I need to start way back for this one.
In the process of becoming something like a runner, evolving from a ‘I am genetically not able to run’ towards ‘hey, this is not only pain-free, it can also be fun’, exploring the woods around my home and my new self-esteem as someone able to move naturally efficient, I stumbled upon the term ‘ultra running’. Crazy concept. But a good kind of crazy. And highly appealing to me.
Being the theoretician I am, I started to inhale whatever I found on the interweb, and was left open mouthed pretty often. I enjoyed loads of race reports. Especially those of one guy stood out. Not only were the reports well written and the races so fantastic (in the sense of ‘must be a fantasy, such stuff is not real’), but he also lives in Goettingen, and, what I learned later, was a friend of my teammate Moe. My favorite report was this one: http://run100miles-riesensmarti.blogspot.com/2011/08/stunt-100-der-wahnsinn.html (in German). Lars’ report about the STUNT100. When I read it, and later the race website, I was stoked. Hundred miles is incredible in itself, but navigating, alone in the woods, at night, boars, deer, day and night? That sounded just too awesome. But Lars is a different league, not comparable in any way. Still, I might not need to race for a course record, but a mere finish? If only I were no longer a running puppy….
‘When I grew up…’ became my main thought whenever I read race reports, stumbled upon enormous feats, journey runs, race ideas, you name it. There was a huge draw, I so wanted to do all of these. Fascination all around. Only, I was definitely not capable of this, and felt like I would most likely never be. Dreaming with a regular wakeup to the cruel reality that already a 30k run would leave me sore as hell. Learning about the training volume of serious ultra runners, I formed my second mantra: ‘When the kids have moved out…’. Later, maybe in a next life.
The years went by and somehow I went through some metamorphosis. First, I noticed my ankles getting stronger and stronger. My feet grew two sizes. My calves got tougher, and my quads also began to look different, adapted to the fact that their main purpose was running now. I ran longer and longer, and then the hundred miles came in reach. ‘There is nothing but hundred miles’ I read over and over in my daydreaming-internet-research. I so wanted this. And not on the flat sports ground of Rueningen, but in the woods. At night. And day. And if needed, another night. At that time the STUNT resurfaced. I began my research only to find that it was discontinued. Nooooo! What now? I wrote to Hansi, the RD, what a pity it was that he canceled one of my life goals, and how his race fits exactly what I seek. Apparently, I was not the only one with this reaction to the STUNT being canceled, and Hansi took it up a year later, what a happy surprise!
Mailing back and forth with Hansi, it became clear that in order to finish the STUNT, I still would have to go a long way. He advised me to run 100k of trail or similar as a preparation before he would invite me. This, and some over-excitement took me to the Thueringen Ultra and not only the 100k, but the jubilee hundred mile option. I had a gorgeous night, and then an endless suffer fest. I was pretty proud to get the hundred miles in the woods off my check list. Still, I survived it, not more. There was no running, no joy, no epiphanies in the later stages. Just bare grit and getting it done to finally have this being over. This is the glory of hundred miles? Hm. There must be more to it.
In the next year, Hansi offered me a starting spot for the STUNT. Hooray! I was proud, and really excited. Only to find the race date was the weekend of Ronja’s birthday. Waaahhh! What bad coincidence. Dang. That hit. I was left aimless and without drive to look for anything in exchange. Then came Rueningen, and one of the finest experiences of day long running. This third time at 24h, I finished with gas in the tank, not being broken, but with a smile and the knowledge that this could have gone on for another day. Wow. Something happened. Henning, with whom I ran Rueningen, and I were making plans what other race we might do as a team again, and I proposed the STUNT. Henning agreed and I mentally changed my expectations for the STUNT drastically. I was always thinking of deep lows alone in the dark, digging for remainders of motivation and energy within myself. Adding Henning to the equation would mean the race to be entirely different. He is much faster than I am, and I am the one to tell him to keep going later in the wee hours. This worked perfectly when we tried it, only, I always had the mental problem of being the snail in the group.
