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Showing posts from September, 2015

And then everything was beautiful

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It was as though the mountains were laughing at all the runners still milling around Courmayeur, collecting soggy drop bags and awaiting truncated race results as blue skies blazed overhead. That the sun came out just a few hours after the Tor des Geants was cancelled, and effectively stayed out all weekend, caused some grumbling around town. Beat emphasized that organizers did the best they could with the information they had. The first night's snowstorm had already created significant hazards for more than 800 runners. Around 450 people were still in the race on day four, and asking hundreds of runners to navigate high-alpine terrain in pea-soup fog, where even experienced volunteers became lost, could ignite a large-scale emergency. It's one thing to go for a mountain adventure on your own, but as part of a race, you have to abide by a safety standard that works for a large group. This is the case even among the hardest of the hard-core races. But for some runners who had …

How Jill got her groove back

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"Accomplishments are ultimately meaningless. Experience is what matters."

I typed that sentence somewhere in a document shortly after UTMB, but ultimately scrubbed it from the detritus of post-race stream-of-consciousness. Still I continued to squint into the murky flow, trying to make sense of why I seek challenges that are well beyond my pay grade, throw aside all the medals and patches and belt buckles when I succeed, and yet feel so bewildered and unmoored when I fail.

"Four failures in the Alps. Four!" I came to UTMB in 2012 well-prepared and well-trained, only to be thrown into a shortened, dramatically different race when a snowstorm forced a major reroute at the last minute. I finished the 110K, but it's always felt like a failure. I signed up for Petite Trotte à Léon in 2013 because I really had no idea what I was getting into, but that challenge sounded so much more adventurous than UTMB. PTL was a mistake from the get-go — negotiating frequent scram…

Shadowing the Tor des Geants, 2015

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After our extended family visit in Switzerland, Beat and I drove to Courmayeur, Italy, for the sixth running of the Tor des Geants. This 200-mile loop around the Aosta Valley holds a special place in Beat's heart. Even as we discuss focusing on different, non-race adventures in the future, the TDG is likely to continue prompting yearly returns. Beat has finished every single Tor des Geants — he's one of just 13 runners to do so. I've joked that Beat values his "senatori" status in the TDG as much as his PhD in physics. Of course that's not true, but as a senatori, Beat does have something like celebrity status in these small communities of northern Italy. Senatoris also receive guaranteed entry into this increasingly popular race.

The Tor des Geants follows an incredible and especially demanding course in the Italian Alps, but what really makes this race special is its sense of community. Most of the Aosta Valley shows up to support this event, and TDG draws…

When in Switzerland

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After Beat and his partner Pieter finished the Petite Trotte a Leon, Beat and I traveled to Switzerland to spend a couple of weeks with his family. The race finish was a joyful event. I'm always proud of Beat after the PTL, but mostly relieved that he has gotten his sleep-deprived self down from those exposed mountain ridges safely with no injuries. It's impressive that he's managed to finish four of these, along with five Tor des Geants, without any major issues. It's gotten so routine for him that he can't really understand why just *anyone* can't run 200 miles across extremely difficult mountain terrain in less than five days, while all of my attempts over the years have led to a lack of comprehension about how anyone can. I'm going to continue moving at two miles per hour and calling myself a hiker, and maybe someday I'll convince Beat to join me on a nice trekking trip in the Alps with refuges, actual meals, and 15-mile days.


Until then, I can har…