At the mercy of the mountain gods

Posted on May 27, 2013

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IMG_2896I often find myself saying to people that things always do work out … just not always the way we expected them too. This past weekend proved this point with perfection.

I returned to Europe last week with the intention of running the Maxi Race just yesterday. It’s a pretty epic event that attracts some big names in trail running, with a vertical kilometre race on day one followed by the main races on day two, with distances ranging from 15km up to 80+km and up to 5,500m ascent.

I flew into Zurich Thursday past, had a night of decadence in a lush hotel then took the train to Annecy via Geneva.  Annecy is a beautiful part of the world.  A gorgeous lake overlooked by majestic mountains, a charming old town, hundreds of houses that give you total home envy, towering pine trees and a pace of life that really makes you feel on holiday.

The days in the lead up had seen a flurry of emails amongst our little French running team with regular bulletins about the plummeting temps, incessant rainfall and predicted snow at just 800m. In May? Yes, In May! And indeed, I woke on the eve of the race and opened my lake-view window only to be confronted with a mass of cloud and rain, which high up, where our race route would be heading would mean a lot of snow, extreme temps and pretty adverse conditions. But all seemed business as usual … I went to collect our ‘dossards’ or bibs mid morning then went into town for a long lunch and wander with my friend Rosemary, a fellow runner I met in 2011 running the 200km Balaton Supermarathon. I remember her being a godsend in running alongside me for the last 30km or so when my short attention span had peaked and I was feeling restless and eager to finish. The bonds created through the sweat and toil of the trails transcend time and distance with ease. When we met, I could spot her a mile off as she hobbled along with a pained look on her face and compression tights under her mini skirt! You see, she’s fresh back from completing the 10 in 10 … a phenomenal achievement involving 10 days and 10 marathons to raise money for the Brathay Trust.

And then … all started to unravel … Gary called followed by the others to announce the news just in … that the race had been cancelled.  Despite thousands of runners now in Annecy, having come from far and wide, the plug was finally pulled as the course was deemed to dangerous. ‘What now?’ I thought. This wasn’t in my grand plan!

In the end, we four got the best of both worlds.  We wined and dined, to excess of course (!), in a fabulous little wine bar in Annecy, left at the bitter end, then shook off the cobwebs yesterday with a great trail run ourselves.  We went through wide open fields, dense forest, gentle hills and steep mountains … finally arriving at Le Semnoz, amongst lots and lots of snow. The chair lift and the ski station definitely did not look out of place!

We warmed up in the ski chalet, rubbing shoulders with no shortage of other ought-to-have-been competitors then started the long descent back into Annecy.  I don’t think I really feel disappointed in the slightest and now, as I type this, I’m back in lovely Lyon, the sun is shining and I shall shortly go for a little run along the river, basking in the cool temps and bright rays.

And I guess, my takeaway this weekend is that we can prepare all we wish … train, organise, research, plot, plan, dream and scheme … but ultimately, we are at the mercy of the mountain gods and must respect that weather conditions really do represent real dangers at times … and if a race is cancelled, it has been done so for good reason. As clichéd as it may be, ’tis far better to be safe than sorry.

Needless to say of course, we’re now on the hunt for another race next weekend …

Over & out.

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