Tor des Glaciers

9th to 17th September 2022


I have finished the write up - with Kendal Mountain Festival next week it seemed timely. I still have the much nicer 2021 Tor des Geants report to do which I also never had time to type up after the race last year!

I drove out again in my little van which was good as I spent longer travelling and stopped to sleep, eat etc. I had booked into a campsite above Courmayeur which was lovely (photos in the Gallery pics). It was nice to arrive a few days before the race and be able to relax. Paul was already there in the campsite next door with Sarah who was off to do a race the next day so he was moving to a room in the town.

Friday 9th September - I spent time with Paul Tierney and we were both apprehensive about the distance, the weather and the lack of drop bags/support although Paul had Sarah coming to meet him at a few places. At registration we got the Tor drop bag, which seemed important however we would only see it three times during the race - at 100 miles, at 160 miles and at 320 miles and then we would have 100 miles to do to the finish! As usual I couldn't get everything I wanted into to and ended up pulling clothes and food out to make it all fit. Kirsty and Mark arrived at 4pm just as I had finished having my meltdown and it was lovely to have some friends to catch up with to take my mind off the dropbag and the race.

At 7pm we all headed up to the start and I went into the Starters pen. Paul was way up front and I was happy with where I was in the mid pack. The idea was to use the first 100 miles to figure out the navigation, the food and the checkpoints. I think I set off quite eager to be off after a two week taper. It was warm and I was dressed in shorts and a  short sleeve t-shirt . I had chosen the Trailfly G 270 shoe in my normal size but had a pair half size up in the drop bag. I had been running a lot in Scotland in these shoes and couldn't fault them. Comfy but with good grip. My rucksack was full of spare clothes, food, some foot care stuff along with a pair of socks. It was due to get cold for two nights and I would only have access to the drop bag on Sunday night if I was on my schedule. I practiced with my Garmin GPSMAP 66sr which I had chosen because it had buttons I could use with gloves, it weighed as much as my Dakota with 2 spare batteries, it had a rechargeable battery and the battery life was 24 hours or so on Expedition mode. I had used it a little in the UK and downloaded the four gpx tracks for the Tor des Glaciers onto it. I also had my Garmin Fenix 6 pro set on Ultra to save battery, with the altimeter and splits showing to help me between checkpoints. For poles I had chosen the Leki Neotrail FXOne Superlite poles with the loops and the foam grip because in 2019 I was taking normal gloves on and off so much that I was worried about losing the pole glove. I also like the hand molded foam bit as I'll have these poles in my hands for a week and comfort is really important.

 The first checkpoint, Maison Vielle, came quickly and I was surprised how little food there was on offer. I know we had only just started but I had hoped to pick food up as I went. At the next checkpoint, Refugio Elizabetta, I got some soup and cake then saw Marina Plavan as I left which was encouraging as she has finished the Glaciers twice now. When I left runners seemed to be heading all directions so I faffed with the GPS and as I got on the right trail I realised Marina had of course just gone the right way. I stayed behind her as it made sense not to try and navigate but to be with someone who knows the way. We went back and forth for a bit, both of us finding our pace, and just before dawn we were sort of running / hiking together and that suited me and seemed to suit her. This was nice having a woman to run with and I realised that she actually did a lot of fast walking and not much running which seemed a really nice thing to do with such a long way ahead of us.

Saturday 10th September

Marina and I spent the whole of Saturday together, getting to Refugio Savoia late that night and I know she wanted us to continue together. Maybe I should have stuck with Marina in hindsight, but I was finding that she was going through the checkpoints really quickly and I didn't have time to look after my feet, to eat as much as I liked to and to get anything out of my rucksack. I felt like I was going too fast and expending too much energy early on. On the way to Savoia Marina said we would sleep for one hour to make a break as friendly as I could, I said I needed more. I know this was confusing for Marina and I wished I could explain better. She and the man she was running with slept in the same room as me and got up and went after an hour. I got up shortly afterwards and had some soup, feeling better about my decision.

Sunday 11th September

Sarah Hanzel (from the US) was just leaving the checkpoint and I asked her if she wanted company. She was very happy to wait for me to just get packed up and we left together. It was lovely to have someone to chat to as we walked along. Sarah said she was worried about this section as she had reccied it and there was a lot of via ferrata and also just bare rocks/scree to descend. It was dark when we started out but by the time we got to the tricky section it was light. This was the first time I had done Via Ferrata and I could see what she meant. There were Mountain guides on the hill and they helped us by showing us how to use the ropes and that made it easier but you had to trust the ropes and the technique of going forwards which meant you could see the huge steep drop in front of you! The guides were skipping about on all the loose rocks and were lovely to us. It took us ages to descend but Sarah said it was much worse without the ropes and we were doing ok.

We went into and out of a Refugio Vitterio and Refugio Chabod where I ate the now normal menu of "soupa, Past or polenta?" . Sarah was struggling to eat and I tried to encourage her to eat something. I could see that her energy levels were dropping and knew that it was only a matter of time before she struggled. It was midday and now really hot as we were climbing to Col du Lauson at 3299m. Sarah said she needed to stop and eat so we stopped but she soon got up and set off again. Then she said she needed to sleep and so we found a rock with some shade and I said I would go on as generally she was faster than me on the climbs. After about 10 minutes I looked back and saw her get up and start to climb which was reassuring. It was a long zig zagging climb and I enjoyed it. There were a couple of men slowly me which was motivating and it was good to have more company.

We summited and started down the other side and I started chatting to one German runner who was walking a lot which suited me. He was called Anthony Samain and could walk faster than I could so I had to jog bits to even keep up! We were both out of water and stopped at a stream to collect some even though the checkpoint, Refugio Sella, wasn't far. As we headed into it another lady Isobelle Ost and her husband came in. I asked if they had seen Sarah and they had seen her sleeping again. I had quite a good feed there and then left with Anthony, Isobelle and her husband.

It was a long descent to our first Life Base of Cogne of 1500m and I was with Anthony as he was really good company and quite funny. At times he said "you go on" and I would try running and then stop to check navigation and round the corner he would come. I would have liked to spend more time with him but he was going to sleep at the Colne and I was ready to carry on, especially as it was only early evening. Anthony was probably the nicest person I met on the Glaciers and from the results it looked like he dropped out at Donnas which is a shame. Marina was just leaving Colne when I arrived and her daughter was there supporting her, and she spoke english so I was able to explain that there was nothing wrong, but that Marina was too fast for me. It was good to be able to part at friends.

At Cogne I restocked my bag as I had eaten everything but I was already getting worried about the food situation. I had a shower and ate most of an Expedition food meal. There wasn't a huge option of food at the Refugios and it would have helped if I spoke Italian as there was more on offer but I couldn't ask for it. I swopped a few clothes round - taking out the Technical mid hoodie and keeping the Alpkit filoment hoody Space was at a premium and I just had to minimize on clothes in order to take food. I had planned on eating Expedition food meals on route like I had on the Tor de Geants in 2021 but they were bulky and although I was eating them easily at the Life Bases I wasn't making them up in the Refugios and carrying them.

My overall plan seemed to be working ok. I wanted to get to Tuesday and feel ok and I was someway to doing this and so was pleased. I didn't sleep on Friday night, then slept 1 hour on Saturday night. On Sunday night I intended to sleep 2.30 hours - more to give my feet and legs a rest than for sleeping. The memories of very painful feet in 2021still haunted me and I wanted to try things to stop this from happening - or at least stop it from happening until a lot later in the race.

Monday 13th September

So I left Cogne and climbed to Refugio Grauson to sleep. It was the best place that week that I slept, being quiet and just the right temperature. I woke after a couple of hours and asked my feet what they thought about getting up. They were still sore and so I lay there just resting until 2.30 hours was up. It was a good decision to do this because my feet were now good and with new socks I felt good as I left the Refugio. There were a group of friends leaving and I asked if I could go with them. Richard Tuirgeon spoke good english and he was happy but I'm not sure his friends were. It was only because it was dark and having people around always helps. I didn't want to just latch onto them. As we left the Refugio it was really cold and they all split up anyway with Richard and another running off in front, another going at slightly faster pace than me and then another walking behind. I walked with him a little and then headed off on my own. This group I was with basically until the finish. They ran faster than me, had support at all the checkpoints and slept more than I did. It was nice in the dark though to have people behind and in front of me.

It got light and I was really happy heading to Refugio Miserin. I was eating well with my own food and something at the Refugios too. I remembered this section from the TOR 330 and knew there was a long track descending gently now. I wondered about running but walking was so much nicer and my feet were happy with it too. It's so much easier eating, navigating and a lot less impact when you're walking not running. I was hiking down to Refugio Dondena when first Kim Collinson and then Damian Hall came passed me. They were around 5th or 6th about and both looked like they were running quite hard. He asked if I was ok and I told him I was "playing the long game". At that point I was quite happy. It was now Monday and so nearly Tuesday and everything was going ok. Damian ran off and I hoped he would have a good race. I was envious that he would finish a few days before I would!

