Belonging – no race report this time

Attention, attention. This post contains open advertising, which is kind of compensated by getting free shoes. The latter is not the reason for my opinion but might be seen as such, if you don’t trust me. #ad #altrarunningeurope and whatever hashtags this needs.

During my evolution towards a distance runner, I came across the obstacle of toe blisters, knee pain and other niggles that called for a reassessment of my footwear and gait. See, e.g., here. After some tries from ‘traditional’ running shoes towards less drop, straight big toes and ‘barefoot’ shoes (one of my favourite nonsense words) without any cushioning or heel and a wide roomy toebox, I stumbled upon the brand Altra. The tip came from the ultra list, for sure. This was exactly what I needed. Some sort of Birkenstocks for running. Well, without the strong foot bed. It took me a while to get a hold on a pair of Superior 1.5, via Amazon from the US, with picking up from the customs and paying import taxes. I loved the shoes. They were wide, comfy, pretty direct to the ground, and looked a lot like the shoes of the rabbit with the fast shoes from the Janosch tales ­čÖé┬áAlmost. Only, they were a tad too short. I already noticed that my running (and expecially upping the distance) made for some serious foot growth, or less shoe pressure tolerance. Every now and then I needed to go up a size. From EU42-43 over many steps to 46.5 that I wear at the moment. So, I got another two Superiors, and, as the shipment cost was more or less the same, another few Altras that were on sale. The 3sum, and some other I need to look up, they are still somewhere in the back of the shelf. For my first Brocken-Challenge, I got the LonePeak 2.0, which did a great job, but it became clear that I need the immediate ground feel and felt a bit blind with the cushioning of them. So, Superiors it was. I made it all the way from the unlucky 2.0 over two pairs of the refined 2.0, a pair of 3.0, two of the 3.5 where I mixed colors (left black, right red at the office, left red, right black at home) and got plenty of comments for that, finally to two pairs of 4.0, both in grey/red as they were on sale. This was sidelined by a plethora of pairs for special puposes: LonePeak 2.0 Neoshell for winter running, later when I decided that my feet will be wet anyway winter walking, LonePeak 3.0 Neoshell mid for alpine hiking, the King MT for exclusively trail runs and alpine running, Torin 2.0 for the late stretches of looong races when I needed cushioning and more room (upped them another size), Escalante, two pairs of One V3 for road running. I am pretty sure I missed one or the other pair.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is, I am nuts for these shoes. They fit my square feet perfectly, they comply with my running style (that I refined for these shoes over the span of a year!) and they offer the right amount of cushioning and grip for what I do. I began to convince more and more people to try them, which got much easier since there is a European web shop… But my main point in thoses sales discussion was always: Do whatever you want, but I’ll never wear other shoes for running again.

Then came an announcement over Facebook that they (Altra) were looking for people, hobbyists, that would like to represent the brand as their ‘team red’. Wow, I thought. As much as I like them, they better get me on board! Bummer, this was only for the US. But a tad later I found out that there will be a European section coming. So I waited and finally found the instructions on how to apply and so I did. Longish silence. And then a congratulations letter that they chose me for the team, with a pile of lawyer-speech filled documents that I am supposed to sign, stating that I put stuff like the first paragraph on┬á top of all my Altra-mentioning posts, that I should post some ad every month, and how this should look like. Ugh, I was turned off immediately. This was so not me and my connection (and, yes, love) to these shoes. This was binding, boring, and also pushing. So I declined, stating my reasons, and was a bit sad that this took such a turn.

But I got an immediate reply in the nice and personal tone that I was used from my contacts with Altra. (I once was given an internal excel sheet of how the different models relate to each other size wise, so I could order my shoes from the US where a return was prohibitvely expensive.) Of course I understood the implications of me putting Altra in good light on social media without mentioning that they gave me stuff for free. I am glad that such a disclosure is obligatory nowadays. And I understand that a legal document will always sound like a legal document. So, the personal connection, the understanding of my feelings and the assurement that they still would want me to join the team, I retraced my resignement. And was excited of what this will bring.

Within all the excitement and installation of the team red then came Corona, and the cancellation of all races. Bummer. The team exists, but is not really visible apart from some facebook posts. Still, I am excited how this will take off once the race scene is opening up again. I am looking forward to meeting these people in person!

Nobody wants to play with me – KatzenSprung’s Backyard Ultra 2019

Lots have been said about Backyard Ultras. If you are new to the concept, just google ‘Big’s Backyard Ultra’ for the origin. Just a few words: Every entrant starts for a loop of 6.7k every hour. Whoever fails to finish the loop within that hour is out. Who quits is out too, of course. The race ends when only one runner finishes a loop within the hour. That concept is so incredibly simple. And allows for so intense races, tension for days, cheering for people you never heard of, eager for the next post via ultra list of the remaining runners in some woods in the backcountry of Tennessee. And the runners deliver. People who never thought of being contender for first place in an ultra are tied for the lead, every hour again. Until they fall apart. Or lose the will to continue. This adds a big psychological aspect to the race. Everyone will be a DNF, but one. At most. So, when a runner gets into thinking that the other runners will be much stronger and outrun you, where’s the point in suffering on? People drop once they think, they cannot win. So, there is some poker game going on. Everybody will look great, cheerful, happy and easily running. It is a short loop of 6.7k anyway, who cannot do this in 60 minutes? But beware the time a person decides to call it quits. They go from 100% to empty in a split second. So much for the excitement about Backyard ultras.

Last Christmas, I talked to my brother again about how simple such a backyard ultra is to organize. And he told me, he wanted to hold one in Bremen. I encouraged him, and he made me promise, I will run it when it happens. I thought this to be a short lived idea, and somehow forgot about it. Every now and then we exchanged brief messages about the race. He already had a name, and a venue in his head. Only, the officials for the Bremen Buergerpark seemed to be a bit hard headed and not so happy of the idea that 30 people might run themselves to pieces in the park. Well, I am sure, Jan put it a bit differently, but still, no luck. So I thought this would not happen. Then he told me, he had another venue with more willing officials. The Werder island. A park with lots of small gardens in the middle and a long, flat, asphalt cycle path on the outside. And some spot to put tents on and two port-a-potties. Anything else necessary for the run? I don’t think so. He asked me for a date, I picked one, well in advance the Stunt100 for which I wanted to be fresh. And it was set. We did some advertising on FB, tried to get some runners to the event. With only five weeks to go, and a more or less niche race format, this was a hard endeavor. But after a while we had some ten or twelve people coming. Enough for this to make sense. 35 would have been cooler, but for the in inaugural event, and with that short period of announcement, that was great!

