Last year I fell in love with the STUNT100, the format, the course, but especially the amazing people. Volunteers, bystanders, runners. It was immediately clear that I will come back. Partly for revenge on the 24 hours, but mostly to meet all those great people again.
Several obstacles could not prevent me from starting, and finally I was again with Dieter in the car, discussing nice races, running volume and of course the weather. The forecast for Saturday was changing. From 30 degrees to 38 and back. No clouds, no rain, just the merciless sun, and many days to heat up everything that even the night might get warmer than I like for running.
I made the attempt to prepare for this by deliberately running in the hottest days at noon on courses with as little cover as I could stand, or my company. Also I put together everything I could imagine helping me against the sun. I even packed long, wide cotton pants to wear before and after the race and so I did when I put up my tent in the baking sun. We were again very early, but not the first ones, Frank and Andy were already on site and we got to chat about everything and nothing in the ‘cool’ (as in not burning the skin off) shade at the parking place. Somehow I did not pack any pre race nutrition as there was cake and dinner last year, but being here so early left me eating whatever I still put in my pack in a hurry when I left.
More and more people arrived, many I knew, some I got to know. And I spent quite some time, ducked behind the cooling trailer, arranging my clothes, drop bags, etc. This time I did not want to need to crawl in my tent to get stuff between the loops, but I brought two folding boxes to put clothes and shoes in one and food, drinks and everything that might be handy in the breaks in the other one. Those boxes went on the benches in the rear of the big tent where we could change, sleep, and put our stuff. No squatting, hooray!
The briefing, together with the chatter before and after was very relaxing and felt like coming home. Although I dearly missed the motivational film, and equally intense the soundtrack ‘nothing else matters’. Well, I got that song stuck in my head for months, I would remember it whenever necessary on the course. Several people did not make it to start because of injury, so when I checked all 13 competitors, I saw myself battling with Imre, maybe Tim who did not want to raid all the aid stations this time but go a little faster, whatever that means, and way behind Christian, second place at BC this year (which is first place if you substract Flo…). After the dinner (Kartoffelgratin ftw, well, I would not run on the edge anyway, don’t I?) it was still light and very warm outside. I really like the shine from the sun behind the horizon in the very north in midsummer, but I dreaded the next day, where I hoped to reach the night in one piece, and the later night fell, the harder this would get. Also, my plan to hide in the showers in Sibesse until the sun settles to run all way in the night was destroyed by both the cutoffs I did not notice last year, and the apparently very short night.
Next morning was routine, even the sprint from the bathroom to the start because I was just too relaxed. No wooden clap, but a countdown and off we went. Checking for the one car that took the road the entire morning, exactly when we wanted to cross. Christian expectedly flew off in the distance, but we had to call him back on the fist corner. Well, that is where the finish of the route comes in, so distractions are probable. He flew off again, and we steered him a bit from a distance. At the next road crossing he was a bit lost again, and complained about the track on his watch being way off. Again? Hey, will I again need to navigate someone much stronger than me 🙂 But Christian accepted my offer of the spare SSWHRB with the track that I had in my pack, but battery only for the first loop and a bit. One more time he waited for us, obviously puzzled, but this time because my watch asked him to calibrate the compass, and the infinity-arrow sign was not as intuitive as it should have been. I explained the arm waving pattern to him, and he again disappeared in a cloud of dust. Frank and Jens wanted to take it easy and fell back early on. So I ran with Tim, Ramon, and Imre. On the uphill I found myself putting way more work into keeping up than I wanted to, so I used a pee break right before the radio tower to have myself fall a bit behind. Only to push to reach them shortly after on the flats and gradual downhill. I so love the trails of the first loop. Of course the ones rolling, flat or, what I love most, downhill. Only, I had three guys in front of me who seemed much better in containing themselves on the downhills. This breaking hurt. Mainly mentally of course, but I am somehow convinced that running full boar downhill saves on my quads in comparison to keeping back. I waited for a section with not just single trail, but some truck tracks, one of which was full of nettles and false cleavers. Through I bombed, I was on a mission. To lead the pack and not break. Tim shouted some goodbye and their steps and chatter got more and more quiet. Full of adrenaline, I reached Bad Salzdetfurth and found my way along the edge of the forest road, realizing that this fun took a big toll. The legs were definitely getting heavy. At 15k in a 100 miler, sigh. What I told myself over and over on this first, spectacular trail loop, was that it does not really matter if my legs are heavy at 15k or 30k or even 60k, it was still an unbelievably long way to go on these tired legs, and I am used to run on them. I also pushed on, because of my boldness to run away from the group. I did not want to get caught again by the mountain goats walking their way up a hill in blistering speed.
I was surprised to find Jörg at Michael’s aid station but Michael got sick unfortunately and Jörg’s aid station was a very long way down the road, so he could replace Michael. Also surprising was Andy sitting at the aid station although he started in the early group, two hours before us. He had some family issues that kept him awake at night and he could not get his head free enough to run. So he called it quits. I tried to hide in the shallow shade of the mobile home of Jörg, until Andy put me a chair in the shades of a tree, thank you! I drank a lot, ate a lot of water melon. The sun was already heating up the day. At 7:30. When the other three rolled in, shortly after another, I grabbed another cup of water and went on. Pushing the long uphill, down Jurassic Park land and up to the intersection of the course where I met Gerik from the early starters who just completed the loop in the loop. Down I flew the part that was a tree cemetery last year, and made us take another route than usual. Not this year. Nice downhill again. I am sure Henning and I missed the correct route while scouting the course (in the wrong direction), because this was much better runnable than I remember from the uphill crawl, last year in March. Possibly the missing snow helped.
Down at the edge of the forest, I saw a runner coming up, apparently Jörg has missed the drop off the cliff after the intersection and ran the mini loop the wrong way. Admittedly, I would not have seen the drop off if I did not knew it was coming and hardly visible and we came up there last year. Actually, there was a guy with poles coming up after I met Gerik, and he looked a bit worried, when I ran to the left of the road, exactly where he was coming up. Don’t know if it was more terrifying to him that I ran fast towards him, or that I sank in the bushes a few meters before we would have crashed. I cannot tell, because I had to watch my step while pushing leaves and branches out of my face. I so love that! Down where I met Jörg was also Susanne taking photos and providing water for Fenja, the four legged one. Running east down at the bottom was a bit boring, but I had to make some fast miles anyway, so I got it done. Right before I had to mount again, Helmut, Imre’s supporter, was sitting, cheering and showing me the right direction.
Whenever there were some holes in the tree cover, I felt the sun burning into my skull. I should take out my cap just for these few seconds every now and then. But I could not convince myself to really get it. When I was again pondering on getting the cap out or not, I saw a cap hanging from a sign on a tree. Hey, the trail giveth, the trail taketh. I got it, and wondered about the logo. It was in military brown and some hunter’s sign on it, apparently something of authority in the woods. I wore it partly proud and imagining a dialogue with people who do not behave as I would like them to, partly in fear of a hunter showing up who knew the sign and realizing that I do some kind of sacrilege here. The pride was stronger though. Some work was necessary to get on the Tosmar ridgeline, again, one very exquisite stretch of trail. Unfortunately no one to be at the intersection once I reached it, but again I was in the flow of green, soft ground, winding trail, enough roots to up the difficulty. I got Heiner, who ran just the first loop because of injury, and flew down to Diekholzen, again much faster than wise, and my legs complained well on the flats in the village and when I had to climb up again after.
Glad I was, when I finally found Karsten, telling me the alternative location of the aid station as the new owners of the restaurant at the tower seem to be assholes to runners. Here I sat, finally reapplied sunlotion, got my mini-towel wet to clean my face with. Well, I wanted to do this before applying the lotion, would have been smart. I discovered Malzbier to be perfect for me now, together with tea (my tea, brought to the aid station, mind ya! That is STUNT100 service.) some crackers a potato and loads of water melon. Always checking when the others would come. Then came some random guy, but he made me aware not to take too long and I went on. The downhill was again way too fast, no longer that bouncy, but a hell of a ride. I suffered a bit until I reached some serious trail again, partly because of the climbing, partly because of the forest roads, and partly because I was already comparing to last years times, to find me a bit behind. Well, the first marathon split was within five minutes, as far as I remember. When the trail section was coming to an end to make room for forest roads, I met Gerik, Stefan and Fenja, the four legged. Chatting a bit, then having the second of my two navigation errors where GPS was not as fast as we moved and I was about to climb another hill. But after 20m I admitted that Stefan was right (well, he had been here before a time or two 🙂 ) and I left them for good where we reached the road and railroad tracks.
