Comfort Zone

Comfort zone is defined as an area/status in private/social life which is characterized as to be comfort and risk-free to the fullest. Or to say it with the words of Brené Brown:

„Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control. […]“
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komfortzone

In general leaving this comfort zone is considered to be a positive thing. It means one is ready to risk something, ready to invest some effort and to endure a certain amount of discomfort to get things done or to reach a goal.

But is this the only perspective? Is that all?

Once the comfort zone is left – does this mean comfort is beyond reach until you return from your journey? What if you fought through uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability on this journey and suddenly realize that you found comfort again although you are as far away from the „comfort zone“ as humanly possible?

It may not be comfort in the classical definition. You may not have access to enough love but if you planned wisely you should have access to food; you certainly used a decent amount of time and a little bit of talent to reach that status. In addition to these attributes you may be blessed with fellow travellers on the very same journey which gives you access to company, friendship and – yes – comfort. Whether or not these situations can be considered as to be „under control“ is worth a different discussion.

But it is indeed a kind of comfort. Comfort plus maybe. Something you feel home in. Moments of honest, fullest and deepest acceptance of everything there may be. Because the circumstances do not matter anymore as you finally fully merge with the situation – no matter what it may be.

Photocredits: Olav & Martino

KATE180 2021

If you go for a run and come back with some nice memories… All is well.

What has been a failure last year, came to a happy end this year. KATE180 finally saw her first finishers. A group of 9 runners started off and 8 returned with finishing times between 36 and 45 hours.

The concept of KATE180 was to combine the beautiful and yet challenging area around the Rursee with some well-known tracks in the Hautes Fagnes area and connect both of these areas through nice trails to Aachen – to form a 205 km loop. The little downside of this concept and the actual trails behind is, that the distance of a Marathon on them is already exhausting enough. The second little challenge of running the combination in the proposed direction is, that the difficulty slightly increases by time. The longer you are on your feet the more draining the course gets.

The feedback on the track was satisfying – made for a special type of adventurers it really delivered what was needed for a memorable time out there. Most of the runners had to leave their comfort zone to reach the finish line – and appreciated it.

Luckily a support team consisting of Stefan Vilvo (car support from km 40 to km 100), Inga (car support at km 130) and Rainer (car support at km 162) helped the runners to stay in and fuelled. All runners have been extremely thankful for this amazing support! It has to be noted that the first group of runners (3 of the pack decided to actually run) did not benefit from this amazing support as they have been, well, too fast.

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Stefan Vilvos Support Video
Overview of KATE180s elevation gain

With the finish of KATE180 3 runners of the group also finished the Titanic Slam (finish 4 tracks between Halloween 2020 and Silvester 2021). The rest of the Slam attendees have one or more finishes left with two month time left to complete this little challenge.

Race report/post collection:

Marekhttps://www.acceptnolimits.eu/killing-kate/
Martinohttps://www.instagram.com/p/CVuYhHCoceDNFcDE2Qx_bcU8MlD2got1PnYE8E0/
Olavhttps://www.instagram.com/p/CVyHHOtLdKR/
Maartenhttps://www.acceptnolimits.eu/kate-2021-ouderwets-doorpakken-zoals-het-hoort

Sleep Deprivation

Sooner or later during long distance running attempts the moment of tiredness comes. As this is a fact we better discuss ways and means to deal with this.

What does science say?

Looking at two publications:

[1] A group of 636 ultra marathon runners answered a questionnaire. Amongst the questions with regards to normal sleep behavior and the expected findings (the participants sleep a bit more on weekend compared to weekdays, on days without work more people were doing small power naps during the day) these people have been asked on their strategies how to deal with sleep during ultramarathon races. Around 74% if the study group replied that they do have a sleep strategy which meant for around 55% of them to try to increase sleep prior race day. 21% of the study group reported that they do have a strategy to manage sleep DURING the actual race – the micronap strategy was the most named strategy. From this data a subgroup was further analysed with the finding, that there is some sort of correlation of race duration and sleep time: the longer the race, the more they sleep.

