For those keeping track, this is week 4 of my Big Half training plan, which is my attempt to run a half marathon in 1 hour 30 minutes. This week was a bit different as I traded the mild British winter with the -20C snow and ice of the French Alps for my first ever skiing experience.
What better way to acclimatise to the 1800m altitude than go for a nice 5km steady run at dawn to get your bearings? I ran from our chalet at 1800m altitude up to the centre at 2000m. I very quickly felt out of breath I think due to the altitude, but it may have also been the hill. It made me realise just how much altitude affects your cardio performance. I finished the run averaging 5:24/km pace, which was way off my 4:40/km target, but it was a good lesson in how running on snowy hills at altitude is not easy! A lesson I’m sure everyone reading this already knew without needing to go for the run.
It was then time for my first ever ski lesson. I’d held skis for the first time the day before so to say I was a beginner was an understatement. Still, by the end of the 2.5 hour session they had us squiggling down the baby slope without screaming in fear the whole time.
By the end of the second day, Will and I were just about making it down blue slopes, so we were able to join our friends and partners for a couple of runs (this is what skiers call a route down, confusingly).
On Monday afternoon, after a day of skiing, I went to an outdoor swimming pool to get a swim in! It was heated to 30C and I got there just as the sun was setting which was gorgeous to watch from the water as I did my 40 lengths.
In contrast, on Tuesday after skiing I attempted an interval session. Given that I’d just skied for three days, and was running up fairly unforgiving terrain I was very happy with how it went. There was an 800m loop around the town we were staying in, so you could run a zig-zag up the hill for 400m, then zig-zag down 400m on the other side. I was running 1600m intervals so this made it fairly even as there was a bit of up-and-down in each interval. After the second rep, I switched direction just to make sure I wasn’t being biased as one of the zig-zags was definitely steeper than the other. I actually preferred running down the steeper zig-zag and up the more gradual slope, mainly because once I’d run up the steep zig-zag I was so knackered I couldn’t make the most of the gradual downhill.
I did get a couple shouts of “keep going” and “you’re crazy” from some people as they headed back to their chalets with their ski gear on. Always good to get a bit of encouragement.
The rest of the week was, surprisingly, a lot more skiing. By the end of the six days I was getting the hang of it, even doing something called “parallels” which, given that I’d never heard of it until this holiday I thought must be alright. Would I go skiing again? Not sure it’s really my thing, but I can certainly see the appeal of the great views and the kind of speed you can achieve just by strapping some planks to your feet.
Oh, we also did a bobsleigh while we were there. They literally put four of us in a bobsleigh and just pushed us off the start line. Then we tumbled and turned down the Olympic track in 90 seconds reaching a top speed of 80km/h. It was a pretty unique experience!
We got home on Saturday and I think I just collapsed from the early flight and all the week’s activities. Then, once I could drag myself from bed on Sunday, I attempted a PB-setting 10k.
The 10k was supposed to be at a 4:02/km pace, but I manged only 4:06/km. That’s still completing the 10k in 41 minutes flat… a full 30 seconds off my previous fastest 10k so I’ll call it a win. Not to make excuses, but there was quite a headwind at a few points which I think might have cost me as much as 30 seconds. Still, I need to get under 40 minutes if I stand a chance of reaching my 1 hour 30 minute goal for the half marathon in March. There’s still work to do folks!