Today I headed out from the town of La Chambre to begin a 20km climb up to the Col de la Madeleine, what I thought was the highest Col of the Tour, at 2000 m. I surprised myself by running the entire 12.5 miles without even pausing to walk (the average grade was 8 % but there were definitely some 10% kms in there!) and when I reached the top I yipped and hollered with excitement that I could now check off the longest climb (yesterday) AND the highest! That was when Alex informed me that the very first Col I ran, in the Pyrenees, was, at 2001 meters, actually the highest of the Tour. Well, shoot! Turns out I had already run the tallest and not realized it – which is not exactly a bad problem to have.
In any case, today I crossed off the highest Col in the Alps and made some more cycling friends on the way to the top. We’ve taped a “Running le Tour de France” t shirt inside our car window so a lot of cyclists stop and say hi and ask if I’m completely mad or what. It’s astounding how many cyclists these famous Tour climbs attract, and the roads are absolutely busier with people on bikes than people in cars. I love it. There are people from so many different countries too, that I kinda wish we all wore our flags on our shirts or something – as it feels like we’re all always saying “Bonjour”, with or without accent, and then mutually, silently, awkwardly wondering what language everyone else speaks and if we might have one in common.
Yesterday I bagged the longest climb, on the Col de Glandon, which is listed as 21.6 km on the TDF website, but I’m pretty sure I was running up for 24 km, as there’s a steep hill just to get up to the village that’s at the start of the official Col road. Alex and I stayed with Marc and Christina and their son Vincent and daughter Laura the past couple days and Marc is an avid cyclist and he kept me company on Glandon, after helping me make it up Alpe D’Huez just two days earlier. He even brought some spray paint to leave me “Go Zoe!” messages on the roads : ) I missed him on Madeleine today! Glandon was one of the most beautiful landscapes of the trip so far and I’m pretty sure I want to move to the Alps after all this. Sorry Mom and Dad.
Tomorrow: 1 or 2 more Cols, but half the height of today!