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Showing posts with label batona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label batona. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2020

2020 Goals Review


I’ve had the intention of beginning to write this 2020 running goals assessment blog for a week or two now. I’ve been thinking about it, but 2020 was anything but a typical year. How do I even attempt to objectively assess what progress I have made towards my goals when the very structure (organized races in this situation) pretty much ceased to exist. I’ve frequently heard this year described as a “dumpster fire” and I believe that many of the people using that term have good reason to do so. However, other than the cancelling of in person racing and virtual schooling for my children, I have skated by relatively unscathed by the major impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I never even ran out of toilet paper. And for this I am extremely grateful (the whole unscathed thing, I wouldn’t have been that upset about the TP thing; I poop in the woods). Even so, how easy it would have been to just quit on 2020 and not attempt any of my running goals! But I couldn’t have that. I reassessed, recalibrated, and adapted my goals to the new situation.

An effect of this process was my outlook on races and running. Without races, I had to test my beliefs about my true motivation to run. Had I been running to train for races or did I truly enjoy the process of training as I have preached? This idea and method of assessing my running goals developed for me this past weekend during my long run. I wasn’t sure how to approach this blog post and I wanted to run for a few hours so I figured I’d give it some thought while I run. It seems that I come up with more creative ideas and am better at problem solving while running. The ideas usually seem genius to me while running, but too often when I get back home they’ve lost their spark or I’ve completely forgotten them. During this past weekend’s long run I listened to music (something I don’t do regularly while running). A meaningwave song by Akira the Don with excerpts of audio of Jordan Peterson speaking about the value of music came on. While listening to it and running, I realized that what he was saying about music is what I feel about running: the “patterns” I find in a single run or over the course of months of runs with varying tempos, the emotional highs and lows, and the delivery of a feeling of transcendence when everything falls into place and is as it “should” be.

“I think the most accessible form for most people is music.

And music to me is the most representational form of art because I think that the world is made out of patterns.

And we perceive some patterns as objects but fundamentally it’s patterns and what you want is all the patterns of the world to interact harmoniously in something where every element is related intelligibly to every other element.

And I think that when your life is in harmony that you can feel that.

When you’re dancing to beautiful music you’re acting that out.

The music is the music of the spheres and you’re participating in the patterning of your being in accordance with that structure and that gives you an intimation of transcendence.”


---- Jordan Peterson ----


Based on my thoughts and feelings during this run, I don’t think my overall view of running changed, but the value I put on organized races may have been altered. It’s been over a year since I’ve done it, but I think I still love racing. Maybe not for the competition factor as much anymore, but maybe even more so than before for the fact that organized races provide us an opportunity to run some really cool trails in beautiful areas without having to put almost any work in on the logistics side of how to pull it off. 

So with that short introduction, or maybe it was a tangent, here’s my 2020 goals assessment....


2020 Goals:
  1. Run at least one 24 hour event (scratched)
  2. PR longest distance in a single run (>104.8 miles) (complete)
  3. Complete my "Run Every Single Street" of Egg Harbor Township project (progressed)
  4. Run at least one “last person standing” event (scratched)
  5. Volunteer at a local race with my son (altered)
With pretty much all running events cancelled (including the 24 hour race I was registered for), goals 1 and 4 were scratched from the list. I can’t very well run a race if races aren’t happening. I had intended to get my longest distance run accomplished at the 24 hour event that was cancelled. Even with races cancelled, this was something I could still complete. I did so by going after an FKT longer than any race I had ever run, the Batona trail out and back (about 106 miles). It wasn’t that much farther than what had been my longest distance (104.8 miles). I had hoped to increase that distance PR by more than just a mile or two, but an FKT had been on my “to do” list for a while and it would complete one of my goals. I would be able to at least check one goal off of my list and maybe still leave room to improve my distance PR next year.

Goal number 5 could have been scratched altogether for the same reason as goals 1 and 4, but I decided to alter it a bit and complete an adjusted goal. Rather than volunteering at a local race with my son as I had intended, we helped out with a couple organized clean ups along a multi use path that I run on occasionally. It wasn’t as much fun as I had expected volunteering at a trail race with my son would have been, but again I was forced to adapt to the situation. Rather than just give up and do nothing, I wanted to do something. I thought this was a good compromise that would still benefit the running community in my area. 

