Montane Athlete Tom Hollins reflects on the difficult lessons he learned from his first Tor des Géants, what makes it such a difficult and special race, and how he plans to improve this year...
Before last year's TDG I came out in August and recced the last 1/3 of the route as I knew it was going to be a tough race to finish and I wanted to be prepared. I wasn't wrong. I DNFd after the first 1/3 of the route.
Last year, I arrived the day before the race with no time to acclimitise. As soon as I got off the plane, I could feel the heat. I set off at a nice pace but the 2 passes over 3000m killed me off. Normally my environment will motivate me to carry on. And the scenery on the TDG is some of the best. But I was done for.
I knew this year needed a different approach. As beautiful as the Italian Alps are I couldn't see myself arriving super early for the race. I love running, but I love spending time with my kids more and the run up to the TDG falls bang in school holidays. This year though my girls' mum decided to take them on holiday just before the race. I saw an opportunity...
I'm writing this now on the coach from bergamo airport to Aosta. From there I am getting the bus to donnas and then running the middle third of the course before rerouting off to cervinia and then up to a rifugio at 3450m for a week. Sara is then joining me for a weeks romantic holiay in Cervinia before supporting me on the race for a week. (That woman is a Saint...)
Last time I had more than two weeks off work was 1996. This is going to be an amazing experience as well as an amazing race - there is no better place in the world to run and to chill than the Italian Alps. This time I will be better acclimated and better rested, and I will have run all of the course beforehand.
At the Tor des Géants start last year my smile was pretty big. This year my main risks of injury might be cheek strain or lip splitting.
I can't wait. Finish line here I come.