What a year it has been! The year 2020 will be one for the record books but not in the way we might have imagined this time last year. With the creativity of the running community and our ability to adapt, our friends from around the world pulled together to make Big’s Backyard another memorable event with a twist. Because of travel bans and lockdowns, 21 satellite races across the globe took place simultaneously instead of one single race in Bell Buckle Tennessee. Big’s Backyard kicked off at 7am CST on October 17 with the other races syncing time. Each race continued until only one person at their physical location remained. The race that went the longest produced the World Champion.
The US lasted 68 hours with Courtney Dauwalter becoming the US National Champion assisted by Harvey Lewis. Maggie Guterl, last year’s champion, struggled for 40 hours until she ultimately timed out. The world champ was Belgium’s Karel Sabbe surpassing the coveted 72 hour mark, assisted by Merijn Geerts.
Between October 17th to 20th, Tailwind athletes Courtney, Harvey, and Maggie ran a combined 174 laps at Big’s Backyard Ultra. We got a chance to sit down and ask them about their varying experiences in the yard.
Tailwind: How did you like the changes in format to Bigs Backyard this year? Was there anything didn’t you like about the new format?
Courtney: I was happy to be able to come together with some friends and share miles! In a year where all the races were cancelled, it was fun to have one of them take place. I liked that even with travel bans between countries, it could still feel like we were all together with the new virtual format.
Harvey: I liked the creativity of the new format especially given COVID-19. I felt relatively safe with the smaller competitive field of top USA runners and felt an added layer of competitiveness having the international field.
The one thing I missed from doing Big’s back in 2017 was having runners who were from all ability levels and helping a couple runners meet new goals like a lady who was trying to make it pass 4 laps or seeing many runners struggle to make other early milestones. The struggle for the majority in 2020 didn’t come until much later in the race and I’m inspired by runners of all calibers.
Maggie: At first, I was not stoked on the virtual part, but that feeling went away when we were there. I liked that our race was even more of a team effort. For me, it completely cut out any decision making to stop. Even if your physical state is declining it was important to keep going for your teammates and because all our laps counted towards a grand total. I did miss our international friends and it is important to have everyone in one place to help push the limits of what is possible. Super proud of what our team accomplished!
Tailwind: What was your most memorable Big’s moment?
Courtney: So many! I think it’s impossible to choose! Shared moments with people, runners and crew are some of my favorites.
Harvey: The most memorable might have been getting 5 runners to 200 miles. I was really impressed that they hung on despite a couple of the runners struggling for many hours. That was inspiring and to have 3 of the 5 be from Ohio and 2 of the original 4 women who started the race. The women are tough!
Maggie: Sharing miles with everyone. And meeting new friends. I knew a lot of the runners but a few I didn’t know and everyone was so supportive and super tough. I am so impressed and proud of how hard everyone pushed.
Tailwind: And what was your toughest moment?
Courtney: Ultras are always a rollercoaster of highs and lows, so it wasn’t shocking when I found myself in one. I had some low moments out on the trail on Day 3 where it was really humid, and I was starting to think about the number of miles we had covered. Quickly, I tried to shift away from thinking of the laps and focused on staying cool and just getting to the night.
Harvey: My toughest moment would have to be when I went out at 277 miles. I was hallucinating a bit more and starting to think about the whole distance to get to 300 which was another big milestone. I took my mind off the ball. Ultimately it was my mind that gave in and not my body. Always a learning opportunity.
Maggie: On day two I was running against the wire the whole time but oddly enough that wasn’t my toughest moment. It was day one, when I started to realize how things weren’t going as smooth as last year (which is to be expected). Once I came to terms with that and put my head down to grit it out, I was in a good place.
Tailwind: What was your fueling plan?
Courtney: I kept the basics of my fueling the same as always: buckets of Tailwind Endurance Fuel, Honey Stinger waffles & chews, and mashed potatoes. But because the race was so long, I added in more real food options: pancakes, pizza, quesadillas, pierogies, Stove Top Stuffing, french fries and cheeseburgers. It was a slow drip of calories coming in the entire race.
Harvey: Tailwind was great for providing the right balance of calories and electrolytes especially during the hottest parts of the race on the third day. I typically tried to eat some sort of snack every lap whether it be watermelon, chia seed squeezable fruits or mashed potatoes. I stayed consistent with all plant based foods and drinks which I really believe makes a difference never getting an upset stomach as well as digesting quickly.
Maggie: Tailwind Endurance Fuel every lap because it was hot and humid. Intermittently, my food choices were once again a lot of potatoes like french fries, pierogies, and chips. I also had noodles and gnocchi. Day two, I really didn’t have much time between loops so downing Rebuild was really key and helped satiate me during the warm day. Courtney and I shared a tent and between the two of us we went through well over 100 servings of Endurance Fuel and at least 30 servings of Rebuild Recovery.
Tailwind: Can you give some advice to aspiring backyarders? Maybe those who are interested in the format or one day would like to try a crack at the Big one.
Courtney: You can do more than you think! Don’t limit yourself beforehand by getting attached to a certain distance. Take it 4mph, one loop at a time, and enjoy the adventure.
Harvey: Advice to others who might want to try. Have fun! Look at it as an adventure with the opportunity to push some new limits. Just relax and focus on whatever moment you are experiencing. One lap at a time.
Maggie: Don’t place a limit on yourself. This format is glorious because anyone can win. Show up healthy and in the right mindset and you will blow your own mind…one loop at time!
Congrats to Our Tailwind Athletes!
We couldn’t be more proud of Courtney, Harvey, and Maggie! If you have questions for our Tailwind athletes, let us know! For fueling questions, race nutrition planning, or troubleshooting, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.