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.

But still.

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

But wait.

All is well – those are memories from the past. No one would deliberately want to re-life all of this. No one.

But still:

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

2023

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.

Wrap-up 2022

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.

Marvel Slam 2022

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…

Beyond questioning anything. Montane Legends Trail 2022.

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.

TTdR 2022 – 100 km PB!

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.

What happens in Bienwald Stadion stays in Bienwald Stadion ;)
2022 Races

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.

Nightcrawler – Marvel Slam 2022 #4

No Ourthe – No Party!

Final track of the Marvel Slam done.

About time to finish what has been proven to be a demanding but very interesting set of runs. Seizing an open window in the family agenda I started the car close to 0500 Saturday morning to pick up Björn so that we can start our 1.5 h drive deep into the heart of the Ardennes Bleues – to the Barrage de Nisramont. It is not only the heart of the Ardennes Bleues but also the place where Ourthe Occidental and Ourthe Oriental unite in the Lake Nisramont to continue as Ourthe down to Liége. The track of Nightcrawler followes Ourthe Oriental up to the village Ourthe and down to Nisramont again before running up Ourthe Occidental up to the village Ourt and down again. What a mess. It requires a stable genius to come up with this kind of tracks. Funnily we are good friends. All attendees of the Legends Trails/Great Escape runs have a certain history with the Ourthe. Both runs feature the Ourthe during crucial moments of the race. Mostly moments at the half-conscious end of them. You don´t joke about that river, you always safe some energy to survive the parts at that river because you know deep insight: #noourthenoparty

It was a silent ride to Nisramont. Both tired we followed foggy streets to this abandoned parking lot down by the river. The last minutes preparation went silent but fast (somehow there meanwhile is a rythm, a routine in those few well planned last packings). Leaving the car was a weird thing in this early Saturday morning unsure what would wait for us. Although the toughest parts of the Ourthe are further down the river it was clear enough that the first and last kms on both arms would be the usual Ourthe terrain: rocky, slippery, steep and endless. Parts where 5 km/h is a decent speed but you should not panic when there are sections with on 3 km/h in it.

Ourthe Oriental

We started with some hope due to the soon upcoming sun which would allow us to run without headlamp soon after the start. We had been warned that the this first „loop“ was the more difficult one. It was a good and decent trail run on the first kms and we made progress with around 6 km/h on average until km 14. This is where the first funny twist was waiting for us: 600-900 m through a fully overgrown part close by the river. What have been a small paths years ago turned into a funny jungle of small trees, bushes and thorns. Lots of them.

The Wall of Thorns – aka. the MOMA of the Ardennes Bleues

We knew it is only a short section but still it was ridiculous even to our standards. The speed dropped to 30-40 min/km – what a waste of precious time of our lifes. But track is track and it got better once out of this part. Ourthe Oriental offered a few more funny offtrail/fence-climbing/river-following sections until we hit the biggest problem: hunting. We were prepared and warned but tried to enter the forbidden section nevertheless. Turned out this was no good idea as we were spotted quite fast – unlucky timing.

We had to turn back and take a detour. That decreased our mood significantly. But we found a detour of 2 km which allowed us to return safely to the track. We made it to Ourthe, refilled at a supermarket in Gouvy and started the return to the car using the exact same paths (including the hunting deviation and – it goes without saying – the lovely thorny section). It took us around 16 h for the first 90 km.

The Two Rivers!