So, I took more and more emphasis on speed in my training in the winter. Henning’s idea of running sub 24h in the STUNT, and he also joked about us two winning it, built up quite a bit of pressure, or motivation to train, as you like. And, training magic happened. I got faster. Wow. Never thought that this might really happen. Still, my training was as always: run whenever you can. Which is much less than any plan would propose. Long runs on the weekend? Once a month maybe. 30k at most. But I had my 100k journey run in October, a 45k on christmas, the Brocken Challenge in February. And then the stars aligned. All my family was away for a week in March. I looked briefly for some races in that period, but then formed the ingenious idea: I’d do a training camp for the STUNT. Running one of the first three loops, the long ones, every other day, to scout the course and test my navigation. I imagined blooming spring forests, of course some late sessions, as I would leave early after work, drive to Sibesse and then run 48k, 54k, and 39k.
As March came, I got really nervous. No spring in sight. everything was still snow covered, it was cold as hell. Add the mess that storm Friederike produced and I was not sure how to survive this week. Those distances alone would have been a big thing. For the first loop, I met with Henning on the entirely icy parking place in Sibesse. High winds and temperatures below zero. We made our way through sometimes hip deep snow, climbed or walked around about 500 fallen trees on the course. in the end we lost our nerves, when we were facing another section of a field of fallen trees, looking like a Mikado game that just started, and cut some km short back to our cars. Wow. This, and then 115k more? No way. But hey, there will most likely be no snow in June. And maybe some trees will be gone by then, no? The second loop, I did alone, and also cut short a bit, but traveled all the navigationally challenging parts, and fortunately, found only one fallen tree on my way. I felt the run from two days before in my legs, but running was still fine. Two days later, I had company for the Kuelf, Corinna came with me. When we were changing in the car (mind you, still nearly freezing temperatures outside), another car pulled up besides and Hansi spent us a visit. What a nice surprise! We chatted a bit and then went off. 4k in the loop, some runner came towards us, in the middle of nowhere on some forest road. Nice. He then stopped, greeted and told us that Hansi told him that would come this way. Wow. Michael decided to do his daily long run with us. Now, I a group of three, where I should be the exhausted one, being dragged by the two fast ones, I magically found stride and energy to run strong and fast. Mostly pain free. This was fun! Add the single trail ridge ‘Kuelf’ to the fun and I was running like new. After Michael left us to return to his car, I had a hard stretch when Corinna’s asphalt gear kicked in in the long valley. I did not want to be the snail again, so I did my best to keep the pace. Later, the farm road was so muddy that she got in trouble and I was the one to push the pace. In the end, we did the 38k in 4:16, with some short stops. At 130k in five days. And I felt great. Huh?
Knowing most of the course and getting through the three runs unharmed boosted my spirits a lot. Only that I again did not manage a long run in weeks. Within that period I got a call from Henning where he decided to step back from the STUNT as he joined the team for the Loewenherz-Tour, a charity bike ride in the shape of a 2300k outline of a heart, and could not afford training both running and cycling at the same time. Bummer. But not by much as I only fall back to my initial plan of running the STUNT alone. He also nagged me to run the Elm Super Trail, where he did the race timing. It was a 71k trail run, with a much enhanced course compared to the edition I ran a few years back. And, most importantly, it was four weeks out from the STUNT. The perfect last long run. Again, the constellation was positive and I could go there rather spontaneously, together with Aschu. Happy I could give back a bit for all the races he took me to in his car. The EST was a blast most of the time. I felt like with family with the Friends for Life people who organized the race, and then meeting lots of runners I knew. Some more, some less. I ran a lot with Steffen, who should be faster than me, but had a bad day. He could not keep up at the climb back in the Elm at around 31k, so I went on alone. After a serious death and rebirth cycle (it was 30 degrees, gladly most of the course was in the woods), I finished strong with 7:15, sixth place. Wow. An hour later, I met Aschu who was entirely done and declared his retirement from running ultras. OK, I know this gag for a while now, but this time I believed him. He was really down and out.
