Backyard Ultra World Championships

2020, Backyard Ultra, Canada, Canadian, Championship, race report, ultra running, Viktoria Brown, World Championship -

Backyard Ultra World Championships

I will start with the results because there are some things to be proud of. It was a World Championship event, 3 races in one. There was a race for the Canadian Championship, another one for the individual World Championship and a third one for the World Championship Country. There were 21 countries and Canada came third behind Belgium and the US. Personally I came 7th out of the 15 Canadians and 62nd out of the 300 participants worldwide. I ran for 34 hours covering 227 kms.

Day 1 - still smiling. Before the rain started.

I'm disappointed in my result for a few reasons. First, because I had a crisis situation that I successfully solved but my mind never recovered from the state of "I only have a few laps left in me". Moreover, I didn't even realize this until after the event. My second disappointment is that such a trivial thing as blisters brought me down at the end. The reason for this is because I never had blister problems before and I had no idea how to prevent or treat them. It was raining for 11 hours during the night at the race. If I knew then what I know today, I could have kept going. My muscles were perfectly fine.

The race itself has a unique format. Every hour you line up at the start line and run 6.7 kms . Whatever time you have left of the hour is yours to freely use until the next hour. On the top of the hour you need to be lined up at the start line and before the end of the hour you need to finish your lap otherwise you get a DNF. This goes until there is just one man standing. The Canadian race lasted 43 hours and the incredible Stephanie Simpson won. The whole team was absolutely amazing and there was real team play to achieve this podium position for the Canadian team. I believe we were the ones who had all 15 runners in the longest. It was an unforgettable experience.

My race started out very uneventfully for the first 12 hours. It is basically a "who can run the slowest" race up to that point. Even the next 12 hours are a waiting game, the first 24 being just the warm-up basically.

Start of another lap early in the race. Canada had all 15 runners in the longest out of all 21 countries.

I don't remember clearly when my problems started but somewhere around the 20th hour I noticed that I had trouble breathing. A few hours later I adjusted my heart rate monitor strap so that my bra is not on top of the device because I knew that can constrict my breathing. It helped a little but not much. I have no idea why it took me as long as it did to find the problem and the solution but I guess your brain doesn't really work that well in such long races.

Coming in from one of the laps I told my crew, my dear friend, Andrea, that if I don't come back from the next lap they need to come out and find me quickly because I simply can't breath. At that point it was pretty bad already. Luckily it didn't come to that. This was around lap 28. Then during the 29th lap it occurred to me to take the heart rate monitor strap off and I felt relief immediately. When I got back from the lap, I took the bra off as well and that completely solved my problem. Again, why it took me about 8 hours to come to this conclusion, I can't understand but I'm glad I finally figured it out.

During lap 30 I still had a breathing issue, which is a condition that I have. I'm prone to muscle spasms around my lungs which is left over from last year when I started back up exercising too soon after a cold. I think the 8 hours of constricted breathing triggered it, but my seizures are getting less and less intense and at that point I had Ibuprofen in me already which helps with the seizure. So I was able to keep moving while in horrible pain but it was gone in about 20 minutes and after that the whole issue went away.

Dawn of Day 2. Still raining. I'm on the right in my shiny rain jacket.

However, after lap 29, Stephanie asked me how I was doing. I told her that I wasn't doing well. She asked "one more lap"? (For the team) . I said "2-3 maybe". It ended up being 5 more, but the thing is, that the problem that caused me to say only 2-3 more laps was gone by the end of the next lap. So there was really no reason after lap 30 to not keep going, but my mind never got over this crisis.

In lap 26 I came in with painful blisters. It was still raining since 11pm. This was at 7am and I had never been in a race 26-hours long before. In a 10-11 hour Ironman I just deal with blisters when we are done, but I don't usually get them even though I'm soaked from pouring water on myself during the run. Even in my 24-hour ultra I had no issues, but it wasn't raining either. So this was new to me and I had no idea how to deal with it. Coming in from the 26th lap I asked the ones already there: "do you pop your blisters"? They said no. It was irrelevant when I took my shoes off since my blisters had already popped.

Start/Finish Line of the Canadian race. It made no sense to change to dry shoes.

Just to imagine what we are talking about, on both feet half of a toe was replaced by a blister and they both popped. We put band aids on and then Leukotape on top, which I brought with me for this purpose. Now I know that there are a lot of other products to help with the issues too. This worked for a few hours and the rain stopped. I changed into dry socks and shoes. There was no point in changing my socks or shoes while it was still raining because where we started there were huge puddles and wet grass, so the shoes and socks would have been soaked within the first 3 minutes of the new lap.

I had had a few wet training runs where I went out every hour. That was when I noticed that wet clothes don't bother me much, but wet gloves do. So knowing it would be raining for about half a day during the race, I bought a bunch of gloves for a dollar each to have a dry one every hour and that was great.

It was after lap 33 that the pain from the blisters came back and that's when I was totally lost as to what to do. My toes were already taped. I could only imagine that the old skin covering the new fresh skin somehow came off or moved and now the tape was rubbing against the fresh skin (this was not what was going on). I didn't see the point of taking the tape off, because I didn't have any better ideas what to do with it after. 

8 runners left out of the 15 Canadians - ready to start lap 33

I was still able to limp out on the 34th lap but I was about to turn back. The pain was too much. Then Andrea came out and started walking with me a little bit and I felt better. I figured I can just go out and see how it goes. So I did and I made it back in just over 57 minutes. I turned around and headed out again but this time I couldn't take proper steps any more. I was trying to position my foot in a way that hurt the least but it wasn't cutting it any more. So this time I turned around for good and that was the end of my race.

Once I took the tape off it turned out that I developed new huge blisters on the same toes that hadn't popped yet. There is a chance that popping, draining and re-taping them would have helped, at least for another few hours.

The days after the race I started reading up on the blister problem and found several products and ways to prevent and treat them. The problem is that because I don't usually get blisters, and even when I get them I don't have a problem up to 24 hours into a race, I will have very few opportunities to try what works for me and what doesn't. There is even a good chance that if it didn't rain for 11 hours during the race, I wouldn't have had this problem. So there isn't a way for me to really replicate this and experiment, I will just have to be prepared with solutions if it ever comes up again.

The silver token means DNF - did not finish. Everyone is a DNF except the winner.

I definitely learned a lot and it was an unforgettable experience to be part of the Canadian Team for this Championship. Of course, I can't wait to try myself in this format again and avoid making similar mistakes. Congratulations to all my team mates and Stephanie, the Champion, as well as the Champions of other countries including the eventual winner of the World Championship, Karel Sabbe who ran for 75 hours breaking the world record. The original location, Laz's backyard had the US Team running and that race was won by the incredible Courtney Dauwalter with 68 laps.

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