There was an obvious mountain Pic d'Escales on the way to Arbas TP, so we hiked up. Inigo and his supporter were 2km in front so overtaking them was a fun goal for the morning, on the 7th day any extra motivation was welcome. Chris and I cut all the road corners and flew off Mont Sijon, I also pushed quite deep into the lee side of Col de la Béne. Well, let's just say that I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for racing, but I survived.
Then a hike to Arbas TP which looked way closer on the map. On the ridge I saw that all the guys from yesterday's gaggle were sitting on Pic de la Paloumére waiting for the thermals and when I got there I could still see them fighting in low, weak thermals, some progressing, others landing but they marked the air for me so I took off and chased them... chasing sounds aggressive, these conditions were more about not bombing out!
It was slow flying, but I did well. The crux putting pilots on the ground was the crossing of La Garrone Valley. Again, I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to reclimb after crossing but in the end I landed anyways. No regrets though, I always learn a lot trying to solve puzzles like this.
Ross asked if I wanted to hike and fly off Tourroc on that last evening. Of course, I did. 10km and 1000m up. Chris paced me like a boss, and I just unleashed, my feet were killing me but there was no holding back so it took less than 2h.
We came out of the forest to the clearing on the top and it was... Perfect. Stunning evening light, calm air, mighty Pyrenees on our left, vast flatlands on our right, sheep gently ringing their bells, perfect grassy slope to launch, with light square wind. It was a hell of a week and to get this piece of perfection at the very end, it touched me deeply.
We took off and glided through the smoothest air into the sunset, using the last bits of the evening lift together with a couple of vultures. The whole week of exertion came down to this magical moment.
I flew over two other athletes, milked this glide until the last meter and slope landed, this time on a nice and big field.
It was 20h45, the road ended here both literally and metaphorically, there was nowhere else to go, no need to rush anymore. I laid on the grass and closed my eyes. Past days browsed under my lids, the best and the worst, ups and downs, emotions, limits and push, great choices and mistakes, friendship and teamwork, rain, wind, heat, unlaudable valleys, hills covered with trees and razor-shaped rocks... You name it, X-Pyr delivered.
Was it only 7 days ago when we left Hondarribia for that first grueling 20km run up to La Rhune? Would I do it again? Without question.
It was a brutal race, from 42 athletes at the start line only top 4 made it to the goal line and 12 withdrew during the race. No bad accidents, no reserves thrown but the ridiculous amount of hiking and very demanding conditions made some of the fittest athletes and best pilots pull out, either physically or emotionally incapable of continuing. So, I would like to congratulate all the athletes who at the end of the race were still there, either have flown to the raft in Port de la Selva or were chasing a competitor in front, fighting to jump one place in the ranking, no matter if it was 3rd or 30th position. You're all heroes.
Prize giving was fun and chilled, with fancy food and wild stories. Every team traveled a unique and mind-blowing journey, which is hard to comprehend unless you've been there.
We had a good debrief, especially with Ross, he was a great supporter and we both learned a lot during this race. My whole team was a dream team. People often don't understand the difference between a smaller race or a beast like X-Pyr or X-Alps. The latter are long, meaning everybody gets tired and gets into their default mode. It's easy to roll for 3 days on adrenaline and enthusiasm, you don't even need to sleep or eat much. However, after a few days, when mistakes accumulate, fatigue and sleep deprivation comes in and the monotony of long, intense days hits you hard, then you can't cheat it anymore, all the narratives are ripped off, and everyone is their real self. And Ross, Chris and Jesse rocked all the way through!
We spent the night at the camp drinking slightly too much wine and still, the next morning I felt like I could do it all over again. But that was it, Ross and Jesse went to Barcelona, then Ross flew back to US to start a new job and Jesse flew to Austria chasing new adventures.
Chris and I packed our gear, including Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle and first spent some time on the beach, where it was so hot that we set up only the inner tent and then went back into the mountains, French Alps this time. We slept in the tent for the next months, flying and hiking through the mountains, Haven Bundle became our home, quite fondly too, thanks to light weight, compact packing, use of trekking poles, two entrances and big living space. A sub-one kilo tent that feels like home!