All in all a patchy preparation for the STUNT, but with several highlights and lots of recovery, you know, the time when things actually get stronger… Anyway, the weeks leading up to the race were more and more stressful in all respects, so I could not even think of running more. Two black toenails from the Elmtrail did not help either (it’s only 70k, why bother trimming your nails?). At some point I got more nervous from the run that came closer and looked bigger day by day. Packing race equipment was done every now and then, I never really got my head free enough to go through every item, so I stuffed much more in my bag(s) than I could use/wear that day. I felt a bit like the 24h virus took over. Four pair of shoes, is this sufficient? 20 energy bars? two bottles of beetroot juice? Coke? As I was unsure how the food on Friday would be handled, and also Sunday was still a mystery to me, I felt bad for not packing some real food too. Luckily I got my rides sorted out. Dieter would take me to Sibesse and Nicole and Karsten escort me back. Door to door, so I could pack as much as I wanted.
On Friday I was a nerve wreck. My bags piled up behind our door, I tried my best to work, but was constantly monitoring the time and looking if Dieter called yet. At lunchtime, I could no longer stand the tension and went home. Nice surprise that Ilka was there and we could have lunch together. I remembered one or the other item that I still forgot to pack, stuffed a lot of unnecessary things in my bag too, better safe than sorry. The forecast switched from ‘lovely warm nights and brutally hot days’ to ‘rain whenever I feel like you need wet shoes and much lower temps’. Cold is good. I hate heat. At night, I’d prefer some warmth, but in exchange for no heatstroke during the day, I happily take a night in thermal underwear. Umbrella, hardshell, why didn’t I think of rubber boots?
Dieter came, I said goodbye and we were on the road. Every now and then we were hit by a hard downpour. Only to find dry streets a few km after. Crazy weather. And finally we were in Sibesse. Alone. We were so early that no one was around. Which was fine with me, I knew the spot and needed to calm down, shake out all the tension of the last week(s). Pitching the tent, organizing everything to my desire, all without missing talking to other runners. We made a last tour to the local supermarket where I got some fresh batteries for my headlamp (phew), several sweets, treats for my finish. Ha. finish? Don’t think about it. It struck me and I was nervous again. Dang.
First to install at the base camp in Sibesse.
Then the other people trickled in. First we met Frank, then Hansi and Elke. I took some moments to lay down and relax, until I went to the promised cake. Great! Sitting down, stuffing my face with cake and tea, and having all the other runners and volunteers coming in. All new faces, many names. Many stories. A lot of people knew each other, and I felt a bit left out, out of my waters. But that gave me the freedom to inquire what I need and follow that. Another short nap and the race briefing started. Now, all runners made it to Sibesse against all traffic jams. We were shown a film with pictures from past STUNTs, some (de)motivationals with the background ‘nothing else matters’. Goose bumps, and lots of anticipation. By that time, some of the unfamiliarity already faded and I got a good overview of the people, who were starters, who volunteers, etc. Course description was fine, some crucial hints, the usual stuff, but always important and interesting too. Hansi changed the course of the first loop significantly after Henning and I reported too many trees on the trails, which would have made the beginning much much harder. I expected loads of forest roads, but apparently, there are more trails in the Hildesheim forest than those of the original first loop. Kartoffelgratin and Pasta followed. Some beers and watching football, discussing watches, getting to know the remainders who did not sprint to bed after the briefing, Christian, Christoph and Tom. To be fair, the Aachen crew, Jacky, Tim and Bjoern still had to put up their tent. Hansi told me to not keep up with Imre in the first two loops, as he is prone to overpace, but otherwise might be the only one I need to worry, race wise. Huh? I never thought of racing this run. Well, I did check the DUV-portfolio of the other runners and decided that I might again place in the upper third, but that is that. But Volker did not show up because he was sick, and the rest of the faster runners was expected to run around 24h… The seed was planted. Then I also crawled in my sleeping bag and set the alarm, well, several of them, to 5:00. A nice night of sleep, longer then most in the last week, followed.
