After yesterday’s mental breakdown and tiredness I was determined to pull myself together. I had a good 7 hours sleep and felt fresh first thing. This was the shortest stage so far and 3rd shortest of the whole race, I was thinking of it as a marathon and a 10km.
We walked the 1 km from the hall (yesterday’s finish) to the Chateau to start in front of the gorgeous building, whilst still maintaining the cross country integrity.
Then we were set off at 6:45am on this cloudy Sunday. I’d decided to go strong but not too quick and settled in behind the 3 front guys and Carmen, knowing there were at least 5 quicker men around me too. The first 10km or so had most of the hills for the day. About 8km in Carmen nipped into the bushes and I passed her, not intentionally and actually having wished I’d been able to follow her longer. We hit the trail at 15km and had 14km on trail that was very reminiscent of some of the better trails in the US. Gradually the front guys moved around and it was three top guys (JJ Moros, Pierre Chanteclair and Christian Leroux) then me and Alain Simon who’s had a taped shin for a while but is still running well. About 40km Michel, a German runner, overtook me and I knew I’d not see him again. Then surprisingly Charles P appeared and also overtook me, I expected to see him again but didn’t and it turned out he had a great last 12km to meet the front guys and finish together with them. Micheal was just behind them and then me, 13 mins behind the leaders- who were taking it easy, or at least JJ Moros was (this is a runner who has a 6:50 100km time and a 25hr Spartathlon finish to his name, so a 4:45 53km isn’t his racing speed! I asked him if he was ok later and he said he fancied an easy day with friends – so had been stopping at aid stations for them, I guess even the winner wants some company some time). Coming into the final couple of kms I could see an orange shirt behind me and having been in a good position all day was determined not to let anyone else overtake me. It was Alain Simon and he pushed me right to the end, we finished in the same minute in 4:58 for the 52km. Carmen was just behind 7 minutes later.
It was a day with trail, some lovely little country roads following La Loire. I ran hard but the legs don’t feel too bad. Altogether a great race for me and, though I think Carmen was under-par after a bad night’s sleep, I do hope it’s not my last stage win. The following morning I was presented with a hand carved wooden sheep’s head walking stick (yes the irony is not lost on me!) which a local runner, and previous TG finisher, had made for the two winners of the stage.
The Yanoo.net write up is here (and yes I’ve had words with Christophe – Mr Yanoo.net who assures me calling me l’anglaise is affectionate, hmm) and the French chap from runningworld magazine was snapping us all day – yes I had a great race on the day the media appeared – so I’ll link to those when I see them.