Last is goal number 3, to complete my “Run Every Single Street” of Egg Harbor Township project. This goal is the only one that was not impacted due to COVID-19 restrictions. Yet I still didn’t complete it. I’ve made quite a bit of progress as I am at almost 50% complete, but that’s only about the halfway point. Why didn’t I complete this one? The main reason is because of the self imposed rules or restrictions I have put on myself and the manner in which I intend to complete this project. When I started, I had planned to drive to starting points to run new streets once I surpassed the 25% complete threshold. Well, 25% came and went and I continued starting all of my runs to reach new streets from home. This of course adds lots of miles as I am “rerunning” the same roads to reach new roads. Is this the right way to do it? Is it the wrong way? I guess that’s part of what intrigued me with these every single street projects.The rules are up to you. Could I have finished by now if I had been driving to new starting points? Maybe. But I’d still like to see how close I can get to 100% before resorting to that option. 


So that was my running review of 2020. Definitely not the year I had hoped for, but I think that goes for everyone. I still got to run plenty of miles and achieved an FKT that I hadn’t even planned to go after so it’s not like it was all bad. I hope everyone else isn’t too disappointed with how their 2020 turned out and that they were able to find some silver linings somewhere along the way. Cheers to all, happy new year and here’s to hoping that all of your running dreams come true in 2021!



Scott Snell
December 21, 2020

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Science In Sport Isotonic Gel Review - I Think I'm in Love!






"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!"


Sometimes life is pretty cool. A prime example of life being pretty cool occurred recently. I was offered another opportunity to test and review additional flavors of Science in Sport (SIS) isotonic gels. During and since my initial trial and review of SIS gels, they have become my “go to” energy gel for endurance events and long training days so I was super pumped to try more flavors. This time around I received three flavors to try: salted strawberry, apple, and orange (75 mg caffeine). I was especially happy to see the caffeinated orange flavor in this round. I had previously tested the double espresso (150 mg caffeine) flavor which turned out to be one of my favorite flavors. However, the 150 mg of caffeine in every 90 calorie gel was a little too much caffeine for me if that was the only flavor I was using. Having the option to spread out the caffeine intake between gels was a very welcome choice.


During my first trial of SIS gels, I put them to the test at two last person standing events and was absolutely pleased with their taste, how well my body was able to process them, and the energy they provided. For this trial, I put them to the test again and used them as my primary calorie source for a 106 mile FKT attempt on the Batona Trail (22:46:42) in South Jersey. Once again, SIS gels delivered the sustained energy I needed for long strenuous effort. My energy levels never crashed with my steady stream of calories via the SIS gels.

Of the plethora of brands and flavors of gels I’ve tried over the years of running ultras and eating whatever brand of gel happens to be at the aid station, I’ve found that the flavor and consistency of SIS gels work better for me than any of others. Usually after a long ultra my teeth hurt and I am almost sick to my stomach of forcing down overly sweet gels with overpowering flavors. This doesn’t happen to me when I use SIS gels, even after 20-30 some hours of eating them on three occasions. The flavors are not artificial tasting like I find most other gels to be. The lighter consistency makes them easier and faster to consume than your standard syrupy gels which also means you don’t feel like you have to rinse your mouth out after eating them.


So what’s the deal with “isotonic”? Well, it’s the reason why SIS gels aren’t a syrupy gooey mess like the majority of other gels on the market. They are the first of their kind. To explain it in more detail, we have to review a little high school biology terminology:


Hypertonic: If a solution is hypertonic, it has a higher concentration than the fluid in the body. This means that water particles will have to be pulled from the cells into the gut to help it absorb and balance up this concentration. This slows down the availability of the energy from the gel and can bloat your stomach and be very uncomfortable.

Hypotonic: If a solution is hypotonic, it will have a lower concentration than the fluid in the body. This means that it will empty quickly from the stomach, but it will not contain much energy.

Isotonic: To be isotonic a solution must have the same concentration of dissolved particles as the fluid in the cells within the body, typically this means having a tonicity between 280-310 mmol/kg.
https://www.scienceinsport.com/us/sports-nutrition/?post_type=post&p=53


So what is the benefit of SIS gels having the same concentration of dissolved particles as the fluid in the cells in your body? 

  1. They provide a quicker supply of energy to the working muscles than thicker, more concentrated gels.
  2. They’re absorbed without needing additional water.
  3. They’re easily digestible and light on the stomach.

