No New Year Resolutions Here

New year, new me, right? I was pretty happy with the old me, or the current me actually.  All our screens are filled with everyone announcing the New Years resolutions and companies advertising how this is the year you change, but change can be made at anytime of the year, if you should want to of course.  Sure I could be more patient, listen more and give more but I’m keen to get back to me.

Crossing the UTMB finish line

Since completing UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc 107 mile/10,000m ascent/descent) at the end of August my life has been a whirlwind which whilst exciting and adventurous also means that routine & healthy habits fall away.  September saw me join Dion in travelling to the USA for his final race of the year, Wasatch 100, which was the final event to see him be the first man to complete the Leadman Series and the Grand Slam of 100’s and it was to be such a great experience to support him and cross the final finish line.  I was still recovering from UTMB so this was a holiday and I treated it as such.

Seeing Dion complete the Grand Slam of 100’s at Wasatch 100

In my excitement earlier in the year, I’d signed up to run the 52km Trail Aiguille Rouges race with 4,500m ascent/descent at the end of September, just on 4 weeks after UTMB.  I would never recommend anyone to do this after such a massive race but here I was lined up to run it.  I felt good for the first few miles of the race but as soon as we hit the first climb I knew I hadn’t recovered.  Whilst climbing this 1500m climb in what felt like slow motion I decided that I should pull out at the first checkpoint as I knew the route and this spot would drop me straight back into Chamonix but as luck would have it just before reaching the checkpoint I ran into a friend, Jo Cowper, who was also struggling and talking of dropping at the same spot.  Instantly my runners maternal instinct came out and I was encouraging Jo to carry on, that ‘we’ would get through this together. Needless to say it was a long but beautiful day out in the mountains and we crossed that finish line together after many words of encouragement between us.

Running TAR with Jo Cowper

The next adventure was upon me quickly, accompanying Dion & Gobi to Slovenia and Croatia for the language book releases of ‘Finding Gobi’ over there.  It’s a full on 3 week tour, working remotely whilst being on a publicity tour requires 100% energy and focus leaving me with little drive to get any sort of training done.  I manage to squeeze in a few 5km runs here and there, normally accompanied by Gobi, so the runs are certainly not considered training.  It’s enjoyable though to discover new places and see new things but there is an unsettled feeling in my body.  I never quite realised how much I need a bit of routine in my life, particularly exercise routine, to allow me to feel truly happy.  They do say exercise is addictive and I think I’m truly hooked.

Running the Ljubijana 10k with Dion and Gobi

After 3 weeks away from home, we make it back to Chamonix for an overnight stop, just enough time to swap out some luggage for our next trip to the U.K.  After a whirlwind 12 hours, the car is packed and we hit the road to London.  It’s a long drive to the U.K. and with all the best intentions I can’t resist a pastry and coffee at all our stops.  I have a history of bad eating and although now as an athlete I train well and eat clean most of the time, my inner self always reverts to these bad habits under times of stress.  Although the travel itself is not consciously stressful, sub consciously is a different story and although I try to combat these bad habits by continuing to run while I’m away it’s not enough for my body to go against my own self sabotage and 2 weeks away in the U.K. takes it’s toll on my fitness, weight and self image.

Fitting in the odd run whilst in the UK

Having struggled with my weight for the first 30 years of my life (link to my story) I find myself panicking about any weight gain and loss of fitness as I’m petrified of being the fat, unfit woman that I was.  I know it’s not logical and it’s good for my body to have a break and a few kilos aren’t going to revert me back but try telling my hard wired brain that!  Anyone that’s struggled with weight and body image knows that it’s just not that simple, and these feelings always take their toll on m6 mental well-being.  I try to battle through it as I’m a positive person after all and I know negativity and lack of self worth will not help me.  

I get back to Chamonix after the trip and know that we have a few weeks of November at home before we are off on the next trip so I use this time to get back some semblance of normality and start making a regular morning 4-5 mile loop along the river.  The first few runs are demoralising with me taking regular walk breaks on such a short easy run when only a few weeks before I’d run UTMB and TAR, 2 extremely tough mountain races, but the body does not listen to what was, only what is.  But I persevered and it wasn’t long before I found my rhythm and started to feel fitter and stronger again.  Immediately I felt happier and more self confident and I always remind myself of this when I am feeling low, that you only have to start and you will feel better, almost instantaneously for me which is a great comfort.  This is 100% mental of course but what an effect this has.

Back in Chamonix with the Wild TR group for some running in the snow

Our next trip away sets me back again though with Dion and I off to Bulgaria in December for a few days for the ‘Finding Gobi’ release over there.  Although it’s only a few days, the weather is bitterly cold and staying in the heart of the city of Sofia I miss out on my runs and I feel frustrated with myself.

There’s no time to dwell on it though as whilst I’ve been away we were also working on moving to the USA and the wheels are now fully in motion.  With Dion’s O1 visa approved and subsequently mine, we are able to fly out on 12th December, giving us literally 10 days to finish DIY’ing our apartment, packing our lives into a suitcase, making sure the kids (Lara our cat and Gobi our dog) are health checked and sorting out the remaining to ensure we are ready to go.

They say moving house in one of the most stressful events in your life, but moving countries on top of it!  Now that multiplies it exponentially, trust me having experienced that already 3 times over (NZ, U.K., France) I knew what we were in for again.  But not ones to stay in the comfort zone we were up for it again, this time with our 2 fur babies along with for the ride.  A whirlwind of craziness and we find ourselves in New York City ready for the next chapter of our lives.

