Monday, 28 March 2011

A spur of the moment thing

I have had the Trail du Piedmont Pyrénéen Audois on my list of possible trail races to do since the start of the year, but couldn't commit to doing it. The main reason being that it is longer and has more ascent than I have ever done in a single outing (training or race) before. I simply wasn't sure that I was ready for it. But on Friday evening, after a verre or deux of vin, the 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' thinking won me over. I was feeling fit and strong and had recovered well from the race 2 weeks ago, so why not!

So, despite the clocks changing, I was up bright & early yesterday morning to head over to Quillan in the Aude which is only 25 minutes from us here. There was to be a 13km and a 26km race and the latter would include 1200m ish of ascent. The turnout was not amazing, but there is no website for the race and the organisers didn't answer the 2 emails that I sent them, so I guess that shouldn't have been a surprise! But at 9am, we were off. I had told myself that this was very much going to be a training run and not a 'race' as I had no idea how I would cope with the extra distance & ascent.

It did indeed prove to be a tough course with nearly 900m of ascent in the first 10kms, some nasty, technical, steep descent and a cruel, undulating section between kms 21 and 24 thrown in for good measure, just when you expected and indeed needed things to get easier.
 Despite carrying 1.5L of liquid fuel, taking a gel 15 mins before the off and then another 2 gels during the race, I could have done with one more at around the 3hr mark. But I still managed to finish in under 3 1/2 hrs and managed a strong finish, overtaking 2 people in the final kilometer. The best bit is that I wasn't broken! Tired, of course, but no pain, no damage - now that was a surprise. Did I say that was the best bit? Oh, I forgot, I was also called up to collect this.....
Yes! Now that was the best bit! 2nd woman finisher in the 26km race! OK, so there were only three of us in a total field of 31, but hey, I reckon I deserved it! Full stats on the usual site.

It was an amazingly well marshalled and waymarked circuit and was a fantastically friendly event. Some of the running was on great paths & trails and the scents that I kept catching as I ran through the wilder sections were just divine. The area around Quillan is a stunningly beautiful corner of the Aude. Just a shame I was concentrating too much on staying on my feet to appreciate the views. The Trail des Citadelles 20km race on Easter Sunday is the next race in the pipeline. I can't wait!

Thursday, 24 March 2011


It was a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon this afternoon. About time I had a decent run. The race was 2 weeks ago and I have done far too little since then. So I headed up to the Plateau de Sault but only decided to have a re-match with the Trail du Pays de Sault circuit rather than do another run once I was actually up there. It was a good one...although it didn't feel like it at the time! Maybe I was pushing myself harder than I appreciated? I am pretty bad at judging these things, I have to admit. It didn't help that the dog appeared to be struggling for some reason. But I love the Plateau de Sault, It is only 15-20 mins up the road and has some wonderful views

I got round the 15km/230m+ circuit in 1h32m which was a good 6 mins faster than the last time I did it :-) If I had taken on board some fuel and hadn't been running with the pooch, I would have come in under 1h30m. Next time. Stats on the usual site.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

All carpetted out

We have spent much of this afternoon giving Sadie more of our undivided attention, this time fitting the various sections of carpet that we had prepared earlier. The sitting/sleeping area and rear doors are now done, apart from some finishing details. Doesn't she look great?!
We will be creating overhead storage boxes all the way around the sitting area. The ones on either side will house the speakers for which you can see the cables protruding  The lid of the small rear boxed section that you can see in the photo will cleverly flip out to form half of the central bed section. The table that Andy has yet to create will form the other half. Now, I really must crack on with those cushion covers!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Spring, bikes and Sadie

Winter's dull slumber is slowly but surely being replaced by Spring's vibrant awakenings. It was particularly noticeable yesterday whilst we were out riding the bikes. I would catch intoxicating scents on the breeze which would break my focus on my wheels. Ah yes, the magnolias are in full bloom. Then we'd pass a garden with deliciously scented hyacinths along its border. Now there really is no other scent like that of hyacinths in the springtime. And the blossom, oh, the blossom! The trees are awash with froths of pink and white.
and the depressing brown and greys of the darker months are starting to give way to that oh so fresh-out-of-the-wrapper lush green that heralds brighter days. Wonderful!
Back at home, the seeds that I sowed at the end of February have germinated and are growing strongly.....chilli peppers, capsicum and tomato along with some kuri squash. What a great time of year!
The re-appearance of the sun yesterday tempted us back out onto the roadies. I haven't had a decent ride for over a month as running has rather taken over, but the lure of a lunch stop in Mirepoix was enough to seal the deal. To my surprise, I felt remarkably strong and kept a good pace on the undulating roads through to Mirepoix where we enjoyed a delicious nicoise salad for lunch
Towards the end of the homebound leg, a creeping weariness reminded my that this was my first 80+km ride for some while. Apart from some familiar discomfort in the saddle area and an occasional twinge from the knee, it had been a lovely ride. Full stats on the usual site. Good weather is forecast through to the weekend so we are planning to get in another ride and hopefully a long run while it lasts.

Work continues unabated on Sadie. The list of jobs completed is growing by the day. The kitchen area is coming along rapidly

Note the curvey panel that separates the kitchen from the sitting/sleeping area? Amazing what can be achieved with the right tools! Progress is fast now. Must crack on with those cushion covers!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Sadie update

Well, the weather has been rubbish this week and I have been giving the old rickety legs some time out after their exertions last weekend, so what better excuse to give Sadie more of our undivided attention. We (or do I mean I?) had been dreading doing the ceiling carpet in the main part of the van, as it was a large section of carpet that I thought would be very tricky to manouevre and apply. But I needn't have worried as it went on like a dream and wrinkle free! We could then put in the ceiling spot lights and 'sandwich' the ceiling vents. What a difference!
We can now crack on with the individual sections of carpet for the walls and bed boxes. Today, we also cut the 10cm thick foam which will form the seats and bed. I bought some lovely fabric for the covers the other day, so it is all quite exciting really!

We are promised more spring-like weather next week and I am really looking forward to some more running if the tracks and trails dry out a bit. I have got another two trail races planned, apart from the 20km Trail des Citadelles on 24 April which I have already entered. The Trail du Pays de Sault is one that I did 2 years ago and I am having a rematch this year on the 12 June, although I believe the course may be slightly different, with more ascent this year. Then in early July, I will be cranking it up and doing the 25km Kilian's Classik trail race in Font Romeu. I am quite looking forward to that!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Recovery, nature and Sadie

Well, the 'rather-pleased-with-myself-for-completing-the-race-injury-free' phase lasted until, oh, approximately 8.11pm Saturday evening. It was then that the first twinges crept up on me as I was munching on a scrummy Pizza from the Van. By the morning, getting down the stairs was immensely painful. Today, 2 days later, I am still in discomfort. Weird. In the past, the pain has always commenced during the exertion. Maybe I should be grateful that at least I could complete the race comfortably on this occasion but I still don't appreciate what my body is doing to me post-event. The discomfort eases if I remain active and I know it will have gone completely in a few days and I will no doubt be stronger as a result, but in the meantime I am gritting my teeth! Oh, and the race results are now online and I came in 13th out of 23 women. Can you believe that out of 200 entrants, there were only 23 women?! There should be more!

As part of my Active Recovery, I have taken the pooch for a couple of short walks and the early signs of Spring are all around. The Pine Processionary Caterpillars have started leaving their treetop nests and are on the march - they are quite a sight as they form their lines on the forest tracks
and the early spring flowers are everywhere
 Back at base, we are having a big push to get Sadie into a state that will allow us to get away and spend some time travelling around France and indeed Europe in her, although the UK will be our first port of call to pick up a new Thetford toilet! Andy has been busying himself with several relatively 'small' jobs that are nonetheless critical if we are to progress. At the weekend we were able to fit the first section of carpet which was to the cab ceiling and which then allowed the monitor for the reversing camera to be fitted in the cab
Getting the carpet fitted was a big step as we have got the full van ceiling to do, which is a big section and we had no idea a) how the contact adhesive would behave and b) how manoeuvrable the carpet would be. We now have answers to those questions and so are a leeeetle bit more confident about the next step! Today, Andy has fitted the reversing camera to the rear bumper which is going to be pretty important on a 7m long van with a bike rack on the back! Progress, oh yes, we are making progress and starting to get excited about our travels.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

First trail race of the year - done!

