Sunday, 1 July 2012

The power of positive thinking - a cancelled canyoning trip becomes a nice trail run up Pilatus

Paul's way of thinking is 4 hours = 2 hours
Whilst most people's journey starts on the train, mine
starts on the stairs on the left
Up and up into the clouds
Today I was originally meant to be going canyoning in Chli Schliere.  The meeting point was Alpnachstad station at 8am.  When I woke up at 5am I looked outside and saw massive thunderheads looming overhead, and soon after the tempest came.  It did not look like the canyoning would be able to go ahead.

The problem though was that the company I booked with did not have my mobile number, only my work email.  Without my remote login details I was unable to check my work email and had no way to know whether the trip was taking place or not.  The phone number listed on the company website was the office number and not a mobile number.  I sent the company an email from my hotmail account providing them with my mobile number, and hoped that they would somehow reply in time before I set off. When no reply came I decided to get on the train and go to the prearranged meeting point regardless, just on the off chance that it would still take place.

Half way to Lucern I got an SMS from the outdoors company saying that the trip had been cancelled due to high water levels in the canyon and that they had sent out an email to my work account the previous day.

At this point I could have viewed the situation I was in as something very negative, having wasted money on a train ticket, having lost several hours of sleep and having wasted my time on a train that I didn't need to be on.  Instead I decided to turn the situation on it's head, and make it into something very positive.

I already had my train ticket and I had already got up nice and early so that the whole day lay ahead of me.  So I decided that I would continue on to Alpnachstad and then run up Pilatus.  For those of you not from Switzerland, Pilatus is a mountain that is 2,132 metres above sea level.  It is also the location of the world's steepest cogwheel railway (the Pilatusbahn), reaching a maximum gradient of 48%.

The path that I took starts at exactly the same point as the cogwheel train departs, and follows it more or less to the top, except that the path weaves to and fro much more than the railway, as it would be pretty hardcore to have to climb an incline of 48% on foot.  There is a sign at the bottom saying that it should take around 4 hours to hike to the top, so I decided that my challenge would be to run to the top in under 2 hours.  There were not many other people on the path, most likely due to the unpredictable weather, but it did not rain at all whilst I was climbing and the mist made it refreshingly cool.  It would have been much tougher to climb it yesterday when the temperature was over 30 Celsius.

I found it pretty tiring, but I achieved my aim and arrived at the top in under 2 hours.  I ran for all except the last 10 minutes.  Near the top I met a guy who seemed to be climbing pretty fast, and when we were both standing on the top he asked me what event I was training for.  I told him that I was training for Trail Ticino and he told me that he was training for the Jungfrau Marathon.  I would have been happy to talk to him more and compare training regimes etc but he only spoke Schwizerd├╝tsch, so that limited our potential conversation somewhat.  Before leaving he did want to know how long it took me from bottom to top though, and it turned out it took me 30 minutes less than it took him.  He said that he does a normal marathon in 3:15, so that does give some hope maybe of doing the Lucern marathon in sub 3 hours, although running up Pilatus and running a normal marathon are completely different beasts.

The total vertical distance covered during today's run up Pilatus was 1,635 metres.  That is basically only one fifth of what I will have to do in the Trail Ticino.  It makes me scared even thinking about it!

The moral of today's story.  Next time you find yourself in what appears to be a "shitty situation", try to turn it on it's head and make it into something positive.  Coach Jeff would certainly be happy with the approach I took today, as he is always emphasising the above point in his mental toughness training exercises.

I will have to try and apply the same approach to shine a positive light on the fact that today's storms battered the hell out of the plants on my balcony, with it now looking like a scene from Armageddon out there!


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