Legends Trail 2023

When you are stripped down to your pure core the world is a different one. A world with a different intensity – with a different meaning of things – with a different heartbeat. It’s the world beyond the curtain. It’s the world of the happy few – a pure experience.

Hautes Fagnes Weather – somewhere close to CP3

And then the moments were there. The moments I envisioned before and during the race – the moments I came for. Not just a usual Monday – the Legends Trail Monday. All efforts of the past long hours were meant to reach exactly this: the final 10k of Legends Trail with enough time that the finish is safe. As if nature wanted to join the party a glistening sun flooded the hills of the final stretch. It’s a bit like dream walking. Shook by the emotions of the upcoming finish. Deeply connected to the surroundings. Unbelievable thankful for being able to reach that point and to be part of this story once more. One of the last hills brought a nice view and standing there in the warm sun was an amazing feeling. It could have last forever but it was not done yet. There was a finish waiting, there were people waiting – time to ultimately finish it off – time to also tick-off the last kilometres of Legends Trail 2023.

Before Start:

This years Legends Trail had some few changes. The track was only uploaded to the various GPS devices at race registration and what became clear at that very moment: the start was not the finish – we had to take a little bus tour to the start location. Registration was without major problems. Always nice to meet the Legends Trail Family members, have a quick chat and discuss the upcoming. After getting through the check-in I went back to the car to eat something and have some minutes of sleep and relaxation before it all would finally start. I also had some glances on the map – lots of familiar parts but also bigger stretches I have never seen before (or could not remember). The hour before the start all runners group in one room and you can basically touch the excitement in the air. A quick briefing followed by the bus ride to the start – a fast countdown and off we were. Start time was Friday 17.02.2023 19:00.

Start – CP1 – Night #1:

Nice idea to go to Barrage de Nisramont for the start. With this little change the famous Ourthe parts could be in this years edition as well. For me this meant flashbacks to the Nightcrawler run back in November. The memories were still fresh so I was warned. I deliberately stayed in the first half of the pack (95 starters in total) to be able to define my tempo up and downhill and to not loose time to whatever happens to the other runners. I was already thinking of the bigger picture with regards to cut-off timing. Legends Trail for a slow runner like me means: there is zero room for mistakes. Efficiency and accuracy in running, navigation together with lack of stupid decisions is key to success. Ourthe was beautiful but brutal. The whole valley was flooded by our headlamps and the blinking red lights on our backs. Amazing reflections – amazing mood. A focused worm of light battling through the steep climbs, relentless paths on the edge of the water. It all worked out quite well for me. On our way from Ourthe to CP1 we also past the start/finish location from Legends Trail 2020 – happy memories. I think we have to thank dear Olav for inventing the hashtag #noourthenoparty – so happy to see this one is pretty famous by now. Good things are meant to stay. Reached CP1 in the early dark and cold morning hours of Saturday. The usual routine took place – repacking food, refilling water and coke, have to helpings of the amazing pasta, unpack the feet to let them rest and dry a bit – repacking everything and re-start on the next stretch.

CP1 – CP2 – Day #1:

The stretch to Malmedy. Malmedy is an area everyone would normally skip but hey – it’s Legends Trail. Malmedy is famous for ridiculous climbs so we were warned that the finish of that stretch was bound to be horrible. Even more important to get some running done at the beginning to make up some time. The weather was so matching to the tasks ahead. It was all grey and dizzy. The light drizzle which has accompanying us in the first night continued throughout the day. It was not really getting „light“. Nice for a race with 3 full nights in – more feelings of darkness. There was another tiny problem on our way to Malmedy: greater Coo area. It goes without saying that all the really tough climbs of that area made it through the final selection: we had to climb „The Bassin“, „The Iceberg“ and some more in that area. Pleased with the selection. The final part to Malmedy was then as expected – we could see the city quite early but whenever we were almost there the track turned back for some more climbing. It requires some mental stability to cope with that. The food on CP2 was rice with chicken curry – delicious two helpings. Met Tim and Fre – they seemed to be happy how the race evolved. Francois was there as well and took care of my feet – thanks a million my friend. Next stretch would be Hautes Fagnes in the night. Actually a well-known area I really like. But with 120 km in and the second night it would not be exactly easy. I decided to gear up with regards to warm/waterproof clothing and expected the worst when leaving CP2.

CP2 – CP3 – Night #2:

It should live up to my expectations. The weather intensified to a stronger drizzle and the wind was a more stormy one. This mixtures made it extremely uncomfortable to be out. It reduced the view to barely nothing; although above 0°C it felt like minus temps. It even came to a point where covering the face seemed to be a good idea. Despite the clothing I felt immensely cold and was not the only one. And yes next to these things there was Hautes Fagnes. In top form. Completely wet and overwhelmingly muddy. Even with some fresh tree cutting which meant some 100 meters of stumbling through the mess. Not entirely sure what was more horrible – climbing up and down the Fagnes rivers/valley or the exposed stretches up there. All in all harder than expected. Getting really tired I lay down for 20 minutes on trail in my safety blanket and this at least helped to reduce the optical illusions of huts, beds, things you can lay down on to a certain extend. It was getting ultra. Slowly but surely. Pretty crashed I arrived at CP3 where there was mashed potatoes/stew/vegetables on the dining menu. More than welcome. It was one of the moments with tiny doubts. Haute Fagnes was survived but to a rather high price. The finish was still too far way to be a realistic thing to dream of. But well. It was light again, there are still a few hours spare to cut-off – so gear up and go.

CP3- CP4 – Day #2:

The stretch near Spa/Theux. The well-known Olne-Spa-Olne area. I was wondering which part made it in. The weather was getting more stable bits by bits. The rain seemed to ultimately stop. This was certainly a plus. The goal was clear – make as much as possible during daylight and then be in at around midnight at CP4 to have 2-3 hours spare to cut-off. The daylight part of the stretch was ok. I slowly allowed myself to think about the finish which was boosting the mood. The approaching darkness destroyed all hope again. I suddenly started to feel all the strain, all the exhaustion and all the effort which lay behind me. This together with some really funny climbs made this to another critical point. I managed to calm down again and stabilize myself and my movement (which is crucial when climbing muddy „paths“ where every misstep could have horrible consequences). Really tough hours but luckily the plan to be at around midnight at CP4 worked out. The menu was Tortellini with bacon and pesto. Was my favorite already last year and was pure heaven in that third night. The clouds meanwhile were gone completely meaning that cold would be a problem to live with. A final time repacking everything, putting warmer layers on, thank everyone at CP4. A weird feeling. An overwhelming exhaustion mixed with the certainty that once CP4 was behind me the finish possibility would jump from a mere dream to exactly this: a realistic option.

CP4 – Finish – Night #3 / Day #3:

With no real clue of what was waiting the only option was to stay focused and work hard to not to slow down too much. Everyone at CP4 warned about the last stretch and indeed we were not disappointed. Especially the first half in the darkness was Legends Trails at its finest with 6 km Ninglinspo between km 240 – 246 as the ultimate highlight. I mean how could they. No one would allow half-concious people do these parts. No one. Another mean climb was waiting before reaching the last safe spot – CP4.1 – Chez Ingo. The boss itself was there and nothing is better than a few toasties in the very early morning. What a feeling – morning number 3 was creeping up, the toughest climbs of the last section were done and although the rest would not be exactly easy the job was finally getting easier. Keep an eye on the timing – enjoy some coke in the early morning sun – and approach the finish. Some parts where running was possible – really welcome. Every done km a gift. And nature was a blast in this early Monday morning. Having to climb up to quite a bit the views running down were stunning. Very emotional section. Almost certain timing would work out – out there in the wonderful Ardennes Bleue – what could be better. Funnily we came close to a village called Paradis… I really should stop crying when finally reaching that line. And then it was over. Shaking hand with Tim became a tradition the last years – don’t want to miss these moments.

3 starts at Legends Trail – 3 finishes: 2020, 2022 and 2023 – clean sheet/100% aka. triple. Pretty ok!

The Numbers:

281.66 km66:56:23 total race time5:09:35 pause at CPs – 10181 m D+40 min of sleep (2 x 20 minutes in night #2 Hautes Fagnes and night #3 before Ninglinspo area).

Navigation was carried out on my Fenix 6X Pro. So happy how well that works – what a brilliant watch. Didn’t need my backup handheld at all.

The Stats.

2022 vs. 2023

There were a lot of discussions about LT22 vs. LT23. Although not relevant below two graphs comparing LT22 to LT23. For me LT23 was 3 s/km slower compared to LT23 – in total 14 minutes difference (basically nothing). Comparing the two Climb Score graphics in Runalyze the difference between both editions gets bit clearer. Climb Score elevated from 9.6 to 9.8 – almost a 10.0. Talking to Tim before the start once the tracks were clear: its really difficult for such a long distance and the distant areas to find good connection parts. You don’t want to eliminate the highlights but need to connect them logically. From my own experience with creating tracks Tim and his team are close to perfection. A Climb Score of 10 is something you can achieve on a hill rep-style run like Iceberg but it will be almost impossible to get the Legends Trail to this level. LT23 was close enough, definitely brutal enough and great combination – honours to the creators. Now I only need to stop myself and not try to draw a combination myself.