I promised myself to not push, but survive. Until the night. Here I was, chasing some uncatchable Christian, running away from other people I could have chatted with, and getting more and more hot. One reason I did not get my own cap out of the vest was because I attached some part of an old white cycling jersey as neck protection, which would look ridiculously in the woods. Well, everywhere, but in the sun I did not care. So, when I left the woods towards Sibesse, I exchanged caps, and felt the sun burning into every bit of exposed skin. Darn, this day will get hard. My survival instincts kicked in, and I made an inventory how to protect myself from the sun, besides lotion which will run off with the sweat anyway. I remembered the long cotton pants. This might do with a short tights, that I could button off of a two-in-one shorts. But my hands? The jersey still had sleeves, so once I reached the base camp I asked for safety pins (and got them!), took scissors out of my first aid kit and being curiously monitored I got off the short sleeves and attached them with Christiane’s help to my white UV-protecting surf longsleeve that I brought for this second loop which will be much more exposed to the sun than the first one. The cotton pants were a gamble. I never tried them for running. So I put shorts as well as long tights, which were supposed to cool more than warm, in the drop bags for Sebastian’s aid station which luckily did not leave camp yet. When I finished my improvised outfit, and changed entirely, and reapplied sun lotion even to the parts covered by clothes, I got out of the tent to a cheering crowd who apparently loved my badwater-outfit.
The running beekeeper… (Photo by Hansi)
Off I went and found myself surprisingly strongly running towards the woods southwards. The break did a good job, even though I was fully occupied during it. Here I also actively applied my new mantra for the first time: ‘Get out of the sun as quickly as possible’. This made for some very good and long stretches of running over the day. Walking in the shadow was OK, in the sun I better ran. I feared the long stretch down to Sack which was extremely hard last year as I refused to walk on this very long downhill. Lesson learned, I walked a bit here and there, whenever there was a dense tree cover. Somewhere around here, I realized that I forgot to relube in Sibesse. Darn. Bad mistake. No grease in the vest, so I had to see how to handle this. Until now, no chafing problems though. Down, I was greeted by Helmut and Imre’s son, a nice sight, and some water to have my cap wet, great! Thank you! The village of Sack did not disappoint this time either, being more or less dead last year, there were the beginnings or remainders, could not really figure that out, of a sports fest, maybe tournament, on the sports ground. Horrible electronical music blasting out of big speakers on the void field, and some wasted mid-fifties drinking beer under big umbrellas. I was prepared for some witty comments, and had my standard approach ready whenever I meet drunken people while running: Asking them for a beer. This usually destroys any hostility. But they were just staring and I was past. I was longing for the climb in the dense woods that should come next. A rather narrow valley with a lot of overgrowth. Only, it was still some way to the shadow. Dang. I could not even run all the way into coolness. Had to take several walking breaks in the burning sun. Not what I wanted, and this got on my mood. During the uphill in the admittedly fresh forest, I imagined Christian running it up like a young deer, another dent in my confidence. But I worked my way through the bushes, nettles, crazily uneven truck prints. Reaching the top, I was so happy that this was over, I turned around, remembering my plan to work on my voice via primal scream. I inhaled deeply and let out a long and loud ‘Jaaaaaaaa’ which surprised me a lot. By it’s sheer volume, the clarity, the ease producing it. Wow.
Very pleased with myself, I bolted through the nice grass trail between cooling hedges, cursed the trucks and stones which made the later dusty path very hard to run on, and was so glad to reach Matthias and Mel’s aid station. There was Dieter, also an early starter, surprised to see me this early, he bet on 8k later for our meeting point. I got another Malzbier and my tea, some snickers and the like and sat in the shadow. I asked Matthias for Melkfett, Vaseline or so, and he told me sadly, he did not have it. But he got his phone and I asked Hansi if maybe someone will travel to Sebastian until I got there and could fetch my bag balm. Already quite a request within a race. But this is STUNT. Hansi told me that my bag balm will be at the road in Wrisbergholzen, until I get there. And so it was. I imagined being one of the inhabitants, looking out of the window, seeing two guys pulling up their car on the sidewalk in the middle of the village, greeting a weirdly running beekeeper and handing him a ziplock bag, he reaches in, then in his pants, front, and back, rather deeply. Wiping his hands on a paper towel, handing back the bag, thanking and leaving in one direction, the two guys in the car to the opposite. Made me chuckle once in a while in the next sections.
