Race Report: Westerwald 50K Forest Run 2008

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We arrived at our Gasthaus (B & B) around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, in plenty of time to get checked in and head out to the Italian restaurant that we frequented the last two years that I ran the Westerwald 50K in Rengsdorf, Germany. However upon arriving at the restaurant we were surprised to find the place closed. Luckily we passed another Italian restaurant on the way, so backtracked and enjoyed what proved to be some good pasta. After dinner we returned to our room and I laid out my stuff for the race in the morning. Then evening was clear so we sat on the balcony and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Westerwald Forest and Koblenz in the valley below.

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I slept relatively well for being the night before a race, waking up shortly before my alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m. I went through my morning routine, than woke my wife up. After she got around we had breakfast and around 7.15 we headed over to the town swimming pool where the race was to start.

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I collected my start card and sat with my wife for a bit. I recognized several people from previous races and after a bit the race director came over and said hello. There were almost 90 people signed up for the 31/50km runs, with more arriving every minute, drawn by the clear skies – the first time in years that it didn’t rain on race day!

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Yes we were blessed with cool, but clear weather, I guess it was around 7C/45F right before the 8:00 a.m. start – it would later warm up to around 17C/63F, almost perfect temperatures for a race! I was optimistic that I was as ready as I would ever be for the race and like most there anxiously waited to get under way.

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Shortly before 8:00 we made our way over to the start area and our race director gave us some last minute instructions.

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Of particular relevance this year was that a recent storm had left parts of the race route cluttered with fallen trees and branches and that we should be careful while running over these obstacles.

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And finally he bid us best wishes for a great day on the course and joking added “…see you in a few minutes…” which we all chuckled to as we set out on the 50K course.

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We started climbing almost immediately after leaving the Start, not a climb that caused anyone to walk, but rather a healthy climb that kept are pace in check for the first couple kilometers. The morning was truly beautiful, the sun was shining and the beauty of the area came shining through.

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I fell in behind a man and two women who were running a similar pace. As we went up and down a few hills they pulled ahead on the downhills and I caught them on the uphills. The trail was quite, asphalt paths, logging trails and even a generous share of single-track trails such as the one below.

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I made it to the first checkpoint at kilometer 8 (mile 5) without encountering any steep hills that required me to walk. I stopped only long enough to get my control card stamped and to fill up my water bottle. After the checkpoint we began a 5k long downhill that gave the quad and knees a good workout. The route went a couple hundred feet down a road, and then cut literally over a pasture, whereas we had to straddle the fence at each end! This brought flashbacks of my upbringing on a dairy farm in central NY state, the only thing missing was dodging piles of cow manure :-)

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I had lost my three running companions back at the checkpoint so when the 31K and 50K routes split at the 9K point just past the pasture I stopped to water my favorite tree. I remember thinking at this point that a steep downhill must be coming up soon. As I continued on I soon realized how the Rengsdorfer define “steep”. At the top of the hill I stopped and snapped a picture of the valley below just before descending the hill.

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The next kilometer proved to be the steepest downhill I believe I have ever run, it was a quad-busting, pain-in-the-knees, downright sick, but sure got the adrenaline pumping! Wow what a rush, it was like one wrong step and you would be rolling down the hill! So down, down, down I went for what seemed like forever. I discovered that skipping down was actually easier on the quads and knees. As I reached the bottom of the hill I knew that one of the longer, steeper climbs of the course was somewhere around the next bend.

And so it was, around kilometer 15 the trail dipped and started climbing up out of a deep valley. I ran what I could, but decided to save my energy as the steepness increased. I finally reached the top and the second aid station at kilometer 18. After refilling my bottle and downing a gel I started out again. The course again went up for a few minutes, but then down another grueling downhill that beat the rest of my quads to death. It felt good at the moment and I tried not to think of the abuse my legs were taking.

