One of the unique aspects of the Tor des Geants is that it is basically a "single stage adventure run" of 330km, but you have 7 days to complete it. Basically, the race has a start and a finish and in between there are aid stations and 7 major "life bases" where you can get a meal, a shower and a bed. As a competitor, you're free to use those resources however you like to get you to the finish line as fast or as slow, as you like. You're expected to be largely self sufficient and carry your own gear and food. We each had the luxury of one small duffle bag which was transported between the 7 life bases. My game plan was to run the race like a tourist. Use the life bases. Run around 50km a day, eat, sleep and take lots of photos. I didn't want to miss any of the scenery and my goal was to simply to get to the finish line.
It's what makes the Alps unique and different - between the patches of wilderness, there are people living, thriving and working in the high alpine. We passed through both: land that was high, remote and wild and land that was high, remote but dotted with refugios, farms, cows and grazed land. Both were amazing.
As we descended off Col D'Arp and down to the village of La Thuile, we rapidly dropped 1,200m. This would set the tone of the race: huge epic climb, followed by huge epic descent. Jaw dropping scenery. Repeat. On this day, we would do this 3 times.
On this first descent, I struck up a conversation with Max and elderly gentleman, from Chamonix. Max was local, well in to his 60's and appeared to be blind in one eye. He was kicking ass. As we gazed at the glacier across the valley, and he told us the names of the surrounding peaks, he told us that we would eventually be climbing up to the glacier. As I translated for Angela, she rapidly asked, "Today?!?" Max laughed at loud and replied "Bien Sur! Of, course!"
The first major aid station was in La Thuile and we got our first glimpse of the food being offered. We had cheese, bread, dried meats, salami, dark chocolate, a huge bowl of prunes, a huge bowl of dark chocolate, cookies and sparkling water, red wine and beer to round up the buffet. It was good entertainment to see some of the Euros partaking, evidently, beer is good fuel. I made up a couple of sandwiches and Angela and I, hit the road. It was already mid-afternoon and we still had 2 more passes to climb.