Well, so much has happened since my (first) ultra on Feb 1st. The pain in my hip didn’t really go away. Not for a long time. It’s now five months, and a long, really constructive, journey later, and my hip is better. I’ll back track on that process – learning to run – later. But first, the Trail de Sancerre!
I’ve jogged a bit. I stopped calling it running to take the pressure off. Mind you, when I was finally first ‘allowed’ to run for a minute, rest for a minute and repeat for a total of ten minutes, even calling it jogging was ambitious. And if my phone had had a 30 second timer, I’d have started at 30 second repeats.
Anyway, my hip is officially better. My final bit of rehab (after which I really have no more excuses not to run, not to go to track, not to train), on the day of the summer solstice, was to run – more realistically attempt to run – the Trail de Sancerre. And only the little one, which they disparagingly call “la fillette”. Let me tell you there’s nothing girly at all about this trail: 14.8km with 500 metres of ascent, including a couple of 45° slopes. And on the day, it was a rocking 28°C. The silver lining is that it was a dry heat, none of stultifying, air-sapping, humid heat we have in the UK.
This is first race I’ve done where I’ve been puffing along, look ahead, see something euphemistically called a slope and think, oh good, I can walk up that and catch my breath a tad. Let me tell you everyone was walking up those. It wasn’t me being a (not really any more-)rehab wimp. Probably the winner ran up, pretty much everyone else was walking those bits.
What a glorious setting for a trail. Sancerre is pretty town on a hill (as I found out, a very steep hill) in the middle of some of the most wondrous sauvignon blanc vineyards in the world. Probably the most famous sauvignon blanc vineyards in the world (do I hear dissent from Marlborough, New Zealand?)
It’s always good to have a few targets: (a) just finishing would be good, (b) finishing without injuring myself would be even better, (c) finishing without walking (yeah, okay, that was just sheer naivety that one, and (d) ambitiously, finishing in around two hours.
I felt a bit sacrilegious scree-sliding down the ridiculously steep Cul de Beaujeau, just outside Chavignol, of goats’ cheese fame, (wouldn’t want to work that vineyard) from one vine post to the next so I didn’t go completely A over T. Pleased to report the vineyard posts are well embedded. Next we ran through the winery of Henri Bourgeois, in Chavignol, where a hosepipe was on full blast. I gratefully dived under.
Up the Monts Damnés vineyard (damned slopes indeed), and I’m sure we were bagpiped into Verdigny. Was I hallucinating by then? It was only half way. And I’d just been imagining I must be well beyond half way at that stage. That was just pie-in-the-sky thinking.
We zig-zagged across – I use the word loosely, most it felt like it was up – the vineyards north of Sancerre to re-enter the town by the most precipitous path possible. We still had to climb (walk) to the very top of the town, through the Maison des Sancerre, with info on all the wines of the region, and down again through the town centre winery of Domaine Vacheron. I didn’t know it was their winery until we visited it the next day … “ooh, I ran through here yesterday”. Gotta do the day job, after all.
It was, retrospectively, great fun, really hot, a huge challenge, and well supported, even in the remotest vineyard locations. Allez, allez. Even my French stretches to this!
For the record.
Finish time: 1:54:24 (how totally chuffed am I!)
8 / 43 in my age group – top 20%
66 / 289 women – top 23%
515 / 1038 runner – inside top 50%
Ce n’est pas mal!
For nearly two hours, my life revolved around this image (as well as the vineyards, obviously). My mantra was “blue arrow, blue arrow”. The red one would have taken me on the ‘big brother’ run, a humungous run of 35km, with 1,100 metres of ascent.
My hip did tweak a tiny bit after the trail, less than I thought it might with all that ascent, and descent, we did end up at the same point. It tweaked little enough that in the week since the race that I ran 3.5 miles on each of three consecutive days. I’ve not even considered any consecutive-day running since Feb 1st. No twinge. No tweaks, nothing. That’s what I base my decision on – my hip is officially better.