Around the half-marathon point (around 2-1/2 hours into the race) the trail leveled out and I fell into an easy run for maybe 10-15 minutes. I took this picture somewhere along the way, it may have been this stretch.

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I ran a short uphill, then down a short descent to the third aid station just before kilometer 28. My legs were hurting pretty bad by this time, a result of the steep downhill’s I guess, so I tried stretching a bit. I took an extra minute or two and mixed up a bottle of isotonic drink from the mix I was carrying with me. I knew my quads were a major issue now, so down a couple salt tablets with added calcium/magnesium. My pace was deceasing by this point, but I was not overly concerned – I was still under four hours and was well ahead of schedule. I left the aid station, snapping a picture before heading up the hills in the background.

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Soon I began running up the second major ascent of the day, it was not as long as the first, but quite steep. I was experiencing a low and I chose to walk most of it. I recovered somewhat during this walking break, my walking became stronger and my spirit lifted. I believe it was along this stretch that I came up on a younger woman who seemed to be in worse shape than me. I asked how she was doing and she said what I had already noticed. I encouraged her but moved on when she seemed to want to deal with her own demons. Eventually she would get a second wind and pass me at the next aid station!

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At the top of the second climb the trail took another dive downwards between kilometer 30 and 32. My legs ached with every step, but I managed to run it down. The trail started the last major hill climb and I was perfectly content to walk. I stopped to fill my bottle at a “tea station” (only offered water and tea) at kilometer 33, but didn’t waste any time there. I knew I had to keep pushing on or I would end up walking the rest of the way to the finish line. I forced myself to run some of the gentler parts of the uphill. I passed a lot of walkers who were walking the event (Wandering). Somehow “whizzing” by the walkers spurred me on.

Around kilometer 38 was the next aid/control station. I ate a sports bar and part of a banana, but didn’t stay long as there were 20-30 “Wanderers” collected there gaining strength for the rest of their walk. I was also in a bit of a hurry as I had not seen another runner for at least a half hour, so was worried that I was last (like it really mattered). I pushed on running when I could and walking when that didn’t work.

Somewhere after the 5:00 hour point I passed the 40 kilometer marker. I recall seeing the marker, but didn’t think to look at my watch. I didn’t think to look at my watch at the 42K (marathon) marker, but I guess it must have been around 5:15:00.

I was feeling better by this time and was headed downhill. I did my best to keep running, I guess I was running for 5-6 minutes and walking for a minute or so. I kept this up until the last aid station at kilometer 45. Here I refilled my bottle and pushed on. The trail climbed again, but I again was passing lots of walkers which continued to spur me on. Finally the trail headed back down again and as I passed the 48 kilometer marker I knew I was on my way home.

I continued to pass a lot of walkers as the swimming pool came into sight at the top of the hill. The last kilometer went uphill and I let my pride get in the way and propel me at a slow run all the way up. Finally I crossed the finish line, with the handful gathered there cheering me in, mission accomplished!

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My legs were stiff and aching, but I felt like I add energy to go another round – well at least for another hour or two.

The course was incredibly beautiful, as it always is in Rengsdorf. The nice weather this year brought out more runners and noticeably more walkers. My only regret is that I didn’t take the time to take more pictures along the way, mere words cannot describe this beautiful area. The race director and volunteers did an excellent job of making this a truly memorable event. The family atmosphere and friendliness make this an event that I treasure and I already am marking my calendar for next year. Thank you TV Rengsdorf for another great year!

3 Comments

No way will you ever be the last runner in a race, Jack. Not for a few dozen years, at least.

Nice pictures, even if the sky seemed to get darker with each photo. I hope you felt you had a good day.

Thanks for taking us along on the ride! If you ever give up your day job, you probably could find one as a photographer! Great pics!!

Congrats on the finish of another Ultra. Here's to a fast recovery.

Way to go! What a beautiful course, the countryside is absolutely gorgeous!

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on May 4, 2008 10:36 AM.

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