Each loop around 10% of total distance.
LT23 had +500 m D+, + 1% more hilly stretches – 24% left to optimise 😉
LT 20, LT 22, LT 23 – pieces of a puzzle. Ardennes classics.

Empty Handed

We have been granted with VERY little information this year.

There is a lot of joking about the presumably warm/dry weather and a nice outdoor vacation weekend with some friends and family.

We all know it´s just jokes. No one will lure us into false safety.

Time has come to go again, to disconnect, to suffer and to strive.

We come empty handed and the only thing left to rely on is ourselves. Yet we will be there to face and conquer the unknown.

Friday 1800

https://legendstrail250.legendstracking.com/

left: 2020 // right: 2022

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

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.

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:

Wolverine – Marvel Slam 2022 #2

Second track of the Marvel Slam 2022 done.

When opportunities arise one needs to step up and act. No matter what. With the ongoing and increasing heat wave which would dominate the weekend there was only one logical decision: start with a night so that two full nights would fall into the run and should ease up the heat pressure. Everything was packed and ready Friday evening after work – Wolverine was attacked around 2100 in the evening.

At the end it took me 41h39m to finish this 202 km track. Hard to describe what happened while running – the biggest concern was the water supply with these weather conditions. The backpack was heavier than usual because I always carried as much water as possible. With the help of cemeteries, school parking lots with water taps, shops, restaurants etc. everything worked out with regards to water.

The track is divided into three parts 95 rather normal km – a tough section between km 95 and km 170 with lots of funny climbing included – and an again less technical final section between km 170 and the end.

It was a unique experience as I was running alone and this time without any support and also without any chance of support in case needed. Completely remote except the virtual connection via social media. At the end everything went well. No bigger problems, no major mistakes and a huge relieve once it was done and the car was still there where I left it.

Marvel Slam – 50% done

Time to rest until the next Marvel track calls for action. Left are 160 km in Hautes Fagnes and the long trip along #noourthenoparty. Both tough – both overgrown at the moment. So its time to relax and wait until the upcoming fall eliminates the vegetation and clears the paths.

Bienwald Backyard Ultra 2022

Ok. I think I like the format. Although far away in terms of running capabilities (the experts tend to have a way higher basic running speed and are thus able to enjoy longer rest periods) and not quite fitting to my non-competitive mentality while running – backyard running has something appealing. With its unique rhythm, its simplicity and its strong structure it calms and slows down every stress and is able to create its own small universe. A universe where nothing else matters then to follow the flow and wait. Wait for something from which you at the beginning do not exactly know what it may. An interesting experience.

To wait is something I more and more value while running longer distances – something which is often described to be something bad or boring or is considered to be a waste of time. During long distance running to wait for me is the essential part – an underlying feeling which is able to compensate for short term exhaustion, or the usual ups and downs and good and bad moments. Something to find comfort in and to hold on to.

It was my first Bienwald Backyard Ultra and brought me into contact to a lot of new faces (as I only rarely run races in Germany) and it was really worth the drive-down. A huge shoutout to Michael, his family, friends and to the whole TSV Kandel team. Great place to race, amazing support, great checkpoint (Pommes 24/7) and a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

#coke

Suddenly, 28h after race start, I was in a situation I was really unprepared for: second last man standing. Only the two of us were running. There were plenty of reason why I decided (what a strange situation to be able to decide when the race would stop) to not run beyond 29 yards. It just felt right and I am really happy to be able to assist Norman to the well-deserved silver ticket – he will be undoubtedly a great representative in the German national team for the Backyard championships this October.

One day I may try this format again to try to go further and try to really play this game to the end. Whatever this may mean.

TorTour de Ruhr 2016-2022

It is not my style of running and it is not my favorite type of track either. It is flat, it is sometimes boring, it is exhausting and demanding. Most horrible is: there is no excuse for a little walk and chat – TTdR is all in: from minute one until the end.

But there is something shining in #RAL2004 at the very end of it which pulls us down that river. There is something attractive and magic about this race. A huge part of it is for sure the amount of dedication the RD, his team and all the volunteers at these great CPs put into the these two days. Another part is the mandatory crew – although lonely you are never alone and you do not run that race for you alone – you run it for your crew as well. You definitely want to reach that very last 1000 m from where you can see the orange block of steel with and for all of them. The moment you know it was worth the effort. The moment of peace and relieve between Ruhr and Rhein.

3 attempts, 3 distances, 3 finishes – time to say thank you – time to say goodbye!

2016 – first 100 miles!
2018 – 230k – longest distance at that time!
2022 – 100k PB!