So in the context of a long physically hard week what was so ‘trying’ about Friday, it could be only one thing, the dreaded ‘Covid’.
The previous day I had booked my Covid test for 11:00 am on Friday at a pharmacy in Bourg St. Martin. Unlike the Cyclists who had committed to the trip earlier than me & had thus had time to procure their own flow test kits in the U.K. I knew that a local pharmacy test was my only option. These tests if negative would allow us to get back into the U.K., if positive we really didn’t know what would happen.
Before breakfast Dev & Ian had put on ‘Good Morning Britain’ & the news was that an imminent change to the testing rules was to be announced, ‘would we need the test, could I avoid walking into the Pharmacy (they only had my name after all) running the risk of a positive test & ending up in Bourg’s version of the Bastille or whatever fate that would give?’ The announcement came far too late for any change of plans so I drove to Bourg, took a deep breath (unlike the Cyclists, I felt alone in my potential fate because I was walking head first into the French ‘system’), got out the car & walked in (have I mentioned my vocal chords had been playing up for 2 weeks, thought not). The test was quick & simple, the lady pharmacist pleasant but raised both eyebrows when I said this was my first ever test before she informed me to come back in 30 minutes for the result. Time to fill up with Diesel for the hoped for return journey & to stock up on Pear juice & Wine from the Supermarket. Back at the Pharmacy, negative, the tension drained away, back at the car a phone call to Angel, back at the Chalet a new stress arrived.
A the start of our week Iain had added me (or rather my phone/e-mail) to his Garmin, this meant I could follow their routes if I wanted to. What I didn’t realise until I looked at my phone a little after midday was that if he was involved in an accident it could send me a signal. My Inbox read ‘Iain Lea has been involved in an Incident you should try to contact him’, oh shit!!
I tried to phone Iain, answer phone, I tried to phone Andy, answer phone, I What’s Appd Andy, no reply, I waited. My run had to be delayed, I needed to be by my car in case they needed me. I looked at Iain’s Garmin route it seemed to say they had been cycling long after the 9 minute incident warning after the start of their route so this gave me some reassurance. I read & tried to stay calm, after more than an hour my phone pinged, it was Andy on What’s App saying all was O.K. but later I would learn that that wasn’t the best of it. Long before they got my What’s App message they had seen that I had been trying to call them but they couldn’t access their messages so didn’t know why I was trying to phone them so they automatically presumed only one thing ‘he’s tested positive & so we will too!’ Rough justice for Iain’s Garmin thinking a rough laydown of his bike whilst he figured out which direction to go (no doubt on his phone mapping app) was an incident. Technology 1 Iain Lea 0.
The trying day didn’t end there though that evening it would be the Cyclists turn to test themselves.
When I returned from my run I saw that John had left us a crate of vegetables from his allotment, what a lovely gesture. I discussed our options with Andy & agreed that whilst they did their Covid test I would cobble a recipe out of my grey matter using John’s veg & any suitable leftovers in the fridge, basically my first vegetarian cooking ever. You could cut the Cyclists anxiety in half with even our blunted knife as they huddled around the table reading their instructions. As I prepped & cooked away they tested & settled into a 15 minute wait to see if they were negative or positive, the seconds ticked slowly by, after 5 minutes or so I proffered look guys in Justina’s case it came up positive by now so think positively that you are negative (well not my exact words but you get my pep talk drift). Finally it was good news all round until Andy’s negative test got lost in an IT world of crap for a while, indeed it wasn’t until the following morning that their negative results were properly available on their ‘smart’ phones, what a world we are making for ourselves.
Anyway things ended well & my makeshift veggie meal was toasted with some very well deserved & relaxing wine, phew!
