Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Jbob Reinvented, An Injury Memoir

“When life shuts a door…open it again. It’s a door. That’s how they work.”

Running injured at the Deception Pass 50k. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

THE FULFILLMENT OF RUNNING

Hello people. My name is Jbob, and I’m a recovering injured runner.

A year ago, a friend asked me what running is to me. This was my response:

These days, I care a lot less about trying to prove myself. I’ve accomplished a lot, and I’m still eager to discover my full potential, but running has become more of a basic source of fulfillment for me.  Running provides so many positive things for me, but the simplest way to put it is this: to see a hill, valley, or mountain may be beautiful, but the only way I can truly feel fulfilled is to become a part of the scenery and run through the landscape. It’s how I bond with nature and truly appreciate the world we live in. I often blow kisses when I run or touch the trees/plants as I run by them. Additionally, running has given me an identity, confidence, and self-esteem. I do battle depression at times, as we all do to some extent, and running keeps my emotions balanced, my mind clear, and my heart strong.” - Jbob

Each person has a different story or path in life, and the running community is full of people of all backgrounds that are united by a common passion. At times, it feels like a family the way this community supports one another (to no end) to be their best selves.

When many of us are unable to run, even with the support of our closest friends and allies, we sometimes become the worse versions of ourselves. When the activity that gives us the most life gets taken away, it’s our attitude that ultimately determines whether we go down the path of progression or resentment.

Deception Pass 50k. Photo by Kerri Anne Stebbins.

THE INJURY

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" - Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Day #1 of injury
Since July 2015, I’ve woken up every morning with a discomfort in my right foot that has only gotten more sensitive with time. On my 1 year injur-versary, my foot was the most sensitive it had ever been. This wasn’t exactly encouraging, and often times was quite depressing. Eventually, my running was whittled down to nothing, and still the injury did not improve.

The cause of the injury has been a perfect storm of neglect, and my poor peroneus longus tendon has felt the brunt of it all. The tendon has become more and more sensitive with use, and the pain predominantly resides where the tendon wraps around the cuboid and travels across the arch and connects to the 1st metatarsal. The foot generally is super tight in several areas that prevent the tendon (and foot) from functioning smoothly. That, and my lack of mobility in the foot/hip likely adds undue stress to the tendon.

Through my frustrations, I’ve had several epiphanies that have helped me turn my injury into one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.


LESSONS LEARNED

"Learning is a gift, even when pain is your teacher."

The only regrets I have in life are the times that I knowingly or unknowingly hurt someone else. I have absolutely no regrets for the times that I’ve hurt myself, or when others have hurt me, because these instances have provided me lessons that which have made me stronger as an individual. And for that, I have no regrets about running myself into the ground.

Sometimes it's necessary to take a step
backwards before taking 2 steps
forward. Photo by Long Run
Picture Company.
It’s not like I’m welcoming this injury with open arms, but chances are it’ll turn me into the greatest runner I’ve ever been.  While searching for a remedy, I’ve seen at least 4 different Physical Therapists, two Acupuncturists, 1 Foot Surgeon (for MRI interpretation), 1 masseuse, 1 Voodoo Witch Doctor…and they’ve all found SOMETHING DIFFERENT about me that needed work/improvement, especially when considering the longevity of my running career. Feet were tight, hips were lying, mobility was laughable, the right ass was locked up, etc. I was a hot mess, and the foot was feeling the brunt of a terrible running philosophy that neglected self-maintenance. What a damn fool I was.

On a daily basis, I’ve done a number of things to help improve my situation, such as doing self-massage, physical therapy exercises, strength training, planks, pushups, pull-ups, low impact cardio (stairs, rowing, mountain biking, alpine touring, bouldering), Jbob vinyasas in the mornings while emphasizing some Jasyoga poses, periodic foam rolling, and probably some other forms of magic. The point is, this injury has forced me into a regiment that I SHOULD HAVE adopted during my first 5 years of ultrarunning. Some lessons are learned by watching other people commit mistakes, but this time it was my turn on the injury wagon. My hope for you is to understand my situation and learn from my mistakes, but chances are you’ll be on that injury wagon someday, too. Such is life.

