Phew, glad that it’s done.
Yesterday was the local 50miler where I am part of the organizing committee and give the course description at the briefing. That is the main reason why I am pretty nervous beforehand. This year, several other events happened right before, and will in the next week(s), so I got drowned at some point and got sick. Ouch. Luckily, two and a half weeks out, so I was sure to be back alive come race day, not the week before like it was two years ago (and missed both the briefing and the race with fever).
But the damage was done, training wise. Not that I was well prepared in the first place, too few long runs, too many excuse days, where life happened (mostly family). I always calmed myself with the thought that consistency in my running will make up for that. Well, then came a 10 day break, and I restarted running a week before the race. Definitely not enough.
Anyway, I was determined to have fun, and, once I got the time to look into my slides from last year, was sure that the briefing will be at least OK. The day came, I was upright again, even went over the talk and tuned it a bit. Computer, beamer, 3D mouse, internet connection, microphone, all set up with the usual hassle, the briefing was a success. Phew. Done.
On my way home with Jan who also ran and stayed at my place, I realized that at least one important item for the next day was still in my office, and didn’t have my key card with me. Darn, downer. Another 30 minutes spent going there, fetching the stuff and coming back home. Funnily on the bike I felt my legs being pretty strong. Hey, that’s a good omen! And then prerace dinner was ready when I got home. Very good!
Laying out the stuff, and into bed.
The next morning my two older kids came with us to the start, 2k away from my home. In the dark, through the woods, they had to get down alone. But they know the woods there, and had flashlights. All fine. Still I am pretty proud that they are brave enough to do that.
At the breakfast, more a breakfeast, really good food and lots of it in a barn next to the start line, where everybody gathers to get some food or a coffee, I met Stefanie, finally in person. I saw her through the room on Friday, but she left before I disassembled all my stuff. Hey, that was a nice moment. Her first ultra was ahead, and she was really excited.
Kissing the kids goodbye, one last pit stop at a bush and of we went. ‘Brocken-Challenge 2018, here we go!’
I ran the first 25k with Jan, until he sent me off as I was holding back and he began to breathe harder. I tried to turn up the pace, chased and overtook a lot of people. Here, I began noticing some sharp pain in my left knee. Not very strong, but there. I did not bother, tried to carry my weight more by my ankles to take some load off the knees.
At the marathon mark, I was a bit disappointed that I got there five minutes later than last year, where we had long stretches of ice and lost a lot of time putting spikes on and off. Darn. Still, now the adventure begins, we enter the mountains. Somehow, all the people around me were also running pretty strong here, where I expected to make more ground. That was also different last year. I had a hard time until the 53k aid station, but could keep up the pace by simply looking at Niels’ heels and stop thinking. After the short stop, we entered a more flat section of the course and there were car tracks in the snow that were nicely runnable. And so I did. I got a bit worried when I saw a 4:55 on my Ambit, but it felt good. Only that I stayed in the right lane, which was tilted rightwards. Adding to the pain of my left knee. Argh! I ran on, walked sections with too fluffy snow or too much incline (over 5% ;-)), passed the 63k aid station and felt like a good time might still be in reach if I just push on. So I did. Later, I met Jens coming from the front to meet Yvonne, whom he supported this year. We chatted a bit, and parted. Only, the turn towards him, and then back made me knee angry as hell. I could not run more than three steps. Ouch! So I walked. and tried to run every now and then. I stretched, but no relief. I was pissed. I knew that I could do the last 15k walking before the cutoff. Still, it meant a lot of time in the cold winds, being overtaken, getting more and more frustrated. (As I am writing this, I remember overtaking someone three years ago in the very same spot, and he was also in severe pain. And ran on 2k later…)
Luckily I was reached by Aschu who also walked up the section, and we chatted. Actually, he told me that he was about to die in the same place some (more than three) years ago, puking his guts out, and determined to drop at the next aid station. But there he saw Michel who just dropped, sitting in a car, and looking so miserable, that he decided to go on, and somehow got his mojo back a bit later.
I let the two go, still walking when the two around me decided to run on, but my spirits were lifted a bit and tried running again. It was painful, but I found a gait which was bearable. I needed some section that was tilted leftwards, not slipping (not easy) and not too uneven. Then I could run. Slow, very slow, but run. With this shuffle I reached the next aid station Koenigskrug, was happy to see some runners I imagined way ahead already. Then came a very long ascent which I walked more or less exclusively. But when I ran, it was less and less painful. When the route got level again, I ran more and more. Even when it got very churned up, I could run. Hey! Nice!
Looking at the time it became clear that a sub 10h finish that I thought was gone when the knee gave up, was still possible. On I ran, drank some tea and broth at the last aid station, 7.8k before the summit and finish, hugged Maren who was working at the aid station, and shuffled on. Now mostly running. Still slow, of course. That way I fought my way up, nearer and nearer to the summit. Many tourists who came down the same path were cheering and encouraging. That really helped. I passed some runners on the path next to the railroad tracks, and was happily surprised to reach the final road much earlier than I expected. Still it was hard to run or walk, but I smelled the finish and that propelled me forward. I passed Bjoern who told me that Aschu was right ahead and an instant later I could see him in the fog before me. I worked up to him, and then we walked the finish in together. OK, 30m before the finish, when the finish crew appeared in the fog, we ran a bit.
Phew, was I happy to have reached the finish, and this thing was over. In a good way. Aschu was greeted by his girlfriend, and I found Niels who I clinged on before the 53k aid station finishing just behind us, hugged him, and took him to the stone marking the officially highest point of the summit to take photos.
Then inside, partly bathing in the warm atmosphere of very many very happy finishers and supporters, partly disappointed that it was already that crowded. Dang, I wanted to make this run quite a lot faster. Not this year.
Enjoying this room is always a favorite part of the BC. Getting out of the stinking clothes, standing in line for the one shower, dressing in dry, warm clothes afterwards, eating, drinking, chatting, dozing, meeting tons of friend. Applauding every finisher that enters the hall. Fantastic. Here, I finally got some time to chat with Stefanie. Very good, it seemed I did not lure her into some ordeal, but she got out of the race what I hoped for. A really good experience for her first ultra. Great!
Finally, we had to hike down the summit. No cars allowed up there, and the last train was long gone. Through the fog and some snow, but luckily no high winds as expected. But walking down was no longer fun. Somehow we managed to get the 8k hike done, entered the meeting point, a cafe, to wait for the departure of the bus towards the start where we wanted to hike back home, the path we went up the morning, which was a lifetime away at that moment. But we got the info from our bus driver that the first bus, full of runners broke down, and we will have to wait until another bus came from Goettingen. Not so nice, waiting another hour, entirely exhausted. Good that we were in a cafe and had access to food, drinks and restrooms. Then Tanya entered with her supporter Nodger to tell the bus coordinator that she will not need the bus but go with him by car. Quick I asked for two more places and was relieved to enter his car together with my brother. He then also drove us to my home. What service! When I learned that it took the other bus until 1:45 a.m. to reach the starting area, I was all the more thankful for that way out. Thank you Nodger! Getting out of the car and to my door was the most painful thing I did that day. Whoa! But a bit later I dropped dead in the bed.
Phew, was I glad that this was over!