Saturday, July 13, 2013

Race Report:  The Coureurs De L'ic in Pordic, France (I think that's what it was called)

I just returned from a trip to France with my wife, and happened upon a trail race while we were staying in Brittany.  This region is a beautiful region along the Northwest Coast, and Americans rarely go there.  Consequently not many folks speak English, which made registration a bit difficult, but I was blown away by the kindness and willingness to help on the part of everyone, especially the running community.

So here's how it went down.  I was not allowed to register, because the French require a doctors verification that a runner in suitable health to compete in a race.  For this reason the race director reluctantly told me that he could not issue me a bib, but invited me to run along anyway.  He was super nice and so I toed the line as a sanctioned bandit.  I noticed that if I told people I was American, they reacted as though it forgave any idiotic thing I might have done (like going the the wrong way...etc).

View of the start/finish (Depart/Arrive).  I was shocked to see the dirt bikes and riders at the start line, because in America runners are not usually aligned with bikers, but the riders helped with course management.  Very cool.

View from mid pack at the start.  It was an interesting view with the centuries old cathedral.  The race was a 12k and 20k and had about 385 runners.

View of the pack as we headed out of town through wheat fields.  The weather was warm, but dry and crisp; beautiful running weather and incredible light.

OK, this requires some explanation.  I was cruising along and I smelled something funky and heard a mammal breathing irregularly and then this dude appears beside me.  He has a great big beard and spit was hung up in it under his mouth.  He had no race bib, or anything else except those incredibly tight shorts.  I ran with him for a while, and I could hear snickers from the other runners and I realized that I was placing myself in his company, and thus was probably considered a slightly less dedicated version of the same species.  Very few men have beards there, and I probably had a little funk too (when in Rome).  I figured I could just say I was American if questioned, and it would suffice as an explanation for my strange behavior and running companion, but he took the 12k turn off and I never saw him again.  So long Captain Caveman!

This is a view of a Roman viaduct that we crossed--breathtaking!  Yeah, I said Roman.

We doubled back and ran under the viaduct.  I had to shoot this to give you some idea of the scale. 

We made our way through some nice trails down to the beach, and then back up the cliffs for some serious ill action.  By the way, I opted for the 20k, duh.

View from the top.  The beach in the last pic is way down there, WAY DOWN THERE.

The course was marked with flour.  I noticed that the French are very environmentally conscious and go to great lengths to preserve the natural and historical aspects of the land.  Another very cool!

Back down again to the beach.  The trail along the seaside goes up to the cliffs, and then back down to beach access over and over again.  I think this is what the race director was referring to when he told me the 20k was "challenging".

We left the coast heading back to the village of Pordic, and ran some beautiful trails which ended up here.  I think of this neighborhood as the Tributary of Pordic; nice trails designed for use by the residents.  

So this is the course map.  The red is the 20k.  I am not sure how I did, but I am almost positive that I was the 1st American across the line.  I suppose my award is in the mail.  By the way, the awards for the top finishers included a basket with a bottle of wine and some other goodies.

This was by far the most beautiful race I have ever run, and I was treated very well by everyone that I interacted with.  The race cost me nothing, and I bought a shirt afterward for 5 euros.  The experience really made the trip that much more special, and I highly recommend Brittany as a travel destination.

Here is a link to the race blog in France:

Au revoir!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Georgia Death Race Report

Georgia Death Race   03/16/2013 

It has been a long time since I have created a race report, but I decided at some point after daylight yesterday during the race to make a series of videos to document the race experience.

The race started at 4:00AM at Vogel State Park, and ended (for me and my friend Nathan) just before midnight.

On the Duncan Ridge Trail:

I decided to run ahead of Nathan and video him coming down a hill shortly after sunrise.  We have already been running for about 4 hours.

This clip shows just one of a succession of brutal ascents and descents that is called the Dragon's Spine and compromises most of the Duncan Ridge Trail.  There ain't no switchbacks!

This is a bit of foreshadowing.  I decided to poke fun at Nathan for wearing three pairs of socks, but as it turns out, this was a brilliant move to prevent blisters.  I am suffering now with multiple blisters on both feet.

Crossing this bridge gave us a rare opportunity during the race to see normal people doing normal fun things.  The river was absolutely beautiful, and people seemed to be having a great Saturday afternoon.  Both of us talked about seriously re-evaluating our choices in hobbies after this bridge.

The guy in the video was really cool and stopped to make sure I was OK when I was nursing a nose bleed a few miles down the trail.  He also was rockin the best beard on the trail.

This is what a typical aid station looks like on one of these runs.  Lots of folks come out to help for these races, and they really try to help the runners.  Big thanks to all the volunteers.

I am beginning to be a little incoherent at this point, but we are still feeling optimistic.  Nathan was texting his wife to let her know that we were OK and give her an estimated finish time.  The controlled burn landscape was strange and reminded me of a volcano that I climbed in Guatemala many years ago.

There was another video here, but it would not upload.  We had just left the best aid station in the world, ever. They had grilled cheese sandwiches, beer, and BACON.  It was truly a transcendent experience, and they, hands down, win the best aid station award.

After climbing on rocky roads for forever, the road felt like carpet and we were elated.  Right after this, we met some kids who ran with us for a bit.  They really had a hard time understanding why we would pay someone to run 65 miles over mountains to get a t-shirt and a trinket.  I really did not have an answer for them, but a guy we were running with told them "you'll understand when your 40".

OK, there was another video here, but thankfully you don't have to see it (it wouldn't upload).  Conditions deteriorated a bit and we were a bit disheartened because of a 7 or 8 mile climb in the dark on seemingly endless rocky forest service roads.

This is a video of my nose.  

This stretch was the lowest point of the race because we new the finish was only 5 or 6 miles away, but it seemed like it would take an eternity to get there.  


Thanks to all the volunteers, to Alicia and David Milner for their hospitality, Sean Blanton for organizing a great race, and Nathan for running with me.