Legends Trail 2024

Suddenly he was behind me. Couldn’t figure how long he had been following me – I was sure I was quite alone. Focused on following the track and listening to some music I was a bit shocked to see another human being. The track made a funny little curve to the right and then turned more than 90° to the left. In reality there were two possible paths roughly 30-40 m apart from each other which could be the ones. Normally easy with the correct zoom on the map but on Day 3 you rather stop for a second to let the GPS fix a few % more. No stupid extra meters now. We briefly looked each other. I could see the strain, the exhaustion and the emptiness in his eyes – I looked the same I guess.

“I think its this one”
“No, wait – I think its the other one”
“Ja – could be”
“Ok looks good”

And off he was. Faster walking then me he tackled yet another steep climb. It was raining. Fog rising – everything grey in grey. Legends weather on a Legends Monday – roughly 12 km from the finish line. I saw him walking off in the grey zone and knew I would need to follow. But I was forced to take the phone out to take a picture. It was one of those moments. Moments which last. Moments which summarize everything in one picture – at least for those who have been in similar situations.

Those who know know…

Before:
Preparation is important for adventures like Legends Trail. Especially to get the mental setup cleared and determined is crucial. With all uncertainties happening in my life at the moment I was not 100% sure whether or not I would be able to get the focus, to get into the zone. But well – I asked myself: do you really want to stand on that start line and the answer was a clear yes. There are so many personal reasons to go which do not matter here but one thing is for sure: deep inside you want to have an overwhelming longing to get this run done. Otherwise a start does not make a lot of sense.

Material preparation was straight forward – it gets to a routine. Running pack (everyone makes fun of me how much I carry but I think I will stick to it) and drop back with 4 smaller bags inside for each CP. Especially new socks at each checkpoint. Food was also packed in 5 portions – one for backpack, 4 for the drop back.

On Friday I picked up Uwe who saw my re-post that LT was looking for volunteers and jumped on the train for the whole weekend to get a look behind the scenes :). Its only a 1h drive from home to LT so that’s convenient. First thing was to survive the kit check including a “before” picture made by Caroline Dupont which would be completed by an “after” picture if all goes well. Can’t wait to see them. I was not feeling very well, was with slight headache the whole Friday so I greeted everyone as this is the family but went to the car for some quiet moment with my eyes closed with the hope the headache would clear and to finally put on the running cloths. The last hour before start was then again in the cafeteria of the school and its actually frightening and glorious. Runners, volunteers, crew – most of them friends – wait. Lots of chatter and laughter and excitement. Everyone knows (or think they know) what is about to start. I am not connected to German trail runners at all so it was really great to finally see more of them at LT. Tom was about to run himself, his girlfriend Moni was a volunteer, Volker who finished LT already was there with Maren to volunteer as well. It was really great to meet you and get to know you. Those events connect people and I hope it was not the last time we met.

The German delegation (Uwe took the picture) @ LT24 🙂

Night 1:

Almost

Well, the headache did not got better until it was finally time. Weather was indifferent but I decided not to put the rain jacket on – which was the right decision. There were some discussions about the conditions and whether or not the feet would stay dry for a while. Funny thinking. After 400 m the first downhill started and was full of slippery and deep mud – so we would be confronted with heavy conditions the next 280 km. After 1 km the first creek crossing was reached. No bridge – why would there be one? So that one was settled as well :). Bring it on.

During the first stage I was not really able to connect to the race. The mind was not fully there but well – its a never ending race so lets stay calm and carry on – better days to come if all goes well. The highlight of the first stretch was a part on the Ourthe where the trail went through the water. And due to high water not just a little bit into water but waist-deep. For 20-30 m. Wow – that was cold. Getting the whole lower body dipped into a winter river in the Ardennes – it was a moment for those with very special interests. Being half wet in the middle of Night 1 was a nice twist to the challenge as well. But – its Legends – we are here for the struggle. I realized that my otherwise perfect strategy with the waterproof socks was a real problem now. My feet were swimming now with no way the water could escape. I decided to act and took out the waterproof socks. I had shoe insoles in my backpack (I take them out when wearing waterproof socks as those are thick enough), put them in the shoes and continued the journey to CP1. Its one of those decisions – it really sucks to stop, unleash the muddy shoes, open the backpack, try to figure out where to put the completely wet socks, take the insoles out and get the shoes back on. But the golden rule is: if there is a small problem fix it immediately or it kills you later.

