I want to win this thing – Rüningen 24h 2019

Well, I have my history with the 24h of Rueningen. It was my first ultra, back in 2014, with 135k, and full of learning opportunities since then, see my other reports. Every time I was here, I was able to up my mileage. And every time, since we began to compete, I could pass Toni, who was running 24h races in Finland. 2019, he was ill on the 24h race, he had planned. But he found another one. After I answered his 172k with 180k in 2018, he smashed my spirits this time by laying down a whopping 207k. This was unreachable. But Toni is human after all, like me, so maybe, I should try? Last year, I was well on course for 200+, and I gained experience, no? Only, he trained a lot, I did not. Only, I won races. Small ones, but anyway. I won the KatzenSprungs Backyard Ultra, after Morton refused to run into the night that we so much wanted to reach during the hot day. And I won the Stunt100, again, when Christian trashed his knee and handed over the lead to me. So, why not play bold and just win this thing?

Since I read about Rüningen and looked into the statistics, I had in mind ‘This is the one race where I can mange to place’. Did not happen for some years, but last year, I was second. And Fabian told me, I got him to his 200k by telling him he looked great and being in a big lead on Sunday morning. So, if I don’t tell people they do good, but that I will win, maybe it works? All in all I had a solid sequence of goals: A – beat Toni. B – win the race. C – better my 180k from last year. D – stay running for 24h.

Most of the race is the same as last year. The kids were with me, had handlers, we pitched the big family tent, organized tables at the barrier, and were all eager to put up big mileage. During the registration, some guy wanted to have us take part in a lottery for a balloon ride on Sunday morning at 6. What? We are just getting our bibs to run for 24h and he tried to get us into some distraction away from the course? No way!
But some things were different than last year. I wanted to bring an entire fan club, but after Corinna and Johannes bailed out due to injury, I still had my brother with his girls, Tanya and Reinulf with my kids on the track and my parents on the bench. We put up a pavillion over our table, which made a good impression of ‘here we are’ and provided some shade for the kids and grand parents. Only, we had to fight for our place as the Samaritians put up two huge team tents and thought this would earn them 30m of barrier. No. Also, we noticed a course change. Which is not easy if you want to put 1k of running onto a sports ground. Apparently the cinder ground was renovated to get plastic grass and currently under construction. So the course was similarly on the grass as last year, but immediately joined the rubber track, went almost fully around it, then came a 180deg turn, but with a nice radius of about 20m where the pole vault area is, then back on the inner three lanes of the rubber track and finally around a rather nasty left turn over some gravel to the grass again and to the start-finish line. This looked like worse than last year, but it turned out that the counterclockwise and clockwise running on the rubber track made for a much better distribution of left and right turns than on the other year. Good stuff. Also that we did not have to run over the cinder which eventually will be inside shoes, socks and one year even between the transponder band and my ankle, rubbing off the skin.

3pm came and we were off after some last goodbyes and goodlucks to the kids. Jule had a hard time to let Ilka leave, but in the end, she pulled herself together and went off with Reinulf for the endless looping. I met tons of people from other years, most notably Daniel, my good old fan from the relay team, who entered as a solo runner this year as he was not fit enough for the team and had his little daughter with him for some hours. Andre who tought me so much over the years in Rüningen. And Steffen, with whom I share some Rüningen history. And also Sascha, who was paced to a Spartathlon qualification in 2016, giving me a hard time in the night when I saw him dying, and then being reborn some time later. This time, he was pacing Ramon, who also wanted the Spartathlon qualification. I was in awe for the engagement he and Mike put into the success of Ramon, who apparently got to know the two not that long ago. Impressive!

Every time I spoke to people about my goals, I said outright: ‘I want to win this’. This felt weird, as I am not that bold usually. But that was the truth. I definitely wanted to. Some people were impressed, some amused. Some took it seriously. Some did not. After a while, Sascha told me, that Ramon will be the winner of the race. And I told him otherwise. A mere 180k for a win? Not with me! This was fun. And I cruised pretty consistently around the track. With the out and back on the track, there was a lot of see and be seen. Other runners, but more importantly, my kids. We high fived every time we met, which was about two times a loop. Lots of cheering in both directions. Ronja played it save and walked, Tom pushed and ran quite a lot. I dreaded blisters or cramps on his side, but none came.

The day was hot. Not as hot as the Stunt. but hot anyway. And I was prepared for heat. Because of the stunt primarily, but also because the summer was about to end, and I spent quite some time in the heat outside over the vacation. There were water buckets with sponges, and I dipped my hat (with the nice neck flap) into them every loop or two. I also wetted my white UV long sleeve. No beekeeper hand flaps and trousers though. But I felt like having the situation under control. Much better than last year. The loops accumulated and when the dust cleared, the contenders for a placement were more and more obvious. Who made me nervous was Andre. He is fast, he is consistent, he won this race already (in my first year here, he went 180k), and he was several km ahead of me. Darn! And some other people were on my list, but not that far into the race, I was second behind Andre. He told me not to worry, but worry I did. The hours came and went, loops were getting more and more, ups and downs went by, and I chatted here and there. Many people were very supportive. A thumbs up here and there, a smile, a high five. Chatting here and there. And getting lots of encouragement. Ramon turned out to be a nice guy, not really interested in winning the race, but getting his qualification and that’s it. Also, Sascha was very supportive to me too. Wow.

Night came, the kids got their obligatory four hours of rest before the moonlight run from midnight to four am. The coolness of the night was pure relief. I caught myself getting more and more consistent with my laps, getting into some rythm to run five laps, and use the sixth to refuel, walk a tiny bit and run off again. The crowd at midnight was already quite annyoing, seemed like I was exhausted more than I cared to admit. Unfortunately, Jule got a blister the day before, in fact two, one under the ball of each foot. Getting into the sandals on midnight and seeing incredibly many, 15 loops ahead of her, was a bit too much. She did some rounds, and then retracted to the chair under our pavillion, and soon thereafter into her sleeping bag in the tent. Alone. This is a first. And I felt proud of her independence when I realized this. The others, Reinulf included, went to get their shirt and when it was time to go to bed again, Tom said, he wanted to go on and keep his position. Well, he just turned 13, so maybe he is OK with 4h of sleep for a night, no? I expected him to drop dead any time, and kept asking him if he got tired already. He didn’t, well into Sunday. Wow.

Somewhere in the night, Andre dropped out. I don’t remember the reason, but I met him with his stuff, and he wished me good fortune. A few laps later I was first, and carried the responsibility of finishing this race with a respectable mileage. I did not really want to know about the other places until 18h, but somehow, I was anxious about who was chasing me and where they stood. So I asked the kids and they told me. Ramon was second. And I don’t really remember the third. But I felt assured that I only have to keep him off to get the win. And I was 7k or so ahead of him. Ramon was amazing, he circled the course with a smile. Even more amazing were Sascha and Mike, who handled him. Made sure he did not stop, drank enough, surveilled his pee breaks (as it seemed), handed him food, water, ice, you name it. And Sascha ran with him, on and off. Often he bolted off to get the right drinks or snacks, pushed Ramon on, when he wanted to stop at their tent, and then ran like a rabbit with a cup after Ramon, so he could eat and drink without breaking his step. Sascha offered support to me too. For which I am extremely grateful. They had ice cubes. (Note for next time!) At one time, Sascha asked me if I wanted ice, and I said yes. Half a round later, Patrick, the thunder and lightning runner from last year, waved with a water ice and handed it to me. Wow, this was so exactly what I needed in the heat of the not so new anymore Sunday. Later, I learned this was purely coincidental, while I thought, Patrick just got the ice to me. Wow, another spontaneous supporter in the crowd of people who are more family every year.

I went on, and realized, even though I moved quite well, I was no longer so fast like in the night. Also, I did not runfor 5k at a stretch anymore. Too many stops at the cool water buckets, at the buffet, at my own table. Too many stretch breaks, too many walking sections. I was not as broken as last year, but I was reaching my running limit. It was gritting teeth from now on. And I did. Cheered the kids, cheered the other runners, especially Ramon, who was running like a clockwork. Perfectly executing the plan of Sascha. The plan looked a bit risky, as he went slowly. But the math showed, that he will still have a 30 mins margin to make the qualification as long as he went on. And he did. Relentlessly. Not without showing some damage, but he was carried on by the determination of Sascha and Mike. And he did not have to take any stops. Even if he looked like he wanted 😉

My plan was easy: Just stick to Ramon and I win. Only, he was running too slowly for me. I could not stand his pace. For some hundred meters, but after half a round of nice conversation, I had to take off again. And then take a walking break. And stop at my table. So I was lapped by Ramon every now and then. I figured, if he lapped me once per hour, I am still safe. But then he lapped me twice in 60 minutes and I was in fear. I pushed. Realized I did not have much left to push with. I was at the edge. Was about to give an. Again. But I did not want. Not this time. All I need was to go on. That became harder and harder. And stress did not really help. Then, about 23h, Sascha said the magic words: ‘Just that you know: We will not take your win. It is 180k and finito.’ What a relief. I could relax, and let go of the stress. Phew. Some more words in the next round, that in fact, they wanted to go 180k and then a walked victory lap all three (actually, there were more friends of Ramon joining that round), so I needed 182k. I ranwalked them in, and took a deep breath. The kids got in my focus again. Jule wanting to do a lap with me, and we formed the plan to also walk the last round altogether, family, friends, kids, etc. A propos kids: I remember Tom walking on end barefoot because the shoes caused him blisters. He walked on the plastic rim inside the track, sometimes on the grass on the lengths, with a slight forward lean looking a bit spent. But then he had company, talked to many different people, kids, adults. Sometimes in a bigger crowd, sometimes alone. He was doing a tremendously good job. When he knew the fourth boy left the track, he laid down too, and waited, until this guy got on the course again, and Tom started too. This he did til the end. And went to 3rd place in the youth category with 77k. I am deeply impressed by that number. At some point he asked me, what he would need to do so I will let him run the Brocken Challenge. My reply: Do the 80k in 14 hours on the flat here, and we will talk again. That was sufficient 🙂

Anyway, Ramon and crew went their 181st lap, and I was so happy for Ramon, who was also deeply moved to have gone the distance. Hugs were exchanged when we crossed. And of course I was so glad, they left the first place for me. A bit of a push, some mental weekness on my side, would have been it. Phew. So, I ended the race, 5mins to spare, with all my family and friends on spot. A bit of underwhelming welcome by the moderator, but hey, that was of minor importance now. I won. This race. As I said. I am proud!

Shower, some short ice-cream session and soon the awards ceremony started. I hunched in the shadow of the stage, together with Ramon who needed to sit down after getting his age group award. And then he started to collapse. First, he asked for water I think. With lots of sweat drops on the forehead. And he looked pale. Even more pale than usually. I do not really remember the sequence, but he slipped from his seat, when we had already some help of people holding him, I secured his head and Ilka got him out of some paralysis by asking him to stay, and staying in his view. The medics were there quickly, and he was laid on the ground, I placed his head on the feet of someone (his girlfriend?), and he assured us he is alright as only a person can do who was jsut coming back from unconsciousness. Yes, yes, please stay on the ground. He got some water, and sat back up. Then he got on his feet again, and stumbled to the stage for the overall awards. We did not have to climb the stairs this time, but just sat down on the front edge. Different, but fine too. I was totally surprised to be handed an envelope with 50Euros as price money. Whoa, never thought of getting price money in my life before.

The organizers told everyone that this would be their final turn. As I understood, sponsors were missing, and also, they were too few people to take all the work. But me and my family dearly hope that they will sort all this out, and we get another chance of running in circles in Rüningen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t stand the heat… STUNT100 2019

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.

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The aim of our dreams.

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.

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The start of the fast group

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.

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First aid station, still looking fresh on the outside, but being stressed on the inside.

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.

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Huh? Wrong direction!

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?

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Ultra-Tailoring, the new sports.

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.

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The running beekeeper.

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.

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The trees are in reach now.

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 Imre is 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.

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Yes, I was still too hot reaching the aid station. At 11pm long after sunset

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. Well, there it is:

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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:

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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.

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All finishers.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

running the wave – Rueningen 24h 2018

infos to the race: http://lauftreff-rueninger-roadrunner.de
All pics with permission by Julia and Janine Schwieger

Four weeks later, I still felt this race in my legs. Apparently, this was not only the farthest I have ever gone, but also the most long-term exhausting thing I ever did. Somehow it felt like I got the perfect wave, and rode it. As long as it lasted. And then this was it.

After the kids bailed out last year for various reasons, they were determined to run Rueningen this year. My parents were on vacation, but Reinulf promised to jump in and also sleep with the kids in our tent on site, so they were able to ‘run’ as much as they wanted. Only our lift back home was unclear. I almost convinced Kristina to do the ride from anywhere (Berlin?) to Braunschweig, to drive us back to Goettingen. But Ilka decided to come with us, meet her mother and take us back home.

I followed a FB announcement to send a picture and some words about me so they can present some of the runners and teams in their event newspaper. I thought there would be tons of little pictures and was surprised to be featured that prominently, well, going a bit bold into that race might not be the worst thing: http://lauftreff-rueninger-roadrunner.de/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/TSV_24hLauf_Zeitung_96dpi.pdf

Preperation was much less sophisticated as the previous years, but it got a routine anyway. All besides the almighty Guarana-Cola was available (thanks to Tanya’s mom to ship Bag Balm from the US!). But even with the Cola I was lucky, as Ilka found some a day before we left for the race. Hooray!

I went into this race with different aims and feelings. Last year, I was determined to race it, and make the podium. At least in the age group (which, mind you, is big in this race, 0-16y, 17-40y, 41-60y and above). This went all down the drain when the national ultra running team of the cape verdian islands showed up. Three guys, fast as hell in the first 100k, and then hanging on to their lead. But I found the perfect run that day when I synchronized with Henning and we had 12hours of happy running and chatting. Placing did not matter, the maximum distance did not really matter, we were just having such a good time. And logged the longest run, I ever had. How could I outdo this performance this year? No way I could hope for such a long stretch of feeling well. Also, pushing too hard was the receipe for failure, I knew.

Still, I wanted a trophy from this race since I was there the first time, and was tempted by the good placing I had in the night (and before my crash) that I can place there. So, my My A goal was the podium, B goal a placement in the age group. C goal at least to run further than last year. Of course winning was somehow not impossible if the right people were not there 😉 so I was hoping and dreaming big.

We pitched our huge family tent at the sports ground, arranged the beds for the kids, and put the table at the barrier. Same as last year with some tiny improvements. I loved the water basin in the rain cover over my chair last year to wash my hands and face, so I took our camping water container and put the faucet through the fence. I took plenty of boiled potatoes and some salt. Three bottles of beet root/ginger juice, four litres of guarana-cola, all thermos bottles with green tea but one with broth. Took several packages of gels and no standard cereal bars, but just raw fruit-nut bars. The kids got their own little box with food, so they would not mess with mine.cIgfwKe8S76NWwQUC5ZwOg_thumb_56.jpg

Running is so much fun in the beginning 🙂

The race started pretty unspectacularly. It was a bit too hot and there were water basins with sponges to cool off and a mist shower to run through. None of the downpours in sight that made for some complications in the previous years, though, what a relief. We entered the starting corral, I tried to give all kids a heads up , which was not too easy as they spread out immediately as was their preference. Tom way too far to the front, Ronja a good bit back and Jule with Reinulf near the end of the crowd. Then some words, the countdown and we started our journey to nowhere. When the dust settled, I found myself running way too fast, but it worked and felt effortless. Also, I saw many runners running in a diabolic pace. It took a while to identify the relay runners, which became more easy with time when most of the individuals settled into a slower pace. But there were a few that seemed to stick to a 10k pace for hours. I was talking quite a bit with Steffen, who was again aiming high but felt not too well that day. He showed me Patrick, one of the full boar runners. He was quite funny to look at, because he ran with lots of determination and did not look like the prototype of a long distance runner, but more like a body builder. Way too much upper body mass. And he ran. I figured he must crash because of overheating any time. But he did not. And he influenced many runners to overpace too. For example Steffen, who threw in the towel at some point. I learned that Patrick was in the younger category (and I just turned 40, so I was in a different age group, but expected more competition there, as no fast young guns showed up like last year). That gave me the freedom to let him run himself to pieces. At least that was what I expected to see. He survived much longer than I thought. And by pulling all competitors in the sinkhole with his outrageous speed he won the young age group at the end. With 125k. Darn.

