Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

In December 2011, I came up with a challenge – ‘The Zermatt 5 peak challenge

The idea was simple.  Run up all five of the ski mountains in Zermatt in a single day.  This is not an organised event.  Just one crazy guys idea of an awesome day pushing as hard as you can until you reach your limits.

I first attempted this back in the Christmas of 2011.  At the time I don’t think I really thought I would ever complete the challenge.  I just wanted to see how far I would get….  That day, I made it to the top of the 4th peak before my legs gave in.  The 5th peak was the big one, Klein Matterhorn.  At 3885m, there was no way I was even going to get close.  Still, it was a great day out and I remember being chuffed to bits to have made it that far.

Move things forward a few years, to Christmas 2014.  I made a more ‘serious’ attempt at ‘The Zermatt 5 peak challenge’.

It was the perfect day.  Sunny skies, -10 to -15 DegC and not a drop of wind on the mountain.  This time, I attempted the route back to front.  Ascending the biggest peak, Klein Matterhorn (3885m) first.  I took loads of pictures and ‘checked in’ on FB at the top of every peak.

After a uphill running time of 7hr 08mins, I was 532m away from making it to the top of the final peak.  The sun was setting on the mountain and I had 25mins before the lifts shut for the day.  The very fastest time I have ever run this section on fresh legs was 30mins.  There was simply not enough time left to make it to the top.  I have got to honest.  A very big part of me was quite… OK, very happy to sit down and finish the day with a coke in the sun.  It had been a awesome day & I knew I had it in me to make it up those last 532m.  It was just not meant to be that day.

A few months on, in mid April, I found myself back in the ‘Big Z’ with my bro and a couple of mates for a boys ski weekend.  I had no intention to even run up the a single mountain that weekend.  But had packed my running kit, just incase…..

On the first ski run of the first day I managed to pull something in my back.  Same old story.  TOO excited, and I had gone too fast, too hard, too soon 😦

The next day, skiing was really quite painful.  BUT… as it turned out, it seemed OK to run 🙂

So what do you do if you are Chris, on a ski weekend in Zermatt, but can not ski???

Another ATTEMPT on ‘THE ZERMATT 5 PEAK CHALLENGE’ of course.

This time round was a very different running experience.   The last two attempts had both been at Christmas with temperatures around  -10 to -15 DegC.

Running in April is a completely different ball game.  It was a toasty 1 to 2 DegC when I set off.  I did question my decision to run in shorts and T-shirt, but as it turns out I think I made the right call.

Again, it was another perfect day.  Blue skies and not a drop of wind.  The snow was firm and crisp.  Great for running on and I quickly made up to the top of the first peak, back down and onto the climb to the second peak, The Klein Matterhorn.  This is were I made a really stupid mistake.  I was feeling great, really great and I started to push.  Not hard at first, but the closer I got to the the top, the harder I pushed.  This would have been absolutely fine if this was the end of my run.  But I was not even at the half way point yet.  Stupid, I know.

I then followed this up by another stupid mistake.  On the long descent back down, I ate far too much food.  By the time I had started the ascent of the third peak I could feel my stomach starting to shut down.  I knew from previous stomach shutting down experiences that I needed to stop eating and allow my stomach to recover.  Not ideal if you are trying to run up your third mountain of the day.

I had been running uphill for over 4hrs at that point and this was when things started to get tough.  Really tough.  There were a lot of hands on knees moments, when stopping seemed a certainty.  I kept telling myself over and over again,  “Just make it to the top of this peak, then you’re done”.

So I made it to the top of the third peak after what seemed like a VERY long time.  The crisp snow had turned to heavy slush and I have to say I felt like I was melting along with the snow.  I guess I could have stopped.  The thing was, it had only just turned midday.  I figured I might as well keep moving and enjoy the view on the go.  I honestly did not think I would make it much further.

There was quite a bit of walking involved in the ascent of that forth peak, but I could slowly feel my stomach coming back online 🙂  Suddenly I was back in the game.  Well sort off.  I had one more peak to go and over 2hr 30mins to make it to the top before the lifts closed for the day.  This may sound like plenty of time, and it is, ON FRESH LEGS.  But after 6hrs of running up inclines ranging from 10-20% I honestly had no idea how long it would take.  To make things just that little bit harder, the snow was now one seriously heavy going slush pit, making it very difficult to make headway, especially on the steep incline sections.

As back up, my bro had left my skis and boots at the top.  Worst case I could ski back down if I missed the cut off.

So….. I started the final ascent.

Now this final section of mountain is one serious heat trap.  It is south facing and I could feel the rays reflecting of the snow and burning through me.  I was quite worried about this, but there was little I could do about it.  (As it turned out I had every right to be worried.  I actually managed to burn the inside of my bottom lip!  This resulted in some seriously painful blisters all the way along the INSIDE of my bottom lip!!!  Note to anyone running up snow capped mountains in the spring.  Keep your mouth SHUT!!)

Quite randomly (I think I had just fallen over or something), I tried picking up the slush and clenching it tightly in hands.  This actually worked amazingly well and made me realise quite how much I was overheating.  I managed to pick the pace up quite a bit and quickly found myself on the final 532m stretch where I had abandoned the challenge last time.

Crossing this point was huge.  It was then, in that moment, I KNEW…… I had this.

Those last 532m was like an extended finishing cute.  I was on a massive high.  I could hardly feel my body, it was numb with excitement. I found myself wanting to shout at the top of my voice, smash my fists on my chest, jump up a down… I don’t know what.  It sounds stupid I know, but this was huge to me.

Over four years ago I had come up with what I thought to be an almost impossible challenge.  AND at the time, for me it was.  It is amazing how time and a little hard work can change the goal posts.

The final magic numbers where

5 peaks – 4700m ascent

Uphill Running time – 7hrs 30mins

I made it to the top at exactly the same time Nick (my bro), Jonny and Alex came to the top on the chair lift.  It was very cool to be greeted by those boys.  Perfect way to finish it all off.

So……..

What is next??  Loads of ideas!!    BUT…… for now ‘THAT’LL DO’.

 

Advertisements

4 & 3/4 Peaks out of 5

Posted: January 2, 2012 in Running, Training
Chris Goodfellow's Zermatt 5 peak Challenge
The ‘Zermatt five peak challenge’ – In the aftermath of Kona, recovering from the race and shingles my mind started to look forward.  What was next?  The answer my brain came up with was the ‘Zermatt five peak challenge’.  This entailed running up to the top of every ski mountain in Zermatt.  It is not a formal event, just one crazy mans idea of a great day 🙂
I guess I will start with the broken nights sleep leading up to the run.  I found my self waking up every 30 mins looking out of the window checking the weather was still looking good.  I could not sleep much and time seemed to slow down, with the night going on forever, kind of like the night before a big race.  When the alarm did finally go off at 5am it really did feel like the middle of the night and as I got my self ready to head out, I did start to question what the hell I was doing.

It was a new moon as I left the flat, and as I slowly distanced myself from  Zermatt, it felt like I was entering a different world.  This world was totally silent except for the crunch of snow under my feet.  From time to time I would stop and take it all in.  I could hardly believe how utterly alone and isolated it felt running up the mountain in the dark.  I felt like an explorer with the unknown ahead of me and there was a mixture of apprehension and excitement.

Before reaching the top of the first peak (Rothorn) I had not seen a single thing move since I had left the flat.  Only at the top did I see the first sign of movement in the form of a chamoix.  It was amazing how still the mountains were and the very smallest movement of the chamoix caught my attention immediately, like a hawk focusing in on its prey.  I had hoped to watch the sun rise at the top of the first peak, but as I stood there staring into the expanse on darkness the sun was not showing any sign of hitting the peaks.  Heading back down the mountain towards Gant the sun finally kissed the top of the Matterhorn at ten to eight.  Magic does not even come close to the way the mountains look as the sun slowly spreads over them.  Having been running in darkness for almost 3 hours I was hypnotized by this view of the sunlight expanding across the vast mountain range on the other side of the valley.

The climb from Gant up to Hohtalli was tough, steep and cold.  Being north facing, the sun would not be hitting these slopes for a good couple of hours.  I had never run up to this peak before and it was the only real unknown of the days challenge (aside from doing each climb back to back of course!).  So I was relieved to reached the top around the 4 hour mark, still feeling in good shape 🙂

I then had a 20 minute down hill section heading towards Gornergrat.  The climb up to the third peak was a short 200m one and as I emerged into the sunlight for the first time that day I felt an new man.  I stood still for a few minutes just soaking up the view and then, re-energised by the sunlight, descended from Gornergrat with a bounce in my step soaking up the warmth of the sun 🙂  The clock read 4hrs 30mins.
By the time I reached Furi the downhill had taken its toll and mentally I was not is a good place.  The climb from Furi up to Scharzee is up through a beautiful valley but despite the view, the bounce in my step had gone.  Towards the end of this climb the clock passed the 6 hour mark.  This was the longest I had ever run and mentally was a difficult barrier to push through.  My body was still surprisingly in good shape and I was holding a good pace, but despite this, my mind was shot.  I reached the top of the forth peak and the clock was at 6hrs 15mins.   I did not have enough day light left to safely make it all the way to the top of the final peak.

