Renouncing Reason

Tor Des Geants – Initial Recap

My dream of competing in and completing the Tor Des Geants 332 km run in Italy’s Aosta Valley has been realized. But the expected feelings of pride and accomplishment have not yet come to the surface. With almost 144 hours of intense focus on the ultimate goal, my memories and emotions became tightly compressed in the back corner of my mind and are only now beginning to unpack, expand and be appreciated.

At the start line, ready to take it all in!
At the start line, ready to take it all in!

My first 50 km were a dance of pure amazement in the beauty of the high Alps. Every switchback, every open pasture, every view of the line of runners was a delight before my eyes and I soaked it in with joy.

But as that first day waned, I saw that the dizzying beauty of severe ascents and descents continued to intensify as I began to fade. From kilometer 50 to 150, I descended into a dark mind of exasperation. I found myself trying to find reason with the route, thinking through the threatening terrain and trying to come to grips with unending intensity laid before me. My interior dialogue sounded something like this:

The steepness of this trail is unreasonable.

These switchbacks are treacherously tight.

This descent is down-right dangerous.

These rocks are ridiculously placed.

This trail cannot continue in such an unsafe manner.

Why would anyone risk their life to simply attain a view?

This scree slope is so unsafe with so many people on it at once.

Who would create such a deadly course?

For hours, I stayed in this state of negative dialogue, my educated brain thinking of all the reasons that this event was plain and simply stupid. As we arrived in Donnas life base (148 km), I was awash in tears, exhausted and ready to abandon the race. My husband and trail partner turned to me as I sat on a bench weeping, and he said,

You have a plan – eat, drink, sleep. Follow your plan and figure out how to get through this. You wanted to do this. You knew it would be hard.

And with that, he left me to sort myself out. And here, an amazing thing happened. As easily as turning off a light switch, I abandoned reason. Instantly I understood that, in order to complete this race, I had to put my brain aside. My sole focus had to be ‘keep moving forward towards the finish line’. This event has no room for analysis.

Don't think about these endless rocks. Just keep your eye on the prize.
Don’t think about these endless rocks. Just keep your eye on the prize.

So with my brain disconnected from the task at hand, I was able to follow my plan and managed to exit that life base. For the remaining 184 km, I hiked, ran and made decisions that would help me move along, never again entertaining the idea of dropping out. In fact, I was so effective in denying my brain access to my surroundings that I am still unable to recollect events, mountain passes, valleys and rifugios that we passed in those remaining four days. As regretful as that sounds, it was the only way for me to be successful and it worked. When you think about it, the mere idea of running for 332 km is completely unreasonable so renouncing reason is the only reasonable way to deal with the endeavour.

I don't remember this one. In fact, out of 30 mountain passes, I can only recall f
I don’t remember this one. In fact, out of 30 mountain passes, I can only recall four.

I will soon put together a more detailed account, outlining the seven different sections of the route, but first I have to figure out how to reconnect my brain.

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Along A Path

general lover-of-life, including ultra-running, teaching, enjoying craft brews, being outdoors and living simply

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