Legends Don't Cry – Legends Trail Seen From The Dropbag Van


Opublikowane w śr., 15/03/2017 - 12:16

Friday 3 March, 10 pm. I'm driving on a winding Ardenne road. Clint and Nelleke went ahead long ago. They knew I can make it on my own. Haven't even switched the GPS on, got it in my head. The seat of the van gives a higher view. I once drove an even bigger one but that was in my previous life. My only moment of hesitation came when Joop the logistics coordinator asked me if I could drive the Ford Transit with dropbags. I immediately said yes however. Fifteen minutes on or so I was feeling in the right place. Over the next days and nights, which will become one blurred streak, me and the Big Bad Boy will become good friends.

* * * * *

Legends Trail is the one and only unmarked 250-kilometre yomp in the Belgian Ardennes. It has been organised by two local enthusiasts, Stef Schuermans and Tim de Vriendt, since last year. I came to know Stef from climbing in the Balkans and running in Poland, where he spent a few years before returning to his homeland. Last year I was even supposed to run in this carnage, totally against myself. Two months before the start I badly twisted my ankle, as if my body subconsciously chose a minor evil. I came as a volunteer instead. Here is the last year's story.

Now I'm here in the same role. Still not ready to run such a long distance. And don't feel like destroying myself before all the planned starts for this year. Once completed a cold and wet 150 km mudfest which physically drained me for half a year. And this is the same plus an extra hundred.

* * * * *

Checkpoint Redneck

The infamous Barkley Marathons starts with its founder Gary Cantrell lighting a cigarette. Legends Trail was started at Achouffe at 6 pm with both race directors drinking a glass of local beer. Crossing Maboge by l'Ourthe river I see a few racers and flash my headlights to greet them. The fastest ones will reach Checkpoint 1 at Hotton at 63 km before 3 am. We are supposed to open and prepare it about 11 pm. Before that time there is supposed to be some party going on there.

I thought I knew where to go at Hotton but still take a wrong turn and waste some time. Must be tired from driving 1200 km yesterday. Just like last year, on my way I picked other volunteers Chloe and Neil from Dresden. The checkpoint is the same place as before, outside the town centre in a local football club. Nelleke and Clint are waiting for me and the last guests are leaving the party. It was some country and western kind of thing mixed with the American South symbolism. Confederate flags on the ceiling beams must have been here since last year anyway. For Clint, who's familiar with the American culture, they seem at least weird here. He dubs this place Checkpoint Redneck. Maybe the locals plan a secession from Belgium? You never know in today's world...

We unload the van and take the dropbags upstairs. According to the race rules they should be up to 20 kg per racer but some are much heavier. I take two at a time or even three if one is a backpack. Some weight training would come in handy if I spend the whole weekend behind the wheel anyway. Our Belgian friend Theo becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion. This rather small guy got himself a plastic trunk weighing well above 40 kilos. He would probably fit into it himself. Maybe there is his twin inside and they're gonna swap at each of the four checkpoints?

In the meantime the checkpoint crew arrives together with one of the Legendary Safety Teams (LST). Together we rearrange the tables and chairs, preparing the place to welcome the racers. I manage a half hour kip on the floor while the first five arrives: Teun Geurts-Schoenemakers from the Netherlands with four Belgians – Joris Jacobs, Benny Keuppens, Ivo Steyaert and Dirk van Spitaels. Dirk unfortunately decides to bail out. He fell and tumbled at the river bank, stopping one metre from water and pulling a tendon in his thigh. Then he took a few more falls which only made things worse. In order not to completely destroy himself he takes the only reasonable decision.

I know Dirk from the last year's race when he came third overall. At the wee morning hours we talk for a long time about our plans for this year including one Big Race we are both running. Both of us still can't believe we have qualified for it.

The first night witnesses more DNFs. Some already dropped out on their way to CP1. One of the last arriving is Buzz from the US. He comes already at daylight and goes to sleep over his decision outside. After an hour's nap he calls it quits and resolves to support his wife, who is back to complete last year's unfinished business. Buzz is a great guy who never cares much about our piss-taking that he's gonna be wifed by Sarah.

With Clint and other helpful volunteers we have in the meantime loaded all the dropbags into the van. Time to drive them to CP2, which is this time in the village hall at Oneux at 118 km, instead of last year's Comblain-Fairon. A Croatian girl Karmen goes with me. Her boyfriend Alexandre from France is one of the racers with his lucky bib number of 44. I know them both from Velebit Ultra Trail. As in the mysterious words of the Polish national bard Mickiewicz about some hero whose name will be „forty and four”, I concluded that he may become the hero of Legends Trail.


7 Valley Run 100k

Krynica-Zdroj, 8-9 September 2017 / UTMB qualifing race / Prize money - 20k Euro   

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