Disclaimer: It's hard for me to imagine anyone would be interested in reading about me running in circles. But a couple of people have asked for a report, and I'm thankful for that. I love reading others' race reports, and I might enjoy reading this one in few years' time. There are so many details outside of the pure running race that I could have written about (my training, our crew situation, our team title, ...). For brevity's sake, I will stick to the race itself.
German 100 km Championships, Rheine (NRW), March 10, 2018
It's 6 a.m., we're about 200 runners gathered on an abandoned military air base to run 20 laps of five kilometers each. The sky is dark blue and the air cold and wet. Blue landing lights around the airfield are turned on and the course itself is marked with large green glow sticks. The gun goes. My body is still partly asleep and running in this setting feels a bit surreal. I love ultra starts because everything feels so peaceful. There is no sense of urgency. You just start rolling and let your body find the pace.
After about six kilometers I have made my way up into the lead that I'm sharing with two of the other favorites, Marco and Gerrit. We run together into the dawn, chatting a bit and relaxing until the two others need to stop for a quick toilet break. I continue on my own and settle into my rhythm. Marco quickly catches up, but after another couple of laps together, he falls back again. Gerrit is about a minute back. I need a toilet break around km 38, so Marco overtakes me; I catch up and very slowly pull ahead again. I'm feeling good, the weather is perfect, and my legs just want to move.
We're around halfway. I split 50 km in just under 3:30. My mind is totally at peace; feeling detached, but very confident. The potential troubles that inevitably come up don't concern me. My thighs get warm and start to hurt much earlier than expected, but I'm deep into the race now, and all I can do is continue and trust in my training. What happens, happens.
After 65 km I can really start to feel the effort. By now, I have also taken note of my immediate surroundings: Marco seems to have fallen back or dropped out, but Gerrit keeps the gap pretty close. I don't look around, but just before the end of each lap I can calculate how much time he is behind me on a short out-and-back: 1:00, 1:00, 1:00, 1:20, 1:20, 0:50... Not a very comfortable lead for a race that is going to last for a long time yet.
During both my previous two 100 km races, I had had a high around km 70, got excited and ran a bit too hard, only to crash at km 80 or 85. Weirdly enough, this thought hadn't occurred to me in all my preparation, but it does now, around km 67. I decide to deliberately slow down and run a bit slower from km 70 to 80 to mitigate against a potential blow-up later on. That decision coincides with Gerrit's two fastest laps. All of a sudden I hear his steps behind me, and before I know it, I'm overtaken. I try to run with Gerrit for a few meters, but his pace is way too fast for me at this point (km 73), so I drop back into my own rhythm.
This sudden change of events flips a switch in my brain and now I start to fight. Not against Gerrit, but against the distance, the pain, and the exhaustion. I decide to smile to mask the pain in my thighs. (Fact: My cheek muscles are the only muscles still hurting a week later.) After I get over the initial shock, I begin to realize that Gerrit can't possibly keep running at that pace and I just need to run my own pace, to tick off kilometers in 4:10 to 4:15 minutes, one at a time. I'm certain I can reel him in if I can keep doing that. Much sooner than expected I'm catching up with Gerrit again (km 79) and take the lead. Gerrit sticks with me for a bit, but around km 82 I can feel a gap opening up.
It's incredible how skewed one's perception of a 100 km race is. I would go as far as to say that after around 80 kilometers, half the work is done, but the other (harder) half is still waiting. The final 18 kilometers of this race truly feel as long as the 82 before. I'm constantly trying to find the right balance between pushing to increase my lead and making sure I don't blow up before I cross the finish line. I can smell the victory now, but I'm so afraid of not making it all the way if I go too hard. What makes this phase even harder are the winds that have now appeared. Strong gusts from Southwest are hitting us runners unprotected now, and for about half of each lap, all of us have an extra opponent to fight against or succumb to. I can feel that Gerrit is not close anymore, but I'm hearing I only have a one to two-minute lead. You can lose that much in a single kilometer if your body stops working. I run scared and everything is a blur. My watch is spitting out splits, but the numbers don't tell me anything anymore. I push on and, finally, I cross the finish line. First.
The overwhelming feeling right there is relief. Relief that I actually have converted all the hard training into a good race. But mostly that it's over and I don't have to run anymore. Then come joy and excitement. I'm a national champion. I'll always keep that title. That is pretty cool.
Date: March 10, 2018
Location: Rheine-Bentlage Air Base, North Rine-Westphalia, Germany
Race: 31. German National Championships 100 km
Distance: 100 km (62.1 miles)
Time: 7:01:04 [h:mm:ss] — 4:13 min/km (6:46 min/mi, 14.25 km/h)
Place: 1st overall & German national champion
Crew: LG Nord teammates and friends: Anke (~km 25-70), Pat Rolle (km 70-100)
Shoes: Altra Escalante — amazing, amazing shoes! Roomy, comfortable, and lightweight enough. Thanks, @hmrcracing for sponsoring!
Nutrition: Lots of water, salt, PowerBar gummi bears until km 55, PowerBar & High5 gels the rest of the way.
Photos: Michael Irrgang, Bernd Kalinowski, Die Laufpartner, Thomas Strack