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It’s not so much fun after a few hours in the baking sun

It was around three hours in that I figured, I could not keep this attitude of running too fast and stopping to eat whenever I wanted, as the former became too exhausting and the latter too frequent. I made a longer stop at my table to find an inspiration how to approach the race from now on. I even laid on my back for a while to cool down with the back to the grass and have the legs stretched over me, which made several people ask if I was out. No way? It was just that my first strategy was worn out, and I needed a new one. I trotted on and tried to find a gait where I was moving well but which was not too taxing. I found that I might push a tiny bit to not get too lazy. I got into a rythm and ran. Every lap I took a manual lap on the watch so I had the splits and my lap count without looking at the leader board for too long.  When I read my reports from the previous years before the race, I saw that in the first edition I ran for 5k and then had a rest loop with drinking and eating. But five loops of consistent running. The second and third time I walked shorter but more frequent, or with Henning I walked a stretch every 3k. Why? I did not know.  It took me quite a while to the there. For the first half of the race, I did shorter run sections and then, when I felt thirsty or hungry I had my stop at the main aid station drank two cups (and did not bother to have my bottles filled) walked with the drinks to my table, drank another two cups of tea, coke or Magnesium, ate a bit, walked to the end of the grass like I did with Henning last year, and started running again.

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Kids entertainment program is spot on in Rueningen!

I overtook the kids every now and then, which made for nice, cheering encounters. Ronja and Tom usually ran a few steps with me. Beforehand I told them that I would not wait for them or anything, but will be focused on my race. They were really good in accepting this. I owe Reinulf a lot for taking responsibilty of Jule who would have stopped me a lot otherwise. The week before, I told the kids about the moonlight runners shirt, because I figured they will find out anyway, and dealing with this on site would not be feasible. Of course all three were immediately determined to get that shirt. Going 15k? From midnight to four a.m.? Of course! I dit not believe them. I told them, they needed to be in bed at 20:00 if they wanted to run in the night, to which they all agreed. Well, I saw them right before, but somehow all four got into the tent by eight and into their sleeping bags. Impressive. Until then, all three already logged big mileage, so I was dead sure they would not crawl out the tent at midnight. How could I be so wrong…

It helped a lot that the sun got lower and it got cooler. What struck me was the ease with which I cycled through the above routine. Over and over. During the night, I finally came into the 5k/1k rythm of my first year. And how well that worked. Every look at my watch after the mat made me smile. I ran so consistent. 5:47, 5:43, 5:49… Well that is how it felt. Here is the lap protocol: https://my2.raceresult.com/88235/29/Rundenprotokoll_MW1_Einzel Definitely not as consitent as it felt, but I was on cruise control at that time.

During the evening I got to talk to Patrick, who was still running full boar, from an effort perspective, but qite a bit slower now. He pointed me to Fabian, who had the lead by a big margin and was circling very smoothly around the course. He was not much faster than me, but looked very efficient and like it was not taxing what he did. OK, this was the guy I had to hang onto. But I promised myself to not race anyone until 18h into the race. So I tried a lot to ignore him. With minor success. I tried to focus on myself and the miles I logged. And they were big. I always had Andre’s wise words from last year in mind that a hundred miles in 24h is only 40k per 6h and not more. Only, Henning laid a seed last year, when he said that we should aim at 200k in 2018, when we would do this again. Well, he got his Löwenherz-project and was not there, but the number was in my head. Like some kind of fantasy goal. This would mean only 50k in 6h. And this is what I focused on. Against Andre who was warning again to not go out too fast. 56k in the first 6h. A nice cushion to get to 100k in 12h. I kept the cushion and had 106k in 12h. This was working out so nice!

Somewhen in between it got midnight. Right before a bigger and bigger crowd gathered around the starting line. To start the running exactly at midnight and not have a half round on top. Well, I reached the mat a minute later and the crowd was on its way. I was not in the mood of finding my way through it, but was on a mission and in a nice trot that I did my best to overtaking slower runners. And then I found my kids. All three on the course. Looking good and fresh. And determined. To run 15 rounds of 1k each in the wee hours of the night on a sports ground in Rüningen. Wow. I was moved by their determination. I just did my thing and got my shirt a bit before 2a.m. and wondered when my kids would falter. But they did not. As I told them, they all walked most of the way. Tom the least, he ran every now and then, but Ronja just power hiked the course. And the other two walked leisurely as an eight year old kid walks in the middle of the night. After three hours they were still on the course. Counting the remaining laps. And it became obvious that they will do it. Even Jule, who needed almost the entire four hours to reach her goal. I was so happy for them. And proud. What an effort, how much grit. Only, as I never thought they might pull this off, I did not order them the smallest size shirt, but size M, so there will be enough of this size for me. Well, I admitted this and was hated a lot. All the more as the small sizes were all gone once my kids reached their 15k. This made for some deep frustration, and I needed to focus a lot not to have the regret ruin my run. In the end, I was saved by the fact that many people ran in the moonlight runners shirt that did not preregister and they hadn’t enough shirts for lots of people so they needed to reorder, and now all my kids have their small shirts (which is still a dress to Jule…). And I learned my lesson.

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15k in the middle of the night? Piece of cake!

So, the kids rose and went to bed with their 15k sacked. With deep respect for their performance, I continued my journey through the night. With less and less runners, calmer and calmer atmosphere. I liked that. And bathed in it. I asked myself if i’ll ever get sleepy, and during the question (where I was on the part of the course where there was no more light, entering the night) my eyes shut and I felt a big drag. But opening my eyes again, looking into the tempting darkness, the fresh air in my lungs, I was immediately awake again. This was just too much fun, why sleep? I ticked lap after lap, and was so happy about my consistency. Wow. I was not slowing down at all. Even when the morning broke, and it became light again. So, I kept doing what I was doing for ages. At least it seemed to me as such.

And then the sun came up. I realized the day before that heat might become a problem at some point, but lived so well through it on Saturday, that I forgot about this through the night. Only. with the sun came the heat, and I found myself more and more struggling. OK, the legs did not feel fresh anymore, but it was mainly my heart rate which bumped up when I tried to keep the pace that was so easy in the night. Also, the transition from walking to running became more and more painful, as I was used to from the previous years. There I was, not able to run fast, resigning to a walk every few hundred meters, and then painful running. In the night, the off lap was always sufficient to shake off the pain and run smoothly again. Only, I did not run an entire km anymore. It was 300m and I was getting hot, out of breath, heavy legs and no motivation to push through the pain. So I walked a bit. Then started over. Always keeping an eye on my rivals, who were struggling as well. Fabian, still 7k ahead of me, and Marek a comfortable 21k behind me. There was no way to convince myself to push to reach Fabian, but I could not rest and have Marek take my place. No way! For this I needed to keep moving. Which was really painful and took a lot of mental effort. The sun blew all enthusiams away and I was left with my pure will to reach the podium. So I trotted on. And on. And on.

the kids had gotten up and were on the course already at 7 in the morning. I hoped that they slept in after their nightly effort, but they were excited and went on. Ronja on second position for the kids (up to 16 years, mind you!) and she was fixated on placing as well. Tom had realized he had no chance and was more and more supporting Ronja and me by checking the leaderboard, scouting the competition and pointing them out to us. And then he had bad news: Ronja went down to third place. Overtaken by a much older girl, a real runner, who was about to run the entire remaining time after a night of good rest. Ronja was broken. Sat down on the side of the course and refused to move. It took me one round to readjust my plans: I could need some company, had no desire to run, and maybe Ronja could still keep her place. So I asked her if we should walk together. And she agreed. We walked, hand in hand, barely speaking, both deep in our pain and the wish to keep our places. I found so much connection in that phase that I had many emotional moments, sometimes hiding away my tears from the race photographer, sometimes not.

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father and daugther united in pain

I made a gamble on this, and also told Ronja that when Marek will be only 5k behind me, I needed to run again. Luckily, he was not in a better spot than I was. He was running more, but also taking many and long breaks. So we walked and walked. In my head I had the mantra ‘only three hours until this madness is over’ etc. But kept it to myself not to demotivate Ronja. Around 23h Ronja was falling apart completely. Her legs refused to work, and she lost the battle of brain versus pain. We did another lap and made an inventory. Marek was 13k behind me. My place was secure at a respectable 180k. Ronjas direct competitor was a mere 3k behind her at 50k. And Tom tried to point her out to us, but Ronja was done. She took the last lap to let go of her dreams of placing in her age group, and so we retracted from the course and went to the shower routine. Very good that we had help here. She needed to be carried. After the shower, a very excited Tom, who had been so disappointed that Ronja left the course after all she had done, and he had done for her, ran to us and proclaimed that her place might still be possible as the fourth girl left the course as well after seeing Ronja 2k in front of her, half an hour before the end, not knowing that we had left.

We then had our ice-cream feast and were interviewed by the local newspaper. The guy was very happy to have a rich source for a whole story for his article: https://www.braunschweiger-zeitung.de/sport/regionalsport/braunschweig/article215137551 Not only did we both get our trophies at the awards ceremony, we were the stars of the event now. As this is my old home town, I got lots and lots of heads up for the article and many hard copies. The awards ceremony was a little less overwhelming than I expected, but I found a lot of satisfaction knowing how long I wanted this and how hard I worked for it.

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Hooray, I did it! Finally got my podium in Rueningen. And yes, the kids are eager for another family outing next year!

When I grew up… — STUNT100 2018

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power of company. And patience. And joy.

[Rueningen 24h   2017  race report]

I did not want to run that race. Last year was a desaster, I went out with confidence, traded places with the big guys, and ran myself to pieces after the night. Holding on to my plan of getting onto the podium, no longer able to enjoy, or even think clear enough to adjust for my devastated state. I still made it to 155k, but I was kind of broken. So this year? No. The race was the weekend after my son turned 11 years. So it was preoccupied by a possible birthday party anyway.
Then I told him. He (and the two girls) were with me last year. Stayed at my parents place, ran a bit (OK, he ran 21k which was pretty impressive, as well as his soreness the next day as he is not used to running). He wanted to run that race again. And exceed his mark. So did the girls. Also Tom would be allowed to camp at the race and stay the night. And my two newborn nephews were to visit nearby too… Everybody was excited (my wife should at least get a weekend off), except me. But I signed up us four. And informed my parents about their duty that weekend. It was a tradition after all. We already did this last year.

The week before the race, everything turned 180deg. First, Ronja got an invitation to the birthday party of her best friend. On saturday. And a second one of two other friends. (directly after the first party…). Then Tom was invited for a birthday party on Sunday. That left Jule and me. She was overly excited to have a weekend with the grandparents all on her own. Two days before the weekend she got sick.
That left me in the miserable situation to leave Ilka with the three kids alone for the weekend, one of which was sick and two of them more than excited for their parties. But cancel the race? And miss out on my nephews? Not really. Everything was packed and planned.

So I went alone. I had some remorse. But not for long. An adventure was ahead of me!
After a visit at my sister’s, holding one of the twins for a while, admiring that featherlight and fragile life, I got to the race site, pitched my tent (in the definite intent to not use it, only as storage for my after-race clothes and shower kit). In a quick routine I arranged my aid station: a camping table with a big, water proof box of food, first aid, tech equipment on top, a box with a lot of drinks (green tea, organic coke and beet root juice being the most important ones) a water tight duffle bag with my spare shoes and clothes, nicely organized in plastic bags, and finally the folding chair for shoe changes, this year with a garbage bag as rain cover.

Around here I met the first known face: Steffen who chased me off the third place in our age group last year. With his new beard, I had never recognized him, gladly he recognized me. His goal was 200k, holy smokes. After running his first ultra a year ago. Admittedly, pretty well.
One more reason to remember my mantra for this year: I don’t want to place. I only want my 100 miles plus a tad, to go further than I ever did. No chasing the quick ones, no downturn by looking at people running at 5:30min/k after 20 hours. No, this race is for me.

Some changing, reapplication of Mink’s oil, a bathroom stop, and all was set for the start. I failed to find Steffen in the (rather small) crowd, saw a few faces I recognized, but somehow felt pretty alone. Groups of people chatting pushed that feeling further. A hello here and there, but that was about it. So I circled the cloverleaf in my own thoughts, when I was asked from behind if Hecke was my real name. OK, I told that story already a million times, but was happy to get out of my solitude. And the conversation with Ilka (not my wife, but the one ‘only 30k, I just had severe knee problems’, then going 40, running the night to get the precious night runner shirt (at least 15k between 0000 and 0400), running the half marathon (a somehow weird event within the 24h. A bunch of runners (most of which were running the 24h anyway) start to run loops together at 10am and their time at 21k was taken. Similarly, a 10k was held at the evening) and placing second…) held for quite some time until I had to let her go as she was too fast for me.

Somehow after this experience, I had more and more people to run and chat with. This seemed to be an self-amplifying effect. I chat with someone, a third person knows either of us, and so more possible conversation partners came about. I even dared to start conversations more and more easily. So the feeling from being alone turned entirely into some group feeling. Carrying and being carried. Caring and being cared about.

During the first three hours Andre, whom I chased through the night at my first time here, asked me about my goals, looked at my pace, and said the wise words: “If you want to go 160k, it is 40k every six hours. Nothing faster.” And definitely not what I was doing, running more than 10k per hour. As I did last year, with the known outcome.
So it was clear to me I had to slow down. Significantly. Only, I had so much fun. And would miss people to talk to who ran faster than me. During the third hour I took a longer break at my table and chatted with the relay team members left and right to my spot. This started my quest to slow down. And I did. Not by much, but by enough. Still enough people to share the loop with.
I had the phrase in my head (some ultra wisdom): “Run at a pace that feels like you can run it forever. Because that is basically what you will do.” How true. I found that pace, and felt great.

Some side stories that do not go well in the timeline:

Breaks. I had several potty breaks. The week prior to the race was already a test to my digestive system. No idea why, but I had problems all along. Usually when I run, I either have one stop pretty soon and am set afterwards, or the gut draws enough water that I have no problems at all. Not this time. Still this was only a tiny bit annoying. I could always grin about my ingenious ziplock bag with plush toilet paper, wet wipes and buttshield for reapplication. Why didn’t I think of this the years before? Anyway, something will be learned every year. This was one of the gems of this years preparation.
In the beginning I drank a big lot. At some point I had to pee every now and then, so decided to drink a bit less not to waterlog myself. (Another wise word from Andre made me aware of this).

Watches. The 24h on a 1k loop is an event where a fancy sports watch is pretty superfluous. Still I am a data geek. And I talked Toni from Suunto to give me a Spartan Trainer for long term testing here. So I had a 24h sports mode on my Spartans (of course one watch is not enough, where should the comparison come from?) with no GPS polling to survive the 24 hours, knowing the twisted loop would not be accurately mapped anyway. So, heart rate comparison it was. As I wore the long sleeve ASFM team shirt against possible sun and arm pit chafing (it fits pretty snug everywhere) The two watches with optical heart rate reading were hidden, and I worked with the Spartan Ultra, reading HR from the chest strap, giving manual laps every loop, so I did not have to read the quite confusing leaderboard for my lap count. OK, the board is fine, but as it shifts lines with every runner crossing the mat, I had problems reading it while just running by. So I had km splits on the lap table, very nice! And I had another reward every loop, that I was allowed to press the watch for another count up. On the Spartan Sport, I forgot to disable the 1k autolap, so I could appreciate a vibration every now and then, but at those weird short stepped 24h pace, the distance estimation from cadence was way off, at approximately 750m i had another 1k beep. On the trainer I began to click marathon splits. OK, the split for the first marathon. But this got funny over time, so my goal shifted from 162k to 169k, the quadruple marathon. Even if it was only for that one click.

Clothes. As I said, I wore a long sleeve. The only one on the entire course. And it was warm. Luckily this shirt cools very well when wet. And I was wet. I also wore my beloved compression pantyhose. Not this fancy Skins-orhowtheyarecalled sports compression, but good old fashioned prescription compression gear from the orthopedics shop. At least one advantage of my vein problems. So, long shirt, long pants, well pantyhose, and a shorts on top. Gaiters. I never go without them. And people were emptying their shoes quite a lot during that day. The cinder did a good job entering any shoe and puncturing foot soles. Not mine. The Mink’s oils together with plush Injinji socks, the pantyhose and the gaiters made for pretty warm feet too. But it was a sustainable heat. No real overheating. Thankfully, the sun did not come out much.

