The usual winter lurgy has descended on the Rolfe household with a vengeance. Last Sunday, two kids were on antibiotics and Mrs R and I were feeling a bit under the weather, but battling on. I had entered the Nice to Monaco Course Du Soleil as it was organised by some of the guys that organise the Cro (Cap D'Ail Macadam), and have in the past given them some help with their website, translation and so on. It also fitted in perfectly with my training - the plan was to run it and then cycle back from Monaco to the start, chucking the bike in the truck and driving home, negating waiting for a bus at any stage. On the basis that to miss a workout would be more painful than actually doing it, I went to the race. It would also be my first race of the year, as I had missed a couple more I had entered due to other things cropping up, and would be missing a couple more subsequently due to plans changing.
The usual pre race brekkie of porridge and tea was accompanied with a headache, and as a result of that and rushing out the door, I managed to forget everything including hat, gloves, ipod, and extra layers. To be honest I was not exactly banking on the temperature being just above freezing, either.
Having sheltered from the cold with the engine running and heater turned up full blast in the truck, I made my way to the start just before the start of the race, and where the sun was peeking it's head above Mont Boron it was warming the air at a rate of knots. Above the din of the other runners chatting excitedly like a flock of starlings, I could just make out the stirring music that is played at the start of the UTMB. Moved and excited, I forgot the headache and tried to remember to start my Garmin when I crossed the start line.
Whilst I was dodging the other runners (who goes to the front and then walks the first km of a half marathon?), I kept an eye on my heart rate, which was a lot higher than I would have expected at that point in the race. Reigning everything in, I brought it back to a level I thought I could maintain for the rest of the race, and promised myself I would keep it there or thereabouts.
The first climb up Mont Boron was as expected - lots of runners overtaking me but puffing and panting as they did so. Then the long 2km flat straight into the sun before bearing left down into Villefranche. I had to remind myself to push down the hill, but was getting into my stride as we left the main road into the narrow streets of Villefranche itself. The only clear bit of street was the gutter as I thundered past loads of people on the steep downhill. The only person to overtake me was a skinny guy in a blue t shirt with an "ultra beard", in ginger. The road flattened out as we skirted the port and beach at sea level, and I grabbed a half cup of water at the first ravitellement.
The beach of Villefranche gave way to a narrow staircase up to Cap Ferrat, which was expected and a nice breather for a few seconds as we queued for our turns to climb the short flight of stairs. At the top I tried to use the undulations of Cap Ferrat to my advantage, slowing uphill and speeding downhill.
We left Cap Ferrat for Beaulieu, and as I joined the main road a car shot past us, clearly annoyed at the hold up, and drove right through the peloton of runners to try and park. Fortunately noone was hurt but he was surrounded by irate runners. As I caught this up someone undertook me and then stopped in my path, causing me to run into him at full speed and we both struggled to stay upright. It took a few seconds to register who it was amongst all his swearing and gesticulating, but I recognised Ginger Ultra Beard. For some imagined slight he had pace checked me and bitten off more than he could chew. I ignored him as best I could and continued running, trying to put as much distance between us as possible.
From then on I used the old Mad Dog trick - fishing. Casting an imaginary fly into the back of someone's shirt and then rolling the imaginary reel back until I overtook that particular runner, before repeating the process. This is a great mental game as it keeps me focussed on pace without actually focussing on pace.
I lost a lot of places heading up the hill to Cap D'Ail but was able to make them back and more as I headed down the hill into Monaco. I was a little surprised and annoyed to see Ginger Ultra Beard overtake me on the downhill. We were neck and neck on the flat before heading into the Fontvielle tunnel before he took the lead by a few metres. I let him have his head as we reached the Stade - traditionally the finish of the half marathon, but there was some football match on so the course had been extended by an extra half km or so.
We crossed the border from Monaco back into France, and although I couldn't see the finish I thought it would be where they put the finish for the Tour Pedestre, so I put the hammer down as much as I could, overtaking Ginger about 100m before the line and holding him off to the finish.
I had covered the almost 22km in 1hr 44, 386/1376. My best time for the proper half was 1hr 33, so a long way from that, but I don't feel I left anything out there, I just need to work on some speed work. I grabbed a Coke and jog/walked back to the apartment before changing into my cycling stuff, emptying the dishwasher and putting on a load of washing, before mounting the trusty Bianchi and cycling back to Nice.
It had been quite a windy run which was to be expected, but it was also windy on the bike. I couldn't believe I had gone both ways into a headwind. That didn't make any sense at all. As I headed back up the hill in Cap D'Ail, I overtook a few cyclists, but was overtaken by a club ride of 3, working together as a team, taking it in turns on the front. One guy was clearly much better than the other 2, with a bike in the same colours as his kit - a KTM believe it or not, in black and orange. The guys were from St Laurent du Var, and looking strong.
Just before the tunnel at the top of the hill, the team leader was waiting for their third member, the weakest link, who they had dropped off the back. I caught them as he rejoined and we headed down the hill as a four. I was struggling to keep up until the flat at Eze when I managed to overtake them all and headed on my own.
The two top guys overtook me again on the way up the hill to Villefranche, but when I got to the bottom of the hill KTM guy was waiting and asked me if I'd seen their third wheel. He was looking a little exasperated, but unfortunately I could not help as I had not seen him at all. I carried on to Nice, up the final hill, flat, downhill and hobbled off the bike for a 48 minute 21km bike ride. Not unhappy with that performance, I had a protein bar and headed home for a
Ben Rolfe, married, father of 3 gorgeous girls, English, living in the South of France, working in Finance
Ramblings of a running nature
I will be posting on an ad hoc basis my thoughts, adventures and challenges on here. I welcome anybody's thoughts and constructive criticisms, but generally I am not interested in contacts requiring me to give over my passport and bank account details in order to transfer €10 million to my account.