Small November Ultra: Holsteinische Schweiz Weg

29th of November, 2020

The ongoing pandemic keeps making us find new routes to run. A few weeks earlier, in an edition of the newsletter from the FastestKnownTime.com peeps this new record time was mentioned, located in Northern Germany’s state of Schleswig-Holstein, leading from the city of Plön to the city of Eutin via the Holsteinische Schweiz Weg.

Run by a familiar name to me, Judith Havers. While I haven’t yet met her, we have common friends and I recognized her name and felt happy to see her making these international waves as one of the three highlighted athletes on the worldwide scene of our little ultra running niche. 5 hours, 1 minute, 14 seconds for 53.36 kilometers, a solid effort. 

Fallen leaves on the ground
Fallen leaves on the ground

In the world of ultra running, the distance is more on the gentle side with barely more kilometers than necessary to qualify as “ultra”. It had been a while since my last real long run, so seeing that mention of Judith immediately formed the decision to run that same distance. New FKT as well? Maybe, but probably not though. Instead I asked my friend Oli, with whom I did October’s crazy running streak #comeon1more, if he would want to accompany me. He had been talking about trying to do his first ever ultra run lately, so this seemed fitting. His positive reaction arrived soon, so it was settled. No FKT try, but a buddy pacing run instead. Just as good. 

Sunday, November 22nd of 2020, 8:00 AM, Oli is at the door and we’re taking the car to the city of Plön, just over an hour’s drive from Hamburg. 

Right before jumping into his first ultra run
Right before jumping into his first ultra run

Preparation went alright, we both had done our share of long runs leading up to today, the breakfast was good enough, the sleep as decent as it could get with a combined seven children, the vests packed with water, iso, gels, bars, and the route on the phone and the watch. What could possibly go wrong.

Sidenote: Isotonic Drinks

Recently, I’ve been getting into mixing my own isotonic powder after getting more and more annoyed at all the plastic you need to buy when buying it pre-made. After researching it a bit, it turned out that there’s no big mystery to those powders. They are usually made of mainly sugar and a bit of salt. Also, artificial flavorings, and often, additives that don’t do much but sound great as advertisements. Sugar and salt I can buy for a lot cheaper, wasting a lot less plastic. After making a few test recipes I arrived at a good enough solution, consisting of the following:

This makes roughly 2 liters worth of iso and also costs a fraction of what the big brands require. It’s not yet perfect – I need to do some more experimenting with flavorings. The orange zest (usually used for baking) makes for a nice taste but isn’t soluble, so there are tiny pieces in the drink. I would like to avoid artificial flavors, so that’s not the easiest task. Anyways, the drink is tasty enough and does the trick. 

Ready for a Little Adventure

Off into the forest
Off into the forest

The route is meant for hiking, which also means it’s good for running. The only little annoyance is that the signage wouldn’t be great, so we had to use Oli’s Garmin watch for navigation. That worked out pretty well, though. 

Early on, we were surprised by amazing fall weather
Early on, we were surprised by amazing fall weather

Running through the woods, sun in our faces, blue skies, it could be worse. 

Most of the first half of the route led us along pretty lakes. 

Sometimes, people do stupid things, like for example ruin a perfectly fine lake with a building like that
Sometimes, people do stupid things, like for example ruin a perfectly fine lake with a building like that
Then, there are lush meadows which look like the Windows XP wallpaper
Then, there are lush meadows which look like the Windows XP wallpaper

We tried to run at a relaxed speed of just over 6:00 minutes per kilometer so we would hopefully not get too tired too early. This worked quite well, but the rolling hills got a bit higher at around 25-30 kilometers and sucked some extra energy out of both of us. The area is called Holsteinische Schweiz for a reason, our common friend Mathias pointed out (Schweiz means Switzerland – it’s sort of a joke though, the hills here are obviously nothing compared to the Swiss alps). 

Tiny uphill stretch
Tiny uphill stretch

The route had another attraction to offer. That’s the highest point of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, 168 meters high Bungsberg. A beast of a mountain for sure! We had our slowest kilometer up that hill, but that was mainly due to touristy picture taking and navigational mistakes. 

Tower on top
Tower on top
View from above
View from above
Oli is clearly amazed
Oli is clearly amazed

From now on, it’s easier turf to run on, although we realized that our shoes weren’t perfectly suitable for today. Lots of leaves covering slippery mud or sharp stones and some fallen sticks, some meadow trails only consisting of mud, some wet downhills too. We should have gone for trail shoes with more grip, but instead both wore street running shoes. A bunch of near-falls happened, but nothing worth mentioning. Lucky. 

The days are considerably shorter: after just a few hours the sun is almost down
The days are considerably shorter: after just a few hours the sun is almost down
Today’s mantra “Weiter, immer weiter!”
Today’s mantra “Weiter, immer weiter!
Can you guess what we’re celebrating here? Obviously, the marathon point. M 4 2.
Can you guess what we’re celebrating here? Obviously, the marathon point. M 4 2.
Our pace dropped to about 6:30-7:00 minutes/km at this point
Our pace dropped to about 6:30-7:00 minutes/km at this point

Those last handful of kilometers were flat and near a lake again, which was really nice as we didn’t have much left in us to go for even more small hills.

There’s Eutin’s water front, sort of the finish
There’s Eutin’s water front, sort of the finish
But in order to fully complete the track we followed it to the train station
But in order to fully complete the track we followed it to the train station

Done after 56 kilometers total in the end, in 6:23:21 hours! Great fighting by Oli, who can now call himself an ultra runner if he really wants to. I was also tired in the end. Those hills added up to about 700 meters of elevation gain, which isn’t nothing. The end result is far away from a fastest known time, but it’s a great route and the run happened during optimal weather with lots of good conversations. If you happen to live in the area and are looking for interesting places to run, check this one out!


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