Competition. As I said, I was not in competitive mode. And talked myself out of it pretty strongly. One aspect that had me off this track pretty early was the announcement that three really fast guys, the national ultramarathon team from Cape Verde, were running Rueningen. I could not really see why, but the moderator explained it during the race: They wanted to run the world championship in Belfast, but got in visa trouble. So they backed off, and their coach, an Italian, heard from a friend, another Italian, who won Rueningen several years back, that this is a nice location to try 24h. At least those guys never ran more than 100k before. So, there was a chance of crash and burn for them, but still, it was enough that I let loose any hopes of placement. All the more as they were all my age group. Those three guys played the Kenian marathon runners for about 10 hours. Circling the course with blazing speed (sub 5min/km, I guess) in the group of three.
Their coach and his wife were amazing. Constantly mixing drinks, preparing food, combining supplements. They had a chair for every of the three runners at the barrier with their fuel for the next loop. The guys ran by, grabbed it and ran on.
After 10 hours, everybody on course could witness that those three were humans after all. They began to walk, one was having stomach problems, and they stopped longer and longer at their coaches pavillion. Complaining about cramps, fatigue, I duuno.
The coach did an amazing job of keeping them on course. He was supportive, when necessary, and absolutely merciless from time to time. I don’t speak Italian, but I am pretty sure that he did not use fine language when they were walking too much.
The three adapted. They ran whenever he was in sight, and walked when around the corner. Stopped for pee breaks at the bushes in the dark of the cinder loop, stretched in the outer corner of the field.
When the coach found out, he began hopping the sports ground, appearing here and there, shouting from unexpected points. Had his eyes everywhere. Poor guys. They were defintely not having fun. But they added loop after loop. Really impressive how they gutted it out.

Back on track: As night fell, I had my rythm, cruised the course. Had two or three emotional moments: The moon showed very early in the night. dark orange crescent. Wow. Around 9pm we had some rain. There was lightning all around for some time beforehand, but nothing reached us. Then the drops fell. Big, warm drops. In the beginning they were sparse, a splot here and there, then some hitting me, massive, but soft. The flood light made for a impressive visual effect. We could see the sky falling. Every big drop fell as fast as the others. No side wind. Just this ensemble of matter falling towards the ground. I expected to be drenched immediately, but it was not that much water coming down. Or not where I ran. This went on for about 20 minutes. Funny times. Then the rain decided to get us wet at last. It intensified, and soon thereafter my feet were wet, my shirt was soaked and the cinder ground began to form a swamp. Suddenly, the rain was over again. Two heroes of the volunteers began getting the water and mud off the cinder ground. We were refreshed, only my feet were wet. But I wanted to wait until the course was dry again before changing into dry socks and shoes.

Oh, this year, the region around Rueningen is pested by moskitos. Some runners were even attacked while running. I saw a lot of speckled calves. I had the wrong smell for them, so I was only under attack when I stopped, another thing that kept me moving
But the rain washed all moskitos from the air. Good stuff. Exactly in the time of the race where I expected them to become a major problem. Phew.
Another gift of the rain was my personal sink. I had the folding chair covered under a garbage bag, and it caught quite a deal of water. Yeah, now I had fresh water to wash my face and sticky hands from eating fruit (banana, water melon) or eneergy bars from the aid station.

I ran until 100k before changing shoes. Just because. Only to see that my dear Injinjis turned against me. I had several small blisters at the tips of my toes, and an ugly blister between my big and second toe. Good that I don’t wear flipflops. So I did not pull the fresh socks as tightly over the toes as I usually do. And changed from my Superior 2.0 (trail shoes, I know, but the sole is already pretty worn) to the new Escalantes. Starting to run, I felt the toe box too small, and the shoe too warm. Dang. Should I change again? I had both thin socks and my roomy Torin in my duffle bag (besides tons of other stuff of course). But another stop? No.

Around that time (2am) I got a bit chilly, maybe because of the stop, maybe because of the rain several hours ago. While running this was no problem, while walking I was too cold. Avoiding diving in my bag again, I decided to run in the moonlight runner shirt, was a bit disappointed when at my first attempt of collecting it, I was told that I need another loop, but this was easily done, and I had a T-Shirt to wear over the long sleeve. Problem solved.
Also wearing this shirt made me somehow running in stealth mode. It seems to be quite common that all people who get out of their tents at midnight to run the 15k don’t stop then, but run on in their new shirts. So about one third of the runners wore the same shirt. Pink paint on dark blue ground. Really good choice, I love it.
As the three Capeverdians were in a bad spot during the night, their coach was looking out for opponents chasing them. I was one of the people he had a closer look on, everytime I happily plodded by their station when his guys were trying to escape the circle of doom, as it seems to feel for them.
Not after I pulled on the shirt. I was one of many, and not being so closely watched felt great. Although it gave me some boost to see that I am somehow a threat to him.

I can’t remember when Henning and I synchronized. It must have been a bit after the shirt chase. He slept for an hour, came on course fresh and relaxed, and joined me. After another potty break on my part, we were at the same number of loops.
In principle, he is the faster guy. Sub 3h marathoner. Ran the Brocken Challenge this year over an hour faster than me. But he never ran over 50 miles. Yet. His goal was 150k. We chatted, and realized that our speed matched perfectly. So did our desire to take walking breaks and food stops.
Somewhen at night I settled into a rythm (keeping in mind that three years ago, I went along happily with a pattern of 5k run 1k walk) of feeding at the aid station, right behind the mat, walking to my table to eat/drink some more, do a morton stretch, walk another 150m to the cinder ground and run again for this and another three loops. Well, jog. He was fine with that too, so that is what we did. On end. Running was really fun. And actually walking was the non-trained part, so why bother. We usually ran the loop in 6:20 to 6:40, which is not really fast, but after 20 hours, it is. A solid pace, making up for the sometimes longer stops to chat and refuel.
We were right on track for any goal we set so far. 150k? No big deal. 100 miles? Easy. Four marathons? Doable if nothing crashes in that currently stable system. We had seven hours for the last marathon. Thus, no pressure, just keep on. Chatting, or in silence, but always in a good mood. We had quite a big deal of supporters by then. The Capeverdians had a lead of over 30k, and we had crept to a combined fourth place behind them. Many people who knew us, or with whom we spent some loops in the last day were cheering for us, a smile, a thumbs up, some kind words. It was a feeling of being home. Amongst my own tribe. How I loved that feeling, and felt it carrying my around the course.

The way to third place was too far. No way to catch up, as the three were still moving. But we passed them every now and then. Be it ten times? Or only five? I didn’t count. But it was obvious, we had the better pacing strategy. Every now and then we would hit a spot of painful running, or wandering off in our thoughts how long this would be sustainable. The slow rise of quitting feelings. But always one got the other out of these spots. Easily. Some story, or celebrating “Only four hours of running and we are allowed to stop”.
Then came the time for real celebrations. We made it to Henning’s 150k. We crossed 100 miles with 90 minutes to spare. It was an easy decision that we wont ruin the mood by pushing us to some other arbitrary goal, but rather we would stick together until 170k, the four marathons and a victory lap, and try to hop over the mat simultaneously. We had plenty of time. Chatted with his father who visited us briefly, with my mother who arrived shortly before the end in order to pick up my pieces and drive me home. She was pretty impressed to see us two in such a good mood, and still running strongly.
Half an hour before the end we sacked the fourth marathon, another celebration. Ate and drank as it was that time of the circle. And walked a final lap. Crossed the mat together for beep number 170, and ended that endeavour for good. Of course we had time for another two loops. But, why? There was nothing to gain from it. No placement, no other urge had to be chased. We were satisfied. So we sat in the finish area, eating ice cream (thanks Astrid!) and watching the relay teams set a new course record and then make a last lap in group, see the volunteers do a lap on that course of which they only saw a tiny part for the last 24 hours, see the winner run (really run!) his 200th lap and bursting into tears in the arms of his coach. Good times.

So, now that I cracked the code, I’d say too “100 miles in a 24h is easy” as I read on the ultra list a long while back. Checked that off the list. What’s next? Exceeding this experience would take another perfect day, perfect shape, perfect company, perfect patience and perfect joy. I doubt this will happen anytime soon. But Henning and I already started to make plans to run together again.

Kälter, Härter aber nicht in jedem Aspekt Schöner

Man kann ja auch nicht alles haben. (Obwohl ich in den letzten Monaten feststellen musste, wie der Satz von Freddy immer mal wieder durch meinen Kopf streifte: “I want it all, and I want it now!!”. In diesem Fall war alles (u. a.): Die BC besser laufen als vor zwei Jahren (OK, starten stand ganz oben auf der Liste); das Briefing gut machen; Ruhe zu haben um zu mir zu kommen; Zeit mit der Familie verbringen; Feiern; Leute treffen; Unterwasserrugby spielen; Arbeiten natürlich auch; Gesund bleiben; entspannen (?); undundund.

Das erste und größte Opfer der Überfrachtung war eine vernünftig durchdachte sportliche Vorbereitung auf die BC. Die Länge machte mir keine Angst (noch nicht mal Respekt), und volle Wochenenden machten die langen Läufe zu einer Seltenheit. Ich täuschte mich darüber hinweg, und machte mir vor, dass die Regelmäßigkeit mit der ich lief schon ausreichen wird. Und schließlich ist eine der Wesheiten der Ultra-Liste, dass Training nicht darüber entscheidet, ob man finisht, sondern darüber, wie unangenehm die Zeit bis zum Finish wird.

Als die Sache dann konkret wurde, sich die aalglatten Verhältnisse im Göttinger Stadtwald einfroren, und dann noch die Meldungen von den Streckenmarkierern eintrudelten, bekam ich richtig Schiss. War das ne gute Idee? Hätte ich nicht noch viel mehr machen müssen? Icebugs kaufen? 80k auf Yaktrax sind nicht drin, da bekomme ich Krämpfe im Fußboden (ha! Wie heißt das? Fußsole.) 80k auf dem Untergrund ohne Yaktrax gehen auch nicht. Oh weia. Die Erwartung des Briefings tat seinen Teil zu meinem stetig steigenden Adrenalinspiegel bei. Am Freitag war ich dann kaum noch zu gebrauchen.

Es wurde drei Uhr, ich schmiss alles was ich brauchen würde (Brockenbeutel, Thermoskannen und Technikequipment fürs Briefing und werweissobichsnichtnochbrauche) in die Satteltaschen und schwang mich auf die Räder. Das zweite Rad für meinen Bruder den Fassberg runterzubremsen war dann doch eine ziemlich heikle Angelegenheit, und die nötige Konzentration hat mich für einen Augenblick den Stress vergessen lassen. Aber Adrenalin abgebaut habe ich in der Sekunde sicher auch nicht. Heile am IFL angekommen, kam Jan auch gerade um die Ecke als ich vom Rad stieg. Schönes Wiedersehen! Dann im Tunnelblick hoch in den Hörsaal, wenn ich anfange alle zu begrüßen, die ich gerne begrüßen würde, wäre ich um sieben noch nicht oben. Schade.

Im Hörsaal dann die wohltuende Ruhe und der freudige Anblick einer ziemlich zeitgemäßen Beamerinstallation. Die sogar genau so funktionierte, wie sie sollte. Wow. Ich packte meine Rechner und Kabel aus, steckte alles zusammen, und wollte die Folien durchgehen. Kurz noch den Rechner ins Eduroam einbuchen, damit Google Earth läuft. Urgs. Das ging nicht. Nein! Ohne Internet war ich ziemlich aufgeschmissen. Also nochmal die Anleitung der GWDG durchgegangen. Damit hatte es doch geklappt. Und der Access-Point hing direkt hinter mir. Nach einiger nervenaufreibender Fehlersuche wurde klar, im Hörsaal gabs kein Wlan. Davor schon. Doof! Ein netter Mensch aus dem IFL meinte dann, dass alle immer ein Kabel benutzen. Hm. Ohne die Rechner vorher anzumelden? Ich war skeptisch, wollte es aber probieren. Sein Rechner tat es auf jeden Fall an der Buchse am Pult. Also musste ich nochmal zur Arbeit und einen Ethernet-Adapter und ein Kabel holen. Frisch Luft, Bewegung. Das tat gut. In der Zwischenzeit hat Philipp dankenswerterweise meinem Rechner beigebracht, den Sound von Katis Video rauszuschleifen. Ich war bei sowas mit Windows immer total aufgeschmissen.
Wieder dort hat das Kabel getan, alles funktioniert, und wir steuerten auf sechs Uhr zu. Nochmal Beine vertreten, Starterbeutel abholen (unter den neidischen Blicken der Helfer “Der ist viel schwerer als die anderen.” Danke Frank!) eine kleine Szenenbesprechung mit Markus, ein paar Worte mit den Läufern, die schon im Hörsaal saßen und los gings. Technisch lief es glatt, die Musik war wunderschön, nur die Wetterangaben von letzem Jahr auf der ersten Folie schnell als Fake-News von Aschu enttarnt. Ich versuchte mich bei der Diashow etwas zu erden, aber das klappte nur mittelmäßig. Der Rest des Briefings verlief recht glatt, wenn auch nicht besonders bewusst auf meiner Seite. Es scheint aber ganz gut angekommen zu sein, ich darf nächstes Jahr wieder!

Als sich der Hörsaal leerte, merkte ich, wie eine ziemlich große Last von meinen Schultern fiel. Geschafft. Und gar nicht mal so schlecht. Sachen zusammenpacken, und als ich mit Jan zusammen zu den Rädern ging, waren kaum noch Leute da. Alles hatte sich verflüchtigt, alle machten sich für den nächsten, großen Tag fertig. Hm. So wirklich dämmerte es mir erst jetzt, dass es nun ziemlich rasant auf die, meine zweite wirkliche BC zuging. Hatten wir ja alles schon, kenn ich. Was soll schon schiefgehen. Wenn ich überlege, wie viel Zeit ich vor zwei Jahren in die Vorbereitungen gesteckt hatte. Wochenlang Listen geschrieben, was ich anziehen soll, was ich wo reinpacken will, Für und Wider. Jede Menge. Diesmal? Not so much. Ich habe meine (im letzten Jahr verfeinerte) Liste genommen, drübergeschaut, festgestellt, dass ich alles ohne großen Aufwand zusammensuchen kann, und das wars. Immerhin habe ich Donnerstag abend noch festgestellt, dass der BC-Track gar nicht auf den Uhren war. Blöde Updaterei.

So kamen wir um acht gemütlich nach Hause und schlichen uns rein, um ja keine Kinder am Einschlafen zu hindern. Nicht leise genug. Als wir es fast in den ersten Stock geschafft hatten tönte ein leutes “Hecke!” aus vier Kehlen aus dem Schlafzimmer. Alle noch wach. Aber so konnten wir standesgemäß der ganzen Bande Hallo und Gute Nacht sagen. Das war schön. Tom wollte unbedingt mit zum Start, traute sich sogar zu, alleine durch den Wald wieder nach Hause zu gehen. Nur ne Taschenlampe wollte er haben. Hut ab! Die anderen würden wir erst Sonntag früh wiedersehen. Da war es schön, nochmal alle gedrückt zu haben.

Jan hatte seine Sachen flott zusammen, ich eigentlich auch, dennoch tüdelte ich noch bis elf Uhr rum, obwohl ich müde war. Schlafen hat die drei Nächte davor schon nicht gut geklappt. Mist. Über dn Abend merkte ich Stück für Stück, wie stark ich unter Strom gestanden hatte am Nachmittag. Alle viertelstunde habe ich merklich ein tieferes Spannungslevel gemerkt und dachte jedesmal “Oh, da war ja doch noch etwas Anspannung da”, und noch ein bisschen, und noch ein bisschen. Krasse Sache. Am Ende lag alles bereit, der Tee war vorgekocht, die rote Beete gegessen. Schlafen. Nicht lange. Um vier Uhr Tom wecken, der wirklich gleich wach war, los wollte. Die Stunde bis wir losgingen war voller emsiger Beschäftigung, anziehen. Doofe Kompressionsstrumpfhose. Aber die schnürte wenigstens nicht meinen Bauch ein, wie meine andere lange Unterhose. Und nur eine Tights? Zu kalt. Und schon stapften wir durch den Wald. Jan hat man seine Unlust nicht angmerkt. Es war voller Vorfreude, meinerseits. Auf dem Weg zum Kehr wurde klar, ich muss nochmal aufn Pott. Diesmal wirklich. Nach dem Anschreiben gleich in den Pferdestall, nur um eine entmutigend lange Schlange zu sehen. Mist. Aber, was ich unterwegs kann, geht natürlich auch, bevor ich losgelaufen bin. Sorry Pferdehof, der Boden war zu hart um irgendwas zu verscharren. Viele Glühwürmchen suchten nach einer Waldtoilette. Dann schnell rein ins Warme, Tom hatte Tanya gefunden, Jan war auch dort. Wir schnackten, assen ein Stück Haferschnitte, ich sagte prophylaktisch Tom schnmal tschüss, und dann gings nohmal an die Büsche. Der Mob verdichtete sich, Markus fing an zu reden. Leider zu leise für mich, der ich immer noch auf der Suche nach Corinna war. Wir hatten ausgemacht, die erste Hälfte zusammenzulaufen. Zum einen hatte sie eine irrationale Sorge den Weg nicht zu finden (trotz Track auf der Uhr) und zum anderen sollte ich verhindern, dass sie nach dreieinhalb Stunden in Barbis ist, und dann nicht mehr mag. Da kam sie, stellte fest, dass wir alle unsere Yaktrax anhatten, und warf sich auch schnell in die Spikes. Dabei ist Markus` Rede leider etwas untergegangen.

