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 4 of 16 was all about building a base… Appropriate as I write this overlooking a snowy Bruson, opposite Verbier in Switzerland, where the snow base is still building after an unseasonably mild winter so far.

Bruson

I arrived last night for a few days to celebrate 10 years of Bramble Ski – my brother’s ski business.

Before I set off, I completed my final run of the week – a very cold 14-miler along the Thames – taking my week’s mileage to 32, and 74 miles for the month so far.

Week 4 of Paris Marathon training

Not only did I complete my longest run since October 2014, but I also concentrated on speed again on Tuesday, with another tempo session similar to last week’s.

Interval speed sessions are important when you’re looking to improve pace, but the other effective way to do this is to incorporate some good hill workouts… And what better place to plan some hill training than in the Alps! The last time I was here in July, I took part in the Liddes-Verbier trail run, an 18-miler with an ascent of over 2,500m… I won’t be completing anything quite as challenging this week but tomorrow’s run will concentrate on hill reps, and in so doing I hope to build power and strength into my legs, and in turn speed.

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 and welcome to today’s short and sweet #5aday and my last post until Thursday 21st March.

It’s #SundayTimes and I’m currently writing this while chilling, after a day’s skiing in Verbier, Switzerland.

My #5aday today is made up of the key highlights of this week’s holiday.

1. Rest and Relaxation – I’ve had a very busy past month back in London, and the mountain surroundings are the perfect environment to blow the cobwebs away.
2. Catching up with family – I’m staying with my brother until Thursday and get to spend some valuable time with my two beautiful nieces, who I haven’t seen since Christmas.
3. Skiing – Obviously this is high up the agenda although the conditions today lend themselves more to après than ski! On Thursday I then move to Crans Montana for the City Ski Championship and somehow I’ve managed to get roped into a dual and giant slalom race on Friday. Help!
4. Après-Ski – Clearly this is also on the agenda, especially from Thursday onwards. I might not be quite so refreshed come a week tomorrow!
5. Sunshine – Today has been a glorious day as you can see from the pics, so fingers crossed we’ll have some more sunshine but to be honest we could do with some more snow too.

So that’s it… I’m taking some much needed #GTime Out from my regular #5aday. I will tweet the odd pic or two though, in an effort to make everyone back home as jealous as possible!

Take care and see you back here for #GTime business as usual on Thursday 21st March.

G x

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Evening! It’s #SaturdayShopping time… With London Fashion Week comes talk of A/W13 trends to watch out for but what about looking hot this winter?

In preparation for skiing in a few weeks, tonight’s #5aday features gear to make you stand out on the slopes & ensure you ski in style.

  1. Gucci Goggles in Silver – With double lenses & special technology to stop fogging. Very regardez-moi @ £125.Gucci Goggles
  2. Sorel Joan of Arctic Boot – Non-slip, warm & waterproof can be stylish with these boots @ £155.           Sorrel boots
  3. Giro Sheer White Helmet – You can’t take safety lightly on the slopes, so protect yourself in this @ £159.99. Ski Helmet
  4. The North Face Women’s Free Thinker GTX Pant – These bright yellow trousers will help you in the bumps @ £319.99. North Face Ski Trousers
  5. The North Face Women’s Chaletta Down Jacket – Warm, windproof, waterproof AND highly wearable in blue @ £329.99.North Face Ski Jacket

5 essentials to ensure you look hot while on the slopes and during apres-ski but which will slalom its way into tonight’s #GTopSpot?

Tonight’s #SaturdayShopping #GTopSpot goes to #5 The North Face Women’s Chaletta Down Jacket – Stay warm & look cool.

G x