Garmin added 91 points to the universe today. Finally they acknowledge all the steps we do and all the floors we climb! Apparently one climbing and one step expedition can be started at once – so it will take a while to finish them off.
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We have been granted with VERY little information this year.
There is a lot of joking about the presumably warm/dry weather and a nice outdoor vacation weekend with some friends and family.
We all know it´s just jokes. No one will lure us into false safety.
Time has come to go again, to disconnect, to suffer and to strive.
We come empty handed and the only thing left to rely on is ourselves. Yet we will be there to face and conquer the unknown.
What we do
In a lot of movies there are these key scenes where the heroes of the whatever stories live-through an important change. A change from bad to good, a change from deepest sorrow to sheer luck or the rediscovery of a supposedly forever-gone knowledge/ability/emotion. It starts with faintest memories of it which slowly but surely solidify and finally fully returns so that the whatever story hero can thrive again and complete the story to its destined end.
Distance running can as well feel long-gone during certain periods. Periods with (almost) no running; periods in which each step feels like a wasted effort. May it be periods of injury, periods full with this emotional/physical emptiness after a tough adventure or just periods in which life had different challenges along the way which did not leave enough time for running.
Some things never completely vanish.
Staring into the pouring rain outside –
– faint memories of literally climbing steep trails which turned into rivers due to heavy rain suddenly appear in front of the inner eye
– or that one glorious moment of stupidly crossing a well-filled and tearing river up there in Hautes Fagnes in mid-winter in ice-cold water
Walking back that few steps from the car into the warmth at a freezing day –
– remember these ice-cold km where we discussed for hours how best we would wrap ourselves with gold foil as an extra layer of clothing (one day that moment will come)
– or this day where we desperately wanted to rest for a few minutes but it was just too cold to stand/sit still
Lying down in the warm bed –
– we lost count of the nights without sleep full of running/walking/crawling/hoping/hallucinating somewhere out there
– all the countless 10-30 min sleep breaks plain on the ground protected with a thin crackling aluminum foil – uncomfortable, painful moments of awful power-naps just to endure horrible first km of restarting shivering with the whole body
– the sound of dripping rain on aluminum
– or that glorious break where we „broke-in“ into that small barn and lay down on a almost unbelievably comfortable hay stacks
Arriving at the car on an average day –
– ok, no mistakes now: unpack, undress, get dry cloth on, empty trash from backpack, refill water bladder, refill coke bottle, repack food, replace batteries in whatever devices, sit in car, power-bank phone and watch, eat for 10 minutes, sleep for max. 30 min,
GET OUT OF THAT CAR AND CONTINUE
All is well – those are memories from the past. No one would deliberately want to re-life all of this. No one.
Some of those batteries are probably charged. Oh look: the tracker – just charged it yesterday. And, how funny, the watch is fully charged and has some .gpx files loaded. After all: what is that little bit of rain, snow and darkness. I better pack the head lamp. And a spare battery. Some of those gels are close to expiry date. Oh wow – still 10 emergency blankets left (ALWAYS PACK AT LEAST TWO). Will I need the poles? Let me activate the guys
– it is time to do what we do
So. The whole world is running already;
we saw/are following/will see some remarkable performances on the Duinhopper from acceptnolimits.com which is open since January 1st and the famous Montane Spine Race 2023 is about to start – a lot of live tracking is waiting just a click away.
In both events friends were/are/will be competing and although it is nice to sit in the cozy inside watching the rain and wind penetrating nature – it does not feel completely right. It may be about time to do some running.
Funny as traditions sometimes are: February will be dominated by well-unknown events. We will hold our own marathon mAMa 2023 (already edition 8!) and the Legends Trail is waiting. Again. Battling the Ardennes in winter time. Looking forward to yet another impossible challenge.
In July 2023 a new format is waiting – escape racing starting from the Grauen Kopf with a pretty simple task: get away as far as possible in 48h from that point. Really looking forward to that – drawing tracks on maps, calculating efficiencies vs. the straight line of several options, plan supply – everything your own responsibility. So basically a combination of a lot of lovely things.
In between Legends Trail 2023 in February and Schinder-Trail Prison Break 2023 in July a few smaller challenges may be waiting and a private running weekend with the CREW is already scheduled. Looks like its going to be a good first half of 2023.
Another year down.
Looking back at 2022 it was a year of constantly dancing on the edge of what is possible to accomplish while trying to not stress the system too much. A restless search for time windows for the big projects compatible with the family calendar and the uncertainty if the health/conditions would allow the execution of the planned runs at these time slot. Everything was reduced to the one task: get it done no matter what. No room for funny mistakes, bad planning and repeated attempts.
At the end everything worked out nicely but it is also good that this situation has come to an end.
