aravis trail

Race report: ARAVIS TRAIL 25 
Distance: 25km 
Elevation: 1500 m D +
Bouchet Mont Charvin to Thônes, France

I've had a few days and recovery runs to replay Saturday's race in my head, but it is already slipping away, so time to get it down. It wasn't too hard to roll out of bed at 04h on a gorgeous day and make the trip to Thônes for packet pick-up. We arrived a little before 06h, perfect timing to watch the start of the 52km race, grab our numbers, and ride the bus to the starting line at Bouchet Mont Charvin. We left Erik in town and promised to meet him by the finish, hopefully within the next 6 hours. Derek and I agreed to treat this as a training run in preparation for Iceland, we'd keep it calm and stick together, so we positioned ourselves near the back of the starting pack. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but the climb began almost immediately from the gun, and funneled us onto a narrow path right away. I expected a bit more time for the runners to spread and fall into our proper positions before the single file trail, but found myself stuck early on with no way to pass. Derek and I were separated within the first kilometer and locked into our place in line. I was a bit more aggressive, and fought my way a little further forward, taking advantage of any widening in the trail to advance. Even taking a small spill, getting a bloody knee, but I was pulling ahead. After the first climb through the muddy forest trails, there was finally an opening- I could choose my pace and run out some of the caged-animal feelings that had pent-up during the single file trudge. I kept looking over my shoulder, but Derek had been trapped too far back. I started to give-up on meeting again unless he could overtake me on the next climb, but now was my chance to run and I took it. 

The downhill break was fantastic, and I felt strong as we began the major ascent to le Bouton. This was a rough climb, but the route was no longer congested as we pulled ourselves out of the forest to an exposed climb topping out at 1638m - not that high in elevation, but relentless. I crossed two checkpoints where the race organizers called out our bib numbers. I wasn't certain at the time, but I thought they called that I was the third female runner and 2 minutes behind the second as we approached the summit. Had I understood that correctly- maybe they said thirteenth, but then then they wouldn't be announcing my position, surely my French is off, but what if?...No that's crazy, ok, just keep going, no need to get overly excited, plenty of race still ahead, but it's all downhill from here. Ok, here's that girl in blue shorts again, she's fast, and we are at the summit- I call after her- bon courage as we start the descent, 2km drop down scree, and she disappears as I am more cautious on the sliding rocks. I know I won't see her again on the way down. 

The few uphill bumps on the way to the finish were brutal, and the downhill pounding killed my big toenail. I felt every step of the descent. I hadn't worn my watch, my gps was tucked into my backpack, and there were no kilometer markers along the way- nothing to distract from the course. I suppose that was a good thing since the trail demanded full attention to stay upright over the roots, rocks, mud, puddles, leaves, and there weren't many runners around now to blindly follow, so it took some work to continue on the correct way. I had a few nice conversations, it was downhill now, so we weren't even winded. I was closing in on the homestretch and feeling surprisingly good, until I wasn't. Nothing major, I just had no control over my bladder. It was a tough decision so close to the finish, but I threw my poles and dove into a bush inside of a hairpin turn. Relief. As I struggled to re-dress myself, tugging my sweat soaked shorts back on, I saw two women rounding the turn. Back up the hill for me to recover my poles, and the sinking feeling that I just lost two positions with no time to regain my place. I will never stop to pee again - I should have let it go. There isn't much left, I can see the town, the finish line will be close, but it's really tempting to jump in the river and forget the last few hundred meters. No stopping, one foot in front of the other, and suddenly the finish line, just over the bridge. I am afraid the course will make us do a loop through town, but no- it's over! 03:35'01"...I had no idea how much time had passed. I gobbled some orange wedges and chugged coca cola- weird, but strangely satisfying. Now I just had to wait for Derek, and hope he also had a good run. He finished just a bit behind me at 3:46'01". Erik brought us ice cold beer to drink in the shade- ice cold beer in France- it's as amazing and unusual as it sounds, and nothing has tasted better. 

After some time relaxing, sharing stories from the course, watching friends cross the line, I checked the results. 6th place for women...I should be ecstatic, but all I could think about was those minutes in the bushes that cost me 4th. I'm pretty sure third was out of my reach, but that pit stop hurts. At least it's motivation to push it harder next time, and maybe wear a diaper (wink). 

I should also mention that it was a beautiful course with amazing views (when you looked up from your careful stepping), and pretty ideal weather, warm, but you won't catch me complaining. The organizers and volunteers were encouraging along the route, and the atmosphere among trail runners is always fantastic as we push our limits.