Thanks to the DUV statistics, I got a good idea of the runners. Some were friends of Jan, who never ran a Marathon before. Well, every time is a first, but for these people 30k sounded like a superhero effort. Then there were some runners, who already ran their ultra or two, not with big mileage, but you never know. Jan for example, never went longer than the Brocken Challenge to this day. Somehow I believed him that 100k was sufficient for him. Tanya did the Thueringen Ultra 100k several times, and I was trying to get her to run hundred miles for quite some years now. This year should be it. And it was partly in my hands to make this event long enough for her to go long. Then there were Frank, Morton and Holger who were in principle able to run 24h plus. But in a Backyard you never know. I thought of myself being the updog here. Maybe Tanya can get me when I make a mistake, and maybe one of the other runners just waited for a backyard ultra to show big class.

Then came a big bummer. I browsed through my mail and stumbled upon the date of the German Championship in underwater rugby. Argh. Same date as Katzensprung! No! We were far from being qualified, but we pulled this off last year, from a very bad position to hop to a spot in the championships. I dreaded the last league round. I fought with all I got, and the others too. It came as it should, and we qualified again, and I had to tell my team, I will leave them hanging as I promised my brother to run a stupid race that weekend. Gosh, was I torn. But promise was promise, so I ducked away, ready to be expelled, and prepared for an indefinite amount of running in Bremen. I could sleep in the van of my brother, got a train together with Tanya and made plans to go shopping for race treats once we were in Bremen. The train part did not let me pack as I do for a 24h race. And this might take even longer. Ouch. Shopping was fun though. Imagine browsing through a supermarket and put everything in the cart that you love to eat, is as calory rich as possible, and lots of it. Don’t forget the pickles. And a carrier of alcohol free Weizenbeer. Only, how will we get this stuff to the race site, which was a mere 3k from the train station? Luckily, Jan got us with his van, and we did not have to waste energy on the hike. Tanya pitched her tent, I inspected the race site and packed my stuff in the box that Jan provided for me, arranged the camping chair, while he went to mark the course. At 11pm. He came back quickly and decided, he will mark the course on the first loop in the morning, this is supposed to be a low key race. After all, It was not so difficult. We went to sleep, with our alarm to four am, when the start would be at 5:22, exactly at sunrise.

The night was cold, the van itself was of no help, but the day was supposed to be hot, so better enjoy the cold as long as I can… The five hours of sleep passed quickly and I was so not in the mood to get out of the sleeping bag and run. But it had to be done. Some car pulled up next to us, and another, and then a third. Nice to see the other runners, willing to do the endless circle with us. And Bernd, Jan’s father in law, himself a regular marathon runner, and he did 55k once. Nice last minute addition! I arranged all my spare shoes and equipment that I might need for the next night, or after it, in the trunk of the van, put on my watches and greeted the other contestants. At 5:10, Jan said some words, explained the rules, and how we should put our times in the list on the table. Either put the duration of our loop in the right field, or just the time of day when thinking would get harder. The official race clock was a cheap plastic alarm clock that Jan bought the day prior. It was able to show some colorful lighting through its white plastic case. Aside the table with the list and the clock, there was a larger tent where Jan had put some carriers of sparkling water, and as I insisted, some canisters of still water. I put my beer and bananas in the tent too, got out my chair and put the box with all my stuff next to it, and was set to go. It felt a bit weird to have all this unoccupied for most of the hours, but remember, this is a park in northern Germany, and it was kind of obvious that some event was happening here, and it was not obvious if there were people in the tents, so I tried to put all things of bigger value in the van and not in the box. The one last, and maybe the most important addition to the race setup were the two port-a-potties, that a confused delivery truck driver put within the bushes as he misunderstood as far into the park as possible.

Time elapsed and we set off. The first round, Jan showed the way, and marked the occasional corner to take. We had fun, were all chatty, but still a bit sleepy. And it got lighter, the sun showed just above the horizon. With no cloud anywhere, this was a not so colorful, but still impressive moment, to see the ball of fire, big and orange, making its way through some building and trees until it was set right to warm us entirely. There were some sections where we did not take the paved ways but cut two corners and went over the grass. This made for some nice wet feet, right from the start. Why? was my main thought, but I figured this will dry out again, and I had enough pair of shoes if this would become an issue. Aside those small cut corners, the route was entirely asphalt, a very short section of cobblestone, almost flat, but we had to get about a meter of elevation onto the dike between the land and the river Weser, or back down, occasionally. All in all a rather boring course when I think about all the trails I usually run. But this was a public park, so I expected it to fill with people who will give some distractions of the overall repeating routine.

The first loop was done, the course was marked, and we were in good spirits. Chatting, laughing, trying some mind games on each other like comparing return ticket times. A very good group of people. We went out again, and visited the course once more. Yep, still the same. Corners became more familiar, more tiny details emerged in the perception of the surrounding. Yes, this was definitely fun. If only there was no sun and heat scheduled (well, after surviving the STUNT, I can only smile about the ‘heat’ in Bremen in May). But there I was anxious about what was coming. No shade for long stretches, no cooling wind and temperatures I was not used to yet. But in the first rounds everything was fine, and we kept up the chatty atmosphere. Only, I noticed the group tempo was a bit too slow for me. I wanted to have more time to sit down in the shade and drink. So I sped up and ran alone most of the remaining loops. This worked out perfectly. I always had a good feeling being first back in camp, and getting some rest until the next persons arrived. Yes, it was a bit taxing to run faster, but I was out of the sun earlier, no? Also I began walking breaks, mostly on the first half of the loop when the few trees held away the sun. And then every bit of uphill, which was not much.

Over the hours, people began to drop. Some because they did not want to run far in the first place, others because of appointments later the day (shakes head…) and then some because of exhaustion. Frank, who had big plans, brought his own gazebo, and was definitely eager for the night got dizzy in the heat. He made one loop barely in under an hour, and as I was trying to get out of him if he had a cell phone to call us when he had to drop somewhere on course, he told us that he quit. Dang. I was sorry for him, as was he. I was no longer that fresh too, but could get along with the heat quite well. I had my sunblocking long sleeve and after putting a Tshirt under my cap for neck protection and wondering if a thin white cloth might not work much better. Then I had a brilliant idea. I simply cut a buff open and put that one under the cap. Problem solved! Also, I drank a lot of Weizenbier, Coke, and tea. Mixed with bananas and potato chips, and I was really well fed. As the legs were getting more and more tired, I felt like in a steady state that could go on forever. Well, it did not. I had to work more and more, and began to wish night might already fall. But it was still a long time to go.

