Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brocken Challenge 2011 - What a Blast!

2011 and my third Brocken-Challenge (BC), and like the previous two, 2011's BC was a blast!

The Brocken-Challenge is a winter charity ultramarathon of approximately 81 – 85KM with a positive change of 2200 meters in altitude that takes place between the city of
Göttingen and the Brocken Summit in the Harz Mountains. Proceeds from the B-C benefit primarily the Hospiz an der Lutter ( and several other charitable charities.

After the adventure of BC 2010 I was uncertain if I was going to take part in 2011. My doubt hinged largely on the roller coaster of changes that were published by the organizers of the BC over the course of 2010. Beyond a couple of tweaks in the rules and requirements the largest of which was the new requirement to walk 10KM off of the Brocken summit which didn’t bother me, the question of the registration cost was the central issue. In September 2010 the organization team Ausdauersport für Menschlichkeit e.V., (ASFM) published that the registration cost for 2011 would be 200 Euro! I read this news with much dismay. Although the registration costs completely benefit charity, 200 Euro was simply beyond my 2011 race budget. Given this expense I decided not to participate in 2011. Many concerns and comments were shared by many other BC runners and fans on the BC web site and via e-mail. Fortunately in November 2011 the ASFM decided to lower the registration price to 85 Euro (~1 Euro per Kilometer). Based on this change I decided to sign up.

Registration for the BC 2011 opened on 1 December. The field of 150 was full after fifteen days. This is important to note, particularly if you’re interested in taking the Challenge as the ASFM limit the starter field to 125 - 150 runners. Limiting the number of runners is critical based simply on the logistics of the race. I prefer this small field as it results in a much more personal and friendly race.

This year I traveled to Göttingen on Friday, 11 FEB to participate in the pre-race orientation, see some running friends and get organized for the Challenge. Like the last couple of years I billeted in the Jugendherberge Göttingen ( which given its location, cost and atmosphere is perfect for the event.

The BC offers a number of options for overnighting and meals with the focus centered on the Hainholzhof am Kehr (Bismarckstr, Göttingen). Here you can overnight either in the Jägerhaus, or the adjacent riding hall. The Jägerhaus sponsors an excellent Pasta Party the evening before the race.

Race day starts at 0500 at the Hainholzhof am Kehr with breakfast and final check in activities. Once everyone has completed their final sign in, Markus starts the Challenge with his traditional “Brocken-Challenge 2011, here we go…” and the race begins at 0600.

Environmental conditions for 2011 were significantly different from those of 2010. This year the weather was as if spring had sprung for at least the first half of the route. Temperatures were projected to be chilly with a slight chance of rain and winds out of the south. As we progressed over the route the wind shifted to a wind out of the east and brought with it frigid temperatures. I was glad that I had invested in a pair of snow cleats. At Oderbrucke (73.9KM) snow and ice became more and more significant and it was super to have the cleats along to maintain a good pace and sure footing. As we approached the summit the temperatures dropped significantly and a snow storm rolled in at 1700.

In the event you missed my report of 2010 you should note the following:

The Brocken finds itself in Germany’s largest national park, the Harz National Park. The Gipfel (summit) is located in a raw sub-alpine environment. It is characterized as follows: fog over 300 days a year, covered in ice 100 days out of the year, snow covered 176 days out of the year, 85 days out of the year are below 0 °C with temperatures dipping down as low as −28 °C. The highest measured winds were recorded at 263 KPH (164 MPH). As you might imagine, the Brocken Gipfel offers its own unique twist to the BC.

Like the last couple of years the highlights of the BC remain for me the efforts of the organizers and the race volunteers. I have not experienced such a great group of volunteers and helpers. This year I’d like to highlight Juliette Mallison that throws a great pre-race breakfast and then rushes to set a buffet like no other at station six (Lausebuche) and the lady riders that host station five at Jagdkopf. My hat is off to you all – thanks for your support and great attitude!

Unlike last year I don’t recall a significant low point this year. Although I started the race slightly demotivated, as the sun came up and I settled into the day’s affair my spirits rose with each kilometer. I set a personal best at the BC this year completing the race in 10:28 and well before it got dark. Doing so afforded me the opportunity to get a couple of quick, albeit wind and snow blown snapshots on the gipfel.

If you’re looking for a super adventure, a reason to contribute to several great charity organizations and a well organized ultra to start off your season you should consider the Brocken-Challenge.

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