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.

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.

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.

Big’s is about FRIENDS.
(Friday night camping in the backyard is buzzing with energy)

Big’s is about TEAMWORK.
(from crews to fellow runners, there is no shortage of helping hands)

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

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

Big’s is about PATIENCE.
(having a plan and executing it is key to success)

Big’s is about FUN.
(if you’re not having fun, the “jeerleaders” will remind you to smile)

Big’s is about GRIT.
(4.17 miles per hour, how hard can it be?)

Big’s is about the overall EXPERIENCE.
(it’s not too often you get to “hang with the tall timbers”…thanks Laz)

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!

Running and rambling,

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