Focus

No matter how exciting it felt at the beginning – at the end all reduces to very little.

It starts with excitement, with joy and with hustle and bustle. The connection with the surrounding and the fellow runners is intense. It feels like a big journey and a great adventure. Lots of discussions go along with lots of laughter. What a great experience. What a gift to be out there together.

Despite this promising start everyone is well aware that this status will not last. It must end as it consumes too much energy and wasting energy is a dangerous thing. Discussions and laughter begin to fade – replaced by increasing periods of calm and monotone running.

The final step to focus is the disconnection from any external influences. One after the other the bands to the „normal“ world need to be losen and finally cut. It is a decision to let go of everything else and the decision to concentrate and focus on the one thing: to go on. Similar to the focus of the headlamp in a moonless night which reduces every existence to a small colourless and 2-dimensional spot: this final step means to enter a place within yourself where no disturbances from the outside can reach you. It is a unique place and only yourself can enter it. All decisions are now directed to the one goal. The sooner one reaches that state the better. It preserves from worrying too much and the strong focus allows no doubts. The still existing troubles are quiet for a while. They will for sure come back and the focus will fade again but it is important to understand that it is possible to go back there at any time. It comes with experience and is improved by practice. It needs a certain kind of mental strength but is worth every effort:

Loops do not matter anymore.
Weather does not matter anymore.
Distance does not matter anymore.
Hopelessness does no matter anymore.

Finishing does.

Doing Your Best?

Great. Always good to do that. And really – you invested everything you had to give. You withstood all the discomforts. You conquered all obstacles. Everyone told you before it is insane. The race director told you it’s impossible. Twice. But you still signed up and started. And: horrible conditions along the way. Unmatched so far. Way too long distances between the checkpoints. All your friends and family on every social media congratulate you already and comfort you in thinking that what you already achieved is amazing. You yourself are sure that your performance is above all doubts. Your Garmin congratulated you – you just earned another batch and you broke a few of your personal records along the way. On top of that the night fall and the nice indoor checkpoint is warm and cosy. It is time to hit the stop button on your watch or even better: the button on your tracker. Still you may remind yourself:

So you may want to revisit your situation. Don’t you feel that tickling sensation somewhere deep down? Are you sure the light won’t come back again for another bright morning? What if you open your eyes and the clock is still ticking? What if you realise that you maybe really can finish it? What if it is worth the trouble? But that is your decision.

Aachen Läuft

Eine doch sehr schöne und teils auch recht unterhaltsame Aktion ist beendet. Veranstaltende, Vereine und Supporter von 4 Aachener Laufveranstaltungen haben angesichts der anhaltenden Corona-Situation vom 28.11.2020 bis 28.02.2021 eine Ausgleichsmöglichkeit für das Laufen im Aachener Stadtgebiet angeboten. Ein Bluetooth Start-und Ziel-Turm samt Anleitung wurde aufgestellt und das Prinzip war denkbar einfach: App herunterladen, registrieren, vor jedem Lauf zwischen zwei Distanzen wählen (4,6 oder 9,2 km standen bei einer Rundenlänge von 2,3 km zur Auswahl) und nach dem Lauf die Zeit hochladen – Aachen Läuft eben.

Darüber hinaus wurde das Startgeld für die Aktion gespendet, weitere Spenden konnten getätigt werden und spendable Sponsoren haben immer wieder für nette Zwischen-Challenges Preise für die Laufenden bereit gestellt. Eine schöne Sache.

Ob der anhaltenden Pause offizieller Veranstaltungen nutzte ich diese Gelegenheit um einige längere Läufe auf der Runde zu absolvieren. Insgesamt sind 611,8 km in ca. 81 Stunden zusammen gekommen was 266 Runden um den Hangeweiher entspricht. Die Wochenleistungen bei Aachen Läuft sahen dabei wie folgt aus:

KM/KW bei Aachen Läuft

Ich bin also hauptsächlich im Dezember 2020 am Hangeweiher gewesen – mit der 100 Meilen Aktion am kalten 08. und 09. Januar 2021 als Höhepunkt und längstem Lauf (24 Stunden Laufzeit). Insgesamt wurde es der zweite Gesamtrang was die Gesamtkilometerleistung betraf – hinter einer unfassbar lauffreudigen Nummer 1. Irgendwie haben wir uns beide in der Überschrift des abschließenden Zeitungsartikel wiedergefunden. Tatsächlich haben wir gemeinsam die ein oder andere Runde gedreht und haben uns gegenseitig supported – es war mir ein Fest!

Auch hatte ich das Glück bei einer der Wochen-Challenges mit einer Box lokalem Glück reich beschenkt zu werden.

Vielen Dank für die Organisation – eine gelungene Sachen in diesen Zeiten.

Ein wenig froh bin ich doch, dass der Hangeweiher nun für eine Weile nicht mehr besucht werden will…

100 mi Hangeweiher #aachenläuft

Die Aktion #aachenläuft ist eine schöne Idee und funktioniert technisch echt gut wenn man die Hinweise der Organisatoren zur Nutzung der App beachtet. So kann man ganz gemütlich am Hangeweiher 2 oder 4 Runden drehen, dabei etwas für den guten Zweck tun und in diesen verrückten Corona-Monaten etwas Zeit an der frischen Luft verbringen. Also Ihr Aachener – raus an den Weiher!

Das schöne Wetter am Wochenende war zu einladend – 68 Runden (17×9.2 km) auf der Strecke plus einige Runden unten am Weiher machen auch 100 Meilen voll. In 23 Stunden und 45 Minuten eine gegen Ende doch sehr anstrengende Angelegenheit. Vielen Dank an alle die vorbei geschaut haben und ganz besonders an Uwe. Wir haben uns das erste Mal gesehen, aber es brauchte nur kurz bis wir uns gut verstanden haben. #1 und #2 der Rangliste gemeinsam auf der Runde – das hat Spaß gemacht.

Das Ende.
Nein, das ist nicht die HF.

Für die Statistik: #19 – check.

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

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!

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.