Tyler and I had to walk the 3.3km from our hotel into the little town of Lons-le-Saunier, France for the start of our race on Sunday. We were running the 19km L'Ermitage route in Le Trail des Reculées trail race. No biggie, really. We weren’t exactly serious competitors (but let's go ahead and include the walk from the hotel so I can call it 22.3km). Once there, the high-octane, warm-up aerobics, lead in part by the red cow from La Vache Qui Rit cheese (apparently manufactured nearby), did not disappoint and tout à coup, we were off.
The first climb was at the 3km mark: mixed stones and mud as slippery as over-ripe brie—the trail too tight and steep to pass or be passed. After the hilltop town of Montagiu, we dropped down again sharply in what must have been a stream bed, allowing me to confirm two things I already knew to be true. One, that I truly shine going uphill, and two, French trail runners are complètement fous—even reckless—and have a different type of ankle joint than Canadians.
The second major climb at 7km was a doozie, but wide enough to start to thin out the race, and the route emptied onto a beautiful wooded section that arched around the side of the mountain before undulating through a mix of rough, forested single track, mountain road, and a second village. At one point we passed an old, monkish structure that I assume was the “L’Ermitage,” and my thundering heart leapt: Beer! But alas, no.
All in all, the L’Ermitage route on the Trail des Reculées wasn’t the most spectacular scenery I’d ever paid to run through, but I know I’m spoiled as a Canadienne. More likely, I’d need to sign up for the 42km distance to appreciate the beauty of this area. Our course lacked the breathtaking views and soaring peaks that I presumed we earned, several times. But the race itself was superbly well-run, the people warm, and the mood lively. For just 20 Euros, we got the race entry, T-shirts, and a hot-lunch after the run. Most of all, to be out in the green hush of the mountains after two weeks in the rush and honk of Paris was a true treat. There was even 2 Euro artisan beer at the finish line.
As for our time, we did just fine, especially since the last two weeks of ‘training’ before the race consisted of cheese, baguette, and wine. We ran a 2h:17 over what my Garmin assures me was in fact 20.5km (not including the walk from the hotel). I was 20th female overall and sixth in my age group, which the French formally classify as “Veteran.” There is humour everywhere, truly, if you keep an eye peeled.
[This is an excerpt from a longer recap that includes details on warm-down cheese, Roman gladiators, and masterful bungling of the French language, plus a few pics. Read the full account on my personal blog <http://shelleywood.ca/2015/04/15/le-trail-des-reculees-clueless/>. Thanks Rene for publishing my excerpt!!!]