Cobblestones, Cols and Cowbells - Page 5
For an American trail runner the aid stations can be a culture shock. Earlier in the day, I discovered by accident that I must specify whether I want “agua” or “agua naturelle.” One is carbonated; the other isn’t. That is, one comes out of your nose, the other doesn’t. On the table beside water bottles sit carafes of red wine and cans of beer. Coke appears to be the rough equivalent of an energy drink; apparently, Hammer Nutrition does not yet have a European office.
Runners in the Tor have one drop bag that follows them from one Life Station to the next. In between these stations, the smaller water and food stations are six to 12 kilometers apart. Due to the rugged terrain and time it takes to cover it, runners must carry mandatory gear: spare clothing, water, food, two headlamps, spare batteries, rain shell, cell phone, elastic tape, altimeter, whistle, emergency blanket and a cup.
I fill my cup with some “Coca-Cola energy drink” and sift through my drop bag, preparing for the night. An overflowing plate of rigatoni marinara lands in front of me and I devour it like I’m in an episode of Man versus Food.
A thunder clap pierces the tent’s calmness, and is followed closely by a sudden deluge of rain that vibrates the tent’s ceiling. I decide to wait out the storm, and have another helping of pasta. “Grazie,” I say to the smiling volunteer.
Thirty minutes later, I guzzle a cup of coffee before heading into a steady drizzle. In the town’s shoulder-wide streets, rain-slickened cobblestones glisten under soft yellow lights. I walk past a church and bell tower barely larger than a typical two-story, single-family home. The tick-tick of my trekking poles lulls me back into solitary race mode.
Reflectors line the way up a steep trail toward Col Fenetre, yet another 4000-foot climb—the fifth major climb of the day. I feel recharged from the two pasta plates I inhaled. In fact, this is the best I have ever felt heading into the night miles of an ultramarathon, and I experience a rare euphoria. I feel as if I could run forever—or perhaps to the finish line.