La Reunion – A Diary Entry

This is my diary entry of the 10-days in La Reunion. It was hard to really get all the feelings, emotions, colors, adventures and experiences down on paper, but here is my long winded attempt.

Monday 10th June:

AM: I arrived with fat fatigued legs from travelling all day, but it was nice to walk for an hour in the park, to breath the fresh air, get the blood flowing and eat Goyavier berries from the plants that all look like they are on growth hormones. As well as a great chance to catch up on a few yeas with Ricky (Lightfoot) and to get to know Jerome (Desire) – our amazing guide for the week and part of the organisation of Trail du Colorado (TdC).

Maybe this one was not quite ripe?!

Maybe this one was not quite ripe?!

PM: Met Lucian – the main organiser of the race – at the athletics track teaching kids to through a javelin. They were runners but he was giving them something else to do for the night. A big happy man, with an obvious amount of passion and drive for trail running and sport in La reunion.

A dedicated and passionate man!

A dedicated and passionate man!

Tuesday 11th June:

AM: 3:45hrs run: Ready to run some of the TdC course. From Dos d’Ane (Donkeys Back) we climbed up steep to the ridge to see the view of Mafate which gave me an idea of the vastness and of the island. The technical native bush reminded me a bit of New Zealand native bush but with a mix of Malaysia and Nepal. I ran slow and concentrated so not to trip on weak feeling ankles and also so I didn’t run into a massive spider. It established my want for the La Grand Raid La Reunion (DDF) in October.

View of Mafate behind

View of Mafate behind

Running on the ridge above Dos d'Ane

Running on the ridge above Dos d’Ane

PM: 30min run: The big blur of orange runners headed for the 1km² park. There must have been at least 50 off for a warm up before the plyometrics session on the track. A big mix of people, reasons, abilities all enjoying the summer evening training together.

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Wednesday 12th June:

AM: 3hrs run: From the top, there were only clouds. We set off down the vertical km to Roche Plate – Mafate. In awe, my love and drive to do DDF was confirmed. This! at 100km of 170km. I cannot even imagine where the body and mind will be at that point. Soon we were below the cloud and the unique rocks showed their beauty. The peace, colours and energy of Mafate was incredible.

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PM: 1:15hr run: True city trail style we met a keen group of runners for a run in a park that runs from the city and if you want to the top is the island. The training schedules here seem to work in vertical meters climbed, rather than time you take. We talked about different styles of running, training with no schedules, just feeling. Something they were not used to hearing. All of them seemed to have a high level of fitness, uphill strength and awesome downhill technique.

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Thursday 13th June:

AM: 1hr run: Feeling a bit tired from an already busy few days I enjoyed an easy run on the beach under the native pine trees. The beach had a coral reef keeping the waves and sharks out so a wonderful way to recover in the Indian Ocean afterwards with the brightly coloured coral and fishes.

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PM: Trail Running and Women Conference: Lead by the successful coach Eric Locoix with an inspiring video of the women of DDF, followed by a discussion of the following points:

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-          Do we have to compare men to women? When we stop comparing women to men we will find equity.

-          Have you (Anna) won out right?

-          Doesn’t matter that you are female or male you are on the same trail

-          Trail running is mixed genders – before trail running sports were always separate. No other sports are like this.

-          Talking about women in sports is new and important

-          Trail running is positive as it brings to light new topics in sport i.e. women, politics

-          Dangers of being a professional runner More races, more burden of injury, how far as a runner can you go for health?

-          Science doesn’t always tell you the truth – blood tests, heart rates. Sometimes it is more important to listen to and feel your own body.

-          Gynaecologist: Perineal – post birth women often start running too soon without specific muscle work. The organs can then drop, unsupported and create a lot of new issues.

-          When a woman has no regular periods she should train at a lower intensity and duration.

-          Women want to start training hard early, and it is up to coaches to tell the women to take easy for a few months. It is the coach job to explain and train women and men differently.

-          50% women runners are victim of incontinence. A lot of work needs to be done around those muscles to maintain.

-          Eric: was shocked with the percentage of anorexia in women. Women tend to train harder with male coaches than female coaches to show their ability. High standards/performance at all costs, where is the limit?