Saturday dawned bright & sunny with a good forecast so for my 7th & final day of running we came up with the plan that the Cyclists would descend to the valley, cycle down to Aime-la-Plagne & then do the Tour de France climb up to Aime la Plagne 2,000 (as in height in metres). In the meantime I would go up to Les Bois & then traverse round the hillside to get onto their climb & we’d meet at any Cafe between Plagne 1,800 & 2,000 that we’d come across, what could go wrong? Well not a lot really except that there were no Cafes open & some didn’t listen to plan A. Before setting off & with the Cyclists clearly tiring of Iain’s version of Porridge Andy had cooked us a good portion of Scrambled Eggs whilst I fried of the last of the Mushrooms. Ian & Dev took note & Andy & I were to give them the same the next day, even Iain seem to relish the change of menu.
After the initial steep climb to Les Bois my traverse route was a gem simply lovely & runnable getting better still as it narrowed into a single track descent to the Cyclists road at about 1,650 metres. Ahead of me lay a 5 mile tarmac climb slightly more gentle than my nemesis from earlier in the week but there was no way I was running it all so mixed it up with a walk here & a trot there. About a third of the way up I looked down at an earlier switch back & saw Iain coming up in his latest fashion of a brighter shade of orange, it was good to know that I’d got onto the climb ahead of them so thoughts naturally turned to ‘make sure you are running when he comes past’ mode. Which indeed I was as he gave me a very strange & loud ‘manly’ grunt as he came past me just after Plagne 1,800. We would rendezvous at Plagne 2,000 some time later where we had a very long wait for the others who had failed to stick to Plan A & explored various other roads nearby.
Soon I was off back down looking for a higher level traverse back to avoid any unnecessary climbing, once again map in hand phone firmly in my bag. Thankfully the cyclists didn’t follow my advice of a short cut as the forest track was no place for their road bikes but it was a lovely route for the La Sportiva’s & their running owner. Things got better still after les Frasses (I’d passed through here earlier in he day) when a short bit of tarmac led to a delightful single track descent passing a waterfall, wild flowers & of course those Alpine views. This in turn led to another short section of tarmac before I re-acquainted myself with my single track return to Les Coches of day one, this time running the incline despite there being no one to show off to. This final run, at 3 Hours 18 minutes & a little under 26K was the best of the week, the icing on the cake, a big gain with absolutely no pain (from a leg point of view at least).
That evening we rounded it off with a return visit to the fabulous restaurant in Landry & as I drove & was in charge of the CD’s I introduced those with open minds to Powderfinger whilst Iain sulked on his Germanic phobia, shocking!
Sunday I drove 600 plus miles up to Boulogne for an overnight stop it was reasonably uneventful except for a navigation error to Bourg en Brasse on my part which coincided with some very heavy rain & a touch of aqua-planing. Apart from that the most memorable thing was filling up in North France (no media led histrionics about fuel shortages over there) when a British owned Ferrari parked up with it’s specialised number plate of ‘YIPPIE’, come on I ask you…….
Managed to get on to an earlier train than planned the next day, mostly a good drive but a stop at the M6 Toll Service station reminded me of what I hadn’t missed, well that & the 4 sets of roadworks on the A5. By 3:00ish I was back at the Café in my Angels arms, time un-like my running had flown.
In all I had run 107 miles in 7 days & enjoyed the relaxing company of Iain, Andy, Ian & Dev, thank you all.
Of course the runners among you will know that increasing mileage from 10 miles in 3 weeks to over a hundred in one week is not quite what the text books & experts recommend but rules are there to be broken aren’t they? & I do have a history of occasionally being stupid, however having just read Dean Karnazes excellent latest book ‘A Runners High’ (on top of Damian Hall’s & Lowri Morgan’s recent books) I am clearly far from being alone.
Since then I ran four days back to back from Thursday to Sunday including a 10K at sub 3:20 marathon pace & a 2 minute pb for an 8K route from the Café. Am I on course for sub 3:20 on Sunday, probably not but if you don’t try you don’t get & I have belated tried a bit at least.
As ever thank you Angel for taking a wise decision for me, or was it for you??xxx