On Sunday 01/31, I pinned a bib on my running shirt for the first time of the year. It's been a while. You should not bet on me to get motivated for a race in January. But this race was a bit special. It was a relay race and I did it with members of my family. Go, team "RAPOG on the go"!
I always heard about the "Ronde Givrée". I was born in Castres, the place it takes place. I spent my whole childhood in a tiny village 10 miles away. My parents still live there. My two grandmothers are from Castres. I couldn't not know about this race. In my mind, it was a really difficult race, because, first, it's not for nothing it's called "Ronde Givrée" (literally: frosted tour). It's in the heart of winter. You know how much I love the cold. It's always been the case. Also, I always pictured it on the roads and trails up above town. It's quite hilly there.
One of my uncles was running when I was little. He had run this race multiple times. He's been back to running for a few years now. When I came back to France, he reminded me about the Ronde Givrée and asked if the playboy and I would be interested in creating a team. Running, I'm fine with that. With elevation, I'm still in. On the 31st of January... bbrrrr. But, still, it was a nice opportunity. I could forget about the cold. But, first thing first, I had to get a bit more information about this race, because, actually, I didn't know a lot about it.
Website: La Ronde Givrée Auchan
Let me explain you. The "Ronde Givrée" is a relay race with 4-person teams. It takes place in Castres at the exposition center. Each leg starts and finishes at this place. The relays are done, inside, in a gymnasium, through a tap in the hand of the next runner. The race ends with a loop the whole team runs together, at the end of the 4th (and last) leg.
As for the legs, I think it's great because everyone can find a suitable one:
- from a 10K to a 18K
- 100% road, road/trails, trails
- some elevation or not
Once I got all the information, I was convinced. Same for the playboy. Still, we were missing a runner. My sister's boyfriend (who, just like my sister, ran his first race, a 10K, in October) was not totally against the idea but only if he could run the easiest leg: a 10K on the road with no elevation. SOLD! We had our runner #2.
[The day before the race, team "RAPOG on the go" almost complete: the playboy - you know this one - my uncle (and, YES, it's still Christmas at my parents'... the bet is on: When will the Christmas tree disappear?)]
Team "RAPOG on the go" was born. We only had to decide who will run which leg for the 3 remaining ones. Not too hard. The playboy and I were ok, from the start, to run the most difficult legs. My uncle took the first leg, originally a 15K with not so much elevation. I would have liked running the longest leg but it was the one on trails. So I left it to the playboy (trail runner at heart). It meant: playboy = runner #4. I ended up on the 3rd leg, a 15K, on the road, but with elevation.
Before the race
My family living so close to the event, I had tried my best to motivate them. I was waiting for a super excited supporters quad, nothing less! The evening before the race, my mum as the team leader and my dad as the artistic leader, our supporters made signs for us.
Even my grandmother had to take part into our race. She lives really close to the place of the event, so her place became our HQ. Sunday morning, at 8am, our team met there for breakfast. (FYI: The race started at 9am. I know it sounds super late compared to running events in the USA. It's surprising for us too, now! But it's the way it works in France.)
On the Saturday, the weather had been perfect. On Sunday, the sky was dark, drizzle, rain, wind. BUT not to cold. At least, we had that.
At 8.30am, my uncle, runner #1, went for a warm up. 15 minutes later, we came to meet him, with one of our signs. I can tell you we didn't go unnoticed. There is no supporter with signs on French running events. At least half of the runners waiting to start noticed us, but not our runner. We finally found him and wished him good luck. Then it was 9am and GO TIME!
16km / D+ 156m [9.9 miles / 512 ft]
The first leg was supposed to be a 15K. But they changed its route a few weeks before the race and it became a 16K.
I have to tell you, my uncle is a funny person. He's always making jokes and not talking seriously. But, for once, I had never seen him so focused. This race mattered to him and he intended to run it the best he could. That's what he did.
He had the opportunity to run his leg prior to the race. He was planning on running it in 01:30. So, we came back to my grandma's to stay warm. Our 2nd runner went for a warm up jog and it was time to go back to the event place for the first relay.