Tja, und dann gings los. Irgendwie weniger spektakulär als ich es gerne gehabt hätte. Passte aber zu meiner Herangehensweise an die diesjährige BC. Eben etwas zu sloppy. Gleich von den ersten Metern an merkte ich, wie schwer meine Beine waren. Hätte ich Donnerstag doch nicht laufen sollen, zu Hannes` Geburtstag? Oder mal tapern? Hatte ich nicht für nötig gehalten. Bin ja eh nicht so viel gelaufen, dann kann ich das ja schlecht noch reduzieren. Also schleppte ich mich voran, und hoffte darauf, dass meine Beine irgendwann merken, was sie tun sollen. Das hat diesmal aber wirklich lange gedauert. Durch den Stadtwald war es nervig zu laufen. Auch die Tatsache, dass es gar nicht soo glatt war, wie ich es in Erinnerung hatte, nervte. Schließlich hatte ich gestern abend noch erzählt, dass es eine Eisfläche ist. Nunja, einige Leute ohne Spikes hatten ganz schöne Mühe. Es war also doch gerechtfertigt, zu warnen. Dann kam die Abbruchkante, und ich konnte nicht anders als Laufen lassen. Wie vor zwei Jahren. Hier bremsen ist doof. Auch wenn es sich später rächen könnte. Als ich Jan M überholte, wurde mir klar, dass ich evtl etwas zu flott war. Ging aber nicht anders. Dann kurze Pinkelpause etwas später Spikes ab, und die große Frage: Wo war Corinna. Hm. Ich hatte sie nicht an mir vorbeirennen sehen, als ich die Yaktrax abmachte, aber war sie das überhaupt gewesen in dem großen Pulk an Ausziehern Anfang Mackenrode? Keine Ahnung. Ich ließ mir etwas Zeit, einige Leute vorbei, dann lief ich wieder schnell, falls sie vor mir war. Und auf halber Strecke nach Landolfshausen freundete ich mich mit dem Gedanken an, dass es whl nicht geklappt hatte mit dem Zusammenbleiben.

Aber am VP stand sie dann, also war sie doch vor mir gewesen. Hätte ich mir denken können. Ich beeilte mich, Tee, Riegel, Spacebar, und wir gingen gen Seulinger Warte. So ganz happy war sie auch nicht, also versprachen wir uns, etwas langsamer weiterzumachen. Das war ziemlich anstrengend, und ein Blick auf die Uhr runter Richtung Seeburger See machte klar, warum. 4:25 min/km. Auweh. Wer macht denn sowas? Bremsen ging nur halb, also kachelten wir weiter. Noch ne Pipipause (Ich hatte tatsächlich 1.5l Tee geschafft, zwischen vier und fünf) und Corinna zog endlich ihre Weste an. So war ich ne Zeitlang alleine, freute mich über Silke, die irgendwann hinter ihrem Fotoapparat hervorkam und Begleitung. Dann hatte Corinna mich wieder, und wir flogen gen Klärwerk. Es roch doch etwas… Allerdings nur im Anflug. Am VP war nichts zu merken. Essen, Trinken schnappen (hm, die Puffhirse- (?) Schoko- Teile waren nicht so meins. Woher waren die so sauer? Und steinhart…) Hallo Aschu! Huch? Und weiter. Wir waren flott in der Zeit. Schnitt von 5:50, ich machte meinen Job nicht gut. Aber ich hatte schon auch Bock ne gute Zeit bis Barbis rauszuholen. Und mit Corinna als Zugpferd war das gut möglich. Am Hellberg dann mehrfach Stau. Leider auch so knüppelhart gefrorener, von Wildschweinen vorher mühselig aufgerauhter Waldboden jenseits des Trails. Überholen wäre der Tod meiner Knöchel gewesen, und Corinna wäre nicht mitgekommen. (Hier fing das glaube ich schon an: “Hier ist es steil, das darf man gehen!”, Hmm, nicht meine Taktik, aber gut, machen wir.) Also wurden wir langsamer. “Ja, rauf zur Kapelle darf man nun wirklich gehen, das ist steil.” Und erreichten nach Punkt drei Stunden die Ruhmequelle. Voll im Plan. Auftanken, und weiter. Und dann begann das Eis. Es war nie wirklich tödlich viel (das sollte später kommen) aber gnug, dass wir uns konzentrieren mussten. Ich liebe es, durch sowas durchzupreschen, aber das wäre Unklug, und ich wäre meine Begleitung los. Am Eis habe ich ab und an gewartet, sobald es griffig wurde, fing ich an zu keuchen um an Corinna und Aschu dranzubleiben. Hinter dem Einsiedlerhof verloren wir Aschu an Jan M. Ich war zum einen besorgt, dass wir überpacen, so zwischen Jan und Aschu habe ich eigentlich nichts verloren, zum anderen zeichnete sich immer mehr ab, dass wir nicht in 4 Stunden in Barbis sein werden, mein Geheimziel. Das hat ganz schoen gestresst. An den vielen, nicht enden wollenden Huckeln vor Barbis habe ich dann ganz gut die Lust verloren, und ließ Corinna etwas vorziehen. Im Ort biss ich nochmal auf die Zähne und schloss wieder auf.

Der Stop in Barbis war eine Rundum-Erneuerung. Danke Silke! Für Support, gute Worte, Hilfe. Die gegrillte Tofuwurst war klasse. Und ich begann nach Cola zu schielen. Es wurde Zeit, Zucker zuzufüttern. Noch ein Stück Kuchen und dann ging es in die Freiheit. So fühlte es sich an. Bis Barbis hatte ich die Zeit im Blick, war gestresst, dass wir länger als die geplanten 4 Stunden gebraucht haben. Sogar 15 Minuten langsamer. Das fand ich nicht gut.  Es war aber den Umständen angemessen. Nun war alles egal. Zeit war egal, Tempo war egal. Ja, hier werden wir gehen. Bis hoch hinter die Autobahn. Essen, Schnacken. In der Erwartung, was uns noch bevorstand. Das war erstmal Eis. Und zwar richtig. Kein Vorbeikommen, Drüberlaufen oder ähnliches möglich. Zum Schlittern zu lang. Bei dem Versuch die Spikes anzuziehen rutschte Corinna einmal von den Beinen auf den Rücken, aber so rund, dass es wohl nicht wehtat. Sah elegant aus. Mit den Spikes und einem neuen Begleiter (Hubertus war mit seinen Icebugs an uns vorbei und von dannen gezogen) ging es über die Straße und rein in den Harz. Das Stück über die Wiesen war zum Abgewöhnen. Wirklich ekelhaft zu laufen. Hätte ich gewusst… Weiter rein, Yaktrax aus, später für Corinna wieder an, und wir waren an der Wasserscheide. Um uns herum kreiselte eine ganze Weile Marcin, mal schneller, mal langsamer, und im Steinaer Tal kam auch Hubertus wieder in Sicht. Er schnackte mit einem grünen Läufer, der später stehenblieb, den Rumpf drehte, dehnte, und nicht so zufrieden aussah. Beim Überholen habe ich ihn erst nicht erkannt. Ich glaube ich habe Michael noch nie vorher ohne Lächeln gesehen. Und so weit hinten in einem Rennen auch nicht. Er tat mir leid. Hier zeichnete sich jetzt unsere Teamtaktik ab. Ich mochte nicht mehr gehen, sondern nur noch langsam tippeln. Corinna konnte nicht so langsam laufen, und wollte viel mehr Gehen. Also Überholten wir uns regelmäßig, ab und an wechselten wir ein paar Worte. Es dauerte länger als mir lieb war, aber sehr froh war ich, als wir am Jagdkopf eintrudelten. Kurz danach kam auch Michael an, wieder besserer Dinge, und fragte den Startnummernabhaker “Haben wir noch Kontakt zur Spitze?” Der Mensch war etwas verdutzt, wusste nicht, ob es ein Scherz sein sollte, und meinte dann nur trocken “Also Flo ist vor zwei Stunden hier durch.” Ugh, das sass.

Der Beginn von Entsafter II war anstrengend, ständig brach ich ein, und wo es trug, war der Boden sehr uneben. Ausserdem zog Corinna wieder an. Es ging ja nicht mehr bergauf. Und ich hetzte hinterher. Dann die schicksalshafte Gabelung, mit etwas Wundern, dass unser Weg gar nicht gespurt war. Und wir steckten drin im ersten Beachvolleyballfeld. Das hat Kraft und Nerven gekostet. Wer denkt sich so ne Strecke aus? Mit Mühe und Not, und dem ein oder anderen Grunzer bzw Prinzessinnenausruf schlugen wir uns durch. Gut zu sehen, dass die Läufer vor uns genauso schlecht vorankamen. Als wir dann wieder festen Boden, also 70cm Schnee, aber immerhin präpariert, unter den Füßen hatten, haben meine Beine endlich kapiert, wofür ich sie mitgenommen hatte. Es flutschte, und Corinna kam an ihre Grenzen. Motiviert hat mich auch, dass die Truppe um Tim und Tanya in Sicht kam. Aber wirklich eingeholt hatte ich sie erst an der Lausebuche, und dann waren sie auch schon wieder los. Die Suppe dort war ein Gedicht. Genau das Richtige! Dazu viel Tee und Cola (wirklich viel), Brownies, und weiter sollte es gehen im Eilschritt. Hm. Wir wollten gerade die längere Variante in Betracht ziehen, da meinte eine Wanderfamilie: “Ja, die sind eben alle hier rüber.”, Was jetzt? Nochmal? Nee! Wir hätten gleich abdrehen sollen, aber irgendwie hoffte ich, dass das nochmal besser würde. Wurde es nicht. Erst, als wir endlich wieder Glatteis unter die Schuhe bekamen. Corinna legte Schneeketten an, und ich zuckelte schonmal vor. Langsam. Es dauerte diesmal wirklich lang, bis sie aufschloss, und es sah so aus, als reicht es ihr schon. Hier entschied ich, dass ich sie nicht alleine lassen wollte. Auch wenn ich sie ab und an hätte stehen lassen können. Nur dass ich bei jeglicher Bergab-Passage wieder hinter ihr herhechelte. Kurz vor Oderbrück kam dann die Ansage: “Ich glaube, den Rest gehe ich.” Ich schaute sie kurz an und sagte “Nein. Das wird gelaufen.” Und so haben wir uns Stück für Stück dem Gipfel entgegendiskutiert. Ab und an überholte uns noch jemand, aber auch ich merkte langsam wieder meine schweren Beine von heut früh. Oder waren das andere Beine? Keine Ahnung. Ab der Brockenstraße war dann keine Möhre mehr orange genug. Wir gingen. und kamen nach 9:42 gemeinsam ins Ziel. Die Zielcrew habe ich diesmal viel bewusster wahrgenommen als vor zewi Jahren. Super, was ihr da macht!

Ab zum Brockenstein, umarmen, knutschen, Photos. Noch ein paar Wanderer mit Stempel auf dem Bauch fotografiert, und rein ins warme.

Alles richtig gemacht!?

Einleitung
Meine Geschichte mit der BC ist schon etwas länger, obwohl ich dieses Jahr als Novize dabei sein durfte. Die Ausführliche Fassung ist in meiner Bewerbung zur BC14 zu lesen, die ich irgendwann auch mal hier her stellen werde. Die Kurzfassung? Ich fing mit Laufen an im Januar 2010, als mich die Speckröllchen anfingen in meiner Beweglichkeit einzuschränken. Der Anfang war mies, aber nach einem halben Jahr find die Sache an Spass zu machen, es tat auch nach 30 Minuten nichts weh, ich genoss das Alleinsein im dunklen Wald, die Bewegung, den Wind um die Nase. Und dass ich langsam wieder auf die Masse vor meinen kumulierten Solidaritätsschwangerschaftsbäuchen schrumpfte, war natürlich ein grosser Motivator. Mit dem Spiel, keinen Weg komplett zweimal zu laufen, habe ich nach und nach den ganzen Göttinger Wald erkundet, und natürlich wurden die Runden dabei auch nach und nach länger. Hannes überredete mich, beim Harz-Gebirgslauf den Halbmarathon mitzulaufen. Verückt, aber wir machten es und es war super. Aber eben nicht das richtige Ding. Ich wollte oben rüber, nahm mir für den Herbst 2013 den Brocken vor. Daraufhin hat mir Bernhard sehr gut zugeredet, dass ich für einen Marathon schon ordentlich strukturiert trainieren sollte. Da habe ich erstmals über ‘Training’ beim Laufen nachgedacht. Ja natürlich wusste ich aus meiner Schwimmerzeit ein bisschen was über Trainingslehre, habe ich mich aber da weitestgehend rausgehalten, da gabs ja nen Trainer für. Hier nicht. Ein relativ generischer 4h-Marathon-Plan hat mich dann über den Sommer gebracht, und vor allem, an die langen Trainingsläufe rangebracht. Bernhard meinte mal: Na, du hast ja auch noch nicht die wöchentlichen 2-3h Läufe in den Knochen. Hielt ich für einen Witz und ein Ding der Unmöglichkeit. Süss. Mit den langen Läufen kam die Frage nach Essen und Trinken unterwegs, und es fing an an mir zu nagen: Wie weit kann ich eigentlich laufen, bis es wirklich nicht mehr weitergeht? Ich wollte es ausprobieren, immer in eine Richtung, immer weiter, bis wirklich Schluss war. Und dann? Ich kann ja kaum Wechselsachen mitschleppen. Und mich mit meinem verschwitzten Zeug in nen Bus zu setzen, wollte ich auch nicht. Irgendwie habe ich mich in der Phase an ein typisches Gespräch mit meinem Mitbewohner Till erinnert, das muss so 2004 gewesen sein. Er erzählte von Leuten, die tatsächlich von Göttingen zum Brocken liefen. In seiner Variante war noch pro Zweiterteam ein Fahrrad dabei. Nach einer kurzen Recherche im Netz war für mich die Idee geboren: Da lauf ich mit. Es gibt regelmässig Essen und Trinken, und wenn ich an einem der VPs aussteige, können die mich sicher auch wieder mit nach Göttingen nehmen. Meine Vorstellung war, dass das so bei 50km der Fall sein wird. Dann habe ich den NDR-Film geschaut, und war angefixt. Da kann ich doch unmöglich zwischendrin aufhören. Das wird ja immer schöner zum Ende hin. Also ging das lesen los: Was ist das ‘Ultrarunning’? Nunja, ich bin ein Mensch, der erstmal die Bedienungsanleitung liest, bevor er den Stecker in die Steckdose steckt. So auch hier. Es gibt glücklicherweise einen immensen Schatz an Wissen im Netz, so dass ich mir die trainingsfreien Tage (die gabs in dem Marathon-Plan) gut vertreiben konnte. Dann kam der Tag, der Marathon übern Brocken. Und es ging dermassen gut, hatte viel Freude gemacht, und ich war nicht völlig zerstört. Wahnsinn! Da war klar, ich will 2014 die BC mitlaufen. Und wenn ich die letzten 30k wandere, egal! Also, Bewerbung geschrieben (genaugenommen habe ich meine sportlichen wie mentalen Hochs und Tiefs eines halben Jahres zusammengeschrieben, ich glaube nicht, dass Aschu das jemals von vorne bis hinten gelesen hat), und siehe da, ich wurd genommen! Au weiha. Ich hatte den Trainingsplan einfach weitergeführt, also das Rampenschema für die langen Läufe über den Marathon raus extrapoliert, und bin so Ende 2013 fast jedes Wochenende über 40k am Stück gelaufen. Ich fühlte mich sehr gut vorbereitet. (Von der Theorie und der Ausrüstung ganz zu schweigen, die war natürlich perfekt;-) ). Dann kam die Katastrophe. Die Geschichte steht woanders. Die Quintessenz ist, dass ich 10 Tage vor der BC ins Krankenhaus zu einer spontan-Op musste, Hodenkrebsverdacht. Ich war ausser mir. In einer spontanen Aktion habe ich die OP zwei Wochen nach hinten gelegt. Ein verdadderter Auszubildender auf der Station hat sich von mir breitschlagen lassen. So viel Gegenwind habe ich selten für meine nicht immer kluge Entscheidungen geerntet. Nachdem ich einen Tag von allen Seiten mürbe geklopft worden war, habe ich reumütig im Krankenhaus angerufen, und die Stationschefin drangehabt: “Herr Degering? Ah, na Sie hätte ich heute auch noch angerufen!” Hrm. Also war mein Traum geplatzt. Ich kam unters Messer, obwohl ich mir die Wahrscheinlichkeiten so zurecht gelegt hatte, dass das völlig übertrieben war. Nunja. Das Ergebnis hat dann aber doch das Vorgehen bestätigt. Es war Krebs, aber noch so früh, dass er ziemlich sicher nicht gestreut hat. Chemo höchstens zum Spass. Na, dann besser nicht! Die BC habe ich dann so gut es ging mitgenommen, beim Briefing geholfen, und mit Tom zum Start getigert. Aber ich war immer noch sehr sauer über das Schicksal. Zwei Wochen!

