Dit verslag heb ik geschreven ter ondersteuning van mijn claim dat ik het Pieterpad heb gelopen in de snels bekende tijd (Fastest Known Time of FKT) self supported stijl. Het vooral een zakelijke beschrijving hoe ik aan water, eten en slaapplaatsen kwam. In elk geval zakelijker dan de lezers van mijn verhalen van mij gewend zijn. Het echte verhaal, waarin ik zal beschijven hoe ik de reis en het avontuur, beleefd heb en wat ik daarbij dacht en voelde, zal later volgen. Het verslag is in het Engels geschreven in verband met de internationale status van het forum fastestknowntime.com, een onafhankelijke en objectieve organisatie die de status van Faststest Known Times op routes wereldwijd beoordeeld en vastlegd. Een autoriteit op dit vlak binnen de ultrarunning community.
Like I announced May 6th I started out from Pieterburen on Tuesday 11-05-2021 at 10 am. I had planned to get my water from water points, shops and cafés, and if necessary from taps at houses. For food I would rely on restaurants, snackbars and supermarkets. I also made a tight schedule to reach the ferry’s in time, which would be the bottleneck for a fast time.
I started out fine and made steady and easy progress. The city of Groningen was rather busy and I kind of hurried through it. After Groningen the course became more varied, which was nice. I had a nice chat with a couple of through hikers who were aware of my plans from some internet posts. In Zuidlaren I had some grapes, tangerines and fried fish from the local market. Next stop was the village Rolde which I reached around schedule at 17.45. I tried to call the pizzeria 15 minutes ahead to order pizza. Unfortunately they were closed and I had to settle for satay with salad, fries and a coke instead. I took a coffee to go and was off again in half an hour. I hadn’t had any trouble finding water up till then, but it might be more difficult during the night with public places closed and fewer water points along the way. So when I came out of the woods into the village of Schoonlo, where I knew the restaurant would be closed, I started looking for a water tap on the facades of the houses along the road. At the first house I saw someone sitting behind the window. I walked upto the front door and waved. The women kindly asked me in as I asked for a cup of hot water for some ORS and a refill of my water bottles. Her husband was also home and we had a nice chat about my adventure and how to make outdoor activities interesting for children. After I drank my ORS I was off again and soon the sun was going down.
My sister kindly reminded me of a monument for a crashed WWII airplane and some ancient burial mounds and how there might be ghosts around in the woods near Sleen. I reached the village unscathed and went in search of a water tap. I found one on one of the first homes, but since the water was quite warm I didn’t trust it entirely legionella wise. So when I reached the church I decided to check the graveyard and found a tap there that was probably used more frequently. I made steady progress through the night. The temperatures were cool and I didn’t use much water. I decided to skip the potential water tap at the local sportspark in Daalerveen and decided to gamble on Coevorden station, where there should be a waterpoint. Before I reached Coevorden though, I had to change my plans. I hadn’t planned on any sleep the first night, but after Daalerveen I started to feel drowsy. When I passed a cowshed with bales of straw and hay. I didn’t have to think long. I layed down for a 15 minute power nap. After I got up and started out again, I was still sleepwalking. What the heck, I thought. I went back, got my bivy and all my clothes from my pack and settled down for 1,5 hours of sleep. I fell asleep with the sounds of the cows in the background.
When I woke up from my alarm a cat was just slipping by. I brushed my teeth on the way toward Coevorden, which I reached soon after at 4.06 on Wednesday. I didn’t find the waterpoint at the train station, but I wasn’t in much need of water, so I went on to Hardenberg, where I was quite sure to find another waterpoint. I was indeed able to refill at the waterpoint at the bridge over the river Vecht. I navigated the detour toward Rheeze and went on to Ommen where I had planned breakfast at the train station or local hotel. On the way someone had put a cool box with yoghurt and soft drinks at the side of the road and I enjoyed a raspberry yogurt and some orange. A welcome surprise! It was 9.29 when I reached the train station and found both the station café and the hotel closed. That was quite a disappointment! But after filling up on water at the train station waterpoint I soon sat down on a bench to reapply skincare on my back and feet and some sunscreen as well. The sun was already fierce at that point. The back up plan was Hellendoorn, where I was going to use the supermarket anyway. The path crossed the beautiful terrain of Archemerberg and Lemelerberg. The hilly terrain was a nice change and soon I was having ice cream at the local bakery. I ordered two sandwiches to go and then restocked further at the supermarket. I left Hellendoorn at 13.30, almost an hour behind my schedule.