This weekend, I tried another experiment: I installed the Facebook app on my phone and blasted my statuses into the interweb. My main intention was to have some motivation when the running get rough, as I learned from other people who got quite a lot of support over social media during longer runs. But it was also fun, simply sharing moments and having interactions with friends.
Hey, there is a race starting!
The hour before the start was exactly the time I needed to get ready, rethink everything, eat, drink, arrange stuff in my tent for easy changes between the loops. Potty break. 3 Minutes to go, I walked over to the starting line, listened to some nice words, made fun of the anxiety the wooden start clapper brings up in me. Lots of trauma connected to running in school. Wow. I went off, made sure that I don’t hang on Imre, who took the lead with Christoph. I talked to Jeroen, who ran his first 100miler here, and was worried a lot, he might not make it. So while I felt the drag of the two lead runners, he wanted to back off and go with the bulk of slower runners. I decided that this should be my tactics too, and we slowed down until the party crew of Jacky, Bjoern, Tim and Frank caught up to us. Jokes were made, we had a nice time, for about 1k. Then Frank decided it was time for a step in the bushes, and everybody stopped to wait for him. After 3k of running. Nope, that was not for me. Company is nice, and those people were definitely fun to run with, but I could not convince my legs to stand still that early on. So I left the group and trotted on, only to find myself a few hundred meters behind Imre and Christoph, for some time. Sometimes I caught up, then let them pull away. I noticed, I ran faster on the downhills, and they hiked much faster on the uphill. That way we merged around Bad Salzdetfurth and I learned about Christoph having problems with his navigation handheld. Apparently, he lost his memory card and the track of the race with it. Pretty bad on an unmarked course. He had the track on his watch, but somehow did not want to rely on it. Later I learned why. So, we formed a group of three, passing the first aid station by Michael. I was a bit underwhelmed by the choices, but this was the first aid station and from the trunk of his truck, which would mean less food and drink choices as Hansi told us. All I needed was some water and a cereal bar. And I decided to rely more on the raw nuts and fruits bars I had in my vest.
The fun begins.
All warnings did not stop me from running with the two, eventually taking the lead and handing it over again. And I got kind of competitive in my head. At 20k in a hundred mile race. Stupid me. It felt like I can leave the two behind on the downhills (which I swore beforehand to take easy to save my quads, out of the window with this, it was loads of fun!), but they were again faster on the uphills and at the aid stations. Imre did not look good and complained about back pain, especially running downhill. At the end of loop one we split up, Christoph was pulling away and Imre not to be heard behind me. About that time we overtook the first two from the early starters group. Brigitte and Heiner, both aiming for their tenth finish of the STUNT, and both wanted to be the first person to do this. They were on a mission.
Back in camp I saw Christoph leaving already, but he said he will wait for me, when navigating became too challenging for him. He did not accept my offer to take one of my spare watches with the track, as he somehow did not believe navigating with a watch could work. I had absolutely no problems navigating. Both because of the track on my SSU that I had a constant look on, and the fact that I ran the course in March already. I took my time in camp, went off alone when Imre arrived and found myself in the woods alone. I like that. After a steep uphill came one of the few passages that I did skip in my course scouting, running down to Sack and back up again to the aid station in Wrisbergholzen. I so love the names of villages there. You know immediately that you are in the middle of nowhere. Running down into Sack was already a painfully long descent, I was constantly hoping to find a uphill to have an excuse to walk. No luck. But then I found Gerik, and was happy to hike with him for some time. Another unknown trail up through a pretty much overgrown valley had me wondering as I lost GPS signal, but I came out fine on top, where I had already been, and flew down to all time cheering Matthias’ and kid’s aid station, where I met Christoph and enjoyed an entire bottle of green tea.
