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Tour of Giants

The allure of a five day run through the Alps

By Jason Poole

Why wouldn't I get up at 4 a.m. to register for the Tor des Géants, a 330K (205- mile) mountain running race through the Italian Alps? It seemed only natural that the registration process would deprive me of sleep, just like the race. The Tor, as it is known, isn't a stage race. The winner of this journey is the runner who completes the race in the shortest time, making his/her own decisions on when, where, and how long to stop for rest. The course boasts nearly 24,000 meters (79,000 ft.) of elevation gain, and loss, over technical, alpine terrain. Traversing an entire region and running at the foot of some of the highest peaks in the Alps, the Tor also aims to promote tourism in the spectacular Valle d'Aosta.

Timing is everything

After I was accepted into the race, one of my first projects was to develop a fueling strategy. With more than two decades of endurance racing under my belt - multi-day adventure races, 100-mile mountain bike races, ultramarathons, 24-hour orienteering races - I was keenly aware that a proper fueling strategy could bring me confidently across the finish line, or spell disaster.

Hammer Nutrition products would be my primary fuel source. Historically for ultramarathons, my plan has consisted of 1 Hammer Gel and 2 Endurolytes at the top of every hour and 1 Perpetuem Solid every 20 minutes. I set the countdown timer on my watch to chime every hour and alert me every 20 minutes to fuel. For the Tor, I also decided to eat part of a Hammer Bar every hour.

Timing is everything. The month that I learned that I had gained entrance to the Tor, I also learned that my family would be relocating to Germany - leaving the mountainous terrain of Colorado for the flat terrain of Munich. As a househusband and Mr. Mom, my ability to leave for all-day trail excursions was limited. My training was reduced to just two mountain running races and regular 60-90 minute, higher-tempo runs around the forests of the Munich suburbs. I would have to rely on my base of 18 years of ultramarathons for success at the Tor.

Basi Vita Hammer

Before the start, racers are given a generous-sized duffle bag that progresses around the route ahead of you. At each of the seven basi vita ("life base" aid stations) access to your duffle ensures that whatever you've managed to cram inside is waiting for you. Most of mine was occupied by carefully packaged and labeled bags of Hammer Nutrition products.

The organizers and volunteers were simply amazing. Despite racing for 119 hours and sleeping only 8, I had no stomach distress, muscle cramping, or nausea. I credit this to my use of Hammer products almost exclusively.

The Tor was brilliantly challenging, and its allure mesmerizing. If I can get up again at 4 in the morning on registration day, and luck is on my side, I will head back to the magical town of Courmayeur, Italy, to run it again. HN