10 years

Back in 2014 we had no idea:

2014 – Limburgs Halfzware 75k

Back in 2015 we asked ourselves some questions:

Limburgs Zwarste 2015 – 100k

Back in 2016 we started to explore…

2016 – random fun

Back in 2017 we met new friends:

2017: DCUrbN 100k

Back in 2018 we tried new things:

2018: TTdR 230k

Back in 2019 we received some Dutch Bling Bling:

LEO180 2019 – 210k

Back in 2020 we explored the darkness:

2020 GR Hageland – 150k

Back in 2021 we figured daylight is also ok:

2021 Krönungsweg Bonn-AC 140k

Back in 2022 we started to conquer the unknown:

2022 The Mystique – 200k

Back in 2023 we started to relax:

2023 Biber Backyard Ultra

And what is next? After thousands of shared kms we rarely meet to run these days. But when we meet its for something big, something new – its for an adventure. On, on we go. Hop hop don’t stop!

2023

After the pandemic years 2021 and 2022 with the two Slams (Titanic Slam in 2021 and Marvel Slam in 2022) it was finally time to get back to a “normal” schedule in 2023. Whatever that would mean.

February 2023:
As a kind of tradition the long-distance running year started with the Legends Trail in February 2023. It was the usual fight with the elements and with the own body – but at the end it was finish #3 at the third attempt. Maintaining the 100%. Its a race hard to describe but the final thoughts from my race report in February summarize the 280k of emotions quite well:

And then the moments were there. The moments I envisioned before and during the race – the moments I came for. Not just a usual Monday – the Legends Trail Monday. All efforts of the past long hours were meant to reach exactly this: the final 10k of Legends Trail with enough time that the finish is safe. As if nature wanted to join the party a glistening sun flooded the hills of the final stretch. It’s a bit like dream walking. Shook by the emotions of the upcoming finish. Deeply connected to the surroundings. Unbelievable thankful for being able to reach that point and to be part of this story once more. One of the last hills brought a nice view and standing there in the warm sun was an amazing feeling. It could have last forever but it was not done yet. There was a finish waiting, there were people waiting – time to ultimately finish it off – time to also tick-off the last kilometres of Legends Trail 2023.

LT 2023 – The Bus. The Walk. The Paradise.

March 2023:
As a Legends Trail cool-down I decided to enter the flat 24h race in Sittard. A nice and boring course – no excuses at hand for any break. I secretly hoped for a PB (>166k; something in the range of 180k should be doable for I hope) but at the end there was still some tiredness in the body so the mind could not push and required some breaks. I DNFed with a 100 mi attempt – at least the minimum goal was achieved.

April-June 2023:
In April we seized the chance to test out the new hiking trail Venntrilogie, in May we met for a running weekend in Sauerland and finally the first Backyard of 2023 in June – the Biber Backyard Ultra. Tough track for a backyard and mind and body were not really ready that day so it ended early.

July 2023:
Summer. Usually a time unsuited for running. But it was time to collect another long distance and the Schinder Prison Break offered a new format for me and a new chance for some decent running. Even better: as it was an escape running event it involved a lot of planning of the best track on the computer before it even started. Something I really love. The event itself was a great journey. The first night I was alone with my backpack but then I was accompanied by a great crew. The greatest crew. Car support, running without backpack, meeting my friends. It made running in the heat much more comfortable (although it was still a real torture). 48h of escaping and 241k – it was a nice adventure.

Prison Break 2023 – without crew you can’t conquer the desert!

August 2023:
Another transition month – connecting two long events. The home event – the Monschau Marathon – offered a good chance to squeeze in a long run. I never ran the K70 distance before and with a midnight start in Aachen it nicely added up to a 100k training run.

