Start – CP1 (KM 64)
With the start Friday 25th of February 2022 18:00 we had a few minutes of daylight left. The first stage of Montane Legends Trail promised to be devided into two major parts: 45 bearable km and then 19 km left to CP1 down at the Ourthe. So the rough plan was to speed up as much as possible on the first 45 km to start to collect some time for later. The extremely crowded start did not feel that great but soon the rhythm was there. Nice to chat with a few fellow runners who would have been soon what feels like days ahead, to wish them all the best and let them go into the unknown. One moment within the first 45 km Fanny catched-up clearly heading to the front. I was able to hold her speed for the stretch until km 45 and it was great to finally have time to talk again after her crewing me at AOBtD 2020. Funny that it took that long to have this opportunity and that it would be during a 272 km race – but well, it is like it is. What speed and determination this women developed during such a short time – amazing. She would be the one winning the ladies competition at this years race – congratulations: well deserved. At km 45 down in Maboge destiny stroke. Close before one of the imaginary race timing points (which turned out to be small CPs all over the course – thanks a lot to all the Legendary Friends) we ran into Olav. Fanny did not enjoy the wraps we got long enough so that I could follow so I left with Olav. It was not planned nor clear to us but it was the start of team journey. We headed further and hit the Ourthe. It is not possible to describe that area so that it reflects it decent. Lets say: its a selective area and tends to test your determination. Interesting to have that in that extend quite early in the race.
Entering a CP at Montane Legends Trail means to start a very special routine which is almost identical on all CPs. We always took 1 to 1.5 hours break which consisted for me of:
Taking off shoes and socks – quick check on feet condition – let them dry
Refill the race pack what was depleted on food and water
Quickly re-think on clothing: how warm/cold would it be the next stretch
Tape the feet again – new socks – shoes on
Big thanks to the Legendary Friends running the CP – go
CP1 (KM 64) – CP2 (KM 114)
Leaving CP1 was a cold moment – close 0600 Saturday morning – 12h in the race. We quickly descended once more to the Ourthe for some more stretches on that river. With the rising sun running got easier as it always does and we made good progress. The area around Houffalize slowed us again down a bit. What was more – tiredness hit both of us making us slowing down even further. We decided to take a 10 min nap in the bright sunshine – what an amazing weather. Lying in the warm sun was a good one. We reached CP2 in the afternoon – chicken curry time. Delicious. We packed a bit warmer clothings for the beginning night #2 and headed back out in the late Saturday afternoon sun.
CP2 (KM 114) – CP3 (KM 150)
The shortest stretch of the whole race. Slowly but surely the exhaustion kicked in and staying awake and at speed became more and more difficult. Olav started to have problems with his left shift so we reduced it to mainly walking. Not too much to remember other from being cold and getting even colder. The temperature in combination with a nightly wind was pulling energy. We quickly discussed strategy and decided for a decent and longer break at CP3. We arrived there close after midnight on Sunday morning, did the usual, and went outside for a 30-45 min sleep. Although sleep helps and we were aiming to gather as much energy as possible for the next stretch – sleeping outside at -5 °C requires some mental strength and a lot of warm stuff. We left CP3 at 0219 on Sunday with the idea in mind that the Legends Trail would now finally really start. Hautes Fagnes ahead, in the middle of night #2 – it was now or never to prove that we were up to the task.
CP3 (KM150) – CP4 (KM 204)
After a few more steep climbs around Malmedy the river Warche was our permanent friend for quite a few KMs. It was all in all a shivering waiting for sunrise to bring back some energy into our bodies. The long ascent to Hautes Fagnes then finally brought back the sun and what a blast this environment always is. Passing through on day 2 during Legends Trail was the cherry on top of it. Although exhausted one can’t pass through there without being amazed. And another special thing: it was all frozen so that the wet grass parts were hard frozen while the mud had a crispy surface easy to sink through – top. The descent on the river Hoenge is an area which is really familiar to both Olav and me so we just did not think of it much and headed on. We reached CP4 at around 1600 on Sunday – around 5 hours before cutoff.
CP4 (KM 204) – End (KM 272)
We left CP4 at 1730 Sunday evening – 3.5 h before cutoff with the last stretch and night #3 ahead. The first part was well know as it covered the Coo area where we did our nice Iceberg run during the Titanic Slam. Coming back there was a nice feeling. The other side of Coo and Iceberg held one of the steepest climbs of that area – up to the bassins above Coo. Not easy with 210 km in. After that first part with lots of climbing a stretch through Fagnes de la Gleize followed. A straight way up on the top with horribly cold wind. We were further slowing down and were keeping a closer eye on the cutoff times to not fall too much behind. The mood was on a low point – just fighting through longing for this part to end so that we could climb down to get out of the wind. When this finally happened we found a stretch of the Ardennes I did not know before. A funny mountain bike park area with lots of up and down. It was getting really intense now. We decided for another 10 min sleep in our emergency blankets to regain energy for the last few KM to timing point 4.1. It was the comfort of the “Chez Ingo” tent which was waiting for us and pulling us forward. Sitting there in the warmth with sandwiches was just great. We allowed ourself another rest and headed out again at 0700 Monday morning – 7 h for the last 22 km left. As expected it would not get an easy one. More funny climbs were waiting on us. But the sun was back, Olav ignored all his issues and we made our way with two more fellow Legends: Nico and Jantine. With a constant look on the watch we fought through – slowly closing in. Slowly we realized that it would fit but it was a long and slow fight until the very end. What an amazing feeling with the usual sadness that an adventure would ultimately end. But the longing to finally sit down for the last time was really great.
A huge thank you to our RD, his crew and all the Legendary Friends who run the CPs, organized the small CPs, who cared about everything, served us food, brought us drinks, carried our drop back and so much more – amazing work. Without all of that it would be a different event and not half as nice as it is. A special thanks goes to Olav – your company was a great thing and I am more than glad that you did everything to keep us within cutoff. That one will remain unforgotten.
Personally I am pretty happy with how well it went. Sleep deprivation is no fun and that this would hit sooner or later was clear and unavoidable. But there were no other major problems. Equipment worked well, supply was always good, feet stayed in such a good condition that I could run until the very end – a nearly perfect outcome on such a long and demanding trail. Another nice experience and another great learning on what works well.
Credits for the pictures goes to Olav, Maarten, Harry de Fries and www.derennendefotograaf.nl.
Montane Legends Trail 250 2022 was around 273 km long with around 10000 m of D+. It took us 66h 41m to finish it (only a bit more than 1h before cutoff). It was my 24th 100 mi+ run and the longest distance so far.