Stair Climb to raise money for the American Lung Association.

DESPAIR

“We don’t want bad times, of course. But bad times are out of our control as much as good times. The times we don’t want will come (and go) no matter what we do to control the situation. The good times will do the same. Thus, beyond just simply living in each moment, we should realize that such control is impossible, a pipe dream.”
– Steve Hagen, Buddhism Plain & Simple

So little is actually within our control, and our physical abilities that we often take for granted can be restricted or made impossible at any moment. As runners, we run until we break. That’s what we do, and it’s a never-ending cycle that even the smartest of runners can’t avoid entirely. In short, every runner experiences lows, but without the lows there would be no highs. Always remember that.

I've had some very low moments with this injury, especially because I never fully understood what was causing the pain. Staying hopeful, proactive, and listening to Taylor Swift was what allowed me to cope and work to heal.


IDENTITY

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Running has been so much a part of my life the last 6 years, it almost feels like it’s become my identity. And by not being able to run, I feel like I’ve lost my sense of self… And then I realized that’s complete bullshit. The runner didn’t create the Jason, it’s Jason that created the runner! So by subtracting the running from the life of Jason, what’s left? A determined mother hugger who’s going to figure out how to run forever. Our passions don’t define who we are, they simply expose who we are and bring us to life.

Mt. Hood Summit

THE CURE

"I try to laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes, because boys don't cry." - The Cure

What’s currently helping my foot is deep tissue massage of the area behind the first metatarsal, combined with some ultrasound, e-stem, progressive tendon loading exercises, and stretches to improve foot mobility. For the first time in over a year, my foot has been progressing a positive direction, and I’m finally able to run without aggravating my tendon. I’ve been dreaming of this feeling for a long time, to run freely without discomfort, and it makes me feel like a puppy frölicking through a meadow of sunflowers. I still have a ways to go, but after a 15 mile trail run in the Columbia River Gorge, I'm happy to report no limping the next day. Fingers crossed!

I've had enough successful runs to really start planning my 2017 running adventures, and I can't wait to rebuild myself into a stronger & faster Jbob.

Photo by Paul Nelson.

EGO

Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Ah, the ego. I’ve never felt like my ego has been something that I’ve needed to defend, but it’s something that I’ve always personally challenged. My goal has never been to win a race, but instead to focus on being my fastest self. If someone runs a faster race than me, kudos to them. That said, I’ve lost a great deal of fitness over the last year, and many of my personal goals rely on me being in the greatest shape of my life. Ergo, to keep my ego from crying me a river, I’ve had to sincerely believe that I’ll come back stronger than I was before.

Matterhorn

CROSS TRAINING

Ice Skating with my niece
and my pops!
When one door closes, another door opens…even though I’m still trying REALLY hard to re-open that first door! But seriously, without the running door closing, I would not have so full heartedly explored other realms of exercise. Such activities include alpine touring (skiing), mountain biking, bouldering, ice skating, rowing (stationary), and running stairs in my office building. While none of these come close to replacing the joy I get from running, they satisfy my need for exercise, expand upon my skillset, KEEP ME SANE, and give me great alternatives for which to take someone on an adventurous date…minus the rowing and running stairs (unless that’s what she’s into).


As I've learned, there are other things in life aside from running that can bring out the “JASON!” inside, and this injury helped me discover things that at the very least make my tail wag.

Tamarack, Idaho


IN CONCLUSION

It’s been a battle to stay positive and motivated through a frustrating injury, but I’ve made the most of my time away from running. Will I get injured again? Yes. But it’s worth it to me to continue to find and push my limits. "Success" isn’t a linear path, and obstacles always get in the way, but that’s life. A life without challenges will prevent you from discovering your true potential. And we're capable of so much more than we know.

