Nightcrawler – Marvel Slam 2022 #4

No Ourthe – No Party!

Final track of the Marvel Slam done.

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

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

Ourthe Oriental

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

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

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

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

The Two Rivers!

Ourthe Occidental

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

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

The Two Cities!

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

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

Mere Shadows

The real superheroes are the unseen ones.

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

Or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark World – Marvel Slam 2022 #3

Third track of the Marvel Slam done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hautes Fagnes at its best.

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

75%

One final run of the Marvel Slam left.

The Ferry

Velsen Zuid – Velsen Noord

It was one of those moments.

120k in our Duinhopper adventure back in October 2021 sitting in the dry car gazing into the pouring rain hammering on the car. After a not completely comfortable and relaxing 30 min sleep the task ahead seemed unbearable. Leaving the shelter of the car to continue into a clearly rainy and stormy second night to fight for another 100k to the finish in Den Helder seems like the last thing we should do. Nonsense and useless. We were at the only safe place along our adventure – a safe place that could easily bring us home – could bring us far away from that misery.

Although we tried to pack everything before the nap there was quite a lot of things to do. Packing, unpacking, packing and unpacking again… Horrible plan with two people in a narrow car. We tried not to forget anything while wiggling into new layers of cloths which would get soaked quite fast in that weather anyways. Our mood was reaching below-zero-levels.

The first kms out there again were hilarious. The rain reduced the headlamp light to almost nothing, the surfaces of the various GPS devices hard to read with almost no eyesight. After 3 km we reach Ijmuiden haven where we were supposed to use the ferry. How bizarre. When we approached the dock the ferry was about to leave. We sprinted the last meter through the wind and somehow entered the boat at the last second.

And then the time stopped. The other guests stared at us as. Their views told us the we were looking like strangers from another planet. It is not exactly a long ferry transfer but the wind, the cold and the rain hit us and eliminated the last energy we had in us. Our bodies hardly warmed up from the 3 km stretch after the initial cold shock leaving the car merely minutes before. The whole world seemed like a dark and icy mess. Once at the other side we left the ferry shivering, destroyed and deadly tired from that freezing transfer. Miserable km followed that transfer. Barely able to move, too stiff to run and left with very little hope. It got so horrible that we tried to sleep once we passed the last buildings of Ijmuiden. We were so messed up that we did not manage to find a proper spot and layed down on the side of a big path wrapped in safety blankets. This was the least helpful and comfort sleep break ever. Somehow we continued. At that moment we had no clue that the whole night would be like that. That it simply would not get any better. That we had to fight more endless dark and rainy hours – that we would need to split because we could not synchronise moving speeds and the needs for instant breaks.

I don’t know what made us fighting through but the reward was waiting. With the upcoming daylight we got company and support, we found some hope, we gained some speed and at the very end of the upcoming day we would see the blasting sun again. And we would see Den Helder. This may not seem much but it meant the world to us.

Since this night the Dutch coast is forever linked to that horror.

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.

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!

Mystique – Marvel Slam 2022 #1

First track of the Marvel Slam 2022 done. Always interesting to run a self-created route for the first time. There are still some minor „mistakes“ in the track and I may correct some as there are more runners to come and have a go on Mystique. But all in all it proved to be what I meant it to be – an easy sightseeing track in these nice Eifel areas at the first glance – and somehow creepy gruelling while doing it. A diverse route – lots of asphalt (compared to the usual self-created track) and even some km on street (those were needed to be able to combine all the nice parts in a reasonable distance). But there are single trails, non-existing single trails, steep and rocky climbs, overgrown miseries in as well – to acknowledge the basics of long-distance-travelling.

Its the area around Mayschoß and Altenahr (including the famous climbing part Engelsley), its lots of old roman architecture excavations along the way, its long demanding climbs on big routs through endless fields, its a good portion of old, overgrown and non-existing paths challenging the runner to climb-through and its lots of touristic sightseeing involved.

It took us 39h15m to finish it – another great walk for the two of us.

25% Marvel Slam 2022

JUNUT50 2022

Das JUNUT Wochenende, wie wir es uns gewünscht hätten, ist leider nicht Realität geworden. Trotzdem haben wir die 50 km bis zum Ausbruch des Rennens inmitten eines Gewitters sehr genossen. Durchaus herausfordernde Bedingungen mit Dauerregen und Gewitter forderten volle Konzentration. Nicht unbemerkt blieb aber eine sehr schöne Strecke mit tollen Aussichten auf Altmühl und Donau und ihren Burgen und Schlössern.

In der schnellen Gruppe eingeteilt war uns eigentlich vorher klar, dass wir schnell Letzte im Rennen sein würden und das war eine interessante Erfahrung. Trotz Wetter lagen wir gut in unserem Zeitplan der uns durch die Cut-offs bringen sollte.

So blieb es bei 50 km in einer schönen Gegend und mit zwei mit Herzblut betriebenen und wunderbar ausgestatteten VPs – vielen Dank dafür!

*** LIVE – JUNUT239 2022 – LIVE ***

After a few weeks with almost no running it is time to spend some time outdoors again.

Time to strive – time to live remote.

We will be in Bavaria running the JUNUT – the first time for me to run down there. Follow this post for pictures, updates and the below link for the usual dot watching.

Start = Friday 1500 – Cutoff = Sunday 1530, 48.5 h for 239k and 7k D+

An overview on cutoffs and general timing:

https://junut2022.legendstracking.com

Das Rennen wurde nach 6h bei Gewitter abgebrochen.

Montane Legends Trail 2022 – race

Start – CP1 (KM 64)

With the start Friday 25th of February 2022 18:00 we had a few minutes of daylight left. The first stage of Montane Legends Trail promised to be devided into two major parts: 45 bearable km and then 19 km left to CP1 down at the Ourthe. So the rough plan was to speed up as much as possible on the first 45 km to start to collect some time for later. The extremely crowded start did not feel that great but soon the rhythm was there. Nice to chat with a few fellow runners who would have been soon what feels like days ahead, to wish them all the best and let them go into the unknown. One moment within the first 45 km Fanny catched-up clearly heading to the front. I was able to hold her speed for the stretch until km 45 and it was great to finally have time to talk again after her crewing me at AOBtD 2020. Funny that it took that long to have this opportunity and that it would be during a 272 km race – but well, it is like it is. What speed and determination this women developed during such a short time – amazing. She would be the one winning the ladies competition at this years race – congratulations: well deserved. At km 45 down in Maboge destiny stroke. Close before one of the imaginary race timing points (which turned out to be small CPs all over the course – thanks a lot to all the Legendary Friends) we ran into Olav. Fanny did not enjoy the wraps we got long enough so that I could follow so I left with Olav. It was not planned nor clear to us but it was the start of team journey. We headed further and hit the Ourthe. It is not possible to describe that area so that it reflects it decent. Lets say: its a selective area and tends to test your determination. Interesting to have that in that extend quite early in the race.

Entering a CP at Montane Legends Trail means to start a very special routine which is almost identical on all CPs. We always took 1 to 1.5 hours break which consisted for me of:

Taking off shoes and socks – quick check on feet condition – let them dry
Eat
Refill the race pack what was depleted on food and water
Quickly re-think on clothing: how warm/cold would it be the next stretch
Tape the feet again – new socks – shoes on
Big thanks to the Legendary Friends running the CP – go

CP1 (KM 64) – CP2 (KM 114)

Leaving CP1 was a cold moment – close 0600 Saturday morning – 12h in the race. We quickly descended once more to the Ourthe for some more stretches on that river. With the rising sun running got easier as it always does and we made good progress. The area around Houffalize slowed us again down a bit. What was more – tiredness hit both of us making us slowing down even further. We decided to take a 10 min nap in the bright sunshine – what an amazing weather. Lying in the warm sun was a good one. We reached CP2 in the afternoon – chicken curry time. Delicious. We packed a bit warmer clothings for the beginning night #2 and headed back out in the late Saturday afternoon sun.

CP2 (KM 114) – CP3 (KM 150)

The shortest stretch of the whole race. Slowly but surely the exhaustion kicked in and staying awake and at speed became more and more difficult. Olav started to have problems with his left shift so we reduced it to mainly walking. Not too much to remember other from being cold and getting even colder. The temperature in combination with a nightly wind was pulling energy. We quickly discussed strategy and decided for a decent and longer break at CP3. We arrived there close after midnight on Sunday morning, did the usual, and went outside for a 30-45 min sleep. Although sleep helps and we were aiming to gather as much energy as possible for the next stretch – sleeping outside at -5 °C requires some mental strength and a lot of warm stuff. We left CP3 at 0219 on Sunday with the idea in mind that the Legends Trail would now finally really start. Hautes Fagnes ahead, in the middle of night #2 – it was now or never to prove that we were up to the task.

CP3 (KM150) – CP4 (KM 204)

After a few more steep climbs around Malmedy the river Warche was our permanent friend for quite a few KMs. It was all in all a shivering waiting for sunrise to bring back some energy into our bodies. The long ascent to Hautes Fagnes then finally brought back the sun and what a blast this environment always is. Passing through on day 2 during Legends Trail was the cherry on top of it. Although exhausted one can’t pass through there without being amazed. And another special thing: it was all frozen so that the wet grass parts were hard frozen while the mud had a crispy surface easy to sink through – top. The descent on the river Hoenge is an area which is really familiar to both Olav and me so we just did not think of it much and headed on. We reached CP4 at around 1600 on Sunday – around 5 hours before cutoff.

CP4 (KM 204) – End (KM 272)

We left CP4 at 1730 Sunday evening – 3.5 h before cutoff with the last stretch and night #3 ahead. The first part was well know as it covered the Coo area where we did our nice Iceberg run during the Titanic Slam. Coming back there was a nice feeling. The other side of Coo and Iceberg held one of the steepest climbs of that area – up to the bassins above Coo. Not easy with 210 km in. After that first part with lots of climbing a stretch through Fagnes de la Gleize followed. A straight way up on the top with horribly cold wind. We were further slowing down and were keeping a closer eye on the cutoff times to not fall too much behind. The mood was on a low point – just fighting through longing for this part to end so that we could climb down to get out of the wind. When this finally happened we found a stretch of the Ardennes I did not know before. A funny mountain bike park area with lots of up and down. It was getting really intense now. We decided for another 10 min sleep in our emergency blankets to regain energy for the last few KM to timing point 4.1. It was the comfort of the „Chez Ingo“ tent which was waiting for us and pulling us forward. Sitting there in the warmth with sandwiches was just great. We allowed ourself another rest and headed out again at 0700 Monday morning – 7 h for the last 22 km left. As expected it would not get an easy one. More funny climbs were waiting on us. But the sun was back, Olav ignored all his issues and we made our way with two more fellow Legends: Nico and Jantine. With a constant look on the watch we fought through – slowly closing in. Slowly we realized that it would fit but it was a long and slow fight until the very end. What an amazing feeling with the usual sadness that an adventure would ultimately end. But the longing to finally sit down for the last time was really great.

A huge thank you to our RD, his crew and all the Legendary Friends who run the CPs, organized the small CPs, who cared about everything, served us food, brought us drinks, carried our drop back and so much more – amazing work. Without all of that it would be a different event and not half as nice as it is. A special thanks goes to Olav – your company was a great thing and I am more than glad that you did everything to keep us within cutoff. That one will remain unforgotten.

Personally I am pretty happy with how well it went. Sleep deprivation is no fun and that this would hit sooner or later was clear and unavoidable. But there were no other major problems. Equipment worked well, supply was always good, feet stayed in such a good condition that I could run until the very end – a nearly perfect outcome on such a long and demanding trail. Another nice experience and another great learning on what works well.

Credits for the pictures goes to Olav, Maarten, Harry de Fries and www.derennendefotograaf.nl.

Statistics

Montane Legends Trail 250 2022 was around 273 km long with around 10000 m of D+. It took us 66h 41m to finish it (only a bit more than 1h before cutoff). It was my 24th 100 mi+ run and the longest distance so far.

Runalize Climb Score of LT250 2022
LT250 2020 + 2022