Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014 Big Dog Backyard Ultra

What is Big Dog Backyard Ultra?

This is a different sort of ultramarathon, where neither the time, nor the distance is predetermined. Some people don't even make it to the ultramarathon distance.  The race takes place on a 4.16 mile trail loop beginning at 7 am and then switches to an out and back road course beginning at 7 pm assuming that anyone is left at that point. A single loop race will take place at every hour, on the hour. Runners failing to complete a 4.16 miler within an hour will be timed out. Runners failing to make the start in any hour will be eliminated. Runners that are able to continue are tied for first each loop.  The winner will be the last man (or woman) able to complete a loop within the time limit.  If the race gets to a point where all but one runner wants to quit or all but one times out, that runner must still run one more loop under an hour to win.  If all runners time out on the same loop, there is no winner.  If all the remaining runners decide to stop on the same loop, there is no winner.

Why run it?

I joined the Ultra e-mail list 3.5 years ago and learned about the Backyard Ultra.  I ran it 2 years ago for the first time.  The idea sounded very intriguing and I enjoyed it so much the first time that I wanted to run it again.  I have followed the race with the reports and pictures posted online the years I have not run it.  It is as interesting for me to follow as it is to actually run it.  The race is put on by Lazarus Lake, the race director for the famous Barkley Marathons (100 mile run or 60 mile fun run) and also some other unique races such as Vol State 500K (run across TN) and the newest being a little more mainstream but very challenging Barkley Classic 50K which I ran last month.

I didn't delay registering this year since this race has filled up the past few years.  Last year I had intended to register but it filled out before I got the chance.  I was on the wait list and offered a spot a few weeks before the race but had already made a commitment to run another race. Even after running it once, the format is still irresistible to me.  The idea is almost absurd since the race could theoretically go on for days.


Just as the last time I ran this I didn't train for this specific event.  I ran 3 Days (92 miles) of Syllamo in March, Berryman (50 miles) in May, and Mohican (100 miles) in June.  Over the summer, I trained specifically for the Heart of America Marathon.  Since Mohican, I ran long long runs for marathon training and no back to back long runs.  When HOA was over I ran the Barkley Classic (50K) a little over 2 weeks later and Rock Bridge Revenge (50K) two weeks later.  There was no time for real ultra training since these races were too close together.  Mileage since HOA had been in the 30s - 40s and had been running in the 50s between Mohican and HOA.  Training for Mohican was in the 50s - 60s so nothing too crazy with mileage.  I was looking forward to ending my ultra year at Backyard.  I was also happy the ultra races I planned for the year would be over and I can focus on other activities.


The race took place in Laz's wooded back yard in Bell Buckle, TN (near Mufreesboro).  I left Friday morning.  I had hoped to take a short detour stop as I took 2 years ago to Roly Poly in Mufreesboro but found out before I left they had recently closed.  I ended up having lunch at Long John Silvers somewhere along the way.  Traffic was horrible through Nashville but I made it to race headquarters around 4:15 pm. I wasn't interested in checking out the course since I had already run it before and would be running many more laps.  I set up my tent close to the road next to the house on the property.  After setting up my tent I checked in and got my race number and shirt.  Also, picked up the next 3 Big Dog books from Laz.  He remembered me from 2 years ago and said my race number 27 must mean I was going to run 127 miles.  I visited with a few people before heading to dinner at Sir Pizza with Johnny A. and 3 other guys. This is the same place we ate 2 years ago and has become a tradition before the Big race.

We headed back to camp after dinner and I went to bed early around 8:30 pm.  I slept pretty soundly for several hours and then woke up and heard the cows across the road mooing.  I had set my alarm for 6 am but woke up about 10 min early.

The "Big" event

I drank a protein shake, and ate a banana for breakfast inside my tent to stay as warm as possible.  The temp was in the 40s and felt damp and cold.  I got dressed and set up my aid station outside my tent.  I brought a bunch of gels with me that I hoped to use since they are expired or about to expire since I don't use them much anymore.  I had an extra banana, 2 containers of yogurt, a small serving of chips, mixed nuts/trail mix and Carbo Pro.  I brought far less variety of food that 2 years ago. Weather was overcast and about 40F, and eventually would get into the mid 60s.

