It’s a little over a week since I completed the Verbier St Bernard Marathon Trail in the beautiful Swiss Alps – ascending and descending 3,500 metres – in just under 13 hours. I’ve had plenty of time now to reflect on the experience – the ups and downs, and the highs and lows – physically, mentally and emotionally.

The greatest realisation and respect I have is for the mind, and the role it plays in endurance challenges like this. Physical fitness is of course fundamental, it’s what gets you to the start line, but it’s mental fitness that arguably gets you over the finish line… when you’re out there, pushing the boundaries of physical endurance, it’s our thoughts that are keeping us going, or slowing us down. Why then don’t we put as much time and effort into our mental fitness as we do our physical fitness?

Up until recently my mental fitness came solely from my running – a time for me to completely switch off, to think about nothing more than the hypnotic rhythm of jogging. While this still plays an important part, I also now see the benefits of being still and being totally present – either listening to a guided meditation, focusing on my breath or listening to the sounds of the waves to help me to unwind.

Being mindful and self-aware of your thresholds and stress triggers helps in so many situations – from the mountains to the boardroom… it also plays a crucial role in motivating you to head for the mountains in the first place.

Stands to reason our mental fitness needs way more respect, time and training than we realise. Whether taking part in an endurance sporting event or getting through a challenging project at work, the difference between achieving your goals or not, starts and finishes with the mind.

Set your intention for today, and discover what you can achieve through a total fitness approach in mind, body and soul.

To help get inspired, pop along to one of POINT3 Wellbeing’s health and wellness events on 4 & 5 August.

Week 5 of 16 was about building strength – through some alpine hill-training, and my longest run so far. Here are the highlights as recorded by my Nike Plus app:

Paris Marathon Training Week 5

But the real highlights of my week were a couple of firsts… I participated in my first Parkrun, AND I had my screen debut at BAFTA in a short film made for the launch of Bupa’s new Health and Wellbeing app – Bupa Boost.

First things first. My first ever Parkrun. This was at Old Deer Park in Richmond. I was pretty nervous ahead of this, not really knowing what to expect. But, largely this was down to it being timed, which instantly gives me a surge of adrenalin and nerves. But there was no need to be nervous. Of course, as everyone says, these events are organised by a wonderful bunch of volunteers or “voluncheers”, who selflessly give up their Saturday mornings to encourage and facilitate these great 5k races. They are an excellent way to improve speed, if like me, that’s what you’re looking to do, or indeed just to motivate you to run. It is a wonderfully inclusive event, that caters for all running abilities. I’m hooked and will be trying out a few different Parkruns in the Richmond area over the coming weeks, not least to try and beat my time 😉

BAFTA

And now for my second first of the week… my screen debut at the home of BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly. This is a very exclusive venue, limited to BAFTA members only, or corporates who use it for special events… In this case, it was for the latter, and a special event for Bupa’s new Boost app – a fun way to stay fit and healthy. The app cleverly enables you to pull in all your data from wearables and health tracking apps so you can aggregate the data in one place. It encourages you to set personal goals, and track your progress – against yourself and against your friends/family. So, when I was asked to feature in the film, I of course jumped at the opportunity!

You can watch the film here. My starring role kicks in at about 45 seconds…

And because there’s been lots of other stuff going on this week, here are some other photos from the week.

Monday’s hill training in Switzerland:

Hill training in the alps

On Tuesday I swapped the Brooks for Salomons, and a different kind of run:

Swapping the running shoes for skis

And here’s a selfie from the end of my 16-miler on Sunday with fellow BeaRCat runners Moni and Ali, training for London and Paris Marathons, respectively:

BearCat Runners

Happy running!

x

On Saturday I took part in the Liddes-Verbier 29km trail run in the Swiss Alps, the baby race of the Trail Verbier St-Bernard family.

Trail Verbier St Bernard

In the lead up to the run, I’ve been following a 14 week training programme of around 500 miles, and definitely not enough hills! It was my friend Tori that first introduced me to trail running – when in 2012 and 2013 we took part in the Eco Trail de Paris and the Beaujolais Villages Trail together. With their combined ascents of 1,250m, this 29km at 1,498m altitude, with a climb of 2,500m+ was always going to be tougher…

Liddes to VerbierThe run consists of two big ascents, the first of which is higher than Snowdon (1,085m) and the second higher than Ben Nevis (1,344m)! And with fog and rain welcoming us at about 2,000m on both climbs it sadly meant we missed out on enjoying the stunning scenery of the St Bernard region.

The view

The descents were pretty treacherous also – technical terrain made very muddy and slippy by a number of days of persistent rain. Given all of this, I was pretty pleased to arrive in Verbier in 6 hours 31 mins, in 127th place (27th in my category) and pick up my finisher’s t-shirt!

