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:
Nur nicht stehenbleiben
Als meine Fehler laufen lernten
Du mich auch
The ask and the answer
Tote lügen nicht
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.