Mit der Bauchnarbe musste ich natürlich eine Zeit aussetzen, und wie das so ist, Frühling und so, habe ich mir beim Anfangen gleich einen Muskelfaserriss in der Wade zugezogen. Na super, nochmal 3 Wochen Auszeit. In der Phase habe ich dann von Maffetone-Training gelesen. Das klang nicht spassig, aber es schien einen Versuch wert zu sein. Vor allem würde das Rumschleichen dazu führen, dass ich nicht zu stark wieder loslege. Es macht wirklich keinen Spass. Mein Puls ist beim kleinsten Berg deutlich über den erlaubten 145, und ich tippel mich genervt durch den Sommerwald. Ich will rennen! Aber nein, ich wollte das durchziehen, mindestens sechs Wochen. Ein weiterer Denkanstoss kam von den Streakern, bzw. den Leuten auf der Ultra-Liste, die sich immer mal wieder zu einem Monat verabredeten, wo sie jeden Tag laufen. Und wo bleibt die Regeneration, frage ich? Aber nach den Maffetone-Einheiten hätte ich gleich weitermachen können. Muskelkater? Erschöpfung? Nee, nur eine ordentliche Gereiztheit, wenn mich mal wieder die Schnecken im Wald ausgelacht haben. Mit dem Muskelfaserriss fiel mein nächster Ultraversuch flach: Ich wäre gerne um den Elm gelaufen. Aber auch das blieb mir verwehrt. In einer Verzweiflungstat habe ich dann den 24 Stunden Lauf in Rüningen ins Auge gefasst. OK, wenn mein Ziel ist, 24 Stunden durchzuhalten, dann ist das langsame Tippeln vielleicht genau das richtige Training. Das hielt mich auch nach den sechs Wochen bei der Stange. Über die Zeit ist mein Tempo trotz niedrigem Puls etwas flotter geworden (die Schnecken staunen jetzt wieder) und nach Rüningen, was ein voller Erfolg war, aber das steht auch an anderer Stelle, habe ich das ‘immer’ unter Puls 145 etwas aufgeweicht, und laufe mehr nach Gefühl. Was aber geblieben ist, ist eine hervorragende Sensibilität für die Schwelle, ab wann ich ins anaerobe wechsele. Hätt ich nicht gedacht.

Dann kam die nächste Ausgabe des Brocken-Marathons. Ich hatte Grosses vor. Schliesslich hatten mir veschiedene Race-time-predictors einen Marathon von 3:30 prophezeit. Im Flachen natürlich, aber meine 3:50 von 2013 sollte locker zu knacken sein. Pustekuchen. Völlige Selbstüberschätzung und meine hohen Erwartungen haben mir das Rennen völlig versaut. Die ersten 8k waren viel zu schnell, bis oben hatte ich dann den Split von 2013, und danach ging das Sterben los. An Ende 4:02. Au weh! Das hat mich ziemlich geschockt. Einen Teil davon schob ich aufs Training. Es fehlten die ganzen Tempo- und Intervalleinheiten des letzten Jahres. Aber der Grossteil war schon meine eigene Doofheit. Mist.

Glücklicherweise hatte ich genügend Zeit bis zum Februar, um mich selber ordentlich zu bearbeiten, jegliche Erwartungen an eine Zielzeit für die BC fallenzulassen, und mir fest vorzunehmen, so lange es möglich ist, Spass zu haben. Zum Anfang Dezember lief die Hengstbergchallenge aus, so dass ich da meine Läufe ein gutes Stück länger machte, als üblich, immer mal wieder ein Kreuzchen abholen. Dabei habe ich dann auch recht lange eine schmerzende Stelle am rechten Wadenbein, direkt überm Knöchel, ignoriert. Beim Laufen ging es, aber die Stelle war extrem berührungsempfindlich, und ich hatte Angst vor einem Ermüdungsbruch. Durch ne blöde Schonhaltung habe ich mir dann auch noch den Zorn meiner Sehnen auf dem Spann auf mich gezogen. Nicht jetzt, nicht schon wieder! Nach der HBC habe ich dann erst versucht dem Trainingsumfang zu reduzieren, und als das nicht half, eine ganze Woche auszusetzen. Manno! Danach gewohnt, langsam wieder loslegen, bloss nicht zu dolle. Der Knöchel war nur bedingt besser, aber es wurde auch nicht schlechter. Und gegen Weihnachten dann die ersten Läufe, wo ich ihn vergessen konnte. Später, im Januar dann war die Sache irgendwie vorbei, Ich hatte Ruhe da unten. Uffa! Anfang des Jahres kam ich dann noch auf die Idee, einen weiteren Faktor anzugehen, dem ich meine miese Zeit beim Brocken-Marathon zuschreibe: 2014 war ich 2-3kg schwerer als 2013. Also, wenig Essen, weiterlaufen, weiter laufen. Das ging gut, die Bioprenschicht schmolz, und die km addierten sich. Als ich absehen konnte, dass ich ungefähr 10k im Schnitt pro Tag schaffte, war die Idee geboren, den Januar mal als meinen ersten 200 Meilen Monat anzupeilen. Eine weitere magische Grösse, die ich auf der Ultra-Liste aufgeschnappt habe. Das war zwischendurch nicht einfach, zumal das Neujahrsturnier dazwischen lag und mich drei Tage rausgehauen hat. Aber ich habe es wieder aufgeholt, und dabei mein Hengstberg-Konto für 2015 gefüllt;-) Das fühlte sich wirklich nach einem ordntlichen Sprung an. Ein halbes Jahr eher war 90 Minuten die Grenze wo ich Essen und Trinken brauchte, und ein ziemliches Energieloch durchlaufen musste. Jetzt, Ende Januar? 2:10 ohne Gepäck, glücklich durch die Gegend gelaufen, und noch nicht mal den sonst so übermannenden Durst, wenn ich wieder zu Hause war. Faszinierend!

Hauptteil
Ja, dann begann die Ernstphase. Vorbereitung für die BC. Erste Frage: Wie tapern? Meine Antwort: Mal schauen. Erstmal weitermachen. In der Woche davor habe ich dann bewusst auf den Hengstberg verzichtet, und bin so auf die 20-40% Reduktion des Umfangs gekommen. Ausserdem habe ich mir Mühe gegeben, jede Nacht ne Stunde mehr zu schlafen als üblich. Hat nicht immer geklappt, aber es war schon mehr Schlaf als ich mir normalerweise gestatte. Zweiter Punkt: Don’t be stupid. Ich bin nur noch mit Lampe gelaufen, um nicht noch blöd irgendwo umzuknicken. Das hat geklappt, aber ich konnte mich nicht erwehren mit den Kindern fangen zu spielen, was gleich mal wieder meinen Knöchel auf den Plan gebracht hat. Glücklicherweise aber nur als kurze Erinnerung. Das wär beinahe schiefgegangen. Dritter Punkt: Ausrüstung: Mann, was habe ich in der Woche vor der BC meine f5-Taste maltraitiert. Die Wettervorhersage schwankte stündlich, und damit auch meine Ausrüstungsliste. Das hat mir einige Nerven gekostet.

Ulkigerweise hat sich am Donnerstag dann eine enorme Ruhe bei mir breit gemacht. Vorher war ich auf dem Weg zum Nervenwrack, aber irgendwann switchte der Schalte um, und ich konnte fröhlich auf die BC schauen, ohne in Panik zu verfallen. Wo auch immer das herkam.

Am Ende der Woche war die Wetterprognose so positiv, dass ich in einen Haufen Sachen zu Hause lassen konnte. Das habe ich auch hinbekommen. Das BC-Wochenende war sonst perfekt geplant, die Kinder bei meinen Eltern untergebracht. Leider kam dann doch der Downer, dass Micha krank war, und daher der SpineRace-Vortrag ausfallen musste. Schade, auf den abend im Reinshof hatte ich mich schon sehr gefreut, der war letztes Jahr einmalig gut. Aber ohne Vortrag war meine Motivation dahin, und ich musste mir selber ein Pre-Race Meal machen.

Das Briefing war klasse, die Stimmung enorm, ich habe mit vielen Leuten gequatscht, einige Gesichter zu fb-Accounts kennengelernt. Mein Job am Getränkeverkauf war ziemlich easy, da dort ein gewissenhafter Schüler des HG stand, und ich in Ruhe meine Startunterlagen abholen und den Kleiderbeutel abgeben konnte. Im Hörsaal war eine sehr gemütliche Athmosphäre. Die habe ich in vollen Zügen genossen. Markus Rede zur Freude hat mich noch einmal ordentlich bestärkt in meinem Entschluss, Samstag nichts zu forcieren, sondern mir viel Zeit zum Essen und Trinken zu lassen, zum Schauen, und in-mich-hineinfühlen.

Abends zu Hause war ich unheimlich müde. Schnell noch Carboloading a la Aschu: Hirse, Gemüse (weisse Bohnen in Tomatensauce, Möhrchen und ganz wichtig: Rote Beete), Olivenöl und viel Knofi. Lecker, aber schon ein Block im Magen, Ohje. Tee vorkochen, dass der morgens nicht so heiss ist. Schnell noch die Sachen für den Lauf zurechtgelegt. Da fehlte noch ne Pinzette im Notfallset, das warme Unterhemd wieder raus aus dem Rucksack, Oh, Ausweis wollte ich ja noch mitnehmen, falls sie mich irgendwo im Graben finden. Dann um 22:00 falle ich ins Bett und schlafe wie ein Baby.

Am nächsten Morgen gibts dann den Tee, ein Cashewriegel, Banane, Apfel und noch eine rote Beete mit Salz. Ausgewogenes Frühstück, viel Kraft für den Tag. Nee, im Ernst, das ist leicht genug, und die Kohlehydratspeicher sollten eh voll sein. Nur das mit dem Klo sollte nicht so hinhauen, wie ich gehofft hatte. Der Klumpen von gestern abend soll doch noch raus. Dann halt irgendwann im Wald. Geht ja auch. Jetzt rein in die Klamotten. Wo war noch gleich das schwarze Langarmunterhemd? Argh! Ah, doch da. Kurz vorm losgehen höre ich es oben rumpeln, und Ilka steht auf. Da sie eh wach ist, will sie mich zum Start begleiten. Cool! Zu zweit stapfen wir dann also um kurz nach fünf die zwei km von Herberhausen zum Kehr. Leider bin ich nicht schnell genug im Kopf, dass ich Ilka ja diverse warme Jacken wieder mit runter geben kann. So friere ich ordentlich auf dem Weg nach oben. Schneller Schritt und das wird besser, nur Ilka fängt an zu schnaufen. Upsa.

Im alten Tanzsaal dann eine schöne Überraschung: Es ist mollig warm, es gibt dieses Jahr sogar Heizpilze drinnen. Wow. Nachdem alle bekannten Gesichter begrüsst sind, kämpfe ich mich zum Buffet durch, finde erstmal nichts, probiere dann den veganen Käsekuchen und bin baff. Krass, der ist wirklich so lecker, wie von einigen Leuten auf fb geschrieben. Hmmm! Dazu etwas Tee, den Ilka organisiert hatte. Gerade als ich mich entspanne, leert sich der Tanzsaal schon, Ohje, schnell nochmal an den Busch, dann Ilka wiederfinden, hatte sie ziemlich stehen gelassen. Und dann voller Vorfreude zum Start. O nein, Markus redet schon. Uffa, nur über Falschparker. Dann noch Verabschieden, etwas weiter vor zur Schranke, und schon gings los. Ich war unterwegs auf der BC. Ich. Wow.

Meinem grossen Vorsatz, nicht zu schnell anzugehen, kam ich mittelmässig nach. Anfangs sehr locker, aber so ganz wollte ich nicht hinter dem Pulk hier bleiben, ausserdem wussten die nicht so ganz, wo man hier am wenigsten rutscht. OK, vielleicht sind sie auch nicht dreimal die letzte Woche hier langgelaufen. Etwas weiter vorne sah ich Ines und Lara. Da kann ich mich ja erstmal dranhängen. Als es nach dem Kerstlingeröder Feld aber schwieriger mit dem Weg wurde, habe ich nur noch auf meine vorderfrau geachtet, die ziemlich gut die sichersten Tritte fand. Einfach hinterher. Mir wurde warm, ich zog im Laufen die Jacke aus und bändselte sie an die Weste, mehr schlecht als recht. aber ich wollte keinen Reissverschluss hier im Dunklen aufmachen, da fällt ja mehr raus, als ich reinschiebe. Das muss bis Landolfshausen warten. Oben kurz vor der Abbruchkante zog dann der Hengstberg. Hausstrecken gehen einfach nicht langsam. Also habe ich meine Kleingruppe zurückgelassen, auf dem Weg bergab Lara und noch ein paar Leute überholt, und nach kurzer Zeit zu Ines aufgeschlossen. Der Blick von oberhalb Mackenrodes war traumhaft. Das ganze Land erwacht. Klare Luft, ein dunkelorangener bis violetter Schimmer über dem Horizont. Und ganz deutlich in unendlicher Ferne: Unser Ziel, der Brocken. Vor solchem Ausblick hatte ich Angst gehabt, dass es mich kleinmacht, den Weg als unmöglich lang erscheinen lässt. Aber ich war nur ergriffen. So schön. Und ja, da wollte ich hin. Aber das war jetzt egal, hier war es schön. Hier wollte ich gerade sein, und alles dazwischen wollte ich auch erleben. Der Brocken würde schon noch früh genug kommen.

Wir schnackten eine geraume Weile, bis ich merkte, dass Ines’ Tempo einen Tick zu schnell war. Da war sie, die magische Schwelle. Wenn du das länger machen willst, mach nen Schritt langsamer. Gesagt, getan, ich liess Ines ziehen, kurz vor Landolfshausen dann noch eine Pinkelpause und ab zum VP. Schnell die Jacke in die Weste, etwas Haferschnitte in den Mund, Tee in die Falttasse, und einen Riegel eingesteckt. Schoko. Uah! Das war ja Früchtetee! Sowas macht mir ohne Belastung schon Sodbrennen. Hab ich leider erst realisiert, als die Tasse schon leer war. Ohje, nicht weiter drüber nachdenken. Den Anstieg habe ich gehenderweise noch ein Stück Haferschnitte verdrückt und mit Wasser aus dem Schlauch runtergespült. Das Gehen wurde mir zu langsam, hinter dem Wald wurde es verdächtig hell und ich bekam Sorge, den Sonnenaufgang zu verpassen. Ey, der war gebucht. Also flott durch den Wald um an der Warte Frank und Co zu treffen. Super Motivatoren! Der Himmel war himmlisch. Extra für uns gab es ein zerfasertes Wolkenband, wo wir das gesamte Farbspiel des Sonnenaufgangs geboten bekamen. Wahnsinnig schön. Auch wenn der Rest der BC eklig werden sollte, egal, alleine hierfür hatte es sich gelohnt. Über dem Seeburger See hingen dann gelbe Nebelschleier, die wie angeleuchtete Seidentücher aussahen. Wahnsinn. Immer wieder Ausblick auf den Brocken. Lustigerweise bin ich geraume Zeit ein- zweihundert Meter hinter Ines hergelaufen. Keine Chance innerhalb meiner Möglichkeiten an sie ranzukommen, aber zurückgefallen bin ich auch nicht. Ulkig. Am Parkplatz des Seeburger Sees habe ich dann kurz auf die Zähne gebissen, und sie eingeholt. Bis zum Hellberg sind wir dann gemeinsam gelaufen, hinter Rüdeshausen gesellte sich noch Mike dazu. Das Unterhalten wurde knapper, aber die Gemeinsamkeit blieb. Echt schön!

