I was scheduled to visit France on a business trip from 11th to 13th Dec 2017. Being a Runner I got tempted to find some race in France which I can participate before or after my business commitments. I googled and found out that there were more than 4 races in different parts of France on 10th Dec 2017.

Unfortunately all the websites and facebook pages of the events were in French and difficult to undersand and register inspite of using Google Translate. Finally, I zeroed down on 4 events and managed to send a message through their FB pages. Only one organiser, Trail la conquete de Super Besse responded quickly and provided me the link to register with the translation in English. There were 3 categories; 5K, 15k AND 25k.Having done one 42 K, one 25K (BNP) and about six 21K, I opted for the 25K Run. Later on I realised that it was not a normal Road Run which I have been doing until now for the past 4 years but a Trail Run. HaviNg done Satara HM and BNP 25K (4 hills) I assumed it must be somewhat similar but a more gruelling course. I tried to get much information about the course and elevation from the organisers but could not succeed. Further scrutiny of their website and FB page did not help much. Having already registered I mustered courage and decided to participate any how.

The start point of Trail la conquete de Super Besse was in a Town called Besse and Finish Point at Super Besse, about 470 Kms from Paris. I reached Paris on 8th Dec evening and decided to rest for one night in Paris. I realised that the temperatures were in the range of 6 to 8 deg C in Paris. On 9th morning I started from Paris and reached Chambon Sur Lac (15 Kms from Besse) where I had booked my accommodation,in the evening. Here the weather was too cold with temperatures dipping to 2 deg C in the night. Chambon Sur Lac is a small village where no public transport is available, except taxis provided you book in advance. The organisers were kind enough to arrange to pick me up on 10th morning at 7:00 am from the hotel to go to the venue. To my shock, it was raining in the morning and the temperature was 4 deg. C. I collected my bib and put up a brave face. I understood that thee were about 800 registrations but due to bad weather only about 400 turned up. I noticed that most of the participants were wearing rain-proof jackets, skiing sticks and mountaineering footwear. I had my normal road running shoes and winter jacket with hood. With the help of the organisers I managed to get a trash polythene converted to a rain coat to protect myself from the rains.

The race started at 09:00 am sharp on normal tar road and I joined the crowd in the cold windy weather still determined to participate. After 500 m or so the route joined a muddy trail and the runners slowed down. After 1 km the route was full of snow and slippery. With caution I managed to walk through and avoided slipping, After 1.5 km I realised that I was the last runner and the girl and man behind me were Support Volunteers. The girl noticed that I was wearing normal road running shoes and asked me if I will continue till the end with these shoes. Still determined; I told her I shall continue and asked her if the route was similar throughout. She told me it will be tougher further. There were no KM markings but only ribbons. After about 2 kms of slippery snowy and muddy route with ups and downs I started feeling warm and wanted to remove my jacket and was feeling thirsty. Unfortunately I had carried none assuming there would be aid stations every 2.5 or 3 Kms like our road runs but there were none so far. I realised that the trail was slippery and my shoes were not meant for trail runs. After 40 mins or so I managed to cover only 3 Kms and the volunteer asked me if I would like to quit. I told her I would continue after taking a 3 to 5 minute break. But she said that it would take me a long time to complete the balance 22 Km. Though there was no cut-off time specified by the organisers I realised that the locals would complete the distance in maximum 4 hours or so. With the pace that I was going I realised that I would need anywhere between 4-1/2 to 5 hours. I continued for another 1 km without break. The wind was blowing at 40 km/h speed, it was raining continuously, the path was full of snow and the temperature was still 4 deg C. By now I had cramps in my legs, my jacket was wet, hands cold and backache. It was time to call quits now rather than continuing and probably breaking your bones or falling sick. I told the girl tha I would quit and she informed me that after 1 km we will reach the road and she will call for the support vehicle to take me back to the Finish Point. I managed to cover about 5 kms in the windy, snowy, rainy and cold weather.

My first attempt at Trail Runnng was a DNF but I am happy that I did not get a DNS. I had the courage to start even after seeing the weather conditions and without proper gear.

As the adage goes; You do not Lose, You either WIN or LEARN!

Every failure teaches you and makes you strong.

The learnings for me from this experience are:

  1. Do not assume that all races are similar.
  2. Find out more information about the course and weather conditions before you register.
  3. Ensure you have proper running gear suitable to the environment.
  4. Find out more details of the location and weather conditions.
  5. It is better to quit than take risk and endanger yourself, especially in a foreign country.
  6. Learn from your mistakes, take corrective actions and attempt again after good preparation.

Regards

Subhash Putty

10 Dec 2017

Camp: France