2021 – underground distance running

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?

October 2021:
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.

November/December 2021:
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!

Titanic Slam Results

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.

LEO180 2021 – The Void

„There are no questions for the answers I found.“

What was initially planned as an adventure for two was unfortunately at the last moment cut down to only one runner. What was initially planned as an early Saturday morning start was at the last moment changed to a Saturday midnight start. It is never a good idea to directly head into a weekend run after a full work week and it is certainly stupid to undertake such a mission alone. But the time for discussions, re-planning and worries may come – last weekend was not the right moment for these things. Time was ticking for the Titanic Slam finish and the circumstances, the spontaneous last minute changes set the frame for the weekend: it was time for all in. With only a few days left in 2021, with the memories of the DNF during the first attempt in mind – there was no room for hope.

Do it the LEO180 way.

A midnight start after working the whole day plus two hours of driving through the darkness meant a cold and somehow unprepared start into the 222 km long adventure. It meant also that the first 77 km would not offer any supply possibilities. Not that this was needed but it always feels good to have some spots with breaks coming up and dividing the distance into smaller pieces. But well – it was not going to be a comfortable run. Oirschotse Heide at night is always a blast… the constructions at the canal Groote Beerze destroyed the track two times causing a lot of delay and extra kms at detours… all in all it was a considerable tough first half night – 8 miserable and dark hours.

Darkness.

After an amazing 1h15m lunch break at km 77 at Maarten´s with some nice discussions about the next parts, tactics and the usual nonsense the journey continued. It was a depressing feeling with 16h of darkness ahead. This second night was bound to bring the decision to the one or the other end and I was really interested on which and it would be. Before the second darkness there were a few hours of good weather, of light and even sun:

The first half of that second night with another car stop run by the brilliant Monica & Berry support team was still feeling somewhat normal. I reached the DNF point (km 140) from this summer around midnight with 24h of running done. From there I was heading into some unknown parts as the Titanic Slam Edition of LEO180 features considerable different areas – especially in the part between km 140 and km 180.

Sleeping in the rain.

And there it was: the real struggle. Unbearable sleeping attacks, parts where moving felt like being under tons of water, the freezing cold from outside and within, the upcoming wind and rain – pure horror. What to do with no decent place to sleep? With no support in this darkest moment? Zombie walking through the streets, standing around with no orientation staring into the wet darkness for minutes on end, several sleep stops barely covered with the emergency blanked trying to find some sleep in the rain. It was a clear DNF with more than enough reasons for a cry for help – for someone to pull me out of it and making it stop.

I somehow managed to sustain until 6 in the morning (although losing 2-3 h from the schedule within only 20 km) and Monica and Berry came with the car once more. Wow. Warm soup, warm coffee, some minutes of sleep inside the car, some humans to talk to. Here was the DNF chance but deep within I knew I had to continue and Monica and Berry were quite strict on that as well.

The safe spot @100 miles.

Finally the light came and with the light the assurance that the third darkness would come as well – with so much time lost in night number two. I ran into Sander who brought soup again around km 180 – how amazing was that. He even joined me for some km of „running“ towards the Loonse and Drunense Dunes. Sorry Sander that I was not the best partner for conversation but it was good to see a friendly human and hear some talking in this huge, dark, grey, empty and tired Brabant.

What felt like barely conscious I walked through the dunes and fought through to the city Haaren. Sunday weather was miserable – all grey, rain every other hour and not even getting really bright. Whatsoever. If there is misery usually someone just adds more misery. I did not care about anything anymore. And then everything felt like gone. All emotions, all power, all motivation, all the fight which brought me to Haaren at around km 200 was gone. I was empty but so deep within like never before. I entered the void. I knew I there was no medical emergency that would stop me from finishing, there was plenty of time as well – but what for? It was a frightening feeling: not seeing a sense or a reason in anything. Not even in reaching the finish. I slowly walked through the empty streets somehow not stopping to call for help. I took the phone out and called Maarten as we planned that to arrange and discuss the finish schedule. It was weird to discuss that: I knew that it was the correct moment to do that and justified as well but what in the hell would push me through the last 20 km?

Remember. The. Plan.

And then I defeated the void. Not sure how, but I managed to find my emotions again. I did not care if they were good or bad – it was just good to feel anything. Anything to build-up fear or hope on, which then would lead to a little bit of adrenaline and finally to a little bit of running. Slowly I re-entered the world. That was a completely new experience. The last 15 km were the all-in again. I did not care about anything anymore but to approach the finish.