Beim Vp in Rollshausen war ich klüger und fragte nach der Art des Tees. Uffa, hier gabs Kräutertee. Normalerweise rühre ich den nicht an, trinke nur Grüntee, aber ich will nicht pienzig werden. Und im Vergleich zum Früchtetee, ist Kräutertee perfekt. Dann noch was keksiges und weiter. Die Bundesstrasse habe ich als erster unserer Dreiergruppe passiert, in meiner Art: Das abbiegende Auto steht doch praktisch, da kann er mich auch noch durchlassen. Dann ging es den Hellberg hoch, und ich wunderte mich, warum da vorne schon Leute gingen. War doch überhaupt nicht steil. Im Wald wurde der Weg immer mehr nach meinem Geschmack. Äste lagen quer, Laub überall, mal Trampelpfad, mal Fahrspuren. Interessant und abwechlsungsreich. Die Matsch-Downhillpassage habe ich dann so gut wie komplett gemieden und bin, hengstberglike, Schuss durchs Unterholz den Berg runter. Klasse. Das mag ich! Dabei bin ich an einigen Leute vorbei, die sich durch die Unimogverwüstung quälten, oder sich etwas schwertaten sich den Abhang runterzustürzen. Unten fand ich mich dann neben Hanno wieder, der seine fünfte BC bestritt und wir tauschten Geschichten aus. Er ging den Weg zur Kapelle hoch, und obwohl es mich nicht zum Gehen drängte, vertraute ich auf seine Erfahrung, und wollte auch seine Gesellschaft nicht so schnell aufgeben. Also gemütlich. Auf dem Weg nach Rüdeshausen merkte ich dann, dass er (und sein mittlerweile aufgelossener Kumpan Reinhard) in der Ebene auf Asphalt wieder den Tick schneller waren, als ich bereit war zu laufen. Also blieb ich mit Ulrike zurück, die wir kurz vorher eingesammelt hatten. Wieder ein schöne Unterhaltung. Klasse so ein ‘Rennen’. Mehr ein soziales Event. Und hupsa, 30km haben wir dabei auch schon zurückgelegt. War kaum was davon zu merken. OK, die Beine waren nicht mehr ganz locker, aber das wars auch schon.

An der Ruhmequelle gabs dann nur Früchtetee, ich versuchte Apfelsaft, etwas Haferschnitte, oder wars Käsekuchen? Dann noch einen Riegel… Guarana? Das war doch dieses Aufputschzeug. Habs noch nie probiert, wird aber schon nicht so schlimm sein. Riegel einstecken, nochmal Becher füllen und weitergehen. Irgendwie hatte ich hier keine Ruhe. Als der Becher leer war, bin ich wieder gelaufen, war ja nicht steil, und habe schnell Hanno und Reinhard eingeholt, bald sogar überholt. Meine Stärke scheint bergauf zu liegen. Hatte ich schon geahnt, aber hier habe ich es deutlich gemerkt. Cool. Kurz darauf habe ich noch Ulrike wieder eingeholt, aber sie wollte langsamer machen als ich. Ausserdem schoss Sanna an uns vorbei und ich dachte, ich bleibe mal dran. Hat ja in Rüningen auch gut geklappt mit unserem Tempo. Aber Sanna hatte Zug, ich bin nicht mitgekommen, und dann wieder in konstantem Abstand zu ihr bis Barbis. Kein Rankommen, aber weiter abgeschlagen wurde ich auch nicht. Schon komisch. Bei dem Auf und Ab vor Barbis sind wir dann auch noch an ein paar Leuten vorbei, die gemütlich quatschten und spazierten. Langsam merkte ich was von den km. Es war schwer, nach Barbis reinzurollen. Bergablaufen stand nicht mehr hoch im Kurs bei mir. Die Strecke bin ich blind hinter Sanna her, sie musste den Weg ja wissen, bis sie mir kurz vor dem Abzweig zur Dreymannsmühle aus einer Seitenstrasse mit einem lauten ‘Scheisse!’ entgegen kam, falsche Abkürzung, und ich war vorne :-

In Barbis hatte ich erstmals Ruhe an einem VP. Das war schön. Brühe! Himmel! Käsekuchen, klasse! Guarana Cola? Egal, Zucker! Dann nochmal die Trinkblase gefüllt, so gut es eben ging, ohne die Klamotten aus der Weste zu nehmen. Ein Blick in meinen linken Schuh, der Socken sass normal, dann muss mein kleiner Zeh eben damit leben, dass sich ne Blase entwickelt. Oder schon da war, egal, es war aushaltbar. Als Hanno neben mir auf der Bank seinen Rucksack aufsetzte mit den Worten ‘Jetzt kaufen wir uns ein paar Rookies’ hatte ich einen Anflug von Kampfgeist und mit einem ‘Aber mich kriegt ihr nicht’ gings los. Ich sollte recht behalten, wir sahen uns noch die nächsten zwei VPs, aber überholt haben sie mich nicht 🙂

Im Anstieg zur Bundesstrasse kam ich mal wieder an Ulrike vorbei, die irgendwie viel schneller mit dem Essen war als ich. Dann auf dem freien Stück bis zum Harzwaldrand überholte ich (u.a.) Christoph und Stulle, die eigentlich viel erfahrener und professioneller aussahen, als ich mich selber einschätze. Die tänzelten so über das langsam dichter und unebener werdende Eis. Achso. Das hatte ich zu Hause ja die letzten Wochen auch zur Genüge geübt. Also, hops hops, dran vorbei. Ne zeitlang hörte ich noch ein Schnaufen hinter mir, aber als ich mich im Wald dann mal umdrehte, war weit und breit niemand zu sehen. Der Schnee wurde dichter, und zum Teil auch rutschig. Soll ich die Yaktrax rausholen? Nö, ist doch immer ne Stelle griffig. Also froh voran. Dies soll der Entsafter sein? Achnee, das Steinaer Tal kommt ja erst noch.

An einer Abzweigung traf ich Conny, die die Schneeketten aufzog. Au weiha. Soll ich nicht auch? Erstmal weiter. Ich werde mich dann nachher ärgern, wenn sie an mir vorbeizieht. Aber Anhalten hatte gerade null Reiz. Nach vielen vielen Kurven am Hang kam endlich die Wasserscheide. Was ein erhabenes Gefühl. Ausserdem lag der Weg ins Tal in der Sonne, der Untergrund war schön, mir gings gut. Schnell einen Bissen vom Guarana-Riegel, etwas Wasser hinterher. Und auf in den Kampf. Aber der kam nicht. Na, wird schon irgendwann anziehen. Tat es nicht. Komisch. In meinem beharrlichen aber langsamen Tempo tippelte ich mich also das Steinaer Tal hoch. Vor mir konnte ich auf längeren Geraden andere Läufer ausmachen, aber der Abstand hielt. Kurze Bestandsaufnahme, es tat nichts wirklich weh, es war nichts wirklich entkräftet, und auf der Uhr standen schon 50km. Was? Normalerweise habe ich bei Trainingsläufen über 35km immer extreme Hänger zum Ende hin. Kein bisschen davon in Sicht. Stattdessen ein enorme Ruhe, ein Fuss vor den anderen, immer weiter, nicht aufhören. Warum auch? Als die Hänge flacher wurden, und das Tal die Linkskurve einläutete, die den baldigen VP am Jagdkopf ankündigte, habe ich doch noch einen der beiden Menschen vor mir überholt. Dem gings gerade nicht so gut. Nach dem VP ist er aber wieder von dannen geprescht. Die Crew vom Jagdkopf war klasse (wie auch die Crews davor, aber da war ich noch nicht offen genug dafür), hier wollte ich mich aufhalten. Gemütlich, umsorgt. Brühe! Mit extra-Salz. Ja! salzige Kekse? Tolle Idee, aber zu trocken für mich. Hätte sie stippen sollen, aber darauf kam ich nicht. also noch einen Riegel einstecken, tschüss sagen, und mal schauen was Entsafter II bringt.

Ich war geschockt. Auf sowas sollen wir jetzt laufen? Wie viele km noch? Das wird nichts. Der sulzige Schnee gab nach, rutschte hin und her. Ich bekam keinen Abdruck hin, und bin ein ums andere mal über mein eigenes Bein gestolpert. Irgendwann kam ich aber auch hier in meinen Trott. Nur noch etwas langsamer als vorher, aber das Rezept war ja klar: linker Fuss vor, rechter Fuss vor. Nach längerem Gerutsche (und einem umgestürtzen Baum unter dem wir und auch die Langläufer durchmussten, schick, ne Abwechslung!) dann der Blick auf die Odertalsperre. Zum ersten Mal bin ich ergriffen stehen geblieben. So schön. Welche Freude hier sein zu können. Mit dem ganzen Weg hierher im Gepäck. Traumhaft!

Weiter ging es, auf und ab, hin und her, immer weiter. Ich trabte voran, und war über jedes BC-Schild sehr froh, war ich doch komplett alleine. Manchmal tauchte Enrico am Horizont auf, nur um später wieder zu verschwinden. Nach Barbis wusste ich, dass das nicht heissen muss dass ich richtig bin 😉 Ab und an schaute ich auf meine Uhr, in der Hoffnung, dass die bald mal auf 65km springt, 2km lag sie schon daneben als ich in Barbis war. Tat sie nicht so schnell. Die Wanderbeschilderung machte mir aber Mut. Belastbare km-Angaben, und sie wurden kleiner. Kurz vor der Lausebuche ging die Loipe zur Seite weg, und es ging einen Trampelpfad im ehemaligen Tiefschnee zum Parkplatz. Leider war der Schnee aber komplett hartgefroren, tiefste und unmöglich verteilte Fusstapfen machten Laufen oder Gehen komplett zum Höllenritt. Ich sah mich schon mit gebrochenem Knöchel im Saniwagen. Nicht hier, nicht jetzt. Mach vorsichtig. Auf die fünf Minuten kommts nicht an. Nach einer gefühlten Ewigkeit und mehr Schwitzen als im kompletten Entsafter war ich dann endlich an der Schranke. Begrüsst von Moni mit den Worten ‘Ach du bist dieser Hecke’. Hihi, sowas baut mich auf. Ab zum Trinken. Mittlerweile war ich geübt: Erst zwei Becher Cola mit Tee, dann Brühe mit extra-Salz, in der Zeit nach Essen umschauen. Brownies! Schade, die vegane Variante schmeckt mir doch nicht so gut wie das Original, aber wer weiss, was Eier und Butter mit meinem Magen gemacht hätten. Dann nochmal ColaTee, einmal den Morton-Stretch (hätte ich schon eher machen sollen) und weiter hin zu den zwei Varianten nach Königskrug.

Wie nach jedem VP bin ich die ersten Meter gegangen, und hier hatte ich zum ersten Mal das Rüningen-Feeling beim Lostraben. Es fiel mir nicht leicht, und es tat ordentlich weh. Ging aber (wie gewohnt) nach wenigen Schritten vorüber. Als ich die Abkürzung sah, musste ich lachen. Durch den Tiefschnee? Nein Danke! Vor allem war auf dem längeren Weg teilweise der Schnee weg. Endlich wieder Griff mit den Füssen. Jippiee! Hier begann dann auch wieder ein Streckenabschnitt, den ich gut im Kopf hatte (von der Karte, habe lange versucht den Weg auswendig zu lernen) um Braunlage herum, und dann geradewegs an der Bundesstrasse lang. Hm, das war eigentlich schnurgerade. Nunja, das schnurgerade Stück kam später, was mich etwas enttäuschte, aber der Weg nach Königskrug war so kurz, dass das nicht gross ins Gewicht fiel. Hier hatte ich die gesamte Zeit Andre vor mir, der eine miese Phase hatte. Wenn er lief, war er deutlich schneller als ich. Aber er lief kaum. Musste sehr viel gehen. Er tat mir schon leid, obwohl ich ihn auch gut als Motivation gebrauchen konnte. Immer hinterher, er in Intervallen, ich kontinuierlich langsam.

Kurz vor Königskrug wurde ich wieder von zwei Supportern freudig und begeistert begrüsst. Klasse! Aber sagt mal, standet ihr nicht bislang vor jedem VP? Ausser dem Jagdkopf, natürlich. Krass. Das ist echter Einsatz. Und dann feuert ihr nicht nur euren Läufer an, sondern auch Wildfremde wie mich? Ich bin ziemlich beeindruckt, und merke, wie viel Kraft mir das bringt. Danke! Danach der Schock in Königskrug: Menschen. Ieks. Das hatte ich jetzt ja ne Weile so gut wie gar nicht. Der Fussweg bei den Windbeuteln war für mich erst nicht zu erkennen, danach entschied ich, dass er eh zu verstopft zum Laufen war, und habe die Gesellschaft der Autos vorgezogen. Aber Hallo! Muss man denn mit 70 Sachen an einem Läufer vorbei? Mit einem halben Meter Abstand? Hier wo eh ne Mitteninsel ist, und augenscheinlich jede Menge Fussvolk unterwegs ist? Ich bin kurz davor noch weiter auf die Fahrbahn zu laufen, um die Autos zum Bremsen zu bewegen. Aber ein bisschen Restverstand halt mich am Rand. Vielleicht auch die grimmigen Blicke der Fahrer, in deren Revier ich hier unerlaubterweise eingedrungen bin. Endlich ne Lücke im Verkehr, drüben mehr Luft zwischen den Leuten mit dem ganzen Skizeugs über den Schultern, und eine nette Person, die mir zu erkennen gibt, dass der VP hier gleich um die Ecke ist. Ich glaubs erst, als ich ihn wirklich sehen kann. Bin doch schon einigermassen verwirrt. Hier wird mir erstmals klar, dass der Lauf auch an meiner Psyche kratzt. Aber Brühe, ColaTee und vor allem Marens übersprudelnde Begeisterung bringen mich wieder etwas auf den Boden der Realtität. Andre, den ich vermeintlich gescheucht habe, ist auch hier, und wird sehr bemitleidet. Das scheint nicht normal zu sein, wie es ihm geht. Aber auch er tankt hier ordentlich auf, und lässt mich stehen. Noch schnell was zu essen, Maren wird gerade eh von einem interessierten Rentner okkupiert, nochmal den Becher voll und rein ins Getümmel.

Nachdem ich mir etwas Luft zu den ganzen gemeingefährlichen Langlaufskiern auf Schultern geschaffen hatte, stellte ich fest, dass meine Langlauffertigkeiten doch nicht so unterste Schublade sind, wie ich immer gedacht habe. Meine Güte, hier ist ne recht ordentliche Loipe, lasst Laufen Leute! Stattdessen machen viele entweder einen Schneepflug der mich über die rechte Spur hüpfen lässt, oder schnallen gleich ab und stakseln nach unten, die Skier immer schön quer übern Weg auf Kopfhöhe. Jetzt keinen Unfall! Der richtige Weg ist schnell gefunden. Danke Aschu, der Tip war gut! Jetzt beginnt ein längeres Hoffen auf den langgezogenen Rechtsbogen, von wo aus es dann wieder runtergeht. Das hat gedauert. Lange. Es waren doch nur 4km zwischen den VPs, oder? Dann endlich, der Abzweig, mit Schild, ich war richtig. Uff. Ohne Nachzudenken warf ich mich die Loipe hinunter, halt, war da nicht gerade ein Weg abgegangen? Achja, das ist der Weg mit den Bäumen quer, wieder ein neuralgischer Punkt der im Briefing gut behandelt wurde. Dann kam auch schon der Rechtsknick der Loipe, und ich flog, äh, eierte Richtung Oderbrück. Hier war leider die Mitte zwischen den Wegen schon ziemlich von Fusskratern übersäht. Sicher die vielen Langläufer, die hier nicht runterfahren wollten. Laufen erforderte ziemliche Konzentration. Ausserdem waren viele Langläufer unterwegs, von unten mit breitestem Stockeinsatz, Leute, die Dinger sind nicht dafür da, dass ihr nicht seitlich umfallt, sondern die geben euch Vortrieb! Nunja, wenn man sie neben den Ski steckt. Die Skifahrer von oben waren aber gefährlicher. Irgendwann würde mich mal einer in voller Gleitfahrt umholzen. Bislang aber, man ist ja vorsichtig, war ich schneller als die. Also, immer ein Auge auf die Stöcke von links, zwei auf die Löcher vor mir, und eins über die Schulter, wann da mal jemand tatsächlich laufen lässt. Das unvermeidliche kam, gerade als ein Skifahrer vorbeiwollte, trete ich in ein Loch, und mache einen kräftigen Schritt auf seine Spur. Glücklicherweise scheine ich hier einen der wenigen Fähigen erwischt zu haben, hinter mir kratzt ein Schneepflug, jemand schreit ‘Achtung’, ich werfe mich wieder den Stöcken entgegen und er saust haarscharf an mir vorbei. Die Skier wieder beide in der Loipe und nicht als Sichel dort wo ich stand. Welch Schreck. Ich murmel noch ein ‘Oh, entschuldigung’, da ist er vorbei. Jetzt sind es nur noch 500m, ich sehe den VP, hin da!

Hier ist es wieder so urgemütlich. Sonne, sehr relaxte, aber dennoch eifrige Helfer am Stand, BrühCola, äh nee, Brühe, TeeCola. toller selbstgebackener Kuchen, aber so richtig traue ich mich nicht. Als ich ankam durfte ich noch miterleben wie Silvio seine Pause beendet und sich schleunigst auf die Socken macht. Wie jetzt? Das ist er wirklich? Ich habe sein ASFM-Leibchen schon an einigen VPs (erstmals Lausebuche) verschwinden sehen, wenn ich ankam, war mir aber nie sicher. Aber so schnell bin ich doch nicht. Das muss wer anders sein. Nein, hier steht er vor mir, wünscht mir Glück und eilt dem Brocken entgegen. Hm, gehts ihm auch nicht gut? Andre ist kurz vor mir hier, macht aber schon wieder einen besseren Eindruck. Noch was essen, Becher voll, na das ist ja jetzt bekannt. Aufi! Etwas Angst habe ich schon davor, dass jetzt der Weg nach oben fast doppelt so lang ist, wie der Abstand von Königskrug nach Oderbrück. Habe ich noch genug Wasser dabei? Egal, so schnell vertrockne ich nicht.

Hier scheinen die Langläufer wieder etwas erfahrener zu sein, oder ich nicht mehr ganz so taumelnd. Es geht stetig weiter, wirklich nochmal etwas runter? Ohje! Aber dafür ist der Untergrund ziemlich klasse. Etwas uneben, aber fest. Dann kommt der dreieckige Pfahl und ich gehe den steilen Anstieg, stelle fest, dass das hier jetzt wohl die Rampe sein muss, und mache keine Laufversuche. Locker hochgehen, Scherze mit den Schlittenfahrern machen, Sonne auf dem Hintern geniessen. Auf die Brockenbahn freuen. Oben trabe ich los, nicht zuletzt weil ich mich sehr beobachtet fühlte, bleibe aber nach 20m wieder völlig gebannt stehen. Ein wahnsinns-Ausblick über den Harz. Soooo schön! Traumhaft! Nach kurzer Zeit zieht es mich dann doch weiter. Der Schnee wird wieder sulziger, die Leute teilweise störender, zum Teil aber auch motivierend. Als die Bahn kommt, nehme ich mir vor, stehen zu bleiben und sie vorbeiziehen zu lassen, vergesse es dann aber doch, als sie da ist, und laufe in meinem langsamen Tempo weiter. Weiter und weiter. Jetzt muss die Brockenstrasse aber bald mal kommen. Und noch weiter. Zwischendurch ein ulkiger Anblick: Eine Horde junger Erwachsener, viel zu cool für diese Welt, aber jeder hat einen Poporutscher in der Hand. Schön, dass sie sich das trauen! Und noch weiter. Und dann kommt endlich die Brockenstrasse. Jippie! freier Asphalt, unendlicher Grip. Nur leider steil wie nichts gutes, ich gehe bis um die Kurve, und laufe dann langsam wieder an. Die Kuppe ist flach, und zieht sich. Oh ja. Das tut sie. Aber stetig schiebe ich mich hoch. Der Gedanke, der mich schon seit der Lausebuche begleitet wird immer stärker: ‘Das geht hier viel zu schnell vorbei!’ Ich würde den Moment gerne festhalten, das Erleben verlängern, aber stehenbleiben? Das geht jetzt nicht mehr, ging vorhin auch schon nicht. Es ist wie es ist, der Weg wird irgendwann zu Ende sein, und ich werde ankommen. Dann wurde ich aus meinen Gedanken gerissen, da vorne gingen ja drei Läufer, Silvio erkannte ich, und nachdem ich langsam aufgeschlossen hatte, erkannte ich auch Frank, den ich in Rüningen kennengelernt hatte (und natürlich aus dem Film kannte). Jens kannte ich noch nicht, aber allesamt machten die drei auf mich den Eindruck, dass ich in der falschen Liga gelandet war. Wieso war ich so flott hier oben? Nachdem ich mich vergewissert hatte, dass die drei nicht auf den letzten Metern in einen wilden Sprint ausbrechen werden (O-Ton Frank: Wir haben noch sieben Minuten um unter 9:30 zu bleiben, wir gehen.), freundete ich mich mit dem Gedanken an, die etwas arg seltsame Vorgabe, auf jeden Fall laufend oben anzukommen, gegen meinen Wunsch, den Zieleinlauf mit jemandem zu teilen zu tauschen. Und nicht nur mit Jemandem. Es war für mich eine grosse Ehre, und erfüllte mich mit grossem Stolz (und Leute die mich kennen, wissen, dass ich mit dem Wort nicht leichtfertig bin), in dieser Vierergruppe zu finishen. Wahnsinn!

Nach dem Empfang gings dann zum Brockenstein, knutschen, den Stein natürlich, und Photosession. Am Ende noch ein Beweisphoto, dass ich nachher rumschicken wollte, an alle, die sich Sorgen machten, dass ich irgendwo auf der Strecke verende. Nach dem diese Punkte abgehakt waren, schoss mir die Schönheit des Moments durch Mark und Bein. Was ein Ausblick, klare Sicht in alle Richtungen. Ich war sehr gefesselt und habe mich erstmal auf die Holzbalken gesetzt und geschaut. Keine Ahnung wie lange. Zwischendurch habe ich mich noch unterhalten mit einem interessierten Brockentouristen, und immer wieder die Aussicht genossen, und den Himmel, und die Luft. Irgendwann setzte dann leichtes Zittern ein. Au weia. Das kannte ich. Nach langen Läufen (was heisst denn jetzt noch lang?) schlottere ich manchmal eine geraume Zeit vor mich hin, bis ich wieder auf Temperatur komme. Schnell rein. Aber wo ist das, rein? Herrje. Glücklicherweise bekomme ich am Ziel eine Führerin, die eh gerade eine Liste zum Urkundenschreiben reinbringen will. Hm. Die Tür hatte ich so nicht erkannt. Oben steigt mir erst der Essensgeruch in die Nase und in den Kopf. Oh. Lecker ja, aber der Magen warnt, dass ich das vorsichtig angehen lassen sollte. Ich bekomme meinen Beutel, werde beklatscht, und fühle mich enorm wohl. Bei Uwe und Silke finde ich Platz, wo ich meinen ganzen Hausrat ausbreiten kann, und mache mich nach kurzem Schnack mit den anderen Göttingern in der Ecke auf zum Duschen. Hm. drei Leute vor mir, aber immerhin ist die Heizung voll an. Aber so nackig hier rumstehen? Ich zittere mittlerweile ganz ordentlich. Dann fällt mir wieder ein: War ich nicht unzufrieden mit meinem Klogang heute früh? Wollte ich nicht irgendwann in die Büsche? Irgendwie kam der Moment nicht, und mein Darm hat dann doch irgendwann die Flüssigkeit zum Ausschwitzen geholt. Na, das hat ja gut geklappt. Aber jetzt setzte ich mich doch mal aufs Klo. Hinsetzen war eine Wohltat. Aufstehen weniger, und mit dem Papier hatte ich auch keinen Spass, weil ich mir unter meinem Fleece-Minirock den schwitzigen Hintern doch etwas wundgescheuert hatte. Manno. Das Bodyglide war in der Weste. Ich hätt es nur draufschmieren müssen. Nunja, jetzt muss ich da durch. Die Dusche war himmlisch, wenn auch recht kurz, es kam ein nicht enden wollender Strom an Nackideis, also flott wieder raus, und in die wohlverdienten warmen, trockenen Klamotten. Mit der dritten Schicht hörte auch langsam das Zittern auf.

Nächster Punkt: Trinken. Zwei alkfreie Weizen und ne grosse Spezi. Wie? Ja, alles für mich. Hinsetzen, Beine hoch und nach und nach rein damit. Das tat gut. Essen? Oha, dazu muss ich ja aufstehen. Kurz überlege ich, ob ich Silke bitte, mir was zu holen. Aber ich reisse mich zusammen, und eiere vorsichtig Richtung Buffet. Hm, nichts was mich umhaut. Aber egal, es muss was rein, Tortellini mit Käsesauce, ok. Oh, Suppe! Das ist klasse. Mit zwei übervollen Tellern stakse ich unfallfrei wieder an meinen Platz. Die Suppe ist etwas scharf, tut aber enorm gut. Die Nudeln sind nicht mehr ganz warm, und mein Magen ist mit der Käsesauce nicht ganz einverstanden. Pflichtbewusst pferche ich mir einen halben Teller rein, dann ist Sense. Mehr geht nicht. Na, wird schon reichen. Jetzt aber schnell in die dicke Jacke und ab nach draussen, bald geht die Sonne unter. Das war ja mein Obertraumziel, vom Brocken aus die Sonne untergehen sehen. Zugegebenermassen war mein Traum mit der untergehenden Sonne ins Ziel zu laufen. Dass ich nun dermassen viel früher hier oben war, ist der Hammer. Draussen dann eine gewisse Enttäuschung: Ein dickes Wolkenband über dem westlichen Horizont, genau darin versank gerade die Sonne. Ohne besonders hübsches Farbenspiel. Stattdessen gabs aber gute Stimmung im Ziel, wir (Silke und Uwe waren auch mit rausgekommen) stellten uns noch eine Weile dazu, applaudierten, nahmen Läufer in Empfang. Was für ein Erlebnis so viel Freude, Erleichterung, Stolz, aber auch Schmerzen und Erschöpfung in den Gesichtern der Ankommenden zu sehen. Welche Strecke ich da vorhin zu Ende gebracht hatte ist in den Endorphinen etwas untergegangen. Hier konnte ich das nochmal Live miterleben. Eindrucksvoll! Als die Kälte wieder in meine Knochen kroch, gings wieder rein, mit Leuten quatschen, noch was trinken, Sachen sortieren. Oh, die Entwarnungsemail schreiben, wie konnte ich das vergessen? Nunja, Leerlauf hatte ich vorher noch nicht gehabt.

Irgendwie kamen die meisten Läufer deutlich früher oben an, als gedacht, so dass die Busse von Schierke vorverlegt wurden. Eine erster Trupp zog los, aber da war schnell klar, dass die auch den ersten Bus füllen würden. Also Entspannung, noch mehr quatschen, trinken, geniessen, beglückwünschen, Neukömmlinge beklatschen. Grossartig! Dank Aschus Info, dass ohne ihn und Markus der zweite Bus nicht losfährt, war ich tiefenentspannt. Irgendwann wurde dann zum Aufbruch geblasen, ich warf mich in meine warmen Sachen und raus. Danke Brockenwirt! Draussen wieder mal ein Anblick, der mich umhaute: ein Lichtermeer unter uns, man konnte in Wernigerode Strassenlaternen zählen. Auch die weiter entfernten Städte leuchteten deutlich. Wie erhaben! Da machte es kaum was, dass wir noch ein Weile warten mussten, bis geklärt war, dass Markus mit den letzten Läufern nachkommen würde. Wie, die hatten kaum Zeit zu duschen? Geschweige denn Essen? Das ist aber nicht so schön. Das tat mir leid. Der Abstieg war dann schwieriger als gedacht. Erstmal musste ich mich ausziehen. Na klar, der Brockenbeutel war noch nicht auf die sommerlichen Temperaturen optimiert, und ich hatte ohne nachzudenken das angezogen, was ich mir vor drei Wochen überlegt hatte… Dann war ich zu faul die Yaktrax rauszuholen, da waren ja die Jacken drauf. Meine Wanderschuhe waren zu eng. Vor allem im Zehenbereich. Zusammen mit meinem wunden Hintern habe ich so ein jämmerliches Bild abgegeben, dass Sanna sich weigerte mir meinem Rucksack nach kurz mal Halten wiederzugeben. Ohne Rucksack war es deutlich angenehmer. Dafür musste ich mich mit meinem Selbstideal alles alleine zu machen auseinandersetzen. Mir kann doch nicht jemand anderes meine Sachen (die wirklich schwer waren) nach unten schleppen. Nunja, irgendwann musste Sanna in die Büsche und ich hatte meinen Rucksack wieder, aber das war schon fast unten. Viel Zeit zu spüren, wie sehr mir das gegen den Strich ging. Alleine machen! War ich drei? Vielleicht. Die Bobbahn machte Programm, und ich setzte mich zweimal auf völlig unschuldig aussehenden Stücken auf den Hintern. Glücklicherweise aber mit Abfangen und ohne grösseren Schaden. Yaktrax? Wird sicher gleich besser. Wurde es nicht, aber irgendwann waren wir unten.

Im Cafe Winkler dann eine Eisschokolade und ab in den Bus. Danke fürs Pulli hinterhertragen, Aschu! Den hätte ich schmerzlich vermisst. Nach kurzer Fahrt durch den Ort hielten wir wieder an, und es stiegen noch drei Gestalten ein. Ui, die hatten versucht eine Abkürzung nach Schierke zu nehmen, und sind vom letzten Mann Markus überholt worden. Ist ja gerade nochmal gut gegangen. Die Rückfahrt verbrachte ich in einem Dämmerzustand, mit kurzen Wortwechseln mit Yvonne neben mir, eine der drei Zugestiegenen. Ich versuchte, mich im Moment zu halten, wollte die Länge der Strecke nochmal Revue passieren lassen, aber der warme Bus, das Geschaukel und die Schlafsaalathmosphäre taten ihren Teil. Und schwups waren wir auch schon wieder in bekannten Gefilden. Ich war kurz am Schwanken, ob ich mich an der Knochenmühle rauswerfen lassen sollte, aber zum einen hatte ich mir den Abstieg aus dem Wald vorher sehr schön ausgemalt, die Knochenmühle auch nicht soo viel näher (OK, es wäre einer statt 2km gewesen, aber dafür bergauf!) und zum anderen ist die B27 an der Knochenmühle nicht der Ort, wo man mit einem Bus eben mal anhält. Also noch eine Ehrenrunde durch Göttingen, und rauf zum Kehr. Ich bin als letzter gemütlich aus dem Bus gekrabbelt, und die meisten waren schon an ihren Autos, hatten sich versprengt. OK, keine grossen Abschiedsszenen. War ja auch schon spät. Also bin ich los, habe den dunklen Gestalten unterwegs noch alles Gute gewünscht, einen Menschen auf den rechten Weg geführt, er wollte zum Mittelberg und war drauf und dran die Bismarkstrasse runter zu gehen, und ich war wieder alleine. Im Wald. Mitten in der Nacht. Aber mitten in meinem Wald, und mitten in meiner Nacht. Was ist alles passiert, seit ich mit Ilka heute früh diesen Weg hochgestiefelt bin. Habe ich das erwartet? Nein. Es war um ein Vielfaches wunderbarer als ich es mir erträumt hatte. Ich genoss meine letzten Schritte, den kleinen Trampelpfad an der Abbruchkante, das Ankommen ins verschlafene Herberhausen, die unendliche Freude über diesen Wahnsinnstag.

Zu Hause brauchte ich noch eine Weile zum Runterkommen. War zu faul Tee zu kochen, essen wollte ich auch nichts, habe einen Liter Wasser getrunken, und bin um halb zwei ins Bett gefallen. Bis 10 Uhr habe ich dann versucht eine Liegeposition zu finden, wo meine Beine wenig schmerzten. Das kannte ich ja noch von Rüningen. Als ich irgendwann genug gelegen hatte und wieder in die Senkrechte kam, traf es mich: Kopfschmerzen. Weiha, wie der übelste Kater. Mist. Wo war der Fehler? Ich habe doch gestern so vieles richtig gemacht? OK, zum Normalzustand fehlte eine Menge Teein in meinem Körper. Salz? Vielleicht. Also Tee trinken und Salz ins Müsli. Zu viel Salz? Spätestens als ich zum Mittag eine Dose gesalzene Cashews verdrückte und mein Mund ziemlich anschwoll kam mir der Verdacht. Also kein Salz mehr. Aber Trinken. Die eine Tasse Tee nach dem Mittag war das übelste Zeug, was ich je im Mund hatte. Igitt. Aber meine Eltern, die mit den Kindern gerade eingetrudelt waren, meinten beide, der Tee wäre in Ordnung. Oha, hier lief was richtig dolle schief. Mit jedem Schluck hatte ich das Gefühl, dass entweder der Tee direkt in meine Zunge aufgesogen wird, oder andersrum diverse Flüssigkeit aus der Zunge strömte. Augen zu und durch. Die zweite Tasse ging dann besser. Langsam beruhigte sich mein Mund. Die Lippen schwollen ab. Nur die Kopfschmerzen blieben. Bis Montag früh. Aufstehen, Kinder fertig machen? Kein Spass! Auf dem Weg zur Arbeit kam dann die Erlösung, der Fahrtwind pustete den Kopf frei, die gewohnte Struktur am Schreibtisch gab mir genug Sicherheit. Ich war wieder im Lot. Uffa. Ich bekam sogar Lust, Laufen zu gehen. Aber nein, heute noch nicht. Das sollte erst Dienstag abend klappen. Ich tastete mich vorsichtig aus dem Haus, machte ein paar Schritte, wurde schneller, trabte die Strasse entlang. Hey, das tut ja überhaupt nicht weh! Sollte ich etwa…? Mal schauen, bis zur Mackenröder Spitze ging es fast besser als die Woche vor der BC. Also los, rüber auf den Hengstberg. #11. Und gute Laune. Also die lange Runde zurück, mann ging das gut. Ich liess laufen, freute mich über die geglückte Regeneration. Scheiss auf recovery runs, zwei Tage aussetzen war der Schlüssel. Diesmal. Nach der Hecke Rampe (klar, wenn man hier Steigungen übt, ist der Entsafter flach. Nur eben zehnmal so lang.) merkte ich doch dass ich am Wochenende was getan habe. Die Hüfte maulte. Genug der Eisrutscherei. Aber nein, bis hinters Kerstlingeröder Feld musste ich warten, bis es wieder eisfrei war. dann mal flott am Damwild vorbei nach Hause. Am Ende war ich froh, wieder zu Hause zu sein, aber hey, das waren 19k, in einer Zeit die ich mich vor ner Woche nicht getraut hätte. Cool!