We left Dorian (runner #2), a bit nervous, in the relay zone and the rest of our whole team "RAPOG on the go" (including our supporters: my sister, my mum and my dad) gathered around the barriers to cheer our first runner for his last meters and our second runner on his first ones.
My uncle ran the first leg in 01:27:39, better than what he expected. Well done! Runner #2 was up. Time for leg 2!
10.3km [6.4 miles]
Dorian was on for a 10K, on the road. It turned out to also include a small part on trails.
Honestly, I think he said yes to run this race to please us and he would have probably done without it. He is an occasional runner and he didn't really train for the race. We were expecting him around 1 hour. As I was the runner after him, I did not resist putting the pressure on before he left: "I'm waiting for you in 45 minutes. Not more!" I'm a bad person. I know. (I was joking, of course!)
Well, it was no time for jokes anymore after he left. Next up, it was me. Back to our HQ, bib pinning, uphills/downhills road map of the route in the inside of my wrist, warm up. I knew my leg started with 5K of uphill. I wanted my legs to be ready for it.
45 minutes after Dorian left, I entered the relay zone. He may have followed what I had told him! Lots of runners in the waiting zone. A screen displaying a live video of the runners coming in to spot our runner. I had an advantage to spot him: our supporters. They didn't do it on purpose, but they were placed, with their signs, right in the camera's range.
Even before Dorian entered the camera's range, I saw the signs moving up and down. It was my turn.
I went to the front and saw him finishing strong. Tap in the hand. GGGOOO!!!
Dorian ran his leg in 57:37. He was happy with it and we were too.
15.1km / D+ 271m [9.3 miles / 889 ft]
I burst out of the gymnasium, acted crazy for our supporters, and then I focused. I was clearly here just for fun. With my uncle, we had driven my leg and I knew it was not a regular 15K on the road. Yes, it was on roads, but the elevation made it close to a trail race. Hills, turns. I like that, but I also know you have to handle it properly.
I started easy, happy to be here, racing, even if it was raining. From the start, I passed people. On a relay-race, you obviously start whenever the previous runner arrives and not with all the runners of your leg. So levels are spread out. (It reminded me of the triathlon.) Anyway, I was clearly surrounded by people who were slower than me.
I was expecting to start with uphill running non stop for 5K. Actually, there was also a bit of downhill. What's great with a race which is not my A goal is that I don't overthink it. I made sure to manage the whole leg, but I didn't stop myself from running fast if I felt like it (downhill or uphill).
Some runners looked at me with a weird expression. I'm not sure if it was more like "she's stupid to run so fast so early" or more "why did she start behind me?".
After the first 5K, it was downhill! I let my legs loosen up. Turns, backroads. I like that. At mile 4.3, there was a bump in the road: a short but sharp hill to get to a main road. I knew it. I gained momentum and went for it. I passed a man who told me: "You're not good for man pride!". It made me laugh and I was happy he was joking about it. Because, let me tell you, not all the men I passed were so kind. LOTS of them have pride and don't use it properly. Guys, WHY do you think you can run at my pace EXACTLY when I pass you, even if you were clearly not running at this pace before you heard or saw me?
After another 1-1.5 mile downhill, we turned left to a backroad and to the major difficulty of the leg: a hill from mile 5.4 to mile 6.5 with a sharp portion (around 0.2 mile) at the start.
I made sure to gain momentum, to roll like a marble. It worths the shot. But, like a marble, there's one point where you almost roll backwards! Some runners didn't even try to run and just walked. Everyone has his way to deal with it. For me, if I can run, I run. If I walk, I feel like my running mojo is lost.
After the sharp start, it was still uphill but it almost felt easy in comparison. I reached an almost flat stretch before a turn and the last uphill portion, where I passed 2 men. I heard: "See, this girl? She is running way too fast. She won't make it to the finish line."
It bugged me so much!! Buddy, how can you know I'm running too fast? Do we know each other? We didn't even start together. So, stop playing the running expert. It's not because I'm running faster than you that I don't know what I'm doing.
And with that, add a clever guy who decided to show off and stay with me when I passed him on the last uphill section. I knew it was the last one, so I made him pay for all the others. Usually, I don't care. I run as I want, at the pace I feel I can run. But, this time, I intentionally sped up. He didn't stick for long.