At 7 am, we begin our first loop on the trail.  There were 40 starters.  The timer said something about no one that went 100 miles last year completed their trail loops faster than 48 minutes. Apparently people took him seriously, since no one started out too fast.  The first few loops I stayed with several runners and tried to keep a steady pace.

The course was well-marked so not too much problem figuring out the loop and having run it before I got to know it very well.  There were very runnable sections, rocks, roots, and a few things to climb over.  There was one section that was a bit muddy but managed to not get my socks wet.  I walked all the hills.  I had to stop to pee  during the first few loops and then waited until after each loop.  I removed my long sleeved pullover after the first loop and was very comfortable in a short sleeved shirt.

Everything seemed to happen very regularly.  I set my GPS to show me instantaneous pace, as well as my lap pace and lap time.  I got to know where I would be at a certain point in each loop.  Running loops can be a little hypnotizing even with the few minutes rest to break it up.  I don't remember thinking about much other than focusing on running and what I needed to do when I completed the loop.  I ate small quantities of food.  I carried Carbo Pro in my bottle and would eat a gel sometimes and other times a few nuts after the loop. I wish I had taken more of the Dannon Greek yogurt since it went down good and was filling.  The first 12 loops I ran 49:xx except loop 3 and 5 were 3 - 5 seconds over 50 and loop 12 was 50:41 as it was getting dark.  I was surprised that I was running faster loops than 2 years ago but it still felt easy.

Tasks that I would regularly do with my 9 - 10 extra minutes was mix a bottle of Carbo Pro for later loops,  a bit of food, refill my bottle, use the bathroom, put my GPS on the charger for a few minutes, talk to some other runners, sit a few minutes, etc.  Laz would blow the whistle 3 times at 57 min, 2 times, at 58 min, and 1 time at 59 min.  Then we had to be ready to start on the hour.  There is something comforting about knowing what to expect next as long as you are feeling good.  Everything was very routine, comfortable, and predictable.

I wished I had brought more real food to have some actual meals or soup would have been good too.  No problems with digestion and I felt pretty good the first 12 loops.  At the end of 12 loops, I changed into my road shoes and socks.  I had plenty of time to dry off my feet and reapply Body Glide. The change of shoes felt really good and I was looking forward to running on the road since it would feel easier, at least for awhile.  Also, after 12 hours on the trail, it was a welcome change and the road is easy to run on at night.

Twenty runners started on the road where we would be running 12 hours unless we timed out.  I ran pretty well on the road for awhile coming in between 43 - 47 minutes most laps.  It seemed like other runners started out faster than me on the road but then I would predictably pass them every time and sometimes about the same part on the road.  The road was an out and back.  It was cooling off but I still ran a couple laps before putting on a jacket.  Things went well up to lap 20.  On lap 21, I was feeling a bit low energy and doing more walking than before.  Like on the trail, on the road I had my points where I walked.  Since it really wasn't hilly, I would run the first 2.08 miles.  The first part is downhill so easy to run.  Then I would start walking every half mile from the turnaround and then walk up the hill at the end.  On lap 21, I started walking sooner.  Overall, I was the second fastest runner for the average time for all of my laps.  However, this loop I was slower and not passing runners like before.  Eventually I caught up to a bunch of runners also walking a half mile from the end and we walked all the way in that lap.  I still had 10 minutes at the end.

I was seriously considering calling it a day and trying to convince myself that 88 miles is a good effort and I could have an 88 mile PR.  I found some peanut butter crackers on the food table and had a gel.  When it was time to start, I automatically got back up to start.  I thought I had kept pretty close watch on my nutrition but must not have eaten enough.  I did have 3 brats (no bun) for a few laps and some chips but probably was eating pretty light.  I wondered if maybe I had gone too fast a couple laps before when I came in at 43 minutes and was feeling good.  I started lap 22 and felt better and was back closer to my usual time and ran it in 46:53.

The only other issue I had on the road is my feet hurt a little starting around 19 laps, but didn't notice it after lap 22.  Once I made it to 22, I knew I could make it 24 laps for 100 miles.  I had been running 10:40 - 11:30 pace so I had a pretty good cushion if I slowed down even a couple minutes per mile.  Lap 23 went well.  Unfortunately, I felt myself begin to struggle during lap 24.  After the turnaround I felt like I had no energy.  I started running with Joe and Kelley.  I knew I could make it within the cutoff but figured this would be my final loop.

