Sunday, 4 April 2010

Trail des Citadelles 2010 report

Phew, where to start! The Citadelles is THE big trail race in this area - well, there are actually three trail races, one of 73kms with 3300m of ascent (you have to be seriously bonkers or just stupidly fit to do that one), one of 40kms with 2000m of ascent (Slight bonkersness is definitely an advantage) and then the 20km with 1000m of ascent which is for the saner trail runner such as my goodself . The 20km circuit can also be entered by walkers.

Anyway, the weather has been wonderfully dry for the past week, but, guess what, it absolutely tipped it down during the night which ensured that the Citadelles would retain its reputation as a tough race thanks to the copious quantities of mud that would be encountered today. Oh whoopee (yes, that is a slight tone of sarcasm that you have detected there). I spent the night at Pat and Kevs (they only live 10 mins from Lavalenet from where the races start) and have to say I had an appalling night's sleep (I blame it on pre-race nerves) so was knackered when the alarm went off at 06.30 this morning. Still, the adrenalin started to kick in when we got to the race centre. Pat and Kev were taking a walking group of clients around the 20km circuit and set off 1hr 20min before me. The weather was changeable with occasional showers so I opted to leave the full waterproof cover in the car. Very quickly after the race start, the tone was set for the conditions for the rest of the race.4kms into the race, the real ascent commenced up through the woodland. The mud was deeper and thicker, but my shoes seemed to be giving me reasonable grip and I was pleased to be able to pass quite a number of people who were struggling. Then came some nice descent - the word 'nice' should be taken in context!And then, you turn a corner and ........ we're going up there??!!! The Chateau de Montsegur is a landmark in more ways than one. The final steep ascent of 238m over 1.5kms was stiff and made treachorous by the fact that the Chateau (well, its a ruin really, now, isn't it) remained open to the public this morning despite the fact that it was both an ascent and descent route for all of the race runners and the walkers, so you can imagine that the narrow path up to the top became something of a bottleneck!!! Oh yes, and we were treated to a blast of snow on the way up! But I was at the top 1 hr 30 mins and 9.30kms into the race and promptly legged it back down the steep path, looking forward to the second half of the race which would be mainly downhill or on the level. I particularly enjoyed the route down through the woodland was just hilarious and a real opportunity to 'let it go' through the copious quantities of mud that prevaled. Naturally a took a bit of a fall but didn't everybody! Great fun! I was feeling good and fuelling well. The final 6kms were back along the valley, pretty much on the level, but my right ITB and deep buttock muscle started complaining about the punishment I was giving them. My left leg on the other hand, held its counsel and just got on with it, thank goodness. But despite the deep discomfort and pain, I pushed through to the finish at a reasonable pace (still averaging 10 kph) and crossed the line after 2 hrs 45 mins on my feet. For me, that was a good result. I have no idea where I came in the overall results as they have not yet been published, but I don't think I disgraced myself - I just hope I can walk tomorrow! The profile of the course is impressivePat and Kev's group all made it around the course without injury which was fantastic as none of them had ever done anything like that before. Chapeau, as the French say.

The atmosphere at the post race 'repas' was fantastic, amongst like minded folk who had all 'enjoyed' the days conditions. Unfortunately for the 40 and 70km racers, the weather deteriorated at around 1pm and they spent much of the latter half of their race in torrential rain and freezing conditions. I repeat, only the truely mad (OK, the hardy/brave/whatever - you have my respect, I am envious of your resilience and determination, honestly!) need apply.

So back home now, very tired and in some discomfort but hopefully some liquid muscle relaxant will ease my pain.

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