Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hints of Spring

We have just enjoyed a week of the most gloriously warm, no hot, weather during which temperatures climbed well into the mid 20s. We have had the parasol out on the terrasse and have had to be careful not to get sunburnt! Signs of Spring are appearing all around us. The Spring flowers are coming through with white anemones, violets, white and purple hepaticas, lungwort and, in just the past couple of days, some primula have appeared. Leaf buds are appearing on the trees and the catkins are in full flow. It is wonderful to finally see some colour around the place.

The birds also seem to sense Spring in the air. We have been listening to the great spotted woodpeckers drumming in the woodland opposite - they are a fantastic sight through the binoculars - and have also spotted green woodpeckers and can hear them yaffling all around us. A male and a female bullfinch are visiting the bird table.....
.... and yesterday, two black redstarts entertained us with a spectacular and prolonged chase around Pissou as they vied for territorial supremacy, darting and swooping at fantastic speeds above our heads. This is the victor!
Of course, I can't do a blog post without a mention of running, can I! The Trail des Pieds Cloutés was 2 weeks ago from which I recovered well. On the Wednesday, after dropping off a van and a car load of stuff at the 'new' house, Andy and I had a gentle 11.5km trot out along the lanes near Aspet. All was feeling good. So on the following Saturday afternoon, I did another hill endurance session up the Peguere road which is now snow-free. A brisk 1km warm up followed by three sets of 1.15kms up an ave 12% gradient. I was able to complete each set at a faster speed than last time (mid January) but kept my HR at the same level which means I must be getting fitter and stronger!

I had no repercussions from the hill session so on Tuesday decided I would get in a hard, long run, probably the last one before my next race on the 25th March. I decided to tackle on foot a mountain bike circuit from Varilhes that we did back in October 2010. It was hard work on a bike and no easier on 2 feet! In fact, I felt like my legs were empty, despite taking on liquid fuel and a couple of gels. They just wouldn't go! The muscles were obviously still fatigued after my hill session 3 days previously. So I did the sensible thing and took it really steady, resorting to a walk whenever necessary and didn't give myself too much of a hard time about it. It was all good training. Another 28kms/800m+ in the bag. Full stats on the usual site.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Another weekend, another race

After my last post 3 weeks ago, the snow and the cold continued. Doing any running training up here was out of the question thanks to the conditions underfoot. Getting out of our road was challenge enough as it rapidly turned into an ice rink thanks to the lack of salting by the commune. When we did eventually make it out on a wonderful blue sky day, we headed up the road for an exploratory walk up to the Cabane des Roses. The majority of the track had fortunately been well trodden by the snow-shoeing fraternity which made the going quite straightforward. As always, it was stunningly beautiful up there
I have been very conscious of the passing of time and the need to keep up the training for the 40km Trail des Citadelles which is on the 8th April - it really isn't that far away! It was necessary to take myself over to the other side of the Col de Port and a lower altitude in order to get in any snow-free training but a run around part of the Trail de Dalou circuit was just the ticket. I felt really strong on the 11km/350m run and managed to run sections that I remember walking in the race last year .... a good sign.

The wintery weather was only really broken a week ago when a high pressure area plonked itself over us, treating us to clear blue skies and much much warmer daytime temperatures which gradually climbed to peak at a positively balmy 18 degrees ambient temperature. I was even wearing shorts & T-shirt on a couple of days and we enjoyed lunch on the terrasse for the first time this year.... just wonderful.

Yesterday, Saturday, I took part in the Trail des Pieds Cloutés near Foix which I ran last year. It's a hard race, with a nasty 2.5km long climb averaging 15% at the start which is an absolute killer followed by another, shorter climb at the half way point.
Conditions underfoot were a mudfest in parts, thanks to the snowmelt of the past week. But my super-grippy Salomon shoes ensured I had some fantastically fun descents on which I could just let fly, smiling inwardly as I passed others who slipped and slithered their way through the mud, often ending up on their backsides! Sweet! I finished the 18.5kms/1000m+ in 2h17m, 4th lady out of 16 in my age group, 10th lady out of 34 and 118th overall out of 192 finishers which is 34 places higher than last year - that'll do me! Full stats on the usual site. The legs felt great, although today, the day after, they are letting me know that they had been asked to work hard. Still, all good training and it is wonderful to finally feel that I am getting stronger and making progress. My next race is in 3 weeks time and then it will be time to take it easy in preparation for the Citadelles.

On the house front, although we have not yet found a place to buy, we have found somewhere to rent from the beginning of April over near Aspet, just a little bit further West along the chain. It is the area in which we are looking to buy, plonked in the middle of a some fantastic waymarked mountain biking circuits and with the high mountains just a half hour away. We finalise the sale of this house during the 3rd week of April and are then in a good position to buy when we do eventually find the right place. It is worth being patient to find the right place. It will be out there somewhere.