Brittany: March 2017
Returning to France, this time I picked yet another running location, one which I had never been in: Brittany. Rumor has it that this area is most beautiful in the springtime, so March struck me as a suitable month to go. I had planned some running along the coast: I always try not to miss any opportunity to breathe in sea air whenever possible, as the nearest coast is more than eight hours' drive from my home. Unfortunately, the accommodation along the coast was discouragingly expensive, so I decided to arrange a room about an hour's drive from the coast. Arriving on Friday evening, I had two running days ahead of me: on Monday morning I had to be back in Paris again.
As you might have already noticed, I usually run a shorter distance on my first day and then attempt to cover as much ground as I can on the following day. This is mainly because when I am at some interesting location, I don’t want to risk getting too exhausted or even injured on the initial day and thus not being able to run at all on the next day. The second day becomes less worrisome for me.
Pointe du Raz
On Saturday, shortly after 10am I arrived at the village of Plogoff. My plan was to check out a promontory named Pointe du Raz, a rough-hewn chunk of rock extending into the Atlantic, but I didn’t want to park my car too close to the sight. I had read that the official parking area is usually crowded and the fact is that I run in order to avoid people. Thus Plogoff, located several kilometers away from the promontory, proved to be a good choice: the local parking spot was completely empty.
In the beginning it took me a while to find the right way, because I just couldn’t hit upon the narrow path which was hidden between the buildings which led out of the village. After that I didn't have any problems with orientation. The first four kilometers wound through thick green vegetation, with only the occasional isolated rural building popping up. I kept stopping frequently to experiment with a borrowed GoPro camera. I wanted to shoot the entire run, but I didn’t know much about setting up the camera and about the mounting, so the video below looks very amateurish (sorry about that).
After a half hour of running I emerged from the bushes, crossed a busy road and finally got to the shore. Almost immediately, as the vast sea view revealed itself to me and the fresh sea breeze stroked my face, I felt so exhilarated that I had to stop for a while, sit down, and just breathe it all in. While savoring the moment I still had to fidget with the borrowed GoPro.
When I felt I had had enough, I got up and resumed running. My navigation led me up to the tops of the cliffs rising a few dozen meters above the sea. The path wound its way gracefully along the coast; every so often new cliff formations would appear right ahead of me. I was high enough to take in the rocks from just the right perspective. The only thing I regretted was not having my trail shoes on. This time, when preparing for the trip, for some unknown reason I had only packed my road-running shoes that were completely unsuitable for rocky terrain.
I had been running along the cliffs for about an hour before I reached the Pointe du Raz. I could see that I was approaching it due to the increasing number of tourists on the trail. I stopped just for a while, not wanting to climb to the farthermost point of the promontory as the majority of the people did, and ran on. After another two kilometers of running I was approaching a long beach stretching ahead of me in Baie des Trépassés. However, I didn't run directly to the seashore. Right above the beach the path took me inland away from the coast.
When I took a random glance behind me, I had to stop again. The blue sky, in concert with the awakening spring nature and sea water created such a palette of colors that I just had to take a picture of the exquisiteness. Ironically, there was not a single tourist there, though perhaps the scenery could also have been appreciated from the parking lot next to the promontory - I couldn't tell. The last four kilometers ran by quickly, with just one stop to bathe my legs in a small pool by the path. This day I covered only about 22 kilometers, but what with all the stops, it took me almost three hours in all.
For Sunday I had planned to run straight from dawn to dusk. I had one more hour of daylight than on Saturday, because during the night from Saturday to Sunday there was the time shift to summer time. However, I only managed to get started at half past ten, which meant the same amount of daylight as the day before.
There were approximately nine hours of running ahead of me. I had downloaded a 74 kilometer-long loop into my Garmin, but after the first few kilometers I realized that I would have to shortcut the trail in order to finish in time. This was a rather minor inconvenience, because prior to the run I had expected that this might happen and actually I had planned a backup route. However, the run didn’t start very well anyway. After covering one or two kilometers, I noticed that I had forgotten to pack a spare water canteen and I had to turn back, all the way to the car, and then start over again. Which in fact took me almost half an hour.
