Sunday, October 26, 2014

2 SUT 100 – Schoenbuch Ultra-Trail

The second running of the Schoenbuch Ultra-Trail (SUT 100) was held 18 – 19 September 2014 in the Schoenbuch Nature Park.  Torrential rains the Thursday and Friday prior to the start of the SUT 100 threatened to deliver typical early Fall German weather.  Uncharacteristically, the weather broke early on Friday and evolved into near perfect running conditions – cool, sunny and no rain.  Beyond the extremely wet and muddy course conditions were exceptional for the twenty-three starters.  Dirk Joos set a course record completing the 100 plus miles in 21:53.  Inge van Bergen, the only female finisher completed her run in 27:31.

The 100+mile event is organized and directed by Andreas Loeffler in the small German village of Dettenhausen.  Andreas initiates the event the Friday evening prior to the start with a relaxed race briefing and pasta party which occurs in the restaurant of the Dettenhausen sport center.  The SUT 100 is a “By Invitation Only” event which ensures a small starter field.  Friday evening provides both an opportunity to get an idea of the course, but also provides runners a chance to meet and socialize with the other runners.  The 2014 “By Invitation Only” starter field is what I’d term an eclectic group.  The runners field included local matadors, someone from China that lives in Norway, a German from Stuttgart that lives in Paris, a Dutchman and woman, Austrians that live in the US, and Americans that live in Germany.

Much like the evening prior the 2014 SUT 100 started with little fanfare and was what many would consider very “chill”.  We twenty-three were all at the sport center well before the start.  Shortly prior to 0800 Andreas gathered us together adjacent to the football field, shared a few last minute details and with little fanfare said, “Go!”

The SUT 100 course is a point-to-point route which loops around much of the perimeter of the Schoenbuch Nature Park.  The race is limited by a thirty hour time limit with a number of cut offs sprinkled at various VPs.  The SUT course features (I’m guessing) about seventy five miles of very single track trail.  Tim Scott characterized the course as “very runnable”.  I have somewhat different opinion as my recollections indicate that the trail offered difficult footing because of rocks, roots, deadfall, abrupt climbs and descents, standing water and mud.  Of the approximately 4064m of elevation change much of the climbing occurs over the last third of the course – Yes!  Although the course was very well marked I would not run the SUT 100 without a GPS.  There were portions of the course where the markings had been removed or it was simply so dark in the forest that you could not navigate to the next point without a GPS.  Seven aid stations (VPs) support the event with pacers authorized after VP 5.  For a 100+mile course the distribution and number of VPs provides an additional challenge for runners forcing you to ensure that you have enough to eat and drink between approximate twenty kilometers between VPs.  Support at each VP was exceptional as each provided wonderful volunteers that catered to your every wish and a cornucopia of beverages and food.

Jin Cao and Dirk Joos led early with very solid times into the first VP.  They would dominate the race throughout the next twenty-plus hours.  Over the course of the event we lost eight runners to various issues and at various distances. Thankfully there were no serious injuries or accidents.  Tim Scott and I approached the 2014 SUT 100 very conservatively as our various VP gates demonstrate.  I had a great time running with him, Tom, Johannes and the various others that we joined or that joined us over the course of this long distance adventure.  As I’ve said before, an ultra of this character is a singularly personal experience and endeavor; it is always great to work through the inevitable challenges with someone else.  I think that Tim and I compliment one another in our approach and I hope to tackle another adventure with him in the not too distant future.

Highpoints of my race included a number of different locations and experiences.  Jürgen Baumann and his wife who hosted VPs 1 and 6 are simply fantastic.  Jürgen is himself a very accomplished ultra-runner and knows how to cater to your each and every need.  Roman Schaictal and VP 7.  Roman – I was a little mentally “checked out” by the time I got to your VP.  Thanks for sharing the laughs!  I’ve been running in the Schoenbuch for going on six years, but had no idea that there was so much excellent single track to explore and run.  My compliments to Andreas on his course – simply exceptional!  My thanks and compliments to the Schoenbuch Braumanufaktur.  I generally do not like their beer.  However, they brew an excellent alcohol free Hefeweissen that I got to enjoy at each VP.

Low points…  Na – None for me.  As Tim said, “the SUT offers a very runnable course”.  OK…  There were a few, but not as many as I feared as I toed the start line on Saturday morning.  The night, a sliver of a moon when it finally came up, the arch of your reality becomes only the light which your dying headlamp casts at your feet.  Fortunately, my low hit an hour or so before the sun came up on Sunday morning.  While in this low I consciously and deliberately monitored my food and beverage intake and focused on casting out any negative thoughts.  I really worked to see negativity as clouds that would drift in.  I made a focused effort to mentally watch them blow away.  For me, events of this character come down to mental and motivational fortitude.  No kidding, yes, it is going to physically suck, but the mind and your spirit can accomplish much more than you appreciate sitting there reading this or while out on the trail.  Embrace the darkness and demand that it is your own.

The SUT 100 is an exceptional trail running event!  There were no shortages or failures associated with the organization.  Race volunteers are a wonderful group of people – my thanks to each and everyone of you that supported our running of the SUT 100.  (I’m still looking for the address of the farmer from Nufringen that provided the potatoes. Simply wonderful!)  Count me in for the 2016 SUT 100!