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Showing posts with label capital backyard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label capital backyard. Show all posts

Friday, October 22, 2021

Why I Run Backyard Ultras and Why I'm Dead Set on Running Big's Backyard


Scott Snell Beast coast trail running backyard ultra finish

My three key reasons why the backyard race format attracts me:
  • The pressure and excitement of having a hard cut off time constantly looming.
  • The opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were.
  • Reaching a deeper state of being.
This past weekend I followed along online via tweets and facebook status updates as runners ran a 4.1667 mile loop every hour on the hour beginning at 7 AM Saturday and into the following week at the original backyard ultra, Big’s Backyard. The backyard race format is simply a matter of elimination where the winner is the last runner remaining after all other runners have been eliminated as a process of attrition. Every runner must complete the loop within the hour and start another loop at the beginning of the next hour. Any runner that fails to do either is eliminated. This continues indefinitely until one runner is the last one standing and the winner. After 70+ hours of running, three runners remained in the race (eventually Harvey Lewis would win it with 85 laps or 354.2 miles). It was then that the thought occurred to me, “many people would consider this to be torture.” I have a differing opinion. Watching these athletes push themselves to and beyond the point of exhaustion and knowing that they volunteered themselves for that experience out of their own free will only filled me with inspiration and awe. It also gave me a whole lot of FOMO and stoked my fire to earn my spot at Big’s in 2022.

I certainly have not made a secret of my intentions to run at Big’s. However, I don’t think I have ever explained in depth why I set this as my “A” goal above all other racing or FKT goals. Before explaining why running at Big’s became my highest priority goal, I feel the need to explain how I became interested in this race format to begin with. It began with an interest in Laz as a person and as a race director. Running the Barkley Marathon never really piqued my interest. The race and format interests me, I just have never had any intent at the time of learning about it or since to run it myself. His backyard format race though immediately made me wonder how long I would last and how far I could go. Then seeing records broken and competitors dig and push the boundaries of what I thought was possible I became increasingly intrigued with the format and wanted to test myself at it.

To my benefit, and likely in large part due to Courtney Dauwalter’s amazing performance at the 2018 Big’s, the backyard format started gaining more attention and received much wider coverage. This led to numerous backyard format races popping up throughout the US and eventually worldwide. In 2019, a backyard format race, Run Ragged, that was pretty local to me was announced. I registered for it and a question on the registration form was “How many laps do you plan to run?” I answered as honestly as I could at the time with my knowledge of backyards and my goal for the race, “One lap more than the second to last person standing.” Yes, maybe it was cocky, but I was going there with the intention of winning.

After doing just that and assessing my experience at Run Ragged, I didn’t know if I even liked the format or if I would ever do another. What the format introduced me to that I had not experienced previously was the feeling of chasing cut offs. I’m not trying to brag as I am by no means an amazingly fast runner, I would consider myself a middle of the pack runner at best, but I had never feared missing a cut off at any standard set distance races I had run. I had never felt stressed to make it to an aid station with the clock counting down to a cut off time. My first experience with that was at Run Ragged as that is essentially what a backyard format is, a 4.1667 mile loop with a one hour cut off. You are always within one hour of missing a cut off no matter your average pace. This was a form of stress new to me while racing and a completely novel experience. At first, I didn’t think I liked it, but over time and with more experiences, I have come to enjoy the excitement this sort of pressure to perform brings to racing.

As an additional beneficial effect of the relentless and never-ending pressure of looming cut offs, the backyard race format also provides an opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were. Everyone has their own reasons for running in general and anyone who gets into ultrarunning usually has additional reasons for pursuing that niche of the running world. A major reason why I was attracted to ultrarunning was to find my limit and to see what my mind and body are capable of when pushed beyond what I accepted their limits to be. After several years of running set distance ultras, I felt like I was still pushing myself, but not to the point where I was questioning if finishing was possible. After the first couple 100 milers, I no longer questioned if I would finish. It simply became a matter of when. That reason alone drew my attention to backyards. Since there can be only one finisher, everyone else will find their limit on that given day. That’s what attracted me to ultras to begin with, to find my limit. The backyard format could finally deliver that to me so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards them. After running several backyards (Run Ragged, Last Idiot Standing, Keystone Backyard Ultra, and Backyard Squatch Ultra) and being the last runner standing without having found my limit, I concluded I needed to go bigger and enter bigger backyard races with deeper fields. What backyard could be bigger than the originator of the backyard format, Big’s Backyard? My mind was made up, I would run at Big’s. No more being a big fish in a little pond, I wanted to run with the big dogs at Big’s.


