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.

*** UTDS plus 2020 ***

Time for a little adventure next weekend to finally kickoff ultra-running after this period of social distancing and closed borders. It will be a pleasure to be able to meet this group of extraordinary runners and to finally be able to go back to a nice patch of Belgium: the Ardennes.

We chose the UTDS (Ultra Tour des Sources) a permanent market Extratrail route with a few „improvements“ to include some beautiful parts the original UTDS track avoids for whatever reasons. The final distance is around 100 Miles with approx. 5000 m D+ and the scenery will be stunning.

We will start at 0800 „sharp“ on Saturday 04.07.2020 and as we like to bore you to death there will be a live tracking. To bore you even more there will be only one dot as we will stick together as a group. ONE. DOT. It may be the purest and most intense Legends Tracking experience you will have in your entire life so make sure to enjoy every second. There you go:

http://battleofthebulge.legendstracking.com/

Duivelse Uitdaging #1 and #2

If you dance with the devil you should not be afraid to burn your fingers

The Devil and someone else

This was #1:

51 days for 666 km

This was #2:

44 days for 666 km

In total I lost 79 days of my life to this bullshit. 79 days for 1332 km means 16.86 km/d. Not too bad at all. Although it was sometimes fun and I am easily motivated by stupid things it was also a challenge. I learned the hard way what it means to just ignore all arguments and just get things done. No matter what nice things could have been the alternatives. No matter how much I hated it sometimes to not just run as long as I wanted but to run as long as it was needed to cross out the next distance of that funny lists. I encountered it with a new mental strategy. You start a run of lets say 33.30 km and you force yourself to think of something nice the first 28 km of the run. By that you really forget that you are running and by this basically just „wait“ until its over. To endure is a big part of endurance. And this is no coincidence. The last 5 km you enjoy your short run. Now I am afraid of that point in future I will use this strategy in a real race.

But lets forget about this. Thanks Maarten for the fun. Enough is enough and done is done. I am so tired of checking an Excel sheet before I start a run, so tired of starting the run with putting a distance goal on the watch (does it even works without entering something there?) and so tired of not being „allowed“ to just run as long as I want. It was a good mental exercise but it is time to say goodbye.

I am going back to where I belong. Into the woods, into the void and into the endlessness. Hoping to meet a few people out there to run some tracks together and to come back destroyed but with tons of nice stories to tell.

Stop. That. Distancing.

***Please don’t get me wrong: stay safe, go outside, don’t touch each other, keep 1.5 m distance and stay Corona-negative!***

Please? Asking for my friends. Everyone is now talking about distance – its everywhere in the news. Let me tell you: this is not good for my friends. They have been ok in the past and before this virus started. A bunch of totally normal LSD (Long Slow Distances) runners. But now? They are being pushed from all that distance-talking:

  • they create sheet after sheet full of nonsense running challenges – soon they will be lost in these columns and rows forever
  • they are being asked by their family members: who are you and what´s that smell?
  • some of them even started to run in loops again and again
  • some consider LSD is not enough and go for long-distance-inline-skating or other extreme sports
  • some wake up in the morning and think it is a normal thing to start the a day with a marathon
  • some open their weekly Strava stats and wonder why this number has 3 digits and a 2 in the front
  • some even say they are haunted by the Devil himself

Please. Give them the races back. And the group runs. The above simply can’t be the new normal – my friends will not be able to stop running soon. Forever running – imagine. No one wants that. This is something for the professionals.

Enough of funny challenges – enough of entering numbers in sheets. Where are the races/runs that punch us in the faces and allow us to rest the week before (and call it tapering) and the weeks after (and call it resting)? We need them back! ASAP!

Some of my friends would – as a first step – also being ok with banning all Germans from running. But let’s ignore them for now. Some are also asking to get the winter back. Waist-deep ice-cold water, snow and mud is what they want. Let’s ignore those too for now.

When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.
And so, you just ran?
Yeah.

Forrest Gump

50 Miles of Beverau

Ach, das war doch mal nett. Für die Duivelse Uitdaging Challenge von Marek Vis fehlten unter anderem noch die 80 km und damit die längste Distanz. In Zeiten der Kontaktbeschränkungen und des Alleinelaufens kam spontan die Idee: warum nicht auf die Beverau-Runde zurückgreifen und den Lauffreunden Bescheid geben? Für alle gut erreichbar gelegen, angenehme Länge und meist breite Wege. Da fällt das Abstand halten leicht und wenn nicht alle gleichzeitig kommen würden? Lange genug würde ich ja unterwegs sein. Gesagt getan. Kurz durchgerechnet sollten entweder 30 oder 31 dieser ca. 2,65 km langen Runde für die 80 km reichen (je nach GPS-Verhalten). 9-10 Stunden sollten es tun.

Die Geschichte der Runde ist schnell erzählt. Sie startet offiziell an einem der Treffpunkte des LTB Aachen, welcher zugleich auch der Start des mAMa ist. Das Schöne an der Runde ist: es gibt nur eine Straßenquerung, sie ist nicht zu kurz, beleuchtet und daher ideal zum Rundendrehen. Die Geschichte, dass H und L auf dieser Runde schonmal Marathon gelaufen sind ist schon so alt, dass es mittlerweile einer Legende gleicht. Wie kann man auch so verrückt sein auf einer Stadtrunde immer im Kreis Marathon laufen. Also wirklich…

Gestartet bin ich um 0516. Merkwürdigerweise allein. Ab 7 Uhr wurde es dann aber deutlich lebhafter. Die ersten 3 Gäste trafen ein. In zwei Pärchen ging es dann in beiden Richtungen auf die Strecke. Nach jeder Runde wurde der Partner gewechselt. Speed-Dating. Oder so. Um halb 9 warteten schon die nächsten beiden Gäste und es ging in Dreierformation für 3 Runden auf die Strecke. Anschließend haben mich meine beiden Jungs für zwei Runden begleitet (gut, den einen musste ich schieben) – abgelöst von L auf dem Rad. Genau eine Runde nach der ersten Radbegleitung folgte direkt die Nächste! Perfekt. Das Wetter wollte wohl auch zur Abwechslung beitragen und stellte kurz auf Unwetter. Wir standen eine Weile frierend im Tunnel unter der Bahnstrecke aber H hatte mir extra Wassermelone mitgebracht – wunderbar. Die Sonne kehrte zurück und der Endspurt rückte näher. Der VPsucher kam mit J. kurz vorbei um „Hallo“ zu sagen und zum Zieleinlauf gab es dann nochmal Gäste! Ein sehr kurzweiliger Lauf, wenn auch ein wenig anstrengend. 30 Runden reichen für 80 km – für die 50 Meilen fehlten noch 400 m, also nochmal kurz hin und her an Start/Ziel. 9h49m – passt. Die 50 Meilen von Beverau sind abgehakt.

Vielen Dank für all die Gäste auf dieser kleinen Beverau-Corona-Party – schön euch alle wiedergesehen zu haben. Wo machen wir denn die noch fehlenden 70 km nächstes Wochenende? 😀