The Sierre-Zinal, also called The Race of the Five 4000 m Peaks, might be called by some, one of the finest mountain races in the world. "It was once written that it is to mountain races what the New York Marathon is to marathons. It is the oldest mountain race in its category in Europe." With that said, I am a little bias, as I think the race in my own back yard is one of the most beautiful trail races, the Marathon or Cross du Mont Blanc. The Sierre Zinal could be compared to the NYC marathon, though I have never run it, as there are sure a lot of runners on the trail. The most challenging part for me on the course was trying to pass people on the technical narrow trail, and not being agro enough-yelling, pass or course or what ever you can say to get the guy to move over! Next time!
This course takes place in the heart of the Valais Alps of Switzerland, not too far from my home in Chamonix. This year, held on August 8th. It is 31km w/ 2200 meters of ascent and 800 m of descent. This year it was fun to see a bunch of ski mountaineering folks racing, and a change to see them out of their lycra full piece race suits in summer! Kilian Jornet, won the race for the 2nd year in a row despite getting a bad bee sting the day prior. It was fun to have my pal Lyndsay on course too cheering from her bike!
This was the 2nd time I did Sierre Zinal, the first being 2 years ago. I think after the first time I vowed never to do it again, but somehow forgot the pain and there I was running again this year, up that steep first hill with a crowd of people. As 007 says, Never say Never Again. This year I managed to shave off 30 minutes from my time 2 years ago, finishing under my goal of 4 hours in 3:50, despite the severe calf cramp that arrived with 1 km to go to the finish. I Finished overall men and women 224th out of 989 finishers and 18th overall out of 224 for women .
We did not make it to Maine this summer to taste real Maine blueberries, but still managed to pick some wild blueberries at Col des Possettes in Le Tour. The boys came home with enough for blueberry muffins and some left over for cereal in the morning! The picking is not over yet!
Bonjour, Ciao, Salut...are just some of the greetings you will hear on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Rather than completing it in the typical 10-12 day fashion, our recent Running Tour du Mt Blanc was 6 days. What a great way to travel through through 3 countries, France, Italy and Switzerland, trace the route of the famous Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and work on some endurance trail running at the same time! Surely tasting good food and drink came with the territory too!. More tales from these trails coming soon!
Here are some photos from our adventure around Mt Blanc.
A few photos from the: Grand Trail Valdigne in Aosta valley on Saturday July 10th, not too far from my home in Chamonix. I have always wanted to do this race, but normally am not around in July. It is always fun to race in Italy. You are assured a great cappuccino- great pasta and of course limoncello. This was about one of the most memorable trail races I have done and by far my best result yet. The total distance was 41km and 3100 m of climbing (elevation gain). It was super technical, and varied terrain, all of which I love. Needless to say I expected to be out there for around 7 hrs and rolled in about 7:15 placing 2nd overall for the women and 14th overall for men and women with the men's finishing time just an hour before.
The race started at 10am, not sure why so late, maybe the Italians like to have their late espresso. It was hot already, pushing 85 degrees (25c) and climbing. Humid too.
We started in the village of Morgex with the runners for the big race (87km). The first climb was a monster. 2000 meters and climbed up to snow!
The course then rolled a bit and then climbed up another technical steep couloir- quite impressive and reminded me of boot packs in ski mountaineering. I thought we were done climbing but my altimeter said, no- there's more and there sure was, some more rolling up and down, followed by another big one that followed a beautiful high crest, again very similar to some of the technical ridges in ski alpinisme. Super fun to scramble over rocks on the arrete looking down to the valley below.
After that, it was a good 10km of downhill and this is where the fun began. I was testing a pair of Hoka Mafate's and really flew. I managed to pass the women in I could see the dark thundercloud approaching and it did not hit til I was down in the forests of the larch trees. The terrain on the Italian side of Mt Blanc is much drier, with beautiful pine and larch forests.
The rain hit hard and it was refreshing in the 90 degree heat. Rain, thunder, lightening and even hail stones! There were times when I was running through ankle and calf deep rushing rivers. It was not until the rain started that my fucsia pink mini shuffle died. Sigh... I had about 1 hr left of running, but Lady Gaga and a few others did a great job of keeping me going for the 6 hours prior! Grazie for the tunes! Love to run with them. And Bravo to my friends of the CMBM club who did a great race, both the small and big.
If you are thinking of racing in Italy, don't hesitate! You will love it!
Below a slide show from the race:
More tales from the trails to coming soon! Next stop Hiking in the Berner Oberland!
The Silitch Family lives Chamonix Mont Blanc _France. Michael is a UIAGM mountain & ski guide. Nina races ski mountaineering at the World Cup level and is passionate about the mountains. Together they are raising their two young boys in the heart of the Alps. Their family strives to live an active, healthy lifestyle and in doing so, they hope to inspire others along the way.