I chatted to a few people on the way up the first climb including a transplanted Brit now living in Italy, as we passed a monk ringing a bell cheering us on. There was snow at the top but cleared enough on the route we took, so that it was passable. As the sun came up we had some spectacular views across the mountains, with low lying clouds in some valleys. There was only one really technical section of the course in the first 70km's or so of the race, and that was on the way down to Tende at 24km. However, the route was certainly hilly enough, albeit on rough tracks through forests and up and down mountains. I made it to Tende, the first real refreshment stop, and filled up my empty bladder with water and my powder. It was not quite 8am and clearly the heat was going to be the main issue of the day. We then climbed out of Tende up to the second ravi point, Refuge Amicizia, at 42km, the first marathon of the day. I was already out of water 3/4 of the way up the hands on knees hike, but in better shape than a bearded chap who had sat down by the side of the trail. He complained of stomach issues, so I tried to chivvy him along. I found some marshalls a little further along and they provided me with a couple of cups of water to tide me over to the proper stop. After almost 8 hrs on the trail, I had 2hrs in hand before the cut off, and was very pleased but my feet were already starting to suffer with a recurrence of the blisters and also the tenderness on the balls of my feet and big toes with the really deep blisters.
The next aid station was scheduled Breil, and I was also looking forward to the half way mark. I can remember heading along a very long dirt road through the woods, undulating but only steep in brief sections. One one side of the track was France and on the right was Italy. Through the undergrowth and brambles I could just about make out the odd doorway here and there. Clearly there was a vast network of fortifications under the dirt, a legacy of hundreds of years of war between the 2 nations. Quite fascinating wondering what sort of era the fort was used in and wondering about the soldiers that had inhabited it. It seemed to be massive and go on for ages, but truth be told I was slowing down quite a lot and a couple of times I had to use a discarded stone slab or tank trap to have a sit down, slurp some fluids from my pack and have a handful of trail mix. I managed to keep the breaks to a minimum of time and pushed on as much as I could.