May your injuries, current or future, bring out the best in you.


Much Love,

Jbob

Monday, December 28, 2015

Circumnavigating Mont Blanc and Frölicking in the Swiss Alps

I'd go back to Chamonix in a heartbeat. Or a New York Minute. Or a Millisecond. Or like right now.

Harvey Lewis and Nick LaBoffe, Mont Blanc in the background.
This blog is broken up into the following chapters:

INTRODUCTION

TRAIL DU MONT BLANC
  • CHAPTER 1: Logistics, Cost, and Advice
  • CHAPTER 2: Gear
  • CHAPTER 3: Dicking around in Chamonix
  • CHAPTER 4: Day 1 - Chamonix to Hotel du Prarion (France)
  • CHAPTER 5: Day 2 - Hotel du Prarion to the Croix du Bonhomme (France)
  • CHAPTER 6: Day 3 - Croix du Bonhomme to Rifugio Bonnati (Italy)
  • CHAPTER 7: Day 4 - Rifugio Bonnati to Auberge des Glaciers (Switzerland)
  • CHAPTER 8: Day 5 - Auberge des Glaciers to Hotel de la Forclaz (Switzerland)
  • CHAPTER 9: Day 6 - Hotel de la Forclaz to Chamonix, France

SWITZERLAND
  • CHAPTER 10: Switzerland is f*cking expensive
  • CHAPTER 11: Zermatt
  • CHAPTER 12: Interlaken
  • CHAPTER 13: Grindelwald
  • CHAPTER 14: Geneva Airport
  • CHAPTER 15: What Next?


INTRODUCTION

FINALLY I've sat down to blog about my trip to Europe. As I write this, I immediately want to go back to Chamonix. That place is a freakin' playground. But if I go back, I'd like to be more proficient as a mountaineer and backcountry skier. Give me a few years, and let's plan a trip, you and me, winter or summer, doesn't matter.

Anyways, I tried to make this blog an easy read with lots of pictures (people have short attention spans these days, and things with too many words are way to hard to blah blah blah). But more importantly, I broke down some of the logistics so that you, yes YOU, can begin to plan your own circumnavigation of Mont Blanc. It's less daunting than you realize. All pricing and distances listed in this blog are in Euros and Kilometers.

Some would say that planning a casual multi-day trip around Mont Blanc is better than doing the 100 mile UTMB race. Since I've never done the race, I can't compare the two. However, I will say that we took many naps on random grassy patches. It was Lovely. You probably can't do that during the 100 mile race, or if you do, than you must really be feeling like shit to have to take a nap during the race.

I made GoBro videos of my adventures, and you may find them here:


Also, here's a link to all my photos: https://goo.gl/photos/hE6Pze6HQJMhrxsK6




TRAIL DU MONT BLANC

CHAPTER 1: Logistics, Cost, and Advice
  • Roundtrip plane tickets from Portland, OR: $1,700
    • We booked our flights 3 weeks prior to the trip
    • There's a direct flight from Portland to Amsterdam via Delta Airlines. From there, I flew to Geneva, Switzerland and was transported to Chamonix in a van.
    • When we arrived in the Geneva airport, my checked bag was lost and took ~12 hours to reach our hotel in Chamonix. When you travel to Europe, keep your essentials in your carry-on, especially when your vacation depends on things that you bring (running shoes, day pack, water bottles, go-pro, etc).
    • Make sure you have at least 2 hours of layover in Amsterdam. I had maybe an hour, and I barely had enough time to take a shit after getting through Dutch customs.
  • Hotel room in Chamonix: $150 to $200 per night
    • We booked out hotel room within a week of our arrival. I'd recommend booking farther in advance.
    • We stayed at the Hotel Gustavia. Great accommodations and great location. There's a very happening bar across the street that can get very loud, make sure you have a room on the opposite side of the opposite side of the building (west side). 
    • Most accommodations were booked up, probably due to the SkyRunning Championship happening later in the week. We got some of the last rooms available.
    • We left our big duffel bags with the hotel in their ski locker while we only took day packs to run around Mont Blanc.
  • Refugio pricing when circumnavigating Mont Blanc: ~$70 per night
    • Price includes a four course dinner, simple breakfast, bunk bed, shower (not towel), sheets (bring your own bed bivvy if you prefer to be sanitary).
    • The refugios don't allow you to wear your outdoor shoes/boots inside, but most of them have slippers/crocks you can borrow. Otherwise, you could just bring a clean pair of socks to wear around.
    • Each morning we would call ahead to the next refugio to reserve a bunk bed and food for that evening. Only once was a refugio full, but the next available refugio was only a few kilometers away.
    • There are approximately 50 places for accommodations along the Trail du Mont Blanc, including refugios, hotels, etc. (click here)
    • Some refugios have many outlets, some may only have 1.
    • Some refugios have wifi, others don't.
  • Coca-Cola: $3 to $5
    • It's worth it on a hot day.
    • Cost of food depends on how remote the refugio is. Some refugios have supplies delivered via helicopter, which means expensive cola.
  • Other Advice
    • The earliest that most of the refugios open is late June. For some of the refugios, we were their first customers of the year. Inquire locally (Tourist Center?) about which refugios are open with an updated list of phone numbers.
    • I found this guidebook helpful, and if you plan to do the circumnavigation without a guide, I HIGHLY recommend having this with you: Get this guide book
    • Tipping in restaurants isn't a thing in many parts of Europe, apparently. Be prepared to needlessly feel like a cheapskate.
    • If you pack hand soap, make sure it has a twist-on lid instead of just a pop-off lid. A good portion of my clothing got soap-soaked while circumnavigating Mont Blanc, and I smelled like lavender for the rest of my trip.
    • Pick a good smelling soap to take with you to Europe, because there's a chance that it could soak all your belongings and make you smell like soap for days.
    • The counter-clockwise is the preferred direction around Mont Blanc
    • European IPAs are not great (compared to Oregon IPAs). Stick to the Lägers and Pilsners.
    • I took my iphone and had it in airplane mode for the entire trip. I bounced from wifi to wifi to stay in touch with Nick and Harvey via Facebook messenger.

CHAPTER 2: Gear

Fitting most of this...
...into this.
Essentially, I only had 1 pair of clothes to run in, and one pair of clothes to wear in the refugios. I washed my running clothes nightly in the bathroom sink and let then hang dry overnight. Everything else I stuffed into a 12 Liter Salomon running pack. It's a stretchy pack, so it made packing very easy.
  • Here's a list of the things I packed/wore for a 6 day circumnavigation of Mont Blanc
    • 1 trail map (MOST IMPORTANT! Saved our ass a few times)
    • 2 technical shirts (one for running, one for the refugios)
    • 1 pair waterproof pants
    • 2 shorts (one for running, one for the refugios)
    • 1 lightweight waterproof jacket
    • 2 super lightweight jackets (houdini and ghost whisperer)
    • 2 pairs of gloves
    • 2 pairs of socks (drymax)
    • 1 running hat
    • 1 lightweight beanie
    • 1 buff (I'm not talking about my muscles here. But if we are, then I guess I brought 2 buffs)
    • 1 26oz water bottle
    • 2 17 oz water flasks
    • 1 water filter
    • 1 12 Liter Salomon pack
    • 1 passport
    • 1 outlet plug converter for charging my iPhone, Suunto watch, and GoBro batteries
    • 1 sawed-off broom stick (selfie stick)
    • 1 GoBro (and I can be your hero, baby!)
    • 6 GoBro batteries, plus a battery charger
    • 1 pair of Saucony Peregrine Shoes
    • 1 SPOT emergency beacon
    • 1 tiny knife
    • 2 trash bags (Everything was in some kind of plastic bag to protect against sweat and potential weather)
    • 1 bar of soap (for washing clothes, body, etc).
    • 1 toothbrush
    • 1 tiny toothpaste
    • 1 chapstick

