Sunday, 30 March 2008

Bonkers

So we were cycling in temps of around 20 degrees C at lunchtime today, then tonight at 22.00 hrs, we have 2" of snow on the ground??! That's mountain weather for you.

Cycling

We took advantage of the fine, warmer weather today to have a jolly jaunt out on the road bikes, heading from Pissou up to Cominac via the Col de Saraillé. After our earlier tweaking of my new saddle, my riding position felt a lot better which gave me more confidence and control on the downhills. However, by the time we got back home, my sit bones were complaining - they will toughen up as they get used to the new saddle but it is a tad uncomfortable in the meantime!

The weather is changing this afternoon, with the forecasted occlusion making its presence known with quite a big dip in the temperatures, heavy skies and windy gusts. Snow is forecast on the higher hills overnight but with a return to finer weather in a couple of days time. More bike or climbing action then :-)

Friday, 28 March 2008

Respite

The weather since Monday evening has been pretty foul, with a considerable amount of rain falling which has washed away all of the lower level snow. The rivers and streams are swollen with the meltwater. But we had a bit of respite earlier today and took advantage of the break to get out for a short 8.5km jog from Pissou, through the woods to Eycheboul and then back along a rough woodland track/footpath to Cartou, along the road to Caougnous and down to Pissou. It was good to stretch the legs again. Even more so as the low cloud and rain has returned again this evening. The forecast is for warmer, sunnier weather Saturday and Sunday before another dip in the temperatures and more snow above 1200m on Sunday night.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Mush

No, nothing to do with anything as exciting as huskies and sledges, before you set off down that track! I am referring more to the wet, slushy and not particularly pleasant stuff which is all that remains of the snow that we had yesterday. Yesterday evening the temperatures started to rise and rain rather than snow started to fall. This continued overnight and so this morning we woke up to a very different landscape to the one 24 hrs ago. The cloud level was well down and the temperature was around 5 deg C. There is a whisper of more snow tomorrow afternoon.......? Here's hoping. Would be great to have an outing on the skis again.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Proper snow and blizzards too

Overnight and this morning we had a proper dump of snow, the first (and probably last) of the winter. There was nothing for it, we had to christen the snowshoes. It was still blowing a blizzard when we left the house, but all the same, we headed up to the Col de Caougnous where we met the road up to the Col de Port. Although the road had been cleared earlier, it was still looking decidedly wintery.

We then headed up the road to Peguere which had not been cleared. The powder would have been just perfect for skinning up on the skis, but we were going to give it a bash with the snowshoes. There was only around 6" of snow on the lower section but after a kilometer or so it startened to deepen quite noticeably. Breaking trail was hard work in the soft powder... it was a good work out. The weather higher up was quite unpleasant, with wind driving the snow into our faces and the temperatures much lower. We didn't want to hang about in those conditions. The descent back down the hill following the tracks that we had made on the ascent was fast and good fun.
Hot chocolate in front of the fire when we got back home :-)

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Snow

The snow made a re-appearance overnight. But temperatures rose quite dramatically during the day and we were left with slush by mid afternoon. However, the next onslaught is on its way, starting gently this evening....... but with a heavier dump forecast for tonight accompanied by a big dip in the temperatures by the morning. Not good news for our Trail des Citadelles 20km trail race which is happening tomorrow. I think Pat and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that we won't make it. We will probably console ourselves with a snowshoe or ski de rando outing instead. Meanwhile, this evening I am enjoying the hot cross buns that I made this afternoon! Mmm, scrummy yummy!

Friday, 21 March 2008

This and that

Yesterday was a landmark day. I finally collected the 09 (Ariege department) French plates for the car so we are now legal over here and don't look like tourists any more! Woo-hoo!

Anyhoo, apart from that little bit of excitement (it doesn't take much!), today, I went for a little 8km run to stretch my legs.... my last outing before the 20km trail race on Sunday. However, the forecast for the weekend is, er, pretty dire and there may well be snow here Saturday night/Sunday morning which may prevent us from getting to the event .... or at least, that is what Pat is hoping! Watch this space.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Birthday celebrations

Yesterday was Lee's 40th birthday. He reckoned he could get away with just letting it pass on by. But we had other ideas. When we were climbing the other day, Ian came up with a cunning plan which involved curry. I was happy to assist and after a number of 'phone calls, managed to get together a small group of Lee's friends. Between us we got some grub together and made our way up to Lee's for the surprise. He was only expecting Ian and Nina as company on his birthday evening, so it was with some consternation that he opened his door to 9 of us! A jolly fine evening in convivial company followed with some fine curry and nice wine. The birthday boy seemed to enjoy his surprise once the initial shock of the house invasion had worn off! Good fun all round.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Climbing!

