Legends Trail 2024

Suddenly he was behind me. Couldn’t figure how long he had been following me – I was sure I was quite alone. Focused on following the track and listening to some music I was a bit shocked to see another human being. The track made a funny little curve to the right and then turned more than 90° to the left. In reality there were two possible paths roughly 30-40 m apart from each other which could be the ones. Normally easy with the correct zoom on the map but on Day 3 you rather stop for a second to let the GPS fix a few % more. No stupid extra meters now. We briefly looked each other. I could see the strain, the exhaustion and the emptiness in his eyes – I looked the same I guess.

“I think its this one”
“No, wait – I think its the other one”
“Ja – could be”
“Ok looks good”

And off he was. Faster walking then me he tackled yet another steep climb. It was raining. Fog rising – everything grey in grey. Legends weather on a Legends Monday – roughly 12 km from the finish line. I saw him walking off in the grey zone and knew I would need to follow. But I was forced to take the phone out to take a picture. It was one of those moments. Moments which last. Moments which summarize everything in one picture – at least for those who have been in similar situations.

Those who know know…

Before:
Preparation is important for adventures like Legends Trail. Especially to get the mental setup cleared and determined is crucial. With all uncertainties happening in my life at the moment I was not 100% sure whether or not I would be able to get the focus, to get into the zone. But well – I asked myself: do you really want to stand on that start line and the answer was a clear yes. There are so many personal reasons to go which do not matter here but one thing is for sure: deep inside you want to have an overwhelming longing to get this run done. Otherwise a start does not make a lot of sense.

Material preparation was straight forward – it gets to a routine. Running pack (everyone makes fun of me how much I carry but I think I will stick to it) and drop back with 4 smaller bags inside for each CP. Especially new socks at each checkpoint. Food was also packed in 5 portions – one for backpack, 4 for the drop back.

On Friday I picked up Uwe who saw my re-post that LT was looking for volunteers and jumped on the train for the whole weekend to get a look behind the scenes :). Its only a 1h drive from home to LT so that’s convenient. First thing was to survive the kit check including a “before” picture made by Caroline Dupont which would be completed by an “after” picture if all goes well. Can’t wait to see them. I was not feeling very well, was with slight headache the whole Friday so I greeted everyone as this is the family but went to the car for some quiet moment with my eyes closed with the hope the headache would clear and to finally put on the running cloths. The last hour before start was then again in the cafeteria of the school and its actually frightening and glorious. Runners, volunteers, crew – most of them friends – wait. Lots of chatter and laughter and excitement. Everyone knows (or think they know) what is about to start. I am not connected to German trail runners at all so it was really great to finally see more of them at LT. Tom was about to run himself, his girlfriend Moni was a volunteer, Volker who finished LT already was there with Maren to volunteer as well. It was really great to meet you and get to know you. Those events connect people and I hope it was not the last time we met.

The German delegation (Uwe took the picture) @ LT24 🙂

Night 1:

Almost

Well, the headache did not got better until it was finally time. Weather was indifferent but I decided not to put the rain jacket on – which was the right decision. There were some discussions about the conditions and whether or not the feet would stay dry for a while. Funny thinking. After 400 m the first downhill started and was full of slippery and deep mud – so we would be confronted with heavy conditions the next 280 km. After 1 km the first creek crossing was reached. No bridge – why would there be one? So that one was settled as well :). Bring it on.

During the first stage I was not really able to connect to the race. The mind was not fully there but well – its a never ending race so lets stay calm and carry on – better days to come if all goes well. The highlight of the first stretch was a part on the Ourthe where the trail went through the water. And due to high water not just a little bit into water but waist-deep. For 20-30 m. Wow – that was cold. Getting the whole lower body dipped into a winter river in the Ardennes – it was a moment for those with very special interests. Being half wet in the middle of Night 1 was a nice twist to the challenge as well. But – its Legends – we are here for the struggle. I realized that my otherwise perfect strategy with the waterproof socks was a real problem now. My feet were swimming now with no way the water could escape. I decided to act and took out the waterproof socks. I had shoe insoles in my backpack (I take them out when wearing waterproof socks as those are thick enough), put them in the shoes and continued the journey to CP1. Its one of those decisions – it really sucks to stop, unleash the muddy shoes, open the backpack, try to figure out where to put the completely wet socks, take the insoles out and get the shoes back on. But the golden rule is: if there is a small problem fix it immediately or it kills you later.

One of those moments…

Day 1:
I reached CP1 after roughly 10 h – that was pretty much in the timing I envisioned before. I was just glad that the first stretch was over and no major issues were there. Given my overall condition I was not too happy with the race yet. I fell twice on slippery mud, the headache was still there and I knew this was not even the start of thew real shit. The pasta was heel lekker and I continued on Part 2 – hoping that the daylight would do the usual magic. And it finally got better. I finally felt stronger. In the dusk of Day 1 I met a group with Adriaan and Irene – that was really good to talk and joke and climb together for some moments. With Irene I also quickly discussed the standings in our Garmin Connect running challenge and send funny messages to our lovely little FB group – brilliant moments.