I tried to push a bit, as I wanted to get Dieter again, before the 70k mark that he expected. And I got him on the merciless hill, where in unreachable distance and height, we could see Susanne, waiting with her Camera to capture our journey in the baking sun, up the straight climb that can easily crush your spirit. Not this time, we chatted a lot, and I wanted to reach the woods so much that I had no problems in continuing on and on. No attempt to run it (as Christian did…) just humility in sight of the elements we had to face today. Dieter took a break in the shadow of Susanne’s umbrella and watered his cap, I went on after a few words without holding my step. the trees were near. I so wanted to be out of the sun again. After some veeery long stretch of no shadows. Soon after I entered the not-so-cool-anymore woods I received a message on my phone that I had to have turned on loud for race updates. I took it out and smiled. A message from Jan, as he is thinking of me and following the live commentary of Hansi. This elevated my spirits again and I surfed this wave for quite some time. The one climb through wheat fields was again a test of my sun protection gear. No tree for quite a while, the heat was stuck in the plants, in the farm road. The white gravel reflected the heat as much as the ripe crop did. I found the pants really well suited. no sign of chafing even though it was rough cotton, but the tights underneath helped. The neck flap could have gone a bit more to the front on the visor of my cap, but this was minor optimizations. I could cover my skin really effectively, and still run in that stuff. Phew! Only, heat dissipation became more and more a problem when the surrounding temperature exceeded 30 degrees. Whenever there was shadow, the slightest chance of a bit cooler environment, I took a break, rolled up my hand flaps, took off the cap to let off some steam clouds from my scalp. This is what it must have looked like. Definitely. This was the survival part that I expected and which I seemed to have under control. At that moment.
I loved the short ridgeline trail, not so much the downhill and the open field right before Sebastian’s aid station. But I wanted to reach it, get to my drop bag (beet root and Guarana coke) and sit a bit under a roof. He got me off the road, and sent me down the few steps into the small hut, with some encouraging words. I greeted Christian and Tanya, and turned to the buffet. Then it dawned on me, why was Christian still here? Not to good. For him. He said he had foot and or knee problems. I had them too if I ran that fast, but hey, he knows what he is doing. So, here his journey ended. Which made me sorry for him. Concerning competition, I told myself to not spend any energy on thinking about placement before the day was over and it was clear who survived the heat and who not. I expected many people to drop. Once I witnessed Christians quitting, there was no competitive thought left. Only worries about his state. I sat down, ate potatoes, salted cashews and some snickers derivate, drank a non-alcoholic beer, another Malzbier, tea and enjoyed one further gem of being cared about by professionals. Sebastian had a cooler with him where he stored wet paper towels. Ice cold. I had mine shoved up the back of my shirt and felt instant relief. Wow. So good! When Dieter reached the aid station, I felt the urge to leave and get the Siebenberge over with. During the chat with the three, I felt more and more responsibility on my shoulders. I was now in the lead. I definitely loved it, but it put the pressure back, how long until Imre, Tim and Ramon would reach me? Any info was hard to get, or, to process by my cooked brain. Somehow I learned that I am an hour behind. Or only half an hour? I did not want to risk it and went on as fast as I could. Which was not fast at all. On the downhills I tried to let it roll, only to find myself panting harder and harder, eventually walking shady stretches to cool off again. Take longer advantage of the shadow, keep control of my core temperature. Listening well to my body. I did not want to drop because of a headache, some dizziness or whatnot.
On the uphills that I walked exclusively for a while now, I had to take breaks just to not heat up too much. Not always I found a tree to duck under, but just keeping going was no longer an option, even in the sun that tried to roast me. When I found a bench, with some covered part, I took a break for about ten minutes. Taking off the cap, rolling up sleeves and pant legs, pouring some water over my clothes and chill. Here I read that the message of my being in the lead reached my family and I was cheered on. Yeah, another booster! Also over the hot day I learned a new sensation. Salt hunger. Not the way I need my food to be extremely salty to like it (as I am told), but a certain feeling of an emptiness in my belly, a bit higher than usual hunger. I never got it wrong. It was immediately clear that this sign means popping a salt pill. When I did, it meant feeling fine after a minute or even earlier. When I did not, I got dizzy, weak knees, losing control of my movements. I only let it come that far once. And only for a minute. Getting salt resolved everything instantly. Striking. And giving me more confidence that I am experienced enough to go through this hot mess here.
I got a lot of fun out of recognizing places from last year. Several stretches seemed much longer, others less steep, but all in all I knew what was coming, which was a good thing. So I rolled up and down and up and down again until I finally reached the aid station by Matthias and his son Jörg. Again no distance between me and Imre that I trusted. I was a bit restless. But took my time to cool down in the shadows of a tree in a nice and comfy chair, drinking yet another Malzbier eating whatever was in reach. Finally I got my bladder refilled (which I did on every aid station today, not entirely, but to be sure to always have water if I might need to take a longer break along the way), peeled an entire banana and trotted on with it, knowing that some climb in the sun was ahead. It was shorter than expected. Or, a repeating pattern, I just trotted it up, and was surprised once I was on top. I had the impression that the walking uphill was fast in a way that I never asked myself when the climb would be over. It just was at some point. No impatience, just taking another step, and another. This also got me up the real climb after I crossed the Wettenser Schlei. The one that destroyed Tim as I later learned. No thoughts, no hurry, no pressure, no being ahead of myself. Just that one step. During that phase, I did not realize how much I was in the moment. As I learned more than once, the most present moments do not come with bells and whistles. They just are. The pureness of it was so evident that I did not pay a single thought to it. Only in hindsight, I realize how little anything else mattered in that moments.
