Sunday, October 30, 2016

Schoenbuch Ultra-Trail

The third running of the Schoenbuch Ultra-Trail (SUT 100) was held 15 – 16 October 2016 in the Schoenbuch National Park.  Unlike previous years the weather held in Germany leading up to and during the 2016 SUT resulting in stunning race conditions.  Daytime temperatures were mild with Saturday evening nice and chilly.  Georg Kunzfeld set a new course record completing the 102 miles in 21:06 while Inge van Bergen came back again in 2016 to win the women’s title in 30:41.

(Photo Courtesy of Liviu) 

The 165 kilometer event is organized and directed by Andreas Loeffler with support from a super team of helpers made up of family members and friends from the small German village of Dettenhausen.  Andreas kicks off the SUT weekend the Friday evening prior to the race at the Sport Center in Dettenhausen with a race briefing and dinner.  More than anything else this pre-race get together is an intimate opportunity to see old friends and to meet new ones. 

The Saturday morning start(s) were relaxed.  Based on several runners requests Andreas organized two starts, one at 0700 and the other at 0800.  Seven runners started at 0700 with the remainder of the twenty-one runners going out at 0800.  Andreas warmed up the 0800 start with a fitting musical introduction through Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills”.

The SUT is an unmarked point-to-point route that loops around much of the Schoenbuch Forest.  The race is objectively 165KM or 102 miles long and must be accomplished within thirty hours.  The course is “objectively” this distance, but can be somewhat longer given your ability to navigate.  Elevation change over this course is approximately 4050 meters or 13.2K feet.  Beyond the distance the Schoenbuch Ultra Trail is challenging as it’s a trail event.  The trail courses through the forest, along refined and unrefined trail, over roots, rocks, abrupt climbs and descents, forest paths and over, through and under dead fall – a lot of dead fall (Andreas)!

As I mentioned, one of the great things about the SUT is that it is not marked.  Runners are afforded the opportunity to use a GPS, map, and compass.  I am relatively familiar with the Schoenbuch and its terrain as well as the course of the SUT, but would not want to run this course without a GPS that facilitates navigation.  Even while using my GPS and the correct GPS track I got misoriented both during the day and at night.  Have a GPS if you plan on running the SUT.

Seven aid stations (VPs) support the event and are generally evenly spread over the course of the SUT.  For a race of this distance the distribution and number of VPs forces runners to prepare and manage their own nutrition and hydration plans.  Support at each of the VPs was exceptional through the volunteers who were simply tremendous and the fare that was offered.  Pacers are authorized after VP 5.  I am not certain if any runners used pacers during the 2016 SUT.  Personally, I’m not a fan of pacing.  Dig deep cupcake, it’s your 100 miler!  

 (Photos Courtesy of Baumann)
Georg Kunzfled, Benedikt Wenzel and Jeremy Paxson broke away from the pack very early in the race with a blistering pace.  They dominated the race throughout the next twenty-plus hours.  Over the course of the event and its distance the running field spread out considerably.  Georg’s winning time was 21:06 and Claudia and Peer finished in 32:53.  Thankfully there was an enchanting harvest moon on 15 October as I spent a good deal of time trekking over the night course alone.

Highpoints of my race included running with a number of friends including Ramin, Jo, Jörg, Martin, Torsten, Tim, Inge, and Fons and meeting/running with Dieter, Ambrogio and Fredrik.  All of the VPs and their associated volunteers were fantastic, but special mention must go to Jürgen, his wife and Tim who hosted VPs 1 and 6.  Jürgen, himself an accomplished ultra-runner, catered to our every need and as always took some amazing photos.  I’ve been running in the Schoenbuch for more than eight years, but had no idea that there was so much new and unexplored single track.  Andreas – your SUT course improvements were phenomenal.  I’ll be back out there to explore them.  Oh – My compliments on the sock idea as a finisher gift.  Tee-shirts are cool, but the Wright Socks kick ass.

By and large I avoided any low points worth mentioning.  Any 100 miler is a test.  There is truth in the saying that “in a 100 mile race the physical is 90% while the mental stuff are the other 90%”.  My low point usually arrives in the early morning hours around 0300 or 0400.  Fortunately I was able to run with Dieter, Ambrogio, Fredrik and Torsten during this phase.  We shared a lot of laughs and kept one another moving forward.  I got to finish with Torsten who was on his way to complete his German Six Pack (six 100 milers in six weeks).  Damn Torsten... 

 (Photo Courtesy of Andy) 
The Schoenbuch Ultra Trail is a fantastic, friendly, challenging trail event.  I can’t think of a single thing I’d suggest changing.  Andreas - I hope you find the energy to host a fourth SUT in 2018!  Thanks again to you and everyone that organized, supported and ran this amazing event.