Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tor Des Geants - An Italian Adventure, Part II

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.

Craig Slagel

The race started with a leisurely lap through the streets of Courmayeur and then hit the trail pretty quick. After our town tour, the trail turned upward and we started our first climb of the race: a 1,400m ascent out of the gate. This was a great way to start out the day and spread out the competitors. For us, it was a good time to socialize with the friends as we all walked up the pass, eyes wide open, taking in all of the new scenery of this strange and wonderful land.

Glen and Doone

Our first pass of the day, Col D'Arp at 2,571m greeted us with open arms and blue skys. We enjoyed a high alpine pasture land dotted with chairlifts, occasional farms, cows and history.

Col D'Arp

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.

Ang and her new friend


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.

10 comments:

T. said...

Running in the TransAlpine, I saw first hand "European Aid Stations". The meats, cheeses, etc. It was kind of mind blowing from our American sports drinks, gels, chips/pretzels, pb&j sandwiches etc. I remember coming up to my first aid station and exclaiming "oooh! they have REAL food!" I was very apprehensive about eating it and what it would do to my stomach.

serge said...

150h = 6 days and 6h, it's not 7 days so you have to do more than a section / 24h if you want to finish.

Helen said...

Magnificent scenery!!!! - what a shame you didn't get to finish. Do hope you are well on the way to recovery.

Meghan said...

Brilliant! This is leaving me wanting so much more of the story. Oh and to visit an aid station that'll give you red wine!

Paige said...

Seriously, that is the best sounding aid station food ever. Cheese and salami and wine?! Oh my!

Mary said...

Hey I have a question. I see the pics with trekking poles. How do you really run with those? What is the average pace? I do a ton of hiking and some trail running but can't imagine running with poles. How much of a run and how much of a hike is it? Thanks..looks awesome..

Nicola Gildersleeve said...

did the prunes make you fart? (peter says to add...like me?)

Tom said...

Keep it coming we want more to read...

Sunshine Girl said...

Hi T! Oh, yeah...can you say constipation? Maybe that was what the prunes were for....
And no, Nicola....they didn't make me fart, but they did get me moving!!

Hi Serge! Yup, I figured that one out. Lots of moving and not so much sleeping...

Hi Helen! Seriously, the only thing I feel I missed out on is the scenery. I really would have liked to see more of those trails!

Hi Meghan and Paige, the red wine factor is overrated. I NEED FOOD!!!
But yes, I'm all over the meat and cheese. Sometimes though, we didn't get the bread. Or it was dry bread. But there was always that vat of dark chocolate...

Hi Mary, I run with poles all of the time. Most of the time, I'll put them on my pack when I descend 'cause I can descend way faster without them in my hands. In this race they were always in my hands tp preserve my legs. As it turned out, this race was much more of "walking" race, than a "running" race. The friends were laughing because they'd spent their entire summer training for a running race, and they had walked almost all of it. Their time would have been better spent training with pack, poles and power-hiking up and down mountains.

Hi Tom! Did you run up a storm this September? 'tis the season!

Ewa said...

I am so behind reading blogs and I see part III is already waiting for me.
I love the Alps and it seems you had a grand time, steep climbing and all and real food. How European.