Ourthe Occidental

After an 80 min break at/in the car we continued. And what a mess it was… The feeling to leave the warmer car around midnight with over 100 km to go – special moments of pure joy. After the first shivering meters we were down at the river again. Too tired to make decent progress in the endless Ourthe Occidental windings… Our average dropped below 4 km/h so we seized the first ability to take another break after 14 km on the second loop to reset. Luckily we found THE perfect place to lay down for 30 min. A small shack with straw bales which we could enter unseen in this dark night. To not directly lay on the cold ground was a huge improvement – wrapped in emergency blankets we enjoyed 30 min of sleep. It did what it we hoped for – we were way faster after that rest. With every step the track got easier and the sunrise was approaching as well. The closer we made it to Libramont at km 140 the easier the track got. We sped-up and reached Libramont around noon. After a quick refill at a shop and half an hour indoor rest with some Pommes frites we reach the second end of the track: Ourt. After crossing the few more demaning km right after the start of the return we tried to make as much daylight km on the runnable parts as possible. We knew what was waiting for us. Before the final countdown of the last 14 km to the car we decided to repeat our rest strategy in our nice and cozy shack. With the certainity that no matter how horrible it would be it would be all over in around 3 hours we re-started shivering in light rain. Somehow we made it and even enjoyed it. We were awake enough to talk a bit which always help to stay in the reality.

Seing the car again at 0100 Monday morning was a huge relieve. It was done. All was well.

The Two Cities!

42h 15m for 207 km – 100% of the Marvel Slam done. What a nice set:

It is time to say goodbye to some marvellous moments. Time to go on…

Mere Shadows

The real superheroes are the unseen ones.

The weather finally decided to adapt to the calendar. The rain, the mud and the fog are uniting with the all engulfing darkness again. It is that time of the year again to lie in bed all day and listen to the sound of the drops and the wind outdoors.

Or not.

Lots have been written about how these conditions change the way distances running feels. It certainly adds a whole different level of remoteness, loneliness and vastness to it. Some enjoy this immensely.

Social media begins to fill with end of year summaries – looking back to what has been going on this year. It is not the time to jump on that train. There is unfinished business.

But one thing is clear already. With what has been going on behind the curtain in a certain challenge called „Marvel Slam“ self-supported unlisted distance running entered a new level. The level of braveness, stubbornness and determination was and still is extraordinary. Unmatched performances have been run on these hidden tracks, tons of personal limits have been broken and the barrier between what is bearable and what is impossible has been ignored many times.

Wether or not the folks finish their slam (due date is the end of the year) – we have seen, ran, followed, supported and dot-watched some real heroes.

Unseen and mostly offline they followed what was put on their schedule. They shared their updates to the other happy few and went on.

It is a really astonishing experience to see this happen and to be a part of it.

Dark World – Marvel Slam 2022 #3

Third track of the Marvel Slam done.

And it was a very special one as it covered 100 miles of Hautes Fagnes finest paths. A selection of all the most interesting and beautiful spots in that area. Dark World consists of 3 loops (60k, 50k, 50k) all starting/ending at Baraque Michel restaurant/parking lot.

I – or I should say we – have a history with that place. Unforgotten runs under the most bizarre conditions. Baraque Michel has been a starting place for those ever since – but in addition to that start in the middle we entered that area from every possible direction to cover as much as possible of this special area. Memorable moments of the Legends Trail, the UTDS (Legends Edition), countless training runs and funny river or tile collection projects took place here over the years.

Some of those pictures below taken during my Dark World attempt in 2022 may help you to acknowledge the beauty – to understand it fully you may want to consider to spend a day and night or two up there.

I started Dark World on 1st of October 2022 with the rising sun at around 0800. A massive band of heavy rain flooded the area the night before and just stopped when I started (actually – I delayed my start a bit to not get completely wet from the beginning). Doing Dark World alone offered that amount of flexibility. Light rain but also some amount of sun accompanied me during the first loop. The whole area was completely covered by water. It felt good to be back in this vastness. It took me a bit more than 9 hours to finish the first 60 km loop. After a 40 min recovery in the car (repacking, refuelling, changing cloths and rest) I started the second loop at 1800 Saturday evening – totally aware that I was about to get into more serious problems.

The second loop – „Three Rivers of Pain“ – is a ridiculous technical and demanding terrain. Up and down the trails close by the various rivers in Hautes Fagnes is very special. The roaring water, the slippery stones and roots – every step a challenge and 100% focus needed. All in all a not so pleasant moments in light to medium rain. I reached the car really exhausted close to 0500 Sunday morning in intensifying rain.

