Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fontainebleau: the South TMV 50K

TMV stands for Tour du Massif à Vélo. Literally: the tour around the group of mountains, by bike. Kind of a strange trail name for a 50K with less than 300 feet elevation variance between the highest and lowest points. But that's how the locals call the trail on the maps and guides of the Forêt Domaniale de Fontainebleau. Actually, the forest is also know for rock climbing. Again, not much vertical ascent, but great technical climbing on numerous large sandstone boulders. A bouldering site renown internationally.

And a forest of more than 100 square-miles with hundreds of miles of trails, the nirvana for recreational runners and bikers. All that less than one hour-drive from Paris and even accessible by train (you can board with your bike in Paris, the ride is 40 minutes). In addition to being listed by UNESCO as one of the world biospheres, like the San Francisco Bay, the Fontainebleau forest carries a rich cultural heritage and history, having provided inspiration to many famous artists (painters, photographers, writers, poets) such as: Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Camille Corot, Jean-Francois Millet and Théodore Rousseau (école de Barbizon), Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Alfred de Musset, George Sand, Chateubriand, Victor Hugo, Jules Michelet, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Gustave Flaubert, Robert Louis Stevenson, Anatole France, Emile Verhaeren, Guy de Maupassant, Stéphane Mallarmé, Marcel Proust and André Breton.

My Picasa photo album (with comments!) is far from being as artistic as all the famous paintings which saw the light in this area, nor as picturesque as the one of my pilgrimage around Mont Saint Michel. Rather, it is targeted toward the runners, hikers and mountain bikers, to give them an overview of the trail. Needless to say, taking more than 150 pictures and stopping at every corner to check my progress on an approximative map, I had a slow run on such a flat course: 5h30, more a hike than a training run. Interestingly enough, this is the time that the guides give as an indication for the whole tour, on a bike!

Here is the overall and detailed itinerary as recorded by my Garmin 205:
  1. Google Maps (no download necessary)
  2. Google Earth (need to install Google Earth)
There are really hundreds of trails through the forest. In most areas, trails may be straight for as long as 3 miles, crossing at junctions and forming stars on the map, in the same organized and urbanized way as the avenues in Washington, D.C. (sharing the same French background or inspiration...). In some other areas, the trails are convoluted and the trail markings hard to follow. Overall the trails are mostly sandy and provide a very soft and comfortable terrain for the joints.

My preferred spots were successively:

An impressive and lengthy aqueduct:
The viewpoint of the Chief Inspector, with infinite views over the forest:
The fairies' pond:
The cross of St Herem, commemorating the meeting between Napoleon I and Pope Pie VII on November 25, 1805:
The site of the canyon of Franchard (le gorges de Franchard) with the famous sandstone boulders:
Also, at le site de Franchard, a plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary (1948-1998) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), an organization so important as we are facing the sustainability challenge, yet which I had never heard about:
The forest headquarters of La Faisanderie, where I could finally find some water after 26 miles:
Last but not least, the castle of Fontainebleau, showing so much history and memories of numerous kings and military leaders:
This run on Saturday was my 5th ultra since we started our own Tour de France, 2 weeks ago; after our stops in Normandy and Brittany. I was back to work on Thursday and Friday and will work in Paris all week before heading to our next and last stage in Annecy and Chamonix. With the hope of running again on the UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) course with a few of my ultra heroes: Karine Herry and Scott Jurek. Stay tuned, I am myself waiting and anxious to hearing back from Bruno about which section they will be training on the only day I have available, Monday 28th.

In the meantime, have a good week and many happy trails and miles!


Anonymous said...

Nous ne connaissions pas non plus l'IUCN.

Anonymous said...

Merci pour ces belles photos de Fontainebleau et de sa région. Justement je rêvais à sa forêt ses jours-ci...