What’s the best way to start the weekend – getting some tiles in. New Tiles Simmerath closed some small gaps with the effect that the max square is now 20×20.
After 23:14 and 100 miles I called it a day.
No real focus, no real motivation for more. It was like the usual 24h for me – the first 12h with around 100k were fine and in plan. My realistic target distance should have been ideally something between 170-190k: must be possible with 100k in the first 12h. But – also usual – the second half was much more difficult. Sore and blocked thighs were making running more and more uncomfortable. Walking mixed with a bit of running is something which is almost always possible so I continued to reach the 100 mi. I wonder what the best strategy would be to finally reach 180k+. Maybe it will work out another day.
It was nice to meet some of the Dutch again and one month after Legends Trail 100 mi is ok as a running restart.
|Lap||Distance||Lap Time||Total Time||Pace||Speed|
|1||2,02||12:45||12:45||06:17 min/km||9.5 km/h|
|2||4,05||12:55||25:41||06:22 min/km||9.4 km/h|
|3||6,08||13:23||39:05||06:36 min/km||9.0 km/h|
|4||8,11||13:15||52:21||06:31 min/km||9.1 km/h|
|5||10,14||13:05||1:05:26||06:27 min/km||9.2 km/h|
|6||12,17||12:53||1:18:20||06:21 min/km||9.4 km/h|
|7||14,20||13:43||1:32:03||06:45 min/km||8.8 km/h|
|8||16,23||13:27||1:45:31||06:37 min/km||9.0 km/h|
|9||18,26||13:01||1:58:32||06:25 min/km||9.3 km/h|
|10||20,29||13:51||2:12:23||06:49 min/km||8.7 km/h|
|11||22,31||13:17||2:25:41||06:32 min/km||9.1 km/h|
|12||24,34||13:12||2:38:53||06:30 min/km||9.2 km/h|
|13||26,37||13:07||2:52:01||06:28 min/km||9.2 km/h|
|14||28,40||14:29||3:06:30||07:08 min/km||8.3 km/h|
|15||30,43||16:12||3:22:43||07:59 min/km||7.5 km/h|
|16||32,46||14:16||3:37:00||07:02 min/km||8.5 km/h|
|17||34,49||13:50||3:50:50||06:49 min/km||8.7 km/h|
|18||36,52||13:48||4:04:38||06:48 min/km||8.8 km/h|
|19||38,55||14:07||4:18:46||06:57 min/km||8.6 km/h|
|20||40,58||13:52||4:32:39||06:50 min/km||8.7 km/h|
|21||42,60||14:26||4:47:06||07:07 min/km||8.4 km/h|
|22||44,63||14:37||5:01:44||07:12 min/km||8.3 km/h|
|23||46,66||14:09||5:15:53||06:58 min/km||8.5 km/h|
|24||48,69||15:06||5:31:00||07:26 min/km||8.0 km/h|
|25||50,72||14:02||5:45:03||06:55 min/km||8.6 km/h|
|26||52,75||14:30||5:59:34||07:09 min/km||8.3 km/h|
|27||54,78||14:59||6:14:33||07:23 min/km||8.1 km/h|
|28||56,81||14:27||6:29:01||07:07 min/km||8.4 km/h|
|29||58,84||15:22||6:44:24||07:34 min/km||7.9 km/h|
|30||60,87||19:24||7:03:49||09:33 min/km||6.2 km/h|
|31||62,89||14:07||7:17:57||06:57 min/km||8.6 km/h|
|32||64,92||14:38||7:32:35||07:13 min/km||8.3 km/h|
|33||66,95||14:39||7:47:15||07:13 min/km||8.3 km/h|
|34||68,98||13:56||8:01:11||06:52 min/km||8.7 km/h|
|35||71,01||17:27||8:18:39||08:36 min/km||6.9 km/h|
|36||73,04||15:07||8:33:47||07:27 min/km||8.0 km/h|
|37||75,07||14:23||8:48:10||07:05 min/km||8.4 km/h|
|38||77,10||15:16||9:03:26||07:31 min/km||7.9 km/h|
|39||79,13||14:34||9:18:01||07:11 min/km||8.3 km/h|
|40||81,16||15:00||9:33:01||07:23 min/km||8.1 km/h|
|41||83,18||18:14||9:51:16||08:59 min/km||6.6 km/h|
|42||85,21||17:59||10:09:16||08:52 min/km||6.7 km/h|
|43||87,24||15:12||10:24:29||07:29 min/km||8.0 km/h|
|44||89,27||16:25||10:40:54||08:05 min/km||7.4 km/h|
|45||91,30||17:55||10:58:49||08:50 min/km||6.7 km/h|
