Friday, August 02, 2013

Orléans - Océan final day

The epilogue stage today of 24km/15miles was run in groups - mine went a little too fast for my comfort - but we all made it to the finish line in St Brévin. Weather conditions were super.

Claire was feeling much better today, and ran the whole stage comfortably with her new French best friends! We were able to cross the finish line and ring the bell together. Since then, it's been non-stop French food and hospitality.



Off for a week's family camping in Brittany tomorrow. We're ready for some much-deserved rest ... oh wait, three small grandkids...!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Orléans - Océan day 6

With the exception of a final 24km/15mile "epilogue" stage tomorrow, hostilities have now ended and everyone is in a wonderful mood.

Today's stage of 62km/38miles started at the painfully earlier time of 6:30am, in an attempt to avoid the hottest day predicted. But after we passed through Nantes, a front blew in and we are now enjoying clouds, wind and very pleasant temperatures. (This stage last year was brutally hot - I was dreading it.)

Again I started slowly...and contenders Christian Brière, Thierry Viaud and Yvonnick Simon were all long gone by the first aid station. But slowly I reeled them in, and met up with Christian (our race leader) at the final aid station. A true gentleman, he insisted on running the final 10km with me, and we finished together with a stage victory. It was a little speedier than I was really capable of, but it was worth the effort.

Tired now, but looking forward to trotting to the finish line in St Brévin tomorrow as a group. Wonderful people, wonderful country, wonderful race direction, and wonderful food & drink.


Location:Chemin des Carris,Frossay,France

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Orléans - Océan day 5

A long (70km = 43.5 miles) and hot (30C = 85F) day. It's not the prettiest stage, but nevertheless some nice bridges and villages to look at nestled along the Loire. We're now at Oudon, which is my favorite campsite. Just two more stages of 62km and 24km, and we're done. I will be a happy camper on Friday.

There were no changes in the rankings after today's stage. I was lagging badly before the halfway mark, but managed to get my strength back and edged into second place by the finish. Each day now, I consistently run the first marathon in 4hr30mn, and then hope to hold on during the second half of the stage. It seems to be working OK - but I am super-tired!



Location:Neuvy-en-Mauges,France

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Orléans - Océan day 4

Another longish (64km = 40 miles) day done for both of us. Claire resumed and completed another ultra, but this time had to deal with back problems which reduced her to walking to the finish line. I hope - no, I insist - that she sits out tomorrow's longer stage. What is it that Hindus say about pain moving around the body?

My run was unspectacular but good enough to keep me in second place. I'm feeling tired tonight - not surprising after running 150 miles in four days though. Christian continues to look strong in first place; unless he develops an injury, I won't catch him. Thierry is still in third, and had a much better day; he would've finished ahead of me today if he hadn't taken a wrong turning at 35km. Yvonnick is in fourth, but probably can't make up the time he lost on stage 1. All super-nice gentlemen to be competing with.

Just 2.5 days to go, when we will see the Atlantic Ocean. Rest after that will be very much appreciated.





Location:Chemin de Halage,Ste.-Gemmes-sur-Loire,France

Monday, July 29, 2013

Orléans - Océan day 3

The very good news is that Claire is feeling much better, and is even threatening to run again tomorrow. Selfishly, I'm hoping she doesn't, as it's very nice having the services of her as a full-time soigneuse! But on balance, it's great that she is healthy again.

Today's stage was long - 73km (45 miles). Despite a couple of brief, heavy downpours, the weather cooperated. Headwinds helped to keep temperatures a little below 80F. My legs felt a bit heavy after running nearly 120 miles in 3 days, but hopefully an hour or two of "tent time" now will help them recover by morning.

Thierry (yesterday's race leader) struggled today, but Christian (who had been in third place) was flying. Yvonnick is not far off the podium, so we'll all need to keep pushing for the next 4 days to maintain our places in the CG.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Orléans - Océan day 2

Let's start with today's high points. No storms overnight; slightly cooler temperatures; another lovely scenic day of chateaux, sunflowers and vines; I managed to stay on the podium (barely!) with a slower but more sensible 4hr30mn first marathon; and we're staying at a very nice campsite with plentiful showers and toilets.

The low point: Claire was forced to abandon at the 30km mark today - urinary tract problems that started yesterday and became very painful for her today. Poor thing. Clara our cook checked that she has no fever, and has prescribed cranberry juice; Claire's hoping to rejoin the race in a couple of days, but we'll see.