The Final Countdown – 10 km to go.

To finally end this dark horror. And after 42 hours and 15 minutes it was done. Maarten was there to pick me up and everything turned into a painful but shiny after run joy. We stayed awake for some more hours just to discuss running a bit, to enjoy friendship, to eat and drink.

Relief. I came back from a different place for exactly that moment.

It was a hell of a journey which would not have been possible without the support of Maarten, Monica, Berry and Sander and the possibility to take HQ for this foolish run at Maarten and Linda – thanks for the support and for having me. The Dutch Ultra Family was once more there when desperately needed.

The Medal.

I really like to sit, eat, chat and drink on that table somewhere in Goirle. But sometimes I just need to stand up and go for a LEO180 run. LEO180 is tough for a reason. That makes it unlikely to finish but interesting as well. Finishing LEO180 Titanic Slam Edition within 2021 also meant to finish the Titanic Slam itself. But that will be another story.

Throwback LEO180

Another November gone – another November without LEO180. Beautiful memories:

LEO180 – 2017

LEO180 – 2018

LEO180 – 2019

Comfort Zone

Comfort zone is defined as an area/status in private/social life which is characterized as to be comfort and risk-free to the fullest. Or to say it with the words of Brené Brown:

„Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control. […]“
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komfortzone

In general leaving this comfort zone is considered to be a positive thing. It means one is ready to risk something, ready to invest some effort and to endure a certain amount of discomfort to get things done or to reach a goal.

But is this the only perspective? Is that all?

Once the comfort zone is left – does this mean comfort is beyond reach until you return from your journey? What if you fought through uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability on this journey and suddenly realize that you found comfort again although you are as far away from the „comfort zone“ as humanly possible?

It may not be comfort in the classical definition. You may not have access to enough love but if you planned wisely you should have access to food; you certainly used a decent amount of time and a little bit of talent to reach that status. In addition to these attributes you may be blessed with fellow travellers on the very same journey which gives you access to company, friendship and – yes – comfort. Whether or not these situations can be considered as to be „under control“ is worth a different discussion.

But it is indeed a kind of comfort. Comfort plus maybe. Something you feel home in. Moments of honest, fullest and deepest acceptance of everything there may be. Because the circumstances do not matter anymore as you finally fully merge with the situation – no matter what it may be.

Photocredits: Olav & Martino

KATE180 2021

If you go for a run and come back with some nice memories… All is well.

What has been a failure last year, came to a happy end this year. KATE180 finally saw her first finishers. A group of 9 runners started off and 8 returned with finishing times between 36 and 45 hours.

The concept of KATE180 was to combine the beautiful and yet challenging area around the Rursee with some well-known tracks in the Hautes Fagnes area and connect both of these areas through nice trails to Aachen – to form a 205 km loop. The little downside of this concept and the actual trails behind is, that the distance of a Marathon on them is already exhausting enough. The second little challenge of running the combination in the proposed direction is, that the difficulty slightly increases by time. The longer you are on your feet the more draining the course gets.

The feedback on the track was satisfying – made for a special type of adventurers it really delivered what was needed for a memorable time out there. Most of the runners had to leave their comfort zone to reach the finish line – and appreciated it.

Luckily a support team consisting of Stefan Vilvo (car support from km 40 to km 100), Inga (car support at km 130) and Rainer (car support at km 162) helped the runners to stay in and fuelled. All runners have been extremely thankful for this amazing support! It has to be noted that the first group of runners (3 of the pack decided to actually run) did not benefit from this amazing support as they have been, well, too fast.

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Stefan Vilvos Support Video
Overview of KATE180s elevation gain

With the finish of KATE180 3 runners of the group also finished the Titanic Slam (finish 4 tracks between Halloween 2020 and Silvester 2021). The rest of the Slam attendees have one or more finishes left with two month time left to complete this little challenge.

Race report/post collection:

Marekhttps://www.acceptnolimits.eu/killing-kate/
Martinohttps://www.instagram.com/p/CVuYhHCoceDNFcDE2Qx_bcU8MlD2got1PnYE8E0/
Olavhttps://www.instagram.com/p/CVyHHOtLdKR/
Maartenhttps://www.acceptnolimits.eu/kate-2021-ouderwets-doorpakken-zoals-het-hoort

*** LIVE – Duinhopper – LIVE ***

#northbound #vakantiedeluxe #hvh->denhelder #legendstracking #hophopdontstop #duinhopper #trainingforkate

LIVE: https://tim-weissbach.legendstracking.com/

Info: https://www.acceptnolimits.eu/events/duinhopper/

„Take your time, play the long game, embrace the boring, the difficulties, the uncomfortable. This is how it will happen.“

Maxime Lagace

Start: 01.10.2021 2130

Updates:

Finish: 45:35 h

Momentaufnahmen – The Great Escape 2019

Es ist kalt in diesem tief eingeschnittenen Tal. Eine schmale Furche in zwischen den dunkelgrünen Hügeln ringsum. Das tiefe Schwarz der Nacht wird zum stählernen Blau. Kurz vor dem Sonnenaufgang lebt der Wind oft etwas auf. Ich hab mich immer gefragt woran das wohl liegt. Ich stelle mir vor die Sonne treibt die Luftmassen irgendwie vor sich her. Ich friere in der kalten Briese. Doch dann steigt der Weg steil gen Himmel an. Die Bäume ringsum sind dichter gedrängt und der Boden besteht nun aus Nadeln. In den kalten Hauch mischt sich eine Ahnung von Wärme. Pünktlich zum Sonnenaufgang sind wir oben. Die Sonne wiederzusehen ist jedes Mal eine große Erleichterung, bedeutet neue Kraft und neue Hoffnung. Lässt es auf einmal wieder möglich erscheinen was Minuten vorher noch undenkbar war.

Die Nachmittagssonne steht auf den Hängen. Sehr warm im Unterschied zur ersten Nacht. Die Luft steht und ist schwer und dick. Und doch ist es nicht mehr so intensiv wie im Hochsommer. Die erste Ahnung vom nahenden Herbst liegt in der Luft. Der Waldboden duftet etwas intensiver nach einem schon etwas feuchteren Boden. Die Luft flirrt nicht mehr so extrem wie im Sommer und die Insektendichte nimmt schon merklich ab. Wir laufen schweigend den Trail entlang. Die Sonne steht schon schräger und färbt alles etwas goldener als sie es im Hochsommer tun würde. Ein wenig Wehmut liegt in der Luft. Werden wir den Sommer vermissen? Die langen heißen Tage und Nächte oder freuen wir uns auf den Herbst mit seinen Farben und dem scheinbaren Sterben allen Lebens in Vorbereitung auf den Winter. Alles geht unaufhaltsam seinen Gang. Schon wieder ist ein Sommer rum. Und schon wieder sind wir irgendwo dort draußen. Völlig vertieft in die Natur, ein endloser, scheinbar zielloser Streifzug quer durch die Landschaft. Rastlos und stundenlang unter diesem blauem und endlosen Himmel.

Matthias schaut mir ins Gesicht und sagt: „es ist wirklich gleich geschafft“. Viel der Anstrengung der letzten Stunden muss mir ins Gesicht geschrieben stehen. Absolute Erschöpfung, leichte Schmerzen in verschiedensten Körperteilen und die Überwindung die jeder Schritt kostet. Kurz vor dem Ziel überkommt mich oft ein merkwürdiges Gefühl. Einerseits ein großes Verlangen doch noch aufzugeben gepaart mit dem übermächtigen Wunsch das Ziel doch endlich zu erreichen. Es scheint fast so, als würden diese gemischten und gewaltigen Emotionen mich am Weiterlaufen hindern wollen. Wer bin ich das ich glaube das Recht zu haben dort anzukommen – so winzig, so leidend auf dieser übermächtig langen Strecke. Ich habe schon von echten Wettkämpfern, von guten Läufern gelesen, die sich ähnlich fühlen. In das Verlangen zu finishen mischt sich eine große, fast übermächtige Traurigkeit darüber, dass es vorbei geht. Dort unten kurz vor dem Ziel auf der Brücke über den Fluss könnte man sich auch hinsetzen und gut ist. Warum auch noch die letzten Meter gehen, lieber in Ruhe die Natur genießen und etwas in Ruhe entspannen. Dann ist sie plötzlich da die Brücke und der Moment der Emotionen ist vorbei: natürlich gehen wir weiter, natürlich gehen wir eben um die zwei Ecken und natürlich kommen wir an, lassen uns beglückwünschen und haben es endlich geschafft. Wiederum übermannt von Gefühlen wenn auch anderer Natur.

FFDTWE #1: Spa – Aachen

Fahrten mit dem letzten Zug machen wir ja bekanntlich gern. Sie haben etwas Endgültiges. Man fährt raus und ist auf sich allein gestellt. Auch dieses Mal haben wir diese Art des Reisens genossen. Ziel war dieses Mal der Bahnhof Spa-Géronstère. Den erreicht man von Aachen aus recht einfach und günstig in 75 Minuten.

