Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sadie, flowers and old stuff

The pressure is on. I have now booked a ferry for next Friday afternoon back to the UK for a long overdue visit to catch up with family and friends. Sadie is almost finished. Almost. The kitchen just needs drawer fronts to be made and then the drawers can be put in and the overhead storage box also needs doors making, but isn't she looking posh?!
The structure of the cabinet that will house the entertainment controls (TV/Audio/Satellite) and the fridge plus electrical controls and leisure batteries is now also in and awaiting the addition of a routed front panel and doors. By Wednesday, she needs to be ready for full testing of all electrical appliances and the water system and then we can load her up and be ready to head off first thing on Thursday! Excited? You bet! And I know of one person in particular who will be especially relieved to have finally completed this challenging project and to finally be able to enjoy the fruits of his labours.

Despite the old legs feeling pretty fantastic following last weekend's race, I admit to not having felt particularly inclined to head out for a run at all this past week. Extreme exertion and effort tends to do that to me! I did however have a bit of a pootle up around the Mont d'Olmes 'ski' resort with the pooch on Wednesday which was a nice little stretch of the legs. It's always strange seeing ski resorts devoid of snow - but it's still a very pretty corner of the Ariege.

I took Taff out for a bit of a walk above Belesta this afternoon and I spotted this pretty vetch
... and also an orchid along the way 
The wild flowers in the Ariege are just beautiful at this time of year! Just by way of contrast, I spotted this old piece of abandoned agricultural machinery during the walk. My mind can't help but wander back to the day when it was used, probably pulled by horses, breaking up the soil ready for cultivation by some wirey and wrinkled Ariege farmer who knew nothing but toil and sweat in his life, in the days before the introduction of mechanisation into the farmer's life. But I can't for the life of me remember what such a tool is called. Can somebody remind me?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Flower ID

I had a little mooch with the pooch up to the Mont d'Olmes ski centre this afternoon while Andy was out beasting himself on the bike with the club and stumbled across this beautiful, delicate flower that I am struggling to identify. I think it belongs to the orchid family but can't be sure. Can anybody enlighten me?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Life is full of surprises

I have really enjoyed the trail races that I have done so far this year and have been really pleased with how strong I am feeling and the progress I am making. But since the Trail des Citadelles 3 weeks ago (already?!) I have been generally lacking in energy and the old legs have felt heavy and tired each time I have been out. However, the last run that we did on Thursday gave me sufficient optimism to seriously considering entering another trail race today.... although the decision to actually do it only happened this morning!

Le Trail de Dalou is 16.5kms with 600m of ascent. It was a new course this year, so I wasn't sure what it held in store. But after a good 2km warm-up and a gel 10 mins before the start, I was ready to go. The first section of ascent came very quickly and, after a brief section of respite, we were hit with more. My legs felt like they were struggling and once again, my energy levels felt low. This isn't going to be a good one, I thought. I found myself walking sections of uphill that I was sure I should have been able to run. Oh well, chalk this one down to just another training run, I thought. The worst moment was when I realised my GPS had fallen off my strap ... God knows where. Crap. Let's just get this over with. I'll just bimble my way round. At least it isn't raining. Hope the beer's good at the end. I'm going to need it.

The final big ascent came and then it was all pretty much downhill. I flew down that hill. Then there was half a kilometer of path which was on the level. I could hear people behind me. I didn't turn to look. I just heard the voices. I tried to push harder. We hit the road in Dalou for the final 300m to the finish. I could hear a man's voice urging this girl on behind me. They were close. Allez, you can catch her, allez, go on! No you bloody well won't catch me! Take that, I thought, as I emplored my poor tired old little legs to give a final push. I put the hammer down. Jeez, my lungs are going to explode. Nearly there, I must be nearly there. YES! By a whisker! I had held her off! She held out her hand which I shook in appreciation and we grinned at each other. What a finish! What a course!
The results were eventually posted. Hang on. I'd had a rubbish race, hadn't I? What's this 1h41m time they are showing for me? That's not bad, that isn't. 86th out of 141 overall. But 2nd out of 8 in my age group, 5th woman out of 21? AND I'd beaten a fair few female club runners! Really?! Hang on, that's not actually too shabby! I was actually on the podium - bloody hell!

