About last weekend #2

Lauf Nummer 2 dieses Wochenende war in guter Tradition der NEU bei Stefan Vilvo in Düren. Ein Lauf der mich schon sehr lange begleitet, was man an der mittlerweile siebten Teilnahme gut nachvollziehen kann. Wie die Zeit doch verfliegt.

Eine kleine aber feine Gruppe war es dieses Mal – 7 auf einen Streich. Das Wetter war perfekt zum Laufen – kaum nass mit etwas Sonnenschein am Anfang und am Ende.

Es war nach Freitag Nacht erstaunlich anstrengend und es war kaum noch Energie und Kraft da. Ein gutes Training für irgendwas. Insgesamt schöne 57 km in 8:24 h. Aber seht selbst im Video von Stefan:

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Ein paar Bilder noch von dort draußen:

About last weekend #1

Elegant plan: lets meet Friday after work somewhere and go for a little run. Maybe we should have read the manual more carefully. Somewhere turned out to be the Hohes Venn. Little turned out to be almost 60k. This does count as little but in combination with the area…

It was one of the occasion where you on one point (after a few meters) start to think: well, lets concentrate on the bare minimum: survival. No need to tell you what happened up there – you may find it strange. Or frightening. Or disgusting. Or all three of it.

We have been distorted lights in a relentless and endless area.

All was well.

Fotocredits to Maarten and Marek!

2019 – Statistik

Hier noch der Nachtrag für alle die gern Zahlen möchten:

Im direkten Vergleich zu 2018 hatte 2019 3% mehr Kilometer (ca. 4250 je nachdem wie man rechnet) und damit einhergehend auch eine erhöhte Gesamtdauer. Die Anzahl der Aktivitäten ging hoch und die durchschnittliche Dauer/Aktivität ist gesunken (das sollte der Effekt der NRW-Challenge im Januar 2019 mit vielen aber kurzen Einheiten sein). 2019 war damit auch das Jahr mit den meisten Lauf-Kilometern bisher.

Der laufstärkste Monat 2019 und auch überhaupt war der November 2019 mit 540 km. Über die Monate verteilt sah das in 2019 so aus:

Die DUV listet 6 Veranstaltungen mit insgesamt 799 km für 2019. 4 davon waren 100 Meilen und mehr und haben die Gesamtzahl an Ultras auf 14 erhöht.

Kilometer-Ziele für 2020 gibt es nicht und bisher sind auch nur die ersten zwei Läufe in 2020 fest gebucht. Es geht auf die kurzen Strecken – aber dazu morgen mehr!

Bello Gallico Performance

As the Bello Gallico can be easily divided in parts of 20k between the CPs or in two 80k parts – lets have a more detailed look on the running performance:

The 4 sections during the first half reflect quite nicely our feeling during the run: part no. 3 is the most difficult part in terms of technical parts as well as elevation gain. The second 4 sections – the second half – is the usual mess up of an ultra race. Longer pauses, weak periods, more walking: all that changes the performance.

Our total runtime was 27h52 but the above charts are only looking on the moving time which was 24h49. The average speed was 9m16/k which is 6.5 k/h.

The best parts lay all within the first part of the race:

The difference between the first and the second half is huge: 7:49 min/k during the first, 10:42 min/k during the second half:

This is clearly something to work on. But the conditions during this years Bello Gallico were probably not ideal to really judge on the second half performance. With more steady conditions this difference would probably not have been that huge, but still: an ultra race starts around km 90/100 and this is the part to focus on.

The times spend at the checkpoints increased during the race. Especially CP 120k and 140k (we even took a nap here) were significantly longer then they should have been for a good second half. Nice to see that it was possible to fasten up between 150k and 160k during the heavy rain and the cold. We slowed down again towards the end once we realized sub 28h was safe.

Graphics extracted from Runalyze and rubiTrack.

Bello Gallico 2019

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‚Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

S&G – The Sound of Silence

Once more an intensive weekend. Matthias joined me Friday after work and we took the car to the Start/Finish location in Oud-Heverlee. We planned differently to The Great Escape and spend the night in a Hostel in Leuven. Leuven seems to be a nice city but is a nightmare in terms of parking. After this interesting challenge we finally made it to our room and tried to ignore the noises in our quite active Hostel. Although we didn’t sleep much it gave us a break and some relaxed hours before the start. The alarm was set for 2:30 a.m. and we made it in time to be ready for the start on Saturday 4:00 a.m..

#2 of the Legends TrailsBello Gallico 100 Miles. 100 miles in a rather flat terrain – at least compared to TGE. The job was this time: lets go there and finish this off. Everyone said this is the most easy run of the series, that it really is flat and runnable and it is furthermore meant as a Christmas Party.

Everyone is aware though, that this is only half of the truth. 2019 edition should bring lots of rain in the days before the event, light rain at the start, light rain from time to time in between and two disastrous rainy hours between 5 and 7 a.m. Sunday morning. But: its just a bit of water. Where is the problem? Well, it turned out that this was the type of track which really benefits from being watered and abused by hundreds of feet. Although there were still a lot runnable parts – the muddy parts were deep, sticky and/or slippery plus more and more covered with water – proper steps sometimes not possible. This slowly but surely drags all power from the body – power which could have been used for running.

