What do a barkeeper and an IT manager have in common?

No this is not the start of a bad joke, it’s the conclusion of a weekend of trailrunning in the Dutch national park Veluwezoom.

Last year my very first trail event I participated in was a 25 km trailrun during the 2015 edition of the Veluwezoomtrail together with Astrid. By pure coincedence we had booked a hotel night after the run in the same hotel in which there was a pasta party for the runners of the 2 day run over 3 stages.

And so as trail runner newbies we joined the pasta party and ended up joining a few of the runners that were running a total of 58 km or 90 km over the two days. In fact we ended up at the table with the runners that were at the top of the rankings after the first two stages.

For some reason the stories appealed to me and the thought of running the full event remained in my head. So when the registration for the 2016 edition opened up I immediately signed up for the 2 day event, 93 km of trailrunning in total.

2016-06-17 19.55.08And so it happened that on Friday June 17, with a bag full of trailrunning gear, Astrid and I travelled to Dieren, the start location of all the stages of the Veluwezoomtrail.

The program consisted of a 11 km run on Saturday morning at 10:00, a 25 km run on Saturday afternoon at 13:30 and to save the best for last a 57 km run on Sunday morning at 9:30.

To prevent travelling between the different days of the trailrun event we booked a small but nice cabin at the start / finish location where we checked in on Friday evening.

After a simple but nice dinner in the restaurant I prepared my running gear for the next day and then it was time to get a good night sleep to be well rested for the day ahead.

Saturday 18th of June 10:00
The first distance of the weekend was a relatively short trailrun of 11 kilometers starting at 10:00 AM. The great thing about the trailrunning community is that it is a relatively small but very social community and when you visit a few trailrun events you often meet familiar people and so on Saturday morning before the start it was nice to see some familiar faces.

While the area with sponsor stands slowly start filling up with trailrunners preparing for the first distance of the weekend. 5 minutes before the start everybody moves into the starting area, countdown and off we go.

105827_finishtotaal_vt16_dsc_6924I resist the temptation to go all out and settle in at a pace that would bring me to the finish line within 1 hour without harming my performance in the rest of the weekend. Since the distance is that short I am running without a race vest or drink bottle, a new experience for me on the trails since I normally run longer distances in which I carry my own food and water.

Towards the end of the 11 km I start passing people, partly because I increased the pace a bit and probably partly because others have started too fast and are paying the price in the end of the run. Approaching the finish line my watch tells me the distance is actually 11.8 km. I cross the finish line in 59:11 in 15th position, a good start to the weekend.

The great part of staying at the start / finish venue is that I could take the luxury of having a shower, changing into clean running gear and relax a bit before the start of the second stage.

Saturday 18th of June 13:30
The start of the second stage got delayed for a bit because there were too many people still in line to get their race bib. It still surprises me how easy going this community is and that nobody seems to worry that much about situations like these, everybody just stays relaxed and waits until a few minutes before the actual start before they move in the starting area.

And so 10 minutes later than planned there it is, the start signal for the 25 km stage. 25 km is not a distance that normally worries me, but since I still have another 57 km ahead of me the other day I try to run at a conservative pace.

And this is I guess the most difficult part of this distance, the course is fun and challenging and I feel fit and strong and would love to go all out, but I restrain myself and slow down a bit. After 2 hours and 2 minutes I reach the finish line and day 1 is completed, at least the running part is.

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2016-06-18 17.16.49After the finish I notice that my Salomon Slab shoes have torn for quite a bit. And so after roughly 470 km these shoes have had their last run. I already planned up front to wear the heavy cushioned Altra Olympus shoes for the 57 km so no need to worry.

In the evening we enjoyed a nice pasta party at the event location with the other trailrunners. After a few plates of food and nice conversations with one of the other runners it was time to go to bed to get enough rest for the last stage.

Sunday 19th of June
And so on Sunday morning I wake up early to prepare myself for the last stage, the 57 km ultra distance. Most people already think that this is daunting let alone when you have already covered over 36 km the day before.

When I wake up and walk around I feel a slight stinging pain in my left hamstring. While going for a short 2km warmup run it does not seem to be a big problem so I decide that I am ready for it.

The 57 km start is at 9:30 and distances like this still cause a bit of an anxiety with me but at soon as the race has started that disapears instantly.

The first part of the 57 km proceeds quite well for me and I am able to run a steady pace of just below 6:00 / km. Within 3,5 hours I arrive at the second aid station at kilometer 35 on the course. I stop for a moment to refill my drinking flask and hydration blatter in my race vest, grab a few pieces of food and continue for the next 15 km to the next aid station.

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But then just one or two kilometers after the second aid station I start to break down. And for the first time during a race I find myself thinking about quiting. I check my GPS watch and see that it is just 4.5 km in a direct line to the finish location. Shall I just walk towards the finish and stop?

I pause for a moment resting on a fence on the side of the trail. Another runner passes by and asks me if I am ok. “Yes, just tired, but ok, thanks.” is my response while he runs of into the distance.

Should I quit? There is physically nothing wrong and I should be able to make it to the finish line. And at that finish line I will see Astrid waiting there for me and of course there will be an ice cold Erdinger beer and the finisher t-shirt rewarded to people who complete all 3 stages. But at the moment all I want to do is stop.

I look into the direction my watch points tells me is the shortest way to the start / finish location. I take a deep breath and walk the other way, following the trail course of the race. I am not quitting now, I want to finish!

I take another energy gel and then I make the best decision I could have made at this point, I grab my headset, plug it into my phone, open up my running playlist and off I go. 38 km done 12 to go to the next aid station.

For the very first time I am listening to music while trailrunning. Normally I just enjoy the silence around me, but today I need this. The music provides a boost in motivation and off I go while the kilometers pass and the Wombats shout into my ears “Just give me a try!”.

A bit later I reach one of the nicest parts of the trail, the Posbank, a hill just before the last aid station at 50 kilometers. To the volunteers it must have been quite an interesting sight to see me pass. By this time I was singing along with the music while jumping from side to side on the trail, smiling and having a great time.

Once again the mental challenge has proven to be bigger than the physical challenge. The music saved me and gave me the boost to continue.

I turn off the music when I reach the last aid station and refill my water supply again. While doing this I start talking with one of the other runners that is also at the aid station. His name is Martijn and he asks me if I am getting ready to continue and if he can join me. I am happy to have some company after so many lonely kilometers on the trail and so we head out together.

Running across the trail on the Posbank there is a person waiting at the top of the hill, it is Martijn’s girlfriend so he stops for a moment, I decide to continue and wave them goodbye. A bit further down the trail with just 5 km to go I grab a bit of food from my race vest and start untangling the wires of my headset to put on some music again. Just as I am ready to turn on the sounds and give it my all for those last 5 km I hear a voice behind me “Hey, here I am again”. It’s Martijn again, his stop was very brief and he has cought up with me again. And so we continue together.

While running we have a nice chat about how we got into running and what we do in our daily life, and that’s how I got to know that Martijn is a barkeeper. And so now I know at least one barkeeper that can run an ultra trail.

We stick together for these last 5 km. I might have been able to go a bit quicker if I would have finished this last part at my own pace but I really enjoyed our run together and did not care about the few minutes I might have finished faster otherwise.

In the last few hundred meters Martijn had to take a short pause and told me to go on, he would meet me at the finish line. I wave and run off to the finish. The finish area is the same for all distances and so I am running this section for the third time in the weekend. After the last small hill I can see the finish line and with a big smile on my face I cross the line and run into the arms of Astrid.

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I grab a cold Erdinger beer and while taking the first sip Martijn is crossing the finish line just behind me. We congratulate and thank eachother. So that’s what a barkeeper and an IT manager have in common, they both finished the 57 km Veluwezoomtrail.

I pick up the finisher t-shirt, my reward for a total of 93 kilometers of trailrunning this weekend. What an amazing experience.

finishershirt

We walk back to the litle cabin that we rented over the weekend and I sit down on the wooden bench in front of it. While unpacking my race vest I applaud for the runners that pass by on their way to the finish line.

I take a nice long shower and together with Astrid I drive home.

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