Race reports

14 September 2020 Janna Brand

Now that my head is clearing up and I no longer feel like a limp dishrag, it is a time to look back at my second attempt on the Solo11peaks. Of course I knew beforehand that I would be slower than the people who have finished so far, but I didn’t expect it to take me over 22 hours! Well, having said that, I am mainly proud that I continued, finished and did all 11 peaks (and valleys).

Nighttime experiences
It is quiet, so quiet that I almost feel like I am in another world. Strings of spider web regularly get stuck to parts of my body. Swarms of moths are attracted to my headlight and continue to fly around me. Quite irritating. My headlight illuminates a small part of the darkness. Occasionally I see a spider running across the path. My legs devour a small part of the course with each step. It goes quite slow and my head is not quite there. If I push too much, I get a lump in my stomach and feel pressure on my head. Why am I not lying in my bed? On very steep sections I occasionally lean standing still on my poles, take a deep breath and continue. I have a firm dip, so to speak. I expected a dip, but at 15 km? Anyway, thanks to reading Skyrunner, at this very moment I have to think about breaking through walls and actually experience it for myself. After a short break at the summit, followed by a new part of the course for me, that paralysing feeling is suddenly gone.

Occasionally I see eyes light up. A very big cat is looking at me while sitting in the bushes. Because it reacts so stoic, I think it is a Blue Maine Coon and not a lynx, although I would have liked that last option a lot more. On the Balmberg I see 2 pairs of eyes getting very scared and running very hard one way and then totally the other way. At first I think it is children I caught, but I reject that idea as soon as I hear oinking noises. Wild boars! On the ridge after the Balmberg I see 2 sleeping mountain goats and just after the Röti I am being studied by a fox. The most fear I have when I see a man standing on the Röti itself. He smokes a cigarette and has a cloth folding chair next to him. What is someone doing there alone at 5 a.m.? I ignore him and walk on rapidly. Fortunately, the man ignores me too.

Aditional challenges
I am on a descent that is also a cow field. It is still dark. Thanks to the cows, the grass has turned into a crater field. No path to see and running is only possible if you are not afraid to sprain your ankle or lose your shoe in one of those craters. I have no idea where to go exactly. Down, along the edge of the forest I have in the back of my head. I don’t recognise a forest edge very clearly and just go down. A nettle field scourges my bare ankles and calves. That promises some distractions in the form of tingling and itchy bumps in the time to come. During the day I will come into similar situations a few more times and I get to crawl through the bushes because I am trying to avoid a herd of cows, which is standing exactly there where the path should be. After some searching I always find a fence, marker or path, which confirms that I really am on the right track after all.

On the Betlachstockli the battery of my Phenix 6X runs out. I should have switched on Ultratrac after all. Luckily I also took my old 5s with me and I can continue on a breadcrumb track. A lot more difficult to navigate. Occasionally I end up on the wrong path, but with some help from Ronnie & Renée via Messenger I keep getting back on the course. It gets really funny when Peter gets involved as well, at the moment I can’t find the entrance of the Hexenwegli. I have walked up that path (from hell), but never descended it. I know that the entrance is on the other side of the barbed wire. That barbed wire that prevents people from walking too close to the cliff… I read in my screen on behalf of Peter: ‘over the edge Janna’. Somewhere in the back of my mind I think: get lost, I don’t have the guts, I will simply walk on to the Hassenmat! Then suddenly I discover the entrance on the right of a provisory bench with a small fire pit. The fear disappears all of a sudden and I start the descent between the rocks. After the Hexenwegli I know the way. Now it is going to be okay.

Of course I still had to descend the Geissflue. A dreadful descent as well. Especially with an already tired body. It takes forever, is terribly steep and you have to concentrate all the time because there is not really a clear path, but a lot of rocks, loose stones, tree roots and dead tree leaves. And then it’s also a kind of ridge, quite wide, but with valleys on both sides nevertheless. No room for big mistakes. Luckily this also comes to an end and surprise: Ronnie is waiting at the end with the girls! The last climb and descent they join me. And then another surprise: in the last climb a whole herd of mountain goats is posing for us next to the stone pit. The Jura at its best!

The last stretch on the road and through the gorge are a piece of cake compared to the last 22 hours and soon I can receive my highly wanted and well-deserved Oufi beer at the Cathedral. I did it!

