#329 Berlin Wall 100 - 100MeilenBerlin - Mauerweglauf 100 - Race Report

Berlin Wall 100, buckle #21 earnt! After having done this last year and managing to produce probably my first reasonable 100 mile effort I was back again to have another go at it, things were slightly different this year though...

1) My legs were pretty much done in from NDW100 last week (I don't recommend my schedule to anyone!)
2) Dodgy ankle (bloody French)
3) 7-10 pounds heavier than I should be (been a bit of a lazy porker)
4) Feet not great (bloody NDW, self inflicted!)

So basically I had a typical Traviss plan, run like the clappers, sub 24:00 or bust, you only get a buckle here for 23:59 or less, time limit is 30 hours but certificates are for LDWA and medals for marathons, I'm in these for buckles.

The route was in the reverse of last year and they've made some distinct improvements, mainly, it's not French and saw no Frenchmen! Seriously Germans I have discovered are quite chipper compared to the bloody French, and I have discovered that "still wasser bitte" works well! So a totally minimalist plan, no drop bags, compulsory kit is a phone, so took that and my bottle for the first half before switching to the more usual kit.

Only had one "discussion" with a bloody bike crew who twice decided to totally block my way on purpose I am sure, they're a hazard, but only got one bump, and as he was blind I gave him that one.

Mainly though was really, really lucky to have Rachel crewing and pacing for me, she kept popping up with cold coke and a bag of goodies till 45 and then joined me again for the last 50k, she easily did 40 miles! Really couldn't have done it without out her!

So head down, marathon in 4 hours, 50 miles in 9:08, rain came hammering down, got wet, 100k in just under 12 hours, rained again, got wet, Rachel found me, made it home in 22:42 for 76th place out of 288 starts according to the computer printout so really am very pleased with my effort levels and results, the last 15 miles or so were dreadful as rained pretty much the whole time, but nothing serious, just wet and plod, plod, plod with trashed legs and trashed feet. Discipline was flawless, has to be with 27 aid stations, 26 times was in and out in seconds, coke, water, nibble something, some folk overtook me a dozen times I am sure! (I confess to sitting down at one about 8k from home as feet so sore, but only for about 30 seconds!)

I only had Plan A, got it done... this year booked a later flight to go to the awards ceremony, now I know the drill!


I'm not 100% sure what this race is actually called I have decided, I've always called it The Berlin Wall 100, and I've noticed other non-German speakers call it that too, however Germans I've met seem to call it "Der Mauerweglauf" whilst the web site refers to the event as 100MeilenBerlin, without any spaces and that's what the website is called, so wonder if that latter one is a convenience to what domain name they could have perhaps! But its all one and the same event, a 100 mile run around the route of the old Berlin Wall, or as close as they can get it, in places you can't physically follow the route any more as developments have grown up over the last couple of decades but a decent chunk of it is bang on the route.

I'd pondered a long time about my long schedule for the summer and it had been a decision between C2C (a new event across the North of England, NDW100 and Berlin Wall 100 (I've decided by the time I've typed this that's the name of it!) in the end I decided on the latter two in that they were the combination likely to produce the most "enjoyment" and best results. Rachel could make the Berlin trip too which was an added incentive as she'd missed out in 2013, so flights were booked, hotel sorted and race entered.

Half of my procrastination about doing NDW100 the weekend before (aside from the fact that's pretty stupid preparation!) was that my right ankle hasn't been terribly happy for a couple of months now and if I had a bad/short effort at NDW100 then I might end up with nothing, so maybe be sensible and drop NDW100, but being stubborn and me I decided that wasn't the way to be doing these things so did NDW, finished, which was about all you could say for that effort and on the Thursday morning at some unearthly hour found myself on a flight to Berlin!

Left a day earlier this time to do a bit of Berlin tourism as really had done nothing in 2013 as was purely an in and out for the race and in 2010 when we were over for the marathon it was just a monsoon the whole time! Can recommend Segway Tours of Berlin! great fun (though not quite as restful on the lower legs as I seem to recall having had a go before!) and on the Friday we visited the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and didn't visit a David Bowie exhibition as tickets were sold out online and didn't fancy the huge queue!

I'd been asked to be an ambassador for the race, much to my surprise, it didn't seem to involve too much aside from a nice shirt and an invitation to a special breakfast which we went along to on the Friday morning. This was really interesting to meet the folk behind the race, the RD, Ronald Musil, is keen to raise the profile of the event and make it more international, they had runners from 24 countries this year out of the 288 entrants (limit is 500 so they're still looking to expand and the course/set up/facilities could easily take this) so expect this role will be expanded in time to come as the event continues to develop.

