I pushed the pace a little bit more to Sospel using gravity - a nice descent, joining the Cro trail about half way down the hill. I arrived in Sospel in time to hear the church bells ringing in midnight in stereo - there are 2 churches. There is a water fountain by the river so I took the opportunity to fill my bladder with water, added a little bit of the isotonic powder, had a handful of trail mix and put on another layer of clothing from my pack, as the air was humid and starting to chill.
I jogged out of Sospel and took the road up to the Col de Brouis. This was a long slog up the switch backs, and I stuck mostly to the road. Not too far up the hill, I could hear lots of rustling in the undergrowth, and heard the tell tale grunts of wild boar. I crossed the road, and more or less immediately came face to face with another boar. After the initial feelings of sheer terror had diminished, and he was just staying still and staring at me, I took a photo although it did not come out too well. He was about 10m from me, and the flash scared him off. I took another path not far from the top of the Col, and saw a pair of eyes staring back at me. I thought they belonged to a cat, but the animal did not seem that scared, more curious. As I got to within 2m of the animal it slowly walked right past me - I am not sure what it was, perhaps some sort of mink? If you have not been up Col De Brouis, it is very isolated and there is no habitation at all apart from a tiny auberge/restaurant at the very top. Unfortunately I reached it after last orders at 2.15am and therefore no opportunity to take on fluids. My feet were starting to get a few hotspots, due to a thinner sock choice, a cold night and my feet were rubbing in the shoes. I couldn't do much about it though, and just cracked on. Just over the Col, I saw a pair of eyes staring back at me from the woods. They were about 150m away, and were wider apart than the cats/badgers/mink I had seen. My headlamp just about outlined the shape of a large animal, at least waist height if not more, and the eyes were forward facing, not on the side of a head like deer or cows. I thought it was a dog but dogs always bark. This just stared....I speeded up and was a little perturbed to seen another pair of eyes on the other side of the road, exactly the same. Whatever they were I did not hang around to find out.
I arrived in Tende not long after dawn, and called Elio - one of the Cro organisers - the plan was to have him come from Limone, and then drive behind me in the tunnel whilst I ran. He told me the plan had changed, the police had said it was no longer possible and therefore he was going to come and pick me up to drive me through the tunnel - he thought that the Col de Tende would be too difficult due to the snow, but I wanted to try for myself though, so he did not come. I jog / walked up to the tunnel, meeting Martin for a change of socks and an apple en route. He also charged my telephone up (I had run out of battery and spare at 75km on Runkeeper, pre Tende - sorry about that!). The police confirmed that I was not allowed through the tunnel on foot, and also stated that the Col was impassable due to snow. As the kids' book says, if you can't go over it, you can't go round, you can't go under it, you have to go through it. I therefore hitched a lift for the 3.2km long tunnel with Martin, getting dropped off the other side for the last 7.6km into Limone. About 4km before Limone, Sonia and Luca from the Cro organisation found me and delivered tea and digestives - Italian breakfast! Disappearing onto a mountain bike trail and what I thought was a short cut, I got totally lost and 8km later was behind some railway barrier in a field. I pressed the button to alert the signal man and after what seemed an interminable wait a train rumbled through and the barriers lifted. I managed to find the road and was clapped into Limone by Paola, Sonia and Luca. I think, although am not 100% sure, I had covered 105km on foot (plus 3.2km by car). It was 10.20am (14hrs 20 mins)
The guys from the Cro were extremely kind as I stood in the fountain in the main square to chill my feet and legs, delivering me a panini and cappucino. I slept a bit, and then had an amazing 5 course meal at Paolas house with the others for the properly authentic Italian meal. I did not contribute too much to the conversation other than the odd "Multo Bene"! When I got back I popped the three blisters I could see, but I couldn't do much with the really deep ones.
Friday was spent chilling, dozing, registering for the Cro, reloading my back pack with supplies, and then the pasta party and briefing. Pietro, after introducing the pros and favourites for the races, very kindly introduced me at the briefing to the other participants and mentioned I had run to Limone the day before and for the cause itself, Diabetes UK, to help further raise the profile of this terrific charity. Bed at 9pm with the alarm set for 2am.