It has been too long, but today I intended to join Lee, Dave, Ian and Nina down at our little local crag at Biert for a spot of climbing action. However, first I had to find the place! I actually wasted over an hour trying to find the crag by making the mistake of following the 'Site d'escalade' signs which took me way up through the woodland onto the 'Ker' above Biert where I stumbled upon the 'grotte supérieure' or cave where there were a few hardcore climbs..... NOT where I wanted to be. But the view towards Massat was nice and I saw loads of pretty little woodland flowers which included a Helleborus Viridis...
and a carpet of Colidaris Solida
In the end I gave up looking for the crag and headed back down to the car. As I drove back towards Massat, I glanced over to my right and glimpsed a red top on a bit of rock .... aha! Maybe that was where I needed to be! Indeed it was. I parked up, The rock looked good and the others had already ticked the lower grade climbs in the left hand sectors and Lee was about to start up a nice looking 5a. I wasn't ready to lead but was happy to second up the route.... it was so nice to touch rock and to get my climbing muscles working again after more than 2 yrs. Nina had a bash at a nice looking route further along the crag.... and Lee did a good lead on a 5b which again I was quite happy to second....


It was fun, great to meet some new people and above all it was fantastic to be climbing again. I hope it won't be too long before we get back on the rock again :-)

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Change

Temperatures dropped by 10 degrees in an hour and a half this afternoon as another front pushed in. It was positively balmy, but overcast this morning before the winds picked up late morning and brought with them the low, which has given us heavy skies and lower temps. We had decided to go for a short trot to stretch our legs up towards the Pic d'Estibat and along to the spur before the Sommet des Griets which we followed down and around to the path that led back to the Col de Port, a pleasant little circuit of just 4.75kms but with around 370m of steep ascent, taking in a beautiful little 'glen' that has an amazingly wild feel to it! As we were making our way back down, we could see the front rapidly approaching and the skies darkened, so we put a spurt on and got back to the car just in time. On the way, we spotted several beautiful little flowers which I have not yet identified? Any ideas?


Thank you Lee! Dog's tooth violet it is!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Hot!

20 degrees in the shade today. Closer to 30 degrees in the sun on the terrasse....mmm, toasty! Hard to believe it was snowing just over a week ago, but that's mountain weather for you.

Today, we have been mostly gardening. The red onions have gone in and the herbs have been replanted into the area of land that we have been working on, to the left of the terrasse. We are creating a rockery-type thing on the next level up which makes use of the numerous rocks that we dug up the other week. My next mission is to find some suitable rockery/alpine plants that will grow well in that environment.

Other jobs today included playing with a laser leveller on the upper level of the barn to see just how much work needs to be done to even out the floor. A fair bit is the answer. So we need to get chocking if we are to get proper floorboards laid in the near future.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Sun

Yes, it's back. Clear skies and warm temperatures for the latter half of the day. Lovely. We had an early trip down to St G today to pick up the new shower door and other bits necessary for the bathroom overhaul and also to buy a scythe and to drop our docs into the Sous-préfecture for the car re-registration. After lunch, we chainsawed some much needed smaller diameter wood and then I got to play with my new scythe! It turned out to be very efficient on the land that we have got earmarked as a 'potager', cutting through the thick brambles that are choking the earth. Very satisfying and good exercise into the bargain!This afternoon Andy wired in a light to the upper level of the barn and discovered just how dangerously the previous electrics had been installed! I, in the meantime, treated and stained the new gate sections that Andy has made (note the dog access point on the bottom right!) which, combined with the wire netting...will prevent the goats from coming through to Pissou and wrecking our impending veggie patch!

So all in all, it has been a productive day :-)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Peguère Intervals

Today has been my last day of 'serious' training for the Trail des Citadelles event which takes place in 10 days time. It had to count. Next week will be 'taper' week. So intervals it was. Andy and the pooch joined me as we made our gentle way, part walking, part jogging, up the 2kms from Pissou to the Col de Caognous. En route, we passed Josette and Eric's spot where they keep the goats. However, Andy noticed a small black bundle behind a wood stack as we made our way up the footpath behind their house. It was a young goat, very still, very alone, very vulnerable. The other goats were way down the hill, so mum had obviously abandoned him. So I picked him up in my arms and carried him back down to Josette's and tried to find her/Eric but it took a good 10 mins before I found Josette and brought the kid's plight to her attention. She was quite grateful!

So anyway, at Col de Caougnous, we paused before setting off on the intervals up the 3.5km hill. The first km or so is an average incline of 14.5%, so 1 minute max effort/2 mins recovery for 3 intervals. I managed to max out my heart rate which was the object of the exercise, before it dropped back down fairly rapidly on the recovery. Time to up the interval to 1.30min effort/2 min recovery. The final three intervals, I pushed it to 1.30mins effort/1.30mins recovery. On analysing the data from my Garmin, the first intervals on the steepest section were completed at approx 6.85 kph. On the final kilometre, which is an average 11% incline, average speed was 8.2kph. I was pleased with that. I felt good. Andy also had a good session and overcame his midway lactic acid build up and made it to the top. Good effort all round. The jog back down the hill was another good exercise in controlled downhill running which is always beneficial. So, just the occasional gentle run for the next 10 days and I should be well fit for the Citadelles with Pat!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Wild

