I've been anchoring over the last year to get some European mountain experience and certainly been having a turbulent journey in doing so. Not least is that I've found that these mountains highlight all inadequacy's that the mountains in the UK can hide. Yet, in spite of the knocks I'm enjoying every lousy, hard, pretty, painful, revealing adventure along the way. With three ultras in France over the last three months I'd say I'm finally starting to learn a few things.
This weekend I embarked upon the Les Grand Raid Pyrenees race, encouraged and supported by team Raidlight UK (thanks Team Raidlight). The GRP course boasts 10,000 metres of total ascent over 160 km, my 100 mile debut, whahay, small problem, I'd not been near a hill for six weeks, since Mont Blanc 80km. How arrogant to think I could get away with that.
But get away with it I did, for about 10hrs. I had a stormer, pacing well, fuelling great and in spite of sizzling sun, under the circumstances I managed to keep hydrated (see earlier comments about learning along the way) and kept any stomach issues at bay.
Of course it was only a matter of time before it got messy. No more pain relief left me hopping the descents gingerly. No way to finish a debut I guess. I took the decision to pull out after 120km. I'm a light weight and fickle you'll know this by now, I couldn't find the reason to climb the last hill as I know that it would have taken me about six hours to get off it. I simply could not descent with the pain in the toe, well not with any kind of normal walking or running gait that's for sure.
I simply can't wait to get back out there and get all of the right ingredients in the pot to evidence my determination. In spite of my disappointment at another DNF, on another level, I feel that I am learning and that soon enough my hard work, perseverance and knowledge will come to fruition. What's the rush?
Huge well done to the British contingency , especially Digby Harris for a perfectly executed and well earned 10th place. What a phenomenal runner you are.
Some things I recall and a few nuggets I've learnt in no particular order other than the first:
1.Laying down in the middle of the night on the side of a mountain, looking up and seeing the most. amazing sea of stars, I couldn't move, didn't want to move.
2. Pacing is everything
3. Eating salty food when dehydrated prolongs re hydration (obvious but difficult when you want soup)
4. Je ne parlez pas Francaise
5. Ca va
7. I love running in nice weather
8. Lac Bleu is the most colorful body of water I've seen for years.
9. The further the better.
10. I'm a stronger uphill runner than I've been telling myself.
11. Running through the night is the most peaceful experience, until you stumble across someone's turd on the narrow trail.
12. The Pyrenees are breath taking.
13. The support and encouragement by locals around the race course is unmatched.
14. My Raidlight ultra race vest was like a second skin, not a mark anywhere after 28 hrs, genius.
14. You cannot not train on mountains and hills and expect to do well in mountain races.