Weather on Day 1 was quite good as far as I remember. We had some sun and the focus was to use the new energy to get as much daylight km in as possible. Part 2 with more than 70 km was just endless. We had the usual “in-between” CPs including one with hot soup (so good) but it was clear it would be starting to get serious in Night 2. Although I really enjoy running with others – at runs like Legends I really feel best when I am alone with myself and a bit of music to fully dig deep. I think I may offend people with it – its really nothing against anyone. But when I can do my own tempo, be alone with my thoughts and completely focus on the tasks that is when I feel calm and secure. The world quiets down and fully feel one with the challenge. Especially at Legends I love and need those moments. Sorry if that seems rude – its not meant to be. I reached CP2 in a perfect timing. I wanted to have 6-7 hours before cutoff to have a bit more room to breath when the shit would hit the fan and I managed to be fast enough. Two helpings of delicious kip curry with rice – fresh socks – and off – off to a part I was actually looking forward to.

Night 2:
Hautes Fagnes time means crunch time. As always at Legends. Before the race there were some discussions on how short the stretch up there was at this edition – but looking at the map I was quite sure the selection was well chosen. Chosen to get us in real trouble – chosen to let the ultra really start. And I was not disappointed. Endless river climbing up and down, the best part of Hoenge, Statte, Sawe and Tros-Marets – places I know by heart but with the mud and the rain it was a real party. Especially the last downhill with the km next to the lower part of the river Tros-Marets. It had everything. It started to significantly rain, mud, stones, water everywhere – finally truly in a situation which makes Legends so unique to me. It seems overwhelmingly difficult and every stone with a false step can send you down and end the race. Its a bit frightening but those are the moments to actually fully embrace – I was finally 110% in the race. Everything was against us runners but that was exactly the battle we (or at least I) came for. Naturally CP3 was a great relieve. It is a good feeling to get out of Hautes Fagnes alive and to have survived one of the more tricky stretches of LT – no matter how unique the feelings up there were. Time for some stew with mashed potatoes and some new socks.

Day 2:
At CP3 the mood was dense. All of us strained, stretched, edgy. 170 km in – Hautes Fagnes in fresh memories. The race was really on fire. CP3 was in Malmedy – and just to mention the name of the city frightens most of my friends. We know those steep hills around the city all to well. But all was well. 7 AM on Day 2 – daylight approaching – 5 h before cutoff – better than I could have hoped for. Stretch 4 started with a real treasure: the area around the Beverce pipeline. Every time I wonder if it is really allowed to send people there; esp. people with lack of sleep. But maybe that is a stupid question. It was manageable. I felt pretty good for the given conditions so Malmedy area came and became memory within a few hours. It was clear that the last stretch of Part 4 was the tricky one so it was again the task to make the most of the light, to try to not lose against cutoff (4 km/h) and focus on not making mistakes.

Somehow people know me well nowadays…

Being that good in timing meant that the complete Part 4 would be daylight – that was really great and comfortable. Part 4 ended with the greater Coo area including Iceberg downhill. Steep but home. We lived there for a while in a long gone area. And CP4 had Tortellini: wow. I love them so much. To top that Moni, Francois and Martino were there. Having dinner with some friends feeling. Was hard to have to leave the place but it was not the end and I was pretty clear at that moment that I would not miss the opportunity to return to the folks waiting at the finish. And I would not return to them in a car – I would do whatever needs to be done to return as a finisher. The dream was so close – and yet: Night 3 was lurking behind the trees.

Night 3:
And it started immediately. The first climb let to fenced farm land. Not unusual as we had to climb fences before in the race. But it was like two compartments and I couldn’t figure the direction anymore. As navigation is normally a thing I manage quite ok I knew immediately that the Night 3 was going to be much worse than expected. With a shock I realized that I was standing there and staring into the nothingness for some minutes probably falling half-asleep while standing. This brought some Adrenaline back and the brain tried to re-start. The first steep climb of Part 5 was the one to the water basin in Coo. A well known stretch but I was honestly surprised how difficult it felt after 210 km. Luckily on the top Volker and Maren were doing their Legends Safety Team job. We had to take a detour and they were explaining the way to each runner. Although I just left CP4 I asked for water as I felt horribly thirsty and I felt really hot. I think I spent too much time at CP4 and body started to shut down. A mistake in a race where no mistakes are allowed. At one point Volker looked at me questioning and I realized he was waiting since ages that I give him back the water bottle. Oh man. Not the best start of the last part at all. After that shock some more runnable parts came and the body slowly re-entered the game – at least for 1-2 hours. After that the sleepwalking started. Sleep deprivation is a beast. Slowly everything went out of control. The raindrops on the rocks looked like smileys in a way I couldn’t bear to look at them, the mossy stones turned into green frogs, every reflection of light was a runner with a headlamp. I don’t now how but I made it to CP 4.1 (Chez Ingo) where we had a great time. The real Ingo (racing himself) came in after me and Karen and Peter were there already. Suddenly all was well again. We had Toasties and Coke – we joked and laughed and listend to the intensifying rain outside.

