2019 Chateau Thierry 24 hours - Centurions1911

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Races & results
Chateau Thierry 24 hour race (France)
16th-17th March 2019

report from Kathy Crilley C933
Just three weeks after the French National 24 hour Championships at the 24 hours in Bourges, Centurions Sandra Brown and Kathy Crilley returned  to France to take part in the Chateau Thierry 24 hours. Details of the race came out late - a week after the Bourges 24 hour and consequently the race only attracted a small field of 28 entrants. We were joined by Centurions Frans Leitjens from the Netherlands and  Bernado Jose Mora from Spain.

No 24 hour race report is complete without a mention of the weather.... so here it is...
Mindful of the "heat wave"  experienced in Bourges in February, the weather forecast was scrutinised very carefully the week before the race. I should know by now, never trust a weather forecast.... the promised "mild" conditions  of day time weather of 11-12 degrees with possibly an occasional shower or two was a bit off the mark. The extreme windy conditions (experienced in the UK and indeed thoughout northern Europe that weekend) seemed to pass by the weather forecasters.
The race start saw most walkers encased in several layers of thermals/wet weather kit. Whilst the wet weather clothes weren't  needed until 18 hours later, the thermals were definitely needed at the start (1pm). However, several hours later (5pm) the clouds disappeared and the sky was blue, the sun shone and the temperature rose.....  so ok, the "nice"weather didn't last all that long (maybe an hour) and soon the temperature started to drop... and the wind hadn't really gone away.

The race
The 1500 metre course at Chateau Thierry is one of the most toughest (well actually it is the most toughtest of the 24 hours courses!) of the Paris Alsace selective races. The majority of the course is uphill with just a couple of short steep down hill sections. Either way, it does play havoc with the leg muscles. The rain started at 6am Sunday morning and quickly followed with intermittant hail...the head winds didn't really help either. This weather pattern continued until the finsih at 1pm, Sunday.

From the outset, the men's race was going to be a tussle between local athlete Florian Letourneau and the 2018 Roubaix 28 hours winner, David Vandercoilden. As a back marker, it was interesting to watch this race unfurl. And as a back marker, it was really nice to hear their encouragement as they went passed me (oh so many times!) David also competed in the 2018 Parish Walk and will be there this year (well I think that's what he shouted at me as he overtook me...)
Bernado also put up a good race and he chased Florian and David all the way. Frans sadly had to retire with a foot injury.

The ladies race was not so wide open - well except that Sandra was competing! Whilst she admitted after the race that she wasn't sure whether she would make 100 miles - but it really wasn't a problem in the end! The rest of the ladies race, however, was wide open.  Martine Sonnois - a very strong race walker who usually puts in distances of well over 150km for a 24 hours race; Claudie Bizard - winner of many races over various distances (my "arch rival"!) and then a complete unknown - Sylvie Tortey (plus myself).

Unusually, chip timing was not used in this race which meant that manual lap recording was deployed - lap times were immediatley entered onto the lap recording computer programme. Ah. just like the old days of 20 years ago! But one had to be very vigilant that lap times were actually recorded.   A few blips, but it all seened to sort itself out in the end. As with Bourges, it was impossible to know where we stood in the ladies race (or mens, I guess) and it wasn't until around 90km that I realised that Martine Sonnois, Claudie Bizard and myself were all on the same lap. And this continued for the next 40km. Sandra obviously overtook me several  times (well Ok many times!)  as did the unknown walker Sylvie Tortey. Syvie was a very strong walker but her style was sadly lacking  - I say this as she "elbowed" me off the course several times as she overtook me...
Yes, the weird weather played havoc and especially as I had to move all our kit from one tent to the official, more "stable" tent. This is my one critisicm of the race organisation - there was not, supposedly, enough room in the "official" tent for those who didn't have their own tent, car, camper van... and so Sandra, myself, Bernado and Ronald Tintin were told to put our kit in a "marquee" - yes it had a "roof" and one "wall" and that was it.. but we had to set it all up ourselves along with tables and chairs... It was clear from the weather forecast that there would be strong winds and rain. In the early hours of Sunday morning I found my kit bag and food flung all over the table and floor and then a couple of laps later the organsier asked that we move all our stuff to the official " big" tent. Not a problem, except that it took me 15 minutes to do this. This shouldn't happen in a race.
Much was said in post race comments about support crew - how they look after their athlete with feeding, changing clothes, walking with them, offering support and encouragement etc. Florian had a team of 6 helpers; David a team of 3. Claudie had her iindefatigable husband Jaques (who does look out for me as well, it has to be said); but then Sandra and myself just take a few "bits and pieces" and rely on the official feeding station. But we cope. Maybe we could achieve more if we had support crew - who knows? But I am happy to do what I do....

Yes a hard race indeed. But still, the warm welcome we have there makes me want to go back next year (crikey - did I really say that!)

Results
Men
1st Florian Letourneau (FRA) 191,223km
2nd David Vandercoilden (FRA) 188,590km
4th Bernado Jose Mora (ESP) 176,564km

Ladies
1st Sandra Brown (GBR) 168,527km
2nd Sylvie Tortey (FRA) 160,654km
3rd Martine Sonnois (FRA) 147,695km
4th Ckaudie Bizard (FRA)  142,379km
5th Kathy Crilley (GBR)   139,256km
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