Trail de Font Romeu – A snow race

Back in January 2016, hubby and I decided to take part in a race with a difference.

  1. It was in France (I thought it was in the Spanish pyrennees, so was a little disappointed)
  2. It was in the snow

Phill had come across a website for the Trail de Font-Romeu, and someone had also shared a link on the CVFR Facebook page to a B&B that was run by English ex-pats, and who were organising transport to the race – perfect!

We did a bit of research into the race, watched YouTube videos, like the one below

Decided it didn’t look too bad and promptly signed up.

I signed up for the 12km discovery course and hubby went for the 25km Authentique course, almost tempted by the Passion, 40km course. But given the higher altitude, opted for the more sensible option.

Pyrenees Haven were offering a weekend package for the race, which included airport and race transfers on a half board basis.

Run by a lovely family from Pudsey, and also fell runners, we knew we were onto a winner, and we were not disappointed. It was lovely.

They organised for us to have a taster run around a cross country course to get used to the altitude on the afternoon we arrived, arranged race transport and Gary even ran around the course trying to take pictures of us.

There was a lovely couple from Wharfedale Harriers also staying at the B&B, so it was nice to make new friends and compare fell running stories.

The race itself was great. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was quite nervous, especially as Gary had taken us for a 5km jog out the day before and I had struggled with the deepness of the snow (energy sapping) and the altitude. Then I realised it was because the other 4 were a lot bloody quicker than me and I was trying to keep up.

When it came to race day I didn’t need to worry as they were all doing the longer 25km, so I was safe and happy doing the 12km option.

One main difference of running in France was that not many people liked to run up hill. Now this is usually an energy saving tactic when fell running, but mainly for the steep stuff, they walked anything! I tried to blend in!

The biscuit was well and truly taken when I realised they weren’t overtly keen on running downhill either, so I blew my cover and did some downhill overtaking.

As I have stopped wearing my running watch and just relied on my phone to log all my strava runs, judging distance is a nightmare as it has never been my strong point, along with pacing, or in fact any aspect of running. This meant I got to the end and still had a lot left in the tank, so I really need to dust that watch off and start applying myself!

The course was good and the weather perfect. 


I managed to complete the race in 1hr 55mins, which I guess I was pleased with given so many unknowns. But I’d definitely want to go back and try and beat that time. 

The race was very well organised with a good choice of food and drink at the end (and at the aid station – not really needed for the 12km though). 

Whilst I filled myself up I overheard the winner of the 25km come in, it was only Sam Watson from Wharfdale Harriers who was staying at the same b&b. I don’t think the French were overly impressed that a foreigner had come over and won their race, but they were very gracious. He got a lovely trophy! 

[photos to be added later – check back for updates]

 

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Impromptu Half Trail Marathon

On Sunday 7th July I took part in the Lakeland Trails ½ Marathon in Coniston.

 

Originally I was just going to spectate whilst hubby took on the Marathon race, but I had been running over 10 miles in one outing comfortably for the past few weeks, and felt I could tackle my second half marathon.

Ok, so I completely forgot about the whole trail aspect of the run, and the fact that I would probably walk quite a bit of it, but I felt ready.

 

Trail running is difficult, ok we all know that, but what I mean it’s difficult to gauge how well you’ll do (or not, in some cases), as you can’t just compare your times to road running. This was my problem when I was trying to work out what time would be good for me to finish in, what was my target time and when did I have to get a wiggle on to make sure I wasn’t disappointed?

 

I had only done one trail run before and this was only 18km (Cartmel Sticky Toffee Trail), I had also only ever done one road half marathon before (Paddock Wood Half), so I decided to pluck a time out of thin air and guess that the trail half would take me at least an hour longer, so anything under 3hrs would be good. I had signed up for the Challenge rather than the race so there wasn’t too much pressure.