Toasty Time – km 245 @ LT24

Outside – where the last 30 km were waiting. The last 30 km of the endlessness of Legends Trail. We could have stayed forever but Karen, Peter and me decided to group due to our conditions – at least for the first stretch in the remaining night. The moment we stepped out of the tent all illusions were gone – the horror started at that very second. None of us was well, we were all sleepwalking, couldn’t talk but we were still in – crawling up and down Ninglingspo area. A disaster. There was only one last hope: daylight. Close to this and at the end of yet another long and horrible climb I let them go their way. They were a bit faster and I couldn’t stand keeping up with them. A quick stop to eat something, put some music on would do. And then the shock: the GPS signal on the watch jumped by about 100 m – just like that. I took out the handheld but it was weird as it was showing the same position. Horror. The one thing which should not happen at all, happened. I stood there frozen and shocked in the rain for a while until I realized that would rather kill me than help. I stopped the watch track and reloaded it – didn’t change it. As the direction was still moving when I was turning I decided to use the position displayed and go straight line back to track (about 100 m away). This at least seemed to work. So I stood again on that purple line. Good. Finally the watch signal was turning when I was in the direction I moved. Good as well. It seemed to stabilize. This really hit very hard. I was confused as I almost lost everything so close to finish. With the watch issues I forgot to put the other rain jacket on and was starting to get very cold. Mistakes on top of mistakes – it was out of control. Completely. I called Maarten to make sure that I was not hallucinating and really was on track. He checked the tracker and confirmed that all was well. Matthias called as well before leaving to work. Oh – the world was still there. Random news from a very distant reality but good to hear. And the light was returning. First thing I put the real rain gear on – an hour too late but well. At least I could see the world again and the watch behaved normal again. Had a look on the tracking page after the race and I nailed it the whole time. So what was that – was I having a really bad dream? Never had something like this before. With another 30 min in heavy rain but daylight and a watch behaving normal I took it as the last strike of Legends. The last attempt to finally beat me.

Day 3:
But no. Not this time. Daylight, horrible weather, Day 3, 15-20 km to go and 6-7 hours to get there. I was exactly where I wanted to be. Nothing would stop me now. The last km did not went easy but I was still able to jog which meant I was in considerably good shape this late in the game. Some more climbing. With the rain everything was completely watered but I did not care anymore. The only job left was to get those km in. It was time to return to those waiting at the finish. It was time tick-off another Legends Trail. You would have found me crying during those last km but luckily I was alone. Alone heading to Ferriers. Hard to explain those feelings.

Finish – thanks Nick for the Video.

#4

Shoutouts to the whole LT team – whether it was the crew, the safety team, the volunteers, the support teams of the runners – another weekend which will not be forgotten.


Numbers in perspective:

There were some discussions before and after the race whether the course was easier compared to 2023. I would say: maybe a bit but with the conditions it felt harder. The numbers tell us that it was indeed a bit on top. More D+, higher climbing score. That with the conditions made 2024 a rather difficult edition of Legends Trail. This is also displayed in the finisher rate which dropped down to 30.3% (from 31.6% in 2023).

Recorded LT climb views – screenshots from @Runalize

Other than that it was Legends Trail #4 for me after 2020, 2022 and 2023. 4 finishes in a row and simply grateful to have been able to take part of this great event.

1105 Legends KM – WTF

1. Teuflischer Biber Ultra 2024

Not all those who wander are lost!

Its usually a very very thin line if you base something on a famous project. You don’t want to be too close and you don’t want to be too far away either. You don’t want to copy exactly and although you know you will never going to create the same atmosphere you want to create something in that style with a unique and distinguishing flavour to it.

No need to mention the original – those who know know.

Although my initial feelings when I heard the concept were a bit mixed because of the above described challenges but the first edition of the Teuflischer Biber Ultra did very well and created a great experience. 6 runners signed up – 4 actually made their way to the Camp Hammer camping ground in the lovely Eifel where the first edition of the race had its base camp and start/finish location.

The concept is pretty simple. The race starts within a given time period (indicated by a signal of the RD giving you a 30 min to start warning) and the task is to complete a somewhat 60 km loop in 10 hours. Within these 10 hours you have to get ready for the second loop as well and sign off for the next loop before the 10 hours elapses. You can continue that game as long as you stay within the given 10h time rhythm for a max of 6 loops – 360 km. To prove that you completed all parts of the track 15 books were (well) hidden along the course and pages had to be torn out matching your bib number. Each loop a new bib. Only by showing the 15 pages you are allowed to continue. The first runner to start the next loop determines if the loop is to be run clockwise or counter-clockwise by throwing a stone. Sounds a lot to remember but nicely falls into place while doing it.

As the loop will never be exactly the same we are allowed to talk about what has happened starting February 3rd 2024 07:43 AM. Except for one book I will not give away the book hidings – who knows if some of the locations make it into the next editions. I will keep this knowledge and will use it to my advantage most definitely :).