Having some experience in short loop races, I was expecting boredom after some loops. But this was different. The hour was long enough that the course changed quite a bit between loops. Being a public park, there were many people around and I got lots of insights like waves of different folks flooding the park. Shortly after sunrise we met the fitness enthusiasts. 80% female, sometimes looking determined, sometimes looking like pre-coffee, a very few of them really enjoying moving in the early morning chill with a blue sky and a huge sun creeping over the horizon. They were soon complemented by the dog owners. All genders, and mostly looking like it was not their idea to leave the house before 7am on a Saturday. As the runners were getting more and more happy, relaxed and casually jogging, came an unexpected wave of daddies with little kids. The kids between half a year and two, in a bike trailer or some other cart, again sound asleep and their fathers either asleep on a bench themselves or enjoying a newspaper or a book. I barely saw one of them actually pushing their vehicle or interacting with an awake kids. An hour later they were all gone again. The dog owners became more and more positive and doing longer strolls. The first people where populating benches for some sun bathing. Early in the day, cyclists were either falling into the fitness enthusiast category, late from a party, or on a commute, being in a hurry. This changed gradually. Bikes became electrified, their way was less and less straight. More and more bikes were leaning against benches, trees, laying in the grass, their owners sitting alone or in groups, more and more populating the park. There was one wave of soccer fans flooding towards the stadium, then lots of crowd noises and then the wave retracted back into the ocean of their homes, with some green and white people stranding in the park with more or less beer in their bellies and heads. I even saw the Werder team bus going over the bridge which crossed our course twice.

Many people came to work in their little remote gardens. Or just hang out. Or meet with friends, family. All paths resembled veins in a big system, transporting human particles back and forth, some with a purpose, some without. Having an hourly snapshot of every meter of the course was highly entertaining. This group grew, the other resolved. That couple hopped from one bench to the next. A family reunion met in front of a cafe, then sat in it, their kids started playing on the playground next to it, and finally they parted again. Apparently some sections of the Werdersee shore were a nudist beach, where we had to run by. For some rounds I hoped they would not feel offended that we ran by every hour, but later I just enjoyed that this is possible in a German city. This place was mostly sunbathing, but also had quite some fluctuation of people.

I expected people to recognize me, all the more when I was wearing shades and my funny napkin under the cap, but not a single word from bystanders. But we as a group of backyarders totally dissolved in the crowd of people seeking recreation in the park. Even the youth groups gathering later in the afternoon did not make fun of me. I sometimes felt as an invisible observer of a huge experiment. Then there were short interactions. Plain eye contact in moments of awareness on both my and the opposite side. Brief but sometimes deep. But very few words were exchanged. Only once I saw a couple with heavy looking Ebikes eating lunch from styrofoam plates. Next round they were gone, but two plastic bags with very familiar looking plates next to their bench. This made me angry. Somehow it felt like my park already, and no one dares to litter here! a quarter round later, I found the two sitting on the river shore. So I stopped and told them directly that I saw them eating an hour earlier and that what looks like their remainders was still next to the bench and I don’t like that. They tried to tell me that they would never litter, but I did not stay, but just leave after my words. This was a very empowering moment. Usually, I just swallow and not speak up. This time I did and it felt great. It was not even as bad as I always fear when contemplating whether to address things I don’t want other people to do. Next hour the plastic bags were gone ­čÖé

More and more drops happened over the day. Especially Tanya having to leave made me sad. I was so sure she would go a hundred miles for her first time that day. But some sharp knee pain ended her run. Jan had already dropped earlier without setting a new personal longest. There always was some poker before the start of a new loop. No one came back and called it quits if it was not for a fixed deadline. People started gathering at the wooden posts and then refused to go out, so no one could try to get them to try another loop. They were out. Also, Tanya and Jan knew that I was looking for a long experience and they were sad they could not assist me with that. This left Morton and me. He looked strong, happy, cheering, patient. A hard opponent. I wished for signs of weakness, but he showed none. We did some war speak here and there, but it felt more like trying out the new game we were doing here, than actually convincing the other or even ourselves. Still, the ‘early’ drops made for a feeling of losing playmates. Hey, please stay in the game! Don’t leave! But they did anyway. This led to a feeling, described by the title of this post.

The heat got to me. I felt lots of wear. And I longed for the drop in my chair in the shadow. So I went quickly over the course as ever. But it felt more and more hard. Then came some bowel distraction. I made it to camp, and did not dare to go immediately, mostly because the portapotties were 50m downstream. So I took my break, refuled, saw Morton coming in. After a short rest we got up again, to leave for the next loop. In the first meters I told him, I would use the toilet and then catch him later. I hurried quite a bit and felt stressed. Not in a comfortable lead for the first time for long. I expected this loop to take 55 minutes or even longer and to have only a very short break. But the stress led me to run a tad faster than usual, and I was surprised to meet Morton already a mile before the end of the loop. I wanted to stay with him and chat, but he was walking and obviously in a bad spot, and sent me on. I went and reached the cool shelter and my drinks. Morton came in, did his routine and we set out again. This would be the last day loop. The mercyless sun was about to let us go. Relief.

We went on with the whistle and Morton began to praise the cool night to come through which it would be a piece of cake to run. I answered enthusiastically that I was so waiting for the night to fall and that I love to run in the dark, especially after a host day. Really looking forward to eight hours of silence and peace. And I wanted to share those with him, for sure. But suddenly, he shook his head and said with a grin ‘Well, that bluff did not work as intended. I’m out’. Whoa! This took me by surprise. And it made me very sad. For him to drop. For this race to be over soon. Also for my distance being way less than I hoped for. This was supposed to be my longest run ever, which meant 180k+ at that time. Well, did not happen. But having Morton go back and being alone on the course on my final lap was hard. Yes, I was already baked from the day. Yes, my legs were stiff for quite a while now. This was not really fun anymore. And now the loop seemed endless, although I was running fluently through it like I did 15 times before. I shifted the idea back and forth to use the nudist beach, ripping off my running clothes and run into the cool water. I so wanted this for the entire day. But there was a nagging voice in my head. What if Morton played a trick on me? There is no rule to be honest in the mind games in a backyard. When I was making sure to stay a tad under the hour to come back to camp, and he would have snuck behind me all loop, I’d be done. Then, with drenched clothes getting a pit stop in a minute or two was impossible. So I hobbled by that section and made my way up the final ‘climb’ and was greeted by many people. I found big relief when I saw Morton with the others, in new clothes. Phew, this was really it. I did it. Won the first edition of the Katzensprung. Yeah!

