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Black Forest Marathon, 1999.

The mother of all marathons was held in June at Kirchzarten in the heart of the Black Forest. The 115 kms and 3300 vertical meters were foolish enough for this race to be described as an 'ultra marathon'. Here's how Andy saw it:

Seven Started and Seven Finished - One new member of the marathon club and Simon confirmed as top peddler. Lots of us (except Simon) had our longest rides ever! The course was a change from the norm of one or two laps, this time it was one soddin' big loop which means everything is unknown. Everyone does the first hill together, gliding down to the Titisee lake, and then you split into two separate courses. Feedback from the boys and girls on the 'short course' hints that this was the more 'interesting' one with muddy, rocky, steep descents alongside barbed wire fences providing an extra initiative to staying in the saddle. The start had 2.900 people setting off in groups of several hundred at 30 second intervals, which made for a cracking jam at the bottom of the first hill. For the full course, most of the going was wide 4WD gravelled tracks through the woods so there was little chance to take in the impressive scenery in the heart of the Black Forest. Sometimes it made up for it by dipping in and out of valleys into small towns (where the folk were out to laugh and cheer at our expense) and you could catch a short glimpse of the rolling layered greenery covered peaks fading into the distant haze. One town, Todenau, even had the town square rigged up with a Biergarten, loudspeakers and a DJ with a drinks station in the middle of it all, so the lederhosen-clad locals could get a few down 'em and wave their Bratwursts at the poor knackered bastards riding slowly by chewing power bars! The entry to this town was down a steep road into the town limits (German towns all have a 50kph limit) and it was interesting to blast, arse-up and head-down into the place doing 70kph with a policeman stopping the traffic and yelling encouragement. Normally they'd shoot your tyres out! The finish was a nice touch - riding into a sports stadium and around a running track with the thousand-strong crowd yelling from the terraces. I'm not sure the nice German track polishers would have liked Simon's 10 yard skid into the time gate though. There were only two marginally techy downhill bits on the full course that don't really deserve a special mention. The other 90% were gravelled roads which provided us all with a "new" experience... The roads had about one inch of nice, fresh, angular gravel, but as several hundred riders had passed through before, there was a racing line 9 inches wide of gravel-cleared brown earth. This strip would take top speed (around 60kph) around unknown and frequent hairpins whilst the gravel outside the racing line allowed about 20kph before you 'aquaplane' into the nearest immobile green thing. Needless to say, overtaking was 'fun'. Uphills: the organisers went out of their way to put a few diversions up deep grassy, cowpat-mined pastures and mud-filled rocky stream beds. Thanks guys. SOME TIMES, PLACES AND FEELINGS Marathon Course, 79km and 2.100m: 1.345 finished. Chris took 6:14 and was 92nd out of 101 in her category, 1.261 st overall. Despite the torture, her dimples were in prominence and so it can't have been that bad Petra was back in 6:08 and was 58th out of 66 in her category, 1.247 th overall. Petra said it was 'wonderful and flew over the hills and felt lighter than air'. Seeing as Petra obviously had no big problems with the little course I suggested she try the full one next - it wasn't a good suggestion, apparently. She's worried her little legs are getting too muscle bound and unsexy Susanne did it in 6:02 and was 83rd out of 101 in her category, 1.213 th overall. Susanne had to go one better than the rest of us and do a mid-descent somersault into some flora - anything to get attention! At the end she only had a wee scratch to show for the effort but with luck there will later be a high blue and yellow bruise to impress the couch potatoes with. Jens was back after 4:35 and was 119th out of 239 in his category, 425th overall, not bad for his first outing - he did so well he'll have to do the full course the next time, ha ha! When asked "how do you feel?" he told me told me not to ask dumb questions and who cares as he only did the girly course (His words not mine, sue him, not me!). Big suprise was that his Cannondale actually made the full trip as they are more in the pricey poser bike class than proper racing kit. Ultra Marathon Course, 116km and 3.350m... 1.207 finished, the winner managed 4:42! Gavin snuck in ahead of lil' ole me at 7:26 and was 458th out of 688 in his category, 801 st overall. A well and truly wasted individual for the 80 -100 km bit until whatever kicks in kicked in. Not a pretty sight over the post-match bowl of spaghetti. The thing that 'kicked in' near the end was the fact that I had just reached the top of the last major climb on the course, and unexpectedly met Andy at the feeding station. Andy looked like a bag of shit, loosely tied together. We rode the next few flat kilometres together, at which point my attempts at jovial conversation were met with grunts, half-nods and monosyllabic answers. I decided we would both be better off alone, and the extra lift of catching him gave me the energy to ride away from him. That and a tidy young girl with a nose ring who kept overtaking me on the hills and then riding just out of arse-grabing distance. On the final hill (since named "Andy's cramps"), after the steep bit, I was grinding slowly up the gravel track in granny gear. As I reached a slight crest, the guy who had just caught me exclaimed 'that is last of the climbing' as he rode by. It was only at that point that I noticed he only had one leg. Simon sprinted round in 7:02 and was 361 st out of 688 in his category, 630th overall. My hero! A well and truly silver-backed performance saw Simon giving his testosterone-influenced all to stay on for the climbs most others would get off and walk for. He paid later when riding up a similar steep one and was overtaken by a guy walking his bike, needless to say he saw the light and walked the next silly bit. He admits to being a corpse around the 80km to 100 km mark and wondering if he could cheat a bit and get it over with (a thought he shared with about 1.500 others I suspect ) but then he perked up for the sprint home. Andy crawled painfully home in 7:35 and was 489th out of 688th in my category, 853 rd overall. He made a pre-race decision to up the start tempo, thus ignoring the advice of any endurance sport handbook. They were all right, Andy was VERY wrong. All was good until around 65 km and then a few cramps and twinges started to set in. At about 85km, Andy tried to ride the last steep-and-silly hill, and discovered in a flash that instead of being on a bike he was on his back in a field in agony, suffering for simultaneous cramps in both thighs. As anyone with a background in physics or mechanics can testify, it is impossible to peddle if both legs are straight and rigid. I wish I'd stayed with him just to watch a lanky man fall over a cattle fence into a cow pasture onto his back with those eight feet long legs pointing straight up into the sky... Anyhow, it hurt, but Andy finished, so there. Yah boo sucks to pain.

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