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Monday, September 9, 2019

FBOMBs Hit the Beast Coast



"Disclaimer: I received an FBOMB Nut Butter Variety Pack (16-count) 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!"


I make no claims of being any type of foodie or a true connoisseur of fine foods at all. With that being said, like most people I enjoy eating and when I find a food that I particularly enjoy I like to let people know about it. And that is exactly what I have found in FBOMB’s Nut Butters. With the FBOMB Nut Butter Variety Pack (16-count) I received four 1 oz packages each of four flavors: Salted Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter, Macadamia Pecan, Macadamia and Sea Salt, and Macadamia with Coconut. Every flavor is unique and enjoyable on its own, not just the same taste rehashed four times over with a slight twist making the variety pack the ideal choice for a want to be connoisseur of nut butters.

FBOMB sandwiches! 
The convenience of the FBOMB packaging is one feature that I really loved. The single serving packages made them perfect for folks on the go whether you’re heading out to go camping, taking a trip to the park with the kids, putting in extra hours at work, or avoiding extra stops for crappy fast food on long road trips. While testing out the variety pack, I ate at least one FBOMB package in every one of those scenarios.

FBOMBs while camping!
Don’t judge these FBOMBs by their size. Even though they’re packaged in convenient single serving pouches, they are truly filling and provide long lasting appetite satisfaction. I like to keep a supply of the single serving macadamia pecan with sea salt at my desk at work. If I’m struggling with a mid morning or late afternoon hunger craving and feel the need for a healthy snack, I’ll down one and it will carry me through until lunch or until I’m home for dinner.

FBOMBs at the park!
So the whole convenience and appetite satisfaction factors really don’t hold that much value if you’re not a fan of the taste of said food. Thankfully, I turned out to be a big fan of the taste of all of the flavors of FBOMB nut butters I tried. So much so, I really can’t pick a favorite. My top two picks were Macadamia Pecan and Macadamia with Coconut. I love pecans and had never heard of pecan butter before. After the first package of Macadamia Pecan, I realized the glory of pecan butter. As for the Macadamia with Coconut, well, I’m kind of a sucker for coconut foods as long they are done well and not overly sweet. FBOMB did a great job of that by adding only three simple ingredients: dry roasted macadamia nuts, raw organic coconut, and sea salt. Bravo on both of those! I’m not trying to undermine the two remaining flavors, Salted Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter and Macadamia and Sea Salt, as they were both delicious. It’s just that if given a choice of the four, my personal preference would be to go for either Macadamia Pecan or Macadamia with Coconut.

FBOMBs at the pool!
Now I personally don't follow any specific diet of any kind; I like to think I eat a decent variety of foods that at the end of the day turns out to be at least an average overall diet. While FBOMBs weren’t created for any specific diet, they are great for and can meet the requirements of many diets: low-carb/high-fat, keto, paleo, vegan, non-GMO, gluten free, dairy free, and peanut free.


Get 10% off your purchase of the FBOMB Nut Butter Variety Pack (16-count) with code “BRP10”

Here are more reviews from other BibRave Pros:







Saturday, August 24, 2019

2019 Eastern States 100



PA Triple Crown Finisher Award Display

It’s been a little over a week since Eastern States (ES) 100 as I begin to write this and now that my sodden, pungent clothing and gear has been cleaned and the wounds are for the most part healed I am beginning to have a greater appreciation for how my day there played out. I went in with a single goal that I thought was well within reach given the year I had thus far. The goal was simple, finish in less time than it took me in 2017 (27:17:24). This would also ensure a faster cumulative time for the 2019 Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series over my 2017 time for the series (47:47:36). Since I had finished both Worlds End 100k and Hyner 50k faster in 2019 than 2017, this goal seemed well within reach. However, the uncertainty of the 100 mile distance and how things can go south at any point was a constant concern for me. Excessive worrying about the potential for things to fall apart may be what ultimately led to me failing to reach my goal. 

Pretty early in the race. Photo credit:  Joseph Hess
For about two weeks leading up to the race I was feeling extremely anxious, more so and for a longer period before the race than I have ever experienced in any other lead up to a race. Adding to my trepidation was a work trip that I had scheduled for the week just before race weekend. I would be flying back to Philadelphia Friday around noon, then getting picked up by my wife to make the remainder of the drive to Little Pine State Park. I packed my two drop bags and everything I would need at the start the weekend before the race then worried all week hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything. By the time the work week was over and I was picking up my bib at registration the relief I was expecting didn’t wash over me. I had my stuff ready a week prior, managed to get there without any flight delays interfering with my travel plans, and now all I had to do was run 103 miles on the rugged trails of the PA Wilds. I guess there was still good reason to have a fair amount of nervous excitement.

