Friday, October 26, 2018

There's Magic in the Backyard

Big Dog Backyard Ultra
(Last Man Standing Event)
October, 2018


This year, 70 runners from 7 different countries congregated in the woods of Tennessee in a little town called Short Creek to be part of something special.

You see, this isn’t just any ole place in Tennessee. This is Big’s.
This is Big’s farm. This is Big’s trail. This is Big’s backyard.
 
The Race Director, Big!
Big is a special dog. He once rescued a man named Lazarus Lake. If you don’t know Big’s story, I suggest you read 'The Big Dog Diaries'.

Big represents everything good about ultra running and the culture of the sport. Actually, Big represents everything that IS good.

Every year, on a weekend in October, Big invites his friends, new and old, to come and play on his trail for as long as they can. This year, and for the 2nd year in a row, I was one of the lucky ones to be part of Big’s backyard party.

Looking down on "Tent-City" from the Big Trail

If you are looking for a race report about the details of racing, lap splits, gear, nutrition, etc., you won’t find it here. There are and will be plenty of great race reports out there that will cover those topics in abundance. The Big Dog Backyard Ultra is about soooooo much more than that.

The Start - Saturday, 6:40am
Big’s is about FRIENDS.
(Friday night camping in the backyard is buzzing with energy)
 
Relaxing the night before the race with Jerry Palmer & Anatoly Ross.
Big’s is about TEAMWORK.
(from crews to fellow runners, there is no shortage of helping hands)


Left to right: Jamieson Hatt, Terri Biloski, Daryl Flacks, Me, Laz

Big’s is about COMMUNITY.
(the Cantrell’s are gracious hosts and they treat all runners like family)

The Cantrells - Photo credit: Susan Brothers Yancy

Big’s is about harsh RULES.
(like the rules in Laz’s pre-race speech…you don’t want him to clothesline ya!)

Laz, armed with his weapon of choice, the whistle. - Photo credit: Michael Anderson

Big’s is about PATIENCE.
(having a plan and executing it is key to success)
 
Bad Mike, Good Mike and Big stickin' to the plan - Photo credit: US National 24hr Team
Big’s is about FUN.
(if you’re not having fun, the “jeerleaders” will remind you to smile)
 
Amiee, Chrys and Gina "encouraging" the runners.
Big’s is about GRIT.
(4.17 miles per hour, how hard can it be?)

The dark, cold night descends on the runners - Photo credit: Lindley Chambers
Big’s is about the overall EXPERIENCE.
(it’s not too often you get to “hang with the tall timbers”…thanks Laz)

Big Doggin' - Photo credit: John Price
But most importantly,
Big’s is about finding LIMITS.

Out of all the loops I ran over the weekend, it is the one I failed on that I am most proud of. My 27th loop is the one I remember most. About a mile into the trail everything fell apart for me. The remaining morsels of vigor seeped from my body, my leg muscles & tendons seized tightly, and my will to push forward dissipated from my weary mind.

I propped up against a tree, then eventually sulked down to take a seat on the rocky ledge. My race had come to an end and I knew it. Another 3+ miles lie ahead of me to get back to the finish line and turn in my timing chip. It was going to be a long, slow walk. For a fleeting moment I contemplated turning around and just walking back towards the start line instead. But the thought of the remaining runners on the trail battling to finish the loop quickly changed my approach.

I wanted to finish the loop. I needed to finish the loop. I knew those last 4.17 miles wouldn’t count, but at that time they were more important to me than the 108+ miles that came before them. They were mine. Alone on the big trail, surrounded by beauty and silence. Trails, hills, trees, fields, sunrise…it couldn’t get any better.

I loved that loop, even though I didn’t. I was hurting, but I was thankful. I didn’t want to take advantage of it. I savored every remaining step of that loop. I was in a bad place and a good place at the same time. I reached my limit (for now).

There’s magic in the backyard…and on that day, on that weekend, on Big's trail, I had found it.



Congrats to Johan Steene of Sweden, champion of the backyard!
Johan Steene, 68hrs 283.3 miles - Photo credit: Jerry Palmer



Running and rambling,
Case

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