Being the little group of starters, we were asked in advance what we would prefer at the aid stations, so I got boiled potatoes, Salt, cheese and tea. Wow. I was also asked if my request for two liters of vanilla ice-cream was meant for the aid stations. What? You would have transported ice-cream there? Just for me? This was incredible. But no, I can’t stand cow milk during running. But afterwards, I freaking love a big bowl of ice-cream to refill all calories in one go. The aid station volunteers were incredible. Matze at 62k in this case. Ever helping, positive, really interested in our finish and doing everything in their power to help with that. Never experienced such a deep relation to each and everyone of the crew of a race. Well, this was my smallest race, so maybe this comes with the size, but I am pretty sure, no other crew could have pulled this off equally well. I really felt supported, cared about, and also on a personal level touched.
I continued with Christoph, who made sure I took my time at the aid station and also made dead sure, he wanted to stick to me now. The pace was well matching, or, he just held back? Anyway, we were running together, and I learned that the track on his watch was awfully thinned. Seems like all the important points of the track have been thrown out, so he was constantly directed to cross fields, run off track through the woods, etc. Then came some landmarks on his watches navigation, too small to read, which confused him even more. I have no idea about how navigation of a Garmin watch works, and offered the spare SSWHRB to him multiple times, so he would not rely too much on me. But maybe he did not trust any watch now. Fine with me. But we had some funny arguments about how long it might be to the next aid station. My watch was off by 1k, mostly due to the wiggle when we stood at the aid stations, but otherwise worked as intended. But hey, I am pretty good at orientieering, and know the course. First the bridge, then the ascent, some running on the ridge and then down to the aid station. More three km then one. Well, he confused the ‘wooden bridge’ waypoint on his watch with the marker of the next aid station. Then we caught Dieter, my ride and the fastest of the early starters. He could have started late, we are sure, but he did not know about his shape before and did not want to press. And now he was with us, so the aid stations did not need to open overly early just for him.
nice trails all around!
We rolled into the aid station of Sebastian and kids, A really nice place in a small shelter. Loads of food, a motivational poster (‘press here for more power’) and the drop bags. I had started the routine to down an energy bar between aid stations, so I refilled, drank my beetroot/ginger/chia-juice ate potatoes with salty cashews, cheese and drank another liter of green tea. Restarting became harder, but eventually, we were back in a good rhythm and crossed hill after hill of ‘die sieben Berge’ from the Grimm’s fairytale. Every now and then Christoph made a comment where he’d gone totally wrong looking at his watch. Made me feel proud of my Suuntos and being a crucial part of this running party. I loved that part, but made the error of running way too fast on the downhills. Ouch.
Standing tall, and being well fed! (picute by Joerg or Matze)
What I did not mention yet: Over the day it was raining every now and then, never enough to get drenched, but a guarantee for wet shoes and some chill. Which was good initially when I was moving fast, but became a problem as the day was getting longer. Right after dropping down one of the many hills, again way too fast, was Heiko’s little aid station, rain was getting to me and I was about to slide into the ‘I want all of this to be over, finally’ mood. But Imre’s supporter Wolfgang told us that he wanted to pass by a gas station and that he grants us a wish. Beer it was for Chistoph, ice-cream for me. Something to hang on, and a reason to push a bit on the 8k ahead to the next aid station where he promised to be an hour later. Bombing down Tafelberg, the ice-cream was my main thought. So good. Down at Joerg’s aid station there was plenty of everything, especially people from other stations where all runners already passed. A nice get-together. But no sight of Wolfgang. We then heard that he was seen with Imre on the passenger seat and that he dropped out at the previous aid station. I felt bed for him. He already dropped last year, after hanging with the fast guys for 100k (who, btw. were much, much faster than our small lead group this year) and getting his stomach upset. So, no beer, no ice-cream. Bummer. But on the other hand, this aid station was (again) run by a professional, Joerg, who was really angry that Imre dropped. He had warming plasters, let alone needles, tape whatnot to get everyone moving again who reached his shelter. He even tried to convince Wolfgang over the phone to put Imre back on the course and that he should hang on until he reaches his aid station. Unfortunately, not successful. But the food was fabulous. I had a glass of Baby food, we were offered wraps and much more.