Since the snow last week, the weather has been inclement with just a couple of brief spells of dry, clear weather. The temperatures rose and the snow turned to mush within a matter of days. Last night was wild, as we were buffeted by increasingly strong winds and driving rain. But today, regardless, Andy and I were set on getting out for a bit of a run. We didn't want tarmac and we didn't want muddy footpaths so the obvious option was the zig zag track which leads up to the Cabane du Col des Roses. With a bit of luck, the snow would have retreated and we could attempt to run the steady incline right to the top, which would be a good work out. We managed to get out in a brief weather window when the driving rain was taking a breather and the winds had died down. We managed approx 2kms of steady running before it became apparent that the slush was going to be too big a hindrance to proceed any higher. So we turned tail and ran back down. However, rather than give up and head home, we turned round and headed back up the track, running as hard as we could back up to the corner where the slush prevented any further progress. We then turned round and ran hard back down to the road. It had been just a brief workout, but better than sitting on our bums back home!

The swollen streams and rivers were impressive today with the swirling brown meltwater from the tops further supercharged by the large quantity of rain that has fallen over the last 24 hours. But the farmers will be somewhat relieved as the yellow pastures turn green and life returns to the parched ground. Hopefully the water 'bassins' which feed the hamlets and villages will also have been replenished, thereby lessening the risk of drought this summer. High pressure is due to return to the area towards the weekend, bringing with it more settled weather. Hopefully then we will be able to get back on the roadies and pick up the weekly mileage in preparation for the Sportive at the end of June.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Skiing

The forecast for today was for clearer skies and no more snow. So we decided to head out for a bit of a ski tour, up towards the Spanish border above the Col de Pause. Although the snow clouds had generally dissipated, there was still a great deal of high level cloud, which made the light very dull, which was a pity, but this did not detract from our enjoyment of being in such a beautiful situation.It was good to be out!
The route took us along the 'route forestiere'. There was probably a good 20cm of cover although along the track, this had been windblown to create either interesting drifts, or, as we moved higher up, bare patches where we had to remove the skis and walk.This on/off with the skis started to become tedious and with signs of a storm approaching, we decided to turn round and ski back down the track. Hopefully we won't have seen the last of the winter and will get another opportunity to head into the high hills before the real spring comes.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Wintery weather

The wintery weather continued overnight and today we are still experiencing squalls of snow showers and gusty winds. We took the pooch up the hill this morning for a play in the snow - mad hound!
video

From above Pissou, the wintery vista revealed itself!

Hopefully the skies will clear tomorrow and we will be able to get out for a play on our skis or snowshoes.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

What a difference a day (or 2) makes!

Two days ago, I was in my shorts, cycling with clear blue skies overhead and temperatures in the low 20s. This morning, we woke up to this;


By this evening, we have a few inches of soft snow/graupel on the ground. Fortunately, the wind has died down a bit as it was blowing a hooley earlier. This spell of winter weather isn't set to last, however, with the forecast set to revert back to clear skies and warm temperatures by the end of the week. Tant Pis.

Andy took advantage of the conditions to start work on the bathroom and we now have the lovely new basin installed and the tiles up ready for grouting and it looks just great. From this (I didn't save a large piccy - apologies).....
to this.....(grouting yet to be done)

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Onwards and upwards

We have had a quiet, fairly inactive few days since our long run on Wednesday, with time being spent preparing more ground for our veggie seed sowing and also sorting out the barn for our bike turbo trainer and other associated fitness gubbins. So, with the day dawning warm and clear today, a bike ride was on the cards. I decided to do a variation on the ride over the Col de Saraillé that I did a few weeks ago, but this time building in an extension from Ercé, heading along the valley to Aulus and then back down the valley to Oust before climbing back up to the Col de Saraillé via the road that I had descended last time. It was a beautiful ride up to Cominac, with Mont Valier looking amazing in the midday light.I descended down the steepish, 5km road from Cominac to Ercé which I had ascended last time, and then headed left along the gentle gradient of the road from Ercé to Aulus where I stopped to refill my water bottles and have a bite to eat. The short break recharged my batteries and I felt ready to go again. 31.5 km was under my belt - I reckoned I had covered about half the distance. The run back down the valley to Oust was lovely but then I had to turn off to head back up to the Col de Saraillé. I had descended by this route last time and knew that, although it was not excessively steep, it was still sustained and would be a challenge for my already tired legs. But I took it steady and was relieved when I finally saw Cominac opening out in front of me. Way down in the valley, in the distance, I could make out the route that I had taken up towards Aulus - it seemed miles away! By now I was generally feeling very tired, having covered 54kms and was not looking forward to the final ascent from Massat back up the Col de Port road to Pissou. But before then, I had a great photo opportunity which shows our general situation here, looking down to Massat (church on the right) with the Col de Port in the far distance, behind the prominent 'lump' in the centre right of the photo. Pissou is situated just to the left of that lump on the small headland that is just visible
I eventually staggered back to Pissou with no juice left in my legs. The ride profile went some way to explain my knackered-ness;
I had spent 3 hrs 40 mins in the saddle, covered 69.5kms which included 1100m of ascent - my hardest ride to date. I was pooped but chuffed to have completed the ride on such a gorgeous day.