September 2023:
Showtime again. This time further away from home and for the first time in the lovely Vosges region in France. 200k Infernal Trail des Vosges was a well organized event. A bit too big and too commercial compared to what I usually run but a great team and great supporters at start/finish and the various CPs. A midnight start with a burning Infernal logo, a really spicy track, over 10k D+ of elevation gain and a brutiful landscape. On top of this – again hot weather. A tough one – 50 hours of fighting and it was done. It was satisfying to see that these things are doable backed with the experience of the last years. All in all a great trip – thanks to Claudia for the support.

The Vosges@Infernal Trail des Vosges

October-December 2023:
The final period of the year. Plans were made and could not executed. As an alternative and to get another long run in I chose another hiking track which is fairly new on the map of NRW and in a region I’ve never been before. It was a nice run on the Hohe Mark Steig but also pretty lonely and tough in a most of the time empty stretch of land.

In total 5×100 mi+ runs in 2023 – 2 less compared to 2022. Around 3800 km in 2023 – also less km compared to 2022. 72k of D+ in 2023 in total. A difficult year in many aspects but a year with great moments while running and some rare shared moments with good friends.

DateTime[km]#
Legends Trail 202317.02.202366h 56m275,0031
24h Sittard 202318.03.202324h 0m163,0032
Schinder Prison Break 48h 202307.07.202348h 0m241,5933
Infernal Trail des Vosges 202307.09.202350h 14m215,8034
Hohe Mark Steig 202301.11.202328h 36m161,0035
Sum1262h 29m6.676
Average36h 4m190,75
Updated List of Ultras – +5 in 2023
Statshunter as of December 2023 #tilehunter

The picture of the year can only be the one below – curious what 2024 may bring?!

Hydration while running – so important!

It Does Not Matter

An often discussed question while comparing different distance running tasks is: what is more difficult? The only true answer is – it does not matter.

But lets have a look into the various factors which can contribute to difficulty and what they may/should/can mean – or at least: what they mean to me while striving:

Support. Clearly this is a nice to have. Really. It helps a lot to see friendly faces esp. if their supply bottles are full. On the other hand this distracts you. Breaks your rhythm. And no matter how desperate you were waiting for those moments of relieve – at the end they are dangerous. Offering you a possibility for an easy way out. A quick DNF. You cool down (body and mind) quite fast and its getting more and more difficult to get back into it the longer you rest. To leave those nice folks to continue is getting more and more brutal.

Race Atmosphere. Also great. A lot of people source all of their energy from the competition. But to be dependent from this does not help at all. What if you end up in these useless and nonsense adventures you do with a bunch of friends. There is no one competing. No one to run to or away from. Sometimes no one is following what you are doing. What drives you then? What is THE motivation to finish although its stupid? I overcame this a long time ago. I can envision an entry into an excel sheet, a Garmin badge or the chat entry into a group of idiots as my reward and grade it equally high as an official finish at a race. I would have stopped a million times if I needed a race around me (I still enjoy the atmosphere though).

Other Runners. Also a nice thing. Even better if its friends during one of the stupid long adventure runs. On the other hand its not only you then. A certain percentages of their problems become yours as well. If the other(s) DNF what are you going to do? Will you have the guts or will you fall as well? So to be able to manage everything alone is essential. Maybe esp. in the moments where you are not alone. Because everything can happen.

CPs. Similar to support. Really nice. A warm, cozy and safe place if you are lucky. Some food. Friendly people. So why not stay for good? So many runners couldn’t resist the comfort. So enter the door carefully. Brace yourself. Make sure to remain a cold, distant and not belonging atmosphere deep inside you. While eating through delicious Tortellini with ham, cheese and pesto (credits to CP4@LT – you are amazing!) be clear to yourself: your destiny is that dark world outside of that door. All too soon you will need to face the hell again.

Conditions. Nothing to say here really: its the same for everyone. Of course that is a strange statement when its only the two of you out there on that ferry in Ijmuiden with rain and wind howling and punching your face. Its around 4°C but feels like freezing. Its the middle of the night and every human on earth is safely sleeping. But. So? Its the same for everyone. Just shout it often enough into that night until it makes you laugh or believe. Whatever. It does not matter.

