I was not supposed to run LTBCN 16 actually. Back to November 15 when I was planning my race calendar, I was considering running my first 100K there, the UTBCN 16. However, earlier this year, my friend Julien registered for the 70K and so I downgraded the distance. Fortunately! I think it was a wise decision.
My preparation was as it is when you work 46H a week and keep on having a social life. Being sick during the 15 days before the race, when I felt really strong about my training got me worried. A lot. How could I only dream about running a good time at LTBCN 16 while not training for two weeks? My flatmate got to hear about it during the last days before my departure.
“You won’t run on time. That goal is over. Remember: always set different goals for your race” I kept telling myself.
It was a difficult and long process for my mind to accept lowering my expectations. I am really stubborn you know. But in the end, I wanted to enjoy the race as much as I could, and I want to run as long as my body can take me. Don’t understand me wrong. To me, enjoying a race means different things, like competing or just sharing the course with friends.
Finishing the race strong and smiling, and enjoying the surrounding of nature and like-minded people all along would be my A-Goal when I’d toe the starting line that Saturday for the LTBCN 16.
ERES QUINTA MUJER
After some gears check, some jokes and talking we were off on the trails with my partner in crime, Alexandre. If you’ve read my last race report, you defo know him! I met him at my last ultra and ran with him almost the whole race!
We were having some fun, despite the rain. We had a good pace, holding it together, trying to not get rushed by adrenaline and the people around. You know how it goes, chatting about life, catching up or already planning the next races of the year. Oh man, are we really running 70K today?
We reached the first aid station. An older man looked at me, smiling and said “eres quinta mujer!!!” Or something like that. “What?” “You are 5th female,” said Alexandre.
7KM in the race, and it clicked. Yeah.
The second I heard that, my mind just clicked.
Competing mode turned on.
Every ultra-runner would tell you what a stupid idea to have the mind clicking in at that time of the race! I mean, you still have 63KM to go…
And then, one, two, three females passed me.
The game was on.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
I half-joked around telling Alexandre I needed to keep the pace. What are you expecting? You haven’t trained properly for the last two weeks, and you want to run for a time? A position? Alexandre was awesome. He dragged, i.e. paced me when he felt I was falling behind. We lost each other before 16K because he had an emergency stop. I didn’t wait for him at the aid station because I saw all these women coming in. Two came in and out, and I could see myself dropping positions. Stupid, isn’t it? I think it was funny. It was another kind of a challenge; with the other women but also with my inner self. I know I can run on time on a flat marathon, but during an ultra? Meet your boundaries my dear. And then push further.
Alexandre did catch me again at KM20.
I was so glad to see him. We changed clothes on the top of a climb at KM25 I think. The sun finally came out. And I finally got my poles fixed to my bag and never took them out again.
The expected downhill around KM30 was brutal because felt half of it was on bitumen. See, LTBCN 16 course was a mix of large paths, rocky technical single tracks and…bitumen. And the two latest are legs-breaking. Well, wait, the rocks are also feet-toenails-breaking as I would discover later on.
But we had lots of fun, trying to push the pace and increase the distance between us and the other women. This downhill, near the beach, was a total blast, with a perfect view.
We came into the aid station, KM35 in the race. I felt strong except some slight pain at my right knee, back from KM20. Yes, Mrs. Pain was back.
“How many women are before me?”
“I don’t know, women from the other distances also passed, I am sorry.”
“It’s ok. Thanks so much, you guys are awesome”
Alexandre and I took some time to refill our water and drink. And then six women came into the aid station, and I panicked. Where the hell are they coming from?! Thought we had put enough distance between us.
“Alexandre, are you ready to go?”
“No, but you go, GO! I’ll catch you again, don’t worry”
And I was out. Nobody passes you again darling. Not today.
MOVING UP & DOWN
At this point of the race, you climb from the beach back to the amazing landscape of the Garraf Park, to descent again and climb to the next aid station at KM47. I felt good. Surprisingly I could move fast in the climbs and kept thinking that this was the results of my training in Elbsansteingebirge.
