Six weeks back, I ran my first 100miler and was pretty impressed by my state afterwards and the quick recovery. A glimpse on the family calendar after we came back from summer vacation, and I spontaneously asked for getting last weekend off to get revenge for my drop after 135k in the Rueningen 24h race two years ago. (see here ) Some compromises were made, my parents were asked to take the kids for that weekend, so the wife got free time, and I could start making war plans.
The race is pretty small and mostly attracts local runners who like to camp on the site and run a bit here and there. So I figured, if I ever get to race at the top, it is here.
After the Thuerigen Ultra, I felt pretty confident to make a hundred miles on the flat course with inifite access to my stuff and fueling. So this was my minimal goal. More accurately I wanted to go one loop further to log the longest run I’d done. The next goals included placing in my age group (which was from 16 to 40 years), winning it, placing overall, or maybe winning the thing. OK, I was dreaming big.
As last time, preparation was perfect. Also I learned a thing or two since my first ultra. And got better equipment, most prominently I switched to Injinji socks and Altra shoes, so no more toe blistering. I know how to lube, which shirts chafes the least, and I got some mink oil as Rich proposed, to waterproof my feet. I brought my box with all the blister stuff, first aid, ice packs, tape, scissors, shoes to apply those scissors to in case my toes needed fresh air. I took the food I knew I like and could stomach, cereal bars, fruit/nut bars, potatoe chips. Apples and bananas as well as salted boiled potatoes would be available at the aid station. They also had electrolyte drink, which they happily filled my bottle with, whenever it got empty. To drink I had 6 thermos flasks with green tea, 4l of Coke, a bottle of beet root/ginger juice, and some plain water, just in case. Under my table I placed a waterproof duffle bag with all my running shoes (and there are some of them) well sorted in plastic bags in the probability I would want to wear them. There were also two bags with clothes, one for hot conditions, one for cold conditions. Oh, and this year I brought my own chair that I would take over the barrier onto the course for shoe changes and feet inspections. As the car went with my kids and parents, I also pitched a small tent for the case I really crashed, and to put all my stuff in for after the race.
We were there way in advance. And my son decided to stay with me, until the girls came with my parents to log some loops and go back to my parents place for the night. Asked about his goals he said 80k, which was the distance of last years winner in the youth age group up to 16y. But my son was still to turn 10 this tuesday. Though, he has the same tendency as me to not stop whatever he begins. I was really curious how he would perform. As he never trained distance running, I tried to influence him a bit to run slower and keep in mind that there is also a second day. I believed that 10k would be a surprise.
I was going for revenge for two years ago, where I quit at 18:18 with 135k. This year I started faster, and felt good. I was able to adjust to anything that was thrown at me:
We had a severe downpour after the first 90 minutes, and I just plodded on. After the volunteers (literally) brushed all water from the cinder part of the loop, I switched into dry socks and shoes, and saw that following the mink oil tip from Rich was on point. Practically no maceration after running two hours in soaked socks. Also chosing the least cushioned shoes for the beginning (and switching into the very same model after the water was gone) turned out a good decision. No problems with my gait, the ground feeling, toes ankles, whatever. Lateron, I wanted to switch to the highly cushioned road shoes that also brought me through the last third of July’s 100 miler.
At some point my left knee complained in the dominating left, so I began a pattern of walking one of the steep curves every 1.5 loops, one of which was the most annoying curve of the rubber track, the other in the start area where I had my table. So I refueled every 3k, which turned out perfect. The knee went silent again.
At another time I felt a roaring in my stomach, the hunger that might announce an energy shortage soon. So I ate a bit more, and this was also resolved.
Once I looked at my table and was magically drawn to the potatoe chips. So I ate a handful and never had the urge again.
I drank what appealed at the very moment (which was quite a bit, maybe half a liter every 3k) and was never feeling dehydrated, even though I sweated a lot.
I had one gassy and one successful bathroom break, the second one late in the night, where I had to concentrate not to fall asleep and besides the toilet. One stop at the bushes.
This year, the DJ was in way better mood (or maybe another person?) than last time. I actually liked the majority of songs. When they were played for the first time. He still kept repeating songs 3-5 times, which got pretty annoying when I was in bad spots.
Running more than 15k between 2400 and 0400 earned me a shirt, which I happily got directly after the 15k to avoid getting a too small one again. I was going to ask for a second one, but overtimed my 30th lap after midnight so that I only logged 29k in this period. Bummer.
I had a major battle with the Blerch around 4am. But remebering the song title ‘Wenn die Nacht am tiefsten ist, ist der Tag am naechsten’, meaning ‘if/when the night is darkest, day is nearest’ made me smile until the sky began to clear in the east.
So I went on, owning the third place overall, before me two guys from italy. Andrea, who registered with the club name ‘sri chinmoy marathon team’, is/was member of the Italian national 24h team, and ran in pure pain with some quad issue for 23 hours (because his train was late he started an hour later) but ran us all down to reach 188k. He was quite an inspiration to me. Fabio, who got pulled from Spartathlon at mile 80 or so, missing a cut off. We shared some way and talked, but he ran faster than me. He reached 173k.
