Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Aug 12 - 25

8/12/2013
Mon - 1:52, 3000' ~ First Flatiron+Green Mt.
Got up early enough that I had to wait about 5min at the base of the First for it to get light enough to climb it. Pretty slow ascent, then, but good to get it in before getting on a plane to France. Descended over Flagstaff back to my apartment.

8/13/2013
Tue - off.
Wanted to go for a jog in Les Houches in the afternoon/evening to shake off the jet-lag, but I was suffering temporary semi-blindness from unknowingly putting hydrogen peroxide in my eyes. Don't do that.

8/14/2013
Wed - 2:07, 5000' ~ Brevent, Chamonix
Cruised up and down the local hill with Joe. The last 1000' or so were in a cloud, so it was quite chilly and the big views across the valley to the Mt. Blanc massif were obscured. Thankfully, my eyes seem to have recovered despite waking with them crusted shut.

8/15/2013
Thu-AM: 8:25, 14,000' ~ Les Houches to Courmayeur, UTMB course
The BUFF house is just outside of Les Houches, 2mi from the base of the Voza climb on the UTMB course, so Joe and I started our tour around the mountain from there.  Overall, the day went really well---there were a few navigational errors on the descent into St. Gervais, but otherwise it was just a great day in the mountains, ~45mi or so. I was more than a little surprised at the smooth, gradual nature of almost the entire track, however. This is definitely a running race.

8/16/2013
Fri - 5:00, 9000' ~ Courmayeur to Champex-Lac, UTMB course
Met Seb Chaigneau, Timmy and Krista outside the bus station in Courmayeur for our 29mi run over to Champex. Seb and I ran together all day, enjoying epic views of the backside of the Mt. Blanc massif much of the way. Got another room in a hostel in Champex that night. Pretty cush way to do a multi-day outing.

8/17/2013
Sat - 4:29, 6000' ~ Champex-Lac to Chamonix, UTMB course
I woke up today with a gimpy hamstring, so just jogged easily back to Chamonix. Ended up taking the wrong climb out of Trient (went up to La Balme instead of Catogne), which meant I missed the final climb up to Flegere as well. Interestingly, I found this final 29mi of the course to be the most to my liking out of the whole loop. More steep, direct climbs and descents with less gradual terrain in between than earlier in the course.

8/18/2013
Sun - off. 
Left achilles and right hamstring were pretty dinged up, so decided to just take a day and make sure I recover.

Hours: 37,000'
Vert: 21h53min

-------------------------

8/19/2013
Mon - off.

8/20/2013
Tue - :31, 250' ~ Les Houches
Just jogged into Les Houches to test out my legs. Things are loosening up.

8/21/2013
Wed - 2:16, 5100' ~ Brevent
Up and down this 8300' peak on the north side of the Chamonix valley. Took it easy just testing out my legs and dabbled in a little via feratta on the way up, nothing too interesting, though. It was a gorgeous day, however, and I was granted spectacular views over to the Mont Blanc massif that were obscured when Joe and I ran up here last week.

8/22/203
Thu - 6:08, 13,000' ~ Mont Blanc
Up and down the Gouter route, starting at the bottom of the Glacier du Bionassy/Bellivue Telepherique in Les Houches at 3300'. With a 15,781' summit and a few rollers along the way, it was a big vert day. The route involves very nice trail all the way up to the Grand Couloir at ~10,000' where the route crosses a gully prone to rockfall before ascending the 3rd Class ridge on it's climber's righthand side. After scrambling nearly 1000m of vert up this one gets to the Gouter hut at 12,600', whence begins the long trudge up flat to 35 degree snow slopes and ridges. I put on my Kahtoola KTS Steel crampons at about 13,500' as the snow was still fairly frozen at 10am, and trudged my way to the summit happy for the extra security these offered. After reaching the top in 3:54 from Les Houches I spent nearly a full hour on top enjoying the view and pristine weather. I was eventually joined by Seb Chaigneau and Joe and we soon descended. After a few hundred feet of descent along the bootpack track I could tell the snow was much softer than during the climb, so took off the crampons and enjoyed an unencumbered descent back down the mountain, dropping the nearly 13k' of vert in 2h14. Really rewarding summit.

8/23/2013
Fri - 2:24, 5400' ~ La Jonction
This is a run from the valley floor up a spectacular ridge of forest and rock that splits two impressive glaciers--Bosson on the left and Taconnaz on the right. The summit of the ridge (8600') is where the two glaciers meet, thus the name. It is also the route of the first ascent of Mont Blanc, way back in 1786. Near the top of the ridge there is a plaque on a giant boulder under which the pioneering duo of Balmat and Paccard bivied during their first ascent. I love this kind of history. The run up was on fantastic trail and the views of the glaciers were breathtaking. We just don't have stuff like this in Colorado. Not to mention the vertical mile of climbing with thousands of feet of relief still above you.

8/24/2013
Sat - 2:44, 5500' ~ Gornergrat
Last night Joe and I drove to Switzerland and hopped the mandatory train to Zermatt to spectate at the Matterhorn Ultraks 46K Skyrace, a first-year event. The course looked to be quite spectacular, so I opted to run to its highest point, the Gornergrat Observatory at 3100m (10,400'), getting in the standard vertical mile of relief. The course took a less-than-direct route to the summit, and the same with the descent back to town, but the views of Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn were all stunning.

8/25/2013
Sun - 2:03, 3500' ~ Vallorcine to Chamonix
Joe dropped me off in Vallorcine (~ mile 92 of the 104mi loop) and I ran the UTMB course back to Cham via Col des Montets, La Flegere, and La Floria. Steep climb with somewhat techy footing at times and the same on the descent to Flegere. Should be fun after nearly 20hrs on the legs. It was a misty, foggy, drizzly morning, as the last few days have been. After two weeks of bluebird days, the Chamonix valley is taking its usual late-August turn toward gloomy weather for race week.

Hours: 16h06min
Vert: 32,750'

It's been a great couple of weeks, but I'm ready to just race this thing already. Resting before a big race always feels that way, though. I've had the usual little niggle here and there, but nothing really worth mentioning. I'm primed and ready to go, feeling like I've prepared pretty much the absolute best that I can. I'm really excited to race 100 miles against such a deep, international field on what I think is a very fair course. The track is overwhelmingly smooth and fast and not at high altitude, but the ~32k' of climbing should allow me to be competitive. In the past there has always been a lot of talk about how "the Alps are not like North American mountains". That is patently true. The vertical relief and the miles of glaciers and granite spires here is like nothing in the US. But the UTMB course never engages any of that. At all. It tends to roll through grassy hills instead. The Hardrock course is magnitudes more rugged and remote than anything the TMB covers. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to the extra energy that the runners are sure to receive any time we pass through the many villages on the route.

My first run in Chamonix--descending from Le Brevent. Photo: Joe Grant.
Panorama of the Mt. Blanc massif from Grand Col Ferret (99km) before crossing from Italy into Switzerland.. 
Aiguille Verte (behind) and the Dru, just up-valley from Chamonix.
Businessman Seb on the summit of Mont Blanc.
Nearly to the top of the Gornergrat, high above Zermatt with the Weisshorn behind. Photo: Laurent Court.
At the Casa de BUFF outside of Les Houches. Photo: Jordi Saragossa.

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