That’s where we came up. It is impossible to catch the steepness with a camera.
It felt like the sun was setting when we ran on, nicely fed and rested. I actually had difficulties standing straight when I got up again, but managed a nice wobble after hundred meters of walking. Only to find a turn and the next (moderate) ascent. So, walking it was again. And I was already afraid of the climb to come. One last steep ascents of this loop before we would sack 102k and have a refill in Sibesse. Anyway, because of the cloudy weather, the entire day felt like sunset to me, so I was surprised how long there was light, well, no night at least. We got that nasty climb done and pushed through the final 6k of the second loop. I expected very bad footing, but remembered that there were about 20cm of snow the last time I was here. Well, I gladly found better circumstances. Around here, I noticed some hollowness in my stomach and started eating gels. I had plenty of them, but intended to use them only later in the race, as the sugar low 30 minutes later was so hard to me that I needed to continue swallowing gels infinitely, once I started.
Twilight all day. But reaching Sibesse again.
We reached Sibesse in daylight, after 13:35, in time to find the Hansi and Jutta in front of a tablet, watching the football game. I had a long list of things to do. First, a potty break, fb updates and reapplication of Bag Balm. Then getting dry clothes out of my tent, and tea and chips, dry shoes, and what not. Then I sat down, we watched the game, had my feet dry, and changed into warm clothes, then eating and drinking. And soaking up the nice and cozy atmosphere of the base camp. At some point, I got out of my relaxation mood and wanted to go on, making one attempt of dumping Christoph, as I asked him, if he wanted to stay and watch the game and continue with the next runners. But he kindly declined and off we were. Heading to the Kuelf. The section, I was highly eager to run, because I so loved the long, trail ridgeline in March. When we took off, Hansi told us that a 24h finish was now highly unlikely as we stayed for one hour in the base camp. What? It never felt like that. Well, I took my time and had loads to do, but one hour? But he pointed to his list where he noted our arrival time and it was already 55 minutes ago. Wow. Even if I never dared to put this a real goal, before I knew my shape, I really wanted to go under 24h once I realized I was rolling so well. Dammit.
After the initial climb I was afraid of the Wettenser Schlei, a steep, rocky downhill, but staying behind Christoph had me running slowly enough that I did not destroy myself and we cruised into Andreas’ aid station. But right before we got there, in a valley that consisted of not much more than the river Leine and railroad tracks, and some formerly vivid villages, we heard a strong cry from many directions. Our first thought was ‘goal for Germany’, but as the roaring, from wherever it came, kept on, it was clear, they even won the game. Nice. Even though I don’t care much about football, the excitement is always appreciated. The next aid station was again much more comfortable than what is good if you want fast turnover times. Christoph finally got his proper beer, I got my headlamp out and we were on the road again. Christoph had some difficulties getting his headlamp to cooperate, and cursed all technology at once. But finally, he also had some light and we were entering the jungle. I loved that section in March, but was aware that Hansi kept telling us about a lot of overgrowth. Never did I imagine this. Shoulder high plants, partly with thorns and a really hidden trail. And we were the first to go through it. Well, Christoph as the first. And found for example a fallen tree by faceplanting into the green mess. When the blackberries got stronger and thicker, we even did not dare to run at all, too high the risk of severe cuts. But luckily the jungle got more friendly after about 2k on the ridgeline and we resumed a comfortable trail running pace. Here we perfectly harmonized. I never wanted to run slower, and was glad that I could not simply run much faster. Every now and then I took the lead on a downhill and afterwards hated myself for running too fast.