At the end it should be crystal clear: it does not matter. Not at all.

What drives me at the end is shear determination. Determination to get the task done. What else would have made me finish?

That one LEO180 at the end of night 2 – alone for what felt like days. With a bad ankle. It hurt quite a bit and although nothing serious it was immensely annoying. I stuffed frozen gras into my socks to cool. Then I met a surprise support which felt nice until I realised that the promised Coke was empty. There I stood. Too far from finish to dream with enough issues for a solid DNF. With my no coke face. But I started to realize that I should accept all my issues. Welcome them. Collect them. Wear them like an invisible crown. Make them my little treasures and make it my task to deliver them to the finish.

That other LEO180. This time it was the two of us. After a horrible second night we were left with 60k and 10h of time limits. Moving with 4-5 km/h. A clear DNF – 0% chance to finish. Both of us were at the very low. But B. came up with a little game. We should run 6k starting from the full hour without any excuses and stops and were then allowed to walk the rest of the hour. We finished with 50min spare.

There are tons of more moments like this – you will find them in all those report across that page. Letting the demons and problems being a part of you has been THE essential thing to get it done. Each and every situation was too much to endure – the relieve of resistance and finally finishing is a priceless reward.

No-Coke-2018

DNF

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…

Infernal Trail des Vosges – September 2023 – IT200

00Days
00Hours
00Minutes
00Seconds

The official track:

200 km; 10000 D+

The official live-tracking would have added additional costs so I will just take my tracker with me. The usual one-dot-show to be followed here.

For some additional info – here is the breakdown of the different parts of #it200:

The Breakdown of IT200 2023

Summer Hibernation

Enough is enough. Temperatures reaching above 20°C levels, daylight is almost days long… Time for the usual summer hibernation to endure this period until, finally, the darkness, the mud and the cold return.

So what are those distance runner doing? Some have been spotted to try to adapt with sophisticated drinking strategies to prevent dehydration:

Some have been spotted trying to hide somewhere at random destructive places:

Some found new homes:

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Hiding in the Darknes

So time to say goodbye for now – until the distance season returns.

Homework

Independent long-distance-planning means you really need to sit down and do your homework. A work meant to prepare you for all occasions which still leaves some doubts behind…

This gas station does not really looks like open 24/7. Does 24/7 means you can walk in at 0300 and buy coke or is it only gas you can pay with your credit card.

Will this cemetery have his water tab open? Will it be possible to enter?

What if that point crashes – is the distance to the next point too far?

No one really likes this work but still I am rather better prepared than worse.

Prepare your sheets well!

Shared Dreams

In Long Distance Running there is the tendency to form fellowships to push-through together. Although these may be unique and useful relationships it’s a thin line between success and failure of such fellowships. To not be mistaken: if it works out it may be the greatest experience you will ever have and create live-long memories.

Personally I would never commit to a long run together by default unless I know the partner(s) extremely well. And by extremely well I mean extraordinary well. It´s more the sort of: in literally every imaginable situation I know how the other will react and we have a plan for this. Obviously this needs to be true for the other fellows with regards to your reactions as well or this does not work.

The common issue with this is that every imaginable situation is a wide playing field when being out there for days.

And again – there are plenty of good reasons to form fellowships. First of all things are in general more enjoyable together. To go through rough situations and being able to laugh about or fight through together is really great and can help a lot. You can support another with motivation, gear, food – whatever may be needed. You can benefit from key abilities and share responsibilities: while one is navigating the other can take a mental “rest” and just follow, the other may have the spare food or clothing which could substantially help yourself, the other can remind yourself to keep up with food/water. A relationship which is beneficial for everyone which at the same time helps the time to pass a bit faster. Really helpful.

But what if that’s simply not enough? What if it all starts to be a burden rather than a supportive combination? Do you have these situation planned and covered as well?

