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!

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