successful stupitity – Thüringen Ultra 2019

I had a big luxury problem. The entire familiy was away for a week. Over a weekend. I had all time and freedom in the world. And the car. I needed to make good use of this and do something extraordinary. Only, this was one week after the STUNT100. So, running was prohibited. Well, last year, I was in a similar situation and ran the Harzer Baudensteig. A nice adventure. Yes, I can pull off some running a week after a tough hundred miler. But I had a weekend. Not just a single day. And the Baudensteig was slow and painful. And only 75k in the end, as I cut it short to stay in daylight. And because my legs were dead. No running this year. I tried to find someplace to dance the weekend away. Well, you need legs for dancing too, not so much with contact impro, this can happen entirely on the floor. Roland proposed visiting a Shiatsu-Festival nearby in Kassel, where he would give a workshop and some performance. Never heard that there are people understanding Shiatsu as a lifestyle, and it was only a tiny bit of the weekend. I was too shy. Did not dare to enter that community just for the two hours, without having the slightest clue what these people were aiming at with the weekend. I felt like an intruder. So, I did not even ask to register. Then came Roccos post on fb: Slot at the Thüringen Ultra to give away. Darn. Thüringen Ultra, the location of my first hundred miles. A race I was sure to meet many friends. I knew the course, not too difficult, lots of forest roads, well stocked aid stations, and only 100k short.

Ha. 100k long! I wanted to run hundred miles the weekend prior. Who am I to think this is a good idea. But who said, I should do something reasonable on MY weekend? I shifted the idea back and forth in my head. For about an hour. Then I PMed Rocco, I’d take the spot. Whoa. This made me anxious. In order to not DNS silently, I offered a ride to Tanya and Aschu that I saw on the starting list. Tanya accepted, Aschu declined, because he wanted to be there much earlier. For the people, the campground, hanging out in the sun. Well, this is what I wanted too, but I could not see myself leaving early for yet another race. So it was set. What a stupid plan.

Friday came, I had my stuff not really unpacked from the STUNT, so I thought I might need little time to leave. But then came ideas like ‘what will I eat on Friday evening?’ and the like. It became later and later, I could not hold the promised pickup time. Darn. Right before I was ready to leave I saw the raspberries hanging full of ripe berries. They will be all on the ground in two days. So I took another 15 minutes to fill a remarkable bowl with them. And off I went, to meet an anxious Tanya who did not want to miss the pasta party as she did not pack any dinner… On the ride, we caught up on our lifes, and got more and more relaxed from the tension we both were in. It became obvious that we will be there before the buffet closes. Uff. On the camp ground, we just parked the car and went to eat. MEt already three known faces on our way to the food place, and entered the nice sitting and chatting of loads of runners. Mostly relaxed and excited for the next day. Tanya knows so many people from all her races, so it was easy to get into one of the conversations. After some pasta and my own stuff, we pitched our tents, I made last minute packing of the drop bags as usual, much longer than I wanted to. And figured that my tent neighbor must have hated me for fiddling with the plastic bags while he was already trying to sleep. It got dark, I got finished, ready for bed, the alarm set to 3am.

An hour to the start is still perfect. Including handing over the drop bags, a bathroom break, getting into the running clothes, fill the bladder, eat, drink, lube and reaching the starting corral just minutes before the start. Some good mornings were exchanged, several good lucks, and Gunter got us on the way to our quest to cross the Rennsteig twice, with a deep drop on the other side of the mountain range. I found Aschu and chatted, while we caught up to Tanya and formed an ASFM block. Nice! Btw, Tanya bet a beer that she could run under 13h. OK, Harald told her, she would get a beer if she proved him she can do it. This is a lot of motivation. She ran very fast at the beginning. Faster than I thought I should run. Well, I just ran a bit last weekend, but I know her pace pretty well from all the lunch runs. This was fast. But also fun. So we ran for a while and chatted. Then some pee breaks that first cut me, and later  when I joined them again, Tanya off the pack. Then came a steep downhill. Did I tell that I cannot run them slowly? Still not possible. And it did not hurt at all, so let’s go! There I lost Aschu. A tad later, we entered the first nasty climb and I was hanging onto the sight of some runners in front of me, walking their way up. This took like forever, but no one from behind and no one to catch, apparently.

Then I was in racing mode again. Ups and downs, forest roads, trail, grass, whatnot. It got warmer, I got a bit of contect here and there. And somehow I was running so well, that I formed the idea to run the 100k in under 11h. Well, I have no idea where this came from. The typical mechanism that makes for good disappointments, I suppose. But I had a reason to run now. Around Inselberg, still dreading the drop on the other side. This one came, but I had no severe problems. In front of the tunnel, I met Daniel, who took a photo and we ran together until the next aid station. He knows Kathie from ASFM, funny, they grew up in the same town. Anyway, he looked like a much stronger runner than I felt, and he termed my endeavour to run this after the Stunt a week prior risky. When said, I think it is stupid, he told me he just wanted to be polite. Haha. In the aid station, I wanted to change shoes, into dry socks, and fiddle a bit with the other goodies in my drop bag. So I let him run on. I took like ages to leave the aid station again, and the break took it’s toll. No more fun to run. And uphill was too exhausting. And it was all uphill for a good while now. But, yeah, I just ran a race, so why push? So I trotted a lot. And tried to run every now and then. And trot again.

To my surprise, I met Daniel again on top of the hill, and the aid station with the best homemade cake and cookies! Great stuff! We teamed up again and went together for a good while. He was having stomach problems, and I convinced myself, it is wise to stick to him and run under my abilities. I liked to recognize places from 2016, but about 70k there was a section and an aid station that I could not remember for my life. I must have been in a deep tunnel back then! Wow. When we trotted upwards on some nice rooty trail, someone from behind made a snarky comment that we do not look well. Aschu! I used him as an excuse to leave Daniel behind and speed up again. This was also appreciated. Some more tempo, and again someone to talk to. After some km, Aschu asked me, why he got me in the first place, as I was running strong when he was breathing hard. Uh? He pushed me on, and I was alone again. Watching the time, I found that maybe, I can still pull off a sub 12h finish. If I push. So I did. And overtook some people. And made sure that I cool myself. With watering my cap whenever I could, and even take out the small towel, to wet it and put it under the hat. Phew.

Inconsistent km markers on the aid station and my watch being a bit off, I was going crazy with that sub12h goal. Can I do this? Or not? I ran and ran, some really fast km. Downhill was great, level was OK, uphill I walked. And tried to not get too warm. The last 5k came, and it became obvious that I can do it. But I still needed to run. This became more and more hard. I loved all the locals who put buckets with ice water on the road. I used each and every one of them. And the last km came, still pushing. No cramps, no blisters, just dead legs that longed for a stop. And it came. 11:56:11. Gosh, was I happy to be there. Got my medal, went back to kiss the finish line, it’s a tradition after all, and sat aside to relax, cheer incoming runners, and watch my calves doing funny twitching on their own. Hey, we are done, it’s over, you are allowed to stop now! Took them a while to understand. After the shower, I took the luxury of a massage and then had some pediatrist look at my one blister that still formed without too much nagging. Then sat with Tanya who got her beer with an incredible 12:46, and the entire gang. We stayed the night, and got home on Sunday, a wise decision, given my sleepines.

So, all in all, I’d do it again. It was stupid, but I had no obvious negative consequences from it. And, most importantly, it was loads of fun! And I got a second star!