Lower Pine Bottom AS, Mile 17.8
Thankfully, I managed to get a pretty solid night’s sleep before the 5am start, but at the starting line the jitters were still present. I did my best to deal with them in hopes that they would subside once I got on the trail and put a few miles behind me. Everything went well for the first 50k or so. I knew what pace I had to keep to meet my goal and I was staying ahead of that pace and feeling comfortable doing it. The climbs didn’t seem as bad as I had remembered and my quads were handling them well. It almost seemed like it was too easy this trip around Pine Creek. It was shortly after AS5 (Happy Dutchman) that I got hit with my first blow when I realized my watch had led me astray. The actual mileage at AS5 is 31.6. My watch, which has otherwise always been reliable and pretty accurate, was reporting that I had covered a little over 36 miles. I was focusing on only getting aid station to aid station so I was mostly just using my total mileage to see how much farther to the next aid station. When the signage at AS5 showed the mileage to the next AS as 6.9 and I used the inaccurate information on my watch that would put me at about 43 miles total. That was a significant mile marker as it is the second crewed AS, Hyner Run. I got excited that I would get to see my wife and boys again and it felt so soon since I had just seen them at the first crewed aid station. Mileage and the next aid station came up in conversation with a couple other runners and when their watches synced I realized mine was off and there was one more AS between us and the next crewed AS. It was a bit shocking at the time, but I tried to comfort myself by saying I was happy to find out early how far my watch was off rather than later. However, later in the race while talking to one of the other runners that helped me realize my error, he would tell me that my face showed a bit of a soul crushed reaction when I realized it was my watch that was off.

One of the early climbs. Photo Credit:  Tomas Castillo
With that minor mishap out of the way early, the rest of the daylight hours of the race rolled by pretty pleasantly for the most part. I don’t know if it was due to the low temperatures we had on race day or just my misconstrued recollection of the course, but my second time running ES I was shocked by how much of the course felt runnable. The majority of my memories of the ES course was super technical descents intermixed with steep, rocky climbs. This time though,outside of two big early climbs (just before AS1, Ramsey Rd. and just after AS3, Lower Pine Bottom) the bulk of the first half of the course was feeling runnable. And I was running the bulk of it and staying on my target pace even after I adjusted for my watch’s misinformation without feeling like I was pushing myself even near the point where I thought a blow up was a possibility.

Another AS stop.
A second mishap started emerging or at least giving indications of larger problems about the same time as when my watch mishap was discovered. This mishap began with some slight discomfort around the bottom elastic of my hydration vest. I was wearing the same vest and same shirt that I have worn for 100ks and 100 milers in the past with only minor chafing issues, but this time around those minor chafing issues became exasperated and caused major chafing that was never resolved no matter how much or what kind of lube I threw at it. Since the equipment and clothing was the same, the only explanation I can come up with is that I was carrying more weight in the vest than I had ever packed before. I had trained with Science in Sport (SIS) gels all season and wanted to use them for the race so I packed 10 in my vest at the start and had 10 replacements in each of my drop bags. Also, I wasn’t positive gels would be available at every AS. Ten gels may not sound like much additional weight, but SIS gels are roughly about twice the volume of standard energy gels making a bit bulkier to carry and nearly doubling the weight. The best guess I have at this point is that the extra weight/volume in the vest made it fit and move differently than any time I’ve worn it in the past. Ultimately leading to some terribly painful chafing. I like to think I’m not one to complain about the little stuff, but this turned into a steady distracting pain from about the halfway point to the finish. I also like to think I’m not one to blame equipment for my failures, but in this situation the equipment had a major impact on my focus and overall mindset. I never thought about quitting because my sides had been rubbed raw by my pack, but the pain constantly pulled my focus off of running and moving efficiently to just thinking about taking this pack off as soon as possible.

The worst of my chafing.
The watch incident and the chafing issue are the only two concrete items I can point to that led to me falling off of my target pace, neither of which I truly deem responsible. I was ahead of my intended pace for a 27 hour finish at AS9, Halfway House (54.7 miles), but somewhere between there and AS14, Blackwell (80.3 miles) where I was picking up a pacer and had my next time goal calculated I was well over an hour behind where I wanted to be. It was strange because I never felt completely exhausted, but had this strange feeling of never feeling like I was pushing myself to the limit and always running overly safe without getting out of my comfort zone. In retrospect, it seems like I was so concerned about blowing up that I never pushed to my full potential for the day. Usually with hundred milers I feel like I get into some kind of singular focus and survival mentality, only concentrating on getting to the finish as quickly as possible. For whatever reason, that switch never got flipped this time.

A power hug from my youngest!
Even with my time goal out of reach and twenty some miles to go, I was excited to pick up a pacer at Blackwell. It was my first time using a pacer. It wasn’t the situation I had envisioned of being on pace and having my pacer push me to the finish ahead of pace, but he was able to up my morale and that of the couple other runners I had spent the majority of the night with. I will admit, we had a bit of a pity party on the trail overnight and it likely would have continued the rest of dark early morning hours if we were not joined by a pacer. With a bit of fresh energy provided by our pacer, Kurt Foster, we picked our pace up for the respectable climb out of Blackwell. Kurt continued to push our pace for the remainder of the race, reminding us every time the trail was runnable. With my time goal a lost cause, he kept me from basically giving up and walking it in, pushing me to earn a finish time that I could be proud of.

At AS11, Slate Run, 63.8 miles.
We grinded our way in the dark to the next AS, Skytop. It was a little tough mentally to leave this one because the crew there was so accommodating and we knew the stretch to the next AS was one of the longer ones of the race. Without getting too comfortable, we ushered ourselves out and pushed on. Thanks to Kurt, our pass through the second to last AS, Barrens, was one of our fastest. We refilled bottles, grabbed food, and were out in probably 1-2 minutes. We were as fast if not fastest passing through Hacketts, the final AS. With only about four miles left, not much was needed and the excitement to finish was peaking, at least I thought.

