LEO180 ´19 – vakantie in Brabant

Everything started back in November 2016 not with running but with watching the live tracking website of LEOs first edition. I am not sure why and how I came across this link but it was a lucky coincidence. Back in 2016 I was amazed and afraid while watching two lonely dots moving like forever through what seemed to be endless sections of nothing. This should have been a warning..

LEO180 2019
12 of us ready to Start. 36 h and 210 km ahead.

3 years later we are sitting on a table somewhere in Goirle near Tilburg, Noord-Brant, the Netherlands. Martino (2nd place finisher) just left and Maarten, Marek, Björn and me are enjoying a moment of peace and silence. It is 1800 on the first Sunday in November which means the LEO is over. It was again one of the rather busy weekends for all four of us. Although we only see us at the LEO weekends once every year we share a similar idea on how running should be organised and celebrated. This is a good feeling and we use the rare time to discuss a bit. Everything went well with LEO this year so the organisational pressure on M&M is (almost) gone: they dragged out those who could not finish, they celebrated those who were able to survive and the last runner out there should also make it to the finish 2 hours later. The last burger patties are ready to eat. Everything is as it should be. Time to widen the view from this weekend into the future. We discuss the next LEO editions. The good news is: the challenge will continue for those who dare and are fast but there may also be a soft option for those who are slow and winy. Although LEO is held in great irony and fun with a lot of joking and laughing the whole LEO family (runners, orga, supporter) knows deep inside that it is a real challenge for most humans. In our discussion we end up with the question why so few survived this year and what the reason(s) for that might have been. One of the good things with LEO is that there is no final answer to that. LEO may be one of the events where it is better if you are 101% into it – 100% may not be enough. But who knows what battle everyone fought out there. It is your problem if you go out there. You may get random help but basically you have to make sure that your plan is good enough to bring you back.

For Björn and me as participants the task was much easier compared to M&Ms orga stress. Our discussion a few days before the LEO was short. From our point of view there were two reasonable options on how to run the loops in terms of direction and order – we discussed it shortly and made a decision. All we then had to do was what we always do before any of our longer runs: prepare the Garmins, pack the backpacks with an awful lot of self-made food (I also brought some gels which turned out to be a wise decision) and enjoy the surroundings while running. The first two loops formed an 8 of 100 km total distance and we aimed for 7 km/h. We reached the CP close to 2000 – perfect in plan.

We gave ourself one hour to relax. Restart for the last 110 km loop at 2100 with 21 hours time to finish it. The first 40 km of this loop (km 100-140 for us) slowed us down. I could not maintain the 7-8 km/h speed from the first 100 km. From slowing down we got more tired and really cold. The nice ultra run night problem – the interesting part was about to begin. Some tougher hours followed on what is probably the easiest and fastest part of the track – such a waste when walking on asphalt. So we tried to sleep. A few times. With different levels of comfort, durations and cleverness. The last time we did that between 0530 and 0600 helped at the end and we learned a bit more on what makes sense and what does not regarding outside sleeping. But: what happens out there stays out there. Our last hope was the sunrise. We started with giving us rules not to be broken. Not to quit while it is dark was the first one (this one is a really essential one). When it was bright again we had to deal with a section full of sand and small ups and downs. Awful after 150 km with hurting feet and the need to maintain a steady pace. So next rule: do not quit in the Dunes (Björn is probably one of the worlds leading experts in terms of that). We managed it somehow.

And from that on timing was the absolute highest priority. I never did this mental game of running against the clock with this precision. Björn started a „game“. 10 h until cutoff, 57 km to go = 5.7 km/h. The two rules of our game were: run each hour 6 km and then walk the rest of the hour as a break. If you don’t manage this 6 km in 55 min: pause/walk the remaining 5 mins anyway. I had heard from people doing these kind plans but never did it myself. I really hated it in the beginning but realized slowly that if I focus on it and accept it provides a frame for that meaningless and endless moving – something to believe in. So game one. It really worked out in the end. Minimum was 5.5 km in one hour (there were some rather uneven parts of nature to pass) but there were a lot of 6 km hours in and a few of them even above that. We played for 8 hours.