I decided for a longer break in the car both to recover a bit more, get completely dry, sleep a bit and wait for the most horrible part of the rain to pass. I re-started after 1 hour 20 min break onto the third loop. The first 10 km of this loop is Hautes Fagnes pure before the easiest part of the run starts. The sections down to Eupen and the transfer to Lac Gileppe are not too technical and running is the first priority. The final 18 km of the track are again demanding and full of funny twists and turns. Offtrail sections, horribly steep climbs, wet and grassy overgrown Fagnes part until its finally done.

Hautes Fagnes at its best.

31h 44m for 100 miles – 75% of the Marvel Slam done.

75%

One final run of the Marvel Slam left.

Backyard Ultra Satellite Championships 2022

„… until its not.“

Just pulled a freshly washed Team GER jersey out of the washing machine while watching the YouTube live coverage of the very same race I left days ago. How weird is that, how unbelievable that Team BEL is still running. Outperforming everything everyone thought would be possible. 101 yards x 6.706 km – 4 nights/4 days of hourly running the very same loop. Deepest respect and congratulations to the whole Team BEL. They succeeded in fulfilling their #breaking100 goal.

Team Kerel for Germany 🙂

How minute my own 33 yards seem with that performance in comparison. But the Backyard format is unforgiving and the task is simply to stay in the race as long as possible with no excuses allowed to stop for any other reason than not being able to manage to run 6.7 km in one hour. And that is what I did. Starting from loop 31 I had problems with the muscles in my legs that wont allow me to make big steps anymore. But I stayed in for two more loops until it was no longer feasible to run/walk faster than 5 km/h. I was lucky that I started the loop 33 „quickly“ enough to be able to hobble in in time. 220 km in 33 hours was simply the physical limit in this race. What gave hope for a possible next backyard is that the rest of the body was fine – no bigger issues with eating/exhaustion.

Team Germany 2022

It is with great misery to leave the team alone. Everyone dropping felt the same – that shows the nice spirit of this team event. Everyone of the German Team went to their individual limits and quite a few PBs were broken. We saw a lot of really good performances and the German race ended with 3 out of 4 reamining runners dropping out after 45 yards (300 km) and Hendrik finishing and winning the race with 46 yards. Congratulations to the whole team. With 484 loops Team Germany placed 14 out of 37 countries – definitely something with room form improvement.

A great experience to be part of that event – to be part of Team Germany. My individual performance was place 167 out of 555 runners total. All in all something to be happy with.

The bright side of life.

The final team and individual results can be found in this Google Sheet.

Overview #teamGER

The backyard ultra running format is not my favorite kind of running. But together with my support Mike Bruce (thanks a million) we discussed in the aftermaths a few things which could be improved both on the running and on the supporting end. Who knows when this knowledge may be handy. What I will certainly do is join the team another time in 2024 when my performance qualifies me and the team asks for for it.

Where dreams going to die. Or not.
Runalyze Video

2022 Backyard Ultra Satellite Team Championships – Team Germany

00Days
00Hours
00Minutes
00Seconds

Time is ticking. Slowly but surely.

I remember quite well how it all of this began back in July in the Bienwald Stadion in Kandel. Assisting at my first Backyard Ultra ever under the given conditions was a very interesting experience. But that is the past. It lead to a spot in the German Team at the 2022 Backyard Ultra Satellites and it is time to play this game seriously. Whatever this will mean.

Here is the teaser for the upcoming races next weekend:

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Here is my intro video:

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See all the other team members of Team Germany in the below youtube channel „German Backyard TV“ – follow us on our mission to run a few more loops. Looking forward to form one team with all those strong runners:

Coverage by country of the original YouTube stream!

Live coverage of the championships are most probably accessible through the below YouTube channel:

The Ferry

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.