So pre race there is a compulsory race briefing at the Ramada Hotel in Alexander Platz which is also the "host hotel" - we weren't staying there as booked a Holiday Inn up by the start/finish stadium (which was different from last year), there would be plusses to staying at the hotel as there is a bus to the start from there and they run a shuttle back again too. Half a mile stroll to the start was easy enough, half mile stagger back after the finish seemed a pretty stupid idea on Sunday morning! lol

First up let me caveat the race briefing comments with the warning that I hate race briefings in general when they are a day (or more) in advance of the race! I come in to these things prepared as can be (or I at least hope to be) so I want to be knowing everything I need to be knowing before I event show up. I don't want to be learning anything new, because I already should know it. The only thing that I think should be at a briefing is any last second, not had time to put it on the website or send out in pre race information because it happened two hours ago sort of thing. Last year it had dragged on for the best part of two hours before I walked out (and I wasn't alone!) as it starts at 19:00 for an 0600 start and I have things to prepare, like taping feet and getting sleep!

This year was better, but still goes on for an hour before folk just start leaving and we join them. The problem is that after a while everyone is getting bored, there are 85 conversations going on, nobody seems to be paying 100% attention, folk are on phones, chatting amongst themselves and so on. There are English and Italian speakers offering the odd comments, but you know that 90% of what is being said can't be that relevant as there is a ten minute talk in German and the English summary is 30 seconds. The course marking talk seems to take forever, but to me this should all be available on the website before the event, some of it certainly was, not sure why it needs to be repeated, if folk don't pay attention then they only have themselves to blame. What colour drop bags for what point? Tell me in advance...

What was especially curious is that there was great emphasis placed on several diversions, and aid stations being off the route, nobody is remembering this I suspect and it was so well done on the course I simply wouldn't have known anyway! AS 17 is apparently off the route, but its a few yards, 10 feet? You'd have to be going past with your eyes closed to miss it, especially at night as all lit up and the diversion at Sacow and at the Finish? Absolutely no idea what the route should have been but was not even the slightest hint of anything amiss, was flawlessly marked. Zero issues. If it hadn't been mentioned I wouldn't have known and if anything I was looking out for things that just weren't there! I think they are going to need an "International Briefing" or just make it optional to attend, if you don't speak German its 95% irrelevant, apart from saying hello to a couple of people I'd met earlier I really didn't get anything out of it all all aside from getting to bed a bit later than I'd ideally have liked.


The advantage of not staying at the race hotel and getting the shuttle is that you can control exactly when you get there rather than the 0500 bus service. So we roll up at 0550, bit later than planned for no reason aside from taking a few minutes longer to get there than I thought! 15 seconds to pick up the timing chip thing (this year they had a timing device at each check point) you wear it on your wrist like a "dibber" for those that have used those, aside from you don't need to dib! Just wave your arm near the timer thing (which is on a tripod) and the dibber flashes red. You don't actually need to be THAT close, but I made a point of waving it nearby just to be sure! At every aid station it was very clear where the device was and in some places they had little "chutes" to make sure you went reasonably close to the timing things, added a couple of seconds in places and of course as folk were speaking German a little bit of confusion once or twice, but really not a problem at all, if anything was aid station people trying to be super helpful!

Whilst I'm on the subject of aid station people I just thought I'd mention up front that I thought that overall the aid stations were better this year, both in content and staffing. People seemed more "ultra" wise, more helpful and it just seemed better set up. There was a little bit more variation with the food this year, some had distinctly different things in addition to the "core" staples that every aid station had, that was nice as its a mixed blessing to have almost identical offerings every time, on the one hand you can rely on what is coming up, but when you're feeling sick as anything sometimes something new is brilliant! Also I had my bottle filled up a bunch of times, I think this was both people being helpful and me blending in more. I'm still wearing a Union flag around my neck, but "still wasser bitte" seemed to work real well and "cola bitte" for when there was no coke out (which it was already in 90% of aid stations) and for cheese I gave up trying to explain that I'd just love a slice of it not on the rye bread so I just took a bit off the bread or if it was loose just grabbed it. With the water for some utterly unknown reason to me at European ultras seem to have the idea that you'd love sparkling mineral water as an option, Europeans are weird as I cannot imagine anything worse! So grabbing a random cup of "water" can be a surprise and as I learnt in France filling your bottle(s) with the stuff can be a right disaster if your name is Traviss. They had other fluid offerings too, weird cold tea stuff which again seems to be a European thing, but I've had that once so no need to try that again. Some electrolyte stuff that I didn't try and otherwise the aid stations supplies are good (if you're not vegan!) meat stuff on bread (its German rye bread so I find it a bit dense and hard to chew on later on, on the other hand a mouthful or two gets a decent amount down) cheese on bread, wafer/chocolate biscuit things, they're not quite cookies, but lighter and I like them. Peanuts and a nut/raisin mixture seem to feature a lot, waffle things (dry), fruit (apples/pears/oranges/bananas), thin sort of cake with chocolate bits in, think that's about it. Oh and in the night quite a few of the aid stations had beer too, didn't try it as didn't fancy it by then which was a shame, at 1100 a cold one with 30 miles on the legs would have been brilliant! lol

One thing to bear in mind with 27 aid stations is that your discipline needs to be good. 3, 4 or 5 minutes at each one? You've just lost two hours. I was very pleased with my aid station ritual, water in the bottle if needed (half the time at least one of the helpers would do this), down half a cup of coke or so, grab two or three biscuit things, maybe a bit of cheese, maybe a bit of apple or a couple of grapes when I saw those (not a staple on every one) to eat whilst walking and I was gone in 30 seconds or less. It was quite interesting to observe that the same runners would keep on overtaking me, some I swear ten times!

So anyway, back to the start, unlike some races that tend to have a kit list as long as your arm this one was a "mobile phone" and 0.5L of water, and at night a head light and reflective vest. I'd say though that a huge proportion of runners weren't carrying water, I did because I always do, so that doesn't appear remotely strict (and seriously boys and girls, 27 aid stations in addition to the start and finish) and at night a lot of runners do wear "proper" reflective vests, I actually had one in my pack but didn't put it on as I've got reflective bits all over my gear and nobody said anything, but would of had anyone said, but lots of others did have them on.

My plan was simply to go out for as hard and as long as I could really, so didn't bother with my back pack, just M&Ms in my pocket, phone in a pouch on my race belt and I was good to go! There is no food at the first two aid stations, just fluids, so carried the M&Ms to start getting those calories dripping in early.

I situate myself pretty near the start and at 0600 prompt we're off. There are some quick guys in the house this year and they shoot off but I am in about the right place for the speed I am going at and after about 300m on the track at the start we're off and out on the route. One thing that is curious is that the Germans are very strict on traffic light controls, there is none of this jumping a "red man" if there is no traffic! (and this isn't a race thing, its a German thing, happens everywhere) So what tends to happen is that in the early stages runners get split in to groups, controlled by the traffic lights! Some of these can be frustratingly slow early on, but does stop you getting away too quickly, and overall I bet there are only 30 traffic lights on the whole route but if you get caught by 5 reds in a row then it can be frustrating! It's a DQ thing to skip over through a red too...

So anyway I seem to be in a pack of maybe 15 runners, who are maybe in 10th-25th place kind of area, zipping along at 9:00 pace or so which feels fine. Now this year I had zero expectations of German ultra runners, there just isn't the camaraderie that you find with US or UK ultras, nobody tries to speak with me, there seems to be little chatter especially and we're head down going along. Several folk seem to know one another so its not total silence, but I do find it curious. But I settle in and the first good thing is that whilst the ankle is sore more or less straight away it doesn't get painful at all and just seems to settle in to its usual state these days of being annoying, but not a huge hindrance. I stand at traffic lights eating a bag of M&Ms, the Germans probably think I'm an idiot in my Kent RoadRunner t-shirt (nobody else is wearing anything other than a "serious" Saloman or running club type shirt) eating M&Ms not looking especially bothered about getting stuck at a red man for 30 seconds!

To show you how serious these guys are at one light early on 4 chaps went through a "borderline" red as it was changing. Yes it was red but not like by much, and we're talking an empty junction at 0615 in the morning! But a general shout at them and seriously they then waited for the group to go through the green man and then join the pack again rather than gain any advantage! Never seen anything like it, was odd as on the one hand they seem so serious but on the other appeared bad form to have gained a marginal advantage. (And its not like these guys were running together). Different culture.

Oddly the first few miles seemed the most confusing for navigating, in cities of course there are a billion things going on so marking stand out less well and also there seemed to be some "corner cutting" from a couple of runners who seemed to know the way and the course markings were always bang on junctions. (It seems to be acceptable practice to go 50 yards down a road and cross it, but not at a junction with a red man) so this led to a couple of missed markings as these guys I real quickly discovered didn't know where they were going (I as usual had my trace on, so I knew after a couple of 25 yard detours not to play follow my leader) and to the Germans credit they called back the wayward ones and in one instance (we had a bike follow this pack who I think was filming for a race video) went charging off after one especially errant runner shot off down some road ahead of the pack.

The funniest thing of all places to go "astray" was right in front of the Reichstag! They had the sprinklers on which I suspect was right over the correct line so everyone took a wide berth and the Germans knew that they were supposed to go in front of the famous building but saw no markers. So we're standing around for a moment and my contribution to navigation is to point along in front to a film crew and photographer and who appeared to be more or less on the trace line, I suspect that won't be making it on to the race video!

The first check point was by Checkpoint Charlie, were the route actually went through an "art installation" of 360 degree photo of the Berlin Wall, or something like that, I didn't pay too much attention to be honest and also somewhere around here there was some memorial to a chap who had been killed at the wall and was the anniversary of that so they had roses to place there. There were photos at the briefing but I think it all got lost in translation in to the English bit and I didn't notice where it was, but then that's nothing unusual for me, but things going well and Rachel found me here at our first meeting place, didn't need any more M&Ms just as then and things were going fine so was happy with that. (Rachel actually had my race pack with her and a bag of goodies so I could switch over to "normal mode" if things weren't going well.) Lovely drink of ice cold Coke Zero and off again.

The combination of the first aid station (at 9k the longest distance between aid stations on the whole race, average was about 6k) meant the "pack" broke up here and found myself with a group of four Germans till the next aid station, usual no chatter, and just settled in to things. The second aid station was 16k and from here those with bike crews can have their bike join them and we turned in to a park type route which was the end of the "traffic light heavy" section until the end of the run really as you're kind of leaving Berlin proper now I guess. At least as a non native would think of it and you've passed the famous buildings and bits of Berlin Wall you see on postcards.

Bike crews as I discovered last year basically mule for their runners and do not care less about anyone else. Immediately a bike pulls right across in front of me causing me to have to stop dead and go around them, I glare, they are oblivious as far as I can see. I put my headphones in now (I think they're banned for the first couple of aid stations so that folk are aware of traffic, not that there is much this early, again lost in translation I think as not mentioned at the briefing in English but sure it was in German and seemed to recall it last year being mentioned) so head down and off we go. Weather is nice, not too hot, bit of cloud cover, bit of sunshine, settle in to things and things are going well, knocking out 9:00-9:30 miles, I'm on my own now as lost the Germans. Fairly soon after the first bike "incident" the same bike crew does the same thing again, on a 20 foot wide pavement, wheels straight across in front of me and stops dead perpendicular to my line. 2 feet in front of me, yes, 2 feet. It's either deliberate or these guys are utterly clueless. In this case I am sure it was deliberate as she was looking at me. I have to jam on the brakes again to stop a collision, this time I inform her that if she does that again I may not bother to avoid running in to her. I'll be honest, that was not my exact phrasing. Never saw her again but she got the message and hope she didn't cut up anyone else, you wouldn't mind so much, but we're 30th maybe, 85 miles to go, does 3 seconds matter that much to some folk? Maybe her runner and her were French!

See Rachel at 31k which by coincidence was about the point that Ben Wittenburg and I met up the year before in the previous direction, 2:58 to get to that point, I suspect Ben and I took a shade longer in the night! But a top up of M&Ms, couple of goodies wolfed down, nice drink of the frostie Coke Zero and back into it again. Always feel a bit guilty spending 2 minutes with Rachel when she's spent 2 hours finding me, but the nature of the beast somewhat and things are going exactly to plan. Am ahead of my 2013 splits (which was my benchmark, although running in reverse the route is generally so flat that there is no major terrain worries that affect times so the game was to be ahead of 2013). Went through marathon distance a shade over four hours and bang on time, some 15 minutes ahead of the game, ankle OK, running OK, food OK, fluid OK, electrolytes OK, aid station discipline OK, weather OK. All OK then really!

Now I must have had a good part of the race here in 2013 as over the next few miles I noticed that I was losing the difference but still felt I was going well. 50k was 5:06 which was 9 minutes up and 40 miles was 6:55 so only 4 minutes up. I think really this was purely a weight thing, the same effort levels simply producing slower running. Not much, but over the course of 15-20 miles it shows up more perhaps.

Of the 27 aid stations, three are major ones where you can have drop bags and I didn't bother with those as Rachel was meeting me, just simply a time management thing. Finding a drop bag, sorting it, messing about, takes 5 minutes without trying and you can lose 10 or 15 if you're not getting a move on, or if you're having changes of kit, sorts out and so on. Now on the one hand that can be good, on the other I was all in on sub 24, so no time wasting on new shirts, goodies etc. I was in and out of the first major checkpoint the same as all the others. One of the advantages of running the route in reverse is that you experience different things in the day that were in the night before and things that seemed to take FOREVER at the end just flew past!

For example there is one bit of single track really on the whole course, couple of miles maybe, in fact calling it single track is probably a lie as its double for most of it and wide single in others, but any which way, in the night it seemed a major hazard and tricky to weave along, in the day on fresh legs it was more like "hang on, was that it?" and you're through in 15 minutes kind of thing rather than what seemed like three times as long! And where I fell over? That root infested, poorly maintained, rubbish bit of trail that no normal runner could stand up on let along run? Well obviously they've been along and taken out all the roots and flattened it all down in the last year! lol Seriously, what on earth did I fall over last year? Was absolutely fine high quality bike path... mmm.

Whilst we're talking about that again I'll just do a summary of the route. Most of it is on very high quality surface, tarmac roads, pavements and bike paths, it's hard to gauge exactly. Lets guess at 50% on tarmac, 25% on very high quality bike paths, gravel, that kind of thing, 10% on cobble stone roads/paths (which there is a fair amount late in the game this way around I felt, or maybe it was the state of my feet as found them very painful late on in, I was glad I was in Hokas!) and 15% on trail, which even with a fair bit of rain was in excellent condition, there were the odd little bits of mud but nothing that couldn't be easily avoided and most of the mud was sort of decaying leaves in woods at the bottom of a tiny slope type mud, had it been totally try wouldn't even have noticed it. It's a quick surface, the winner did it in just over 13 hours!