The first loops challenge was clearly to locate the books. 2h before race start we received the GPX for the loop as we were allowed to use our electronic friends and a paper map indicating the book locations. A really brief description on 2 pieces of paper gave one sentence and sometimes a picture for each of the books which should help us to find them. To be honest – most of them were not really helpful. During the race briefing we got some additional hints but still – it was pretty sure that maintaining 6 km/h on a rough 2200 D+ 60 km loop while playing hide and seek with 15 books was on the edge of possibility for a slow runner like me. Perfect – exactly how this format should be presented. Possible for one loop but on the edge for me. Possible for several loops for the really strong ultra runners. Possible to complete 6 loops – questionable. It was up to us how to best prepare in the last two hours before start so I used some of my Garmin Connect knowledge’s to ease the job ahead.

Finally we started at 07:43 on Saturday 3rd of February 2024. The 4 of us. First loop was to be run counterclockwise and the book bags were numbered 1 to 15 – good to check along the way if all was well with finding them all. Daylight helped as well. Running with Désirée in the first loop meant having 4 eyes looking for books. Wouter and Teun teamed up as well at least for some parts on loop 1. In general probably a wise thing on loop 1 to be quicker in finding the books. Still: it took a while at each location. I think we only found 3-4 books within 1-2 minutes – the other took 5-10 minutes each. This adds up a substantial amount of time for the first loop. The track was well designed and offered some parts which were easily runnable. Thanks for this. It would have been impossible for me without these parts. The book/km density varied quite a bit as well which was good too as in some parts there were 5-7 km to the next book making it more easy to focus on getting some time advantage to this 6 km/h to make up for the time lost during the searches. Real fun but on the edge of being a bit stressful. We made it back with 45 min spare. Désirée stopped as planned before start – I continued on loop 2 with 20 min extra – roughly one hour behind Wouter and Teun. Although it was now really easy to locate the books (we were running in the same direction as loop one) the needed speed in that terrain together with a tired body made it more and more clear that finishing loop 2 within 20 h would not do for me. I was not really angry about that and decided to enjoy the experience being out there in the dark Eifel with constant light rain chasing and tearing out those pages. Until I had enough. I called the RD and was picked up in Erkensruhr for good.

On loop 1 it was uncertain if we would be in time – so starting loop 2 was the goal. Before the race I was dreaming of entering loop 3 – as I think that this is what I can do when everything is perfect. That it was going to be impossible for me was clear before start. So I am happily accepting it and made some valuable experiences to come back one day and push for 3 loops. Beyond that is expert terrain – so I am going to leave that with the experts.

Thanks to Michael, Kevin and Bianca for being stubborn enough to put the Teuflischer Biber Ultra on the race calendar – please keep it there. If it gets the attention it deserves it will grow. The seed is planted.

Désirée, Teun, Wouter – it was an honor to enjoy a nice camping weekend with you. Thanks for pushing at the end of loop 1 Désirée – I needed it. Teun – I still love your poem you wrote for us during Another One Bites the Dust Corona Edition. Apart from that we rarely met and it was my pleasure to finally spend some time. Amazing how you pulled of 4 loops – there are only a few, but you may have the 6 loops in you one day. Wouter – we mainly offend each other in various FB chats. It was great to have the possibility to do that face-to-face. We should do that more often.

Ah: what you all have been waiting for – the books. I only took pictures of some of them but here is a selection of titles:

Die Reisenden
Target
Nur nicht stehenbleiben
Als meine Fehler laufen lernten
Eiertanz
Du mich auch
Survivor
The ask and the answer
Tote lügen nicht

8.5 of 10!
Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain Calories Burned
16:37:25
hours
13:51:18
hours
90,22
km
11:03
min/km
2:56
min/km
3.529,00
meters
6.503
kcal
⛰️ Holderknipp (407 m) • 🦶⬆️ 2024 = 7,946 m | 🌐 summitbag.com

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The 2024 results:

15 pages – Désirée
26 pages – Tim
30 pages – Wouter
60 pages – Teun

Writing this its Monday 5th of February 11:00. 8 more hours to finish loop 6. This feels strange. Somehow incomplete.

179. MDM Breisach Rheinwald Ultra Marathon

Am 27.01.2024 stand das Auswärtsspiel in Breisach auch dem Plan. Eingeladen hat die Mon Devoir Marathon Gruppe welche seit 2014 Marathon+ mit Einladungsläufe Spenden zu Gunsten eines Schulprojektes in Togo sammelt. Keine Startgelder dafür aber Spenden sammeln bzw. Startgelder welche zu 100% in den Spendentopf geworfen werden. Ein schönes Projekt und eine absolut beeindruckende Beharrlichkeit – wo hat man schon einmal die Chance an einem 179. Lauf einer Serie teilzunehmen…

Diesmal sah das Protokoll einen 50 km “Ultra” vor. Um die Versorgung und das Mitlaufen kürzerer Teilstrecken zu ermöglichen wurde dieser auf einer 5 km Runde in Breisach am Rhein veranstaltet. Bis zu max. 10 Runden sollten/durften also gelaufen werden. Gegen 8 Uhr ging es mit einer Truppe von 18 Teilnehmenden (zwei Läuferinnen kamen später noch auf ein paar Runden vorbei) auf die Strecke und über den Vormittag wurden fleißig Runden und km gesammelt – in unterschiedlicher Intensität. Sogar heißen Tee und ein paar Snacks gab es aus einem Kofferraum. Ein rundum schöner Vormittag mit einer sehr netten Truppe.

Das spätere Kaiserwetter wurde nur von einer unfassbar schönen Morgenstimmung getoppt die das Sahnehäubchen auf der schönen Veranstaltung war. Thanks for having me!

Run Throughout The Year #rtty

Simple rules are always great. So the challenge from cockbainevents.com must be brilliant:

But, well. Turned out that there are some twists to it. I was absolutely unprepared for the fact that there are months not offering a 50 miler per default. Race months fine – don’t even need to to think about them. But what about the others? Strange. Another striking finding was that 50 mi are kind-of-longer compared to a standard long run (around Marathon). And, even more surprisingly, substantially longer. Like almost double – a distance which requires some determination to get it done outside of races.

Taking all that together this challenges requires just as much determination, dedication, consistency and grid to make it unpleasant. And I think that’s exactly what Mark had in mind. All is well. Clear recommendation. Its just that tiny amount of uneasiness that makes it extremely annoying.

MonthRunLinkDate
February 2023Montane Legends Trail (275k)https://www.strava.com/activities/859238081517.02.2023
March 202324h Sittard (163k)https://www.strava.com/activities/874164589218.03.2023
April 2023Venntrilogie (108k)https://www.strava.com/activities/894399349922.04.2023
May 202350 mi LKS (80.8k)https://www.strava.com/activities/902979572607.05.2023
June 2023Biber Backyard Ultra (140k)https://www.strava.com/activities/919805043203.06.2023
July 2023Schinder Prison Break (241k)https://www.strava.com/activities/941973471207.07.2023
August 2023Hinweg + Monschau Marathon K70 (100k)https://www.strava.com/activities/963932598713.08.2023
September 2023Infernal Trail des Vosges (208k)https://www.strava.com/activities/981806987007.09.2023
October 2023Tour Nordeifel (50 mi)https://www.strava.com/activities/9966830373/03.10.2023
November 2023Hohe Mark Trail (100 mi)https://www.strava.com/activities/1014817308601.11.2023
December 2023X-MAS-50@Lousberg (50 mi)https://www.strava.com/activities/1043504066825.12.2023
January 2024mAMa 2024 + Warm-Uphttps://www.strava.com/activities/1055173922313.01.2024

Hohe Mark Steig 2023

The Hohe Mark Steig is the main hiking route in the Naturpark Hohe Mark. Its a pretty recent addition to the hiking trail network and was opened during Corona times. Next to the main route there are tons of shorter side/theme/connection trails. The 6 main stages of the #hohemarksteig from Wesel to Olfen add up to roughly 140k (I started at the train station in Wesel). There is an extra section called “Wasserroute” looping back from Olfen to Haltern am See. All in all it added up to somewhat around 160k – and we all know what that means.

As it was a last minute decision I parked the car in Haltern to be able to have one supply/safe spot after 94k and a secured ride home. After the usual DB experience in the trains between Haltern and Wesel I start around noon from Wesel.

Here is the story of the run:

As a start into the run season with very view CPs I decided to go all in with gear. This means 3-4 L of liquid, 1-2 kg food, a bag of additional/replacement clothing, first aid equipment, a certain amount (ok a rather generous amount) of electronic (power banks/cable). All in all with backpack 10-12 kg.

The Hohe Mark Steig connects like a band the interesting areas in the Naturpark Hohe Mark. As there is a lot of connection needed long stretches of the Hohe Mark Steig are broad and straight forest/open field stretches. Also lots of km following canals/rivers both “on Deich” as well as on asphalt are included. This is worth mentioning for the pure trail guys – nothing for you. The best description would be the german race category “Landschaftslauf”. All in all a wide open, empty and flat area and the Hohe Mark Steig connects it well. The smaller areas like the Venn part at the beginning the Hohe Mark forest as well as “Die Haard” forest are nice to visit (for whatever reason some of them were pretty dark so don’t ask for too many details – I may have missed them). If you are interested in visiting the area but not interested in running it all I would plan 2-3 loop tours starting in Haltern covering Die Haard, Hohe Mark and the lake area. Should be easy to squeeze those day tours out of Hohe Mark Steig and all of those connection trails/theme routes. Also Wesel and the Venn area would make a nice day hike. Lastly to those real ultra runners: go grab an FKT. With support this should be a really fast 100 miler!

I took it easy trying to enjoy the environment as much as doable. Tried to reset the tiredness with a one hour car break from 0230-0330 in the night – repacked food and water as well and started on the last stretch.