-          Cross training – all over body fitness for everyone. Good for tendon preservation.

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Friday 14th June

AM-PM: 3hrs run/walk: Weird and wonderful fruits and vegetables, new foods, smells, arts and crafts. I love markets. A time when you can really see how cultures work. Filled up with delicious market breakfast we drove for what seemed forever.

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The downfall to this island. If you want to get to the mountain trails from the coast, it is actually a 2hr drive on small winding roads. We finally arrived at Piton de las Fournaise. (The peak of the furnace). It really was like the moon. The cloud opened up and we gazed from the bellecombe lookout across to the craters hugeness. Speechless. Across the volcanic moraine we climbed, in and out of nothing but melted rock.

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All it took was a split second of looking up and I was down…heading straight for my knee, I attempted an army roll grating the skin off my arm, but thank goodness saving my legs. With the guys out of sight I set back off for the car, shivering and bleeding I didn’t want to get stuck on the moon. And ouch it hurt. That stuff is unforgiving. Straight to the beach for a salt bath to scrub the dust out if the cuts.

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Saturday 15th June:

AM-PM: 30mins run: Recovery day from the fall. My shoulder inside is hot and sore, the cuts are still stinging but I can run. And rest day for the race tomorrow. No better way than a Market visit and sleeping on the beach.

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Sunday 16th June:

Trail du Colorado Race

4:16hrs, 1st female, 39th Scratch

The start was ridiculously quick. I knew it would be. They have that reputation – as do Malaysians and Nepalese. I could see 5 women about 1minute ahead at only 2km into the race. I would run my own race. I wanted to enjoy it, experience it and finish pain free. Very quickly I had to excuse myself past the men who had gone off in such excitement and now on the first climb up were hurting with lactic acid build up in their legs. The track was narrow and slippery. I spotted some Goyavier berries that would come in handy later in the race. We climbed through the forest to what the locals called ‘the flat’ section. Ok, it was not hilly, but I also didn’t think it was flat. Technical, really narrow and with low trees to duck under. I kept my pace and finally at about 15km I spotted the leading ladies. One by one I shimmied past on the narrow trails. Except for the leader. The little Madagascan girl in bare feet. I wanted to see her run…barefoot across the mud and rough stones and tree routes.  The bottoms of her feet were like a cats paw. A big cushion, with tough skin and cracks, but amazingly not cuts or blood.

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We arrived into Dos D’Ane for the tough climb back up onto the ridge. But I knew the faster I got there the sooner I would be rewarded with the views of Mafate. And sure enough there is was. I had to shout and laugh as my body filled up with the energy of the trail, the sun, the supporters and the incredible mountains surrounding us. I was now comfortably in the lead but still had lots of other runners around to chase and share the adventure with. From the top of the hill I took one last glimpse of Mafate. A place I will hope to stay and then run through during the DDF in October this year. Then it was down hill to the finish. The rain came down and made the trail slippery and the air muggy. A few Goyavier berries energized my last 30mins catching the last final positions I could. The greeting to the finish was fun and welcoming. Dancers and families waiting and cheering. An incredible day sharing the trail with 800 other runners who found their reason and challenge for entering this wonderful event. 

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Monday 17th June:

AM: 3hr walk: a final attempt of Piton de Neiges before Ricky flew home. With not enough time and the rain settling in we turned back at 2500m alt. with 500m vertical to go. Still, a beautiful place to visit. Cilaos – they made amazing sparkling water. And also a place I will hopefully visit during the DDF.

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PM: It was so good to catch up with Ricky after such a long time. A week of giggles and awesome running. He had an awesome race after some frustrating years of injury so I am so glad he is back! He left, I slept.

Tuesday 18th June:

AM: 1hr run: to the lakes for a swim in the source. Sparkling clear unreal blue water directly from the mountain. And then of course a beach run, ice-cream and some shell hunting. A wonderful way to spend my last day in such an energising and inspiring island with wonderful people.

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PM: 24hrs: Travel home to Annecy

Thank you to everyone that was part of this new adventure to a wonderful new place.

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