Months ago I did my third presence running the Bunketorp Backyard Ultra race. My training went quite well and despite a weeks of family vacation I was quite confident with my training and with the expectations that I had on me with this race. Winning the race the year before was not easy but I finished it with a huge amount of energy left and an amazing finisher feeling.
I started the event in a good place. I prepared everything that I needed in order to perform well. I was set to start.
The race started and I took those first laps easily, running at a pace that felt OK. The same as the year before. It felt good. Everything was under control.
After approx. 10h the runners started to quit slowly and I was still there, feeling in control and positive about the race. I was chatting with other runners sometimes, I was really paying attention on each and every detail about my gear and nutrition and I felt good right there, really good. As it should be!
The night came!
I know that around 11 p.m. I usually do have a low moment that I need to fight and deal with. I had it during the Lavaredo ultra race as well... as that race started at 11 p.m.! But I assumed that I knew well how to deal with my eyes closing and with lowering of my energy levels. I ran fast to the finish of the loop and refilled my body with energy. I changed my clothes as well and it felt great.... at the beginning of the loop.
But that lousy feeling of eyes closing, me sleeping while running was slowly killing me. I was constantly tired and fighting for each and every step forward. I rad the hills sometimes just to push my body a bit more and stay awake. I tried to fool my body with so many tricks that I got tired of my own demons in my head. I started my Spotify. I needed something to keep me alive and awake. Coffee did not do the trick, food... dry clothes, colder or warmer clothes... nothing. I was just sleepwalking the whole time and it was HARD not to stumble and fall somewhere!
My legs began to be heavy, heavier.... my breathing inconsistent and I was under stress. I knew that this wasn't a "normal" low moment during the race. I was fighting for hours....
But I was still racing. I kept fighting and moving forward despite the odds. My pace was slower thus resulting in minor amount of minutes in between loops to take care of me. This resulted in failing to recharge my energy a few times that resulted in even worse energy levels and....
I was lucky that my buddy Branislav was near me when I fell! Not that he could prevent it because I fell down without any control... like a puppet! But just to have somebody near when you are out of air due to the huge hit was a nice thing. He helped me up and I tried to move forward the best that I could.
I figured - the hit and the pain will help me now to fight the sleepwalking?! NO! It didn't happen. My eyes were still closing, my sight was blurry and I had problems walking, let alone running but this time with added pain into the equation.
My running was fading but I was fighting. I had those 5 minutes in between the loops to take care of me. That was never enough. Not with a "competent" support that knows exactly where I am both mentally and physically. I was in a bad, bad place right there.... I was just fighting and waiting.... waiting for the sunlight! The pain was killing me! I was struggling breathing and I was afraid that I maybe broke something. I never, well... almost never have bruises when I fall/hit myself. This time I got not only a huge multicolour bruise but a haematoma as well! It was just scary to see that one (I will not add images of the injuries)!
Before the sunlight I managed to fall one more time. I laughed at myself.... laughed at the "pity party show" that I was playing the whole night. I knew that my chances for a good result that I would be happy with were gone.... fading away with every step. I was demoralized, beaten, in pain, sleepy and tired of the whole thing.
Still, somehow, I kept moving forward. Even being the last runner on the course, all alone..... waiting for the daylight!
The daylight came... eventually. It felt better. Not good, but better. After almost 8h of fighting I had a light in front of me in that dark tunnel. And boy it was dark....
Around 8 a.m. I was starting to consider to withdraw from the race. There were still too many runners out there and each and every of them had no issues. I had all the issues of the planet... to quit! Still, I tried to see if I could read if some of them are tired or in a bad place. I noticed that some are aiming to reach the 100 mile distance and I knew that after that distance usually the fight for the win is between 2 or 3 runners. That fight can be a long one..... really long. I was absolutely not in the right position to fight for the win.
At 9.a.m. I decided to run the 100 mile distance and close the race with that achievement. Despite my wife and my children trying to push me back to the course I was done. I was in pain, and mentally beaten.
Still, the race gave me a good amount of information and feedback. The nutrition plan was good. Me failing the plan was a bad thing. But I failed it due to the constant sleeping issues. I usually have such problems for an hour or two max on the first night. Not for 8-9hrs! It seemed like running the UTMB back in 2017 when I finished the race after 43hrs of fighting the demons the second night. But that is another story.
The Backyard concept is a tough one. You need to run a loop in one hour and be ready for the next one the next hour. You don't have the luxury to make a short nap like in those long races or to go to the toilet and "take it easy". In a Backyard race you need to follow the plan, you need to take care of each and every detail in order to perform well. Everything is important and no mistakes are allowed.
The difference between me winning the race in 2021 with a huge amount of energy in me and a mental "rock-stability" in comparison with the beaten and mentally drained 2022 in HUGE! The difference between succeeding and failing and the tiny details in between.
The why of the failure sometimes is not that important as the knowledge acquired. This race will remain in my memory as one of my toughest experiences but not a bad one. I had fun with my fellow runners, I had fun after all and the organisation of the race, the race director and each and every volunteer did an amazing job taking care of us. I felt the passion in them and their passion is really infectious.... that I might apply for the race again in 2023. I just might! :)
Still, I have just one dream for the 2023. The UTMB. If I get a place for that race I will plan the race well and train for it the whole year. I need to close that race and be happy with the achievement. I have a dream..... :) If I don't win a spot than I will definitely race the BBUT once again. I can strongly recommend this race!
Anyways, I learned a lot even this time and my body amazes me even more. This was a fight against the brain shutting down. The body was strong until the energy was consumed. All of it! At the end the brain won - I surrendered after 24h and a nice 100 mile experience.
I have to thank my family that supported me during this adventure, each and every member of the race organisation and the fellow runners. Kudos to my teammates during the race Mikael Ström and Branislav Pavic. They did amazing well! Great job!
Watch: Coros Vertix
Shoes: Altra Torin 4.5
- Umara gels and sport drink
- Aptonia Gels
- Magnesium and salt tabs
- Corny Energy bars
- Real food (sandwiches, pizza)
Stats for the nerds: