I woke up at 6:30 AM, and prepared the same way I do for other races. Today however was different. I raced a marathon the day before, setting a PR by over 12 minutes at the 26.2 mile distance; an effort yielding a top 5 finish and a time of 2:44. I had no idea how my body would feel after destroying myself in a road marathon only 24 hours prior, but I knew I wanted to experience the Backside Trail Marathon just to enter the unknown and see how my body would hold up.
The Backside Trail Marathon is run the day after the Kentucky Derby Marathon. It is called a Double-Down for folks who wish to race 2 marathons in one weekend. The trails at Cherokee and Seneca Parks host the event and typically offer well maintained singletrack with rolling climbs throughout to keep the runner entertained and alert. It consists of two loops of 13.1 miles. Finishers receive a Double-Down shirt to verify their insanity and some good Swiftwick Socks and the North Face swag.
Immediately after running the Derby Marathon the day before, I decided to run the Backside. I didn’t want to commit to the Backside prior to Derby Marathon because I wanted to go all out for the KDF Marathon and didn’t want to hold back one ounce, and knowing that I had to run a trail marathon the following day may have held me back. I felt good after finishing however, and knew the backside was in my sights.
After finishing the Derby Marathon, I focused on replenishing my Glycogen by eating at my favorite restaurant for Breakfast food, Wild Eggs. When I awoke on race morning, Sunday April 29, 2012 for the Backside trail Marathon I felt surprisingly good. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel great, but I did feel like I could at least “get through” the tough trail marathon on muddy trails as it had stormed heartily the previous night.
The inaugural Backside Trail Marathon had a few more participants than expected and was a good showing. I knew there would be fewer than one hundred runners however, so I knew I didn’t have to arrive too early which was a godsend in providing a peaceful race morning and a very laid back race morning.
I was glad to see Matt Hoyes was there as I raced with him the previous day and wanted some company on the trails.
After a short pre-race meeting at the start/finish line at 8am by Race Director Tim Barnes, we were off into the sunshine for another day of racing. I let the speedy half marathoners take off in front and found myself 5 spots back but leading the Marathon with Matt Hoyes right behind me. My legs throbbed and my energy was weak, but much stronger I figured it would be. My Glycogen replenishment had obviously worked, because my heart rate was respectable and I didn’t fret about it.
Within minutes I found myself talking with Matt about racing and running we would pass the remainder of the day doing so.
Matt and I led the race in a casual demeanor and had a great run. When entering the aid stations we nonchalantly refueled and went off to tackle the next section, not putting ourselves into the ground. It was great, and it is just what I was hoping for. We both discussed how we felt Cynthia Heady would be chomping on our heels after running a relaxed marathon yesterday we thought she was going to kill us at the Backside. She ended up finishing in third, a strong showing!
Matt and I ran the first half marathon in under 1:50 and avoided getting lost on the course which was marked very well except only one spot which was corrected very early on.
After the first half marathon I was shocked to see how well the body and energy were holding up. I knew I could finish strong and maybe even run a negative split.
The time was flying by and this event was pure joy compared to the agony of the prior day. Matt and I were still chatting and shoulder to shoulder at mile 23. I had some fuel still in me, and I knew I had the speed in me for a negative split race which was an exciting prospect, since the time was one which I felt was good regardless of having run a PR Marathon the previous day.
I took off on a downhill and Matt followed suit. I noticed my HR up at 170 and obviously the constant gels and adequate fueling all day provided the elements needed for a stellar finish.
I attacked the climbs and finally made it hurt and trained to form a gap between Matt and myself and it worked. I gained a few minutes and crossed the line in first place in 3 hours 38 minutes. Matt was only 2 minutes behind me.
I would have been happy with a 3:38 regardless, let alone after a marathon the day before, and I even ran a relaxed pace. I originally hoped for a 4 hour race! It was a huge success. I don’t care how many people ran the Backside it was a good run regardless!
I was able to volunteer after the race and help out with awards.
It was awesome to see so many people run back to back marathons and all should be proud! The trail was tougher than usual with its mud, but the sun prevailed and we had great weather both days.
Hopefully this experience bodes well for my next adventure, the Tour De Virginia in which I’ll be tackling over 42 miles average per day for 2 weeks. It involves 9,800’ climbing per day and totals nearly 600 miles.
THAT is unchartered territory.