Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tor des Geants - An Italian Adventure, Part I


I fully knew what I was in for when I signed up for the Tor des Geants. As a high alpine mountain race, with a crazy-ridiculous elevation profile, 25 mountain passes and the lure of running on the famous Alta Via trails of Italy beneath the shadow of Mont Blanc, I was instantaneous and totally smitten. It was a race that appealed to me because it was full of all of the things that I love about the mountains: incredible scenery, constant elevation change and the challenge of it all. But most of all, it was the place that beckoned: I wanted to explore this mountain place and run on the trails of the Aosta Valley until I couldn't run anymore.


As I prepared this summer for my Big Adventure, I had to ignore the numbers of this race. They were just way to scary and intimidating. Both the distance (330km/200miles) and the elevation (24,000m/80,000ft) were off the scale, so I was entering brand new territory as a runner. I started the race feeling pretty solid mentally and physically, but I'm a realist - I know shit happens when you try and run for 7 days. My level of excitement was as huge as the Mont Blanc, I was stoked to be here in the place and to be running on new trails into new territory. The Alps were beckoning.


We arrived in Chamonix in the dark and when I awoke and saw Mont Blanc and the Mer du Glace out of my window, I was awestruck. I had totally forgotten just how gorgeous that mountain is. When we drove through the tunnel from Chamonix, France to Courmayeur, Italy I got to see it it from a whole new perspective. Mont Blanc became Monte Bianco and it was evident that the Monte Bianco was a mountain to be revered, respected and celebrated in the Aosta Valley.

Lovely Courmayeur


This was the first year of Tor des Geants and as a North American in an inaugral European race, we were all thrilled to find out that Yes, there actually was a race going on. It was also a meeting of friends, some old and some new. As well as my Tip-Top lady friends Angela and Nicki, we met up with friends Tim and Doone Watson, Michael and Tamara Cartright, Mark Hartinger, Glen and Tanya Meeth, Craig Slagel, Beat Jagerlehner, Bruce Grant, Daniel Probst and Jen Segger. It was awesome spending some quality time with these good people. We were all lovin' up Italy, smitten with Courmayeur and ready to run. Now, I know you're not supposed to try anything new for a big race, but I couldn't help indulge in the pitcher of wine at the pre-race pasta party and I couldn't help stopping for a 2nd coffee only half an hour before race start.

When in Italy....

Espresso!


The Girrrrls: Angela, Nicki and Leslie

Mark, Glen, Doone, Michael, Tanya, Tamara and Tim


Wired on coffee and grinning like a crazed fool, I was beyond excited at the start line. I wasn't nervous, just full of stoke and fire for the promise of a big adventure. The start line was fantastic, electric and so Italian. Music, costumes, people, athletes all together. Organized mayhem to start the day, as we ran, joyously through the streets of Courmayeur.

13 comments:

Helen said...

What an awesome start to the race! Can't wait for your next post.

T. said...

OMG what amazing views!! Keep writing I am hooked! Can't wait to read the rest of the days...congratulations

Derrick said...

Wow...sound and looks amazing. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more.

Ewa said...

Hope you are busy writing the rest.
The Alps are just amazing and I am totally envious.

Meghan said...

Welcome back.

How many parts will there be to your story, just so I know how joyfully long it'll take for the story to come fully out? :)

Sunshine Girl said...

Hi Helen! Thanks for following along, enjoy the ride, ummm...race, uh, adventure!

Hiya T, So good to hear from you. I was thinking of you lots, as you had your own adventure running and racing at Trans Alps! I need to catch up with my bloggy friends. Summer and all, no time for computers!

Hi Derrick! Mountain Madness, I tell you. Simply amazing and totally, completely, mind-blowing in every way.

Hi Ewa! The Alps ARE as amazing as the Canadian Rockies. The difference is you get cows and Refugios/Auberges up top instead of Grizzly Bears. I like to think of it as Euro Ambience...

Meghan! Meghan! Meghan!
Too many parts, but it's the only way this one's going to get done. Congrats on your own BIG THANG, and good for you for taking the dive over the edge and into the unknown! Those are always the bestest adventureds...

Paige said...

So cool! I'm looking forward to reading all about this adventure!

brendaontheRun said...

Fun! Hope you've recovered okay by now?

Kaz said...

Fab pics - they make me homesick - my parent's have a place in the French Alps and they are my second home and boy do I miss them when not there. Can't wait to here about the rest of it - oh and the auberges and refuges are fab - nothing beats a long day in the mountains and being able to buy a cold drink or once tent is up a vin chaud. I'm not so keen on the cows though - hubby and I came across a particularly cranky beast on the GR5!
Kaz

Carolyn said...

Awesome! Cannot wait to hear (read) the rest!
And the pics are great too!

Helen said...

What an amazingly clear beautiful day Banff is experiencing today. Do hope you get a chance to get out and embrace it. It would be sad for you to miss such a day and for me to miss any photos taken!

Sunshine Girl said...

Hi Paige! It could be a long and drawn out one...! Too many photos...

Hi B! I miss you! Hopefully, we can swap Euro stories real soon. I'm getting myself fixed still, hopefully I'll be good to go in a few weeks. I'm supposed to be doing the Grand Canyon with Keith!

Hi Kaz! Family in the Alps? You lucky girl! I'm thinking about a return visit to the Alta Via trails, to enjoy the Refugios and the trail at a slower pace.

Hi Carolyn! It's a comin....

Lovely Helen. Such a beautiful day today. I got out and enjoyed it at a slower pace. I was lounging by the river, instead of running in the woods. Soon. Patience.

Cheers,

Leslie

Anonymous said...

Leslie

Would like to ask more question regarding Tor des geants, can you PM me at GWC57@YAHOO.COM?

Thanks

Gary