Life at Les Stables

I’m now two weeks into my French adventure, training here at Les Stables in the Dordogne, France.  The first two weeks have been varied in terms of what I’ve been doing, but the one constant has been the weather, or rather the rain.  The rainfall has been relentless and I honestly can’t remember a two week period with so much rain, day in and day out.  Although unseasonal, it’s getting rather monotonous. 

The first group of guests were scheduled to arrive on Wednesday 19th April, all 20 of whom are from Newcastle Tri Club, UK.  This meant that my first week here was spent helping with the final preparations ahead of the first arrivals.  This covered anything from moving furniture, to weeding, cleaning 20 bikes and everything in between.  I wasn’t working all day by any means; I still had time to fit in my training.  After a week of final preparations, everything was ready for the guests’ arrival on Wednesday.

As with almost everyone you meet in triathlon/multisport circles, everyone was extremely nice and easy going.  The first session was scheduled for Thursday morning, which was a 50 mile group ride.  We split the guests into two groups determined by ability and set off in light drizzle, hoping for some decent weather.  Unfortunately half way into the ride the rainfall became very heavy and we were completely soaked.  Everyone remained in good spirits and we kept chatting until we were 5 miles from home, at which point we stopped for a coffee, meeting up with the other group.  After sheltering from the rain, we got back on the bikes for the final 5 miles back home.  No sooner than we set off, the rain came down far heavier than before, and any manner of group riding vanished as it became a free-for-all, with people jumping off the front to get home as quickly as possible.  As if the rain wasn’t enough, we were then treated to a hail storm.  Lovely.  I speak for everyone when I say that we couldn’t have been happier to get off the bikes and put on some warm clothes. 

On Friday morning there was a run planned for those interested, and I played chaperone, following on the mountain bike.  The group ran around 8 miles to the nearest ‘large’ town, following quiet country roads with almost no cars.  Once everyone finished, I jumped off the bike and ran back with local French triathlete Stephan Decressac.  It was nice to have someone to run with, although not so nice when Stephan pushed the pace on the hills!  In the afternoon some of us went out for a short leisurely ride, before I headed to the pool to film for the swim analysis session.

On Saturday morning we had a slightly longer ride planned, this time around 70 miles.  Again, luck was not on our side and the minute we set off, the heavens opened.  We were drenched to the bone and only a few minutes into a 4 hour ride – not the ideal start.  This route was a little more rolling than Thursday’s ride, and at times it was challenging to keep everyone riding together, with stronger athletes often gapping the back of the group.  Around 30 miles into the ride, the weather hadn’t ceased, and the (almost unanimous) decision was made to cut the ride short.  We passed on the coffee stop, too wet and cold to contemplate stopping and restarting.  Credit to everyone though, they made the best of a bad situation and remained upbeat and positive despite the unwelcoming French weather.  In the end we’d managed another 50 mile ride and again, everyone was happy to get off the bikes.  Obviously not wet enough, some decided to get in an afternoon swim session to round out the day.

On Sunday I took the opportunity to relax in bed before emerging for breakfast.  I’m not great at lying in, and come 9am I was ready to come out of my cabin and see what the weather was like.  No surprises, it was another wet day.  Although Brian had scheduled a ride, I didn’t have the resolve to go out in the rain again.  I’ve never denied the fact that I’m a fair weather athlete, and the thought of riding in another downpour was too much for me to take.  After a relaxing morning, I thought I spotted a gap in the weather, and headed out for a short run.  More fool me – less than a mile into the session I was running through horizontal rain and ruing my poor timing.  Not deterred, I headed to the pool in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, the pools temperature is determined by the external weather, which - as you’ve hopefully gathered from my apt descriptions – has been awful.  I gingerly picked up the thermometer and peered through one eye, hoping for good news - 15 degrees.  No!  What!?  Why?  The pool was colder than last week, which I though was impossible.  I donned the wetsuit and jumped in, trying my best to avoid shrieking like a little girl.  2.5km into the session I got out.  I’d bailed half way through, but I wasn’t warming up at all and was starting to feel pretty bad.  After hat experience, I’ll wait until it warms up a little before attempting to get in again.

This morning has started much the same as other days – wet and windy.  I have no doubt that it will be another rainy afternoon on the bike.  It’s a shame, as the training routes here are really lovely, although admittedly difficult to appreciate in this weather.  As soon as the sun comes out I’ll get some pictures up for everyone to see.  Fingers crossed for some improvement, and soon!