Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Maintal – Ultratrail (MTUT) 2016

The third annual running of the Maintal–Ultratrail knocked it out of the park!  24 September arrived with fog and low, but ideal temperatures, for an end of summer ultratrail event among the vineyards and trails of the Main River Valley.  As Saturday unfolded weather conditions simply could not have been better with warm temperatures and lots of sunshine; ideal conditions for a phenomenal 65KM trail race through the Franconian Wine Country.
The course of the MTUT is a tasty mix of single track trail, farm, forest and vineyard paths.  No, there are no mountains in Franconia, but the MTUT’s 1690 meters (5544 feet) of elevation change are something to relish.  The course offers cracking single track downhill and some long pulls up that if you hit them just right the sun and elevation will work you over like a demanding mother-in-law.  The MTUT is no day at the spa friends!
I’m not certain how many runners actually started the 2016 MTUT.  There were however, eighty-five finishers.  The finishers were split between twenty women and sixty-five men.  Of the women, Silke Kiel took first place with a finish in 7:31:19.  Among the men, Patrick Gensel took first place in 5:57:54.  It was refreshing to see this turn out of female runners!

I was fortunate enough to tag along with two friends over much of the MTUT.  Saturday morning I joined Andreas and Harald who had camped the night prior in Veitshoechheim.  We started and finished the day laughing.  Harald traditionally starts each of his races as the last place starter and works his way back up through the running field.  The thought of this brings the Talking Heads song “Psycho Killer” to mind.  What a mind trip for both Harald and the runners he passes.  Andreas and I started together with me serving as a boat anchor for him throughout.  Yep, he’s much faster than I and other than my good looks and being such a good conversationalist I’m not certain why he hung with me throughout the day.

Of course Harald caught up with us just shy of the last Aid Station!  “Psycho Killer” is playing in my head again!  We continued our odyssey together for the rest of the race coming in thirty-third.
 (Always mindful of the time!!!!)

At the finish line we were each greeted with an ice cold alcohol free Hefeweissen.  Wow!  That hit the spot!  As you might imagine the spot was rather deep and we spent the next couple of hours relaxing on the green behind the finish line drinking Weissen, eating grapes and cake and enjoying the afternoon.        

The MTUT Race Headquarters, start and finish are all located at the Veitshoechheim Sport Club.  The facilities are simple, but very adequate with plenty (this is important) of toilets and lots of grass to hang out on and drink beer after the race.

I’ve heard that the MTUT may shift its run date from September to mid-July.  For what it’s worth, my vote is to leave the MTUT at the second to last Saturday in September.  The weather is generally wonderful during this time of year, grapes are in harvest and there are very few other events of this magnitude during this timeframe.  A shift to July brings the threat of much higher temperatures as well as, surprisingly, more chances of rain.

Big thanks to Thomas Gumpert (RD) and his entire team for such a challenging, yet rewarding event.  The volunteers and supporters were exceptional throughout the event.  You all put on a sensational race.  I look forward to enjoying the MTUT again.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

STUNT 100 2016 – Sibbesser 100 Mile Race

“So close no matter how far.  Couldn’t be much more from the heart.  Forever trust in who we are.  And, nothing else matters…”

I am likely breaking a rule by publishing this blog post.  At the same time I think that you will find that this report provides a view to a wonderful little trail race that goes in late summer in northern Germany.

The STUNT 100 is a non-commercial, invitational, 100 mile trail race that courses through the Leinebergland region of northern Germany.  It is likely one of the friendliest, most accommodating, yet challenging 100 mile events I’ve participated in.  I’m thrilled to report that my perspective this past Sunday morning at 0430 was a little skewed when I settled with myself that I would “never” attempt the STUNT 100 again.  As I’ve had an opportunity to recover and savor finishing; my thinking has become much clearer.  Count me in!  I’ll be back for more of this great little BIG event.

