Thursday, September 24, 2015

Photo Moment: Sailboat on Lake Geneva

When this is what you see during your morning run along Lake Geneva, you really can't complain.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Côtes de l’Orbe - the Swiss wine half marathon

The Côtes de l'orbes half marathon takes you along roads, villages and even forest trails.

For years, I've been trying to do the Marathon Du Médoc in France.  This is a marathon where you run in fancy dress through the French vineyards, sipping wine along the way.  Doesn't it sound fantastic?

I've been dying to try it -- and every year, it sells out and I can never get in.

Lots of vineyards along the way

But...then I learned that Switzerland has their own version of this marathon. It's the Côtes de l’orbs half marathon.  It's based on the same concept of the Marathon du Médoc in that it's both sporty and festive. You are encouraged to dress in fancy dress, and that every few kilometers you have the choice of wine or water as you run. It's the only one of its kind in Switzerland -- which is kind of cool and a reason to sign up.

For some reason, I think the idea of running it in France would still be fun and will try again for the Médoc Marathon, but I figured this one would be a perfect practice run-through.

And don't forget the scenery. Awesome.

I signed up in July for the September 12, 2015 Côtes de l’orbs race and I was determined to run this thing in my fancy dress.

Well, actually I didn't go all fancy. I'm still a purest when I run and am always working towards improving my time -- so generally want to wear clothes that are made for running rather than a prom dress.

But in the spirit of the run I decided to go a little fun. I bought a cheap running skirt and glued sparkly dragon flies and flowers on it.  I know. I'm lame.  I figured I would go comfortable this year and then next year, go all out. Also, I was worried about the hills. After the Urban Trail des Singles totally kicked my butt (see blog post about the Urban Trail des Singles here), I knew running in Switzerland were not for the average marathoner. Those mountains are killer and this time I wanted to be prepared.

Have I mentioned that the scenery is awesome?
Btw... on race day, I did see a number of really fast runners decked out in dresses and wigs (see photo below) -- so it is possible to run in fancy dress and still do well. They must have been melting, but they looked great!

Anyone else instantly have Aerosmith's "Dude that looked like lady" in their head?

So I had the outfit and I had been doing some hill training in preparation. There was just one problem. The weekend before the race, I attempted mountain biking in Nendaz.  This was my first time and we I think we did the Mount Fort Tour (see more details of the Mount Fort Tour on the Secret Alps website). It's the easiest of the routes in the area. It's about 50 km and mostly downhill.

Unfortunately, I'm not good at downhill as I have trouble controlling my speed and had a bad wipeout (still enjoyed the day and would do it again).  I didn't break anything, but I was bleeding and bruised up a lot. But what really sucked was that my right knee had swelling under that patella, making it impossible to run without a lot of pain.

This is one of the many water/wine stops along the route. Not like any other race I've ever been in.

Regardless of the pain, I'm stubborn and refused to call it quits.  But I decided that because this was not the Olympics, I should compromise and be a little safe. Yup, that's right. I decided I would put on my little sparkly dragonfly outfit and walk half marathon anyway.


The Côtes de l’orbs has you running through vineyard and a number of small winery towns along the course.  You start out in Arnex-sur-Orbe and then you run from there.

Cute Swiss town along the route.

I began my walk and after about 3km, the first offering of wine was available.  I don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect real glasses poured full and numerous choices to pick from. It was more like visiting a vineyard than participating in a race.  It was strangely wonderful.

The wine/water stops continued every 2 or 3 km along the entire 21 km route.  I resisted until kilometer 9 and then thought I should partake as the vine owners looked a little sad every time I just passed them by.

I picked a chilled white wine from the stand, and it was then I learned that I would never be able to run the Marathon du Médoc in France and drink wine at the same time.  It might be that I'm not Swiss enough, but after one glass, walking was the only option. My drive to run was completely gone.  I was in mellow, relax mode.

The Swiss amaze me on how they can smoke and run. 

Thankfully, I wasn't the only walker. There were numerous walkers and even those who were sort of running the race, were not there to get a good PR (although there were a handful that were running like the wind though and passing by all the wine like the "dude that looked like a lady" in the photo earlier in this post).

Those that stopped tended to hang out for 15 to 20 minutes drinking the wine and eating the bread and cheese that was provided. boring bananas and gatorade here.  It was good food and good wine.

This really was a bizarre race.  Check out the runners standing by the wine barrel above.  They look like serious runners, but there they are chatting, drinking and smoking at what was kilometer 16.

It took me about 5 hours to walk the entire half marathon - including all the wine sipping stops along the way.  And instead of a medal at the end, you got a bottle of wine to take home. Pretty cool I must say.

So next year, will I do it? Definitely...and I now that I know I can't "run and wine", I will be walking it with friends. Want to join me?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Breakfast at Savini in Milan

One of the perks of living in Switzerland (besides all the delicious cheese and chocolate) is how close it is to other cool places – like Milan.  I learned this week that a train from Lausanne to Milan is only 3 hours - and you know what that means. Day trip!!!  

Catching the first train out in the morning (around 6:30 am), I was in Milan by 9:30 am and in time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Savini. Savini is located in the Galleria which is one of my favorite buildings in the city. 

The restaurant Savini has been there since 1884.  It started as meeting place for celebrities and artists of the day, but now it’s filled with tourists like me visiting the Piazza del Duomo who want to relax with a good meal.
If you go, I will warn you that it’s not cheap.  My croissant and tea (and the complimentary box of biscuits they gave me) was $14 Euros.  While this would be a bargain in Switzerland, you can get really good food for fair prices at most places in Italy.

But at Savini you are paying for the experience of having breakfast in a super posh place.  Besides, their croissants are to die for.

I really didn’t have plans for Milan beside the whole “let’s go to Milan” plan, so spent my day wandering around and checking out the architecture. 
Naturally, I had to follow up my walk-about with pasta, which I did get a reasonable price.  My shrimp gnocchi, unusual appetizer (which was described as pine nuts and olives encased in a salty crust) and wine cost less than my breakfast.  And it was delicious. The best gnocchi I had ever had.  And that thing in the salty crust was fantastic.