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Gaylord finishes 11th in his age group in France-to-Italy mountain trail run
By CLARK GILBERT
Special to The Journal
Aug. 25, 2009 and it's almost 5 a.m. in Chamonix, France (population close to 9,800 people), which is nestled in the Rhone-Alpes region of southern France.
Close to 800 runners are gathered in the pre-dawn chill waiting for the start of the Tour du Duc de Savoie (TDS) foot race that would take them over 106km, or 65 miles, of mountain trails leading from France into Italy. Total cumulative elevation gain is 6600m or 21,000 feet.
Minutes before the 5 a.m. start, instructions are given in French. Local ultra-marathoner and county prosecutor Randy Gaylord listened intensely, but couldn't understand a word that was spoken. A few seconds before the hour, the countdown begins, in French, from 10 to one, and at the shout of "Allez!" all 800 runners, wearing headlamps, begin running in the dark and cold, as the temperatures were in the 30s and cloud deck low, similar to the Pacific Northwest.
This would be a long day for all of them.
The TDS is one of the four races that make up the Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc mountain race series, sponsored by North Face. The longest route, some 103 miles, is the last race to be held, with the course covering mountain trails from France, Switzerland and Italy.
Gaylord finished this event in 2007. This year, Randy’s brother Topher finished 24th overall in 26 hours 47 minutes.
The TDS course winds along some of these same mountain passes that the UTMB covers, with more than 20 miles above tree line and down through scenic valleys formed by glaciers of long ago.
Finishing in Courmayeur, Italy, some 20 hours 13 minutes later, Gaylord finished in 100th place overall and 11th in his age group (50-59). Kim Gaylord, his sister-in-law, finished the TDS third among women, in 18 hours 10 minutes.
This journey began months before with Gaylord training in Moran State Park, often in the dark, running up and down the trails of Mount Constitution. In May, he traveled down to Marin, Calif., to run the Miwok 100K (62 miles) race, which started on the beaches of Rodeo Lagoon and climbed up through the trails of Mount Tamalpais and Point Reyes National Seashore — a total of 10,000 feet of gained elevation. This was the event in which Gaylord qualified for participation in the TDS.
Toward the end of his training, Gaylord was running up to 8 hours on any given Sunday, again traveling up and down trails of Moran.
When asked which part of the event he enjoyed the most, Gaylord replied, “The arrival in the town of Bourg St. Maurice, France, to La Thule, Italy took us over the Petit St. Bernard Pass. I loved running through the crowded narrow shopping street, and after I left the town, it got dark. The moon shone brightly in the sky, the trail was less rocky, and I was able to run while others walked.
"I loved arriving in Italy because the meat, cheese and bread at the aid station tasted the best.”
— Clark Gilbert is a local marathoner, sports promoter and writer for running magazines.