Beat all but told me that he didn't expect to make it beyond kilometer fifty in the Tor des Geants, so I packed his flip flops and a change of clothes before I drove out to meet him at Valgrisenche. He arrived twelve hours into the race, just after 10 p.m., with a slight hobble and a despondent look on his face. "Just say the word," I said without adding any sugar-coated but ultimately empty words of encouragement. "You don't have to do this."
As lightning streaked through the night sky, he paused for several seconds and gazed resolutely toward a black wall of mountains. "I can probably do one more section."
But already these runners have been going so hard, for so long, that they're largely desensitized to all but their most basic functions and immediate surroundings. This makes them do funny and awkward things, like collapse on a grassy slope with their head downhill and their limbs splayed out. Should I check to make sure he's still breathing? If this were the normal world, I would, but this is the Tor des Geants. Eh, he's fine.
Eaux Rousse to Col Loson, round trip: 16.5 miles.
Total climbing: 6,434 feet
Total time: 5:54