2017 in review

Changes, changes

A lot has happened in 2017 for me (well, for the world as well, but that's not the subject here). I moved from the city to a smaller town that has some hills and nature, quit my job and said goodbye to a lot of people. On the other hand, I met a lot of crazy outdoors people, started another job and said hello to a lot of people. I keep trying to find a way of living which is both sustainable and fulfilling. I often think I'd like my life to be more stable, but at each moment of stability, I feel myself drifting towards an uneasiness, there has to be more to life than this? I recognize the feeling a dog must have going around in circles, chasing his own tail before laying down. I'm still trying to combine a "normal" life with being outdoors, having contact with nature and playing on a more or less daily basis (when and why did we become so serious?). Trail-running, fastpacking and micro-adventures seem to give an answer to this, so I'm curious to continue exploring these paths I'm slowly discovering. You might look upon this as an attempted escape from reality. But on the other hand, being out there feels more real than the daily life we are leading, where a high-paid job to buy a big house and a fancy car have a higher priority than experiencing life. As if you have to spend the bigger part of life in a way to provide a smaller part of your life actually living it. There's a huge risk involved in reading Walden. Another thing I learned is that I'd rather be running through the cold and the mud with friends, than running on a tropical island with which I feel little connection by myself. And it is rewarding to feel a connection with your playground. I'm struggling to find the correct words, but it seems more rewarding to travel deep, than to travel wide. And as long as I haven't reached the bottom of the traveling I can do close by, as long as I haven't grown tired of my own extended back-yard, I don't really see much reason to travel far. "Far" is relative of course. I'm happy to stay on our little European peninsula, which has plenty of places left to discover. Like mr. Taiko supposedly said, if you find the answers, you probably haven't done enough searching. There's more digging to be done next year.

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February | TransGranCanaria

In february I went to Gran Canaria to escape the grey Belgian winter and get some vitamine D. I also participated in TransGranCanaria, my first mountain ultra, which proved to be a nice race on a beautiful island. Looking back however, it felt a bit like "consuming" nature, it all lacked a bit of the authentic feeling that draws me to nature. But hanging by the pool before and after the race while having a beer with fellow runners surely was fun.

 

April and June | Wales

Now Wales on the other hand, no lack of authentic outdoorsy feelings there. I don't think I'm ever going to get enough of it, so in April, and again in June, I headed to Snowdonia. In April, I tried fastpacking from Conwy to Barmouth, and in June I participated in the pretty awesome race Vegan 3K. V3K left me with a certain optimism and a feeling of empowerment. I won't be saving the world, but from then on I tried to make a few more conscious choices regarding nutrition.

July | swimming in the Cevennes and running in Switserland

Although combining holidays with Charlotte isn't always the easiest thing to plan, a mix of camping, wild swimming and trailrunning seems to work very well for both of us. So in July, we went camping in the Cevennes, before heading to Switzerland where I would run my first 100k around Grindelwald at the Eiger Trail 101, which was quickly followed by Trail des Fantômes 100k in Belgium.

Fastpacking along GR57

August | experiments in fastpacking

In August I experimented more during a 2-day fastpacking along the GR57 with a weight-saving tarp-poncho combination. I had to crawl into a corner during the nightly downpour, but I did manage to stay more or less dry. Feels like a good 3-season option for the Ardennes. In more exposed areas, the MLD Trailstar proved to be a lightweight, roomy and bombproof shelter.

 
The Great Escape 100 miler

September | The Great Escape

And finally, September arrived. My main goal for 2017 was finishing the Great Escape, which would become my first 100miler (full report here).  In March and August, I spent two weekends on the trail, training, experimenting with fastpacking and getting to know the (perfectly marked) route which follows the beautiful Lee and Eisleck trails. After going the first 100k by myself, Ingo and me teamed up for the final part. Seeing the sun rise, set and rise again is a sense of freedom I hadn't experience yet. I'm equally amazed at the intensity of the bond that's formed between people when sharing the trails. And I can't imagine getting so much out of this with another organisation and volunteers than with Legends Trails. Being welcomed by Frank at a CP in the middle of a forest, sharing the night along Nisramont whilst we were both falling asleep with Ingo or seeing Chloe, Alexia and so many others at the end of the race is something I won't easily forget. To say this organisation and its community is an enrichment in life would be quite the understatement. Like a feathered friend once said, doing what you love is a great filter to meet people you like. 

Talking about "exact words", although it's called a race, I don't really see what we're competing against. Surely not against each other? You should see that merry bunch of crazy people, sharing beers and a good laugh after going knee deep through the mud in the middle of the night. And surely not "against nature", what is sometimes used as advertisement for obstacle races, these words seem to be most remote from what I'm experiencing during an ultra.  Anyway, this is a year review, so we should keep going. I tried to put down my answer on why ultra here if you're interested.

 
November: snow-shoeing micro-adventure in the Vosges

November | Micro-adventure in the Vosges

In November, I went snow-shoeing for the first time in the Vosges, making for a great micro-adventure. I left my desk Friday evening as quickly as I could to drive south, slept in the back of the car and started at Saint-Amarin to go up the Grand Ballon. Camping out in the snow was surprisingly comfortable, and on Sunday I headed back to the car after a small detour. I was home in time to hang my stuff to dry and clean myself up, to be back in the office on Monday morning. 

 
December: Bello Gallico 100 miler

December | Bello Gallico

Upon finishing Bello Gallico (full report here), during which I had the oppurtunity and great luck to spend a lot of time with Chloe, I completed my running plan I started last year with the Polar Bear Trail, which I wrote down (and obviously adjusted and re-adjusted) on my chalkboard. Time to wipe it clean and start anew!

First steps in Legends land, bracing myself for 2018 (while obviously looking forward to it)

On to 2018

One of the trails I will be joining in in 2018 is the notorious Legends Trail, 250k of stumbling and sliding through the mud. Do I need to explain I'm looking forward to it?

There were other races and adventures as well during 2017. I'd like to think I'm tending to go towards less races on which I can put more focus in the future. There also seems to be a risk of over-consuming and just ticking the box after finishing. But I admit I find it difficult to leave something for a later date. I'm still very much feeling like a kid who just entered his first amusement park and wants to try all the attractions, afraid the day is coming to an end and closing time might be near. Taking a look at my schedule for 2018, I might sign up for having a rematch on "doing less" in 2019. But not yet.

Anyway, if you've come this far, I hope you understand that the past year has been special to me, not in the least by the various people I met along the way and shared some of the above, regardless in what form. Thanks for being there, and I hope to see you next time. Wish you all a great 2018.