Monday, 25 April 2011


We have been working on the bathroom in the van today. The God-awful contact adhesive has once more been deployed to put up the gloss plastic cladding which enabled us to then put up the shower head, ceiling vent and lights.
We will eventually silicone the edges and joins of the cladding to make the room properly watertight but next we need to make the supports for fitting the shower tray and put in the rail for the shower curtain. The door frame has also now been clad on the inside and permanently fixed into place.
Andy has also now completed what, to me, is a complicated electrickery board and leisure battery box into which the mass of wires & cables will eventually be attached
Progress indeed!

An update after yesterday's race. The full scratch results are now in and I am chuffed to bits to confirm that I came in 12th woman out of 107 and 6th woman out of 51 in my age group, which, for a mere punter & not a club runner I am quite pleased with! I have got some leg discomfort today, but nothing untoward and I know that yesterday's exertions will have made me stronger for future events. Bring it on!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Le Trail des Citadelles 2011

Last year's race was a mudfest. I was really hoping that this year's race was going to be different. But after 2 weeks of no rain and warm sun, the Weather Gods chose yesterday to do their worst, thereby ensuring that the dusty trails were no longer dusty trails, just in time for the race today. But fortunately, by this morning it had stopped raining, which was a nice surprise.

I felt much better prepared for this year's race than I did last year's, having already done 2 good races this Spring and having got some good mileage in my legs, so I was hoping for a better result. I was going to give it everything I had! I managed to do a nice little 3km warm up along the track from here before we left for Lavelanet, and managed to time it for when the leaders of the 73km race were heading into Fougax. Now they are impressive endurance athletes!

I lined up at the Start in Lavelanet with those familiar feelings of excitement and nervousness. I chose to start further forward in the pack this year, hoping that would make a difference and, to my surprise, I wasn't overtaken by masses of people in the first 5kms, which gave me an initial boost. I gained a number of places on the first section of ascent, with my shoes gripping well in the mud, which also spurred me on. But it was very humid and I was perspiring tons. On the second ascent, which was the precursor to the nasty Chateau de Montsegur section, we had a surprising encounter with a horse trekking group who were descending the narrow path. We had to calmly squeeze past the 8 or 10 horses, hoping that none of them would get spooked & create a nasty situation. It really wasn't the best route for them to have chosen on that particular day!

At the foot of Montsegur, Pat and Andy were both there, cheering me on & giving me encouragement which gave me another boost. But the tortuous 200m of ascent and descent up to the chateau was as painful as I remember from last year. Fortunately, I managed it without incident and then threw myself into the next section of the race which was mercifully either on the level or downhill ... oh, apart from the cheeky little 500m track up to the feeding station, which wasn't very welcome!

The descent was great fun and I was really able to let loose but then we had the long (relatively speaking) 5km+ drag back into Lavelanet which was, for me, the hardest part of the race as I had pushed hard up the earlier hills and my legs were tiring. I was overtaken by 2 girls (very fit club runners) in this final stretch but made it to the Finish line, where Andy had stationed himself to cheer me home, in 2h25m, 20 mins faster than last year - I was pleased with that! It had been my biggest effort so far as I had not held anything back. When the results were pinned to the board, I saw that I had come in 128th out of 425 starters (202nd last year), was 4th woman in my category (I don't know yet how many there were, but last year there were 54 of us in the V1Fs) and 11th woman overall (last year there were 119). I was gutted. The first 10 women home won a prize. If only I had not been overtaken by those 2 women in the final kilometers, one of those prizes would have gone to me!!! But I jest. I was actually chuffed to bits with my result! Full stats are of course on the usual site.

Buoyed by current form, I am already looking to next year when I am now planning on doing the 40km circuit (hopefully with Pat). Now that will be interesting!

Sorry about the lack of photos but I was a bit too busy to get out my camera!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Getting there

It's been another hectic week since I last blogged. The weather has been glorious, a much more seasonal and amenable 20 Deg C, and the prolonged dry spell has successfully dried out the tracks and trails which made last Friday's final long run before the Trail des Citadelles a real pleasure to run. Andy accompanied me on a rematch with the 20km/850m+ circuit that we first attempted back in December. It's a lovely circuit with beautiful views towards Montségur and Pic de Soularac as a backdrop
 On the last occasion, we walked more of the circuit than we ran, with me hobbling the final 5kms back along the road with severe ITB discomfort. It took us around 3 1/2 hours. But on Friday, we were back in just 2h34m, with the final steep descent back down to the road a real blast to let loose on! I managed to run the final 5kms at a good pace and with no discomfort this time, which I was delighted about. The course profile....
... and full stats on the usual site. Unfortunately, the dry weather is set to end before the weekend which means that the Trail des Citadelles on Sunday could once again prove to be a mudfest! What fun!

Yesterday, whilst the good weather continued, we hopped onto the roadies for a hilly circuit from Fougax up to the Col de Montsegur, down and then up to Roquefixade, through to Foix and then back along the Herm Valley to Lavelanet and on home. It has been some while since I did any hill work on the roadie so naturally my legs wondered what I was doing to them, poor things. But it was a lovely circuit of 76.5km/1250m+ which we got round in 3h33m. Stats on the usual site. We were plagued by a head/cross/any-which-way wind for the whole of the return leg from Foix which made it damned hard work, even with Andy doing his best to shield me by riding in front. I was shattered when we finally made it home.
I shall be doing loads of stretching and taking it easy over the coming few days, so that my legs are fully recovered for the weekend. Then hopefully I will have a good race.

Other news.... we actually received the European Cert of Conformity from Mercedes for Sadie on Monday. Hurray! All I need to do now is take along the masses of paperwork to the Prefecture in Foix and get a French reg document for her and her French transformation will be complete. It has been one of the most exasperating experiences that I have had, particularly since we didn't have this hassle and grief when registering the other 2 vehicles here. But that's France for you!

Talking of Sadies, I have been working on her curtains whilst Andy has been doing the gas and electrical work over the past week. We're getting there!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Spring in the Ariege

It's wonderful! The temperature is back at a more acceptable 20 degrees and the blue skies have returned. This photo of Mont d'Olmes and Pic de Saint-Barthelemy shows just what effect the recent hot temperatures have had on the snow level.
Fresh green tree foliage is everywhere and the fields are looking lush.
 I spotted these orchids in a field above Puivert during our roadie outing this afternoon. It isn't a Military Orchid and I haven't yet had the chance to look it up - anybody care to enlighten me?
Now, on to roadie matters. As ardent followers of this blog will know, I have had quite significant 'comfort' problems on my road bike which we have tried to resolve in many many different ways. I have tried 2 or 3 different saddles, tried moving the saddle forward, altered handlebar height, tried different shorts etc etc etc. But the pressure on my delicate soft tissue area persisted which has made longer rides quite painful. I was becoming convinced that it was just the way that I was made and that I was just going to have to accept the discomfort. Andy thought otherwise and, after extensive research on t'interwebs, suggested we actually move my saddle back, which would apparently alter the angle of the anterior/posterior tilt of my pelvis on the saddle. So this we did and also raised the saddle up a smidgeon and today we went out for a test ride. It was a revelation. Pretty quickly, I realised that I was actually maintaining my weight on the my sit bones rather than on my soft tissue area for the first time ever. The alteration in my riding position meant that not only was I in much less discomfort but I was also more streamlined thanks to my more horizontal position and was also able to put more power down. Fantastic! So now I have no excuse. Onwards!

Monday, 11 April 2011

A bit of action

Well, the weekend was indeed a scorcher with temperatures reaching 30 degrees. Seasonal records were being broken throughout the south west of France. On Saturday we braved the heat and had a good 80km ride on the roadies around the undulating foothills to the east of Pamiers which made a nice change.
 Fluid intake was pretty critical in the heat but there was a distinct lack of village water fountains on the route and we were in danger of running dry, but thanks to a wrong turn, we stumbled upon a property where the owner was all too willing to top up our bidons. Our saviour! A Nuun electrolyte tablet each to replace tissue salts lost through perspiration and some more fuel and we were rocking and rolling again and completed the ride strongly. Full stats on the usual site.