Up, I tried another primal scream, which did not reach the first one, bummer. But soon I began a slow shuffle, and finally found my gait again around the hills to Tafelberg. Everything that was slightly downhill, I could run very fast, between 5 and 5:30 min/km. Wow, did not expect that. Only the long and rather steep drop down to Jörgs aid station brought out how wasted my quads were already. I tried to run down slowly with little success, breaking was still no fun. So I ran fast and then took walking breaks to start over a tad later. This stretch was over so fast, I did not even long for the next aid station yet. Another sign of having had a very nice flow. Down, I was greeted by a big crowd. I remember Matthias and Jutta, besides Jörg and Hansi. And whoever got me that ice cream? Andreas? I think so. I heard stories of many people dropping, which again made me feel sorry for them. Hansi told me that Imre was a mere 30 minutes behind me, so I hurried to get my stuff back together and headed towards the Kackrinne, a term I spontaneously used when seeing a picture of the climb to come, looking like a river bed but knee deep full of leaves and steep as a speedy water slide. Only, we had to march it upwards. I heard this term being adapted by several other people, so it got its nickname. Yet, I was not there, but leaving the aid station, and dreadedly seeing Imre’s supporters pulling up the forest road. Helmut told me that I make a good sight, but I am not sure he meant myself (which I took it for) or the ice-cream in my hand. Still getting the last bits of chocolate off the ice-stick, I saw a man pretending not to be there, aside the trail. I thought he was having a leak, but later I found he was trying to not have me see that he did not pick up the plastic bag with the poo of his dog. Without the plastic bag I would not really have bothered. This is a corner in the middle of nowhere, every deer and boar shits here, so why not his dog. But having that black plastic bag laying around made me quite angry. Only, I was too stressed to make room between Imre and me to turn around and tell him.
When I finally turned into the woods again, preparing mentally for the nasty climb to come, I got another message, got my phone out of the vest and saw that Hansi left a voice message. He apologized for mixing up hours or aid stations, I don’t remember, and that Imre is way over an hour behind me. Phew, what a relief. The climb still deserved its name, the leaves were really hard to get a grip on and not slide down more than I climbed. But the pressure was gone. I could mentally relax and again focus on the surroundings and realize the shadows getting longer finally. Did I just survive the brutally sunny day? Well, there was still enough sun, whenever I had no cover, it made sure that I noticed. But I had a long way in the forest, a bit of a field, but east of a hill, and another stretch under trees. Seems I was most successful dealing with the heat. Leading position and no real damage. Around the long straight, level forest road which brought me to the horse place just above Sibesse, I was flooded by a very deep calmness. I could run, I could walk. No grief when I did the one or the other. When I felt like dropping to a walk, I did. When I felt like running again, I did too. No strict rhythm, no ‘you have to run at least until that weird tree over there’. Just relentless forward progress. Being spit out of the woods was a bit of a shock. It was immediately hot and light again, after I felt the night coming in the forest, this was a bit of a slap in the face. Not yet over, be aware. But I could keep my calmness and worked my way down to the Base Camp. People saw me from a distance, waved, applauded and greeted my. Gosh, how I soaked that in.
I again changed completely, got out of the beekeeper costume, and back into the green longsleeve that Jutta rinsed for me after i took it off after the first loop. Did I mention the special STUNT100 service? New shoes, plush socks, finally some air at my legs. I again had to fiddle a lot to get everything in place, downing several cups of tea and some coke, ate whatever I grabbed, I think Snickers it was again. And off I went to the Külf. When I worked my way up to the forest, I again pushed a bit, not to meet any of the others when they came out from loop two on the same way. But no one appeared. Relief.
