12 September 2014

Longing for the mountains again

This morning it was exactly one year since I finished Tor des Géants (TDG). I have followed this year’s race intensively on the web and the weather and the conditions appear also this year to have been favorable. My time of 118 hours, 18 minutes and 55 seconds, which last year gave position 98, would this year give position 108 so the competition appears roughly the same as well. It is still too early to say how many will reach the finish line in Courmayeur, but the number of drop-outs appear slightly less in 2014, probably due to the large number of runners that was forced to stop in the rainstorm the first night last year. There were many Swedish runners who had signed up this year, but unfortunately most appear to have DNF due to for instance bad timed cold and respiratory infections. Nevertheless, Jesper Fägersten just completed the race after an amazingly rapid finish over the last pass Col Malatra this night and came in to Courmayeur in 110th place in a time of around 118 hours 39 minutes earlier this morning. Congratulations!!

The last two weeks I have been constantly asked what the difference is between TDG and Petite Trotte à Léon (PTL). My answer is in short: “Everything”. The longer answer is that while TDG really is a mountain ultramarathon trail running competition, PTL is perhaps the ultimate test how to manage yourself and your team in a challenging Alpine environment under stress. Just look at the speed of this year’s winners of TDG versus PTL. Franco Collé had an average speed of 4.60 km/h when he won and finished TDG’s 330 kilometers in 71 hours 49 minutes, while Alain Steeman and Bernard Godon in the winning Belgian team Les Patrouilleurs Célestes had an average speed of 2.54 km/h when winning and finishing this year’s roughly 294 kilometers long PTL course. PTL was certainly steeper with roughly D+ 26500 meters and a staggering D+/km of 90.2, compared to TDG with D+ 24000 meters and a D+/km of 72.7. However, there were clearly quite long runnable flatter sections of PTL as well and I think the main difference is in the frequent crazy steep and technical sections at PTL which almost requires climbing. Each such passage at PTL, as for instance the descent from Col d’Enclave, certainly took very long time. That, in combination with the need to slow down due to sometimes difficult navigation during long sections without a defined path, clearly made the difference in speed. However, I was surprised to see that mine and Otto’s average speed still was 2.19 km/h, quite high compared to my average speed of 2.79 km/h at TDG last year, in particular as we also made slightly longer breaks for sleep and refreshment at PTL than I did at TDG last year. So, perhaps we were running at least a little at PTL as well after all. As mentioned before, I think Jill Homer has written a good comparison between PTL and TDG, and I look forward to her race report from TDG this year to see if she still comes to the same conclusions now after having done both races.  


I have still not put on my running shoes after PTL, but this week I have gradually felt stronger and stronger and I have now already started to look forward to next year’s challenges. I think it a good sign that I have already started to dream about and long for the next mountain adventure. Despite being inspired by following TDG this week, I think next year’s calendar will probably most likely be filled with some shorter technical Skyrunning races instead. Also, I very much enjoy the films and race reports that now start to emerge from PTL.  The Finish top team Team Rumue with Janne Marin and Antti Niinikoski has posted a great film available here:

Also the winning team Les Patrouilleurs Célestes has posted a film here:

For those of you reading Danish Moses Lovstad has posted a great race report of their DNF at http://moseslovstad.com/2014/09/06/ptl-2/.


  1. Congratulations on finishing the PTL! It's interesting as well to read your post-race assessments of the experience. I of course can't really weigh in on the differences/similarities between the two races, having DNF'd both, but having completed roughly 200 kilometers of each race, I still think TDG is markedly easier than the PTL. Still too tough for me, apparently. ;-) But the straightforwardness of the terrain, the extensive support, and general runnability of TDG makes it a more achievable race for the large majority of trail runners who don't necessarily have extensive mountaineering/climbing experience or aptitude.

    I'd love to go back to TDG, but next time I will line up with much more training and preparation behind me — lots of time spent running downhill and focusing on strength and stability for the descents. I have a long history of winging things and gleaning what I can from the experience, but I regret not showing up for TDG better prepared. I am still recovering from my lateral knee injury (will go to get it checked out later this week) and going through all the motions of what went wrong.

    Congrats again.

    1. Thanks very much! Well, a twisted knee can happen despite all training - it is just bad luck and I think it was a good decision not to continue - to run with ice packs on my knee is not something I would ever risk. There are other mountains and races out there and TDG comes again next year. Agree with the notion about the descents - can never be overestimated.

      Good luck with your knee exam. If it happens to be a ruptured lateral meniscus think clearly before undergoing arthroscopy where the surgeon likely takes away a large part of the tissue - I am very happy I did not do that after my rupture in January and instead rehabilitated the knee conservatively through physical therapy - I did not feel anything of the injury at PTL despite the extreme stress it must have been for the knee.