Meet Stephanie Simpson, the new Canadian champion of the Big Dog Backyard Ultra
This year's Big Dog Backyard Ultra was epic with incredible performances in numerous countries around the world including the overall champion Sabbe Karrel of Belgium and American champion Courtney Dauwalter. In Canada, it was Stephanie Simpson of Montreal who won the Canadian championship. As a result of the format, Simpson was forced to stop after 43 yards because everyone else from the Canadian team had quit. But, nonetheless, it was an incredible performance, especially from a relatively little known competitor. So, let's meet her.
How does it feel to have won this competition in such a unique format?
This is something I only really realized when I was running my last loop. At this point, it still feels like it was an impossible thing for me to accomplish. I came to Kelowna with the state of mind to do the best I could for the team without expecting to go back to Montreal with the Canadian title. I didn't plan to win this competition until my crew made me realize that I was capable of more than I thought. That one small shift in your mindset can make a very big difference.
Does this mean you'll be competing next year?
I'll apply and see Laz's response since I wasn't given a "Golden Ticket". But, I definitely want to go to Tennessee and see what I can do.
How was the training leading up to the event? What kind of training did you do?
Since all the races were cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic, I did a lot of virtual challenges, which kept me motivated and gave me an average of kilometres per week sufficient for this type of race. I only knew a few weeks before the competition that I was going to be part of the team, so I didn't really have the chance to have a specific preparation. But, I did some mental preparation for this competition. I came here into a "one more loop" mindset. I knew that I was getting into this competition with certain elements against me (such as travel, being unable to bring many things on the plane, having to try to foresee the unforeseen 4000km from home, being In Kelowna all by myself, etc.).
Had you raced in the backyard style in the past? What unique challenges does this format present?
I ran the Virtual Last Runner Standing last May. Due to a thigh strain, I DNFed after 28 yards. It gave me enough confidence and experience to be able to go further this time. This race format is so unique and interesting because you only have to be good enough to finish your loop before the next hour, but you also end up not having enough time to rest, hydrate yourself well, eat, etc. Time is always against you.
Tell me about some of the highlights from the event.
A few times between loops, I was working from my cell phone, writing emails and sending instructions to my assistant. My area was a total mess. I had stuff all over the place. I also insulated my sports bra with napkins because I was so cold (and I didn't have enough dry gear). I ran with plastic bags in my shoes because I didn't have any dry socks/shoes. (To prevent injuries). BEST THING: The team was just amazing.
And what were some of the challenges?
I came from Montreal with a suitcase. There was a limit to what I could bring. I didn't anticipate such a cold night and rain for 12 hours. I was so cold. I had to start a few loops by accelerating the pace to be able to warm up. I had a few rough times during the night, but I was on a "one more lap" mindset and I know that dark zones are only temporary. I was so happy when the night was over. Around the 37th loop, I wanted to stop, but I ended up always going for "one more loop," which led me to victory.
Canada is on the podium, quite an accomplishment. Were you surprised by the number of participants around the world and the level of competition?
I'm very proud to have had the chance to be part of this incredible team. It was a memorable experience. Considering the big "names" in some of the other teams, I'm really impressed that we ended up third. We had great teamwork. When someone thought about quitting, they would do another loop for the team.
What was your introduction to ultrarunning?
My first ultra was a 50km at the MRSQ in Montreal. I remember saying I was never going to do that again. two months later I was running a 50 mile Beast at the Burden. Since then, I have been looking for my own limits. I think it's fascinating how mental toughness plays such an important role in all of this.
Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I live in Montreal with my partner Maxime and our three children (shared custody).
What do you do outside of your running pursuits?
I am a mortgage broker with Multi-Prêts and I have a great team of nine other brokers.
What's next for you?
At the moment, I don't really know what’s next. I would like to go to Big’s, Tennessee, Badwater and try to break the Canadian 100-mile record. Otherwise, I am sure that great opportunities will present themselves to me.
How is the recovery going?
I have some body aches and accumulated sleep deprivation, but the rest is fine.