I travelled about 120km this morning on excellent motorways from ArgelÃ©s sur Mer, on the Mediteranean coast, via Perpignon and Narbonne to the quaint village of Mirepeisset for the 10km de la Garenne. The race started at 9am so I arrived in a lot of haste at 8:30, abandoned the car and legged it to registration. I was expecting a lot of red tape as they required a copy of a medical report from each competitor, and in my best pigeon French I explained "Je n'ai pas du report medical". However the ladies behind the desk accepted my AAI membership card and for eight euro I was official. After I picked up a number (bring your own pins!) I queued again for the ubiquitous tee-shirt and a nice bottle of local vin rouge.
Time for a ten minute warm-up and off to find the start. The organisers cleverly lined everybody (about 160 entrants) up to a false line before moving us forward to the real start line, ensuring that the faster runners had ample opportunity to get a good position. Race started bang on time and I pushed off in about 30th position. Having had a dodgy stomach for the past four or five days I planned on going out easy and seeing how the body responded. I was doubly cautious due to the heat - despite the early start the temp was about 25 degrees.
The race entered the village of Mirepeisset and wound through the narrow shuttered streets. On the far side of the village we entered a shady lane alongside a river and I was happy to be out of the sun. I was running comfortably and overtaking people every minute or two. The terrain was a dusty old lane, but the surface soon deteriorated into a rutted laneway with poor grip. The race organisers had highlighted any exposed tree roots with an orange paint so that at least the chance of tripping up was minimised. However there was no way to run fast on this course. I was very glad of the shade but not at all happy with avoiding roots, rocks and ruts.
After the first km mark I encountered the 6th mark so I learned that this was to be a two lap race. So far so good; I was running well, constantly going by people, and not suffering badly in the heat ... yet. The race continued along the river track, along the edge of vineyards and along the Canal du Midi, almost always in shade. Only as we turned across a difficult little wooden foot bridge to head back to the village did we get the full sun exposure. In the direct heat of the sun, I began to have to work hard to keep my pace going. My pace was slow ... 3:46, 3:53, 3:49, 3:49 and 3:52 to give a first 5k in 19:10. I was not however too dissapointed as I was running hard and well in the conditions and was still catching and overtaking groups along the way.
Through the village and into the second lap. My splits continued pretty stable on the second lap clocking 3:43, 3:47 and 3:51 up to the 8km mark. The fact that the route followed rivers and canals made it very flat and easy to run decent splits. If only the surface was even! After the 8k mark I was labouring. I managed to catch and pass a group of three and set my sights on two runners about 100m ahead of me. But now I was struggling in the sunny part of the course and praying for the cool village streets. I finished the race with splits of 3:49 and 3:45 to give an overall time of 38:10. I had closed the gap on the two ahead of me but had not got to them. As 10k times go this was about 90 seconds outside where I was running last year, but it was all I had for my first race on French soil. I was very pleased to note a 14th position.
Friendly race, nice goodies, excellent set of trophies for first three in every category, well organised and well supported, scenic and shady course but oh those ruts!
1 Younisse Aithamou 31:43
2 Christophe Serrats 33:32
3 Laurent Soulier 34:40
14 Peter Delmer 38:10