At packet pick up.
Shortly after leaving Hacketts near the top of the final climb of the course we heard a runner coming up behind us quick. Kurt turned to me and said something along the lines of “you don’t wanna get passed just a couple miles from the finish.” I replied by saying that I wasn’t sure if I have anything left. The Kurt said something that finally lit a spark at the time. He basically said even if I attempted to outrun him for the last two miles and still got passed, then I could just walk it in and still get the same result even if I hadn’t made the effort. For whatever reason, at the time that got me to dig and give it my best effort to stay in front of this other runner. That’s when things finally started to become fun again. I was moving and feeling good. Before I knew it, I caught sight of a runner ahead of me. We passed him. Now things were getting really exciting for the finish and the final gnarly descent of the course. In the last two miles or so, we passed four runners. It amazed me that we were so close to these other runners and without that little spark provided by Kurt, I would have contentedly shuffled in to the finish after them.

My 2019 finish!
I crossed the finish line at 28:46:52, a full hour and almost 47 minutes after when I had intended to finish. At the beginning of this report I wrote that I failed. I may come off sounding like a bit of a jerk or a real pessimist by saying that I wasn’t entirely pleased with this finish. It’s easy to say that any 100 miler finish, especially a tough 100 mile course like ES, is something you should be proud of. However, after assessing how my legs felt during that last steep downhill this year compared to two years ago, I knew I had more left in me at the finish this year. In 2017 I was desperately bouncing from tree to tree to keep from going into an out of control tumble down the incline. This time, although my quads were screaming, I was bombing the downhill mostly in control. The fact that the spark to push harder earlier never happened is what I was really disappointed about. The “what if”s were what bothered me. After a few weeks to digest it all, I still can’t say that I’m not a bit disappointed that this final piece of my PA Triple Crown Series goal didn’t fall into place like I had hoped, but I can say that I am proud of the finish and to have completed the full series for a second time.


Getting my chafing patched up at the finish!

August 24, 2019
Scott Snell

Friday, August 16, 2019

Fall Race Schedule, So Far


"Disclaimer: I received free entry to GAP Relay 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!"

With my summer racing season coming to a close after Eastern States 100 and the end of the PA Triple Crown series this past weekend, it’s time to start thinking and solidifying plans for fall races. So far, I haven’t given it a great deal of thought because I’ve been so focused on spring and summer running goals. I’ve got some ideas and there are plenty of options, but so far the only definite I have on my schedule is the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail Relay. The GAP relay race that challenges teams of 8, 6, or 4 runners to complete the 150 mile GAP trail starting in Cumberland, MD traversing, through the Allegheny Mountains, and finishing in Pittsburgh, PA.


When offered the opportunity to run the GAP I was excited for a number of reasons. The first being that I’ve never seen or traveled any of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and I’m pretty much always a fan of exploring new trails. With a chance dropped in my lap to cover a large section of completely new to me trail on foot and other portions in a pacer vehicle, there was no way I wasn’t going to do my best to partake. After learning a little history about the trail and how it is basically a conglomeration of rail/trail conversions, I am even more pumped to explore it with the potential to see some of the surviving historical railroad artifacts (old railroad stations, telegraph poles, mileposts, and foundations for signals). Also, since the trail is built along former railroads, all of the grades are gentle never exceeding a 1.5% grade. Although I love the challenging and rugged trails PA offers, I would be lying if I did not admit that I’m looking forward to a less strenuous (and likely faster) trail run through that still includes the beautiful scenery of the Pennsylvania landscape. Tunnels and bridges will take me through the mountains and over the water crossings that at other trial races I would have to climb over and wade through.


A second reason that I am getting more pumped as the start of the GAP Relay nears is that this will be the first ever team relay race I have run. I like trying new race formats to keep running fun, interesting, and challenging. Working as a team of runners is something I have not experienced at a race yet, and I look forward to how the team dynamic will add an entirely new element to the journey. Additionally, the relay team I am running with is a group of other BibRave Pros, none of whom I have ever actually met before. Getting to know and run with a group of runners that I have only interacted with via Twitter and Instagram adds to the sense of adventure in this undertaking. Thus far, all the BibRave Pros I’ve met are passionate about running and having fun while doing it, so I envision this jaunt along the GAP Trail to basically be 150 miles of an ultrarunning trail party!

If you get a crew together to take on the GAP Relay, be sure to use code “BIBRAVE100” for $100 off the registration fee!



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2019 Worlds End 100k




Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.


Going into Worlds End (WE) 100k this year my head was not in a good place for both personal life reasons and running related reasons. Advanced warning before you get too far into reading this report, as I begin to write it I fear it will sound like I’m whining and will get into some nonrunning related issues in my life. If you want a more Worlds End running focused report check out my 2017 and 2018 reports. Otherwise if you’re somewhat intrigued with a poor mental state leading up to a race and a lesson learned from it, by all means continue reading. For multiple reasons to be explained, I was battling a lack of motivation, questioning my abilities, and suffering from an overall rather pessimistic outlook in general.

The day before at registration.
I’ll start with the running issues that contributed to me having a bit of lack of motivation and confidence leading up to WE. I was feeling pumped based on my two most recent races before WE. I ran my best time after three attempts at Hyner 50k and a week later I ran a road marathon PR at the NJ Marathon. With basically just a month between the NJ Marathon and WE I planned to do an easy recovery week, ramp up with a decent training week, get in a quality 20ish mile long run, then ease into a taper. Things went as planned up until that quality 20ish mile long run. I got in my 20 mile long run, but it by no means felt like a quality run. My legs felt heavy from the start, I felt tired and sluggish for the entire run, and I struggled to maintain what I felt like should have been an easy pace for flat, nontechnical trails. So I did the only logical thing I could do, I did a 20 mile road run the following weekend expecting it to be much faster and to feel much better about myself going into WE. That follow up long run did not go as planned either. I felt better and was slightly faster (20.08 miles in 2:49:41 versus 20.0 miles in 2:59:27), but the small pace improvement and still not feeling strong while achieving it did very little to improve my confidence.