I had only one idea in my head. Catch on the woman with the red short who passed me at the first aid station, back to KM7. I was passing men, I had the feeling I got stronger with any step. I was SO high.
When I arrived at KM47 the volunteers were hilarious, taking pictures of me and telling so sweet words. You rocked it, girls! Thanks so much again!
LTBCN 16 course allow you to have a 3 min massage with a view at this aid station. But my mind was elsewhere. When I entered the aid station I saw HER!
“Quetal?” she said to me smiling.
“Super good, and what about you?”
“Me too.” And she kept smiling.
One minute later she was out of the aid station, and I was refilling my water. I grabbed some slice of white bread – Oh yes THE best to cause stomach pain – because I was literally starving; and I was out. The game was on. Keep her in sight. You can get to her. But not now. First, you need to keep moving and prepare for the climb. A sneaky climb was about to come, some KM before the 60K mark.
At that point of the race, the sun started to overheat us. My eyes were so wide open.
THE BATTLE OF THE MIND
Run when you can run, walk when you have to, but keep moving forward.
My thoughts were louder than my music at that point. I kept pushing myself to run.
When it seems flat or slightly hilly, run. In the downhill, run. Rest during the climbs.
You’re in a tunnel, worrying about the “others” behind you. You haven’t look back for the last 17K. Look she’s there, right in front of you. Just keep her in sight.
Is it there we have to keep hydrated? The sun is brutal. It’s hot. I am hungry. Why are you pushing Oriane? Is he still smiling… I hope so… Can’t we stop? Just a minute. Sit on this rock? WAIT, was THAT a snake??? You want to go to the toilets since the start; don’t you think it’s time now? Already 52K into the race, hellooo? Well, maybe your kidneys are shutting down? Your water is almost empty! There you go, first big mistake. Is he done yet? No that would be insane. You’re not learning. Are you going to get passed by all the other women because you did not take more time at the last aid station? Are you going to fail? Like, again? Dry out? Keep moving. What were you thinking pushing so hard? No woman is passing you again today. You’re strong, you can do this! I know it hurts. Just embrace her. Like the other time. You can do this. Wondering how he is doing right now. Keep it going, keep on running.
I was just broken. Probably just the hardest time I’ve ever had in a race, that’s kinda point in the race where your body is so fatigue and […] like you just you’re kind of an animal out there. I was planning on dropping. And then as I progressed… I got stronger. – Timothy Olson
DON’T YOU EVER LOOK BACK
She was there again! After a quick stop to see if the kidneys were still working, I had lost her. And now she was walking the climb. We were starting the ascent.
She said something in Spanish; I told her I don’t understand.
“Quetal?” I asked.
Not so good. Me neither.
“Do you know when the next aid station is?”
Shit. 6KM to go and my water was almost completely empty. The sun was brutal. But…
I don’t know what happened there. The moment she told me she wasn’t feeling good anymore, my mind clicked a little bit more across the fog. And I started walking faster.
Run when you can run, walk when you have to, but move faster.
I left her behind. At this point of the race, since the marathon mark, I was thinking in 5 to 10K sections, celebrating every step. 50K, 55K, 60K… I couldn’t help it. I was smiling.
I almost lost my mind. And myself. Here again a big thanks to the guys who helped me out. When you get into the flow, sometimes you don’t see the marks anymore. I catch myself thinking “Am I still on the right road? Are you sure you’re still on track? What if you missed a turn?” But it couldn’t be; the options did not exist. We were climbing or descending. Straight. There you realize how the mind tricks you and you start being crazy a little bit.
ACCEPT THE DOWNHILL
And these some steep, some more rocky aggressive downhills…
I wish I had a GoPro. The fast descents on rocky single trails are impressive. You feel your mind sharpening, you are focused. I felt in another state during each single rocky downhill I ran. It’s so weird to explain. It’s like I would be out of my body. Talking to myself, and projecting on the trails.
