August 26, 2016

How long can a man run? Sondre Amdahl is facing the 330k Tor des Geants race.

Ultrarunner and GORE RUNNING WEAR® Athlete Sondre Amdahl is currently training for an ultra trail run that fully lives up to its name: the Tor des Geants in Italy’s Aosta Valley region. A “gigantic” 330-kilometer (205-mile) distance, 24,000 meters of elevation change (78,740 feet) and a time limit of 150 hours. For the slowest, that adds up to almost a full week of running in high-alpine terrain. On Sondre’s path to this superhuman challenge, he will take part in another famous race: the 119k TDS® (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie), of the UTMB® series. We talked to Sondre shortly before the start of this training period, discussing his preparations, his motivation, and the limits of the human body.

The Tor des Geants will probably be the toughest race you have ever done. How are your feeling facing that challenge?

Sondre Amdahl: The Tor des Geants is definitely the toughest race I have ever done. I am not scared, but I think it will be quite challenging. I’m totally looking forward to it, also, but I do have a huge respect for the mountains, the distance, the race, and the terrain. And just the fact that I have to be out there for four or five or even six days in a row – it’s crazy. But it is also an adventure, and I’m totally looking forward to. Especially to run the trails amid all those amazing mountains.

How are preparations going?

Sondre Amdahl: Training is going OK. I’m still in Greece, and it is very very hot. So I wouldn’t say that I’m doing specific Tor des Geants training here, but I am walking and hiking. I am actually not running; I’m only hiking. That is because at Tor des Geants, there will be lots and lots of walking sections. You simply can’t just keep running for four or five days

You will run the TDS® and have already been successful at the famous UTMB®. Both races take place in an area that is very similar to that of the Tor des Geants course. Will your experience there help you?

Sondre Amdahl: The Tor des Geants is so different and difficult because of the distance and the altitude. For the UTMB® it was all about pushing all of the time very very hard. At least I did. Because you do not sleep, at the aid stations everything goes very very quickly. You don’t spent more time there than is really necessary. Whereas at the Tor des Geants I will have to sleep, I will have to spend more time at the aid stations to rest and to eat. I just don’t know if one can really train for that. I just need to experience it myself.

Is the TDS®, one of the legendary UTMB® races, just one step on the way to the Tor des Geants for you or a challenge all itself?

Sondre Amdahl: The Tor des Geants will be a very big challenge for me. So, strange but true, my plan is to see the TDS® simply as training for this extraordinary race over 330 kilometers with 24,000 meters of elevation change.
The TDS® is shorter than the well-known UTMB®, but good preparation is still required since it is a very technical race. This will be a very hard training period for me. I will stay in Italy and run parts of the Tor des Geants course. That is my program for 11 days, and then I will go straight to Chamonix and run the TDS®. Two weeks and a half later, the Tor des Geants awaits me.

What is your strategy for this race?

Sondre Amdahl: It is very important to save energy and not go out too fast in the beginning. But at the same time it is important for me to cover some distance and to be more efficient in this first period of the race because the mind is sharper and your whole body is fresher.
I will try to go maybe 24 to 30 hours, and then start to add some sleeping. I will not sleep the first night of the race I think. And then I will just have to see …

How are you preparing in terms of clothing and equipment? What are you taking with you?

Sondre Amdahl: I will try to go as light as possible, but of course I will carry the mandatory equipment. It’s difficult, because you need totally different stuff during the night as you do in the daytime in a warm village. It easily goes from 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) to 4 Celsius (39 Fahrenheit). So I will carry shorts, T-shirts, long tights, hats, a One GORE-TEX® Jacket, underwear, base layers, gloves. I will bring crampons for the snowy parts in the high country, and hiking poles. And then I will have a GPS for the course.

There are tough races, and then there is the Tor des Geants. When very skilled runners fail to finish, what is it that entices you to try it?

Sondre Amdahl: The Tor des Geants is my personal big challenge, because I think the mountains are just fantastic. And that’s where I want to run. Gran Paradiso, Monte Rosa, Monte Cervino, or Monte Bianco. One of them is almost always in sight on the Tor des Geants course.

There will be tough moments, and that’s something I’m prepared for. I know this from other long races like the Marathon des Sables or the UTMB®. I think the Tor des Geants is more mentally difficult than just physical challenging. The mental part is the difficult part. To be able to push yourself for such a long time is very very very challenging! Because your body and mind are telling you want to stop, you want to sleep…. My body wants to sleep 5 hours but I’m telling it to wake up after 1 hour? You get the picture.

My main goal is to just finish, and to see how — and if — my body can keep going for 330 kilometers.

What is your personal goal at the race?

Sondre Amdahl: I am very experienced, but the Tor des Geants is really something totally different. So my main goal is to just finish, and to see how — and if — my body can keep going for 330 kilometers. But I am very competitive, of course, and if I see that it is going OK I will try to get into the top 20, top 15, top 10,.. I will go for that.

What will keep you going and going when you’re already so exhausted? How do you motivate yourself?

Sondre Amdahl: A lot of things motivate me. Sometimes it’s just that I think about the fact how lucky I am to be in the mountains and to have the opportunity to do a race like this. It is also motivating to think about my family and my kids and that soon I will have time to call them. And I try to set myself smaller goals along the way too, for example, to get to the next mountain top, the next aid station, the next stage.

When it comes to races, you set ever higher goals for yourself with challenges like UTMB, Marathon des Sables and now the Tor des Geants. How long can a man run? Is there a limit?

Sondre Amdahl: There is no limit. There are crazy people doing incredible things. People run across Europe, across the USA, around the world. There are so many challenges you could do. I like the desert; I like the rainforest, the mountains. That’s where I want to challenge myself.

Where will your next challenge be?

Sondre Amdahl: My next race is the UIA World Trail Championships in Portugal at the end of October. After this, I will have to change my training to be able to run faster there. And then next year I will do some stage races like the Marathon des Sables. But I will maybe do that somewhere at one in the mountains.

We will keep you posted on Sondres next challenges on this blog.

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