 

As the day approached we were conscious of how warm the weather was getting, and we weren’t relishing the thought of running through 24-degree midday heat. I hydrated myself well, and ate a lovely lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Manchester the day before. My lovely mother-in-law organised a BBQ for the evening before, but we weren’t convinced steak was the best pre-run meal, but we didn’t want to disappoint and ate it happily, plus there was cake. Cake’s ok right?

 

The Beecroft household was up early for the 2hr drive over to the lakes, and we arrived in plenty of time to register, hydrate & wee! (Toilet queues were massive!)

We worked out with the in-laws a spectating plan and where we would see them on the course.

 

We're Ready!

We’re Ready!

The set up for the race was fantastic and the location by the lake was great (I’m sure the lake will come in handy later!).

The marathon challenge had already set off at 7.30am as they had a longer period in which to complete, next off were Hubby and the marathon race. Loads of serious runners, and good to see some other southerners, including a couple of local rivals from Dulwich Runners.

Once the marathon had set off I had an hour to hang out before I started. Stretched, hydrated, checked GPS, chatted, checked GPS, tied laces, one last stretch and I was off…

The course was lovely, nowhere near as tough as my 1st trail run experience, mainly due to most of the course being on bridleways and decent paths. There was a decent spread of water stations. Although one was getting dangerously low when I went through and we still had the Half marathon racers to come through after us. There was also one feed station which was nice to have.

I didn’t find the climbs too bad, and managed to run up at least two of them. The lap around a tarn was a little monotonous, but a gorgeous setting that I just had to take a snap.

Gorgeous Views - Must remember to stop!

Gorgeous Views – Must remember to stop!

 

I was so lifted by my surroundings I went way too fast for the 1st half, which I did find easy, but really should have paced myself better.

Vrooommmmm!

Vrooommmmm!

 

I spotted MIL at 15KM, and bless her she got her spray mist out to cool me down, as at this point it was VERY hot. This spurred me on and I went for it through a forest section.

Then I hit a wall.

My GPS had stopped working half way round the tarn so had to restart my watch, so didn’t really have an idea of how long was left or how long I had taken – good or bad?

When I saw the 15KM marker I was quite confident as this meant only 6KM left and that shouldn’t take me long right? The last two miles were tough, which was sad because this was the relatively flat bit. I had to walk much of it! We then entered the area where we had started and then found they were making us do a loop of the campsite – ARGHH!

As I approached the finish line I gave a little sprint. They called out my name, it was wrong! Then I heard the Mother in Law correct them.

I finished with a flourish, but was it enough? Hell yeah 2hr 47mins!

I was pleased!

Yep my name is wrong!

Yep my name is wrong!

What was even more pleasing (or not depending on how you look at it) I did this time and they actually made us do a whole extra mile! The course was over 14 miles, so no need for that last lap around the camp site. No wonder the last 2 miles was tough, should have just been one! Glad my GPS stopped working. What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you right? Tell that to my thighs, still aching three days later!

I think my 1st half speed was due to the fact that I run a lot of 10k, so need to work on my longer distance, and of course my pacing is non existant and needs a lot of practice!

The trail half marathon was gruelling but fun and really glad I did it. It will make my half marathon in September seem like a walk in the park – can’t wait!

My 1st Trail race, AKA mud racing!

Saturday the 16th of March saw me competing in my 1st ever trail run, or cross country in old money.
Originally I signed up for the comfortable 10km race, but this was due to start at 10am in the morning, and the other half and a friend were running in the 18km race at 2pm. Neither were keen to get up at the crack of dawn and then hang around for 4 hours till they started – fair enough!

I had two choices, pull out (very tempting!) or change and go for the 18km challenge race. This had a time limit of 3.5hrs an hour longer than the proper race that started an hour later, which hubby & friend were doing. I procrastinated for a few days then thought I might as well go for it.
I have a half marathon planned for the 7th of April so this would be a good ‘warm up’!