Dropping in my chair I began eating and drinking, and with the falling night I became cold. Take the relaxation of the entire system my status went downhill really soon. Jan told me afterwards that I took a really long time until I was able to leave the chair again. Yes, this was not a piece of cake. No Katzensprung as the name would suggest. This had been hard work. We said goodbye, more people left, we (ha, all but me) took down the tents, removed our traces from the camp and finally I was packed into the van too and we were going to Jans place, Tanya and I could get a camping mattress there. We got a pizza on the way which was exactly what my body needed when we came to his home. The night was horrible, mostly because the mattress had a puncture and I was basically laying on the floor. I thought it was my legs and hop from the run that hurt. Well…

Anyway, this was a lots of fun. Would do it again. Next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll never run alone – KiLL50 2019

I heard and read a lot about the KiLL50. It was kind of my run, but I never managed to enter, mostly because the ‘Goldener Ball’, an underwater rugby tournament we usually use to prepare for the next league season, is always on the same weekend, but also because entering the KiLL is not straightforward, but needs an invitation by the race director, just like the STUNT100. The story behind the KiLL is a nice one to tell (this is the story I was told, so no guarantees here): Two guys were running in the annual 50k ultra through the valley of the Leine, on a nice, sunny summer afternoon, along fields and the occasional village. A first ultra for many, but for those two, it lacked lots of things that would make them proud of the accomplishment of finishing. Having people brag with becoming an ultra runner after this run probably did a thing too. So, they decided this was boring, and they would organize a run that is the opposite in many directions. It would not be a tad over a regular marathon, but 50 miles rather than 50k. It would not go nicely flat through the valley but over hills and hills and hills. And there are many around. It would not be in summer, but in November, no nice warm breeze but loads of mud, chilling winds and rain. Perhaps some hail or snow? And finally, the run would not be in plain daylight, but entirely in the dark. Sounds nice, eh? The KiLL50 was born, the abbreviation for ‘kein idyllischer Landschafts-Lauf’. Take a race director who likes to describe himself with quotes of Terry Prattchet talking about Death, doing his best to make the run sound painful and agonizing, getting satisfaction out of drops, and providing some more hurdles to increase the probability of failure: The most evil one was to put the race in two loops, one, 50k, through the valley up into the Hildesheimer Wald over the Tosmar ridgeline, to Diekholzen, with a small water drop, back into the forest and nice trails until Barfelde (the one with the cursed Garage of the last loop of the STUNT) towards the Tafelberg with an endless climb, an immediate steep drop and another climb up the Wettenser Schlei, probably 30% incline over one km, and when you think you are up again, there is one other endless climb, not steep, but long and after the Schlei not runnable at least by me, then you reach the Herberge again. Here is your stuff, your sleeping bag, loads of food and drinks, some nice people hanging out. The ideal place to call it quits when you just made 50k through wind, rain, mud and endless climbing. To go out the second loop seems the single most hardest thing for many. Then there were only a few aid stations. The first one with water and Dominosteine, some German sweet weirdness in my view, one other reason for failure for sure. Another one at 32k, well equipped if you don’t rely on caffeine and can live without coke (well, he said it was a mistake, but you never know). Then the Herberge at 50k which was way too well equipped. And finally a box in the woods with some water and, yeah, coke. I lost track of km markers by then though. All this aside, Michael, Susanne and all other volunteers did a great job supporting us through this night.

When I realized that I must not play in the tournament because of a vein surgery, I was trying to spontaneously sneak in the run. It worked. Michael accepted me ‘as if YOU had to beg here’, wow, that made me proud! He also sent me a name when I asked for potential rides, passing by Goettingen: Georg Kunzfeld. I tried my Google-fu to locate an email address and was immediately star-struck. This is the German who ran Barkley. Twice. I read about the Barkley long ago when I entered the ultra mailing list. First it appeared as some proverb, later I figured this is something real and inhaled some race reports. This race was too good to be true. And also, it was so not for me as a race can be. Lots of people told me about their secret daydreaming of the Barkley, setting this as their fantasy ultra goal and whatnot. I did not get it. Well, all reports seemed so down to earth, as if those guys were humans. Then I learned about Nick placing second (or even winning?) at UTMB. OK, scratch that. And Barkley became a saying again. Something others do. I liked to follow stories as I read a novel. Then came my 180 and 184k at Rueningen. Fabian, Sascha, Ramon, Jan, and some more tried to talk me into Spartathlon, now that I have a qualification. I shrugged. Too hot, too dusty, too long, too boring, too much asphalt. Aschu and Silvio laughed a bit as it was pouring rain and hail the year they were there. So I took a look into that race. It is evidently epic in the story it tells. It seems like you get a very good team spirit within the bigger nations. And I wanted to look over the edge of more or less hundred miles anyway. Holy moly, 600 Euros registration? Plus flight? And obviously taking my family if I am there for such a long time? Ilka suggested I can try to make this my birthday wish. At age 50! Ha! Anyway, the thought to go far for a very long race was planted, and I shifted it back and forth. Finally, it crept up: If I do all this for a race, it better be a race I really want to run. Like a real wish. Also, having all these forest roads to run at the STUNT and TU, I tried to think of a run with a much higher trail percentage. JUNUT came to mind but ended with some family differences. WiBoLT is a tad too far, but still a good thing. Another date collision. Argh! All these thoughts led to figuring out where I want to go in the long run. This was the time the virus began to spread. Slowly. I thought about getting the map of Frozen Head above my desk at the office. Just as a training motivation. I spoke to Pat who showed me his ­čśë While looking over google finds for FHSP or Barkley maps, I was sucked in more and more. Reading more race reports, getting an idea about the names of the summits, valleys etc. Intense.
And now I was trying to contact a Barkley vet to ask him for a ride to Wrisbergholzen? I did not dare. Then after some days trying to recover from the shock, I asked Michael to pass a message to Georg, but never got a reply. Asking Matthias the same a few days after, I got the info that the other Michael will get him from the train station in Alfeld, so I could just join them. Good idea! Still they were arriving quite early so I tried to get the car to go there myself. This worked out, and I left the family for good at the lunch table and drove to the start. One stop at one of the many parking spots around Alfeld with those tiny shabby love mobiles to sort out my stuff that I simply threw in the car and I knew that I would be too agitated to sort it on the race site. Sleeping stuff in the big duffle bag, running clothes on the rear seats, gosh I love our van and it space! Filling the vest with spare clothes, lamps, buffs, bars (snickers and rawbite) and putting food I wanted to eat while driving in reach and on I went around the truck parking behind the love trailer.

At the Kulturherberge I changed into most of my running gear, got all the rest together and hopped out of the car to greet Peter, who I meet every now and then, lately at Rueningen. He even helped me get all my gear inside, which was a tad too much for one person. Did I mention that 24h runs spoil me totally in terms of stuff to bring to a race? The three logs of wood and the honey from my dad which were part of the entry fee, did not help with the weight either. Inside, I was greeted by a chilling crowd, many known faces (sorry Florian, it took me until I was home to realize we both ran the STUNT in 2018) Michael H., Heiner, Brigitte, Otti, Christiane, on her quest to work up to the STUNT next year, Current stop 80k through the hills and through the night. Many faces I did not know yet, but I worked my way through. Not few people were eating pasta  with some good looking and smelling tomato sauce. An hour before a race start? Wow.