I went into the race thinking if I could make it 24 laps again this time and go back to the trail at lap 25, I would like to complete it without timing out.  Kelley had mentioned she was going to start another lap which got me to thinking maybe I should try.  We finished in 51:26 which is much better than I thought it was going to be.  I convinced myself to go out for the first trail loop of the morning.  I went in search of food since nothing I had sounded good.  There was a guy at the food table and he asked if I wanted some peach pie which sounded good so I ate a couple small pieces.  It was a store bought pie and didn't look that good but tasted great at the time and was exactly what I needed. I felt my energy return instantly. I also ate a bag of corn chips.

I hadn't been drinking much later in the race and still was well hydrated as I was peeing regularly so I didn't bother to fill my bottle.  I knew this lap was probably going to hurt since I would need to push to make the cutoff.  I felt pretty good going out so that peach pie had saved me.  I was by myself the entire lap once we entered the woods.  For the first time, I had to push the pace if I was going to make it.  I managed to complete the loop and not fall since I was taking a few more risks.  For the previous part of the race I was always careful on the trail to step off rocks and logs and no jumping.  This also helped conserve energy and lessen any impact on my joints and muscles.  I knew this would be my last lap so I now had no reason to conserve.  I ended up running it quicker than I expected.  I figured I would at least get the 3 minute warning whistle, but managed to run it in 55:43.

I had already made the decision that I would quit so I immediately took off my timing chip before I changed my mind and turned it in.  Laz seemed a little disappointed.  I had accomplished my goal and didn't see any reason for me to attempt to go further.  I don't normally quit but I was really okay with it this time. I would have DNF'd if I had timed out on the next lap and really didn't want to waste my energy attempting another lap and not being able to finish in the cutoff.  Maybe I should have tried but I'm fine left wondering if I could have completed another loop in the 1 hour cutoff.

This year I didn't stick around to see how it would end since I knew it was going to continue for a long time.  The field this year had some outstanding runners.  I hung around for awhile but then packed up my stuff and was on the road by 9:30 am and feeling extremely hungry.  I had breakfast at Arby's.  I had planned to eventually find a hotel and drive the rest of the way Monday.  However, I had a sample of 5 hour energy that I decided to give a try.  I was still sleepy but felt better and then sleepy again.  I decided to stop for lunch and reevaluate.  I had lunch and some more caffeine and felt better.  Then felt sleepy again so stopped to take a half hour nap at a rest stop.  After the nap, I felt fine for the remaining 4 hour drive home. The closer I got the more I wanted to sleep in my own bed.  When I got home, we had dinner, and I finally go to sleep for real after being up for 40 hours.

A total of 12 runners completed at least 100 miles in the cutoff and 9 ran 104+.  I got credit for 104.  After I stopped the race went on for a long time until it ended at 49 hours.  Joe F. could have run for days but stopped at 37 hours since he had to go to work.  Jeremy and Johann kept going but Johann had to catch a flight Monday afternoon.  He could have delayed the flight but he had no way of knowing how long to delay. Neither reported to the start line to run the 50th hour so technically there were no winners and everyone DNF'd.  The final 2 had run 204 miles.   I can't even imagine and to know they could have gone even longer is amazing.


I didn't feel nearly as stiff as I did after this race 2 years ago and actually walked really well.  However, I have been very tired for 4 days after.  I've been eating a lot and losing weight every day. I  think I had a bit of water retention this time.  I didn't run until Saturday but walked quite a bit from Wednesday until Friday.  I felt better than I feel after marathons other than the extreme tiredness.  I don't have another ultra scheduled until March so don't feel the pressure to train that much.  I am starting my cross training phase for the next few months so will be doing less running.  I am not really sure what I will do next year. For long races, I have the 60K in March and will run Heart of America in September.  Backyard will be very tempting to do again.  As for other ultras, nothing sounds tempting at the moment.  The Backyard is a special event and the format makes it tempting for me to do again.

This race is technically a DNF but overall I placed 9th for number of miles.  I had the second fastest pace running.    For the 104 miles actually running and not resting, my time is 20 hrs, 9 min, and I was 21 hrs 30 min for 104 miles 2 years ago.  I am still not sure the best way to tackle this kind of race but think multiple strategies must work since for the last 2 guys to quit, one had the fastest overall pace and the other one had the slowest.



Short Instruction video (Johan Steene)

Race Results

Race shirt and Big Dog books

Laz's race updates and results 

hour 3 of big's backyard ultra just underway.

