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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Training for Ultras On a Treadmill


I totally take back this meme I made a year ago.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with deciding what the heck I’m running this year. Well, I registered for the entire PA Triple Crown Series for the third straight year. With the decision made and me being committed to running the PA Triple Crown Series this year, I knew it was time to get serious about training. Whether I opted to run the series or not, it was time to quit giving in to excuses and start building up some mileage for whatever I decided I was going to run this year. In the past two years I felt like it wasn’t my overall fitness level that took away from my finishing time at Hyner, but rather the big climbs and my lack of being prepared for them. So, I intend to change that this year. I got myself a membership at the local Planet Fitness so I could start training earlier, lose less fitness over winter, and train on some incline rather than just running pancake flat South Jersey. I’m also putting in some time on that stair stepper machine thingie in an effort to help build the quads.

My training for both years leading up to Hyner was pretty similar in mileage and terrain (see Table 1 below). Not surprisingly, my results were pretty similar as well. In 2017 and 2018 I finished in 5:36:36 and 5:42:02 respectively (race reports here 2017 and here 2018). This year has already been a bit of a change with the treadmill workouts allowing me to more readily and comfortably increase volume, mix in continuous 15% incline reps, and increase intensity. I feel these three aspects of training on a treadmill may work to my benefit as I concurrently train for Hyner 50k and the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon.

Table 1 shows my monthly mileage totals leading up to the Hyner 50k in 2017 and 2018.

Month
2017
2018
January
164
136
February
80
128
March
128
164
Total
372
428

The first benefit of the treadmill training I’ve felt is just the ease of increasing volume. With January almost over I have about 180 miles for the month, a pretty big increase over last year. Surprisingly, it felt pretty painless to go from two months of lower than average mileage to a higher than average month on the treadmill. Maybe the primary reason is because I’m not a fan of cold weather running. And the main reason I’m not a fan of running in the cold is because the cold, dry air tends to trigger my asthma while running. I’m a fan of running for 24 hours in the heat and humidity, but once it gets too chilly I just can’t breathe which makes running miserable. And no, for the most part I don’t think of running for 24 hours as being miserable. The treadmill takes away the “sucky weather excuse” altogether for not getting a workout in which has helped me increase my volume of running this past month. I readily admit that I have fallen victim to using that excuse. After getting home for work, cooking dinner for the kids, doing homework, and getting the kids ready for bed it can be tough to be motivated to get out for a run in the dark even if it’s just cold. And if it’s rainy, cold, and windy, the “sucky weather excuse” sounds even better. Thanks to the gym and the treadmill, it’s no longer an excuse.

The second benefit of the treadmill is the option to run some incline. Granted, the maximum 15% grade of the treadmill is nothing compared to the final climb (SOB) at Hyner, but it is still better than the average route I run in South Jersey. I do have a few areas I can run where there is the option of doing some short hill repeats, but I am not aware of any area in South Jersey where I could train on a long, continuous climb.

A video showing the hills I use for hill repeats at the Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve.

The third potential benefit I hope to eek out of this treadmill training is more quality workouts with higher intensity. We’ve all heard the old phrase that “quality is more important than quantity” in many situations, including running. Heck, there’s even a podcast that plays on this concept (Ten Junk Miles). Although I would argue that there is no such thing as a “junk mile” as long as I enjoyed running it, I am also well aware that not all runs provide equal training benefits. For reasons I mentioned earlier (that whole asthma and not being able to breath thing) my cold weather runs tend to be at a much lower intensity than I can maintain during the summer months. Not only am I able to do some higher intensity runs on the treadmill, I’m able to do it in an extremely organized fashion. Whether it’s half mile high intensity followed by a half mile recovery or three quarter mile easy pace with quarter mile sprints, I just set the treadmill and run it.

So, what does my treadmill incline workout look like? I set the treadmill to max incline at 15% for a mile which should be 792 feet of gain. I do three sets of max incline after three faster sets of 5 miles at 1% grade (264 feet of gain each). If my math is correct it puts me at a total gain of 3168 feet. Which I’m hoping will have me better prepared for the 7500 feet of gain at Hyner in April that has been a major shock to my quads for the last two years.

A video showing how I feel on the treadmill.

Scott Snell
January 31, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2019 Race Schedule, So Far...