I so very badly wanted to stop.  I was going to stop.  I was done.  4 out of 5 is not bad!  Why would I bother running any further given I could not make it to the last peak?  At that point I surprised myself.  I am not sure why or what happened but I found myself running down to Furg and up towards Trockner Steg.  This section is steep and packed with skiers.  I was expecting to find it tough, really tough.  But then out of no where, I had found a another gear! 🙂

I have to say, I honestly was enjoying every step.  The clock passed the 7 hour mark and the slope eased to a gentle gradient in the last few km to Trockne Steg.  This was to be the finish for today.  I found myself turning around and even running backwards as I starred at the mountains I had run up.  As is always the way, the view is always that much better when you have made it up there under your own steam.  Multiply that view by four peaks and you get some idea of how special this view was right at that moment.
I hit Trockner Steg and the time was 7hrs 12 mins and 2 secs.  4 and 3/4 peaks in one day.  Just in time for some lunch 😉

Mountain Moments

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Running, Training

For those of you that know me well, you will be aware of my love of running up mountains.  It all started about 5 years ago.  I was in Zermatt for a skiing holiday and a friend of mine suggested we ran up the ski run for a laugh.I had been used to running around the village and down the valley on the roads.  It had never occurred to me that you would be able to run UP the ski runs.  As it turned out it was surprisingly easy to do.  During the night the snow bashers come out a groom the runs.  This leaves the runs in a perfect condition and provides a pretty decent amount of traction, even with regular trainers.

From the very first run up the mountain in Zermatt I was hooked and five years later words can’t really describe quite how much I love running up the Zermatt peaks.  Try and imagine you are in the mountains, surrounded by snow covered peaks and stunning views in every direction.  The sun has not quite come up yet, but there it just enough light to soak up the view.  The whole mountain is silent with a sense of calm. The air is so cold you can feel every breath enter your lungs as you leave the warmth of the flat.

As you start the run the severity of the slope hits hard.  The only way to approach the run is one step at a time.  As you slowly start to climb the mountain the sun rises and begins to kiss the peaks.  It is truly stunning, and moments like that make me feel alive to the very core.  It typically takes me about 45 mins to emerge through the tree line and by then the sun has started to spread over the slopes.  With the sun comes a surge of new found energy, for a while at least.  The final push for the top is always a tough one.  With the top in sight I always put in one final effort in an attempt to beat my previous PB.  Something I am still managing to do, to my surprise.  I think my first run from Zermatt (1600m) to Gornegrat (3100m) took me 2hrs.  Today my current PB is 1hr 39mins and dropping.  To be honest the time is irrelevant.  The views from the top are breath taking to say the least but running up somehow magnifies the view, making it almost magical.

This Christmas I found running up stupidly easy and started to think a little outside the box.  Why stop at one mountain?

In Zermatt there are essentially three ski mountains, so I decided I would run up and down all three, in one day…

The ‘ZERMATT THREE PEAK CHALLENGE’.

The plan was to run up to Rothorn, down to Gant and then up to Gornegrat.  From there I would head down to Furi and then up to Trockener Steg.  Strictly speaking the top of the last peak is Klein Matterhorn, but that is another 700m up and if the weather changes, causing the lift to close, the only way back down is by foot!  Not ideal to say the least.  So Trockener Steg (3100m) was my last ‘PEAK’.   The run would involve climbing 3300m and to be honest I had no idea if I would be able to get close to finishing it.  The way I figured it, I would just give it a crack and enjoy every second out on the mountain.

Below is a map of the ski area.

I set out on a perfect day; clear skies and fresh temperatures of around minus 10 DegC.  The run to Rothorn was an easy two hours and at the top I was feeling good and pretty positive about making the three peaks.  On the way down to Gant, the descent was steep and tough going on the legs.  By the time I started up to Gornegrat (2hrs 30mins into the run) my legs were starting to feel it.  I just put my head down and thought about the next few steps and soaked up the views.  I made it to Gornegrat in just over 3hrs 30mins.  By this time I had decided I would just head down to Furi and calling it a day.   An hour later I was at Furi.  My legs were shot and my mind was set of calling it a day.

This is where my stubborn nature kicked in.  I was broken and in no shape to attempt the 1100m climb to Trockener Steg.  But it was only 11.30am and it did just not feel right giving up.  So what did I decide to do?  Crack on up the mountain!  The next 1hr 30mins was tougher than any ironman run.  The slope was an icy black run full of people skiing down!  I have to admit, on a number of occasions I thought to myself ‘what the hell are you doing?’.  My sole focus became my next step, and this consumed my every thought as I slowly climbed the slope.

Finally, I reached the last section of the run which levels out to a nice steady incline.  It was soaked in the bright sunshine and I knew the run was in the bag!  Job done  🙂

It was 1pm when I reached Trockener Steg and it had taken me just under 6 hours.  I can still not really believe I managed the whole thing.  When you think about it, it seems crazy.  I think that is the key with challenges like this.  You don’t think about it, JUST DO IT!

