The Dead Marshes 2024

Gollum laughed. ‘The Dead Marshes, yes, yes: that is their names,’ he cackled….

‘Who are they? What are they?’ asked Sam shuddering….

‘I don’t know,’ said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. ‘But I have seen them too… grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad…. But all foul, all rotting, all dead.’….

‘Yes, yes,’ said Gollum. ‘All dead, all rotten…. The Dead Marshes. There was a great battle long ago, yes, so they told him when Sméagol was young, when I was young before the Precious came. It was a great battle. Tall Men with long swords, and terrible Elves, and Orcses shrieking. They fought on the plain for days and months at the Black Gates. But the Marshes have grown since then, swallowed up the graves; always creeping, creeping.’


The Two Towers, LOTR Book 4, Ch. 2, The Passage of the Marshes

What is this?
The track The Dead Marshes is the entry challenge to be part of next years #lotrslam2025. All information on the slam and what you can expect can be found here and here. To sign up for The Dead Marshes just enter your name in the sheet and download the GPX from there as well. You have until December 31st 2024 to complete The Dead Marshes and to prove your completion with your .fit, .gpx, your Garmin or your Strava link sent to slam@acceptnolimits.eu. Upon verification we will publish your attempt in the above mentioned sheet and you will receive the GPX files for the 2025 Slam on 01.01.2025.

About The Dead Marshes
Whenever I create a track in an area I know well I try to make sure to include all the highlights I know but to also use ways/paths I never took before. The Dead Marshes is a tribute to Hautes Fagnes but also includes some nice spots in the Rursee area in Germany (featured during KATE180) and the Coo area in Belgium (aka. Iceberg and the Basin). Hautes Fagnes is exactly in the middle of those two “ends” – thats forms a nice concept. Start/Middlepoint/Finish at Baraque Michel also provides the opportunity to enter and leave Hautes Fagnes not 1, 2 or 3 but 4 times. A nice tweak – you should be really obsessed with plankjes, dark/rocky river valleys and wet grass/endless marsh areas.
While finally running The Dead Marshes it felt a bit weird. There are quite some stretches of big paths easy to run and quite some streets/asphalt parts as well (esp. in the German part). All in all the first 120k until one reaches the car to complete the first loop has more runnable parts compared to the second loop (90k). But dont be mistaken: there are demanding marsh stretches, longer climbs (total of > 5000 m D+), forgotten river valley, there is the Basin downhill (which is not fun), Iceberg uphill (lots of fun) and last not least Schloß Rheinhardstein area (serving the steepest ups and downs right around 190 km on the watch – exactly when one does not want to climb anymore). After running it myself I think I am happy with it. Not too hard but certainly nothing one can run at marathon pace for the whole time. Make sure to embrace the Fagnes – its more a scenic adventure than a Legends Trail; exactly what it should be.

How it went for me
Well, it took longer than expected. I started with a night with the idea that I would finish the first 120k in 22-24h so that folks could join me in the evening for the final 90k. Company is always good to have. Turned out I finished the first 120k in 23h as planned but it also turned out on very short notice that the support would not come to push me/us through the second night. The second night alone was horror then. Sleep depriviation effects hit harder than expected so I found myself safety-blanket sleeping for 3 times 15-20 minutes and still had to push harder than I wanted to. As if the Legends night 3 was making a surprise visit (not that I would ever ask for such a visit). Weather was a bit unstable with somtimes light and sometimes severe rain and lots of wind up in the Fagnes. To be fair there were also some more stable weather windows in between. All in all I managed The Dead Marshes in 46 hours and leave it up to the rest of the fellowship to follow me. The path has been layed and I am really curious what the others will experience! Have fun – if there are any questions: don´t hesitate to ask!

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain Calories Burned
45:59:45
hours
45:59:44
hours
213,91
km
12:54
min/km
2:10
min/km
5.496,00
meters
13.156
kcal
⛰️ Honigberg (495 m) • ⛰️ Signal de Botrange (694 m) • 🦶⬆️ 2024 = 35,371 m | 🌐 summitbag.com  👍 97.83 new kilometers — From Wandrer.earth

Are you ready for Legends Trail?

“There is a button on your tracker. When you press that button for 3 seconds you will feel it vibrate. Once you do that we consider this to be a REAL emergency and we will try to be at your position as fast as possible. On your number and hopefully in your phone there is a phone number. If you have a problem, or another runner has a problem you can call this number and we will try to help you. Please do not call if you are hungry, feel tired or feel lonely.”

A wise man.

