Today was race day. We woke early, partly because the marshals seemed to be meeting where we’d parked, before heading off to their checkpoints, partly because of pre race nerves. The marathon started at 8.00 and the half marathon at started 9.00, shortly before our 12k at 9.10.
We were very apprehensive because this was our first race abroad and we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. After breakfast, we headed over to the race start in the square in Barcelonette. The other runners all looked very fit and professional, dressed head to toe in Salomon gear. As usual, I worried I’d be slow and hoped the trail was well marked so I didn’t get lost! It didn’t help not being able to understand any announcements.
After a final wee in a friendly cafe, the countdown began, the starting gun blasted and we were off, with people cheering as we ran through the town. It was great to see Dan and Tom, who had come along to support us.
The route soon entered the forest and started to climb. I’d now settled into a steady, comfortable pace and my nerves had subsided. As the road got steeper, many people slowed to a walk, including me, and I was surprised to find myself passing people, even some who were still running. Training in Snowdonia certainly helped… I seem to have perfected my fast walk!
So far the heat wasn’t a problem because we were in the forest, and the runs and walks we’d done in the Alps so far must have helped me adjust to the altitude. Although my chest felt heavier than usual, it didn’t adversely affect my performance.
After a while, we were directed onto an even steeper single track path. It was difficult to pass runners in front and the race became a procession, everyone quiet and breathing heavily, legs pounding uphill.
Finally, after about 6 kilometres, we reached Col des Alaris at 1757m, 600m above the town. Fantastic! The views were stunning, and we were greeted by more friendly marshals manning an excellent refreshment stall. I grabbed some flat coke, a piece of a banana and a salty biscuit, took a few photos and set off again.
I was surprised to find there was a bit more ascent, although it was gentler now, and I could run most of it, albeit slowly. The downhill then began in earnest, much of it very tricky over rocks and tree roots, often very dusty and slippery and falling away steeply. I’m not particularly fast on technical descents and was amazed that I passed a few people, even men.
Thankfully, much of the route was still shaded but I felt as though I was melting in the sunnier sections, particularly across the fields. My legs were tiring from bouncing downhill and I was pleased to reach the road and the last kilometre into town. I wasn’t looking forward to this bit on hard tarmac in full sunshine but I managed to keep running and it passed quickly. It was great to hear John and Dan cheering me over the line to finish another race with a huge smile. I couldn’t believe I’d got round it so well with the heat and altitude, and was happy with my time of 1 hour 45 minutes, just over 15 minutes behind John, who also did really well. I’m proud of both of us, but glad we didn’t do the half marathon!
I later found out that John came 77th and I came 158th out of 247 runners, and 8th and 14th respectively in our categories. Not too shabby!
We quickly ate our free post-race meal and headed back to the van for a quick shower and change, before heading up the Ubaye valley to meet Dan and the others to go kayaking. I stayed at the van at the get out point, cleaned the van and relaxed while John kayaked.