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Kymin Dash

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It's April, which means the clocks have gone forwards, my skiing kit has been packed away until next winter (boo), and I can slowly drag myself out of semi-hibernation.

This year I've set myself the challenge of getting the Strava 10k run badge each month. So far so good - four down, eight to go! April's was also my first race of the year - the Kymin Dash.

Having grown up in Monmouth, I know the Kymin pretty well.  We used to walk up it quite often with Scouts, including in the dark, and I still look out for the white tower if I'm driving back from Wales along the A40.
That said, it's about 4 years since I last walked up there, and I remember the footpath (Wysis Way/Offa's Dyke) being rather steep and leaving me out of breath.  So running up it?  Yeah, that'll be a great idea...

kymin dash start line.
waiting to start

So many people in running club kit! I did feel a bit out of place as a non-club runner, and I think this is probably also why I had a recycled Gloucester marathon number/chip instead of the ankle tags that most others had.

I started near the back as I knew I wasn't going to be sprinting the 2km of uphill!  Instead I did a mixture of slow jog and power walk, which seemed to be a popular technique.  The road isn't as steep as the footpath, so it wasn't actually as bad as I was expecting. Along the way they'd put out plenty of motivational signs - "it's only a hill" etc, and I was very pleased to reach the top and the first water station - complete with jelly babies!!  I ran carrying my soft flask because that's easier to deal with than paper cups.

Once the hill was out of the way I was able to speed up a bit and, as the paths widened and the crowd thinned out, even did some overtaking.  I did have to stop and wait at the road crossing, which lost me about 3 minutes but isn't exactly the end of the world.

When we entered Highmeadow Woods we were greeted with a lovely muddy bog, which gave me flashbacks to doing Forest Warriors a few years back. *shudder*.  There was also a downhill section that was reasonable muddy and narrow, but apart from those bits (and the walk to the start line!) the course was all tarmac and hard forest roads.  I'm still pleased I didn't wear my shiny new shoes though, haha

me running.  photo from facebook.
A rare photo where I am actually sort of smiling - and overtaking the lady on the left!  Photo by Rod, from facebook.

There weren't medals (unless you actually won, of course) but I do now have a lovely purple technical tshirt.  We were also handed a Wild Trail bar at the finish line, but that's long gone... continue reading »

Les Gets

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The holiday started well because for the first time in a while I actually managed to get the window seat - usually Jon whinges about leg room and makes me swap. I amused myself for a while admiring a glory, then took a lot of photos during our descent into Geneva, because, well, just look at it:

flying above the clouds coming into Geneva
clouds and snow and mountains, mmm

We arrived at our chalet in Les Gets and were immediately ushered to the table and handed tartiflette.  Delicious and well timed!

This holiday also marks my first time skiing somewhere other than France - on the Tuesday we skiied to Morzine, then slogged our way over to Avoriaz via a busy slow green run and lifts with a massive queues, and eventually made it to Les Crosets in Switzerland.  Worth it just for the short black run we found that wasn't full of moguls (and also didn't seem to be on the piste map?)

For five out of six days, we had sunshine.  However, Thursday was a whole different kettle of fish.  It had snowed heavily the night before (after the pistes got bashed), and kept snowing until about 3pm so there was loads of powder everywhere.  I spent the morning feeling like my legs were on fire, and doing the occasional ultra slow motion face-plant into heaps of snow.  Once I'd got used to the powder though, it was all good - and quiet!  Turns out only three of us (out of 10) had left the chalet that day.

powder on the piste
first run of the day - powder on the Belle Mouille piste

Along with others from the chalet, we tended to head to Mont Chery in the mornings, as that's where the sun was. This side of the valley is much quieter, and more of a 'locals' area.  The lifts are old and slow - one chair was shut all week (had to use a drag lift instead, eww) and we spent 25 minutes sat on an uncomfortable 2-seater that had broken down.  But the runs are lovely, particularly Lievre.  The red back down to the town features two road crossings which I could have done without.  And I don't mean 'this is actually a road in summer' - I mean actual road currently being used by vehicles.  "You go first, you're on hired skis".  Thanks...

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Christmas in the Three Valleys

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I am really not a christmas person. Partly due to the whole atheism thing, but mostly because there's too much hype and expectation and it stresses me out. Bah humbug etc. This time, I avoided it all completely by spending the week playing in the snow in Courchevel.

xmas day ski slopes

(Though actually I think that photo was taken somewhere in between VT and Meribel)

The Three Valleys is big - the biggest linked ski resort in the world, with around 600km of piste. That's a lot, and far too much for me to cover in six days.  We got area passes but mostly stayed in the Courchevel valley - went all the way to Val Thorens on one day, and to Meribel on two other days.  My favourite area for skiing was above Courchevel 1650 - some really lovely and relatively quiet red runs.  I also liked the tree lined runs down to La Tania.

The lifts are very sensibly laid out, but I can't say the same for piste signposts! I quite like having signposts/piste name signs at junctions, not slightly afterwards when you've already had to make a decision.

sculptures
animal sculptures at the top of the Biollay lift

We had plenty of fresh snow during the week, which was lovely if rather cold and cloudy. However they seem to like piste bashing everything to within an inch of its life - very hard (and fast) pistes, even the day after snow.

Courchevel 1850 - the 'main' bit - is also rather posh and expensive - designer shops (with bouncers) next to the lifts, and ski instructors sponsored by luxury yacht insurance companies.  Definitely somewhere to check prices before ordering a beer! (€12 for half a litre? no thank you)

snowy chairlift

We stayed at Chalet Barragiste in Courchevel 1550, which was a fantastic location - you could ski down to the lifts, and ski back at the end of the day as long as you didn't mind going along the luge track!  The hot tub was also very good, with views of the mountain and of people crashing their sledges.