Grand Raid des Pyrenees 2013: The mighty joy and incommunicable sense of accomplishement...

There's no wrong in pushing yourself if it's for a goal reach, an accomplishment quest. The greater the joy, the greater the absolution. "Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself." -Elie Wiesel

In 2012, despite a severe ankle sprain upon meeting a teddy bear in the woods in Vancouver, I still decided to go ahead and do the Grand Raid des Pyrenees. I had my flight, my crew coming and I knew my mountains would carry me. They did, and I finished a happy camper. But frustrated with my time. So I registered again in 2013: 160kms and 10000m ascent. And sprained my ankle during my preparation, again... But, again, I had my flights and more crew coming to see me, including two of my beloved cousins who've supported me since my very first race and had always wanted to come and see me, and share our love for the sport together. So here is a picture recap of yet another amazing time I had running in my mountains, where I belong, improving by 3h40 my time from last year, sharing that with my family, as happy as one can be...

4.45am someting, start at 5am, time to smile the best out of me!

After the first ascent, around 6:30 am, sun is coming out...

After the first ascent, around 6:30 am, sun is coming out...

La vie pastorale, in my Pyrenees. Look at their happy life: roaming in the Pyrenees with breathtaking sunrises...

After the first ascent, around 6:30 am, sun is coming out...

After the first ascent, around 6:30 am, sun is coming out...

After the first ascent, around 6:30 am, the ankle hurts but I keep up with the men :)

After the first ascent, around 6:30 am, the ankle hurts but I keep up with the men :) and see Daddy for the first time on Aid station 1
 After this first ascent where I nicely warmed up, the terrain flattened out so I was able to run. Well, so I wished. My ankle just did not hold still in the rocky trail. It kept rolling. This had never happened to me, even last year; I raced 40h feeling pain but my ankle could stand (rather) still. This year, though I can take the pain - it is nothing new to me and actually doesn't bother me anymore. After all, as my brother once quoted WWII soldiers: "pain and cold are just information". But the constant  tripping is really getting to me. My ankle is a Barbapapa; a gum. And it could starting putting me down. I don't like that. I keep on focusing but it won't stand still. I am starting to think that it is going to be difficult but I cannot accept it as my family is underway. I am not going to arrive at the station and tell them it's over. I keep on going. One more step, one more step, the sceneries are just so beautiful...

Then I reach the second aid station, my legs speed up, they know, and after a turn into the village, I see them. "Mind you dear ankle, you're gonna have to deal with the pain, I won't!"

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: first time I see my crew in addition to daddy. They did a 2 hour drive to come out... The reunion is strong...

Aid station 2: race on!!!

Cable car to the top of the Pic du Midi which we climb

The world famous Tourmalet ascent

Our 2nd climb: THE Pic du Midi de Bigorre, towering at 2877 m


Pic du Midi de Bigorre ascent: CHECK! Now going down
Arriving in Hautacam, I see my crew, despite the fog. I missed them at the Pic du Midi de Bigorre aid station: I was more than 30 minutes faster than my previsions. So when I arrived at Station 4, I was just wondering what on earth they had been doing, I went faster than them driving!
Aid station 4, Hautacam. Wondering where my team was at Aid Station 3!

Aid station 4, Hautacam. Wondering where my team was at Aid Station 3!

Aid station 4, Hautacam.

I must have said something funny!

The simple joy of a rice pudding to cut with the cereal bars and dried fruits... Happiness is easy!


Running is a family thing: here with my Ironman finisher beloved uncle

The tricky question on Aid Stops: what do I want to eat?...

The joy of seeing my team just as happy and smiley as I am... These races are more than just sport...

Going through my Pyrenees, it's a chance to reconnect with the culture, here, Toy singers greeting us

You can run 160 kms with 10K ascent and still be feminine! At least impeccable hand nails...

Uphill or downhill, it's my playground, I am just having fun

Loving every second....

Loving every second....

4am ish, arriving in Cauterets, "whose asleep in here?! I'm not!"

The ever team support! What more could I ask for? It's just too easy!

The ever team support! What more could I ask for? It's just too easy!