[2] A systematic review on the napping behavior of athletes and how it impacts performance looking at all available literature. The key conclusions are that athletes may want to consider a daytime nap between 20-90 min duration between 1 and 4 p.m. (not later) and may want to think about a 30 min nap prior a long training run or race. Both will ease/delay the impact/onset of sleepiness while running and generally leads to a better performance.

There are some more but not too many articles about sleep behavior/deprivation in ultra running. Most focus on the sleep behavior of athletes in general and how this relates to performance. A general tendency, especially in the view of the above is: take care that you do have a healthy, good quality sleep; perform a nap in the optimal time window during the day; sleep a little more in the days/weeks prior a race and have a little nap before you actually start.

What does experience say?

And then there is life.

Life does not care at all on what would be ideal; life is amazing in giving you sleepless nights right when you are in the important prior race period; you job simply does not allow you to nap (depends on what you work) and your lovely kids keeping you awake anyway at anytime. If you can make use of the knowledge above, perfect. If you can’t – well you have to live with this as well. There are some hands-on experiences how to deal with sleep while moving for 24-64 h (one to three nights).

Do not deny the sleepiness for too long. Its ok to ignore it or work against it fo a certain period of time but at some point the problematic effects become too dominant: you forget to eat/drink in proper intervals, you tend to stumble and fall and navigation is no longer possible. There is a variety of big mistakes when being sleepy you definitely want to avoid. So take a break.

During long race/runs with sheltered and warm sleep possibilities a longer nap of up to 1 hour really makes a difference on the situation and your feeling. If you are lucky it recovers you completely from sleepiness (at least for the night you are in).

If you are in situations where indoor/sheltered sleep is not possible or forbidden you need to shorten the breaks. Everything from 5-30 minutes in a nap-format can help. If you are unlucky you will need these type of naps several times in one night to make it to the next morning. Don’t be angry about that – this is another loss of energy and time (and leads to bad decisions as well).

Try to find the best place for your nap. You may want to stay as dry as possible, it should be possible to lay down without massive problems (although some runners report that they slept while standing in the rain), it should be protected from wind (do not sleep on top of anything) and you may want to stay out of private property.

Set an alarm clock. Make sure you will be able to hear the sound (e.g. sleep on your smartphone).

During colder/wetter weather conditions it is handy to use one of these emergency blankets/foil/sleep bags you carry with you anyway. Take off your jacket and backpack (and more clothes if you are still able to undress and dress yourself), wrap yourself completely (gold outside) and lay down. This will keep body and muscles warm, will dramatically increase the nap sleep quality and reduces the stiffness when starting off again. Take the foil with you for your next stop. That is one of the reasons why you should always pack two of these emergency blankets. One for sleep brakes, one for emergency.

Furthermore it will help to regularly fuel your body with something to eat and drink in short intervals during the night (and during the day as well). Prevents your system from shutting down completely and ease the sleepiness a little as your body has something to do. Make a game out of it: every 5k I eat a little something and drink a few ml.

Last but not least: remember the first one of the two rules: never quit at night – it will get better during the day.

Talking about rules – the second one of the two rules is: never quit during the day – there is simply no point in doing this.

References:

[1] Martin, T., Arnal, P. J., Hoffman, M. D., & Millet, G. Y. (2018). Sleep habits and strategies of ultramarathon runners. PloS One, 13(5), e0194705. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194705

[2] Lastella M, Halson SL, Vitale JA, Memon AR, Vincent GE. To Nap or Not to Nap? A Systematic Review Evaluating Napping Behavior in Athletes and the Impact on Various Measures of Athletic Performance. Nat Sci Sleep. 2021;13:841-862. Published 2021 Jun 24. doi:10.2147/NSS.S315556

Tired of Running

There are sometimes phases in which running (especially long-distance-running) seems to be so far away that you slowly really disconnect from that world. Finally retired from that bullshit with no way back. Either it is because of injury, other things in life which need all of your time or a long down period from a previously encountered great victory/huge defeat (its really the same in long-distance-running).