Are you ready for Legends Trail” was one of the most asked question in the last 3-4 hours before the start of 2024 Legends Trail. The question came from runners/volunteers/crew members. The only honest answer – and the answer I gave – is “no“. My opinion is that one is never truly ready for such a challenge. One reason is that the amount of uncertainties is enormous (and its impossible to prepare for the unknown) and the other reason is that Legends Trail is a really long race. Really, really long. For the shorter distances you can take measures such: at this point in race I do this or that and that will safe me for a certain amount of time/distance until I do the same thing again. If that does not work I have here a plan B/C/D/E/F – one of those plan will ultimately do the trick and will make me finish.

Most runners (including me) try to apply similar strategic breakdowns to the Legends Trail – simply to make it a bit more manageable in the head before the race. Although that might be an important first step to do to not already freak out at the start line most of us secretly know that this is not worth for the whole thing. The amount of plans you may need during Legends Trail exceeds the letters in the alphabet and then there is the unknown hovering above the runners as well. Waiting to strike.

Lets take one step back and have look at the question from a different perspective. If the question only means: “Are you prepared for Legends Trail” the answer should be a different one. The answer should be: “I did everything under my control to prepare myself“. This preparation should include running, gear and mental preparation. And this preparation is or at least should be the basis for even thinking about starting

With regards to running everyone has very unique strategy but there are two general thing to take into consideration:

1. Go out when the conditions are the baddest you can think of. Because that’s a very likely scenario at Legends Trail. And you don’t want to be surprised by wind, rain, cold, hail, snow or ice.

2. Know the nights. Really know them. Embrace the darkness. Know how and when to sleep rough. If all goes down the drain at Legends Trail you may stand in pouring rain at freezing temperatures, shivering as hell already, but deadly tired with nothing else in mind than the urge to sleep. You may want to make sure to know every step you need to do in exactly this moment which safes you and prevents the DNF. Because the DNF will seem like the only way out of this situation.

With regards to material and equipment the considerations of Maarten “BEN JE KLAAR VOOR DE LEGENDS TRAIL?” are worth reading. Also his Material Checklist and his blog about feet and how to keep them operational should be must reads. The topic feet (an important one) and other packing considerations are also addressed here. Not everything is a 1:1 adaption but there is inspiration and there are successful strategies out there to copy from and to adapt so that they work for your individual needs. What also applies here: know your stuff. You may find out that you work best if you change shoes, you may find out that you want to wear multiple layers of socks, you may find out that waterproofs kill your feet – just make sure you find out BEFORE Legends Trail. Another advice would be: do not freak out at the CP sitting in front of your drop back. I don’t know to whom I talked about it lately but he/she mentioned that he/she wanted to change to new clothes at one of the CPs and ended up to put on the wet base layer from the stretch before just because it was too “complicated” to search for a fresh and dry one in the drop back. Stupid but it happens with a fucked-up mind. Live with it and don´t let it kill your race.

Well. Nothing really to say about the mental preparation. That’s an individual thing. My mindset is to be humble and thankful for the fact that I can take part in these kind of adventures and to embrace every step during it no matter how painful they may be. And I know that there are people both at the finish line and watching the dots which I don’t want to disappoint. I own and embrace a deep desire to make them happy. That does the trick for me. Make sure to find your best motivators and strategies as well.

With these point you should be prepared for Legends Trail (as good as you can do) so why are you not ready?

Because Legends Trail is absurd. Its a challenge which is tough from the very first step. Relentless climbing in ever changing but never easy conditions. Topped with most of the time interesting weather in the Ardennes in February. The energy the average Legends Trailer takes with them lasts roughly one day. The first night is considered to be kind of ok given the conditions and the first day is mostly fine as well. At the end of this time period (mostly around CP2) the energy is used up. It was a rough and very difficult 100-130 km ultra and its time that its over. Although perfectly normal feelings, this is the point in Legends time when the race slowly begins to start.

And no one is really ready for this second night. A night meant to break the runners, to finally crack them. To strip them down to their pure will and mental strength. One needs way more than those 100% to make it out of this second night. And there are still 24-30 hours left of Legends Trail at this point. Undoable.

Legends Sunday is usually a fragile construct. On the one hand its daylight (which makes things considerably easier) on the other hands the finish is too far to feel realistic and to pull you mentally. Its a demanding battle of attrition against Legends Trail and against yourself. And the worst is yet to come: night 3. If night 2 was already something one was not ready for – night 3 is the ultimate trip.

Things tend to break apart in night 3. Just like that. From one second to the other. The ability to orientate and to navigate is gone, the urge of sleep is overwhelming beyond description, your tired brain paints things into the forest which seriously distract you. You may see runners staring at stones. For minutes. You may find them wandering off track. You may find them crying, you may find them lying down with hypothermia, you may find them talking to themselves. Nothing prepares you for this. In night 3 everything finally collapses. The worlds disappears and you are not quite sure if the world may resurface. The only hope is daylight on the morning of Legends Monday.