One of those moments…

Day 1:
I reached CP1 after roughly 10 h – that was pretty much in the timing I envisioned before. I was just glad that the first stretch was over and no major issues were there. Given my overall condition I was not too happy with the race yet. I fell twice on slippery mud, the headache was still there and I knew this was not even the start of thew real shit. The pasta was heel lekker and I continued on Part 2 – hoping that the daylight would do the usual magic. And it finally got better. I finally felt stronger. In the dusk of Day 1 I met a group with Adriaan and Irene – that was really good to talk and joke and climb together for some moments. With Irene I also quickly discussed the standings in our Garmin Connect running challenge and send funny messages to our lovely little FB group – brilliant moments.

Weather on Day 1 was quite good as far as I remember. We had some sun and the focus was to use the new energy to get as much daylight km in as possible. Part 2 with more than 70 km was just endless. We had the usual “in-between” CPs including one with hot soup (so good) but it was clear it would be starting to get serious in Night 2. Although I really enjoy running with others – at runs like Legends I really feel best when I am alone with myself and a bit of music to fully dig deep. I think I may offend people with it – its really nothing against anyone. But when I can do my own tempo, be alone with my thoughts and completely focus on the tasks that is when I feel calm and secure. The world quiets down and fully feel one with the challenge. Especially at Legends I love and need those moments. Sorry if that seems rude – its not meant to be. I reached CP2 in a perfect timing. I wanted to have 6-7 hours before cutoff to have a bit more room to breath when the shit would hit the fan and I managed to be fast enough. Two helpings of delicious kip curry with rice – fresh socks – and off – off to a part I was actually looking forward to.

Night 2:
Hautes Fagnes time means crunch time. As always at Legends. Before the race there were some discussions on how short the stretch up there was at this edition – but looking at the map I was quite sure the selection was well chosen. Chosen to get us in real trouble – chosen to let the ultra really start. And I was not disappointed. Endless river climbing up and down, the best part of Hoenge, Statte, Sawe and Tros-Marets – places I know by heart but with the mud and the rain it was a real party. Especially the last downhill with the km next to the lower part of the river Tros-Marets. It had everything. It started to significantly rain, mud, stones, water everywhere – finally truly in a situation which makes Legends so unique to me. It seems overwhelmingly difficult and every stone with a false step can send you down and end the race. Its a bit frightening but those are the moments to actually fully embrace – I was finally 110% in the race. Everything was against us runners but that was exactly the battle we (or at least I) came for. Naturally CP3 was a great relieve. It is a good feeling to get out of Hautes Fagnes alive and to have survived one of the more tricky stretches of LT – no matter how unique the feelings up there were. Time for some stew with mashed potatoes and some new socks.

Day 2:
At CP3 the mood was dense. All of us strained, stretched, edgy. 170 km in – Hautes Fagnes in fresh memories. The race was really on fire. CP3 was in Malmedy – and just to mention the name of the city frightens most of my friends. We know those steep hills around the city all to well. But all was well. 7 AM on Day 2 – daylight approaching – 5 h before cutoff – better than I could have hoped for. Stretch 4 started with a real treasure: the area around the Beverce pipeline. Every time I wonder if it is really allowed to send people there; esp. people with lack of sleep. But maybe that is a stupid question. It was manageable. I felt pretty good for the given conditions so Malmedy area came and became memory within a few hours. It was clear that the last stretch of Part 4 was the tricky one so it was again the task to make the most of the light, to try to not lose against cutoff (4 km/h) and focus on not making mistakes.

Somehow people know me well nowadays…

Being that good in timing meant that the complete Part 4 would be daylight – that was really great and comfortable. Part 4 ended with the greater Coo area including Iceberg downhill. Steep but home. We lived there for a while in a long gone area. And CP4 had Tortellini: wow. I love them so much. To top that Moni, Francois and Martino were there. Having dinner with some friends feeling. Was hard to have to leave the place but it was not the end and I was pretty clear at that moment that I would not miss the opportunity to return to the folks waiting at the finish. And I would not return to them in a car – I would do whatever needs to be done to return as a finisher. The dream was so close – and yet: Night 3 was lurking behind the trees.