4.1666667 miles an hour.
every hour.
until only one man is left standing.

40 runners answered the first bell:
johnny adams
mike baker
marcy beard
john beard
gregory burger
charles carter
sal coll
rodney coombs
tom dekornfield
tim dines
david donald
steve durbin
terrica durbin
jeremy ebel
andy emerson
charlie engle
joe fejes
kipley fiebig
nathan b forrest
chris gkikas
karen jackson
karl kersey
christopher knight
drew landerman
wayne mccomb
john price
dee reynolds
jason sanchez
sue scholl
john sharp
johan steene
elizabeth stewart
charlie taylor
diane taylor
tim waz
kelley wells
jennifer whitley
ben yancey
bill Schultz
amy carter

at the end of the first hour, diane taylor failed to make the cutoff.

hour 2 the field came thru clean.

39 runners are now out on loop 3.

the betting doesn't get heavy until later.
the weight of answering the bell doesn't get heavy until later.


hour 4 began without:
terrica durbin
bill schultz
charlie taylor
john price
of the original 40, we now have 35.

all 35 runners started hour 5.

it is interesting to see the various strategies unfold.
is it better to get thru quick and have some rest?
or is it better to run as slow as possible,
and not overexert?

or is it better to mix it up?

one thing is sure.
the milling around between laps is about done.
people are heading straight to the chair.

and there is the beginnings of grumbling about the whistle.

"not already. that clock is running too fast"


 hour 6 began without david donald or wayne mccomb.

33 runners headed out into the backyard.
it is cool and sunny (not cold)
perfect weather.
 karl kersey, drew landerman, and amy carter are down.

29 survivors start the 7th hour....

some of them are starting to look grim.
and the fun is just beginning.
 steve durbin, elizabeth stewart, dee reynolds, jennifer whitley

23 runners begin hour 8
 chris gkikas is gone – hour 9
 no more colonel potter.

mike baker down.

I'll be providing the timing and scoring for this year's Big's Backyard
Ultras, as I did last year.  Results will be posted every hour, a few
minutes after the hour, at the following webpage:

Results for 2013's race can also be found on that webpage.  It looks to be
near-perfect weather for the race, but the trail may still be wetter than
usual since it's still drying out from all the rain that hit Middle

laz has coined a new term - 'backtard', defined as a runner who's not smart
enough to stop running meaningless 4.167-mile loops through the hinterlands
of Middle Tennessee'.

The field looks stellar - here's the link to the entry field:

44 entrants, although I expect a starting field of fewer than 40 runners,
due to last-minute no-shows.

Looking forward to watching an epic race this weekend!


Mike Melton

Jensen Beach, FL
 and ben yancey is carried home in a paper sack.

21 of 40 remain.
looking like a longshot for half the field to finish a half day.

but remember,
the backyard is like sifting the proverbial
box of crackers...

the little crumbs go right thru.
but the big chunks have to be broken up a piece at a time.

we are finding out who the big chunks are.


 that's right.
we entered hour 12 without tim waz.

50% of the starters have a chance to make it to the road....

any bets whether they all make it?
 nathan b forrest missed making it to the road by 27 feet.
after 12 hours of running, I just cut off my own son for coming up 27 feet short....

I think I can safely renew my heartless bastard license.

I had the wrong count last time.

19 people made it to the road.
so, now the cutoff will be "easy" for the next 12 hours.

I will put out the list of those runners asap.
they deserve some recognition.


The 19 road runners:

Andy Emerson
Charlie Engle
Christopher Knight
Gregory Burger
Jason Sanchez
Jeremy Ebel
Joe Fejes
Johan Steene
John Beard
John Sharp
Karen Jackson
Kelley Wells
Kipley Fiebig
Marcy Beard
Rodney Coombs
Sal Coll
Sue Scholl
Tim Dines
Tom Dekornfeld
 making the cutoff is easy.
answering the bell.....

no more Jeremy sanchez or tim dines.

and now there are 17.
 you do know what a backtard is, don't you?

someone who doesn't know when to quit.

14 hours in the books,
17 in and 17 out into the 15th hour.

nearing the distances where we all have our low points in a 100 miler.

in the backyard there can be no low points;
there can only be 4.1666667 miles in less than an hour...

every hour.