In the beginning it’s a weird feeling: you open e.g. Strava, one of the (un)social networks or your Garmin Connect app and everyone – EVERYONE – is running like hell. And this does not feel nice. All of them (some of them are even your friends) are so strong and running long distances as if it is nothing. Again and again. Meanwhile you sit at home looking into the dark night outside unsure if it is regret or relief that you are not out there with them. Then you silently close down the live tracking page, switch off your PC and go to bed.

With a little bit more time into your new running-free life this heavy weight lifts a bit. You start to feel better and are happy for them who are running. You are able to applaud again, cheer with them and even support them while they follow their running dreams. Further and faster – beyond all boundaries. But this is no longer your mission.

When you stumble over your running shoes or your running gear you sometimes have to smile a little. A faint smile from far, far away. What infinite amount of hours you used all that stuff. All those dark and painful nights, all those shivering beginnings/ends of days where you felt like the tiniest and weakest particle of dust in this huge universe. Good that this is the past. Good that this is over.

But is it?

What if …? – what if you open your database one last time and check for that one track you drew ages ago and never ran? Just look at the GPX. Remember how you created this file. What a fool you have been back then. How could you honestly think that these connected dots would make a nice adventure? How could you think they really matter?

Somehow these unanswered questions also do not feel great. Quite the contrary.

And now?

Lights in the dark.

DDDDNF

And another DNF – the Duivelse Double Digits challenge ended end of June. I was not successful to finish all of the 56 double digits – 47 are done whatsoever:

Thanks Marek – nice & stupid idea!

Place 23/300 – 1,323.57 km!

Here is the gallery!

DNF LEO180 2021

Next to all the stories, myths and legends about crossing borders and pushing limits there are also these moments where your are so far away that you simply need to accept your failure and identify your mistakes.

Nevertheless – it was great to meet and connect – to discuss and to plan. Thanks for supporting and hosting me.

*** LIVE LEO180 2021 ***

Back in 2017 we started the car to drive to Goirle with the intention to head into a remarkable adventure. We met a lot of people for the first time unsure if we would be welcome – if we would fit into this group. Looking back at that legendary first pre-race evening – it seems like ages ago – there are no doubts left anymore. Tons of memories have been created since then. I would love to tell them all but our time on earth is limited. Although the first edition of LEO180 was a DNF I decided to come back the next years and meanwhile the area feels like home. A home which is also inhabited by loneliness, vastness, lots of sand, pain, exhaustion and empty coke bottles. But still a home.

It is about to start the car again to add another story – whatever the end of this story may be.

Off to visit some friends – vacantie deluxe.
Tomorrow – 0800 – http://tim_weissbach.legendstracking.com

Finish 2018 (left) vs. Finish 2019 (right)
The original No-Coke-2018

Packing considerations

Electronics:

  • 1-2 Powerbanks, charged (depends on duration of the run and dropback strategy)
  • GPS watch (do not forget to upload the track and make sure that you were successful)
  • GPS watch cable
  • GPS handheld with charged batteries (upload the track)
  • 1-2 sets of additional batterie sets for GPS handheld (charged)
  • Headlamp with charged batteries
  • 1-2 sets of additional batterie sets for headlamp (charged)
  • Smartphone
  • Smartphone cable
  • Smartphone earphones
  • GPS tracker (if you have one)
  • Signal light (to be attached to your clothings/backpack for road safety and to annoy following runners; sometimes mandatory in races)

Backpack Brainstorming:

If you happen to have several ones – be sure that you know what they are capable of and decide according to your upcoming run. Do you need to be fast? Do you have a lot of dropbacks so that you can refill every other day? Do you need to carry everything all the time? Really? The normal tendency is to overpack – be aware of that and consider to reduce stuff. Make sure that you are aware of the weather conditions during your run as good as possible. Heat and sweat, rain, cold – all that may have an influence on your backpack choice. Be aware where your backpack will destroy your body if you do mistakes while packing and running – do not do these mistakes.

