Sunday, 21 October 2018

Rowbothams Round Rotherham

Round Rotherham
This would be my 8th running of this event and my 6th in the Runfurther Champs (which is pretty good considering how much time I have been out of the country). I knew It would not change my score in the Championship and as a consequence was struggling for motivation as we stood on the start line. The whole RRR organisation is superb and the race is really good value. It is also fairly flat and fast which does not exactly play to my strengths.
We started from a new venue this year, Mavers Boatclub and it was a pretty setting on the lakeside. It also meant we were straight onto trails rather than the road and tarmac cycle was from the Sports Centre, those would be at the end this year. The forecast was good but not too sunny and I was assured there would be very little mud even on the ploughed fields.
The new venue
The lead men soon disappeared into the distance and the rest of us settled into our natural pace and positions. By Elsecar it was warm and I had to take a layer off. Heading up into the woods I chatted to Ellie, the local girl who had beaten me by a couple of minutes last year. She was running with two guys but was carrying absolutely nothing. I ran a fair way with Les Hill. He raced ahead on the flats and I caught him on the hilly ups and downs or any rough bits, until his legs objected and reminded him of his recent 6 hour race. Having the slower runners and walkers go off an hour earlier is quite nice as you can slowly pick them off. I passed John Vernon at Keppel’s Column and then Bob and Dick as we joined the canal and the delights of Tinsley. I was pleased with my progress and now had my race head on as I ran past Orgreave and noted all the new houses in the distance. CP2 was welcome as I was low on water so I also grabbed some food to keep me going. I like the next section past Treeton Lake and towards the railway viaduct and Rother Valley Park. My foot was now causing me some issues after all the firm surfaces and I did have to walk some short sections here which was frustrating as my legs felt fine. I knew from experience that some walking would help and then we would be on the field paths again through Woodall and into Harthill. This CP is almost half way and I have wasted time here before. Not today though. A quick refill of water and two jaffa cakes and I was on my way. Sadly I found the film tub of mountain fuel had lost it’s cap. Sad because I wanted the energy and worse because it left a sticky mess where the powder had spilt and got damp. I managed two of my marmite sandwiches instead. Less than 10km would see us Woodsetts which I think of as half way even though it is 47/80km. The fields in the next section were beautifully dry and compacted and still had more crops rather than the ploughed mess of some years. The turbines came and went, the light aircraft buzzed us and suddenly I seemed to be almost on my own. It was warm and I had hoped to refill my bottle at the unofficial drink station by the canal but for the first time I can remember they were not there. The relay runners were now coming past at a steady pace and mutual congratulations also help lift my pace plus the golf course section has some softer ground for my poor foot. A short steep uphill and we were racing down to the Butcher’s Arms and the CP at Woodsetts. I had decided to stick some food in a drop bag this year but no change of socks or shoes. Last year I wasted almost 15 mins faffing. Today it was a cup of tea, more marmite sandwiches, two baby bel and a restock of Mountain Fuel Sport Jelly. I was first lady but had no idea how close Ellie was or if she was gaining time on me. There was nothing for it but to keep going as hard as I could.

Les set a good pace around the fields at into Langold lake park. The following woods used to be great but the path now has an uncomfortable covering of gravel chippings. I concentrated on not letting him get too far ahead and we arrived at Firbeck together. I over heard a rumour that Ellie was two minutes behind me so after a refill of water and Mountain Fuel I was off and heading for Roche Valley and the abbey ruins. Surely after 35 miles she wouldn’t catch me now. Red vest man aka fastest fat boy (his words not mine) was running with me now and we made very good time to Maltby.

He seemed keen that I should not be caught. The roads through Maltby were hard work as usual but the track past the odd little trig point and Micklebring came faster than expected. More relay runners dragged me under the M18, across fields and down to Hooton Roberts. I was now checking Henry’s strip maps frequently to check on the passing and remaining kilometres. The 2km to Old Denaby flew by as I tried hard to reel in red vest man again. From the last CP I knew it was less than 5 miles even with the new venue. I met relay folk running back to cars and others out supporting. Several were Kimberworth Stridders and I hoped Ellie was not getting too many updates on how far ahead I was. In my memory the canal and paths to Swinton and then the Sports Centre go on a bit but today they flew by. I was desperate not to lose my position after all these miles. From here it was all tarmac for about a mile. I focused on counting roundabouts to take my mind off my foot until I could see the Fire HQ and knew I was safe. I did slow to walk at that corner but managed to run into the finish. 8hrs 41.