“You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.” —Steve Garvey


So after much waffling and indecision, when the opening hour of the Eastern States 100 registration was upon us last weekend, I decided that again for the third consecutive year I would go all in on the PA Triple Crown Series. A few days later, I stumbled upon a last person standing event, Ragged Runner, in CT not too far from home in NJ. It is only two weeks after Worlds End which is not ideal, but as much as I have wanted to run a race that used this format I couldn’t resist and registered within a couple hours of learning of the event. And with that decision, my 2019 race schedule is for the most part pretty much planned with the exception of a longer fall race. I’m considering Beebee Farm 48 hour or Black Forest 65ish miler in PA. Since one of my 2019 goals is to run my longest/farthest run ever, I’m leaning towards Beebee Farm 48 hour since I think I could accomplish that there. However, if I happen to accomplish that goal at Ragged Runner (last person standing) in June, I may opt to close the season with midnight stroll through Rocksylvania and just run the Black Forest in PA.

Definitely:
April 20 - Hyner 50K - PA
April 28 - NJ Marathon - NJ (shooting for marathon PR)
June 1 - Worlds End 100K - PA
June 15 - Ragged Runner (last person standing) - CT
August 10 - Eastern States 100 - PA


Possibly: 
September 26 - Beebee Farm 48 hour - VT
October 6 - Black Forest - P
A



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Are Treadmills Torture? Not With Zwift!




Disclaimer: I received a Zwift runpod to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!





Most trail runners I know tend to have a pretty negative opinion of treadmill running, some I would dare to say even hate it. Maybe it’s because of what is missing from the running experience when on a lush trail in the sun compared to the typical gym environment in which you find treadmills to commonly occur:  no fresh air, no wind in your hair, no sounds of birds calling or water flowing. Maybe it’s because of what the gym environment adds:  “gymtimidation”, all of the current hottest music tracks (sorry, not a fan of most), scents of the locker room, muscle heads admiring themselves on the expansively mirrored walls. Maybe it has something to do with social anxiety and the feeling of freedom that is provided by running alone outdoors. Or just maybe it’s due to the fact that these dreadmill hating trail runners can’t overcome the fact that the origin of the treadmill can be traced back to devices used as a form of punishment and prison labor in the early Victorian period in Britain. British engineer Sir William Cubitt is credited for the introduction of treadmills as a form of prison labor in 1818. The penal treadmills were used to grind grain in 44 English prisons at their peak. Over time, the practice waned and was ultimately abolished in 1902 when Britain passed the Prisons Act (1898).


By Google scan of 1864 book by Henry Mayhew & John Binny - https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=TGAJAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA306

Whatever the reason or reservations trail runners have for avoiding treadmill running, there is now a tool available that aims to improve the overall treadmill experience. The team at Zwift has created a product that virtually transports a treadmill run to almost anywhere in the world. Popular routes from the US include Richmond and New York. Popular oversea courses feature Innsbruck and London. The fantasy island of Watopia is even an option for zifters.


And the benefits don’t stop at running virtual courses. Zwift offers structured training workouts to help you prepare for your next 5K, half marathon, or triathlon. Additionally, the Zwift platform also offers a community to train with. If you want to run with friends who are on the other side of the world, Zwift makes that possible with virtual group runs.





Since I’m not a particularly huge fan of treadmill running I thought Zwift would be perfect for me to make any treadmill running I do more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the required app that syncs with the Zwift runpod was not compatible with my Android phone (LG Stylo 2 plus) so I was never able to personally experience the Zwift platform. As of now the app is only fully available on the Apple store. The Android app is currently still in beta form and from what I could gather is only compatible with newer Android devices. There is also the PC or Mac version of the software that can be used if your treadmill set up allows (I couldn’t manage to pull this off at my local Planet Fitness).


Although I wasn’t able to partake in the excitement of going for a Zwift run, plenty of my fellow BibRave Pros have and had lots of positive things to say about it. Heck, they even made me feel a little jealous of a treadmill run?! Here’s a sampling of some of their reviews after experiencing some Zwift virtual runs.













