Morgan Arritola didn't understand the French language, but she understood the challenge of running up the 6,273-foot Mont Ventoux in southern France on Sunday, June 10.
Arritola, 26, of Ketchum, set a new course record in winning the women's division of the third edition of the Ascent of Mont Ventoux. She out-legged the French mountain running queen, 38-year-old Aline Camboulives from Aix-en-Provence.
The 5,400-foot ascent was a little more than 11 miles, starting from the petrol station in the small town of Bedoin, France, elevation 938, and finishing atop the so-called Bald Mountain of the Provence region of southern France, about 57 miles north of Marseilles.
"It was basically Baldy twice," said Arritola, the three-time women's champion of the 1.86-mile, 3,140-foot Baldy Hill Climb who set the course record of 39:53 finishing atop the 9,020-foot summit back in 2010.
Arritola's final time Sunday was 1.45:28, the fastest of the 50 women and good enough for 10th place overall out 308 finishers. Runner-up Camboulives placed 13th overall in 1.48:53. The men's overall winner was Benamin Bellamy in 1.31:05.
What was it worth to Arritola? She said, "Between all of us (the top finishers) we got 11 bottles of wine, a little money and a huge trophy. They (the French organizers) were really great although I didn't understand anything they said."
Having dared to defy the "Giant of Provence" capped by its limestone boulders, Arritola thus captured her second big win in eight days. She won the Vail (Colo.) Pass Half Marathon June 2, came home to Ketchum and then jetted off to France.
Everything took its toll.
Keep in mind that Arritola wasn't aiming for the Mont Ventoux race. She said about her European trip, "I didn't come over here for the running race, it just happened to be going on so I did it. More than anything this trip was just really fun. Maybe I was just enjoying too much good wine which made it harder for me.
Arritola said, "I suffered. A lot. Probably more than any race to date, maybe a combination of the travel and doing a hard one the previous weekend. My legs gave out big time but I managed.
"It was definitely one of the hardest races I've ever done. I think I beat the course record by seven or eight minutes but that information too was lost in translation."
Her main competition, Camboulives, was France's best. On May 6, Camboulives won the half marathon of the eighth Geneva (Switz.) Marathon for UNICEF in 1.15:49. Last year she captured the 19th Jungfrau Marathon from Interlaken to Wengen, Switz. by nearly five minutes in a time of 3.29:55.
Arritola boiled her effort down to the suffering factor.
She said, "My leg has really been bothering me and to be honest my legs aren't in great running shape. I just went out hard and decided if she (Camboulives) was going to beat me, she was just going to have to suffer more than I was.
"I was in front the whole time. I could see her behind me for a few miles and then lost sight when we hit the trails and the uphills. It was warm at the bottom and cooler and windy at the top. But it can be snowing this time of year on top of Ventoux so we were lucky. It was a perfect day for the race."
Last year's Women's XTerra Trail Run national and world champion over 13-mile courses, Arritola is returning home to Ketchum this week. She said she plans to be better prepared for her next running race in a month in New Hampshire.