The trail was organised by Lakeland Trails, and we were doing the 18km Cartmel Sticky Toffee Trail Challenge. Dubbed a ‘beauty and beast’ of a course – I was anxious!
I had only ever run a maximum of 9 miles and only on pavement. I didn’t even have proper trail shoes.

I decided that my Nike running shoes wouldn’t cut it, so decided to use my walking shoes. I have had my North Face Hedgehog GTX’s for a few years, never run in them but knew they were comfy, so they were my weapon of choice.

I also decided to buy myself some full length running leggings (still find it difficult to call them tights!) in preparation for the unknown, but at a good guess lots of MUD!
I bought my self some ASICS Fuji Tights. Classed as all weather trail performance I figured they would fit the bill. Find out later how they did.

So with my shoes and leg wear sorted I only had to worry about my top half.
I opted for an Adidas Supernova t-shirt, and a Nike dri-fit jacket (can’t find details on the jacket I wore – sorry!). I also had a Ronhill hat and gloves set as it was likely to be a bit ‘parky’!

I was ready, well equipment wise, only time would tell if I was ready physically & mentally.

The event was very well organised (except for the start time of the 10km race compared to the others).
Registration was on site, and the tent was a good spoiler to the condition of the course. You were given your very good technicals race t-shirt when you registered.

With my target of less than 2hrs 30mins I was ready.

Phew it was tough!

It was quite amazing how many of the trail runners avoided the puddles! Hang on wasn’t this supposed to be cross country, you will get wet! Come on!

My Map my run app didn’t work at the start of the race due to no GPS, so it wasn’t until mile 4 ( at the stile) that I found out how far we had gone and what my time was – there was a queue we all had a chat! It had taken me 51 mins to go 4 miles so I knew this was going to be tough. I managed to get my GPS working in the middle of nowhere – random, so my friendly lady was now shouting at me every mile, telling me how slow I was going.

I was only really expecting 1 major hill (as you don’t get to see the course before hand there is a lot of guesswork), there were loads! Some I jogged up, some I plodded up, others I just walked.
The course was not called sticky toffee for nothing, there was so much mud! I think I took most of it home with me on my shoes and legs.

Gosh it was tough!

I really enjoyed the downhill bits.

Did I mention the mud? It was so slippery at times, but I managed to stay upright all the way round, which was an achievement in itself.

The course started to be marked for distance at 12km, when I got to 13km I was feeling optimistic, as that was only 30 odd mins (in road running time) left. Yeah that wasn’t realistic thinking.

At 3/4 of a mile from the end they decide to photograph you, and MAKE you run through a massive puddle – bastards!

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He took a few!

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The last mile took me around 20mins as you had to run uphill then down through a forest which was tough after running 10miles.
But you could hear the music from the finish so this spurred me on. By this point I had been overtaken by at least 25 of the later race runners, and I was worried about being overtaken by my husband, as I knew he would try to hunt me down, so I battled on.

The end was a welcome sight as my back was killing. I finished in a very respectable time of 2hrs 27mins. I was exhausted, I was muddy, I had very wet feet but I hadn’t been overtaken by husband, but he was only 20mins behind me, and very surprised that he didn’t find me walking, as even he found it tough, despite finishing in 1hr 48mins.

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Our friend came in 10 mins later, back in pieces but pleased to have completed it.

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We picked up our goody bag that had an ASICS water bottle and a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding – yummy!

How did my equipment hold up? My ASICS tights were fab, they had a waterproof part to the bottom of the legs, which kept me dry, they were very comfortable, and kept my muscles nice and warm. They had nice venting so I didn’t feel over warm at any point.
My North Face hedgehogs did an ace job of keeping me up right. No blisters and all my toenails survived!

My Adidas top was a small, but as you can see from my photos was too big really around the neck. It was however very comfortable and regulated my temperature well.

Would I do a Lakeland trail again? YES. It was tough, no doubt, but it was amazing.

Hawkshead is next in April, bring it on!