Saturday, 14 June 2014


Well it was a pretty hectic and non-stop weekend but totally worth the long journey to run some amazing trails and meet some amazingly friendly people. I don't really know where to start explaining it all but I would guess going from the beginning is wise.

My friend Nailas father has organised a race weekend in Cerdanya for the past 3 years which involves races of various distances like a vertical km , 13km , 37km , 87km and a ridiculous 217km! It is growing more and more popular and since she was driving there to help with the event and I had the days off of work then I thought it would be a great chance to go and explore some new trails in a place totally alien to me and also take part in the 37km event.

We left Chamonix at 7pm on Thursday night and began the long long drive to Cerdanya. After a slight navigational error which was not totally our fault we arrived at Nailas home around 4am and it was straight to sleep. After a great but very short 5 hour sleep we headed off out to watch some of the 217km race. I still can't really get my head around running a 217km race but we found a sweet little spot to stop and cheer on the runners and we also met running legend Pablo Vigil who was over to help out and do a bit of running as well so it was great to chat to him and with any luck I will be in touch with him in a few weeks in the states as he lives in Colorado , great super friendly guy. The rest of Friday was spent just helping out with odd jobs with the race organisation. We arrived back at the house around 6pm and I went for a short nap and ended up waking at 9am the following morning! So my entire birthday evening was spent asleep but my god did I need it.

Clearing the start of 87km
So on Saturday it was the 87km race. Our job was to follow the race for the first 13km and clear the course markings and make sure everyone was ahead of us and not lost. It was an awesome morning but I wouldn't really class this as a run. There was so many course markings we couldn't really get up any rhythm until we had to stop and untie dozens and dozens of white markers attached to the trees but it was a cracking morning with amazing views. Again the afternoon was spent just wandering around Puigcerda having the odd coffee and then it was time to watch the winner of the 217km arrive in a time of 35hrs! Naila then had to go back to work as she was in charge of the after race massage tent and was working non stop the whole weekend so I headed with her father to get my bib and listen to his pre race briefing which being in Catalan I did not understand a word but was pretty sure there was nothing I really needed to know or someone somehow would have told me as I appeared to be the only Brit (definitely only Scot) there for sure. I then made my way home to fill up on pasta and get another good sleep as the next day was race day.

Checking out a section of the 217km race
More 217km race section
I had a great sleep yet again and was up at 6.30am. I just drank some water and ate some fruit and we were off to the start. I decided to go into this race different to most others I have ever done. Yeah the distance was not huge but still not far off of a marathon and it did have 2000m of climbing and the same descent so it is not exactly easy. I decided not to carry my backpack. Only putting 4 gels in my back pocket of my shorts and an empty packable water bottle(will explain later) No jacket or wind shirt at all as it was to be a scorcher. The aid stations were not that far apart and there was 6 over the course so I was confident that was plenty.

We set off at 7.30am from the centre of Le Tour de Carol at a nice pace and it was a quick nip through the village and out on the trails. It was pretty flat for about 3km and I was just finding a good pace then we started to climb but it was not a super steep climb so I managed to keep running all of it. We climbed up with the odd little dip for nearly 900m to the first aid station. I grabbed some coke , water and a banana and off I went again. To be honest I can't really remember exactly everything about the start of the race but do remember running on some truly amazing trails with just brilliant views everywhere I looked. I knew to get to halfway we had a long 1000m descent and this bit was bloody excellent. It was not super steep but just really nice sweeping single track winding down and down and I was feeling great and moving well but not pushing myself at all. I was just loving how good I felt and was going at (for me) a pretty rapid pace. I arrived at the halfway village and was hosed down with water as it was starting to get rather hot. I had a gel and more Banana and set off of the (impossible to run) climb. It was super steep and went on and on for around 800m but I just got my head down and new it would be over soon. I arrived at the next checkpoint next to a very picturesque lake and surrounding scenery. I had more coke another gel another banana and again filled up my 500ml soft flask with water. From here on it was some of the best single track I have ever run and again I felt great. I used my bottle to pour water over my head or take a small sip when I needed it and when it was done I stuffed it back in my pocket and from here on repeated that for the rest of the race refilling at each aid station and it worked a treat.

Awesome views
From then on the race was again more sweeping single track heaven and I was still feeling so so good. We then ran across a pretty big kind of summit plateau with amazing views in all directions. Once off of the plateau and away in the distance I could see the tower of the church at the finish line 10km away and 900m below. I made fast work of the descent but was starting to get a bit of problems with my feet burning up on the soles which never ever happens to me. It was getting a lot hotter as I was descending and by the time I hit the road at the bottom it was scorching hot and still 5km to the finish. Up until this point I felt great the whole race but as soon as I hit the road the heat really really started to affect me. I was just not used to that temperature. I continued to run but had to stop every time I came across water to just pour it over me. I was slower here than I should have been but I was still happy with how my legs were feeling.

More exploring the day before my race
It was then a great little run through a very busy town centre and across the finish line in a time of 4hrs 38mins coming 50th/400 and 36th in the senior mens category which I was very very surprised at. I knew I had run a good strong yet comfortable race that I thoroughly enjoyed but really did think I was running in the middle of the pack. It felt great to finish well within the top half and feel fresh and strong at the end. The official distance is meant to be 37km but my watch(and many others) was showing 40km. It was then time for me to grab some lunch and a cold shower and then go and drag Naila away from her work(she hardly slept all weekend) to begin our long drive back to Chamonix.

Cool finish line. I didn't run with my camera on race
day so afraid no pics of the course.
I am so glad I had the chance to go and run this race. It really was brilliant trails for 95% of the course but they could do with taking out the final road section if possible. I don't normally run a race more than once as I like to explore other areas but for sure I would go back and do this one again. Thanks to everyone I met down there for being so friendly and also thanks to Naila for letting me tag along for a great wee trip. Put this race on your list of to do's.

Great weekend!

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