TRAINING IN THE SNOW LIKE A YETI
Except from a short stint in London last weekend, I have spent the last three weeks in the Austrian alps. I am a passionate skier, and I believe that such is the sport that I have been carrying out for the longest. Whilst people are talking about global warming and changing seasons, I can most certainly see a difference in the amount of snow from when I first came to Lech am Arlberg around 20 years ago in comparison to today. Anyways, I will keep the discussion about nature and our world for another post.
So, seeing that there has not been that much snow when I arrived, it allowed me to focus more on the running without feeling bad for missing out on some good skiing. Back in 2016, the weather was fantastic. We had blue skies and relatively warm temperatures, and parts of the trails were not even covered in white. The conditions were perfect and I was able to collect many kilometers and heaps of altitude meters.
Lech am Arlberg is located at around 1450 meters above sea level (m a.s.l.), which is a good height for altitude training. I will go into more detail on what it means to train at higher altitudes and what effect it has on a body another day. At basic terms it means that whilst the air still contains around 20% of oxygen, the barometric and partial pressure of oxygen is reduced. The lack of pressure will make the body acclimate, for example by increasing the amount of red blood cells and hemoglobin, or altering muscle metabolism, which in turn leads to an increased performance output.
Anyways, back to Lech. Whilst the summer allows you to run pretty much anywhere, the winter of course brings its limitations. During both times of the year, one of my favorite runs take me from the village to the top of Kriegerhorn. Depending from where I start, and which route I will take, it takes me around 40 minutes to 1:10 hours to reach the peak that sits at just under 2200 m a.s.l.. For the days, in which I am running fartleks or intervals, or I need to keep a constant pace and heart rate, I prefer to run along the river into the next little village, named Zug. Either way, wherever I go, whether it is up and down, or relatively flat, the landscape and scenery are stunning. Especially at night, when the village has calmed down and there is no one around the trails or slopes. It is a magical atmosphere, as the snow-covered mountains are reflecting the moonlight and I listen to the crunching snow under my feet.
Since the beginning of 2017, it has been dumping white gold and the temperatures have dropped significantly. If I am not mistaken, one night had been noted down as the coldest one since the beginning of this century. The thermometer showed something around -25 to -30 degrees. It was pretty damn cold. Whilst it is great to ski, it meant that some of my runs turned into a little bit of an arctic adventure. At times, I actually had to cut them short and return to the house. I would stop feeling my feet and my hands, and my eye lids started to freeze together, as I was stomping through the fresh powder. I looked like a yeti, as I was running around, all wrapped up, with only my eyes being exposed to the cold, and sometimes with the head torch lighting up my way. Though, I never run on the treadmill, for the last few sessions I was forced to go inside to clock my running hours. It was simply unbearable to spend longer periods of time out in the cold. However, luckily the training facilities at Sport Park Lech are outstanding and allowed me to keep up with my schedule.
I have a couple more days left in the mountains before I return home. Whilst I was talking about my love for the slopes earlier, and how I did not get to enjoy them that much this season, I have a pretty special event lined-up for tomorrow. It is called Der Weiße Ring. It is a legendary ski race that is over 22 kilometers long and takes the participants from Lech to Zürs and back to Lech. I am pretty excited, yet conscious that I will get down the mountains all save and sound, as Marathon Des Sables is not far away. Let's see how how that goes. I will make sure to give you an update and write about the race once I have completed the course.