Feeling better after food and a hot shower
Not a PB as I have run faster in 3/8 years but a whole 45 minutes faster than last year. Ellie appeared about 15 minutes later chuffed to have beaten her last years time by about 30 minutes.
The real glory goes to the local man who set a new course record of 6hrs 52 seconds! And Ken, Kevin, David and the others who were way ahead of me as usual.

Nick finishing
Food and a hot shower soon refreshed me and several walks back to the van down on the lakeside loosened my legs.
eating in the sunshine
A seat in the sun watching the light slowly dip over the lake was a beautiful end to the day.

Catching the last rays
All the flags and banners were down and safely stowed soon after dark and I settled down to wait for Bob and Dick. The race was important for them and would decide who will be V70 champion.

Bob and Ian
The new venue worked well. RR is much more scenic than it sounds and a great place to get a 50 mile PB. (I was almost 2 hours faster than at Red Rose 50)

Monday, 24 September 2018

A weekend of lessons

The forecast was good for Saturday so at the last minute we entered the LDWA One foot in the Gargrave. We drove across on Friday evening and had a comfortable night in the van. It was a leisurely start at 8.30am so plenty of time for breakfast, toilets and chat. Neither of us had done the route before and entering late left less time for studying the map than usual.

As we congregated outside the village hall it was chilly but with the promise of warmth and sunshine. The start was flat and fast. Before long I realised that the front guys were going at about 8 mph and there was no way I should even contemplate staying with them. The tarmac soon gave way to old tracks and friendlier surfaces. It was getting warm. Heading towards Otterburn I was able to stop two lads going wrong. They like us had found a route on line- but it was an old one and would not have taken them to CP1 this year! We actually ran a fair bit of the route together, but not all of it as will become clear. We made a slight error and some huge iron gates that looked private, but within a minute or so we were back on track. The next fields were soon crossed and the views up to the hills above Malham were wonderful. For me 23 miles was fairly short and so I did not linger at CPs.

This meant I entered Kirkby Malham alone and ran on towards Hanlith alone. I am not sure what happened next but I had my head down stopping up the tarmac and thought I had missed the sign for the Pennine Way but I found a gate and what looked like a path heading in the correct direction and guessed I could make it work.

 Lesson 1- turn back or stop and sort it out as soon as you know it is not correct. Ironically this was my first race with my first ever iphone with the route downloaded on it and a little red icon that would show exactly where I was. Where was the phone? deep in my sack of course. So instead I ran on keeping an eye on the river below. Then after 200m came a wood. I opted fora way in near the bottom and then a trod climbed. If I had opted for the top I would have met the path. Instead my trod became more and more precarious on higher and steeper ground above the river. Eventually the inevitable happened and my feet slipped. Using all my fingers to breake helped a bit but I would have been in the river without the aid of a tree. Next job was getting back to safe ground and rejoining the route.

Yes, it would have been much faster (and safer) to stop, check my phone and find the Pennine Way. It meant that from this point to Janet's Foss and Street Gate I was playing catch up and trying to calm my pounding heart.

I did stop at the Street gate CP for a few minutes to replenish water and grab some food. I then trotted off with the two lads again having left Kevin and others laughing at my error.

 Mastiles lane and the grass paths on the high limestone were superb for running and I really enjoyed the route. We were joined by an older chap who had done the route before. We made a slight error after CP4 but rejoined the route after about 2 minutes at the gate posts with the knomes. It was then all down hill and fairly fast running through fields and woods to gain the outskirts of Gargrave. A short road section led to the canal and thankfully just 400m or so of tow path.