Before I get too far down the road with this STUNT 100 report I have to back up a month or two where I last left you here.  As you may recall I attempted the WiBoLT in late May.  During that attempt I really jacked my left calf and knee up.  This injury derailed my summer race plans forcing me to focus on recovery and healing while not starting the Zugspitz Ultratrail in June and the ThueringenULTRA in July.  I still am not certain what to attribute this calf and knee injury to.  I did a number of weeks of physical therapy and have adopted a stretching and rolling regime that have helped eliminate much of the inflammation and pain I experienced.

While attempting to avoid a chronic injury I slowly reintegrated a training plan into my routine.  I was not at all confident that this plan could help me achieve my summer goals or get me through the STUNT 100.  My STUNT 100 training plan culminated with a marathon the final two weekends prior to the event.  I was unable to train beyond the marathon distance because of work obligations and a desire to avoid dramatically injuring my calf. 

So…  With some trepidation I watched the days wind down prior to the 3 September start of the STUNT 100.  I made reservations for a room at Gasthof Jörns in Diekholzen and organized my kit for the race.

I took the day off on Friday 2 September to make my way to Sibbesse to get settled in.  I checked into Gasthof Jörns after arriving in the area.  While checking in it appeared that I was the only guest at the hotel (Think Bates Motel!) and actually asked if that was the case.  The very friendly and helpful receptionist insisted that I was not, but that they had just finished a two week holiday period where the hotel was closed.  It was creppy all the same with no other apparent guests around that evening.  Just as an aside...  I recommend Gasthof Jörns and will stay there again for my next STUNT attempt.  It is simple, very clean, offers fantasitc service, affords good parking and is just down the road from Sibbesse.  Although I certainly camp at other race venues it is hard to beat Gasthof Jörns for the price, cleanliness, hot shower and comfortable bed, before and after the STUNT 100.

After settling at Gasthof Jörns I headed over to the Sportsplatz in Sibbesse to get checked into the race, meet and chat with other runners, take part in the race briefing and have dinner.  The first indication of what a great affair the STUNT 100 is happened when I arrived.  Elke, one of the race assistances immediately introduced herself, gave me a pre-printed nametag and asked me to verify my registration information on a spreadsheet.  She also offered me coffee and cake.  It does’nt get much better than that!  This level of personal, familiar care would characterize the entire STUNT 100 weekend.  After a bit of initial socializing with the race support team and other runners, Race Director Hansi-Kohler, asked everyone to join him within the Sportplatz Club House for the race briefing and pasta diner.  Hansi delivered on his promise and kept the briefing to the absolute essential with a repeated focus that the race course was entirely unmarked and that runners must be prepared to navigate on their own.  Hansi’s selection of music for the briefing video, “Nothing Else Matters“ by Metallica was sensational and set the tone for the entire event...

“So close, no matter how far.  Couldn’t be much more from the heart.  Forever trust in who we are.  And, nothing else matters…”

The STUNT 100 course is defined by four different out and back loops or legs with the Sportsplatz in Sibbesse acting as the race hub.  Despite short sections of farm roads or farm field paths the STUNT 100 is largely a trail run.  Most elements are on single track trail or minimally maintained forest paths that course up and down steep creek valleys, over rolling hills and among fields and meadows.  Each leg looks something like this:

Loop 1 – “Trailrunners Paradise”, 48.4KM, 1377HM.  Fantastic trails; deep in the forest.
Loop 2 – “Mogul Slope”, 54KM, 1609HM.  Now things get serious…  You miss the trails.  Shitty elevation change!  Shitty dirt roads!  Shitty Sunshine!  Everything is Shit!
Loop 3 – “Külf Crossing”, 37.8KM, 853HM.  A dream or a nightmare!?! A lot of trails and unmaintained paths that take you through briar and nettle patches and roots that reach up and grab you in the darkness.
Loop 4 – “Time to Chill”, 20.6KM, 538HM.  Relax, take it easy along forest paths with a lovely view of the valley.  Can we be done!?! 

