Vaughan Lascelles: “When you finish, its quite nice!”
Covering 330 kilometers in less than 150 hours, including ascending and descending 24000 metres, wearing both heavy fleece and waterproof jackets and gloves, at times having to fit crampons to your running shoes and running the entire journey while clutching trek poles – that’s the terrifying Tor des Géants (Tour of Giants) endurance race held annually in Italy’s Aosta Valley.
No seconds are allowed, the runners have to rely on 43 refreshment stations and 7 life bases and, because the route clambers up and down the Italian Alps, snow, rain and sleet can be expected. Tor des Géants tests far more than your ability to cover 330kms in six days though – sleep deprivation lifts this race to a whole new level of discomfort.
Every year around 2000 people from around the world enter the lottery selection process and until now, no South African has ever won an entrance ticket to what could be classified as sheer insanity. South Africa struck lucky in 2016, with four winning entries, including White River Forester Vaughan Lascelles.
When asking Vaughan why he entered, the underlying question was ‘Why would anyone want to do this?’ His answer echoes hundreds of intrepid adventurers across time itself. “If you never test your threshold, how do you know what you’re capable of?” But it’s his follow-on statement that catches the essence of the man. “I have two young sons, I need to do something that they can look up to and earn their respect.”
Vaughan’s previous endurance stage races (particularly the Namib Desert Challenge) exposed him to physical challenge but also to the incredible sensation of being alone in wild landscapes and elements. He admits he’s anxious about the Tor des Géants and confronting conditions he’s never met before. He’s up at 2h00 running through the forests and plantations in White River, spent a weekend in the Berg and says Long Tom Pass also gives him some climbing experience but nothing can properly prepare him for what he’ll face on the 11th September.
He eats a lot of meat to build muscle and fat, doesn’t hold with the low carb theories but sticks to fresh, wholesome meals and a balanced diet. Currently, he has to find space in the week between family and work to spend 17 hours running and 4 hours in the gym. He’s up to about 141kms a week but will crank up to 180kms when he begins to peak shortly before leaving for Italy. Oh, yes, that’s when he’ll toss in the sleep deprivation ‘practice’ as well!
Wife Joey and sons Daniel (9) and Henry (7) have become used to seeing very little of him, but on the weekends when he sets off for the longer 50km runs they join him for a picnic and will be in Italy with him.
“I’m a diesel engine,” he jokes, with every intention of going slow and finishing.
We Are White River is awesomely proud of our ‘Forrest Gump’ and will report back on his race in September. Meanwhile, his son Daniel is keen to use Vaughan’s run to fundraise for the Desert Lions Project so when we get more news about that, we’ll let you know.