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Showing posts with label runners world. Show all posts
Showing posts with label runners world. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2019

2019 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon




Ten Years In The Making


"Disclaimer: I received free entry to Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon 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!"



It’s strange how 10 years can sound like a long time when you say it, but when you reminisce over the same portion of time in your life it appears to have gone by in a rushed blur of all of the events, big and small, that have culminated to be the story of your life. This past weekend’s race, the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon, motivated me to examine that roughly quarter sized chunk of my life thus far. It was just a little over 10 years ago that I ran my first and only marathon up until this past weekend. Now with my second official marathon finish, I’ve found myself looking back at where I was before my first, where I’m at now, and wondering what the heck happened in between.

I ran my first marathon about a week after my 29th birthday. Running a marathon wasn’t a bucket list item for me or a box to check before my twenties ended. It was something I decided I wanted to do to hopefully keep running interesting to me. Leading up to it, I’m regretfully admitting, I had become a bit bored with running, or at least the running I was doing at the time. I wasn’t racing, training for a race, or exploring new trails to run. It was before I even entertained or had a desire to run an ultra. At the time, I was basically only running what I consider now to be my “maintenance” runs, for the most part 3-6 miles at an easy pace. The required training and challenge that comes along with preparing for a marathon I hoped would reignite the passion for running that it had originally sparked when I first started running recreationally about five years earlier.

I'm pretty happy with how my CEP compression socks performed as well!
Thankfully, it did. In fact it made me want to run even farther and longer than the marathon distance. I didn’t dive head first into ultramarathons. I studied them and the training methods others had used. For several years I said I was too busy due to other personal events 
(marriage, baby, etc.) in my life to commit to training for an ultra. Looking back and having the experience I do now, I know it would have been possible, but I may have been a bit too naive and impatient to make it work. Even if I had pulled it off then, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it. So I waited and then in 2013 when I decided it was time to train for my first ultra, I got taken out with a hip injury that required corrective surgery (here’s the full story on that). I waited longer spending 2014 recovering and rebuilding a decent running base. I began ultra training for real in 2015 and ran my first ultra that October, the Blues Cruise 50k in Leesport, PA. 

The course map and my Strava data.
After discovering and experiencing trail ultras, I lost interest in road marathons for the most part, until recent years as I started wondering how I would do if I were to take another crack at one. The question of how I would do at a road marathon after several years of running trail ultras piqued my interest enough for me to run a marathon distance around my neighborhood, finishing it about five minutes faster than my one and only official marathon time (3:43:02). After this I decided it was time to sign up for another road marathon. Deciding which marathon to run was easy as I was offered the chance to run the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon as a BibRave Pro. Sweet! Now my only goal was to run a marathon faster than I had 10 years ago. 


I went with my Altra Escalantes for the race, it was a good decision.
I changed up my normal training routine a bit by getting a gym membership and increasing my mileage earlier in the year than I normally do because I’m not the happiest cold weather runner. I didn’t do this specifically for marathon training, although I believe it paid huge dividends on race day, but mainly to go into this ultrarunning season with a higher mileage base established. I arrived for the race and immediately felt out of my comfort zone. Mainly because of the crowd size. This is a big marathon with over 2,300 marathon runners plus marathon relay runners and half marathon runners all starting at the same time from the same starting line. It was in stark contrast even to the starts at the largest trail runs (several hundred runners at most) I’ve experienced. I did my best to try to appreciate the energy of such a large crowd rather than allow it to make me feel uneasy and worked my way into my assigned starting corral.

Having my Aftershokz for my training runs and during the race was a huge plus!
I went out with a plan at the start to race smart. Knowing that I needed to average just under 8:30 minute miles to better my marathon PR, I told myself I would take it easy the first few miles. As the wave I started with crossed the starting line, I saw the 3:35 pacers not far ahead of me in the crowd. I ran at what felt like a comfortable pace until catching up with that pace group. I decided to avoid doing anything stupid like running too hard too early I would stick with this group for awhile and then pick it up later if I was still feeling good. That only lasted until about the six mile mark. The Eminem on my playlist started playing through my Aftershokz at that point and I decided that this pace felt too easy. I said to myself “I’m running this to see how fast I can run it, not just to improve my PR!” And with that I picked up my pace and pulled away from the pace group.