Location:Route Historique des Dames de Touraine,Montlouis-sur-Loire,France

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Orléans - Océan day 1

Today's low point: Strong winds, lightning, thunder and pouring rain at 4 a.m. Lying in our puny tents under big trees felt like we were auditioning for The Wizard of Oz. Scary stuff...but thankfully the weather calmed down in time for our 7 a.m. start.

Today's high point for me was at about 45km, when my brain suddenly registered that today's stage was "only" 59km (36 miles), not 69km (43 miles). That was good news indeed. I had run the first marathon a bit too fast in a shade under 4 hours, and was not looking forward to another 17 miles on tired legs.

Claire did well, but found the high temperatures and humidity a challenge. She finished the stage with new friends Annick and Bernard, and was happy to be done. I ran alone comme d'habitude - I don't like my pace and effort level decided by others.

Apart from the heat, it was a very nice stage. The Loire is as lovely as I remembered it from last year, but the paths are busier with cyclists as the race is taking place a week later than the 2012 edition.

Resting now in my sauna-like tent before another sumptuous dinner provided by our wonderful, resourceful chef Clara. Tonight she's feeding 50 people a 3-course meal using only a small portable cooker, a single gas ring and a microwave. How is that possible?!



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Orléans - race -2 days

Cars, trains, metros, buses, taxis...a very long airplane-free travel day got us eventually to Orléans. Paris was wretchedly hot, as we struggled with many suitcases to reach the Gare d'Austerlitz. Unfortunately the metro was closed after the Bastille stop, so we had to take a shuttle bus, and missed our tight connection as a result. But at Austerlitz, after not too long a wait, we managed to find another (hot, crowded) train which brought us to Orléans.

Along the way we passed through the somber spectacle of Bretigny station, scene of a very recent fatal train crash. Crews were still working hard to repair the damage, and the destroyed train was still sitting off to one side of the tracks. A poignant reminder of the randomness of fate.

Now in Orléans - where our race starts on Saturday - I have so far managed to acquaint Claire with (a) the seedier side of town near the railway station, (b) sangria in a Tex-Mex restaurant, (c) the river itself and a part of the course through town and (d) a tasty pizza washed down with a pitcher of rosé. Life is good.

Here am I standing in my bright yellow running shoes on top of a LAV (Loire à vélo) sign. These signs will guide us along the way to the Atlantic coast over the next week.



Location:Venelle de la Paix,Orléans,France

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back to the Loire...


 ...in 10 days, for a second helping of beautiful scenery, a wonderful race organization, and a week of hundreds of running miles with old and new friends.  The race is called Orléans-Océan, a shorter 7-day version of its 17-day sister race La Loire Intégrale.  This is the first stage race I've ever run more than once - testament to its sublime quality and coolness.

Next Thursday we will take a London train from our boat moored in the Essex countryside, thence via the Channel Tunnel to Paris, and then finally on to Orléans for the start of the race which kicks off next Saturday.  I'm happy to be avoiding airports for this journey; air travel has become unspeakably nasty and fraught.  Let's hope the trains manage to stay on the tracks south of Paris.

The weather has been unusually hot here for the past week, and with luck it'll stay fair for the entire duration, as we'll be camping every night and camping is definitely "fair weather sport".  Claire and I are both going into this race somewhat undertrained but thankfully healthy and uninjured.  My recently diagnosed anaemia has responded well to iron pills and Guinness.  New shoes have been purchased, packing has begun, and I'm getting very excited.  I can't remember the last race I was looking forward to as much.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Pi UTSJ final day

Despite a night of torrential rain, things markedly improved in time for this morning's leisurely start. Here's the pre-race briefing, with maps being diligently consulted:



Location:Rivière La Joyeuse,St.-Palais,France

Pi UTSJ final day

The picture says it all - made it to St Jean despite blisters, hills, wild dogs and electric fences. Very proud of Claire's ultra tenacity.



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pi UTSJ day 4

The first two hours were spent by the runners in pouring rain and fog, but things slowly improved. We find ourselves in the charming town of Navarrenx, being entertained by small school kids. Claire is tired but still running well.


This shot is from the aid station table - note wine and sausage:


Tomorrow is the final 60km stage - the victory lap if you will. Tonight will be spent drinking with the mayor, eating another delicious meal, and treating Claire's fresh crop of blisters.

Location:Avenue d'Orthez,Navarrenx,France

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pi UTSJ day 3

A third day of great weather, a relatively flat course, and "only" 60km made for a good day. The Pyrenees were not sighted due to plenty of cloud, but the ancient churches and chapels along the route are sublime and made up for it:


The day started with the awkward addition of an English Setter to the group. The homeless hound rushed frantically around for the first two hours, before he could be foisted off on an unsuspecting group of pilgrims. Until he was dispatched, passing motorists swerved and tutted their disapproval.