The way until Wettenser Schlei was long. Longer than I remembered. I took my time on the uphills, walked more than necessary, and found myself running pretty consistent on the flats. The Schlei itself was less fun because of all the braking. It was way too steep to let roll. Also, night fell. While I could navigate well on the forest roads, I took out the headlamp in the drop. Not taking any risk with all the stones and holes in the valley that partly becomes a river when it rained too much. The Leinetal had a nice atmosphere, calmness on a warm evening after a very hot day. Lots of people at the bridge pitching tents and having campfires. They were on a boat tour obviously. I ran faster when I felt being watched, but got back into a run/walk shuffle when a bit further down the bike path. Suddenly there was glass on the way, as it seems some stupids had broken one of the stands explaining the crop on the fields or so. This got me quite angry. Where comes this lust for destruction from? Why? I pushed on the finally reach Andreas’ shelter in Godenau. Warm and cozy as last year. Jörg was there too, and they cared well for me. I could chose some music, got broth, Malzbier, tea, coke, some potato, another water ice, and the famous Külf survival pack. I took the vegan one, some plate of fruit sugar to take when the jungle would have me down.
With the night came the chill. The sitting did its part and I began to shiver a bit. So I hurried on, thanking the two. The first steps were horrible. I felt totally cold, could not run, and even not walk straight. I still had some drink in my cup, so I had some excuse to walk even further than I thought was reasonable. I needed to get warm again. But could not yet run. Right after I left the big road, I took a leak in the bushes before I would pass all the houses. Lots of people were still hanging out, some parties were in full run, others seemed to reach their end, on the road many remainders of people having a good time once the heat was survived. Again, people watching me brought the impulse to run. Hooray. I could use that wave of energy to reach the foot of the Külf. Welcome to the jungle, the sign said. And I prepared myself mentally for the long climb ahead and the huge overgrowth with nettles, thorns and hidden fallen trees to get me down. But the jungle had a hard time to develop in the dry year. Compared to last year, this was nothing. Well, I got my scratches, and put away more than one branch with huge thorns. but I could see the path most of the way and had not the impression to be shrunken to half my height.
Reaching the top, my trail gear kicked in. This is so much the terrain I like best. winding single trail, roots, branches from the side, soft forest ground, some rocks in between, the occasional fallen tree to hop over or travel around. Perfect. Energy was there again, the legs were moving effortlessly and I was flying over the ridge. Wow. There were the parts immediately at the drop off, with more roots of the trees that tried to cling to the hill and not fall down. I managed them all well. This was so much fun! And it seemed to last infinitely. At some point I wondered if I missed the small hut at the half time point. I must have been dreaming and not paying attention? Did I? Then it came. And on I went, always waiting to remember places up here from the other two times I ran here. Some I did, others I did not. Places I anticipated were not there, or I did not recognize them. In the middle of my thoughts I was brutally taken down. I smashed my right foot, all three middle toes, in a root, thick as my fist, rock solid in the ground, and just growing into the trail far enough from the side that I could hit it. And I did, and faceplanted into the trail. This hurt. I was anxious to have broken my toes. Shouted my anger into the void, checked the rest of my body, but found no other damage. A bit of walking, then slow jogging, and finally running again on the now hurting toes. Darn. I finally took my headlamp into my hand instead of the forehead. Much better depth perception. With this trick, I would have seen the root. No? I am sure. Stupid me. Ouch.
The ups and downs came and went, and now there was some sort of jungle. Not the thorny one, but small trees reaching their thin branches into the trail. No way to see more then 2 meters. While this made for some tripping light effects with the lamp in my hand shining behind the branches in front of my face, I survived this well, and was totally surprised to be thrown onto a forest gravel road. Huh? Was this it? The second half was so much shorter, but the first half very much longer than I remembered. Anyway, the trail fun was over, and there was some work ahead for me. But first to reach Nicole and Karsten in Banteln. I walked through the grassy way, found the farm road down and switched off my lamp. Wow. So many stars. And so bright. Lucky there were not so many street lights around, I admired the night sky. When I scared some boars in the field next to my road, I tried to assure them I was not here to eat them, as I usually do, but I also turned on the light again in case they were unsure about me being human and to flee from. So they did. I walked on in silence, running every now and then. And walking again. This was so calm and nice, I wanted to feel this a bit longer. Also running got harder when the nice trail was gone again. I saw Karsten from afar, shining into my direction, waving with his strong headlamp. So I waved back. First just with my hand, later with my headlamp. But it was dimmed to very low, so he apparently did not see me yet. The I crossed the road, greeted him and was led to the camper. A chair was good, warm tea (and no longer hot, Nicole asked me if I would like the tea to be hot or not so much, and I asked her to pour it a bit in advance to my estimated arrival time. Stunt100 service…), and the usual, potatoes, cashews, water melon, Malzbier, Coke. Some chatting, reassurance that Imre was falling behind even though I took my time.
