Tor des Geants - 2014


By Nick Pedatella
Thanks to Pillow Lab for use of the photos. 

The Tor des Geants is a 336 km (~208 miles) race featuring roughly 24,000 meters (78,750 ft) of ascent, and an equal amount of descent. Though it is incredibly difficult, TdG avoids being hard purely for the sake of difficulty. Rather, the route essentially follows the Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2 paths, creating a single, logical, loop around Italy's Aosta Valley. The combination of shear difficulty, a natural route, and absolutely stunning scenery put TdG on my to-do list of races. It would also provide the opportunity to experience my first multi-day event, which would present an entire new set of challenges compared to the typical 100 mile race. 

Signatures of all races of 2014 Tor de GeantsThere is no need to rehash the entire experience of TdG. That would be too long, boring, and probably take about as long to read and write as it took to finish TdG. Instead, here is a brief summary of a few of the high and low points along the way, which will hopefully give you a brief glimpse into what an event like TdG is like.

- The crowds on the first day were unbelievable. There had to have been close to 1000 people lining the top of the second climb. Though the numbers decreased, I can not think of a single person I passed on the trail who did not offer encouragement and support.

- Dealing with anterior tibialis pain for the last ~110 miles made for a rather frustrating second half of the race due to the inability to run any sort of technical downhill. I came extremely close to quiting because of this, but I am glad that I just dealt with it, even if it did mean I was going to be significantly slower than I had hoped.

- The medical support on the course was absolutely top notch. To help with my anterior tibialis pain, I received some sort of cold laser treatment, and kinesio taping. I also got a quarter of my leg shaved.

- Having the organization send someone to look for me after it took me 3+ hours to go 4.5 km. There was a lot of vomiting, dehydration, and laying on the side of the trail in misery. I have never felt nearly this bad in a race before…fortunately a couple hour nap, some grapes, soup and water was enough to turn things around.

- Having an absolutely phenomenal night immediately following what was the lowest point in the race for me. The section of “rolling” (i.e., only 1000 ft climbs/descents) trail was perhaps the nicest section of the entire route, and I did not see a single person all night expect for the aid station workers. This was the most enjoyable part of the event.

- Running a significant portion of the final 50 km with an Italian guy who spoke limited English. We were still able to share in the experience, even if we could not have anything beyond a limited conversation.

Tor de Geants- Trying to convince the aid station worker 5 km from the finish that I needed to lay down for at least 15-20 minutes. He seemed to think I should just go to the finish. I, on the other hand, hadn’t slept for ~28 hours and was starting to fall asleep on the trail, and didn’t think I could make it to the finish without a short nap. He eventually relented - or I just went inside and laid down - I forget which…. 

One needs to experience the event first hand to truly understand the magnitude of the course in terms of its beauty and difficulty, as well as the unbelievable support provided by the organization and spectators. It is something that is incredibly unique. 

In the end, the race didn't go entirely as I had hoped. This is perhaps partly due to my own arrogance/ignorance regarding just how difficult TdG really is. Nonetheless, on the whole it was an extremely positive experience, and it offered up a healthy dose of humbleness as well as a wealth of education regarding multi-day events. I have a feeling there may be more of these sorts of events in my future.

Thanks to everyone who offered support before, during, and after this adventure. Thanks also to Drymax Socks, Pearl Izumi/Running, Ultimate Direction, and VFuel Endurance for their ongoing support, especially during the past year of dealing with various injuries. Everything I used during the race from these companies worked great, and I didn't have a single gear-related issue the entire time.

Nick heading down the final descent.Nick on the final descent of the race.

Tags: athlete, race, race report, tor des geants, trail running, ultra marathon, ultrarunning

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