2013 Grand Course des Templiers (well 60k of it)

Had another bash at the Grande Course des Templiers last October as I have already related in my first GoPro effort effort. Not really very sure why this went wrong. I managed to get round the first 50k or so OK but then had some issues with my feet (more on this later) and was really pooped – nothing left in the fuel tank despite eating copiously at the feeding stations and munching away on bars etc. around the course. Just slowly realized that staggering along at under 5 kph on the flat just wasn’t going to do it. The race closers agreed. It was a lot hotter than last year, 20° in the afternoon as opposed to around zero in 2012, at least in the morning.

2013 Etape Sanfloraine and Marmotte d’Olt

A couple of other more more successful biking events in 2013. The Etape Sanfloraine (I did the 100k) and the Marmotte d’Olt (where I went for the 150k). I just finished the latter in the allotted time (came 203rd out of 216 finishers – another blow for coming in (nearly) last). Did rather better in the 100k – an event which I manage to actually ‘ride’ rather than ‘survive’ coming 285th out of a field of 342. Otherwise the two events have merged in my memory, similar countryside and similar weather conditions. In the Marmotte some great riding, wind in the back, across the Aubrac though fields of what I think was narcissus (used to make perfume) and past what I know were pilgrims on the Saint Jacques de Compostelle trail. In the Saint Floraine, there is a great ride alongside and under the viaduct de Garabit built by Gustav Eiffel. I took part in a super race within the race as I tucked in with a group of old sports who were fairly tanking along. Then they lost me at an intersection. Then I tucked in behind a young sport (who must have punctured or abandoned the longer race). We then sped past the oldies and were sailing along when the youngster made it clear that he wanted me to do my share of making the pace. I tried to intimate that this was a bad idea but he insisted so I took over and was flat out for a few hundred meters after which I didn’t have enough left to keep up with his next relay. Back to pootling on my own and eventually (on the last rather intimidating ride up the volcanic plug on which St. Flour in built) was overtaken by the oldies who pootled up a bit quicker than I could manage. Another nice thing about the Marmotte is that Bernard Hinault both rides (he beat me), exudes bonhomie, and gives out the prizes, kissing the prettier female winners with enthusiasm.

2013 – Etape du Tour and a broken spoke

Last July an even less successful event, the 2013 Etape du Tour which started in Annecy and was supposed to finish up on a nearby alp. For me it finished after only about 17km when I broke a spoke (or rather the spoke broke of its own accord) and spend a couple of hours waiting for the repair motorcycle to come along and fix it. Unfortunately as I later learned, repairs are only available some 20km into the race. So another abandon. Just after I had officially abandoned I got into conversation with one Sean O’Leary who organizes parties to the Etapes and “Trail Seekers” biking holidays in Ireland (www.trail-seekers.com). He explained how I could/should have re-positioned my wheel so that despite its lost spoke, it could have turned in a wobbly way and got me to the next repair station. As I was out of the race and my wife was already on the way this was information of a rather academic nature, but maybe it will come in handy sometime in the future. Once back down we hired a couple of tourist bikes and pootled along the bike path by the lake. Nor quite how I had planned to spend the day but very pleasant.

2013 Paris Marathon and a singing engagement

Been a long time since I blogged. Less because of a lack of action. Rather a lack of pith – as in pithy comment – and insightful things to say. Backtracking some – last year (2013) I ran most of the Paris marathon. But as I had a singing engagement the afternoon of the race, I was either going to have to run very fast or bale out. I chose the latter. Around 3 hours for 30k but no way was I going to keep it up. Above a photo of a guy running the marathon dressed as the Eiffel tower – bravo!

The Race …

I have always seen myself as a racer although my age weighs against this as does, err, my weight. But recently my bike club organized a shortish race, the “Prix de la ville de Meudon,” on the flat. Even those not familiar with the mechanics of cycling will be aware that pedaling uphill is a lot harder if you are a somewhat overweight person as I have to confess I am. But the extent of the difference is hard to understate. The steeper the hill, the bigger the time difference between a lightweight climber and a heavyweight ‘rouleur.’ On the flat the balance actually tips a little the other way. Big riders are generally more powerful and can crank it up a bit more than the smaller climber. So much for the theory…

The course was 7 laps of an 8km loop around the local aerodrome on roads that were for the most part closed to traffic. Lots of mysterious administrative activity was involved, I needed a ‘carton course’ and a special stamp. Then followed directions to the start and waited for the off.

I think we were 50 or so in this the ‘GS’ category, the entry level of French road racing. In my mind’s eye I envisaged the race as a high speed chase, more or less flat out all the way. That is not how it turned out.

At the start the peloton accelerated leisurely to a cruising speed well below what I had expected. Even so, in the heat of the moment I forgot to hit the start button on my watch and as we got moving, I was so concerned about not colliding with anybody in the peloton that it seemed superfluous to fiddle around finding the rather trickily placed button. So the race went unrecorded – no speed, no heart rate. Anyhow I should think we were cruising at around 35kph for the first half lap or so. Right up until we came to the first proper corner in fact when all of a sudden, as if all had simultaneously taken fright, the peloton accelerated briskly. Well I am a rouleur, but not a great accelerator. So it took me a while to get up to the new speed (40kph-ish on a slight rise) by which time I had lost some ground. Fortunately, the sudden burst of speed burst did not last too long and over the next few hundred yards I pedaled my way back into the group. The same procedure for the subsequent sections – a lowish base sped along the straight parts and at every tight turn or slight rise a burst of sped.

The average speed of the peloton did increase slowly some and at one stage, we were careening past the pits – i.e. the place where the organizers had their tent and we were potentially being observed – when someone to my left turned around and made a rather expansive gesture to a colleague – and at the same time wobbled towards me. I of course wobbled slightly to my right and felt a sharp thwack as the pedal of another rider made contact with my leg – and an indeterminate part of my bike. There was by then quite a bit of serious wobbling going on and I had visions of a major pile up occurring behind me – but I just concentrated on staying upright and in preparing my defense. In the event nobody fell, there was no court case, although as I realized a week later, there was damage to my derailleur which explained why I subsequently was having trouble staying in gear.

Around lap five I was still hanging in with the peloton but each time the gap was opening a little more and it required more distance and effort to close it. I was royally bollocked by a rather impolite rider who railed against ‘the guy who couldn’t keep up’ as though this was an option. I later thought that I could intimate that I had been placed at the back by the lead riders to screw things up deliberately – but ideas are hard to formulate on a bike and harder to convey.

At the tail end of lap six with one to go the inevitable happened. After one acceleration, I lost contact completely. It is a curious feeling when you see the peloton moving away and you realize that you are just no longer going to catch it. The result was that I did the last lap on my own and came in at some distance from the leaders. I understand that there were a few who had lost contact before I did so I didn’t quite come in last. Better luck next time.



Je cours donc je tombe …

Je cours (beaucoup) donc j’essuie (des plâtres). Autrement dit, courir c’est tomber. Puisque je cours environs 2.000 kilomètres par an, je tombe au moins deux ou trois fois dans l’année. Pas toujours des gros bobos. Des fois quand on ne fait que trébucher, c’est une peur qui réveille sur le coup et puis un soulagement et/ou embarras de se rendre compte que ce n’était rien.

L’embarras peut aussi frapper quand on chute bêtement devant autrui. Curieusement cela m’arrivait assez régulièrement en courant sur des chemins de randonnée toujours dans les mêmes circonstances. Je courais tranquillement seul, et puis au rencontre d’un groupe de randonneurs, paf ! Je me retrouvais sur les fesses. Vu du côté des autres cela a dû être assez marrant, voir un peu bizarre.