      

With back to back weekends of disappointing long runs behind me, the next weekend I followed the most logical course of action: I asked for advice from a retired Olympic trampolinist (aka my brother in law). After talking about training cycles, building, peaking, and my lack of all of those things much less a training plan, he said I should just rest the last week before WE. I took that advice and did not run at all for an entire week before WE. I had never tapered that hard before, so I was extremely nervous not even having a couple easy paced short runs the week leading into WE. It also didn’t help improve my confidence at all, but as my brother in law was suggesting, the training and endurance are already there, my body just needs a break to recuperate before being pushed again.


Now to go over the non running issues that were contributing to my less than ideal mental state for the start of WE. I shouldn’t say issues, as it was more so a singular work related issue. For the most part I’m usually pretty good about not letting work frustrations bother me outside of work, but given this situation I could not let it not bother me. In an attempt to not make this a long, drawn out complaining post, I will try to sum up the main points of the situation quickly. Basically, I was offered a temporary detail promotion because the manager of our office had been reassigned to a one year detail. Not long after accepting I was told the position didn’t exist and so I could not have the promotion but I could still do the additional duties that came along with the promotion. Not such a good deal. Not long after that development the temporary detail position was advertised and two other employees from other offices were selected for the three and four month temporary acting manager details. The motivating factors that went into the decision making are still unknown to me. Being passed over for a temporary promotion that I was told doesn’t exist after I had unofficially been doing the additional duties of that position for four months was enough to make me update my resume and start job searching, but not do anything crazy like quit on the spot. Anyway, that’s enough non running stuff to explain why my head was out of sorts.
The view from my cozy car camping.
To add to my disappointment just before the race, my family had a last minute change of plans for the race weekend. We had planned to make an extended camping trip out of this race weekend with our neighbors who have kids that are friends with ours coming along for the trip. I had been telling my family and theirs about how great Worlds End State Park is and how nice the camp sites are for two years. I had finally convinced them to come along for a camping trip and 100k trail run. Unfortunately, the weather reports for extended thunderstorms and rain for the entire weekend caused our neighbors to fear that it would be a miserable weekend for camping so they bailed on us. I got the news Thursday afternoon when I arrived home from work. Making the blow sting even worse, my family decided to back out as well since their friends wouldn’t be coming along. In a flash my weekend went from running an awesome, scenic 100k with my friends and family there to cheer me on and celebrate with afterwards to just me taking off for the weekend.

Between the poor long training runs, last minute plan changes, and the professional life disappointments I was feeling confused, cynical, and worthless which is not a good way to start an ultra. Regardless of the outcome, I showed up even if my attitude about it was pretty crappy. I tried to convince myself that I was excited for it and that even if things weren’t going well in my professional life I at least still had ultramarathons as an escape, but when I woke up the morning of the race after a night of camping the initial thought I had was “time to get this over with.” Not the best mindset to start a gueling 15ish hour endeavor, but I had faith that once I became immersed in the trail running things would start to feel right. 


Just before the finish!
Makes it all worthwhile!

For the most part, that’s exactly what happened. I tried to turn on autopilot and just run the course basically the same way I did in 2018, going out at a comfortable pace while taking in plenty of calories and not blowing up. Pretty much everything fell into place. The course didn’t completely cooperate, but it didn’t bother me. It had been wet leading up to the race and the course had long stretches of extremely sloppy, swampy areas. It reminded me of the conditions from my first time at WE in 2017. That year it really got to me because every stretch of trail that looked runnable ended up being a sloppy mess and I was not able to get into any kind of rhythm. This year was different. Even though the conditions were similar, I managed to still move in a way that felt efficient and consistent. I felt strong on the climbs, my stomach never felt upset, and I was never completely exhausted. It was almost a perfect repeat of last year based on performance, only slightly faster as I finished in 14:11:21 compared to my 14:18:47 finish last year. 


I mentioned at the beginning that there was a lesson learned for me from this whole experience. It wasn’t about how important thinking positively going into an ultra is because I was pretty negative going into this one and still executed better than last year. The lesson for me was that ultramarathons or running in general can’t always be used as an escape from other issues in my life. Or maybe more accurately, ultras and this silly hobby of mine will not resolve other life challenges. I went into this race with a bad attitude. Then the race was going well and I had a great time. I felt even better when the outcome was an improvement over last year. But afterwards all of the circumstances that had caused my mental anguish had not changed. I had just lowered the amount of attention I allowed them for a few days. This may be kind of a sour note to end a report of a positive race on, but that is how this chapter of this ultra season ended for me.

At the finish celebration!


Scott Snell
August 14, 2019


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Feel The Recovery With OOFOS



Disclaimer: I received a pair of OOFOS Men's OOriginal Sport Sandals 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!


I don’t like to improperly use or overuse the word “literally” like many of the YouTubers my children watch, but the first time I slid my feet into my new pair of OOFOS Men's OOriginal Sport Sandals I literally said “OOO!” I had heard the hype from other BibRave Pros and read the testimonials on the OOFOs website, but until actually feeling the OOfoam™ technology under my feet I couldn’t believe that any sandal could be that much superior to my normal rotation of sandal brands. I now very comfortably stand corrected on my OOFOs sandals. 