I was back in 3hrs 58 or 3hrs 48 moving time and quite pleased to beat the 4 hours, especially after my adventures. Now I need to go back next year and without the 3 errors try to get 3hrs 40. Don't laugh, I'm told it's good to aim high.
It wasn't that hot and I had drunk during the run but it took me many cups of tea to rehydrate. My big regret was not taking my camera as the views were awesome.
Sunday saw us helping our orienteering club at the Lancaster urban event. Bob wisely helped at download and did not run. I helped at the start but was keen to have a run if the weather stayed kind. I knew I would be stiff from the day before and also very out of practice at reading the fine detail on an urban O map never-mind planning my route once in oxygen debt. Cp1 and Cp2 were fine; in fact I was fastest out of 10 women on my course to Cp2. By Cp4 my running was obviously faster than my brain could work. I arrived where the kite should be but couldn't see it. In panic I ran off trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Nothing; I should have stopped, stood and looked more carefully as I found it 5 minutes later in exactly that place. Lesson 2 Don't run faster than your brain can navigate. All this panic then let me head off to the canal with the map upside down and 180 degrees out. At the next canal bridge there was water on my right plus a path with wall and bushes to my left. Just as it should be.... but not the correct bridge. Lesson 3 - USE your compass. I realised my mistake and pounded the tow path but another 5 minutes had been wasted.

Cps7-10 went without mishap, possibly because as I was getting more tired I was running just a little more slowly. The the map scale threw me and I arrived at the timed road crossing without being aware of it. There was no traffic and I was running fast down hill. I had to cross back, dib Cp11 and then cross to Cp12. The alleys and ginnels of the town centre had worried me but I navigated them without error. The climb back up to Williamson Park was tough but I remembered the multi level paths there and was soon back on the St Martins Campus for the final few controls. Lesson 4 get some practice on a relevant map before you try a competitive run. I really enjoyed my run even if bits of it were rubbish. I never was s printer and for me 10km is a sprint but at least I was in the top 3 to 13/28 controls and 4th to another 6 so it wasn't all bad.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

LDWA Red Rose 50

It was nice to be going to an event on an area that I mostly knew fairly well and where it wasn't really a race. Well, that's what I said until Gordon said Go. I felt a little guilty at not racing Hardmoors 60 as it was the 11th race in the Runfurther series and I like supporting Jon's events. This time though it seemed more important to support our local LDWA who needed the numbers if the event was to have any chance of continuing next year. Gordon and others had worked hard on the route description and it seemed a shame that it could fold.
Gordon - the route description man
It was a busy racing weekend with Glen Coe Sky races, Hardmoors 60, FRA Cautley, a mini MM, Robin Hood 100 and many more. Other friends were missing because they were helping at a JNC.
We checked out various sections of the route on the previous Sunday and Monday. I ran from Houghton to Mellor and then Tockholes before looping back to Houghton. This meant then I could drop Bob in Mellor on the Monday and he could do a linear reccie from there to almost the finish. He knew some of that would be in the dark. The text seemed good and it was worth the reccie to know the way after Darwen Tower. we should have checked leaving the fell before Hawshaw but both muddled through on the day.

Next decision was where to spend Friday night. Home or the van. Bob had opted for the 8am start so we drove to Turton on Friday evening and parked up just before dark. He was up by 6.30 and then dressed and ready to go by about 7.15. I tried to go back to sleep but was awake now so had a leisurely breakfast in the van, checked my gear and wandered down to the sailing club to register. The early start was just coming up the main road. Registration was very swift as there were fewer than 30 runners.

