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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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
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.
No matter how exciting it felt at the beginning – at the end all reduces to very little.
It starts with excitement, with joy and with hustle and bustle. The connection with the surrounding and the fellow runners is intense. It feels like a big journey and a great adventure. Lots of discussions go along with lots of laughter. What a great experience. What a gift to be out there together.
Despite this promising start everyone is well aware that this status will not last. It must end as it consumes too much energy and wasting energy is a dangerous thing. Discussions and laughter begin to fade – replaced by increasing periods of calm and monotone running.
The final step to focus is the disconnection from any external influences. One after the other the bands to the „normal“ world need to be losen and finally cut. It is a decision to let go of everything else and the decision to concentrate and focus on the one thing: to go on. Similar to the focus of the headlamp in a moonless night which reduces every existence to a small colourless and 2-dimensional spot: this final step means to enter a place within yourself where no disturbances from the outside can reach you. It is a unique place and only yourself can enter it. All decisions are now directed to the one goal. The sooner one reaches that state the better. It preserves from worrying too much and the strong focus allows no doubts. The still existing troubles are quiet for a while. They will for sure come back and the focus will fade again but it is important to understand that it is possible to go back there at any time. It comes with experience and is improved by practice. It needs a certain kind of mental strength but is worth every effort:
Loops do not matter anymore. Weather does not matter anymore. Distance does not matter anymore. Hopelessness does no matter anymore.
The idea was born and grew within several chats on various platforms during the 2020 summer – impossible to nail it down to one single conversation. It had something to do with: we still need a fourth run for our challenge – let’s do something with loops – what about a bit of elevation gain? At the end The Iceberg track was born. It was a co-production of acceptnolimits.eu and pfadsucher.com which more and more turns into a fruitful collaboration.
If you wonder about the name „Iceberg“ of the run – well, that is a different story. To be told one day. Maybe. Different platforms show different values on the actual track lengths but we agreed to make it 100 mi. At the end (during the race) we decided that this means 42 loops.
Hard to describe the running itself. At the beginning (first 5-8 loops) it was really enjoyable. You run up and then down again where you find your car parked and packed with all the supply you would possible need. And then you do that again. And again.
Slowly but surely you enter in a different dimension of time and meaning. There are two numbers you keep an eye on: loop time of the current loop and the total loop count (at the beginning you count up, at the end you count down). Everything else vanishes behind a blurry curtain. Because nothing else matters. To continue is the key, no matter what. The focus on the loop was extreme after a while. Every step felt like automatic. At the end you look on a root or a stone or a puddle in the focus of your headlamp and know immediately if you better use your right or your left foot, where exactly you need to place your poles and how much strength you need to manage that step. An extraordinary level of details are burned-in your head.
Really difficult to describe. We had all kind of weathers (expect snow) and the course really suffered. At the end it was a muddy, slippery, horrible steep something we were climbing up and down again and again. What keeps you moving? I heard different explanations during these two days in Coo but you need to find your own answer by trying to finish. If you manage to find something that pushes you enough you may be one of the happy few lunatics.
After 41h and 27m it was done. 168 km (my GPS jumped somewhere) and 11.213 m of elevation gain. An interesting experience. Thanks to all who finished, tried to and supported – it was a really intense 48h time period on this parking lot in Coo and we will tell the story a lot in the future. Next time we go there we better visit the theme park over there and take the ropeway to visit the tower. Or we directly jump to the part of drinking a beer together.
Great. Always good to do that. And really – you invested everything you had to give. You withstood all the discomforts. You conquered all obstacles. Everyone told you before it is insane. The race director told you it’s impossible. Twice. But you still signed up and started. And: horrible conditions along the way. Unmatched so far. Way too long distances between the checkpoints. All your friends and family on every social media congratulate you already and comfort you in thinking that what you already achieved is amazing. You yourself are sure that your performance is above all doubts. Your Garmin congratulated you – you just earned another batch and you broke a few of your personal records along the way. On top of that the night fall and the nice indoor checkpoint is warm and cosy. It is time to hit the stop button on your watch or even better: the button on your tracker. Still you may remind yourself:
So you may want to revisit your situation. Don’t you feel that tickling sensation somewhere deep down? Are you sure the light won’t come back again for another bright morning? What if you open your eyes and the clock is still ticking? What if you realise that you maybe really can finish it? What if it is worth the trouble? But that is your decision.
Die Geschichte ist schnell erzählt. Falscher letzter Zug. Gestrandet in Kall – sowas ist immer ärgerlich. Um das Gemünd zu beruhigen schnell am dortigen Nationalparktor vorbeigeschaut und dann auf dem schnellsten Weg zurück zu einem frequentierten Bahnhof. Das war in dem Fall Langerwehe – perfekt zu erreichen über den Hauptwanderweg 5 des Eifelvereins von Gemünd nach Langerwehe. Elegant.
Nachts allein im starken Dauerregen war die erste Hälfte ereignisarm. Mit ca. 2 Meter Sichtweite im kalten Regen war es so eine der Passagen in der der Genuss ganz im Vordergrund steht. Scheinbar muss man auf jeder Tour durch die Nordeifel einmal nach Schmidt hoch – warum auch immer. Sonst waren große Teile der Strecke bekannt vom Wildnistrail und dem Nord-Eifel-Ultra von Stefan. Also schnell durch und ab in den Zug in Langerwehe.
Wald – auf jeden Fall, Wasser – reichlich von oben, Wildnis – vermutlich war ich verantwortlich für 100% der Mobilitätsdaten in der Nordeifel in dieser Nacht. Allein und doch beäugt von zahllosen Augen zwischen den Bäumen inmitten gleichgültig fallenden kalten Tropfen.