FARC Members Participate in Grueling Endurance Event


The Quarantine Backyard Ultra started on Saturday, April 4th, and captivated runners and non-runners alike. The format was simple, runners completed 4.167 mile laps every hour until only 1 runner was left standing. The entire event was broadcast over video conference making it a spectacle like no other. FARC had 4 runners participate: Pat Early, Chris Koehler, Rob Tidwell, and Ben Tidwell.

By Monday only 2 runners remained and in the end, Michael Wardian from Arlington was crowned the last runner standing. Mike ran 63 laps adding up to over 262 miles. For his efforts, he was awarded the Golden Toilet Paper Roll (it was a free event, after all).

The ending was a bit controversial when the runner-up, Radek Brunner, was disqualified because he did not start his lap on the hour. Radek was on his treadmill but race organizers deemed that he did not “…leave the coral when the bell rang.”

 

FARC PARTICIPANTS


Ben Tidwell – Youngest PARTICIPANT to pass 6 laps

Our very own Ben Tidwell from King George became a sensation after people noticed there was a 13-year-old laying down laps with the best of them. 25 laps to be precise, covering a total distance of 104.25 miles. When asked about all the coverage he received he said “It’s kind of weird. I am not used to people knowing how far I run.” Prior to this, his longest run was 76 miles at the Crooked Road 24 Hour this past November.

Ben ran his first mile race when he was 6 years old and started running with the Rappahannock Ospreys at 9. At 10, Ben started running 5ks and on some weekends he would go for 15 to 20 mile runs in the mountains with his dad. He ran his first 50k at 11.

Ben started the event with his dad, Rob, who said that Ben “ran him into the ground” on the 6th lap. After lap 7, his dad decided he had enough. Ben got into “the zone” and just kept going. Only 37 other runners completed more laps than Ben! To put that in perspective, according to Runner’s World, “the field included 2,400 athletes from over 55 countries, including a group of elite runners like 2019 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc champion Courtney Dauwalter, 2019 Big’s Backyard champion Maggie Guterl, 2014 Badwater champion Harvey Lewis, Last Vol State 500K champion Greg Armstrong.”

 

Ben’s story has been picked-up by Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, and Running Magazine just to name a few.

 

I’m sure if you’ve ever been to a local race you’ve heard the name Tidwell. Check out the interview with the family on The Roots Podcast.

Pat Early

Use the arrows to read about all the runners.

1) Have you done anything like this before? 

No. I got into ultra running about 2.5 years ago and have done 10 ultras including a few 100 milers but never a race like this.

2) How did you find out about this event? 

A member of DQTC  posted a link to it in our group chat. At first, I had no interest in participating. I had been training for the Umstead 100 miler which was scheduled for April 4th but canceled. As races continued to be canceled and various parks and trails started to close my perspective changed and I decided to give it a try.

3) What was your strategy?

Leveraging the experience from previous ultras my goal was to run very easy during the early laps and focus on finishing 24 hours/100miles. I planned to play anything past 24 hours by ear depending on how I felt. I had to work Monday morning and did have some concern that even if I was running well I would eventually have to stop. I finished most laps between 40 and 45 minutes.

4) What did you do to prepare if anything and how did you handle fueling during the event? 

The start time of 9 am felt late. There wasn’t much to prepare. Since it was based at home there was no concern about bathroom lines, bringing enough gear, water and/or food availability etc. I set up the Zoom feed in my front door and put a mat on the dining room floor. I had a laundry basket full of various clothing options and put out a bunch of food on the dining room table. My wife was also prepared to cook a number of things including hot dogs, tater tots, and quesadillas.

5) Did you sleep at all during the event? 

Nope. There was a two hour stretch around 2 am that was tough. Other than that it wasn’t too bad.

6) In general, tell us about your experience.

The overall experience was awesome. I ended up completing 30 laps (125 miles) finishing somewhere around 29th place. I finished the 24th loop in 23:41:25 which was roughly a 3 hour PR for 100 miles. At one point Bert Jacoby called to tell me I was running too fast. This may have been true, but a 10 min pace gave me about 18 minutes between laps and this cycle worked well. My kids wrote motivational chalk messages on the court. DQTC provided exceptional support. Folks would show up unannounced in my court and wait for me to come to my house at the beginning of each loop. They would run a loop and provide encouragement. At the beginning of the next loop, someone else would be standing there ready to provide support 6 feet away! This really helped from laps 25-30. Somewhere around lap 27 I was bumped to the elite feed and started getting a lot of texts and Facebook messages which also helped me keep going towards the end.  I had set 30 laps as a goal. After laps 28 and 29 I was having trouble eating and drinking enough. At 30 hours I decided to call it a day and get ready for work on Monday.

7) Would you consider doing something like this again? 

Yes! This type of race format plays to my strengths. Being able to run the distance comfortably and have time to rest/recover before the next loop is huge. I will definitely do a race like this again!

8) How did you do your laps? 

All of my laps were outside. The weather was perfect! I ran variations of about 5 different loops. All of the details are posted on my Strava page.

9) What do you think of the way the whole thing ended with the disqualification? 

I respect the race director’s decision. The rules were very clear at the beginning of the race. That being said it a disappointing way to have things end. Radek and Wardian appeared to have plenty in the tank. It appeared both were on track to break the record and probably hit at least 70 hrs.

 

Rob and Ben Tidwell

Use the arrows to read about all the runners.

1) Have you done anything like this before? 

Rob:  I’ve done a few timed ultras before.  A couple of months ago, I ran an informal backyard ultra that the Chesapeake Bay Running Club organized. The course was shorter than four miles, the course was intentionally hilly, and the event only lasted 8 hours because the park closed at sunset…besides that, it was just like the original backyard ultra (ha!).

Ben: No, just a few timed runs.

2) How did you find out about this event? 

Rob:  About a week and a half before the event, I saw a post about it on Facebook post from Sarah Smith, who directs the Capital Backyard Ultra in Potomac, MD. I signed up the day I learned about it.

3) What was your strategy?

Rob:  Ha!  My strategy was to keep up with Ben as long as I could, then outlast him….that didn’t work out so well. We both generally wanted to finish each lap in 46-52 minutes.

Ben: I was just planning to try to run one more loop than my dad.

4) What did you do to prepare if anything and how did you handle fueling during the event? 

Rob:  We pretty much went with what we had in the house, which was convenient because I had plenty of stuff left over from previous events.  We turned our garage into an aid station and the rest of the family (My wife Kristin, and our three daughters) crewed us. I took a small water bottle and a snack to eat while running. Between loops I ate whatever Kristin put in my hands, commonly some leftovers from the fridge – I really liked the fried rice and brisket.

Ben: I also took a small water bottle in my pocket and some sort of food.

5) Did you sleep at all during the event? 

Rob:  I only completed 7 loops, so sleeping wasn’t a factor during my run.  After I dropped, my role changed to crewing.  The only sleep I got was during a few random 5-10 minute cat naps.

Ben: When I came in I tried to eat some food and rest.

6) In general tell us about your experience.

Rob:  Ben and I ran the first 5 loops together. We started the 6th loop together, but I started falling away near the end and finished a few minutes after Ben. When we started the 7th loop, I immediately fell behind Ben and only finished with about 3 minutes to spare. I walked out to begin the 8th loop, not intending to finish.  I just wasn’t moving fast enough to make the cutoff time.

Ben: after doing 24 loops I decided that a lot of people would just do 24 loops so I decided I had to at least do one more. Coming in on my 25th loop I just decided that I was done. I might have been able to do a few more, but I thought 104 miles was enough for me.

7) Would you consider doing something like this again? 

Rob:  Never say never. Ben is already signed up for another one later this year.

8) How did you do your laps? 

Rob:  All laps were outside on a combination of asphalt, dirt service road, and the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail.

9) What do you think of the way the whole thing ended with the disqualification? 

Rob:  Kristin and I were watching the live video feed when Radek Brunner was disqualified for not starting on time. It was heart-wrenching. I have the utmost respect for the race directors and their staff who made this free international event happen. They created a fantastic event!! It was amazing that two guys on opposite sides of the globe competed against each other for 63+ hours!!

Chris Koehler

Use the arrows to read about all the runners.

1) Have you done anything like this before?
Not in this format.  I have completed three 50ks in the past.  I have been wanting to complete a 50 miler for the past couple of years now, but have gotten cold feet.  The jump from 50k to 50 miles is quite a bit of a jump. A bit intimidating. I had signed up for the Bull Run 50 Miler. I was determined that this race was going to be my attempt at 50 miles, but it got canceled. Like so many others whose races got canceled, I was looking for a way to not let the training go to waste. When I learned about the Backyard Ultra, it sounded perfect.  It was on the same day as Bull Run. I could run as far as my legs would take me. I could bail at any time and not endure a walk of shame. Best of all, it was free.  I had no excuse not to do it.
2) How did you find out about the Quarantine Backyard Ultra? 
I found out about the race from a post on the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners Facebook page. CAT is such a great group for trail runners with weekly long runs on trails. They have experienced trail runners who are eager to offer advice to runners of all abilities.
3) What was your strategy? (Go fast to have more time between laps or like Mike Wardian who ran consistently to have a 15 minutes break?)
Funny you mentioned Wardian.  My strategy was more like his.  My strategy was to go out slow, at around 9:00-9:30 pace. This would give me about 20 minutes or so to recover, refuel, and hydrate.  After about 4 laps or so, I received a comment from Bert Jacoby (a former Stafford resident and sub-2:30 marathoner) on Strava that I was going too fast. I follow Mike Wardian on Strava and noticed that he was running 10:30 pace.  So, after a marathon, I did slow it down to 10:30 pace.

