Montane Legends Trail 2019.
The last time I wrote a proper report on a race, it was for the 2017 Legends Trail. My first Legends, my first DNF too. But a revelation for me and my practice of trail running.
So much has happened since that! Stumilak in Poland, Another One Bites the Dust (my first victory!), The Leo 180 finished the 190km version, the 200 dnf, the Bergisher 250, and some others too, some experience, a lot of experience gleaned in two years ...
Last year the Legends trail left me feeling so bitter! I was ready, really ready, but sometimes life has a different plans and this was the case for the full year last year. A difficult year but that hardened me. Finally it can be a strength for the future!
Anyway, how lucky i am, to have crossed the path of Stef and Tim to access this world and family, that is The Legends Family !!! I can safely say that my life has changed since then! And what about the changes since I met my wife Karmen !! I'm definitely not the same and I think I have never felt so well, serene and strong! In short, life! And that brought me here on March 1st, 2019 in Mormont, pour le Montane Legends Trail.
Well, it's been weeks that I think about preparing my back pack and my drop bag. But I'm pretty confident for two reasons: the first being that I've been working for TraKKs since last September, which gives me access to the best material and time to think about it in the right context, the second being that, lately I've been multiplying long solo outings and thus refining each time the knowledge of my own needs (little thing that I share with you besides, after a race or a long trip solo, analyze your bag, what you took in too much or which you missed and learn for next time). The last days are going well, a little stress but much less than usual, a certain serenity and confidence in fact. I have the feeling that I am as ready as much as I can be, so no reason to worry. Besides being so confident, I will make a mistake wich could have cost me the race, but we'll see that later in the adventure!
So the morning arrives, the night has been short as every eve of the race, but enough relaxing. Breakfast, coffee, and hop, Karmen and I did our little ritual before taking the train, a small passage by Starbuck, and direction Aarschot to pich up the Legends mobile ( Stef's car ), and hop direction Mormont. The excitement grows but confidence remains the majority! The road is so much easier than last year, where is the snow? We arrive and the first known faces appear, the reunion, the mutual encouragement, in short a so positive energy !!! This warm atmosphere of the Legends Family is so unic! Unlike last year, I feel so serene! Find a place for the package, collect the bib, the check kit (thanks Marek!), and finally get the tracker, this security to which will be my link to reality for the next 3 days. A medical formality and hop, I find a room or go to change me. And in this room appear one by one my usual companions, Maarten, Marek, Neequaye, Francois, Mark, and here is the atmosphere Legends we are completely inside, it laughs, it speaks material, it is questioning the tactics, the state of form etc ... in short, the T time is approaching slowly. I'm ready in advance, but still calm enough. I take the opportunity to go to see everybody, look the maps a bit, in short I spend time ...
The atmosphere and the pressure goes up slowly but it's cool, it does not look tense at all. Go 1 min before we head slowly to the starting line ... This is where Ania has a strange idea, test a theory: it happens suddenly, asking me 10min before the start, the date of my wedding! I am clueless, I doubt, so much focused on the race! August 4th I think, yes I think August 4th, and there she tells me that I prove this theory that men never remember the date! But what then? She doesn't know. I go to see Karmen. August 4th where am I wrong? No, I'm right! Haha! Ania you did not prove anything ha! But what stress! Go this is the moment of the briefing, always cool in three languages, and so full of serenity, security and values that we all share. A last hug and some kisses to Madame, and here we go!
We leave the village by some paths through the fields, to rush little by little into the forest and down to the banks of the Ourthe. From fairly wide trails, we move quickly to a single track a little technical, which I knew, so I doubled a lot initially not to find myself stuck in a false rhythm directly. I find myself quickly enough alone and find my rhythm. That's it, I feel good in the race, the adventure begins ... Good the edges of the Ourthe are as it's used to be, technical, slippery, roots, stones, some narrow passages, closer a bit more, sometimes less from the river, in short what I adore !! In any case, compared to the previous two years, no snow or ice making the way so much easier! So I focus on my main pace, which is to go too fast when it's too easy, so I find myself cruising with a little red light never too far away to not feel too lonely and keep a medium pace ... I must say that this year the course along the Ourthe was a bit less complex, or maybe I just feel easier and or I just have good legs, in short "a piece of cake"!
And hop at some point we put a little head out of the forest, passing in a field on the road, a photographer on the side, in the middle of the evening, in the middle of nowhere, cool! It's a guy from Belgium Running, well then Legends is becoming more and more popular! I'm happy for Stef and Tim, a little visibility for their events, it's always nice! At the end of this small road, I seem to see someone, without light, strange, then the closer I get closer and more reflective elements are appearing. Oh it's Ingo, he obviously has problems with his headlamp, simple change of batteries, but so early in the race it's not cool! The opportunity to discuss a little and offer him some light! Go, I'll go before he gets back on his way and take a cold. Directly after, the trail disappears more or less and the GPS tells me to turn where there is nothing, another runner in front of me sinks into the bushes, then I see a little river way wich the GPS me seems to follow, so, go hop the opportunity to justify my waterproof socks! Feet in the water and hop to the Ourthe. It's a strong downhill, it slips, it's complicated, but what's funny! We are here for that, huh?
A little further, following the river, the bush guy finally comes out, and ends up with me ... and ... great French! Yann L'Hostis. We know each other by name. We sympathize directly. Same philosophy of running and life, different but varied experiences, and we start talking, laughing. A finisher from the Spine Race is running with me, wow, what an honor! So we find our rhythm and here it is, the French team is launched. First want a little cigarette, and he joins me! We approach La Roche en Ardenne, we are considering a little beer there ... thing said, things done! We arrive at La Roche, Chloe and Mervyn and some others are already there for a hello, top, it's nice! We find a bar, a little La Chouffe, a little cigarette, we give news to our respective Women, a selfie and hop it goes again. And blah blah and the chat continues. Oww, so glad to have met this budy! But my God this Chouffe, we start to wonder if it was a good idea! It weighs on the stomach. Not too bad, it will pass, we have time, huh!
We're doing well, my legs, no fatigue. I'm a little faster, so perfect I push a little and wait for him, we find our little pace. We pass a deal. Since he is more experienced, I tell him that whatever happens I do not give up, even if we find ourselves separated I do not leave without having seen him. But when we talk about that I feel so good that I can not imagine what can make me let quit. All is going well, time passes quickly, the effect Chouffe is leaving slowly ... we approach quietly CP1. Cool that the first 71 kms passed easier than expected! And there, as every time on the CP events Legends, an atmosphere so positive! And as the happiest of men, my wife to welcome me. I feel good. We grab our drop bags, we find a place, close to the stove, perfect to dry everything that needs to be. Coca, a lot of coca, Yann and I really needed it. We were a little smeared after this Chouffe. him more than me, he could not swallow anything. The moment to change the first layers from head to toe. Feet for the moment are fine, as long as it lasts. We decided to stay an hour max in the Cp, we watch the clock ... Yann even use a bit of time for a small power nap. Time flies and the urge to get back on the road is here.
Go daylight appears, cool it will do good! A little dry and we leave. We leave really quietly. I still feel good in the leg. So the yoyo game between Yann and me continue. But it suits me. So happy to share my journey with this guy. Martino and Josef are passing us at a little pace, cool. We arrive together, Yann and I, to Lorce in a quiet little pace, there are Chloe and Mervyn with their camper, the time of a small coffee a little friendly chat, a picture and hop it goes again! And there my legs are feeling so good that I tell to Yann that we meet each other later on the way, latest at the Cp, and let's go, full gas! I catch two runners and the way appears on the track of the OHM trail that I know more than well, there my race is really launched I feel good, why to stop myself? And here I go, I even catch back Jozef and Martino. YES ! Martino, el Maestro! This is the first time that I pass him in a race and not him who passes me when I'm crashing! And here it is me, who pass him! What a good sign for my race and for confidence.
Here I go, I arrive at Aywaille, known land, I quickly stop at the supermarket to take a Red Bull, I feel that I will need it in the night. Last small (irony ...) uphill before the Cp and hop here I am back to my Wife and the family! Good. The hardest is coming after this Cp. So I take my time to heal, eat, load my bag etc ... The feet burned a bit, so it's time to change the setup of the feet. New waterproof socks, rising to the top of the calves as the Fagnes arrive, the NOK, and a bit of drying before all that. Go ! I pick a last coffee and let's go!
