Until Next Time // Big Dog Backyard Ultra Race Thoughts
Not surprisingly, that last bit about the Big Dog Backyard Ultra ended with tears then somehow led “next time” talk. It’s crazy how quickly selective memories kicks in. After I called my race at 15 hours/62 miles I let my last caffeine pill’s affects soak out of my veins before heading back to Big Red to crash into my pillow for a few hours. My body was surprisingly awake [presumably thanks to caffeine we pumped into my body hoping it’d change my mood] but my legs were far less functional than I expected now that I’d let myself sit down. Crawling into the back of a pick up truck required far more effort than I care to admit…running was stupid. I hated running. I was never, ever going to run again + I was definitely never going to run a race as jacked up at Bigs. Never. Ever. Ever!
Yet, here I am, writing about all the things I’ll do differently “next time”. I am not very smart.
Even as I was apologizing to my legs in an attempt to coax them over the tailgate after a few short hours of sleep my brain was sifting through the things I’d adjust to be more successful…next time. This train of thought has only lengthened + amplified over the past week. The many hours of bored Missouri + Kansas road tripping led to some constructive, insightful conversations with Jeremy as well as miles upon miles of internal pondering.
Will I be back? Yes.
Will I hate myself mid-race, again? Probably.
Will I do better than this year? Potential.
Will it be worth it? Usually is.
So, all of that said, what great wisdom did we dig up while driving across the Great Plains? All sorts of random coulda-woulda-shoulda moments + a handful of “next time I will…” babbling. I can’t promise I’ll actually follow through with all of these next time wishes but a girl can dream, right?! Without further ado, here are the three things that have the power to keep me going even longer, next time…
Prepare the Little Things
The number of little details I either completely overlooked or arrogantly forgot is embarrassing! I half-assed a lot of things that would have been extremely helpful if I had actually followed through with some or all of them. I intentionally wore my SPIbelt + shorts with pockets to stash caffeine + snacks to put to use while on the trail so I wouldn’t have to wait an hour [or completely forget at the start/finish for 4 hours straight]. Nothing was ever put in those handy little pockets. In retrospect, having calories + caffeine readily available to me may have helped me completely avoid the hate + tears that showed up when we hit the road 13 hours in.
Most of these things were missed because I lacked confidence in myself. I was hesitant to prepare for 12 hours, let alone 24 hours, because I wasn’t sure I’d make it that far. Without Jeremy’s impulsive grocery shopping I would have probably starved to death out on the trail simply because I didn’t buy myself enough food. I had no idea I was so passive aggressively sabotaging myself before the race even started.
Next time…I’ll show up with a bit more confidence + not leave so much to chance [or to my poor crew, sorry Jeremy!]. I’ll actually follow through with my plans, prepare my gear + be a runner who doesn’t dump everything on to their crew. Next time…
Find Some Physical Fitness
I’ve been under trained for races before. I don’t think there is a single race I have showed up for 100% trained for…training without over-training is hard! However, there is a really big difference between the standard “oh phewie, I am so not ready for this” type of under trained + the “uh, where’d my physical fitness go?” type of under trained. At Bigs I learned a lot about how the latter felt.
I’m a runner with a fair bit of endurance + run-der thighs that do not fit comfortably into a pair of jeans. I’ve always been able to find a way to survive whatever adventure I find myself chasing after. Mountain tops, canyon floors, backpacking trips, hut trips, group runs, etc…I can usually find a way to survive them + enjoy it at least a little bit. Bigs is none of these things.
Going into the race I told Jeremy I wasn’t going to chase after his last-minute strategy…except as the hours ticked by it would appear that I was doing exactly that. His timing was strategy. Mine was necessity. It seems silly as I type this out right now but I had to fight for every stupid second of those 13-14 minute miles, especially as the day wore on. Yes, the trail was runnable. Sure, the hills were manageable. Of course, the downhills were cruise-worthy. But, damnit, my body was not physically fit enough to actually attack that trail hour after hour. It only got worse when I was faced with that horrid runnable road 50 miles into my day. Neither my body nor my brain knew how to take on another 50 miles of road running…so they both gave up.