Night 3:
And it started immediately. The first climb let to fenced farm land. Not unusual as we had to climb fences before in the race. But it was like two compartments and I couldn’t figure the direction anymore. As navigation is normally a thing I manage quite ok I knew immediately that the Night 3 was going to be much worse than expected. With a shock I realized that I was standing there and staring into the nothingness for some minutes probably falling half-asleep while standing. This brought some Adrenaline back and the brain tried to re-start. The first steep climb of Part 5 was the one to the water basin in Coo. A well known stretch but I was honestly surprised how difficult it felt after 210 km. Luckily on the top Volker and Maren were doing their Legends Safety Team job. We had to take a detour and they were explaining the way to each runner. Although I just left CP4 I asked for water as I felt horribly thirsty and I felt really hot. I think I spent too much time at CP4 and body started to shut down. A mistake in a race where no mistakes are allowed. At one point Volker looked at me questioning and I realized he was waiting since ages that I give him back the water bottle. Oh man. Not the best start of the last part at all. After that shock some more runnable parts came and the body slowly re-entered the game – at least for 1-2 hours. After that the sleepwalking started. Sleep deprivation is a beast. Slowly everything went out of control. The raindrops on the rocks looked like smileys in a way I couldn’t bear to look at them, the mossy stones turned into green frogs, every reflection of light was a runner with a headlamp. I don’t now how but I made it to CP 4.1 (Chez Ingo) where we had a great time. The real Ingo (racing himself) came in after me and Karen and Peter were there already. Suddenly all was well again. We had Toasties and Coke – we joked and laughed and listend to the intensifying rain outside.

Toasty Time – km 245 @ LT24

Outside – where the last 30 km were waiting. The last 30 km of the endlessness of Legends Trail. We could have stayed forever but Karen, Peter and me decided to group due to our conditions – at least for the first stretch in the remaining night. The moment we stepped out of the tent all illusions were gone – the horror started at that very second. None of us was well, we were all sleepwalking, couldn’t talk but we were still in – crawling up and down Ninglingspo area. A disaster. There was only one last hope: daylight. Close to this and at the end of yet another long and horrible climb I let them go their way. They were a bit faster and I couldn’t stand keeping up with them. A quick stop to eat something, put some music on would do. And then the shock: the GPS signal on the watch jumped by about 100 m – just like that. I took out the handheld but it was weird as it was showing the same position. Horror. The one thing which should not happen at all, happened. I stood there frozen and shocked in the rain for a while until I realized that would rather kill me than help. I stopped the watch track and reloaded it – didn’t change it. As the direction was still moving when I was turning I decided to use the position displayed and go straight line back to track (about 100 m away). This at least seemed to work. So I stood again on that purple line. Good. Finally the watch signal was turning when I was in the direction I moved. Good as well. It seemed to stabilize. This really hit very hard. I was confused as I almost lost everything so close to finish. With the watch issues I forgot to put the other rain jacket on and was starting to get very cold. Mistakes on top of mistakes – it was out of control. Completely. I called Maarten to make sure that I was not hallucinating and really was on track. He checked the tracker and confirmed that all was well. Matthias called as well before leaving to work. Oh – the world was still there. Random news from a very distant reality but good to hear. And the light was returning. First thing I put the real rain gear on – an hour too late but well. At least I could see the world again and the watch behaved normal again. Had a look on the tracking page after the race and I nailed it the whole time. So what was that – was I having a really bad dream? Never had something like this before. With another 30 min in heavy rain but daylight and a watch behaving normal I took it as the last strike of Legends. The last attempt to finally beat me.

Day 3:
But no. Not this time. Daylight, horrible weather, Day 3, 15-20 km to go and 6-7 hours to get there. I was exactly where I wanted to be. Nothing would stop me now. The last km did not went easy but I was still able to jog which meant I was in considerably good shape this late in the game. Some more climbing. With the rain everything was completely watered but I did not care anymore. The only job left was to get those km in. It was time to return to those waiting at the finish. It was time tick-off another Legends Trail. You would have found me crying during those last km but luckily I was alone. Alone heading to Ferriers. Hard to explain those feelings.

Finish – thanks Nick for the Video.

#4

Shoutouts to the whole LT team – whether it was the crew, the safety team, the volunteers, the support teams of the runners – another weekend which will not be forgotten.

Here are all my video snips from my phone randomly put together for some additional views on this years LT:


Numbers in perspective:

There were some discussions before and after the race whether the course was easier compared to 2023. I would say: maybe a bit but with the conditions it felt harder. The numbers tell us that it was indeed a bit on top. More D+, higher climbing score. That with the conditions made 2024 a rather difficult edition of Legends Trail. This is also displayed in the finisher rate which dropped down to 30.3% (from 31.6% in 2023).

Recorded LT climb views – screenshots from @Runalize

Other than that it was Legends Trail #4 for me after 2020, 2022 and 2023. 4 finishes in a row and simply grateful to have been able to take part of this great event.

1105 Legends KM – WTF

Legends Trail 2024

00Days
00Hours
00Minutes
00Seconds

You can follow LT24 livetracking here – #119 it is: LINK

If you want to get random update or message some (de)motivation:

The preparation is in full flow:

The different Part of LT24 look like this:


That’s how the previous versions looked like – 828 km – 9 nights – 7.5 days – stories for eternity. Will it work one more time?

LegendsTrail 2020
LegendsTrail 2022
LegendsTrail 2023

Day 3

Some of the competitors of Legends Trail make it to the end: the finisher % of the race has been between 30 and 40 % during the last years (I don’t have access to the exact numbers).

The race saw a total of 195 finishers in all past editions (only considering the kids run distance; 2020 is the year with LT500 happening at the same time so not that representative with regards to finisher statistics). 12 different nations have made it into the finisher stats – Belgium naturally leads the pack with 56.4 %, followed by the Netherlands with 26.2 %. GER and FRA are around 5 % and the rest are more like the exotic finisher countries.

The % of women finishing the LT is at total around 9 % but increasing over the last years.

The average time of the LT250 winners is 48.01 h ranging from 43.03 h in 2018 to 57.35 h in 2016. Since 2019 its rather stable between 46 and 50 h. The average finish time of all runners is 60.08 h – seeing a slight increase from 2020 onwards – more towards 62ish hours.

The % of runners who enjoyed the 3rd sunrise (8 AM Legends Monday – 62 h race time) jumped from almost nothing to 50 % in 2019 and increased to somewhat around 70 % average in 2022/2023. 2020 seems to be an outlier and should not be overrated due to the above mentioned reason (LT500 happening). 2020 also happened to see the worse weather out of 2020-2023 so this may contribute to that high number as well. Overall the difficulty seems to increase over the years at least judging by the percentages of finishers with finisher times over 62 hours. Or we just neglect our training.

Data Source

But what about this third day – what is Day 3 like? First of all its actually race day 4 but no one seems to care about those first 6 LT Friday hours. Day 3 is a very special one. During my three attempts I always made it into Day 3 due to lack of abilities so I got some impressions. What makes the moments around sunrise #3 and the hours til the final cutoff unique is that almost all runners who made it that far have a very high chance to actually finish the Legends Trail. So its still a battle vs. cutoff but the odds are finally a considerable bit better compared to the chances during the first 62 hours. The runners share a dream which is almost real – the one golden moment of crossing the line and getting the beer feels very close and for the first time in the race like a somewhat realistic outcome.

To be absolutely clear – almost no runner left is without more or less serious problems. Pain is omnipresent, every single step needs an unmanageable amount of effort and with 3-5 km/h those last kilometres stretch to eternity.

If you look into those eyes – you can literally see the emptiness, you can see the horror of the past days and some just stare into an invisible nothingness. No one is able to hold long discussions, all ability to switch between languages is finally gone, some even seem to have lost all ability to talk. From an outside perspective it may seem like a nonsense and slow-motion march to an uncertain and unreachable destination. Willingness, remote-controlled.

And yet – within each and every runner there is this fire which is slowly gaining strength. You may find them standing and crying as the emotions slowly return to the destroyed bodies. You may see them standing and staring with an odd smile on their face because they finally allow themselves to believe. You may see them marching next to each other in grim silences but they are getting invisibly pulled by that end which is finally in reach.

I remember quite well meeting some LT safety team members 10k before the LT 2023 finish line with a camera interviewing people. I mean what should I tell them? The amount of thankfulness, the amount of relieve and the amount of emotions – there are no words for that. I think they understood.

Despite the unmanageable amount of discomfort of Day 3 and those final 4-6 hours of Legends Trail – to me those are the most rewarding and satisfying moments possible. They are the reason I am starting that race.

1. Teuflischer Biber Ultra 2024

Not all those who wander are lost!

Its usually a very very thin line if you base something on a famous project. You don’t want to be too close and you don’t want to be too far away either. You don’t want to copy exactly and although you know you will never going to create the same atmosphere you want to create something in that style with a unique and distinguishing flavour to it.

No need to mention the original – those who know know.

Although my initial feelings when I heard the concept were a bit mixed because of the above described challenges but the first edition of the Teuflischer Biber Ultra did very well and created a great experience. 6 runners signed up – 4 actually made their way to the Camp Hammer camping ground in the lovely Eifel where the first edition of the race had its base camp and start/finish location.

The concept is pretty simple. The race starts within a given time period (indicated by a signal of the RD giving you a 30 min to start warning) and the task is to complete a somewhat 60 km loop in 10 hours. Within these 10 hours you have to get ready for the second loop as well and sign off for the next loop before the 10 hours elapses. You can continue that game as long as you stay within the given 10h time rhythm for a max of 6 loops – 360 km. To prove that you completed all parts of the track 15 books were (well) hidden along the course and pages had to be torn out matching your bib number. Each loop a new bib. Only by showing the 15 pages you are allowed to continue. The first runner to start the next loop determines if the loop is to be run clockwise or counter-clockwise by throwing a stone. Sounds a lot to remember but nicely falls into place while doing it.

As the loop will never be exactly the same we are allowed to talk about what has happened starting February 3rd 2024 07:43 AM. Except for one book I will not give away the book hidings – who knows if some of the locations make it into the next editions. I will keep this knowledge and will use it to my advantage most definitely :).

The first loops challenge was clearly to locate the books. 2h before race start we received the GPX for the loop as we were allowed to use our electronic friends and a paper map indicating the book locations. A really brief description on 2 pieces of paper gave one sentence and sometimes a picture for each of the books which should help us to find them. To be honest – most of them were not really helpful. During the race briefing we got some additional hints but still – it was pretty sure that maintaining 6 km/h on a rough 2200 D+ 60 km loop while playing hide and seek with 15 books was on the edge of possibility for a slow runner like me. Perfect – exactly how this format should be presented. Possible for one loop but on the edge for me. Possible for several loops for the really strong ultra runners. Possible to complete 6 loops – questionable. It was up to us how to best prepare in the last two hours before start so I used some of my Garmin Connect knowledge’s to ease the job ahead.

Finally we started at 07:43 on Saturday 3rd of February 2024. The 4 of us. First loop was to be run counterclockwise and the book bags were numbered 1 to 15 – good to check along the way if all was well with finding them all. Daylight helped as well. Running with Désirée in the first loop meant having 4 eyes looking for books. Wouter and Teun teamed up as well at least for some parts on loop 1. In general probably a wise thing on loop 1 to be quicker in finding the books. Still: it took a while at each location. I think we only found 3-4 books within 1-2 minutes – the other took 5-10 minutes each. This adds up a substantial amount of time for the first loop. The track was well designed and offered some parts which were easily runnable. Thanks for this. It would have been impossible for me without these parts. The book/km density varied quite a bit as well which was good too as in some parts there were 5-7 km to the next book making it more easy to focus on getting some time advantage to this 6 km/h to make up for the time lost during the searches. Real fun but on the edge of being a bit stressful. We made it back with 45 min spare. Désirée stopped as planned before start – I continued on loop 2 with 20 min extra – roughly one hour behind Wouter and Teun. Although it was now really easy to locate the books (we were running in the same direction as loop one) the needed speed in that terrain together with a tired body made it more and more clear that finishing loop 2 within 20 h would not do for me. I was not really angry about that and decided to enjoy the experience being out there in the dark Eifel with constant light rain chasing and tearing out those pages. Until I had enough. I called the RD and was picked up in Erkensruhr for good.

On loop 1 it was uncertain if we would be in time – so starting loop 2 was the goal. Before the race I was dreaming of entering loop 3 – as I think that this is what I can do when everything is perfect. That it was going to be impossible for me was clear before start. So I am happily accepting it and made some valuable experiences to come back one day and push for 3 loops. Beyond that is expert terrain – so I am going to leave that with the experts.

Thanks to Michael, Kevin and Bianca for being stubborn enough to put the Teuflischer Biber Ultra on the race calendar – please keep it there. If it gets the attention it deserves it will grow. The seed is planted.

Désirée, Teun, Wouter – it was an honor to enjoy a nice camping weekend with you. Thanks for pushing at the end of loop 1 Désirée – I needed it. Teun – I still love your poem you wrote for us during Another One Bites the Dust Corona Edition. Apart from that we rarely met and it was my pleasure to finally spend some time. Amazing how you pulled of 4 loops – there are only a few, but you may have the 6 loops in you one day. Wouter – we mainly offend each other in various FB chats. It was great to have the possibility to do that face-to-face. We should do that more often.

Ah: what you all have been waiting for – the books. I only took pictures of some of them but here is a selection of titles:

Die Reisenden
Target
Nur nicht stehenbleiben
Als meine Fehler laufen lernten
Eiertanz
Du mich auch
Survivor
The ask and the answer
Tote lügen nicht

8.5 of 10!
Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain Calories Burned
16:37:25
hours
13:51:18
hours
90,22
km
11:03
min/km
2:56
min/km
3.529,00
meters
6.503
kcal
⛰️ Holderknipp (407 m) • 🦶⬆️ 2024 = 7,946 m | 🌐 summitbag.com

The 2024 results:

15 pages – Désirée
26 pages – Tim
30 pages – Wouter
60 pages – Teun

Writing this its Monday 5th of February 11:00. 8 more hours to finish loop 6. This feels strange. Somehow incomplete.