The Tor Des Geants covers 200+ miles and over 90,000 feet of climbing in a beautiful but often very rocky and steep setting. Racers have 150 hours to complete with access to large aid stations every 50K where they are cots, showers, food and drop bags. Aid stations and Refugios are also available along the course with water, food, and sometimes limited sleeping options. I ended up pulling out of the race after the 4th 50K, around 135 miles, 60,000 feet climbed and about 90 hours on the course. I was managing several physical issues (like every body else) but the biggest thing that led to the DNF was a very swollen left forearm caused by bad tendinitis, which was keeping me from being able to use my ski pole on the left side. At the time I left the race, medical personnel weren’t exactly sure what was causing the swelling and advised better medical attention. Of course I regret not finishing, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.
Q: What did you do to prepare yourself for the Tor Des Geants?
A: Because the race was so long and I never done anything longer than 100 miles before, I had to do physical and mental preparing. The physical part was easier for me, since I has some experience with long distances and being on my feet. Plus, even though I can’t run very well anymore, I’m still a strong hiker, so I tried to build on that. I worked with Eric Orton to help develop a training plan that would accommodate work, family and race preparation without injury. I have a labral tear and other assorted issues that had to be managed, but I think I did a good job of the physical prep. By August I was putting in a lot of vertical and time on my feet in the mountains, i.e. hiking up to the Tram a couple of times in a day, or doing long days back to back. It was really enjoyable and I explored a lot of new mountain trails. The mental part – that is understanding the topography of the course, how to manage aid stations, eating and sleeping was a lot harder for me to figure out since I had never spent multiple days on my feet before, and I think I went into that part under-prepared.
Q: How did the training at Wright Training help you physically and mentally?
A: Going into the race with a good base of strength from Wright Training was indispensable for all the steep up and downhills on the course and helping with the mental strength necessary for persisting despite being tired. The first 100k of the race covered almost 30,000 feet of climbing. All those squats and step-ups paid off.
Q: Do you think living and training in Jackson was beneficial for the race?
A: Living and training in Jackson Hole was a huge advantage. The Aoste Valley has relatively the same elevation as Jackson. The climbs never exceeded 11,000 feet. Some of the people in the race who came from sea level seemed to struggle with the altitude, and one women near me ended up getting altitude sickness and was evacuated.
Q: What were you the most nervous for?
A: I was most nervous about managing so much time on my feet without much sleep. I am a really light sleeper, and don’t sleep well with any noise around me. In the end, I learned that I could get by with rest pretty well, and didn’t need a ton of real sleep. I only got three real hours of sleep during the whole time I was out there, but just lying down and resting for an hour was still really helpful.I was also apprehensive about exacerbating some of my current physical issues. Of course, I hadn’t even thought about my arm. Swelling is really hard to manage when you are upright for so long.
Q: What was the highlight of the trip?
A: The highlight of the trip was the incredible scenery – large glacial rivers, waterfalls and big ass rocky climbs as well as the super kind residents of so many villages that I passed through. The race is very well executed and supported by hundreds of volunteers.
Q: What would you have done differently?
A: No question – I would have tried to manage my food intake differently. I couldn’t eat very well, and never had an appetite, so really didn’t take in enough calories. I was never hungry and often nauseated. This might be okay for a day or two, but by three days it was effecting me. I’m pretty sure I lost about 8 pounds or so over the course of 4 days. If you can eat well and sleep well you have a huge advantage!