I fiddled a lot with all my stuff, tried to drink as much as possible. And was asked if this was the bag for the aid station. Haha, no! This is all my tea! No one dare to touch it! Yes, it was quite a lot, but I wanted to be independent of any tea source until home again. I found a place to put my mattress and sleeping bag in the aquarium, a nice room with huge windows. Somehow along the preparation I got to know Michael N and Susanne, the race directors. They said the words ‘ah, you will be one of the faster guys, right?’. No? How come? Well, I did not plan to run until 8 in the morning, but get some solid hours of sleep before the awards ceremony. So, maybe yes, I’ll be one of the faster people out there. Will I? Did I mention my knee yet? Such a bad incident. On the fall fest at the Sababurg park, I slipped over a rock, and fell vertically on my left knee, all weight on it. After a short shock and the try to walk it out, I realized that serious damage had happened and went for some ice to the medics. And week of using the elevator followed, limping my way through the monastery of Schoental, the place I love to run a lot, booo! Another week of limping, and a third of ‘to be sure’ of no running. That after a week of virtually no running because of the anticipated high mileage week in Schoental. Darn. 4 weeks off. And still some nagging pain in the left knee. Only, I tried to convince myself and others that as long as the right knee hurts too from running, there’s a chance that the pain in the left leg is also due to starting over after the training gap and not the fall. Well, I did not really believe myself. But I managed to get into the KiLL, so I better get moving and remind those legs what they are here for! That’s the total inverse taper: Taking four weeks off and working my way from zero to 50 miles in about three weeks. Stupid, but I had no choice :-/
So, there I was, presented as one of the fast ones, with a questionable knee, a definitely bad preparation, and totally caught by Barkley fever and star struckness. Anyway, I got my stuff ready, did not pack a drop bag for the one aid station (30k in and only 20k till all my stuff? Why bother!). Put on the safety vest as Michael asked us to because of possible remainders of the hunting party in the woods. A last very successful restroom visit. Not to forget proper relubing. And we all went outside the Herberge to have Michael announce ‘one minute’ and then some ‘my watch shows 1700, what are you all still doing here?’ and off we went.
The first stretch was all downhill, so I positioned myself rather upfront, but behind the four who sped off like rabbits. So I found myself together with Peter when we entered the muddy trail down to Wrisbergholzen after 400m. We chatted and bolted behind the lead group of Georg, Amadeus, Matthias and Jamie. The latter one getting slower on the more technical and steeper parts. That is where I left Peter and ran directly behind her. Only to let her go on the steeper uphills to come. Michael joined me, and later Peter caught up to us, complaining that his borrowed Garmin (handheld) did not show the track anymore. This becomes a pattern ­čśë Fortunately, Michael is a Garmin expert and I could leave the two fiddling with the device running full boar down a hill right before Petze (I sooo love the names of the villages there!) and reaching the lead group. Amadeus shouted something like ‘attention, someone is approaching’ and they made room for me, but I was already at the foot of the hill and no longer in the urge to run that fast. So I joined the group and was a bit surprised to run with those guys. When Georg asked ‘Hands up, who did not yet win this race?’ and nobody reacts, I thought this was a joke, then I realized that he and Jamie did, so must the other two, and I mumbled something along the lines ‘Well, I did not. But this is my first go at the KiLL, so I had no chance yet’. Was that me talking so boldly? Wow. When we entered the Hildesheimer forest and the forest road climbed a bit, I let the four leave again and was caught first by Michael then by Peter, who finally got his navigation running. Some downhill part later I joined Jamie and Georg, while Michael, Amadeus and Matthias were only some light spots further up the trail. The going got rougher and Jamie fell behind, and Georg and I began to chat. I was very happy that this happened so easily, and he was very open to my questions, mostly concerning the Barkley, but also many other interesting topics came and went in our conversation. We passed Michael, and tried to catch up to Matthias and Amadeus, as Georg did not want to have them run out of sight. Not so easy. But we were so quickly up the Tosmar ridgeline, and immediately it was over again. The benches and the hut came very surprisingly. We bolted up and down, always within my abilities if you forget for a moment that I wanted to run 50 miles that night. Downhill to Diekholzen I took the lead, uphill, Georg was much faster, but he said that he wanted to take the beginning easy and that he usually warms up after 50-60k. Well, I’d have some serious death and rebirth cycles scheduled until then… All in all we had a very good time, chatting and flying over the trails. Only, it got more and more exhausting for me. At one point I even overlooked a root and fell down, but without bigger damage. Most importantly, I did not roll over my pack and did not break my bladder. This was my main fear with this huge spacing of aid stations. Georg did a very good job keeping my spirits up, waiting for me when necessary and asking me to push it when possible. Of course I did not want to be the cause of him running a bad time, so I took all I got to follow him. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. Really good company. If only I was a tad fitter. Later, after the race was over, Georg told me that he stalked my DUV statistics before the race and got a bit worried if I was a threat to him competition wise. This led him to speed up on the trails more than he would have done without me, just to wear me out. Well, I felt hugely honored by that. And yes, it worked. I was so done after the 30k mark, right before we reached the aid station in Heinum. I needed to walk much more than I would have liked, but that was that. At the station, he was getting his poles and took some food and was off immediately. I got some broth, hooray. This was gold after the long cold windy valley. And snickers. And took one of the gels they offered. And malt beer. While we were talking, Michael N looked down the field and said that Michael H is coming. He knows him by his limp. Michael was quick at the aid station and while I was leaving he pulled up to me and we went on together. Towards the big climb up Tafelberg. Georg told me that there will be a 30 minutes walk after the aid station anyway, but somehow I did not really believe him. Well, he was right. Nothing runnable for a very long time. I was soo tired as these moments. Michael and I chatted a bit, but also had long stretches in silence, just trotting upwards. From time to time I just wished he would speed off, and I could lay down besides the trail and take a nap. A level stretch had us running again, me without any fuel in the tank, loads of desire to walk, and so I did. At the tiniest incline. But Michael walked as well, and so we reached Tafelberg together. Downhill again! Painful downhill running. The soft trail helped a bit. My happiness to have made the right choice with the small green handheld for better ground vision on the trail helped too. But I was still worn out. Fortunately, the downhill was way shorter than I expected. Painful, but short. Now we were dreading the Wettenser Schlei. Very steep, very rocky, over a km long with what? 30% incline? About that. But it took a long, long time to get there. Sleepiness, getting colder, still behind on calories, we trotted alongside each other. Then the Schlei itself was way less taxing. We just walked it up until we were done. And we were. Looking for a bench to collapse on, we just found a huge fallen tree to sit on for a minute or two until the heart rate would go down again. I tried a morton stretch and was so surprised by a very sharp pain in my patella tendon, the damaged left knee was very angry at me. I immediately tried to get the weight off that leg, get up and hoped that the knee would just forget what happened.