I made steady progress from there. It was not too hot and it got more cloudy in the afternoon. Along the way I was cheered on by through-hikers. Someone had apparently posten in the Pieterpad Facebook group. It was rather motivating. I was also met by the local race organizer Bertus van Elburg at the 200k point on the Sallandse Heuvelrug. A little boy operated the village pump for me and from there I had enough water to reach Vorden, where I would have dinner at the local snackbar. I called the snackbar 15 minutes ahead to order my lamb shawarma. When I reached Vorden I was greeted by my sister and brother in law. After getting my food, a radler 0.0 and water refill, they accompanied me while having my dinner on a bench in front of the local flower shop. I had made good progress during the day and left Vorden almost on schedule at 20.15.
Then it started to rain though. I started to get a bit cold, the food was good, but didn’t settle too well on my stomach. Soon the rain was pouring down steadily and I had to put on extra clothes in Varssel to stay warm. I used a shed to stay dry while changing in warmer clothes. A woman came to greet me while I was leaving. I felt pretty bad when I left alone into the night. I was not in a good place mentally from there. Eventually I realised I made little progress to reach the ferry in Pannerden on time. A couple of kilometres from Zelhem I decided I’d better look out for a sleeping place sooner instead of waiting for the planned sleep at Warm. I was thinking if I should take a two hour nap or the planned three hours when I stumbled on another hayshed on the course. I soon settled down and decided for a three hour nap.
I had made a good choice, since I made much better progress after sleeping. I scolded myself a bit though, after three hours of sleep, running the 44 kilometres between me and the ferry in five and a half hours seemed near impossible. Especially when I found the village pump of Zelhem out of order. Fortunately I found a tap at the side of a home. But why hadn’t I decided on a three hour sleep instead of two? And why had I decided on a 10 am start instead of 9 or 8? Soon I was feeling better though. The nap had done its work properly though. And soon I started believing in reaching the ferry before 8 am again. I was soon on familiar terrain, since I had recced the second half of the course. That also helped me mentally. I still managed to take a wrong turn on the hills of Montferland, but I was enjoying them so much that it didn’t dampen my spirits. But then, when I had just passed Elten, I realized I had only 1.20 hours to reach the ferry with, as I thought, 12 kilometres to go. I seemed impossible and had almost given up, before I thought I’d better check the tracking site. I was using my gpx files in parts of the course and I wasn’t sure where I had put the finishing point of the file I was using at that moment. It turned out, it was in the Millingen village centre. This gave me enough will power to push onto the ferry which I reached with 10 minutes to spare!
I was surprised by my parents who were on the ferry to say hi. After catching up I left Millingen, right on schedule on Thursday 8.10 hours, eating the shawarma left overs from the night before. I had been pusing quite hard and I knew I had to keep pushing to reach the ferry in Grubbenvorst in time, or else I would lose 10 hours time before the first one would go the next morning. First it was time to relax a bit though, to recover from the effort. When I reached Groesbeek where I had planned to buy some food at the local bakery I was still (almost) on schedule. I hadn’t calculated any time for shopping or eating though. So the longer it took me, the more I would be behind schedule. I bought two sandwiches and two sausage rolls to go, a tompouce, a smoothie and double espresso for consumption on the spot. After that I went on to the supermarket to buy some fruit. I carried 3 kiwi’s and a lemon all the way to Swalmen before I would eat two kiwi’s! I wish I had skipped the supermarked. I was now half an hour behind!
I didn’t make up much time until the ferry in Afferden. It was quite warm during the afternoon and the sun was fierce. When I came off the ferry on the Sambeek side, someone (there were ever more local people, following the tracking site, coming out to greet me) told me I had 5.20 hours for 40 kilometres. Holy cow! I have to hurry. From then on I forced myself to run 700 metres and speed hike for 300. Just before Vierlingsbeek a man asked me what I was doing. After I told him he was keen on sharing his own sporty challenges with me, like skating, skeelering and biking the Elfstedentocht several times. I filled up on water at the local bar and soon was on my own again. I kept on pushing and doing my math. I soon saw myself making up time and I gained confidence I would make the 9 pm cutt-off at the ferry. I had to make it! Or else all the effort would have been for nothing and I would lose 10 precious hours. The swampy woods before Grubbenvorst were pestered by mosquitoes. It was horrible! Walking wasn’t even an option here. And so I kept pushing on until I realized I was going to make it with time to spare. I eased down a bit. But not too much, for I was very much looking forward to an ice cream from Cleevers. A famous local ice cream maker. And I made it to the ferry with an ice cream in my hand!