The AWESOME finisher medal!

It was a matter of several miles, but it was surprising to me how quickly it seemed that I caught sight of the signs held by the 3:30 pacers. I continued to run at what felt like a slightly more strenuous than comfortable pace until joining this pace group crowd. I decided to reel it in a bit at this point and just see if I could hang with the 3:30 pace group or if that would be too tough to maintain for the 16 or so miles left. I told myself if I can maintain this pace and I felt like I had anything left I would try to empty the tank in the last five miles.

I have to admit, Strava's "Last Mile" challenge drove me at the finish.
As we passed the halfway point of the race, the course got a bit more interesting and scenic in my opinion. Rather than it feeling like the course was mostly running through neighborhood roads (my take on the majority of the first half), the second half really displayed more of the traditional Jersey shore scenery as the ocean and beaches were in sight and we began running stretches of the boardwalk. Along with the more attractive scenery came the out and back portion of the course. Seeing the fast marathon front runners still hammering hard after 20 or so miles kept me inspired and motivated to keep my pace up. A short time later with about 10 miles to go I decided it was time to pick up my pace and part ways with the pace group I had become comfortable running with.

My final mile pace according to Strava.
Shortly after pulling away from the 3:30 pace group I saw all of the faster pace group returning from the U turn of the out and back. The 3:15 group went by followed shortly after by the 3:20 and the 3:25 groups. A short time later I found myself at the turn around (about the 19 mile mark). Realizing the 3:25 pace group wasn’t that far ahead of me, I decided I would make it my goal to catch that group before the end of the race. I had only seven miles to pull it off. It was exciting to have an additional goal that I wasn’t sure was actually achievable. It motivated me to push myself harder than if my only goal was to get a new PR which at this point was nearly guaranteed. Passing other runners nearly continuously for the next six miles kept me pushing until I finally caught site of the 3:25 pacer signs with about a mile to go. I continued pushing and made my last mile of the marathon my fastest of the race passing the 3:25 pacers with the finish line less than a quarter mile away.

Cheers from the finish!
My official finish time was 3:23:17, nearly a 20 minute improvement over my only other marathon finish over 10 years ago. It was a greatly satisfying race as everything went so well. Other than a little upset stomach early on, I felt great the entire race. As happy as I was with my finishing time I still walked away with a bit of regret. Solely because I left the race wondering what would have happened if I had pushed harder earlier? What could my marathon PR be if I focused on running marathons? What if I hadn’t just run Hyner 50k with 7,500’ of elevation gain just one week earlier? All are questions that I don’t have an answer to, but am curious to explore.




Scott Snell
May 3, 2019

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WIN Sports Detergent








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


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

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

                                         
See how happy it makes my wife?!

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

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

              






Wednesday, August 1, 2018

2018 Fat Sass Switchback Challenge - Six Hour




Tougher Than Hyner In a Lot of Ways


Slideshow of the Fat Sass Switchback Challenge. Photo credit for all photos used in the
slideshow and blog post goes to the wonderful volunteers that made this an amazingly fun event!  

