Monthly Archives: October 2015

100km of Millau (2015)

I had doubts I would ever put myself to the test of an ultra marathon or a 100km race again after having completed the “100km de Millau” in 2011.

Jose, whom I ran with that time, suggested at times to do another one. Manuel, with whom  I have trained often and now regularly runs ultra marathons, had often suggested to join him in one. My brother Jaime had also indicated that he would like to try once. I never go tempted by those calls…

… a couple of months ago, Manuel mentioned that he would run Millau and asked whether I was interested. I passed on the baton to Jaime, who almost immediately said yes. And thus, we subscribed ourselves to the race.

Running bibs the night before the race.

Running bibs the night before the race.

Pasta dinner the night before the race.

Pasta dinner the night before the race.

We didn’t specifically train for this race. Jaime didn’t almost find the time to train, except for the weekends. I took a look at some training plans and the amount of dedication required put me off. Thus, I decided to simply keep running a moderate mileage of between 40-60km per week on average and knowing that this would suffice to complete the marathon satisfactorily, go with that as training and rely on the mental side and experience for the rest.

The circuit of the race and the profile remained unchanged from 2011. This helped a lot, as I remembered several parts of the race, profiles, etc. (1)

Perfil de la carrera.

Profile of the course.

Our race strategy was rather simple this time: run a marathon in a ~6:20 pace, aiming at about 4h30′, stopping briefly in the supply posts, reduce at least in half the time spent changing clothes and shoes in Millau (km 42) and Sainte Affrique (km 71)… and so we did. We basically followed it to the point.

Breakfast the day of te race.

Breakfast the day of te race.

Leaving the hall towards the starting point.

Leaving the hall towards the starting point.

Which pacer do we follow?

Which pacer do we follow?

Departure line.

Departure line.

One last picture before we start running.

One last picture before we start running.

We started running at the intended pace. We first catched the 13h pacer, the 12h pacer, the 11h30 pacer… we knew we wouldn’t arrive with them but wondered why we were overtaking them. We asked their estimated arrival time at the marathon and it was slower than ours (though they wouldn’t stop then and would keep a faster pace in the second 58km than what we intended). So, after about 10km we went forward with our 6’20″/km rhythm.

When you see the profile of the complete race you may get the impression that the marathon runs along a flat profile. It certainly does  not. There are some spots, especially right after the half marathon, which are very demanding. We took them easily even if kept running in them. At about the km 28, we softened the pace to avoid meeting the Wall. And so we did. Again, running this marathon at a leisure pace was a great experience. In the end we spent some 14 minutes longer than planned (~4h42′), but the timing was good enough.

At Millau (km 42.195) we changed clothes, but kept the pause shorter than we did in 2011 (just less than 20′). Departing from Millau was difficult again: getting the muscles to work again after a little resting time. We needed to keep running for just about 5km until the first hard climb to pass under the viaduct. We did so. Even if I had some pain in the Achilles tendon when running uphill.

Km. 47, it is tough...

Km. 47, it is tough…

At the viaduct we took again some pictures, plus another at the 50km mark, even if changed to a smaller one (in comparison to 4 years ago). Descending towards St. Georges Luzencon we took a conservative pace as we did at the beginning of the false flat course towards St. Rome de Cernon. However, after some minutes of soft climb I felt again pain in the Achilles tendon and I had to walk at some stretches combining it with running.

Highest viaduct in the World, definitely worth a picture.

Highest viaduct in the World, definitely worth a picture.

At St. Rome, we took a quick preventive massage. Followed by a good supplies ingestion. Funny enough, just leaving the village, I was still eating some bread with foie gras and drinking (both hands occupied) when some spectators cross checked my bib number with the local newspaper, found my name and started cheering me! I found it funny: being cheered for eating and drinking :-).

After St. Rome, it came the climb to Tiergues, which we walked up. In the descent from the top of the hill towards Tiergues itself (at km 65) we met Manuel who had some muscular troubles himself (but he nevertheless would finished in a very respectable time of 11h22′). After the supply post at Tiergues we continued running down to St. Affrique.

We arrived there with some 40-50′ in advance in relation to the timing we did in 2011. And again, we kept the stop in St. Affrique to the minimum time needed for changing clothes, eating and drinking. Another 20′ and we went. Started running just to the outskirts of the village before starting the long(est) climb back to Tiergues, about 7km. At the top we were about 1h10′ ahead of the time we did in 2011.

