The one with the Backyard Ultra

Posted on: 02 Sep 2018

So I left you all with a bit of a teaser when I last wrote. My vacation was coming up and since the whole Race to the stones-plan didn't work out I decided to have a go on ultra running on my own. Or as on many occations, with my mum. 

I had had my eyes on a type of event called Backyard Ultra for a while, the concept is getting quite popular here in Sweden where we now have 6 or 7 events. It goes like this, on every hour you start to run a loop that is 6,7 km long (4.2 miles). If you finish within the hour you get to start the next lap, and you keep going until you no longer manage a lap in an hour. The distance gives you 100 miles if you run for 24 hours and it all started in the USA by the same guy who is behind Barkley Marathons. (google it if you don't know it!)  Exciting concept I thought, and it sounded like I should be able to manage the 7 laps that it takes to become an ultra runner. It would mean running at 8:57 min/km, and that sounds easy. 

Well, what sounds easy is not often easy. But we got there with enough time to spare in the morning, we had planned to be there for a while so had brought camping chairs, a cooling box with lots of drinks (it was around 22-25 degrees all day) and snacks, and extra clothes and shoes. Since you always get back to the starting point after your lap it is very easy to fuel yourself and no need to plan drop bags or anything. 

I was a little nervous but still pretty confident. I spotted some of the more experienced backyard runners, both the male and the female record holder in Sweden where there and one woman who have ran almost every Backyard that has been held in Sweden. Cool! 
At 10am it was time for to start the first lap. Since I didn't know much about the course (this race is held in a small village on the west coast, no Google street view there!) I just followed the others. And just 200 m from the start everyone started walking. It was not a steep uphill but sincie it was up, people walked. You've got to love ultra running. =) 

My problem was I had very little knowledge of the course and I got worried already there on the first lap. There where more inclines than I had expected, so it was hard to keep a consistent pace. I carried a bottle with sportsdrink in my flipbelt, as I said it was a pretty warm day. In 2 places on the course there where hoses and cans of water to refill so I tried to do that to remind myself I had to drink. The first lap went well, but a little slower than I had planned. I wanted to finish around 50 mins, it felt like 10 mins was a good rest to make sure I had time to eat a little and refill waterbottles and stuf. First lap went in 53 mins, which was a little stressing since I would probably not get faster during the day. Mum was of course faster, I think she went around in about 45 mins. 

Anyway, felt good and had enough time to do what I felt like I needed at that point. Lap 2 started and I think most of the runners did at least 2 laps. On this lap I spoke to a lady who had done a few of these before, this year she was not in good shape so only aimed for 2 laps. It was nice to chat a little but since I wanted time to spare I had to go ahead after about 2,5-3 km. 

The course was really beautiful, bits in the forest, bits on roads, some smaller gravelled roads, over fields and on smaller paths in the woods. Over the fields there came a cooling wind which was nice, since the sun was shining. I forgot to press lap on my garmin after this one but think it was around 54 mins. More refill to the bottle, I changed between Enervit sports drink and my home made Elderflower drink with salt in it. Shoes and clothes still felt nice so just went out on lap 3. 

I can't really tell the laps apart since it was very much the same. Sometimes I had company, sometimes I only saw people ahead of me, and sometimes I was all alone. I tried to keep someone in sight to help with the pace when I started to get tired. Lap 3 went in close to 55 mins. 5 mins was not a lot of time to rest, just managed to refill bottles, grab a few crisps, some chocolate/banana mudcake (rocket fuel!) and then head of again. 

Lap 4 was pretty much the same as lap 2 and 3, still felt confident and that I kept my pace, only wished I was a little faster to allow for some more rest between laps. Finished lap 4 in just over 55 mins. My feet started to hurt a little so decided to switch shoes before lap 5, and since I had little time, change my shirt before lap 6. Bad choice it turned out. The shoes I changed in to is the same size as my other ones, but my feet were swollen so it felt like sqeezing them into high heels. I thought it would get better once I started running but of course not. 

So on lap 5 it all fell apart. My feet hurt and that famous wall came along. I hadn't done any long runs since Stockholm, which was 5 weeks earlier so my endurance was not the best. After half the lap I thought I was done, I wasn't going to make it. I was really down now, this was not how it was supposed to go! I would have needed some baton power, that's for sure! But I calculated in my head as I ran and at km 6 I realized that I would just make the cut if I pushed it a little. And yes, lap 5 went in 59:01, and I just managed to grab a few crisps and fill my bottle with water before the start whistle blew again. I so wished I had had time to change back to the other shoes, but I just had to go on.

And now I really was done. In that first incline I just couldn't run anymore. I had one limping guy ahead of me but after 1 km he turned back since he just couldn't run anymore. So now I was all alone. I decided to walk the first bit through the woods and run on the flat road that I knew was coming. But there were almost nothing left in the tank, the legs felt like lead and the head was not in the right place anymore. I had to walk a lot, and at km 3-4 I knew I wouldn't make the cut for that last glorious lap, the ultra lap. Very sad and thought about sneaking out on that lap anyway, but decided that would be cheating and the race managers had asked for everyone to stay of the course when they were out of the race. You have to respect their words so when I finished the last lap on 1:16 I was done. One of the race directors came to meet me since they wanted to know I was ok and he kept me company in the last bit. 

I was then welcomed to the finish and got my medal and a hug from Monica, the other race director. And since I had walked so much the last lap I had lots of time to start being ok with this result. After all I had managed 40 km that day. 

Mum was out on the 7th lap so while waiting for her I started eating haha. Refuelling really is the joy of long distance running. =) Also got out of the painfully small shoes, and discovered my first ever blue nail. Never had that before haha. 

The runners started to come in, I think the first finisher on lap 7 ran it in about 35 mins. Mum came in after about 50 mins, now an ultra runner! And after that she had had enough so we called it a day. Or we hung around for a while to rest and refuel a bit before driving home and left as the runner still in it left for their 9th lap. 

It was a really nice race to be part of, so many nice people, and the organizers were fantastic. It is a small race, only about 120 runners, and everyone so friendly. It felt good going to bed that night knowing some of them were still out there. The last ones actually kept going for amazing 39 hours, a new male record for a Backyard in Sweden (One of our ultra runners, Johan Steene, have done 49 hours in a Backyard in USA). 

When I woke up the next day I was a bit dissapointed though. I wanted to do that 7th lap, that was my plan. So at 12:00 I had put on my gear again and went out to do it on my own. I had to walk a lot, the legs and feet were not happy with my plan, but I did those last 6,7 km and got a little peace of mind again. I am a finisher! =) After that I had to rest for 2 weeks, one of my feet was not at all happy and I could hardly walk the first days. But you can just as well take the bike to the beach, and that is pretty much what I did those 2 weeks. =)

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