What is Eminem's most technical verse
There are days when a thousand little things come together like the splash of color in an impressionist painting. April 22nd was such a painting, whoever painted it. In any case, it wasn't me, I just ran the whole time, almost around the clock, from the northern tip of Madeira to the southern end, in a crazy, winding route over fantastic trails, 115 kilometers, a total of 7200 meters up and down. Terrifying numbers for an ultra trail beginner like me, and they don't tell the whole truth about the Madeira Island Ultra Trail, MIUT for short (pronounced "Mjut"). The route that winds over the 57 kilometer long Atlantic island is not only long and mountainous, but also bumpy, slippery, treacherous, sacredly steep - and above all stepped. Earth steps, wooden steps, stone steps, concrete steps, steel steps. Knee-high steps, steps as high as a hand's breadth. Short triple steps, long long jumper steps. It is no coincidence that Madeira is teeming with stairs. The island is the tip of a 5000 meter high volcano that stands on the seabed, a single mountain range, the slopes of which have been eroded to such a steepness by the onrushing trade wind and the surf that many paths would not be passable without stairs. The capricious weather doesn't make it any easier. From a subtropical steam bath to a snow storm, everything is included. So challenging running terrain, but it's worth it. The combination of sea and mountains is always a hit anyway. If there is no less sea than the Atlantic, 400 meter high cliffs and almost 2000 meter high volcanic stone towers, plus a variety of vegetation from jungle to savannah to tundra, then one can really speak of a paradise.
The story of my MIUT began in autumn 2016 when my wife and I felt the common desire to go on vacation without children again after five years (we have four). Running was not part of our deliberations at first, but somehow, on a winding path, we came to Madeira at the end of April - oh look, there is a run there, looks interesting, and suddenly I was registered. It wasn't until later that it dawned on me what I was getting myself into and that only with a winter full of training would I even have a chance of making it. Winter training is not my thing. For the first time in my running life I wrote myself a training plan (according to Sage Canaday), got sick after a week and a half and let it go again. Without a plan things went better, but there were more illness and injury breaks, the last one a week before Madeira with severe gastrointestinal infection. I just felt sufficiently trained for the MIUT.
calm before the storm
The MIUT starts on Saturday at midnight. We landed in Madeira three days earlier. I had resolved to keep our togetherness as undisturbed as possible from the upcoming sporting task. It worked quite well until Friday, but then the racing fever rose. It is a strange state of affairs on such a day. At some point you can no longer stand it on the lounger by the pool, the equipment has been checked for the umpteenth time and there are still ten hours until the midnight start. We did a little levada hike - and saw marker tapes every few meters. By chance we got onto the route of the shorter "Ultra" (85 km). There was no escaping the running that day.
MIUT has been around since 2008, and for most of the time it has been a pretty family event. Recently, however, he has been part of the Ultra Trail World Tour with its entire commercial circus. Half of the world's best are at the start, the number of participants is growing from year to year. This time there were around 850 runners on the long route, plus significantly more than again as many on the three shorter distances who later cut into the long route and all have the same goal on the beach promenade of Machico on the east end of Madeira. Could be full on the route, I thought to myself, at least fuller than on the one and a half ultra trails that I had run up to then (due to the weather, the Zugspitz Supertrail XL was shortened and the Chiemgauer 100 kilometers in 2015). Now, after the start of every such route, there is the point at which it changes from the wide road to the narrow trail. Risk of congestion! At the MIUT this bottleneck comes after three kilometers, on the first hill of a good 300 vertical meters. In retrospect, I probably took her too seriously, at least I didn't want to get stuck with her and came up with the plan to place myself at the front of the starting grid - contrary to the warning that the ultra-rookies keep hearing, namely to start cautiously.
So I'm far too far ahead in the field of more than 800 runners, just behind the separate area for the elite runners. The fast men and women set off like a run in the village, and I with them. After a few hundred meters I look at the GPS watch: Tempo 3: 45 / min. If I don't want to set my 10-kilometer best time now, I should take off the gas. The road leans in front of us, the pace sinks a little, but the effort hardly - but somehow I can't stop myself. The lead car, behind which François d’Haene, Pau Capell, Gediminas Grinius, Xavier Thevenard, Sébastien Chaigneau and the other stars are rushing, remains in sight for the entire first climb. Then said bottleneck comes from the road to the trail - and it turns out that although I can get through the bottleneck smoothly, I am now becoming a bottleneck myself. The experts fly down the downhill, compared to that I sneak, even if I am still fast for my circumstances. At the first opportunity Andrea Huser shoots past me, who will later become the women's winner. It must have cost me half a minute.
