I am well!
It was hard to stop so soon in the event. I had been having trouble with the descents as I tried to hold back on free running to avoid any injuries and protect the already tender left ankle. That started taking its toll on my quads and eventually, I rolled my right ankle. The roll was not bad but the memories of LUT came back where I continued running despite rolling my left ankle till I rolled it again and was out for 5 weeks. Constantly worrying about protecting my ankles was exhausting. The TDG trail is wild, you are on rock, scree, trails with roots crisscrossing and rocks jetting of their ground. Eventually, I rolled the right ankle, and then again and again. By the time I was down from Col Losson (3,299m) I must have rolled the right ankle half a dozen times (amazingly left one, not once). I was down but still wanted to continue, true to the moto;
“sweat dries, blood clots and bone heals.”
I somehow made it to Cogne at 9.30pm on Monday, almost eight and a half hours before cut-off. Plenty of time to eat, drink, sleep and recover. I had written myself notes with a permanent marker behind my laminated course profile with cut-off times. A trick from Belgian runner Ouns Kissiyar’s book. He told me that is how he keeps himself organised at the life-bases, as after a couple of nights without sleep you have very little mental capacity help yourself.
My notes said;
- Drink your recoverite
- Are you still alive? if yes, then 3
- Are you hurt? Yes,
- How bad? About to die, then go to the Medical tent,
- Otherwise, tape feet, stretch, self medicate then below,
- How bad do you smell? Wash / shower / change of clothes
- Eat again , and keep moving…
At Conge that evening when I walked into the medical tent I wanted them to ice and tape my ankle. Instead, at first there was some uncertainty, then I realised that they had neither sports tape or k-tape. I had both, but now they did not have anyone who knew what to do with them. There was also the question of the right quadricep, they felt it was a tear and might be problematic in the descends. Step 3 was becoming a problem. I decided to eat, rest and try again. A few hours later, the ankle had all but completely locked and the right leg would not bend beyond 90 degrees. It was all over. I will always wonder if I had continued to move would it all been fine. I will never know. The course, event and organisers, spectacular! If it had not been such a gruelling event that takes so long to train for, I would do it again in a heartbeat. The organisers are warm, not too strict yet well organised, when approached they are efficient and friendly. Yes, language can be an issue at times but at Courmayeur or at any of the aid stations it was never a problem. The event is extreme. It is a mental endurance event. It is not for everyone, no matter how hard or fit you may think you are. The course is not to be compared with anything else. Despite, being so close to UTMB, the trails are very different. This felt less touched and wilder. The mountain passes are high. At many points you find yourself either hoping on rocks, or climbing a ladder bolted on a cliff a few hundred feet from the ground below, or at the edge of a sharp cliff holding onto a rope for life. To balance all that our the scenery is breathtaking. The locals are engaged, you feel they are proud of their region and happy that you were willing to come and enjoy it with them.
As for me, I like to convince myself that I tried my best. I did manage a couple personal bests, like, in a single stage event the longest distance with 110kms and the most altitude change with 8,000m. I got to hang out and briefly climb with my Atacama tent buddy Eric Goutier and covered the course from Col Crosatie till Col Entrelor with Beat Jegerlehner who finished every single TDG thus far and had completed PTL, as well, for the last two years. On the final ascent to Col Entrelor, Beat and Dima Feinhaus got a little too fast for my legs liking (a little hard to move at 2,600m). As I type they are both confidently making their ways to the finish line. I also made many new friends in Allan-Lee, Hendra, Kee, Puzi, Ouns and Jill.
May be one day I will be back but possibly just to hike. We shall see!