Report by Graham Stead: Spurred on by a couple of decent road race performances recently, I decided to have a go at the annual snow race around the cross country skiing runs on top of the Hautacam, venue for one of this year’s Tour de France mountain stage finishes.
The plan was to do the race along with a new arrival in the Pyrenees, Mark Bollam, who is a seasoned fell runner from Mercia Fell Runners, however, following a number of glasses of wine at a party for Mark’s dad on Friday night, his wife Rachael and my wife Ann both somehow ended up being cajoled into entering.
In recent years the biggest problem with this race has been getting competitors to the start, and this year was no exception with snow chains being required for the last couple of miles up the hill.
Ann and I then got a shock when we congregated at the start line to find that we had been standing in the wrong queue and had inadvertently entered and been given race numbers for the 18k race and not the 10k.
Luckily we were able to quickly rectify this and avoid the potential complication of a marshal trying to send us round for a second lap.
For the most part the underfoot snow conditions were pretty good and suitable for fell shoes, however, the last mile or so went off piste taking us part way down the mountain through two foot deep snow.
All the way down your thoughts are that at some point you are going to have to climb back up the hill again but bizarrely the race suddenly finished at a point two-miles from the start, requiring a very tough walk back up the road or a hitch hike.
Mark had a very solid run to finish sixth overall with me and Rachael packing well in midfield having had a ding dong battle throughout, resolved only by my superior downhill kamikaze snow running/tumbling. Ann, having had little training also had a solid run finishing in the top half of the ladies field.
1st – Laurent Malinga 42:10
6th and 1st MVet1 – Mark Bollam Mercia Fell Runners 44:19
23rd and 1st lady Coline Meilham 51:47
47th & 2nd MVet2 Graham Stead Otley AC – 56:59
49th &1st LVet2 Rachael Bollam Mercia Fell Runners 57:33
76th and 1st LVet3 Ann Stead Otley AC 1:04:51
Sorry no photos but a short video of the 2009 race run in similar conditions.