Ceci m’arrivait trop souvent pour être le hasard et je me suis rendu compte que c’était dû à un excès de politesse en quelque sort. Avant de dire « bonjour », j’ai tendance à vouloir établir « eye contact » c’est-à-dire de regarder les gens dans les yeux, plutôt de leur adresser la parole la tête baissée. Du coup, pendant un court laps de temps, je perdais vu d’où passaient mes pieds, et la chute se produisait. La morale de ceci est, ou bien de ne pas regarder vos interlocuteurs en montagne, ou bien de s’arrêter un moment pour mieux les saluer.

Ce type de chute se produisait toujours à la descente – souvent sur un sol un peu poussiéreux. En effet la géologie joue un rôle important dans les chutes. La roche peut être accrocheuse ou glissante selon sa composition et selon, bien évidemment, qu’elle est mouillée ou sèche. Mais si une roche lisse et mouillée incite à la prudence, la poussière est plus sournoise. En général, un chemin poussiéreux est plutôt sympa pour le coureur. Ca donne une surface qui n’est pas trop dur et en règle général, est assez accrocheur. Mais bien évidemment, il y a une limite (d’adhésion) à tout. La chute typique dans ces circonstances n’est pas trop grave mais cela surprend ! Soudainement on se retrouve sur les fesses, avec (encore) un brusque réveil. La gravité de cette chute est bien entendu accrue si les fesses rencontrent un objet peu commode – rocher anguleux, flaque d’eau ou bouse de vache.

Mais pour le vrai coureur de trail, les chutes ne se produisent pas en arrière mais par le devant. Ici il y a encore plusieurs configurations de chute avec ou sans gravité. Commençons par le « best case scenario ». On court sur le plat passablement vite quand soudain, on accroche sur une branche, pierre ou un objet métallique sortant de la terre. On plonge vers l’avant, les mains touchent par terre (mais pas trop), la tête baisse et on accomplit un tonneau – et on peut même, exceptionnellement, continuer dans son lancé pour se retrouver encore debout.

Bien entendu, le ‘best case’ ne se produit que rarement. Il y a maintes possibilités de tomber court … de l’idéal. Par exemple – on peut se faire très mal aux mains en devant s’appuyer trop. On peut rencontrer un obstacle, par exemple un rocher, sur une partie de l’anatomie, le coude, l’épaule, nécessitant une radio et immobilisation du bras pendant quelques jours. Les possibilités sont innombrables. Il m’est arrivé un bel accident il y a une semaine où j’ai eu l’occasion d’observer de très près un exemple de l’enchaînement d’événement lors d’une chute vers l’avant.

Je ne courais pas vite – je venais de mettre mon chien sur la laisse avant de traverser une ferme et je trottinais à moins de 8 km/h. Mais attention – 80 kg à 8 km/h et à plus d’un mètre du sol égal une certaine quantité d’énergie quand même. Donc j’ai trébuché. Initialement çà semblait sans gravité. Sur le coup je croyais pouvoir éviter la chute. Pendant quelques dixièmes de seconde donc, mes pieds accéléraient pour compenser la vitesse de mon haut du corps vers le devant. Dans ces circonstances, le haut du corps descendant, les jambes accélérant, une bataille d’inertie est engagée. Si le bas gagne, on est sauvé. Si le haut l’emporte on touche terre – malheureusement à une vitesse supérieure à l’initiale. De plus est, on tape par terre dans une très mauvaise posture. On va vite et on est trop allongé pour permettre un rouleau vers l’avant. On frappe le chaussé comme une crêpe – flan !


Voici ma photo d’un tel exploit – non pas la pire des chutes – rien de cassé si ce n’est pas les lunettes (explosés). Et sur le coup j’avais très mal à la tête. Mais en quelques minutes j’avais retrouvé mon esprit. J’étais curieux de savoir exactement ce qui m’a fait tomber et j’ai donc retracé mes pas jusqu’au point de départ de la chute. Rien de particulier si ce n’est que quelques gravillons. Le problème vraisemblablement était au niveau de mes chaussures « accrocheuses ». En effet, peut être un peu trop même, voila la bonne blague – avec sa chute !