All in all a nice little adventure. The feeling of remoteness, endless nights and disconnection with the world is back. Tempted to say finally. It´s the love and hate relationship between real discomfort and the feeling of wandering beyond which defines distance running for me.

Few more pictures:

General Remarks:

Last not least: the marking is really good for 98% of the way. Very view sections are not perfect. The marking did not match the GPX to 100% as well – but this may be my mistake. Also there – its really close and not a big deal. Only those who zoom in on their devices would notice. One thing though: they build up new shelters along the – many of them. Which is great. BUT: there is nothing in – only a small board at the back where you can stand/lean/sit sort of thing. NO bank to properly sit and sleep. I mean – that is clearly a missed opportunity. The official banks you find plenty along the way are nice and purple but only designed so that two people can sit on them. Most of them have no back and are way to short to lay down. Can it be that they are not meant to sleep on? Can’t be or?

Lights in the Sky – Infernal Trail des Vosges 2023

It was one of the moments I realized what I would be facing – in the first night approaching a climb I saw headlamps. But not somewhere in front of me but literally ABOVE me. I stopped for a moment hoping it was the moon or some bright stars shining through the trees but no: those were cleary moving LEDs. Seconds later the crawl started.

L´ Infernal Trail des Vosges is an (ultra) trail race in the Vosges mountains in the North-East of France. Covering distances from 15 to 200k this event is for everyone. And apparently everyone accepts the invite. The tiny town Saint-Nabord turns into a huge trail running festival for a whole really long weekend in September (2023 was the 15th edition of the event). Some of the shorter distances have more than 500 participants – a whole runners village/expo is built up – a sound system, light shows, fire work – you name it. Normally nothing I desperately hope for but the vibe was great – festival feeling. 700+ volunteers work relentlessly to run the village and all CP along the course. Although you don’t get anywhere with English they do their best to care about you and whatever which you may have. Big shoutout to orga/volunteers – this was an amazing job. Magnifique!

Luckily the #IT200 as the longest race starts first – so the hustle and bustle was not too bizarre at the start. I am lucky to have great friends and could take the train to Freiburg where I was picked-up and brought to the start (and picked-up after the finish on Sunday). What a service – thank you! Midnight start is not my favourite kind of thing as it just adds more sleep deprivation to the story. We arrived in Saint-Narbord 3 hours before start – enough time to place the drop-backs, check the backpack, make it through the kit check into the huge start area to wait for the start.

What a start it was. After a few probably useful information in French which I did not understand we were ask to quiet down and epic music was played culminating in the countdown to start. A proper firework, more music and a burning L´ Infernal logo sent us off into the Vosges night – pretty emotional for a start.

Although I obviously checked the track, the total distance and the elevation gain quite a bit upfront to the race I was unsure how this would actually feel in reality. The first climb made one thing really clear: it was going to be brutal. From the LegendsTrails runs I am used to ridiculous climbing but the Vosges are higher and steeper compared to the Ardennes. Overall it was a bit less technical (e.g. there is no Ourthe part in IT200) – but only a tiny bit. There were Mountainbike parks, ski slopes, senseless up and down on small rivers, straight and direct climbs with more than 30% slope – both up and down. In summary: a real brutal and pure ultra experience. And it never stopped – there was no mercy with the runners at all. One hit after the other. Something which drains you both physically and mentally until you are stripped-down to your core with nothing left. To continue in this stage is what ultra is all about. On top of this the weather added another difficulty with bright and sunny days with 30°C on Friday and even a bit hotter on Saturday. Heat can be a real problem. Nothing you need on top of the above described.

On the other hand: Vosges – how beautiful are you? Superb landscape, fantastique views! Not too many people out there – a perfect area. It was a great journey through those valley and over all those hills/mountains.

The checkpoints provided the needed breaks from all of that. In addition to the CP there were some unmanned water points dividing difficult stretches – well organized. Always enough water and supply at hand even in hot conditions (although there were stretches where I consumed 2L of water). The strategy for me could only be: stay focused and don’t do mistakes. So I set the watch timer to one hour and took a salt pill every hour and made sure to drink enough. This saved me from heat damage and worked really well in the given conditions. The rest was the usual fight. There were dark moments with lowered motivation, there were critical situation especially in the third night (unstable running, deadly tiredness, loss of focus, being chased by hornets) – but I was awaiting and embracing them and therewith taking their force away. At a few checkpoints I closed my eyes for 10-15 min each: this helped to ease the moments of fatigue so that I did not need to sleep on trail.

Overall everything worked-out as well as I could possibly hope for. Crossing the finish line at 0214 in the third night after 50h and 14 min of travelling through the Vosges was a great relieve.

A nice finisher hoodie, a worn empty bottle of coke were the rewards of yet another great, rough and truly ultra experience.

Clear recommendation for everyone who wants to push beyond. Be warned – the elevation is really extraordinary outside of the real mountains.

not even complete – @runalyze gave it climb score of 10 🙂

Schinder Prison Break 2023 – Report

Race Format

The idea behind escape running formats is that you have to get away as far as possible from a given start point. The final distance for the ranking is pulled by taking the straight distance between start and end location. Meaning – efficiency in running a rather straight line is important. As planning tracks is something I really like I tried to optimize the route as good as possible.