After the Titanic Slam in 2021 we decided to share the joy of these type of adventures with a bigger group of runners and created the Marvel Slam 2022. This meant another year was dominated by the task to plan, start and finish 4 extraordinary challenges. 766 km distributed over 4 runs – Dark World (100 miles best of Hautes Fagnes), Mystique (200 km Eifel including the climbings around Altenahr), Nightcrawler (200 km Ourthe – #noourthenoparty) and Wolverine (200 km in the Dinant area). It took me 155 hours of running to get them done. I was lucky that Björn was with me at Mystique and Nightcrawler and managed to withstand Dark World and Wolverine on my own. Tons of memories were generate – a truly marvellous set of distance runs. In addition to the above mentioned personal experiences it was delighting to see both known and unknown members of the long-distance-family fighting these challenges. Remarkable performances, remarkable failures and astonishing comebacks throughout the whole year. Countless hours of dot-watching these attempts, countless stories about the type of running we enjoy most, countless nonsense posts in our exclusive social media group – I will miss this group for sure once the year is over and the Marvel Slam chapter is closed.
Apart from the Marvel Slam adventures across the year there were some runs which have been a tribute to the past. In February I returned to the Ardennes to re-do the impossible – finish Montane Legendstrails for the second time after 2020. It was one of the most astonishing and surprising races – from km 40 to 280 I battled through the race side-by-side with dear Olav and we lived through a whole life together and managed to escape from the countless devils. Again. Maarten once told me the first LT finish may be sheer luck – one would need to go back a second time to prove that one does not feed from luck alone. He also mentioned some facts about a third finish to „defeat the luck at last“ – but I may not have listened properly…
End of May it was time for yet another return: the return to the TorTour de Ruhr to finally say goodbye by finishing the third available distance: after 100 miles in 2016, 230 km in 2018 it was time for the 100 km Bambini distance. A special race as I was supported by my father for the first 60 km by bike and two friends on the last 40 km (also by bike) while running through those well-known areas.
Finally in June and October I appeared and re-appeared at a (for me) new race format – Backyard Ultra running. Being able to assist Normal with 29 yards in June opened the door to be part of Team Germany in October – what an honor. Unfortunately I only managed 33 yards in October – it was the limit at this day but this can´t be the limit for the time being. It was a pleasure to meet a bunch of new and fabulous runners and the venue, orga and track in Kandel // Bienwaldstadion was really nice. Although I currently have no ambition to return too soon – I still remember every single root/stone of this track – I have the funny feeling that I may not have been the last time in Kandel. Time will tell.
As with every year 2022 offered a few new perspectives on long-distance-running. First of all it was a new level of efficiency: with the rising amount of accomplished long runs everything becomes routine. From preparing long solo adventures or long races down to the single movements during a planned car break: every single action is streamlined to be as efficient as possible. Sometimes this feels like looking on what is happening as a third person from a distant perspective. The second take-away is probably a new level of relaxation. Whatever happens during preparation or running can be fixed. With the routine comes certainty. Certainty that no matter what happens finishing is still the best option.
It is time for some rest and a re-start of running in January 2023. Another year is waiting. So do the adventures.
Velsen Zuid – Velsen Noord
It was one of those moments.
120k in our Duinhopper adventure back in October 2021 sitting in the dry car gazing into the pouring rain hammering on the car. After a not completely comfortable and relaxing 30 min sleep the task ahead seemed unbearable. Leaving the shelter of the car to continue into a clearly rainy and stormy second night to fight for another 100k to the finish in Den Helder seems like the last thing we should do. Nonsense and useless. We were at the only safe place along our adventure – a safe place that could easily bring us home – could bring us far away from that misery.
Although we tried to pack everything before the nap there was quite a lot of things to do. Packing, unpacking, packing and unpacking again… Horrible plan with two people in a narrow car. We tried not to forget anything while wiggling into new layers of cloths which would get soaked quite fast in that weather anyways. Our mood was reaching below-zero-levels.
The first kms out there again were hilarious. The rain reduced the headlamp light to almost nothing, the surfaces of the various GPS devices hard to read with almost no eyesight. After 3 km we reach Ijmuiden haven where we were supposed to use the ferry. How bizarre. When we approached the dock the ferry was about to leave. We sprinted the last meter through the wind and somehow entered the boat at the last second.
And then the time stopped. The other guests stared at us as. Their views told us the we were looking like strangers from another planet. It is not exactly a long ferry transfer but the wind, the cold and the rain hit us and eliminated the last energy we had in us. Our bodies hardly warmed up from the 3 km stretch after the initial cold shock leaving the car merely minutes before. The whole world seemed like a dark and icy mess. Once at the other side we left the ferry shivering, destroyed and deadly tired from that freezing transfer. Miserable km followed that transfer. Barely able to move, too stiff to run and left with very little hope. It got so horrible that we tried to sleep once we passed the last buildings of Ijmuiden. We were so messed up that we did not manage to find a proper spot and layed down on the side of a big path wrapped in safety blankets. This was the least helpful and comfort sleep break ever. Somehow we continued. At that moment we had no clue that the whole night would be like that. That it simply would not get any better. That we had to fight more endless dark and rainy hours – that we would need to split because we could not synchronise moving speeds and the needs for instant breaks.
