January 6 (Epiphany or Three Kings' Day) is a public holiday in Southern Germany, and we decided to make use of both the day off and the crisp-cold but sunny weather to run the Spessarter Spechtweg FKT route that loops around the lovely village of Spessart. Since we run a lot in the Albtal and the surrounding trails, we thought this well-marked route was a good way to get our trail legs back after the holiday season.
We parked our car next to the restaurant Kochmühle and started the loop on Graf-Rhena-Weg, getting the first (and longest) uphill section out of the way early on. The route mostly runs along broad hiking paths through the forest, with shorter paved segments and the occasional sticks-and-stones interlude. You have to cross a road twice but given the rural location and the holiday, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. After the second road crossing, the route runs parallel to the street for a few metres before turning left, descending straight into the fields. This 'cross-country' segment is a gentle downhill slope, which turned out to be quite muddy and slippery due to the heavy rains earlier that week. The paved segment next to the stream Waschbach (literally “laundry creek”) was also wet and slippery as overflowing water from the stream had flooded parts of the way. After crossing the stream and making it up the final climb (more like a bump), we ran down another muddy downhill section before looping back to our starting point on Graf-Rhena-Weg.
Originally, we had started out as a group of three (Chrissi, m / Steffi, w/ Wiebke, w), aiming for a mixed-gender FKT. Chrissi is by far the strongest runner of our group, especially on the uphills, and also the most carefree and reckless, especially on the downhills. This is why he sometimes pulls away from us, which is also what happened on Spessarter Spechtweg. However, what Chrissi has in trail prowess, he lacks in navigational skills. He also tends to zone out when Steffi aka Coach aka Navigator-in-chief briefs us on what route we're planning to take.
Long story short, we ended up “losing” Chrissi on the last downhill section where he apparently missed a turn. We (Steffi and Wiebke) finished the loop by ourselves as a female duo (supported by Chrissi up until the team split up on the final stretch). After completing the loop, we continued to run up and down Graf-Rhena-Weg until we met up with Chrissi again, who didn’t take his phone with him and eventually had to ask a kind hiking lady to point him into the right direction. Both Steffi and Wiebke were very tempted to leave Chrissi out in the cold but unfortunately he had the car keys on him, so…
(Note that this is a very doable and easily accessible hiking route, so Chrissi was never in any real danger except from the wrath of his two teammates)
We all, but especially Chrissi, learned some very important lessons that day: always listen to the Coach, always take a look at the map, and always take your freaking phone with you before you head out on the trails!