If you’ve never tried SIS gels, I highly recommend giving them a shot. If you decide to, be sure to use the discount code “BIBRAVE20GEL” for 20% off (not applicable to already discounted products or special offers.)

Also check out what other BibRave Pros thought of SIS gels!

https://bluegrassbamr.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/get-a-little-kick-with-science-in-sport-caffeineenergy-gels/


https://runningforbeers.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/4-reasons-to-take-science-in-sport-sis-energy-gels-on-your-next-long-run/


https://kimrunsonthefly.blogspot.com/2020/09/all-fueled-up-with-sis.html


https://retrorunningmom.com/2020/09/22/make-the-perfect-fuel-plan-with-science-in-sport-gels-sis/


https://www.heelstriker954.com/post/sis-science-in-sport-gel-review


Saturday, August 29, 2020

No Buckles, No Support, Just the Darkness and Lots of Miles: Batona Out and Back FKT



"Disclaimer: I received Science in Sport isotonic energy 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!"



I made the announcement not too long ago here on my blog, on an Instagram post, and on the FKT website that I was planning to make an attempt at the Batona trail self-supported out and back Fastest Known Time (FKT). As I write this, it’s been a week since the actual attempt and I am happy to report that I exceeded the highest tiered goal I set for myself! My top goal was to complete the 106ish mile route in under 24 hours. I was able to do so finishing in 22:46:42 bettering the supported FKT time by over 4 hours! It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t until I was nearly at the finish that I was sure it would happen, but I made it happen nonetheless.

Why was I so nervous and so uncertain over running what most trail runners would call flat and fast running terrain through the New Jersey Pine Barrens? The main reason for me was because this was going into unchartered territory for me figuratively. I had already run every step of the Batona trail multiple times so I was familiar with the trail and the terrain. However, this was my first time wading into the FKT world. I was going for the self-supported record meaning I could not receive any aid from pre-arranged people helping me. Additionally, it meant I would be alone for the entirety of the attempt as the FKT website states that “if a person is accompanied or paced for any distance, it automatically becomes a Supported trip (accompanied = paced = Supported).” The challenge of running through the night in the Pine Barrens by myself without aid stations to break up the miles and without any human contact scared me. Yes, the thought of the Jersey Devil roaming the Pine Barrens crossed my mind, but more concerning to me was the fear of drowsiness and exhaustion taking over while my motivation completely dropped off.

Artistic interpretations of the Jersey Devil

Being familiar with the trail prior to my attempt was a benefit, but it raised another concern: the fact that I knew how easy it was to inadvertently leave the trail. The Batona is a pretty well marked trail with pink blazes, but there are a lot of unmarked intersecting trails, fire roads, and fire breaks that look pretty much identical to the Batona. I knew that staying alert and constantly being aware of the trail blazes was going to be essential to my success.


Lastly, I was so nervous about this FKT attempt because this was my first run of an ultra distance in over a year. My longest training run since Eastern States 100 in August 2019 was about a 23 miler. With it having been so long since my last ultra distance run I wondered if I still had the drive to keep going when exhaustion set in. I usually escalate my race distance as the season continues, running a few 50ks, 50 milers, and/or 100ks before going for a 100 miler, but this year was different (thanks COVID). Without that gradual build up, I wasn’t sure how my body or mind would react to the challenge of a 100 miler let alone a self-supported one.

I tried to have all of the logistics in place well before even beginning my attempt. This involved having a packing list for what was in my car at the start, what was in my aid drops, what was in my hydration pack, and what was in my car waiting for me at the finish. It also meant planning out where all of my aid drops would be, my driving route to drop them all off, and how I would find them again while running past them. I packed five waterproof first aid boxes with gels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Honey Stinger waffles, FBomb nut butters, and mint gum. These, along with a gallon of Gatorade and Shaklee Hydrate+, caches spaced about 10-13 miles apart would serve as my aid stations for my 100+ mile run. 

At the start!