Perfect for fireworks on the beach too!
I sincerely believe that I cannot do these sandals justice by describing how great they feel on your feet whether it’s a day relaxing by the pool or after running a nearly 100 mile ultramarathon (both of which I did while testing these sandals out). In my humble opinion, the only way to truly appreciate and understand the difference that OOFOS offers is by experiencing it yourself. So by all means, do yourself a favor and go try a pair on using the OOFOS retail store locator.

Until then, here are just a few more reasons that may motivate you to go feel the OOfoam™ difference.


1. It’s Science Bro!
In a third party laboratory study (University of Virginia, 2018) OOFOS patented footbed was found to reduce energy exertion in the ankles by up to 20%. Additionally, OOfoam™ was found to absorb 37% more impact than competitors’ sandal foam material.

I can’t quantify the recovery benefits or the feeling I got when wearing OOFOS after a long run, but I can say that it felt like recovery for my poor, abused feet. I don’t know if it was the better fit with the arch support or the extra shock absorption of the OOfoam™, but one of those or the combination of both were more pampering than my feet have likely ever been treated to. This was especially nice after those long ultramarathons that were followed by a 5-6 hour drive home. If you don’t believe me when I say my feet need the recovery, just watch a few of my YouTube videos




2. Discounts for Joining the OOFamily
Who doesn’t want to save money? If you join the OOFamily you’ll immediately get $5 off your first order. Then earn points for additional savings every time you shop. Earn 200 points for each friend you refer while your friend gets 10% off of their first purchase. It’s a win-win!

3. Just Look At These!
I don’t have the greatest fashion sense,if any at all, but these sandals just look nice!

4. Latex Free and Non-Toxic
All OOFOS products are latex free so latex allergies are not an issue. They are painted with non-toxic paints and made from foam with non-toxic properties so you can feel safe wearing them.

5. Get Support While Supporting a Worthy Cause
A 3% donation for every pair of OOFOS that is sold on OOFOS.com goes directly to the Dana-Farber Breast Cancer Research team to support medical advancements in the battle against breast cancer. It is a cause that has a very personal connection to the OOFOS brand. In 2014 the Brand Leader and Marketing Director of OOFOS was diagnosed with “treatable, non-curable” stage four breast cancer. Here is Duncan’s story in her own words.

See What My Fellow BibRave Pros Had To Say About OOFOS:






Friday, July 19, 2019

Putting Science In Sport Isotonic Energy Gels To The Test


It's a good day when you find this on your doorstep!

"Disclaimer: I received SiS isotonic gels 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!"
The winner's award from the 2019 Last Idiot Standing - Summer Edition.
What the hell does a totally badass wooden sword and an extremely attractive and unique plaque showing a topographic map of a 5k trail loop have to do with Science In Sport (SIS) Gels? For the majority of people, absolutely nothing. But for me, there is a significant connection as those were the winner’s awards for the last two (and only two) “last person standing” format races that I have run. And during those two races I depended heavily on SIS gels as a major constituent of my caloric intake. It may not be a cause and effect relationship, but SIS gels definitely contributed to my performance to earn those two awards.


The four flavors I tried, sorry, giveaway is over :(
Where to begin with SIS Gels? Well, when offered the opportunity to try out a new type of energy gel I was excited. As an ultrarunner, nutrition is a huge and one of the most important parts of my racing. Calorie intake and your stomach’s ability to handle your choice of calories can be the difference between completely killing a race or having your race end with a dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish). I’m basically a scavenger when it comes to gels, more or less just using whatever gels are offered at aid stations when they are offered. Because of this, I’ve never become brand loyal to any one type of gel. Some have stood out as better than others, some worse than others, but none so much so that I said to myself, “That’s my gel” or “I’m never eating one of those again.” With my history of a hunting and gathering gel practice, I felt blessed to be able to consistently use one brand of gel for the bulk of my training leading up to and during both Run Ragged and Last Idiot Standing (LIS) - Summer Edition.
At the finish of LIS!
For both races I brought four flavors of SIS gels: lemon & mint, salted strawberry, apple, and double espresso (150 mg caffeine). I wanted to have some variety of flavors for these races as I planned on eating 1-2 gels per hour and I did not want to get to the point where I was sick of the taste of a single gel flavor and I had to force myself to eat it. Thankfully, that never happened with the choice of flavors I had for the 32 and 14 hours that the two races lasted respectively. And for the most part, I totally avoided any total and complete bonks. I was starting to bonk pretty hard around the 25th hour of Run Ragged, but then I downed two apple SIS gels and was feeling better within about an hour. I believe that bonk was basically due to me not keeping up on my calorie intake. I had forgotten to eat a gel at several aid station stops and I had not eaten anything else to get any other replacement calories. I didn’t recognize it until the calorie deficit had already built up, but after the SIS gels and some bananas I returned to the best case scenario for someone who has not slept and has been running for over 25 hours.

Before and after pics of a one mile Fourth of July run; the caffeinated SIS got me moving!
The face of an ultrarunner after a 5:46 mile.
Of all the gels I’ve tried over the years, SIS gels are the most palatable. Most of the time after a long ultra I am almost sick to my stomach of forcing down gels. This didn’t happen even after 32 hours of eating them at Run Ragged. The flavors are not overly sweet or artificial tasting as I find most other gels to be. Additionally, the consistency is thinner than most other gels I’ve used. The lighter consistency makes them easier and faster to consume and negates the need to immediately wash them down. After hours of eating other brands thicker, almost syrupy, gels during ultras I will begin swigging water or whatever electrolyte drink I have in my bottle and swishing it around in a futile effort to rinse the taste out of my mouth and the sticky coating off of my teeth. With SIS gels I never felt the need to do this. The reason being that SIS gels are designed to be an isotonic formula, or the same concentration as in the body. The isotonic formula allows the SIS gels to be processed more efficiently by the stomach without additional fluids to dilute them. This in turn allows the stomach to process the gel more quickly and get the calories on their way to becoming energy for your muscles to burn. 



