Showing posts from September, 2013

PTL video

La Petite Trotte à Léon — The long way around Mont Blanc from Jill Homer on Vimeo. Beat carried a GoPro camera during the La Petite Trotte à Léon last month, and filmed a few segments of his race. He definitely took his camera out during some pretty times, and his footage shows just how spectacular this route is. There are hints of the brutality as well. I compiled some of his footage into a quick five-minute video to show to friends at a party tonight. The link to the video is above.

Back in the saddle again

I watched Leah disappear up the Bobcat Trail on another cross-training interval and felt my own spike of determination. "Okay, legs, we can do this!" Middle ring, head down, brow furrowed, mash mash mash. Within seconds every muscle fiber in my legs seemed to be quivering, as though they'd never pedaled a bike before. Lactic acid flushed in and I stood out of the saddle, spinning chunks of gravel into the air. Big effort. No results. Leah floated up the hill and I floundered like a beached walrus. "Remember how I was complaining in August about losing my top end fitness?" I'd told her earlier. "Well, I'm pretty sure I don't even have a middle ring right now."

I still tried to ride hard. Being out of shape is not so bad, especially if you are riding bikes. It was just over a week ago that I ended a long mountain biking drought, and ever since it's been like being a new cyclist again — slow, awkward, and having the time of my life. Afte…

Shadowing the Tor des Geants

Ah, the Aosta Valley. An idyllic strand of old-world villages and modern adventure hubs woven together beneath the towering spires of the Italian Alps. What better place could there be to revive tired legs and splintered spirits? As we boarded an early-morning flight from Dusseldorf back to Geneva, I was still feeling broken from PTL. Still, I hoped some good, old-fashioned mountain awesomeness would propel me through a week of intensive race crewing and active sight-seeing.

Then, of course, there's Beat. Crazy, crazy Beat. I used to believe we had similar levels of passion and drive for this sort of stuff, but his crazy is many notches beyond mine. While I was still wondering if I would find the heart and strength to climb to the top of just one col in the Italian Alps, Beat was setting out to march over 25 of them in the 200-mile, 80,000-feet-of-climbing Tor des Geants. It would be his fourth such trip around the highline of the Aosta Valley, and his second PTL/TdG double-heade…


I had been hopeful about Ana and Giorgio's chances after I left the team. Although I started out strong, often climbing well in front of them, I seemed to decline more rapidly than they did as sleep- and calorie-deprivation took hold. By the fourth day, there was no question that I had become the anchor, and I had a difficult time with that reality. It's stressful to be the slowest member of a team fighting cut-offs, and I suspect that my dramatic downswing on the fourth day was partially a result of expending more energy than I had to give so I could keep up. Still, there were indicators that both of them were really starting to struggle as well. Although I'd watched their Zombification begin to manifest, I still hoped their impressive determination would push them through.

Ana still hasn't had time to tell me the full story about what happened that night, but shortly after they left Morgex, Giorgio hit his own swift decline. Ana told me he was "very, very aslee…

A strange one

and a strange form of life
kicking through windows
rolling on yards
heading in loved ones' triggering eyes
a strange one

 — From "Strange Form of Life" by Bonnie Prince Billy

A damp, viscous sort of cold accompanied the darkness as we jogged the final two miles into a dirt parking lot somewhere just beyond another tiny village in France. The PTL organization had set up a tent that I fully expected to be kicked out of the minute we arrived, but a volunteer standing outside informed us they weren't shutting down until 1 a.m. "That's nearly four hours from now!" I said with unveiled giddiness, but Ana was skeptical. Morgex was still officially 43 kilometers away, but that number was supposedly short — "it's probably closer to 50," the volunteer offered. Leaving at midnight would give us 18 hours before the hard cutoff, and at PTL pace even three kilometers an hour was overly optimistic.

Giorgio, who had talked only of food for the last three hours…

In a dark little room

in a dark little room 
across the nation 
you found myself racing 
forgetting the strange and the hard 
and the soft kiss 
in the dark room

 — From "Strange Form of Life" by Bonnie Prince Billy

The violet-tinted daylight and first glimpse of a white tent canopy in the valley 2,000 feet below seemed to revive Giorgio and Ana, and we broke into a stiff shuffle down the first developed trail we'd used in eight hours. As my leg muscles struggled to open to this new motion, it occurred to me that eight hours ago was probably also the last time I tried to take in any calories, when I ate half a Snicker's Bar after the electric cattle fence jolted me from my own sleepy stupor. It's really strange, I thought, to be nearly 60 hours into this extremely difficult endeavor, eating close to nothing, sleeping very little, and moving constantly — and yet find the wherewithal to run even when common sense told me my body should be shutting down.

"Survival mode," I thought. I…