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.
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.