Plenty of time to chat to Albert who was running with Toney, Abi who was waiting for Mark S and surprise surprise Dave Kamis and Patrick Barry. The rain stopped and started and then stopped again. It would be a frustrating morning with the cag. I headed out to the start and was surprised to find runners lined up on the reservoir side of a gate. I went through and started a trend; no need for a bottle neck in the first yard! Gordon spoke a bit and then we were off.
I had told myself it was not a race just a challenge. No prizes, no points...... Thinking I might just trot round I had even told Dave Kamis not to rely on my for nav as I might not keep up with him. Sadly I never saw him and I think he did get lost a couple of times. After a few hundred metres I found the only runners ahead of me were Albert and Toney; they are stronger and faster than me. Climbing to the ridge of Turton I could see a stream of other runners not far behind me and expected to be caught soon. Instead it seems I pulled away. The drizzle was back and as I dropped to the main road it was heavy enough for me to get my cag out. Just as well because the rain was even worse as I ran towards Belmont. En route I helped a late walker with nav and then a group of walkers who had missed a grassy trod. Picking off others on the way to the San Marino at Belmont made me feel good even if they were walkers and joggers. As I drew near to the CP I could see Albert and Toney just leaving. I grabbed two jaffa cakes and set off for the big climb up Winter Hill. Although I did run bits of the ramp the boys were ahead and out of sight by the time I reached the top. The moorland fires had led to the creation of new 'roads' on the moor to allow firefighters access and to act as fire breaks. It looked very different.
Wet on Rivington Pike
The telegraph pole after Pike Cottage had the first self clip; presumably to make sure we didn't head from the mast straight to the Pike. A second self clip checked we had been to the summit of the Pike. By now there were lots of walkers and also mountain bikers doing an off-road Manchester to Blackpool Ride. The drop to CP2 at Rivington was speedy and I treated myself to a very quick cup of tea and tea bread.  Next was over the dam and a bit of lane and track running. I tried to think of it as a bonus with easy running. I spotted Bob up ahead and stopped for a quick chat then I met Ian F and we ran together for a short while. The weather was improving although a DoE group didn't exactly look enthused. After Healy Nab I was back on familiar territory and used the flat section to up the pace as I ran to White Coppice and then Brinscall. Albert and Toney had already gone but here I caught the lead walker/joggers. They didn't hang around at the CP but marched off with cheese crumpets. I instead opted for two cups of tea and more tea bread before setting out in chase. Ian, the lead walker, was running a fair bit and it took me most of the way to Houghton to catch him. Somewhere in this stretch the winning man overtook us all. The CP here was a little out and back which was slightly annoying but did allow me to see how far ahead Albert was. Yes, the idea that it wasn't a race had already got lost. I stopped for banana and custard and to remove my cag and refill my water bottle. The woods behind Houghton Tower were less muddy than I expected and I was soon at the level crossing. At least a dozen people were stood waiting. Later I heard the hoots of a steam train and understood why. The next woods made up for it with plenty of mud and water then the old cobbled lane through Alum Scar woods was greasy. Still I emerged on the lane leading to Old Doozies unscathed. A couple of fields and I was across the Blackburn road and into Mellor Brook. To me this was half way; the top of the loop. I rounded the corner for the CP to see Toney at the back of a car having deep heat rubbed into his side. A trapped nerve? was giving him pain and had seriously slowed the pair down.
This CP thoughtfully provided little over booties so I refilled my water and enjoyed a couple of sandwiches with my cup of tea. Fortified I set out for the relatively steep climb from the A59 up through fields to Mellor. It passed faster than I expected and I was soon zooming down Church Street. On the fields descending to the Blackburn road I could see the boys again and on the way to the next farm I caught them. The car park on the back of Billinge Hill was gated to prevent dodgy events (I have seen male pron there and a male friend waiting for DoE kids was propositioned there). It was deserted today and I really enjoyed my run down to the athletics track and out towards the canal. Being flat should make the canal good but I don't like tow path running and had to really talk to myself and make sure I kept a reasonable pace here. From the canal to Tockholes was new to me but the route description was perfect. Marshalls at Tockholes greeted me with real enthusiasm so I sat eating pasta and supping tea. I also refilled my water yet again.
Darwen Tower- so many photos, no wonder I beat them!
Once I reached Earnshaw Reservoir I was on familiar ground again and could switch off. It's ages since I have climbed to Darwen Tower from that direction and it was steeper than I remembered. The moorland path contouring above Darwen was very wet but not muddy really. I had given up any hope of dry feet by now anyway. The 'new to me' path was marked with canes and I was sure later runners would be very grateful for them in the dark as the path is small, vegetated and crosses several areas wet enough to be ponds. In daylight I was soon across this and on the big track to Cadshaw. By now I recognised the footprints of the only guy ahead of me and was amused to see he also knew of the tiny short cut on the field. There were plenty of people still enjoying Entwistle Reservoir and two small children raced me on their bikes. This time at the CP I settled for a cup of tea and fruit salad jelly. It reminded me of visits to my nana, especially when they offered evaporated milk on it! I was tired now but suddenly got a boost when the CP told me I only had 8 or 9 miles to go. I had confused km and miles and thought it was still further. I wasn't looking forward to the next section of lanes but knew that with a bit of effort I could still beat the dark.  I made two small errors on the way to Hawkshaw - one got me very very wet feet and the other confused me as I emerged unexpectedly on a lane. I soon sorted it and once at the farm on Hawkshaw Lane I knew the way across the fields to emerge by the pub. This time I didn't stop at the CP at all; the end was in sight. I lost some time after Affetside as a herd of very excitable cows kept charging behind me even when I slowed to snails pace. I had a scarey moment as I turned to wave them away as one skidded and stopped only inches from me but after countless stops and arm waving I did reach the stile and was able to run faster downhill to the lane for Jumbles Reservoir. It was getting dark under the trees and this made me cautious too. Fortunately the last half mile was easy and open enough to be light. 10 hrs 31 not too bad at all.