Yes, feeling like I'm flying, though I'm trying to make the most of every second, the race goes very fast! Too fast!
When you run for tens of hours, and eat every 30 minutes, there comes a time when you no longer can think of food, yet on the other hand, you develop cravings. For me it's the thought of a cheeseburger with yam fries. But after the Villelongue Aid Station, upon leaving, I joke with my crew that I could have a Diabolo Menthe, which is sparkling water with mint syrup. About 1h30 later after an ascent and seeing them a bit before the following Aid Station, guess what my crew has waiting for me... Yes, a Diabolo Menthe along the road...They are just making the race almost too easy for me!

Don't I have the best crew ever?

Don't I have the best crew ever?

Don't I have the best crew ever? How a sparkling water with mint syrup can make a runner happy... The simple joy of running!

A Diabolo Menthe and I'm the happiest runner on the race!


The victory sign, only 30 kms to go now, the line is here!

Seeing my crew again gives me wings!
The moment I always dread: arriving. The average age for woman on those races being around 43, having started at 21, I learnt the sport on my own, training alone, though getting worthy tips from experienced runners I met. On my first year racing, I'll always remember one of them telling me: "Don't forget to enjoy the last meters and the finish line, it always goes too fast". And though I always have it in mind, it does always go too fast. So I always dread that moment now because I think about it on the last 2-3kms but then it happens again... On that picture below, it's right before passing that moment where I forget the advice, I'm still soaking up my surroundings and I hear one lady in particular say (Note: on races like that, you end up running with others with similar pace so our support crews also meet each other often on the aid stations. That woman must have been following someone or bit before or (better be) after me.): "That girl, she smiled ALL along". That moved me incredibly. She put into words what I felt inside and, looking at the pictures, and hearing her, showed in the outside indeed: I have been happy for 38h19 minutes... The line is just one moment of the race, it's a split second of a yearly training, 6 months specific dedication, sleep, food, posture, social life, the last days, the start, sharing with the other racers, being moved to tears by a sunrise on mountains you cherish and miss deeply, enjoying a simple rice pudding, it's all these small things that make so races such a momentum importance to me. And that people see the joy it brings me, the beauty and lightness in it, fills me with an immense satisfaction. There is nothing extreme or unreachable, just priorities and smart choices to make, because it is all so worthy. If you want something, go get it....

The last meters, I could still go on for hours though, I feel so strong

The last meters, hurry up daddy!

The last meters, already the end, 38h19 happened too fast...

My cousin Chrstine, I'm so happy she's here and apparently enjoying it as much as I am!




After an intense and emotionally testing summer, training commitedly and working a lot in a new busy job, and with the ankle sprain worsened on my last training session before taper week, I was worried. But I went for it and O the mighty joy and incommunicable sense of accomplishement to not only having crossed yet another line but mostly to have enjoyed every single second and feeling I could have pushed harder. I improved my time from last year by 3h40 despite the 7kms and 600m extra and I felt I could have gone even faster, seeing how fast I ran those last kilometers and never felt low during the race. The feeling is indescribable. I feel so complete.

When people ask me, I never feel I am making sacrifices, in terms of food or social life, I am just making choices, difficult ones but necessary ones to reach a goal, mine, one that makes sense to me. And all of this takes its full meaning crossing that line. I call it goal, but as I mentioned above, it's not only crossing that line, it's everything before and around, running and being in the mountains, especially mine of the Pyrenees, it is what I love, what I need, it is what brings me joy, the most as of now in my life. I am never happier than when I run, especially up high, over there where views are endless and vastness reigns. I therefore have no credit for finishing those races really...


While talking about the next race, time for the reward: FOOD, at my favourite restaurant ever, Chez Louisette tucked in my Pyrenees
 
Who's hungry? We are!

Louisette's homemade foie gras...

Mmmmm, Garbure, a traditional regional soup

Mmmmm, Garbure, a traditional regional soup

DOC lamp, doesn't get much better than here...

Louisette's otherwordly blueberry pie. The athlete's desert for its antioxydant properties!

Thank you beloved mountains for hosting me for 38h19 and giving me as much bliss

Family, running, Pyrenees, food, the quintessence of my happiness...
NB: Sorry for the narcisstic pictures, mainly me! But blame my crew for taking mostly me. And thanks to Matthiou for his amazing pix of my gorgeous Pyrenees...

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