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 Cross and Marathon du Mont Blanc weekend, is always a big one in Chamonix. This year, the weekend of June 26/27th, the Cross brought over 1300 runners and the marathon over 2300 runners! The weekend was superbly organized by the Chamonix Club des Sports and all their volunteers including my local running club CMBM. Hard to believe that so many folks want to put themselves through such a challenge! Having said that, I signed up for the challenge of Cross this year, the shorter of the 2 races with 23km and 1454 meters of elevation gain.
The start of the Cross
While running, I took a moment to look around, which I don't always do while racing, and hands down, it has to be one of the most beautiful running courses out there with the back drop of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Aiguilles. Stunningly beautiful really!
Taking a minute to look around
It was great to see my CMBM friends at the Flegere aid station. I grabbed a coke and headed onto Brevent with a little left in my legs to the finish. With not too many expectations, other than a goal to finish under 3 hrs, I managed to come in at 2:45 which put me in 11th overall for the women out of 379 women total.
The finish of the Cross and Marathon at Planpraz
I was not the only one in the family racing. While my start gun went off at 8:30 am, my two boys were getting ready for their race- The Mini Cross which went off at 10:30. Anders was keen to run as his pal Ethan. And Birken had some pals from school running as well. They did great, finishing their 800 meters around the parapente field and into the woods and proudly wore their finishing metals.
Anders and Ethan at the Finish
It was hot, real hot and it only got hotter the next day for the marathon runners. I was a volunteer at the Vallorcine aid station. It was great to be on the other side, seeing how much really does go into an aid station: We were there hours early cutting up fruit, salami, granola bars and lugging water and coke bottles. It is quite a rush when the runners come through and impressive to see all the types, young and old, tall and short passing through at all times.
The timing was done by Live Trail which also does the timing for the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc races, Trail Verbier-St Bernard and also Trail des Aiguilles Rouges. It is an impressive service as you can follow any runner on the web and see where they are and what check point they have gone through.
The Chamonix Judo club spent their end of year outing to Happyland in Switzerland, just past Sion in Switzerland tucked against the wine vineyards in the heart of Valais. My youngest son, Anders said, "Mommy, is Happyland is a place where you get happy?" Surely it did make them happy! It was like pulling teeth getting both boys to leave.
Upon return traffic was blocked by some police and we curiously pulled off the road to find it was stage 2 of the Tour deSuisse. Cool...we got to see the cyclists pass by 2x going up and down a hill. It was exciting, and even more exciting was that Lance Armstrong was riding among the group. Here are some photos from the race.
Michael road all the way from Chamonix and to Saint Leonard- Granges - 84Km and was able to catch the riders coming through. Here he is about to sign on to Team Radio Shack.
June 12, 2010.... A race apart from any other race. You have all heard of biathlons and triathlons, this was a septathlon: It consisted of a multitude of events. Normally this race, held at the famous Swiss Ski Resort, Crans Montana in the canton of Valais, is done as a team. 2010 was the first year the Terrific had an IRON division. Somehow I decided to take on this challenge, along with 4 other women and 35 men. There were over 150 teams in the relay division.
Here were the multitude of sports involved and the order for the IRON division:
1. Swimming: 600 meters in a high alpine lake of 14-16 degrees (wetsuit required!) Believe me, you want that baby and make it a full one! I am no expert swimmer, learned to dog paddle when I was younger and can make my way across a pool. My few sessions with theChamonix Adult Swim group have improved my stroke but I am no Dara Torres that is forsure.
2. Mt Biking #1: 7.5 km 750 m climbing on a 10% grade!- Pretty new to this one....still have my Gary Fisher Paragon from 10 years ago- front suspension- but happy to go up!
3. Trail Running #1: 4.5km, -300 m descent and +240 climbing- Love this but managed to get lost on this one and was wandering around for about what felt like 5min
4. Ski Mountaineering: 4.5km, 650m climbing, -90 descent- don't need to say any more here! Love this one!
5. Cross Country Skiing on Glacier at 2700m: 4.8km, -110, +50- Love this!- super fun up high -interesting snow -can we say like mush....had to carry the skis the last little bit. My wax was super fast!! Thank you M! Double poled past many other racers!
6. Ski Mountaineering: Return +90, -650- Don't need to say much here!
7. Trail Running #2, 2.2 km, +140, -127m- Pretty technical rocky and scrambling-Fun!
8. Mt Bike #2 (down) 5.2km, -710m VERY TECHNICAL!- Was pretty much in tears on this...walked 1/2 way down. Did not crash!
9. Road Bike: 19.5km, +560 meters Got on my road by 2 times this season and 1 the year before, again no expert here but I did not crash!
10. Trail/Cross Country Run: 7km +120/-120- Fun run even though at the end, through woods and fields up and down
A few tidbits from the terrific....A gear intensive event! Had to make sure all your ducks were in a row for this one! And needed a trailer to get it all there! There was a lot of calculating on how many gels were needed throughout the race, and which sac to put them in!