It took several cups of tea before I was ready for food but what great food it was. Home made soup, lasagne, a cheese board and Manchester tart. Wow. Rumours that the showers were not staying hot for long meant I just washed the mud and sweat off in the sink but even that revived me. It was about 10.20pm. Should I wait for Bob? How long would he be? Was there any point? The pull of my bed was too strong so I slowly ambled back up to the car park with Ian. Albert fell asleep in the sailing club.
Bob was back at the van between midnight and 1am. He'd had a good run finishing within our formula of "my time plus 50%" and he was pleased to only be 14 minutes behind Abi and Mark.
A grand day out. I really hope they decide to run the event again. The CP staff and food were brilliant and it is good to have a 50 mile LDWA on our doorstep. Now he has a qualifying event I think I have persuaded Bob we should do the LDWA 100 next May as our birthdays treat.

Friday, 7 September 2018


It has become our norm to have the summer in France and to include one big foreign race. This year would be no different except the plan was for lots and lots of rock climbing. This was exciting but worrying as my last race was Nav4 Pennine 39 on 7th July and I was planning to return to the Grand Raid de Pyrenees for their 165km ultra on 24th August. Would I still be run fit?
We were away for over 6 weeks so the race report is a bit long, sorry.

I'd sort of believed maybe I could fit some running in between the climbing, ha ha. It was so hot we ended up climbing early, collapsing in the heat of the day and climbing again when it got cooler. Running was a long way from my thoughts. Sport climbing let us do quite a few routes a day so I was physically tired and also I was determined to lead all that I could and to push my standard, so I was mentally tired too.

We broke the journey through France near Chalons to climb at Cormot
No I can't climb 7 or 8s!
and Remigny and then again at Vergison. At this stage we had notched up over 50 climbs and I had worn a hole in my shoes - a trip to Decathlon put this right. Remigny was all we remembered but Vergison was new.

 What a fab place! Easy parking on the hill and even a toilet up there, a village lavoire that was cool enough and huge enough to swim in, a water supply and hardly any people.

We stayed several days and got a good number of climbs done. Solutre on the other-hand was full of tourists, the rock didn't look great unless you could climb 6c/7a and just didn't have the relaxed vibe at all.

Highlights of climbing were probably Orpierre, Baume Rousses and The Dentelles.
That was the sky that we had almost through the whole trip

You could probably spend the whole holiday in Orpierre and climb every day but we packed lots into our 4 days there.

The Dentelles caused us some consternation when we found the access had changed.
Sadly too windy to climb on the lacy bits on our last day, but a reason to go back
Our memories were of a desperate off road journey in and then finding a slightly better way out. However in the past couple of years the dirt road has been gated. On the plus side there is a nice new and huge car park, a natural spring and the walk in of about 1km is well worth it. By now it was very hot and we were searching shade for belaying and avoiding the worst heat of the early afternoon. 

We also completed two new (for us) Via Ferattas; one near Buis les Baroniers which was actually 3 routes that we strung together and one in Cavaillon.

