This past weekend Christiaan & I run the Grand Raid Pyranees Marathon (better known as the Tour du Neouvielle: http://www.grandraidpyrenees.com) in preparation of our upcoming Spanish races; the Riano 3day stage race (8-10 Sept: http://www.rianotrail.run) and the Ultra Piranieu (24 Sept). It was quite ideal as it was only a 2.5 hour drive from our friends’ apartment in Broto (Ordesa National Park) where we were spending 10 days.
We were very excited for yet another trailrunning race opportunity and to explore a part of France, the Haute-Pyranees, which we have not visited before. The Hautes-Pyrenees department is situated along the French border with Spain, and includes the central area of the Pyreneean mountains. The department is part of the Midi-Pyrenees region of France.
The start of the marathon race was in the quaint village of Saint-Lary-Soulan, with 1400 runners toeing the line. A massive 10km climb with a 1100m vertical gain on a windy jeep track followed by an extremely steep ski slope took us to the first summit at Col du Portet (1900m).
From here we switched to the Néouvielle sector leading to the breathtaking Lac de l’Oule as well as the Tour des Lacs and also the highest point of 2500m. After reaching the top, the route was pretty much downhill and on some beautiful contour trails with splendid vistas, all the way down to the finish in the village of Vielle Aure by the crest of Cap de Pède.
The race itself went surprisingly well, considering the training load we did in the 3 weeks leading up to race in preparation for the Riano Trail race (3 days, with 9000m vertical over 80km) and virtually no tapering. My legs felt fatigued, yet strong and the awe-inspiring lake tagging helped to take the mind off the sluggish feeling.
I was elated to finish as the first lady in a sub 5, in 12th position overall, 38 minutes behind the male winner. A big congratulations to Alex Cook from the UK (what a pleasure meeting you and for the English conversations :-)) and Melanie Gaudin from France for rounding off the ladies podium.
The highlights of my race and the weekend are too many to name, but meeting fascinating people from all over the world, exploring impressive natural regions, vivid images of exceptional lakes and the scrumptious buffet brunch will linger in my mind for a long time to come.
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