For some time I was wondering if I would need a longer pit stop. I even contemplated to ask them if I can use their toilet in the camper, but did not dare to. But the funny feeling in my guts turned stronger and I left them in a hurry to reach some lonely spot near the fields. Dang, and exactly now the gates closed for a train to rush through. This was getting a close call. No train came, I approached the gate, looked carefully left and right, and then hurried over the tracks. All this time thinking that I might no longer be at my full senses. But there definitely was no train in sight anywhere. I got to the other side, shuffled to the next field and found a bald spot to squat. Hooray. successfully dealt with that too. Now for the boringly flat, and later on exhaustingly hilly and again long and flat stretch back to Sibesse. This part was as I remembered it. Hard work. But knowing I had a lot of cushion, I did not push as last year. I just went on. Running when I felt like, walking otherwise. The darkness of the deep night already lifted to a blue sky that would make room for a merciless sun later on. But during my approach to Sibesse I could enjoy the twilight that comes with dawn. Only, between the wheat fields, I had waves of hot air coming out of the crop. Like more than 20 degrees. As if someone with a hair dryer tried to remind me of the nice coolness I had over the night. Not for much longer.
Dropping into the base camp, I had the impression that nobody was there. I entered the tent and began my routine to have Jutta and her husband getting up from their short sleep to take care of me. But I did not need too much. Eating, drinking. No changing this time. And somehow I thought it would be a good idea to take my headlamp because of the short passage with the creek crossing which was under dense overgrowth. So, quick turnover and off I was again. Still no sun in sight, but my plan to finish before sunrise, had popped already. I would need very long for this last 20k. But this was OK. Just go on. I checked the km marks and found a nice bench I wanted to take a break on on my way back, watched the navigation on my watch and understood why I had so much difficulty in seeing the correct length last year. Before reaching the turnaround, there was a big turn up in the woods and back down in the valley. Without making too much progress along the edge of the forest. Leaving the forest, I was greeted by the sun. And it made sure I noticed. Well, I would reapply sun lotion at the aid station. But hey, I did not pack it. Dang! Why, oh why did I take my headlamp but no sun lotion? Argh! I flew down, met Herrmann and Fenja the two legged, and had a nice time with them in the Garage, at the edge of civilization. Ate, drank another Malzbier and whatnot. Again refilled water, you never know. And asked for sun lotion. They did not have some, but asked over the phone. I remembered from last year that Susanne would be taking photos when we left the forest (and at that point, I’d needed it) so I tried to make her bring the lotion. And back I went. Up the hill, a last waving from a distance to granddad and granddaughter. They are a perfect team! Up, up, up. Then down again. And dreading the moment I would pass Imre. Not that he had any chance to chase me, but it would be stress for me. In the middle of my thoughts a car pulled up to the forest, and I stepped aside. But it stopped and out jumped Hansi, handing me the sun lotion and passing a lot of encouragement. Wow. STUNT100 service again. Blown away by that much caring, I flew on, to the finish line. On one stretch up a hill, I saw someone looking down, I thought it was Imre, but the person vanished again. When up, I saw that it was a hiker, going into another direction. Over the path with the huge plants on it, again some up and down, a rather long up until I could cross the creek (and I feared to have missed the entry into the bushes onto the trail gong over it, but the watches told be to be patient, and they were right). Then up again. Here we met Tom and Co last year. further up and finally I could leave the forest for the long drop into Sibesse. Here I met Imre. Wow, I thougt we met earlier. But he was looking strong, and I told him. He would finish this year! OK, on, I want to get this done already.
Last year, this was the point where I wanted to run, but Christoph refused for the first time to run, when I wanted. So I thought, I might give running a shot. The downhill went fine, the flat OK, but when I reached the minimal uphill, I had a hard time staying in running. Once I reached some shadow of a tree or bush, I was walking immediately. Reaching the top, I ran again, and right before reaching Sibesse and the finish line, I met Dieter, wished him good luck for the final loop, but he pulled out his phone, I thought he wanted to make a photo of me, but no, he phoned Hansi and told him that I was about to reach the finish. Apparently no one was expecting me so early. He said, I will be there in two minutes. I corrected him ‘one minute’ and then ‘scratch that, 30 seconds!’ and off I went. The last 200m. I felt great! People were streaming from the tent into the parking lot. Cheering, applause. I was somehow directed towards the huge wooden disc with the STUNT100 logo that Matthias built on the night from Thursday to Friday, so we get a real finish, the touching of this disc, to long for during the race. At that moment, I did not really get it. What did they want? I tried to hug the disc, which might have looked ridiculous, so I am glad to not have seen any photo of this. Yet. I hugged many people, petted Fenja the four legged, and was redirected towards the disc for a finish photo. Fenja was not done yet, so she joined me, and I got a proper finish picture:
Done. And happy! (photo by Hansi)
Last year I was hanging out in a chair in the tent, and was always half asleep. Christoph immediately went to sleep in his tent. Which I found a very good idea in hindsight. So, this year I took a shower, put my alarm to 2 hours and retracted into my sleeping bag. Well, sleep is different, but laying down, eyes shut, nothing to do but relax was highly appreciated. I even slept in for a few moments. Only to be woken up by my legs shortly after, which needed another position not to cramp up. Post-race routine. I got out of the tent again early enough to witness Imre’s finish. Almost 3 hours after me. And he was looking very glad. After two DNFs the last two years, this was an important moment for him.