The Fat Sass Switchback Challenge is a distance/timed event orchestrated by Sassquad Trail Running, a division of Core Total Training and Fitness LLC. The event in its inaugural year (2018) offered runners a 5k distance option or the choice of two timed event options of three or six hours. I opted for the six hour challenge. It was managed as a self-supported fat ass style race, so no entry fees, no aid, and no swag. Even without aid provided, there was a designated park table for runners to donate community aid to and it was about as good as any aid station I’ve passed through. The organizers did ask in place of an entry fee that runners bring non-perishable food items to donate to Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a nonprofit organization that assists Livingston residents struggling with unexpected hardships by providing short-term financial and in-kind support. I was happy to contribute to the cause and have the opportunity to run a race on some new trails.
The course is a trail loop just a little over a mile (roughly 1.05 miles according to my Garmin data) in
Near the end of the one mile loop.
distance. The elevation gain per loop is 274 feet according to my Garmin data and 313 feet according to my Strava data, so trust whichever data set you feel is more accurate. Runners take on the course in a clockwise direction starting at the Locust Grove picnic area of South Mountain Reservation in Millburn, NJ. The trail starts with a climb up about 5 switchbacks (hence the name of the event) of primarily smooth trail for about a half mile before reaching the top of the ascent. There is then a short stretch (less than a tenth of a mile) of flat paved road before making a right back onto the trails. From there it’s about a half mile descent down more technical, rocky trails before returning to the picnic area.
I registered for this race to use it as a long training run with a good amount of elevation gain ran at a faster pace than I’m willing to push myself to without any competition. It was also a matter of convenience; I was visiting my in-laws the weekend of the race and the park it was held at was only about an hour from their house. For all those reasons and no entry fee while donating to a good cause, I couldn’t resist. Having never visited the area where the race was, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the trails. I knew there would be some elevation gain because the description on the Ultrasignup page said that each lap had about 291 feet of gain. However, I never did the math to figure how much gain I would accumulate based on distance goals until the night before the race when I was telling a friend about it. I casually told him that I planned on running thirty some miles in the six hour period. Then I did an estimate of the math in my head:  30 laps X 300 feet = 9,000 feet of gain. Shocked, I redid the math using a calculator:  30 laps X 291 feet = 8,730 feet. At this point in the conversation, in near disbelief, I told my friend that that’s more gain than Hyner 50k and I likely wouldn’t be running as far as I had planned to in the six hours. Setting goals for timed events that are pretty much out of my reach seems to be a habit for me. I did the same thing when getting ready for the six hour Running with the Devil.
Thankful that I figured out how much tougher of a race this was going to be than I expected the night before rather than during the race, I tried to get some good rest before my early alarm went off. Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep was not to be had. This weekend was the night of the Fourth of July fireworks display so the kids got to bed late to begin with after that. Then one of the two woke up a couple times during the night and had trouble getting back to sleep. So, after a few hours of
A rocky, but not the rockiest descent.
broken sleep I got up, ate some breakfast (peanut butter sandwiches), and drove to the park. I got there early enough to get situated. I checked in, dropped off my charity food donation, added my community aid of
Swedish Fish and olives to the aid table, and got my personal aid station organized. Since this was a self-supported race I brought enough Gatorade and calories to get me through the entire six hours. Since I’m a bit frugal and I only had one gel on hand, all of my calories came from that single gel, three cans of Wal-Mart brand cola, and a tube of green cake frosting. I know, sounds gross, but it works and it’s not like gels really taste all that great anyway. Since it was at most a six hour race, my plan for fueling didn’t rely on any real food. I basically just wanted quick energy from simple carbs and some caffeine. The soda and frosting met all my needs.
After a few words from the RD, Kim Levinsky, the race began. Interestingly, and maybe it was just for the sake of simplicity, all runners (5k, 3 hour, and 6 hour) started simultaneously. I guess in this manner, a single clock could be used to time all three events simultaneously. Another interesting part of the organization of the race to me was the lap counting system that was used. At the completion of each lap timed event runners would record their place at the time on a chart that had all the runners’ names in that event listed. Similarly, 5k runners recorded their time rather than place at each lap. With this system, you always knew what place you were in and could get an idea of how far other runners were in front of and behind you. A volunteer was there to assist at all times as the board could get a little confusing especially after a few hours of running trail laps in the heat and your brain is getting a bit foggy.