I remember one of the volunteers at Tiergues (ex km. 65, now km. 77) who was continuously making jokes to runners, very loudly, all other volunteers laughing with him. I told my brother that I wouldn’t have minded to stay there partying with them. However, after a few minutes of eating (some hot soup) and drinking (some beer) we re-started running to complete the uphill climb and the downhill descent back to St. Rome.

Once you start the descent to St. Rome you know you have made it. You’re about a half marathon from it. 22km. In the (almost) worst of the cases you can slowly walk them to the end and it would take you a mere 5 extra hours… so what? But then you run and it takes half of it.

At St. Rome I needed some attention from the podiatrist to heal a blister. It did more bad than good, as instead of just removing the liquid and drying it out, she introduced some other disinfectant liquid which kept the pressure and left me in pain for a couple of days.

From St. Rome we had another gentle descent down to St. Georges. At mid-way point (Pont du Dourdou) there was the supply post in which the play rather loud and very animated music, a kind of discotheque. I would not have minded to stay there either for the remainder of the night. But we still had 15km to go. At the time I was already making numbers knowing that we wouldn’t finish under 14h but confident that we would under 15h.

We kept running down to St. Georges where we stopped to take some more soup, coke… one more kilometer and up again to the viaduct, walking again. Once you run under the viaduct on the way back you’re less than 8km to go. It – is – done. At the descent down to Raujolles we noticed the sign post with the 8% descent (meaning that from km. 47 you had a nice 2km-long 8% climb!).

By then we had been over taking runners and walkers for some time. Some of whom were not stopping at supply posts and would overtake us during those pauses. At Creissels we took the last bit of soup, chocolate and water. And there we went down to Millau. Again, to Millau. Millau.

The bridge crossing the river Tarn in the entrance of the city is at about the 98th kilometer. This time again, I put then on the Spanish flag to complete the last two kilometers with it. We again took some pictures at the emblematic sign post at the km. 99 in the streets of Millau.


Posing by the km. 99 sign post.

We kept running in the Avenue de la Republique afterwards called Charles de Gaulle, we then entered the Parc de la Victoire and again we sprinted to climb the metallic structure allowing us to enter into the Salle de fetes de Millau, crossing the finish line in 14h39’21”.

Four years later, again, objective accomplished. The 100km of Millau completed. Another ultra marathon finished.

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

This time we employed some 35′ less than the previous time. We basically reduced the time spent in long pauses, we ran a faster marathon and needed less medical assistance. However, we ran slower the last 22km (we consumed there some 35′ more, or half of the time-cushion we had at Tiergues).

This time, for me it was very much less mentally demanding. I remember that in 2011 I had many doubts at some points. If Jose had not been there, I may had dropped it between km 60 and 71. This time I didn’t have any doubt. I was cheering my brother and myself from km. 25 every now and then. Knowing that we would make it. Again, no matter the time.

The following days, again, I had a terrible pain in the legs, similar to those you may have after the first marathon you run (especially if not well trained, as it was my case back in 2000). However, after a week I could start running and training again. A much better recovery than 4 years ago, when I suffered from a serious tendonitis.

I don’t know if I will run another time in Millau, or even another ultra, but this time, yes, I felt comfortable with knowing that it was manageable and that if needed, it can be done yet another time.

(1) It also helped that I had written a detailed post about it in this blog, to which I came back for references.


Filed under France, Sports

Corrida Camarguaise (bullfighting / toros)

Hace unos meses viajamos a La Camargue, y en particular al pueblo Saintes Maries de la Mer. En esa visita tuvimos la oportunidad de asistir a una corrida de toros, pero a una “corrida Camarguaise“, que es diferente a una corrida de toros “andaluza” (como dicen en Francia).

Durante la corrida hice una serie de fotos y videos que se pueden ver más abajo para entender mejor el breve resumen de las cosas que percibimos, aunque estoy seguro de que no llegué a entender todas sus particularidades.

En una corrida camarguesa, no hay un matador, ni banderillas ni picador. El toro no muere. De hecho se parece más a lo que en España llamamos concurso de recortes; aunque tampoco es igual, es mucho menos vistoso y espectacular (al menos la que tuvimos la oportunidad de presenciar).

En la corrida camarguesa que presenciamos, un pequeño grupo se enfrenta al toro por turnos. En este caso eran como tres recortadores (raseteurs), vestidos de ropa deportiva (no un traje de luces), que por turnos partían en carrera para pasar por delante del toro, y si tenían la oportunidad hacerse con uno de los trofeos que lleva el toro en la sien, entre los cuernos. Estos trofeos son pequeñas cintas de papel, que el raseteur debe coger en carrera con la ayuda de un garfio.

