30 April 2022

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I literally signed up for this one 48 hours prior to the actual race start. My late signup kinda went with the theme for this race, since fellow locals Eric Fritz and gang didn't publicize this event until just 4 weeks before the race date:-) After having been out of town on business, I needed to cram some serious miles into my weekend, so this event felt like the perfect solution. There was no real risk of me running too hard, since you had to run just over 4 miles each hour before lining up again at the top of the hour for another 4+ miles. It allowed my to come up with a consistent rhythm. However, I didn't bring any race nutrition or salt and that would prove rather fatal late (too early) in the race.

I arrived at Wade Mountain Nature Preserve trailhead early enough to set up my truck right next to the start/finish arch and the course. I raised my tailgate, set up and table and chair and relaxed as other runners arrived and set up their stations. The field for this first time event was expectedly rather small, due to the short notice, but I'm sure it will grow exponentially, due in large part to the worldwide popularity of the backyard ultra format created by Southeastern ultra legend Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake. 

There were fewer than 20 runners lining up in the runner's corral under the start/finish arch in time for RD Eric Fritz to explain the rules of this backyard ultra in short detail. In general terms, the race format was very closely mimicking Big Bog's Backyard Ultra, both as it pertained to the course and the specific rules. I had o intention of competing for the last runner standing title. My goal was to run for 2 hours to get to 50 miles to reach my weekly training mileage goal.

The entire field ran the first 2-3 loops before we lost the first runner to the cutoff. Both the fairly technical course combined with rather warm temperatures made for a challenging day for everyone. As a result, none of us got to experience the overnight "road loop". As is the case at Big Dog's Backyard Ultra, runners at the Devil's Race Track Backyard Ultra start with a short road out & back section before entering the trail for about 4 miles before returning to the start/finish area. This would be the day loop. The night loop would consist of a pure road loop, ensuring that runners would have no reason not to continue through the night as it would be easy footing for them. But as I mentioned before, it was not to be. You could say, I am actually partially to blame for that. Why? Because I ended up dropping out during the 10th loop as the second to last runner, which meant the eventual winner could only complete one more lap before being crowned the last runner standing. At this point, it had been 3 loops since the winner and I had been running on our own as everyone else had dropped.

Mu ultimate demise came fast and sudden and was a result of my aforementioned poor nutritional planning. In particular, the lack of salt intake caused me to have to stop early. As I came in after loop one and sat down to put up my legs as I had the previous 8 loops, my body locked up, all the way from my hips to my feet, quads, hamstrings and calves included. I tried to resolve this issue somewhat covertly as not to draw any attention from my fellow competitor as I didn't want to provide any additional fuel to his fire by asking the aid station volunteers for some table salt. Unfortunately, both the big heap of it and another teaspoon in a bottle mixed with electrolyte did not resolve the problem. While I started loop 10 as planned and made it onto the trail, I quickly turned around once I lost sight of my fellow runner.

I called it a day with just under 40 miles and I was happy to collect my DNF hat from the RD. I did stick around to congratulate the eventual winner, who was fairly new to backyard ultras, so I could congratulate him on his much deserved win. He had his own serious injury issue to deal with and kudos to him for sticking it out for the win. I'm not sure whether I will be toeing the starting line again next year as this format is not my preferred ultra race format, but I'll definitely be back out here again as volunteer or crew as I am sure this event will be here to stay and will sell out from here on out.

Thanks again to my fellow local Huntsville ultra runners for putting on a great event. I particularly love the race t-shirt logo/design. I had been waiting forever for someone to create a trail race that uses the "Devil's Racetrack" trail name. Such a cool trail name, race format and location.

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