Terrific Athletes happy to be done!
Severine and Nina on the Podium. The women's race was tied by the Morretti sisters, some very strong Swiss women in their late 40's (impressive), and then Severine Pont Combe 3rd- member of Swiss Ski Mountaineering Team, followed by Sabine Hammer a strong runner and ski mountaineer of Switzerland and then me! I was happy to finish, not sink in the swim or crash on my bike! Bravo to Yann, our ski mountaineering coach from Chamonix, who took 2nd for the men and to all the others who finished this crazy terrific endurance challenge!
A terrific event, well organized with a great ambiance! See you next year!
Ok, I know how to swim, did a few swim lessons when I was younger, I even did a few triathlons back in the day in college. I think one of them was even .75 miles long. I can't quite believe how I survived that one, but I did. Somehow I convinced myself to sign up for this event in Switzerland called the IronTerrific next weekend. This race starts with a 600 m swim in a high alpine lake with water temps of 14-16 degrees Celsius (58-60 f) . I had to do the conversion too! Yes, just the thought of that part would scare most people away! It sure scares me!
I managed to borrow a full body wet suit, and spent a day at the lake and got some tips from Lynds who is a real pro at swimming. My goal is to just finish that leg and not sink!! And have the energy for the next 6 legs which compose of:
Mt Biking, Mountain running, ski mountaineering, cross country skiing and back down the mt in the way you got up to your road bike and then finishing with a road run.
Lac Passy... A great place to spend a sunny Sunday in the Alps!
Monday, I decided I should probably get on my road bike even if it is just 20km that we will be biking in the race and it has been about a year it has been sitting on the wind trainer at home so...allez off we went on a
Lynds, Nina and Colleen and top of Col des Montets
Lynds (definitely a rider/ triathlete with tons of ex and already has about 1000km under her belt I think! And Colleen- ex pro team rider and me...I think I have about 15 road rides in me in my life. We set out and had a ball. Road a couple cols over to Switzerland and back. Fortunately the flats were on the way back and yes the girls did a great job changing the flat. I just took notes!
Monday morning at 2am we gathered at the parking of the tunnel du mt blanc for an Ascent of Mt Blanc in a day. Here is a little video of what it was like- a beautiful day!
VIDEOS: Here are a few videos that I took while climbing Mt Blanc where you can get a sense of the beautiful day we had and what the route was like. You can click on the Picassa Photo link below to take you to them. (pardon mon francais!)
We managed to escape the rain in Chamonix and head over to Valais, Switzerland for the boys and my first mt bike race in the vinyards of Saillon. Here is a little video about the adventure- subtitled- Learning to Fall- as I took at good fall on the last corner of the course- very flat, not technical at all- Michael said, just don't fall, but I did. Funnily enough I ended up in the ER in Martigny later that evening with 3 stitches in my calf. (I had it on YouTube but they pulled it for the music)
Click on the picassa photo below to see the video with music.
How do you measure success? It is a question we all ask ourselves at the end of something we have worked long and hard on. One year ago if you asked me if I was going to race at the World Cup level this year I would have probably said no. But somewhere inside of me I found the motivation and desire to reach for the stars this season and I did.
What I mean by going for it, is to take my ski mountaineering to a new level. To take my training more seriously and my goals for the season. I had two main goals: to compete in the World Cup circuit in Europe- to do almost if not all the races in the series and to also compete in the World Championships in Andorra. I realized both of these goals. I finished 7th overall in the women's world cup category, 5 individual and 2 team races. I completed in 22 races total.
That is probably more than I have ever done in my life. You may be thinking, wow that is a lot, crazy! It is a lot. How did she manage to do that and have a family and train etc?
I am an artist at heart....
For me it is not the final result that is the most important but the process in getting there. In a nutshell, that is how I approach my ski mountaineering racing. Sure, to get good results in nice, and to create a beautiful piece of art is satisfying, but to me it about the process.
]pen and ink-by Nina
How do you get there? How do you balance everything in your life? Training, racing? Family? Staying on track, calm and disciplined. Lots of yoga.. a little Yoga for balance
There are days that are easier than others that is for sure. Some days you don't want to get up early and take the kids to school or go out and train in a blizzard, or cook dinner for that matter. Stay positive and upbeat even in tough moments. All these emotions can arise. I can relate this to our recent PDG team race. ] Lynds, Nina and Mona- finishing the PDG
We were a team, working together. Everyone had moments when they felt at their worst and they felt their best. As a team, we got to the finish, but again it was about the process of getting their together and remembering the power of the mind. Mental toughness....
Working together as a team
For me, I could not have had such a successful season without my "team" surrounding me: my loved ones, my family, my friends, my sponsors and other supporters that have really enabled me to make this dream possible. I am sending a huge "thank you" to all of you out there who have been part of my team! Thank you for helping me reach for the stars!
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.