21. August 2022

Swiss Peaks 360 is a Go

This year’s challenge is approaching: Swiss Peaks 360. After recovering well from “the plague” in early July, and coming to terms with the turmoil it caused to my training, I decided already a few weeks ago: It’s a Go.

Illness is sort of the last thing anyone wants; illness is sort of the last thing anyone wants during their training period. But things happend, and the pandemic wanted me, too. Fortunately, the pandemic also let me go, and left me fairly unscathed.

Plus, and that’s more my own achievement than fortune, I kept a reasonably level head, and stayed patient in my training: after recovering, I walked twice a day for one hour at a relaxed pace, for a week. After the week, I started running without any expectations to pick up where I left off before the COVID-19 infection. I removed high intensity stuff from my training, completely: not ready, not specific, best to let go.

I realized that my training plan was only altered mostly in as much as the specific period (which included plenty of hiking) was 1-2 weeks shorter than planned. Overall, in the grand scheme of things, I trained over 6 months prior to the illness. No need to “panic”. Most of the opportunity to train had gone by already, anyways. To put a positive frame around it: most training is already “in me”.

The Swiss Peaks 360 is a serious challenge, for any contender: 360 km through Valais in Switzerland with 24’000 m vertical gain. Whilst no stranger to accept challenges in the past, including multi-day events, I have not tried myself at something of that length and scale before. What’s the purpose?

My purpose is to to dare to dream, to take life step by step, to be in the nature, to practice toughness. Okay, but what do I really mean here? Concretely, when I look back at the past decades, many of the things I ended up doing felt like they were beyond reach at the beginning; whether it concerned family, academics, work, or sports: I only started because I allowed myself to dream; with this challenge, I am honouring to this tradition, such that it may serve me a long time to come.

A dream alone might get me started, but we all know that it’s the steps on the journey that make us move, regardless of how small they might seem! The Swiss Peaks course will require a lot of small steps, and already required me lots of small steps during the training season: the foot race is in that sense an extension of the training.

Being out in the nature is rewarding. At different times of the day. During different conditions. With a magnificent composition of landscape at a different scale: from the tiny rocks on the trails to the towering mountains in sight. This, I will have to remind myself, is something that I am grateful for. And even when a section starts to feel a bit tedious, I will have nature around me. I can say to myself: I am here, because I chose to.

Finally, Swiss Peaks will be tough. When I say “tough”, I refer to the meaning of “tough” as in the book “Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness” by Steve Magness. Tough because it requires me to make good decisions all along the way. This week will be another week of practice focusing on the things that are under my control, and do my best.

Additionally, in memory of a passionate cyclist I knew, whose life ended way too early, and who hopefully would have approved of such a commitment: for every 25 meters climbed, I will donate an amount to Pro Velo, to support making cycling better and safer in Switzerland.

With this … stay tuned. We will see how this adventure plays out.