The idea behind this blog has been fermenting for a while now and, with the arrival of spring and the first races of the season, it seems like a good time to take the plunge.
I spend a lot of time running. And a good deal of time talking about running, thinking about running and reading about running. Since I fully understand that not everyone is as enamored as I with the sport, I thought I could channel some of my enthusiasm into a blog about trail running so that other enthusiasts (and possibly a few curious friends and family members…) could share in the fun.
So, with that said, let’s begin:
Yesterday I ran my first trail race of the 2017 season. It was a 27km/17mile race with 1100m/3600ft of vertical in the hills around Tullins, a town about a half hour from Grenoble, France. Despite pouring rain on Saturday, the sun was out and spring was definitely in the air.
We also happened to skip ahead to daylight savings time, which meant that the night was an hour shorter than it might otherwise have been, but a bit of sleep deprivation was not much to overcome! I was more concerned with the copious meal my running mate Céline had prepared for us the night before… French meals are notoriously long, elaborate and often quite rich affairs – which is fantastic, obviously, albeit potentially better kept for celebrating post-race! But that worked out, too, and I left the house at 7:30am feeling good about the day.
Bib pick up and a toilet run done, I was thrilled to run into my friend (and inspirational trail running super-star) Hillary on my way to the start line. She was volunteering at the race and would be running behind the last in the pack taking down the race markings and picking up any garbage left on the trails.
At 9 o’clock, off we sped. The course was a roughly 14-kilometer uphill climb, with a lot of rolling sections that could be run and a few steep inclines that were better off walked (by those in my part of the pack, at least!), followed by a roughly equivalent descending portion, with a couple of what the French call coups de cul – literally “kicks in the ass” – i.e. short but steep uphills, usually when you’re least expecting them near the end of a race.
Around kilometer 9 we had a bit of respite when the incline tapered off briefly and we could run a bit more comfortably. Suddenly I was in the spot I love most out on the trails: a nice breeze on my face, a beautiful view of snow-capped mountains in the distance… and the goofiest big grin you can imagine splattered across my face. With no one around (but, I’m pretty sure I do same thing when people are watching), there I was smiling maniacally as I pushed on. Another uphill inevitably arrived at some point, but that didn’t matter. Regularly throughout the race I found myself basking in the joy of the moment, of being outside, in the sun, pushing myself physically and seeing the results of my recent training efforts starting to pay off.
I was happy with my food ingestion during the race, too (it’s a process I’m still trying to perfect): a piece of pain du montagnard (an all-natural dried fruit bar) at the one-hour mark, a couple of crackers from the first aid station (1:35), a piece of orange at the second aid station (2:30), and half an apple sauce around the three-hour mark.
I passed several people during the race, which is something that only started happening mid-season last year and is still kind of a novelty for me. I leap-frogged with another runner for much of the race and I think we both used the other to keep up the pace which was why it was lovely when, just as I was about to cross the finish line, she grabbed hold of my hand and we crossed together, both smiling like crazy (she was a V2 runner and came first in her category to boot!).
All in all, it was a great day. My friend Céline finished two minutes ahead of me and we enjoyed the post-race meal together. By the time Céline left, Hillary was back and we got to catch up for a bit, basking in the warm spring sun before helping the organizers clean up a bit.
This was not one of my “big” races of the year, but it had all the ingredients for a great day out on the trails: great people, a lovely course, perfect weather and all the secret ingredients needed to bring out my biggest I-love-this smile!