The other major attraction of the backyard format for me (at the risk of sounding all new age and hokey) is that it encourages the runner to seek out and embrace a transcendental state of running. It allows the physical act of running to act as a key to access a spiritual or nonphysical realm. I’ve said many times that endurance running is only a physical feat to a certain point, then it becomes a mental challenge. This statement is even more true of a race without a set finish line. The idea in itself seems a bit supernatural to begin with: to run continuously for an indefinite distance or time. Most rational people (runners or not) would likely have an issue with this concept. I embrace it for the fact that I am so in love with those short episodes of time while running where I lose track of time, pace, and miles; I feel like I’m floating effortlessly and not even thinking about running or effort. They start and end unexpectedly. I don’t think they can be consciously induced; they seem to just happen for me. I don’t even notice that I’m having one of those episodes during it; it always occurs to me after it’s over and I look at my watch wondering where the time went and how I covered so many miles unknowingly. I think Harvey Lewis was describing this state immediately after winning Big’s this year when he said at times he was running pain free and felt like he could run forever. I believe he called it reaching “running nirvana”. What better way to attempt to achieve a state of “running nirvana” than to run beyond the limits of what your logical and rational mind has accepted as possible?

So far, this post has covered my key reasons for being attracted to the backyard race format. I haven’t specifically state why I made Big’s Backyard my goal race to reach. I hinted at it with the topic of running more competitive backyards with deeper fields, but there are other backyard races out there that have resulted in some pretty impressive distances run, much farther than I have ever gone or thought possible. Why did I pick Big’s over others? An additional motivating factor for me is to earn a spot as a member of the USA National Backyard Team, representing the USA running with some of the best backyard runners in the world: Courtney Dauwalter, Maggie Guterl, Harvey Lewis, and Michael Wardian among others. The only opportunity to achieve this is at Big’s. I think most kids dream about achieving the pinnacle of success in some sport, whether it be winning the super bowl or an Olympic gold medal. I had these dreams as a kid too, but none of them panned out. Now I have an opportunity to reach what I would say is or at least near the pinnacle of backyard ultrarunning, to earn a spot on the USA National Team. I believe I am capable of achieving that so in my view I’m doing a disservice to myself to not pursue it.

Scott Snell
October 22, 2021








Saturday, October 16, 2021

Post Inspiration 4 St. Jude Fundraising Effort - Asking Billionaires For Help


As some of you may know, earlier this year I attempted to tie in a fundraising effort with several of my races. I set up a St. Jude Heroes fundraising page so all donations would go directly to and benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. After that I linked it to a Facebook fundraiser page to make it easier for people to donate. Then I attempted to promote it. I started it off with a celebratory birthday run where I ran my age in miles (41). I shared this on my social media platforms and asked that anyone who intended to get me a birthday present to please donate to the fundraiser instead. I received a few donations from friends and family.

I didn’t get as many donations as I had hoped. I thought if I went bigger, I would surely get more donations. I tied the fundraiser to my first race of the year, a 24 hour trail race. I set up a pledge system for anyone to donate any amount per mile they like prior to the race. Unfortunately I didn’t have any takers. I thought, “maybe 24 hours isn't enough.” I updated the pledge system for my next race, The Keystone Backyard Ultra, which I was sure would go longer than 24 hours. I was right in my assumption about it going longer (I ran for almost 31 hours), however I was wrong about thinking that going bigger would garner more donations. It was the longest and farthest I had ever run. I was really happy about my performance, but it would have been much sweeter if I had been able to secure any pledges.

After three running “events” that I had attempted to use to help raise funds for St. Jude I had garnered a total of 7 donations totaling $185. I was still $65 away from my fundraising goal of $250 (the base amount for St. Jude Heroes). I concluded that I’m far better at running ultras than fundraising. I got first place at the two races I ran as a part of this fundraising effort, but was still only about 75% of the way to my fundraising goal. Thankfully, I received a cash prize of $12.50 per lap (4.1667 miles) run for a total prize of $387.50! I donated a portion of that prize money to reach my base fundraising goal.

I was happy to have reached my goal, but the fundraising effort still felt like a failure to me as the only reason I reached my target amount was due to me donating. I decided fundraising isn’t my forte. I didn’t give it too much thought after that and tried to move on just focusing on running. Then, as a Bibrave Pro ambassador, I registered to run and promote the Inspiration 4 mile virtual run, a part of which was a fundraising component. It kinda felt like fate had brought this fundraising effort back into my life, and coincidence or not, of all the fundraisers that the Inspiration 4 mission could have chosen to support, they chose St. Jude as I did six months earlier.


The Inspiration 4 fundraising goal was inspiring, as it should have been given the name. They aimed to raise 200 million dollars for St. Jude and were successful in doing so. The success was in large part due to generous donations from two people heavily involved in the mission, Elon Musk ($50 million) and crew member, Jared Isaacman ($100 million). The flight was operated by SpaceX, founded by Musk, and procured by Isaacman.

After following the Inspiration 4 mission and promoting the virtual run, it made my earlier fundraising efforts seem pretty trivial. I know every bit counts, but $200 million counts a whole lot more than the $250 I raised. Then I realized, I was asking friends and family to donate. These are all people with budgets pretty similar to me when compared to billionaires. They might have donated 10, 20, or 50 dollars, which I greatly appreciate, but I doubt anyone I have in my circle of friends and family is going to donate thousands of dollars (let alone millions) no matter how far I run. That’s when I realized, I should have been asking billionaires to donate.