Yann is coming just when I'm about to leave. He looks having a hard time. Courage to him! Go ! I push a bit to use the daylight as much as I can. Next goal, the Ninglinspo. The reboot is a little hard, but normal, some down are needed sometimes otherwise it's not funny. I find my little rhythm, find a Belgian runner, Jean Pierre who has small navigation problems with his watch, we share the way together. small passage by the famous pillars of the highway bridge to Remouchamps and La Redoute, I leave Jean Pierre and Niglinspo is approaching and the night falls. Chloe and Mervyn are here too. Little coffee, little coke. They inform me that a small group is right behind me. I decide to wait for them, it will be easier and nicer to be with them. And presto we leave. The Ninglinspo and its famous dry climb, I take control of the group up to little ready. Then the Chefna. We loose two members of the group including Martino. Sad for him. At the top of the Chefna, some volunteers are there, always nice a little human warmth. Here we enter the hard, long flat to the Spa airfield and beyond. We keep a nice walking pace but they are a little fast for me sometimes. So I play yoyo with them. It's starting to be hard. Sleep comes slowly. There is a small shelter in a kind of holidayhouse. Little break, micro nap. And it starts again. It's really hard for me. I tell them to go away even if Jozef seems to insist on waiting for me. I'm still pausing for a power nap. They are spinning. Come on man! Be patient, it will come back! Here I am a little off, but still in the race, this is the most important. The daylight slowly appears. I feel a little better, but the ground roots, stones and swamps! I'm getting sick of it, not just a little bit. I fall a few times ... But what keeps me going is that my body does not stop me. At no moment. Even when I twist my knee and ankle on a good fall with the foot stuck in a root. Go hold on. The Cp is not far. After that, it will be piece of butter huh! Somehow, I arrive but with a motivation at its low est level. At the CP, my goal will be to get back to me. Come on, on my Gps, the Cp is right there, cool. I'm there. Karmen comes to me. She saw how I slowed down. But hey it's like that. I enter the Cp. I planned to sleep a little. Bart is here. Kit check. The lights ok, the red light from behind ok, the bivy ... There my blood is freezing. Fuck. I do not have it. I realize that I have completely made my bag without even looking at the obligatory material. So much the habit. And during the check kit, I laughed more than checking anything with Marek than did things wrongly. And there, the sentence falls. 4H penalty. Damn, it's too much, first reaction : it's ok. I quit. I was already fed up and that in addition? This is too much. Then I see Karmen's eyes and facial expressions, Stef and Tim. I'm touched. Ok leave me two minutes alone. I take a cigarette, I go out. No Karmen, alone. Really, I need it. Okay, come on Alex. You are here to finish. A penalty, ok. You're okay ? Physically yes. Mentally, it could be better, but so much worse too. Concretly, do you have time? Yes it's doable. So why are you acting like a princess?
Come on, after this time decision to go back to race mode. Concretely I have 5:15 in advance on the cutoff. So focusing on the priorities, it will do it. First thing, here there are showers. So go. Then see how to manage my bag, because if I want to sleep during these 4 hours of penalty, I will have to run with my sleeping bag. Luckily it's not so big. Tchic Tchac and everything's back. Next step, just a marathon, easy! The bag is ready. My feet are in top condition, no need for special care. Now just to eat and drink. That's it, it's done. Come on, I leave the drop bag. Karmen, thank you for the help and especially for the efficiency, with all of that, I keep a half hour advance on the cutoff. Well now it will take 4h to spend. I drag a little to discuss aound, then I go to sleep a little, like 1h15 / 30, my combo bivy/sleeping bag is perfect, sleep on a bench in the rain, it's not luxury but it works pretty well. Still have time to spend, speak again, check the maps a little ... time pass slowly but time pass. Then the hour is approaching, it's time to gently prepare. The part to come I know it very well. It will be ok. Come on ! Hop I'm ready to leave, Bart come to give me the top. Karmen is here. She looks confident. As much as me. Cool ! Go go I'm gone! I'm going on my way. The machine is in order. I run. Even rather fast. I'm already on Malmedy. I have already taken two runners, good for mood! It goes fast enough, I quickly arrive in Stavelot, Chloe and Mervyn still there, coffee, coca, one or two french fries, and there I go. I know this part by heart. And I have two runners just in front of me, Geert and Willem. The climb after Stavelot passes quickly and I catch them just before the descent on Coo. In Coo, a little ritual I stop for a coke, the distributor is out of service, so in a bar. Direction Trois Pont everithing goes well, it goes up then it goes down, that's it, I start to feel the D+.
