Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Our Spanish break seems like an age ago already. But we arrived home in the nick of time as Winter conditions really took a grip here on the Saturday, with a significant snowfall and extremely cold temperatures making the roads treacherous.
However, eventually the heavy snow clouds cleared and grey gave way to blue. After a few days of being cooped up, we were keen to get out for some fresh air, so we donned the snowshoes and left the house for an explore up the Peguere 'road'. It was stunning. We were the first to venture out and it was hard work breaking trail in the 50-70cm deep snow. But what a stunning afternoon it was.

We didn't make it all the way up to the col as the pooch was tiring, despite attempting to follow in our tracks. Still, it had been a very welcome breath of fresh air and stretch of the legs. The sun was weakening as we took the final track home and we were pleased to soon get back to the warmth of the house and a hot chocolate!
The arrival of the snow was actually good timing as I was due for an easy 'taper' week last week ahead of the Trail du Maquis trail race in Dun on Sunday. Although Dun is down at only 300m alt, there was still a decent covering of snow on the ground and the air temperature was a chilly -7C when I rocked up at 08.00 on Sunday morning after spending the night at Pat & Kev's just along the road. I had decided that I was not going to put any pressure on myself and would just treat the 27km/1100m+ race as a training run as the conditions underfoot would undoubtedly be 'tricky' and 27kms is the furthest that I have ever run! It would however be good training for the Citadelles in 8 weeks time. The course was hilly and indeed very challenging - the hills kept on coming.
I have to admit that my new superlightweight running poles were an absolute godsend on the ascents and helped me to avoid energy-sapping foot slippage. My un-insulated Camelbak pipe froze early on which blocked my supply of liquid fuel, but the slices of dried, sugared kiwi fruit that I carried with me did a fantastic job of keeping my energy levels up! I shall be stocking up on them for future races! When I reached the top of the particularly pointy hill that you can see in the elevation profile above, one of the volunteers shouted 'vous êtes la troisième fille.... allez!' What? I was in third place amongst the girls? Bloody hell! I'd better push on! I can't let that slip! So I did. I really started to tire over the last 7 kms but was still able to raise a smile for one of the photographers
I did indeed finish in 3rd place after 3h42m. I was well chuffed with that! On the podium again! It's true that only 11 out of the 99 starters were girls but 6 out of those were in my age group and I was 39 minutes ahead of the next V1F finisher ... not bad for an oldie ;-) But I was exhausted, not only because of the exertion but also because of my lack of fuel. However, I couldn't stomach the fantastic sausages and beefburgers that were being served up in the hall after the event. I felt queasy just thinking about it. I was only able to face proper food in the evening once I had got home. It had been quite a day! Full stats on the usual site.

Friday, 3 February 2012

More explorations

I am so pleased we decided to stay down in Spain for an additional week, as the weather was much more amenable than the arctic conditions that have been sweeping down through France since last weekend. The strong, cold wind that buffeted us at the start of the week thankfully receded enough to provide ideal conditions for a longer run (although not necessarily for taking photos!) on Tuesday. So the pooch and I headed out to explore an area further inland. The 20km circuit initially took us on tracks through olive groves before heading up a narrow path to a limestone headwall known as Raco el Flare.
At the start of the path, we encountered 2 blokes, one of which was clearly a hunter as he had a dead roe deer at his feet. The dog thought his luck was in! I managed to drag him away, but the drops of blood that dotted our path ahead just served to tantalize him more .... poor pooch!

After the Raco el Flare, I had some great running on good tracks through some wild-feeling countryside
The run took me around 2h20m and everything was working well which was good news. I don't have accurate stats as I stopped my GPS at one point and forgot to restart it again - silly mare!

On Thursday, we explored the wetlands natural park near Torreblanca in the hope of spotting some larger birds. Unfortunately there wasn't much of great interest about, although Andy did manage to spot and photograph a few birds that were new to him during our 7km walk. I, in the meantime, just took some general photos before the big bank of cloud swept in

The arrival of high winds, accompanied by a significant drop in temperature, were deciding factors in our decision to return home a day early, but not before Bonita had presented us with a 5 litre container of their own virgin olive oil, produced from their own olives and pressed in their own mill! I am going to miss Bonita! Anyway, today, Friday, we left at 9 a.m and had an uneventful 5 hr trip back to Tarascon, not encountering any of the atrocious road conditions that we had been expecting. Indeed, there was but a dusting of snow on the southern side of the chain, even as far as the entrance to the Tunnel de Puymorens, with more snow but fair to good conditions from the exit through to Ax. We were only obliged to put the chains on the Astra for the drive up the Col de Port and for the final leg home. For that, we can mainly thank the snow plough which had done a truely superb job of polishing the snowy surface to a fine, firm, icey finish! Grit? Nah, don't be daft! But we made it home in good time where the temperature was -7 deg C. The house is naturally taking time to warm through, but with the woodburner going full pelt and the petrol heater also working flat out upstairs, it won't be long before cosiness is restored.