28 December 2019


Race location across the street from Union University campus in Jackson, TN.
It was the final "Golden Coin" race of 2019 for the 2020 edition of Big Dog's Backyard Ultra. Unless you're an elite level runner or multi day specialist, this is about the only way to earn your spot in the big dance. Qualifying races with guaranteed entry spot are now spread around the globe and the competition has heated up quite a bit at most of these events due to the availability of the golden tickets/golden coins, similar to the Western States 100 golden ticket races. While I had no expectations of walking away with a golden coin, one must try in order to have a chance at all.
The ole band back together again for one final 2019 adventure.
After telling Sean Nakamura about this little race in Tennessee put on by Joshua Holmes of RIF fame, he decided to join in on the fun. I made the trek up north solo not sure what the weekend would bring, but committed to give it my best shot. I had done another of Joshua's Last Runner Standing events a couple of years ago at the Cannonball in Chattanooga, TN, so the format wasn't completely new to me. I had pulled the plug fairly early in that one, bowing out as the 5th to last runner, but having watched and crewed Sean at this year's Backyard Ultra, I was ready to see just how long I could go. I figured Sean and I coule keep each other going once the going got tough. After all, both of us had plenty of experience from our summer of 100 mile adventures and knew what it took to stay in the game. 
Steady pace gets it done, consistently clicking off 50-52 minute loops.
I arrived in Jackson, TN after about 3 1/2 hours of driving and picked up my race packet before heading to the race location for some course recon. Before I left for my hotel, I bumped intoSean and his wife Jenny and we decided to catch up over dinner. My plan was to show up early enough the next morning to pick a perfect spot near the start/finish area and that worked to a tee. I had also made sure to bring along any and all nutrition I could possibly need for 2 days of running, which included 16 bottles pre-filled with nutrition. I wasn't going to leave anything to chance, since I had no crew. It may have seemed like overkill, but I had everything I needed ready as soon as I came back from a loop. just as I had hoped. I used a small cooler and a folding chair to hold my fuel. I had no intention of sitting down until I was done running.

Rather than give a play by play for each loop, suffice it to say that my plan worked out to perfection...until I dropped. I would maintain a pace of 50-52 minutes to complete each 4.3 mile loop. After each loop, I would down one bottle of fluids along with a gel and/or some kind of snack I had brought, including stuffed olives, pickles and avocado mash sandwiches with sea salt. My nutrition was on point all day and I was committed for the long haul, but when Sean unexpectedly called it, my own motivation started to wane quickly. I made it 4 more laps for a total of 16 hours/laps and 68.8 miles. My strategy and mantra had become "just one more loop" for the last 4 laps, but when I lined up for the 16th lap and I counted still 10 runners including myself, my desire to keep going as long as it would take to win had disappeared. And hen we took off and my light would not come on suggesting an empty battery, I turned around and called it.

For the second time in a LRS event, I was still feeling great physically, but I did not have the determination necessary to keep going to try to challenge for the win. Proof positive that the mental game is more important than physical fitness when it comes to "finishing" an ultra. In the end, I enjoyed a challenging and fun long day with friends in the woods. Here's to an exciting year of new adventures in 2020.

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