Next time…I’ll find a way to train some overall fitness into my body. I really don’t think it’s about speed work or hill work or technical work. It’s about being a more well-rounded runner who can survive on more than just technical, climbing/descending terrain! Next time…
Remember To Think
A few people have asked me what I thought about while out on the trail + road for 15 hours. Honestly, time…just time. Somehow I managed to spend 15 hours thinking about nothing but minutes + seconds. I never knew what time of day it was, I just knew how many second had ticked by since the last time Laz rang the start bell…or how many seconds I had until he blew the 3 minute whistle. My life revolved around time in a horrifically sadist sort of way.
This obsession with time had me forgetting about a lot of important things while I ran. I’d have a fleeting thought of stretching my hips early in the loop + made a mental note to do just that when I had a little extra time near/at the finish, yet I completely forgot until it was time to start again. My chalky lips had me begging for chapstick 3 miles into the loop, but my lips were forgotten as soon as the 3 minute whistle blew. I would scold myself for forgetting to grab caffeine, again, as soon as I popped back into the woods, but adrenaline erased any memory of tired legs or sleepy eyes as soon as I hit the driveway for the last few hundred feet to the finish.
My mind was so ridiculously obsessed with the numbers that I forgot how to actually think about anything else. When Jeremy asked me how I felt or what I needed I was quite literally incapable of formulating thoughts. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find words to talk…I could not even get my brain to find an answer for his questions. I wasn’t run drunk, I was full-blown run blacked out. Without even realizing it I became an overly dependent infant runner. This is not something I am proud of…but I am incredibly thankful I had a crew who knew how to cope with the dependency without punching me in the face.
Next time…I’ll give myself a “forget the numbers” landmark on every loop — the four minute tree would have been perfect on the trail loops while the trail turnaround would have hit the mark on the road loops. When I hit this point on the loop I need to switch off the numbers + focus on re-assessing myself while figuring out how to communicate those needs. I need to find a little independence + self-sufficiency. Next time…
Yes, there will be a next time. Against my better judgement, I’ll go back. It’s a sadist race format but I want to know what I’m capable when having a bad minute isn’t an option. In the last few hours of trail loops I would follow Marcy’s orange t-shirt through the woods + seriously question her sanity. She’s run this race year after year, often finishing as the last female standing. What the actual hell is wrong with her? Why would she keep coming back? How did she manage to forget how stupid this race was?
…I have no idea what her answers to those questions are. I can’t even answer those questions myself as I flounder around in this “next time” pit of quick sand, but I kind of get it. Don’t get me wrong, it sucked a lot + every one of those road tears were very, very real. Yet a better “next time” seems feasible so who am I to write it off forever?! Ha.
With all of that “how to be better” gibberish out of the way, I feel compelled to toss out a few tidbits that went really, really well this year. Overall I did a really good job of surviving the heat of the day, paying attention to my body in the seconds I did have + staying on top of hydration/nutrition as the day wore on. I never hit a point of exhaustion [partly because I was only out there 15 hours, partly because I kept up with calories]. My body held up very well + for the first time in a very long time I was able to walk away from a race sore but not broken. I did experience my first mid-race sobbing, but it was entirely intrinsic + I’d really like to think I was mostly nice to Jeremy + everyone else helping me.
Speaking of which…I survived as long as I did because of Jeremy + the other runners/crew. Jeremy spent the day pushing cold water, fresh cooked food + salt tabs into my hands then patiently talked me through a few teary hours before I quit. Other support crews were quick to offer up encouragement + even gave me some of their food, caffeine + other essentials. Not to mention the other runners, both on the trail + after they called their races. They were all incredibly supportive + full of happy words, easy conversation + insane amounts of optimism.
…as I typed out that last paragraph I realize exactly why people keep coming back to the Big Dog Backyard Ultra. It’s the people! Laz + his family are incredible hosts, the entire community is supportive + somehow they made me feel like I belonged there even before I believed it myself. Yup, that’s why people keep coming back…it’s not the sadist race, it’s the people who make it happen every year. Until next time…
all photos are courtesy of Jeremy’s phone, John Price + the Bigs crew!