As I was cruising up yet another stunning crack splitting a 300m granite face up high off the Aiguille du Midi, I felt truly in my element. Recent life events have really knocked my mental strength and the first thing to suffer is my ability to climb, or at least feel comfortable climbing.
35 people stare at me expectantly. I’m standing in The North Face Store in Chamonix with their professional athletes by my side. I’m about to go running with them and a group of runners from seasoned ultra veterans to newbies like me in the lead up to the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, one of the most famous and toughest ultra races in the world. How did I get here?
Running is hard on your body, there is no doubt, and, your body needs to develop the strength and resistance for the miles you put it through. However, putting your body through too many miles without the relative strength, stability and mobility opens you up for injury and, potential, missing your race.
Here is a session I completed with a group of ultra distant runners using body weight movements.
It’s only 10 minutes until my first kettlebell class in Chamonix and there are already over 10 people here – not bad for a debut! Fine, the class is free and the weather is glorious but, hey, I’m thinking this is a win!
When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, George Mallory famously replied “Because it is there.” There is something undeniably attractive about scaling both massive peaks in the Greater Ranges and more humble hills in the British Isles. Sadly, the question now seems to be, “But for how much longer?”
Yep, after going on about feeling stronger and the benefits to being stronger in the mountains, I headed out and got firmly put back in my place. And it’s not a bad thing at all.
I headed up to climb a stunning but very challenging route here in Chamonix, the Supercouloir, with Graeme – mentally, physically and technically this route pushed me, harder than any other route before.
As I sit on a lift going back up for another ski run, tie onto the rope for another lap, or catch my breath before running up another hill I can’t help feeling like I’m cheating, that I’ve given myself an advantage over myself in previous years. Strength has given me a capacity to do just one more route, one more lap, and these extra efforts are what are allowing me to improve. Step by step. Is it cheating?
What are you training for right now? What is on your wish list that, maybe, you’ve not started training for yet? I’ve been ticking along recently, which has been a much needed gear to be running in but I’ve recently been feeling the need for something more. For picking an objective and committing to the work that will be required to get from where I am now, to where I need to be then.
I have dreams to climb big mountains, via big routes, over big days in the hill, and that means I need to get in shape.
I’m grinning ear to ear and I can hear Steve laughing out loud ahead of me. We’re skiing the Vallee Blanche, it’s my first time, and I’m loving it. The winter is just getting better and better with everything building up to this moment where I am making fresh tracks in knee deep powder, weaving between bottomless crevasses, and not another soul in sight.
In June 2015 I officially launched The Mountain Foundry, my new business that is working with everyday athletes to elites by training them in strength and conditioning for the mountains. Training both face-to-face in Chamonix and remotely via the magic of the internet, my goal is to make people stronger, more confident, and safer in the mountains by providing their bodies with a suit of armour.
Climbing the Frendo Spur is high up on many alpinists dreams when they arrive in Chamonix. A striking line that towers over town, rising right underneath the Aiguille du Midi telepherique in full view of all the camera happy tourists. Described as a mid-grade classic, I’ve had my eye on this route for several years and finally had my chance.
The weather in Chamonix is typical early summer weather – amazing sunny mornings then, between 1pm and 2pm, the clouds come in and shortly after a storm kicks off. It is pretty much like clockwork. Jesse and I set off on a rock climb up high that would easily get us back to safety in time. Until it didn’t.
I have been so excited about coming back to London to study and hopefully qualify as a personal trainer – it is the culmination of several years hard work, life changing decisions, and listening to that little voice deep inside me. As exciting as that is, I knew I was going to be missing Chamonix, the mountains, and the training that being based there enables. Not one to be dissuaded, I have managed to keep on top of my training with the awesome help of some people.
Recently my blogging buddy and running inspiration, Runner Beans, wrote a great piece about her Top 5 Running Moments – she is a prolific marathon runner and her list included the London Marathon twice, Berlin Marathon, New York Marathon, and a beautiful sounding Valentine’s day run with her other half. Inspired by this, Stuart Storr wrote his list, he has been running a little while now and was at the very first London Marathon in 1981!
Now I reckon it’s my turn. What are yours?
Nepal was an incredible trip. Not only did I get to experience a wonderful and inspiring new country, I also had a massive amount of time to reflect on where I have been, where I am, and where I want to go. I have written about searching for my purpose, taming the swarm of ideas and inspiration, and my Very Hungry Caterpillar philosophy but it was the time alone in the Himalayas that gave me the space to let it all come together.