When I came up to Geneva for the weekend the plan was to run an ultra distance training run on Saturday and then back it up with a shorter run on Sunday morning. Yesterday, though, that plan fell through and I had a terrible run that ended about 25K earlier than I had planned for it to end. My knee hurt, I didn’t push on, and I returned to Geneva by train to watch the Milano-San Remo race on TV and reflect on what had gone wrong.
However, I was not entirely beaten. I rested on the bed eating salami and cheese to keep things all nice and Italian for the race, then took a pre-dinner walk around Geneva to see how my knee was feeling. The verdict? It was OK as long as I was careful not to twist it side-to-side. I made the decision to test it out this morning and see just how it felt running.
Leaving the hotel, I had not idea whether my run would be half an hour, an hour, a 20K or more. It would all depend on my knee, how I felt, and how I thought it was faring with the strain of running. What I wasn’t going to do was stress the knee to the point of failure now less than four weeks out of the first ultra race of the season at Saint Fons.
I set out along the lake essentially following the same path I had on my walk the night before. I had noted the distance markers on my walk in the evening and knew where I would be hitting 4K and 5K which, if I turned there, would deliver me something in the order of a 10K for the morning. As I approached these points, though, I was feeling good and my knee was not giving me any trouble, so I continued on.
Pushing out of Geneva proper there was a long, slow incline. It probably counts as a hill and, in the end, I would have banked more than 200 meters of ascent for the morning, but it was slight and graded for the cars zipping alongside and not as challenging and steep as the rise to Fourviere or Croix Rousse back in Lyon. I took it in stride, kept a steady sort of pace up, and continued on.
As I got to the 10 kilometer point I knew I had a decision to make. If I turned around somewhere around here then I would bank a solid 20K for the morning and that was something I could be happy with. On the other hand, there were two things pulling me on a little further: first, the chance to run across the Swiss-French border, something I have never done before; second, if I could push on a little further then I might be able to actually bring up the 150K week I had set myself in the original training plan.
So I kept on going.
I crossed the border a little over 11 kilometers into the run and then continued a little further down the road to the first French town after the border, Veigy-Foncenex. I ran through the town, turning around at the 15 kilometer point of the run and heading back the way I had come. At this point I knew that I would have at least 30 kilometers of running banked by the time I got back to the hotel but I was already thinking of hitting the 40K point and closing out the 150K week I had originally planned.
But there was a problem: as I had left the hotel not knowing whether I would be running 30 minutes or four hours, I had not taken any food or water with me. All I had in my pockets were a credit card, an ID card, and my phone with which I was listening to podcasts and keeping myself amused. So, just after the 18 kilometer point and after crossing the border back into Switzerland, I stopped at a gas station and bought two half-liter bottles of water. I drank one almost immediately, and ran with the other one in my hand for later in the run. It wasn’t electrolyte rich and I wasn’t eating anything, but at least I was hydrated now.
I ran back down the incline that I had run up a little while before and then, on entering Geneva, I turned left and decided to add another hill or two to the run. My goal in this was to ‘find’ the final 10K that would take my 30K out-and-back to a 40K total run. I followed the signs for Carouge, then hit the Pleinpalais, then finally found my way back – after being turned around a little, to be sure – to the center of Geneva. I ran up to the center of town, found an open Starbucks near the Rue de Lausanne, and clicked stop on the Garmin as I ventured inside to grab a coffee and celebrate finishing the 150K week in a way I never imagined I would.