One of my favorite races of the year - the Big Dog Backyard Ultra "last man standing" event in Tennessee. The people are great, the location is fun, and somehow the weather is always beautiful (I'm starting to believe that Laz can control the weather). We run 4 1/6-mile loops for as long as we can until there is only one runner left. What's not to like? :)
The report this year is less about what I did and more about what I didn't do. I didn't get enough training in, not for lack of motivation (and frustration). I tried time and again to build up some miles only to have something else go wrong. The IT band was the big one, derailing my main Big Dog training. Fixing it was awesome. I didn't have any problems during the race, yay! I didn't have to stop early - that was my biggest concern. I didn't run as far as I would have liked. But I didn't have anything to complain about.
So maybe I can focus more on what other people did.
My brother Kip joined us this year, fun! We met up in Nashville, had an excellent dinner with our friend Paul, gathered supplies, and headed to Bell Buckle to set up.
Fun with mirrors:
Pre-dawn quiet. Ours is the green pointy tent with a Kip sitting next to it:
And we're off! John grabbed the camera for a round of photos, getting started early this year:
The field starts the short out-and-back on the road:
Into the woods, with a passel of spectators cheering us on for the first lap:
OK, that is really funny! Both the cheer tunnel and that John got a picture of it:
Early morning in the field:
One lap down, woo hoo! Time for some celebratory Spiz.
The daytime loops went well, especially enjoyable because Kip ran with me for much of the time. He doesn't seem to mind my easy uphill walking and faster downhill gliding. Time passes quicker with someone to talk to, and we were happy to have hours to catch up on stuff.
The field stayed larger longer this year. We met some new folks, always fun to run with different people for a while and listen to stories.
Leading the way for once - ?? - among everyone who was tied for first place at the time:
Mike and Mike in the timing booth - thank you!
There's the Big Dog! Looking like he's ready for a weekend drive:
I wonder where Laz came up with one of these...
The start of lap 5:
John took the camera out for another run during loop 8 - heading down the road:
Excellent photo-bomb, Tim!
Doing good, John Sharp!
Ben and Jeremy making the turn-around at the cone:
Into the woods and over some logs. Shout-out to Ben for removing the large multi-limbed downed tree that was the most awkward obstacle last year.
Joe and Kelley leading the way up a hill:
As expected, it was wet at the bottom of the hill (lots of rain in TN lately), but happily no worse than two years ago. Additional rocks appeared occasionally, welcome stepping stones for keeping our feet dry.
The subsequent muddy section was actually not bad, yay for dry feet!
Clowning around for the camera:
Hold on, gotta pay attention in this section:
View back to the start/finish area at the end of the trail:
And... another lap down. Notice also the "suggestion box" in the lower left of the photo:
Johan looking happy and at ease - he ran a bunch of fast laps but said it was an easy pace for him. Always smiling!
Big moved to the timing tent to check the current standings:
The next few photos were taken by Charlie Taylor and John Price who would appear at unexpected places in the woods to snap shots of everyone. Thanks guys!
In no particular order...
Joe, Kelley, and Kip heading out for another lap:
Some of the masses at the start of a loop:
Johan looking great:
John playing around - "yoga at the Big Dog", kinda
Always great to spend time talking with Sue (congrats on an amazing Vol State run this year, Sue!)
"Screw you guys, I'm going home"
Jeremy demonstrating how it's done. Jeremy had an excellent strategy of taking it easy the whole time, finishing without much time to spare every hour, but never showing signs of stopping.
Walking up the hill with Kip, followed by Charlie and Karen:
It was fun talking with Charlie and listening to his interesting and varied stories. We even reminisced about Eco-Challenge Borneo, very cool.
Another smilin' John:
Kip flying off one of the big rock steps:
The daytime loops went well. My new bright flashlight lit up the trail on lap 12 and we didn't have any issues as darkness fell on the trail, other than needing to pass long trains of runners going slower than we were comfortable with. Near the end of the lap a guy named Chris (if I remember right) asked if he could follow me since his light wasn't working very well. No problem, and Chris, Kip and I comfortably finished lap 12 with time to spare. Phew, the first major challenge completed.
Most runners also finished lap 12 no problem, except Case - we were all cheering him on, but the lap 13 bell rang when he was still 27 feet from the timing mats. So close! We know it was 27 feet, because Laz went and measured it. Case would have done well on the nighttime road laps, so we were all disappointed that he didn't quite get there. Valiant effort!
Night lap highlights:
The hayride was back this year! A wagon-full of hooting, hollering folks, the only break in the silence all night long. Always funny that we pass them in the same spot, along the last road to the turn-around.