Als Start der FFDTWE-Reihe haben wir uns eine Trail-Strecke vorgenommen. FFTDWE #1 führte uns also von oben genanntem Bahnhof (passender Weise am Ende der Bahnstrecke) zurück nach Aachen. Irgendwie muss man ja nach Hause kommen. Showdown also in den blauen Ardennen und im Hohen Venn. Zwei Landschaften die wir sehr schätzen. Sie sind unnachgiebig, brutal, unlaufbar, unfassbar einsam und dabei doch wunderschön.

Wir hatten länger keine Nacht zu zweit mehr und so gab es viel zu bereden. Neben wichtigen Themen wie der Braunkohlekraftwerks-Technik, dem Betrieb von Windrädern, den neuesten Lauf-Geheimtipps und den Pflanzen am Wegesrand haben wir uns Inhalte für Traillaufkurse der Level 1-7 erdacht und nebenbei eine ganze Menge Unfug gequatscht. Bei all dem waren wir uns stets sicher, dass es im Ultratraillauf eigentlich um Leichtigkeit, Eleganz und Schönheit geht. Um das Schweben auf sonnengewärmten Trails, um Geschwindigkeit und um kurzweilige und spektakuläre 4k Videos.

Leider sind wir da keine Experten. Diese strahlende Welt kennen wir nur aus Erzählungen und von YouTube. Während wir also in der einbrechenden Nacht über teils aberwitzig steile Trails in den Ardennen auf-und-ab-stolperten und uns dem nie enden wollenden Aufstieg ins Hohe Venn gehend und stolpernd widmeten, hatten wir schlagartig eine Erkenntnis. Letztlich geht es um die Relevanz des eigenen Tuns. Wir haben endlich verstanden warum uns selbst unsere besten Lauf-Freunde meist allein lassen auf diesen Touren.

Die innere Schönheit und Eleganz von kilometerlange Geröllwegen, von nassen, den Schuh umschlingenden Grastrails hoch oben im Moor, von so zugewachsenen Trails, dass man mehrere Kilometer nur langsam tastend vorwärts kommt, von Nickerchen auf kalten Trails und verlassenen Restaurant-Terrassen, von Trails die sich in der Nacht im Nichts verlieren mit keiner Menschenseele weit und breit und selbstverständlich ohne Mobilfunk-Empfang erschließt sich wohl nicht vielen Menschen. 5,6 km/h sind für die Wenigsten eine annehmbare Trainingsgeschwindigkeit, sich stolpernd, frierend und unterzuckert durch endlose Weiten zu kämpfen ist nicht Jedermanns Sache, sich dem aussichtslosen Kampf gegen Mücken, Bremsen, Zecken, Spinnweben und anderem Zeugs hinzugeben nicht unbedingt eine Leidenschaft von Vielen. So vegetierten wir also vor uns hin dort im finsteren Nichts, ohne Trainingseffekt, in einem Abnutzungskampf, ohne Hoffnung auf ein baldiges Ende so weit weg von Allem wie nur möglich. Es blieb uns also nichts Schönes mehr.

Ach, Moment. Ausser natürlich einem rot-glänzenden Sonnenuntergang, einem milchig-weißen Mondaufgang, einem nahen Himmel voller Sterne und Sternschnuppen, unseren Mondschatten, leuchtenden Augen im schwarzen Wald, einer endlosen blauen Stunde morgens ab 04 Uhr, dem unvergleichlichen Anblick von weißem Nebel in den Mulden unter uns, den ersten Sonnenstrahlen zwischen den Bäumen und der krassen Schönheit der Natur. Relevanz muss man am Ende dann doch zuerst mit sich selbst aus machen.

Wir möchten diese Momente nicht missen.

Running Riesengebirge

Ich muss sagen – so hässlich war es gar nicht. Für mich als Flachländer bleibt die Beziehung zu den Bergen kompliziert. Ich verstehe und teile zwar die Begeisterung für diese Quälerei und die endlosen Aufstiege. Ich verstehe sogar die sportliche Herausforderung und ich teile in jedem Fall die Liebe für die Ausblicke von weiter oben. Was mir absolut nicht gegeben ist, ist die Kraft bergauf und das Geschick bergab. Trotzdem waren es ein paar wenige schöne und langsame Kilometer in dieser schönen mir bisher unbekannten Gegend des Riesengebirges.