Tailwind on Course!

I'm delighted to announce that Tailwind Nutrition has generously offered to sponsor the 2020 Banana Slug Backyard Ultra!

So there will be plenty of Tailwind Endurance Fuel available for runners at the aid station on every loop. I started using Tailwind as the only fuel for my long runs a few months ago and have really enjoyed it, (and no longer carry any gels or chews, etc.).

The claim of the Tailwind folk is "All you need. All day. Really.". I haven't tested that myself, but of course, in a backyard ultra, even "all day" might not be enough to finish the race. So, see Maggie Guterl's blog post on how she used Tailwind and other nutrition to carry herself through her 60-hour victory at the 2019 Big's Backyard Ultra.

Let's Get to Know Each Other

We've just published the 7th runner profile: Rylan Phillips. Tap/click on any image above to read more or see the full set of runner profiles here.

Runners, please email Carl Worth <carl@slug.run> if you'd be willing for me to post a profile of you. Obviously, there's no obligation to do so, but it's fun to get to know each other a bit before we all spend a weekend together in April.

A View of the Course
  • Champoeg Pioneer Memorial Building

    The circular courtyard serves as the starting corral for the race. The adjacent covered pavilion is the runners' recovery area for between loops. Photo credit: Rick Obst

  • Picnic tables within the pavilion

    The runners' recovery area includes plenty of picnic tables as well as additional space for runners' personal favorite camp chairs, etc. Photo credit: Rick Obst

  • Dirt road between tall trees

    The initial section of the course consists of a wide road, (some of which is gravel and some of which is paved). Photo credit: Rick Obst

  • Single track trail

    A larger portion of the course consists of well-seasoned, single-track dirt trails through the trees and along the river. Photo credit: Rick Obst

  • Double-wide trail

    The dirt trail occasionally opens up wider allowing for two runners to run side by side, ideal for passing the hours in conversation. Photo credit: Rick Obst

  • Paved path

    Most of the paved portion of the course is a wide and smooth bike path (not shown). Some is a narrow, mossy path through the trees (see photo). Photo credit: Rick Obst

  • View of the
          Willamette River from the Trail

    The trail portions of the course follow alongside the Willamette River and frequently provide some beautiful views of the river. Photo credit: Rick Obst

Here's a chance to see some of the beatiful scenery at the race venue, the fantastic facility we have access to for an inter-loop recovery area, and a limited preview of some potential trail surfaces.

Note: The above photos were taken a few years ago and may not all be precisely along the actual course. But they should give a useful representation of what the course will be like. I plan to publish an updated set of photos from the precise course as soon as the weather and my scheduled allows.

All of the above photos of Champoeg Park are by Rick Obst provided generously under the CC BY 2.0 license.

Meet your Race Director!

With just over 12 weeks left until the 2020 Banana Slug Backyard Ultra I thought it would be great to get to know each other before we meet. I'm going first and have added a personal profile to the website. Tap/click the image above to read more.

Runners, please reach out to me privately if you'd be willing for me to post a profile of you. All profiles will be linked to from the race roster page which is now being kept up-to-date as new registrations come in, (2 more already came in since the last news post!).

Who's in the Running?

Here's the initial roster of registered runners. (Note: See the latest roster for an updated list.)

Name/Nickname Hometown
1. Kim T. Troutdale, OR
2. Joshua Niggli Wilsonville, OR
3. Michael Hauser Portland, OR
4. Ryan Cotton Vancouver, WA
5. Rylan Phillips Sherwood, OR
6. Colin Kambak Portland, OR
7. Eric Kneedler Portland, OR
8. Philip Brundage Portland, OR
9. Richard Young Beaverton, OR
10. Bob Irving Lake Oswego, OR
11. bigflan Aurora, OR
12. slowfat Eugene, OR
13. Anne Martin Eugene, OR
14. Karen McIlmoil West Linn, OR
15. Brian McCormick Portland, OR
16. Ryan Sheridan Hubbard, OR
17. Chuck Palmer Wilsonville, OR

We've got a great lineup of runners so far with a very diverse field. I know of at least one runner whose longest previous race is a half marathon. Other runners have completed 50k, 100k, and 100-mile, or 24-hour races. We even have at least a couple of entrants who have previously competed in a last-runner-standing event of some sort. So it should be an interesting competition.

One thing I don't dare predict is who the winner might be. I honestly think anybody could win this race. I hope that everyone will surprise themselves at how much they are able to do. My one sure prediction is that it will be fun to watch what happens.

I originally thought we might have to limit the entrants to 25, which would mean the race is nearly full. But at this point, I'm excited to say that we should be able to accept up to 50 runners!

So keep spreading the word. We've already got entrants from a good stretch of the I-5 corridor through Oregon and beyond. I'm glad we've got a few female entrants already, but we could still use more. Invite your friends!

Partners in Victory
Gavin Woody, used with permission

I've said before that Maggie Guterl's impressive, groundbreaking victory at the 2019 Big's Backyard Ultra was the inspiration that led to the creation of the Banana Slug Backyard Ultra. But like any backyard ultra victory, her story is not hers alone, but includes the story of the "assist" at that race, a remarkable performance by Will Hayward.

Will wrote a compelling writeup of his experience at Big's and I highly recommend you read all of it. I will highlight here one thread of his experience in his own words—the changing motivations that kept him moving day and night for 3 days and more than 245 miles.

He begins with a personal motivation that gets him through his first 100 miles.

I remain convinced that if I was at Big’s Backyard by myself, with no crew, I would have given in to the comforts of the chair and dropped at 36 hours.

When his own personal motivation isn't enough to keep running, he finds a new source of inspiration in the dedication and sacrifice of his encouraging crew.

It was Jason and Heather who became my new motivation. They had driven 10 hours to sit in a field in Tennessee for a day and a half, seeing me once an hour, in order to help me run my best race. If they wanted me to keep going, how could I say no to that?

His crew's encouragement gets him to a moment where he and Maggie are the only two runners left, having each completed over 220 miles.

I get my third motivation. I’m not just continuing to extend my limits, or doing it for my crew; I have to keep going to honour the contest. Everyone who is watching wants this race to be extended, even my opponent. Despite wanting nothing else in this world other than to drop out of the race, I start another loop.

This commitment to the event allows Will to push himself to complete loop after loop after he told Maggie he thought was going to have to drop. It allows him to never stop going to the starting line when Laz prepares to ring the starting bell. While still opponents, Will and Maggie form a partnership to keep the race going as long as possible. And Gavin Woody's photograph of their fistbump perfectly captures that partnership at the moment just before these two indomitable spirits headed off from the starting line together for the 54th time in 53 hours.

The winner's reliance on a committed assist runner is a unique aspect of backyard ultras. So if you're running in the Banana Slug Backyard Ultra and hoping to win, you'll probably want to recruit a good, strong friend to run with you. Failing that, you should plan to make a good, new friend during your first several loops together!

Affiliate Leaderboard Update
Rank Loops Winner Location Assist
1 41 Maxime Gauduin France Valery Caussarieu
2 36 Martin Scharp Sweden Mikael Blomqvist
3 33 Jonatan Nordebo Sweden Sven Anders Bergström
4 28 Gunnar Gradmark Sweden Henrik Pehrson
5 26 Niklas Sjöblom Sweden Jon Enqvist
6 25 Tobias Krumm Germany Flock / Gfeller
7 23 Mike Neron Canada Jean Labedan
8 21 Michael Hooker Australia James Brook
8 21 Daniel Probst USA, NV Maia Detmer
10 20 Josh McKee USA, WA Colin Schmitt
11 19 Henrik Bengtsson Sweden Kristoffer Eneman
11 19 Robert Watson Phillipines Thomas Combisen
13 15 Sean Lang USA, WA Mackler / Hansen
14 13 Ian Metcalfe South Africa Karine Bezuidenhout
15 11 Bryan Kelpe USA, IL Eriks / Ryker
16 8 Andres Avtenev Ukraine Zhurov / Zalavin

As an Affiliate race of Big Dog's Backyard Ultra the Banana Slug Backyard Ultra can provide a pathway for the winner to gain entry to Big's, if the winner is good enough. But what does good enough mean?

In a recent facebook post Laz listed the 49 Affiliate backyard ultras indicating that a "dozen or so" invitations would be extended to the winners of the Affiliate events with the best results.

About one third of the Affiliate events have already been held and the results can be seen above, (thanks to Rich Cranswick for compiling the results data). So, today, a result of 16 hours and loops (66.67 miles) would put a winner into the top 12 and a result of 24 hours and loops (100 miles) would put a winner into the top 7 of Affiliate winners. But will that be good enough when another 32 events have been run? It will certainly be interesting to watch.

It's important to note as well that the official rules of backyard ultra do not allow the winner to complete any more than the one winning loop beyond what other competitors complete, (that is, the winner cannot choose to continue to run additional loops after winning). So a big result in a backyard ultra requires more than just a strong single runner. It also requires a strong "assist" runner who is able to push the winner far enough.

I have a lot more to say about the importance of the assist, but I'll save that for a future post.

Registration is Open

Registration is now open for Oregon's first backyard ultra!