Much too far ahead!
At the foot of the first downhill is the village of Ribeira da Janela. A true fiesta is raging there. Music, tinkling bells, shouts of jubilation, all the children are still awake. The crowd forms a tight line for the runners, you are cheered on and high-five-ed and you feel a bit like a Tour de France rider on the Galibier. A pleasant shiver runs through me. This atmosphere is not likely to slow me down.
Then the first long ascent, 1100 meters in altitude to Fanal. I'm still way too fast, but it's not that frustrating anymore. I can keep up uphill - still. When I arrive at the first catering in Fanal, a little drama is taking place there. One of the Madeiran local favorites lies on the ground and weeps bitterly. For reasons that are not apparent to me, the race has already ended for him here. Runners and helpers paused for a minute to give him a clap of consolation, then the hunt continued. It makes me think that I see Tom Wagner from Team Salomon sucking an orange wedge there in Fanal, whom I know as the outstanding winner of the Chiemgau 100 miles 2015. If, as a rookie, after almost two hours you are still on par with such a crack, then you know it would be wise to slow down the pace now before you get burned completely and end up with empty tanks. That's what I'm doing now and I plunge a little more slowly into the downhill to Chão da Ribeira, which according to race reports should be the most technical of the whole route. It is steep, slippery, stepped and rooty. I get both feet in deep mud, get annoyed and shift down a gear by myself. I pick up speed again on a flat transfer piece, in a group of four runners. Behind me a thud and a groan, the man behind me flew there. Short stop, is he hurt? He says no. The three of them continue, a little later I stumble too, but can just barely stand on my feet. I decide to walk on alone and more carefully, take a pee break and let the other two go.
Two more climbs have to be tackled that night, to Estanquinhos and to Encumeada, I climb well, but now I clearly feel that I have tackled too quickly. From the food in Encumeada I will run defensively, I decide. My wife is supposed to wait for me there. I'm there way too early, but my loved one is attentive, has seen the split times (the race organization's Telegram bot is great), is also there earlier and takes great care of me.
Stairs, stairs, stairs
Soon after Encumeada comes the hardest of the many hard climbs on this course: a good 200 meters in altitude over a distance of 400 meters along a water pipe. Makes an average gradient of 50 percent - with a full stomach after meals. A groaning, cursing, swaying caravan struggles its way up the irregular steps. Some literally stop. I only pull the plug a few kilometers later, in the beautiful section on the flanks of Pico Grande. I take an unplanned break, sit by the side of the path to sort myself out, connect my GPS watch to the battery to recharge. A couple of runners who were slower at the water pipe pass me, one of them hits my shoulder encouragingly, shouts something to me in a Romance language and films me at this absolute low point of my race, see https://youtu.be/fzIhUtXqSSE at 3:15.
After five minutes of mental gathering, the break-in is more or less over. I can catch up with a few runners who passed by during those minutes. I take the stony serpentines down to Curral das Freiras cautiously, I don't want to provoke the next low right away. The leading and eventual winner of the 85 km course, the Frenchman Antoine Guillon, jumps elegantly past me, he has a pursuer on his heels, who, however, falls two hairpin bends over me. A small debris avalanche is rumbling towards me, I have to sprint to avoid it, and the fallen victim comes running along.
The station in Curral das Freiras is halfway. The dropbags are ready, there is the biggest buffet of the day, and I grab it: rice with minced meat, cake, chocolate, chips, cola - everything that kicks and has calories. My stomach gratefully receives it. In general, he is doing great on this day, which must be one of the toughest for him too. It may help that I followed the often heard advice to start eating in good time.After an hour, I whipped in the first of countless gels. So the stomach doesn't even think about stopping the operation.
Behind Curral das Freiras the longest ascent of the route awaits, 1200 meters in altitude on the Pico Ruivo. When leaving the station, the mandatory equipment and the water supply is checked. The subtropical sun burns on the path that winds up with exposure to the south. At a water point shortly after the station, I fill up again - a good decision, because I will also run into the hut on the summit with empty tanks and thirst. On the way there, I pass a number of suffering figures - long uphills are my terrain. However, many of them will catch me again on the next long downhill.