CHAPTER 3: Dicking around in Chamonix

Nick and I arrived a day before Harvey did, and we enjoyed some sites, some food, and frequent naps. We took the gondola up to the Aguille du Midi, which takes you from Chamonix ( ~3,200') to the Aguille du Midi (~12,600' elevation). Ears were popped. Hundreds of mountaineers who planned to summit Mont Blanc took the same gondola, and so Nick and I were pretty much the only ones that didn't have pick axes. There are some cool views of the mountain range from the restaurant and observation area, and it's definitely worth doing if you're in Chamonix. Careful if you use the bathroom, it's a lot harder at 12,600' and you might get light headed.

After Harvey arrived, we ate a nice big pizza in downtown Chamonix then immediately hiked up the Vertical Kilometer (strava). We found goats! They were horny, but not as horny as expected.

Nick, enjoying his beer in front of Mont Blanc.
The view from the Aguille du Midi. Mountain climbers walking down the ridge.
View from Aguille du Midi.
Mont Blanc, taken from the Aguille du Midi
Chamonix Valley from the Aguille du Midi
Trail Butter made it through customs.
The Vertical Kilometer.
Running off that pizza dinner.

CHAPTER 4: Day 1 - Chamonix to Hotel du Prarion (France)

23k - 2,063 meters ascent (strava

A Swedish girl named Caroline helped prepare breakfast for us in our hotel. For the remainer of the circumnavigation, we sang the song "Swedish Caroline". Alas, she had a boyfriend. Probably named Hansel, or something.

As we left Chamonix, we headed towards the ridge to the north. Harvey had circumnavigated Mont Blanc the previous summer, so he was pretty much our our guide. We probably found the least traveled trail on the whole valley, but we took it because it went exactly where we wanted to go...up. Eventually we ended up at the Refuge de Bellachat (pretty kitty) where we met the Trail du Mont Blanc (from now on, I'll refer to it as the TMB). From there, we took the trail through Les Houches to eventually reach the Hotel du Prarion.

As we passed each hiker, we would greet each other with a friendly "Bonjour".  If we passed a group of 5 people or more, I would get that Beauty and the Beast  song stuck in my head every time.

Climbing up to meet the TMB.
Pretty Kitty!
Coke break at the pretty kitty.

Inquiring locally.
Four course dinner with Mont Blanc in the background.
Mont Blanc at sunset.
Les Houches and Chamonix Valley.

CHAPTER 5: Day 2 - Hotel du Prarion to the Croix du Bonhomme (France)

31k - 2,360 meters (strava)

We awoke to a brilliantly sunny morning, ate many croissants, and went on our merry way. There were encounters with runners, hikers, sheep, cows, and even a 4x4 Panda. Naps were had, wrong turns were made, and sunset was observed.

We originally planned to sleep the night at the Auberge de la Nova, but they were completely booked when we called ahead. So we decided to stay the night at the nearby Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. It was a very rustic, cold, and remote accommodation.

At some point we ran into a German man who was circumnavigating Mont Blanc on a mountain bike in 2 days. The trail was so technical in this area, he was carrying his bike more often then riding it. Looked fun.

Typical bunk bed situation.
The Hotel du Prarion, Mont Blanc, and the Chamonix Valley.
The cities of Les Houches and Chamonix, FRA.
One of the few switchback sections.
Coke break!
Napping with the 4x4 Panda.
The wrong trail, apparently.
Casual selfie.
Croix du Bonhomme, our rifugio for the night.
Trail Butter!


Panorama from the post-dinner excursion.
The trail back to the rifugio.

