This is kind of a hard one to write, or at least to start writing. Hey, I started writing! Let's see how this goes. It's tough partly because the result was disappointing (although with many positive aspects), partly because I haven't yet figured out why things went the way they did (although with several possibilities).
I'd start at the beginning, except that was in 2012 with the first Big Dog Backyard race I competed in, and who wants to hear 4 years worth of lead-in? Suffice it to say, I love this "last man standing" race and am still motivated to figure out how to do better. I certainly learn a lot every year I run it! I'm not sure I'll learn enough by the time I start slowing down from age (I'm ignoring the possibility that this is already happening, as I've felt young my whole life and ain't about to accept any other idea yet).
So let's skip ahead to race morning, and the excellent little TA box we set up for ourselves:
We just adore the convict shirts that the timing crew was wearing (maybe from the Barkley Fall Classic race):
Ready to go in my "hunting season orange" shirt:
Hey, I know all these people! (one of the photos I snagged from Facebook)
Lined up for lap 1:
And we're off! 46 of us heading out to explore the trails in Big Dog's backyard:
Yay, first little road section almost done!
John documenting our TA setup while I was out on the course:
I don't have a ton of stories from the daytime laps. I tried to run them slower than I have in the past, and that seemed to go well. I met a few people. I was more "back of the pack" than previously and therefore had more space for my slower uphill/faster downhill paces. John was crewing instead of running this time, and with his help I could easily do a quick transition and be right back in the starting gate.
Marc, Andy, and Trey finishing up lap 2:
Following across the line a few minutes later:
Jeff, Charlie, and Andy taking off for another round:
The early laps were easy and I was very happy - I love the trail and these woods!
Following Heidi through the trees, enjoying the rock steps and finally getting to run here again (thank you Laz!) after a race hiatus last year:
Bill blocking people from going back across the mat (it messes with the timing!), as Greg makes his way down the corridor we helped create so people could traverse back to the starting area without walking through people's TA setups:
And we're off - again!
John witnessed a chair mishap and the resulting carnage - someone else can tell that story:
Making the bend in the trail at the end of the lollipop loop - Case and Jeff and maybe Derek? One thing I missed by going slower was meeting more of my fellow runners during the day.
I seem to have a similar reaction to the camera as Liz:
Tim demonstrating his "Hug a Tree" technique for the kids:
Excellent shot of runners coming up the road:
Making my way through the field. It was a warm day, but at least most of the course is shaded.
In fact, I looked it up yesterday, and this year's race was 20 degrees warmer than the previous 3 Backyard races - 20 degrees! No wonder I was feeling it. Thanks to the shade and the wind in the trees, it wasn't overbearing heat. I was just warm.
John helped me with ice in the bottle, soaking my shirts in ice water to swap each lap, and icing down a neck bandana to wear. I wore my hat on the short exposed road portion and then tossed it to John before heading into the woods. All that made a big difference. But I suspect the warmer temperatures (and probably some dehydration) had something to do with my wearing down more quickly and the faster drop-off in the whole field this year.
Back to the orange shirt:
Another round for the intrepid runners:
Chatting briefly with Heidi and John:
Somewhere around 9 loops, my quads started complaining. That's not great. I was really hoping to get through the first day with legs that were perhaps a bit tired, but not hurting in any way. On the bright side, I was still running just fine. No issues with the leg speed, just having to ignore the quads. Apparently I was missing a key piece of training this year, dang it.
10 hours done, a couple more trail loops to go, and yay it's getting noticeably cooler!
Karen and Mr Big hanging out - I missed talking with you more, Karen!
Jeremy who was crewing for Heidi this year - will you be back to run here again, Jeremy?
Hi Sue! She wisely stayed away from the race start in order to not get talked into joining us for the craziness this time. Later in the day she was here to run a couple laps and then help John crew for me overnight. Great to see you!
All of my prep for a challenging day 2 actually came in handy, helping me finish the last couple day 1 trail loops with increasingly sore legs. Boy, if I felt like this at the end of day 2 I would be so psyched. At the end of day 1? Not so much. Anyway, I tried to push all that aside and just focus on what I needed to do to keep moving.
Headlamps on for the last trail loop, let's do this.