I'd also noticed in this stretch where in 2013 there were a couple of navigational worries, this year none. I felt that the markings of which there are several types, where more common, better placed and generally just better done than the year before (and that was very good), to the point where the trace I felt was virtually unnecessary 99% of the time (I just always like to have it) and the 1% of the time it was human error on the runners account (I called back a couple of runners who must have simply missed markings as to me they seemed obvious) and in another couple of cases other runners kind of looked a tad perplexed and and I'd say links/rechts and off we went, but even in those cases I think it was just 100% "reassurance" rather than confusion. When the rain came a few arrows took a fading when they had been done on dirt but were always still obvious to me (and we're talking maybe five out of a thousand). I'd be confident that almost anybody who wasn't an idiot could navigate this course easily. Yes you do need to pay attention, but its as fool proof as it can be to the point I don't really know how they could do a much better job than they do.

1) The main markings are arrows on the road/path (or on trees in places I noticed), in paint so vandal and pretty much weather proof. You'd see this in straight (i.e. you're going the right way, keep on doing it!), turn coming and then turn. All very clear, lots of them.

2) Little orange stickers with arrows on. There are pretty small, 2" x 1" kind of size, so not always obvious, often placed on things like signs, railings, these seemed to me to be almost "reassurance" stickers as at around eye level for those who run heads up, whereas I run heads down so the floor ones are perfect for me (Incidentally Ben and I commented on how few "Berlin Wall Bike Path" signs there were as much of the route is designated as such. Learnt that they are all 3.8m high! (The height of the wall) I generally am not looking that high up, but when you are looking for them, there are far more than I thought! (So that's another navigational help anyway!))

3) Tape tied to trees etc. In a few places they're not allowed to mark the floor or put up stickers so they have the usual ultra style barrier tape tied to things. There were only a mile or two marked like this though exclusively and I noticed it pop up in a few other places but just as an additional marking.

4) Little blue reflective arrows, that are placed about two feet up. Whilst real hard to spot in daylight these things are brilliant at night catching the head torch beams a mile off. Basically anything that folk might come to in the night is marked with these as well which are very clear, if anything its almost easier to navigate in the dark with these. Tricky in the city more as much more light around, but in woods etc these stand out really well.

And back to the report!

Met Rachel again at mile 43 or so for the swap over and walked a way with her sorting stuff out going from "running as quickly as possible" set up to "ultra" set up. She did look quite funny as had been shopping, suspect the only person in Desigual with an ultra back pack on, like wise the only person who looked like an ultra runner with a Desigual bag (And a couple of others!) was bang on schedule still, in fact just those few minutes ahead still and now the game starts for real. Fun run is done!

In retrospect this is where the buckle was earnt, and I suspect for most runners, this stretch dictates how well they do, if the way is lost or the effort is expended. It's the 30/40/50 mile "hold" section of the ultra. The main running is done, you've gone basically as far as you can go 100% running at high effort levels, now the running is running at lower hold levels, walking breaks creep in more and more, especially on any kind of incline, aid station discipline begins to slide a tiny bit and so on.

So said goodbye to Rachel for 30 miles or so as she was going back to the hotel to have a rest, sleep and change. The day was warming up a bit by now, but the forecast wasn't great, earlier in the week it had been forecast to basically rain from 2pm to 8pm, thunder storms etc but the latest forecast was more just showers for a few hours. And they arrived right on cue really.

Ultras for me tend to have two or three splits. The game for me is get to 50 miles as quick as I can, then get in as many miles more as possible before the lights go out. I was aiming for 50 miles in 9 hours as my goal. In 2013 I'd done it in 9:16 and this time around 9:08. The usual rule of thumb is that you should expect a 30% slowdown for the second half of a 100, I've found I'm worse at that. So usual logic would dictate a 10/13 hour split for someone looking for a 23 hours finish for example, whereas I tend to aim for a 9/14 type split and just accept that being more worn out and miserable in the night gets me a sub 24 than the more traditional thinking. The problem is that when I've done a 10 hour first 50, I still end up doing a 14 or 15 hour second 50, so might just as well get on with it! I've never really been one to follow accepted wisdom...

So things are going well, and the rain comes. And its quickly very heavy rain too, I notice a few other runners stopping to change and put on jackets as I go past them and I decided that I couldn't be bothered, it wasn't cold and looking from where the wind is coming from its brighter, so figure it will pass, so I get wet. If it had been colder I'd have stopped too, but I was getting wet from rain or sweat anyway so didn't make much difference. That lasted maybe half an hour before it brightened up a bit and then it came down again at about 1630 not quite so heavily, but steady for about an hour maybe about the time of the second major aid station at Sacow, last year I'd had a sit down, a drop bag, change of gear, here I was in and out in 30 seconds, bet I made up 20 places as seemed to be a fair few runners having a bit of a sit down maybe waiting out the rain a little bit. I noticed in fact that this next bit was the longest distance between aid stations for the race proper, 7.63k, so really they are close together.

Now I'm feeling pretty worn out, in the 50s and 60s and I know that I've gone out too hard, it was the plan, my legs are tired, but really not suffering the total deadness I've had sometimes when doing back to back long runs, or even the dead legs at mile 17 syndrome I've had when doing a marathon the weekend after a 100. I'm still feeling good, no nausea to speak of, or what little I have I can live with (I am convinced the constant drip, drip, drip of calories helps no end) my main worries actually are my feet. They're just sore, not so much blister sore at all, just bashed sore, from NDW100. Normally on a flat 100 you're not going to get bashed feet syndrome from hills, but mine were killing me, big toes especially (I'm going to be losing both big toe nails thank you NDW100!) and its just plain painful. Ankle was OK, I'd popped a couple more vitamin i by now (took 8 in total in the run, 2 before the start, 2 about mile 40 something for the ankle, 2 more about 75 for just general pain and another couple about 95 when everything hurts)

My plan had simply been to push as hard as I could till I met Rachel about mile 69/110k, and push I did and was really pleased with my effort levels. One voice is saying come on Trav lets go go go and the other one is saying, come on you've got time now, walk, walk, walk, I bet that chair looks comfy, stand and graze, oh look at that, bet that is interesting to stop at and take a look, why not stop and take a photograph? The battle is within, the phone doesn't come out, there are no photos, there is no sitting down, I know how quickly time can leak. If you're not worried about time then I could slacken off here, I'm likely going to finish now, but I'm on course for 21:xx, slacken off as I have done at say Yellowstone 100 and 24:20 is very achievable from this kind of position. I've done it, so there is no slacking off. The miles aren't quick, but they're in the 12/13 range, not the 14/15 range, running is still very much involved at reasonable speeds, its not much fun, the feet are sore, but we're here to get it done. Get to Rachel, get in to the night and you're done.

As luck would have it I met Rachel exactly as she arrived to meet me! (We had "find a friend" on the iPhones just in case) but that worked out perfectly. So she didn't have to wait or play catch up with me. We'd planned on meeting at 1900-2000, and I think was about 19:24 and my push had paid dividends time wise as had regained a bit of time on my 2013 pace. (It wasn't exact as with the course reversal the major aid stations were in different points and where I fell over where the major slow downs in 2013)

I think in retrospect I made a bit of a mistake here as I mentally just slowed down, headphones went away, music was off and with the mental slow down came a running slow down. The running dropped off and the pace slowed off. Just looking at the splits they went from 8:57-9:04/k in the couple of sections before meeting Rachel and then immediately dropped to over 10:00/k and before long to 11:00k, we're not talking much, but the running just declined a bit, then more and the walking increased. A minute a k isn't much but for 50k that's nearly an hour, 2 minutes a k is over an hour and a half difference.

On the flip side though the marching was always at forced pace, the company was brilliant and what we lost in running pace we gained at aid stations or getting stuff out or ruck sacks type things. Having someone grab something out a pack is far, far quicker than stopping, taking it off, putting it on etc...

Was mile 78 I think it was when we finally had to stick on the head torches in the near pitch dark! I like to hold off as long as possible and the eyes do get adjusted to the gloom, but basically it now meant that basically if I kept moving, then sub 24:00 was just about guaranteed. Switched to the caffinated electrolytes and in fact this was the first 100 I've done where I didn't get the killer sleepies! Managed to finish before they hit so that was brilliant!

I'm pretty hopeless at night at the 100s, I slow down, sometimes really badly, I'm just not good running at night, plus I'm usually about dead on my feet as having gone too hard in the day light! So the nights are for suffering and I didn't want to be getting the "dawn rush" this time, I wanted to be finishing in the dark! So its grind time and the miles drag by, Rachel and I chat, or plod, or plod and comment the aid stations are closer together but take longer to get to. And its all just hard work. The running eventually just plain gives out altogether, which is almost criminal as there are some nice gentle downhills that on decent legs would be 8:30 miles in a flash!

Plod, plod, plod, 21:xx fades away in to wishful thinking and 23:xx is looking possible. I think the route is less interesting in the night this way around, its probably also quicker as we were passed by a fair few pilgrims, many of them, many times as the aid station discipline didn't let up, if anything with a pacer its even quicker in and out as Rachel takes the bottle I grab a coke and a bit of a nibble and we're done. In reality that takes 30 seconds probably rather than 5, I always finish the coke for example whereas I noticed in places runners had thrown them away 50 yards past an aid station, but I think at ultras the poor volunteers shouldn't have to be picking up rubbish too! 50 yards past an aid station is acceptable I guess, but guys we're at ultras taking 20+ hours, a few seconds?! Although have to say litter wise very, very good indeed, I reckon I saw maybe 3 gel wrappers in 100 miles and one of those I picked up as was right by a bin (so I'll give them credit they missed!) so that was good.

So by now I'm in a world of not being terribly happy. There was a cobble stone path in a wooded section which I had absolutely zero recollection of from last year (which would have been about mile 10 so flying!) this way around with sore feet was just dreadful, I was almost walking in the woods to avoid the cobbles! It wasn't forecast but it actually rained for much of the night, just drizzle, nothing serious, just enough to make you a bit chilly (the jackets were long since on (thank you Rachel for packing a thicker one for me!)) it was hardly NDW100 like by any stretch, just made it a bit grimmer, a tiny bit slippier in places, a few puddles to avoid, that sort of thing.

