March 22, 2016
50km trail Serra da Lousa. We did it!
Saturday, the 19th of March 2016. My 46th birthday. Last Thursday we very spontaneously decided to do our very first ultra-trail, Serra da Lousa. We defied 50 kilometres and 2,600 altimeters. As well as the cold, wind, pouring rain and hail storms. In his book, Kilian Jornet writes ‘Run or Die’: The secret isn’t in your legs, but in the strength of your mind. That is our mantra for the day.
The starting shot!
We are off. In the first 2 kilometres of the trail run our legs get the chance to warm-up on the asphalt. Then we head for the hills, which means some steep climbing. We pass one waterfall after another in the jungle-like terrain. The bridges, made out of tree trunks, are too slippery to walk on. So we soak through the water. The narrow single tracks are one big mud pool, alternating with sharp rocks. With a lot of clambering, on hands, feet and sliding on our butts, we reach the idyllic mountain town of Gondramaz, after 10 kilometres. After refuelling we are waved off with a friendly ‘see you later’. This makes us feel at home.
On to post 2 in Lousa at 22 kilometre
First some though climbs to rise, with luckily some paths that better accessible. We are getting a rhythm in our feet and breathing. Talking is not necessary. We become one with nature. Until the hail comes pouring down on us from nowhere. These ‘Wim Hoffers’ laugh at it. The cold cools our system. This keeps the engine from boiling over. Just keep breathing, MF. I hear Wim say it laughingly. We are happy!
On to 3, Talasnal, at 27.5 kilometre
Much, very much rising in still an extreme amount of mud. Man, our upper legs. Protesting. Keep moving on strongly, breath and we sing our mantra in our heads. Jeroen chats for a bit. I do not reply. The world around us is becoming very compact now. I follow Jeroen steadily. He is my lead now. At times we stop. We give each other an intense hug and kiss. The view is breath taking. This is why we do it!
In Talasnal I start talking again
Especially against the ones that are doing the 110 km. My eyes cannot help themselves, and wander to their tough, muddy legs. Jeroen winks. He hopes it gives me enough energy for the toughest climb. And it does. I stumble upwards with weak legs. But where has my lead gone? Oh, he has gotten stomach cramps and has disappeared into the bushes. I decide to lower my pace, but to continue. Hopefully I can help him get over this obstacle. At the top he suddenly reappears beside me.
We are happy
Now we can go downward. Make speed, I think. But I am wrong. The descent is over big rocks. We cannot do anything else but use our entire bodies and struggle downwards. No wonder our shoulder muscles are sorer than our leg muscles afterwards. This is the moment I lose my mantra. Everything starts to hurt. I cannot go on. I keep thinking: ‘how far is the next post?’. I am angry. Why? Maybe at myself, for getting the crazy idea of walking 50 kilometres? This ‘angry energy’ seems functional. I get a fire going inside me to continue.
Food, a lot of food!
We are so hungry when we finally reach the last post at 42.5 kilometres! All the detoxing, and all the healthy food. Fully forgotten. I stuff three pieces of cake into my mouth. And several handfuls of crisps. I see that Jeroen is eating just as beastly. The volunteers say: ‘only 7 kilometres on easy terrain’. A sigh of relief.
Moments later we walk on, hugging on the asphalt
In our head we hear ‘we made it’. What a miscalculation that is. I am startled when I see the flags go up a steep rock. NO! I completely break. My mantra is nowhere to be found. My constant breathing as well. I pant for air like a horse. Jeroen starts going up steadily. I cannot do anything else but follow. Keep up. The descent is in knee-deep mud. It seems like we are drunk. We fall from left to right. We start laughing uncontrollably.
The finish in sight
And then suddenly… Yes, over there! The Salamon arch. Our mantra returns immediately. The last 2 kilometres we are able to run again. Kilian Jornet is right. It’s all in the mind. Keep that together.
The best beers ever
At the finish we are welcomed as true heroes by Pieter, Alice and Floyd. We go straight to the nearest bar. Never before in my life have I emptied three cold beers as fast… Tired, proud and filled with happiness! What a beautiful birthday celebration!!