100 miles! | The Great Escape
I'm pretty sure this has been an experience which will stay close to me the rest of my life. So before I start my report, let's get the most important thing out of the way: a huge thanks to everybody who made this possible. The fellow runners, the volunteers at the CP's, the medics, the RD's, the chefs, the bartenders, the grill-meister, the drivers who jumped in to replace the missing bus driver, people at home cheering me on or I knew where thinking of me, my girlfriend for putting encouraging notes in my drop bags... I also knew at least one person beforehand at each aid-station, which proved an incredible mental boost. So Roland, Martijn, Raymond, Kris, Imran, Alexia, Frank, everyone who I'm forgetting or whose name I didn't know, thank you!
Rookie advice from the pros
A while ago, I read following advice for 100-miler rookies in a blogpost on Sportiva.com "Find a race or route that really inspires and motivates you [...] And likewise, find people to run and train with who also inspire and motivate you. Run with curiosity, humility and passion!” So upon registering for the Great Escape, I felt I made the right choice. Probably not the easiest event possible, it does check al other criteria. An inspiring route which I had fun with discovering in advance amongst a great bunch of people and amazing athletes.
Upon arriving Friday evening, although it is only the second event of LT in which I participate, it already had a strong home-coming feeling. After pitching my tent at the campsite nearby I was just in time to get some pasta at the race HQ, and went to bed early to get a few hours sleep. Actual sleep was limited to half an hour, but at least I got some rest. The plan was to get on the bus at 2am Saturday morning in Maboge to head to Ettelbruck, so after the alarm woke me at 1am we went back to HQ. The bus still hadn't arrived at 3:30 and as the driver even didn't seem to respond, arrangements were made to drive to the start by cars (thx pa Bührs for the ride!).
I ran the first 100k mostly by myself, already passing some great aidstations with delicious food. The checkpoint at Clervaux (77k) included an in and out route of a few k through the city-center to the other side of town, a nice addition to the trail.
I reached Troisvierges (around 90k) right after nightfall. I didn't prepare my own food this time, but at Troisvierges I got a veg wrap anyway from Kris, hooray!
I'm not sure why, but the simple fact of continuing after nightfall feels very liberating, as if the dichotomy day/night disappears, imaginary limits are lifted and you can do whatever you want how long you want. That said, it was a long night, with around 12h darkness. Although we both like running solo, when Ingo caught up with me a few hours later, we stuck together for the rest of the race. If I recall correctly, the roughest part of the night was between 4 and 5, when we were both struggling with our lack of sleep after being almost constantly awake for 48 hours. The headlight in combination with the fog was so tiring on the eyes, like driving a car in the rain, I actually started experimenting with running a few seconds with my eyes closed, to give them at least some rest. Looking back, that might not have been the best idea I've ever had, and a short nap in one of the aidstations might have made more sense.
Around 6:30, the light returned, and after getting the best cup of coffe that has ever been made at aid station 8 (after 144k), both Ingo and me felt alive and kicking again, right in time to start the last 20k. This last stretch doesn't follow the Escapardenne trail anymore but was designed by LT, resulting in the toughest part of the course, with some more technical parts and rarely any flat bits.
Finishing a long race and my first 100 miler is an incredible rewarding feeling, so the RD's made sure we got the full experience by providing the 100 mile participants with two finishes. The last checkpoint is at race HQ, so when arriving there, you get the hugs, cheers, coke and crisps, after which the RD kicks you back out on the trail for a victory loop of 4k. After almost 31 hours Ingo and me arrived back at HQ, right in time for the BBQ.
Writing this now, I almost feel sorry the race was finished so quickly. A truly rich experience amongst friends.
Everything you need to know about this event can be found here.
For more information on Escapardenne, click this link.