Did get the odd grunt or wave as runners passed by now, but there is no real attempt by anyone to chat, some folk go past and you say something and there isn't even the vaguest form of acknowledgement, even if they don't understand what you're saying. I find it rather odd myself, but it was worse in France, so that's something I suppose. I don't even equate it to a language thing, though that of course is an issue. There are a couple of comments, but at say a UK 100 or US 100 when you passed someone in the night, there would always be something said, but here, folk would just silently pass you. Perhaps on the sixth occasion, they'd wave. Oh well, knowing how it is, then its no worries, its the way it is.

A sign for "Berlin" is passed, so we're back in the city proper, the miles drag, there seem to be two never ending bike paths through woods sections that are at least five times longer than last year! Finally the last 10k and I decide to treat myself to a sit down to ease the foot soreness. But sitting there for 30 seconds thinking, mmm.... this is pointless, so give up with that and off we plod! Still two more aid stations to go, they're about every 3-4k now. Two down, one down. The last guys you feel a bit sorry for as 4k from home, everyone is finishing, nobody wants anything, they actually have some pretty nice looking cake but I'm right off food now and can't be bothered to force anything down. Bizarrely they are trying to give away maps of the route too! I'm guessing that they had them left over as everyone got them with the race bags.

Horrible climb about mile 99 you have to go around some spiral thing to cross a railway line, at this point I retire from hilly ultras, hilly runs and in fact running in general. It's probably a 20' climb! (There were a few tiny drags up in the night, on 95 mile legs they're horrible, I can't recall them at all from last year! In fact I was describing to Rachel how last year that there was just one short downhill which we must be going up the other way, where the others came from I can't imagine, must have been oblivious!)

Do manage a few token plods, and finally, finally, finally the stadium shows up, since we arrived there some 23 hours earlier the sods had come along and replaced all the roads with cobble stones and banked up the "slope" feel a bit guilty speeding past some guy at mile 99.8 but he might be French anyway, we say something and he ignores us, we burn him up at 17:00 pace.

Just for fun they make you run around the track, "SDW100" style. I'm not impressed. There is a bit of a jog, Rachel thinks we may get caught by two guys about 200m behind, yes a sprint finish is what I am up for, a bit of a run for 3 steps before deciding its not happening and we beat them by 195m anyway! Job done in 22:44:36 and was really pleased!

I knew there was no buckle here so its all rather anti-climatic for me, they give you a finishers shirt and take some photos, (Stuart, take note they don't ask you to take 3 paces to a designated spot, just take "candid" ones!) and that's about it. The photographer guy asked me to come back in my shirt, which I was all over, but did as was an ambassador, getting under the railings was probably my biggest achievement as damned if I was walking around! Was desperate for a sit down, so sat down and all seemed a bit, err, OK what now. None of the "Centurion" finish with chatting and bacon sandwiches, couldn't be bothered to hunt for food, a couple of guys had bottles of beer (in fact lots of the aid stations had beer thinking about it (mainly later on) I just couldn't face it), I just felt sick, Rachel found me a cup of coke, managed a sip but that was me done. Just all seemed a bit, OK you're done, umm, OK so we'll wander back to the hotel then. Might have missed something, Rachel said there was some aid station type food around, but I was beyond caring by then. Maybe this is the difference between 22 and 29 hour finishes, at NDW last week everyone seemed quite happy and chatty, here everyone seemed rather subdued.

Had been sitting down enough to seize up nicely, had my photo taken in the finishers shirt (which is really nice again, short sleeved red, was long sleeved green last time and far better design and quality than the usual race shirt). Same as last year though I found the finish experience terribly anti-climatic, to be fair with the long ones, they're always anti-climatic for me, but there is something about getting your buckle one pace over the finish line that means something to me. James Elson at SDW100 2012 or TP100 2013, the guys at Heartands 100 in Kansas, name escapes me off the top of my head, same at Bear, Graveyard, Houston they're tough guys and girls who've done those miles that you have and they know how you feel, it's a simple thing, but to me it has gravitas and meaning when someone you respect hands you that buckle, you might not feel it right then, but you will, you know, they know. Respect. Handshake, buckle, job done. I'm not one for hugs and tears.

The hotel which was half a mile from the place on the map, a mile in the morning to the race and somehow seemed about four miles on the way back, major league seizing up! It was right now I regretted not staying at the Ramada as bumped in to Ronald who asked if I was heading back there I guess as a shuttle just going! Just fell on the bed at the hotel and would love to have said I fell into a restful slumber but something they don't tell you at "ultra school" is how long it can take to "come down" again, I need some downers or something because my legs were twitching and spasming like I was in an electric chair and my feet were pounding so hard I fully expected them to be throbbing like a Tom and Jerry cartoon! Sorry Rachel as I suspect I woke her 20 times in a couple of hours as I fidgeted twisted, fiddled and failed to get comfortable! I must have dozed a bit at some point as remember waking up and getting the socks and tape off is always good fun, the downside of the taping I do is that the stuff is firmly attached. I suspect a soaking in a bath might be the best way to remove it, but was throbbing so much under the tape I wanted it off so it could all breathe. Despite the general soreness, throbbing and nastiness, actually they've survived pretty well. Even a couple of "blisters" are really just hard skin bits really, abrasions more than blisters.