And then the fun was over again. What a pity. As a nice surprise, we were early enough in the night that the grass road right after the Kuelf, where Michael promised us wet feet, was still dry from the day. Phew. I had wet feet from 0 to 102k, so it was highly appreciated to run in dry feet at least for a while. Another section which I feared, the flats of the valley until we reached the Siebenberge again were really exhausting in March, but only because Corinna got into her asphalt gear and I was already at 120k that week. Apparently, the valley simply slided through below our feet. We met Nicole and Karsten, enjoyed another Tea, cheese, potatoes, and I stuffed the gels from my drop bag into the vest, as I ate some already. I was complaining that we lost the 24h goal, but Karsten made the remark that 33k in a tad less than six hours was not that much out of the world. So, even though Christoph kept reminding me that two hours behind us, no one came, I began pushing again. Also, I had the camper-aid-station as my personal landmark where I was allowed to push to the finish. So I tried. And ran whenever I could. It even felt like we were moving pretty well. But still, Sibesse was a long stretch. Here, but also throughout the entire race, I had ‘nothing else matters’ stuck in my head. How true. At some point, everything fades. All but the running.
After forcing more gels into my belly, we reached the base camp and I wanted to do a quick turnover. I had dry feet, did not need to change anything, just eat and drink, And we had 3:10 for the last half marathon. I nibbled on half a potato, but could not find any appetite for it. Thankfully, Christoph told me, I could simply take the quarter apple and the cracker with me as we continued. I stood up, apologized to Jutta and Stephan for not finishing my potato and left the tent. Only to feel my stomach turn inside out. Loads of water and the few bites of the potato found the exit on a tree next to the entrance of the sports ground. Darn. But this resolved the funny feeling in my belly. We walked a bit, I ate the cracker very carefully, and told Christoph and myself that I was already feeling much better. Again into the 24h chasing mode, I tried to run as much as I could. Christoph did not complain, but trotted alongside me, every now and then reminding me that pushing was absolutely not necessary. Well, I so wanted this. And waited for the drop out of the forest into Barfelde, where the turnaround of the last leg was. And it did not come. I watched my time and realized it was getting later and later. It also became day again, a nice sight. About then Christoph mentioned that it was still 3.5k until the turnaround. I made the match and realized 24h was no longer possible. And I pushed and pushed and apparently did not progress at all. That hit me like a hammer. All motivation was gone instantly, I was depressed, cold, tired. I did not care anymore about anything. And my stomach was getting to me again. Any drive to run was gone, worsening the chill. I told Christoph, to leave me behind, as he was obviously in a much better spot then me. But he kindly refused. He really wanted to finish this thing together with me, on first place. This was in my head all the time. I could not believe, being in the front row in such a difficult race, always convinced myself that it was no big deal anyway, as the fast people were missing, etc. But at this moment, when I dropped the idea of a sub 24h, the thought crawled into my brain that we two will win the STUNT. There was no way the two runners behind us would catch up, they were too far behind from the reports.
Somehow my brain began to work again and I took out my space blanket and wrapped myself in it. Some warmth at least. We were still walking. And then the forest opened, the track pointed down the farm road into some village of a few houses. Was that it? I was struck by a wave of emotions. I was so thankful, so happy to finally reach this one cursed garage not even in the middle of nowhere, but in the back corners of it. We saw some candle lantern on the road (fittingly in front of the main entrance of the local graveyard) and a person doing weird arm movements. Getting closer, we realized Hermann was taking photos. Even though it felt like more lit than the entire Saturday, the picture shows that it was still very dark, when we reached the garage. My head was clear again, I took the last 20 minutes of our walk to eat a little plate of fruit sugar, which might have helped. Anyway, I went through the entire ‘upset stomach’ routine, broth, coke, crackers, even took a handful of crackers when we left again. And now came the home stretch. It felt much shorter than the out section. Of course I knew a lot of the corners now, but I must have been in a very deep tunnel to have the impression to run and push and hardly move. This was better now. I ran, whenever I felt like. Still no complaints or wishes from Christoph. I felt more and more respect that he managed to run 100k in my pace. All the time, all the ups, all the lows. I cannot imagine doing that for anyone. Again a wave of thankfulness. For his not always but often silent company, his calming words, his support for my futile attempts to race the clock.