At the beginning of the ascent to Pico Ruivo
The path between Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro is the most famous part of the MIUT and the most iconic hiking trail in Madeira. Anyone who sees the wild ridge between the peaks from a distance wonders how there can be a path at all. It looks so easy on the videos from MIUT 2016 as Zach Miller storms over this spectacular stretch. And so it hits me as a shock how difficult this route is. Murderously steep stairs up and down, you have to dive under overhangs, squeeze past rock faces, feel through several dark tunnels. In addition, the path is populated with tourists who, fortunately, are mostly friendly and considerate towards the ultra runners. I hardly remember the beauty of this section. Demoralized, I reach Pico do Arieiro, where a cheering audience welcomes the runners. However, I am looking in vain for my wife, whom I was looking forward to. She has lost her way, we will only see each other again 1000 meters below in Ribeiro Frio. I just go down the longest downhill of the day. The legs feel like canned asparagus. But now I don't care. The greatest difficulties are over - almost: another gruesome 300-meter climb that looked much cuter on the elevation profile. I can accelerate again relative to my fellow travelers, but now everything is happening in slow motion. The steps are so high that runners with shorter legs have to torment themselves enormously in order to even climb up. A Portuguese runner stands on the edge and signals to me with a gesture: Nothing works anymore.
At the checkpoint in Portela, at kilometer 98, I meet my wife for the last time before the finish. Now I am really not feeling well anymore, again I have to sit far too long. My wife accompanies me out of the station for the first few meters, she is faster than me on my aching legs. But I swear: after she has turned to the car, I'll be faster. At a run - which means a pace of seven minutes per kilometer at this stage - I take the flat forest path, past a few exhausted figures. Then the rough downhill comes down the cliff to Larano, and the run is over. Anyway, just don't fly there after all. It's a party in Larano, Eminem raps from the loudspeaker, a caring helper brings me a coffee "with lots of sugar". Only twelve kilometers to go! The first of them on a fantastic trail along one of the highest cliffs in the world. It's gently undulating, on the left the terrain breaks off suddenly to the sea, I force the idea of an unfortunate fall out of my consciousness. It is getting dark, the headlamps come on again, a chain of lights stretches through the cliffs into the falling darkness. An almost magical moment that I can even enjoy. I find a new rhythm, run for a few minutes, walk briefly, run again. I feel the pull of the approaching goal.
After a small bump, a last technical downhill, not steep, but stony and stumbling. I overtake! In downhill! At the last checkpoint in Ribeira Seca, a sign reads: 4.3 kilometers to the destination. It feels like an eternity along a narrow levada path, on the left the watercourse, on the right a dark abyss. I rush forward, at least compared to some others who only hike. The illuminated target arch on the promenade of Machico comes into view, a good 200 meters below, the cheers of the spectators come up, there is no stopping. Just down a meadow slope, a few hundred meters of street, the very last flight of stairs. I'm so exhausted that the audience has to guide me to the target channel. I expected 24 hours. I had dreamed of 23 hours. The clock says 22:37:57. 22nd place out of 109 in my category. I am happy.
In the target
When I shower, my wife has to stand guard so that I don't fall asleep. The muscles in my legs and back are sore, my right heel, the weak point of my musculoskeletal system, burns with every step. But the physical destruction is less than feared. After a few days I am largely recovered, after a week I am again walking at a measured pace through the South Tyrolean mountains. After two weeks I feel that the MIUT has made me stronger.
Finally, an autodidactic excursus: What can I improve? Three things in particular. First, controlled start. A few minutes lost in the front can mean hours lost in the back. Second, hang out for a while at the refreshment stations. There is a great temptation to sit down and moan for a few more minutes. But it doesn’t help but stiffer legs. I calculated that the bottom line was that I procranced for well over an hour at the stations. Third: more speed downhill. "You have to trust yourself," said the winner François d’Haene in an interview on downhill running after the race. So, a little more courage and looseness, that saves time and also more fun. It may be that I fly over there, but this risk is manageable.
Shoes Inov-8 Trailtalon 275 Chill, one size larger. Have proven themselves very well, no need to change shoes, no blisters, no sores.
Socks: first CEP calf-high, in Encumeada change to ankle-short
Backpack Salomon S-Lab Adv3 12 liters, tried and tested
CEP compression shorts with overshorts by Gore Running Wear
Jersey from Compresssports (junk zip!), Undershirt from Falke
Leki Micro Trail Pro sticks, I like the firm connection of the hands to the handles, but I found the first version of the Trigger Shark system better than the current second.
Buff cap, nothing to look at, but light and cooling
Dailies AquaComfort Plus contact lenses lasted flawlessly for more than 24 hours - that's why I had a few concerns before.
Headlamp Lupine Piko, battery in the backpack, not on the head
Suunto Ambit3 Peak watch, recharged on the go with the headlamp battery
Self-catering: Mulebar Hydro Gels, Clifbars
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