 I belatedly managed a long slow run from Buis as well. Our last stop before heading for the Pyrenees was Orgon where we climbed and swam in the lake (with a snake!).
Have never swam by a snake before
I love Vielle Aure where the GRP is based and was happy to get there almost a week before the event as usual. We ran on the local trails and I had one day where I power walked and jogged the first 15km of the race route and then the last 10km too. I knew it was too late for any training benefit but couldn't sit and do nothing. I noted my times to La Cabanne, Col de Portet and Merlans and then prayed the race adrenalin would make me just a little faster.
The RO and the square

As the week progressed more van appeared along the riverside and joined our mini camp. In the village there was more and more evidence of the race with posters, banners, the marquee and then under the cover of darkness the big articulated lorry podium arrived.
Easy run down the valley
We ran a bit, explored, ate ice cream and waited for friends to arrive. We also got a bit of a shock when we found that in early August the routes had been changed so our time-sheets and printed maps were now wrong in several places. Oh well, it's a marked route so it will be fine.
3 Brit/ NW fell runner finishers

 Registration seemed very slick this year and we took the obligatory photos. I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out my drop bags and worrying about which shoes to wear. The race briefing went on for ever and then the short English version was interrupted by runners wanting answers to stuff that must have been covered. It was nice to meet Jack again who had raced at the SW100 and won. I won't be seeing him for long in the race. I am hopeless at sleeping the night before the race but I did my best and was awake before my alarm at 4am.
Most Brits were celebrating the forecast for cooler weather but not me after 4 weeks of climbing in 30C+
Just time for breakfast, faffing, toilet and to walk to the square. I found Tony and Albert only to lose them again when I went to the loo. It would be good to see them in the race and even better to run with them but we all knew this might not happen. Before 5am I was warm enough to take off my windproof but the forecast was still for 6C on the Pic and also cool overnight plus some rain. The emotional music started and then the arm waving and the countdown. I made sure I was not too near the front and kept telling myself not to get carried away by the pace. I didn't spot Bob on the bridge in the dark as I was trying not to trip over heels but I did see Heather, Tony, Michelle and Abbi up in ST Lary. I managed without my head torch as so many others were so bright the path was well lit. Up the zig zags out of Vignec I chatted to Jack and then never saw him again. I later found out he was in the top 10 and racing well when a medical issue pulled him from the race with only about 12km to go. How cruel.
The climb to La Cabanne goes on and on but checking my watch meant I knew I was doing OK and the crowds at the chalets lifted us too. It was up and up some more through the ski area and just one short downhill  before the final steep pull up to the Col de Portet. 

By now it was light and the cameras and race drones were out. A quick run and we were down in Merlans with lots of supporters and the first feed station. It reminded me to try to eat early and often.
By now the runners were nicely spaced out and although I wasn't alone  it was nice not to feel crowded. I wondered where Tony, Albert, Carol etc were. The race moves into better and better scenery as it passes Lac Bastan. This year the route had changed after objections to so many runners in the National Park. It meant we took a much more technical route and added km and metres of climb. Hourquette Nere and Pas de Crabbe were harder than Barrages. It didn't seem too bad to me but I know Bob found it exhausting. Somewhere near Pas de la Crabbe I met up with Tony. He was much faster than me down the nasty rocky piste but by La Monji we were together again. Despite all the dry ground I had managed to step in a bog crossing a stream and so now had wet socks. We stopped, ate, refilled water and Tony waited for Albert. I felt shattered already and was now worried about being a DNF.

