Tor des Geants

Endurance Trail 330 km - 24000m D+11-18 September 2016




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#stayhome sTORies - Tales of TOR X - Jouan Mael



HELL, and the suffering in its purest form behind this photo.
As we start the last ridge before the last base life, a little pain begins to be felt in my left quadriceps. I do not pay attention to it and I commit myself on the slope of this mountain. The more I climb this peak the more the pain is felt. However, it remains bearable. At one point, during the climb, there is a small descent of a few meters. That's when I understand that my left leg is completely paralyzed. Unable to operate the knee, the entire quadriceps block is contracted and blocks everything. I do not worry and I begin the rest of the ascent. I arrive at the top of the pass and I can see the last base life. It is 6km away.

The left leg can never bend downhill again, we are at km 290. I try by all means to get my leg through but cannot move it downhill. This is when Thierry, Marc's uncle, (runner with whom I did the last km of the TOR) tells me that in reverse the quad will not be used and that I must be able to descend . Here I go for 6 km of descent in reverse. Arrived at the base life I will be massaged and strapped for a long time. I will sleep but once gone the pain will reappear even more. Despite the powerful doses of painkillers that the doctors gave me I will suffer, step by step and hour after hour. The only thing that motivates me is to look at the number of kilometers traveled. It is night, I have to start several descents, I fixed a frontal on my hip so as to light behind me when I go down. Each step hurts me, several times I will fall and stay on my back to contemplate the starry sky, with such a strong desire to give up, to be picked up. I will cry from rage, from injustice. All these kilometers to give up less than 30km from the end. Runners who will pass in front of me will ask me if they should notify the emergency services. It will be the start of the buzz of the TOR 2019, a runner has all the descents in reverse.
I remember having pressed with all my strength on my nail already torn off at the front of the foot so that this pain masked that of the thigh. With all that my body undergoes, the head also begins to hurt, I still have a little fever due to my abscess under the foot. I hang on like a lion and I tell myself that it will pass, that there is only 8 or 10 hours of suffering and that the next day it will all be over and that I will come out of it growing up.
Runners after runners, they all overtake me. Many Japanese people will greet me and congratulate me, many think that at the next refueling I will give up.

I take a dose of painkillers and I commit to the last part before Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses, last village before Courmayeur. There I have hallucinations related to fatigue and drugs I think. I am alone on an unlit path except by my headlamp. I see soldiers around me, a whole company, I see faces I know, I will even chat with my former section chief of the Navy while being persuaded to have spoken to him. I will try to fill my gourds at a fountain that does not exist but I will try for at least 3 or 4 minutes before realizing that there are only branches. I am clearly afraid because I no longer have a sense of direction.

I see lights coming towards me and I quickly understand that they are runners. There I will be able to chat with them and get back on track. I find Eric with whom I made several portions. We talk a lot, he asks me a lot of questions about "why I'm here", actually many people were amazed by my young age on this event. The ideas are clearer and time flies . We will quickly arrive in Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses where I will sleep 1 hour at the refueling, but as it will not be enough, I will settle under a fountain at the exit of the village to sleep there again by letting Eric go to attack the last pass. This is where Marc will wake me up. He recognizes me because we did a good part of the way the day before. We will begin the ascent of the last pass around 5 or 6am. His knee is also very damaged. We will both find the strength to motivate the other to go to the end. We will reach the refuge around 9 a.m., the barrier being at 10:30 a.m. we always have a little room.
From that moment on, my memories become very blurred. Her uncle advised us to leave quickly because we had little room. I'm going to climb the Malatra pass at a crazy speed as if I had a revenge to take since when climbing my leg bends.
Once the summit is reached I promise you that there is no word to describe the suffering that I will receive for 12km. 12km of hell, pain, despair and really dark ideas. We clearly wonder what all this rhymes with, the body is damaged, the tendons burn, the muscles contract on their own. The skin tears off and tears in the shoes, the socks are soaked with blood, and the blisters on the hands (due to the sticks) are extremely painful. Marc will leave in front because he must ensure his arrival, (at the TOR to be a finisher it is necessary to finish in less than 150h).

I am going to tighten my thigh with a bandage to stabilize the leg and reduce the pain, but with each step I have the impression of having a knife stuck in the muscle and that we stir. Thierry will not leave me alone and will accompany me on the whole descent. I fall, I get up. I fall again and again and again and again. I do all this descent in reverse. Many runners overtake me. They all have a little word about me in front of the suffering I experience. A Russian will tap me on the shoulder and say to me in French "not to let go". It warms my heart so much to see them all supporting me. We are entering the last 8 km and I can no longer bear the pain. I go down crying all the water I have left but as I am dehydrated I hardly cry. I can't even take a break or feel sorry for myself because the clock is ticking and I risk being out of the race. My thigh is purple because of the bandage that squeezes it. I try to hide this pain by crushing my toes, but even that doesn't matter anymore. I feel like my whole body is HS.

I have never experienced a time like this. It was horror, physical and mental. I try to concentrate and I think back to everything my grandfather could say to me, all that he experienced. I try to bite the bullet for him for my parents who are waiting for me but it is impossible. I'm going to collapse in the grass, and admire the sky and the sun. This last day is wonderful, but I can no longer feel anything. The brain wanders and I tell Thierry that I am going to give up, that it is no longer possible and that it has to stop all. He will come and talk to me calmly, being very educational. I'm going to get back on the road. At this time of the race you should know that I have blisters and blisters under the feet, my socks are bloody and I feel the pieces of skin peeling off in the sock.

I will end up arriving at Rifugio Bertone which is the last supply before the 4km descent on Courmayeur. I'm going to find my father in the last two km. I see that he is very annoyed to see me like that. I'm worse than a zombie, but seeing someone in his family at a time like this is like finding a lighthouse in the middle of a storm. We will descend slowly at our own pace and I will enter Courmayeur. The result is just crazy and I will live with Marc a triumphant arrival in Courmayeur. It's just madness. All the runners come to encourage me, some pat me on the back, the Japanese even offer me a beer and the Russian will come and take me in his arms while I am still looking for my family at the finish. Everyone will have a kind word about me, and many people who have seen me descend will come to congratulate me. One of the spectators had promised to pay me for my beer if I finished and he came to deliver my beer to me as it should be.
Anyway the TOR is a great adventure but the end was hell for me. Trail running is good, TOR is impressive. Think twice before embarking on this race. Let my testimony at least serve to warn those who do not prepare for it properly.

I completed the TOR 2019 in 148h and 44min with 1h and 16min on the time barrier.
I slept 9h and ran / walked 139h.

The TOR is not a race, it is a test of life, a trip, where you learn to surpass yourself and accept unimaginable things. I'm not saying there won't be a second TOR but for the moment, it's rest, rest and rest.

Thanks to Eric, Marc , Mattéo, Didier, Jorge, David and all the other runners with whom I shared this experience. Thank you to my father and my mother for their assistance and their decisive support during this race.

I met during the TOR an Alsatian runner, Éric. After making friends, I met his daughter who has become my girlfriend today. The TOR was for me a journey and a meeting place that I will never forget never