Friday, September 23, 2011


As I hobbled towards the finish on my increasingly lame right leg, the morning sun was just beginning to illuminate the Mont Blanc massif. Clouds moved in and a light drizzle fell. Some magic European pain relievers  had kept my strained tibialis at bay for over an hour, but, approaching the final checkpoint, I could feel it re-emerging just in time for the final steep descent into Courmayeur. Despite spending nearly every moment of the past 5 days together, I'd encouraged Harry to go ahead to the finish from Rifugio Bonatti. Not only would my diminished downhill pace have been excruciating since he was feeling good, but I needed one last nap to gather strength before the last stretch. Imagining Harry cruising towards the finish made me smile and helped distract me from the less than optimal final miles.

I crossed the finish line in just under 6 days (143 hours and change); my elation tempered with relief. Still, I've never been happier at the completion of an event and I gave Harry a huge bear hug when I saw him. Looking back, it was hard to comprehend how we'd managed to get ourselves through the course. It still is. Many memories are a jumble and there are gaps where I can't quite piece things together even with the help of my photos. I suppose that's to be expected with not much more than 8 hours sleep for the week and only 5 of any significant quality. Furthermore, there are certain memories--highs as well as lows--that simply fade everything else into the backdrop.

It's been nearly a week since finishing the Tor des Geants and my nights are still filled with dreams of ascending and descending steep rocky trails. Looking back, the race seems alternately to have been one, extremely long day and a trek that lasted months. There were sections where we imagined dragging our tattered bodies through a war-zone (minus the bullets) and others were it seemed we were simply out on a casual (albeit quite extended) hike. Mostly, we were simply struck by two very contrasting sensations: how incredibly difficult the terrain was to traverse and how amazingly beautiful the surroundings were to be in.

Rather than a traditional race report, I am going to try and piece together as much as I can in a series of posts. Working backwards, I'll try to cover the key features and events for each of the sections. While the race itself is broken up by the major "life stations" and then by checkpoints in between these, I will follow a structure that maps more closely to the physical and emotional states that Harry and I navigated as much as we did the course itself.

Not from the race, but our preparation the week before. It's one of my favorites and how I choose to remember The Alps


Olga said...

Man, wow.

Harry said...

this ought to be good!

Nick said...

Impressive result. Well done.

Anil Rao said...

did you get to write more on this Steve, you should its a such a epic race. love to read more abt it


Steve Ansell said...

Unfortunately, I have not finished the report. A partial writeup of the previous section sits waiting my completion. Along with that, I have a nearly finished Arrowhead report. I suppose with another trip to Europe on the horizon, it may be time to revisit this :-)