Day 3 (aka Legends Monday) is the saviour, the ultimate relieve. You may be unprepared for the fact that you are not longer able to control your emotions. Every ever so tiny encouraging or beautiful thing you see or encounter may make you burst into tears. But in a good way. Close to the finish with the main effort behind you its an absolute astounding feeling. These moments as well as the moment of finish are the moments you came for. And they are beyond description but more than worth the effort. They truly belong to you and they will last. Most describe them as something which becomes part of their identity.

In the Trailmagazin Podcast Tom (LT finisher from 2024) is being asked if the race director of Legends Trail is just inhuman and cruel. Tom´s answer fits perfectly as he says: “I think its quite the contrary”. I truly believe its exactly this. Legends Trail is designed to confront runners with the DNF – to push them on the edge of their limits and then continue to push further. Only by doing this, certain abilities, certain mindsets are revealed. The lucky few escaping and being able to finish Legends Trail have gone further than they thought they could. Its deep in the DNA of Legends Trail to reveal exactly this in the competitors. To be able to great these people at the finish line and to live with them through their emotions must be a truly satisfying moment. My believe is that Tim is truly worried about if the Legends Trail is difficult enough to push us that far but that he truly respects and admires the ones he can congratulate at the finish.

No, one is never ready for this. To a certain extend you go there empty handed but you if you manage it its truly unique.

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.

Here are all my video snips from my phone randomly put together for some additional views on this years LT:


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

Legends Trail 2024

00Days
00Hours
00Minutes
00Seconds

You can follow LT24 livetracking here – #119 it is: LINK

If you want to get random update or message some (de)motivation:

The preparation is in full flow:

The different Part of LT24 look like this:


That’s how the previous versions looked like – 828 km – 9 nights – 7.5 days – stories for eternity. Will it work one more time?

LegendsTrail 2020
LegendsTrail 2022
LegendsTrail 2023

Day 3

Some of the competitors of Legends Trail make it to the end: the finisher % of the race has been between 30 and 40 % during the last years (I don’t have access to the exact numbers).

The race saw a total of 195 finishers in all past editions (only considering the kids run distance; 2020 is the year with LT500 happening at the same time so not that representative with regards to finisher statistics). 12 different nations have made it into the finisher stats – Belgium naturally leads the pack with 56.4 %, followed by the Netherlands with 26.2 %. GER and FRA are around 5 % and the rest are more like the exotic finisher countries.

The % of women finishing the LT is at total around 9 % but increasing over the last years.

The average time of the LT250 winners is 48.01 h ranging from 43.03 h in 2018 to 57.35 h in 2016. Since 2019 its rather stable between 46 and 50 h. The average finish time of all runners is 60.08 h – seeing a slight increase from 2020 onwards – more towards 62ish hours.

The % of runners who enjoyed the 3rd sunrise (8 AM Legends Monday – 62 h race time) jumped from almost nothing to 50 % in 2019 and increased to somewhat around 70 % average in 2022/2023. 2020 seems to be an outlier and should not be overrated due to the above mentioned reason (LT500 happening). 2020 also happened to see the worse weather out of 2020-2023 so this may contribute to that high number as well. Overall the difficulty seems to increase over the years at least judging by the percentages of finishers with finisher times over 62 hours. Or we just neglect our training.

Data Source

But what about this third day – what is Day 3 like? First of all its actually race day 4 but no one seems to care about those first 6 LT Friday hours. Day 3 is a very special one. During my three attempts I always made it into Day 3 due to lack of abilities so I got some impressions. What makes the moments around sunrise #3 and the hours til the final cutoff unique is that almost all runners who made it that far have a very high chance to actually finish the Legends Trail. So its still a battle vs. cutoff but the odds are finally a considerable bit better compared to the chances during the first 62 hours. The runners share a dream which is almost real – the one golden moment of crossing the line and getting the beer feels very close and for the first time in the race like a somewhat realistic outcome.

To be absolutely clear – almost no runner left is without more or less serious problems. Pain is omnipresent, every single step needs an unmanageable amount of effort and with 3-5 km/h those last kilometres stretch to eternity.

If you look into those eyes – you can literally see the emptiness, you can see the horror of the past days and some just stare into an invisible nothingness. No one is able to hold long discussions, all ability to switch between languages is finally gone, some even seem to have lost all ability to talk. From an outside perspective it may seem like a nonsense and slow-motion march to an uncertain and unreachable destination. Willingness, remote-controlled.

And yet – within each and every runner there is this fire which is slowly gaining strength. You may find them standing and crying as the emotions slowly return to the destroyed bodies. You may see them standing and staring with an odd smile on their face because they finally allow themselves to believe. You may see them marching next to each other in grim silences but they are getting invisibly pulled by that end which is finally in reach.

I remember quite well meeting some LT safety team members 10k before the LT 2023 finish line with a camera interviewing people. I mean what should I tell them? The amount of thankfulness, the amount of relieve and the amount of emotions – there are no words for that. I think they understood.

Despite the unmanageable amount of discomfort of Day 3 and those final 4-6 hours of Legends Trail – to me those are the most rewarding and satisfying moments possible. They are the reason I am starting that race.

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

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.

2023

After the pandemic years 2021 and 2022 with the two Slams (Titanic Slam in 2021 and Marvel Slam in 2022) it was finally time to get back to a “normal” schedule in 2023. Whatever that would mean.

February 2023:
As a kind of tradition the long-distance running year started with the Legends Trail in February 2023. It was the usual fight with the elements and with the own body – but at the end it was finish #3 at the third attempt. Maintaining the 100%. Its a race hard to describe but the final thoughts from my race report in February summarize the 280k of emotions quite well:

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.

LT 2023 – The Bus. The Walk. The Paradise.

March 2023:
As a Legends Trail cool-down I decided to enter the flat 24h race in Sittard. A nice and boring course – no excuses at hand for any break. I secretly hoped for a PB (>166k; something in the range of 180k should be doable for I hope) but at the end there was still some tiredness in the body so the mind could not push and required some breaks. I DNFed with a 100 mi attempt – at least the minimum goal was achieved.

April-June 2023:
In April we seized the chance to test out the new hiking trail Venntrilogie, in May we met for a running weekend in Sauerland and finally the first Backyard of 2023 in June – the Biber Backyard Ultra. Tough track for a backyard and mind and body were not really ready that day so it ended early.

July 2023:
Summer. Usually a time unsuited for running. But it was time to collect another long distance and the Schinder Prison Break offered a new format for me and a new chance for some decent running. Even better: as it was an escape running event it involved a lot of planning of the best track on the computer before it even started. Something I really love. The event itself was a great journey. The first night I was alone with my backpack but then I was accompanied by a great crew. The greatest crew. Car support, running without backpack, meeting my friends. It made running in the heat much more comfortable (although it was still a real torture). 48h of escaping and 241k – it was a nice adventure.

Prison Break 2023 – without crew you can’t conquer the desert!

August 2023:
Another transition month – connecting two long events. The home event – the Monschau Marathon – offered a good chance to squeeze in a long run. I never ran the K70 distance before and with a midnight start in Aachen it nicely added up to a 100k training run.

September 2023:
Showtime again. This time further away from home and for the first time in the lovely Vosges region in France. 200k Infernal Trail des Vosges was a well organized event. A bit too big and too commercial compared to what I usually run but a great team and great supporters at start/finish and the various CPs. A midnight start with a burning Infernal logo, a really spicy track, over 10k D+ of elevation gain and a brutiful landscape. On top of this – again hot weather. A tough one – 50 hours of fighting and it was done. It was satisfying to see that these things are doable backed with the experience of the last years. All in all a great trip – thanks to Claudia for the support.

The Vosges@Infernal Trail des Vosges

October-December 2023:
The final period of the year. Plans were made and could not executed. As an alternative and to get another long run in I chose another hiking track which is fairly new on the map of NRW and in a region I’ve never been before. It was a nice run on the Hohe Mark Steig but also pretty lonely and tough in a most of the time empty stretch of land.

In total 5×100 mi+ runs in 2023 – 2 less compared to 2022. Around 3800 km in 2023 – also less km compared to 2022. 72k of D+ in 2023 in total. A difficult year in many aspects but a year with great moments while running and some rare shared moments with good friends.

DateTime[km]#
Legends Trail 202317.02.202366h 56m275,0031
24h Sittard 202318.03.202324h 0m163,0032
Schinder Prison Break 48h 202307.07.202348h 0m241,5933
Infernal Trail des Vosges 202307.09.202350h 14m215,8034
Hohe Mark Steig 202301.11.202328h 36m161,0035
Sum1262h 29m6.676
Average36h 4m190,75
Updated List of Ultras – +5 in 2023
Statshunter as of December 2023 #tilehunter

The picture of the year can only be the one below – curious what 2024 may bring?!

Hydration while running – so important!

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?

Hohe Mark Steig

Change of plans. Instead of the planned long run it will be a shorter edition starting tomorrow around noon. Exploring the Hohe Mark Steig (https://www.hohe-mark-steig.de).

Live Tracking:

https://tim-weissbach.legendstracking.com

Live Update via WhatsApp Group:

WhatsApp Pfadsucher

Live Update via Insta-Story:

Instagram Pfadsucher

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 🙂