Race Report: The Schefflenzer 50K Ultra 2012

The Schefflenz is a small tributary of the Jagst River in the North of Baden-Württemberg. It crosses idyllic and hilly meadowed valleys flanked on both sides by forests on its 23.5-kilometer course. This picturesque scene is the site of the Schefflenzer ultra run offering a marathon, 50K and 100K disciplines.

After being disappointed with the premature closing of the 12-Hour Salinenlauf the month before due to a storm, I was looking for a good substitute for my 49th marathon. The Schefflenzer seem to offer everything I could look for in a race, scenery, good organization, hills, and due to my lack of training this year, a very generous cut-off time (16 hours). I first considered running “just” the marathon, but my ultra-blood spoke louder and I signed up for the 50K. I at least managed to maintain some of my sanity and reframed from signing up for the 100K…

It took me roughly an hour to drive the 100 kilometers to Billigheim-Allfeld where the race was held. The Saturday morning races began at 6:00 a.m. with the 100K, and 8:00 a.m. for the marathon and 50K. I reached the sport facilities around 7:00 and collected my starter packet. The event is small, with all together maybe 100 runners, walkers and Nordic-walkers. I picked up a cup of coffee and sat watching the other participants arrive. A couple people I recognized, one ran the same 100 Mile race that I ran back in 2010, I chatted with him for a few minutes before getting ready to run.

The start was uneventful, a short safety briefing, then we were off. My last regular training long run was at the beginning of April, I did run a marathon in April and ran 38 km by the 12-Hour run, but I wisely chose to keep the pace down. I was hoping for a 6 hour finish, but I knew that would be a best case option.

The course started out fairly easy, field paths, forest ways and a continuous series of rolling hills. Mixed in over the race course were some good hill climbs for flavor and many, many beautiful picturesque moments of beauty that left the runner wanting more.

The weather was fairly cooperative, it got fairly warm, reaching 26°C, but the sun mercifully chose to stay behind the clouds keeping conditions relatively bearable, especially in the forested sections. I plugged away running many of the gentler hills during the first 30+ kilometers, walking the steeper climbs, and pausing a bit at the aid stations to tank up. My lack of training began to be felt somewhere around the 32 km (20 mile) point, my speed declined, all the hills seemed to be steep and it took much more determination to keep from just walking.

I passed the marathon mark just under 5 hours, I pretty much figured that my 6 hour finish not going to happen, my legs were already trashed. I settled on plan B, which was to finish under 6:30.

I continued over the beautiful landscape, occasionally passing through or near small town, many filled with lovely old timber-framed houses and well-kept gardens. Several runners passed by during the last hour of my race, I was walking much more than I liked, but my legs were cramping a bit when I ran too long. In any case I kept moving, trying to distract my discomfort with the continuing scenic course. After a short eternity I finally saw the edge of town and doubled my efforts trying to beat the clock, I managed to run in just under 6:30, in 6:28:31, good enough considering my training.

I helped myself to the goodies being offered at the finish, tried to sit a bit, but kept getting leg cramps – the first time in a long time that this was so bad, I guess there is no substitute for quality training. After a while I managed to waddle to the showers, then sat and had a piece of cake and some coffee before heading home.

The course, organization, and warm friendly atmosphere left a very good impression; I definitely will be back again. Next year they are adding a 100 Mile race, hmmm I wonder I will have enough time to train for this over the winter and spring…