Dutch version: https://juraxtreme.com/blog/

23 juni 2020 Renée Cardinaals

It was in the fall of 2019 that Ronnie mentioned the idea of creating a race route around Solothurn for the first time. In march this year, when I moved in with Ronnie and Janna due to Corona circumstances, this idea was becoming more concrete as all races in the upcoming months were being cancelled. So, Ronnie created the route, which became after a few adjustments, 75 kilometres with around 5400 D+. When he showed it to me, I immediately said; “looks great, but not for me!”. I am used to running distances up to 50 kilometres and did not feel ready for a 75 km run with this amount of elevation gain. But all my races got cancelled as well and I was able to train a lot on the Jura trails around Solothurn, so I started looking for a new running goal. I saw people come and go, running the Solo11Peaks and following their efforts got me wondering if I would be able to do this as well. The idea grew bigger in my head and I started preparing: I hiked the route in 3 days, spending the night on the trails. Then I ran the first half in one go, which gave me the confidence I needed. So I decided to turn my ideas into deeds and chose the perfect day (which is one of the great things about the concept: you can pick any day and time that suits you best). The date was set on the 23 rd of June, and I carefully said to Ronnie: “I may just be running Solo11Peaks this Tuesday…” with a big grin on my face.

The night before I could hardly sleep because I was pretty nervous. I had no idea what to expect as this was the first time I would ever run this distance and I knew I would be out there for about 12 hours. The longest I had ever run in a race was 7 hours. So when my alarm went off at 4.30 I did not feel fresh as a daisy. But on the other hand, I was excited to run and really looking forward to spending a full day outside in the mountains. So I had breakfast, packed my racing vest and got dropped off in Solothurn by Ronnie and Janna. At 5.30 I took my first strides down the stairs of the Cathedral.

One of the things I like about the Solo11Peaks route is that it has multiple climbs but they are not so long that they kill your motivation. You can literally tick off the peaks along the way. So, that’s what I did; first the Balmfluechöpfli, then the Wanneflue and after three and a half hours I arrived at the Röti. The sun was out and it was already getting pretty warm by then. I noticed how I was slower than the last time I ran this first half. But I didn’t worry; I knew I had a long way to go. So I focused on drinking and eating as the journey would get hard if I would not be able to keep fuelling. The days before, I made a detailed plan for myself about what and how much I wanted to eat along the way. Unfortunately, I noticed from the start that I did not really feel like eating. This happens more often with warm weather; I just want to drink and eating makes me nauseous. If you run 4 or 5 hours, this is not such a big problem, if you have some sports drink and take gels. But on a long day like this, it would be nice if I could take some solid calories as well. So I did my best to eat, mainly gels, sometimes a bar or snickers.

After the Röti comes one of my favourite parts: running down from the Balmberg into a little gorge, climbing back up to the Weissenstein, following a playful singletrack to the Hinterweissenstein and finally a long and smooth descent to Gänsbrunnen. Then I was already halfway, after 5 hours and 15 minutes. This felt great, and although I was not focused on running the Solo11Peaks within a specific time, I knew then I could have a chance on running in 11:11. On the other hand, I also knew that the second half would get tougher and I still did not know how my body would respond. So I just kept on going, putting one foot in front of the other in the steep climb after Gänsbrunnen, descending and climbing again towards Obergrenchenberg. Descending was also starting to feel harder, less smooth, especially on the more technical trails. Although it was not until kilometre 50 that I tripped and fell for the first time that day; not too bad uh! But still, hitting the dirt is never fun. Luckily I was close to my second dropbag, which I had hidden the day before. The refreshments felt very welcome but I noticed that I was getting less and less eager to eat any solid food. And when I had to continue after my break, I really did not want to run anymore, all of the sudden I felt really empty and without energy. And so I started the long climb up to the Stallflue a bit demotivated. The kilometres went very slow from there and I let go of my idea to run below 11:11. Luckily I also knew that after the Stallflue, the climb to the Hasenmatt would be short and after that it would be mainly descending. The thought of this kept me moving and I kept on putting one foot in front of the other, feeling slightly cooked in the hot sun by then. After descending from the Hasenmatt, I took it easy on the technical descent from the Geissflue so I would not collect my second fall of the day. I don’t know how I made it through the last 7 kilometres of running back towards Solothurn. But somehow I returned at the Cathedral after 11 hours and 34 minutes, feeling empty but also incredibly proud. I had proven myself that I was capable of more than I actually thought.