What if that walking-running mixture the fellow is doing simply fucks you up? Will you be able to tell him/her? Do you know what the consequences are to stick together for you and your idea of the faith of your personal journey? Are you really sure that sticking together and enduring this situation is not only temporarily ok but will not backfire on you later in the run?

What if the hard time your mate is going through is totally fine for you and in principle you are ok to just walk/rest for a few minutes/hours until its get better but by having a realistic look on your watch you realize that you start failing on cutoff. Will you tell your buddy: listen: you seriously need to speed-up or I will need to leave you for good and speed-up alone? Can you cope with that? Did you discuss that upfront? Does your fellow know that this reaction may come and does he/she has a plan to not break immediately when facing this so that there is a chance that – once more energy is back – your fellow can continue his/her own fight with the potential to reach some dreams?

What if breaking the fellowship is needed – is everyone prepared for this so that it does not mean the end of running for one or the other? Although running together everyone should be always prepared for running alone by all means. Expect the worse to happen. At any time. Whatever your exit strategy may be – its advisable to have it at hand. It may be simple things like having you earphones ready when it comes to that point.

After all all members of such fellowships have different dreams and expectations and even more important: different level of determination to reach them. It’s impossible to be united on these and it’s even more impossible to have similar exit strategies when all goes down the drain. To at least have a rough understanding what the other may need in these end-of-world situations will be a huge advantage for the faith of your fellowship. Even if it means to split up.

There have been situations in which I told someone to speed-up because we were running short on cut-off although I knew the other was destroyed at that moment. There have been horrible nights with significant weather in which the running/walking/rest routines could not be synchronized anymore – in one of them we decided to split. Although this was a significant risk as the both the inside and outside conditions were calling for DNF we made the decision. On both ends there was hope it could work-out and after hours of horror for both of us it was a relieve to see the other headlamp again on the horizon: at the end it was the perfect decision and had the desired effect.

Having a dream and an overwhelming desire to reach this is key in Long Distance Running. Shared dreams is something you may hope for at the start line but is something you need to put a lot of effort in while running while on the same time you want to be ready to follow your personal dream with no excuses. Shared dreams are for sure worth to work for but sticking together for too long may become a disaster. If it works out though it’s purest gold.

After a difficult night. Not talking for hours. But still there. Still together. It was a really thin line we walked on but we walked it off till the end.
Still not completely sure how we made it through the second night. Both alone for some hours fighting with the Dunes and ourselves. But the sun came out in Den Helder. And more important we were there. Together
Still not completely sure how we made it through the second night. Both alone for some hours fighting with the Dunes and ourselves. But the sun came out in Den Helder. And more important we were there. Together.
M&M barely able to talk. 300+k on the watches with some 100+miles to go. Wonder how they did it. They probably don't know either. The story will last forever.
M&M barely able to talk. 300+k on the watches with some 100+miles to go. Wonder how they did it. They probably don’t know either. The story will last forever.
Another horror in another second night at another run in NL. With 60k and around 11 hours till cutoff I was technically DNF. Yet we pulled it off. One of the situations in which being alone would mean instant DNF and having a fellow with a clear mind meant everything.
Another horror in another second night at another run in NL. With 60k and around 11 hours till cutoff it was technical DNF for me. Yet we pulled it off. One of the situations in which being alone would mean instant DNF and having a fellow with a clear mind meant everything.
A DNF decision. I let the other 3 continue alone and stayed at CP knowing it was over. Some long minutes later I was running again determined to catch-up and unite. A finish of all 4. Together.
A DNF decision. I let the other 3 continue alone and stayed at CP knowing it was over. Some long minutes later I was running again determined to catch-up and unite. A finish of all 4. Together.
A bizarre run - a bizarre experience. Eased by the support of our crew it was still some effort to go orange.
A bizarre run – a bizarre experience. Eased by the support of our crew it was still some effort to go orange.