Crew

I am not used to have support while running. My usual running style is self-supported. But for the given format and the fact that running full-geared and self-support is never the fastest way to travel I reached out to the ultra family – and was not let down. It all started with Desi who started in the early Saturday morning to see me at around km 96 for the first time with a car full of supply and my drop back – what a relieve. Saturday evening Ingo joined our party with his bus and equipment for crossing a whole continent. The three of us fought the second night and in the morning Maarten and Christine completed the crew. I mean: 4 highly gifted and experienced ultra runners at the sideline just for me. What an honour. Thanks a million. I am getting emotional quite easily and I continued for those four as much as for whatever km/race goals to reach.

I mean – THIS CREW is a blast. One for all, all for one. With this folks as support nothing is undoable!

Race

After a day with Deutsche Bahn, a Pizza at a local fast food close to the start the runners assembled at Grauer Kopf in Taunus – our start location. Strange to enter a race where you realize you will not see any of the other runners ever again during the duration of the race. Everyone with own routes, own plans, own strategies. Interesting. (This is not entirely true because I met Lars Willborn several times more as we managed a rather similar speed during the first night).

So it started Friday 07.07.2023 1800 and given the characteristic of the region it was pretty clear that a good portion of runners would need to get to Koblenz first to be able to cross and/or follow the Rhine to whatever North/West direction they would want to take. So lots of folks were basically running the same stretch but with tiny differences in the individual routes. One major challenge for the weekend became pretty obvious during those first hours: temperature. My water consumption was higher than expected but I started with a backpack for 100 solo km including 4 L of water. Detlefs crew added 1.5 L to that in Koblenz – thanks a lot. I as well bought another 1.5 L before leaving civilization to be on the safe side. Luckily the temperature became bearable after midnight and all went well in this first night.

At around km 96 my first crew member Desi entered the race – and changed it. What a relive to change from the 10 kg backpack to a race vest to ease up the job – and to know that I could see the car every 5-10 km from now on if needed. It was not only nice but also crucial with the conditions the weather offered us. My route was made with the intention to be flat and fast. The downside with a hot summer day this meant running the endless corn fields of Jülich-Zülpicher Börde in full sun with temperature around 40°C at the highest heat. What a disaster. Heat is nothing I like and running in those conditions is nothing one should do. It was only manageable with the car support and the combined experience to overcome difficulties. Tempo slowed down but what kept me moving was the hope for the second night and some relieve (I had no idea about the difficulties waiting in night 2) and the crew that was waiting/supporting/awaiting me at certain landmarks. So the only option was to continue as good as possible.

In the evening we were joined by Ingo – the one and only chez Ingo-Ingo. With his bus. So we were equipped to conquer the world. Entering the second night it became obvious to me that I would pay for moving in the heat with exhaustion. The ultra moments began. It usually goes in waves and the low points are getting lower and lower and more frightening. I was a bit shocked about myself as I found a track portion which was completely overgrow and undoable – and I was standing there for a minute unable to decide what to do. Of course these situations are standard scenarios and with 500 m extra the problem was solved. But I realized that I was more stretched that I wanted to admit. Good that we already decided for a proper break at the end of the stretch so I only had to make it to the cars. Two plates full of pasta and 30 min sleep in a chair was the plan. All in all a break for around one hour with the hope that it would get easier afterwards.

Well – that did not work. The hours 0100-0430 during the second night were the darkest of the whole race. Still deadly tired, weekend by the heat and easily upset about small things I more stumbled than properly walked through the night. It was also not really getting cool – but that may have been a personal issue with my strained body. So what to do? I decided to have another long break to escape from that dark place. So another time the chair was up (in the middle of a small village on the street) and another longer sleep followed.

Restarting from that break did not feel good but soon after the effect I hoped for was there: mood was rising and running was again possible. The second sunrise brought light and the heat was still a few hours away. I got rid of the race vest, put the tracker in one bag of my shorts and carried a water bottle. Minimizing the weight to push for some km as long as it was doable.

The next sections of the route had some nice “goals” at hand as well – the “westlichster Punkt Deutschlands”, the border to NL and shortly after the border to BEL. Plus Christine and Maarten joined the support crew now consisting of four people. The weather played its last card with some thunderstorms around. Luckily we got some light rain but the big bursts did not hit us. Running was no longer doable – exhaustion all over. The second place in the 48 h runners was safe so a last target was to reach 240 km on the watch to secure the 5 km/h average. After some final walking to reach this goal I stopped with 20 min left to 48 h unable to continue and waited until it was finally time to end this race:

The End.