Running in Central Park NYC

Having planned to be in NYC for 3 weeks over the Christmas and New Year period it was the perfect opportunity to try and adjust to a new way of life and try to get back to some level of normality.  Helped by the weather being kind to us during a period renowned for abysmal weather but it’s hard to run in a city.  Kudos to those that live in a city permanently but I’ve certainly become accustomed to, if not a little spoilt, by living in Chamonix surrounded by the most amazing mountains and trails.  I was pretty proud of getting out and getting some runs done, even managed one 50 mile week, alongside starting to dabble in a change of lifestyle of shifting to a more plant based diet.

Back on the trails in Louisiana, flat but trails!

Moving forward it’s going to be about balancing change & disruption with balance, consistency and adventure.  Quite a challenge I’m sure you’d agree.  The start of the new year sees us growing some temporary Cajun routes in Louisiana and spending 6 weeks exploring the south.  This could also be the toughest state to be embarking on Veganuary, in a state where meat products are the staple this could certainly add to the challenge.  Time to rediscover my ultra legs running from the alligators in the bayou, exploring the pristine lakes and get cracking with a very different approach to get back to me.

As an Australian I am devastated by what is happening in Australia with the bushfires and I’m donating via https://reliefrun.com.au which is a $50 donation to run a virtual 21.1k/5k to support those affected by the bushfires.  If you haven’t yet already donated I hope you’ll consider joining me

 

Why you simply HAVE to run the Marathon du Mont Blanc

I. Loved. Every. Single. Minute.
A marathon of true beauty! Marathon du Mont Blanc is more than just a race, this is a party of trail running that takes place in one of THE Mecca’s of the sport, Chamonix. Traversing through the awe inspiring nature reserve, The Aiguilles Rouges, this event has eight various trail races (90k, 42k, 23k, 10k, VK, duo etoile night race, mini cross and the young marathon) to choose from and is a celebration of mountain running at its finest. The marathon had 2,300 runners and the electrified start at 7am on Sunday morning set goosebumps off on every competitor. The streets are lined with fans cheering on the runners but not just at the start, throughout the race through the villages and high up on top of the mountains they were there in so many ways from the loud trumpet blowers, cheering baton bashers, live bands with singers and throngs of dancers to the cute kids offering high fives and cheers of “Allez! Allez!”

Jam packed race start

With 42km and 2,780m ascent this is a tough and challenging route, made all the more difficult with temperatures reaching 32 degrees in the valley. Starting in the cooler temperatures of the early morning you are pulled into a false sense of ease as the route takes you from Chamonix into the cross country trails up through La Lavancher (I did manage to face plant only 3 Miles in on the least technical descent of the day), following the Petit Balcon Nord to Montroc and along the nature reserve running along the Col de Montets.

Views for days

The valley is in full bloom, greenery all around and bright flowers absolutely everywhere and running into Vallorcine felt like a dream. Masses of people lined the path into the checkpoint and there was a lively dancing band boosting energy levels before the first serious climb of the day up to Col Des Posettes. Aid stations are laden with local cheeses, salamis, fruit, nuts, baguettes, dark chocolate and plenty of still/sparkling water and coke. It’s certainly worthwhile taking advantage of what’s on offer. All usually served by super friendly volunteers and accompanied by some form of live music or dancing, it’s a party for everyone from the runners and volunteers to the locals and random hikers.

Stuffing salami in my mouth at Vallorcine where Jana was supporting (Photo: Jana)

All the runners are made to feel like superstars as we tackled the climb which again was lined with loss of exuberant supporters, all reading our names on our bibs to shout out personal encouragement. It gives you a taste of what the Tour de France cyclists feel like with the people crowding onto you on a narrow path, it’s absolutely electrifying! As the path narrowed and disappeared into the forest the crowds disappeared and gave way to solid hard work, with only the sounds of heavy breathing and the rhythmic ‘tap, tap’ of hiking poles as we ascended.

Heading up to the Col

The heat was pretty intense up on the Col but alleviated by an amazingly enthusiastic man playing guitar and singing on the back of a small truck. Plenty of runners were using this as a reason to hang at the checkpoint and soak up the party vibes and snap some stunning photos. We reached the summit of Aiguillette at 2201m and then headed down the steep descent of 850m back to Le Tour, the aid station before the climb up to Flegere. I tackled the descent with gusto, taking the steep rocky paths with tight bends and the odd sheer drop in my stride and it was over in no time!

A man and his guitar!

The final big push up to Flegere was a pretty slow procession of runners, now only hiking, in the heat of the day, some needing to sit on the side of the path to re-gather strength before carrying on. I had to resort to filling up water in the stream as I’d drunk my bottles dry, 1L, in the climb alone. The scent of wild strawberries was in the air and they tasted even better than they smelt, sunkissed, red & ripe.  Flegere loomed in front of us and felt within touching distance but felt more like slow motion process up a long wide, open climb in the blazing sun to get there.

An oasis on a mountain

Fuelled on coke at long last, I’d saved this for the final stretch, I felt fully charged and got a bit frustrated on the final 5k which was single track and was quite a bottle neck in parts so using my best French ‘excuses-moi’ I got my way last as many people as I could along the tight balcon with a vertical drop off on your left. You could see and hear the finish line the entire 5k, tempting you!

The finish line looms!

2 small snow drifts to cross just before the finish and it was there! Plan Praz was in front of me with the finish up a small hill which of course you have to run and seeing Dion, Gobi and Jana at the finish I let out a big whoop and massive smiles all round I got my medal.

Finish line feels (Photo : Dion Leonard)

I can’t recall a race where I felt like I smiled and laughed the entire way around so Marathon Du Mont Blanc will certainly go down in my memory as the funnest and most scenic marathon I’ve ever run.

Loving my medal!