The Inspiration 4 crew traveled to an altitude of 364 miles, making the round trip (just accounting for distance from earth and back) 728 miles. Strictly considering the distance away from and back to earth, Musk and Isaacman’s per mile donations were $68,681.32 and $137,362.64 respectively. I ran 150 miles at my last race, fueled primarily by carbs and not rocket fuel. If either Musk or Isaacman had pledged the same rate for my run I would have raised $10,302,197.80 from Musk or $20,604,395.60 from Isaacman.


So this is my ask of a billionaire out there. Let’s continue to inspire even after the mission of the Inspiration 4 has been completed. It was an inspiring project to see four civilians travel into orbit. Especially when one of those civilians, Hayley Arceneaux, is a cancer survivor, was a St. Jude patient, and is now a physician assistant at St. Jude. I will be running another race in May 2022, Capital Backyard Ultra, that I plan to go even farther than my last. I would like to attempt to tie another fundraising effort in with this race as I did past ones, but fear the results will be the same as before. Is a 41 year old father of three boys who recovered from a hip surgery and now runs 100+ mile ultras as inspiring as the Inspiration 4 mission? Probably not in most people’s opinions. But maybe it adds a fifth pillar to the four pillars of humanity (leadership, hope, generosity, and prosperity) represented by the four crew members of Inspiration 4. I would suggest that my story and likely even more so many others’ could represent the pillar of persistence, the undying tenacity of the human spirit to continue forth despite undue suffering and grim odds. The quality of persistence is a common recurring trait throughout many of the most influential turning points in human history; doesn’t it deserve a place as one of the pillars of humanity?


If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, donations can be made at my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page. Want to pledge a per mile donation based on how far I run at the Capital Backyard Ultra? Fill out this Google form and donate when the results are posted.


Thank you for any and all support!


Scott Snell
October 16, 2021

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ramblings On Backyard Ultras and the Undefeatable Human Spirit





I usually plan out my blog posts. I usually don’t put together a formal outline, but I at least have an idea of one in my head and will put at least a few notes or bullet points down on paper prior to beginning to write just to make sure I don’t forget to include any of the major points I intended to cover. This is not one of those posts. Tonight was the first night of running that it finally felt like the temperature dropped after the sunset. I think it was cooler than it has been since early spring this year. It’s strange when it takes a cool run after dark to realize how quickly the seasons are shifting from one to the next. Time doesn’t wait. Night to day, season to season, and year after year. It’s relentless. During this run while thinking about time relentlessly pressing on, I decided I would write this free form, unplanned blog post just to see where it led and what end result would be produced.

The main thing I thought I would write about was how I currently have no races on my schedule and I’m pretty much ok with it. I’m at the point after my last race (almost a month) that I would usually start experiencing some of the post race blues without having the next goal to conquer on my calendar. I’m not really feeling that as much this time or the need to sign up for anything. I’m guessing the reason why is because although I’m not registered for any races as of now, I know I have a race on my agenda next May, the Capital Backyard Ultra (CBU). I earned a guaranteed spot at CBU by winning the Last Squatch Standing this past August. The winner of the 2022 CBU will receive a guaranteed spot on the USA team at the 2022 Big Dog’s Backyard International Satellite Championship. It is a momentous race for me. It is a chance for me to earn a spot to represent the USA in an International competition of the best backyard runners from around the world. It struck me during my run tonight that this could be the most important race of my life. With that thought in my head, I vowed to make the months leading up to it my most focused months of training ever.

If I train hard and smart January through May, I know I’ll be ready for CBU physically. But the mental side of backyards can break you and end your run just as quickly as any physical issue. I was considering a gym membership to increase my running miles starting in January when weather can make outdoor running less enjoyable in my opinion, but I’m not so sure. I began to think that forcing myself out the door in freezing temps and running through slushy streets may help me nurture that determination that’s needed during a backyard ultra to get up and go out for another 4.167 miles when your mind and body may be advising otherwise. I mean that’s all this format is after the physical aspect, just a mental battle between the logical part of your brain that knows this must stop at some point and the other side of your brain that refuses to quit even though your muscles have been relaying the message to your brain that they’re spent.

I can’t explain what it is that keeps other runners going in these backyard races. I’m not even sure what it is for me all the time. I like to think it’s a reflection of my well honed sense of determination. I’m not the greatest or most talented runner, but I am a pretty determined person. I like to think it’s a display of the undefeatable human spirit to not accept defeat even if it seems the mind and body have accepted defeat. I feel that I was on the precipice of that situation a couple times at backyard races. Somehow, I found the will and desire to keep pushing on even when my brain was providing me logical justifications to quit and body parts were signaling their surrender.

I don’t know what will happen at CBU. I hope to have a good day. I hope to run my longest distance ever. I hope to be the last person standing. But hope can be lost quickly during a backyard ultra. The mind can be defeated in unforeseen ways. Some aspects are not in my control. What I can control is my training and my goal for race day. My training will be on point. I am committed to making that happen. My goal is simple, to go out for every loop on the hour until I am either timed out or I am the last person standing.



Scott Snell
9/24/21