Summary

Looking back it really is an interesting format. The time goal is not as strong as a distance goal – making the motivation a bit more difficult. Running for 48 h with no normal race environment like in a traditional 48 h race around is not as easy as it sounds. Especially when some nice numbers or certain levels are reached: why to continue? At the end its plainly the question if you take the game seriously and are willing to really stay moving for the complete time. Good experience way out of trails and forest I usually prefer. Also getting the crew up and running and seeing the crew dynamics was really good. My ultra family was united for that 48 hours. Thanks to the Schinder to get this format to Germany. I guess it will find its place over here.

Lastly: crossing Rhein and Maas in one run and running in 3 countries – that is a really nice thing.

#evolution

6 days to go til Schinder Trail Prison Break Escape Run.

To enjoy the full flow of it I chose the 48h variant. From a given point at a given time there will be only one task: get as far away as possible. As this task involves figuring out the track yourself it was pretty clear I could not resist. What is even better: if found a small crew from the inner circle for some support visits along the way: to ease the weight on my shoulders and to make the refill easier. Hopefully they will push as if there is no tomorrow.

Looking forward to that challenge. There should be plenty of live tracking around so stay tuned. As support is allowed visitors are always welcome along the way.

There is no final distance – there is no point offering relieve. There are 48 full hours with only one task: use them efficiently.

Biber Backyard Ultra 2023

And then Lammersdorf entered the game. Located in the beautiful Nordeifel this second edition of the Biber Backyard Ultra raised some attention so that the orga crew felt confident to see the 24h barrier fall this time (first edition lasted 16h). Organized by a super nice team the runners felt like being at home with a bunch of friends. The track set out is very interesting. Due to lots of uphill and downhill sections its pretty clear for the runners when to walk and when to run. So that problem was solved for us runners right away. Only a few meters of the track would reasonably allow both walking and running – so this was left to be decided along the way if its more a “I run that part” or “I will rather walk” loop. As a walker I did not even start to think about this to not bother me with these kind of decisions during the race. Consistency is key in distance running so an ever same rhythm helps with that. With 120 m D+ of elevation gain and some traily downhill section it will probably not make it into the record books of the backyard history but its really a nice loop to run as it offers a variety of undergrounds and views.

The second Biber Backyard Ultra stated 0800 03.06.2023 with more than 70 runners and perfect weather. A sunny Saturday, a chilly and brisk full moon night followed by yet another sunny start into Sunday framed the race weekend perfectly. Lots of people came with specific goals in mind – may it be the first Marathon, yet another Marathon, first Ultra, longest distance ever, 100 km, 100 mi, as long as it goes… Pretty nice atmosphere amongst the runners – lots of good conversations along the loops. Lots of personal best have been achieved. Knowing the dedication this takes in such a race one can only congratulate to all those runners pushing to their personal limits – and beyond.

4 runners were able to finish loop 24, two continued for loop 25 and the race was won after 26 loops by a member of the pfadsucher-Team – congratulations Björn. Although this was not what you really aimed for that piece of wood may become handy in the day-to-day life.

26 loops for a piece of wood with Laz´s signature

Personal Notes:

Despite the nice event and an over all great weekend 20 loops is clearly not what I came for. What is more: as this was Backyard #3 for me the dynamics of this format are now pretty clear to me. The downside of this knowledge is that it’s now even more obvious that to perform in the 30+ loop area in Backyards a certain fitness level needs to be available. Its not only the ultra mind side of things (in which if fell kind of at home) but also the ability to actually run with a higher basic speed. The way I like to run and the way I run day-to-day does not allow any of this fitness to really ever sink in. Therefor I guess this was my last Backyard at least for a longer period. Depending how the rest of German runners evolve in that format I will be available to run for the German team during the World Team Championships 2024 if my the ranking calls for that. Current Roster to be found here – qualification period ends August 15, 2024. Go catch some loops for a stronger German Team in 2024!

BackyART provided by LegendsTracking
A nice overview about what happened – #runalyze
A nice overview about what happened – #runalyze

Venntrilogie

A new hiking track in our area with available GPX track; not officially announced/opened yet – of course our attention was drawn. So we packed our bags, submitted the track to the Fastest Known Time website (to be on the safe side) and took the bus from Aachen to Bütgenbach.

We started this little adventure close to 8 pm on Saturday evening (22.04.2023) in Bütgenbach. The first section from Bütgenbach to Malmedy (first 22 km) covered some new sections for some of us – nice paths along the river Warche. The part from Malmedy to Signal de Botrange uses tracks also covered by the Dark World Bonus Loop. Following the river Hill the downhill to Eupen comes up with a lot of new planked paths which have been build the last months specific for the Venntrilogie. With the sun now being up and the warmer conditions we decided to refill water at the cemetery in Raeren as this would keep us in the unsupported section with regards to FKT listing. Surprisingly the track from Raeren to the Drielandenpunt covered some new combinations of paths – good to update the memories and inner map of a rather well-known area.

Unfortunately running was not within the abilities of the Pfadsucher we had to hike a lot. In the restarting rain we finished the 108 km in 19h53m. All in all a nice connection of interesting and beautiful areas within the Euregio.

Link to Venntrilogie website

Link to Venntrilogie on the FKT page