Running in the alps

Published by Ronald on Tuesday, 12 Apr 2011 12:00 EDT

Pretty picture of riederalpI have an absurd fascination and maybe even a small obsession with mountains. I think it’s due to the fact there are no mountains in Holland at all (I’m not counting that one hill Limburg that some call a mountain).

Every year I go to the Alps either in France or Switzerland. Not for running but for skiing. This year I went two weeks in a row and decided to bring my running gear. Just in case I wanted to run for one or two days.

My first week was in Verbier and had lots of fun there but I didn’t do any running. My second week was in a place called Riederalp. From what I’ve seen it was a very popular spot for walkers and I even saw some runners there. The skiing area was amazing there but a bit too small for one week. Within one day I had seen the whole skiing area. When the week progressed the snow got worse and worse because we had sun all day and the temperature was around 14C during the day. It barely froze at night.

They maintained it properly though we could ski all week and even managed to maintain a small layer of snow on the roads. It’s a car-free village so we could only walk everywhere or take a snow taxi.

So I decided to skip one day of skiing and put on my running gear. All my running gear has been bought for the reasonably comfortable weather of the Netherlands. Not for the slushy snow in the Alps.

road, this is on a golf course I thinkroad to bettmeralpMy shoes in the snow

But the sun was shining and the temperatures were nice. It almost seemed like summer except with lots and lots of snow. After my first few steps my feet were completely wet. The snow was slushy and at some parts I seemed to drop around 10 centimeter into the snow. I kept going though. I started to notice on what parts I could run and what parts I couldn’t. My goal was simple. I wanted to run 30 minutes in the direction of Bettmeralp (the village next to it) and back again.

Now that may sound impressive now but when I show the map you will see that its only about 3 kilometers to bettmeralp. But when taken into consideration that I have zero experience on running up or down hill, that I have been skiing for two weeks before I started this run and my shoes seemed completely wrong for the terrain. Then I have to say… that it was still slow.

The route from riederalp to bettmeralp

However it opened my eyes to other ways of training that I previously ignored. Training on hills just never crossed my mind since there just are no hills in my immediate area. I know Derek runs up and down hill every other day. It was just completely new and unknown to me. My calves were hurting and the snow made it pretty hard too.

To illustrate how flat the place is where I live I show you Flevoland from the sky. This is newly made land and has no hills or anything similar. The closest thing to a hill we got here are some levees. Everything is manmade. Even the forests are artificial and maintained. The wildlife near me consists of cute little bunnies and stray cats and perhaps a fox and deer every now and then.

Air foto of flevoland

I’ve been trying to find a proper hill training near here but the best bit I found is a path next to a dyke (levee!). I know a local trainer here uses the parking garage as a hill training which I might do eventually but I prefer to run outside surrounded by at least some sign of nature. My current solution is a bridge that goes up and down for quite a while. It’s not very steep though but it will have to do for now until I find some new routes.


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