Packing for a last person standing race, one of the toughest things other than actually running it!

In addition to the better taste and consistency of SIS gels, the boost from the 150 mg of caffeine in the double espresso gels was also a huge help to me in reaching my goals at both races as both races each went from at least dusk to dawn and then some. I became pretty groggy at a few points during some of those early morning hours while I was anxiously waiting for the first signs of the sunrise to show. The kick from those double espresso gels helped me to get out of my chair and continue when a nap sounded pretty nice.

If you’re like me and you have never fallen in love with any one brand of gel, I highly recommend giving Science In Sport gels a try. I can’t and SIS can’t guarantee that you will win every last person standing event you enter if you use SIS gels, but that’s what they’ve done for me so far! If you do decide to give SIS gels a try, use code “TRYSIS25” for 25% off all products excluding sale items then comment on this post and let me know what your favorite flavor was!

Me with my awards and my two favorite boys!
Also, if you want to see what other BibRave Pros thought of their Science In Sport gels, follow the links below!


https://theaccidentalmarathoner.com/product-review-science-in-sport-sis-energy-gels/


Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019 Run Ragged Last Person Standing

At the finish!

“A lot of people decry competition as a negative thing. It’s not. You come to love your competitors because you’ve been through this hell together. You don’t want your competitors to quit, but you need them to quit. These things are going on in your head at the same time. That’s a little bit evil. A total mindfuck, runners say.”


-- Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake


Forty-two. It is the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", at least according to Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was also the number of runners that arrived to run the inaugural Run Ragged on June 13th in Berlin, CT at the Ragged Mountain Trailhead. Maybe it’s a bit of a coincidence in a sense because I’ve found that longer distance ultras are an excellent means for me to believe I’ve found the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", at least at the wee hours of the morning after exhaustion sets in and my fragile mind starts getting somewhat loopy.

The event was a slight twist on the last person standing race format made explosively popular recently by Courtney Dauwalter and Johan Steene’s amazing performances (279.168 and 283.335 miles respectively) at the 2018 Big Backyard Ultra hosted by the evil genius Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake. The race format requires runners to complete a 4.166667 mile loop in under an hour. The beauty of the rather seemingly random distance is that in exactly 24 hours you’ll have run exactly 100 miles. Sounds pretty easy so far, but every hour the race restarts and all runners must do it again and again and again until all but one runner remains. The last runner to finish one lap more than any other runner becomes the sole winner; all other runners receive a big fat DNF (Did Not Finish). Is it fair? Maybe not. Could it be soul crushing? Maybe so, but that is how the race format works. In fact, there could be no winner at all if a final group of runners goes out and none of them make it back before the one hour cut off.


The RDs of Run Ragged added a few twists to the format making it a bit unique amongst the abundant crop of so many new races that have popped up recently which are nearly exact replicas of the Big Backyard Ultra format. Where the traditional format uses a daylight trail loop and a night road course, Run Ragged used a single trail loop for its entirety. Most last person standing races use a relatively easy 4.166667-mile-long course. Run Ragged opted for a more challenging 5k loop. It was a shorter distance, but from what I’ve heard of other last person standing events the terrain and elevation gain (≈ 500’ per lap) made it a tougher course. While a good portion of the Run Ragged course was runnable, it was not easy or mindless running. The more runnable sections were broken up by technical stretches, short and steep climbs, and some tricky descents. 

Just before the start.
The Run Ragged course is made up entirely of the New England Trail (NET) and NET side/connector trails. The NET was designated a National Scenic Trail in March of 2009. The course starts at the Ragged Mountain Preserve trailhead following the red/blue Ragged Mountain Preserve trail for about 0.78 miles. Then just before turning onto the yellow/blue Ragged Mountain Preserve trail you are treated to a pretty welcome vista overlooking Lower Heart Pond. This stretch of trail is roughly about 0.85 miles and in my opinion seemed to be the most technical and unrunnable stretch of the course. After that you hop onto section 15 of the NET for about 1.52 miles. The course wraps up by following the orange/blue Ragged Mountain Preserve trail for the last 0.68 miles. Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “That equals a total of 3.83 miles! You said it was a 5k loop!” Let me explain. These distances are based on the trail map on the Ultrasignup registration page. The NET trail map itinerary page confirms the distances of the yellow/blue and orange/blue trails, but the course only uses short portions of the other two trails so their distances can not be confirmed there. My gps data was pretty close to what the RD had said, that it is a 5kish loop so rather than going round in circles indefinitely (pun intended) over this topic, I’ll leave the discussion of distances there. 

