Les Trois Ballons – French Vosges pt. II

Another weekend, another trip. And since things don’t always have to revolve around me, Kim was the antagonist of this one: she took take part in “Les Trois Ballons”, a 213k cycling trip with about 4300m of climbing to do along the road. So I took Friday off and soon, after a last-minute bike store visit to get her bike fixed, picking up an extra bike and collecting another one for a friend with car troubles, trying to get the tail lights of her bicycle rack fixed, getting some last minute gear in the store and being in traffic jams for what seemed most of the road, we found ourselves in the French Vosges again!

We spent what is left of the day relaxing, eating tons of pasta and hearing the Red Devils lose against Wales. And then early to bed because the alarm clock would ring early the next morning. Not quite early enough though: By the time our three cyclists reach the starting line, the others have a 30 minutes head start, sentencing them to a pursuit for the first hour of the race.

I, in the meantime, head towards the first real climb (the Col des Chevrères) by car, park at the foot of it, and start running upwards. And damn it’s steep! I regret not parking a bit further away and warming up on the flat first. Still, I manage to find a rhythm that feels more or less comfortable and charge up.

It isn’t long until I’m overtaken by some police motorcycles and the race director, warning me about the race (and wishing me good luck), shortly followed by the leaders of the race. Impressive effort from these guys! I continue, reach the top and immediately realize it would take Kim another 30 minutes or so. I dive into the forest for a quick descent. It’s damp and slippery, but oh-so-beautiful. I run into some lumberjacks. I check my watch and decide to head back the same way, to the entertainment of the lumberjacks who think I’m totally lost and offer me help. Big, tough guys with a great heart. I thank them and head back to the top of the Col des Chevrères. No sign of Kim yet so I decide to run back and meet them on the climb. I soon hear my name and see Peter. Kim & Gauthier are not far behind. I check how Kim feels. Good, but the climb is hurting. I accompany her for a while and then head for the summit and wait for their arrival with Peter, who is already relaxing and eating a bit by the time I get there.

Once everybody’s there, we all eat a bit and I say them goodbye. Next meet-up: Ballon d’Alsace. 40k for them, about 12k for me, so I’ll have to hurry. I already saw a sign pointing towards the nearby GR 5 route, which should lead me to the GR 7 route at the top of the Ballon de Servance. The path to it is obviously rather unused and mostly overgrown. Running is hard here, I’m mostly ducking and jumping branches. Eventually, I bump into a GR route sign. Success! I speed up and within half an hour I’m at the top of the Servance! I shelter with some cyclists and eat a bit before I continue. Now I have to find the GR 7. No signs. None whatsoever. I decide to follow the cyclists until I hopefully bump into a sign. I don’t and soon I’m at the foot of the Servance, totally off-track. I bump into a very rudimentary map and some signs for other hikes and notice I’m way North of where I’m supposed to be. Damn it! I orient myself. the Alsace should be South-East of me and I start running in that direction. Still, the path twists and turns and there’s no way I can still make it in time so I decide to let Kim know I won’t make it and head back to the car. I find it where I parked, 6 and a half hours, 57k and about 2000m+ later.

I drive to the finish and, time to spare, decide to go for another lap in the forest & fields nearby, keeping a close eye on my mobile to make sure I’m back in time to cheer for the heroes of the day. 13k later, I’m back at the finish line where I see them finish in 10h30’39”, missing the golden medal certificate by 39 seconds. Given the amount of time wasted at the start, I’m impressed! We eat and drink the disappointment away and after a good night of sleep, we head back home. See you soon, French Vosges. I don’t think you’ll bore me anytime soon.

This posts mostly revolves around me. I’m sorry about that.

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