Downhill became a bit more fun, but pretty soon we faced the next big climb as I knew from monitoring the elevation profile on my watch. Not steep, but endless. But the last climb before the end of loop one. We walked and walked until we realized a light catching up to us. I tried a bit of running, but to no success. So quickly we were overtaken by the jumpy deerlike Gunnar. Well, he was walking too, but looked so much fresher and springier that I felt. Bummer. Reaching the Rennstieg (not -steig!) was a relief. I knew this from my course scouting for the STUNT last year. Nicely runnable, mostly flat. Then came a steep drop and a road (how that?) then I realized that this was already the Road from Alfeld to Wrisbergholzen and the Herberge around the corner! Hooray. I sped up, although I lost Michael in the descent as he was complaining from stomach issues. But now my tea was in reach, and I so longed for something to keep me awake. Hooray! Inside, I realized there were much more people than I anticipated. Several drops already, Flo amongst them. Also Amadeus was there and he refused to continue although he was with Matthias the entire first round. But his skiing season was at stake as his achilles tendon became angry and so he called it quits. Michael came shortly after me, dropped dead in a seat and ate and drank. Gunnar went on, very happily surprised as Michael called him out as third position. Max and Jamie came and I felt the urge to leave as I took again much longer than I wanted to, but also refilled loads and was wise enough to visit the restroom again, optimizing my race weight.

When I reentered the room and announced my continuation, Jamie was about to leave too and said that she wanted to accompany me. Fine. Outside she told me that her watch refused to zoom into the worm navigation, so she would be entirely screwed in the woods. Not a Garmin though, but Coros ­čśë So I agreed to direct her through the second loop. Still, I was having soo heavy legs from my first 30k with Georg that I had to walk every now and then, with little excuses as the next 8k were entirely flat now. Jamie was doing a very good job to keep me running. Then came the downhill before we would make this weird turn around some meadow and enter the forest again. Huh? Where is Jamie? Well, seems we are quite the opposite as I wanted to walk everything with a slight positive incline and she stood on the brakes as soon as it turned negative. That is how it felt.┬áI know that I am rather good at downhill running, but did not expect this to be so evident as Jamie made a very strong impression otherwise. Somehow I convinced myself that not running full boar down every drop might save my knees after all, and waited every now and then. The ascent into the woods were again a test to me as I began to breathe harder and she just jumped ahead. When the forest road got a mess as my siblings from the boar tribe had emptied it from hidden gems, I again turned on my green light and sped off. Only to have her not follow immediately. Hm. This was now a winding, more or less level trail. But yes, the ground was very rough, thorny branches, nettles all over it. But hey, this is my territory! Weighing my promise to get her back safe, I looked around and decided that this is not the place to leave somebody behind with a broken navigation. This was in the very middle of some hilly forest, in the middle of the night. I love this. But not everybody does. And a promise is a promise. And dropping her here would be outright mean. But there would be Max sometimes behind us… Well, I decided to inquire the voices in my head but not to follow them. Then came my one navigational error for about 30meters in the wrong direction until I realized that what looked like a zigzag in the map was more or less straight in reality. Well, there was another one some ups and downs later, but I blame the track for that one, as we were fully on the line when we stomped along the field margin and not 20m south in the woods on the nice trail. Again lots of nice, rough trails, up and down. I felt the urge to push since we took a sip of coke at the unmanned aid box in the very middle of nothing in the middle of some huge, dense forest, and we saw a light approaching. I did not want to have Max overtake us, so this became a mantra whenever I was about to wimp out on the climbs. We pushed and pushed. On the uphills to my very limit, on the flats and especially the downhills way below it, but I tried to convince myself that this is better for my knee anyway. Also, since about 60k in, I felt the first 30k falling off of me. apparently the active break worked and everything loosened up, energy supply reached a steady state, and strength filled my legs again. Finally! So, I took the forced recovery on the downhills and flats to push even harder on the ups, and pretty soon Max’ headlamp vanished in the dark behind us.

On some climb where I refused to run again, it was pretty steep, Jamie fell over a root and hit her hip. First, I did not really think much of it, but this must have hurt a lot lateron. When I hoped to get to level ground, lots of reflectors, the official trail markers, had us turn right into the woods again and onto something, that was even steeper than the Schlei. What? I was already waiting for the valley drop down to Sack before the very last (and annoyingly long) climb to the finish, and here we were, in a wall of mud and leaves working our way to the sky. Ouch. When this ordeal was over (and after my second navigational error was solved) we were on a very exquisite part of trail. On a ridge again, densely overgrown, winding, up and down, the occasional root, but soft and non-muddy ground, just wide enough to run through it. Wow. Again, I was in trail runners heaven. Only, Jamie’s light disappeared pretty soon after I took off. So I waited a bit, and made this my pattern. Run as I please and take every tiny hill as a point to slow down to a walk until she got me again. By this time I knew that branches in the face and roots on the ground was not her favorite terrain. The hurting hip did not help either, I suppose.

Out of the woods, over fields and before us a valley with some street lights, Sack! Behind it, a suspiciously small hill. This cannot be the final climb, no? Sack will be much deeper down. I was rather done with long farm roads, so was about to bolt it down, to get this done. But I stuck to my run and wait pattern. When I heard voices, particularly a male one, behind me, I was pretty disappointed. Max caught us finally. He overtook and ran rather quickly towards the village. We jogged on. In Sack, there was a nasty climb and descent over a farm road, just to show everyone, that this was not supposed to be fun. We came down in the village again, when Max appeared from a wrong road and we approached this freaking final climb that we were waiting for for hours, in a good and bad way. Jamie kicked in her climbing gear,┬á Max ran with her, and I tried to follow. At this point, I realized how baked I already was. Keeping up with the two was really hard work. My heart rate shot up, I began to sweat, and could not see myself running this thing. All the more as Jamie would run it completely. So, when I was again in hearing distance, and she called us to push on, I just sent her off. For good? I shifted this thought back and forth in my head for quite a while. I came to the conclusion, that this is, what I make of it. I could be grumpy to be dumped on the very last stretch after I stuck to Jamie so she would not get lost for so long, dealing with her knees and hip which kept me from doing my thing. Our abilities were definitely contrary. Or, I could see that I was definitely not able to run this hill, and I knew it would be pain for her not to. And this was a fun run, I just shoved in my schedule. And I already got much more out of it than I hoped for. Who cares for placing? Of course, I had some time goals in mind before the run. Mostly as I hoped for much sleep, I thought that maybe 9 hours, maybe 9:30 should be doable. Not today, not with my current state. And definitely this was not Jamie’s fault, but mine. So, placing does not matter, time does not matter. Only, getting overtaken by Max did put a tiny dent in my spirits. I worked on letting all bitterness go, and it worked quite well. I was here, after almost 80k, on a nice night, in my beloved area, will finish soon and have warmth, food and tea, a shower, and finally my sleeping bag. I even enjoyed the moments walking up the hill.