Carli was there to meet me and that made it the trek up the three mountains worth every step.   We had an awesome lunch in the sun and trust me, food has NEVER tasted so good.

Looking back on the run, I think I could have made the final push for Klein Matterhorn (700m up).  A small part of me even considered it at the time, but only a very small part!  That will have to wait till next time, but for now ‘that’ll do’.

Running on Empty

Posted: September 2, 2010 in Running, Training

This is really turning out to be an unlucky year for me race wise.

The Trans Rockies Run turned out to be a very different experience to that which I had imagined.  The trip started out well with a smooth flight and travel up into the mountains.  I was feelling well rested and ready to push it hard over the coming week. That is certainly what I did, but not in the manor I had planned.  The day before the race I came down with a serious stomach bug and was pretty much unable to get out of bed.  Just walking the 500m to the race registration was more that I could handle.

The next morning I was feeling a bit better and positive I would be able to race.  This was not the case.  It became quickly apparent that I had very little to give and after about 6 miles I felt like I was at the end of an Ironman which had gone badly wrong.  I put my head down and struggled on through most of the run, but at mile 17 I pulled out of the stage.  I was well and truly broken and thought that if I wanted to stand a chance of completing the race I needed to call it a day.  The rest of the afternoon was a blurr and I think I passed out in my tent pretty soon after reaching camp.  I had not been able to eat a thing!  Never a good plan for a multi-day race.

Morning two of the race and I was feeling considerably better.  I tried to eat some breakfast but found this almost impossible.  Still, in my warped sense of reality, I was feeling positive I would be able to race.  Day two was only 14 miles and despite the 900m of climbing I was hopeful I would not be holding my team mate back too much.  I actually managed OK on the climb, and while I was only at around 40%, we made good progress relative to the other teams.  The descent was hard work for me as my legs were just dead weights.  The last 3 miles were relatively flat but it took pretty much everything I had to give to keep on running.  We crossed the finish line probably 15 minutes slower than my team mate would have hoped, but I was amazed to be crossing it at all.  Again I felt like I was at the end of a Ironman gone very horribly wrong!  Back at camp I tried to eat, but the little I was able to take on was just going straight through my system.  Still in my mind, I convinced myself I would be OK to race the 24 miles ahead of us in the morning.

Day three ended up being the toughest day of the week.  My body was truly broken and as we jogged down the first hill I knew it was going to be a very long day.  Nonetheless, I managed to make it through the first 10 miles in reasonably good time.  Then the wheels well and truly came off.  My stomach was so bloated I could barely jog and I could not really take on any food or drink.  The next 14 miles was a case of survival and simply making it to the finish line.  After quitting on day one I really did not want to repeat that again.  In the last mile I think I must have needed at least 4 loo stops.  Not a pretty sight and by the time I crossed the finish line I thought that my week was well and truly over.  I could just not imagine myself making it to the start line for stage 4 of the race.  Later on in the day I was able to eat my first proper meal for 4 days and the temporary cap on my front tooth fell off in the process.  Eating a dorito of all things!!!  Anyway, during the evening I was given the chance to swap team mates and race with a girl called Leslie.  The idea being that I could take it easy with her at the ‘back of the pack’, while Leslie’s team mate (a stronger runner) could race with Scott and save him from another day waiting for me.

Chilling at the back of the race ended up being a life saver.  For the first time since I started the race I could actually appreciate where I was and the people racing around me.  Both of which were awesome.  I think I talked non stop all day and was just loving every second out there in the mountains.  I was feeling more like myself with every step and to be honest did not really want the day to stop when we reached the finish.  When it did, things just kept on getting better with a pub by the finish serving cold drink and food, which I was able to eat.  Happy days!!!!!  Having eaten a proper meal in the evening I was really much more like my normal self and probably could have raced stage 5 with Scott at a decent pace.  However, I did not want to make the same mistake I had done over the first few days so opted to take it easy at the back, as I had done on stage 4.

Stage 5 was another awesome day out in the mountains and made even better by the people I was chatting to along the way.  Just as the previous day, I did not want the stage to end and I could feel a bounce come back into my step by the end of the day.  I was back 🙂

Stage 6 and the final day of racing.  I knew I was back to full health now and was confident I could race all out.  The plan had been always to race the last day with Scott and I was just glad to be doing so, feeling 100% better.  As we all lined up at the start of stage 6 it really did feel like the first day of racing to me.  We went hard from the gun and it felt great to be bouncing, not crawling, up the mountain again.  The day flew by, as did the 20 miles and 2000m we climbed.  We came home in 3hrs 39mins and I think were the first non professional team home.  It was a great way to finish the race and at least showed ourselves what we could have done had I not been ill.  Maybe next year 😉

Massive thanks for all the help and support from everybody during the week.  It was an amazing event to be part of but was made legendary by the people doing it.