The unique format of the Backyard Ultra has everyone tied for the lead at
the start of every hour.  But the way they get there differs greatly.  The
following is the amount of time each runner WASN'T running after 14 loops
(14 hours).

Johan Steene 3:37:45
Sal Coll 2:50:59
Andy Emerson 2:34:54
John Sharp 1:52:48
Rodney Coombs 1:44:01
Christopher Knight 1:34:58
Tom Dekornfeld 1:31:49
Charlie Engle 1:21:15
Karen Jackson 1:18:57
Marcy Beard 1:18:30
Kelley Wells 1:13:39
Joe Fejes 1:13:26
John Beard 1:12:57
Sue Scholl 1:07:45
Kipley Fiebig 1:02:46
Jeremy Ebel 0:25:40
Gregory Burger 0:15:15

So now who do you think is in running for last man standing?
Mike Dobies
the happiest face we saw was greg burger...

when he told us that he did not need to hurt himself any more.

16 runners are out on hour 16

 16 runners in from 16
16 runners out for hour 17.

some are comparing the race to placing a frog in a pan of water
and slowly heating it to a boil.

the runners come in.
the runners dutifully go back out.
in camp we speculate as to who will be the next to fall....

because fall they must.

all but one.

 16 hardy souls head out into hour 18.
this one takes them to 75 miles.
the hard way.
 well, you can think about there only being 15 of you left.
rodney coombs is gone now.

he is a good guy.
you probably liked him...

but you are glad he is gone.

because he had to go.
and 14 more just like him have to fail.
and you don't want it to be you.
not after all this.

lots of groaning and moaning.
75 miles down.
heading on towards 80.

how many more hours?
30, 31 maybe?
how many more miles?
120, 125, maybe more?

you don't want to think about it.
you can't afford to think about it.

you tell yourself;
"they are hurting just as much as I am... they have to be."

finally you have to do the only thing you can do.
make the time limit one more time.
because this is not going to end for a long, long time.


 we lost two more going into hour 20.
christopher knight and sue scholl are gone.

13 survive to suffer on.
 all 13 runners made it thru hour 20,
and headed into hour 21.

only 4 more hours till the sun comes up,
and we find out who can still make the cutoff on the trail.
13 runners in and 13 out.
hour 22 is under way.

they pass 90 miles this hour.
 13 in and 13 out to start the 23rd hour.
but almost everyone is at low eb.
many of them have been very close to dropping,
but stayed in.

if they can survive 2 more hours, the sun will be up
and they should all feel sort of better.

not good.
but better than now.
down to 12.
tom dekornfeld came back after a half mile.
the surviving 12 all set out on the final night lap.
spirits seemed high,
but there was a general dread of the upcoming trail loop next hour.

the dirty dozen:
marcy beard
kipley fiebig (marcy's brother)
john beard

(25% of the remaining runners are beards)

sal coll
jeremy ebel
andy emerson
charlie engle
joe fejes
karen Jackson
john sharp
johan steene
kelley wells
(25% of the surviving field are women)

100 miles the hard way.

such a shame that all save one will fail
(unless, of course, there is no winner, and they all fail)


 hour 25 is huge.
this is yearly a defining hour in the race,
because back on the trail,
that hour time limit is a lot harder to make.

the entire structure of the remaining race is going to be determined
by how many, and who, among the dozen survivors,
can make the hour time limit.

speculation is rife,
and betting is heavy.


 12 of the original 40 completed the first 100 in under 24 hours.
the consensus opinion was that this might not be the easiest way to break 24...

or do a 100.

but I have to wonder if that 30% of the starting field breaking 24
isn't somewhat higher than normal?

there was an expression of disappointment from pretty much everyone
when all 12 answered the bell for hour 25.m
now the race begins.