You see the rocks, you know it’s dangerous, thinking that, if you fall you could open up your head, or break your neck. You trust your feet, you start running, enjoying this rush of adrenaline. It’s all mechanical. You play with the trail, with the rocks; the bush on the sides scratches your legs; you don’t feel it. You just feel the ground moving with your feet, your body, the air and the sun beating you down; it’s beautiful, you are here, with nature and, you, little being of her, you try to be one with the trail. You try to reconnect with her. A smooth rocky descent as we love them.
THE LAST AID STATION
Big eyes open. When running becomes mechanical… One foot after the other. Bowing out for the welcoming committee – you guys were awesome. I tried to give them a smile, I can’t remember if that worked out. I hope. 66KM in. My watch died 2K before, so I had no plan anymore. I filled up my water. I felt like possessed my this rush. Took some fruit jelly, and left. In and out.
I kept thinking they’re just right behind me, they’re getting closer, don’t stop. The pain will go away anyway. So I rushed out.
Too late. The harm has been done. My legs are not moving anymore. They’re too heavy. It’s so painful. If I keep walking they’ll catch me. – I couldn’t get into running anymore. I could picture it: getting passed on the last KM. My legs were cramping. This was the end of my adventure at LTBCN 16. See, we told you said that little sneaky voice. Try to run. A little bit. You go, girl, a little jog, you can do this. See the man there? Come on, it’s 500m. Catch him! Go! I finally reached him and started walking again. He said something in Spanish.
“Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish”. I felt so sorry. We both were in pain I guess, and I truly wanted to share. That’s why we are here actually. To share the moments, the joy and the pain. Because we get through the same states alone all together.
“How many KM do we have till the finish line” I tried to ask.
Run when you can run, walk only if the course doesn’t allow any running.
So I started running.
And didn’t stopped again.
I don’t even know how it looked like. Everything was cramping.
2KM OF SPRINT
I could feel the end, swallowing some tears down.
If you start crying, you can’t breath anymore. STAY FOCUS!
I was running. Fast for my state.
Everything was working together.
Even Mrs. Pain was trying to keep it quiet.
We are out the woods. I can clearly see some bitumen.
And a woman!
Is it a woman?
Well, she could be running the UTBCN 16, so it doesn’t matter if you pass her or not.
You don’t know that! Maybe she’s also running LTBCN 16, so PASS HER!
Don’t look back, keep on pushing.
I need a break. Spanish guys talking. To me?
“Oh so sorry, no Spanish”
“Oh, ok. Well, GO GO GO! You have 2KM, GOOOO!!!”
I felt this rush, as always when I am close to a finish. All of the sudden you find this energy somewhere, it works. Everything simply works.
It’s like this high kicking in for the last time, in an overwhelming wave of happiness.
Out on the street. These lovely volunteers showing me a way already marked.
Do I look so foggy?
Another aid station.
“GO, GO, GO, straight and then on your right!!”
“Do you need to scan my BIB?”
No doubt I must look like a crazy one, with my eyes wide open and a totally foggy mind. The road. These people smiling at me. Telling me that it’s great what I’m doing [at least that’s my guess].
I am overwhelmed. Right. Left.
I love everyone right now. Can’t stop the smiling. Oh, I know this street. That’s right after the start!! People are applauding. They look at me with such kindness and so smiley. I give them the love and the smile back.
Do you remember in January? Your DNF?
Do you remember one of your secret dreams? The one that seemed so out of reach?
All this way these last months? Year? With all the struggle and the happy moments?
A wave of shivers crossed my entire body. Cold and warm at the same time, I swallowed the tears down again. And I jumped. Smiling. And then I cried.
Time: 10:31:01 H
Distance: 70K, +3000 m
It’s not only about that one event. It’s about the preparation, the fears that come along. About the people and the love. The talks and the advice, the support. If today someone asked me to describe one moment of true happiness and accomplishment, I would recall these last minutes before finishing the LTBCN 16.
Thanks for an very great organization, lovely volunteers, and a great course!
LTBCN 16 you got me deep too!
I will come back!
And a BIG thank to you for your joy and smile <3