I made it across the Alps, on my feet.

This might be a long one.  Buckle up.

Last night, at 3 am, I was laying awake in bed writing a blog post in my head.  I had just finished my last stage in the Alps, running a short day of 20 miles, which included an 11 km climb at 8,5% to finish the day atop Mount Semnoz.  It was my last big climb and it was painfully steep.  The fact that I was lying awake at 3 am when I knew that my body was exhausted and needed sleep more than anything else was frustrating and incomprehensible.  I decided it was either because A. I had only run 20 miles versus the usual 30 B. I was buzzed that I would be driving to Paris today and see my sister Rosa, brother Gabe, and his wife Margaret in two days or C. My mind was only just then catching up with my body.

It was probably all of them, but the fact of the matter is, when I planned this whole thing back in January, the Alps were so far away they resembled nothing more than a chart of inclines and declines and Cols with names I couldn’t pronounce.  After the Pyrenees, I had a bit of a confidence boost, but also experienced the opposite: I now knew how hard the less difficult of the two mountain ranges was – so I knew that from there it was only going to get harder.  Then I hit a wall in the middle of France; a wall of overcast days and injured calves and swollen feet and the monotony of never ending wheat fields and hills that were rolling, rolling; always rolling and never leveling.  By Lyon, you better believe I was damn ready for the mountains, ready for some excitement and a challenge that was more palpable and more daunting than a simple 30 mile jaunt through the valleys of middle France.  After climbing my way up to the top of Mont Ventoux in sweltering heat amid herds of speedy cyclists, I remembered why I set out to do this in the first place and how good it feels to simply accomplish a goal or a dream or any task you’ve set for yourself, big or small.

And then I arrived in Gap, where I rested for a day before starting the most difficult week of this Tour.  I re-read my training journal, double-checked my “schedule”, looked over the climbs again.  It was going to be hard and I was ready to get it started.  The next 7 days flew by in a way that only happens when each and every day is full of its own kind of hell and victory and your thoughts are never about tomorrow or next week but always just the moment right in front of you.  The Alpe D’Huez gave me several memorable stress dreams in Richmond before I left, and in two days I was done and over and moving forward without even having too much time to think about what had just been accomplished, because the next day had its own new Col or summit or, sometimes worse, its own unrelenting descent.  I rested one more day in Le Grand Bornard before starting the final Alpine stage in Annecy on Monday, and late last night long after my legs had finished and left whatever they had to leave out on the summit of Semnoz, my mind was finally catching up:  I just ran the entire mainland Tour de France route.  I just ran that.  On my feet.  And all those times I had my doubts and my questions and my uncertainties and I think somewhere mid-mountain yesterday I realized that everything we need to accomplish our dreams is already inside of us.  We just have to draw it out.

All that lies between me and Paris now is a tiny stage from Versailles to the Arc de Triomph.  However, I actually started my Tour in Nice, so that I could time it just right to finish one day ahead of the cyclists in the time I had and at an average of 30 miles a day.  Which means that, while Paris is A finale, it is not THE finale – I’ll spend a few days here and then it’s straight down to Corsica to finish the three Tour stages there – the last of which might end with a surprise bang.  It’s a weird feeling, because the finish in Paris is definitely an emotional, exciting one, but I also know I’ve still got 320 more miles to run, and I’ll certainly need some motivation on that – I suspect it might in some ways be more difficult than the past couple stages, just psychologically to go from the big push in the mountains to the run down the Champs Elysee to a return to the stages where it all got started, on an island away from the rest of France and with the Tour already over and done with.  So if I can ask anything of everyone out there, it’s this: please keep sending the love and good energy my way until I finish for real on August 2nd!

And speaking of love and good energy, the last two days I have enjoyed the support coming from Richmond-based Health Diagnostics Lab as a sponsor of this run and World Pediatric Project!  HDL has been a huge help in reaching our fundraising goal and knowing that I had someone matching my miles with a generous donation towards World Pediatric Project’s mission on three of my toughest and most exciting days – that’s a pretty good motivator :  )  Thank you to everyone at the HDL team for helping us make history!


Author: zoegoesrunning

Hello! I'm a runner, a writer, and have run across the United States and the Tour de France course. Most recently, I'm blogging about my adventures in an MFA program that will bring me to Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, and my teaching plans for Argentina.

14 thoughts on “I made it across the Alps, on my feet.”

  1. “The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”
    “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay

    Your mental strength will see you through. I will send good energy from Boulder, CO

  2. Zoe:

    Are you saying that you ran every mile of the TDF, or did you just run section(s) of it for each stage? I can’t get the math to add up.


  3. You’re going to love Corsica. I can imagine it might be quite discombobulating but try and enjoy it on its own merit. I’ve never been but it’s top of my places to go when we move back to Europe. Stunningly beautiful! You’re in for a treat. Kind of like chocolates after dessert.

  4. I heard about you and this endeavor two weeks ago in a Zoe’s Kitchen restaurant. I am totally in awe of your achievements. You are a huge inspiration to me. Thank you. I eagerly await your posts to read how you did and look forward to reading your book about this experience. Keep it up.

  5. It *may* be the glass of wine I just drank (still holding the France bottle for your return to RVA!), but I just teared up reading your post. Earthing you dreamed and schemed is happening! You did it! It’s all Gary from here. Not that that means we won’t be cheering you on daily through Aug 2 and beyond, but I just wanted to send some big love and pride your way!

    Please count one big hug from Rosa from me 🙂

    Xoxo, Kel

  6. Zoe, Corsica is gorgeous – but in a different stunning way than the beauty you’ve seen so far. I biked there for 11 days a few years ago and it’s a place I’d go back. Fire up your Bob Marley! (You’ll see…) Enjoy Paris – we are all so excited for you and so very impressed.

  7. Sparky …as I have from the day you entered my life, you will have my love.

    I will be thinking of you throughout your Corsica run and forever more…no matter where your life takes you.

    Always, Dad…your #1 Fam

  8. Lots of love from the Frost Hill Road chapter of your Portland fan club. Got an interesting story from your old soccer coach, Kirk Murchie, about how in the last game of the season you begged him to play. Even though the game meant nothing in the stats, you sweated through a fever and played with lots of heart! As my neighbor put it simply…”That’s Zoe!”

  9. Zoe,
    I just wanted to let you know that you are an amazing human being. Period. You bring hope to a world often in despair. You bring joy at a time of much sadness. And you restore faith in the human spirit in a world filled with so much cynicism. As an avid runner and cyclist myself, I cannot even begin to fathom your quest. I am rooting for you in your every endeavour. Thank you for your inspiration – I am in awe and I will speak your name to anyone who will listen henceforth. Run on!

  10. Thinking of you and sending TONS of well wishes and good vibes to you in this final stage of your tour. I’m looking forward to your big finish on August 2nd and will have a drink in your honor (it’s also my birthday)! You’re amazing Zoe… you’ve done all of us female runners out there proud!

  11. I will immediately take hold of your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription link
    or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please let me recognise in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

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