Sunday 17 September 2017

Schorfheide-Lauf marathon 42km

This is The Moment, this is it! - Michael Jackson

Sunday 10th September 2017

7:00 - My head is cloudy, my belly ache, I have legs like jelly, as I stand up in the dark πŸ˜΅. A quick breakfast, I force myself to swallow some eggs and cheese, so hunger strikes as late as possible. A thermos coffee and a sandwich packed for the car, my running gear is already waiting at the door. Time to hit the road!

8:45 - After a 1h drive on the highway and the last kilometre on a road probably older than me, I arrive in Altkückendorf, small village of Brandenburg, 60km North of Berlin. The marathon starts early so I am amongst the first ones there. They park us on a field so green it hurts driving on it. Fresh air, wet grass, deep forest fragrances around, it has been raining in the past few days but today will be sunny. I follow the path to the church, meeting point and start/finish line. I head to the tent to get my bib. No id needed, just my name, that they find immediately on a hand-written paper with no more than 40 names on it... 😲 Such a contrast with my two previous marathons (Berlin 2014 and 2016) and their 40.000 runners! I dress quickly and bring my stuff back to the car.

9:10 - Marathon meeting... In the church! Do I get a benediction included in the fee? 😁 Nope, not even a prayer. They show us the route and the few difficulties on the way: some segments have to be done twice, some go to a point where you have to turn back. I take a quick note of the supply points, spread every 5km. Good, no need to carry water, I just have my 75ml flash in hand and some cliff bars, nuts and flapjacks in my new super light decathlon backpack (200g). I know I shouldn't try new gear on race day but I really don't need the heavy bag, and I still wanna bring some food, as I don't know what I'll find on the route. I'm also carrying a light jacket that I'm wearing right now, since it's a chilly morning.

9:30 / 0km - Gathered on the starting line, all the marathoners are getting warm and ready. Yep, no more than 40 runners and half as many cheering us up. Everyone seems to know each others. Average age 40-60 years old, I feel so young! Last quick check: my watch is ready, backpack adjusted, shoes tightened, mobile... Wait, what?? First (and only) disappointment of the day, I really am in a God forsaken place, with no internet connection! Impossible to share any information, photo or live feed of my race. Nooooooo! 😱 Maybe it's a sign. I mean, this event is called "run for the mind", looks like Facebook isn't included! The thin crowd cheers us up and the herd moves forward. We are starting!

9:45 / 2km - After running two times around the village and crossing the starting line again, cheered by our supporters, we head back south and immediately into the forest. As usual, I start easy and stay at the back of the pack. I'm a diesel, I need time to warm up! That's where I meet Carmen. She's planning a 6h run, I estimate a 5h for myself, so I decide to stick with her until the first supply point. We discuss a bit, she's really nice, and quite healthy for her age. 60 years old and running her 18th marathon, respect! 😲

10:15 / 6km - First aid station: water, coke and chocolate (yummy). I leave Carmen behind and lock to my steady pace, around 6:40-7:00. Suddenly, I am all alone, with birds and black slugs as rare travel companions. Lost in the woods, it's frightening. 😢 I resist the urge to put on my earbuds with loud music. Let's enjoy the​ silence, so rare to find nowadays. As I venture deeper into the woods, the trees get higher, the route muddier, swamps pop up here and there. The air is refreshing. I hear my wife's voice telling me it is healthy to run in the forest after rainy days, because the air is rich in minerals. I sure am up for 5h of that!

11:00 / 13km - After some looping around in the forest, I reach the second aid station with quite a nice buffet: chocolate, bananas, cereal bars, fruit bars, coke, iso drink and water... When you think that the overpriced Berlin marathon barely offers more than apples and bananas... The volunteers are super nice and helpful. Most of them are families. I even meet a young mom showing the way, along with her kid, same age as mine, playing in a little tent. Later, an 8 years old girl will run a few hundreds meters with me. Cute! πŸ˜„ I continue along this long path that you need to run in both directions. The route is really muddy and I progress carefully. I meet some runners going in the other direction. Good, I'm not that far behind! I reach the dead-end and next aid station, where the next two runners are resting. They are a bit surprised to see me, as I am much younger and should therefore be far in front of them. We have a quick chat, 60 years old from Aachen, we have the same shoes, GO TEAM SALOMON! πŸ™Œ

11:45 / 18km - Leaving the grandpas behind, I travel  to the next aid station and refuel. I stick to water and add an electrolyte tablet to it, to compensate for the loss of magnesium, potassium and sodium (salt). They proved to be really helpful during my long runs, delay muscle cramps and speed up recovery. I hit the road again. πŸƒ I'm not alone, as this segment is covered by the half marathon and the 10k too. Looks like they just started! I'm facing a wall of participants running in the other direction. If not for their green bib (mine is red), I would think I'm heading in the wrong direction! Many of them applaud me and I get a few thumbs up and a "respect!". I feel like a star. 😊 Just a few years ago, I too was looking up at marathoners with wonder and respect in my eyes! Following the ref flags, I'm leaving the main trail and find myself on a lovely path, bordered by high pine trees. I almost feel like home, in the immensity of the Landes forests in south France. 😍 Suddenly, I'm out of the woods and I follow an endless bike lane, crossing a few of them. Lovely area, I am breathless... or maybe just getting tired...

12:00 / 21km - Here comes the half, along a small aid station. No more soup, first come first served, oh well! 😒 I dig in my backpack for some jacks and nuts while refuelling on water. Friendly volunteers as always, father and son, we have a quick talk, that I have to end, so I don't lose my rythme. While resuming my run, I hit the 21st kilometre. A quick look at my watch, 2h30 to cover half of the route. Perfecto! I'm on tracks for a 5h marathon as planned. So far, no pain in my foot, just the usual numbing that is more psychological than really physical. My heartbeat has been pretty steady, around 150bpm. I already noticed the effect of running in the woods during my training. Thanks to the high levels of oxygen probably, my heartbeat drops lower than when running in the city. The path snakes between high trees and swamps, before finding a way out. The sun goes my face and warm up my heart. I feel better already, I must be running on solar energy 🌞

12:30 / 25km - I follow a long route bordering the forest on my left. Apple trees show me the way, as well as a few volunteers lost here and there and happy to show another runner the way. A shadow appears far I front of me, hobbling around. Woman, 40 y.o., stone in the shoe. I catch up on her quickly. She doesn't seem very happy when I overtake her and she will try to keep up for a few kilometres. But as said I'm a diesel. When I find my cruising tempo I stick to it until the end of the night 🚚

13:00 / 29km - New aid station, Gertrude still behind  me, they tell us that a segment of the route is redirected for safety issue (safety in deep Brandenburg countryside? 😜). But the firemen do a great job at redirecting us. I finally reach the immense Wolletzsee lake. It is sparkling under a shy sun and reflecting the cloudy sky. Gertrude gives up on me and I find myself alone again. But not for long, as I catch up two runners fighting against the wall. I chat a bit with the first one but quickly overtake him, for he smells like an Irish-pub back alley (me too, probably 😷).

13:30 / 34km - We reach the far East of the lake and another main station with lovely old volunteers that just want to hear about south France all day long... It's getting harder and harder to restart the engine! But it's a straight line to the finish one now. Well, they do warn me that the path gets a bit hilly again, but I'm sure they are messing around with me! πŸ˜…

14:00 / 38km - As it turns out, they were not joking! After running along some houses and following the lake shore, I find myself in the forest again. And it goes up! All the way up! My heartbeat goes berserk over 170bpm and I'm forcing myself to walk while eating a cliff bar. The result is immediate and the beat drops below 160. I'm alone again, stinky guy is not catching up. I'm thinking about Francois and Kilian who finished the UTMB a week ago. By the end of the race, I will have climbed 416m of elevation... Not the Everest but still 416m more than the Berlin marathon πŸ—» At the top, I reach one of the last aid station, poor grandma lost in the middle of nowhere. I refuel on water and steal some salty bezels. I try to chew on one and drop the other. Impossible to swallow anything, I feel nauseous and I resist the urge to throw up the power bar 😣. I need to keep some calories inside! Eating is not the problem, I can survive the last 4km, but I need to keep drinking. I swallow little sips of water, they don't come out, perfect!

14:15 / 40km - Last aid station. The grandpa is happy to see me but this time I just cannot stop or I'm afraid I won't restart. I wave to him and get out of the woods, under a warm caressing sun. Still 2km to cover. A quick look at my watch tells me that I won't finish in less than 5h. Oh well, at last I will finish! In the distance, I can hear the moderator's voice discussing with the finishers. The cheering crew is still there, waiting for me πŸ˜₯

14:31 / 42km - I cover the last two kilometres, fighting against the wall. I enter the village, the streets are empty and quiet, everyone is at the church! One last turn and I stand in front of the finish line. Everyone cheers me as I crosses it. Congratulations from the moderator, who asks me tons of questions while handing me my certificate: 5h01min! I joke that it's the volunteers fault, that are way too nice and it's hard to keep it short at every aid station! πŸ˜‹ I leave them and walk a bit to relax my legs and cover the missing distance. Indeed my watch shows 41,5km and I need an extra 700m to the actual marathon distance, that I will eventually reach after 5:11 on the road.

15:00 - Sitting at a table, I'm digging into the soup and sipping my root beer 🍺. The sun warms up my broken body, the grass is still wet under my barefoot. Delicious moment, where I still can't realize I just ran a marathon. It's been more than two year since this evil injury (plantar fascitis) stroke my foot, and after many unsuccessful attempts, more injuries, general discouragement and soooooo many hours of training, I'm back! Today, not only did I run a marathon for the second time, but I also ran for the longest time of my life, I did my first official trail race and I beat all my training times. Yeah me! I would lift my arms if I had the strength! πŸ™Œ

15:30 - The last runners cross the line one by one. Team grandpas SALOMON joins me at the table for a chat. Carmen finishes last, shortly after 6h, and we congratulate each others. We discuss about the race, everyone had a great time. I finish my soup. Time to hit the shower and drive back home. My legs hurt but it's a sweet pain, the pain of success! πŸ†

Sunday 17th September

It's been a week after crossing the finish line. I recovered quickly, like after my 34k and 37k. I felt really tired after the race and spent the rest of the day refueling, mostly on water, proteins and carbs. I didn't take a nap but I went to bed early with some fever 😴. I was cold and my darling covered me with all blankets she could find. I woke up in the middle of the night completely wet. I had sweat all my fever out and I felt better. I drank a lot during that night and woke up fresh and rested to go to work (and brag about my run!).

The following two days, I simply took it easy, walking slowly (not sprinting after the train!), eating and drinking properly and going to bed early. I massaged my whole body with my form roller, focusing on the calves, lower back and buttocks (trigger points), as well as the quadriceps. πŸ’ͺ As usual it really helped, after three days all muscle pain was forgotten. It's been one week now, my muscles still feel a bit tired but also striving for new adventures. I shall resume my training next week, so I am fit to run another marathon before the end of the year.

Overall this race is an amazing success. πŸƒ It's not the 50k I had planned for this year but I've never been that close to my goal. My foot is better than ever and I'm starting to consider it healed completely. My fast recovery also proves that my training is paying off and I am slowly reaching my goal: running marathons as long runs, while training for greater distances. After two cloudy years, the sun is shining again on my runner's life 😎