 9 runners completed the 25 hour trail loop under cutoff,
but andy emerson then dropped.

that leaves us with the great eight still in the game:

johan steene
joe fejes
sal coll
john sharp
charlie engle
john beard
jeremy ebel
karen Jackson

now we are down to the big crackers.
who will break first?

the betting is picking up around the campfire.
 johan "legless" steene and joe "the orc" fejes put in an authority lap,
burning the 26th hour in 43 minutes while running together.
all the rest of the great 8 completed the loop (later),
with Karen Jackson bringing up the rear,
logging her second consecutive finish with less than a minute to go.

betting has closed on the next casualty.
Karen looks like an animated corpse,
with a 45 degree bend at the waist.
she was struggling to stay on the driveway.
no one gives her a chance of finishing the 27th hour...

but she went out.

for the other 7,
it does not appear the end is anywhere near...

but, it never will.
because the race is no longer about what you think you can do.
it is about what you think the other guy can do.
none of these guys will quit because they think they cannot go on.
they will only quit when they think there is someone they cannot beat.

there is a lot of "that didn't hurt" macho going on in big's backyard.


 as expected, we are starting hour 28 without Karen Jackson.
sal coll was a surprise addition
(altho the on site betting had him pegged as next)

so there are now 6 runners in big's back yard,
coming up on 116 miles.

everyone looks strong...

for whatever that is worth.

 6 really tired men just started out into the backyard.
no predictions who will be next to fall....

anyone out there have any insights?
 6 runners now out on hour 30.

this one brings them to 125 miles.
and any news is big news.
john sharp just bailed.

this leaves only legless, the orc, jeremy, john, and Charlie
 without any warning.
after running a very comfortable looking 30th hour,
john beard turned in his chip.

he seemed to be very happy with his decision.

now it is down to 4.
they have started hour 31


 as we head toward 32 hours,
we do so with only 3 runners.

charlie engle threw in the towel after 31.

it seems that when the discussion turned to three days....


 off they went, into hour 33.
three tired warriors.

this will continue until one of them decides he cannot win.
(then we will start over with 2)

no one appears close to that decision yet.


starting hour 34.
3 survivors moving on toward 142 miles.
no visible change.


tying the longest backyard ultra to date.
the guys were cracking jokes to each other at the starting line,
about taking it to the road tonight....

the one hurdle is the 36th hour,
when it gets dark on the trail.
it is notoriously difficult to make the cutoff
if you don't get enough distance in before the visibility is gone.

if they get thru that,
I expect this race to last into tomorrow...

at a minimum.


the most feared lap at the backyard ultra is hour 12
the final lap of the trail before dark....

because it does not entirely take place before dark.
runners have to take a flashlight, because it will be pitch black in the forest
halfway thru the hour.

many a runner has found themselves struggling to make cutoff.

that same lap, the dark lap, happens every day.
and on day 2 it happens at hour 36.

the last major hurdle for the 3 amigos is the dark lap.
if they can make cutoff, the next 12 hours are on the road.
they can "easily" make cutoff for  the next 12 hours,
and log a 200 mile 48 hour.

if only one of them makes the cutoff,
we will have a winner at hour 36.
if two or more make it,
we are in for a hell of a night.
and, if none of them make it.....

there will be no winner at the backyard ultra 2014.

this is a significant hour.


 All 3 runners negotiated the dark lap in time.
and have continued on past 150 into hour 37.

there is no end in sight.


Other quotes from big's backyard...

'I was wrestling with my bra and was going to ask Tim to help me with it'

'I was on the trail and saw a big black bird flopping around with a hurt
wing.  I thought it was a turkey so I said 'hey, gobble, gobble, gobble',
but I got closer and saw it was a buzzard.  So I said, 'Get out of the way.
I'm not your lunch today, f*cker'. '

'Nice boots'  'Thanks'  'That's a lot of hand-tooling'  'And they cost
hundreds of dollars'  (those who were there know what this was really about)

A man approaches the timing tent holding a skirt with a number pinned onto
it.  He says 'Does the runner need to wear their number all the time?'
Every man within earshot offers to help replace the skirt on the runner.

'I had nicknames for a lot of the runners.  You were 'the talkative guy',
and another guy was 'the stinky guy'. '

Heard about 3:00 PM Sunday afternoon - 'Joe already asked me if I have to be
home tonight.  I told him 'I guess not'.  He said 'Good'.'

At one point the discussion at the start/finish line turned to the fact that
Johan Steene looks like the character Legolas the Elf from the 'Lord of the
Rings' movies.  He's tall, longish blond hair, slender with Scandinavian
looks (Steene is Swedish).  Someone commented that Johan might not be
flattered, but someone else said 'Hell, I'd love to look like Legolas.  I'd
get laid a lot more than I would if I looked like Mike Melton'.

After lap 31 finished, Jeremy Ebels hopped into one of the porta-potties.
Someone suggested that Johan or Joe wedge a stick in the door of the
porta-potty so that Jeremy would not make the start of the next loop.
Fortunately for Jeremy, no one did.