4) What did you do to prepare if anything and how did you handle fueling during the event?
So, as far as preparation goes, I owe a lot to some advice given to me by John Anderson, co-owner of Crozet Running Store. Ever since my hip surgery a few years back, I have a tendency to be injury prone. My body can’t sustain the traditional program of high mileage weeks with two hard workouts and a long run on the weekend.  John only runs hard once a week. The other runs are run at a slow pace. The long runs, he assured me, didn’t need to go much further than 20 miles  The goal is to show up on race day healthy. Grit and perseverance would get me through 50 miles. This advice was when I was training for Bull Run. So, I ran three days a week; I alternated with 3 days of cycling.  And, I took one day off, usually Mondays.  As far as fueling goes, I made sure that I downed about 300 calories of normal food (not gels or anything like that) and 20 ounces of water on every break. A lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
5) Did you sleep at all during the event?
I did not sleep.  No need to.  My goal from the very beginning was to just run 50 miles and call it quits.  I never had any ambition to run overnight.
6) In general tell me about your experience.
The race was very fun. Unfortunately, I had tweaked my hip a few days before the race, and it wasn’t 100 percent on race day. The hip was definitely the major issue throughout the day. I had 3 goals for the day. My A goal was to run 50 miles, my B goal was to run further in one day than I ever had before (34 miles), and my C goal was to run at least a marathon. I started out at 9:00-9:30 pace through the marathon, at which point I made the decision that if I were to make 50 miles, I would need to slow it down to 10:30 pace.  The interesting thing now was my B goal, 34 miles. After I completed 8 laps, I had reached 33.3 miles, which meant I had to go out for a 9th lap.
(continued)
My hip was hurting pretty bad at that point, but was holding up. No cramping to speak of. So, I headed out to complete lap 9 and accomplish goal B. When I got back, I was ready to call it at 37.5 miles. My wife pointed out what I already knew. “If you finish one more lap, you can say you ran 40 miles.” 40 miles sounded so much better than 37.5. So, I went out for lap 10. As I was running that lap, the sun was setting. The cooler temperatures were very refreshing.   As I was finishing up the lap, I realized that all I had to do was complete 2 more laps and I would reach 50 miles. I was committed at that point. However,literally as I pulled into the driveway, I got my first cramp. Not a good sign. Up to that point, I had run every step. My strategy now was to to walk every hill and run everything else. When I reached the first hill on lap 11, I just couldn’t do it. I ran up it. I got my first cramp at mile one and had to walk. I then walked up every hill. I still completed that lap at 11:42 pace, with 10 minutes to spare. Lap 12 was definitely a struggle. I walked every hill and ran until I cramped up. When I got to mile 3 and realized that I had 23 minutes to run 1.2 miles, I knew I had it. I enjoyed walking up that last hill. I finished with about less than 10 minutes to spare. I threw in the towel at that point. I pretty much accomplished what I set out to do. I could have possibly pushed myself through a couple of more laps, but why?
7) Would you consider doing something like this again?
Yeah, I think so.  Hopefully, it won’t be virtual. But so many backyard ultras have been popping up since Laz started this all, what, about a decade ago. I even thought it would be cool to run in his Big Dog Backyard Ultra, but entry is based on a lottery system, which is kind of a downer. I even thought it would cool to direct one locally. I just discovered some trails today that would probably work perfectly; just gotta figure out who owns the property. However, I think I want to actually run a traditional 50 miler, now that I know I can complete the distance.
8) How did you do your laps?
I ran outside. I have a 4 mile loop from my house that is perfect. Half road, half trails through Wilderness Battlefield. I don’t think the Garmin is accurate on the trails, so I probably ran further, but I figured the softness of the trails and variety of terrain would more than compensate for any longer distance I may have run. There was one lap that I did completely on the roads to see if it was easier. It wasn’t.
9) What do you think of the way the whole thing ended with the disqualification?
It really sucked. I was watching it as I was getting my lesson plans ready for online learning.  I kinda know Michael Wardian through Matt Boyd. When Matt and I directed Hartwood 10 Miler, we invited him to run, and he did. When I worked at Va Runner between teaching jobs, we invited him to come speak at a Hoka event, which he did. Matt and I ran with him that night. He had just finished running practically all of Israel a few days before. Drove all the way from Alexandria. He’s such a Class A guy.  However, as I watched the event online, I found myself rooting for Radeck Brunner because he was the underdog. There were times on the Zoom feed that I noticed that TV crews were covering Wardian. He’s such a rock star in the nicest sense of the word. But, there was Radeck, plugging away at his treadmill, a relatively unknown, who is actually a very accomplished ultra runner. You can look him up. At 11:00 PM on the 3rd day, they headed out on what was to be the last lap.  I was watching. Wardian took off, but there was Radeck standing on his treadmill. I was wondering “what is he doing?” He had shown absolutely no signs of struggling on the previous laps. He finally started running. I breathed a sigh of relief and went to bed. I woke up to find that that was it. He had been DQ’ed for not starting on time. I didn’t think he had been standing there that long, but when I looked back at the video, it was a full 2 minutes, a clear violation of the rules, which were clearly stated. I credit the race directors for making a very difficult decision, but ultimately, the right call. Radeck was gracious in defeat. He accepted full responsibility; from what I read, he had his Zoom meeting muted and did not hear the bell. His tablet had a delay. But, those were the rules. It stinks because I think those two would have been literally crawling to the finish line, with one not making it in time.