My contribution to the irunfar.com “Voices of the 2014 Tor Des Géants” article
Since the 2010 inception of Tor Des Géants, I have been immersed in my husband’s photos and stories of the unbelievable beauty and unforgiving terrain that this monster of a race provides. Like vampires tasting blood for the first time, once-bitten runners have been drawn back again and again to feast upon those succulent 330km. While the ‘race’ aspect of TDG never appealed to me, a mid-pack runner who dabbles in ultra distances, the idea of a week-long jaunt in the Italian Alps struck a melodious chord. So when my husband and I were trying to decide how to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, I insisted on the 6-day, all-inclusive running holiday, also known as Tor des Géants.
The mountains are truly breathtaking in those last days of summer, with yellowing grasses, wildflower seed heads and blue grey rocks below a bluebird sky. Crowds of locals hiked up the first few passes, hollering “Bravi! Bravissima!” at the passing snake of ascending runners. Finally this long-awaited event was underway and I was ready to indulge all my senses.
But after delighting in those first blissful 24 hours of the race, the reality of the task at hand became evident. These mountains are steeper than anything I have ever encountered and, with around 25 mountain passes remaining, the learning curve was equally steep. Although I was consistently strong on the ascents throughout the race, the descents soon filled me with dread as the soles of my feet began to slough off and my knee screamed out with every downhill step. Right from the beginning, I made errors with both the management of sleep and of time spent in life bases which eventually played havoc with my enjoyment of the route and with my cut-off time cushion.
But the saving grace for me was my unplanned trail partner – my husband, Bruce. Despite our intentions to run TDG separately, we stuck together, step-for-step, for the entire route. Having already had two stellar, top 40 finishes under his belt, Bruce stepped into the role of “Tor Guide” this year and offered me both expertise and encouragement for the entire 144 hour event. Although I set the pace and explored the limits of my strength, he gets the credit for keeping me in a positive mental state that allowed me to push ever forward. Very few couples could withstand the 24/7 stress that this event demands but we seemed to thrive in it, becoming stronger as a couple with every mountain pass.
TDG may have taught me that 330 km is my limit, but it showed me that 20 years is not enough.