I still can’t believe I did it. And even more so, I can’t believe I just woke up this morning, walked around, wrapped up the tent an drove home without a problem. But that’s how it is. Tony and I successfully finished the Ardennes Megatrail!
Let’s not waste too many words to the events before the actual start. We drive to Hautes-Rivières on Friday evening, set up the tent, eat something, collect our numbers and have our gear checked and finally call it a day around 23h. Alarm clock at 03h (oh boy), breakfast, badging in number, race briefing and just a bit past 05, it’s business time! There’s already quite a bit of sunlight and as for the rest of the race, we hardly need our headlamp. A small loop with the first hill, a few hundred meters of asphalt and then into the woods.
Even though we’d had quite a lot of rain on the way over here, the soil seems dry and so is the weather. Perfect conditions! The sky gets brighter, but dense mist clouds the vision, which gives the woods an eerie, mysterious feeling. It’s lovely. I’m enjoying this. The legs start waking up as well and I’m feeling good. Eat some, drink some, run some, climb some. Climb some more… and more… Things are heating up more by our own bodies than by the sun, and we get rid of jackets & headlamps. Before we know, we reach the first supply post.
We push on, easy going, saving some for what comes. I’m feeling strong and we catch up on runners non-stop. I can’t refrain from trying out the legs on some hills & seeking the thrills of a full-speed descent. Even though the road is heavy, I’m having tons of fun. Second post at 26k. This is where our road and the one of the 54k runners separate. We exchange the Semois river for the Meuse river, which we’ll follow for the next part of the race. Things are a bit more lonely from here onwards, but I’m in good company, so I don’t mind. In fact, there’s more space and it’s easier to stay in our own pace. Third post at 40k. Still feeling solid, but slightly scared for the big climb called “Côte de Madagascar.” 400m long, 200m+. 50% Avg. incline. Ropes on the side, but I choose the middle “path” and manage to find a good rhythm. It seems like I’m at the top in no time. Need a minute or two to let my heart-rate drop, and then Tony arrives. I give him some time to recover as well and we’re off. Biggest obstacle of the day conquered!
This place is so beautiful and I’m taking my time to take pictures every now and then. I feel great and am able to catch up with Tony without digging too deep. Some pain in my knee every now and then, but nothing to worry about and nothing that doesn’t go away 5 minutes later. 54k, Stop number 5 and over halfway now. It started raining, but my skins long-sleeve is so tight it doesn’t feel wet or heavy at all. I love this shirt! The trail is getting slippier though, so we have to mind our steps. We move away from the river and cross “the plateau.” Not flat at all, despite the name. But that was to be expected in a 93k / 4800m+ race, so we push on.
68k, supply post 5. The rain has become so heavy we decide to put our jackets on again. I’m feeling cold and want to run or climb as fast as possible, but Tony is having a hard time. We still try to run a bit and arrive at the next climb, which heats me up. Again, loving my gear: my shirt dries up and my incredible Montane jacket is keeping me dry while letting through the sweat. Best buy ever!
Next post is only 6k away and we manage without problems. Now it’s up to the 86k point. No way back now. Through the woods again. Spooky at times, with the mist dropping again (or were we rising?) and a cemetery for children killed near the end of WWII. Tony is having a hard time now, falling low on energy and hence concentration. The slippery descents become serious obstacles now and running becomes hard. Unexpected, I still feel really focused and solid, so I push Tony to run as much as possible.
And then we arrive at the 86k supply post. 15h50 and counting. A quick estimation tells us we can make it before sunset, and with some slippery descents ahead, we don’t linger and carry on. We climb and climb. And then climb some more. “Save the best for last,” they must have thought. Or maybe I’m getting tired anyway? Whatever, almost there! A ladder. Seriously? Whatever, almost there! And then the descent. Slippery as they come of course. We tread carefully. Almost there. And then we see lights in the distance. The finish line. “Come on, the final sprint!” I say. “You go! catch them,” Tony answers, referring to the 3 guys who are about 100m in front of us. I sprint. My legs feel like new. I catch up with them in an instant, probably because nobody’s sprinting anymore, except for the occasional idiot. I’m happy to be that idiot and make the people at the finish line smile. Across the line! 17 hours 15 minutes. And 3UTMB points in the pocket!
A shower, a night of sleep and a 300k ride later, I’m at home in the sofa. My feet, which looked really bad yesterday evening, are actually quite all right. Well, compared to their usual appearance that is. The muscles feel good as well (although Ididjustloseaaaa 100m race against my 4 year nephew 😉 ) and I’m seriously considering a short recovery run tomorrow. And then on to that other summer goal: CCC at the end of august. And since yesterday, quite confident I can actually pull it off!