Little did I know that after leaving Ontario in late October I would start on a new path toward insanity. The first such crazy idea was of course running those 100k in Vancouver. And it went well, despite many doubts, especially from the side of my mother :-) * I have to say that I only informed my parents the day after the race, with the medal in my hand and still walking around without any orthopedic aid. However, my mom was so shocked that she didn't talk to me for about a week and had daily consultations with my orthopaedist.
Once in Europe, I continued training for something, not knowing what would come next. In one of my reports to the OUSer list (Ontario Ultra group, which has organized a Virtual Canada race - you need to send them your mileage every forthnight which will eventually bring you from the Maritimes to Vancouver) I said that I would love to do something crazy on New Year's Eve, like running a midnight marathon. The response arrived some 5 minutes later from Christian, a runner in Hamburg, who is also the second president of the 100MC Germany, suggesting I run the Winter series.
100 MC is a club which consists of people who have run more than 100 marathons or ultras in their lives (all need to be documented). In Germany, there are several hundred athletes who have done this. Christian is one of the more active people in this club, if not the most active one at all. In 2001, he alone finished almost 100 marathons and has so far come way beyond the number 500 in his 15 years of running. Being very keen on running at all times, he had the idea to arrange a special Winter Marathon series: 12 marathons in 12 days, ran on two tracks in northwestern suburb of Hamburg. He sent me the info via email and I thought it was a great idea. I immediately signed up for the last 6 of the series and two weeks later I was in Hamburg, ready to run.
Those of you who have heard my stories probably know that my mother must have been hurting more just thinking about me running for 6 days than I did after the last marathon. I came, saw and was surprised, since Christian 'ordered' the real winter. He wanted to make me feel like in Canada, with gusts of winds freezing your lower jaw, some minor snow storms, heavy rains and blizzards which eventually brought along some hail... There were 7 people running all 12 marathons, 5 of them actually finished them all as well.
As to the total number, there were over 50 runners from 7 different countries (actually 7 1/2, since I started for a CDN team - Peterborough Roadrunners - under s Slovene flag :-) who ran at least one race. And there was a trophy to be won for the first 3 places in male and female category: you only needed to finish 5 races for this one.
For each additional start, the runner was given extra 5 minutes substracted from the average time ran. Which meant that by running 6 races, somebody could actually make 25 minutes in terms of total time ran.
Anyway, the first day of my races (also the 7th day of the series) was actually a good one. Only that I figured that one out at the very end, after we had had all the misery coming from the sky that you can possibly think of. How do you run a series? And especially, what happens to that 'down time' after the end of each race, which basically doesn't exist, since you have to start again the next morning? After finishing the first one in 4hrs 22mins I thought I might have started too fast. I was quite astonished to see myself walking up and down the stairs as if nothing had happened (which brought back those painful memories of the '30k around the bay', when I was limping for almost a week).
Nothing, except that I had a stomach flu which really 'emptied' my stomach for the rest of the day. Thus came day No. 2. It was pouring and I was hungry. After running for about 6 laps (with another 16 to go) I started feeling weak, not knowing if this was due to 4 inches of slush and water on the roads which made my feet perfectly cold and frozen, or because I haven't had anything decent to eat in about 36 hours. Anyway, once that heavy rain changed into hail, I decided I had had enough fun. Let the rest enjoy the track... I dropped out after lap 11 and had a nice shower and then an ever better lunch.
Surprisingly enough, only 2 out of 17 runners gave up that day. Those guys sure have iron will!!! Or was it just because they were so keen on trophies? Or because they didn't want to waste the entry fee???
Day three was gorgeous, lovely sunshine and cold as ice. Literally, because we also ran on ice most of the time, this time doing some 16 laps around a pond and galloway cows. I had the worst time in the series. After 4 hrs 26mins I though I had enough. Not only for the day but for good. I simply couldn't see the fun of it anymore, noticing that I was getting slower. After the obligatory shower (at least something that warmed us up in that long week) I remember talking to Jobst, a guy who won all but one race he started. He brought me back mentally, asking this one very important question: WHAT WILL YOU DO IF YOU DON'T RUN TOMORROW? WATCH TV?
Well, I did not come all the way to Hamburg to do that, after all you can only watch TV for so long... I therefore decided to have a go at it again 'tomorrow.' In the worst case I could always drop out and go home.
But I lasted. It was again slightly cold, some snow falling down. I nevertheless finished with a PB till then, 4hrs 17mins. As they say, the show must go on. And for me it just began. After this third one in the bag I was back on track, fighting for the trophy. But I still had two marathons to go, with other competitors only having one more. After this third consecutive victory in ladies' category it was much easier to concentrate on the last two. I had to finish.
What made things even more difficult was the fact that my host (and the organizer) Christain had those trophies displayed on the table in the living room. Looking at them was therefore the first thing in the morning and the last thing before going to bed at night. Can you see the temptation? I WAS HURTING!!!!
But I could still walk. And it only got worse after that, because this is when the competition started, as I was trying to make a good time while the others were out to get those bonuses. It was a tight one, I finished the fourth one with the actual PB in the series, 4 hrs 14 mins, which brought me slightly ahead of my closest competitor. However, she had by then already had her 5 races counting toward the trophy and I still had one to go. You've all ran a marathon and know how much can happen during those 42 km. And it almost did.
The final race was done around the pond again. Another 16 laps, I could feel that tension in the left thigh already at the begining. Then in lap No. 4 a pain started in my shin. I could only hope that my legs would let me finish the race. Cornelia was running toward her bonus minutes in with a quick calculation I sort of figured out I needed to run a sub 4.30 time, or even faster, if she makes it in 4.20.
My good friend Willy said in the 17th century ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. And it fortunately ended well for me as well. Another 4.20 on my list and I finished 1st female, limping back home because of shin splints...
But the trophy was mine. And, what's even better: my mom has no objections anymore. She has given up on me :-)
And for those galloway cows? They are probably still waiting for those stupid runners to come back and run around them again!