Sunday, January 6, 2019

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019



It’s now 2019, time to review and reflect on 2018 and plan for the upcoming year of running adventures and goals! It’s an exciting and fun time to reminisce over the past year of accomplishments while anticipating the excitement of working towards another year of big goals. Although I did not accomplish my two largest goals in 2018 (1: to finish the PA Triple Crown Series, 2: PR a 24 hour race) I’m not disappointed. I’m mainly fine with not hitting these targets as it was for the most part caused by circumstances completely out of my control. The primary circumstance being that Eastern States 100, the final race of the PA Triple Crown Series, was cancelled making the goal of officially finishing the series an impossibility. 

The second goal didn’t happen basically as a repercussion of the first circumstance. Since ES100 was cancelled I jumped into another race (Twisted Branch 100k) about the same time to replace it, but I still wanted a 100 miler so I also registered for Mines of Spain 100. With the rearrangements made to my race schedule, I couldn’t find a 24 hour race that worked into my plan where I felt like I could accomplish my goals there. Every race I looked at didn’t allow enough time before or after another race for me to feel like I’d have a performance there I’d be proud of. That explanation for the second goal sounds a bit like a condaluted excuse, but looking back at 2018 as a whole I’m proud of the training miles I put in and my performance at all six of the races I did run.

Total Running Miles = 1828

Races:
  1. Hyner 50k (32/268) 5:42:02
  2. Worlds End 100k (13/100) 14:18:46
  3. Fat Sass Switchback Challenge 6 hour (2/23) 26 miles
  4. Twisted Branch 100k (8/110) 12:56:21
  5. Squatchung Surprise 6 hour (1/32) 38.1 miles
  6. Mines of Spain 100 miler (2/35) 22:38:10

Scott Snell
January 6, 2019


Monday, December 31, 2018

2019 Goals Continued...



So if you read my last post you may be wondering which race schedule (options 1 and 2 below) I opted for in 2019. When it came down to making a decision, the cost played a role in my decision. I just couldn’t justify paying the $200 entry fee for a 48 hour race that consists of a one mile loop with a single aid station (sorry NJ Trail Series). When compared to the $160 fee for a beautifully scenic and nonrepetitive 62 mile course with aid stations conveniently spaced the entire distance, Worlds End 100k seems to me to be the better value. Although earlier I was planning on going full Triple Crown series route or going with option 2, I’m now considering a third option: running the first two races of the series and then opting for the August Last Man Standing Ultramarathon in Maine rather than Eastern States. Eastern States registration doesn’t open until January, so I guess I’ve still some time to finalize this decision. I’m still undecided, but have narrowed it down to option 1 or 3.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Giving The Gift of Aftershokz This Christmas


Disclaimer: I received Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless bone conduction headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


This holiday season I was treated to the opportunity to test out a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless bone conduction headphones. What the heck are bone conduction headphones you may ask? I asked the same thing when I first heard of them. The Aftershokz development team has created what is in my opinion an entirely new category of sound delivery by sending mini vibrations via the cheekbones to the inner ears. By doing so, the patented design of Aftershokz bone conduction headphones are able to deliver high quality sound without covering or blocking the ears. What does this mean? Greater comfort and situational awareness! If you’ve worn earbuds for a long period of time you’re familiar with how uncomfortable they can become. Aftershokz solves this issue by not requiring anything to be inserted into the ear; the headphones rest comfortably over the ear and on the cheekbone. This also allows the user to still hear what’s going on around them increasing their awareness of their surroundings and quite possibly their safety. These are two huge benefits of the Aftershokz bone conduction sound delivery system and basically resolve my two complaints I have with anyone who wears headphones in public. I know, now I must come clean with my complaints:
  1. People who run, walk, or hike trails with headphones on playing at a level that they cannot hear others announce themselves to pass. I try my best to be civil, but if I’m shouting asking to pass on a narrow trail and I get no sign of recognition please do not be surprised that you are surprised when I hop around you. I did not do it to intentionally startle you. I simply wanted to get around you. 
  2. People who play their music through a speaker for all to enjoy. If you like running or hiking with music that’s fine, but please do not subject the rest of us to your preferences. You are not that important. 