 Our route up to Col de Sencours was new and seemed harder than the gradually climbing old route. There were even some safety signs and a couple of Mountain rescue guys sat waiting.I stopped on a rock and ate and drank more. It was hot and I felt rubbish. I had set myself targets based on my 2015 time but couldn't help wondering how I was doing in the ladies race. I knew at least on V50 was ahead of me. I arrived at the Col in a bit of a state and felt sick which made eating hard. Sitting down just caused a rush of concerned volunteers so I got up and moved on. I felt like snails pace, especially compared to the front runners charging down. I tried to count the ladies descending and thought perhaps 6 or 7 were ahead of me. By the top it was cool and blowy. Not clagged in yet but not the usual distant views. 
Lac d'Oncet coming down from the Pic and Sencours
I felt so negative and rubbish that I even asked Heather and Tony where their car was. Jogging down I passed others coming up; first Tony, then Albert, then Carol, Simon and somewhere in there Martin too. 
You can just see the aerials on Pic du Midi- yep, it's a long way up
I knew I must eat so went into the hut for warmth and food. Soup with mashed potato in it went down OK but I couldn't face anything else. I could remember the next section quite well and knew there were some decent paths and even some grassy runnable bits. By now the weather was certainly turning. Also recent rain had caused some path erosion compared to just last year.We lost the flags in an area where cattle had chewed them but I was fairly sure I knew the way. 

By Cabanne Bareilles it was wet. The marshalls had huge ponchos and were fighting to keep the horses away. I should have stopped to get my cag out but at the time it was easier to reach for my windproof in an outside pocket.The rain got steadier as I climbed the last col. The easy paths towards Hautacam were now ankle deep and it was chilly. I hadn't stopped to eat enough but tried to make up for this at the feed station. I really struggled to get much down and although this was inside I was cold. I felt vaguely sick but so tired. I decided to lie down under a blanket. This was a mistake as I never got any warmer in all my damp clothes and should have just kept trying to eat.

 After 15 minutes I gave up and pushed on knowing it was only about 8km to Pierrefitte and our first drop bags. At least it was mostly downhill to there, although again there was a new bit that seemed to add about 1km. This is actually the lowest point on the course and what goes down must go back up again it seems.Thank goodness for drop bags. The chocolate milk went down a treat and so did a whole box of ambrosia custard (got some odd looks but who cares). I didn't manage much else but did swap some food over, refilled my water and Mountain Fuel and changed my socks. It was a joy to get out of wet clothes and be warm for the night.I then changed into dry shoes and regretted it for a few miles as they were less comfy. Before I left Tony and then Albert arrived but nobody else I knew. If I didn't fancy eating there seemed little point in waiting so I set off. It was still light but would be getting dark soon. Not that I mind. This section was new so I didn't know what to expect. It started fine but got steeper and more rugged. By dark I was struggling for energy again. At Cabane du Boussu I tried hard to eat and managed soup, coke, biscuits and more but then promptly threw it up about 200m up the trail. Retching then gave me a stomach cramp. Plod on. The guys with me were nice but there wasn't anything they could do. At Pierrefitte I had been chatting to a family and they lived in Cauterets and would be looking out for me. The last Col was awful but the drop to town improved things and I recognised some of the route from last years 220km.  I arrived at the casino, cool place for a CP, knackered. I didn't want food just a lie down and then fell asleep for almost 30 minutes. For me this is unusual and I have never slept on a 100 miler before. I woke just as the lady next to me set off. I had last seen her at 15km so was surprised to have caught her up. I had all I needed so off I went into town to trade banter with two drunks trying to find their way home. It was cruel to have to have to regain all the height lost when we dropped into the valley. The steep sections were narrow and the vegetation was wet. 

The very top before the drop to the little ski station of Aulian was almost vertical and loose. This year there was no loud party music but still the excellent staff. When I claimed I couldn't eat I was waitress served mini crepes and cups of tea. Setting off I knew the way from last year and it helped that those around me seemed to be in no better state than I was. 

A big drop to Grust and then more down to Sazos and Luz itself. Another drop bag was waiting. This time the staff asked what the box was so now the french have been introduced to ambrosia custard. I refilled my sack with some food I thought I might be able to manage, refilled water and changed my socks again. Suddenly I was tired again. I went to lie down and again fell asleep for about half an hour.
Pic du MIdi in the far distance- it's huge
I just couldn't help it although I did wonder who had overtaken me during these kips. At least it was a fresh day and light when I set off. This section was new and although initially steep it got better as we ran to Sardiche and a water stop. I felt better now and was managing to eat small amounts of bars and gels. not great but better than nothing. We were told 5km to Refuge la Glere and I had in my head which one it was from last year. 