LEO180 2019
The 6 km/h game – started around 150/160 km. If one takes the average to look at it looks pretty precise.

Slowly but surely I realized that it may work to stay in time. Would it be really possible to finish this complicated beast? At 1600 with 2 hours time and around 8 km to go the relief finally came. Nothing but serious injuries would stop us know. What an amazing moment. With 53 minutes left we finished the 210 km LEO180 2019 edition. The bear (DNF) was closer in comparison to last year and it at least felt like that this was not only the extra 10 km. The fight against the time in this dimension and determination was new to me. Thanks to Björn for the idea and the strict rules.

It is time to say goodbye again and to leave the warm table in our cosy race HQ (thanks for opening the door for us this weekend) – „the Germans“ are leaving. Everyone is tired – rest and recovery is urgently needed. It was again an intensive but beautiful weekend in Noord-Brabant. The challenge is completed for now. This years LEO results to be found here and here. Racereports will be posted here.

There will be a new challenge one day that is for sure. Maybe with us, maybe without. We somehow closed our LEO chapter this year:

Björn finished the 190 km edition in 2017 while I was dropping out at 140 km without a good reason

LEO180 2017 – 190 km

… I finished the 200 km version in 2018 alone while Björn was injured …

LEO180 2018 – 200 km

… and we came back this year to finally do it together. Really grateful for this achievement!

LEO180 2019 – 210 km

Our longest distance together under these conditions (which are our most favourite ones: half self-support, alone, not marked, remote, beautiful and brutal) – isn’t this a nice ending for a story?

It was a pleasure, LEO180! Wat een mooie stuk haardlopen – bedankt en tot ziens!

Photocredits to Maarten and Olav – thanks a lot!

Trainings-Update!

Der Pfadsucher hat sich nach dem Helipad 2019 Ende April nun schon viel zu lange auf die faule Haut gelegt. Schon knapp drei Wochen rum und noch nichts Zählbares auf der Uhr seitdem. Wird dringend Zeit das zu ändern! Des Pfadsuchers Fahrplan für dieses Jahr sieht schließlich noch 2-3 Mittelstrecken vor. Als Bonbon gibt es obendrauf eventuell noch eine kurze Langstrecke. Da sollte man sich fit halten.

Langstrecke ist ein gutes Stichwort. Der VPsucher hat sich im November 2017 das erste Mal solo im Nonstop-Langstrecken-Bereich umgesehen, 2018 haben wir es mit Support zunächst zusammen und der Pfadsucher anschließend noch solo geschafft sich dieser neuen Disziplin zu nähern.

Bisher war es eher zaghaft, doch bald wird der VPsucher ernst machen. In wenigen Wochen wird er versuchen die Langstrecke endgültig zu erobern. 362k nonstop – unvorstellbar. Es wird spannend – stay tuned! Bis dahin gilt es in Bewegung zu bleiben. Heute Abend gehts endlich mal wieder zu zweit in auf den Trail. Ein bisschen die Beine ausschütteln.

Langlauf – was für Genießer!

***LEO180 2018 live***

***http://leo180-2018.legendstracking.com/***

A normal Saturday morning somewhere in the Netherlands. Random people with headlamps around. Time to start this weekends adventure of 200k ultra running. Semi self-supported. 36 hours time to finish that damn thing.

 

„Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?“

Gimli // LOTR


200k/36h/12 runners – http://www.acceptnolimits.eu/events/leo/

***http://leo180-2018.legendstracking.com/***

LEO 180 2018 – 200k – 36h

Der LEO180 2018 steht an. 200 km, 36 h Zeit, ca. 11 Läufer.