|46||93,33||17:43||11:16:33||08:44 min/km||6.8 km/h|
|47||95,36||23:57||11:40:31||11:48 min/km||5.0 km/h|
|48||97,39||17:46||11:58:17||08:45 min/km||6.8 km/h|
|49||99,42||19:35||12:17:53||09:39 min/km||6.2 km/h|
|50||101,45||21:22||12:39:16||10:32 min/km||5.6 km/h|
|51||103,47||1:03:09||13:42:25||31:07 min/km||1.9 km/h* 40 min car break|
|52||105,50||19:03||14:01:28||09:23 min/km||6.3 km/h|
|53||107,53||17:08||14:18:36||08:26 min/km||7.1 km/h|
|54||109,56||15:15||14:33:52||07:31 min/km||7.9 km/h|
|55||111,59||16:23||14:50:16||08:04 min/km||7.4 km/h|
|56||113,62||16:03||15:06:20||07:55 min/km||7.5 km/h|
|57||115,65||15:50||15:22:11||07:48 min/km||7.6 km/h|
|58||117,68||15:00||15:37:11||07:23 min/km||8.1 km/h|
|59||119,71||17:48||15:54:59||08:46 min/km||6.8 km/h|
|60||121,74||16:51||16:11:51||08:18 min/km||7.2 km/h|
|61||123,76||19:20||16:31:11||09:31 min/km||6.2 km/h|
|62||125,79||17:23||16:48:34||08:34 min/km||7.0 km/h|
|63||127,82||19:30||17:08:05||09:36 min/km||6.2 km/h|
|64||129,85||20:58||17:29:04||10:20 min/km||5.8 km/h|
|65||131,88||18:45||17:47:49||09:14 min/km||6.4 km/h|
|66||133,91||19:11||18:07:00||09:27 min/km||6.3 km/h|
|67||135,94||24:38||18:31:39||12:08 min/km||4.9 km/h|
|68||137,97||18:11||18:49:51||08:58 min/km||6.6 km/h|
|69||140,00||20:38||19:10:29||10:10 min/km||5.8 km/h|
|70||142,03||24:39||19:35:08||12:09 min/km||4.9 km/h|
|71||144,05||20:04||19:55:13||09:53 min/km||6.0 km/h|
|72||146,08||21:21||20:16:35||10:31 min/km||5.7 km/h|
|73||148,11||19:46||20:36:21||09:44 min/km||6.1 km/h|
|74||150,14||35:34||21:11:55||17:31 min/km||3.4 km/h|
|75||152,17||22:32||21:34:28||11:06 min/km||5.3 km/h|
|76||154,20||20:34||21:55:03||10:08 min/km||5.9 km/h|
|77||156,23||23:28||22:18:31||11:34 min/km||5.1 km/h|
|78||158,26||24:34||22:43:06||12:06 min/km||4.9 km/h|
|79||160,29||23:55||23:07:02||11:47 min/km||5.0 km/h|
Garmin added 91 points to the universe today. Finally they acknowledge all the steps we do and all the floors we climb! Apparently one climbing and one step expedition can be started at once – so it will take a while to finish them off.
Legends Trail 2023
When you are stripped down to your pure core the world is a different one. A world with a different intensity – with a different meaning of things – with a different heartbeat. It’s the world beyond the curtain. It’s the world of the happy few – a pure experience.
And then the moments were there. The moments I envisioned before and during the race – the moments I came for. Not just a usual Monday – the Legends Trail Monday. All efforts of the past long hours were meant to reach exactly this: the final 10k of Legends Trail with enough time that the finish is safe. As if nature wanted to join the party a glistening sun flooded the hills of the final stretch. It’s a bit like dream walking. Shook by the emotions of the upcoming finish. Deeply connected to the surroundings. Unbelievable thankful for being able to reach that point and to be part of this story once more. One of the last hills brought a nice view and standing there in the warm sun was an amazing feeling. It could have last forever but it was not done yet. There was a finish waiting, there were people waiting – time to ultimately finish it off – time to also tick-off the last kilometres of Legends Trail 2023.