Sarah Mayo in Verbier

Throughout, I had a lot of time to think. When not trying to work out how long until the next check point or where to plant my next pole, I began thinking that trail running is a great metaphor for life. There are ups and downs, there are twists and turns, slips and tumbles, blood, sweat and tears, but there is always one constant… the people around you, the people that help you through the tough times as well as the good times.

It’s these people that helped me complete this challenge, and my heartfelt gratitude goes out to them all:

  1. My support crew of sister-in-law Miki and nieces Sana and Fumi – from the start at Liddes, to the half-way point at Lourtier, to the end in Verbier – it was such a welcoming sight to see their smiling faces supporting me come rain or shine! (And sorry Sana for “STILL talking about that silly run”!) My running support crew
  2. Organisers, supporters and fellow runners – races like this take so much organisation, especially in inclement weather as it was this past weekend. My thanks to all those supporters/volunteers who were out in force along the route shouting “Bravo” or “You crazy trail runners!” and my fellow runners who picked me up with words such as “Courage” when I paused to rest or literally picked me up when I slipped and fell… Start of Liddes
  3. The BeaRCat Running Club – I was proud to wear my BeaRCat running vest, promoting this great running club around the Swiss Alps! I’ve been a member since the end of last year, and this fab community has provided so much friendly support and sage advice over this short space of time. Sarah Mayo Bearcat Runner
  4. Family and friends – A huge thanks to all my family and friends who have patiently been there for me over the last few months throughout all my training. For all your encouragement and lovely words of support, I’m forever grateful. Colin of the Collines
  5. And finally, my brother Colin – as I said earlier, my event was only the baby distance and it is with awe that I write about my brother who completed the daddy of the races – a gruelling 105km route, over a 7,500m ascent, in an incredible time of 22 hours 38 minutes, finishing in a staggering 46th place (12th in his category). I thought of him a great deal throughout my race, having started 8 hours before me, and knowing that he would finish around 8 hours after me (at 3.30am). When the climbs were tough, the thought of Colin somewhere nearby in the mountains kept on driving me forward. What an achievement Col, I’m massively proud of you. (It’s also just occurred to me that ‘colline’ in French means ‘hill’ – very apt that he should be so at home in the hills!!)

My closing thought may seem clichéd but I can’t argue with it… We all run our own races in life… We can’t compare our chapter 37 to someone else’s chapter 40… So, whatever your goal or race be proud of what you achieve, and don’t forget it’s the people around you that are important. They are the greatest prize of all. And so it’s to them and you, that I wholeheartedly thank and dedicate this post.

Santé!

G x

I work in event marketing for an agency that describes itself as “The experience agency”. We specialise in bringing brands to life through one-to-one experiences that are authentic, memorable and ultimately create brand advocacy.

I’ve recently returned from skiing in Verbier, Switzerland where my brother runs a luxury ski chalet business – Bramble Ski and its even more luxurious sister company Haute Montagne. They are also in the business of “experience” describing their service and raison d’être as “redefining the luxury chalet experience”.

Haute Montagne Chalets

But what does experience really mean? Surely one person’s idea of an experience is different to another’s…

Haute Montagne (HM) was recently featured in a Sunday Times article, entitled “Ice and easy: the £700,000 skiing holiday”, as the most expensive skiing holiday sold last year… Imagine clothes wrapped in gold tissue paper, gourmet food, arrival by private jet, a private sommelier and the promise of a secluded spot away from the skiing masses. These are just some of the things the HM experience promises. With art galleries, cinemas, pools, spas and a remote idyllic setting, these chalets have been described as super yachts in the snow. It’s difficult to imagine this kind of money and extravagance!

Haute Montagne Chalets

While staying (not in one of the luxurious chalets I might add!) with my brother (Colin), I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask him and one of his fellow co-owners (Natasha), how they define “experience” in their business, as well as in other areas of life:

1. What’s your most memorable experience in life so far?

Colin: “A 3 month ski trip to Las Lenas, Argentina, not just for the skiing adventure but for the best red meat and red wine in the world.”

Natasha: “In terms of travel or holidays, a round the world trip with my husband was pretty memorable! We went to surf spots everywhere but the best was probably Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka. A Danish couple had spent thirty years building a beautiful little oasis of calm, beach huts built amongst gardens right on the beach. The central building was completely open on three sides and was such a wonderfully relaxing spot after years of London life. The best thing was how they looked after their staff, all from local families. During the civil war when no tourists came they simply bought some fishing boats and kept everyone employed as fishermen!”

Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka

2. What experiences are on your bucket list?

Colin: “Nothing so defined, but I have always thought it would be fun to combine sea kayaking with ski touring, while roughing it in a tent every night.”

Natasha: “I don’t do bucket lists, I’m not generally into lists or collections and I tend to take life as it comes. I guess I would like to take the kids to Africa and would love to see the Himalayas.”

Himalayas

3. What is it you think that sets the Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne experience apart from other luxury ski holidays?

Colin: “Our ability to be able to adapt to each client. Flexibility is key. Our chefs design their menus each week to suit the different guests, the hosts adapt their service style to the guests preference and our ski instructor-concierges and chalet managers respond to any requests thrown their way.”

Natasha: “The staff, without question! We have the most amazing team of people and that’s what makes the experience so great. Our staff are naturally service orientated people, you need empathy in order to anticipate what a client will need. You need a winning smile and you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and work hard to get the job done.”

Haute Montagne Spa

4. What’s the simplest and most extravagant detail that your clients can expect while staying with Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne?

Colin: “From a phone call an hour before arrival, assuring the guests that we are ready for them (a simple Bramble detail)… to lobster and caviar served in the private spa area with Cristal Champagne (an extravagant Haute Montagne detail).”

Natasha: “The most extravagant details like having your bags packed for you with golden tissue paper are actually the simplest things to do, you just need to be trained. Once you are trained these things don’t actually cost more money. It just takes a perfectionist to do it so well that when you open your luggage back home it is like Christmas, it is the biggest treat you can imagine.”

W Hotel Verbier

5. What other companies and experiences do you take inspiration from or admire?

Colin: We mostly learn from our staff who have worked in Michelin starred restaurants and 5* hotels, but we certainly look at what The Virgin Lodge and the new W Hotel in Verbier are doing.

Natasha: “I take huge inspiration from music and art. I love that it is possible to create something pristine and perfect, if that is a 3 minute song or a watercolour portrait. I love simple things that can give you pleasure. The experience of hearing live music performed for example, it can totally alter your mood. It is the result of hours and hours of practice, sometimes a lifetime of dedication, to create something seemingly effortless and totally beautiful!”

Thanks to Colin and Natasha for sparing some time to share their thoughts on what makes a great experience… They and their co-owners are now in their 9th season with Bramble Ski, with many regular and celebrity clients, so they’re clearly doing something very right…

I’ll just have to get used to the thought of never experiencing this kind of super yacht decadence, beyond my dreams… even with my brother at the helm!

G x

Evening! Following on from my last post ‘From Russia With Love‘ here is the second in a series of 5 travel reviews; with this one focused on a country that I keep returning to – Switzerland.

Over the last year, I’ve had three trips to Switzerland – mainly to visit my brother, sister-in-law and gorgeous two nieces who live in the Bagnes region, in the valley below Verbier. During these amazing visits, I’ve been lucky enough to squeeze in a lot of skiing, some running, hiking, swimming and a couple of big birthday celebrations.

photo 4-1

Last month I spent a glorious five days there with the whole family, celebrating my brother’s 40th birthday.  We also took the opportunity of the first family gathering in two years, to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, from earlier this year.

photo-67

So, today’s #5aday is dedicated to Switzerland, and the Alps:

  1. First Impressions – Whenever I arrive in Switzerland, I’m always blown away by their efficiency. Everything works like clockwork. Little wonder they’re renowned for their time pieces as well as their time keeping. Swiss is my preferred airline to travel to Geneva, with no baggage restrictions, good value, great service flights from Heathrow. I have yet to experience a delay and my bags always seem to be waiting for me as I come through passport control (hope I’m not tempting fate by saying this). From the terminal it takes minutes to get to the train station, with regular and prompt trains to Martigny and Le Chable. IMG_2980
  2. Summer in the Alps – The Swiss Alps are stunning in the summer. Having spent so much time there during the winter months, it was lovely to see the mountains in all their green glory, with wonderful wild flowers, grazing goats and beautiful blue skies. We went to a lovely outdoor pool in Champex-Lac (great for kids and big kids!), by a stunning lake. We had an adventure on the Sentier Suspendu (Go Ape style obstacle course in the trees) in La Fouly. And the pinnacle of the holiday, took place at Cabane Brunet, 2100m high above the Val de Bagnes. This was the location of my brother’s 40th party, where 60 of us enjoyed wonderful company, food and drink, all with a backdrop of sensational views over the Petit and Grand Combin glaciers, as well as the valley. A few of us chose to hike up on the day and down the following day – not ideal with stonking hangovers, but definitely worth it for the views and the exercise! Image-15
  3. Eating in the Alps – I’ve enjoyed some delicious food while in Switzerland – my favourite tending to be raclette, or some other cheese-based winter speciality. This summer however, we were treated to a new restaurant in Orsieres – Restaurant Les Alpes, for dad’s 70th. It used to be the proud recipient of a Michelin star, but even though this status has not been maintained, the food and service was exceptional. Perfect for such a special birthday. Favourite winter restaurants in the area include Le Caveau for raclette, La Marlenaz for family meals, Fer à Cheval for pizza and Al Capone for its local speciality ‘Potence’ (hanging meat). Image-16
  4. Running in the Alps – I’ve mentioned before, how I like to run whenever I travel, but this time I only managed to squeeze in the one run, in amongst all the other activities. Earlier this year, when I visited I was training for a trail run in April, and managed to get a couple of much needed altitude and hill runs under my belt. My great friend Tori and I have started a tradition of meeting every year in France for a trail run – the first of which was the Eco-Trail de Paris in March 2012 and the second was the Beaujolais Villages Trail in April 2013. I am now hoping I might persuade her to come to the Swiss Alps next July for the Verbier-St Bernard trail. Entries aren’t open yet, but I’m hoping that by publishing this, it will encourage us both to sign up, as well as any other takers out there!? IMG_4188
  5. Skiing in the Alps – And finally, I could not complete this blog, without mentioning the skiing. I’ve been very fortunate to have a brother who I can visit as many times as I can afford (holiday and money-wise!) over the last 8 years. While it is a little pricey in Verbier, the skiing is definitely worth it. I’ve written a number of posts about Verbier and skiing, which can be read here. In March, I also managed to squeeze in a long weekend at the Swiss Ski Resort of Crans Montana. I took part in the Momentum City Ski Championship and entries will soon be open for 2014, if you fancy entering a corporate team? It’s great fun! Crans is very different to Verbier in that it is a fairly open and exposed resort and therefore it can be susceptible to icy slopes. It does boast spectacular vistas and has a wide variety of skiing. It is also host to some excellent music during the Caprices Music Festival. It seems bonkers, while we’re still enjoying a late summer, but now is the time to start planning your ski holiday for this winter. So, if you’re feeling fit, check out the Momentum City Ski Championship. If you’re feeling flush, check out Bramble Ski. And, if you’re feeling flash, check out Haute MontagneIMG_3791

Whether you’re looking to book an active holiday in the summer, or in the winter, whatever the time of year, I thoroughly recommend you make it Swiss O’Clock.

Safe travels!

G x

By Sarah Mayo

Hello & welcome to #SundayTimes & my last post for the summer…

Screen shot 2013-07-27 at 19.25.34

I’ve been off the radar for a few weeks, mainly because I’ve been busy with my new job. And as I’ve got a busy month ahead, I’m going to take the opportunity to sign off for a bit and have some #GTimeOut focusing on the following:

  1. BMW’s i3 electric car launches this week at Old Billingsgate in the City, which is where I’ll be based for the next week, overlooking The Shard and Tower Bridge (pics above).
  2. Then I head to Switzerland for my brother’s 40th celebrations in the Alps. Really looking forward to the break and a party in a cabane in the mountains!
  3. Not long after that I’m heading to Moscow for the final weekend of the World Championships, at the same time ticking off my New Year’s Resolution to visit a new country in 2013.
  4. When I return, I will be getting my head down and settling into my new job and new and exciting projects to come.
  5. The time out will also give me the opportunity to think of new ideas and inspiration for Ginger and Spice!

I will tweet the odd picture from my adventures but in the meantime, enjoy the summer and see you back here in a wee while…

Over and #GTimeOut!

G x

By Sarah Mayo

Evening! Welcome to #SundayTimes & today’s #5aday #SkiSunday. In a month I head off to the Swiss Alps for skiing in Verbier & Crans Montana.

Switzerland

I’ve written a few skiing related posts before, so today’s #5aday revisits some of these to give you inspiration if planning a ski break.

  1. Powder or Party or both? What are your priorities when planning your ski holiday? Read ‘Powder or Party?’ for 5 resort suggestions.
  2. If you answered both to #1 then Verbier is ideal. Read ‘Best of Verbier’ for 5 of the best places to ski & party in Verbier.
  3. If you’re interested in going somewhere with a difference then check out these 5 picture perfect ski resorts (from Gstaad to Kicking Horse).
  4. To maximise your skiing fun & fitness, read these 5 steps for all you need to get into shape to hit the slopes.
  5. Read my final ski-inspired post – an interview with Bramble Ski’s director Colin Mayo, on the business of skiing.

All this talk of skiing is teasing me, especially as the snow is so amazing at the moment. Bring on March – only 28 sleeps to go!

Enjoy the rest of your evening & Kung Hei Fat Choy! All the best for the Chinese New Year. May the year of the snake be a prosperous one.

G x