  • Wie bereitet man sich auf etwas vor, für das es nichts Vergleichbares gibt?
  • Wie gewinnt man 36 Stunden draußen sein im November etwas Positives ab?
  • Wie bereitet man sich auf diese Sand-Passagen vor?
  • Wie bitte packt man den Rucksack so, dass nur alles wirklich Notwendige dabei ist?
  • Wie geht man damit um sich freiwillig einer immer mehr zunehmen Kälte auszusetzen?
  • Wie soll man starten, wenn man weiß, dass es ein Kampf gegen die stetig in die Glieder kriechende Müdigkeit wird?
  • Wieso starten, wenn man weiß, dass die Knochen immer steifer und schmerzhafter werden. Und das schon auf der ersten Hälfte?
  • Wieso geht man freiwillig in eine 14-Stunden-Dunkelheit?
  • Wie kommt man mit der Einsamkeit in der Natur zurecht?
  • Wie soll man es nur all die Zeit allein mit sich aushalten?
  • Wieso schlägt man diese von Anfang an schon so aussichtslose Schlacht?

Es gibt keine vernünftigen Antworten auf all diese Fragen. Bis auf die eine Antwort. Die von Gimli aus dem Herrn der Ringe. Dort sagt er im entscheidenden Moment die einzig passenden Worte:

„Den Tod als Gewissheit – geringe Aussicht auf Erfolg – worauf warten wir noch?“

Ab Samstag 0600: http://leo180-2018.legendstracking.com

Genug ist genug – Teil 1 (Throwback LEO180 2017)

If you don’t beat him you don’t deserve that beer!

Eine Straße. Endlich. Ein kurzer Blick nach links: 2-3 Häuser recht weit weg. Rechts ist überhaupt nichts zu sehen. Überhaupt ist es recht kalt und dunkel. Liegt vielleicht daran, dass es ungefähr 0300 am Morgen ist. Im November. Leichter Regen hat eingesetzt und es sind gefühlt 3 Grad Celsius.

Das soll reichen. Der SOS-Knopf auf der linken Schulter ist schon gedrückt. Die Absprachen schon getroffen. In 10 Kilometern, also ungefähr bei der nächsten Straße wird das Auto stehen.

In den letzten endlosen und letztlich erfolglosen Stunden des Kampfes mit dem eigenen Willen ist einfach zu viel verloren gegangen. Und zwar genug um die Aufgabe einfach genug zu machen. Zu bedrückend die Weite und Leere der Gegend. Zu viel musste schon früh im Rennen mit den Emotionen gearbeitet werden. Und dann ist er da der Punkt an dem alles kalt und leer bleibt. Die Energie aufgebraucht ist. Die kalt-nasse Novembernacht ist ins Herz und in den Kopf gekrochen.

Das alles war im November 2017. Am Ende einer lauftechnisch sehr schlechten Periode für den Pfadsucher. In der Rückschau bleibt das Erlebte sehr eindrucksvoll. Der Lauf und die Strecke haben es von den Bedingungen und Anforderungen einfach in sich. Wie gemacht um dort im Herzen der Niederlande einfach „verloren“ zu gehen. Über allem steht das Motte „It is better to go too far, than not far enough“ – aber es gibt einen Punkt da ist es einfach zu viel.

Wäre diesem Erlebnis nicht ein so gutes erstes Halbjahr 2018 gefolgt, hätte es auch gut das Ende sein können.

Immer schön durch da!

Es kommt immer mal wieder einer dieser Tage, an dem man eine Entscheidung treffen muss. Angesichts des gerade Geschriebenen verbietet sich jede Illusion:

  • das scheint weit weg von möglich oder vernünftig
  • diese Strecke ist so einsam und erscheint dadurch doppelt endlos
  • die Strapazen für Kopf und Körper sind nicht zu unterschätzen
  • die Chance auf ein happy end scheinen verschwindend gering
  • Fazit: unter diesen Bedingungen hat es keinen Sinn!

Auf der anderen Seit muss man im Auge behalten, dass sich an den Bedingungen für die 2018er Edition ein entscheidendes Detail ändern wird: die Strecke wird um 10 km verlängert – bei gleichem Zeitlimit. Daraus ergibt sich:

  • das Tempo muss um 4,64 m/min von 88,46 m/min auf 93,10 m/min gesteigert werden. FAST FÜNF METER – JEDE EINZELNE MINUTE! ÜBER 2000 MINUTEN LANG!
  • ob bei dem Tempo alle Abzweige zu finden sein werden ist mehr als fraglich
  • immerhin werden wir nicht durch weitere offizielle VPs aufgehalten – deren Zahl bleibt bei 1
  • Fazit: ist wie wenn man nen hässlichen Stein umdreht um zu sehen, dass die Unterseite noch hässlicher ist.

Schwere Entscheidung.

LEO180 2017

Ok – a few more words about the last weekend. Everything started with watching dots on the live tracking page of the LEO180 2016, a short question via FB, a short registration form, some thoughts and then there is that moment when you are knocking on Maartens door. There were a lot of people already there –  all of them never seen before. And it takes only a few minutes for you to feel at home. Jokes, race experiences, pasta plus a „funny“ one hour watching and laughing about Yiannis – a nice evening. After a short night with interrupted sleep it is already 0600 Saturday morning, and nine runners are standing at a random street in the NL – packed and ready.

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From that time on everything was as it should be: Pfadsucher and VPsucher together on their way through a truely beautiful track covering a best of of the middle of nowhere parts in the heart of the NL. Nice selection. We both felt strong and had a really good pace at the first 87 km towards the only real aid. By the way – thanks for all the spots in between where we could meet and greet various selections of organizators/supporters. We had an almost daylight finish on the 87 km aid station – perfect in plan and not bad placed in the whole field.

 

The next part of the race between km 93 and 118 is a really tough one but we made it quite ok. Everyone who have been out there knows – you just have to find a solution for this part and make sure to forget everything as soon as possible after you left this part.

Beyond that part the race, the running and everything was again really difficult for me. There were some few things adding up, but the real problem was the mind. As always. Lets make it a short story: at km 130 I decided to quit for what felt there to be countless of reasons. It was a horrible decision. Even more horrible to walk the next 9k of the race with a speed that would allow a finish. There was enough time, the usual problems were not too severe, the sun was about to say hello in 3 hours. You are asked if you really want to quit, you are asked if it is ok for you if the VPsucher continues… Sure, it is ok. And yes it is still good to be around, to watch what is not longer your race, to see them running again, to welcome most of them at the finish line. All of that is ok. But it is also tough. See them doing what should be your job. This will keep me thinking for quite a while.

At the end we had a really nice weekend. Thanks for all the fun, the support, the nice conversations, the place to sleep plus all your spirit and thoughts about ultra running.  And thanks for the invitation for next years LEO180! I will think about it. At the moment the probability of me returning is not too high – but this might change. So long – stay strong and running: Yiannis is watching you!

The list of the 5 heroes finishing the LEO180 2017 can be found here.

 

LEO180 2017 – ***LIVE***

Live-Tracking: http://leo190.legendstracking.com/

Time to accept, time to adapt, time to slow down. 191 km – most of it in the middle of nowhere. 10 runners, 1 aid station. It will be unique and almost impossible.

„I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.“

LOTR

For updates, fotos, etc. – check the FB-page: https://www.facebook.com/LEO180mm/

Face to face with LEO

The whole life is determined by the decisions one is making every day.

For example I could have decided long ago to go for a skateboard carreer. The upcoming event LEO180 could then just be one of those fancy moves everyone likes to watch in slow motion on youtube. I can perfeclty envision the setting: the sinking sun flooding the half-pipe with a golden brilliance, a 180 degree turn of the board, captured as a 4k video to share with the community… Seconds of pure perfection.

But I didn´t make that decision. If you would like to capture the real LEO180 you would need a lot of gigabyte storage on your camera, more then 30 hours of time, dozens of powerbanks and the outcome would be horrifying. Hours of pure nothingness, lonelines and meaningles suffering. And even slow motion would not help. Played with reduced speed, the rare movements would seem to stop. Together with the time. Hours of insanity.

Nevertheless it is time to get ready; to prepare for all the worst cases. There are a lot of unusual things to prepare and to take care of this time. First there is something strange with name of the race: LEO180. In all races I´ve been doing so far – a number in the race title was related to a either a distance or a time: STUNT100 (100 miles), TTdR100 (100 miles), 24h of ……… (fill in any location) and so on. But now: LEO180. We were told that the distance will be 191,31 km. I alway though the Netherelands agreed on the SI units but, well, at least we know it early enough. This really asks for the introduction of the new unit „Dutch Kilometer“ aka DuKi. 1 DuKi equals 1,06283333 SI kilometer. How handy. Reprogramming the Garmin right now :).

There are some more seriouy steps in LEO180 race preparation: checking opening times of gas stations, supermarkets etc. along the way; staring hours on the GPS-track to get a feeling for the different sections of the route; planning and preparing food, equipment and drop-back stuff – in short: race time again. A race with only two finishers in last years first edition.

One of the race director posted the documentary about Yiannis Kouros „Forever Running“ on FB. Probably to race our moral :). It is normally a nice thing to watch running videos to get into race mood. But videos about Yiannis? He is unique in history, his achievements and successes will most probably never be beaten by any runner. He is the one telling us that real ultra running starts beyond 24 hours of constant running (which meant for him 240 km on bad days and 300 km on the good ones), he is the one who beat a field of world class ultra runners although race directors let him start one hour behind everyone of them, he is the one winning the Spartathlon in 4 consecutive years with none of thoses times being beaten since then, he is the one with more than 150 world records in ultra running. He is so unhuman in his performance and in his way he interpreted running that it is impossible to take any of his advices or to make use of any of his techniques during your own runs. At the very end of this documentary he finally says something I can fully understand and agree with. Because whatever your capabilities are – at the end of a very long race in which you invested everything of your physical and mental power it is true that:

„The tragedy in our sport is that we can not celebrate our victory when the race is up. In all other sports, when the race is finished, they go to celebrate and rejoice – in our case we can not do anything. The day after the race, you feel like death itself …“

Maybe he is human in that moments.

Thanks Maarten for reminding us of what is impossible 🙂 – haven´t watched that documentary in the last month. Personally I´m really looking forward for the LEO180 challenge. Taking the last weeks into account, I don´t believe that a finish is really possible and likely for me. But you never know. However – I am really looking forward to get to know a bunch of new people, and hopefully a lot of joyful hours with the VPsucher out there!

While thinking about running long distances the picture book „Frederick“ by the Italian writer Leo Lionni comes to my mind. It is about the mouse Frederick and his friends preparing for the long and cold winter. While his friends are busy trying to collect enough food for the long winter, Frederick seems to be of no help at all – telling them he is collecting sunbeams, colors and words. The first time of the winter the mice are happy with all the food and laughing the hard times away. At the middle of the winter however, the food is empty and everyone is getting hungry, angry and sad. It is Fredericks time now. He stands up telling them stories about the warmth of the sun, the colors of the spring and happy stories about the beauty of life and the seasons. All of his friends are happy again, forgetting about all of their troubles.

Although we normally plan our food supply better then these mice – during this long hours in a race the time comes when different things are of higher importance then food and water in terms of not giving up. Do not be afraid when you see us laughing about stupid jokes, singing in the middle of the night, dancing in the middle of the nowhere – we are doing really well in these moments. Collecting stories, jokes and songs for these long hours is definitely an important part of race preparation of the VPsucher/Pfadsucher team.

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