The 6 Nations rugby match in Paris was not the only event in France this weekend to be cancelled because of the weather. I had entered a local road relay (3x5km individual plus1.5km as a team) with track-trained colleagues from Meteo-France (team appropriately named Meteo-rites) but we were prevented from giving a spectacular display by a town hall official who declared the conditions to be unsafe.
However, by Saturday evening a friend had persuaded me to try an alternative off-road race, the Trail du Maquis, about an hour's drive from Toulouse in the foothills of the Pyrenees which was going ahead inspite of the conditions and did not need entry in advance. Nevertheless there were some difficulties to be overcome including a race distance of 17miles, 3500ft of climbing, and an 0830 start with a temperature of -9C. Track training was not going to be of much benefit.
The photos at http://yvan11.over-blog.com/article-trail-du-maquis-2012-99171515.html illustrate well the conditions and terrain. Not for the first time in a mountain trail race I found I climbed faster than most around me but got overtaken by packs of kamikazes on the descents. After one group sped by me it occured to me that it was just a question of nerve and I tried to follow. This quickly resulted in a fall and a good mould for a 'bonhomme' left in the snow but fortunately no real damage.
A few km before the finish I managed to go off-course by following an arrow for the 'walk' rather than the 'run'. (Quite a lot of my progress was actually by walking by this stage). I did a good km up a steep hill before I eventually decided to retrace, only to find in the post-mortem that I could have rejoined the correct route very much quicker. I eventually finished in 3:27:21 (57th out 98 finishers, 2nd in V3 category) which makes it my longest race ever - a distinction previously held the longest marathon in the world - the Médoc.
This was the first edition of the Trail du Maquis and was coupled with an exhibition of 20th century history of the region (Spanish Civil War, French Resistance..) As seems to be the case so often in France there was much more to doing a race than running the course.
Race Results :