John ran with me for much of the night. He doesn't enjoy the monotony of the road, but said this year was a lot better for some reason. Better training, mentally prepared, who knows. I was glad for his company, spending time talking and staring up at the stars trying to place various constellations. A nice change from looking down at the trail all day.
Another great night for running without lights. Plenty of glow from Murfreesboro, and the road is empty, smooth, and with bright lines that are easy to follow in the dark.
Lots of people to cheer for on the out-and-back. Figuring out who everyone was based on headlamp beam, running stride, normal place in the pack. Go Kip go!
We chatted briefly with Johan, a super nice guy. He mentioned that this format is a terrible way to run 100 miles. If you could go faster, you aren't allowed to. If you're slower, you not allowed to do that either. It must be a good format for me, because 3 of my 5 fastest 100-milers are at the Big Dog (the other 2 are Vermont)...
Almost forgot an important detail - my Hoka shoes! I bought a pair specifically to try at night at the Big Dog race. They worked fabulously, providing good cushioning and making my legs happy. The transition to the road section was smoother than in the past 2 years. I don't run a lot of paved roads, but when I do, Hokas are it.
I was very pleased to make it 100 miles without pain of any kind. And all the uphills felt great, so the summer mountain hiking seems to have helped. Eventually it was the lack of running training that brought me to a halt. My legs started to get tired, and at an exponential rate, until they were basically "shot." And this was on the road (the easy part) - but at least morning was near.
I muddled through the last couple road laps and chatted with Kip who was also about done with this running thing for the day. We decided we would walk one trail loop together to close it out.
John was doing great! He was interested in trying day 2 on the trails, and we were happy to watch and crew.
First one last trail loop for me and Kip. walking slowly and enjoying the morning. We added a big rock to the muck section to shorten one of the jumps and pushed over a limb that people were running into to get it out of the way. Something useful, just a little addition to all the work other folks have done on the beautiful Big Dog trail. Thank you for a wonderful trail, Laz!
On the way back we watched Johan and Joe tearing through the woods together - Joe had been running conservatively all day and night but apparently couldn't resist one fast lap. Go runners, go! Hi John! You're doing great!
We made it back, timed out for 100 official miles plus 4 1/6 on our DNF lap. Thanks for spending time on the trail with me, Kip!
Then it was time to crew for John - haven't done that in a while, always fun though! :)
My biggest accomplishment was relearning how to use the camp stove and making coffee and oatmeal for John. Time for breakfast.
Charlie and John starting another lap:
John and Jeremy (and I think Joe's legs) making progress on Day 2:
John kicked it in with one super-fast lap. He said it was great fun. He was hoping it would wear him out enough so he could feel good about stopping, but no such luck. Good try!
Banana break for John:
We got to see Karen finish up lap 27 (over time) to win the women's division - nice job Karen!
A dwindling field starting lap 28:
And finishing it, another one down!
Gathering for lap 29, John taking every "rest" second that he can (with Charlie possibly about to help him up and/or goad him along):
Go guys, you got it!
Pit stop (yep, I'm running out of things to document around the start/finish area, sorry John):
Done with another one, #29!
John debated stopping at that point, but I suggested he should do one more to set a Beard family record. He wasn't sure he wanted to, maybe we should just tie? Somewhere between my encouragement and the force of habit after doing it 29 times already, he answered the bell for lap 30:
John got smart after the finish of that one and went directly from the finish line to the timing tent to turn in his timing chip. No sitting around debating or getting talked into any more running! Well done, John, 30 loops, 125 miles, nice butt kicking!
Showing off some blood (where bumped his knee and nicked a prior wound) - that's the way to finish a race :)
Hanging out on day 2, Sue visiting with Big:
We were ready for showers and food and sleep (in some order/combination) so we packed up, got a hotel room, and found dinner. John was awake for some (but not all) of this process:
Back at the race site - later on day 2 it was down to Jeremy, Johan, and Joe. The key, apparently, is to have a name that starts with a "J". Sorry Charlie!
After sleeping all night, we got up to find out that the race was STILL GOING! Through night 2, and about to be day 3. Joe had to leave for work during the night, now Jeremy and Johan remained. Wow.
John and I scooted back over to the Backyard to check it out. Turns out Johan had a flight scheduled back to Sweden later that day, so the 2 runners decided to finish lap 49 together and call it quits. It probably didn't hurt that Laz offered them both entry into the Barkley. No telling how far they each were still capable of going! Impressive, seriously.
Laz with the last two men standing:
And then... lying down:
The bell for lap 50 - no one answered. It was over! The entire field DNF'd, no winner this year.
Quite an event, quite a finish!
Results page - click on "Hour 49" to see all the splits: