The reason I joined this race in the first place was a test to see how much my body could handle...well...It can handle 250km but not 3 sleepless nights in combination with hypothermia, which was a rather strange experience. I was very sure I saw people in front of me but as I came closer...nobody there, that dog...wasn't a dog, OH, another runner over there let's join him...what the f#@k...is this whole thing even real?
We all gathered at Moulin de bock adventure centre in Houffalize from where we would be transported to the starting point at the Achouffe brewery. A lot of familiar faces ofcourse in there as the ultra (trail) community in here is not that big.
After gear check, medical check up and a short briefing we went off at 18:00 sharp for our 250km long challenge.
Soon after that we (Dirk, Benny and I) were leading and running at a good pace. But a few kilometers further we took a wrong turn and by the time we were back on track we found ourselfs at the "back of the pack" . Now we had to go even faster in order to make it back to the front. A short time after I couldn't keep up with them and stayed with another group of runners, mostly dutch. After cp1 (67km) most of the 50 runners were quiet spread out already, some even gave up here already. I was on my own most of the remaining time from here on.
I had a long and lonely race ahead of me.
The fact that I still had to work the day of the start also took it's toll.
My aim was to finish somewhere on sunday afternoon so I decided not to rest/sleep for 2 nights but take enough time to eat and rehydrate on the way. The latter one worked well! never any cramps or tired legs. as for the food...after a while my body didn't want any more of those powerbars, gels, biscuits...good thing we were given a warm meal at every checkpoint.
Where was I...well let's say Ninglispo...that's where it all went from bad to worse...somehow I managed to get stuck in there for about an hour or more, at least long enough for the race organisers to start worrying and call to check on me but soon after that I found my way out of there. But about an hour later I got lost again. At this point I realised time was getting critical here! I was getting very sleepy and was getting hypothermia symtones.
Arriving at cp4, the last one before the finish, at 19:00 they said I had to leave the cp at 19:40 latest and they added an extra cut off time in between. Then I knew it was gonna end here for me! I couldn't go on without at least an hour of sleep and getting my body temerature up a bit. I tried and slept for 20 min. but it wasn't enough although Marek and Hans were there to go with me so at least I wasn't on my own. I just had to stop here! I guess without that extra cut off time there was still enough time (8-9 hours) left to make it after some sleep.
So what did I learned from this:
-My body is capable of running 250km or even more.
-My body can't handle 3 sleepless nights.
-My body can't deal with the cold.
-I should not work on the day of the start of such a race, neiter the day after.
-It's better to run with someone else rather than on my own.
-My legs recovered remarkably fast after the race.
OH...I nearly forgot...A BIG 'thank you' to he race directors, Volunteers, dokters...and everyone involved for their kindness. You all made this a unique experience for us, ultrarunners. You all made us feel like home, like one big family, not just a number! I'm sure that this will make a lot of us decide to come back to one of your future events.