Monday, September 30, 2013

Course des Terrils

Otherwise known as the race I thought was just a race and ended up being similar to the equivalent of a mad dash through the forest and up steep scree terrain.

It all began way back mid week when Yann suggested this race that was happening Sunday the 29th.  He was going to be running the 70km course (he really really likes running), and told me about a 9km one I could run if I was interested.  Because I do enjoy running, and had promised myself I would be open to everything and say yes to everything this year so as not to miss out on any cool opportunities, I said I'd be down, thus forfeiting my one sleep-in of the week.  9 kilometres isn't too hard..... or so I thought.

Yann modelling his favourite hat for running, the night before his big race.  He got it in Thailand and loves it because nobody has one like it.
Yann had to start his race at 6am (yeah.. WHAT) so I was picked up at 8:15 by Tanguy, who is actually the president of my host Rotary club here in France, who works with Yann, and who would also be running a race at the event: the 16km one.  We stopped back at Tanguy's house to pick up Robert, Tanguy's son, who would be running the 9km with me (and was enjoying a little bit of an extra sleep in).  Robert is 18 and went on a Rotary exchange two years ago to the states.  Anyway, we make it to the event, pick up our numbers, and our race t-shirts (which were soo nice!) and Tanguy left Robert and I to go to the start line.

Everyone at the start line was pumped and happy and ready to run.  That's something that apparently stays the same no matter what country you're in: the joy and camaraderie of running a race with a big group of strangers who love doing it.  It also helps that there was a band there playing peppy French tunes that were bordering on the very cheesy terrain, but mostly just rested on the hilarious and pleasing for tourist Siobhan terrain.  Then before you know it the countdown was done and the race had begun.  Robert is actually quite a runner and was off booking it right from the start, so I was left content to run my easy pace alongside runners I didn't know.  It was awesome.  The race started on a paved road, and soon enough we had turned off into a forested area, and were running trails.  I personally love that kind of running, so I was having a total blast! Then approximately 5 minutes into the race, there suddenly loomed in front of us this giant, steep, mountain-like face covered in scree.  Now I'm just gonna rewind to a day earlier, when Yann told me the race was easy and from what I understood, he'd said there were two "hills." Fast forward to the next day, an hour before the start of the race, and Tanguy tells me the exact same thing.  Now we're back in the present, I'm running towards what in my mind looked like a vertical wall of flying scree and scrambling French runners, and to say that I was surprised would honestly be a rather large understatement.  My immediate thought was "since when?!?!" and then using my incredible exchange student skills of adapting to situations, I got over my surprise, and proceeded to run.. then slowly jog-walk... then climb using all fours.. up the terrain.

A photo from Google which very accurately portrays the scramble (so mad at myself for not having my iPod or phone to take photos)
photo from Google which very accurately portrays the amount of people scrambling at once
photo from Google which very accurately portrays the size of the "hill"

 As much as it came as a surprise, and I probably would've dreaded it had I known about it beforehand, it felt so good and satisfying to make it to the top, and the view of the surrounding French countryside was so awesome. I didn't, however, get to take it in for that long, because the race had just begun and everyone continued running.  We runners turned a corner just after leaving the top of the hill, and lo and behold there's the 1km sign; this run was going to be a gooder. It continued on much the same as it began, through the trees and trails and forest, going up and going down.  I have never been in a race that was that interesting, exciting, difficult, varied, challenging, or commanding of attention! I didn't get to zone out like I normally would when running, my brain was busy the entire time as I focused on either not breaking my ankle, or just on the usual self-encouragement thoughts that help me to keep going hard.  There was another big incline about 20 minutes later, that went on much longer, but was zig-zagged, and nowhere near as steep.  Still though, because of how long it was, every runner was walking by the time we got to the top.  The rest of the race went pretty well, there were two more French bands we passed.  I got treated by a band of old guys to about 5 seconds of "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones as I ran by.  Then there was another band that played some more peppy French tunes.  Not to mention the hilarious French spectators who stationed themselves throughout the course and yelled "Alleralleralleralleraller!" at you as you ran by.  That happened about 15 times I'd say.  About 3km from the finish there was a water station, which, unlike Canada, didn't have just water, but water, bread, dried apricots, raisins, orange wedges, and CHOCOLATE.  You could run buy and grab a chunk of chocolate and keep running while you eat deliciousness, which is of course what I did.  I grabbed a handful of raisins, and a giant chunk of chocolate, and spent my next kilometre thoroughly enjoying myself.  Then finally the finish was in sight, and I kicked up my speed to finish.

Me after my race!
Finish line
Afterwards, things happened like they normally would at any race.  There was food for runners, and a bunch of booths around for runners and spectators alike. There was one booth/store that seemed to be the French equivalent of The Running Room, that had a cool wall where you could write messages! So obviously I helped Canada leave it's mark.

Can you spot Canada? (top... below writing... middle....)
"CHEERS FROM CANADA! - Siobhan Barry - RYE 2013/14!!!"
And then the time's got posted.  I ended up with 447th out of seven hundred something, not bad!

Overall, it was an awesome experience, and despite how I had to get up early and I really didn't want to, it ended up being so so worth it.

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