In fact it was about 8km and was the highest one with the amazing views into the Neouvielle National Park and the most spectacular scenery of the whole route. Sadly to create a loop the inward route was really tough with lots of rock clambering. It seemed harsh to send us all the way up on such a difficult trail when we knew the next step was a huge descent back to Tournaboup. It went on and I letting me realise my mistake in which refuge it was. There were lots of raspberries as a bonus though. At the prize giving they recognised how tough this section was and promised to take the section out for next year. It's a shame as it is beautiful. The staff at the CP recognised me and I managed some soup. A group of 5 of us set off for the big descent. One guy was awesome and was soon way ahead but I surprised myself at being faster than two - I am not great on loose stony descents.By now we were running with the same people on and off so it was good to chat, smile and encourage each other. We were also getting caught and overtaken by people on the 120km and 80km races. The 120km runners were in no better state than us but the 80km runners appeared to be sprinting compared to our efforts. They did all appreciate me stepping off the path and were all very encouraging. I stopped at the CP for coke (ugh) and some food but it was roasting hot and I was keen to leave. Last year I suffered from a strange muscle spasm under my left ribs and now it started again. I made me stop, lie and stretch a few times but by now it felt like the home straight and after the trials of the night I was not giving up now. Cabane d'Aygues came and went only noticeable by the fact we now left all the tourists behind. It seemed to take an eternity to get to Cabane de Lude, but perhaps it was just my memory from three years ago playing tricks, and today the valley path was deep in water. Climbing to Merlas I got second wind. I didn't run much but certainly powered ahead of the guys I had been with. The last section was also freezing cold and I didn't want to waste time digging out my cag. I wanted to run and knew I needed food but still felt queezy. Three years ago the medics had a magic pill that let me eat again. I made the mistake of asking now. A very thorough medic insisted on taking my blood glucose, watching me drink coke and eat cake before letting me depart. It cost more time than I had intended but perhaps helped fuel me up the col de Portet. In the dark and cold I ran most of the way to Soulan. I was horrified at the hours I had taken. In 2015 I finished in 34 hrs 25 and although this route was different I had expected the same. It was several km longer, did have more climb and did have some tough less runnable sections but still. I tried not to despair and when I knew I couldn't scrape under 40 hours just jogged and made sure it was certainly under 41 hours. I crossed the finish line a bit dispirited and feeling sick and very tired (despite the sleep). Carole wanted to interview me but I just wasn't up for it. I staggered off to get my finishers hoody, looked at the food and decided to just head straight back to the van. I wish now I had taken longer and had time to find out and believe that all the times were about 5 hours slower and that I was in fact 3rd lady again. Bob was in bed but not alseep and kindly made me hot chocolate and warmed water for me to do a not very thorough wash. I was asleep in under an hour. Bob had found the new route to start to 80km tough. He ran with a friend and they gave ip/ were timed out at La Monji after a good day out.
Some of the photos above are now from the race but from our walks afterwards.
Sunday was prize giving and the closing buffet. I was feeling better if not cured. I still had not understood that I was 3rd. 

When I saw on the web I thought they had jiggled people around somehow as they do sometimes. The prizes started with our race and the ladies so it was a real shock to be called as first person to be on the podium. 
Look like a midget?
Where had all the other ladies that were ahead of me got to? I think 21 of us entered and 7 finished, a pretty dreadful dnf rate of 66% (the race overall had a drop rate of about 45%). 

So it just goes to show: never give up, don't base your times on a previous route and then beat yourself up, find out how to use the race results site properly and even ask on the way round how you are doing!

After an amazing closing buffet we set off for Piau Engaly to use my winning voucher from last year to claim two nights in a hotel. 

A shower and a real bed after 5 weeks in the van was wonderful. We also had two fantastic walks there and the scenery was superb - perhaps enough for me to be tempted by the 120km race that starts there. The walks included high passes and snow. 

It was a real treat on the second day to drive into the heart of the National Park and show Bob some of last years 220km route.

I have to go back after all as this year I won a week in an apartment for 2019. We said a sad goodbye to the Pyrenees and set off for more climbing at Seynes and then the Ardeche. Seynes was good but seemed hard and the Ardeche was hot, busy and rather polished. What a great summer.