I had got tired of the past. soupa and polenta now. At Refugio Dondena I spotted cornflakes on the shelf so asked if I could have them. That was fine said the staff! They tasted delicious! Generally there was little else and so I also had Expedition foods at the the Life bases. Making up a Vegetable curry when I arrived and then eating it while I showered, re-packed, maybe slept and headed out. I think the extra 800/1000 calories really helped me.

In was Monday night when I got to Donnas and I wanted to sleep. I was getting sorted with food and everything when I bumped into someone I knew I knew, but I didn't know who or why. He then said "It's Lea" and the penny dropped (slowly - I needed sleep remember!). I was coaching Lea on the Tor des Geants and I was then trying to compute how well he was doing , meeting me there compared to which Glaciers runners I saw. He explained he was having a good race but needed a sleep also. We just kept bumping into each other in the checkpoint after that. Lea finished in 104.02 in  63rd place / 1100 runners. This is his description of that meeting and you can read his full report here Memories of the Tour "I met my coach, Nicky Spinks, at Donnas. She was running the formidable 450 km Tor des Glaciers. It was an interesting dynamic, meeting my coach for the first time, both of us several days into a race. It was almost like meeting a childhood teacher whom you really looked up to but at 4 am in the Blue Lagoon chip shop in Glasgow. Both weary eyed and tired. Both needing food; both unable to communicate properly."

I went to the sleeping area to sleep but there was a queue for the beds however the lovely Tor des Geants runners (including Lea who was waiting) let me go first and I got a bed near a French dad and his son that I had been running with a while. I wanted two hours and fell sleep straight away but it was too noisy and hot in the room for anymore. I was woken after 45 minutes by the lady popping the bags that held the bed covers and then after that I just lay for a little while before getting up. Eating more curry and heading out. I was very disorientated here and while packing everything away I put my food pack that I planned to take with me, back in the drop bag.

I started to think that support would have been very nice. Watching the runners around me with their female support sorting everything out for them, repacking their bags while they slept, getting different food than what was on offer - it all looked much better than trying to eat yet more pasta and soupa. However I was unsupported so better get on with it.

Tuesday 14th September

It was dark as I headed out of Donnas and I struggled to find the way out of town, ending up in brambles and undergrowth. It was in the towns that the GPX was not specific enough and there were loads of paths so choosing the right one was a nightmare.  Eventually I found the right one and got to Perloz and then on the Tor de Geants route to Sassaz which actually wasn't a Glaciers checkpoint but I was so hungry and thirsty that I thought I would plough straight in. The checkpoint staff were fine and I was having loads of sweet tea when another Glaciers runner came in. This was no 4095 Patrick Goeringer. I asked him about the route as my gpx showed that we went back down the way we had come in, then round on this long diversion to meet the Tor des Glaciers again at Rifugio Coda. He said no we followed the Geants route and got up and left. I was quite confused and a little dopy so I asked the checkpoint staff. They said we followed the Geants route and showed me a map that showed Glaciers and Tor doing the same route. I noticed though that it was 2021 map. Luckily there was a member of staff who spoke english and he rang the HQ and it was confirmed that we went a different route.

I was happy and went down and all the way round, following my handheld Garmin 66sr GPS carefully as it was really tricky and claggy. As it got light I saw we were on a technical ridge and could see Refugio Coda in the distance. It took me ages to get there and it was really hot when I did so. When I arrived I was hungry and thirsty. I saw a spare seat and moved some paperwork over not realising that it was "VIP" (very important paperwork) and the man who's paperwork it was was very distraught when he came back that I was sat there. He told everyone and looked around for somewhere else to sit. He was recording what the Glaciers runners had to eat and sleep etc. A very Important Job! I ate well and I even got a couple of ice lollies there! Patrick appeared and I told him that he had done the wrong route. He had got there two hours before me and had been asleep. He was very upset and said he was very tired at Sassaz. I didn't know what to say. I have checked on and three runners did the same however the organisors have done nothing. It seems a bit mean to disqualify them but I really think a time penalty or something has to be done. I have emailed the organisors with some feedback and mentioned the lack of GPS checking and these route shortcuts but they haven't replied back. Maybe it's the British "must not cheat" attitude but you can see from the screen shot (he is center top) that it was a massive short cut and one that three people did.

