2020 – narrow escape

It is time to draw the line and to sum up a very interesting year 2020. With what was and is going on in this viral world I consider myself as extremely lucky: a few plans had to change a bit but I was able to start almost each and every run (one exception: TTdR100 was cancelled and will be held in 2021) on the 2020 agenda. It was a narrow escape.

We started off where 2019 had ended: in BEL. Visiting Hautes Fagnes in winter is a blast. Reminder to myself: do not do this again.

On track.

In February we had our yearly edition of mAMa. Some said afterwards they got wet feet. But this can´t be true.

mAMa 2020 – for the beauty of it.

Next stop was #3 in the Legends Trail Slam series. It was the Legends Trail himself end of February. Lots of people told me stories about it before – to do it myself was way more intense compared with anything I did so far. Standing there in the pouring rain after 200k and 48h in the race – not able to locate CP4 for more then 10 minutes – this memory is still so present as if it happened yesterday. What a fool I was. How incapable, how destroyed. Leaving CP4 again to face night number 3 and 60 more kilometers without any sleep was probably THE moment of 2020. The turning point. It was a horrible night. It was a long night. It was surreal and half of the things I saw were hallucinations. But I met a few friends along the way – both running in my and in the opposite direction (LT500 course) and I knew somewhere deep down that the reward of going through that would last.

Montane Legends Trail LT250 2020

The recovery from the 261k Legends Trail took a very long time. In the new COVID-19 world running re-started with a few non-sense running challenges and finally, in June, we used a low-viral moment to meet for a group run and post LT discussions: UTDS Legends Edition. Finally some sleep in the Ardennes!

UTDS+2020: finally some rest and sleep.

It was a bit tough to wait for the final decision on whether or not the final run of the Legends Slam series could/would take place. At the end I was one of the lucky ones being able to participate in the physical edition of Another One Bites the Dust 2020. Only 13 runners in a format which was new to me. It was a very special race in multiple ways. At the end the Slam was done.

We did this. Another One Bites the Dust 2020.

September finally offered the chance to have the first long run together with Björn in 2020 – 150k GR Hageland – again in Belgium. It was good to run and walk together again.

150k GR Hageland, September 2020.

The final long run in 2020 was the attempt to finish the self-designed KATE180 run. Due to the new rules only the two of us started together – and DNFed after 100 miles. It was too much at the end. The track seems to be nice and covers a variety of beautiful sceneries. No one ever finished it though but I have the feeling that this may change in 2021.

KATE180 2020 DNF

In total 4 runs of 100 miles and more in 2020 setting the total count in this category to 18.

Shout outs to Björn, Maarten, Marek, Olav, „One-more-loop“ Jozef, Mike, Adrian, Stef, Tim and Fanny. We shared moments of 2020 together which will last. Thank you for the pushing, the challenges, the dedication, the nonsense, the support and the company.

Long distance running offered a new level of intensity this year. Not all of it was comfortable – some parts have been horrible and frightening. But it was a great feeling to understand that if I dig deep enough a reward waits at the end of all the suffering.

With all that said – there is one last really sad thing to say about 2020: no coke. Again. When will this end?

No-Coke-2020

Beaten by KATE180

„And for some people, just to get back to camp alive is all they want in the world.“
Laz

Long story short – no finishers at KATE180 2020 „Corona-Edition“. We tried it and we failed. To not be able to finish a run you invented yourself is horrible and yet a bit satisfying.

In the last years we strived quite a lot through the KATE180 area. To finally combine it electronically was an extreme pleasure, to find out how it feels in real life was an eye-opener. The track offers a wide variety of different sceneries and undergrounds and a nice mixture of runnable parts and „are you kidding me?“ parts. Comforted by the DNF experience the track should be run in the direction we tried it. With Hautes Fagnes around 130k in. It is so beautiful up there and it looks like I used an almost non-existing trail up there to be part of the track. Water everywhere, mere traces of a trail, completely overgrown. The later in the run the better these parts feel.

Our reasons of failure have been diverse and do not matter. Either you are able to do it or you are not. Sometimes KATE180 has to win too.

***KATE180 LIVE***

What should have been a group run was cut down to the two of us – what should have been flexibel, spontaneous and for idiots only is now even more flexible and spontaneous. No idiots though.

