Sunday, December 18, 2016

Zero to a 100k in 18 hours

Friday evening after my last official day at work I set out on an unsupported 100 km solo event. I was carrying everything I was planning to eat and drink in my backpack. I had made no drop bags and no water drops. I set out on a 'pilgrimage' to dive deep and to explore those thoughts that we tend to avoid when having an option.

It has been many months since I last had geared up. My backpack was filled to the brim. Food, water, extra clothing, vaseline, spare flashlight, heat pads, .. I had to leave a few things behind as they simply couldn't fit.

At 8:22 pm Friday evening I set out. I had planned a 100 km route that would begin and end at my front door. My target would be to do it in between 16 - 20 hours. I wanted to see a sunrise and not a sunset. That was my success criteria.

I knew it would be sub-zero temperatures most of the trip, so I planned to keep a steady pace that I could keep going at throughout. I didn't want to be soaking in sweat while having to take a break somewhere in freezing temperatures.

I had told my girlfriend that I would message her every hour. She didn't have to answer but I wanted her to know that I was ok.

First 10 km was on high-speed traffic tar road, not sure what was going through the head of the drivers as they saw me but at least some of them were nice enough to lower their lights. After that, the Jyderup trail began and I could focus on inner thoughts.

The next many hours was spent in darkness. I had turned my head torch to the absolute minimum setting to save battery. A small circle in front of me was all that I could see. I am glad I knew this trail before hand.

For many hours I was merely thinking about keeping the pace. Never thought about the grand scheme of things or how many hours I will still be at it. I had a little timer in my pocket alarming me when it was time to send a new message to my girlfriend.

I am a big tall man, I am the son of a fisherman, I am from Jutland, I have won many championships including a Danish Karate one. I fear nothing .. but man, the sound of the forest running in pitch black really started getting to me. I was looking forward to exiting every forest part of the trail every time I entered one.

After 30 km I was starting to feel it. My knees, my Achilles. At this point it hit me. No matter what I did I was at least a 4 hours walk away from rest. My girlfriend asked me how I was doing and when I said 'not great' she instantly phoned me. "How are you feeling", "Yes, that is to be expected. No surprises there", "We knew that", "Keep going, it will feel so good later", "There will be ups and downs". I knew she was right. I knew all of it. I never planned otherwise. But I was very touched by her reaching out to me. No one has ever done that. She didn't hesitate for a second before calling me. I was focusing on what did feel good. I had lots of food if I became hungry. I had water if I was thirsty, I had heat pads should I be cold, I had even brought pain killers should I need them. There was no problem I couldn't handle, even on my own

About 40 km in I found myself in a freezing fog. Ice crystals were forming in the air around me. It was beautiful.

Mentally it was a huge win when 10 km later I reached 50 km. Now every step was a step closer to home. Even though I literally still was going in the opposite direction mentally it made a huge difference. I was no longer in doubt that I would make it. Another 10 km later finally the city that was my turn around point : Jyderup.

60 km done. I was cold and hungry. I checked out google maps for a bakery and found one. Headed there. The look of the woman behind the desk as I entered was priceless. I sat down and had a nice breakfast: Coffee, chocolate milk, two rolls with butter and a coke for the trip home.

Life was good. I had made it so far. It was 10:30 hours since I set out. Still had two liters of water in my backpack. Lots of food. My girlfriend as support. Only 40 km to go and lots of time to make it before sunset.

When I head out again the cold really hit me. The contrast from the hot bakery to the sub-zero outside was striking, but I knew that it would pass. Just had to keep moving. I was soo looking forward to seeing the sunrise. I knew it was supposed to happen at 8:45.

It was cloudy and foggy so I would never see it. But I equally appreciated the light spreading around me. Finally.

An hour earlier it had been pitch black, now I could turn off my head torch. Now I could see the path ahead of me. Awesome. I asked my girlfriend to get some rest. She had been awakened every hour through the night when I had sent my status message. She had been so amazing. I am so grateful.

I asked her to rest, but a few hours later messages started popping in. From friends and family. Instead of resting she had started letting people in on my 'pilgrimage', asking them to send my encouraging messages. I was so touched.

It was cold. I was freezing now more than I had been during the night. I didn't eat a lot on the last 40 km. My food was really cold and I couldn't stomach it. I had my coke and that was basically all I drank.

The kilometers passed by and I upped the pace. I wanted it to be over before sunset. One of my friends asked me what direction I was coming from. He would join me on the last 500 meters taking photos.

It was nice having someone be there at the finish line. He even brought a tiny bottle of champagne for me.

I had made it. 100 km in 18 hours. I hadn't trained, I hadn't geared up since I got injured in July but with the moral support of the people around me, everything proved possible. Thank you all!! Most of all my girlfriend, who's reply, when I told her about this adventure two days earlier, simply was: "I understand".

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