Sunday saw more overcast conditions which have continued into today and which has meant much more amenable temperature of around 20 degrees. But today started off badly with a poor night's sleep and then a rude awakening at 08.00 as the lady who owns the adjoining house rocked up, honking her horn as she pulled up below our window. Not a good way to be aroused from the land of nod! Thankfully, by this afternoon however, I was feeling much better and really wanted to get out for a good run, as the Citadelles is now less than 2 weeks away. I abandoned the idea of a long one in favour of the 10k circuit that I last did at the end of February. Andy came with me and we were able to push hard all the way round, helped by the wonderfully dry tracks and trails which encouraged some speed. It was a cracking run, despite Andy's tumble on one descent section which fortunately didn't result in a nasty injury. We knocked 8 minutes off my last outing on the 10kms/325m+ circuit, getting back in just a whisker over an hour! I was pleased with that. Feeling strong, feeling fit and looking forward to more. Full stats for the run here.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bloody hell!

I have done my fair share of whingeing about the French bureaucracy, inefficiency and appalling service which appears to be endemic here. But this week, there have been three things that have conspired to change my mind.

1) Mercedes have actually agreed to accept an 'attestation' from any old garage and not from a Mercedes agent, confirming that we have changed the headlights on Sadie. You will recall that this is the final obstacle to us getting her onto French plates and is an issue that has given me more grief than just about anything else over the past year. I cannot believe that they have conceded!
2) We ordered a gas part for Sadie online and when it arrived it was the wrong one. I got it back in the post to them on Monday and would you believe that today, just 3 days later, we received the correct part?!! Gobsmacked!
3) We have had Sadie serviced today and when we went to pick her up from the garage (that, incidentally, we had never dealt with before), we were advised that the Secretary had gone off sick, that they would post the bill to us and could we please send a cheque by return, oh and here are your keys, good evening! How trusting is that?!

So, it would appear, Sadie is a good omen. Let's hope this run of good luck continues.

It's been up to 29 degrees C in the shade today and set to be even hotter tomorrow. Summer has indeed come early :-)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sadie and cycles

We finally finished making the cushion covers yesterday. Now she feels like a 'proper' campervan! Excuse the muck on my lens... must clean it.
The cushions form a king-size double bed and the 10cm thick foam is so comfortable

Andy also fitted the waterpump and the water expansion tank under the sink, which will ensure we get even water pressure in the van
He also finished off the access door for the toilet and Sogg kit
With the return of the glorious weather, we made sure we got out for a ride on the roadies yesterday afternoon. It was a lovely undulating circuit going via Lavelanet to Raissac, the Herm Valley, Col de Py and then up the Col de la Chioulade and back via Raissac and Lavelanet. 65km with 700m of ascent - lovely! I was pleased with how the legs were feeling considering how little I have been on the bike, recently. Full stats here.

Today, temperatures have soared into the high 20s. It may be the 6th April but it has been more like a mid July afternoon. I am not complaining! I had arranged to meet up with Pat (who I haven't seen for tooooo long) for a VTT outing in the Puivert area. What a day for it. It was a stunning afternoon. The sky was the bluest blue and the fields the most vibrant green

The tracks and trails were wonderfully dry and the only thing to spoil the ride was the lack of signage which made route-finding unnecessarily tricky just when you needed clarification! A great afternoon. 32km/540m+ Full stats here.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

More Sadie progress

Well, Spring has sprung and we have been enjoying ambient temperatures of up to 26 degrees C over the past couple of days. It feels SO good! A brief interlude of stormy weather is forecast over the next 24/36 hours but then full on soleil again next week. Fantastic!

In the meantime, work on Sadie has been progressing well. Andy has done a great job on the ply frontage for the kitchen unit. Note the lovely rounded corners on the openings. I will shortly be applying some varnish which should bring the cherry ply up beautifully
Today, one of the last big jobs has also been accomplished. The cutting for the access door for the Thetford cassette toilet was always going to be a a nail-biting job, but thankfully it went off without a hitch and only a minor amount of swearing. The door fits neatly and squarely and now we just need to head back to the UK to collect the toilet!
The opening would make an ideal dog flap.
We are now in a position to be able to start applying the waterproof wall covering to the shower/bathroom and to fit the shower tray and shower rail. It's quite exciting!

Work on the seating covers has also been progressing well, although I have to say, I hate doing zips on these big covers!
I have recovered surprisingly well from last weekends exertions and managed to grab a quick run out with the pooch before dinner yesterday evening. I repeated the 7km circuit that goes up onto the crête behind the house and knocked 4 minutes off the last time I did it. Good stuff :-D