The check in board used to record your place after every lap.
After considering the amount of gain I had in store for me and my readjusted goal of aiming for up to 30 laps rather than thirty-something laps, I went out at a pace that I thought would get me close to that goal. This meant running the entire climb during the first lap which wasn’t bad as it was not too technical and not too steep thanks to all the switchbacks. However, I knew full well that after a few laps I would certainly be hiking portions of the climb. I ran the flat paved section at the top at a medium effort then tried to let gravity do the work and stay light on my feet as I flew down the technical descent to complete my first lap in about 10:54. This was good enough to put me in first place at the time. I was able to maintain that pace and running the entire course for about the first four laps. After that, my times started to slow a bit as I started hiking portions of the climb. It was somewhere around the fourth lap check in that another runner I had been yo-yoing with got to the check in right ahead of me. It turns out he was another six hour runner who had been checking in as second just behind me for the first few laps. He was a bit confused when filling in his place at the board when he realized he was now in first. Which is another point that made the lap counting system interesting. It was hard to tell who you were racing against unless you happened to be at the lap check in with them. There were no markings on the bibs, so unless you asked you couldn’t tell who was a six hour or a three hour runner. Hence the reason for the other runner’s confusion when he got the lead.
I continued cranking out laps in second place for a couple more hours maintaining a pretty steady pace. The mental challenge of a timed event on a short loop was something I haven’t dealt with very often. I approached it the same way I approach a distance event:  break it up into manageable sections and then comfort yourself every time you reach one of those check points. For this event, I broke it down into two hour blocks. The first two hours seemed to go surprisingly fast. I told myself “that wasn’t so bad, just do that two more times!”. The middle two hours were the toughest mental struggle for all the normal reasons:  it got a bit warm, I was beginning to tire, and there was still a pretty long way to go. Once I got through that and into the final two hours, things began to turn around. I knew at this point it was time to push and see what’s left in the tank.


The view from a point midway up the switchbacks.
I don’t remember exactly where, but somewhere near the middle of the race I realized at check in that I had been passed by a six hour runner and was now in third. I had no idea who it was for the reasons I mentioned earlier. I continued in third place until there was a little over a half hour left. At this point if figured I would have enough time to finish my current lap and run two more before time ran out as long as I maintained my pace of around 13 to 14 minute laps. As I’m going over this and calculating the time in my head while finishing up the climb and reaching the paved section I caught sight of a few runners ahead of me. At this point I knew they had to be six hour runners, but I wasn’t sure if they were runners I was lapping or if one of them may be the second place runner. I didn’t catch them before the check point where I saw that I was still in third. Not knowing if I was taking over the second place position or not, I skipped stopping for aid this lap and decided to run this second to last lap as hard as I could. I figured if I did just take second place this would give me a bit of a gap ahead of him before he finds out at the next check in. If I was still in third, it would at least give me a chance to catch the second place runner wherever they were or I could at least say I gave it my all to try to catch them. Running my second to last lap as fast as one of my early laps I reached the check in to find out that I was in fact in second place. Knowing this motivated me to keep my pace up for my final lap and finish strong in second place with a total of 26 laps (about 27.2 miles).


The scene just before the start of the race.
The highlights for me during this race weren’t really about me or even specifically running. What I thought made this race great was the organization and volunteers that made it happen. There aren’t many trail races in NJ and even less trail ultramarathons. I’m so excited that Sassquad Trail Running has started organizing these events in NJ that are more convenient for me than driving to the middle of PA. During the race it was great seeing many of the volunteers taking time to run a few laps while they had downtime from their volunteer duties. During one of my laps, a volunteer took note of the Hyner socks I was wearing and commented about Hyner being tough and how this race compares. I replied with something along the lines of “This is tougher than Hyner in a lot of ways”. Strictly looking my Strava elevation gain data (8,142 feet for Fat Sass versus 7,507 feet for Hyner), the Fat Sass was tougher than Hyner. In a way, I feel that Hyner relieves a bit of the suffering experienced while running it with the beautiful scenery you enjoy along the way. Even with the arguably more technical terrain of the trails at Hyner, the grueling nature of repeating a one mile loop for six hours I still feel was more challenging than anything I experienced while running Hyner.
Scott Snell
July 31, 2018






Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 Eastern States 100

2017 Eastern States 100



"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."