It's been an easy week from an exercise point of view, with just an 11km walk/run on Tuesday and a nice 62km spin out on the roadie on Wednesday. We have been enjoying gloriously warm springlike weather again and it was a shame not to have done more, but I was resting my body in anticipation of my first trail race of the season, the Trail des Pieds Cloutés from Ganac near Foix. It was billed as 19km with 1100m of ascent but I have been feeling good recently and was quite looking forward to the event and besides, dry weather for the past week would only have helped the conditions underfoot. The usual superfit, superlean blokes lingered around the start area but I refused to be fazed!
And then we were off! Too fast! There was no way was I going to be able to sustain that pace! So I went at my own pace and before we knew it, the first big climb was upon us. Ouch. Steep. I hope to goodness the photographer at the top doesn't put that photo of me on the interwebs as I wasn't a pretty sight!! But some lovely running followed and the descent down to Micou, the almost half way point, was fantastic fun. But then another climb hit us. My SIS liquid fuel needed supplementing with a gel as I was rapidly running out of energy. But then another lovely long, fast descent back down towards Ganac this time, which was pure joy to run. No pains or muscular problems yet! The organisers cruelly finished the race with a cheeky little 2km long uphill section which was pretty unfair. But I crossed the finishing line in 2h15m. I was pleased with that. Not exactly top ten, but it had been a surprisingly fast race! But I was more pleased with my physical state at the finish line. I wasn't crippled and had no pain. My daily stretching regime and Andy's work on the muscles around my knees are clearly working. Excellent! Full stats for the race are on the usual site. But in the meantime, here is the course profile. Now, what should be my next race!
On other matters, we are having another push to get Sadie into a state where we can finally go away in her. Still much to do, but we should see some good progress over the next week or two.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Touching base

Well, the weather continued to be dire until Friday when we were at last allowed some respite (thanks Mr Sun). But during the week, the grey, damp and cold successfully extinguished any flickering inclination that I may have had for a long run - a mudbath really didn't appeal for some reason. But Andy and I did manage to encourage each other in the direction of some hill intervals up the road on Wednesday which is not something that you tackle without some encouragement and cajoling, I can tell you! Although such exertions are never pleasurable, it was a useful little session which should result in stronger legs & lungs in due course.

Friday, we had a trip back up to the house to collect pretty much the last of our wood supply and to meet the bloke who was going to update the 'diagnostiques' which are required for any house sale in France. But when he phoned for directions it quickly became apparent that he was in completely the wrong place & over an hour away!! The appointment had to be cancelled and is now rescheduled for Monday pm. Bloody annoying!

By Saturday, the area had been rain free for a few days and the paths & tracks were starting to dry out. I needed to get in one last long run before a week of pre-race (relative) rest. But I wasn't sure how I was feeling and whether I had a long run in my legs, as it were. Regardless, I planned a good 18km circuit and Andy & I set out after lunch. It turned out to be another cracker - I am always filled with self-doubt and unsure of my own abilities when it comes to long runs, but I really should have more faith in myself these days. I managed the ascents easily and thoughly enjoyed the rest of the running which was mainly on the tracks and paths of the Foret de Belesta. 18km/700m+/2 hrs 17m - I was pleased with that! Full stats on the usual site. Although my legs were naturally tired after such an outing, the run has given me an element of confidence for the race next Saturday. There may be 400m more of ascent to do, but I know I can do it and it would be nice to do it well. There are 11 other women in my age group. I hope to thrash the lot of 'em!

Today has been a guilt-free, lazy, self-indulgent day, basking in the wonderfully warm sunshine and doing sod-all. It has been good!