has an emormous network of hiking trails, most of which are runnable, so I chose a sweet 13km trail not far away, with enough ascent (600+) for it to be slightly challenging for me and for my friend B’s first trail experience.

We headed from the village of Vallorbe, near the border with France. We climbed up through the road, and missed the turn into the parcours vita. This meant we had to hike up the road for a while. B was surprised with how little running we could do on the ascent. On the flatter parts that I tried to run, I felt my thighs seizing up, so I took it down a notched and focused on hiking.

Near the French border, we go back into mountain trails and it was much nicer. Mont d’Or, our aim, was actually just about 1km into France.

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We got to the top, and enjoyed the view into the Swiss plateau. There was even a rainbow and lightning. The weather was hot. We were to busy enjoying the scenery to care.

On our way down, we let go into the descent, using our muscle strength to support the impact of the speed and weight on our joints. When the path levelled a little, we could feel our knees and thighs wobbly. This is when you run the risk of getting injured. As you are tired, you have less balance and can easily trip on a stone or a root and fall. And fall I did, twice.

It was a good session and this idea of running the easy hikes around the area pleases me a lot.

  • Pain: 5/10
  • Number of times I thought “is this over yet”: 0
  • Fatigue: 6/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Challenge: 6/10

(My watch doesn’t seem to have a great GPS. For this reason, on the way up, it started tracking the route halfway through and only recorded a quarter of the ascent!)