As is already the case for so many other events, the 2020 Banana
Slug Backyard Ultra originally scheduled for April 18 is now
Yesterday, the Oregon State Parks and Recreation
that it would be closing all state parks start March 23 and
through at least until May 8. The state park has informed me
that the permit previously obtained for the race is now
Of course, I'm sad about that. I've been looking forward to
meeting you all and seeing what happens when you push yourselves
to new personal limits. And I have some fun surprises planned
that I've been excited to share with you. It will be hard to
have to wait for that.
More significantly, during this time of social distancing, my
daily run is really the only time I've consistently been leaving
the house, (not counting the occasional search-and-rescue
this morning). For me, still being able to get outdoors and
go for a run is a psychological lifeline. I'd be in a much worse
state if I couldn't do that. And I was hoping that this race
could extend such lifeline for the relatively small group that
is registered. It pains me that that's not going to happen anytime soon.
At the same time, this cancellation is a relatively tiny thing
compared to what many others are having to sacrifice at this
time. And it's the accumulation of many small sacrifices that we
are counting on to have a large impact on society as a whole. So
I have to believe that this is worth it.
Our race will still happen in the future. It's impossible to
predict at this time when that might be. But I'm hoping that we
can find a time that will work for everyone that is already
signed up. I will defer all registrations until the new date,
and work things out with any individuals who cannot attend.
All registered runners have my contact information. So please
reach out to me with any concerns or with any ideas you have. I
would love to face this postponement with some creativity and
together make the most out of it that we can!
Thank you all for your patience. Stay well, wash your hands,
CDC, and try, try, try to not touch your face!
Mar. 15, 2020
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
for community events. These guidelines recommend canceling
or postponing in-person events scheduled within the next 8
weeks that consist of 50 people or more.
We take the recommendations of the CDC very seriously. There are
currently 30 runners registered for the Banana Slug Backyard
Ultra, which is obviously less than 50. But this number doesn't
include the following classes of people expected at the event:
Support crew attending with runners
Volunteers necessary to conduct the race
If every runner (on average) brings even just one additional
member to the race (as support crew or spectator) the event will
already exceed the maximum size recommended by the CDC, (even
before allowing for the volunteers needed to conduct the race).
So we are currently discussing, (together with the runners
themselves via email), exactly what this new recommendation will
For now, we have made one immediate change which is to close
registration on the website, limiting registrants to the current
30. We apologize for any inconvenience this unexpected change
The website does still allow interested runners to provide their
names and email addresses to be added to a waitlist to be used
if registration reopens in the future.
Thank you for your support as we continue to act in the best
interest of public health during this emergency.
Mar. 13, 2020
Is the Race Still On?
At this point, nobody needs me to tell them that we are in the
middle of a pandemic. Here in Oregon, K-12 schools are closed
through the end of the month, and all gatherings of over 250
people are canceled for the next four weeks. Hopefully, these
and other "social distancing" measures can slow the rate of the
virus spread so that more disruptive measures are not required.
As race director of the Banana Slug
Backyard Ultra, I feel an obligation to consider the safety
of the community as a whole as well as the safety of the
participants in my event. At the same time, I don't want to
react out of a position of fear nor be more disruptive than
would be helpful.
I'm committed to following the guidance of experts, and I'm
seeking out as much information as I can to decide any changes
necessary for the race. Yesterday, I met with the director of
Champoeg State Park, (who has been leading the cancelation of
several events). Based on the size (~30 participants) and nature
(outdoor race) of the event, he has left the permit in place so
that the race can proceed.
At the current time, I am planning to hold the race as scheduled
on April 18. I am carefully considering all appropriate changes
to mitigate infection risk, (such as in how we do packet/bib
pickup and the aid station).
The situation is obviously very dynamic so I will continue to
monitor things closely. I will reserve the right to cancel the
event if I'm convinced it's the right thing to do for public
safety. I appreciate the patience and support of all
participants as I make this decision.
And in the meantime, there's probably no safer place to be than
out for a run on a remote trail. Keep getting after it, my
Mar. 7, 2020
Some Backyard Inspiration
Only six weeks of training left! Do you have a plan for your
race? Have you developed the mental fortitude to start another
loop when your body wants nothing more than to stop moving?
Robbie Marsh of the Inspirational Runner podcast has recorded a
series of interviews that could reasonably be called Legends of
the Backyard. I highly recommend each of the following episodes:
DNF (assist) at Big's 2018 with 67 loops (279.17 miles).
So give their words some consideration during your long runs
over the next few weeks. Then come to Champoeg State Park,
Oregon on April 18 with a positive attitude, ready to have fun,
and ready to never stop starting another loop!
Runners, please email
Carl Worth <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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.
Feb. 23, 2020
A Sunny, Winter Walkthrough
After descending a dirt road from the starting pavilion,
the course enters the wide Townsite Trail and enters trees
alongside the river.
Occasionally, the trees open up to give very scenic views
of the river. Note that our mild, Oregon winters mean the
grass is still green in February.
This section of the trail is wide enough for two runners
next to each other, and the riverside grade is quite mild.
After half a mile of the wide trail, the trail narrows to a
single-track section where runners will likely go single
Following an open section of single-track trail cut
through the grass (unpictured, near the boat dock), the
trail widens and enters the trees again.
After a full mile along the Willametter river, the trail
turns to the south, still in the trees, to avoid Champoeg
The course next comes out of the trees and goes back to a
single-track cut into the grass. Champoeg Creek is on the
left, and the park's disc golf course is on the right.
When Townsite Trail ends into an in-park road, the course
turns left and uses a wide and safe bike lane along the
road to cross the bridge over Champoeg Creek.
Just after the bridge, the course turns left to leave the
road for a short section along the park's comfortably wide
The course leaves the bike path to get back onto dirt
trails that disappear into the trees and ferns once again.
Forking away from the Kitty Newell path, the course
follows the Nature Path north until reachhing the
Willamette River once again.
After reaching the river, the course turns to the right,
keeping the river on the left as on the earlier section of
Here's a photo looking just to the left from the trail
showing the Willamette River in the afternoon sun.
This single-track section of trail has the steepest
climbing on the loop, but even then it's not too much,
(less than 150 ft. gained total over the 4.167-mile loop).
The nature path at the easternmost point of the course,
and turns right onto the bike path. This photo is along
the south side of the disc golf course.
The bike path includes a small bridge to cross over
Mission Creek, as expected keeping this section of the
course extremely flat.
A half-mile stretch of bike path near the end of the loop
is probably the best sectiono to get some speed in if
there's any need to gain some time.
When the bike path ends the course turns onto the narrow,
mossy Pavilion Path which is sometimes covered in
dirt and feels more like a trail than pavement.
For the third time in the loop, the course runs alongside
the Willamette River, but this time with the river on the
The path climbs up through the trees to complete the loop
back at the pavilion. 4.167 miles finished just as the sun
It's been so nice to have some unexpected sun for the last few
days! This gave me the chance to go out and walk the course with
a measuring wheel. I've got most of the course locked in at this
point, and with one more visit I should be able to measure the
last leg needed to make a perfect 4.167-mile loop.
For now, here are some photos I took this week to give a
detailed walkthrough of what the course will look like, (at
least for the loop you'll all be running during daytime hours).
This already shows the lovely trail sections under the trees and
how often the trail runs right alongside the beautiful
Between now and April, leaves will be coming in to the trees
that are bare in these photos. So, even as good as things look
now, things will be even that much more lush by the time of the
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,
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.
Feb. 1, 2020
A View of the Course
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
provided generously under the
CC BY 2.0
Jan. 22, 2020
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
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!).
Jan. 15, 2020
Who's in the Running?
Here's the initial roster of registered runners. (Note: See
the latest roster for an updated
Lake Oswego, OR
West Linn, 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
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!
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
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
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!
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
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
I have a lot more to say about the importance of the assist, but
I'll save that for a future post.