I don’t know what made us fighting through but the reward was waiting. With the upcoming daylight we got company and support, we found some hope, we gained some speed and at the very end of the upcoming day we would see the blasting sun again. And we would see Den Helder. This may not seem much but it meant the world to us.
Since this night the Dutch coast is forever linked to that horror.
First half of 2022 is gone. 3×100 mi plus runs so far – looking forward to an interesting second half.
Place us around a campfire and we will be buddies within minutes. Stories to be told about recent and distant adventures. We all have been there. We all have gone through. We all have been in those fights, we all pushed ourselves through the misery, we all saw all imaginable real and non-real things, we all went through some pain – and we all were confronted with the most funny and even dangerous weather conditions this earth holds for us. We are united in these aspects and we love to tell and to listen to them stories.
This is probably what this ultra family thing is all about.
But it is not what fascinates me most about long distance running. It is undoubtedly a nice thing to sit together with a few fellow distance runners and have some stories to tell. But it is the edges of things where the real treasure of long distance running is hidden. Those edges which are a bit too private to share with anyone but which have a huge influence on performance and the outcome of adventures.
As we can’t look into the heads and hearts of each other there will be always something hidden. Something individual and private, something what drives or hinders us – an inner burden or power only real for the individual runner itself. This is where this sports, and other endurance challenges, gets so unique and fascinating. No matter how fit, well trained or however different the fellow runners are – all of them may fight inner devils or may be driven by inner forces we have absolutely no clue about.
Then you see them suddenly sitting there and giving up where they should be running as they did so many times before.
Then you see a good friend running a race and suddenly slowing down for no obvious reason. In an area where your friend is unbeaten on normal days.
Then you look into the eyes of your fellow runner and know it is unbearable for your mate – and yet there is no complaining, no arguing and most astonishing: still movement.
Sometimes you get to hear the full story and reasons afterwards and are left with no words. But most of the times you just silently wonder what forces and what feelings are revealed by long distance running and can only be amazed about the different strategies people come up with to deal with them. To whatever result it at the end of each of those adventures led.
That is the real treasure and fascination of long distance running to me. This is what calls for a lot of respect and humility for those out there on their various paths.
Marvel Slam 2022 Update
We created the Marvel Slam 2022 due to the fun we had with our small Titanic Slam in 2021. The basic idea is to promote the style of running we like most and to enable the community to participate in that. All details on the challenge and conditions can be found at acceptnolimits.eu.
With now almost 4 month into the Marvel Slam it looks like our plan does work out.
Runners who accepted and entered the competition did not complain about missing information – they know it is part of the challenge to plan and prepare yourself independent of everything around you. It is up to every individual runner when to start, to chose with whom they may want to partner or if they want to conquer one or more of the tracks alone – there is no organisation. The Marvel Slam community lives independently, useful information and experiences are shared amongst – and only amongst – the runners and help/support is offered both with and without being asked for. Exactly how we understand the concept of long-distance-running.
And what performance we already saw… We saw them fail, we saw them coming back (and once even coming back a third time) to finally conquer one of the tracks. We saw impossible situations and we saw a few of them solved nevertheless. The overall success rate of 28 attempts is 43%. So it is still more likely to fail than to succeed. We will have really interesting rest of 2022 within the Marvel Slam.
How many of the 40 runners will be able to complete all 4 tracks within the given limit of 48h/track? How many more great stories of success and failure will we told? How many of the runners will not accept their limits and go beyond?
The newest habit is to just post the live-tracking link into the Marvel Slam community group without any pre-warning and the last attempts have been started and finished of one runner alone. We like that a lot. Being remote is a nice experience. Keep on pushing.
Being remote has a lot of different meanings. The day-to-day life offers a variety of different flavours of it and yet – as with a loft of things – long distance running adds a whole new quality of feelings to this expression. To understand this, one needs to go out there and one needs to go far – beyond the point where everything went smoothly, logical and controlled: beyond the safety zone.
Remote out there does not necessarily mean to be alone it does not even mean to be at a very isolated place. One can also feel remote while running with someone or even small group of people – as long as they came the same long way. Most of the times those companions are close friends or at least people with which one has already conquered a bunch of adventures.
Remote in these moments is a feeling of deep understanding how small and vulnerable one is compared to the vastness of this world and compared to the distance one wants to cover in the ongoing adventure. One also feels deep within that there is no real connection with the ongoing stream of normal life. Passing through villages or cities and passing by other humans – the disconnection could not be bigger. What is going on in their lifes just does not mean anything at these moments.
Although it is an overwhelming feeling – it is not free of hope. At the end there is the assurance that it is meant to be like this. That this is exactly how it needs to be. That this is an essential part of the journey. That this is the place and feeling one belongs to. The actual reason why this adventure was started.
The strangest moment is always reaching the finish line. Despite a deep relief and thankfulness that everything went well there is alway a big sadness of leaving the remote – of resurfacing into the normal life. With the end of a journey one immediately starts to miss the remote.
Until next time – until we relentlessly strive through this wonderful world to finally do what we do best: enjoying the remote.