Making the cache drops ended up taking a bit longer than I expected. When I mapped the route from my home to all of the aid drops and then to the north terminus of the Batona trail the total driving time according to Google maps was about two hours. I knew it would take a bit longer to actually do as I would have to park, stash the aid, and mark it, but it ended up taking about three hours total to complete. I tried to make this FKT attempt as relaxed as possible. Since there was no set date or start time to adhere to, I decided I would take a couple days off work when the weather looked good and go for it. My plan was to go to bed early the night before and get a good night’s sleep waking up without an alarm. Then eat a good breakfast, make the drops, and start running whenever all that was finished. I ended up making waffles for the kids then eating breakfast with them before leaving the house a little after 9am.

Starting to run was easy and felt good after all of the driving and preparations. I went out at what felt like an easy and maintainable pace, somewhere between 9-10 minute miles. It was faster than what I needed to do for my goal pace (about 13.5 minute miles) necessary to run a sub 24, but it felt like my pace at the time and I wanted to move. I quickly realized that I had not picked the most opportune time to go for this FKT. We recently had a pretty serious tropical storm with some very high winds pass through the region which resulted in many downed limbs and trees. After finding several pretty good size trees across the trail during the first 10 miles or so, I knew they were adding time by climbing through the limbs or going out and around off trail. I also knew that as I became more tired they would add more time. Not only were they adding time with every one I had to climb my way through or go around, but each one was also another opportunity to be the unwilling carrier for additional chiggers that I was picking up likely everytime I went through the brush off the trail. The little buggers wouldn’t bother me while I was running, but here I am a week later with my legs broken out in a terribly itchy rash from my ankles up to my mid thighs. 

Making my first aid drop!

I tried to rush through my first aid drop as quickly as possible. I devoured half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chugged my electrolyte mix after filling my bottles and exchanging my empty gel packets for full ones. A short time later I realized I may have eaten and drank a bit too much too quickly. My belly felt full and sloshy as I continued to run. In hindsight, this may have been the best mistake to make at the perfect time because it forced me to check my pace a bit before any symptoms of over exerting myself too early set in. The rest of the afternoon got a bit warm, but went without incident as I continued to try to move quickly and efficiently.

I took my hydration pack off for the first time when the sun was just starting to set to get my headlamp out. I had decided while running that this would be the ideal time to get my phone out as well and provide my wife with a wellness check and say goodnight to the kids. I was about 35 miles in at the time and the miles were beginning to take their toll on my mind and body. With this being my longest run in over a year, the thought of turning around and just doing a 70 miler had crossed my mind and didn’t sound like such a bad idea. I was hoping the conversation would help give me a bit of motivation. Maybe it was because it’s been so long since the last time I ran through the night or just the fact that this was my first solo FKT attempt, but my wife seemed genuinely worried about my safety in the middle of the Pine Barrens overnight. I assured her that I felt safe, hadn’t seen anything that would make me question my safety, and had some safety gear just in case. With that she was more supportive and encouraged me to finish, but it almost felt like I had to convince her to convince me this time. I said goodnight to my boys who gave me some well wishes then got my phone packed back away to continue on into the night. 

All prepped and ready to go!

It was well after dark by the time I got to the south end of the trail, my turn around point, and I had been moving for about 10 hours and 40 minutes. I felt good that I was well ahead of pace, but knew the second half would be tougher than the first. I took my longest aid station stop at this point because I had a towel and a 2Toms lube wipe stashed there.I did my normal fluid and calorie routine and then freshened up a little with the towel. I used the 2Toms anywhere I was feeling any hot spots; thankfully no major ones.

Overnight was the toughest part of this challenge for me. Not that the terrain had changed much, but it seemed like more portions of the south are multi use as a fire road. These portions seemed to have more frequent dips resulting in deep puddles stretching the width of the trail for lengths of up to 15-20 ft. I felt like anytime I had a decent running rhythm going, I would hit one of these massive puddles and break my stride to try to tiptoe around it to avoid getting my toesies wet. I know the simple answer to fix this is to run through the puddle, but tend to get blisters when I run with soggy shoes so if I don’t have to get my shoes soaked I do my best to avoid it. 

Calling my shot.

Besides the puddles, the night went pretty well other than when my head started playing games with me. Using a brighter headlamp (Nitecore 550 lumen) than my old one I was used to revealed a lot more in the woods than I am used to seeing. I kept seeing all so many reflective eyes in the dark and they seemed to be staring at me. At first it didn’t bother me at all. I just told myself it’s a deer (which I’m sure they were) and continued to run. But as I got more tired my mind started tricks on me and creating other scarier scenarios that became increasingly believable to my tired mind as the night went on. During those predawn hours as I was looking forward to the sunrise I had considered the possibilities that I was being stalked by a mountain lion, followed by a pack of coyotes, or that a big cat had escaped from the Six Flags Safari and was now living in the Pine Barrens.

Besides the tall tales I was creating in my mind, the night was peaceful. The night sky was clear and the stars above the lake clearings were beautiful. There were so many stars and they were so bright away from any lights that I took a quick moment to stand by one lake clearing and switch off my headlamp to enjoy the view for a few moments and mental pictures.

Even with all of my planning and marking to avoid missing my aid stops, I still managed to miss the second one during my northbound journey. Thankfully it was cooler overnight and I was drinking far less so it didn’t bother me too much; just surprised me. I was also pretty tired of gels at this point so I still had enough to keep me going until the next aid. Because of that missed aid drop, I covered nearly half (about a 23 mile section) of the northbound miles without any aid replenishments. 

The northern terminus.

By the last few hours of darkness I was feeling pretty physically exhausted and just plain tired. When it started to get light again I could feel a bit of rejuvenation and motivation to finish coming with it. With the four quarters of my total run clocking in at about 4:37, 6:01, 6:18, and 5:50 respectively, the two middle quarters of my total attempt were my slowest. I would attribute at least some of that being due to the night running and overnight drowsiness. Thankfully, my motivation to finish returned with the daylight. Although I was tired and in some pain, I would force myself to pick up the pace and at least “run slowly” everytime I caught myself walking. Then I would ask myself “Is this a walk in the woods or a FKT attempt?”

With about 20 miles left to go, I was sure I was going to finish sub 24 and also knew that sub 23 was possible if I kept my pace consistent. Everything had gone really well for it being my first self-supported FKT attempt. I only veered off trail once overnight and figured it out pretty quickly, like maybe after a tenth of a mile or so. But now with only a few hours to go until finishing I began to recognize a problem. My Suunto Ambit3 Peak will last 20, 30, or 200 hours depending on the accuracy it is set for. With this being an FKT attempt, I figured more accuracy is better so I set if for the most accurate which should have lasted 20 hours. I knew I would take over 20 hours to finish so I brought a portable battery and charged my watch for a few hours overnight. It still seemed a bit low in the morning so I left the charger connected while I continued to run.

Finished and kinda exhausted.


















However, it didn’t seem to be taking a charge. It seemed to be more or less just running on the connected battery. I got a bit worried when it became readily apparent that my watch wasn’t going to recharge off of the portable battery. I’m pretty sure it was an issue with the portable battery as I’ve used this method with my watch before and it has worked no problems. I didn’t want to lose my evidence of this FKT with only a few miles to go if my watch died so I left it connected to the charger. I was contemplating getting my phone out to record a Strava activity on the phone app and use that second GPS file from that activity as proof if necessary. Although it made the last 10 miles or so kinda stressful, I got pretty lucky and it wasn’t necessary; I arrived at the north end of the Batona trail with my watch battery connected to the portable battery and a remaining life of 14%.





A common description I hear about 100 mile finishes is how anticlimactic the finish can be when considering the enormity of the task. I haven’t done the research to assemble the statistics on crowd size at 100 mile finishes compared to marathon finishes. Anecdotally and based on my personal experiences at the two types of events, the crowd size at a marathon finish has always far surpassed the crowd size at any 100 mile finish I’ve run. I’ve had a 100 mile finish when it was just the two race directors there to congratulate me. I’ve heard stories of runners finishing a 100 miler to only find a volunteer there sleeping that they had to wake up to get their finishing time recorded. Based on my experience and the stories of other 100 mile finishes, I was prepared for an empty and somewhat insignificant appearance to the finish for this FKT. As expected, it was the most empty 100 mile finish possible; it was just me arriving at a completely empty trail head. My car was the only one in the small lot. I ran from the trail end to the final mile marker (Ong’s Hat Rack) and stopped my watch. I didn’t put my hands up in the air or even give a victory shout. I just sat down on the bench there and thought to myself “I did it!” And in the end, that’s all I really wanted. I’m not that interested in the swag or finishers’ medals that come with races. The cheers and motivation from other runners and volunteers are great and very much appreciated, but the main reason I do any of this stuff, whether it’s a race or a personal challenge, is to test myself. The majority of my gratification from running and my motivation to pursue running challenges is to see what I’m capable of and to test what I believe my limits to be.


Last mile marker!

That wraps up my first FKT experience, but I want to just give a quick summary of my nutritional intake during the course of this run. It was probably the least amount of real food I’ve ever consumed during the course of a 100 miler. The only real food I ate was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a couple Honey Stinger waffles, and a FBomb nut butter pack. The rest of my calories came from fluids and gels. In total, I ate 15 gels (mostly SIS). This totaled about 4,677 calories over the course of almost 23 hours. I’ve heard the body can only process about 200-300 calories per hour and if that’s the case I guess I was almost right on target with my calorie intake. If you want a full breakdown of my calorie intake, check out the super cool table that I put together below!

Scott Snell
August 29, 2020



Carry in, carry out!


Quantity

Description

Calories Ea.

Calories Tot.

Caffeine (mg) Ea.

Caffeine (mg) Tot.

2

Honey Stinger waffles

150

300

X

X

4

Honey Stinger gels

100

400

X

X

1

Honey Stinger gels (caffeinated)

100

100

32

32

3

SIS Double Espresso gels

90

270

150

450

5

SIS Apple gels

90

450

X

X

1

SIS Salted Strawberry gels

87

87

X

X

1

Boom Apple Cinnamon gels

110

110

X

X

1

FBomb Salted Chocolate Macadamia

210

210

X

X

1

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

350

350

X

X

2.5

Gallons Gatorade & Shaklee Hydrate+

960

2400

X

X

Totals:


4677


482







Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Batona FKT Announcement

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
--W.W. Bartley--


Later this month, at a yet to be determined date, I plan to run the entire 53 mile length of the Batona trail in a single out and back effort in an attempt to set the self-supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the route. As I write this (2 August 2020) announcement, the only existing official out and back FKT for the Batona is the supported record held by Denis Streltsov set on 1 November 2015 with a time of 1 d, 3 h, 2 m, 36 s. So, as long as nothing goes terribly wrong and I finish the route, I will at least have earned the self-supported FKT. If everything goes well, I hope to finish faster than the existing supported FKT. 


If you weren’t aware of what FKTs were before pretty much all of racing was cancelled due to COVID-19, you probably are now. If not, you can learn all you want to know about FKTs at https://fastestknowntime.com/. Everything from existing routes, how to submit a new route, the three variations of support (supported, self-supported, and unsupported), and basically all other guidelines regarding FKTs can be found at the website. 


I’ve never attempted an FKT before. Why am I starting now? Probably for the same basic reason so many other ultrarunners have been submitting new FKT routes and trying to better the times of existing routes, we miss the thrill of racing. We miss being pushed by competition to achieve more than we thought we were capable of and racing the clock on a standardized route is one of the best replacements we have right now. I’m not trying to speak for all runners, but for me personally, these are some of the primary reasons. I had been interested in FKTs before, but the current situation and lack of organized races are what really motivated me to seriously start planning this thing and give it a go. That along with the fact that watching a lot of my trail running friends bettering or establishing new FKTs had me experiencing some serious FOMO.


The other factor that really pushed me to take a crack at this attempt is the uncertainty of the fall racing season. Since all of my spring and summer race plans were either deferred to next year or cancelled, planning for the fall, which should be fun, has become a painful extension of the last five months of disappointments. The first thing I checked for every race I was considering was whether it had already been cancelled. And if it hadn’t, I would pessimistically wonder to myself how long it would be until they do. The situation is upsetting, but it made me think about what I wrote near the beginning of the COVID pandemic:  “When so much of your world changes so drastically and suddenly, fear and panic are natural emotional responses. Focus on what is still under your control:  how you respond.” I realized I should take my own advice. I decided I would not plan on the uncertainty of races which are completely out of my control. I would set a goal that is still completely within my control as to when, where, how, and if I accomplish it. 


The next question to answer is why go for the Batona FKT. There’s a few pretty simple answers. It’s the nearest established FKT route to my home. I’ve had a history of running the Batona Trail. The first time I set foot on the trail was when I ran it in its entirety during a fat ass event. Since then, I’ve done some training runs on it and run it from the north end to south end one other time. So I’m familiar with the trail. And finally, I think it’s doable. I believe the existing supported out and back FKT is within my ability to improve. 


Which brings us to the final question to answer, what are my goals for this attempt? I’ve written before about how I like to have what I call cascading goals. That hasn’t changed for my first FKT attempt. My first goal is to finish the FKT attempt in the self-supported fashion. My next tiered goal is to finish it faster than the existing supported FKT time (27 h, 2 m, 36 s). And my top tiered goal is to do it in sub 24 h. Maybe I’m being a bit arrogant for my first FKT attempt to think I can run a self-supported, 106 mile route in under 24 hours, but I like having an upper tier goal that could very well be out of my reach altogether. Maybe I’m underestimating the additional challenges that a self-supported FKT attempt entails:  the loneliness of the overnight hours, the lack of competition and comradery found during races, the lack of route flagging, the lack of encouragement from aid station volunteers, etc. But the fact remains, I know this is a possible time and I think I have a chance of being able to pull it off if I have a good day. Otherwise, it would not be on my goal list. We’ll find out if I can do it or just how much I have overestimated my abilities later this month. 


Scott Snell

August 5, 2020


Sunday, December 3, 2017

2017 Batona 50

A Lesson In Adaptability





“One of the most remarkable of man's characteristics is his capacity for becoming used to conditions of almost any kind, whether good or bad, both in the self and in the environment, and once he has become used to such conditions they seem to him both right and natural. This capacity is a boon when it enables him to adapt himself to conditions which are desirable, but it may prove a great danger when the conditions are undesirable. When his sensory appreciation is untrustworthy, it is possible for him to become so familiar with seriously harmful conditions of misuse of himself that these malconditions will feel right and comfortable.”
-F. Matthias Alexander


I want to start this race report with a bit of a disclaimer before you get too invested in reading this write up. This is not a race report in the traditional sense. It is more of a report of my experience leading up to and completing the Batona 50 miler. If you are more interested in a traditional race report, check out my report from last year’s Batona 50. Otherwise, please read on.


This was my second consecutive year running the Batona 50 miler and for whatever reason, I was not as excited about running it as much this year as I was last year. There could be many reasons to explain this. Maybe it was because it was the last ultra of the year I was registered for, maybe it was because I already achieved all of my running goals for 2017, or maybe I was just feeling a bit burnt out on running in general after running two 100 milers in the three months leading up to the Batona. The last of these explanations is probably the best answer for my lack of enthusiasm. I had run Eastern States 100 in August and then ran the Tesla Hertz 100 miler in October. With little down time between the two 100 milers and even less time between Tesla Hertz and Batona, I had little time for recovery or training. This was my first method of sabotaging my day at the Batona:  setting myself up for failure by not allowing the time necessary for the physical and mental recuperation that is needed (for me anyway) after a 100 mile event. I’m no expert, but running 100 miles changes you a bit physically and mentally afterwards. The body needs to repair itself and the mind, I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but it seems to need to acclimate itself back to the real world. After maintaining the physical effort for such a long period and the intense mental focus during that extended time, I think some rest is probably the best thing for the mind and body.


I did my best to rest and recover, but I felt the need to pick up training again to prepare for the Batona 50. I was back to doing some short and medium distance training runs, but never felt really motivated. I was battling some plantar fasciitis issues which came and went making every run feel like a gamble. Then I came down with a nasty cold about the time I intended to get my one long run in before the Batona. What I had intended to be an easy paced 25 miler ended up being an 11 mile struggle. It was one of those runs where you don’t feel like going out to run for whatever reason, but you force yourself to thinking that once you’re out you’ll start to enjoy it. This usually works for me, but being more sick than I had thought I was messed that plan up. With my throbbing sinus headache and my runny nose I suffered through 11 miles before I called it and said that it just wasn’t worth it. Not getting a single long run in to prepare for Batona had a huge impact on my confidence going into the run. The two weeks leading up to the run I had created and repeatedly told myself the mantra “I have no business running a 50 miler”. So I guess that’s my second method of sabotaging my run, allowing a negative mental outlook to develop and then going even further and nurturing it with a mantra.


I hoped that my outlook would turn around as the race drew nearer and I became more excited for the opportunity to run, but it never happened. I went through my normal build up as the race date approached, checking the forecast and deciding how many layers to wear. The cold start predicted for the morning of the run didn’t help get me motivated. I enjoy some cool weather running, but a starting temperature in the low 20s with a high in the mid 30s is a little cooler than I prefer. Checking the forecast every couple days leading up to the run with little to no change led me to accept that this would certainly not be the most enjoyable 50 miler I’ve ever run and that I still had no business running a 50 miler at this time.


Race morning came early. I got dressed, grabbed my stuff, and was out the door. As soon as I stepped out the door the cold hit me and I decided I had under dressed. I ran back in and exchanged my outer layer long sleeve wick away shirt for my winter gear wick away long sleeve. Feeling good about that last minute decision I was enroute to the rendezvous parking lot near the finish of the race where everyone running the race carpools from to the start, 50 miles to the north. I followed my GPS which I had set the directions for the previous night until it led me to a dead end road, not the meeting location. It was at this point that I almost quit the run before ever starting it. I was now running late and not even sure if I would arrive in time to catch the carpool to the starting area. As ridiculous as it sounds, I actually thought to myself, “Well, at least I tried” and seriously was on the verge of just driving back home and going back to bed. I hurriedly gave it another effort to start the race and catch the shuttle. I arrived just before the 5 minute warning for departure was being announced. I quickly grabbed my stuff and was the last one to hop in the van.


Shortly after the van ride to the start, the run was underway and we were off on the trail. It was still dark and pretty chilly, but calm so the temperature wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be. I had hoped that once I started running all the negative thoughts I had leading up to the run would fade away quickly as my sole focus on covering the distance took over. This began to happen early as my feet crunched noisily through the heavy layer of leaf debris. It wasn’t long until the first of two early mishaps occurred. The first being the fact that my Garmin watch wasn’t able to locate satellites at the start. No big deal, I would just start recording when it did pick up satellites. When it did, I hit the button and nothing. It was a minor annoyance, but one more thing that wasn’t going how I wanted it to. I messed with it for longer than I would like to admit, but to no avail. Eventually, it beeped and the bezel became locked. At that point I said heck with it, I’m just going to run. It was also somewhere around that point that the few other runners I was with realized that none of us had seen a trail blaze in a while. We went a bit further and concluded that we were definitely off course. We decided to turn around and retrace our steps about a mile before finding the missed turn that we had all run by. I don’t know if it’s “ha-ha” funny or “strange” funny, but if we had stayed on our inadvertent detour about another 100 yards from where we turned around we would have run right back into the trail. Regardless, we got a couple bonus miles in early.


Things started going smoothly after that. I used the mile markers along the trail to have an idea of how far I’d traveled and how far I had to go. I used my watch to have an idea of what kind of pace I was keeping and an approximate idea of how long between aid stations. I started to get into a groove as the miles and hours went by. It wasn’t until around the 30 mile mark that I had my last and final mishap. I was beginning to feel a bit tired and worn out at that point. I’d run pretty much solo all day so I decided I’d put my earbuds in for some music and maybe a little bit of an energy and mood booster. It turned out that there was a short in one of the wires causing the music to go in and out. It made the music more annoying than anything else. I messed with the wire for a little bit hoping I could situate it just right so it would stay on when it finally hit me. I had an epiphany of sorts at that point when I realized that all of the hardships I had experienced leading up to this point before and during the run were either self inflicted or intensified and blown out of proportion by my reaction to them. For example, my Garmin giving me trouble should have been a minor distraction that I accepted and moved on from, but I exasperated it by continuing to try to get it to work and giving it more attention than it really deserved. In turn, that reaction may have caused the entire missed turn and early detour mishap due to me being distracted from watching for trail blazes. This is just one example of how an overreaction to one minor mishap can spitball and cause additional problems to crop up if you allow it to.


For better or for worse, and I would argue for better, I decided to run a race that I had convinced myself I was not prepared for rather than take a DNS. Although it may not sound like it from this writing, I argue that running this race was an overall positive experience because of the strong lesson I was already aware of but had fiercely reinforced upon me. That lesson being how great of an effect and impact your mental outlook can have on how a run turns out. In a broader view, it’s not just a lesson in ultrarunning, but life in general. Often problems are only as big as we make them. Probably even more often, our reaction to problems causes them to intensify or cause other hardships. If a set of headphones not working ruins your race or your day in general it’s not the fault of your headphones, but your reaction to that problem. Many of the hardships faced while running an ultra and in life in general only have the power of impact that you allow them to have.


Scott Snell

November 30, 2017