Having disgraced myself in Scotland last year (think back to the DQ in The Highlander and getting lost and taking 3hrs in my own back garden in the navigation leg in the FRA relays) it was evident I was in no way fit or competent to hold let alone run with a map. Time to look to tamer racing environments where banner tape and gigantic fluorescent arrows painted on the floor are present every 200m mean that navigation really shouldn’t be too big an issue.
So with a get out of work free card until mid-March and Leyre on a work placement in Geneva with a free flat on the edge of the Jura mountains, I of course jumped on the opportunity to take up my new part-time role as cleaner/chauffeur/professional housewife whilst Leyre did hideous hours in the lab Monday-Friday. Whilst taking my professional duties very seriously, it did allow me ample time to profit from the unseasonably warm February weather and get in plenty of hill running and cross-country skiing.
To the racing- things are pretty sparse in the alps at this time of year with most complaining that it’s too cold and dangerous (ie hard) anywhere when there might be a possibility of encountering snow. However there are a few small regional races that attract the ‘hard-core’ of the alpine running scene. The first of these that we decided to attend was the Trail des Huilles in the small village of Bourget-en-Huille in the Massif de la Belledonne. We decided to prepare well for the race the night before and cut down the morning drive by staying with some old housemates in Chambery. Needless to say the electro festival in an abandoned industrial unit complete with oysters and hot tubs perhaps wasn’t the greatest idea as we stumbled back to the house at 3 in the morning. Feeling slightly worse for wear, the prompt 8am start was just lovely. Leyre deciding to get the pain over with shortly and sharply opting for the shorter parcours at 16km and I deciding on the slow and painful 30km option. Courses were to be commended, both picturesque and ‘technical’, I mean at one point there was actually snow and a little of this unknown medium known as ‘mud’. My personal highlight during the race coming with one Frenchman asking, whilst referring to my Westies vest, as to why on earth I was wearing a netball bib to run a trail race? I guess I didn’t really know my indeed I was wearing a netball bib to a race…
Finish line arrived and Leyre putting in a formidable early season performance was 4th woman. I on the other hand was nowhere to be seen on the race list. Dismayed not have been included in the final classification, I did surprisingly notice another Westie who neither Leyre or myself recognised on the list- a certain “Coddy Lunningham” was 35th of 170 overall in the long race.
So on to the next weekend then and this time we opted for the 26km Trail de Gros Foug, a race starting at sunset through some vineyards near Aix les Bains before reaching some arbitrary point about 70m below the summit of the hill “Le Gros Foug” at 1000m and before coming back down an old forest track. The race was made fairly interesting by the carrying of head torches and the UV painted arrows on the trail made navigation fairly simple (although I still managed to take two wrong turns on the descent). Apparently the year before the race had attracted nearly 200 but biblical rains and wind (think of an average evening on the Campsies) obviously left it to the real hard-core and we just over 80 at the starting line.
Couldn’t complain with results, especially seeing as there were two French gents with the medics at the end of the race with what looked like early onset Hypothermia and everyone was denouncing the horrendous conditions (again think Campsies in early April). 22nd for me and I think (if I’m not wrong?) first Westies win of the year with Leyre taking first female senior along with a bottle of local wine, 25€, flowers and most importantly a bloody good Tefal frying pan! Now you definitely don’t get that from Carnethy 5 do you?
I should finally report from the third race of the year just this weekend but alas it was not to be. Leyre being her typical Spanish self, “misread” the start time and when we turned up at 12 o’clock the winners had already arrived 45 minutes earlier and we were politely (and rather pitifully) informed that the race started at 9 o’clock. A coincidence, or did Leyre just fancy 3 hours more in her bed? I’ll let you all decide. Needless to say it was a glorious spring day of sun and 20 degrees and seeing as the course was still marked, we decided to go and run the 30km anyway.