Claire is over three-fifths done, and running very strongly. 120km to go.



Location:Rue des Ecoles,Arzacq-Arraziguet,France

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pi UTSJ day 2

I am waiting at Nogaro's bullring (yes, there are bullrings still in Gascony) for Claire to complete another 10-hour running day. She's doing brilliantly so far - good pace, happy disposition, calm under pressure when thing go inevitably wrong.



The trail is easy to follow 99% of the time, but the other 1% can completely throw you psychologically when you're tired and hungry. So far, she's only been lost a couple of times, and not for too long, thankfully.

Race director and friend Patrick Bonnot puts on a great race with an outstanding team of volunteers. As always, they are much appreciated.



Off soon for an evening of Floc and good French food (which certainly beats running) before retiring to a hard gym floor (which is marginally less comfortable than running).

Location:Nogaro, France

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pi UTSJ day 1

Now there's a satisfied finish line smile!


A combination of flat canals, steep hills, beautiful villages and mud made for a challenging first day, completed without problems in 10 hours.

Tomorrow Claire runs 64km to the bullring in Nogaro, Gascony; my objective is to retest the local fortified wine Floc.

Pi UTSJ day 1

Claire is underway, running along the canal out of Moissac towards the splendid La Romieu. The weather is cool and - for the moment at least - dry. Perfect conditions for now.


The first 15km today is flat and straight, which is a nice warm-up for hillier times ahead. This is the longest stage - 68km (41 miles). One hour in, we have a long way to go, but we're still all smiles.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Pi" Ultra Trace St Jacques




Claire starts her 5-day race to St Jean Pied de Port tomorrow - a leisurely two hundred miles! As her domestique, I get to carry the suitcases, drive the rental car, and enjoy some wonderful French countryside without breaking a sweat. The weather is warm today, but cooler, more suitable running weather is on its way. Some rain is predicted too, I fear.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Announcing Napoleon Ultra 2013...

In November 2013, we will race from Moscow to Paris again – but this time 112 miles (181km) in the state of Tennessee. We will meet in Memphis, home of Elvis Presley’s Graceland and the famous Beale Street blues, on Friday November 15. The next morning we make our way 40 miles east to the start in Moscow, Tennessee and run three daily stages of 35, 40 and 37 miles (56km, 65km and 60km), before finishing under another replica Eiffel Tower, this time in Paris, Tennessee on Monday November 18.




Who's in?! Click here for more information.


Friday, December 07, 2012

Napoleon Ultra - final results

100% completed the 230-mile, 7-day stage race. Outstanding efforts from all runners, whose average age was 55. Jenni and Christian showed great class, consistency and experience to lead the field.

Successfully completing her first stage run was the youngest runner Rachel Wasilewski; her previous longest week's running was only 70 miles! Klaus Neumann will go on to run the Dallas Marathon this Sunday. Everyone else will be relaxing and recovering.

Jenni de Groot (NL) 40hr07min
Christian Marti (CH) 44hr18min
Romain Valle (FR) 48hr36min
Dominique Chaillou (FR) 49hr45min
Klaus Neumann (DE) 50hr26min
Claire Secker (US) 51hr49min
Rachel Wasilewski (US) 53hr14min
Xavier Servel (FR) 56hr59min
Gérard Denis (FR) 57hr25min

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to get the whole group from Moscow to Paris (Texas). Huge thanks to the volunteers - Nicole, Klaus-Dieter, Anneke, Ursula, and my fantastic son Rob.

Location:Paris, Texas

Napoleon Ultra - photos from Paris, Texas

















Napoleon Ultra - nearly done!

Awards ready!



Napoleon Ultra - last day

Before the start:


...and the Emperor and Emporess pass some time before running:



Napoleon Ultra - final day!

Yesterday's 42 mile stage was long and difficult for some of the runners...but everyone got it done! The weather was close to perfect, the road had a good shoulder, and the traffic wasn't too heavy. The finish was in the surprisingly beautiful main square of Sulphur Springs, now decorated dramatically for Christmas.

100% finishing in Paris today was our goal. Barring unforeseen problems, we will successfully achieve that rare ultra stage running goal.



Thursday, December 06, 2012

Napoleon Ultra - day 6 finish

Jenni victorious again in beautiful downtown Sulphur Springs:



Napoleon Ultra - end in sight

Halfway today...