Then, I realized that Max did not vanish. He also walked exclusively. A mere 200m in front of me. I had company for so long, and here we were, walking the same pace, but just divided by some short distance because I stopped running a tad earlier. So I took all I got together and shuffled on. Reaching him was again a lot of work, and I needed to convince myself more than once that stopping now was not really helping if I want to reach him. And finally, I did. We walked a bit, introduced ourselves and exchanged running stories. Another person to light the Junut fire in my heart. I definitely have to run this one day. We saw Jamie disappearing in the distance, then reappearing, as if she turned around to see if we were still there. And then the hill was done. We took it up and jogged a bit, until the final steps towards the Herberge, finishing on a joint fifth place in 10:07, two minutes after Jamie. Grief coming back? No at all. This was one of the most social races I had. And I enjoyed it all over.

I grabbed my tea, a beer, some soup and I don’t remember what and fell on the sofa. Hanging out with all the fast guys who did not go to bed yet, was another plus to this weekend. When I finished everything on the table and began to shiver, I tried to reach the showers. Not so easy, as the direction ‘just behind the toilets’ did not apply to the restroom I knew and used until then. This was a superfluous floor to climb. Darn. The legs were dead, and I was really afraid to slip on the stairs which were a bit wet from all the muddy shoes and the microclimate in the entrance of the Herberge. I did not, found the correct staircase and the showers, got out of my stinky clothes and under a really nice hot shower. Shivering went away again, as long as the water was running. Note to self: Getting off the tape is one of the major reasons I shave my chest before races, besides having the shirt stick and not rub over my upper body. Argh, the hair refused to get off of either side. Still, I got over this, and got my hot-water bag filled so I would not need to wait half an hour to fall asleep until my feet were warm. Inflated my mattress, crawled into my sleeping bag and rested in this specific post-ultra sleep. Rolling from right to left, cramping legs, no position works for more than 15 minutes, and in general a feeling of not sleeping at all.

I was all the more surprised to get up well rested, get breakfast after clearing my sleeping spot and was ready for the awards ceremony and some more socializing. This was a great bunch of people. I love the idea to put on races that are far from commercializing, with only a few entrants that you will get to know over the event. Involved volunteers. Great stuff! Sad to hear, that this might be the last edition of the race, although Michael showed some signs of weakness with that decision already ­čśë

 

I want to win this thing – R├╝ningen 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 R├╝ningen 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 R├╝ningen. And Steffen, with whom I share some R├╝ningen 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 ­čśë

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 ­čÖé

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 R├╝ningen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

successful stupitity – Th├╝ringen 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 Th├╝ringen Ultra to give away. Darn. Th├╝ringen 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.┬áAfter 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┬á 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 ­čÖé 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 J├Ârg at Michael’s aid station but Michael got sick unfortunately and J├Ârg’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 J├Ârg, 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 J├Ârg 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!┬á Down where I met J├Ârg 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!┬á 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 ­čÖé ) 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 J├Ârg. 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 J├Ârgs 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 J├Ârg 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 K├╝lf. 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. J├Ârg 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 K├╝lf 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 K├╝lf. 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.┬á 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 R├╝ningen, 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 ­čśë 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 ­čÖé

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 L├Âwenherz-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 R├╝ningen. 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:┬áhttp://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┬á 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.┬á 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.┬á 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┬á 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.

K├Ąlter, H├Ąrter aber nicht in jedem Aspekt Sch├Âner

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 nat├╝rlich auch; Gesund bleiben; entspannen (?); undundund.

Das erste und gr├Â├čte Opfer der ├ťberfrachtung war eine vern├╝nftig durchdachte sportliche Vorbereitung auf die BC. Die L├Ąnge machte mir keine Angst (noch nicht mal Respekt), und volle Wochenenden machten die langen L├Ąufe zu einer Seltenheit. Ich t├Ąuschte mich dar├╝ber hinweg, und machte mir vor, dass die Regelm├Ą├čigkeit mit der ich lief schon ausreichen wird. Und schlie├člich ist eine der Wesheiten der Ultra-Liste, dass Training nicht dar├╝ber entscheidet, ob man finisht, sondern dar├╝ber, wie unangenehm die Zeit bis zum Finish wird.

Als die Sache dann konkret wurde, sich die aalglatten Verh├Ąltnisse im G├Âttinger Stadtwald einfroren, und dann noch die Meldungen von den Streckenmarkierern eintrudelten, bekam ich richtig Schiss. War das ne gute Idee? H├Ątte ich nicht noch viel mehr machen m├╝ssen? Icebugs kaufen? 80k auf Yaktrax sind nicht drin, da bekomme ich Kr├Ąmpfe im Fu├čboden (ha! Wie hei├čt das? Fu├čsole.) 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 w├╝rde (Brockenbeutel, Thermoskannen und Technikequipment f├╝rs Briefing und werweissobichsnichtnochbrauche) in die Satteltaschen und schwang mich auf die R├Ąder. Das zweite Rad f├╝r meinen Bruder den Fassberg runterzubremsen war dann doch eine ziemlich heikle Angelegenheit, und die n├Âtige Konzentration hat mich f├╝r 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. Sch├Ânes Wiedersehen! Dann im Tunnelblick hoch in den H├Ârsaal, wenn ich anfange alle zu begr├╝├čen, die ich gerne begr├╝├čen w├╝rde, w├Ąre ich um sieben noch nicht oben. Schade.

Im H├Ârsaal dann die wohltuende Ruhe und der freudige Anblick einer ziemlich zeitgem├Ą├čen 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 l├Ąuft. 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 H├Ârsaal 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 L├Ąufern, die schon im H├Ârsaal sa├čen und los gings. Technisch lief es glatt, die Musik war wundersch├Ân, 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 mittelm├Ą├čig. 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 n├Ąchstes Jahr wieder!

Als sich der H├Ârsaal leerte, merkte ich, wie eine ziemlich gro├če Last von meinen Schultern fiel. Geschafft. Und gar nicht mal so schlecht. Sachen zusammenpacken, und als ich mit Jan zusammen zu den R├Ądern ging, waren kaum noch Leute da. Alles hatte sich verfl├╝chtigt, alle machten sich f├╝r den n├Ąchsten, gro├čen Tag fertig. Hm. So wirklich d├Ąmmerte 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 ├╝berlege, wie viel Zeit ich vor zwei Jahren in die Vorbereitungen gesteckt hatte. Wochenlang Listen geschrieben, was ich anziehen soll, was ich wo reinpacken will, F├╝r und Wider. Jede Menge. Diesmal? Not so much. Ich habe meine (im letzten Jahr verfeinerte) Liste genommen, dr├╝bergeschaut, festgestellt, dass ich alles ohne gro├čen Aufwand zusammensuchen kann, und das wars. Immerhin habe ich Donnerstag abend noch festgestellt, dass der BC-Track gar nicht auf den Uhren war. Bl├Âde Updaterei.

