Started fine – same team as last year. I was a bit surprised at the speed of our ascent of the Causse noir and the fact that we were not in our normal position (last) although this was later fixed. The first 30k are described as ‘real trail’ and indeed they are tricky, single tracks across beautiful but tough terrain. Also amusing that the Migoual includes many segments that would normally be most of a day’s leisurely ramble. Great views of the Dourbie valley, down into Le Monna. Major ‘roadworks’ ‘firebreaks?’ cut across the forest around Longuiers. Drop down into Riou Sec, on up to Roques Altes and along the side of the Rajol and behind the Roc Banut before dropping down to Montmejean and on to St Veran and up to La Bouteille where the ‘real trail’ ends and the relatively easy terrain starts. Most of the trip to Lanuéjols, the first stop at the ‘base vie,’ for me switched between feeling a bit slow and old, when my companion was feeling not so great, and feeling relatively OK when his troubles slowed him down a bit.
Weather was fine – a bit of cloud but warm when moving and I was stripped down to a singlet and even got some sunburn. Hard to believe with what was to come. At La Bouteille or thereabouts we picked up an extra team member – Jean Marie, whose companion had bailed out. JM was young and a bit faster than us. Not the ideal team mate although he did fine.
Had some pot noodle and other stuff – curious mixture of food tends to get consumed. Stuff that is ordinarily out of bounds for a healthy eater. ‘Tuc’ biscuits (nice and salty), coke (sugary), handfuls of salted peanuts and saucisson sec (fatty).
Set off again with JM who once out of the village put his head down and accelerated away. Clearly not staying with the oldsports team any longer. So, on we poddled. Doing pretty fine really. We had done an average of 5kph with stops which would have got us to the finish in 26 hours – well inside the 30 hour max.. if we managed to keep up. A big if. And also, the race was already changing shape.
At Lanuéjols we learned that bad weather on top of the Migoual meant that the turnaround had been moved off the top and the race was already shortened by 2×2 km. No great pity as last year we had experienced some pretty horrible conditions on the top where there is a very exposed 1 km section before the observatory.
We met the first teams coming down midway between Lanuéjols and Camprieu – quite a lot sooner than last year. Had they turned around before the top? Were they a lot faster than last year? We a lot slower? About the same time the rain started seriously.
It rained steadily right up to our own turn around point – the Col de Seryarade which is some 5k from the top – shortening the race by 10K. I was soaked by then also very tired and not keeping up with my buddy. I was wearing two layers beneath my waterproof jacket. But the latter was no way up to the pounding rain. As we went down so did the temperature and our body heat. Soaked to the skin and then snow. Not a lot I admit but enough to turn the grassier parts of the trail white. The other parts we wet. Very wet. When we made it back to Camprieu, the place was awash. Wide roads covered with sheets of water going this way and that. At midnight or thereabouts, the only living thing I saw was a frog. He was having more fun than me.
The last 10 up and over the hill back to Lanuejols was a painfully freezingly cold thrutch. Both of us had sore shoulder and back muscled from shivering so much and I could put on an impressive chattering of teeth when I wanted but elected to keep jaws clenched to avoid damaging teeth. We were relieved to see the curious pattern of Lanuéjols street lights (in the Sud Aveyron street lighting in the villages was a ‘new thing’ only five years ago. It is fast getting an ‘old thing’ as villages go for less light spoiling the night sky. Lanuéjols has gone for the Through the looking glass/sodium vapor style.
It was a very long and very wet trek to the village with another novelty. Long very wet grass.
Entering the baes vie we were greeted with a big round of applause which was completely transformative. There were 20 plus people there welcoming us in from the cold. Also, the fact that we had left some extra clothing at the base meant that we had something to change into – and a few space heaters to sit beneath. Things were looking up. I told Shihab however that no way was I going to continue. He was in the process of trying to convince me that it would be fine. We were still on for a 5kph average and had “17 hours to do the last 45k.” One of the organizers came over offering sweet tea. He also put me out of my misery informing us that the rest of the race was cancelled and that we had officially “finished.” That explained why there were so many people there. Some eating, others wrapped in blankets, some staring into space…
The organization did a great job of picking up those ahead of us from various points along the way back to Millau. Each team had a GPS tracker so at least they knew where to look (although I’m not sure that all were fully functional with the storm). Eventually a means of transport was found for us all and we had a rather hairy drive back across the Causse in sleet although I was only half awake most of the time. But all of us zombies awoke abruptly when the driver hit the second speed bump in La Roque at 50kph!