Corrida camarguesa en Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Corrida camarguesa en Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Por cada trofeo que cojan, el raseteur obtiene una puntuación y un premio en metálico. Ese premio depende de las aportaciones de los negocios locales y asistentes a la corrida, que financian la fiesta. De hecho, durante la corrida, hay un locutor que va anunciando los nombres de distintas empresas y la cantidad dineraria que aportan. Al cabo de unos segundos el locutor indica en cuanto está la suma en ese instante. Conforme la suma aumenta mayor es el incentivo de ser el primero en coger los trofeos.

Además de los 3 raseteurs (pueden ser más), estos estaban acompañados de un equipo de ayudantes (peones) que tenían como misión el llamar al toro, orientarlo y posicionarlo en el ruedo. También el ganadero tenía su labor. Puede ser porque la barrera en esa plaza fuese de menor altura de la que tienen las plazas en España; el hecho es que el toro saltó varias veces la barrera y corrió por el pasillo entre la barrera y la grada. Entonces, era el ganadero, el que, con la ayuda de una vara, reconducía al toro a una de las puertas de acceso a la plaza.

En resumen, un espectáculo curioso, con un cierto parecido a un concurso de recortes.

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Filed under Miscellanea, Travelling

Pasión por volar

Durante mis últimas vacaciones en España, vi un tuit de la cuenta de Iberia promocionando la exhibición “Pasión por volar” en el Museo ABC (1). Dado que pocos días después, el viaje me llevaría a Madrid, me anoté la visita.

La exhibición ofrecía un breve repaso del desarrollo de la aviación desde principios del siglo XX hasta nuestros días con énfasis en España. El recorrido se basaba sobretodo en archivos (fotos, dibujos y textos) del periódico, trajes de azafatas de Iberia, fotos y maquetas de aviones de Iberia, y maquetas e imágenes de aeropuertos aportados por AENA, pequeños apuntes biográficos de algunos de los pioneros de la aviación…

Eché de menos la participación de Airbus como sponsor y como heredera de CASA, Hispano Aviación, etc., y como fabricante de aviones en España. De todos modos en la propia exhibición se indicaba que esta exposición tampoco pretendía ser exhaustiva y refería al Museo del Aire a tal efecto.

Carteles de Iberia. Siempre que va uno a un museo relacionado con la aviación se encuentra con carteles que son auténticas obras de arte. Carteles que le daban al hecho de volar un toque de ensueño. Si esa tradición no se ha perdido, al menos no conserva su misma aura. Los primeros carteles de la exposición venían firmados, precisaban el año, la introducción de la línea que se abría o promocionaba… Los últimos posters apenas si son una fotografía y un logo de la compañía.

DSC_0084Las biografías de los pioneros. Además de hablar de los hermanos Wright o de Charles Lindbergh, el recorrido sobre los pioneros se centraba en figuras españolas (algunas de las cuales desconocía): Antonio Fernandez Santillana (primer español en fabricar y pilotar un aeroplano), Juan Olivert Serra (primer español en volar un avión fabricado por un español en España), Emilio Herrera, Jose Ortiz Echagüe, Juan de la Cierva, Ramón Franco Bahamonde


El catálogo de la exposición. Antes de salir del edificio pasé a recoger a Luca en la tienda del museo, y allí vi el libro catálogo sobre la exposición. A pesar de que había tomado varias fotos, me decidí a comprarlo (18€) (2). Una gran decisión. En el libro hay bastantes más fotos, artículos, ensayos y curiosidades de las que había en la propia exhibición. De la misma forma me habría gustado comprar (al menos tener la posibilidad de hacerlo) alguna réplica de los posters de Iberia; pero no era posible. Pienso en la cantidad de posters del pintor Toulouse-Lautrec que uno ve adornando pisos, tiendas, bares… Si hubieran hecho una edición de posters de los carteles expuesto, creo que habría sido un éxito.

Maquetas y fichas técnicas de los aviones. Aquí los organizadores de la exhibición lo podrían haber hecho mejor. Maquetas y fichas estaban separadas. Recuerdo una pareja preguntándose por un avión “grande” (porque la maqueta era la más grande de las expuestas  – sobretodo cuestión de escala) y evocando el avión que les había traído de algún origen en América del Sur, preguntándose si sería el mismo (la maqueta era un A330). No todo el mundo reconoce un avión con solo verlo.


(1) La exhibición terminó el 27 de septiembre.

(2) El libro todavía se puede adquirir.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence