First half of 2022 is gone. 3×100 mi plus runs so far – looking forward to an interesting second half.
Ok. I think I like the format. Although far away in terms of running capabilities (the experts tend to have a way higher basic running speed and are thus able to enjoy longer rest periods) and not quite fitting to my non-competitive mentality while running – backyard running has something appealing. With its unique rhythm, its simplicity and its strong structure it calms and slows down every stress and is able to create its own small universe. A universe where nothing else matters then to follow the flow and wait. Wait for something from which you at the beginning do not exactly know what it may. An interesting experience.
To wait is something I more and more value while running longer distances – something which is often described to be something bad or boring or is considered to be a waste of time. During long distance running to wait for me is the essential part – an underlying feeling which is able to compensate for short term exhaustion, or the usual ups and downs and good and bad moments. Something to find comfort in and to hold on to.
It was my first Bienwald Backyard Ultra and brought me into contact to a lot of new faces (as I only rarely run races in Germany) and it was really worth the drive-down. A huge shoutout to Michael, his family, friends and to the whole TSV Kandel team. Great place to race, amazing support, great checkpoint (Pommes 24/7) and a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Suddenly, 28h after race start, I was in a situation I was really unprepared for: second last man standing. Only the two of us were running. There were plenty of reason why I decided (what a strange situation to be able to decide when the race would stop) to not run beyond 29 yards. It just felt right and I am really happy to be able to assist Norman to the well-deserved silver ticket – he will be undoubtedly a great representative in the German national team for the Backyard championships this October.
One day I may try this format again to try to go further and try to really play this game to the end. Whatever this may mean.
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!
Place us around a campfire and we will be buddies within minutes. Stories to be told about recent and distant adventures. We all have been there. We all have gone through. We all have been in those fights, we all pushed ourselves through the misery, we all saw all imaginable real and non-real things, we all went through some pain – and we all were confronted with the most funny and even dangerous weather conditions this earth holds for us. We are united in these aspects and we love to tell and to listen to them stories.
This is probably what this ultra family thing is all about.
But it is not what fascinates me most about long distance running. It is undoubtedly a nice thing to sit together with a few fellow distance runners and have some stories to tell. But it is the edges of things where the real treasure of long distance running is hidden. Those edges which are a bit too private to share with anyone but which have a huge influence on performance and the outcome of adventures.
As we can’t look into the heads and hearts of each other there will be always something hidden. Something individual and private, something what drives or hinders us – an inner burden or power only real for the individual runner itself. This is where this sports, and other endurance challenges, gets so unique and fascinating. No matter how fit, well trained or however different the fellow runners are – all of them may fight inner devils or may be driven by inner forces we have absolutely no clue about.
Then you see them suddenly sitting there and giving up where they should be running as they did so many times before.
Then you see a good friend running a race and suddenly slowing down for no obvious reason. In an area where your friend is unbeaten on normal days.
Then you look into the eyes of your fellow runner and know it is unbearable for your mate – and yet there is no complaining, no arguing and most astonishing: still movement.
Sometimes you get to hear the full story and reasons afterwards and are left with no words. But most of the times you just silently wonder what forces and what feelings are revealed by long distance running and can only be amazed about the different strategies people come up with to deal with them. To whatever result it at the end of each of those adventures led.
That is the real treasure and fascination of long distance running to me. This is what calls for a lot of respect and humility for those out there on their various paths.
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!
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:
Das Rennen wurde nach 6h bei Gewitter abgebrochen.
Being remote has a lot of different meanings. The day-to-day life offers a variety of different flavours of it and yet – as with a loft of things – long distance running adds a whole new quality of feelings to this expression. To understand this, one needs to go out there and one needs to go far – beyond the point where everything went smoothly, logical and controlled: beyond the safety zone.
Remote out there does not necessarily mean to be alone it does not even mean to be at a very isolated place. One can also feel remote while running with someone or even small group of people – as long as they came the same long way. Most of the times those companions are close friends or at least people with which one has already conquered a bunch of adventures.
Remote in these moments is a feeling of deep understanding how small and vulnerable one is compared to the vastness of this world and compared to the distance one wants to cover in the ongoing adventure. One also feels deep within that there is no real connection with the ongoing stream of normal life. Passing through villages or cities and passing by other humans – the disconnection could not be bigger. What is going on in their lifes just does not mean anything at these moments.
Although it is an overwhelming feeling – it is not free of hope. At the end there is the assurance that it is meant to be like this. That this is exactly how it needs to be. That this is an essential part of the journey. That this is the place and feeling one belongs to. The actual reason why this adventure was started.
