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Resting hard ahead of the Tor des Geants

by @garyfallsover
Wednesday 27th August 2014

Run247 columnist Gary Dalton makes the best of taper time

Well I don’t know about you but tapering is my favourite time of the race calendar. I mean if you can get past the mood swings, the grumpiness, the endless angst and feeling that you haven’t quite done enough (I haven’t) then what’s not to like about sitting on the couch and carb loading. This year I’m mostly taking my carbs in the form of chocolate and ice cream. Not your traditional pre-race foods I grant you, but I’m trying something new this year.

So the reason I’m tapering is something I’ve mentioned a couple of times on here. It’s the Tor des Geants, a 330km race around the Aosta valley following Alta Via numbers 1 and 2, over 25 high passes, the highest of which is nearly 11,000 feet, with a cumulative height gain of just under 80,000ft. So, despite what the Tough Spartan Mudder guys say on their websites, I think this one might just edge things in difficulty. Though I’m not really looking it at like that. I’m a fairly simple guy at heart, and head and so I’m just thinking of it as a bit of a wander in the mountains where I can do my damndest to eat my entry fee in cheese. But seeing as I didn’t actually pay an entry fee and I’m there by the good grace and generosity of the Tor committee and Run247, that shouldn’t prove too difficult.

So the past week, for my wife at least, has been like living with a particularly hormonal teenage girl. There’s been hissy fits when I can’t find my favourite Vaseline (yes I have a favourite, don’t judge me), wardrobe explosions when I try on every combination of clothes, complaining loudly that nothing fits anymore and where’s the nice red one and by far my lowest moment when my better half found me on the couch in my pants eating ice cream. She sadly didn’t accept my explanation that I was only, as my coach Robbie Britton always says, ‘resting hard’. Then again, that’s not the most embarrassing thing my other half has found me on the couch doing.

So Friday of next week the fretting will nearly be over. The bags will be packed and I’ll have a pretty good idea of what my race plan is. I tend not to be too prescriptive about my plans in races, having done a few now I know that things can go out the window even before the gun goes off. However I will know where the aid stations are and what the cut off times are for each one. I’ll know where I’d like to be after the first night but after that it’s in the lap of the Gods. If that’s your kinda thing.

But it’s not next Friday yet and for the moment I’m stuck in that hiatus between spending all my spare time running and spending all my spare time thinking about the running I haven’t done. Because we’ve never done enough have we? Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never gone into a race thinking I’ve optimised my training. I’ve missed too many sessions, taken the easy option too many times and cut short training sessions and occasionally, despite Robbies words of wisdom, haven’t rested hard enough. However I trust in what I have done, because I’ve learnt over the years that I’m capable of far more than I ever thought I was. I know that every race, no matter how long or short, is cyclical. There’s times I’ll feel like rubbish and there’s times I’ll feel like I could run forever. That realisation was one of my most important epiphanies in ultra running and there isn’t a race nowadays in which I don’t have to remind myself of it. So it’s just one step in front of another. Repeat if necessary. And at some point along the way it’ll no longer be necessary. Though in the case of the Tor des Geants, that may well be quite some time.

My biggest dilemma during the taper period usually revolves around what I’m going to bring with me kit wise. Now those (both) of you who’ve read my column before, hi Mum, will know that I’m what’s referred to as a kit monkey. I have more outdoors kit than Bear Grylls and Ray Mears put together and only half a clue how to use most of it. If ever a race needs five waterproof jackets with varying degrees of hydrostatic resistance then I’m most certainly your man. But unusually for a race of this length there’s no need to carry any survival gear outside of an extra warm layer and a foil blanket. In fact I’ve carried more gear for a 22 mile fell race in Snowdonia.  Essentially what the race organisation is saying is ‘here’s a short list of stuff we want you to take, decide for yourself what else is best for you’

Now I know there was a debate on iRunFar recently about the decision of Dakota Jones and Reese Ruland not to require any compulsory kit whatsoever for the Telluride 38 miler at the beginning of the month, but personally I think that’s slightly irresponsible. We never really know what’s going to befall us in a mountain race and I think it could put an unnecessary strain on mountain rescue services if people decide they don’t even need to take the most basic of kit. But that’s just me.

So for now I’m pretty much just kicking my heels. I need to bear in mind that there’s very little I can do to improve my, condition but loads I can do to hurt it and so the runs I am doing are strictly according to my programme. Because that’s one of the mistakes I’ve made before, feeling undertrained on the way up to a race and trying to cram in too much in the last couple of weeks. All you do is wear yourself out and increase the risk of injury. So I’m enjoying this feeling of anticipation. I know that however I feel now, I’ll be on that start line in Courmayeur on Sunday week with 600+ other runners, listening to some motivational music. The Italians love a bit of motivational music. Every now and then I’ll get absorbed in whatever every day task I’m doing and suddenly I’ll flash back to the race and realise it’s only around the corner. And I’ll smile a little smile to myself, because whatever happens during the race, whether I finish or not, this time can’t be spoiled nor can it be taken away. It’s mine. I’ve worked for it and now’s the time to enjoy it.

And then I’ll drift off again wondering ‘ the blue jacket or the red one...’

To find out more about the Tor de Geants, visit: www.tordesgeants.it/en


About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 


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