Part II of the Dinant weekend: The running bit! Before leaving for Dinant, I’d researched my trail running options in the neighborhood. Turned out there’s a 42k/1100m+ trail being held each year that passes the Citadel called the Archi Trail Mosan. On top of that, the people of the organizing Athletics club offer the route on their website by means of a GPX file and on top on thàt, the route was passing 200m from where we were staying! So the plan was simple: Download the GPX file, upload it on my watch and follow the black line on the screen! Simple as that!
Except it never is all that simple, is it? First of all, starting from our apartment meant I’ll be entering the trail route somewhere near the 6km point, right before the stairs to the Citadel. But I wasn’t going to let that discourage me! I remembered the memorable words of Kilian Jornet the day before the Tromsø sky race: “It can be a nice warm-up”. So that morning I gear up, wave Kim goodbye, off to her 100+km cycling tour trip, and then head for the bottom of the stairs to the citadel… which appear to be behind a gate. A locked one. Great! I remember passing a steep uphill road the day before and decide to head in that direction. After a big loop, I reach the top of the Citadel. 2km instead of what should have been about 500m max… A few more of these and I’m in for a treat today! Especially since my legs feel quite heavy from yesterday’s trip…
The first part is heavy. Beautiful, but heavy! The trail takes me over small meandering trails, always close to the edge of the cliffs. Pretty amazing views, non-stop. It’s a shame that I have to check my watch all the time to check if I’m still on the right track and I wish the trail event was today so I’d just have to follow the ribbons. Still, being all alone out here has its charm. It’s just me out here and it doesn’t take long before I catch a first glimpse of the local wildlife when two deers sprint away when they hear me coming.
I get lost, not even 10k in the trail. My watch tells me the trail should go more or less across a road, but there’s nothing there so I decide to follow the road, trying to stick as close to the route as possible, which turns out to be quite hard because the road takes me further & further away from it. So when a logging road shows up on my right-hand side, I use it to get back in the right direction. It’s steep & rough, but pretty awesome too! I see the track appear on the little screen of my watch again and head in its direction. Back on track, time to pick up the pace again!
I end up in the middle of an adventure park. The rope bridge across the valley is tempting, but all alone out here and without a security harness, I decide to take the detour instead. The trail is tons of fun. It’s technical, tons of small turns, up & down, ending with a long meandering descend over the ridge of what seems to be an old mining site. Beautiful. And then back down, through the fields, the woods and finally next to the Lesse river.
The trail crosses the rivers and immediately dives back into the woods and goes up again. Steeply so! The trail leads through what seems to be a military domain. I look left, right and jump the barrier. It’s beautiful here and I leave the trail for a while in order to be closer to the cliff. The view I’m rewarded with is simply stunning. I take some time to take it all in and then head back for the trail & out of the domain.
Another private domain follows, equally nice. It’s clear by now that the Archi Trail is truly a gem and worth coming back to Dinant for. And it’s not over yet! When after 34k I notice I’ve gone off-course and head back to where I missed a turn, I’m rewarded by the most beautiful part of the trail so far. A steep climb next to a small creek / waterfall. Just stunning! Once at the top, the next few kilometers take me over a light, hilly trail over the ridge. I pick up the pace. Fast downhill and use the speed for the next short climb, over and over again. I’m having the best time out here. I, almost literally, run into a family of four, hiking the trail from the opposite direction, yell “sorry” and throw myself down the descent.
Kim calls to tell me she’s on her way back. With all the detours, I’m running late and we agree to meet in a town nearby so I can hand her the key, close to the actual starting point of the Archi Trail. I’m about 5k away so I speed up.
Finally, I reach a big road. There’s a small trail next to it which I prefer over the asphalt but which keeps taking me back to the road until… My Garmin freezes. I try to turn it off, but it’s no use. All I know now is that the big road eventually leads to the town we agreed to meet so I stick to it. I take some smaller trails left & right, careful not to lose sight of the road, and find Kim about 10 minutes later. With the Garmin still frozen and all that’s left from here onwards the 6k to Dinant, I decide to get in the car and hike home. With probably well over 43k in the legs and a good feeling, I’m more than satisfied!
With over 75k of running and 86k of cycling in 3 days and the legs feeling quite fresh at the end of all that, it’s hard not to be. The difference from just a few months ago is enormous and even though I’m still nowhere near the shape I’d love to be in for UTMB, at least all this brings hope. And tons of fun! Too bad Kristoff won the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Team Devolder!