Saturday 25 March 2023

7. Schweriner Seentrail

Diving into 2023 in the starting blocks ! 

I had only one race planned for 2023, the Guts Muth Trail in Thuringen end of Mai. That's be a big step up, 7km and 1000m of D+. So I need to stick to a reliable training plan and not get distracted by other events... And as usual, I am doing completely the opposite!
Here I am in Schwerin, a cozy little town North of Germany, 2h away from Berlin, on the 25th of March, for an annual event I could not resist. Build along a huge lake, the Schweriner See, the town has been organising trail runs around it for the past few years: 17k, 33k (half-tour) up to 61km (full-tour). The centerpiece being the Schweriner Schloss, a wonderful romantic Historicisim castle, located on a small island South of the lake, which has been housing the Dukes od Mecklenburg for centuries. 
Of course I'm in for the big loop! Unfortunately, a strong fluh has kept me out of my running shoes for the past 2 weeks and I still feel pretty tired. As usual, I have no idea how my body will react to the extra kilometers, the post 50k is still an unknown territory to me. I decide to take is super easy and force myself to a low pace all race long. Cut times are pretty generous, I have 10h to cross the finish line.
I really enjoy the first part of the race, up to km 20-30. Starting in front of the breathtaking castle, we are heading South, circling around the lake counterclockwise, following a trail path close to the water. The route is going up and down, snaking around the trees, sometimes getting quite muddy and technical, which I really like. The weather is good, the progression challenging and I enjoy following or leading a small group running the same slow pace as mine.
Unfortunately my good mood fades away pretty quickly. It starts pouring rain and the hours get long as we progress on an endless bike lane running up east of the lake. I am a bit disapointed by the aid stations, every 7-8k, offering a sparse choice of food. These usually are my motivation reload points, but I cannot count on them today. Finally after a long stroll in the forest, the rain stops and I enjoy some sun while reaching the top of the lake and starting my way back. I covered about two thirds of the race and I still have a half marathon in front of me.
I feel quite confident starting the last segment of the race, but this is not gonna last! Shortly after hitting the symbolic 42th kilometer, I am starting to feel some pain in my right heel. I sense that I should take it seriously or it won't let me finish the race. I force myself to a stop and say goodbye to the little group I stuck with until now. Inconfortably sitting on a stone stairs, I remove shoes and socks to put on my ankle bandage support. It proved to be pretty efficient during my last runs. I am fighting the cramps in my legs and try to arrange it so it does not create any disconfort. When I finally resume running, I feel pretty down, no motivation anymore. Eventually the rain starts pouring rain again. Buff and beanie wrapping my whole head, leaving just a thin gap for my eyes, music to the max, I am in survival mode half walking half running, just put one step in front of the other and looking at the km counter rolling on my watch. I'm cold, I'm blue, I just want to finish and fear for more pain in my feet any time they hit the ground. The race is over for me and the only thing preventing me from quitting is that I just want to finish that thing and get under a warm shower.
My misery finally ends, more than 9h after leaving this morning, which feels like an eternity of labor. I am drenched to the bones, cold, miserable and so lost that I actually takes the wrong road and arrives from the other side of the finish line. I am amongst the last runners and most of the organising crew already left. No speaker congratulating me, no crowd clapping. A nice old lady offers me a medal and a slime, I think I'm more happy about the latest. 

I head to the finisher's tent and try to swallow a soup too warm and a piece of cake too cold. I'm shaking, there is nothing but a warm shower that can cheer me up right now. And there I am 5min later, finally. 30 min under the burning flow of water, coming back to life slowly, still shivering. I finish the day with a 2km walk through the city to get back to my apartment, feeling downhearted and not at all proud and happy, as I usually am after such an event. Man this is good stuff, I should write tragedies!
As with everything in my life, I try to have no regret about what I am doing. I am learning in everything I do, regardless if it was a pleasant exeprience or not, like in this case. With more than 9h on the road, I had plenty of time to think about the way I have been training in the past few years and I realised that I am not ready for such disances yet. Most of my training is based on my week-end long runs, increasing the distance regularly. But aside from that I am barely running during the week and skipping any core training. I am pushing my body to the edge, with the risk of getting injured every time. I do think I need to take it easy, stay on distances up to 50k and work on strenthening my body.

New training plan coming soon and hopefully a few happier races!