Just hung around the hotel thanks to a late checkout and then staggered over to the Ramada for the 2pm awards ceremony. I'll be honest, I am just right off this concept, I'd rather be on the way home by now rather than waiting for six or seven hours (if if you'd finished in 18 then its a looooong wait), nothing against Berlin at all, I'm just trashed, I'd rather be trashed sitting on a plane! (Finally got in bed at 1:42am for example, didn't want another night away so was a late flight.... last year I got a 4pm flight kind of thing, missed the awards thing as wasn't aware that's where you got the buckle/medal).

The auditorium where the awards thing was pretty warm which didn't help, was packed too as like the pre-race briefing was "mandatory" of you wanted your stuff and I'll be honest was utterly tedious. I didn't get the memo about you had to wear your finishers shirt. Was as red an Anfield! Never one to conform I wore my RAF Rugby shirt with Spitfires on it (some chap at the airport security informed me that Junkers was better than Spitfires, I think he missed History at school...)

Berlin Wall 100 Medals

All in German so understood nothing, there was one 15 second English announcement to say we're all watching a film now which you won't understand, was about the guy who was killed on the wall, greatest respect, sad story, they're trying to maintain the memory. It's probably interesting, but I'm hot, I've utterly seized up, tired and of course don't understand a word of it. Then we have the relay presentations, no idea who is handing the things out, they're probably very important people, who knows. Lucky sods, they get their medals and we notice more than a few slide out. Women, in reverse order of finishing, more leave. Men, in reverse order. By now, we're 90 minutes in, and they're flitting through names fairly quickly but everyone has pretty much lost interest, 50 different conversations going on, folk are leaving. The 184th round of applause is getting a bit thin. Finally at 1 hour 50 in, they get to me, my 30 seconds of fame and to be honest we just left. Medal, "back to back medal" (for those that did it last year too), certificate and the treasured buckle. Felt sorry for the winner, 13:06, last to get his award and half the folk there at the start at least would have left, bet it was 2 and half hours after the start!. Has to be a better way than this. Make it optional, make an international awards thing separate, do the winners first. Anything has to be better than the way it is.

Its not enough to put me off doing it again and its all a shame as from the moment the gun goes off to the time the you cross the finish line it really is impeccable .It's just the "Ramada" stuff that seems so wasteful to me, perhaps its just me and you can see why they're trying to do it, the organisers are trying to grow the event, expand the international appeal, build the awareness of the Berlin Wall and all that kind of thing, have a big meeting, have a big ceremony. I just imagined an award presentation for 500 people, would make a nice photo I guess, but I don't think I'll be sitting through a three hour + occasion like that! It may be me, its certainly at least partially a language thing, if you can understand what's going on then that would help, but for those who didn't speak German at the awards thing it was utterly pointless, I think the lack of camaraderie is another issue, had you had chats and support on the course from other runners more then you'd be happy for them to be getting their awards more perhaps, more engaged anyway.

Berlin Wall 100 Buckle

Don't want to end on a negative though for anyone wading through this! It's probably my favourite 100, at least partially as I've had two reasonable runs at it which have helped. Berlin is an interesting city to visit for a long weekend, its easy to get around on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn and the organisation of the event is excellent. I'd do it differently, and whilst I might come across as critical I'm not really, I like to tell it straight, and if you know what to expect then forewarned is forearmed! The route is interesting enough and aside from some world famous things to be running around does break up in to lots of sections, it's not running around "Berlin" for 100 miles at all, and I suspect for most folk they'd be surprised how much of it is in parkland, woodland and in the "wilds" (though doubt you're ever more than a half mile from the world) which is nice. The aid stations are plentiful and I thought the volunteers were better this year, more "ultra" experienced perhaps, they're well stocked and whilst a bit monochromic, if you're me, they're good and for most ultra runners they'd be good. Not quite "Graveyard AS3" good, but they're good! Course marking is excellent, it's got a few tiny slopes on it, but its a generally flat track on a high quality surface, everyone is in road shoes (wear gaitors by the way) and whilst its not an easy course, there are no easy 100 mile courses, it is a straightforward one and its an achievable 100 miler. The time limit is generous (though remember you only get a buckle for sub 24:00, all finishers get a medal/certificate), you're not going to get beat by elevation or altitude. It's just a really solid event that deserves to grow and I think it will. Perhaps the biggest difference this year from 2013 though was a quiet subtle one. In 2013 we got strange looks from the general public , in 2014 must have had a dozen folk cheer something encouraging and even got a round of applause from some pub like place!


Things I Learnt

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