From the village of Champfar, up up up the slope beyond the valley, I decided to see if I could run "up to over there"
Right now part of me wishes I was still out there running. Tomorrow, most of me is going to be sore for the rest of my life. That was an ambitious run. I can be a bit ambitious. Zealous. Silly also comes to mind.
I arrived in St. Moritz yesterday afternoon after a spectacular train ride.
"Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through two passes. Opened in 1904, the Albula line in the north western part of the property is 67 km long. It features an impressive set of structures including 42 tunnels and covered galleries and 144 viaducts and bridges. The 61 km Bernina pass line features 13 tunnels and galleries and 52 viaducts and bridges. The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass."
The train ride is considered a world heritage site according to UNESCO. I can attest to the fact that it is a stunning ride where the train creeks and lunches it way up the mountain, through small villages, over looking valleys, canyons, and all manner of what almost appears to be make believe. I was glued to the window, as were all the passengers through out the car, as if we were watching "Our Planet" on BBC as we climbed up into the clouds, at one point entering a spiral tunnel which wound it way through sheer rock before emerging on a treed slope high above the villages below with their churches ordained on a hill casting their bell towers shadow across their little domains.
When i arrived in St. Moritz none other then triathlons most successful coach was there to pick me up, Brett Sutton has coached more Ironman Champions, World Champions and Olympic Champions then the rest of the coaches combined, if that's possible. He's an eccentric character and we've known each other for 20+ years. I was flattered when he recalled watching me put almost 5mins biking into the field at the national long distance championships in Australia in 1995 before losing 15mins on the run, "you rode well, and walked poorly" he laughed. We sat in the car and later at dinner reminiscing about the days of old and sorting out all the present day issues as we see them, it was enlightening to say the least, the man is a wealth of knowledge having coached his first national champion in swimming when he was 15, now some 45 years later he's still at it. Brett marches to the beat of his own drum, I look forward to spending tomorrow morning with him at his squad practice, listening and learning as I seek to understand where mastery comes from, the essential ingredients, as Brett see's them.
I thought about attending his talk on cycling today but my desire to get out and explore trumped sitting and listening, the scenery here draws you in, it calls to you and beacons you ascent its slopes in search of a spot to sit and take in the view. You earn your vert though, it's steep and the air is thin but there's nothing quite like the Swiss Alpine, there will never be a time in my life where if i am asked if I would like to spend the day up in the meadows of the Swiss Alpine I wouldn't leap at the opportunity. Mind you, after today's impromptu two hr jaunt, i may never be able to run again, as tomorrow I suspect I will feel the complete wrath of consequence from today's decent back down to the valley below.
It was the best kind of adventure, point and shoot, ready fire aim. I simply ran out the door, looked up the slope, and thought, I want to see what's up there. I pointed myself in the general direction of what I assumed would be the trail and began to ascend the lower slopes, which quickly turned into a gruelling grind weaving its way up to an alpine hut perched on the edge of a cliff over looking the valley below. In classic Swiss style there was a beautiful chalet with it's own little pond out the back, complete with old school paddle boards; which was tempting but I wanted to touch the shale. I rested up for a few minutes, thought about descending back down and of course, as it is with us twits who simply love seeing what's beyond the next ledge, up past the visible horizon, I ran out the back and began to ascend the next series of switchbacks. As the trees began to thin out and boulders appeared so did the view, an astounding panorama of the st.moritz valley stretching as far as the eye could see with a series of interconnected lakes having procured the majority of the valley below, small villages as defiant outposts and mankinds engineering providing access along highways scribbled into the hillside and along the far shore. Humanity appearing as small ants adorned the landscape, we appear so irrelevant when viewed from a different perspective, as if we could just be swept away if nature, Mother Earth, simply shifted slightly and redirected a rush of water, or rumbled the ground beneath us. Having run all the way to the shale at the base of the steeper slopes with their formidable peaks looming high above I found a place to sit by a stream with the full grandeur of the panoramic view spread out in front of me and the quite of the Swiss alpine distilling my thoughts down to a light hum, clear and concise, I listened to my breath and sat still looking out into the distant beyond. At first I thought about life, family, relationships, love, and then nothing, I just sat and listened, and thought about nothing.
Eventually I decided it was time to run home, and this became an opportunity to play, like a mountain goat, bounding from rock to rock, arms in unison with the pitter patter of my feet. To an observer I would have looked both agile and chaotic, dexterous and out of control as I flew down the mountain chasing imaginary figures. I imagined Adam Campbell floating down the hillside as if we were playing a live video game with Jasper Blake and Kelly Guest in a fleet footed skirmish far ahead. I found myself on the decent visualizing just how punishing ultra trail races must be, how easy it would be to get carried away early, and pay pay pay the piper later on, early mistakes would reduce you to a quivering glucose depleted version of the walking dead. When i got to the lower slopes and was able to stretch out my stride i felt the familiar flow i experienced so often when I used to run every day, the power in my stride, the grace inherit in my tempo, I was racing Alistair again, stride for stride, willing him to break me lest we finish in a sprint and I unleash the only weapon I had that that he didn't.. and then the wheels fell off, and reality set in, and the slog home really began. I was reduced to a shuffle, walk, stumble, regroup, stride it out, slow down, shuffle again and walk. Unchoreographed and well earned, I felt both exhausted and exhilarated, utterly depleted and at the same time, whole and alive. One foot in front of the other, making my way back home. This too felt all to familiar. The days I spent just trying to make it home to food, imagining myself destroying the fridge door if, even for a moment, it resisted me.
and when I got home I stood outside the door staring up at the slope on the other side of the valley and wondered if I could make it up to the huts resting just beneath the snow capped peaks. My explorers mind knows no bounds, although my calves do, so i may have to leave that for another day. Or later today, depending.. .