Sunday, March 28, 2010

Allez Le Pi!

From an email I sent a buddy last week while in France

Tomorrow is the big 42km and 24km race up the slopes of Mont Ventoux which is crazy hard stuff and a big race in these parts. In fact people come to watch from all over. A precursor to the fun is a 10km run today so I decided to do that although will prob run the 24km tomorrow as well. Its all straight up hill running over gnarly rocks and then down over more precarious terrain and a little fast trail stuff through the pines. I am not actually eligible to enter as you need to be licensed. So I snuck in to the middle of the pack just 100m after the start. I was quickly out in the front top 10 even though the guys went out like whippets. When the climbing started I went to the front and kept it to the top of the 3km climb of over 300m = killer!
So now I am in the front and loving the feeling of being overseas and kicking French but. They are hunting me through the descent though so I got to take risks and I start thinking of taking line honours. Out of the mountains and at the bottom of the decent is a water table which I am confused about as surely its been close to 10k's already? I ask the dude how many k's and he shouts out "numf ... eh eh ...nine nine nine" That makes sense as 1km to go is fine but then why the first water table I think to myself? Skip the opportunity and bolt through the tree's. Now there are pockets of supporters in the forest and they are shouting "Allez Allez" which is awesome. I ask them all how much farther as I am dying out here now and surely its been 10k's. When they hear the English accent the enthusiasm diminishes and they stare on a little aggrieved. This energises me immensely and more determined than ever to make it home first. I can hear the supporters encouraging the runners behind me to chase the leader. Shit I am now way over 10k's and I know it, but have no idea where I am nor how long this race actually is. I try ask some spectators but they are having none of it.
I got to push on and I know Hedgie will be on the finish line so that is incentive to make it home before anyone else to show some solidarity to our fatherland!
A couple more tough sharp climbs which test every fibre of the muscles and many of the will too ... but then I pop out onto a little country road and see all the cars at the finish. Its in the bag. I am not an official runner though and have no number on my chest. I am hitting it hard to get home now though and the spectators can see I am first dude home and shout out "Allez ..Premier ...Premier ..Allez!" best to keep my mouth shut so I do. Busting up the home straight to the blow up archway finish but I an not officially entered so I pull to the left and leave the tape unbroken. Everyone looks at me with surprise and there is other runner in site. I just shrug my shoulders and say ... I won but I was not aloud to enter as I have no license. They watch me walk away and pretend I never even ran the distance. Hedgie wasn't even there! The punk was flirting with the cute barmaid ...fair enough I suppose. The next runners are home 5 min after me so I actually had a decent cushion. The guy who 'took us out' on the quad bike then recognises me from the early front running and tells some of the relevant officials who are keen to actually include me in the mix. "You are Premier" they explain. "Correct" I agree.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three Bite Croissants

Right now I am sitting in a small 'otel on the slopes of one of the most notorious climbs in the Tour De France vietstoer ... its called the Mont Ventoux and it gives me shivers right down to the (unsuitable for the occasion) hair on my legs. I am not here to ride though, I am here to run, or I suppose more accurately to be part of the running experience that Salomon trail running puts together for its Athletes and journalists from around the world.

Its a relaxed vibe and something very different to the conference type scenario's I have experienced before. Here everyone is basically left to organise their own vibe based around a schedule that has been created back in Salomon HQ a few weeks ago. No babysitting or loud mouthed punks to tell you what to do, when to do it and all that crap. Its more my style and together with running phenomenon Ryan Sandes we are having a very cool time just letting it flow.

Ryan is fresh off an incredible performance in the Atacama Desert in Chile where he won all 6 stages on offer while totally obliterating any opposition. The dude is really an incredible athlete and even amongst the elite performers that have arrived in Bedoin in the South of France for the conference, I suspect Ryan is at the top of that Pile too ... together with Kiwi Jonathan Wyatt and the strange little 22 year old spanish oakie Kilian who is also some kind of unique specimen (a specimen that Ryan has in his sites I can assure you and can't wait to have a crack at in the near future).

So they chuck all these skinny people together, thread some incredibly technical gear on them and strap some bright red trail shoes to their hooves; then tell them to get running and to take note on how they are feeling about the gear while cruising the trails. Well for the most part I think the 'taking note of how the gear feels' is something that the athletes do while walking around the hotel lobby as once they all get running together they can't help themselves, but to race the shit out each other.

What is realy intereting to me; besides the gear that is astoundingly specific and technically suited to trail running, is how 12 different nations that are represented actually fit so snugly into the stereotypes that have been created around certain countries.
Lets have a look at them:

We have the hometown Frenchies. Aloof, apparently ambivalent and very competative.

The Spanish very layed back, short and tanned even at the end of winter and absent after lunch for what is probably a 3 hour siesta.

Zee Germans and Swiss always wondering why there is no punishment for those not stciking to the already loose schedule and quing at the door of the restaurant with maximum discomfort if 2 min past 1pm sitting.

The Yanks are quite loud of course, think that South Africa is next to Easter Island and mistakingly assume they are the fastest lot here.

Reunion Island locals are I suppose perfectly Reunion Island like ...what would I know right?

Canadian guy is typically always a few steps behind the Americans when ever I see him.

The Kiwi guy and girl are very friendly, have both travelled the world and have no plans of heading back to the Long White Cloud anytime soon. Constantly explaining "no not Australian ... we from Newzilind"

Italians greet each other and others with about 15 "ciao's" a second and have a slick entourage of mafioso looking fella's around most of the time so best I don't say too much about them. I do suspect the guys grandmother is in his hotel room cooking them all pasta and a secret sauce as they have yet to eat in the dinning hall.

Next is the Greeks who are 20 years older than the rest, but must drink litres of Olive Oil daily to remain vigourus.

The Poms ... so white I have not seen much of them against the snowy back drop of the Alps. What I have seen of them has been pretty avg ... I suppose that is true to form then.

The Austrians are a friendly pair and the one dude preaches that Cape Town is without doubt the best city on the Planet. I suspect he is a genius.

And lastly there remains Ryan and Ryan the South African representaivs. We keep to ourselves more than the others (who also seem a bit wary of us) and wonder a bit about why anyone would want to be anything other than a South African. When anyone does show any interest we are patriotic and happy to share our wild stories (backed up by admiring Austrain fella) about snakes and the uniqueness of our country which they listen to incredulously above a dropped jaw. When we are done though it is all just too far away for them to relate to. I'm fine with that.

A great experience so far and as always, the best part of leaving Cape Town is sharpening the hunger for our hometown ... a close 2nd though is the three bite croissants.