Saturday, August 13, 2011

Switzerland and some Sierre-Zinal Interviews

The last (and only) time I was in Switzerland was during my year abroad in France (many moons ago) as a third-year undergraduate student. And what a waste. We drove straight through without stopping, bee-lining it straight for Germany's Black Forest and the steins that awaited us there. This time around we're doing it up proper.

Scott Jaime and I flew out together on Wednesday, arriving to Geneva early Thursday morning. From the plane we had a stunning view of the Geneva valley with snow-capped Alpine peaks and the mighty Mont Blanc standing out in glorious Technicolor against the bluebird skies to the south. The two hour train ride east up the Rhone Valley was even more remarkable. I thought I had it good in Colorado, but wow, these here Alps are pretty spectacular. Jagged angles, burly ridges, huge glaciers, and dreamy amounts of vertical relief. Hog heaven.

And then we hit Sierre, transferred to a bus, and then another bus as we made our way up the tight and Colorado-esque Valais through immaculate Alpine Swiss villages to Zinal. And wow again. The skyline here is just phenomenal.

Before we had time to close our agape jaws we were being whisked off by our incredibly gracious hosts to a Raclette feast with a jazz ensemble, wine, cold cuts and oozing amounts of deliciously runny cheese from cows that had been feeding off the wildflowers 1,000 feet above us. And there was Young Money Dakota Jones putting away a glass of wine and his fair share of the local produce. That afternoon we were off up into the hills for an entirely too-long run, but what can you do when surrounded by such beauty. Another feeding and then we crashed hard for 13 hours.

Friday has been much the same - savoring views, running gorgeous and incredibly steep trails, eating delicious food and just generally having a wonderful time. I don't want to draw unnecessary comparisons between the US and Europe when it comes to putting on races, but let's just say that Scott, Dakota and I have been feeling astoundingly spoiled and incredibly thankful for the honest and gracious hospitality we have received here. Our Swiss hosts are from a different cut.

Anyway, in the two days that we've been here I've also been able to catch up with some of the other members of 'Equipe USA' on behalf of, including Max King, Joe Gray (coming), Glen Randall, Megan Lund, and Brandy Erholtz. Oh, and Ultra Boys Dakota Jones and Scott Jaime, in addition to a ditto with me.

We race tomorrow and then we'll drink and be merry, before we head south into France to assume residence in Chamonix in search of a couple more weeks of Alpine adventures.

One more thing. Here's a recent interview I did with the guys over at InsideTrail, a new site dedicated to trail racing.


  1. Clarkie--Thanks for all the pre-race SZ coverage over on RunColo...sweet stuff for a mountain geek like me.

  2. Nice run at SZ - sandbagger!!

  3. Ah..... raclette, a veritable lava flow of tasty cheese. Rnjoy.

  4. Jealous is the only word I can think of.

  5. Sorry, I will revise my above comment. I had the dates wrong, and when I clicked on results yesterday, it showed you in something like 15th I saw the actual results. Looks like you had a good run, but didn't really sandbag this one ;)

  6. Nick - tough, tough race. I'll need to come down to Boulder to train on Shadow Canyon if I ever run it again. Damn that first (monster) climb was steep!

  7. Yeah, I hear they like steep climbs over there. Both Ryan and Lori Cooper told me to just hike up Fern Canyon for UTMB hope you are ready for some more steeps in a couple weeks.

    See you next week

  8. nick - sounds unreal over there (atmosphere, trail-system, stupid-steep climbs), love it. just saw the results, great job man. competition looked fierce, fast times! will be rootin for you, nick p, and all the others at utmb, enjoy it.

  9. Yeah man, Joe and I talk a lot about how gaining the "Fern Perspective" (i.e., after becoming comfortable running Fern Canyon repeatedly it's hard to get too frustrated by almost anything steep/techy) helps a lot with mountain travel. With my pow-hiking over the last couple weeks I've been frequenting some super-stout routes in the Boulder Peaks that even when fit and healthy I'd be hiking, and although I never thought I would willingly include hiking in my training my mindset has shifted yet again over the past couple weeks (if you hike hard it's easy to get hypoxic real quick) and I expect to be seeking out the fall-line ascents even more often once I get back to real running (tomorrow!).

    Given fresh legs (which yours weren't/aren't) would you say that more time on the super steep ups and downs would have been beneficial for SZ, or more speedwork on the track? Rest up for the real race!


  10. Tony - no question in my mind that the super steep stuff needs to be trained if you want to perform well in that kind of event.

    I'll take Max as an example. I genuinely thought he had a shot at winning, but with the benefit of hindsight, I am not really that surprised at how it played out for him. Max is the first to admit that steep climbs are not a particular strength of his, and during the race he tried to hang onto the back of the second pack (the first pack of three were the eventual podium), and apparently that pretty much did him in for the rolling stuff where he should have been making up ground as probably the fastest dude in the field. So quite clearly, if you can't get over that first climb in one piece, the rest of the race has the potential to be a disaster (or 'epic fail' as Max described it). Speed is necessary, but not before climbing ability.

    Max ended up essentially jogging it in over the last 10k, after suffering from major cramps later in the race. I had major calf cramps too. Almost certainly they came as a result of working the calves on the climb so hard and for so long in a manner to which they were unaccustomed. I'm not sure either heel touched the ground for the first hour of the race.

    All that said, speed is a definite factor at S-Z, as there really are some sections that can be smoked.

    And, yeah, I'm coming around to the idea that the super steep stuff is just a really good all-around training tool.

  11. Good job Nick!
    @ T:Do u think Jonathan Wyatt trains speed? speed training can adopt many forms other than track workouts.
    PS: Have fun in UTMB, rest a lot to bring your form up!

  12. Just watched your post race interview on and sniggered when you got up to turn off the video camera, as you grunted to get up and waddled towards the camera. That must have been pretty brutal! Good luck at utmb!