With three runners left - 'I heard about Joe and this Johan, but this other
guy is off the chain too.'

Three of the runners were John and Marcy Beard, a husband-and-wife team who
have run the backyard ultra before, along with Kip Fiebig, Marcy's brother,
who was at the backyard for the first time.  Someone said 'I asked Kip why
he came to the race and he said 'John and Marcy have both been taking about
the race for a couple of years, so I figured what the heck'.'  All three
finished with more than 100 miles.

Two runners who were already out sitting at the start/finish line mid-day
Sunday afternoon.  One says to the other, 'My legs really hurt.  What about
you?'.  'Mine too'.  D'oh ;-)

Heard at the start/finish line late on Sunday afternoon - 'You need more
beer.  Pretty soon you'll be dancing naked on a table'.  'You haven't seen
her dance - you'll need a bigger table'.  'If she's naked, we'll have a big
enough table'.

Johan finished Hour 35 and Jim Ball congratulated him.  One of them said
'Are we done yet?' and laz said 'We're almost halfway now'.
 it is the same.
it is always the same...

has it always been this way?

I rouse myself from my fantasies and look at my watch.
it is 44 minutes past the hour.

I leave my little semi-heated space and go out into the cold.

I walk across the wet grass and stir the campfire to life.

johan comes in.
he is running exactly the same as he is every time.
I listen to the timing mat beep,
johan stops and sits in his chair.

I cannot really see him from here, but his movements say he is tired.

I hear the door slide open on melton's van.

he walks around the van and gets in the drivers side
to start the motor and warm up the van for when he returns.

then he walks over to the scoring table.

I hear Heidi's sleeping bag zipper open.

in a few moments I see her tall thin shadow walking over to stand beside the fire.

"good morning"
"good morning... again."

I look at the big clock.
"it's almost whistle time."
"yes. it is."

I walk towards the scoring tent.
and stick my whistle in my mouth.

as I walk past johan, I ask him;
"feeling chipper, again?"
"not really"

Jeremy comes running in the driveway,
and passes me, heading to meet heidi at his tent
"good morning"
"good morning... again."

I stop in the light of the scorers tent.
melton is doing something with his equipment.
"good morning"
"good morning...again"

I look at my watch, and see the seconds tick off...

I blow 3 whistles.
a minute later, 2 whistles.
a minute after that, 1 whistle.

then I call off the countdown:
"30 seconds"
"20 seconds"

I ring the cowbell.

Jeremy and johan shuffle past.

"you gentlemen have fun out there."
the responses are grunted "we will"

as I start back toward the fire,
to warm up a bit before returning to my fantasies
I hear Heidi's sleeping bag zipping back up.

as I leave from the fire toward my little semi-heated space,
I see melton heading for his van.

it is always the same.
maybe it has never been any different.
the two remaining runners are out on hour 43 right now.
as usual, the format is as much a mental game as a physical one.
it is intriguing to watch it play out,
altho I am not yet ready to wager a guess as to the outcome.


 on their way to 200 miles.

it was the most unexpected outcome of all.

johan knocked out a 41 minute lap in the 48th hour,
and, instead of retiring to his chair as had  been his custom,
came over to talk to us at the campfire.

he and Jeremy had talked quite a bit during the second day,
especially after they became the only two competitors
remaining on the big trail.

johan had a flight scheduled this afternoon.
he had made arrangements that it could be changed...

if necessary.

the problem was,
he did not know exactly how long it would have to be postponed.

it seems that we had two people in the big backyard,
who could run 4.1666667 miles an hour
(100 miles a day)
almost indefinitely.

Jeremy arrived during the discussion,
and there was no doubting that this was true.
neither looked any worse for the wear.

johan and Jeremy have just left on hour 49,
running together.
after that lap of the big trail is completed,
johan will pack to catch his plane.
Jeremy will run another lap to become the last man standing.

I don't know what I can add to that.


the best laid plans do not always come out the way they were originally designed.

after 49 hours were completed
and the 50th was set to begin;

Jeremy and johan stood together thru 3 whistles..

then 2 whistles...

then 1 whistle. ..

then the cowbell sounded to an empty starting line.

it was a windy day,
and a lot of us watching had something blow in our eyes.

there was no official winner at the 2014 big dog backyard ultra.


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