Thursday, September 07, 2006

Medoc Meltdown

The heat wave has continued unabated, the temperature yesterday returning to a sizzling 36 degrees. That's 95 freaking degrees in the Seventh Circle of Hell, my friends. Even on the edge of the Atlantic it was 34 degrees - and that's with a cool breeze.

The hottest race I have ever run in was the Stormy 67K Ultramarathon three years ago when it reached 87 degrees in the mid afternoon. But that race was run through the woods, so there was at least a semblance of shade. Here in Medoc along the marathon route there is none. And because the Medoc starts at nine o'clock in the morning; a five hour race will take place when the sun reaches its zenith between eleven in the morning and two in the afternoon. Under those kind of conditions, a six hour finishing time wouldn't really surprise me...

One of the features of the Medoc is that participants run in costume. The costumes that we brought with us are perfect for a crisp winter morning, definitely not recommended for a sojourn in the Sahara! And my costume has no hat, an oversight I am definitely going to have to address. In fact a smart strategy may be to start in the costume and then abandon it along the way... Like a sinking hot air balloon tossing baggage overboard to gain additional altitude!

And then the whole issue of hydration and alcohol consumption must be considered. I fear that I am going to have to be satisfied with small tastes of tantalizing wine, but no quaffing and very little sipping. Mon dieu, c'est incroyable. Une scandal epic!

Twenty-four hours from the race there is still hope for cooler weather, but at best that means temperatures in the eighties instead of the nineties. Cold comfort...

Yesterday the wretched rental car I have found myself saddled with blew a tire on a small country lane in the early evening while I was on my way to dinner. With the temperature still hovering around the incandescent I was forced to try to make sense of the bizarre jack that I dug out of the boot of the Peugot Laguna. Dressed in shorts, my knees, and then my knuckles, soon were on the losing end of the battle with the gravel by the side of road.

Sweat dripped from my forehead in steady rivulets and the car and the offending flat tire radiated heat. The tire was almost too hot to handle and I ended up doing a strange, oddly drunken dance as I tried to juggle eighty pounds of red-hot rubber, trying in vain not to get burnt and not to get dirty. I failed on both counts. After thirty minutes I was successful, but not before cursing every deity I could think of, luck, fortune, the French automotive industry and the rental car agency.

Rental car agencies, like insurance companies, banks and brokerage houses, are largely run by, operated and owned by crooks and thieves and the mentally incompetent for the sole purpose of seperating you from (stealing) your money and providing you with little or no service.

All the phone numbers that they provide you with are useless and should you actually make contact with a real human being and not a disembodied recorded voice, well, in short order they will prove useless too. The Peugot has only 15,000 kilometres on it and the car is crap. I mean really crap. The car was handed over to me with NO windshield-wiper fluid and the SERVICE IMMEDIATELY light in the dashboard ominously blinking red. Every panel has a scratch or a dent. At least that part is reassuring as it reminds me of my own car at home... But it doesn't say much for the overall condition of the car or, more suspiciously of French drivers...

On the bright side, the food and the wine and the French countryside continue to enchant. They recognize me now in the local market as I've gone back for oysters and champage for lunch for the last three days! C'est magnifique!

Did part of the marathon course yesterday by car and will return to Pauilliac this morning to get my bib - #6943.

Au revoir, mes amis!


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