In around two hours we will be off. Out there again. For no reason.

Although we may miss our friends we will try to have a fabulous time. It is time to start a new challenge – lets finally kick-off our Slam. It is the bond between ultra runners that unites and pushes us. In NL and DE there are in total 8 runners attempt to finish 200k+ distances starting today. Apart but united. Not noticed by many, understood from only a few. Amazing how quickly this escalated.

Live-tracking of the two of us below:

http://kate180.legendstracking.com

Joint Forces

I think I shared the story on how it all began quite some times. But to wrap it all up – it started with a funny live-tracking link I found on FB back in November 2016. I was amazed as only two runners seem to run a 180k distance somewhere not too far away in the Netherlands. Without any reason and without much attention. I then contacted the FB page of that run with the question if there would be another event like this. This was the 7th of January 2017. Turned out there was another run in November 2017. The rest is history: LEO180 2017, 2018 and 2019.

It took me quite some years to decide if that day back in Januar 2017 was a good or a bad day after all but in 2019 I could finally let go and make peace it. Turned out the guys over there run a nice internet page https://www.acceptnolimits.eu and it turned out that the 4 of us started to meet from time to time for whatever reasons and started to develop a certain kind of friendship. And by friendship we mean 50% hatred, 49% of irony and bullshit and 1% of respect. You may note that this is a strange friendship and you are totally correct with that assumption. Most of the times we just invite ourselves to stupid or hard or stupid and hard (social) runs or races to find out if we are stupid and tough enough to do it. Most of the time this is the case. So this became a good tradition.

Here are a few moments I really hated them:

But we have had some moments of joy as well:

So it was bound to happen what we have been working on within the past months. acceptnolimits.eu and pfadsucher.com joint forces and came up with a 1-year-challenge consisting of 4 runs. We will use the 2 existing runs hosted by M&M in NL (or at least parts of it), run number 3 will be contributed by us with start and finish in Aachen and we made up our minds and found a ridiculous run number four which will take place in BE. To be nice to the world we will only challenge our friends and will not give away a lot of details. Just another stupid idea of underground ultra running. We will give away the GPX files to our participants only, they have one year time starting next Friday (30.10.2020) to complete all 4 runs. Multiple attempts are allowed if failure may happen.

The coronavirus destroyed all our hopes of having at least some shared adventures but in the actual situation we will need to split even the smallest group of runners as we are coming from three countries (and plan to run in all three of them) and we will need to face the runs even more alone and more secret as we initially wanted it to be. But it is like it is. And it is going to start soon…

From behind the curtain we will follow GPX tracks again. We are bound to fail and that is one of the reasons why we even consider to start. We will obviously start with the race in Germany:

Behind the Curtain

Winter is coming. Soon the running season is over and the ultra running season starts. Finally all the hustle and bustle ends. The trails are slowly but surely emptying again. It gets colder and darker. Rare sunlight spreads over half-frozen muddy, dirty and lonely trails. One is the only human striving through the nothingness. The breath freezes to clouds of mist in front of the headlamp and the crunch of the trail shoes on frozen ground is the only noise to be heard. Miles are coming and miles are going out there in the fresh, ice-cold and crisp shapes.

Blurry figures on the move.

As it will be Corona-winter too and with rising numbers nothing is certain and granted. We are not sure which of our plans will become reality but we want to be prepared.

So my friends and me sat together to review ultra running. Not that ultra running in general was in question but I think there is one thing that unites and drives all of us: the longing of this one feeling. In our post-LT 250/500 race reviews we have been discussing quite a lot about our personal experiences out there and the moments we talked about most were not the ones full of joy or success. But the moments in which one finally understands and accepts the vastness of the surroundings and what a small piece oneself is in this big puzzle. The moments of exceeding the obvious borders the race puts upon you and the awareness that there is more beyond. VPsucher came back from his 360k DH win with similar experiences of sheer existence in the middle of the dunes with no human around for hours. It is a lonely but great feeling. Remote. Tackled. Beaten. And yet: moving and full of determination to finish.

One of the special moments in 2020. And I was only the one taking the picture.

We started to create something to share these moments together with a small group of similar-minded runners and friends. Running and racing on the grounds and in the areas we love with a certain level of difficulty. Rare-support to self-support events of pure running. Enjoying the art of creating the GPX-files and looking forward to fill them with some running. The set of runs we came up with will be challenging enough to have plenty options to fail. We combined them to a set for the real collectors among us.

We may spread the rumours when it seems applicable. Or we may not. Behind the curtain we will do some running of the type we think running should be: low-cost, free of limits, simple and pure. The paths ahead are laid out. Who will be able to follow them until the very end? In a good, old tradition it is meant to start around Halloween 2020.

On? On!

GR Hageland 2020

Finally running together re-started. Took the car to Belgium to enter a self-supported 150k track last weekend. The secret is to not stop before the track ends. No matter what.

Had some amazing hours the morning after. Enjoying the afterglow of the walk with the 5 finishers and RD family with delicious food in a late-summer morning breeze. Sitting there, joking, eating and discussing is the essence of our understanding of running. Priceless. Thanks to all for that great weekend.

Start
Waiting for the night.
Waiting for the night.

runalyze.com / 150.32 km Laufen: GR Hageland – TypeII Fun / 05.09.2020
1d 01:17:24 / 10:06/km / 1,061 m D+

The circle is closed – AOBtD 2020

Let me start with the Another One Bites the Dust poem by Teun Geurts. Teun was supporting this year and his words fit perfectly – thanks Teun:

They were thirteen and they were running
They started running when the sun went down
They ran into the dark and all through the night
When the sun came up and warmed the dust
And still the thirteen were running

They ran for no special reason, it’s just what they do
They ran for no special reason, into the light

The sun ran its course all through the sky
And still the thirteen were running
They ran their course on the face of the earth
The wind in their faces, biting the dust
And still the thirteen were running

They ran for no special reason, it’s just what they do
They ran for no special reason, chasing the light

The light started to fade from the sky
And still the thirteen were running
Rain on their faces, washing the dust
Hundreds of swallows sweeping the sky
And still the thirteen were running

They ran for no special reason, it’s just what they do
They ran for no special reason, into the night

The Legends Slam 2019-2020 is done. Since the very first race of the series The Great Escape back in November 2019 the idea of just crossing one by one of it from the agenda somehow got me. What was a far away dream back then started to become more and more realistic. Even more so with the Legends Trail 250 finish this February. Only one to go. Corona hit all of us and races were cancelled one by one and Another One Bites the Dust was postponed and finally cancelled. But not for the 13 runners still in the race for The Legends Slam.

Being one of the lucky ones I was allowed to participate in a very special race. Huge thanks to the LT Team/Legendary Friends for putting the whole trail city up for the few of us. It was a very nice, calm and unique atmosphere. As I did not bring any crew, Fanny thankfully agreed to help me and did an amazing job. We grew into a good team and her support became more and more crucial the longer the race lasted and helped a lot to keep me up and running.

The race itself is hard to describe – you better do it yourself to understand how it is. Basically it is all about timing and thing which can happen to you is, that you find a rhythm that consumes you in a way that you stop thinking and act like a machine doing the same job over and over again – run the same 6.3 km loop:

AOBtD splits

For me it started to become difficult somewhat around loop 18. But well, on one point it should get difficult. I was not able to make up my mind to fully switch to race mode and I stayed with the mantra: just finish the 28 loops by whatever means. Then you are free again.

What impressed me most was the fact how those 12 runners around me faced the task. Running amongst these Legends made me proud. No mistakes, discipline and precision all over. It was like looking at a fine-tuned pice of art. Every step well chosen, each corner perfectly cut, each piece of runnable ground used – amazing performance.

And finally. Saturday night 23:55 it was finally over. 28 loops done – Legends Slam 2019-2020 finished. What a relieve it was…

The Finish.
The DNF job needs to be done!
The End.

I think it is time to rest now. And to say thank you to my family who accepts my running and to the inner circle of runners/friends which was formed throughout the last 2-3 exciting years and which is always a source of motivation and power. This success would not have been possible without all of you. What can possibly come after all of this? Who knows.

But with friends like I have I expect it to be spectacular.

The Last Race

Although nothing is certain in these viral days, the clock is ticking. 11 days left until showdown. Another One Bites the Dust has been cancelled a few days ago due to the current COVID-19 situation in Belgium. But as AOBtD is the last run in The Legends Slam (finish The Great Escape, Bello Gallico, Legends Trail 250/500 and AOBtD within one year) the RD decided to let those eligible for the Slam 2019/2020 run the race as a special AOBtD Slam edition. Instead of 100 participants the start field will be down to only 13 runners, the big barbecue and the big party (from what I heard) will probably be much smaller and we will need to respect the rules of the new normal.

As the The Great Escape 2019, Bello Gallico 2019 and the Legends Trail 250 2020 have been outstanding and unique experiences, the wish to also get the necessary 28 AOBtD loops for the slam is huge. The Great Escape 2019 was way steeper then I imagined, Bello Gallico 2019 was was darker than imagined plus a bit wet and Legends Trail 250 2020 was beyond in many categories but most of all was extremely long. To finish the circle AOBtD will most probably be a mental challenge with no distraction along the way. Loop after loop after loop…

Another One Bites the Dust is held in the now pretty popular last human standing format. There is one loop you need to run. You have 60 minutes to do so. Every hour starts a new loop. If you are not in the starting box at the beginning of each new loop (for whatever reason) you are out. The race continues as long as there are runners left in the race. If only one runner is left, this runner needs to complete one loop in one hour alone to win, or receives a DNF (as all other runners before) – in which case there will be no winner. Simple thing. The loop at AOBtD is described to be 5.959 km long (although participants of the last years editions claim that it is more like 6.2 to 6.3 km long). This means to cross the 100 mi barrier (which will give you the Slam finish) one needs to run 28 loops/hours. That will be fun. 13 runner with max. 1 person as support each for at least 28 h circling on a 5.959 km loop…

Stay tuned for updates close to race day. It will be a long journey. Again.

Halbzeit 2020

Was ein erstes Halbjahr 2020. Der Start ins Jahr war schon vielversprechend: zuerst die Tour im Hohen Venn mit Maarten und Marek und dann natürlich der etwas feuchte mAMa 2020.

Und dann der Legends Trail 250 2020. Was eine erstaunliche Reise durch 3 Nächte und zwei Tage es doch war. An Tag 3 endlich aus dem letzten unendlichen Flusstal aufzutauchen, das Ziel zum Greifen nah mit dem letzten Sonnenaufgang im Rücken – es war ein unbeschreibliches Gefühl. Über 60 Stunden Eins mit der Natur und jetzt sollte es zurück ins echte Leben gehen? Soziale Interaktion? Wie soll das funktionieren?

LT250 – KM 259/261 – 60+h – coming home. Or am I leaving home?

Es folgte die Corona-Zeit welche durch einige Challenges doch kurzweiliger und laufintensiver wurde als gedacht. Wir waren hier in Deutschland doch sehr privilegiert was die Einschränkungen anging. Duivelse Uitdaging 1 & 2 by Marek waren jedenfalls ein amüsanter Zeitvertreib. Mit den momentan möglichen Lockerungen kehrte auch endlich das lange Laufen zurück. Ein Gruppenlauf auf der verbesserten UTDS-Strecke war der perfekte Wiedereinstieg in das Ultralaufen und die perfekte Gelegenheit im Legends-Trail Gebiet in Erinnerungen zu schwelgen. Exquisite Truppe – gerade in diesem Gebiet. Experten-Runde quasi. UTDS Legends Edition.

Wie unterschiedlich und doch gleich die Momente. Sogar den direkten Bild-Vergleich gibt es – war das Wetter beim LT250 wirklich so schön?

Insgesamt steht 2020 nach 200 Tagen nicht schlecht da.

Progression Graph from RUNALYZE. 2019 vs. 2020 – Tag 200.

Und wie soll es jetzt weiter gehen? Schwer vorauszusagen mit dem Virus im Hintergrund. Doch die Pläne sind soweit gemacht. In 5 Wochen wird es richtig ernst. Der letzte Teil des Legends-Slam steht an: Another One Bites the Dust – AOBtD. 28 x 6.3 km warten mindestens – jede Stunde eine Runde. Keine Möglichkeit Zeit rauszulaufen: das wird eine langsame und konstante Qual. Aber die Verlockung den Slam zu erringen ist riesig. Hoffen wir, dass die Motivation und die Kraft für diesen würdigen Abschluss der Legends Trail Reihe reichen.

#1 #2 #3 – #4?

Anfang September und Ende Oktober sind 2 privatere und exklusivere Läufe geplant. Darüber wird es erst im Nachgang oder kurz vorher Infos zu geben. Wenn das alles so läuft wie geplant sollte 2020 mit genügend Herausforderungen zu Ende gehen.

UTDS 2020 – Legends Edition

Olav: „Hey Tim, that does not look elegant anymore“!

And he was right. Damn right. We were around 30 hours into our small ultra running restart session last weekend and I was feeling the usual side effects of being that long on my feet. But let’s start the story from the beginning.

Cow pic.

We (7 funny persons from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany) started at 0758 on Saturday 4th of July in Sart-lez-Spa to conquer the Ultra Tour des Sources track. The UTDS is not only a 157k race but also a way-marked path to challenge interested people. As it covers some nice and for most of us well-known areas of the Ardennes we thought it may be fun to try this with a self-support social run. Maarten was so kind to carefully check and revise the official GPS-track. We discussed some parts of the track and somehow concluded on a few „improvements“ around the nice city Coo. Somehow the original track avoids a few interesting passages. For whatever reason. No one knows. Really. Believe us.

Rest for the wicked.

The first 67k of our little adventure were quite enjoyable yet not too difficult. Unfortunately we lost our first colleague quite early in the game. The remaining six of us run/walked through Spa, visited the nice stream Le Ninglinspo and crossed the river L´ Amblève for the first time. In between we stopped from time to time to refill water and empty some bottles of sweet drinks and were then confronted with the fact that this group would not work until the end. Different reasons made 50% of us to use the track-back option on their watches to head straight back to the car. This still summed up to almost 100k for them.

Break@30k

Ultra running starts when the comfort zone is gone. And to lose half of our friends while running should be a clear sign for this. Maarten, Olav and me as the remaining three directly ran into our first problem. Water. It was a warm and sweaty Saturday and our supply was depleted. The next planned water pickup (cemetery) was still 13k away and we were already out of water. We got away by knocking on friendly peoples door to fill-up and made use of an outside water tap in the next village (we asked before). Refilled we entered the interesting part of the adventure. With the dark the slight rain came and the wind was suddenly present on the heights. Perfect. This is the setting you want to enter the self-improved most difficult part of the whole journey in the middle of the Ardennes. Finally the feeling of the Legends Trail adventure back in February was creeping back into our heads. I realized that I was accompanied by two LT500 finishers who survived a whole week in far worse conditions by watching Maarten and Olav speeding into this as if it was nothing. Impressive. We had a beautiful night. It was wet, cold and warm at the same time, we paused on a cold but dry planked backyard on a hill and we were surprised with a fixed rope route climb we didn’t knew before. Easy. Not.

All is well.

As it is with all good things – this night ended. So did the rain. We were still in and somehow moving. I have to apologize guys from preventing you to do some proper running. We decided to have our first proper stop in a bakery in Malmedy at km 121 Sunday morning. Interesting strategy of us to wait 24h with this. Coffee, Fanta, Ham and Eggs. Nice breakfast. Although strange to sit dirty and smelling within the midst of all the Sunday morning people.

Breakfast@121k

The setting of the last quarter of the track were the Hautes Fagnes. This meant an endless long climb up to Signal de Botrange. Always amazing to reach this highest point. We directly started with our second and last longer indoor break. Soup and Fanta.

Running downhill from that spot means always some beautiful but technical trails. Hard to manage with a stiff and painful body. But these are the moments of ultra running you have to be thankful for. Because beyond these moments the finish tastes even sweeter. We arrived after 33h38m and 162k with 4500 D+ m at the cars. Done. Thanks for this amazing weekend all of you.

At the end we may have not been the most elegant people out there but elegance may also not be the prime reason why we do kind of things.

runalyze.com162.17 km Laufen: UTDS special04.07.2020
1d 09:38:5312:27/km4,516 m
https://runalyze.com/shared/b6ya3