 The route was the same as the Tor des Geants route now and so I knew it was a long technical descent to the next checkpoint. I took some food and fruit from the Tor support table outside and set off. I descended slowly to the next checkpoint (which is Mountain Rescue point in a tent/shed and not a proper Refugio) as it was rocky and very steep. It was cold by now so I had quite a lot of clothes on however I must have looked ill or something as the medics there decided to take my bloods etc while I ate some polenta. The doctor was happy though and said I had just had too much coke. I think the Expedition foods must have helped as I had had three now and they were at least proper food. I quickly headed off before another medic tried to take my temperature again!!

I ran on and it was nice having the Tor des Geants runners around. We ran along chatting and into another tent checkpoint. This one had the best food that I had - baked potatoes! I was just leaving when they brought them out so I quickly backtracked and sat down. I loved it here and could have stayed a lot longer. I took a photo as I was leaving to remind what a wonderful race this could be and what brilliant checkpoints can be in the most remotest of places.

I know the descent to Neil goes on forever having done it a couple of times now. But it still surprised me just how long it was taking and it was getting dark now. As we went down and down on the zig zags I heard a voice above me. It was Kirsty Hewitson asking someone if this was the right way. I shouted out to her "Kirsty?" And she replied "Who is that?" I shouted "Nicky" and she ran down to me! We chatted all the way into Neil and the time went so quickly. I wished we were on the same course and could just spend the rest of the time together.

I went to sleep in a crowded room which was too hot and men kept jumping on and off the top bunk above me, and shining light in my face, while Kirsty went to sleep in a tent that only had 4 people in it! I did have quite a bit to eat though and some ice cream which was heaven! There was also a bit of food to take with me from the Tor des Geants tables.

Wednesday 15th September

As I was leaving I heard Kirsty's voice and it was great that we could leave together. We headed off chatting away with me checking the GPX but I still missed the split where the Geants and the Glaciers split off and so had to run back down to get on the correct route. It was so perfect meeting Kirsty and I often thought of her out there on her own in spirit with me on my own. The Garmin gps was once again brilliant and I enjoyed this being on my own again.

Again I have checked the replay and 13 runners took the Tor des Geants route here and you can see three of them doing it on the right screenshot. The blue line is the Glaciers route. To me this many runners, saving two hours by taking short cuts shouldn't be allowed to go unchecked. I have emailed the organisors my findings but have had no response back.

Gressonay was the next checkpoint and the next Life Base but also the last Life Base and then we still had 100 miles to go. As I entered who would be there but Kirsty again Hewitson again!! She had had a sleep and was just about to leave (that's how much of a time gain the shortcut / Tor des Geants route was). We had another good chat about how awful it all was and she departed saying we would meet at the finish. I think both of would have preferred to either be on our own or find someone really companionable to run with (like each other!).

With the worsening weather forecast I had to pack my warm layers and Inov-8 Hiking jacket  so had to sacrifice food. I ate another Expedition foods meal and some of the checkpoint food then had a shower and a massage just in case I had any knots but apart from a tight calf I was good to go. Again the route out of town was very convoluted and I ended up round the back of someone's garden before abandoning the route and following the road! It was daunting to think we had 100 miles to go and I had to rely on Refugios for food.

I headed up to the Refugio Sitten with Patrick following me up a long hot climb but I always enjoyed the climbs. As we entered the Refugio who was there but Chloe Saint Joly who I hadn't seen for ages and a couple of other runners. They were all having chips and a plates of proper food. Patrick didn't want to eat so he got off but I wandered about looking for food inspiration and spotted pizza so I asked for that! Oh yes you can have that said the staff. This was bliss. We could have anything and the others had ordered a lovely looking pudding too. I was full of pizza but asked for icecream which they brought out.

After eating we went off in dribs and drabs with Chloe following. She caught me and then the two runners in front. We summited and then down the other side it was horrid and really big boulders and I wasn't happy at all. Chloe went off ahead and kept looking back and I hoped that she would just go out of sight and I wouldn't see her again. But no she stopped and said there was a short cut and we should take it. The lads weren't happy and neither was I so we didn't. I just didn't trust her somehow and my memory was telling me I had seen her somewhere before. I asked her if she had done the Tor before and she said yes in 2019 but had dropped out. That's where I remembered her from - tailing me early on and then me leaving her. As we arrived at the next checkpoint, Guide di Frachey it was about 8pm and there was Patrick and another French guy, Henri, eating and planning on leaving after a short sleep. Because it was dark I asked if I could go with them. The big boulders on the last section had worried me and I would rather be with someone. They were happy with that and so I had 20 minutes sleep and set off with them. It had started raining and was cold and I was glad that I packed the winter tights and waterproof. We headed up and then across this huge plateau. Henri was in front, I was behind him checking my gps and helping with nav and then Patrick was behind me. It all worked really well. We got onto this huge ski resort and the tracks were very confusing. As we went along there was this lit up building that just looked like a Ski centre. "We don't want that" said Henri and the gpx agreed so we carried on. We had been going 8 hours and were looking forward to reaching the next checkpoint of Refugio Abruzzi. Eventually we came to it but it was all boarded up and most definitely not the checkpoint. I remembered something about a closed cp where the new cp could be seen from it. I told Patrick and Henri but they did not know anything of this. Henri rang the organisors but got no answer. There were runners lights coming and so I went to ask them. It was the Italians/Swiss and Richard who spoke english explained we had missed the new checkpoint. It was the lit up building we had passed an hour ago. This was a huge blow. It was raining, we were cold and hungry. We decided to eat something and carry on. Our spirits were very low and as we carried on we were so sleepy that when we saw a cow barn we decided to sleep there. I got out the Expedition Survival bag and got into that. The compulsory kit said we had to carry two survival blankets but I think they are rubbish and so carried a bag. I was toasty and soon fell asleep.

Thursday 16th September

When I woke it was daylight and I wanted to go. Patrick and Henri were sort of awake but basically very grumpy. I was getting cold and wanted to leave. I tried to change the GPX from Track 3 to Track 4 but I couldn't find it on the GPS. I knew I had uploaded them all but I couldn't find it. I was so unhappy and this was one of the biggest blows that I had in the race. I find it too hard to navigate by the watch only, which had in any case, had given up the ghost after 10 hours so although I had recharged it I couldn't use it. Then I had the option of the Gaia App but it used my phone and I knew that I wouldn't be able to use it if it was claggy like it had been. There was still 80 miles to go and at least two days. Henri and Patrick started to get up and I decided that I just had to stay with them until I could get 4G or Wifi and sort my GPS out. It was really awful to start with as we were all grumpy but when the sun came up it really helped. We arrived at Refugio Perucco where we had some great food and when they went to sleep I carried on as it was daylight and I had slept ok in the cow shed.  I had looked at the route and thought I could manage with my phone until it got dark and I never like to sleep during the day. As I got ready outside I was playing sticks with this dog that had a TOR tee shirt on (I don't really agree with dressing dogs up) but it was lovely to have some time with him as I was missing my own dogs.

I enjoyed the next climb and took some photos and messaged my brother sending him a photo. It helped to know people were thinking of me out there as it was becoming a funny race where I was around runners all the time but only a very few were friendly. I got to the next CP which was Refugio Prayerer and again the food was very limited so in the end I chose pasta. I was trying to charge my phone up and get the GPX downloaded onto the GPS device from it so I had to wait around for that which was frustrating. Then who should come in but Chloe, Henri and Patrick along with the Italians/Swiss. I realised that the staff were using their phones but I had no signal so I asked if I could use the Wifi and that was fine. After a lot of faffing I managed to get the GPX to transfer from the phone to the device but it wasn't working as it was before. I do hate technology sometimes especially when it's all you've got as the maps we were given were useless for this navigation. How can 10 pages cover 450km?!

This then became the hardest day and night for me. I think the lack of sleep and now the lack of food was getting to me. I wanted to be with someone who was like minded but there was no-one. Chloe hung around, being friendly one minute and shooting off the next. I came to the conclusion that she just wanted to beat me as she was a lot quicker than I was. I just wanted to get on and finish so hoped she would disappear off and leave me alone. She left the checkpoint way before I did and so I thought that was the end of it but after about 3 miles along a boring hot road there she was, having had a sleep with her support vehicle. Having support was now becoming so important to those runners. I saw clothes and food being given out and swopped around. I was just envious of it all. I felt sorry for myself which is unusual and I think if I had been more on my own I wouldn't have seen it. Somehow by the end of the road, as it was gatting dark and cold we ended up being a huge group going towards Refugio Crete Seche. I think because navigation to there was tricky. Eventually I had fiddled with the GPS enough to succeed in transferring the route into a track and it seemed to be working properly again! This was a huge relief and boost to me. I could go it alone through the next (and hopefully last) night!! I planned to sleep a little at Refugio Crete Seche and then get on. Chloe had attached herself to Patrick and Henri and that was fine by me. 

Friday 17th September

I went to the sleeping area and slept deeply for an hour, waking to the buzzing alarm on my wrist. Getting up there was only three rucksacks left so I knew all the Italians were ahead of me. I hoped I would see some lights but now I was happy with the GPS. I ate some breakfast quickly and went to go. When I opened the door, the weather outside was awful and so I came back in and put on everything that I had. I set off again not knowing that this was the hardest climb on the whole race up to Col Du Mont Gele at 3300m and I was doing it in the driving wind and rain!! I could see two lights way ahead and way up high. I just kept my head down, followed the gps and followed the little spots on the rocks. It was so steep and so hard, I cursed a lot but was glad of the gps. Getting across one plateau and then climbing again the lights above looked so high up! I could see lights way behind me now too. Reaching the summit was a huge celebration for me and to my surprise there was a little tent and a chap jumped out,  took my number, shouted into a radio then preceded to lead me down the other side. The wind had dropped and the skies were clearing.

This became the best and most enjoyable descent for me of the whole race as my legs felt good, my gps was working perfectly and although we were descending a boulder field and the "path" meandered all over the place to avoid huge drops and make its way round the right of a lake I was on it all the time. I caught two runners who were sliding on the rocks but my shoes were great. I then caught two more runners who couldn't find the path and we worked so well together. One was either Italian or Spanish and he had a big head torch beam so I would look on the gps and then point in the direction across the rocks, he would aim his torch out and go from side to side until one of us spotted the cairn. It was imperative that we followed and stuck to the cairns. He was funny in that he shouted in a very excited voice when he spotted a cairn.

I was descending faster than them though and soon we were off the boulder mine field and onto a nice path dropping down and down a hillside. I couldn't see any torches in front or behind now. Navigation was still tricky as the path went either side of valleys down a much bigger valley. I hit a long, long contouring track that just went on forever and although there was no where else to go I was convinced I had gone wrong because I hadn't seen anyone for hours. I was also wandering all over as I needed a sleep. Eventually I spotted a lovely bed shaped rock (well it wasn't but to me it was just about right if I curled up. I lay my rucksack down and immediately fell asleep. I don't know how long I was there but no-one came passed me. I woke feeling refreshed and jumped up ready to head off. It was now daylight and the big track met Tor des Geants flags. I was unsure so checked my gps and two Glaciers runners appeared and knew the route so we headed up and up to the checkpoint, Refugio Champillon, which I then remembered from the Tor330 route.

Richard and the Italians were there, with their support helping them. I was happy again and the food there was great. I had started asking for potatoes and many places had them in one form or another - but never as chips again! It was a shame that I can't eat a huge meal all in one sitting as I got halfway through the plate of cheesy layered potatoes and couldn't finish them. I did take them with me but they tasted horrid later when I tried them. I also had a pudding - another thing to ask for. This was an apple strudel thing which was really nice. I wanted to get on and finish now so soon after Richard went I left too. Everyday it got hot and I never liked that part. My feet would swell and itch. I was changing my socks back and forth drying the spare pair by hanging them on my rucksack. I took my shoes and socks off as soon as I got into a checkpoint to dry them. Then cleaned and powdered them with talc before putting on dry socks. I didn't have any blisters and was still wearing the same pair of Trailflys that I had started in.

It was hot climbing and I was glad to reach a higher altitude where it was cooler. I was tending to take photos at the cols, to have a rest but also to appreciate the fact that I was there and the views were incredible. And generally I was feeling strong; the legs never complained once about all the ascending and descending. My biggest pain came from my shoulder where I had a big sore on it from carrying a heavy pack and often I would wear the the rucksack with a shoulder strap halfway down my arm. I had tried putting a spare buff on it which helped but moved about a lot.