The sun was already aggressive again, so I put on more lotion, and told my intentions to move a chair into the shadow of the house, together with my tea and ice-cream. Hansi then proceeded to build a throne for me: Something to lay my feet on, a comfy chair, the one with the big cushion (Jutta: you took a shower already, you are allowed to use it.) and table in front of me and he put the laptop showing the Ironman live stream directly in front of me. Not that I wanted to see it in the first place, but it was a nice distraction to hang in my chair and do nothing. Did I tell about the extraordinary STUNT100 service? People gathered around me, also very welcome. Others arrived in camp. Ramon being most impressive because this was his very first hundred miler and he was about to quit several times (as did Imre). Ramon reportedly got unconscious, caught in his fall by Fenja the two legged and Hermann. To get him back safely, Sebastian put on his running shoes and went with him the last stretch. Another example of the huge dedication ao all people around. Dieter finished strongly, but seemed glad to be able to flee the sun now. Stefan approached the finish with 20 minutes to spare to the cutoff time. He knows himself and the course very well. He never seemed afraid to not make it. As Hansi did. When I heard about Stefan’s arrival, I was in the tent where Fenja the four legged was tied to a bench, so I got her off the hook, untied the leash and hooked her up again, without ever thinking this was the first time, I got a leash on a dog, all the more a big one. But Fenja and I have gotten friends since Stefan left her in camp after 100k, as she developed a limp and blisters on her paws. So I met her quite often, and she did not seem to bother that I got her out. Only the sunny concrete she did not like. We stayed in the shadows until Stefan was almost there, she recognized him, and I led her to the finish disc, so she could greet him. I felt like doing an important job for her.
With everybody back to safety, the first things were cleared already and the barbecue was prepared. Luckily I had my vegetarian sausages with me, and Tanya who came back with Christian after a good nights sleep, too. So there was enough protein-rich stuff to feast upon. Potato salad with loads of mayonnaise and some very tasty home-made couscous salad felt like exactly what I needed at that moment. Dieter made a funny impression, because he changed into a button up shirt after the shower and then fell asleep in one of the chairs. He deserved this. And needed it. After everybody was fed, we got my stuff in the camper of Nicole and Karsten who then drove me home.
When I wrote service, I always have a bad feeling like not getting the best wording here. In other races, bigger ones, all these small and big gestures that helped all of us through the race or digest a drop, could be called service, like something you need to pay extra for. This is not the same with the STUNT100. There is nothing like a codex that volunteers have to comply to in order to produce the unique feeling. It is an individual act of heart-open giving from each and everyone involved here. RD, volunteers, spectators, runners, family of any of those. Every person here is in the mood to give, to help to be there for others. Having professional runners as aid station captains adds to the equation that they exactly know how you feel and what you might need in that very particular moment. Be it a few kind words, or silence, a treat, some real nutrition, a beer, music, a back rub, some cold towels, a bucket of water or just a kick in the ass. They know and they will deliver. For you. For your finish. For you to have the best possible race you can get. I’ll ever have you all in my heart. If only the next year was not again directly after Ronja’s birthday, I’d register in an instant.
A few words on the title. It came to my mind when searching for something that matches with the brutal heat we had on Saturday. Mostly, because my usual reply to any race in the heat is “I am not good with heat”. A spontaneous association. And it made me a bit shocked because of the boldness that comes with it. That is not my style. At least usually, I don’t feel like putting myself over others. On the other hand this boldness matched exactly a feeling I carried with me since I realized that the distance to the second was increasing. I had control to win this race. Alone. Together with the win at Katzensprung’s Backyard, the surprising 13th place at BC, I am getting more and more pumped and proud of my running. If only I can carry this feeling over to Rüningen, 24th of August, because I need a big jump there. Toni upped the game to another level with his 207k earlier this year. Things will get interesting.