On June 1st I participated in the Schefflenzer Ultramarathon, a private invitation race limited to 200 participants. Listed were a 100 km, 50 km, marathon and half-marathon walking, I chose the 50 km discipline. The start was in Billigheim-Allfeld in the Neckar-Odenwald are of Germany (30 km north of Heilbronn).
It was raining as I woke up at 4:30, and continued to rain as I began the normal 70 minute drive to Billigheim. As I switched from Autobahn A5 to A6 the heavens opened up in a drenching downpour, with winds pounding the highway, a car flew by on my left and promptly spun momentarily out of control as he hydroplaned, with luck he was able to regain control and moments later I passed him as he significantly reduced his speed, obviously shaken from his near catastrophe. The 70 minute drive took 30 minutes longer than normal, but at least I arrived safely. I grabbed my umbrella and walked into the sports hall to pick up my start number.
The 50K and marathon start was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., the 100K runners had left two hours earlier. While I waited for the event to begin I sat and drank a cup of coffee and chatted with a couple people I knew. Due to the rain the race director moved our pre-race briefing inside, no sense getting wet until we needed to.
The course is about 3/5 paved field paths and streets, 2/5 dirt forest ways, but with the amount of rain we had the dirt turned into sucking mud and in many cases the asphalt paths turned into flowing streams up to 10 cm deep. In any case the course is very scenic, the most being over rolling fields and forest, with a total of around 1000 meters of elevation gain/loss.
The rain subsided as we left the shelter of the sport hall and began the run, the forest paths were still dripping from the previous downpour, but the first several kilometers remained otherwise dry. However this did not last long, the rain soon returned and remained, finally letting up again later in the afternoon.
The first 20-30 km went by fairly uneventful, the field ways and forests in this part of Germany are extremely beautiful, the area has lots of small towns and farms which offered distraction from the slimy mud on the forest paths and small ponds created on the paved paths through the fields.
My lack of training this year was felt as I passed the 30 km marker, my legs were tired and I was walking more often than I liked, I tried not to let this bother me and continued on the best I could. Somewhere along this part of the course I met “Teddy” that I knew from the 100 Mile race I completed a few years back. He was running the 50 km and later in the day a half-marathon, a little training for a future 100 mile race.
Near the 40 km marker I passed two American soldiers stationed at Ramstein, they had spontaneously decided to run the 50 km race, with no special training other than their normal PT raining in the military. They were struggling, but their youth would carry them through they finished about 40 minutes after I did, in about 7 ½ hours. In any case passing them motivated me to continue, I mean if they can finish without any special training, I can do it with some training. The weather was also slowly improving by this time and I was running on automatic pilot, the kilometers slowly melted away as I headed back towards Billigheim.
After I crossed the finish line I found a bit to eat and drink, then headed off to the showers. The water was still hot, it felt so good washing away the layers of sweat and mud. Feeling half-human again I had a cup of coffee and a piece of cake before heading home.
Last year I was impressed by the excellent care and organization of this race, this year they outdid themselves, the helpers, especially in the remote aid stations, offered excellent service despite extreme weather conditions, and all this with upbeat attitudes and a smile! I can only compliment the organizers and helpers that made this event happen. In any case I highly recommend the event, the course very beautiful and even though hilly, not extreme. The event is also small enough that the organizers and helpers can offer a little more personal touch that large events can never compete with.