CHAPTER 6: Day 3 - Croix du Bonhomme to Rifugio Bonnati (Italy)

50k+ - 2,700+ meters (strava - watch died before we finished)

It was lightly snowing when we woke up, and there was dense fog surrounding the refugio. We layered in every piece of clothing we had, and ventured off for the longest trek of the trip. Within 20 minutes, we began shedding layers as we dropped in elevation, and the stormy weather gradually changed to mostly sunshine after we crossed into Italy.

This was my favourite section of the trail, and the Italian side is super breathtaking and majestic. Dinner was to be served at the Rifugio Bonnati at 7pm, but we ended up taking a critical wrong turn out of Courmayeur that added some miles and steep-ass mountain goat trails, causing us to arrive after 10pm. Luckily, the folks at the rifugio were expecting us (since we made reservations 2 days prior), and they cooked us the best tasting meal of the trip. We then were assigned a room with the sickest man on earth. None of us slept because of the sick noises he was making. Poor guy.

Some of the cow fences were hooked up to a car battery. Ask Nick how he found out.

Kind of stormy.
This section reminded me of the West Highland Way in Scotland.
The beginnings of a river.
Just beyond the Italian border.
Italy.
Italia.
Neat place!
Perspective.
Nick and Harvey.
Harvey and Nick.
Lunch #2 at the Rifugio Maison Vieille above Courmayeur.
Running through the streets of Courmayeur. This village is cute as hell, and I wish we could have stayed a night here.
This is the wrong trail out of Courmayeur, but it eventually met back up with the TMB, according to our map.

The TMB followed the ridge to the right, whereas we came up the left side of the valley.
Courmayeur can be seen at the bottom of the valley.
We found the TMB!
Sunset. So hungry at this point.
The best meal we ever had at the Rifugio Bonnati.

CHAPTER 7: Day 4 - Rifugio Bonnati to Auberge des Glaciers (Switzerland)

~12k - Watch dead, no strava

We were exhausted from the prior day because it was so long and we so slept terribly, so we opted for a short ~12k jaunt to La Fouly Switzerland. The day was perfectly clear, and we took our sweet time. At the Switzerland border, there was a group of hikers who greeted us with a "Buenos Dias" and I immediately reverted to speaking to them in my gringo high school Spanish. Even though everyone spoke English, one of the hardest parts of the trip was not knowing French, Italian, or whatever the hell the Swiss spoke. It was a joy to speak Spanish with the Spaniards, and it really made me want to travel somewhere Spanish-speaking (i.e. Patagonia). Harvey knew some Spanish as well, finely spoken with a Cincinnati accent.

We arrived in La Fouly in time for an afternoon nap and beers while recharging all of our electronics in the plethora of electrical outlets. At dinner, we conversed with a man named Jean-Pierre who I believe was 75 years old and circumnavigating Mont Blanc for the 15th time. He was a funny guy, and a pleasure to spend time with. He confirmed that the counter-clockwise direction is the best way to do it.

Rifugio Bonnati.
Looking back at the Italian side.




Crossing over into Switzerland.
Coke break at Aplage de la Peule. It smelled kinda funny here.
A race in the Pyrenees recommended by the Spaniards. 
Auberge des Glaciers in La Fouly, Switzerland.
Typical meal of meat, bread and cheese. It was so good.
Beers beneath the sunset.

CHAPTER 8: Day 5 - Auberge des Glaciers to Hotel de la Forclaz (Switzerland)

31k - 1,404 meters (strava)

The Swiss have the best playgrounds. We found one with a climbing wall, ropes course, and a swingy thingy. It was awesome.

Along our trek, we were joined by a man named Felipe who was training for the CCC (100k version of UTMB). We ended up sharing a lunchtime drink with him, followed by lunch and a nap in the grass.

At some point in this section, we went through a small swiss town. One particular property had a bajillion gnomes in their front yard. Gnome sweet gnome, I guess.

Harvey and I checking out the map.
Running with Felipe
Filling our bottles at one of many random fountains along the TMB.
Running through small towns and open meadows.
Nick running with the city of Martigny, SWI in the background. 
Hotel de la Forclaz, where we shared another fine meal with Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre on the far left and our awesome eccentric waiter who spoke a good part of 10 different languages.


CHAPTER 9: Day 6 - Hotel de la Forclaz to Chamonix, France

36.1k - 2,244 meters (strava)

After running through the town of Trient, SWI, we climbed up and up and eventually crossed into France at some point. It was beautiful to see the Chamonix valley again on a perfectly cloudless day.

Of course we ran into Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg (and other Salomon people). They were sitting, waiting for the leaders of the 80k to come through (we were on the course and apparently in the lead by 30 minutes). Nice folks.

Nick fell and cut his hand pretty badly (luckily, the Salomon folks didn't see the fall), and so he and Harvey went down to Chamonix while I split off and did more frölicking on the TMB. I eventually made my way to Lac Blanc, where someone recognized my Trailfactor shirt. Kyle and Sarah live a few miles from me and had just begun going to the Trailfactor group runs on Tuesday nights (which I've been attending for the past 4 years), but we met for the first time at the Lac Blanc restaurant. Small world. We now see each most Tuesday nights.

As I arrived in Chamonix, I went straight to the Skyrunning races expo and bought some reasonably priced sunglasses and looked for all the free food that I could find. When I returned to the hotel and retrieved my duffel bag from the ski locker, I discovered that my soap bottle had exploded all over my clean clothes. Harvey and Nick went to a sauna, but I stayed in the hotel room washing clothes. I had at least a week more of traveling to do in Switzerland, so I had to make sure my stuff was clean and dry by the morning.

I know that guy!
Salomon people.


So much fun.
Ladders!
Happy!
Mont Blanc in the background.
Meeting Kyle (far left) and Sarah (far right) and their family for the first time at Lac Blanc. Kyle and Sarah live a few miles from my house and had just started running at the same Tuesday night trail running group that I always run with. We now see each other almost weekly. Small world, indeed.
Lac Blanc.
Celebratory Dinner and Beers in Chamonix!





SWITZERLAND

CHAPTER 10: Switzerland is F*cking expensive

Switzerland is f*cking expensive.


CHAPTER 11: Zermatt

Day 1 - 5k - 539 meters (strava)
Day 2 - 20k - 1,254 meters (strava)

Zermatt is a small village at the base of the Matterhorn. It's pretty cute, but very small.

After arriving by train, I checked into the hostel and looked through my window to see the Matterhorn staring right back at me. It looked so picturesque. As the sun was setting after dinner, I ran off to the nearest trail and climbed until I was satisfied with the view. From there, I sat on a rock and just stared at the Matterhorn. It's such a weird looking mountain.

My second day in Zermatt, I trekked along a route that I had researched weeks before, and the hostel host confirmed that it provided great views of the mountain. When I began trekking, my legs were heavy! I had traversed over 120 miles and over 40,000' of climbing the week before while doing the Mont Blanc circumnavigation, so yeah, my legs were tired.

Aside from feeling tired, the trek on day 2 was magnificent. I also found some horny sheep bucking heads together, and I silently watched and wagered on the bigger sheep.

On my final day, as I walked to the train station I literally ran into a friend & Trail Butter teammate Maria Dalzot and her husband Tad Davis. Maria was beginning a training run for the Trail Marathon Championship she was running in Zermatt that upcoming weekend. It was super uplifting to see a friend in such a foreign place, and it really made my day.

A room with a view.
From Zermatt, all trails go up.
video

Zermatt
The Trift hotel, several kilometers away from the valley. It's quite the hike to get to it, but they expected their accommodations to be completely full that night. I believe this was one of the first days they had opened for the season.
Sheeeeeep.
Matterhorn.
Matterhorn!
Watching the sunset on the Matterhorn from my favourite spot.
Running into Maria! What a Lovely surprise!



CHAPTER 12: Interlaken - Hardergrat Trail

Day 1 - 30k - 2,625 meters - (strava)

When I arrived in Interlaken, I was originally planning on taking a rest day...but instead I immediately took a train to nearby Brienz to traverse the razor-sharp Hardergrat Trail. I've never traversed a trail so unique and mesmerizing, and it was absolutely my favorite trail of the trip.  I even ran a portion of the trail naked. Fun fact.

Far off in the distance, I could hear the faint ringing of cowbells that sounded like wind chimes. I even ran into a fox, and promptly inquired about what the fox says. It took me a long time to complete the point-to-point trek, and by the end I was sprinting towards town because I took HOURS longer than expected and was afraid the restaurants would close at 10pm. Luckily, they closed at 11pm, and Jason had a Lovely pizza dinner.

My 2nd day in interlaken was a complete rest day (my only rest day of the entire trip), spent sleeping in a lounge chair in the backyard of my hostel while my clothes were in the washer/drier. When I wasn't sleeping, I was watching the solar powered lawn mower quietly mow the lawn. I did go into town for a meal and a locally brewed IPA. Compared to Oregon IPAs, it was terrible.







Frölicking!






The moon rising over Interlachen and the Mönch.
video


CHAPTER 13: Grindelwald

Day 1 - Eiger Trail - 28k - 1,790 meters (strava 1, strava 2)
Day 2 - Pfingstegg Trail  - 21k - 1,227 meters (strava)
Day 3 - First Trail - 22.8k - 1,450 meters (strava)

Grindelwald is a small village at the base of the Eiger, the largest North Face in the entire alps. Spending 4 nights in one place was extremely refreshing, and it allowed me to get to know some of the other bunkmates while I was there. I LOVE meeting other people. My legs were pretty toast at this point, so my excursions were slow and filled with hiking and long food breaks.

The hostel was situated on a hill facing the Eiger, and the nights were clear enough to watch the moon rise over the Eiger every single night. The last night, my friend Stan and I shared some Bacardi Rum. Then one of the adorable hostel workers came over and insisted that we finish the bottle. We got very drunk under the moonlight while playing guitar and listening to her sing songs about Grindelwald. It was a perfect final night in Switzerland.

The Eiger from my room's balcony.
The Eiger Trail
The Eiger
Taking the train through the Eiger to the Jungfraujoch.
View from the Jungfraujoch station looking south.
Selfie in the snow! I had to escape the crowds at the station, I couldn't handle all the selfie sticks. Irony.
I found this place for lunch!
So good, but REALLY hard to run after eating this.
Heading back to Grindelwald at the end of the 1st day.
Lovely little lunch stop.
Lunch. Meat, cheese, and bread. Simple, but so freakin' good!
Glaciers.
Heading to First on day 3.
Bachalpsee Lake near First.
The moon over the Eiger. The light on the mountain is from the train tunnel.
My dutch friend Stan and his selfie stick. The Eiger is in the background.


CHAPTER 14: Geneva Airport

Switzerland is f*cking expensive (see chapter 10), so I spent the night in the airport before my flight the next day. The floors were tile, and there was no #GenevaCarpet to lie on. All airports should have ridiculous obsessions with carpet. *sigh*

Geneva

CHAPTER 15: What Next?

  • Patagonia or New Zealand in 2017.
  • John Muir Trail eventually.
  • (insert cool idea here)

If you have any questions about ANYTHING, let me know. This is a vague blog, but I hope you found it interesting/inspiring.

Thanks Harvey Lewis, Nick LaBoffe, and Run Quest Travel for making this trip happen!

Also, special thanks to Trail Butter, Evolution Healthcare & Fitness, the Float Shoppe, and Bioskin for helping prepare me for the trip.

<3

Jbob