So kamen wir um acht gem├╝tlich 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 t├Ânte ein leutes “Hecke!” aus vier Kehlen aus dem Schlafzimmer. Alle noch wach. Aber so konnten wir standesgem├Ą├č der ganzen Bande Hallo und Gute Nacht sagen. Das war sch├Ân. 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 w├╝rden wir erst Sonntag fr├╝h wiedersehen. Da war es sch├Ân, nochmal alle gedr├╝ckt zu haben.

Jan hatte seine Sachen flott zusammen, ich eigentlich auch, dennoch t├╝delte ich noch bis elf Uhr rum, obwohl ich m├╝de war. Schlafen hat die drei N├Ąchte davor schon nicht gut geklappt. Mist. ├ťber dn Abend merkte ich St├╝ck f├╝r St├╝ck, 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 Besch├Ąftigung, anziehen. Doofe Kompressionsstrumpfhose. Aber die schn├╝rte 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 nat├╝rlich auch, bevor ich losgelaufen bin. Sorry Pferdehof, der Boden war zu hart um irgendwas zu verscharren. Viele Gl├╝hw├╝rmchen suchten nach einer Waldtoilette. Dann schnell rein ins Warme, Tom hatte Tanya gefunden, Jan war auch dort. Wir schnackten, assen ein St├╝ck Haferschnitte, ich sagte prophylaktisch Tom schnmal tsch├╝ss, und dann gings nohmal an die B├╝sche. Der Mob verdichtete sich, Markus fing an zu reden. Leider zu leise f├╝r mich, der ich immer noch auf der Suche nach Corinna war. Wir hatten ausgemacht, die erste H├Ąlfte 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 spektakul├Ąr als ich es gerne gehabt h├Ątte. Passte aber zu meiner Herangehensweise an die diesj├Ąhrige BC. Eben etwas zu sloppy. Gleich von den ersten Metern an merkte ich, wie schwer meine Beine waren. H├Ątte ich Donnerstag doch nicht laufen sollen, zu Hannes` Geburtstag? Oder mal tapern? Hatte ich nicht f├╝r n├Âtig 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. Schlie├člich hatte ich gestern abend noch erz├Ąhlt, dass es eine Eisfl├Ąche ist. Nunja, einige Leute ohne Spikes hatten ganz sch├Âne M├╝he. 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 sp├Ąter r├Ąchen k├Ânnte. Als ich Jan M ├╝berholte, wurde mir klar, dass ich evtl etwas zu flott war. Ging aber nicht anders. Dann kurze Pinkelpause etwas sp├Ąter Spikes ab, und die gro├če Frage: Wo war Corinna. Hm. Ich hatte sie nicht an mir vorbeirennen sehen, als ich die Yaktrax abmachte, aber war sie das ├╝berhaupt gewesen in dem gro├čen Pulk an Ausziehern Anfang Mackenrode? Keine Ahnung. Ich lie├č 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. H├Ątte ich mir denken k├Ânnen. 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 tats├Ąchlich 1.5l Tee geschafft, zwischen vier und f├╝nf) und Corinna zog endlich ihre Weste an. So war ich ne Zeitlang alleine, freute mich ├╝ber Silke, die irgendwann hinter ihrem Fotoapparat hervorkam und Begleitung. Dann hatte Corinna mich wieder, und wir flogen gen Kl├Ąrwerk. 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 m├Âglich. Am Hellberg dann mehrfach Stau. Leider auch so kn├╝ppelhart gefrorener, von Wildschweinen vorher m├╝hselig aufgerauhter Waldboden jenseits des Trails. ├ťberholen w├Ąre der Tod meiner Kn├Âchel gewesen, und Corinna w├Ąre 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 t├Âdlich viel (das sollte sp├Ąter kommen) aber gnug, dass wir uns konzentrieren mussten. Ich liebe es, durch sowas durchzupreschen, aber das w├Ąre Unklug, und ich w├Ąre 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 ├╝berpacen, 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 lie├č Corinna etwas vorziehen. Im Ort biss ich nochmal auf die Z├Ąhne und schloss wieder auf.

Der Stop in Barbis war eine Rundum-Erneuerung. Danke Silke! F├╝r Support, gute Worte, Hilfe. Die gegrillte Tofuwurst war klasse. Und ich begann nach Cola zu schielen. Es wurde Zeit, Zucker zuzuf├╝ttern. Noch ein St├╝ck Kuchen und dann ging es in die Freiheit. So f├╝hlte es sich an. Bis Barbis hatte ich die Zeit im Blick, war gestresst, dass wir l├Ąnger als die geplanten 4 Stunden gebraucht haben. Sogar 15 Minuten langsamer. Das fand ich nicht gut.┬á Es war aber den Umst├Ąnden 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, Dr├╝berlaufen oder ├Ąhnliches m├Âglich. Zum Schlittern zu lang. Bei dem Versuch die Spikes anzuziehen rutschte Corinna einmal von den Beinen auf den R├╝cken, 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 ├╝ber die Stra├če und rein in den Harz. Das St├╝ck ├╝ber die Wiesen war zum Abgew├Âhnen. Wirklich ekelhaft zu laufen. H├Ątte ich gewusst… Weiter rein, Yaktrax aus, sp├Ąter f├╝r 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 gr├╝nen L├Ąufer, der sp├Ąter stehenblieb, den Rumpf drehte, dehnte, und nicht so zufrieden aussah. Beim ├ťberholen habe ich ihn erst nicht erkannt. Ich glaube ich habe Michael noch nie vorher ohne L├Ącheln 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 ├ťberholten wir uns regelm├Ą├čig, ab und an wechselten wir ein paar Worte. Es dauerte l├Ąnger 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, st├Ąndig 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 M├╝he und Not, und dem ein oder anderen Grunzer bzw Prinzessinnenausruf schlugen wir uns durch. Gut zu sehen, dass die L├Ąufer vor uns genauso schlecht vorankamen. Als wir dann wieder festen Boden, also 70cm Schnee, aber immerhin pr├Ąpariert, unter den F├╝├čen hatten, haben meine Beine endlich kapiert, wof├╝r 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 l├Ąngere Variante in Betracht ziehen, da meinte eine Wanderfamilie: “Ja, die sind eben alle hier r├╝ber.”, Was jetzt? Nochmal? Nee! Wir h├Ątten gleich abdrehen sollen, aber irgendwie hoffte ich, dass das nochmal besser w├╝rde. 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 h├Ątte stehen lassen k├Ânnen. Nur dass ich bei jeglicher Bergab-Passage wieder hinter ihr herhechelte. Kurz vor Oderbr├╝ck 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 St├╝ck f├╝r St├╝ck dem Gipfel entgegendiskutiert. Ab und an ├╝berholte uns noch jemand, aber auch ich merkte langsam wieder meine schweren Beine von heut fr├╝h. Oder waren das andere Beine? Keine Ahnung. Ab der Brockenstra├če war dann keine M├Âhre 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.