When in Switzerland
After Beat and his partner Pieter finished the Petite Trotte a Leon, Beat and I traveled to Switzerland to spend a couple of weeks with his family. The race finish was a joyful event. I'm always proud of Beat after the PTL, but mostly relieved that he has gotten his sleep-deprived self down from those exposed mountain ridges safely with no injuries. It's impressive that he's managed to finish four of these, along with five Tor des Geants, without any major issues. It's gotten so routine for him that he can't really understand why just *anyone* can't run 200 miles across extremely difficult mountain terrain in less than five days, while all of my attempts over the years have led to a lack of comprehension about how anyone can. I'm going to continue moving at two miles per hour and calling myself a hiker, and maybe someday I'll convince Beat to join me on a nice trekking trip in the Alps with refuges, actual meals, and 15-mile days.
Until then, I can hardly complain about Beat's excuses to spend time in proximity to these mountains. Although I'm a little heartbroken about UTMB, and will probably remain that way until I can put a good race behind me, it is rather refreshing to emerge from a DNF without a long-term injury or illness. I was out of commission for eight weeks after the Tor des Geants, and I'm arguably still recovering from the Tour Divide crud. Although I'm still feeling mild respiratory effects and have some inflammation in my IT band, I'm mostly healthy and can't complain about that. Even though I can't claim to be 100 percent fit, visiting mountains is something you can hardly pass up in Switzerland.
My unfortunate butt chafing had scabbed over by then. I lubed the wound heavily, but there was still some irritation there (why this suddenly became such a problem, I can't figure out. I'm blaming ill-fitting underwear.) Also, my gut hasn't fully recovered from the race and I was vaguely nauseated for most the day even at a slow pace. My IT band hated the steep descent. So, yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense why I felt so happy. I suppose all I really need in life is a far horizon to follow. Pleasure and pain comes and goes; awe is a lasting pursuit.
On Sunday, Beat's uncle took us for a hike in the Swiss Jura, which are the older mountains in the north. Fun fact: The Jurassic Period was named for the Jura Mountains, whose limestone cliffs are studded with fossils. We walked through a gorgeous box canyon while Beat's uncle pointed out World War I installations, and climbed to a ridge for coffee and pastries at a mountain-top restaurant. Ah, Switzerland.
I didn't really want to stumble my way back through the rooty morass, so I cut off the ridge at the first route into the Habkern valley, on the north side. I had this idea that I could walk down the valley and wrap around the mountain back to Interlaken. So I descended 1,500 feet and wallowed in muddy cattle pastures for a couple of miles before I met two farmers who seemed confused about my presence. I pointed to the Augstmatthorn and made a circular motion with my arm, and then said, "Habkern." They shook their heads and gestured that there was no walking route into town. The only way to get to Habkern was "mit dem car," and then I'd have to take a bus to Interlaken. One farmer approached his car and offered to give me a ride. When I motioned with my poles that I wanted to walk, he pointed back up to the ridge. "Harder Kulm," he said, "last train, eight o'clock." Okay then.
The walk ended at 19 miles with 7,500 feet of climbing. I did some jogging toward the end because my IT band actually feels better when I run versus walking downhill, but it was often too steep. Still, a grand day out. Worth it by far.