Now that I probably sound like a grumpy old curmudgeon (my apologies), it’s time to talk about the #GiveGoodVibes campaign that Aftershokz ran this holiday season. Starting on black Friday and continuing while supplies lasted, Aftershokz sent an open box pair of wireless Trekz Titanium headphones to anyone who ordered a pair of Trekz Air headphones free of charge. The free pair of Trekz Titanium headphones was provided to allow the buyer the opportunity to pay forward the good will and gift them to someone special. The sentiment of the #GiveGoodVibes campaign is enough to grow any grinch’s heart! And I must say that trying out these headphones and then being able to share them with someone special was one of the highlights of my holiday season. Receiving the gift of having a gift to share brought me more pleasure than many other gifts I’ve received. And knowing that the pair of Trekz Titanium headphones that I gifted are enjoyed and improve my lovely wife’s running experiences makes me even happier than using them myself!


Because all this may sound like I’m blowing smoke up someone’s ass, you may be questioning how great can a pair of headphones that you wear on your cheek bones sound. I was skeptical of the sound quality as well until I used my Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones. Let’s just say that all of my doubts vanished as soon as I had Andrew WK’s “She Is Beautiful” flowing through my cheek bones to my ear drums in perfectly clear sound with full and deep bass as well. The fact that this sound delivery system works so well truly amazes me. Not only is the sound quality great and honestly better than I expected, but everything else with the headphones works flawlessly as well. Even with my older, lower end LG android phone the bluetooth connectivity worked flawlessly. And the range is pretty impressive as well. I wanted to test it out so I left my phone at one end of the house and walked towards the opposite end of the house wearing the Trekz Air headphones. I nearly made it to the opposite end of the house (about 50 feet away with walls between) until they began to cut out. The headphones also offer all of the control options you would need to adjust volume, skip tracks, receive calls, and much more without having to use your phone. Even though I tend to lean more towards being a bit of a minimalist runner, I do enjoy running with music under certain conditions. And after experiencing the Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones, I can safely say that they will be my go to and top recommendation for anyone who enjoys listening to music during their outdoor activities.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WIN Sports Detergent








Disclaimer: I received WIN Sports Detergent to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


If your household is anything like mine, you’re told somewhat frequently by your wife that your feet are gross and that you stink. And I’m talking stink in a literal sense here. Well, there’s not much I can do about my feet being gross. I have every intention to continue to run ultras which will most likely mean that I’m going to continue to have missing toenails and black blood blisters under some of the toenails that remain. Which, in my wife’s opinion, is gross. In an effort to compromise, I could going forward quit making videos of my kids pulling off my toenails, but they just seem to enjoy it so much that I would feel terrible to deprive them of that! So the gross feet thing is probably here to stay. Thankfully I now have the option to do something about the stank I bring to the table with the help of WIN Sports Detergent!

I’m not going to lie, I like to run and I like to run far. That means getting in long runs in hot weather. This tends to lead to sweating. Sweating for hours on end in some cases. I can speak from experience that after a certain amount of time of running and sweating the effectiveness of deodorant tends to decrease. I don’t mind it so much as I’m usually running by myself outdoors where no one else has to smell me and I become acclimated to my BO as it gets worse over the course of a long run. However, my family is not so fortunate. I get home exhausted and happy only to be yelled at by my four year old son “Daddy! You stink! Go take a shower!” My wife complains of how she has to wash my running clothes separately from all the other laundry to avoid contaminating the rest of the wash with my stench. What is one to do about the rank odor of ultrarunning? Well, I’ve been lucky enough to be provided the opportunity to test out WIN Sports Detergent as BibRave Pro and thus far I’m very pleased by the results.

                                         
See how happy it makes my wife?!

WIN Sports Detergent removes sweat, oils, bacteria, and salts from active clothing and in the process also removes the unattractive smells as well. WIN was designed to separate oils from the synthetic materials that activewear is made from while standard everyday use detergents are more generalized for cleaning a variety of fabric types. WIN was also designed to restore elasticity to activewear materials. I can’t say I’ve noticed a rebound in the elasticity of my activewear, but the improvement in scent is quite noticeable. I’m happy about it, but I’d say that my wife’s happiness about it is far greater!

You can try WIN Sports Detergent out for yourself and use “RAVE4WIN” to get 20% off any WIN purchase (individual bottle, 2-pack, or 4-pack). Offer is good through 1/15/19. Limit one use per household. Also, if you’re feeling lucky you can win yourself a bottle of WIN (normal or fragrance free). Just go to my Instagram or Twitter sweepstakes posts. Like the post and tag a friend in the comments to enter. Hit both to double your chances! The winner’s shipping address must be in the lower 48 of the United States to be eligible. Entries accepted through 12/30/18.