The Tor des Géants is HUGE. With 338km of mountain trails, up and down 24,000m of climb and six days to complete, the numbers are staggering.
Natalie from the TrainAsONE team has been running up and down hills since she was 9 years old and about three foot tall, has represented Great Britain in Mountain Running Championships and now lives in Chamonix, France running on some of the biggest hills in Europe every day.
We thought one of the more interesting parts of the Tor was the huge amount of time and dedication that Natalie had put into having the right kit for the massive variety she could face en route, from 300m a.s.l. to 3299m in elevation, colossal thunderstorms to blistering 30+ degree heat in the valleys and just the difference between night and day on the summits.
Here’s what Natalie will be taking with her:
It all has to go somewhere and Natalie has gone for the 11 litre Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta, mainly for the decent storage, great sizing for a little
woman and the handy placement of the pole holding system.
The rain really can become biblical on the Tor, with the race stopped around 200-250k for most last year (although six chaps did manage to get to the finish line in time). Chamonix has quite an array of waterproofs and after trying on a huge amount, reading reviews online, asking other athletes and testing a few, Natalie settled on a Norrona trollveggen Goretex Pro jacket.
It is not a cheap jacket, but with a 5 year guarantee and as something people use as workwear in the mountains and Arctic Circle, you can be fully confident it will do the job. She got a great deal from the Noronna store in Chamonix and spending that much on a waterproof will not only give the athlete and crew piece of mind, it will probably ensure a good weather Tor, sod’s law eh?
With the remoteness of the Aosta Valley it really is going to get dark out there next week, both literally and metaphorically, so a good head torch is vital. Natalie’s boyfriend Robbie is sponsored by Petzl but she knew there was no better head torch for the job than the Petzl Nao. Having programmed the two torches for enough battery for whole nights, whilst still being nice and bright, it is important to have a back up too and Natalie will carry the tiny Petzl e-lite just in case.
There are two big 100l bins of shoes at Natalie’s house in Chamonix, mostly owned by Robbie, but Natalie has embraced the love of shoes and tried out plenty for the Tor. The main focus was finding a shoe that would be comfortable throughout the adventure, with enough grip to stop Natalie from landing on her face.
The Adidas Raven Boost was actually recommended by Sarah Tunstall, who’s been on a couple of TAO adventures herself. With the Continental Grip on the bottom and the Boost cushioning underfoot it is a great shoe for the mountains and Natalie has worn through a couple of pairs this Summer in training.
As the race is 338km long there will be some other shoes in the crew vehicle that can meet Natalie once a day or so, with the Hoka One One Speedgoat as a maximal cushioned option for the latter stages.
Natalie has trained with two different sets of poles, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles and the Swix Sonic poles. The main difference is that the Swix Sonic attach to gloves that stay on your hands, whereas the Black Diamonds have a loop on the handle.
The gloves make for a much better transfer of energy from the arm to the ground and can be more comfortable on a long race, but they also make it a bit more difficult to eat, as the loops on the Black Diamonds can just be dropped to the wrist and your hands are free to get at your Haribo.
Natalie still isn’t sure which to start with, but having spare poles is always a good idea anyway as they have been known to snap in the big gnarly hills.
With the length of the race and the weather Natalie will have a variety of base layers, warm tops and fleecy numbers but the main bit of kit for this purpose is the Patagonia Nano Puff, again purchased in a fine Patagonia shop sale in Chamonix. It’s synthetic so will still be useful in the rain, but light enough to carry a long way and really well fitted. Natalie also likes the pretty colour but I don’t know if that will help her finish the race…
The kit list goes on, but we thought this would be a good insight into Natalie’s adventure. You can follow Natalie on @natsmountain on Twitter and Instagram, but her adventures this week will be popping up on the the @Trainasone and @Ultrabritton Twitter accounts.
Enjoy your running this week and if your run feels a little long, share a thought for Natalie.