This years Legends Trail had some few changes. The track was only uploaded to the various GPS devices at race registration and what became clear at that very moment: the start was not the finish – we had to take a little bus tour to the start location. Registration was without major problems. Always nice to meet the Legends Trail Family members, have a quick chat and discuss the upcoming. After getting through the check-in I went back to the car to eat something and have some minutes of sleep and relaxation before it all would finally start. I also had some glances on the map – lots of familiar parts but also bigger stretches I have never seen before (or could not remember). The hour before the start all runners group in one room and you can basically touch the excitement in the air. A quick briefing followed by the bus ride to the start – a fast countdown and off we were. Start time was Friday 17.02.2023 19:00.
Start – CP1 – Night #1:
Nice idea to go to Barrage de Nisramont for the start. With this little change the famous Ourthe parts could be in this years edition as well. For me this meant flashbacks to the Nightcrawler run back in November. The memories were still fresh so I was warned. I deliberately stayed in the first half of the pack (95 starters in total) to be able to define my tempo up and downhill and to not loose time to whatever happens to the other runners. I was already thinking of the bigger picture with regards to cut-off timing. Legends Trail for a slow runner like me means: there is zero room for mistakes. Efficiency and accuracy in running, navigation together with lack of stupid decisions is key to success. Ourthe was beautiful but brutal. The whole valley was flooded by our headlamps and the blinking red lights on our backs. Amazing reflections – amazing mood. A focused worm of light battling through the steep climbs, relentless paths on the edge of the water. It all worked out quite well for me. On our way from Ourthe to CP1 we also past the start/finish location from Legends Trail 2020 – happy memories. I think we have to thank dear Olav for inventing the hashtag #noourthenoparty – so happy to see this one is pretty famous by now. Good things are meant to stay. Reached CP1 in the early dark and cold morning hours of Saturday. The usual routine took place – repacking food, refilling water and coke, have to helpings of the amazing pasta, unpack the feet to let them rest and dry a bit – repacking everything and re-start on the next stretch.
CP1 – CP2 – Day #1:
The stretch to Malmedy. Malmedy is an area everyone would normally skip but hey – it’s Legends Trail. Malmedy is famous for ridiculous climbs so we were warned that the finish of that stretch was bound to be horrible. Even more important to get some running done at the beginning to make up some time. The weather was so matching to the tasks ahead. It was all grey and dizzy. The light drizzle which has accompanying us in the first night continued throughout the day. It was not really getting „light“. Nice for a race with 3 full nights in – more feelings of darkness. There was another tiny problem on our way to Malmedy: greater Coo area. It goes without saying that all the really tough climbs of that area made it through the final selection: we had to climb „The Bassin“, „The Iceberg“ and some more in that area. Pleased with the selection. The final part to Malmedy was then as expected – we could see the city quite early but whenever we were almost there the track turned back for some more climbing. It requires some mental stability to cope with that. The food on CP2 was rice with chicken curry – delicious two helpings. Met Tim and Fre – they seemed to be happy how the race evolved. Francois was there as well and took care of my feet – thanks a million my friend. Next stretch would be Hautes Fagnes in the night. Actually a well-known area I really like. But with 120 km in and the second night it would not be exactly easy. I decided to gear up with regards to warm/waterproof clothing and expected the worst when leaving CP2.
CP2 – CP3 – Night #2:
It should live up to my expectations. The weather intensified to a stronger drizzle and the wind was a more stormy one. This mixtures made it extremely uncomfortable to be out. It reduced the view to barely nothing; although above 0°C it felt like minus temps. It even came to a point where covering the face seemed to be a good idea. Despite the clothing I felt immensely cold and was not the only one. And yes next to these things there was Hautes Fagnes. In top form. Completely wet and overwhelmingly muddy. Even with some fresh tree cutting which meant some 100 meters of stumbling through the mess. Not entirely sure what was more horrible – climbing up and down the Fagnes rivers/valley or the exposed stretches up there. All in all harder than expected. Getting really tired I lay down for 20 minutes on trail in my safety blanket and this at least helped to reduce the optical illusions of huts, beds, things you can lay down on to a certain extend. It was getting ultra. Slowly but surely. Pretty crashed I arrived at CP3 where there was mashed potatoes/stew/vegetables on the dining menu. More than welcome. It was one of the moments with tiny doubts. Haute Fagnes was survived but to a rather high price. The finish was still too far way to be a realistic thing to dream of. But well. It was light again, there are still a few hours spare to cut-off – so gear up and go.