That’s how hazy I felt (Photo: Hermann)
We could already see Sibesse and crossed the small creek with the wonky stone bridge, when we finally met Tom and Florian. They were shouting and running full boar. Both wearing earplugs with music and still trying to talk to each other and to us. A short high five, and open mouthed we saw the two disappearing in a cloud of dust. After 140k. Elevated by the sight that the two were moving well, and the fact that they are definitely no threat to our win we hiked down the steep parts, shuffled whenever it felt appropriate and walked again the long grade towards the base camp and the finish line. I wanted to run again, but this was the first time, Christoph refused, as he saw no point in running. So we walked. Crossing Jeroen, who was mad at Flo and Tom for leaving him behind. We walked until we reached the final small hill where we would be visible from the finish. We began to trot, got into a nice rhythm and so reached the finish line not looking like two guys who just won a hundred mile foot race, but who went for a run in the park. At least that is what Hansi said. Medal, photos, clapping, hugs.
Did we just run for over 24 hours? Did we win a race?
The rest is a bit in a haze. Christoph quickly took a shower and then dropped to sleep in the back of the tent. I was in the glaze of the run, took my time for everything, was surprised how well I could move. Got ten ticks out of my legs. Well, 9.5 and Susanne professionally removed the last half with a scalpel. Took an endless shower, got into dry and warm clothes and sat down in the base tent, my tea and the big box of ice-cream that Elke got from their freezer at home once I was in. I talked a bit, but mostly followed conversations around me, tried to find a position for my legs where they would not cramp up. And then got up when the excitement about the next two finishers got louder. Welcomed them and felt a lot of respect for their last push. They really ran the entire final loop. Wow.
Florian and Tom finished.
Then the party gang rushed through. Still making their jokes, Jacky pushing the guys to not waste any time, them paying it back when she still had to grab a thing once they were ready. But most striking was the sight of Tim. He was reported to suffer on end. Everybody expected him to drop at some point. And he did at 127k. The three went on without him. But Karsten talked Tim into at least trying a few steps, always being able to turn around to the aid station and really drop. But Tim found his mojo, energy, humor, and strength on this alone part. So much of it that he reached the others again and was very strong looking when they rolled into base camp for their last loop. Just impressive.
Base camp athmosphere after a long night. But tea and ice-cream!!
I then hopped between my chair, some shallow sleeping, welcoming other runners, eating and drinking (the 2l of ice-cream took about two hours…) and not being able to realize what just happened. The other runners passed, and came back. Brigitte deciding the match for the first person to run 1000miles in the STUNT. And eventually, Heiner, the last one, came in, ending the race. People showered (Jacky asked the guys if she can shower first, they replied with that she should be quick, so she ran (!) to the tent to get her stuff, then ran to the shower, Wow again.), tables were rearranged and I found myself sitting next to Christiane, who got introduced into night running in the traditional way, pacing Heiner for the third loop, in the final barbecue and awards ceremony. First place? Incredible. Also incredible that I was the only vegetarian (well, Jacky is vegan) and got all the grilled cheese. Thanks! I packed my stuff, happy that Nicole and Karsten will drive me to my front door. What mostly struck me with this race is the contact with all the volunteers. They are dedicated, they want you to succeed. You are not a number to them, there were no bibs, but a sheet of names and photos taken before the briefing, distributed to all people involved. It feels like I know everyone of them like I lived with them for a year or so. So heartwarming.
All helping hands (photo taken from the STUNT newsfeed) THANK YOU!
And that was the run of my life. Seems like I am grown up now. STUNT100, 2018.
…. and nothing else matters!