Map from the Run Ragged registration page.
First things first, let’s get the obvious on the table. A last person standing event is nothing like a normal race. In fact, after running this one as my first I even question calling it a race at all. I first became interested in the format when I listened Billy Yang’s interview of Guillaume Calmettes following his win at the 2017 Big Backyard Ultra. Then after following Courtney and Johan’s epic battle in 2018 I felt I needed some of that in my life. I applied for the 2019 Big Backyard Ultra and so did many other more qualified ultrarunners. I was disappointed to not even make the waitlist, but thankfully many last person standing events starting popping up all over. I figured that if I ever want to be selected to run at the Big Backyard Ultra inTN, the best way to do it is to earn a spot there by building my resume. So I jumped into the most local last person standing event I could find, Run Ragged with every intention of being the last person standing. I know I’m not the most talented runner out there and I don’t follow a strict training plan or specific diet. But I can be extremely rigid and single minded once I have my mind set to something and I hate the idea of giving up or quitting. The way I saw it, these qualities may give me a distinct advantage over far more talented and better trained runners than myself so why not just go all in?

Another finish to an early lap.
The start of the race was strange. The 5k loop was easy to do within the allotted hour at a relaxed pace even with the technical single track and the elevation change. I didn’t push myself to get it done faster than I had to and was getting it done comfortably in about 45-50 minutes during all of the daylight hours. My strategy was to do as little damage to my body as possible early on so I could last as long as possible. This meant not exerting myself if it wasn’t necessary. It meant being careful of foot placement with every step to minimize impact and avoid any unnecessary damage to my feet to curtail foot pain in the later stages. With this strategy in my head, my mind was on the long game. Mentally I was already wondering if this would go into a second overnight run and was telling myself to be ready for it if it did. With the 10 minutes or so that I had between laps I spent my time taking selfies, refueling, and rehydrating. I ate a mix of real food (whatever was available at the aid station: Doritos, pizza, rice soup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheeses, oranges, etc.) and Science In Sport isotonic gels. For hydration, I mainly drank the Skratch that was provided at the aid station, but I also brought some iced coffees and coconut water to treat myself to a little variety of refreshments.

One of the earlier starts when it was done to just three.
I felt this early strategy served me well, but it was hard to reel myself in. A few laps I did run a bit faster, but when I got back and spent more time in my chair I didn’t like waiting around to go back out. So I decided then that I would move slowly and consistently rather than race around just to wait to race again. The race format was messing with me even early. It felt like a super mellow group run for the first 10 hours or so. You’d go out, run comfortably with a few people chatting it up then sit down and refresh for a few minutes before doing it all again. Often, it would be with an entirely new group or you’d have one or two new additions to your group. Rarely did I find myself alone or stressed before the sunset. Yet that overall mellow and carefree facade was just a cover that this relentless monster of a race format uses to lull you in to a serene mindset that will likely be your demise as it continues and ultimately reveals itself as the cruel beast it is. As a cynic, I knew this and never trusted this race format for what it appeared to be near the start. I checked my watch more often during this race than any other race I’ve ever run (other than the 2017 Batona 50 where my watch crapped out on me). I decided early that I would not get sucked into its false sense of security.

The "Three Amigos", me with my bananas.
And that’s basically how day one went, from 9 AM until sundown. The only other stand out moment I feel I should mention happened during one of the midday starts. As everyone was heading out after the whistle blew we were passing by a family that had been out for a trail walk and stuck around to watch the start of a “race”. A young rather perplexed looking girl in the family watched all the runners shuffle by, many with either an Icee pop or slice of pizza in their hands. “This is a race?!” she exclaimed in a baffled tone as we passed. That single phrase and how she said it had me laughing for a good part of the next lap.

Heading out again.
Then it became dusk, headlamps came out, and soon after we were into the night running portion of this competition. My pace and strategy didn’t really change much over night. I was kinda looking forward to the night portion of the race because I hadn’t run through the night since my last 100 miler (Mines of Spain) back in October. There’s something about running through the night on trails with nothing but your headlamp to light your way that I love. I love how it is a release from all of my normal day to day worries. When I’m trail running through the night all that matters is forward motion and getting to where I’m going. My entire universe reaches only as far as the light from my headlamp. The other reason that I was looking forward to the night was because I assumed that’s when more runners would start dropping and I’d be able to edge closer to a win. This turned out to be true and I found myself alone on the trail more and more often as the night went on.

The aid station at the start of the event.
For the first mile on one lap overnight I decided I would keep pace with the dwindling lead pack as they went out from the start. After that mile, I said to myself “No more of that. My strategy seems to be serving me well, why change it now?” Not that I knew if my strategy was better, but I wanted to find out how long I could last without risking blowing myself up. The only other highlight from overnight that I want to point out was the volunteer that was stationed as the overlook cliff guard from about 8 PM to 4 AM. This dude was full of energy and had Coke and Mountain Dew shots lined up for us every time we passed. He had a cowbell to ring leading up to his station and a cymbal to hit as you were exiting. He was an aid station hype man and just what ultrarunners need during those low points at the wee hours of the morning. He even hyped up a midnight drink special he had planned for us. It turned out to be apple cider vinegar with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, I think? It doesn’t sound good, but it was oddly refreshing at the time.

Preparing to head out again.
After 52.7 miles and 17 hours we were down to four runners by the early hours of the morning. As daylight broke I realized how many runners we had lost overnight and how few runners remained. Then three laps later after the sun had risen we lost one more. It was now down to the final three. The three of us would continue to battle mentally and physically with ourselves and with one another for nearly another 50k before anyone finally gave in. During those nine laps the three of us all went out together. I can’t speak for where the other two were mentally, but I was feeling isolated for a good part of those laps. The other two runners were more local, had a girlfriend/wife with them (at some point), and seemed to at least be running friends with some of the volunteers. I went solo to this race and it was my first race in CT so I was meeting all of these people for the first time. In my mind at the time that seemed like a huge advantage for the other two runners. Especially when a volunteer started reading Facebook posts from their trail running group rooting for the two of them. It was hard not to feel like an outsider in that moment. But a few people that I had just met less than 24 hours earlier stepped up and gave me encouragement. One person in particular who I had only chatted with online a few times previously went out of their way after their final lap to let me know they were betting on me to win this thing. It may have not seemed like much to that person at the time, but at some of my lowest, loneliest moments it helped keep me going.