...38 miles more tomorrow.

Napoleon Ultra - day 6

Our race leaders Jenni (NL) and Christian (CH) at the start this morning, preparing to take on our longest stage of 43.2 miles (69.5km) to Sulphur Springs:


150 miles completed over the last five days. Tomorrow's final stage of 38.3 miles (62km) into Paris is almost in sight for all nine very tough runners!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Napoleon Ultra - latest photos

Jenni with her roadside "trophy":


Ursula finishing:


Romain and Christian finishing:


Klaus' non-matching shoes and socks (don't try this at home, kids!):


Chauffeur service to our Mill Creek park cabins:



Napoleon Ultra - day 5 results

Five days done, and still 100% have survived! Cumulative times thus far:

Jenni de Groot (NL) 26:18.45
Christian Marti (CH) 29:33.33
Romain Valle (FR) 30:22.10
Dominique Chaillou (FR) 31:49.18
Klaus Neumann (DE) 31:52.13
Rachel Wasilewski (US) 31:55.05
Claire Secker (US) 33:18.02
Xavier Servel (FR) 36:41.57
Gérard Denis (FR) 37:08.39



Napoleon Ultra - day 5 finish line

Like the sign says..."Leisure at its Finest"!


And tonight's dinner option:



Napoleon Ultra - day 5 underway

All nine runners plus stage runner Ursula left Athens this morning. Some aches and pains after 124 miles of running over the last four days...but today is short (26.4 miles), cool so far (64F / 18C), and the road has a wide, safe shoulder. It is Rt.19 all the way to Canton - getting lost will be tough.

We have set up aid station #1 in Meredith. The sign behind Nicole is significant - the French runners gorged themselves on Black Angus steaks in Athens last night!



Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Napoleon Ultra - day 4 photos























Napoleon Ultra - day 4 results

The day worked out well, despite some heat, narrow roads and traffic. Midway through, we had a welcome visit from Austin American Statesman journalist Pam LeBlanc.

Cumulative times thus far:

Jenni de Groot (NL) 21:47.10
Christian Marti (CH) 24:33.03
Romain Valle (FR) 25:21.40
Rachel Wasilewski (US) 25:37.35
Klaus Neumann (DE) 26:22.49
Dominique Chaillou (FR) 26:28.48
Claire Secker (US) 27:42.07
Xavier Servel (FR) 30:24.27
Gérard Denis (FR) 30:51.09

Jenni looks set to become our new Joséphine; Christian has mounted a strong challenge to become a latterday Napoléon.

Location:Athens, Texas

Napoleon Ultra - first blood

Claire managed to trip and fall this afternoon, but like the trooper she is kept on to the finish:


The last two weary warriors are now a mile from the finish. Some aches and pains (and blood!) today, but we stand at 100% still in the race after halfway. (Only 1/7th of Napoleon's army made it halfway, to Moscow, in 1812.)

Napoleon Ultra - nearly halfway

Whatever it takes to get to Paris...



Napoleon Ultra - Day 4 underway

37 miles ahead today. (Who knew? It's only 37 miles between Palestine and Athens!) The P'tite Armée is tired this morning but happy I think to be nearly halfway.

Maybe Napoleon would have had less problems had fluorescent clothing been invented?



Monday, December 03, 2012

Napoleon Ultra results - after Day 3

Jenni continues to run strongly and consistently. A battle royal for second place is developing between Romain, Rachel and Christian. Dominique and Klaus are running well, Claire is recovering from stomach issues, and Xavier and Gérard are getting the job done for France!

Jenni de Groot (NL) 15:12.17
Romain Valle (FR) 17:16.40
Rachel Wasilewski (US) 17:20.36
Christian Marti (CH) 17:24.43
Dominique Chaillou (FR) 18:23.48
Klaus Neumann (DE) 18:37.45
Claire Secker (US) 19:25.08
Xavier Servel (FR) 21:02.00
Gérard Denis (FR) 21:28.42

Four days to go - three longer stages and one shorter one (only 26.4 miles on Wednesday). Athens tomorrow, then Canton.




Napoleon Ultra - Day 3 underway

Nicole Denis and I await the runners at checkpoint 1, just north of Crockett, Texas. Everyone is in good spirits, and surviving the journey so far.


Tonight we will sleep in the very topically named Palestine, 34 miles from Crockett. This morning is cloudy and pleasant if a little humid, but temperatures will rise again later.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Napoleon Ultra - Day 2

First 7 finishers:

Jenni


Romain


Rachel


Christian


Dominique


Klaus


Claire