Even though this was not a “real” race with a finish line and a crowd that welcomes you, I was overwhelmed by all the support and positive messages I received from friends! Big thanks to Ronnie and Janna for putting this crazy but sweet challenge out there and giving us the chance to expand our limits! I really enjoyed my day and I am looking forward to taking more steps into the world of ultra trailrunning. 🙂

13 June 2020: Ronnie Duinkerken

Shit, wat is het donker! Het is iets na 5 uur ‘s ochtends als ik de Verenaschlucht in loop en er achter kom dat het in de de kloof nog nacht is. Aan een lampje heb ik niet gedacht, omdat ik dacht dat het midden juni om dit tijdstip licht genoeg zou zijn. Langzaam wennen mijn ogen aan het schemerdonker en ik zie Jezus aan het kruis opdoemen, wat betekent dat ik rechtsaf moet slaan en er een serie korte klimmetjes aan staat te komen. Die klimmetjes zijn lekker om er een beetje in te komen, als opwarmertje voor de 11 pieken die me vandaag te wachten staan.

Vlak voor 5 uur heeft Janna me afgezet bij de St Ursenkathedraal in Solothurn, de symbolische start van mijn zelfbedachte uitdaging: de Solo11Peaks. De Solo11Peaks is een solorace van 75 kilometer over 11 pieken in Kanton Solothurn waarbij meer dan 5000 meter geklommen moet worden (in de praktijk lijken het er eerder 5600 te zijn). Als je de ronde binnen de 11:11:11 volbrengt dan verdien je geen buckle, maar een bügel. Een uitdaging die al langer in mijn hoofd zat, en waarbij de Coronacrisis me het laatste zetje heeft gegeven om dit samen met Janna om te zetten in een echte race. Er is een website, een route, een tracker en een scherpe FKT van Peter van der Zon. Peter liep de race in een razendsnelle tijd van 10h53 en toonde zo meteen aan dat een tijd van 11:11:11 te doen is. Althans, voor een goede loper.

Inmiddels is het wat lichter en ben ik begonnen aan de eerste lange klim naar de top van de Balmfluechöpfli. Als ik een bochtje omdraai zie ik ineens een wel heel erg uit de kluiten gewassen kat zo’n 50 meter voor me lopen. Het beest reageert door met een grote sprong in de bosjes te verdwijnen. Aan het korte staartje zie ik dat het een lynx is. Een bizarre en unieke ontmoeting en licht euforisch loop ik naar de top. Boven schijnt de zon en voel ik voor het eerst dat het een warm dagje gaat worden. Gelukkig heb ik genoeg water meegenomen, en er zijn genoeg bronnen onderweg om water bij te vullen.

De kop is eraf. Ik voel me goed en mijn lichaam en hoofd schakelen over naar de ultrastand.  Het is een staat waarbij tijd er niet meer toe doet en uren minuten lijken te worden. Het lichaam gaat in een stand dat het uren vol kan houden. Door de vochtige warmte ga ik iets minder hard dan verwacht, maar ik maak me er niet druk om. Ik zit in een goede flow: drinken, eten, lopen. Chamben, Wanneflue, Röti. Vlak na Balm heb ik de dag voordien een tasje met wat eten verstopt in een holle boom, en iets verderop kan ik mijn softflasks bijvullen met lekker fris bronwater. 

De door mij intens gehate klim van Welschenrohr naar de Weissenstein gaat beter dan verwacht, maar vlak onder de top verloop ik me en kom ik aan de verkeerde kant van de graat uit. Ik loop parallel aan het pad door en kom in een modderig off-trail stuk uit. Met soppende schoenen kom ik uiteindelijk weer op het juiste pad en ik vervloek mezelf: meneer de racedirector die zijn eigen route niet kent….. Anyway, het aantal extra gelopen meters valt mee en het heeft me hoogstens 5 minuten bonustijd opgeleverd.  Het middenstuk van de Solo11Peaks van de Weissenstein naar de Grenchenberg is niet het moeilijkst. Net even wat minder hoogtemeters en de paden zijn goed te belopen. De zon brandt alleen onverbiddelijk, het is drukkend warm en in dit deel van de route loop je wat meer door weides. Ik drink en ik drink (en ik drink) en bij ieder waterbak maak ik mijn petje nat om niet oververhit te raken.

