Face to face with LEO

The whole life is determined by the decisions one is making every day.

For example I could have decided long ago to go for a skateboard carreer. The upcoming event LEO180 could then just be one of those fancy moves everyone likes to watch in slow motion on youtube. I can perfeclty envision the setting: the sinking sun flooding the half-pipe with a golden brilliance, a 180 degree turn of the board, captured as a 4k video to share with the community… Seconds of pure perfection.

But I didn´t make that decision. If you would like to capture the real LEO180 you would need a lot of gigabyte storage on your camera, more then 30 hours of time, dozens of powerbanks and the outcome would be horrifying. Hours of pure nothingness, lonelines and meaningles suffering. And even slow motion would not help. Played with reduced speed, the rare movements would seem to stop. Together with the time. Hours of insanity.

Nevertheless it is time to get ready; to prepare for all the worst cases. There are a lot of unusual things to prepare and to take care of this time. First there is something strange with name of the race: LEO180. In all races I´ve been doing so far – a number in the race title was related to a either a distance or a time: STUNT100 (100 miles), TTdR100 (100 miles), 24h of ……… (fill in any location) and so on. But now: LEO180. We were told that the distance will be 191,31 km. I alway though the Netherelands agreed on the SI units but, well, at least we know it early enough. This really asks for the introduction of the new unit „Dutch Kilometer“ aka DuKi. 1 DuKi equals 1,06283333 SI kilometer. How handy. Reprogramming the Garmin right now :).

There are some more seriouy steps in LEO180 race preparation: checking opening times of gas stations, supermarkets etc. along the way; staring hours on the GPS-track to get a feeling for the different sections of the route; planning and preparing food, equipment and drop-back stuff – in short: race time again. A race with only two finishers in last years first edition.

One of the race director posted the documentary about Yiannis Kouros „Forever Running“ on FB. Probably to race our moral :). It is normally a nice thing to watch running videos to get into race mood. But videos about Yiannis? He is unique in history, his achievements and successes will most probably never be beaten by any runner. He is the one telling us that real ultra running starts beyond 24 hours of constant running (which meant for him 240 km on bad days and 300 km on the good ones), he is the one who beat a field of world class ultra runners although race directors let him start one hour behind everyone of them, he is the one winning the Spartathlon in 4 consecutive years with none of thoses times being beaten since then, he is the one with more than 150 world records in ultra running. He is so unhuman in his performance and in his way he interpreted running that it is impossible to take any of his advices or to make use of any of his techniques during your own runs. At the very end of this documentary he finally says something I can fully understand and agree with. Because whatever your capabilities are – at the end of a very long race in which you invested everything of your physical and mental power it is true that:

„The tragedy in our sport is that we can not celebrate our victory when the race is up. In all other sports, when the race is finished, they go to celebrate and rejoice – in our case we can not do anything. The day after the race, you feel like death itself …“

Maybe he is human in that moments.

Thanks Maarten for reminding us of what is impossible 🙂 – haven´t watched that documentary in the last month. Personally I´m really looking forward for the LEO180 challenge. Taking the last weeks into account, I don´t believe that a finish is really possible and likely for me. But you never know. However – I am really looking forward to get to know a bunch of new people, and hopefully a lot of joyful hours with the VPsucher out there!

While thinking about running long distances the picture book „Frederick“ by the Italian writer Leo Lionni comes to my mind. It is about the mouse Frederick and his friends preparing for the long and cold winter. While his friends are busy trying to collect enough food for the long winter, Frederick seems to be of no help at all – telling them he is collecting sunbeams, colors and words. The first time of the winter the mice are happy with all the food and laughing the hard times away. At the middle of the winter however, the food is empty and everyone is getting hungry, angry and sad. It is Fredericks time now. He stands up telling them stories about the warmth of the sun, the colors of the spring and happy stories about the beauty of life and the seasons. All of his friends are happy again, forgetting about all of their troubles.

Although we normally plan our food supply better then these mice – during this long hours in a race the time comes when different things are of higher importance then food and water in terms of not giving up. Do not be afraid when you see us laughing about stupid jokes, singing in the middle of the night, dancing in the middle of the nowhere – we are doing really well in these moments. Collecting stories, jokes and songs for these long hours is definitely an important part of race preparation of the VPsucher/Pfadsucher team.

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