This week we have mostly... been getting high. Really high. Like 3842m high.
Altitude is one of the aspects of the Everest marathon that we are most worried about; we've all run marathons (or longer) before but never anything that has begun at over 5000m above sea level. Even putting aside the delightful prospect of altitude sickness, the extreme height will undoubtedly affect us in terms of increased fatigue, restricted lung capacity and decreased speed. None of us are expecting to smash any PBs this time round.
In preparation for the marathon we have been attempting to give our red blood cells a boost by heading up to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. We're pretty lucky in having the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world right on our doorstep, so it would be rude not to make the most of it.
The cable car ride starts from Chamonix town at 1035m and whisks you up to the summit in just under half an hour, covering a height gain of 2807m. The speed of the ascent doesn't give your body much time to adjust, which explains why there are often a few wobbly white-faced folks clinging to the handrails at the top!
Once up we have been trying to spend as much time up there as we can; essential supplies include a picnic lunch, iPod and a good book - sounds like my kind of training session! It's not all lounging around though, to get the most out of it we've been throwing in a few sprint sessions up and down the staircases that connect the viewing platforms as well as bashing out a mix of crunches, press-ups, star jumps, etc on said viewing platforms. It's amazing what an effect the altitude has on your heart rate and breathing - it also gives the sightseers from around the world something to wonder about.
It's quite a weird experience exercising above some of the highest peaks in Europe with birds flying past beneath you. It's great fun though and completely awe-inspiring to be going through the drills with 360° views of snow-covered mountains stretching out as far as the eye can see across France, Italy and Switzerland. Not a bad training ground, eh?
We'll be making the most of our incredible gym in the sky as often as we can during the run-up to the marathon - we're even hoping to spend some nights up there to let our bodies acclimatise as we sleep. Exactly how much difference it will make is impossible to measure - I guess we'll find out when we get to Everest!
5.55am and I'm woken by the annoying sound of my alarm. Its pitch black, cold and ridiculously early! My puss cat refuses to let me leave the bed until I give him a cuddle. With not much persuasion I give in and crawl back under the covers. I lay in bed, warm and snuggly, trying to rearrange my weekly training plan in my head so there’s no need for me to move. By-passing these thoughts and leaping into action is by far a much tougher skill to learn than I ever imagined, but I'm getting there! Albeit slowly...
Enough with the thinking, I'm up! Throw on my clothes, watch and iPod, neck a coffee and I'm out of the door. First challenge complete, hoorah!
I start sprinting down the road like Linford Christie because it’s so cold, like -9 cold. The next challenge is to get warm, quick! Approximately 8.5 minutes into my usual route, I am pegging it as fast as I can past Kilian Jornet's house, trying hard to look strong and in control, just on the off chance that he’s looking ;). About 9 minutes in I can’t help wondering what all the fuss was about and why I don’t get up to run every single
Trotting along to whatever the training plan has dictated, I can’t help but breathe in my surroundings and smile. I am happy! People often say "you’re lucky to live where you are". My usual reaction is,“rubbish, it wasn’t luck that brought me here, It was a choice!”. I must admit that
recently my feelings have changed and I feel nothing but gratitude for where I live. I count my blessings daily that I have two legs that work and a body that enables me to take me on my adventures. wherever I may choose.
For this, all of it, even at 5.55am on a cold, dark, snowy, winter morning, I amincredibly lucky!