Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marathon du Medoc - September 7, 2013

Medoc Spirit
"Spoilsports, thugs and record seekers are not invited!"

This is part of the official Marathon du Medoc spirit, which consists of "health, sport, conviviality and fun." And wine.  Twenty tests oeno-sportifs (degustations de grands crus), better known in English as wine tasting stops. As well as oysters, ham, cheese, sandwiches, beef, oysters on the half shell, and ice cream.  And the usual runners food of cookies, crackers, oranges and the like at roughly 20 aid stations. Water and cola were also available at numerous locations as well.

Did I mention costumes and floats?  About 90 percent of the runners wore some sort of costume, most following the 2013 theme of Science Fiction, although there were also pirates, smurfs, French bakers, and numerous others.  Put 8500 fun-seeking runners on the roads of Medoc, tell them to run from chateau to chateau for 42 kilometers and you have a day-long moving party.

This is a story better told with pictures so I'll keep the narrative fairly short and follow it with plenty of pictures.

The Narrative
Rebecca, An and I took the bus from the center of Bordeaux to Pauillac for the start of the race.  An when off to pick up his rental bicycle so that he could intercept us at various places along the course.  The morning was a bit cool and overcast, but except for a stray drop or two, we had no rain.  Twenty miles south in Bordeaux it rained most of the day.

As I noted about 90 percent of the runners wore costumes, with the majority inspired by the 2013 "Science Fiction" theme.  Rebecca and I went with matching steam punk technical shirts, figuring it was the best combination of comfortable running gear while adhering to the theme. There were plenty of Princess Leias, both male and female, a full costumed Chewbacca, lots of blue Avatars, Martians, Supermen, space men and aliens.  There were also costumes that didn't follow the theme including French bakers, pirates, cave men, construction workers and others that were hard to identify.

There were also floats pushed the entire way.  I recall seeing a steamroller, pirate ship, hospital bed, UFO, sofa and winged wine barrel.  The steamroller float was sponsored by a local construction company, and its crew wore orange costumes and hard hats, which they gave away to children along the way.

The race takes place just a few weeks before the grape harvest and the vines are heavy with fruit.  Rebecca and I sampled some grapes (they were from a bunch that were on the ground, so we didn't feel like we were abusing the chateau's hospitality) and they were sweet.  The scenery was wonderful, with about 60 spectacular chateaus on the course, non-stop acres of vineyards, gently rolling country roads, about a dozen villages and occasional views of the Gironde River.

We met folks from all over during the run. There was a Canadian couple from Vancouver who had nothing good to say about the Quebecois.  A Scottish woman who immediately recognized our steampunk shirts and pointed out her own steampunk goggles perched on top of her hat with a picture of her brother and his two pet chickens. The French pirates who responded positively to my "Arr, maties!" call. (Apparently speaking pirate is a universal language.)   The peculiarly costumed French runners in yellow suits with what appeared to be red rooster combs on their head, but when asked about their chicken costumes, they informed us that they were "Super Shoe" (that's what it sounded like), from some French sci-fi cartoon TV show or movies of the 1980s.

The course consisted of roughly two large loops from Pauillac, the first going south, then returning to pass through parts of the town around KM 22 before heading to the north.  This allowed those who wanted to drop out at the halfway point the chance to do so.  Given that there were 7905 finishers out of 8500 entrants, not too many seemed to want the miss the second half of the course.

An met us at various random places on the course, depending on what back roads he could use to get from place to place. Rebecca would share her wine with him and as the band at Chateau Pichon-Longueville struck up a Cajun tune, the two of them broke out dancing.  There is video, but Rebecca has expressly prohibited me from posting it.

We did dial back the wine tasting during the second half.  The chateaus did not skimp on the pours and unless one had done some serious "drinking while running" training, it would have been a challenge.  We met a woman on the flight over who did practice that technique, however. At most chateaus we used a taste and dump strategy, but even with that, there were a few later in the course that we simply did not sample.  I did not however, "sip and spit" at Chateau Lafite Rothschild, one of the five premier grands crus of Bordeaux. That was all sip.

With one exception the wines were reds; not surprising given that we were in Medoc.  That exception was a white served at KM 38 with the raw oysters.  The Arcachon Basin, about 30 miles to the west of Bordeaux is noted for its oysters.  They were saltier than U.S. oysters, but that made them perfect for runners. Washed down with the white, and served on the bank of the Gironde River, they were a perfect treat.

The slogan of Marathon du Medoc is "Le marathon le plus long du monde" (the longest marathon in the world) and that was our approach to it.  I wore a 6:20 pace band, determined to spend as much time as possible on the course but still finish under 6:30, the official cutoff.  We succeeded, finishing in 6:13 gun time (6:08:54 chip time, 5718 of 7905). My time was over an hour slower than any previous marathon and nearly an hour and a half slower than my last marathon. Medoc my be my longest but it certainly is the best.

At the finish we received a finishers' medal, a backpack, a cup on a lanyard, and a bottle of 2002 Chateau La Tour De Mons cru bourgeois Margaux in a wooden box commemorating the 29th Marathon du Medoc.   Rebecca also received a rose.  On the box is the Medoc tipsy runner logo with him saying, "Le Medoc je l'ai fait!" (I finished Medoc!).  Yup, I did.

A non-runner's blog with plenty of good pictures of runners and floats is here.

Pictures are Worth Lots of Words

Supermen line up for express relief prior to the start.

Aerial acrobats entertain at the start.

And we are off! Rebecca wears our
steampunk shirt on the right.

A line of runners thru the vineyard toward Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste at KM 2.

The band at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste strikes a tropical theme.

A view from the the road, maybe around KM 3.

Examining the wine at Chateau Larose Trintaudon at KM 6. . . .

. . .  and the first taste of the day!

Rebecca raises a glass
at Chateau Belgrave at KM 8  . . .
. . . or is it Chateau Lagrange at KM 9?

Another few KM and another chateau to visit.

The winged barrel rolls thru Beychevelle.

Approaching Chateau Branaire-Ducru at KM 13.

The sofa float leaving Chateau Branaire-Ducru.

Time for another wine tasting
at Chateau Beychevelle at KM 13.
Yes, another excellent Bordeaux!
Rebecca (2nd from left) runs on with varied costumed participants someplace around KM 17.
Rebecca and I toast each other
at Chateau Pichon-Longueville at KM 17.
A memorial to the soldiers of the village of
Saint-Julien Beychevelle killed in WW I.

An (2nd from right) celebrates with "Arthur Dents" from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
at Chateau Pichon-Longueville.

Rebecca raises a glass at Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande at KM 18. . . 

. . . and I do likewise.

Not every chateau served wine.  Only water here at Chateau Lynch Bages at KM 20.

Runners pass another war memorial after leaving Chateau Pontet Canet near KM 24.

A classic car display at Chateau Lafite Rothschild at KM 26.

Runners take a dip in the pond at Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

Approaching Chateau Cos Labory at KM 27.

In the background EMTs attend to someone down on the ground at Chateau Cos Labory.

Rebecca and I enjoy sandwiches at Chateau Pomys (?) at KM 31- ham and cheese for me; cheese for Rebecca.

Ice cream at KM 42
Our final snack on the course.

Swag: shirt, backpack, cup on a lanyard, medal, wine tasting cup, boxed bottle of wine.