Darkness made things slower as usual, but at least we had an extra 15 minutes of light before everything got dim. It was appreciated.
With the cooler temperatures I was back to using the portapotty between laps, and I was happy to be rehydrated so I could try taking an ibuprofen. It was a super quick turn-around after the last trail loop, but John found one for me. I'm wary of taking any kind of pill while running - this seemed like a reasonable time to try it.
Ah, the darkness and smoothness of the road! So much better, at least at night when the moon is shining instead of the sun. Especially once I got my Hokas on after the first out-and-back. My legs were much happier and my quads calmed down, at least initially.
Here's the turnaround spot (a photo someone took during the day):
And good lord, WTF?? I saw this out of the corner of my eye each time I passed but instinctively didn't look. Thank you, instincts:
After 3 road laps, John Sharp pointed out that we were missing the far cone that was a bit further than the timing mat - ah, thank you John! We both did some extra distance past the cone to make up for that.
The moon was bright, the temperature was better, I was happy with my pace. Slightly easier than previously but still with plenty of time in between laps to actually work on things. Which is good, because I still had the quad pain issue to deal with. No help at all (that I could discern) from the ibu, nor from the Tylenol I took a few laps later. Sue brought a leg rolling
In the meantime, I was still running, the downhills were just painful, while the uphill speedwalking was easy. OK then, that's what this is. I so very rarely have anything hurt while I run, this was a good experience to understand it and figure out how to cope with it. Kind of a trial by fire. And since it was just muscle soreness, I didn't have to worry about damaging anything.
Huge shout-out to John and Sue for tirelessly helping me, encouraging me, and cheering me on. I wanted to do you prouder, but for now I was doing the best I could.
For a short while I wore a light jacket and Buff, expecting it to get cold at some point. Nope, not even close. Tim asked if I was expecting winter? No, just the normal overnight chill. Not this year. Usually I stop carrying the water bottle overnight (inter-lap SPIZ being enough liquid) but not this year. There was nothing cold about it.
My mental strategies were going well, as long as I ignored that fact that things were not going as planned. And that there was a sunrise coming up, with the return to the trail loops. That I might not be capable of finishing. Try to forget all that...
That didn't completely work. I started to get mad. A low-level simmering of "pissed off." In fact, I can call it up right now. It's still there. Not a normal reaction for me! Maybe I can use it later.
Back to the race, lap 21 went downhill quickly. The pain in my quads was getting challenging on the downhills. On top of that, my stomach started to rebel with any level of effort. Including speedwalking uphill. So now I no longer had that to look forward to.
I came back to the yard and told John I was done. He asked why? I tried to reason with him but he suggested I at least try. Fine, but I want my iPod. No problem, here it is.
Oh, the struggle of finishing a lap that you can't complete on time. My legs were shot and I couldn't coax them up to the basic required speed anymore. And my stomach was very upset with me. I could walk with some semblance of half-reasonable pace but it wasn't enough. It certainly wasn't pretty! Thank goodness for the distraction of NPR podcasts in my ears.
Even with all that, I wasn't too far away from the start/finish when time expired for me. I just couldn't do anything about it. Boy, that lap sucked. But at least I knew for sure. John walked with me the last part of the road, and they gave me a dog tag that reads "I gave my all in Big Dog's Backyard Ultra." That is so true.
Time for a little nap.
Good job everyone who is still running! Andy, John, Charlie, and Babak, back on the trail loops in the morning:
John apparently dislikes the sound of the starting cowbell:
A fun group of Tarheels:
John helping me to the portapotty after my nap, and I don't think I've caught up on my sleep quite yet:
Nor have my legs recovered:
At 29 hours, Babak was the Last Man Standing! His victory lap included bringing the cone from the road, well done sir:
Waiting to make sure Babak finishes this loop on time (I don't think anyone was doubting he would!)
And we have a winner!
You win - a trip to the Barkley! Um, thanks? :)
Our umbrella (last minute purchase in case of rain) came in really handy that morning:
The one photo I took that weekend (since I could reach the camera from where I was sitting and Babak just happened to be right across the way):
Thank you Laz, for this (and other) incredible, mind-blowing races that continue to inspire and bedevil me: