On day 3 in the Pyrénées I realised that we are not going to get the 100 km of trail running in 5 days that was advertised when I signed up. In stead we are getting what the organisers call «an introduction to running in the Pyrénées» before the vertical kilometer and the sky marathon at the weekend.
On day 3 we were promised an easy 12km run in a neighbouring valley. We, the runners and the organisers, squashed into two cars and drove up to Vallée du Rioumajou. Poor Anja, the organisers daughter who has been helping with photographing and marshalling, had to share the boot of the car with the dog, Egon.
I have yet to meet Le Patou, the big fluffy cattle and sheep herding dogs that the trail is named after, but Egon was a more than adequate substitute.
The warm ups have gotten shorter and shorter as the week has progressed, today we sat in the sun and enjoyed the views, and only got up to do some light jogging five minutes before the 10.30 start. We were at 1500m altitude, therefore the temperature was quite pleasant despite blue skies and sunshine.
It seemed that we all had decided to take it easy today, for the first kilometer all five of us ran together as a group. We started following the dirt road we had come along in the car going back down the valley. Then after 3,5 km we turned right and crossed the river we had been running along, following a single track trail on the other side of the river. As usual Pasquale and I had separated from the others at this point, and as usual Pasquale was in front with me a few steps behind.
There were no major challenges on this course, only a kilometer or so of uphill running on not too steep a gradient, and two instances where we had to cross areas of newly cleared wood, where loose soil and sawn off branches created a mini obstacle course. We were running in the shade of the trees and following the river more or less the whole time, and the path was not very technical. After a couple of kilometers on the trail we crossed the river and started following the road again, this time running up the valley in stead of down. After a kilometer or so I started doubting that the distance really was 12 km, that would mean another 5 km on the road, and it had not seemed that long when we were driving up to the start. The finish was also much further down in the valley, we were not going all the way back to where we started. A kilometer later I was proved right, as we saw the beach flag marking the finish and Jean Cristophe waiting for us on the side of the road. Once again Pasquale and I crossed the finish line together, on the finish line photos taken by JC and Claudia we can be seen actually stepping on the line simultaneously.
Since today’s run was so short, only 8,6 km, the other three were ony a few minutes behind. I am not sure whether to be relieved or annoyed that the courses are shorter than expected. Annoyed because I would like to spend more time up in the mountains and on the trails, that is what I love doing after all. In the village of St Lary Soulan, where we are staying, there is not much to do. Also, I expected and planned on this being a tough training week, a trailrunning bootcamp to help me shape up before the North Downs Way 100 in August. Relieved, because my legs are not completely thrashed, which means the vertical kilometer and sky marathon will be a slightly less hard challenge. All the downhill running we have been doing is noticable in my quads, but not so bad as to not have recovered in time for the VK.
After staring up at the ski resort of the neighbouring village Vignac all week it will be nice to get the vertical kilometer over with. Bring it on!