Shoes & Feet:

Well, this is a delicate and personal thing. You may want to:

  • tape your feet to slow-down the blister formation (I use Kinesiotape) or treat your feet with your strategy to keep them as long as possible as intact as possible
  • be ready to renew that tape/retreat your feet on CPs (if any)
  • if you want to re-tape you need a towel to dry and clean your feet, a needle or scissor (to burst blisters) and fresh socks in your dropback or backpack
  • if you have the time at CPs and your feet are in miserable conditions a break of 30-60 min may help to completely dry your feet (a fan helps to speed-up this process)
  • know the pros and cons of your socks and shoes and the parts of your feet they will destroy
  • consider to wear water-proof socks (be aware that they will not be proof forever)
  • consider to wear thin, comfortable socks under your water-proof socks
  • consider to remove the insole of your shoes when wearing thick water-proof socks (the thick socks cover-up for the missing insole and the gained space is a relieve for your swelling feet
  • changing shoes (if possible) may be an option to think about – be aware that your feet will swell and hurt so you may want to change into wider and comfortable shoes
  • be aware that you will be on one point of your long run no longer able to change our shoes
  • Read for more details about feet especially in wet conditions this!

Clothing:

Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly – only use stuff you know and you trained in and feel comfortable in. Here are a couple of helpful things to consider:

  • Buffs, hats, gloves and arm warmers are really nice tools to keep your temperature feelings ideal and are easy to remove/put on while running
  • Protect your head from direct sunlight
  • Wear sunglasses if you can run with them – this seems unnecessary but to keep stress from your eyes helps you to stay relaxed
  • Wear underwear and socks you know and which are suitable for what your are doing to prevent chafing as good as possible
  • Plan carefully what you need in your backpack/dropbacks to change clothing
  • Always carry at least a light wind/waterproof jacket with you
  • Keep in mind that you tend to feel colder and start shivering the longer the race lasts
  • Check mandatory equipment when racing

Safety & Hygiene

  • Vaseline/Nok cream/others – to prevent chafing wherever you want to prevent it
  • First-aid kit (fully equipped)
  • Do not forget your meds if you need some regularly
  • Bring safety blankets/sleeping backs (handy if you for whatever reason need to sleep or dye)
  • Check mandatory equipment when racing

Food & Drinks

That is up to you. Whatever helps you to stay up and running. Apart from that:

  • make sure that your water management is fine-tuned – check for places where you can get water during your run and mark them on your GPS
  • Salt pills next to water are important and may help to keep you ok (esp. in warm conditions)
  • I tend to use caffein pills when the seriously tired moments start
  • Coke (just kidding)

Others:

  • Poles (in some races you need to carry them all the time, in some races it is allowed to pick them up at later CP)
  • some packs handkerchiefs
  • ID, creditcard/bank card, 100 € cash
  • (Car)keys
  • FFP2/medical mask
  • Coins for vending machines
  • fatty lipstick (especially in cold conditions) to pretend your lips from cracking
  • if go into the void – take a water filter with you
  • pack your car with whatever you need after finishing your run

More helpful packing list considerations can be found here

To be completed.


Rivers of Hautes Fagnes

Always fascinating to to leave or enter the high plateau of Hautes Fagnes through one of the countless river valleys with their unique atmosphere.

The overwhelming sound of water in these small canyons. Not a single spot of ground without mud, water, roots or stones. Every part of your body and mind focused on the technical details. Not a single easy step. A special kind of horror in situations where you have already been running for a long period of time or are still recovering from the last adventure. If you happen to enter these parts in dark, wet and misty nights the setting is perfect. Throw back UTDS+ or Legends Trail. Lovely moments.

The power and beauty of nature are so close in these narrow canyons. The central nervous system of the Ardenne Bleue – the bridge between Hautes Fagnes and the more serious climbings further down there.

To top this – there is still Hautes Fagnes waiting on the upper end of these stretches. Alway amazing – especially during the hours of dawn and early morning. Worth every effort.