Big’s Backyard 2020 (Finland satellite race)

Bridget drove me and my loads of stuff to the event in Espoo. Photo: Bridget

On October 17, 2020 I participated in Big’s Backyard satellite race. This post will provide a bit of background of the event followed by some notes and comments. This is more of a post-mission/operation debriefing than a race report. But let’s set the stage.

At 15.00 on Saturday afternoon, 15 runners set out run a 6.7 km loop (about 4.2 miles) and had 60 minutes to complete it. Everyone made it back in time. At 16.00 we started again. And so it went for many hours around the world.

Yes, around the world. This race was originally scheduled to take place in Tennessee for an international group of elite runners, but due to COVID 19 and these runners’ inability to travel, the race organizer decided to open it up to the world as a virtual event. Thus the event morphed into a sort of olympic ultra-running event with each country recruiting up to 15 people to join their team. I was lucky enough to join Finland’s team. But I’m not Finnish, so why was I on the Finnish team? A just question my liege. Luckily for me, the organizer preemptively addressed and allowed this. In the end, several other teams also had runners with non-host country citizenship who were living in the given country – Australia and Switzerland, for example. I am eternally grateful to Mikael Heerman who allowed me to join the team and worked tirelessly as the event director in Finland. And thanks so much to Sari Heerman for all of her support and care. Ja iso kiitos kaikille meidän porukassa. And a special thanks to Janne Simola for crewing me, Lari and Jani!

The particular distance of 6.7 km is selected so that in 24 hours, a runner will have completed exactly 100 miles. I was able to complete 31 loops before succumbing to pain and exhaustion. This was a total of over 200 kilometers, which is a new record distance for me in a single event. But my effort was nothing compared to the winner who completed 75 loops (500 km!) in Belgium. Here are links to my profile for the event and then the results. The amazing Kati Ahokas won the event in Finland with 40 loops!

Results (search by country) here:

Here are notes that might help me or others for future events

  1. We had three hours / loops of considerable rain during the early hours of the night. I carried an umbrella, which worked to keep me dry and sweat free. It was annoying to carry but I would do it again. Everyone else on Finland’s team wore rain jackets and pants. Unfortunately, I can’t wear rain jackets unless the weather is extremely cold and/or windy; I detest sweat and moisture inside my clothing.
  2. I brought waaaaaay too much food and gear. I ate only part of one cup-o-noodles out of the seven I brought. I didn’t touch much of the other food. The reason is that liquid calories were much more effective for me. On each loop I tried to drink 500ml of water with 200 calories of Tailwind (sports powder). Back at the tent between loops I attempted to take a few bites of chips, other food and candy; but in the end I relied mostly on liquid calories to fuel my body. However, I did have a box of Fazer Omar donuts that I nibbled on throughout the event. They were delicious.
  3. Having a sun/beach chair to sit on a few minutes between loops was an excellent idea, especially because I could raise my legs as you can see in a photo below.
  4. I only had a few blisters this time. One on each large toe and a massive blister on my left little toe. I was reminded of the importance for caring for hot spots before they turn into something horrible; I drained and cared for one of the blisters on my big toe but ignored the other. This was a mistake as it because extremely painful later. I should have drained both. As for the little toe, I tried to care for it, but this toe is my achilles heel. eventually a blister formed around the entire toe and the skin retracted painfully. There was blood. Lots of blood. You can see the toe a day later in one of the photos below. You are welcome!
  5. My average loop time over 31 loops was probably 52-54 minutes, though toward then end I was pushing 57 minutes and didn’t have time to sit down before starting the next loop. At that point, I knew my race would soon be over. And so I started loop 32, but turned around soon after, walked back, and quit. I hope that in the future I will not voluntarily quit. I hope that I will continue to try to do another loop until I am physically unable to complete the loop in the allotted time. But that is much easier said than done.

Below are photos related to the event. I am still waiting for information on a few of the photos – I don’t know who took some of them. Please contact me if you know.

The start/finish line. Photo: Bridget
Before the event. Team logo. Photo: Jarmo Koskela
Photo: Jarmo Koskela
Resting a few minutes between loops Photo: ?
Photo: ?
Photo: ?
Photo: ?
Photo: Jarmo Koskela
Photo: Jarmo Koskela
With Jani and Jussi. Photo: Jarmo Koskela
This is near the end of my event. Photo: Janne Simola
This toe is always a problem for me. Can I get it removed? Photo: Me
Photo: ?
Mikael is helping me fix my feet. Photo: ?

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