Vicky Romanin can now claim to walk among the giants.
The local ultramarathoner completed the gruelling Tor des Geants race on Sept. 18 in Italy.
Romanin finished the 330-kilometre course through the Aosta Valley in 148 hours, 26 minutes and 22 seconds, coming just under the 150-hour (six days and six hours) cut-off.
"There was a Danish guy who came up to me afterwards, and it sounds very hokey, but he said 'You look changed,'" she recalled. "I may be beaten to a pulp, but I'm changed, for sure.
"For me, it was scary quite a bit of the time... It's so intense that you just focus on one step in front of another. Go down and go back up again."
Though it's one thing to acknowledge you're taking on over 24 kilometres of climbing in an alpine environment, it's quite another to complete it, Romanin said, adding the European peaks are gnarlier and steeper than those on this side of the pond.
"It was an incredible experience. It was bigger, badder, more technical, more beautiful than anything that I could have ever anticipated," she said. "Even though I had great advice and great coaching, to actually be there and experience it was something else."
Romanin noted the weather conditions were challenging, but they were about as good as could be expected. She said the area is currently experiencing winter conditions, so racers dodged a bullet weather-wise.
That said, the best-case scenario she did experience left her thankful for her Whistler winter experience.
"It was down to about -12 C with heavy winds — I almost got blown off of the face one night. It felt very dangerous. We were certainly prepared for it. I had my full-on Whistler gear, the GoreTex pants and jacket. I wore fleece. I wore guide gloves. I wore heat warmers. I had crampons," she said. "It was probably about as ideal as it could get at that time of the year."
However, dealing with the cold and the wind wasn't even her top obstacle, as practical considerations like eating and sleeping started to become difficult as the days wore on.
Romanin had planned out her sleep schedule before the race, but on-course, it ended up being thrown out the window.
"It's not like you can go for 14 hours and then sleep for four hours and then go for another place to sleep for another four hours," she said. "It's very much restricted by where you end up at that time.
"(Even with) the best-laid plans, in the last couple of days, there was very, very little sleep."
However, Romanin said nutrition was likely even a bigger challenge than the sleep deprivation.
"I started to feel (like I was) shutting down on Day 4 and I had a hard time getting through the last couple days being able to eat," she said.
Romanin credited American friend Michael Henson for helping her along, as they ran alongside one another for about three-quarters of the race and earned their finisher's prizes together.
She also thanked coaches Gary Robbins and Eric Carter.
Champion Javi Dominguez of Spain set a new record this year, crossing the finish line in 67:52:15.