Arriving on Trois Ponts, I consider a small stop, because after that, the night and nothing more available before the CP4. What do I feel ... croustillons? Very good ! Come on 10 croustillons and a Sprite (no more coke, just diet coke, not even dream!). Out of Trois ponts, still volunteers on the roadside, cool, I charge my flask. What do I like about the organization of legends events, hard and so realistic of the needs of the riders at the same time. A good little climb is displayed, I attack, I lose myself in my thoughts a little and hop, first navigation mistake. I turn around and take the wrong path, a kind of path filled with brush and brambles! too late to turn back when I understand my mistake, so I short offroad to get on the right road. I lost time and energy, but it does not matter, I'm good and always on time. Go, I find my rhythm. Quietly I arrive at Cp4. A little lost in mind I must say, but fit anyway. Karmen is here, faithful to the job. I refuel, I change again. I'm still a lost, hard to communicate with Karmen. But I am focused and persuaded to finish, so all is well. Quietly I leave the Cp in the woods. The wind rises, strong, then very strong, I appear in the fields, the rain makes its appearance, looks like Spine's weather !!! The advantage of this kind of conditions is that there is only one thing to do, to stay focused and put one foot in front of the other. I monitor my progress on my GPS and it goes km are passing. Even rather fast. In the middle of nowhere, two lights appear and move towards me. Volunteers ? The safety team? I will be mistaken? And suddenly I find Nico and Peter. They go in the opposite direction. What? Where i am going? To finish. Well, what about you? You too ? But you are wrong guys. Obviously they were wrong in moving backyards. But we are in the third night. Nobody is sure of anything. But personally I do not want to discuss in the cold. So I continue my way and immediately contact Karmen for her to tell to the safety to call them and convince them or call me if it is me who is wrong. And finally, I was right. They are not long in joining me. They are a little faster than me, so I keep my pace. Ingo's tent approaches as well as the arrival. I have time, there is no point in hurrying. I hardly believe that it's there I arrive at the goal and a kind of euphoria takes me and I feel an incredible physical and mental lightness compared to the road alreadu done. So I fight the ski slope of Baraque Fraiture face and there, a friend of Ingo, even comes to meet me, what a luxury!
And that's it, one of my goals of the race is already reached. I joined this legendary tent as a runner (and not DNF or volunteer as in previous years). On site, munchies, fries, coffee, coke and so much! But above all of it, the kindness and helpfulness of this very dear Ingo! Thanks again Amigo! Come on, we have to go for the last part, which I know quite well. The part along the highway and its undergrowth, then one sinks into the forest. I'm starting to get so sleepy and have hallucinations, nothing serious, but every thought that runs through my head is at one time or another materialized in front of my eyes, and it makes me laugh! Totally euphoric. I decide to stop sleeping a bit, I warn Karmen. Tree trunks aligned along the path perfect transat (validated during a VaBoVa made 2 years earlier with Marek). I find a nice position, adjust my bivy and hop a little nap of 20min.
I wake up, feel better, time is going, which means that the daylight is approaching. Cool ! Come on, I'm giving rhythm. I'm going well. In the middle of nowhere, as Achouffe approaches, Dave appears. He comes to me with a cigarette and some coke. He reads in my thoughts! But the rain starts to fall, and not only a little, the real shower! It announces a terrible finish! I do not drag so. And I move on. The sun then appears, the wind continues to be quite violent. And then I arrive at Achouffe. And there the emotion seizes me and I begin to have the wet eyes and the tight heart. Fuck that's it's done, I'm coming! Damn Dady if you could see that! I hope you can from wherever you are now, because I'm thinking about you now ... and these thoughts are turning in circles in my head, mixed with a feeling of satisfaction so deep! It's so much more than just sport, so much more! The last difficulties along the river, and the finish line approaches, I enter Mormont, I arrive at this bus stop that I know so well to have crossed as DNF or during reco, in short, that's it. I'm here, I can see Karmen ... There it is, it's done. Karmen, Stef, Tim and so many people are here for me, what an honor to be here. Emotions are jostling. I do not know what to say or what to do ... But throughout this weekend I have done so much, now that it is time to let it go a little. Stef gives me the long-awaited medal, Tim a pack of Kerel they congratulate me and so many others ... I hug strongly Karmen me. So glad to share this with Her! A moment out of time of which I do not remember little things, but whose emotions will stay in me forever.
Definitely there will be a before and after this. I'm definitely not the same anymore. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you so much to all those who contributed to all this, of course to Karmen especially without whom nothing would be so easy, and Stef and Tim without whom nothing would be so difficult. And now rest, and on the way for the next adventures !!! Rock & Run guys !!!