After September's half marathon in Oslo, Hannah had been wanting to do a longer race than 21K, and I found this 23K race in Montanay, France, north of Lyon which happened to be on the Sunday at the beginning of her winter school break of one week, so we decided to turn it into a week-long mini-vacation of sports and practicing our French. We booked the race plus a week of staying in Airbnb homes with French families, plus one or two sports activities a day including a day-walk around Lyon and a Segway tour of Lyon's two river banks, a 12K hike up the mountains behind Beaumes-de-Venise, a 45K electric-mountain-bike back to Montagne Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence, a 9K run from Cassis to d'en Vau beach and back in the Calanques, and a 13K urban hike around the hills of Marseille. With the nightly conversation en français with our French Airbnb hosts, it turned out to be a packed week of French conversation and fun sports activities, starting with Hannah's longest race ever.
Sunday's race began at a round-about in the town of Montanay and for the first kilometer was like any other race along asphalt streets. At 1K, however, we entered onto a path which took us deeper and deeper into a forest and then down a hill through the forest. As we entered, we realized that the path was becoming muddier and muddier, and slipperier and slipperier which made the downhill portion almost impossible to run on without holding onto trees on the side of the path as you navigated the steep path down the mountain. When I finally reached the bottom, Hannah was nowhere to be seen, and so I trudged onward with the other runners around me navigating the least slippery spots of the path, usually the area where there was still some grass. Around 6K, I caught a glimpse of Hannah chugging along up a hill about a half kilometer ahead of me, and set off to catch her.
I caught up to her around 8K and we ran the rest of the race together conquering one slippery mud-hill after another. There was a long hill at 14K and 19K, and where it was not a slippery mud fest, we ran steadily through the country-side with quite beautiful rolling hills, fog and distant mountains.
As always, Hannah finished with a strong sprint, even at 23K and successfully finished her longest race ever. Given the difficulty of the course through constantly trying to keep your balance, it was at least a 25K-level course, I would say. The couple days after the race, it seemed as though many more of my leg muscles were worked-out and sore than after other races, kind of a HIIT-workout and race combined in one.
For March, we will probably try to find a flat 10K race for Hannah to try to get a sub-1-hour time again, and now that it is within two months of the Rotterdam Marathon, I'll be doing longer runs in the coming weeks, hopefully into the 30K-35K range.