I was on my own now but happy with that. I was hoping that I could maintain my 3rd place and climbed and descended into Hotel Italia reasonably happy. The Italians had arrived and ordered pizza but knowing that I wouldn't eat a whole one I shared their. Now we were becoming more friends and their support cheered me on as well. One of the support ladies said that Marina had had a fall and had pulled out of the race. She didn't know anymore details but I hoped Marina was ok. As I was eating Chloe appeared again which was disappointing but I had been going as fast as I could in the heat. I still wasn't running very much though and was pushing harder on the ascents than the descents. It was disappointing also to see Chloe giving her support her extra kit including her waterproof trousers. The Tor des Glaciers compulsory kit is simply two foil blankets, the road book, a mobile phone, ID documents and a GPS device. This is not enough I think.

Richard and the Italians/Swiss headed off with Chloe and I packed up and set off too. I was pretty sure I wouldn't see Chloe again and I was glad. I had hoped I would finish on Friday and that became my goal. We climbed up and around to join the Tor des Geants at Rifugio Frassati where once again, there was Richard and a couple of the Italians. They were heading off soon as the weather forecast was predicting snow on the Col Malatra about midnight and it was now 7pm. We were also being told that instead of the 17km that was on the roadbook it was actually 21km to the finish. I was checking my gpx track and I looked to have the correct route. I wanted to go but I knew I needed to sleep before heading into another night so I let them leave. There were a lot of Geants runners about which were funny as they were all changing clothes into clean ones - it seemed funny to me as I had been wearing the same orange top and Girls on Hills t-shirt since leaving Gressoney on Wednesday morning! It was now Friday night! The checkpoint staff were lovely and found me some potatoes - little chopped ones with a salad. Even though it was cold outside I was craving salad and vegetables now. They also gave me a lovely (but tiny) chocolate pudding that I took to bed with me! I slept really well in a cold room for 30 minutes. Getting up I had a double expresso and put on all my down jacket, hats, waterproofs etc. However when I left and started climbing I was way too hot. The bad weather hadn't arrived yet. I stripped off a bit and carried on. It was nice doing bit of the route that I knew. I really enjoyed the climb even the technical bit at the top. And then the descent as I felt so much better than I had in 2021 when my feet were killing me.

I was looking forward to finishing although I knew I had an extra hill to do before then. We dropped down and down on the Tor330 route and I was careful to check the GPS. Off we went on a corner and then up and up. I was starting to get annoyed now at the extra climbing for the sake of it. It was more annoying in that I could see the lights of Courmayeur and could picture Kirsty, Flora and Mark waiting for me. I went as fast as I could and then got a text from my brother to say he thought a lady was an hour behind me.

I was so determined not to be caught and we were so near the finish that I just started running as hard as I could. It was dark and the route went up and then along a lot of contouring cow paths so we were in a sort of narrow channel. I tripped and fell headlong. I put my hands out, throwing my poles aside but I was so near the edge that one hand disappeared into nothing. My face hit the deck and my nose hit the ground first. It bloody hurt. I lay there stunned for a bit. Then got up, found my poles which luckily hadn't gone down the hillside and carried on. My nose was throbbing and bleeding a bit. I could feel it swelling up and was sure I had broken it. I started running again since I still wanted to just finish and it was cold up on the plateau.

I ran down to the last checkpoint and quickly dibbed in as I didn't want anyone seeing my nose and stopping me from continuing! I did get a few funny looks but I was off. Now I was running fast. I was back on the Tor des Geants route and the last descent into Courmayeur which usually takes about an hour. I ran passed Tor330 runners and some Glaciers runners too. I was just so glad that soon it would be over, that I could have a shower, beer and sleep in a proper bed in a room all on my own.

Running through Courmayeur I was very happy to be feeling so physically strong. Richard was sat outside a bar and cheered me passed. I ran up to the finish and raised my arms. I had done it! The Tor des Glaciers, something I never thought I could do, I had finished! In a time of 173.20hours, 31st out of 57 official finishers. The race was stopped overnight and everyone waiting at Frassati were deemed to have finished. Only 15 more people made it over the Col Malatra before snow fell and the race was then stopped. There were 74 dropouts with the total number of starters being 132.

Kirsty, Mark and Flora were there at the finish and we had lots of photos taken. It was very moving to have my friends there to see me finish. The medics wanted me to be checked out but they were more concerned about my knee than my nose!! They put a bandage on my knee which soon came off on the walk back to the house we had rented! At prize giving I was awarded 3rd prize - a lovely wooden show to go with my wooden cow from 2021!

My nose wasn't broken but I did develop a big black eye which took weeks to go down and still my poor nose is a bit delicate eight weeks later! Photos