CP3- CP4 – Day #2:
The stretch near Spa/Theux. The well-known Olne-Spa-Olne area. I was wondering which part made it in. The weather was getting more stable bits by bits. The rain seemed to ultimately stop. This was certainly a plus. The goal was clear – make as much as possible during daylight and then be in at around midnight at CP4 to have 2-3 hours spare to cut-off. The daylight part of the stretch was ok. I slowly allowed myself to think about the finish which was boosting the mood. The approaching darkness destroyed all hope again. I suddenly started to feel all the strain, all the exhaustion and all the effort which lay behind me. This together with some really funny climbs made this to another critical point. I managed to calm down again and stabilize myself and my movement (which is crucial when climbing muddy „paths“ where every misstep could have horrible consequences). Really tough hours but luckily the plan to be at around midnight at CP4 worked out. The menu was Tortellini with bacon and pesto. Was my favorite already last year and was pure heaven in that third night. The clouds meanwhile were gone completely meaning that cold would be a problem to live with. A final time repacking everything, putting warmer layers on, thank everyone at CP4. A weird feeling. An overwhelming exhaustion mixed with the certainty that once CP4 was behind me the finish possibility would jump from a mere dream to exactly this: a realistic option.
CP4 – Finish – Night #3 / Day #3:
With no real clue of what was waiting the only option was to stay focused and work hard to not to slow down too much. Everyone at CP4 warned about the last stretch and indeed we were not disappointed. Especially the first half in the darkness was Legends Trails at its finest with 6 km Ninglinspo between km 240 – 246 as the ultimate highlight. I mean how could they. No one would allow half-concious people do these parts. No one. Another mean climb was waiting before reaching the last safe spot – CP4.1 – Chez Ingo. The boss itself was there and nothing is better than a few toasties in the very early morning. What a feeling – morning number 3 was creeping up, the toughest climbs of the last section were done and although the rest would not be exactly easy the job was finally getting easier. Keep an eye on the timing – enjoy some coke in the early morning sun – and approach the finish. Some parts where running was possible – really welcome. Every done km a gift. And nature was a blast in this early Monday morning. Having to climb up to quite a bit the views running down were stunning. Very emotional section. Almost certain timing would work out – out there in the wonderful Ardennes Bleue – what could be better. Funnily we came close to a village called Paradis… I really should stop crying when finally reaching that line. And then it was over. Shaking hand with Tim became a tradition the last years – don’t want to miss these moments.
3 starts at Legends Trail – 3 finishes: 2020, 2022 and 2023 – clean sheet/100% aka. triple. Pretty ok!
281.66 km – 66:56:23 total race time – 5:09:35 pause at CPs – 10181 m D+ – 40 min of sleep (2 x 20 minutes in night #2 Hautes Fagnes and night #3 before Ninglinspo area).
Navigation was carried out on my Fenix 6X Pro. So happy how well that works – what a brilliant watch. Didn’t need my backup handheld at all.
2022 vs. 2023
There were a lot of discussions about LT22 vs. LT23. Although not relevant below two graphs comparing LT22 to LT23. For me LT23 was 3 s/km slower compared to LT23 – in total 14 minutes difference (basically nothing). Comparing the two Climb Score graphics in Runalyze the difference between both editions gets bit clearer. Climb Score elevated from 9.6 to 9.8 – almost a 10.0. Talking to Tim before the start once the tracks were clear: its really difficult for such a long distance and the distant areas to find good connection parts. You don’t want to eliminate the highlights but need to connect them logically. From my own experience with creating tracks Tim and his team are close to perfection. A Climb Score of 10 is something you can achieve on a hill rep-style run like Iceberg but it will be almost impossible to get the Legends Trail to this level. LT23 was close enough, definitely brutal enough and great combination – honours to the creators. Now I only need to stop myself and not try to draw a combination myself.
We have been granted with VERY little information this year.
There is a lot of joking about the presumably warm/dry weather and a nice outdoor vacation weekend with some friends and family.
We all know it´s just jokes. No one will lure us into false safety.
Time has come to go again, to disconnect, to suffer and to strive.
We come empty handed and the only thing left to rely on is ourselves. Yet we will be there to face and conquer the unknown.
What we do
In a lot of movies there are these key scenes where the heroes of the whatever stories live-through an important change. A change from bad to good, a change from deepest sorrow to sheer luck or the rediscovery of a supposedly forever-gone knowledge/ability/emotion. It starts with faintest memories of it which slowly but surely solidify and finally fully returns so that the whatever story hero can thrive again and complete the story to its destined end.
Distance running can as well feel long-gone during certain periods. Periods with (almost) no running; periods in which each step feels like a wasted effort. May it be periods of injury, periods full with this emotional/physical emptiness after a tough adventure or just periods in which life had different challenges along the way which did not leave enough time for running.
Some things never completely vanish.
Staring into the pouring rain outside –
– faint memories of literally climbing steep trails which turned into rivers due to heavy rain suddenly appear in front of the inner eye
– or that one glorious moment of stupidly crossing a well-filled and tearing river up there in Hautes Fagnes in mid-winter in ice-cold water
Walking back that few steps from the car into the warmth at a freezing day –
– remember these ice-cold km where we discussed for hours how best we would wrap ourselves with gold foil as an extra layer of clothing (one day that moment will come)
– or this day where we desperately wanted to rest for a few minutes but it was just too cold to stand/sit still
Lying down in the warm bed –
– we lost count of the nights without sleep full of running/walking/crawling/hoping/hallucinating somewhere out there
– all the countless 10-30 min sleep breaks plain on the ground protected with a thin crackling aluminum foil – uncomfortable, painful moments of awful power-naps just to endure horrible first km of restarting shivering with the whole body
– the sound of dripping rain on aluminum
– or that glorious break where we „broke-in“ into that small barn and lay down on a almost unbelievably comfortable hay stacks
Arriving at the car on an average day –
– ok, no mistakes now: unpack, undress, get dry cloth on, empty trash from backpack, refill water bladder, refill coke bottle, repack food, replace batteries in whatever devices, sit in car, power-bank phone and watch, eat for 10 minutes, sleep for max. 30 min,
GET OUT OF THAT CAR AND CONTINUE
All is well – those are memories from the past. No one would deliberately want to re-life all of this. No one.
Some of those batteries are probably charged. Oh look: the tracker – just charged it yesterday. And, how funny, the watch is fully charged and has some .gpx files loaded. After all: what is that little bit of rain, snow and darkness. I better pack the head lamp. And a spare battery. Some of those gels are close to expiry date. Oh wow – still 10 emergency blankets left (ALWAYS PACK AT LEAST TWO). Will I need the poles? Let me activate the guys
– it is time to do what we do
So. The whole world is running already;
we saw/are following/will see some remarkable performances on the Duinhopper from acceptnolimits.com which is open since January 1st and the famous Montane Spine Race 2023 is about to start – a lot of live tracking is waiting just a click away.
In both events friends were/are/will be competing and although it is nice to sit in the cozy inside watching the rain and wind penetrating nature – it does not feel completely right. It may be about time to do some running.
Funny as traditions sometimes are: February will be dominated by well-unknown events. We will hold our own marathon mAMa 2023 (already edition 8!) and the Legends Trail is waiting. Again. Battling the Ardennes in winter time. Looking forward to yet another impossible challenge.
In July 2023 a new format is waiting – escape racing starting from the Grauen Kopf with a pretty simple task: get away as far as possible in 48h from that point. Really looking forward to that – drawing tracks on maps, calculating efficiencies vs. the straight line of several options, plan supply – everything your own responsibility. So basically a combination of a lot of lovely things.
In between Legends Trail 2023 in February and Schinder-Trail Prison Break 2023 in July a few smaller challenges may be waiting and a private running weekend with the CREW is already scheduled. Looks like its going to be a good first half of 2023.
Another year down.
Looking back at 2022 it was a year of constantly dancing on the edge of what is possible to accomplish while trying to not stress the system too much. A restless search for time windows for the big projects compatible with the family calendar and the uncertainty if the health/conditions would allow the execution of the planned runs at these time slot. Everything was reduced to the one task: get it done no matter what. No room for funny mistakes, bad planning and repeated attempts.
At the end everything worked out nicely but it is also good that this situation has come to an end.
After the Titanic Slam in 2021 we decided to share the joy of these type of adventures with a bigger group of runners and created the Marvel Slam 2022. This meant another year was dominated by the task to plan, start and finish 4 extraordinary challenges. 766 km distributed over 4 runs – Dark World (100 miles best of Hautes Fagnes), Mystique (200 km Eifel including the climbings around Altenahr), Nightcrawler (200 km Ourthe – #noourthenoparty) and Wolverine (200 km in the Dinant area). It took me 155 hours of running to get them done. I was lucky that Björn was with me at Mystique and Nightcrawler and managed to withstand Dark World and Wolverine on my own. Tons of memories were generate – a truly marvellous set of distance runs. In addition to the above mentioned personal experiences it was delighting to see both known and unknown members of the long-distance-family fighting these challenges. Remarkable performances, remarkable failures and astonishing comebacks throughout the whole year. Countless hours of dot-watching these attempts, countless stories about the type of running we enjoy most, countless nonsense posts in our exclusive social media group – I will miss this group for sure once the year is over and the Marvel Slam chapter is closed.
Apart from the Marvel Slam adventures across the year there were some runs which have been a tribute to the past. In February I returned to the Ardennes to re-do the impossible – finish Montane Legendstrails for the second time after 2020. It was one of the most astonishing and surprising races – from km 40 to 280 I battled through the race side-by-side with dear Olav and we lived through a whole life together and managed to escape from the countless devils. Again. Maarten once told me the first LT finish may be sheer luck – one would need to go back a second time to prove that one does not feed from luck alone. He also mentioned some facts about a third finish to „defeat the luck at last“ – but I may not have listened properly…
End of May it was time for yet another return: the return to the TorTour de Ruhr to finally say goodbye by finishing the third available distance: after 100 miles in 2016, 230 km in 2018 it was time for the 100 km Bambini distance. A special race as I was supported by my father for the first 60 km by bike and two friends on the last 40 km (also by bike) while running through those well-known areas.
Finally in June and October I appeared and re-appeared at a (for me) new race format – Backyard Ultra running. Being able to assist Normal with 29 yards in June opened the door to be part of Team Germany in October – what an honor. Unfortunately I only managed 33 yards in October – it was the limit at this day but this can´t be the limit for the time being. It was a pleasure to meet a bunch of new and fabulous runners and the venue, orga and track in Kandel // Bienwaldstadion was really nice. Although I currently have no ambition to return too soon – I still remember every single root/stone of this track – I have the funny feeling that I may not have been the last time in Kandel. Time will tell.
As with every year 2022 offered a few new perspectives on long-distance-running. First of all it was a new level of efficiency: with the rising amount of accomplished long runs everything becomes routine. From preparing long solo adventures or long races down to the single movements during a planned car break: every single action is streamlined to be as efficient as possible. Sometimes this feels like looking on what is happening as a third person from a distant perspective. The second take-away is probably a new level of relaxation. Whatever happens during preparation or running can be fixed. With the routine comes certainty. Certainty that no matter what happens finishing is still the best option.
It is time for some rest and a re-start of running in January 2023. Another year is waiting. So do the adventures.
Nightcrawler – Marvel Slam 2022 #4
No Ourthe – No Party!
Final track of the Marvel Slam done.
About time to finish what has been proven to be a demanding but very interesting set of runs. Seizing an open window in the family agenda I started the car close to 0500 Saturday morning to pick up Björn so that we can start our 1.5 h drive deep into the heart of the Ardennes Bleues – to the Barrage de Nisramont. It is not only the heart of the Ardennes Bleues but also the place where Ourthe Occidental and Ourthe Oriental unite in the Lake Nisramont to continue as Ourthe down to Liége. The track of Nightcrawler followes Ourthe Oriental up to the village Ourthe and down to Nisramont again before running up Ourthe Occidental up to the village Ourt and down again. What a mess. It requires a stable genius to come up with this kind of tracks. Funnily we are good friends. All attendees of the Legends Trails/Great Escape runs have a certain history with the Ourthe. Both runs feature the Ourthe during crucial moments of the race. Mostly moments at the half-conscious end of them. You don´t joke about that river, you always safe some energy to survive the parts at that river because you know deep insight: #noourthenoparty
It was a silent ride to Nisramont. Both tired we followed foggy streets to this abandoned parking lot down by the river. The last minutes preparation went silent but fast (somehow there meanwhile is a rythm, a routine in those few well planned last packings). Leaving the car was a weird thing in this early Saturday morning unsure what would wait for us. Although the toughest parts of the Ourthe are further down the river it was clear enough that the first and last kms on both arms would be the usual Ourthe terrain: rocky, slippery, steep and endless. Parts where 5 km/h is a decent speed but you should not panic when there are sections with on 3 km/h in it.