Rueningen 24hour 2016

 
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.

A joyful day of pain

This year was the tenth anniversary of the 100k race called Thüringen Ultra ( http://www.thueringenultra.de ), just like five years ago they celebrated by adding a 100 mile Option. The date was fine, I was hungry for a loong race due to several missed ones this year, so I decided: This is the time to go 100 miles.

My preparation lacked quite a bit of miles, I knew. But I was determined, expected a lot of discomfort, a slow time, and wanted to have fun as much as possible. Usually, this approach turns out quite well for me.

The race is rather small, 120 100mile starter, 160 100k starter and some relay teams. It starts and ends in a village of 200 people, and roams the forest roads and trails of the Thüringer Wald, some German mountain range peaking at 900m altitude.

100mile starters had to pick their starting time such that they will reach 71k, the point where the milers reached the 100k route (at their 10k mark) between 4am and 7am, so that the entire field would not spread too much. I planned to leave at 7pm, as I figured 9hours for 70k must be fine. But on site several people told me they decided to go an hour earlier, as they were told that the first part was not as easy as it looked on paper. Also three pretty experienced people were on that wave, my preparation was already done, and I was eager to leave.

With a short intro a pack of about 40 was sent on the way, immediately easing into a slow jog, and out of the small village of Froettstaedt. We rolled through fields, woods, along train rails, over short hills, through open landscape which was kind of a nature’s reserve. Already before the start, I regretted having put some beans in the pre-race millet meal. Some gas did not find the exit, and I suffered more or less constant gut pain. During walking, I could massage it, but the pain stayed. In the week before the race I encountered a new nagging pain: the left adductor or gracilis hurt pretty sharply when running slow (presumably because I have a different gait running that slow). I could stretch the part and go on for another 200m, and had the issue again. This came up pretty quickly in the race too. I tried to change gait, run a little faster, stretched from time to time, and tried to forget about this pain, remembering the saying: ‘If something hurts at the start of an ultra, don’t worry, in the end something else will hurt (more)’.

During the first marathon, until it got dark, I went through all issues I had in the preceding weeks on training runs. They all came and went. Fortunately. All in all I could deal very well with the pain, in the sense that it never slowed me down.

The evening and the coming night were really nice weatherwise. We had sun, but no heat, and a gentle breeze keeping most bugs from us, despite some nasty horse flies, but no windchill. I ran with half length tights, a single thin longsleeve and my pack and was fine for the entire night.

When it got darker, I refused to take out my headlamp, as I so much like the dark woods, but unfortunately my companion at that time and me missed a turn on the perfectly marked course. There simply was no intersection, just two scantlings over a ditch. Someone behind us whistled and flashed his lamp, but stubbornly went on anyway. After 500m, nobody following us, I had a look at my watch’s navigation and saw that we were off track. When we found the improvised brigde (with headlamps the reflecting sprayed arrows were very well visible), we joined a larger pack and walked through the single track trail through something like a swamp. I would have liked to run, but 20+ people in front of me were not passable.

Right after the marathon mark aid station we climbed the peak of a hill leading to a long ridge with an exquisite single track trail. Unfortunately also with a significant number of roots which I had to learn the hard way on the first steps along the ridge. Some cut in the left hand bleeded a bit but I figured it would dry before I finish. One more spot of pain though.
The rigde was a wonderful experience. Just the way I liked running. A winding trail, soft ground, a bit of up and down, sometimes steep off to the sides, sometimes almost overgrown by the surrounding bushes. Every now and then, there was one of the lovely reflective arrows to assure us to be on track. I found my gear and headed off ahead of the big pack, knowing some 5 guys of the six o’clock wave in front of me. Right before getting down the rigde at the other end I passed two guys who started two hours earlier, taking the night easy.

Down in the valley we had to travel an endless bike path along a train track. What a contrast to the earlier trail. At some point I was unsure about the correct way and traveled back a bit until I met someone who assured me to go on. That was where we were passed by the first people from the 7pm start wave. Wow. They already made up an hour. At the next aid station there was a clash of those, the few slower runners we collected on the last mile and the big pack of my wave, who rolled in, when I was getting ready to leave.

Up we headed out of the valley, south back into the woods, up the next hill. With some orientation issues (there was no error for 100m, despite several (admittedly very small) tracks leaving our forest road), there was a longer line of small groups illuminating the forest with their headlamps. Sometimes two, somtimes more, several lonely runners, all heading slowly along their way. A pretty calmful portion of the race. At that point all the ‘we will be too early at the merging point’ chatter was calmed, we would not be there much before 4am, and to me it did not matter anymore. I just wanted to meet the 100k people. And I wanted to get as far as possible before being caught by them

At the merging point, 71k, at about 4:05am, I accessed my drop bag (the second, the first at the marathon mark did not contain anything I needed at that moment. Mostly because I needed no more than what was provided at the aid stations). I drank the beet root, ginger juice with some chia seeds, changed socks and shoes. Airing feet, a wonderful thing. Also, I changed to the very same model and size of shoes, yet they felt significantly different. Like i flattened the sole of the first pair a lot during the first part of the race. The other pair felt much more cushy. And fresh socks!

Also here I could finally hook my watch to a charger. I am a data guy, so having a full track of my run meant a lot to me. And even though I set my watch to a longer GPS polling interval such that it promised to hold for 12 hours, activating the navigation must have undermined that, draining the battery much faster. I could switch mid run to an emergency mode which polls even less often and shut down the navigation that the watch made it to 71k alive and kicking. Still a bummer. I need a new watch. Please Suunto release that Spartan Ultra already! I put the watch and charger in my pack and headed on. Now feeling the break, my fatigue, stiff legs and a bit of tiredness. Acutally, I was not tired the entire night until then, when the sky began to clear up again. Great!

The sunrise left me a bit disappointed. The lack of a clear view east is one of the very few spots the organizers did not plan properly. It just became lighter and ligher and then it was daytime again. This was about where the lead runners from the 100k race caught us. They blasted away like flying. Up a pretty steep slope. (Ok, everything above 3% grade seemed steep to me at that point.) Soon thereafter, I was eating some potatoe chips I got from my last drop bag, someone approached from behind, and without looking I offered some, just to recognize a friend, Falk. He shared a hug and his always supportive grin and went on, commenting my ‘you are among top ten’ with a ‘This is just a training run’. Later Aschu who drove me to the race passed by, again a much appreciated hug and encouraging words, which left my in much better spirit.

Somewhere around 98k I felt a sharp pain under my left foot. Like a pointy stone, which would not move in the shoe. I stopped, took my shoe off and found a blister, thumb sized, under the ball of my left foot. Darn. We already had some light rain, and some grass passages, so my foot was a bit wet too. I went on, not knowing what would be best, but decided to better tape the foot at the next aid station. Why I waited for that one, I don’t know. 2k later, I downed some coke, took a few waffles and another cup of electrolyte drink to a bench and dealt with my foot. Thankfully, Pat’s race report led my to the last minute purchase of baby wipes. They came in pretty handy to clean my feet before taping. I just put a large loop of Leukotape around my entire forefoot, covering the blister. I did not drain it, as my reading of John’s book was already quite a while ago, and I learned from some medic people that leaving a blister intact is the better option infection wise. That I still wanted to pound on it for 60k did not really go through my head then. I also taped the right foot the same way, just to be sure, and because I knew that it looked similar from the not-so-smooth skin under that ball like the left one. Here at this AS, I was passed by Alex and Kathi, who shared a bike on the 100k as a run/bike relay team. More encouraging words, some pityful looks because of my blister, and on they went.

At all aid stations I drank a lot. I do so every day, I figured my metabolism may be used to it, and this came out to be true. I sweated a lot during the night. And I did not pee that often. Usually, I drank half coke, half electrolyte drink, and when available broth, or tea which I mixed with coke to get rid of the gas. I was pretty happy to have the bladder of my race vest filled a bit, because I often had a dry sugary mouth a bit after an aid station. Just like the feeling when I fall asleep with a bonbon in my mouth (did not happen for quite some years now). Flushing the mouth with some water was a big plus.

Looking at the elevation profile of the race, I was always anxious of the part that laid directly ahead of me. A steep drop of about 400m, immediatlely followed by a climb of that same height. Running downhill was no longer fun (it has not been for some hours already). So I waited for the painful part. But it did not come. I went down gradually, more and more, but mostly on 3-4% grades. All runnable, for me in my current state. Only, I did not allow myself to walk, when it was neither to steep down, or up. So I ran for pretty long periods without stopping, which hurt in its own special way after some time. The blister was there, but seemed to be tamed a bit by the tape. And as we went down and down, eventually reaching an old railway track which was a tarmac bike path now, heading gently down into the valley, I realized that I was about to get that nasty looking downhill part done. This felt great. Despite the pain my legs were in for the extended periods of running. I threw in some Morton Stretches, which hurt like hell, stretching my quads, but I felt a bit looser after.

Reaching the downmost aid station was a relief and burden at once. I had to deal with my drop bag. Here I put my thick cushioned Torin, big enough for swollen feet (thanks, Cherie!), also I had to adjust to the weather. The nastiest rain seemed to be over though, so I did not change much. I also was in a very indifferent state. This was the point, at about 120k, where I just wanted this whole damn thing to be over. Good for my race, that the quickest way was to get moving and drag me to that finish line. That’s what I did.

Going into the 400m climb (now knowing that it won’t be steeper than 4% most of the way) it began to rain. And rain some more. And still. It was no big downpour, but a steady drizzle, getting into everything, and, even worse, constantly cooling me out. I had a hard time to run hard enough uphill to generate sufficient heat after I sat for 10 minutes at the aid station. This is where I lost the fun. It came back for small visits when people of the 100k crowd passed me and commented on how well I was moving. But mostly I was cold, drained, wet, tired, and in large pain. Speaking of pain (again), somewhere pretty early (50k, perhaps) I realized that the Butt Shield did not work as intended and I was getting the dreaded butt chafing. I got it from walking, and it hurt during walking. Not so much while running. So, just for the sake of pain relief, my walking breaks became much and much shorter. My running became much and much slower too.

One of the aims of this endeavor was to have spiritual epiphanies. I was pretty disappointed to stay pretty strongly connected to reality, for which I blame all the pain. When I looked for weird stuff in my perception, I found myself seeing animals all over the place. Horses behind a tree or bush, smaller things on the ground which turned out to be roots or fallen branches. At one point, I definitely saw a young boar, but strangely in this glow-in-the-dark yellowish-green. I rechecked and was sure that someone put a wooden figure of this boar there like there are wooden signs showing playing children in many villages to keep car drivers going slow. The thing was there. As I reached it (already checking for the neon-boar mother), it turned out a big rock with moss, mimicking the signing of a young boar. Well played. As this was the most significant kind-of hallunication, I decided to take the boar (maybe young) as my spirit animal.

During the last quarter, I got really tired from time to time. Never enough for my eyes to close automatically, but the urge to find a bench and wrap in my emergency blanket was there. Also, the pain and the senselessness of all this was getting to me. I was about to stop, and start sobbing every moment. Several times when this came up more strongly, I took this as an emotional and open moment, and directed my attention to the nice things aroung me. And surprisingly it worked. This emotional guy could as well get emotional over the beauty of rock formations, flowers, plants, running water, and whatnot.

I had some fun with Alex and his (shift working) bike crew, who were about the speed as me. And apparently, his buddies did not really think through what they had gotten themselves into agreeing to crew a runner for half a hundred mile race. The trail being as it was, they had a hard job to keep up on the uphills, and had to concentrate a lot on the downhills. Getting a sore butt, stiff hands. Being out there all night, or in the rain. All on the serve for a cranky runner. They had several louder arguings, but seemed to still like each other. This scenario cheered my up quite a bit. The crew mentioned that Alex promised to give them beer. And they laughed, when I told them, that this was a bad idea: They would be dead if they drank as much beer as they deserved for their ordeal.

After some more up and down through the woods, the route got to open fields, and it became clear that we approached the finish. It was still 20k ahead, but hey, 20k is an extended evening run. But usually, those hurt less. I let quite some people pass, fully settled into my shuffle, just focussed to keep moving. At one aid station, they had a barrow with a cozy blanket, and as I joked with the ladies running the aid station, that this is pretty appealing, I felt the urge to lay down there rising quickly, so I hastily got away.

During the cold, wet, windy hours, I refused twice to take a spare shirt of someone, just to ask the one guy a mile later, to lend it to me. Fortunately, the rain stopped quickly after and it got warmer. When we left the woods, the sun came out, and it became really warm. I met the guy again, who had shin issues, asking for ice at an aid station, and handed the shirt back. One thing less to worry about.

Soon thereafter I had a sharp pain in my left foot, it felt like running with bare flesh on rocks. The blister finally popped. 12k to the finish. I could not get much cheering out of the fact that my taping held up that long, but just gritted my teeth and stumbled on, waiting for the nerves to shut down, as I refused to listen. It somehow worked, but every now and then, especially on downhills, they fired up again. Making me wish for the finish line even more.

5k to the finish was kind of the party aid station. Run by a communal raido station, they asked for songs, the runners wanted to hear, and someone stood on a scaffolding tower with binoculars and checked the bib numbers. They announced every runner by name, saying some nice words, playing their songs. They even had some background info like how often the people already ran this race, how their finish times of the previous year was and so on. Reading about that circus beforehand, I was not sure, if I really would like it. But rolling into the AS, being announced, getting warm words, beeing cheered by a team of women with pom-poms was a great feeling, which lifted me up for another 800 meters or so. I was happy, even ran a bit faster after downing more coke.

But this high faded much earlier than I hoped for. The finish was so near, I could already see the landmarks, but the distance would not shrink. That the last part went through an industrial area did not help much after all the nice forest we roamed. About 4k to the finish, my legs decided that it is time to stop. I got cramps under my right foot, which I could only resolve by stepping on the egde on the sidewalk, pushing quite hard. Every 200 meters. I threw in some more Morton Stretches, but was about to cry every step. I did not, but stumbled on. And on and on. I was eagerly watching the distance on my watch grow, but it did not. Three or four people passed me in that last section, but I did not have anything left to clinch to them. No way. With all I was, I wanted to reach that finish line, and break down in tears. The last km-sign. Reaching Froettstaedt. Stumbling through small roads, around one last corner. Entering the finish area, seeing the arch. I was so relieved. Maybe happiness. Defintely pain. But also joy. The permission to stop. No more step to take. I flew over the finish line, somehow stopped. Got my medal and a milestone (the award for 100mile finishers) from the two little girls who handled the finish ceremony apparently autonomously, and they did it well and professionally. With my medal I stepped back , and got down to kiss the finish line, the most appropriate way to worship a place I so much longed for. After stepping aside for the next finisher, I already got a printout of my splits. Wow.

To get to an end of this report I spare the description of the painful shower, the delirium I was in on our way home, and the thankfulness I felt that Aschu drove me right home and I did not have to get my stuff by bike over the hill between his place and mine.

This was the singlemost painful thing I ever did voluntarily. Until now. But I did it. And survived. Again? Ask me in a week.

The data: movescount

A few words two days after: I am very surprised to regenerate that well. The blister still bugs me, but the butt was calm after some wound cream. I can, and could yesterday, walk down stairs, foward, without holding the handrail. I could even do this with a 30kg kid in my arms. I had no cravings whatsoever, after the race, the next day or now. I seem to have lost 1.5kg of body fat, which is in line with my expectation. I had no headache I have after a hard underwaterrugby tournament. I was a bit tired on Sunday, slept until 9am, slept an hour at noon, and half an hour in the afternoon. That is it. OK. my coworkers tell me I walk funnily, but this is because of the blister, and ‘some’ soreness mostly in the hips. And I love my compression pantyhose. Without it, my ankles were double the size. Maybe it also helps holding together the rest of my legs too. Still, my expectations were to crawl around for a week, requesting a wheelchair. This is so much better. So, maybe I do belong.