I definitely wanted a podium place, but saw my changes vanishing from the beginning when I realized how many experienced people were on the course. A girl from the Netherlands held first place overall with a gap of 5k pretty early on. And she continued for 10hours with a blistering pace. Until she took a longer break in her tent, and came back a bit slower, and fallen behind. A guy from Denmark was asked by the announcer about his goals and said 180k, maybe another Spartathlon aspirant. He was fast and determined, held the second place behind Fabio until they were overtaken by Andrea. Around 3am I saw the danish guy leaving with his girlfriend/crew, coolers and bags. He was out.
I raced. Had fun. Saw people dropping before me, and behind me, and figured this 24h running is a game of last man standing. Everybody tunes up to the max until they burn. And it could be very well be me who burns. And so it was after 20 hours. 90 minutes later than two years ago. After 145k. I mentally quit and retreated into my tent. My right calf got unbearable. The quads were screaming for some hours now, but this calf thing was a stopper.
The last two laps, I tried to walk and tough it out, but seeing Sascha, fourth place, 3k behind me, circling easily after he nearly dropped in the night as his knee hurt extremely bad, crushed my determination. I walked until he overtook me, then sat down to massage my quad and calf. This did not help, or even work at all, so I decided to hop over the barrier and find some sleep in the tent.
I Could not sleep, everything hurt badly and it was hot in the tent. By letting my thoughs cruise, I eventually found the reason for my crash. Somewhere during the night, I felt a developing blister. Only one sting, but it felt like in the 100miler, where I got a huge blister under my right foot. It did not want this to happen again, and concentrated on my gait. Avoid slipping in the shoes. In order to achieve this, I changed my gait to a better form, have the big toe point straight forward, push only when the big toe and heel have full ground contact, push straight back, roll over the big toe. All this made and makes sense, but not when my usual gait is different. A race is maybe not the best point to learn a new gait. So I heavily overused the outer part of my right calf which was not trained for this. Darn.
But knowing this, there was an obvious fix, simply switch my gait back to the dirty usual style. So I got out of the tent, after a break of about 90 minutes, and hobbled on. Became faster, and could find my rythm back. Acutally, running hurt much less than laying in the tent. But I did not get to the former speed. The 3rd place overall was long gone to Sascha, looking for a Spartathlon qualification (which requires 180k in a 24h), before I retreated. After I came back, I still held third place in my age group (ranging from 16 to 40 years), but only by a very small margin, and the fourth, Steffen, was faster than me. After I made it to 154k, he took the third position and I lost the motivation to push further. So I took a shower, and 15 minutes before the end went an honorary loop together with my kids to make it to 155k.
No place, not even the 100 miles that I thought were set. I was disappointed. But I learned a lot. And I really raced for the first time. This might become fun
Some items that did not fit into the timeline:
My sister came onto the course three times to run a few laps with me, as she also lives nearby. She was wearing a summer dress and flipflops and was voted best dressed runner by the bypassers Her company always lifted my spirits.
Having the kids on the course wass both nice and a burden. I loved to see them having fun with my parents, and running on their own, but I could not entirely switch off my parental thoughts and caring. Tom, you forgot to take off your T-shirt before putting on the race shirt. Ok, Jule, let’s do a lap together. Stop, Ronja, don’t pull on my hand, this twists my knee. No, I do not know where your bottle is. Yes, you can eat from the aid station whatever you want. No, I won’t wait for you. Carrying? No way! Where are your glasses, Tom?
Tom showed a lot of determination. He ran like hell in the first two laps and was proud to be first in the youth category. He then made sure that no youthly looking runner overtook him. Shuffling between running fast and walking. He even ran through the rain, totally soaked. And continued. All in his Crocs. Eventually, he told me that he will take a break. He got dried by my parents and sat for a while in my chair with a rain jacket to get warm again. And then he was on the course again. Less ambitious, the distance was getting to him. And then they left for the night. He made a plan that my dad would bring him to the course early on Sun, but they did not appear. Not until noon. Not until 1400, an hour before the end. I was afraid that somehow they could not bring him, and he was mad about this. But when my sister arrived, she could tell me that he woke up so sore that he did not want to run at all. The kids and my mother came for the last hour, which was fine for the girls to circle once or twice, and him to get one last lap to reach 21k in the end. Pretty impressive given that he did not train running. And he might have learned something too
Sascha, the guy chasing me when I was still cruising well, had a serious problem with his knee during the night, fearing some permanent damage. I was expecting him to drop any minute. (Which would have given me quite some relieve, although I felt with him). But he had a very good handler/crew/friend who both ran with him, especially when the going got tough. But he also arranged a mattress next to the course, and someone to massage the knee and apply some ointment to the spot. He got him up, convinced him that this was not permanent, and got him into a nice rythm again. Later, he arranged food and drinks, brought cups and bottles, took them off Sascha once he was done.
This all was both admirable and soul crushing. It showed me that I had a big disadvantage to Sascha. And took my hopes of keeping him behind me. Would I perform better with a crew? I dunno. Depends largely on the person. Usually, I tend to worry about people who help me. So much that it would compromise my race. I think. So the person needs to be pretty strong in convincing me that they care about themselves.
Next year? Maybe. I’d like to, but this might collide with another race that is on top of my bucket list.