On July 10th, I toed the starting line at the Laufhaus Backyard Ultra – my first backyard ultra race. A backyard ultra is a race where participants must cover a loop of 6706 meters (4.167 miles) every hour on the hour. The one who can last the longest is the winner. All other participants are counted as DNFs (did not finish).
I had doubts going into the race because my knee started to hurt just one week before the event. I don’t have knee issues, and this new sensation worried me. My Achilles tendon also felt tight and painful to the touch.
However, I decided to travel anyway and see what would happen.
I had phantom pains before my first ultramarathon in Schwerin in 2021, which resolved a few kilometers into the race.
So I found myself standing on the start line on Saturday at 09:59, next to some 100 other racers, counting down the last few seconds before the race started.
How the race went
The first round felt tough already. I put on too many clothes and felt under-fueled. I only had one sachet of trail butter at 05:00 and regretted already that I didn’t test out race day fueling during training.
When I reached the start/finish area after 45 minutes, I changed into short pants and had a few bites of banana.
Luckily my girlfriend and her daughter accompanied me, and they made a rock-star support team. It was the first time I got crewed, and neither of us knew how well we would get along under such circumstances. They both enjoyed the experience and had a great time to my surprise and delight.
Rounds 2-5 went slightly better than the first one. I ate during each break and finished each lap between 45 and 48 minutes. What was bothering me, though, was my Achilles. I was debating dropping out. Getting a massage and some cold cream on my calves helped, and the next few went smoothly.
The dull ache never left, but my spirits were high.
The more laps I ran, the better I felt, possibly because I increased my energy intake with each break. I ate bananas, dried dates, and raisins. From lap 6 or 7 on, I also took Tailwind, which I have never tested before but worked well. By lap 10, I was feeling confident and strong.
However, this feeling shouldn’t last long.
Heavy rain set in when I was about to finish my 11th lap. Within a few minutes, I was soaked and freezing. I brought a jacket but knew I would be soaked again within minutes.
I suddenly had a “very good reason” to drop out. I was too intimidated to go out again in the rain with night approaching.
And after reassuring myself a couple of times that my companions wouldn’t be disappointed if I stopped now, I went and got myself some more dried dates and a piece of freshly baked cake and called it a day.
I regretted a few times that I stopped because of rain instead of trying just one more lap. However, I think my mindset was not right from the beginning. I wasn’t as excited as I was before my other races. I also didn’t put in any significant training since the 24h German Championships in Mai.
However, it was probably a smart move to drop out, considering the Achilles pain and that I have a 100-mile race that I don’t want to miss just four weeks after.
What went well was fueling. Even though I haven’t practiced nutrition during my training runs, my stomach felt great throughout the 11 hours.
I made it a point to eat more frequently than in other races. I think this is one reason my legs felt much better this time. One day later, I could walk normally, and three days later, I ran a slow 16 km training run again.
I will be back…
Laufhaus Oderwitz organized the race, and the team did a fantastic job. Always friendly and encouraging, supplying us with freshly cooked meals around the clock.
The course was challenging for me since I live in Berlin and have only been running on flat terrain. During the race, I covered more than 1000 meters of vertical gain in 76 km. For comparison, the Berlin Wall Race I will be running in August covers 300 m of vertical gain over 161 km.
However, I know I could have continued, and I didn’t give it my all. I will be back and try again😉 .