Brushing my teeth has never felt better.
My absolute lowest point of the race was the 25th lap. After 24 hours of running without sleep and not having a finish line in sight, it all started to catch up with me. The other two guys were both consistently finishing their laps faster than me and had more time to regroup between laps where as my pace had slowed and I was typically coming in with about five minutes to spare. Mentally it was wearing on me and I began to think it was only a matter of time until I didn’t make a cut off. Before the one mile mark of that lap I almost turned around and walked back to the start to quit. But I didn’t. I figured I’m almost a mile out, I might as well finish this lap before I quit. As I passed the new cliff guard volunteer I announced that this would likely be my last lap. She tried to encourage me, but I didn’t pay it much attention. I decided to call my wife to tell her I was ready to take my first DNF. After a short conversation with her I agreed to finish this lap and to keep finishing laps until I got timed out. Talking to her and my two sons lit a bit of a fire in me for the remainder of that lap and I moved well until I got back to the restart. Then it was mostly lows again. At one point I actually sat down on a log that was across the trail and told myself that if I sat there long enough I wouldn’t be able to make it back in time and I would be able to quit without saying I quit. But I got off of that log and ran it in before the cut off. Some of this mental anguish may have been due to nutrition as none of the aid station food was sounding good anymore and I hadn’t eaten much real food since the soup in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully I guess I started to recognize this and fixed it by devouring bananas, leaving every start with a banana in my hand and sometimes with one in my water bottle pocket as well.

And again...
At every break between laps I would try to size up the other two guys. They were both getting more recovery time between laps and neither were showing any signs of quitting as hard as I looked for them. Which is why it was so unexpected when one of them (Joseph Nuara) finally threw in the towel after 29 hours and 89.9 miles. It nearly brought me to tears when he said he was done, but once I started running the next lap it gave me a spark. It was now down to two. As we headed out for or first lap as the final two I told the other runner (Matt Pedersen) that however this thing ends, it’s been real. I wasn’t sure if we were playing mind games with one another or just chatting anymore, but Matt and I were talking about this race continuing into another night and whether we would be able to continue to do the loop in under an hour after dark. I wanted to show him it wouldn’t be a problem for me so I picked up the pace on that lap and came in with over 10 minutes to spare. It began to rain again as we went back out for our next lap and then it rained heavier. I continued my faster pace wanting to convince him that the last faster lap wasn’t just a fluke. Surprisingly, he slowed way down for this lap and I finished before him for the first time. I was convinced he did it just to mess with my head and was going to come in just a minute or two before the cut off to make me think it was nearly over when it wasn’t.

An early photo of the overlook at Lower Heart Pond.
He came in with about eight minutes to spare then sat down in his chair like normal. I was going through my normal routine of drinking water and taking in calories when Matt came over from his chair and said the words "take your victory lap". Without thinking, I immediately got up and gave him a hug. I could try to express the emotions I felt right then in my own words, but I believe Cantrell said it best already: “A lot of people decry competition as a negative thing. It’s not. You come to love your competitors because you’ve been through this hell together. You don’t want your competitors to quit, but you need them to quit. These things are going on in your head at the same time. That’s a little bit evil. A total mindfuck, runners say.” The relief and strangely the disappointment when I finally knew there was an end in sight was a surprisingly emotional experience and overwhelming; I couldn't hold back tears and had to wipe my eyes a few times and recompose myself before heading out for my final lap. A few minutes later when Matt counted me down to go out for my final lap I was all smiles. I recall excitedly telling everyone how I was finally going to run this course. Knowing that the finish line was there gave me a burst of energy that I had no idea was still available to me. That last lap (39 min.) was my fastest of the 32 laps (99.2 miles) that I ran during the entire event.

This was the start of the first lap with only two left, just after Joe counted us down and sent us on our way.
I’ve probably gone on longer than I should have already for this race report, but I like to close all of my race reports with some kind of take home message or a lesson learned. Here are the words I wrote just before 6 AM Monday morning after the race when I arrived home with only four hours of sleep since the finish. After rereading this post, I still feel like this sums the event up pretty well.


“After a four hour drive broken up by a four hour nap in the car at a rest area parking lot on the garden state parkway all following a 32ish hour "running" competition, I brought this baby home. A beautifully crafted momento of an event that will be hard to recap into words. But now, while they are fresh and raw I have the main takeaways from this race: 1 - it was the first race that I have ever had to deal with the pressure of chasing cut offs, which is a completely different feeling than failing to meet your self imposed time goals; 2 - it was the first race during which I seriously contemplated dropping for extended periods and was on the verge of dropping on several occasions; 3 - it was the first race that has ever brought me to tears. I was close to tears when Joe dropped, but the relief when Matt said the words "take your victory lap" and I finally knew there was an end in sight was overwhelming and I couldn't hold them back. So many thanks to the RDs, race organizers, the CT Trailmixers, emergency personnel, and all the volunteers that made this an amazing experience for so many. All of us runners are in your debt. Now it is time for a long overdue shower beer!”

A beautiful award. 

Scott Snell
June 22, 2019