In the morning the weather was not too hospitable, it was cloudy and cold, but fortunately it wasn’t raining. Only after some two or three hours into the run did it get better. The first several kilometers led through a coastal forest. The narrow path alternately rose up and descended, meandering its way along the coast. The view of the secluded beaches could have been magnificent, but it was spoiled by the foggy weather. Later the path led out of the forest and from that point onwards almost the entire run took place in open spaces. During this initial leg, up to the Cap de la Chèvre, the southernmost point of the Crozon peninsula, I kept encountering several wanderers, probably seeking the remains of a military stronghold from the Second World War located at the peak of the cap.
From there onwards the route was rather abandoned. Until reaching Pointe de Dinan and Chateau de Dinan, rock formations creating the illusion of a bridge and a castle respectively, I had not met a single person. There were astounding cliffs all along the coast, but apparently only a few had enough allure to attract tourists.
Reaching the two rocky formations, I had covered approximately 25 kilometers in almost four hours. It was a bit slower than I initially expected and what was more, I had started feeling hungry. I felt the need to eat something other than mere energy bars. I decided to follow my planned trajectory along the coast as far as possible, and then shorten the trail turning to Camaret-sur-Mer, a place that according to the map seemed to be big enough to have at least one restaurant. As it turned out, there was exactly one restaurant open. One that was really tough to find. Lucky me. It took almost two hours from the Pointe and Chateau de Dinan before I finally sat at a dining table.
In the restaurant I probably violated every rule of the renowned French cuisine. I was utterly famished and terribly thirsty, so I ordered my starter, main course, ice-cream, two large beers and coffee all at once. While I was ordering, the waiter was staring at me in disbelief, then said something not too decent in French about tourists, and walked away. I was not even sure whether he took my order. After a while he brought me the beers, so I suppose he got it.
I have to say that this is something I consider to be my biggest running advantage. Unlike other runners, I can eat whatever I want to during a long run and still not get sick. I had heard stories of dozens of runners who were unable to feed themselves at all while running, so years ago I used to be careful. But step by step I learned that actually I can tolerate any food that I am normally used to eating. On the other hand, this advantage comes at a cost: my weight is twice that of a normal runner.
After the late lunch I felt much better and even the weather improved a bit, so the next leg of the run was more pleasant. The scenery was changing rapidly; one moment I was running inland, then again I returned to the shore, and so it went all over again. It felt refreshing, but I have to confess that the landscape did not impress me that much. Had I not seen the Mediterranean Calanques two months previously, I would probably have felt more excited. I came to the realization that the reason for my diminished enthusiasm was the unawakened spring in Brittany. It meant that the countryside didn’t reflect the splendor of the web images I had perused online. What's more, I was still running with those inappropriate road-running shoes, which only added to my mild sense of disappointment.
It turned out that the last six or seven out of the overall fifty five kilometers of the run were not pleasant at all. I had to return to the summer resort Morgat, where my run had started, but I was to realize I had made an error in planning. What according to the map had seemed to be a quiet local path was in fact a busy road full of traffic. Being almost eight hours into the run, I was fatigued and more wary than usual of the cars passing by so close to me. That additional stress was yet another downer in this leg of the run.
All in all, I am quite glad that I visited Brittany. The following day I left for Paris satisfied and brimming with energy to spare. On Tuesday evening I ran some 20 kilometers from Paris to Versailles and back again, but this run was definitely much less rewarding than the two weekend trails.
|start - finish||distance||climb / descent||duration||difficulty||route.gpx||rating|
|day #1||Plogoff - loop||21.73 km||620m / 620m||2:55||30%||download||★★★★★|
|day #2||Morgat - loop||54.76 km||1340m / 1340m||9:15||40%||download||★★★☆☆|