Bij de Grenchenberg mag ik mijn favoriete afdaling doen, een steil paadje met zigzagjes en kettingen dat eindigt bij restaurant Bettlachberg.  Beneden aangekomen bedenk ik me ineens dat ik zin heb in soep, bier en cola. Het restaurant is open, en ik plof neer op het terras. De halve liter alcoholvrij bier is binnen twee minuten weg, de zoute soep slurp ik snel naar binnen en de cola is het perfecte toetje. Herboren begin ik aan de korte klim naar de Bettlachstock, een prachtig bergje dat op de nominatie staat om de lijst van werelderfgoed te worden geplaatst. De afdaling naar Selzach is lang, maar goed te doen. Eenmaal beneden mag ik aan de andere kant van het beekje weer omhoog. Maar niet voordat ik mijn tweede zakje met eten veilig onder een boom vandaan heb gepeuterd. Ik neem een buisje met elektrolyten en vraag me af waar de bitterzuurzoete smaak vandaan komt. Ik bekijk de ingrediëntenlijst snel en zie cafeïne en guarana in de lijst staan. Ik zie het niet alleen, ik voel het ook vrijwel meteen. Strakstrakinmijntrainingspak hak ik omhoog naar de Stahlfluh.

Boven op de Stahlfluh heb je een fantastisch uitzicht over het Mittelland, de Jura en de Alpen. Ik heb ook een mooi uitzicht op flinke donderwolken, die nu nog ver genoeg weg lijken te zijn, maar treuzelen is nu geen optie meer. De afdaling over de Hexenweg is tricky: kettingen, smal, exposed en glad, maar ik kom zonder kleerscheuren beneden. In gestrekte draf loop ik richting Schauenburg, wetende dat ik nog maar één echte klim hoef te doen, naar de top van de Hasenmatt, het hoogste punt het Kanton. In de verte hoor ik het echter al rommelen en het begint snel te betrekken. Als in: heel snel, ik zie de wolken van beneden omhoog kolken. Het is eigenlijk niet eens een beslissing, mijn Solo11Peaks poging eindigt hier. De klim naar de Hasenmatt is niet lang, binnen een half uur sta je normaalgesproken boven. Maar dan sta je ook echt boven. In dit geval: op een kale piek, zonder bomen in een flinke onweersbui.

Ik stuur Janna een bericht dat ik zo snel mogelijk naar beneden kom, en terwijl ik dat doe barst de bui los. Eerst komt de regen, in dikke druppels. Daarna de wind, die als een soort van enorm monster door het bos komt aanrollen. Ik hoor achter me bomen kraken en er komen takken naar beneden. Daarna komt de bliksem en de donder. Ik hol naar beneden. Vermoeidheid voel ik niet meer, adrenaline werkt overduidelijk nog een stuk beter dan guarana en cafeïne. Na een paar kilometer lijk ik uit de bui te lopen en kom ik iets tot rust, totdat ik bij de voet van de Weissenstein aankom, waar het weer bar en boos is. Twee keer slaat de bliksem redelijk dichtbij in. Eigenlijk zou ik een veilig plekje moeten zoeken, en ik maak me zorgen over mijn stokken, die prima antennes zijn. Ik besluit door te lopen, en na 20 minuten kom ik gelukkig veilig thuis aan.

Veiligheid voor alles, verstandige beslissing: dat is een beetje de teneur van veel van de reacties. Ik kan er niet zoveel mee, al was het maar dat je dit rondje niet kunt lopen als je je beperkt door te denken in dat soort termen. Juist door verder te gaan dan je eigenlijk durft of dacht te kunnen leer je je grenzen te verleggen. En dat is iets anders dan roekeloosheid. Maar goed, ik kan lullen wat ik wil, het blijft een dikke vette dnf. En dat moet worden rechtgezet, ergens over een paar weken ga ik het gewoon nog een keer proberen. Dat is het voordeel van je eigen race in je achtertuin.

31 May 2020 Maarten Hendriks

Started strong, was hard to navigatie with my watch that only shows the track as a breadcrumb line which I should follow and therefore I ended up on the wrong part of the track. After the first peak, could correct the misstake, but that costed some extra km.

Peter told me that the 2nd part was way heavier, well he was right! I was a Bit demotivated when I found out that I did 56km while being at km 50 of the track, so stopped chasing the 11:11 benchmark. Also was out of energy to keep pushing and had a hard time on the last climbs. But I’m Proud that I did it!

Thanks Ronnie

22 April 2020 Peter van der Zon

My solo adventure started somewhere in a small town just before sunrise on a cold morning, that would quickly turn into a hot and sunny day.

A throwback first:
In February, I took part in a 24-hour challenge sponsored by SOL-ID, held in Juraxtreme’s backyard. At this event, Ronnie told me something about the idea of organising a crazy challenge somewhere around 70k with 5000D+. From that moment on, he had my interest, but because of my upcoming races, I didn’t know if I would have the opportunity to run it yet.