Once at the top of the hill, I caught my breath. My little heart had jumped into my chest with this silliness! From now on, I knew it was in the pocket as it was only downhill and pretty much flat to the end.
I can't really remember when and how (I can't do basic mental arithmetic while running) I realized I was early on the time I had given my team for the next relay. Brief moment of panic: "What if there's no one when I arrive?". I calmed down thinking the playboy would certainly get ready early, anyway.
For the last miles, I just ran enjoying myself. I was happy to be racing again. I had loved my leg full of everything I like.
When I spotted the gymnasium, I hoped my team would be there. Once I reached the barriers before the last meters, I saw the signs. They were here! Last stretch, I started sprinting. There was a guy just in front of me and a little turn. He blocked my way. I think it's not fairplay AT ALL. Everyone runs as fast as possible at the end and tries avoiding being passed. But you do it fairly. So, Sir with bib 162, running for Albi Triathlon, SHAME ON YOU.
I managed to pass him from the other side. I caught eyes with the playboy, and, BAM, tap in the hand. Time for him to play. I was done.
01:06:47, for 15.1 km (9.3 miles)
18km / D+ 314m [11.2 miles / 1030 ft]
At the start of the event, the rain was just a light rain, nothing too bad. But as the hours passed, it got stronger and the wind had picked up. So, the playboy started his run with rain and wind. For a leg on trails. You see where it goes, right? Mud, mud, mud...
Full disclosure, we don't know anything about French trail races. You get it it's not in California we learned how to run on muddy trails. And even if it rains, around Montpellier (the place we are living now), the trails are rocky so it's not too slippery. It means our trail running shoes from California have more or less still been doing their job, here.
Well... until this point...
While the playboy was playing around (or not actually) in the mud, I went to meet my team. I had loved my leg. I've had fun from start to finish. Perfect.
With our signs, people were looking at us. A journalist from a local newspaper, Le Journal d'Ici, who was covering the event, asked for a photo. Of course! He asked me about the name of the team so I spoke about this blog. He told me he would have a look at it. I can tell you he did as we were on the newspaper with a photo of us and a little text about my blog. So, thank you for that!
Well, it was nice to feel like a superstar for a bit but we were still in the race with our last runner still running. We came back to my grandma's. Our supporters were freezing and starving. It was hard for them at this point.
We went back to the gymnasium to be in the relay zone after 1h15 of running for the playboy. I remind you the last part of the race was a loop with the 4 runners. It was not funny to undress again, to go running in the cold and the rain!
The playboy predicted a time around 01:30. We were scanning the live stream on the screen. After his predicted time, still no playboy. Something didn't go as planned. I thought about his ankle which was painful for a few days.
Eventually, my playboy appeared on the screen (01:37:58 for his leg). He had a nice running form, but I immediately noticed his blasé look.
We joined him for the last loop. He went fast ahead. He was eager to be done! I asked him to slow down to be sure we were all together. I asked about his ankle. He said it was fine. I noticed he was pale and his legs were full of mud. The playboy is not a great talker, so I didn't manage to get anything more.
It was fun to finish together, as a team. We crossed the finish line, holding hands. Well done team "RAPOG on the go"!
We ran for 05:13:27 to complete 37.3 miles.
After the race
After crossing the finish line, we didn't get more from the playboy as he went straight to get food. As the last runner, the breakfast had been a bit too early. He had running fuel on him but he didn't think about eating before feeling low in energy.
All in all, his big issue has been the mud. He didn't have the right shoes for that and could not run on the downhill portions. He managed to run uphill, but, downhill, he was forced to walk or he would have slipped and fallen. It was really frustrating for him.
Still, I speak for all my team (and even our great supporters), we fully enjoyed this race. Running for a team and as a team is fun. The legs are different from each other so that each runner can find one he likes. The event is well managed. On the course, the volunteers are there to show the route, with enthusiasm and a smile (even if they are there, not moving, with rain and cold). The place of the event is perfect as you can wait inside and stay warm.
As I was born in Castres, I had to give the "Ronde Givrée" a try! Happy I did it with such a team. Congrats to all of them.
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