- Mark Twain

I’m not going to lie. I was scared of facing the Eastern States 100 course. It was less than a year ago that I ran my first 100 miler (TARC 100) for the primary purpose of overcoming my fear of the 100 mile distance in order to begin working on my goal of completing the 2017 Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series with some semblance of confidence. That first 100 miler went well, far better than I had hoped it would. I had the confidence from my first 100 miler going damn near perfectly driving me up until Worlds End 100k (the second race of the three race series) where things got a little rough. At a low point during that 100k I began to question my resolve to finish the series. After the race, I tried my best to focus on the positives that came out of the experience:  overcoming rough patches during a long race, having a realistic nutrition plan, and realizing in the moment that highs and lows are both temporary. Try as I might to concentrate on the positives, during the entire training period between Worlds End and Eastern States I couldn’t quite manage to get that little pessimistic voice in my head to completely shut up. Honestly though, that annoying little voice had a convincing argument. The argument was something along the lines of “You may have done a hundred miler, but you’ve never done a tough hundred miler with 20,000 feet of elevation gain and technical trails like Eastern States. Hell, Worlds End 100k nearly broke you with 12,000 feet of gain. Not to mention, you’ve only done one 100 miler that just happened to go well. How do you know that wasn’t just a fluke?” Needless to say, it wasn’t the most enjoyable training block I’ve ever submitted myself to. However, in a way that voice was more motivating than any kind of positive reinforcement could be. The motivation to prove it wrong drove me to train for Eastern States and run the course as best I could even if I wasn’t sure I would make it to the finish.


Arriving at the bib and packet pick up at Little Pine State Park the evening before the race made my head start to spin. It all kind of felt surreal in a way. It wasn’t the nervous excitement that I’ve felt before other races. It felt like I was on the precipice of completing a major journey. The thought had crossed my mind to attempt the PA Triple Crown Series in 2016. However, I did not have the qualifying races required to register for Eastern States until after all the spots had been filled. So, I spent 2016 preparing. Now I was only a few hours and 102.9 miles away from completing the goal I had set for myself nearly two years ago. It was all a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, my wife and two boys had made the trip with me to camp for the weekend while I ran. That helped me bring it all back into perspective and realize that whatever importance or value I had attached to this goal was just that:  the value I assigned to it. No matter how the race went; I would still be the same dad and husband to them, I would still go back to the same job next week, and most people in my daily life would have no clue about it. Maybe I was using this thinking as a bit of a mental strategy and to keep my head from spinning. Based on training runs and past races, I’ve found a little apathy can do wonders.


Just after bib pick up at the start/finish area. 


After setting up our tent and letting the boys play in the water for a bit we settled down for the night. I went through my gear and made sure everything was ready for the morning. Then I went through the schwag bag to be seriously impressed with how much quality stuff was in it. Let’s start with the bag itself. It was an Osprey brand pack that looks like it is water resistant and perfect for doing some fastpacking adventures. Inside was a pair of wool socks, a running hat, and running shirt. It was far more than I expected for schwag, but then again Eastern States pretty much goes above and beyond expectations in every department.


Schwag! Minus the socks.


It felt like my alarm went off early, but even with the 5 AM start time I still managed to get a good six hours of sleep. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, threw my clothes and gear on, and said my silent goodbyes to my family before making my way to the starting area. I hopped into the weigh in line and made it through then hopped into the bathroom line and dropped a healthy deuce before heading to the starting line with just a couple minutes to spare. This was a huge mental boost for me. It felt like my body told me it was ready for what lies ahead. The waste was excreted, now it was time to move. The timing was nearly perfect. Shortly after arriving at the starting line, we had the countdown and the race was off with the sound of people cheering, bells ringing, and hoots and hollers. Then a minute later it got extremely quiet and a dichotomy of ultras hit me. The fact that so much energy is felt at the start, finish, and at certain aid stations contrasts so dramatically with the majority of the time running an ultra where (at least in my experience) I am usually alone and for the most part hearing only the wind and my footsteps. It was an interesting thought at the time, and I may have given it more depth than it deserved for the mere fact that my mind needed a distraction away from thinking about what I was about to force my body to endure.


With that distraction on my mind, I jogged along the paved road (which was the majority, if not the only paved section of the course) to the campground before we hit a bottleneck at the trailhead and the start of the single track. It wasn’t long after hitting the single track that we arrived at the first big climb of the course. I took it easy and reminded myself that there was no reason to push hard this early; the course will provide plenty of opportunities to blow your quads up later. Either during or not long after that climb the sun started to rise and my headlamp was no longer necessary. I arrived at the first aid station feeling good and fresh. I filled my Paw Patrol and TMNT bottles, ate a gel and packed one for between aid stations, and grabbed a few bites of food before moving on. I was surprised to see it, but they also had an entire gum section at this aid station. Maybe it was just because I hadn’t brushed my teeth that morning, but gum sounded surprisingly refreshing so I grabbed a piece to chew on as I left.


I made my way along the trail with the mindset of enjoying the day. If I don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? The sights and smells were great and I got into a flow knowing that I would get to see my wife and kids at AS3 (Lower Pine, mile 17.8). Just before AS2 a few runners and myself got to see a black bear that we scared off of the trail, no big deal after working at Shenandoah National Park for a summer. Otherwise, that stretch of the course was uneventful. Arriving at AS3 and seeing my boys rejuvenated and gave me a much greater boost than I was expecting. Their excitement was real and I felt it. I continued my plan of eating some real food and a gel at each aid station and packing a gel to go and continued on.


Lower Pine AS3, Mile 17.8.
Soon after leaving the aid station, the course follows a gravel road up a good stretch of an easy, but sustained climb. Some were hiking it, but I was feeling good and decided to jog this not so steep and non-technical climb. The next event of note did not occur until between AS5 (mile 31.6) and AS6 (mile 38.5). Somewhere during this stretch the rain that was forecasted for the day showed up. It was short lived, but the rain was heavy and soaked everything. I believe it was also during this stretch that I attempted to make a creek crossing without getting my feet wet by balancing across a slick log. I knew it was a bad idea and it ended with me standing in the creek telling myself that. Suffice to say, the rain didn’t soak anything that wasn’t already wet. Soggy, but in good spirits, I rolled into Ritchie Rd (AS6). I ate more there than at previous aid stations making my way from one side of the aid station table to the other. It was there that I had my first perogi of the day. It was delicious and and mashed potato perogies would become my staple for the rest of the day.


Shortly after leaving this aid station the course follows a powerline cut for a gradual climb. It was somewhere at this point that I had to hop off of trail to take care of some business. Once my GI stuff was resolved, this non-technical section felt easy. Other than a few mud puddles due to the earlier heavy downpour, this stretch of the course was cake. In addition, I had the fact that my wife and kids were waiting for me at the next aid station to spur me on. I arrived at AS7, Hyner Run (mile 43.2), in what felt like a flash. I ate a buttload of bacon and watermelon then shared some Swedish Fish with my three year old son. Up to this point I hadn’t given place much thought. I was paying attention to my pace mainly to see if I was going to be keeping my wife waiting at the aid stations for me. The pace and aid station arrival times I had given her were based on a best case, perfect day scenario of a 25 hour finish. Surprisingly, I was surpassing those splits at this point. Looking at past results, I expected a sub 25 hour finish to easily be a top 20 place finish. I was shocked when she told me that I was in 38th place at that point. I wasn’t disappointed, but more excited. My initial thought when I heard that was “a new course record will be set today”.


Hyner Run AS7, Mile 43.2, where I feasted on bacon.
With that somewhat bittersweet news, I continued on to the next aid station which I expected to be a water only aid station. Upon arrival, it was anything but. They had perogies there. I ate my fill and continued on to AS9, Halfway House (mile 54.7), where I saw my wife and boys for the last time before the finish. There was one additional aid station for spectators, but I would arrive there too late for my wife to bring the boys there. She had to take them back to camp and get them to bed. With the sun beginning to set at the time, I said my goodbyes and thanked my wife for being so supportive. The inspiration that kids bring is irrational. I moved on and focused on covering the distance. My goal was to continue to take the course on in sections. At every aid station I would ask how far it was to the next and then focus on making it there. To assist that goal, every aid station had a print out posted of the distance and elevation profile from the current aid station to the next. Mad props to the race director for that.


This strategy worked great for me. I covered miles without thinking about the majority of the remaining distance I had to cover. It wasn’t until AS12 that I got my next surprise. At the Alegrines (mile 62.9) aid station they were recording and posting runners’ places and arrival times. The last I had heard from my wife at the halfway point was that I was in 38th place. At this aid station, while I was casually eating a grilled cheese sandwich, they announced that I was in 16th place! How that happened, I have no clue. It scared me more than it motivated me. But I continued on just hoping that I could at least make it to the finish with a top 20 spot.


I ran on and shortly before reaching the next aid station (Long Branch, mile 75.6) I came upon another runner. It was dark, and it felt like I came upon the light that I had seen in the distance rather quickly. I intended to give my standard kudos to the guy and continue on my way until I was about to pass him. Then I realized how badly he was shivering and when he finally turned his head and made eye contact with me I saw a fear in his eyes. I tried to motivate him letting him know that it was less than a mile to the next aid station. His response was “Yeah, I’ve been telling myself that.” I kicked myself for not carrying the emergency blanket that was included with my hydration vest. When I bought it I thought “emergency blanket? Emergency whistle? When will I ever need these?” I told him I would hurry to reach the next aid station and let them know he was on his way and could use some help. Shortly after I arrived there and informed them of the situation they had a runner on his way with a jacket to assist.



Not carrying emergency equipment is a general mistake. My real first race mistake didn’t come until AS14 (Blackwell, mile 80.3). It was at this point that I had left my one and only drop bag for myself with dry shoes and fresh socks. I had had wet feet since around mile 30 and they didn’t feel that bad. I went off of feel and the philosophy that if your feet feel ok don’t worry about them. I turned away the super helpful volunteer who offered me my drop bag saying that I wouldn’t need it. Later I would regret that. I drank some coffee and ate a piece of pizza then continued on. Shortly after, I jumped over a rattlesnake that was just on the edge of the trail rattling at mel. Then I hit a super technical and super slick rocky descent. Somewhere around this point I realized how bad my feet felt and my second to pinky toe (ring toe?) nail flipped back. It hurt and I told myself that it would make the last 20 miles interesting.


I made it to the next aid station and that is when my head totally messed with me. I was at Sky Top (AS15, mile 84.8) where they provided some of the best care that I had received all day. I got soup with a pierogi in it. They changed my headlamp batteries and gave me spare batteries. I got Vaseline for the chafing under my armpits. But for some reason, I left thinking that I had six miles to the next aid station then four miles to the finish. In reality I had eight miles to the next aid station, then six miles to the final aid station, then four miles to the finish. It was only a difference of eight miles,but it seemed like an infinite distance at the time that I realized the mileage wasn’t adding up after leaving Sky Top. And with that realization my body began to let me know how much everything else was hurting. My feet were soaked and blistered. My armpits and crotch were badly chafed. It had taken me 80 some miles to get there, but I had reached my lowest point of the race. I finally reached the next aid station at Barrens (mile 92.8), but I was in such a funk mentally and my body was hurting so bad that I didn’t want to eat anything. I was sick of gels and I was sick of everything sweet. I forced myself to drink some coke and continued on with my negative mantra of “everything hurts”.


Thankfully, between Barrens and the final aid station the sun came up. This was something that I had been looking forward to. I had never done a race before where I had run all night and I got to see the sunrise. It was motivating to have daylight break and turn my headlamp off. With that bit of motivation, I continued on to the final aid station even though my feet said no. I reached the final aid station (Hackettes, mile 99.1) and passed through quickly eager to reach the finish. Even though it was less than four miles to the finish, it certainly didn’t feel like the home stretch. There was still one more climb to overcome. At the top of that climb, I decided I had to pee. Unfortunately, I put things away a bit too early and leaked a bit in my shorts. I was close to the finish and I didn’t want to show up there looking like I had just pissed myself. I’m blaming my sleep deprived brain and exhausted body for this, but it seemed to me at the time that the best course of action to hide the fact that I peed myself would be to spray some water from my water bottle on my shorts. Soon after, I realized what a mistake this was. My severely chafed inner thighs and testicles were screaming with every step once the were wet again.


At the finish being helped across by my boys!
I continued on to the final and crazy steep descent. It seemed like I could hear cheering from the finish line crowd for several miles. My quads burned and threatened to completely give out as I tried to descend the last stretch with some sense of control. My feet hurt so bad and my quads were so trashed that I was grabbing trees along the trail to help myself brake. Finally, the trail led out to a parking lot where I could see the finish line. I made it to the grassy field and my boys met me shortly before the finish line to run under the blow up arch with me. And there was David Walker (race director) waiting to greet me. He presented me with the finisher’s buckle, which I was most appreciative of. Having now finished two of the races he directs, I can say with confidence that those races were the most orderly and well organized ultras in which I have ever partaken. I can also say that I think he may be a bit of a sadist. At both Worlds End and Eastern States the courses end with a super gnarly and steep descent for your trashed quads to contend with. And at both finish lines he asked me with a huge grin how I liked that final descent. Seriously though, he is an excellent race director and a great guy. From my experience at both races, I watched him stay near the finish line the entire time and congratulate every runner as they finished.


Just after the finish with race director, David Walker.
Having my wife and kids waiting for me at the finish of the toughest race I had ever done which also marked the completion of the PA Triple Crown Series, my primary goal for nearly two years, I thought I may get a bit emotional or teary when it was complete. I mostly just felt relieved that I had hung on for the last 15 miles or so that tested me to finish in tenth place with a time of 27:17:24. I was also super ecstatic about how well the first 85 miles went. This race proved to me that my performance at my first 100 miler wasn’t just a fluke. It got that annoying pessimistic voice to finally shut the hell up. It also reinforced the lesson that I should have learned at Worlds End:  that preventative maintenance of your feet is not an option. Aside from everything that was great about the race and everything that went so well for me, I was also so grateful that this initial family camping trip went so smoothly for my wife while I was out running all night. The kids had a good time outdoors without any YouTube videos or Minecraft, my wife enjoyed having time with them without the distractions, and I got to run a long time and have them waiting for me at the finish. While making the drive back to NJ, we all agreed that it was a trip worth making again. Just the thought of that makes me smile and want to visit Ultrasignup.


Scott Snell

September 20, 2017

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Runner's World Claims That Top Finishers of the 2017 UTMB Have Weak Butts and Hips

Runner's World Claims That Top Finishers of the 2017 UTMB Have Weak Butts and Hips


Author's Note 9/26/17:  This is a sarcastic piece of writing. I assumed it was pretty apparent, but after several serious comments defending Runner's World and questioning my judgement, I wanted to clarify this point. I readily admit the title I gave this post is total clickbait. However, I have no qualms with using Runner's World as the bait considering some of the clickbait they put out. For example, see the screenshots from the official Runner's World website below. The one serious point I intended with the article was to show that maybe Runner's World blows things out of proportion and jumps to unfounded conclusions at times. A little mud on your calves may be a sign of weak glutes, or it may be a sign of a muddy course. 


I'm not trying to bash Runner's World here. In fact, I usually don't pay their articles a great deal of attention. Mainly because I am more interested in longer distance running than their publication focuses on for the most part. I normally scroll right past Runner's World posts on my Facebook feed without a second thought, but today (as I was watching the top finishers of the UTMB cross the line) was different. Immediately following a Runner's World post about mud or kick marks on your calves being a "telltale sign" of a weak butt and hips was a post with photographs of Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) winner Fran├žois D'haene. And what do I see on his calves? Mud! This is just a fluke I thought. No way the winner or other top finishers of the UTMB could have weak butts and/or hips. But it didn't stop there. Upon further investigation (see photos) I found the trend continued with other top ten finishers: Tim Tollefson, Gediminas GriniusZach Miller, and Jordi Gamito. In the Runner's World article Dave Scott, six-time Ironman world champion, states that mud smudges on your calves typically occur "because that person has weak glute muscles, which help stabilize your foot in the stance phase”. So am I to believe that all of these guys have weak glutes, or did Runner's World get it wrong and a little mud smudged on your calves isn't such a "telltale sign"? Interestingly, Jim Walmsley's calves looked clean and mud free. Is this a Runner's World / UTMB conspiracy? Is Jim "come back from the dead" Walmsley truly an alien? Special thanks to iRunFar.com for their amazing coverage of the UTMB and for providing the photographic evidence of the weak glutes of the top finishers of the 2017 UTMB. 

Fran├žois D'haene - Mud!


Tim Tollefson - Mud!

Gediminas Grinius - Mud!

 Zach Miller - Mud!

Jordi Gamito

Jim "Come Back From The Dead" Walmsley - No Mud!