Saturday, August 25, 2012


Beat and I have spent the past few days visiting Beat's family in Switzerland. Thursday was Beat's brother Andy's fiftieth birthday. We traveled to Interlaken, a idyllic little village in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, where Andy and his wife went skydiving in the morning. We had previously declined an invitation to join them, citing nervousness about injuries before our big races (About seven years ago, I went on a tandem skydive where the instructor misjudged the landing and put us down extremely hard, bruising my tailbone. I was unable to walk normally for a week after that.) Of course, as soon as I saw those parachutes sailing through the clear blue sky amid glacier-capped peaks, I regretted passing up the opportunity. I'm not even an adrenaline junkie (I'm an endorphin junkie, and there's a huge difference.) But I can only imagine what the views were like from those heights, in free-fall.

We did get a glimpse of the views, minus the free-fall, when we took a helicopter ride from Interlaken back to Andy's house, where it landed in a farm field next door. A thick haze had moved in before we took off, so I wasn't able to capture a good aerial photograph. But it was my first time in a helicopter, and also an opportunity to see rural Switzerland from the sky. Even the "flat" region is a continuous ripple of hills covered in a patchwork of forest, green fields, and clusters of villages woven together by veins of roads. Besides the the airborne adventures, there has been a steady stream of awesome food — pizza, cheese, cake, crusty bread, salad, cheese (the Swiss love their cheese. This love is completely justified.) I don't have to worry about showing up for UTMB without ample calorie reserves.

I've also been able to do a few taper runs. I try to keep them to ninety minutes or less, but it's been difficult to restrain myself since I found a scenic network of logging roads a couple of miles from Andy's house. Despite generally low energy levels (I always struggle with jet lag, and even after three days I still haven't been able to sleep through a night), all I want to do is explore these hills all day long. It's a beautiful region full of adorable farmhouses, narrow roads, green hillsides, lush forests, and old churches. I've really enjoyed my runs here, and we haven't even gotten into the real mountains yet.

We leave Sunday morning for Chamonix. Beat's race, La Petite Trot a Leon, starts Monday evening. My race doesn't start until Friday evening, so I'll have a bit more time to fret before the big hurt begins. I'll probably write blog posts about the gear in my huge backpack and how I plan to ration my limited supply of peanut butter cups to pass the nervous time. I finally packed up all of my gear today and the verdict — nine pounds without water, but including food. I'm going to try to think about ways to pare that down as best I can without sacrificing too much of my "safe" food (I'd hate to time out of UTMB because I can't eat anything.) On to France.