LEO180 2021 – The Void

„There are no questions for the answers I found.“

What was initially planned as an adventure for two was unfortunately at the last moment cut down to only one runner. What was initially planned as an early Saturday morning start was at the last moment changed to a Saturday midnight start. It is never a good idea to directly head into a weekend run after a full work week and it is certainly stupid to undertake such a mission alone. But the time for discussions, re-planning and worries may come – last weekend was not the right moment for these things. Time was ticking for the Titanic Slam finish and the circumstances, the spontaneous last minute changes set the frame for the weekend: it was time for all in. With only a few days left in 2021, with the memories of the DNF during the first attempt in mind – there was no room for hope.

Do it the LEO180 way.

A midnight start after working the whole day plus two hours of driving through the darkness meant a cold and somehow unprepared start into the 222 km long adventure. It meant also that the first 77 km would not offer any supply possibilities. Not that this was needed but it always feels good to have some spots with breaks coming up and dividing the distance into smaller pieces. But well – it was not going to be a comfortable run. Oirschotse Heide at night is always a blast… the constructions at the canal Groote Beerze destroyed the track two times causing a lot of delay and extra kms at detours… all in all it was a considerable tough first half night – 8 miserable and dark hours.

Darkness.

After an amazing 1h15m lunch break at km 77 at Maarten´s with some nice discussions about the next parts, tactics and the usual nonsense the journey continued. It was a depressing feeling with 16h of darkness ahead. This second night was bound to bring the decision to the one or the other end and I was really interested on which and it would be. Before the second darkness there were a few hours of good weather, of light and even sun:

The first half of that second night with another car stop run by the brilliant Monica & Berry support team was still feeling somewhat normal. I reached the DNF point (km 140) from this summer around midnight with 24h of running done. From there I was heading into some unknown parts as the Titanic Slam Edition of LEO180 features considerable different areas – especially in the part between km 140 and km 180.

Sleeping in the rain.

And there it was: the real struggle. Unbearable sleeping attacks, parts where moving felt like being under tons of water, the freezing cold from outside and within, the upcoming wind and rain – pure horror. What to do with no decent place to sleep? With no support in this darkest moment? Zombie walking through the streets, standing around with no orientation staring into the wet darkness for minutes on end, several sleep stops barely covered with the emergency blanked trying to find some sleep in the rain. It was a clear DNF with more than enough reasons for a cry for help – for someone to pull me out of it and making it stop.

I somehow managed to sustain until 6 in the morning (although losing 2-3 h from the schedule within only 20 km) and Monica and Berry came with the car once more. Wow. Warm soup, warm coffee, some minutes of sleep inside the car, some humans to talk to. Here was the DNF chance but deep within I knew I had to continue and Monica and Berry were quite strict on that as well.

The safe spot @100 miles.

Finally the light came and with the light the assurance that the third darkness would come as well – with so much time lost in night number two. I ran into Sander who brought soup again around km 180 – how amazing was that. He even joined me for some km of „running“ towards the Loonse and Drunense Dunes. Sorry Sander that I was not the best partner for conversation but it was good to see a friendly human and hear some talking in this huge, dark, grey, empty and tired Brabant.

What felt like barely conscious I walked through the dunes and fought through to the city Haaren. Sunday weather was miserable – all grey, rain every other hour and not even getting really bright. Whatsoever. If there is misery usually someone just adds more misery. I did not care about anything anymore. And then everything felt like gone. All emotions, all power, all motivation, all the fight which brought me to Haaren at around km 200 was gone. I was empty but so deep within like never before. I entered the void. I knew I there was no medical emergency that would stop me from finishing, there was plenty of time as well – but what for? It was a frightening feeling: not seeing a sense or a reason in anything. Not even in reaching the finish. I slowly walked through the empty streets somehow not stopping to call for help. I took the phone out and called Maarten as we planned that to arrange and discuss the finish schedule. It was weird to discuss that: I knew that it was the correct moment to do that and justified as well but what in the hell would push me through the last 20 km?

Remember. The. Plan.

And then I defeated the void. Not sure how, but I managed to find my emotions again. I did not care if they were good or bad – it was just good to feel anything. Anything to build-up fear or hope on, which then would lead to a little bit of adrenaline and finally to a little bit of running. Slowly I re-entered the world. That was a completely new experience. The last 15 km were the all-in again. I did not care about anything anymore but to approach the finish.

The Final Countdown – 10 km to go.

To finally end this dark horror. And after 42 hours and 15 minutes it was done. Maarten was there to pick me up and everything turned into a painful but shiny after run joy. We stayed awake for some more hours just to discuss running a bit, to enjoy friendship, to eat and drink.

Relief. I came back from a different place for exactly that moment.

It was a hell of a journey which would not have been possible without the support of Maarten, Monica, Berry and Sander and the possibility to take HQ for this foolish run at Maarten and Linda – thanks for the support and for having me. The Dutch Ultra Family was once more there when desperately needed.

The Medal.

I really like to sit, eat, chat and drink on that table somewhere in Goirle. But sometimes I just need to stand up and go for a LEO180 run. LEO180 is tough for a reason. That makes it unlikely to finish but interesting as well. Finishing LEO180 Titanic Slam Edition within 2021 also meant to finish the Titanic Slam itself. But that will be another story.

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