Transe Gaule 2013: Summary

La Transe Gaule 2013 10th Edition
1190km, 19 stages from Roscoff to Gruissan, 13-31 August 2013

Ever since the end of last summer I’d been looking forward to the Transe Gaule, having moved from the waiting list after finishing the Run Across America on Trail. The Race Director, Jean-Benoit Jaouen (JB), had run with Neil Bryant in the Trans-Europe race last year and was heralded as a great guy with a really good 19 day stage race from The Channel to The Med, 1190km mainly all on road.

The route: 19 stages from The Channel to The Med

The route: 19 stages from The Channel to The Med

There were 55 ultrarunners on the starting line in Roscoff, with very impressive running CVs covering most of the world’s longest and hardest races. Ages ranged from 20 to 75 years old and competitors came from 6 countries – mainly France with a couple of Americans, 5 Dutch, 5 Germans, a Canadian and me, the only Brit. There were 11 women and 44 men; with about half having done the Transe Gaule before, some for the 3rd, 4th, or even 7th time. Everyone looking forward to the tenth edition of France’s longest foot race.

The start of Transe Gaule 2013 at Roscoff light house

The start of Transe Gaule 2013 at Roscoff light house

The stages ranged from 75km to 40km on the final day.  The route was fully marked, yes all 1190km! Little orange/pink stickers with arrows marked the route with chalk on the ground and spray paint on any really tricky sections, marked out the day before by the helpers. I only went wrong once in the 19 days (completely my own fault – cutting a corner and missing the arrow…) and most people didn’t make a wrong turn the whole way. There were aid stations (Ravitaillements) every day – at 15, 30, 40, 50 and 60km. These were manned by the groups of helpers – mainly incredibly helpful wives and families of runners but also some friends of JB and regular helpers on the French Ultra-running scene. There were fruits (peaches, melon, banana), biscuits, cake, crackers, sandwiches (pate, cheese, spreads), sweets, nuts, boiled eggs, sausage, ham,  water and coke. If this wasn’t enough you could also put things into the drop boxes for each station at the start of the day.  The race organisation was perfect – refined over the 9 previous editions of the race.

JB giving his daily briefing at 6:15am

JB giving his daily briefing at 6:15am

The route was gorgeous – through the hilly farmland of Brittany, along rivers like the Loire and the Dordogne, passed Chateaus and vineyards to the Cols of the Central Massif and down to the Med – all on fairly small roads and with very little traffic.

We ran through some gorgeous towns in rural France

We ran through some gorgeous towns in rural France

Start of stage outside Chateau

Start of stage 6 outside Chateau

Stage 13, rolling hills of the Cantal

Stage 13, rolling hills of the Cantal

We stayed in some small towns and villages along the way, with accommodation in sports halls which became smaller and had fewer facilities as we headed south (think camping showers and out door toilets… this made Super8 and Day’s Inn look glamorous!).

It was clear from the first day that the previous winner in 2011 (the last edition because of Trans Europe last year) was in good form and so Jean-Jacques Moro went on to win every stage – a couple of times jointly when he wanted to run with other people! The French international ultra-runner is in a class of his own, winning in 100hrs 42 mins, only just over his race record of 91 hrs 14 mins on a shorter course (by about 35km) from 2011. Though there was a group of 8 or so quick men – 3 of the Germans and one of the Dutch guys putting in some good times along with a couple of the other French men. For the women the returning winner from 2011 was also in form – Carmen Hildebrand is an exceptional multi-day runner and was often in the top 5 or 6 everyday, finishing 6th overall in a time of 116 hrs 33 mins. I had a pretty good start – even beating Carmen into second on two stages – but had a couple of days with Achilles pain and a niggle in my knee which made the middle few days slower. Still I was happy with second woman and twelth overall, in a time of 126 hrs 20 mins and 13 hours ahead of third woman Nadine Weiss (a French 100km team member here for her second TG). More info, stats and results here.

Jean Jacque Moros - a class act; effortless running

Jean Jacque Moros – a class act; effortless running

Carmen warming up through the Loire Vinyards

Carmen warming up through the Loire Vinyards

Not everyone made it – but this was the highest number of finishers at 45. Several dropped out in the first week, then a couple later on, mainly with shin split/tendonitis issues or other leg complaints. Don Winkley, the legendary Texan returning for his 10th edition at the age of 75 made it til day 15 and missed the cut off – exhausted from very long days. He was great to have around with his stories of ultrarunning through the years – a real character.

Don Winkley (in white), me (orange top), Becky Tsai (blue top) first day warm up

Don Winkley (in white), me (orange top) first day warm up

All in all a great 19 days of running – the weather was pretty good for all but three cloudy/rainy days in the middle and it wasn’t as hot as France can be, with a maximun temp of about 29 degrees as we hit the south coast. I’d highly recommend the race – and happy to talk more about it if anyone’s interested in doing it; there’s now been 6 UK finishers, 5 men and me.

Finishing at the beach

Finishing at the beach

A Day in the Life of the Transe Gaule

5am: Lights come on in sports hall, wakey wakey! Breakfast time – bread and jams, cheese, ham. Muesli for those who brought it.
6:15am: Race briefing – French and some English (my French improved massively!) – highlighting the features of the run, profile, any interesting places and spots to look out for.
6:30am: Race Start – though for longer stages there was also a 7:30am start for the top 8/10/12
12:30pm: first finishers… through to 6:30pm often (cut-off pace was 5.5 km/hr). There was only one day I finished after 2pm so plenty of relaxing time and sunbathing – though also eating and washing clothes, packing etc.
6:30pm: Aperritif with local Mayor at the Marie. We were received very well in many places – with local produce and drinks flowing.
7:30pm: Dinner – at local restaurant (included – though drinks other than water and wine extra) or catering in sports hall. 6 nights with no dinner arranged – but local places to eat and snack bars to get your own.
10pm: lights out.
x 19 days!
I’m afraid I struggled with sleeping on the sports hall floors – others had brought big airbeds and camping beds, whereas I’d adhered to the rules on luggage size (one bag, less than 20kgs) and so had a few b&b nights to get some sleep!

Photos: with thanks to Yanoo.net