My parents had again come down to say high and went across the Maas with me before leaving for home again. I had already decided it would be wiser to try and find a B&B in Velden instead of pushing on for an uncertain sleeping place in a hay shed. I sat down on a bench next to a man. While I was making phone calls to nearby B&B’s he was speaking to my parents. His name was Wim and he told us he hadn’t been able to withstand the stress of watching my dot on the tracking site moving slowly along toward Grubbenvorst. He overheard my phone calls with the B&B’s that were all full and kindly offered me a bed in his home in Venlo. I asked if it was far from the course and if I could have shower as well. I could. How wonderful this selflessness! I gratefully accepted his offer. Tired from pushing more than 130 kilometres to meet the ferry cut-off times I made little progress toward Venlo. I was relieved to finally find the right home.
He made me eggs with bacon. We chatted a bit about my adventure, his own running exploits and his hobby in billiards. Then I had a hot shower followed by a three hour sleep. Wim made me another sandwich and soon I was off through the almost deserted streets of Venlo at 3.45 am on Friday May 14th. I was amazed by the amount of people in the streets at this hour. They must have been equally wondering about what I was doing there at that time of night.
I started walking at first. To warm up my legs which were hurting and rather stiff by now. But after a couple of kilometres I started mixing in some running again. Not much at first, but I gradually extended the spells of running and soon I was making decent progress again. I decided I would aim for a finish before dark. The sun would go down at 9.20 pm, but settled for 10. I met a family of wild boar in the Holtmühle woods. The little ones went left when I announced myself well up ahead, the parents went right. What to do? I carefully went forward listening for any sound, but they kept quiet. As soon as I reached the spot where they had stood, I sprinted away relieved. I was in Swalmen too early for the bakery. Instead I sat down for two kiwi’s. At least I hadn’t carried them for nothing. I still had one of the sandwiches from Groesbeek with me as well, but I would have to buy more food at some point. In Swalmen I also realised I was on schedule for a 9 am finish and I decided to aim for that.
I ate my sandwich in Melick and refilled up on water in Odilienberg. Next stop would be the bakery at Montfort. The disappointment was great when I was denied two pieces of deliciously looking Limburgian vlaai. They were only sold in halves or whole. That would be too much. I bought a coffee and asked for a quarter maybe? But was again turned down. I eventually left the village with six delicious chocolate truffles and an ice cream from a local farm’s vending machine. I didn’t eat too much, but my stomach wasn’t very good anyway. And besides, I had enough energy for the easy pace I was maintaining. I was still alternating running and walking randomly to feel and aimed for Sittard for the final stock-up on water and food.
I reached the city (centre) at 15.00 hours precisely. Filled up on water at the Ligne waterpoint. Went into an interesting hairdresser-coffeeshop combi for a Berry bomb smoothie and a double espresso, followed by some sushi at the sushi restaurant on the Markt, where I managed to get a quick delivery by telling I was trying to set a record on the Pieterpad. I was still on the 9 am schedule when I left Sittard, but from there I slowed down gradually. Maybe it was too much wasabi, maybe I was just reluctant to end the amazing adventure I was having or maybe I was just tired. As I closed in on to Valkenburg I was still having hopes on the Tivoly café which would usually be open until 8 pm. When I was getting close I saw the windows shut though. But there were two people standing in front of the café cheering for me. Did I need something they asked? They had a plate of hot food ready for me if I wanted. Another example of selfless helpfulness and just at the right moment.
After they sent me off, it started raining again. There had been a couple of thunderstorms before, but I hadn’t had too much rain. It would probably be the same now. But by the time I reached the top of the hill in Terbijt, the rain was pouring down and I had to put on my rain garments. When I went into the open field the thunderstorm was so close by that it made me hurry down the track and into the woods as fast as I could. The track down to Bemelen had turned into a river! But by the time I reached Bemelen the storm subsided. Beautiful skies lay before me, with the storm retreating from Maastricht to the east. What a splendid way to end this adventure!
Having to run through the water made feet hurt again. Very much! And from the moment I entered Maastricht I was able to run very little. I was done with it. I’d had enough. Let’s just get this over with. I want no more hurting. I will just walk it home I thought and I won’t even feel ashamed for it. I was met by some people in the city. One of them, his name was Raoul, filmed for a live post on facebook. My father was in the parking lot at the fort. One mile to go. Raoul told about the eagle owl family that is living around there. A minute later I hear one of them oowing me to the finish line. When we finally reach the last stretch of road toward the finish, I break into something resembling running. It certainly doesn’t feel that way. While I touch the monument I press the stop-button on my watch: 83 hours, 56 minutes and 46 seconds. There is no discharge of emotions or build up pressure. I just feel content with what I have achieved and grateful for what I have experienced. It has been a most amazing journey and adventure, through beautiful landscapes meeting wonderful people. And it is done.