A week ago (may 29th) I ran one of my favorite ultra runs, the Westerwald 50K run in Rengsdorf, Germany. This race, in the vicinity of Koblenz, offers a beautiful course, including a lot of forested trail. Originally the event started out as a Wanderung (walk), but at some point in time a run option was added. What is particularly nice about the event is that each year the course changes, sometimes making it easier, sometimes harder. This year was in the middle with about 1200 meters of elevation gain/loss.
I ran this race as my first Ultra in 2006, at that time there were only about 50-60 participants that did the 50K run, and several hundred walkers walking 12, 33 or 50K. This year there was 174 runners signed up for the race, and quite probably many more signed up on race day. In any case the parking lot was full when the director gave the pre-race briefing.
In former years my wife accompanied me, and we usually arrived the night before the race and left the day after the race. This year was the seventh year that I ran the event and my wife had no interest in traveling, so I woke up at 4:00 a.m. in order to have enough time to drive to the race before the 8:00 a.m. start.
The weather was cool and mild, the forecast calling for a dry day with a maximum temperature of around 18-20°C, almost perfect for this race. I arrived about an hour early, collected my starter packet and found a cup of coffee. I watched the other people arrive, several I knew from previous years or other races, I chatted with a couple for a while until it was time to go to the starting line.
Like every year the start is very informal, the race director went over any last minute information, then something to the effect of “Okay, you can go now” and we were off. I haven’t trained as much this year, so started off slowly, stopping to walk at the first hill climb, the faster folks were already ahead, so most around me also walked.
After the first few minutes we were already in the forest, the cool fresh air was delightful. The trails were for the most part in good shape, despite the rain we had the day before. I settled into a comfortable pace, I really had no goal for the race than finishing. As my Garmin peeped at 10K I noticed the time of 1:06:00, not bad considering there was 2-3 hill climbs where I walked mixed in.
I continued at this pace for the first 25-30 kilometers, with the exception of around the 21K point where we transcended the steepest part of the course, where we literally climbed step built into the side of the hill to reach the top. This was a real quad-buster, and definitely reminded me that I had not done any hill training this year, I was totally out of breath by the time I reached the top.
Going down the other side was also an adventure, this part of the trail was still slick from the previous days rain, and steep! Even the walkers had to creep down slowly!
I continued to plug along he course, walking the uphills and trying to maintain as steady of a pace as possible on the rest. My lack of training was starting to catch up to me by the 35K point, I really had to fight the urge to walk. Somewhere around this time I took a few minutes to sit down at one of the aid stations, taking in a few extra calories from the food offered, then stretching before leaving. After a while this seemed to revive me somewhat and I could continue on as before, albeit a bit slower.
With around 5K to go I was tired and just wanted to get the race over with. I wasn’t really suffering or hurting, just tired, I had been up since 4 a.m. and it was catching up to me. I tried to concentrate on the scenic trail as I slowly counted down the last miles. I passed dozens of walkers that walked the shorter courses, several made comments similar to “Here comes another one of those crazy runners”…Yes, thank you 🙂
Finally I turned onto the asphalt road that would lead up the hill to the finish line, I was tired, but very satisfied, I finished much better than expected, 6:37:30 about average for this race, and I was poorly trained.
I collected my finisher certificate and showered, then had some hot soup before heading home, a most satisfying way to spend Fathers’ Day in Germany.