I think it was about 4 weeks later, after a race I didn’t finish, that I thought of this challenge again and asked Ronnie about it. At that time he was quite busy looking for the best trails, which at the same time were not too extreme for the average trailrunner. We talked about it, and since my next race was cancelled anyway, I asked if I could try out the challenge in my holiday week.

Date planned, I was looking forward to it!

The day of the race, the sky was clear blue and I knew it was going to be damn hot. I decided to keep a steady pace in order not to put too much stress on my body. After the first ‘aidstation’ ( a small water point ), at about 25k with 2100D+, I had already done 3 peaks and got that ultra feeling of warming up and good rolling legs.:). I was already hoping for that because the first downhill my quads were on fire, because of the 2k descent with 30% D- average. After this point I thought I had had the hardest part: Of course the next part would be difficult, but had I not had the steepest climbs and descents? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The middle part was the easiest part for me, some faster trails, enough drinking spots, but still a lot of D+. A nice moment to eat and drink a lot and prepare myself for the last part of the challenge. Good to know, somewhere along the route was a small kiosk, where you could buy cake, Coke and other stuff.

After 45k the longest downhill so far came, with a descent of about 800 meters. The first part of the downhill was very technical (rocky) and after that there were a lot of loose leaves. You can see it as a steep ski slope with fresh snow on it (I fell 3 times in a K or so).  Then came a very nice downhill, until the beginning of the last part of the day with 2 of the highest peaks and 1 real technical downhill. Because it was getting warmer and warmer (it was about 1:30 in the afternoon) becoming dehydrated and overheated was a serious possibility, fortunately a few short stops and 2 fresh streams kept me going. 

Just after the highest point (the Hasemat) came the hardest ( you can read the most fun) downhill of the day ( tnx mannn, my quads are no longer your friend haha) 30% descent with lots of pointy rocks won’t help you make up time ( if you want to beat the 11:11:11 deadline), but I was still trying and pushed hard. The last climb of the day was also the easiest (but because of the dehydration I still had to push hard) and the last downhill was the same one as in the 24 Hours Challenge. I started to realize that I would make it to Solothurn in time.

10:53:36 later I was back where I started and immediately dived into the fountain. To my surprise Janna, René and the dogs were waiting for me there. Ronnie joined us after 10 minutes with a cold Ouffie beer. That was the best reward of the day.

So if you’re looking for a big challenge, Coronaproof, here’s why you should do it…

  • If you start early, it’s quite possible you won’t see any people for the first few hours…
  • Walking alone, and being your own support station…
  • Having awesome views…
  • A wide variety of trails, from running to scrambling…
  • Having fun, without the risks of a race…
  • When you’re done, you can eat a lot…

2020 First attempt Janna Brand

2 o’clock in the morning, my alarm clock⏰ rings. Today is the day I’m going to run our own challenge: The Solo11Peaks, a 75 km trail run with 5000D+. It’s dark, I’m half asleep, dressed for a day playing in the mountains and I successfully try to get some food and liquid in my body. I’m ready to kick some ass. What could possibly go wrong after all?↩️
Quite a lot, I must say.
✅I borrowed my partners Garmin Fenix, and loaded the track in it. To make the battery last longer, we turned it in some kind of energy saving mode. Unfortunately this meant also it was less accurate in telling me where I was on the map. I have to admit navigating is not my strong side and from time to time I had to go back and forth to find the right trail. One path I could not find at all, so I had to go around it. This meant some extra distance, but who said it was going to be easy?😉
✅The day before I hid some food and drinks along the track. It did not happen to me this time, but animals tend to like the food inside these bags as well. A friend of mine found the sausage he had hidden half eaten by something. Bye bye dinner!😁😞
✅Even though I know the Jura around Solothurn pretty well, the trail was more demanding than I had expected. Nice surprise was that the Solo11Peaks went over some trails I had never taken before. Loved it! I was slower then I had hoped: Instead of doing the first part in 8 or 9 hours it took me at least 10.
✅I knew before I started that this challenge would take me at least 16 hours. I had assumed the huge battery of my partners watch would do the trick. Unfortunately it gave an alarm the battery was almost empty after 40k and a little over 10 hours. I had no clue what trails to take after that point, so I decided to go back to the other side of the mountain by train.↩️
❕Mission not completed that day, instead I did the next half two days later.
🎗What not went wrong luckily, is that I managed to stay on my feet. I still have (almost) all of my skin, no blisters, no sunburn, no dehydration, no hypothermia, no overheating and apart from a little sore knee ligaments, no serious injuries. But I anticipated that this might happen and took precautions.
❗️Next time, sometime, I will take 2 watches and a battery pack with me, so technology will not stop me🥇🏆.