I bet the Tour de France organizers had a real good laugh to themselves when they designed this stage from Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap. Because this is how the brainstorm must have gone: “Hey, let’s design an absolutely beautiful stage to follow up after Mont Ventoux, and let’s have it end with a gradual 32 km ascent and then dramatic plunge down into the town of Gap. But wait, actually, that’s not hard enough! Instead, let’s have the cyclists arrive in Gap center, and then re-route them on an 11km climb up a mountain, past the Col, and then back down into Gap center in a wide 22km circle. Then they’ll be done, for realsies this time!”
And then the next day, when they went back to brainstorming, they decided they might as well have the next stage leaving from Gap and climbing up the exact same mountain pass.
This is just one of the lovely examples of why the TDF organizers are monsters. I know a lot of people following this run are Tour fanatics, so they likely understand, but for anyone who doesn’t follow closely, let me say that each and every stage is designed to end as brutally as possible. Earlier this week, on the Mont Ventoux climb, there is a much more immediate way to get to the summit, which starts in the town of Malaucene, which is directly on that stage’s route. Rather than send the cyclists this way, however, the stage cruelly passes right under that “Mont Ventoux 21 km” sign, and then proceeds up an unrelenting hill to 2,000 feet, then drops back down around the backside of the mountain and finally, 10 miles after that first Ventoux sign, it starts the 13 mile climb up and up and up for a summit finish.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that everything they say about the Tour is true. It’s hard. It’s unrelenting. It’s deliberately brutal and purposefully designed for drama, tension, and “Am I tough enough” moments.
But wow is it beautiful. The last four days have been stilted runs, pausing what feels like every five minutes to snap photos. I often wonder if the cyclists get to absorb the landscapes around them or if they are passing so quickly and in such a strained focus that they aren’t able to enjoy it much. In this respect, running the Tour is a much better way to do it because you see and absorb the views and the landscapes that much more profoundly. But some of these views are just so spectacular and so dramatic that I can’t imagine the cyclists whiz by unaffected – after all, we enjoy them from a car too, don’t we?
As I’ve gotten back towards the mountains, and especially on Ventoux, we’ve gotten to experience more of the cycling community and lore behind these famous climbs. It’s weird because, in the nicest way possible, sometimes I delight in seeing a pack of cyclists, knowing they’re like-minded people out being active, enjoying the outdoors and helping to keep traffic slow and aware. But there are other moments where I see a duo or triplet of cyclists and all I feel is frustration. They get to have a PARTNER! Or a whole group! They have fancy gear! They can fly down the other side of the mountain! The cars are used to accommodating them! I know, it’s just when I’m not having a great run when I feel that way, but sometimes it’s lonely being a runner out on a famous biking route, surrounded by wheels and gears and so much Lycra.
But what has really stuck with me is the pride and the history in the cycling community. This week we met a British cyclist on Ventoux who had driven 8 hours just to bike up the infamous windy mountain. The summit of Ventoux was like a UN conference, with English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, all of it being thrown around by different duos and trios of cyclists young and old, and all of us trying to get a photo in front of the black sign declaring we had truly made it all the way up to 1912 meters. The dedication of the cyclists and the varying reasons for their biking pilgrimages and levels of fitness is truly surprising. It’s a strong, proud community, and it seems like the Tour de France is a never-ending source of inspiration, motivation, and excitement for them.
So after the torturous finish in Gap yesterday, I have officially made it to the Alps! I have just two weeks left and so many more Cols to cross off – I’m scared and excited. The next 8 or so days in the Alps are the most daunting of the entire journey, and the final test of my legs and my resolve – so I guess I’m ready to get them started!
Today is a rest day and Alex and I have giant smiles because we are at Hotel Le Clos where owner Jean-Pierre has donated two nights, two dinners, and two breakfasts to support our cause. He also shared our mission on his Facebook page! And, he happens to actually be a Chef, a genuine French cook, and the dinner last night was amazing. I’m already looking forward to tonight. The hotel is everything we could hope for, especially for a rest day, with a beautiful courtyard where we are now sitting catching up on emails etc. and a room with the best bathroom ever where I will soon be taking a nice refreshing ice bath : )
When I started planning this all back in January, the Alps seemed impossibly far away. Since then, the universe has conspired to help me and so many people and organizations have become involved to help us reach both the goal of raising $100K for WPP and my goal of running the Tour de France. So thank you to everyone who has become a part of our journey – thank you to my athletic sponsors Fuse Science and Health Warrior for fueling me all this way, for Zoe’s Kitchen for super-charging our fundraising, to all the daily sponsors and individual donors who have helped us get to $129,000 (!!!), to all our hosts and especially to my amazing Mom and Dad and everyone who has motivated me and gave me reason to believe I could keep going when I’ve wanted to sit down and sleep or cry or quit. Please keep the encouragement coming in the next two weeks!!
And most importantly, thank you to World Pediatric Project for giving us reason to keep on keepin’ on and always sending news from patients and families and all of the kids who will be helped through this project!!! You guys are so dedicated to your mission and I’m so grateful Alex and I get to work with you on it : )