Monday, 10 August 2015

She'll be running round the mountain when she runs...

After a couple of short runs in June (the longest was 8km); Ooh, guess what? Only a new 10k PB no less...

What felt like the hottest day of the year fell once again on Poole Festival of Running Day in Poole park (7th June this year).  I honestly don't know how they do it, someone must book it in advance, or have a special arrangement with the weather gods.

Although not ideal for running in, it was certainly ideal for making a day of it in the park with a picnic and the dogs. If the weather allows (which touch wood it has so far!) we like to turn up early to get a good parking spot, have a leisurely wander round the lake, watch all the morning races (if not competing in any), retire to the picnic area, have lunch, then walk back in time for the afternoon's 10k, after slathering on suncream as a 2pm race start usually means the hottest part of the day!

Nic's partner Mary was running in the 5k race (Mary's first race as a new runner, with a number and everything!) and so was Nic to support her so we sat on the bench by the fountain, which gave a good view of the start and finish to spectate.

After lunch I lined up on the 10k start line and managed to pull off a fairly consistent run with quite close splits ranging from 5:30 to 5:39 a km (hark at me, quoting splits!) with a slightly faster last one brought on by seeing the finish line! Very pleased to get a result of 55:44 and a 10k PB in the process.

I do quite like this race, even though its laps and on road, I suppose its because its so very local we could almost walk there, and the route is very familiar. This year though i was slightly disappointed with the t-shirt as it seemed to be of poorer quality that previous years. I think i would rather get no tshirt and a cheaper race for a 10k race like this, but of course I must remember that for a lot of people it is the furthest they have ever run, and quite a big deal, and so for them a tshirt is a nice memento of their running journey so far.

The next week couldn't go quick enough as we were counting down the pre-holiday hours, next stop south of France!
The week before we were due in Argentiere, we had planned a week in the Dordogne area of France along with my daughters, their other halves and some friends, for what we hoped was going to be a well deserved relaxing break before tackling the mountains.
There were 8 of us in total, and 4 dogs, in a really lovely gite not far from Brive.

Les Aubiers
having been to the area many times before we didn't feel the need to go and do much sightseeing, so spent most of the week relaxing, swimming, reading books, and playing tennis and Petanque in the gite grounds (after what felt like such a busy year it was so lovely for a change to wake up in the morning and and kick back, and know you don't actually have to do anything if you don't want to!)

I did manage 3 runs though, mind you as the week went on the heat went up, so the effort level went down. The longest one was the first day we were there. I didn't know of any suitable routes in the area but thanks to the free Wi-Fi I was able to study Google Maps and spotted what I hoped was a likely candidate starting only a few hundred yards from the front door. In unfamiliar territory its often best to take an out and back route, so as to retrace your steps after halfway and minimise getting lost. I was hoping the area would offer enough tracks to get me approx 45 mins of running before I had to turn around (I was aiming for an hour and a half in total)

The route started by the local riding stables (I was hoping this was a good sign as surely a riding stables will need a good few miles of unbusy track available?) and the first km was up a dusty white stony track past horses in fields and also a couple of very nosy mules, who startled Max & Daisy by deciding to run along the fence with us until the field ran out. What startled me were the flocks of Hoopoes in the fields too. You don't see many of these on our local heath!

I then took the next small path into the woods as it looked from the hoof prints and the horse dung that this was where all the rides started. It was clear it had rained the night before as there were many overhanging branches laden with water, and I managed to gather most of it on my hair and clothes, emerging the other end of the woods soaked to the skin! Still the weather was warm enough for this not to matter and the now more open track took us past piles of cut logs which provided a small diversion to the dogs as they looked for sunbathing lizards. I also spotted a couple of wooden posts with yellow tops spaced quite a way apart along the side of the track. This was reassuring as they appeared to be route makers of some kind so i was hopeful we had found an 'official' footpath.

Then we hit a road.

Due to the fact we had only gone 2.5km I was not keen to turn around just yet but neither was I that keen to take the dogs very far along the side of the road as I had visions of rogue local farmers driving their ancient 2CVs without due care and attention. However, having spotted another yellow topped post further down the road, I was hopeful we would be on trail again soon and that this was just a short tarmac interlude; so with leads on the dogs & wits gathered, I set off to the left, and we were soon trotting (just a few hundred metres as it turned out) through a typical sleepy french hamlet. 

from a walk through the same village the next day
Luckily only 400m later the yellow posts led us off the road again and down a tree lined stony path for another km. Emerging at a junction in the trail I discovered a signpost which informed me I had not discovered a walking trail as I had first thought, but in fact a MTB trail network (which is pretty much the next best thing!). Passing the time of day for a moment with 2 local bored but friendly dogs who appeared from nowhere, I turned left almost back on myself along another track leading upwards, this time with green topped posts. This just seemed to go up for another km. A further short section of road later (only 100m tops!) and up again, but this time through a lesser used section if the long rain laden grass was anything to go by, before a short rocky descent to another junction where I decided to turn round and return, having done a tad over 45 mins.

Cue the same run in reverse, but to save time lets speed it up shall we? OK, go; short rocky up, long soggy down, road (blink and you miss it), down to signposts, hello dogs, turn right, trees, french village (watch out for locals), past cut logs, lizards!, woodland (wet trees again), horse dung, nosy mules, horses, Hoopoes!, white stony track, and stagger back through the gates to the gite.

It was quite nice on the one hand to go on a run of discovery for a change, not knowing where I was going to end up, but there is also the risk of running into local unchained guard dogs, farmers with shotguns, locals with banjos, etc etc.
I did make sure I had a phone with me, plenty of water given the heat, and a first aid kit!

Of course after the brief excitement of discovering a new trail, there was also the safe comfort of being able to run it again in more familiarity (don't want too much excitement on a relaxing break!)
The other 2 runs were just a variation on a theme, the first taking a shorter route, the second completing a circle after I realised upon uploading my run, that if instead of turning round and retracing my steps, I had turned left and followed the trail I would get back to where I started :-)
This last one was without the dogs though, as after half a km accompanying me, they showed a distinct lack of being either mad or English, announced it was far too hot and then wouldn't go any further, so I had to take them back! (they were right, it was nearly too hot for me too)

Interspersed with this was quite a lot of swimming, which was lovely, I don't normally get chance to swim, so getting in the water every day in that heat was a real treat. I'm not a good swimmer but during the week i went from 96 metres in one go to 288 metres by the end of the week. Good cross training too.

We also found a great local lake/water park with man made beaches and surrounded by walking paths which passed an enjoyable couple of hours walking the dogs and letting them splash in the lake

Oh, and i might have drunk a bit of wine too. . . . . (when in France etc. . )

So, coming to the end of a lovely sunny peaceful week, it was time to look forward to higher ground, as next time I put my running shoes on I would be running round a mountain. . .

See you on the next post in Chamonix with a full Mont Blanc Cross report.

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