We started with some hope due to the soon upcoming sun which would allow us to run without headlamp soon after the start. We had been warned that the this first „loop“ was the more difficult one. It was a good and decent trail run on the first kms and we made progress with around 6 km/h on average until km 14. This is where the first funny twist was waiting for us: 600-900 m through a fully overgrown part close by the river. What have been a small paths years ago turned into a funny jungle of small trees, bushes and thorns. Lots of them.
We knew it is only a short section but still it was ridiculous even to our standards. The speed dropped to 30-40 min/km – what a waste of precious time of our lifes. But track is track and it got better once out of this part. Ourthe Oriental offered a few more funny offtrail/fence-climbing/river-following sections until we hit the biggest problem: hunting. We were prepared and warned but tried to enter the forbidden section nevertheless. Turned out this was no good idea as we were spotted quite fast – unlucky timing.
We had to turn back and take a detour. That decreased our mood significantly. But we found a detour of 2 km which allowed us to return safely to the track. We made it to Ourthe, refilled at a supermarket in Gouvy and started the return to the car using the exact same paths (including the hunting deviation and – it goes without saying – the lovely thorny section). It took us around 16 h for the first 90 km.
After an 80 min break at/in the car we continued. And what a mess it was… The feeling to leave the warmer car around midnight with over 100 km to go – special moments of pure joy. After the first shivering meters we were down at the river again. Too tired to make decent progress in the endless Ourthe Occidental windings… Our average dropped below 4 km/h so we seized the first ability to take another break after 14 km on the second loop to reset. Luckily we found THE perfect place to lay down for 30 min. A small shack with straw bales which we could enter unseen in this dark night. To not directly lay on the cold ground was a huge improvement – wrapped in emergency blankets we enjoyed 30 min of sleep. It did what it we hoped for – we were way faster after that rest. With every step the track got easier and the sunrise was approaching as well. The closer we made it to Libramont at km 140 the easier the track got. We sped-up and reached Libramont around noon. After a quick refill at a shop and half an hour indoor rest with some Pommes frites we reach the second end of the track: Ourt. After crossing the few more demaning km right after the start of the return we tried to make as much daylight km on the runnable parts as possible. We knew what was waiting for us. Before the final countdown of the last 14 km to the car we decided to repeat our rest strategy in our nice and cozy shack. With the certainity that no matter how horrible it would be it would be all over in around 3 hours we re-started shivering in light rain. Somehow we made it and even enjoyed it. We were awake enough to talk a bit which always help to stay in the reality.
Seing the car again at 0100 Monday morning was a huge relieve. It was done. All was well.
42h 15m for 207 km – 100% of the Marvel Slam done. What a nice set:
It is time to say goodbye to some marvellous moments. Time to go on…
The real superheroes are the unseen ones.
The weather finally decided to adapt to the calendar. The rain, the mud and the fog are uniting with the all engulfing darkness again. It is that time of the year again to lie in bed all day and listen to the sound of the drops and the wind outdoors.
Lots have been written about how these conditions change the way distances running feels. It certainly adds a whole different level of remoteness, loneliness and vastness to it. Some enjoy this immensely.
Social media begins to fill with end of year summaries – looking back to what has been going on this year. It is not the time to jump on that train. There is unfinished business.
But one thing is clear already. With what has been going on behind the curtain in a certain challenge called „Marvel Slam“ self-supported unlisted distance running entered a new level. The level of braveness, stubbornness and determination was and still is extraordinary. Unmatched performances have been run on these hidden tracks, tons of personal limits have been broken and the barrier between what is bearable and what is impossible has been ignored many times.
Wether or not the folks finish their slam (due date is the end of the year) – we have seen, ran, followed, supported and dot-watched some real heroes.
Unseen and mostly offline they followed what was put on their schedule. They shared their updates to the other happy few and went on.
It is a really astonishing experience to see this happen and to be a part of it.