The strangest moment is always reaching the finish line. Despite a deep relief and thankfulness that everything went well there is alway a big sadness of leaving the remote – of resurfacing into the normal life. With the end of a journey one immediately starts to miss the remote.
Until next time – until we relentlessly strive through this wonderful world to finally do what we do best: enjoying the remote.
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
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.
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.
With the narrow escape from SARS-CoV-2, the LT250 finish and the pandemic edition of AOBTD which concluded the Legends Slam in 2020 a circle closed. Everything came to an end. There was nothing more to aim for and the winter 2020/2021 was anyway dominated by restrictions to fight the virus. What to plan in these uncertain pandemic times?
Under the impression of these conditions we discussed our options and created our own private Slam in Germany/The Netherlands/Belgium to keep us busy in 2021 – a selection of 4 tracks and the task to finish them between Halloween 2020 and Silvester 2021 – the Titanic Slam. Few friends have been invited – even fewer finished it.
Being located in Germany and with travel restrictions/various night locks in place in the Netherlands/Belgium beginning of 2021 the chance to start this Slam early 2021 were close to zero. With the unsuccessful first attempt on KATE180 end of 2020 the hope of finishing the Slam was defeated quite early in the game.
January – April 2021:
Long distance running was kicked off in January 2021 with a long run as part of the #aachenläuft challenge: 68 Hangeweiher loops are 100 miles as well – what a surprise. A nice 24h tarmac training run. The mAMa edition 2021 in February 2021 was a lonely one – only the two of us: a true Corona edition. Looking for nice tracks in these days we decided to tackle one of the main routes of the Eifelverein: Hauptwanderweg 10 – Krönungsweg. 140 nice km from Bonn to Aachen. Inspired from that adventure we startet to enjoy more of these well-marked tracks: Hauptwanderweg 8 – Hüttenweg in March and Hauptwanderweg 5 – Wald Wasser Wildnis Weg in April. A beautiful collection already and for sure something to be continued.
May – September 2021:
And then finally. With the end of wave #3 and the lifting of some of the restrictions we were able to meet in Belgium to climb the Iceberg. So nice to see all of them in person again. It was one of the strangest and toughest thing so far – with 11.000 m elevation gain in 100 miles the first successful attempt at the Titanic Slam. What could have been the start of a nice and smooth walk-through the Titanic Slam was abruptly ended beginning of July 2021: a DNF at km 140 of the LEO180 Slam Edition. To weak to come even close to a finish. The chances to finish the Titanic Slam were reduced to a tiny piece of faintest hope. The recovery from that defeat took long – running restarted end of August when the two of us tackled and finished a track we created back in 2015 but never ran – our own creation of circling around Aachen: BjöTiFul 50 – what a beautiful nonsense. The September was a low point again – really tired of running. Did not see or feel the meaning in it anymore. So – what to do? Give up? Come back?
With the leftovers of energy a decision was made: all in.
We secretly planned our attempt on another Titanic Slam track: the Duinhopper. A weekend not to be forgotten: a stressful travel, the excitement in the final train to Hoek van Holland of finally letting the inner circle know what we were about to start in a few minutes, their reaction to that surprise, the unbelievable long journey on foot along the coast, the horrible weather in the second night and finally the bright blazes of the dying sun up there in Den Helder looking south to where we came from – an unreal and sublime feeling. What an experience, what an amazing long distance family.
To top it all – end of October KATE180 was finally defeated from a bunch of long-distance experts. It was an amazing journey especially to see how this self-created track finally expanded all its potential – and to see how everyone was fighting through. A run with everything long-distance running has to offer.
After a lazy November it was time again to go for a run again. I could not stand the feeling of not at least try to complete the Titanic Slam. So LEO180 was left on the table. Lots of last minute changes set the frame of another remarkable experience of the lonely job of underground long-distance running. It was a narrow escape but it was a successful attempt. The next Slam in the books – another year of running done.
And 2022? Plans are made – races have been booked; the next Slam is set-up as well and will be kicked-of in January. What from all of this will become realty: who knows. Only one thing remains true:
Long-distance running is always waiting out there. Be aware!
The Titanic Slam is over. All attempts have been made – all stories have been told. The overview of the achievements is listed on the Titanic Slam page. The summarized final result looks like this:
My personal Titanic Slam is depicted in the following. The numbers will tell you something, the stories behind are way beyond this and have been already told throughout the year:
It was after all a nice challenge but also a lonely one. Good that this chapter is closed and the next Slam is done.