Cover Your Face!

I had planned not to reveal these until giving them out on race day. But with the new CDC recommendations, and with me having a box full of suitable face covers I thought I should at least share these out to those who already paid for them!

My goal is to get these mailed out to all registered participants of the (currently postponed) 2020 Banana Slug Backyard Ultra so they will hopefully arrive before the original race date of April 18.

Enjoy your spring training in whatever way you can while respecting local restrictions! Stay home, and save lives!

April 2020 Race is Postponed

As is already the case for so many other events, the 2020 Banana Slug Backyard Ultra originally scheduled for April 18 is now officially postponed.

Yesterday, the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department announced 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 cancelled.

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 callout like the one 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, listen to the CDC, and try, try, try to not touch your face!

-Carl Worth

Registration Closed

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published updated guidelines 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:

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 mean.

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 may cause.

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.

-Carl Worth

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 friends!

-Carl Worth

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:

#86: Lazarus "Laz" Lake
Inventor of this race format and the Race Director of Big's Backyard Ultra, the world championships.
#87: Maggie Guterl
Winner of Big's 2019 with 60 loops (250 miles).
#91: Will Hayward
DNF (assist) at Big's 2019 with 59 loops (245.83 miles).
#98: Dave Proctor
DNF at Big's 2019 with 52 loops (216.67 miles) and Race Director of the Outrun Backyard Ultra in Alberta, Canada.
#100: Courtney Dauwalter
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!

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 file.

  • 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 Creek.

  • 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 bike path.

  • 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 the trail.

  • 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 right.

  • The path climbs up through the trees to complete the loop back at the pavilion. 4.167 miles finished just as the sun goes down!

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 Willamette river.

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 race!

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.

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!