Course profile:

Rank: 6/75 Femmes
Splits (mile pace per runkeeper) 12:35 10:04 16:55 15:57 8:59 8:58 8:13 15:32 18:31 25:40 16:42 13:53 12:34 9:29 12:29 9:43


via ferrata at the fort

We all got to sleep in a little this morning, and after brunch, we grabbed our helmets and harnesses to head to the via ferrata route at Fort l'Ecluse. We love having visitors who are up for any adventure.  

Sweaty after the climb, we took a dip in the Pougny swimming hole, then crossed the road and plunged into the cooler Rhône water. Onto a bbq with friends- enjoying good food and good company on a beautiful evening.


aravis & annecy

Today we ran the Aravis Trail finishing in Thônes. We headed out early for packet pick-up and to catch the bus to the start. We left Erik to explore the town at the finish line for an uncertain number of hours, not knowing exactly what the course had in store for us. 

It was a beautiful, warm day, and a fantastic muddy, rocky route. I plan to write a full race report with all the details, but for now I'll say that it was tough terrain, difficult footing, killer climb, and crazy-steep descent over scree. Loved it! I had a surprisingly decent run, finishing in 03:35:01, 6th place for women, but more to that story later. Of the 5 runners we know, 4 of us finished the 25km and 1 the 52km routes. A good day all around, but the best part was the cold beer at the finish. Thanks Erik, best water boy ever! 

As the day grew hotter, we gathered a picnic and headed to the nearby shore of Lac Annecy to lounge in the shade, eat ice cream, rent a paddle boat, and take a dip (finally a chance to wash off the sweat and blood and mud from the race). The lakefront was especially lively with the fête de la musique, and kept us entertained well past dark. The perfect start to summer! 


local lazing

The bad hosts that we are, Derek and I had to scramble to a morning doctor appointment for medical certificates assuring our health before tomorrow's race. Once that was finished, we went walking in the vineyards and took a picnic down to l'Allondon. A calm day, close to home. We kept the wine and our feet chilling in the water.

Later, we walked the trail through the grottes de Malval, and up to Dardagny to taste some regional specialities at Les Faunes. The guys went to watch the France v Suisse World Cup match, while I hoped to get to bed early...4 am wake up call would get here too soon. 



Today we picked up Derek's cousin Erik from the airport to stay with us a few days during his epic solo travel. After a few French welcome goodies, we decided to hike up to le Reculet. Since we are racing on Saturday, today seemed like the best option to squeeze in a hike together. We were caught in one of the pop-up thunderstorms we've been having this month, but Erik was the only one who really needed to touch the metal cross at the summit.

After our hike, we took a tour the CMS detector site: from 1718M atop the Jura down to the cavern 100M underground. Top that off with dinner on the Auberge patio, and it's a pretty full first day in the Pays de Gex. 


canton races

Tonight was the forth and final stage of le Tour du Canton de Geneve. This year's weekly evening runs took us to Plan-les-Ouates, Dardagny, Bernex, and Bout du Monde, each with a unique challenge. 

Stage 1: A nice course, and a new faster pace. The twentieth anniversary shirts are really cool- long sleeved and hooded.
Stage 2: We walked to the race start in Dardagny. It was interesting to run a course so familiar, knowing each turn and the details of the terrain felt like a huge advantage, but running in a downpour made it a different course than a typical training run. The rain began as we corralled for the start, and continued for a soggy, fun, first half of the race. After the soak, some hills, and mud, we aimed for the finish beneath a full double rainbow.
Stage 3: 85 degrees F at the start. This was a tough one: endless hills and heat are a crazy combination. Recovery was more difficult than usual...did I mention that it was really hot?
Stage 4: No hills...that's a disadvantage for me, but it was a good ending to a great set of races.

This was our third year of running the Geneva races. They are always a challenge for me- fast and short (each under 10km). Previously, I finished near the end of the 1500+ runners, but in the past several months, my pace has been improving, and I ran sub 7 minute miles for the first time, chasing Derek for the finish line. We had a blast at this year's races, and a little bit of competition in our house for the few weeks. 

Now to focus on the upcoming long mountain races. 

Stats:  00:40:06 / 00:35:46 / 00:37:03 / 00:35:38  cumulative: 02:28:33 
Rank: 14 Femmes,  9 Femmes Senior,  341/ 1850 Overall


evening walk

A beautiful evening for a vineyard walk. It stays light so late into the evening.

We saw a family of foxes. Can you spot one? (The one time I wish my lens zoomed).


vinathon 2014

Vinathon is another great Saturday wine event in the Geneva area. The temperature dropped out of the nineties to perfect seventies in time for the ten kilometer wine tasting tour. This year started at the lovely Château des Bois in Satigny and looped through forest and vineyards stopping at wineries along the way.

Here we go.

A sunny day, with a short burst of rain in the afternoon just before our parade of cycles and scooters and strollers and walkers reached the final stop.