Gary Devine who is a former British fell-running champion now living in the Ariege came 2nd and it was great to meet him and his wife Debbie at last.
So all in all, the result was a real surprise considering my perception of how I was doing and how hard the race felt. But I am not complaining!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Looking good!

Work on Sadie has been pretty full on for Andy over the past week....but look at the progress. Bathroom door hung (white plastic-coated on the inside), trim framing done, handle nicely fitted and light switch affixed ... oh, and the gorgeous varnish job is all my own work ;-) ;
The major job over the past 2 days has been making the overhead storage boxes (minus the doors which is another pain-in-the-backside job, I am informed). The kitchen is almost completed... just some silicone sealing to do, some finishing-off to the two side panels
The overhead boxes to the rear are up, carpetted on the underside and looking neat (I should take a better photo really)
We've got 10 days before we are supposed to be heading back to the UK. We're waiting for a couple of electrical components to be delivered which is holding up the work on the unit that will house the electrical control panel and fridge, but hopefully we will receive them early in the coming week.

I seem to have sorted out my weary legs, thank goodness and enjoyed a good undulating run on Thursday which put me back on track. I was hoping to be down in Cucugnan for the Trail des donjons tomorrow but am probably going to stay local and do the Trail de Dalou instead which is 16km/600m+. It is currently raining so the going should be soft!

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of welcoming our first visitors to the house here in Fougax. It was lovely to see Paul again and also his girlfriend Susan who we had not met before. They were en route to the Corbières where they would be spending 2 weeks on a Workaway programme but had time to spend 24 hours here, during which we enjoyed a gentle bike ride yesterday. Apparently, seeing Paul and I riding alongside each other was quite a funny sight. I have no idea why!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Sadie update

We have a Plan. It is an optimistic one, but a Plan all the same. The Plan gives us 2 1/2 weeks to get Sadie into a fit state to be our home for a prolonged period on the road. We are intending to head back to the UK to see family & friends that we haven't seen for far too long. So we, or more accurately Andy, has been working like a mad man and progress is good;
- Bathroom - shower tray now permanently fixed in place & plumbing completed, curtain rail and shower curtain hung, door hung and exterior wall varnished. Inside of the door needs to be clad with plastic, silicone needs to be applied to the plastic sheeting joints to make the room watertight and finally a door handle affixed. Then it's done
- Electrics - the electrics control board and battery box are now in place and wired up. The solar panels are now charging the leisure batteries....
... he has made some classy brushed aluminium plates into which the light switches are seated and these are now wired up, in place and working in the van
... the vent for the fridge has been completed and the safe is now very securely fixed in its place (home for our laptops & valuables while we are out on the bikes!)
...the frame for the unit for that side of the van is now done with an opening for the fridge that will be installed and plenty of drawer/cupboard space and today we did the last big bit of carpetting which was to the sliding door and on the battery box wall has been completed. We have also cut out the ply sections for the overhead box bases and fronts which means Andy is now able start construction of the boxes themselves which will give us much needed storage space for prolonged trips away. Still a fair bit of work to do, but it's all coming along very nicely :-)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Rapid Recovery

I was expecting some repercussions from my efforts in the race last Sunday as I really did give it everything, but, to my surprise and delight, I had some muscle soreness on Monday which had eased by Tuesday and I was even able to manage an 11km run/jog with Andy on Wednesday. I must be getting stronger/fitter! We also did the 7km circuit above the house on Saturday which is always a pleasure to run, despite its 'straight up from the start' nature.

The weather for the past week has been generally unsettled with quite strong, gusting winds at times which has not made an outing on the roadies a very attractive proposition. However, yesterday was more settled, so I plotted a reasonable route and we headed out. It took is over into the Razes area of the Aude which is a beautiful area of sparsely populated undulating countryside and little villages
We were stunned by how quiet the country lanes were, considering it was a Sunday and we didn't encounter a single other roadie rider on the whole circuit! Bizarre. It was a very undulating 'lumpy' circuit with plenty of ups to counter the sweeping downs. Hard work. The wind also made us work harder so it was a good workout, but the legs coped well which was a great feeling.
 We covered 94kms in all which included over 1000m of ascent and were back home in under 4 hours. It was a handy outing.