Running with Metallica through the STUNT 100…

Loop 1, “So close, no matter how far.”  We started this loop Saturday morning at 0800 in the counterclockwise direction.  This leg has a twist at about kilometer 19 that you run an additional clockwise loop around the Tosmarberg.  I got lost going into this and coming back out.  Yeah!  Nonetheless.  Loop 1 is an early warm up or test of your navigation skills.  We started this loop as a group of 13 with real definition of how the race field was going to flow happening at the Tosmarberg crossing.  After running around the Tosmarberg I got lost with two others, Dennis and Henner.  We “oriented” our way back on course and remained together throughout the remainder of the STUNT.

Loop 2, “Couldn’t be much more from the heart.”  There are a lot fewer single track trails here, but on the sunny side (no pun intended) so much more elevation change.  Do you remember the Brothers Grimm and their story of Snow White?  “The Seven Dwarfs that live out beyond the Seven Mountains”?  You do!  Well…  Loop 2 plays out before, across and then behind those Seven Mountains!

Loop 3, “Forever trust in who we are.”  So while we’re playing with the Brothers Grimm Loop 3 took us back out among the Seven Mountains, back out along single track trails and deep into the night.  For me Loop 3 was the test and the test has an evil name and face, “Külf”. 

The Külf consists primarily of a ten kilometer long ridge line that includes seven main summits, lying in a triangle formed by the settlements of Gronau, Alfeld and Duingen.  Progress along the Külf varies depending on the season.  Unlike the trails of the better known ridges and hills of the Seven Mountains those of the Külf are less frequently used.  This was obvious as Dennis, Henner and I worked our way through.  The trails were overgrown and plagued with shoulder high nettles, briars and clinging seed pods that we named “Arschlöcher” as they would grab ahold of you and if broken off would leave irritating thorns in your legs, waist and arms.  For the uninitiated Arschlöcher grow on an Arschlochbaum.  Not seen one?  I can send you a picture…

Loop 4, “And nothing else matters.”  Dennis, Henner and I arrived back in Sibbesse at 0850 Sunday morning.  The finale of the STUNT 100 is an out and back stretch that runs along the forest edge, in and out of the forest towards the village of Barfelde.  This final leg included its own navigation challenges in several places where you had to slip through overgrowth to find a short stretch of single track trail to make a leap to the next forest path.  The turn around point for this final leg was located in a garage supported by one race volunteer and some light snacks.  As this leg was an out and back it was great to see people in front of us and behind us as we coursed out and then towards the finish.

Dennis, Henner and I rolled back into Sibbesse finishing in 29:09 on Sunday morning.  We had linked up after getting lost at about kilometer 28 or so and stayed together over the next 132 kilometers.  We shared many laughs, learned a lot about one another and simply, had a kick ass time.  Running the STUNT 100 without them would have been much harder particularly in the deep of the night up on the Külf fighting off the Arschlöcher.   

There is a bit of information about the STUNT 100 out on the race’s web site.  Included, there is a guideline taken from the Wild Oak 100 Mile Trail race in Virginia that really sets the tone of this super race.  The list below provides a broad definition of those that are not invited to participate in the STUNT 100:

1.  If you are even the least bit worried or concerned about getting lost, don’t come.
2.  If you have questions, don’t come.
3.  If you need a crew, don’t come.
4.  If you need toilet paper, don’t come.
5.  If you expect to be pampered in any way shape or form, don’t come.
6.  If you’re a whiner, don’t come.
7.  If you’re a freeloader, don’t come.
8.  If you’re seeking fame and/or fortune, don’t come.
9.  If you’re thinking about writing a report about your experience at the STUNT 100, don’t come.
10.  If you crave abuse, if you yearn for abuse, if you are addicted to abuse in any way shape or form (be it physical, mental, sexual, verbal, mathematical, artistic or whatever) BY ALL MEANS, BE MY GUEST.  (This applies to abusees only.  Abusers are not welcome.  The only abuser allowed is the trail.)

The 2016 STUNT 100 was a phenomenal event!  The trails abused the hell out of us while the organizational and support team were amazingly friendly, supportive; simply fantastic!  I’ll be back to the STUNT 100 to explore, expand friendships and make new ones.  Hansi and Co., thanks for an incredible weekend!

Final results of the 2016 STUNT 100