Muddy & Traily Bello Gallico 2019

Matthias and me discussed a few possible finish options before the race. One of it was below 24 h, the other maybe below 26 h if it would be more difficult than expected and as a last option: finish before the sun rises the second time! We finished the first half of the BG in 11 hours and with a some minutes of break and Chili con carne we realized that 24 h would not be possible. The dark second night was after all way more challenging than expected. The trail was even more difficult, leaving the warm and wonderful checkpoints felt more and more stupid and the heavy rain/storm between 5 and 7 a.m. was really frightening. Especially those hours in the early Sunday needed a lot of strength: water everywhere – the already damaged feet were not amused and during the rain it was horribly cold. We lost the focus on any time-related goal for a second but what I really like on racing with Matthias: he has the finish always in mind and is extremely focused on that. Giving up is never an option for him. It really helps to be with someone like this when yourself are suffering and in a miserable condition.

In that heavy rain and with approximately 12 k to the finish I suggested to run again a bit faster to feel less cold and finally get this nightmare done. This worked ok for a few k´s. With less then 5 k to go the rain finally stopped, we realised that could make it below 28 h and with this we would finish half an hour before the sun would rise again. Job done. #2 of the Legends Trail series completed. We finished in 27h51m as number 48 and 49 of 93 finishers and around 160 starters.

Thanks to the Orga and the countless of dedicated, helpful and friendly Legendary Friends as volunteers all over the course. Great checkpoints, great help, great food and lots of fun.

We had yet another great experience out there in the (this time) rather flat Belgium. It was tougher than expected but we came to finish this one and not to drop out because of whatever. Although the race was almost completely in the dark (at least it felt like this) there were beautiful moments with and without sun. The beauty of ultra running can be found in each and every run of 100 miles or more – just open your eyes at the right times.

Thats it for 2019. No more races left – the end of this years journeys is reached. Fingers crossed for a quick recovery: the next Legend Trail is already waiting. And this time it is the real one. With 250 k in the not-so-flat part of Belgium and three long February nights. Happy for any training advices! I will take it with M&M as a motto for the next two months:

„It’s better to go too far, than not far enough“


Lots of running for a Christmas Party. Well – lets do it then. What about dot watching?

There you go: http://bellogallico100.legendstracking.com

The easier the things look the more likely is the failure.

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!

SHBM 2019 – Schneisengenuss

Die Jäger haben sinngemäß gesagt wir hätten uns aber eine komische Zeit und Strecke zum Laufen ausgesucht. Sie selbst würden jetzt ja Feierabend machen. Gut, dass sie keine Ahnung hatten, was wirklich auf dem Plan stand.

Es war der zweite SHBM (Strongheart Braveman Challenge) vom Vilvo. Wie bei der Lauf-Premiere im letzten Jahr war das Teilnehmerfeld gerade noch überschaubar. Alle kannten sich und so konnte halbwegs pünktlich und ohne viel Gequatsche um 1930 von dem sehr schönen Parkplatz irgendwo an der B399 gestartet werden. Nach beschriebener Begegnung mit zwei Jägern hatte ich das „Problem“ anderen Menschen zu begegnen erledigt. Zumindest auf der Lauf“strecke“.

Die Strecke ist im Bericht von 2018 ganz gut mit einigen ihrer Besonderheiten beschrieben und gelistet. Dem ist hinzuzufügen, dass wir beide dieses Jahr den Eindruck hatten es ist noch unwegsamer geworden. Interessante neue Baumfällarbeiten sowie ein leicht matschiger Untergrund haben sicher dabei geholfen diesen Eindruck zu bestätigen. Keine Beschreibung kann die Realität wirklich treffend beschreiben – „lauft“ nächstes Jahr „einfach“ mit und erlebt es selbst.

Es war wohl also gut, dass ich quasi direkt von der Arbeit aufgebrochen bin und keine Zeit mir groß Sorgen oder Gedanken im Vorfeld zu machen. Keine Vorbereitung ist eine gute Vorbereitung in diesem Fall.

Insgesamt ist der „Lauf“ gerade wegen aller Begleitumstände ein absolutes Highlight. 54 km die absolut nicht zu unterschätzen sind. Brutalwandern deluxe auf vielen Streckenabschnitten. Ein Königreich für 4 bis 5 km/h. Sich zeitliche Ziele zu stecken macht überhaupt keinen Sinn – nach den ersten Kilometer ist das Makulatur. Die Zeit wird irrelevant, die Geschwindigkeit auch. In der dunklen Nordeifel verschwimmen die Täler, die Hänge, die Kämme, die Bäche und die Talsperre zu einer Art Abnutzungskampf der besonderen Art.

Es war wieder eine Mischung aus Brutalwandern extrem und Rumstolpern deluxe. Eine Lektion in Demut: wie schafft man es zu akzeptieren, dass diese 54 km einen mehr fordern werden (11h35m) als viele der längeren Strecken, wie schafft man es zu akzeptieren, dass es wirklich nur Schritt für Schritt vorwärts geht, wie kommt man mit diesem Gefühl zurecht, sich mitten in einer endlosen Wüste aus Hindernissen zu befinden und zu wissen – mitten durch ist der Weg. Wenn sich zwei Experten in Sachen Navigation und Orientierung mehrfach ratlos anschauen und Karten und GPS Geräte zücken müssen, sagt das schon alles.

Danke für die erneut extreme Erfahrung, Stefan! Ein einschneisendes Erlebnis im wahrsten Sinne dieser Worte. Wers nicht glaubt – hier kommt das Video von Stefan:

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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.