Hohe Mark Steig

Change of plans. Instead of the planned long run it will be a shorter edition starting tomorrow around noon. Exploring the Hohe Mark Steig (https://www.hohe-mark-steig.de).

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By following the live-scoring of the individual Championships of Backyard Running (aka. Big Dog´s Backyard Ultra) which may or may bot approximately half-way of what everyone think could be the limit – there is an interesting terminology to be found on that tracking page.

In normal ultra races there are usually three things which can happen apart from finishing:

DNS: Did Not Start/Show aka “something went wrong and that’s why I couldn’t come”

DSQ: Disqualified aka “oops”

DNF: Did Not Finish aka “‘something‘ happened along the way which, unfortunately, made me diverge from the initial plan of finishing. You know. Well. Fuck.”

The Backyard family added three more detailed sub-levels to DNF – among them one really great one. Those three sub-levels are:

OVER: Backyard-specific expression of finishing (a loop) but over the given time limit of one hour per loop.

DNC: Did Not Complete loop. Well – it says quite clearly what it is. But in an honoring way. Its not a simple DNF – it values somehow the runner who had the guts to start the (most of the time) hopeless try to complete another loop. To go out another time. To fight the overwhelming task.

And then there is:

RTC: Refuse To Continue. And I mean: wow. Its not a simple DNF – its an RTC. A REFUSE to continue. Its a different and way more intense expression of a delicate situation. We all know runners (incl. ourselves) and their (our) various reasons and explanations of why they (we) did not finish a certain run/race. But the deeper story behind most of those “stories” is nicely summarized by the expression: RTC. Because at the end – whomever/whatever we are blaming for our failure – the reason of discontinuing is mostly to be found within ourselves. The strong inner voice, the strong outside discomforts, the whatever – it is our decision and its an active one. We actively refuse to go further because in front of us lays the uncertain beyond, even more misery or whatever makes us pull the easy option. The way out. The instant relief.

And by that I don’t mean to underestimate any effort taken nor want to criticise any RTC. It never comes easy and may be the better/safer/more reasonable/healthier option in many cases.

But still. Did Not Finish is a fact. REFUSE TO CONTINUE requires an active decision. A decision which could have been a different one. It feels like it leaves the door to continue a tiny bit open. Some would say both expressions are the same and technically that’s true. On the other hand – its a completely different view on the things – a view only those can understand who really dealt with certain circumstances…

Next time casualties arise I will try to remember – try to make myself clear that its me, and only me, who is making an active decision to not continue. It will certainly make the decision more difficult and by that hopefully pushing me beyond that point.

Just go on…

After Dusk

We don’t have enough stories to tell in the dark nights anymore
– we used them up already.”

As if the #fenix wanted to confirm the waves of dark premonitions it gave the daily notification: “30 min to sunset“. Just like that. The darkness was approaching. It was bound to happen and yet – even after all these years – it came as an unpleasant guest to an already demanding party.

Nights are an unavoidable part of long distance running events. And they are a fascinating part of the game. By time and experience one gets used to most of the things happening but the interesting thing is – no matter how good one is in controlling the night challenges – it still can change the run/race dramatically. To name a few unwanted things bound to happen in those dark hours:

  • loss of the desire to eat and drink (which will reduce the performance dramatically if the regular drink/eat schedule is neglected)
  • even with enough food intake: the stomach will revolt on one point – too full or too empty or kind of right on spot – its just not made for 24h processing
  • no matter how good the beginning of the night may feel – the dead hours are usually those between 0300 and 0600
  • even with some sleep breaks – it gets a bit better but there is ultimately no escape from serious sleep deprivation side effects
  • with more than one nights in a run those nights are most of the times different – either they are getting increasingly worse or your body tricks you with a solid second night after a horrific first but is secretly planning on a third night disaster
  • the light cone of your headlamp will delete most of the third dimension from the world and will reduce your being to this small path of LED-lid surface
  • re-starting running after a safety-blanket-power-nap (#sbpn) really is the worst – all that shivering stiffness – takes some minutes of jogging to shake it off
  • despite the experience that talking/discussing is THE key for a bearable night performance – most of the time its ending up with running next to another lacking the energy to talk: silently grinding in the dark

f*** those stones really look like animals
are there humans between those trees over there – silently staring?
wow look – a sheltered place to finally sleep a bit: oh wait – its just some trees…
climbing these steep trails is a really really bad idea in dark nights
now everything is moving on the edge of LED circle
what are those animal eyes staring at?
is this dusk or just the emission of yet another distant city
we are just so fucked-up and lonely in this ocean of darkness

And yet: the night is dark for everyone. All of the others (if any) will need to endure parts of the above. Its just another challenge. Another hurdle to overcome. And it offers a possibility to make a difference. By not losing the battle against the demons and making it to the other end of the night there is a fair chance of gaining. Gaining some meters compared to the others, gaining some experience in endurance, gaining some places in the ranking compared to those who lost their nightly battles. It anyways feels like a lost battle at night – so its exactly the right time to push as good as possible.

And finally the #fenix again: “30 min til sunrise“. Adrenalin – followed by more adrenaline at the moment where light is fully back. For some glorious moments the world is whole and light again. Walking feels like running and all tiredness is forgotten for good. All too soon the hormones are used up and the suffering is back. But hey – its another day – its some decent hours of light – its some hope. Some hope to use as energy – until the sun sets again…