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Showing posts with label sassquad trail running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sassquad trail running. Show all posts

Saturday, September 4, 2021

2021 Backyard Squatch Ultra - Paving a Path To Big's Backyard





“I just have to keep running. I can control that. That’s all I can do.” That’s the conclusion I came to at some point during the second day of the Backyard Squatch Ultra when I was beginning to lose hope and feared it was only a matter of time until I DNFed (Did Not Finish). That was my lowest point of the race, mentally at least, and thankfully it only lasted a couple hours until it passed and then we ran into a second night without sleep.

The story of the race starts about a week before the actual race when I packed the car to head out on a week long camping trip with the family leading up to race weekend. You could say the story starts long before that with when I decided to give up smoking and replace it with running, but that’s a much longer story than I intend to tell in this report. So, I’ll stick with the camping trip the week before the race.

Plans for both the camping trip and the race all fell into place about a month before they happened. The announcement for the race went public about a month before race day. It was only a matter of a week or two before we were informed that our family had been moved off the waitlist and had a spot at the YMCA family camp we we’re hoping to go to in Frost Valley, NY. It seemed to happen quickly and the timing felt serendipitous. Before I knew it, I had plans for a week of camping and a weekend of racing another backyard format ultra to close out the summer with a bang!

beast coast trail running scott snell running gear
All my gear ready to go the night before.

The Backyard Squatch Ultra was NJ’s first official backyard format race. What is a backyard format race? Basically, runners run a 4.166667 mile loop every hour on the hour. If they don’t finish the loop within the hour they are out of the race with a DNF. This continues until there is one runner left standing who is the winner when they complete one lap more than any other runner. If you want to learn more about the details and rules, just google Bigs Backyard. That race and its race director, Laz, is the originator of the race format.

As NJ’s first official backyard format race, I was pumped to be a part of the Backyard Squatch Ultra! I had run Pennsylvania’s first official backyard format race, the Keystone Backyard Ultra, in May where I was the last person standing with 129 miles. I had also run two other backyards, Run Ragged 2019 and Last Idiot Standing 2019, where I was also the last person standing at both. With my streak of performances at backyards, I put a ton of pressure on myself to perform well and do everything within my ability to avoid a DNF at the Backyard Squatch.

beast coast trail running scott snell at the backyard squatch ultra
With my boys just before the start!

My training between Keystone and the Backyard Squatch was pretty much exactly what I wanted to do even though I didn’t know for certain which race I was training for. I knew I wanted to do another backyard before the end of the year, I just didn’t know when or where. The bulk of my training was all below threshold runs, just running what felt like an easy comfortable pace. I don’t follow a schedule. I run when I have time between personal and professional responsibilities. I usually do a long run every 2-3 weeks depending on time available and what I’m training for.

I was a bit worried about my taper period coinciding with a week of camping. We did some hiking and I did a couple short runs during the camping trip and it ended up feeling like a really great taper week. I wasn’t inactive, but my legs got a rest from the normal number of miles they cover. Mentally, it was great for the week before the race to be away and be 100% focused on family time. Usually I get anxious the week leading up to a race, especially a race where I really want to push myself to perform well. With all the activities during the week of camping, I didn’t think about the race anywhere near the amount I would have during an otherwise normal week’s schedule. This was great for me as I felt refreshed mentally, spiritually, and physically before making the drive to Stokes State Forest where the Backyard Squatch was held.

Arriving at the race on Saturday morning felt like returning home after being away on a long trip. I hadn’t run a Sassquad Trail Running race in a couple years and the vibe and community that race director Kim Levinsky has built around her races, or “trail parties” as she calls them, is amazing. As far as I can tell, every runner there is made to feel special by the amazing group of Sassquad Trail Running volunteers.

The race used two courses, a mostly single track trail lollipop loop for daylight hours and a mostly paved road out and back for night laps, both starting from the Stony Lake Day Use Area. The trail loop was all runnable with a few more technical sections and a little under 400 feet of elevation gain. The trail loop started with a quick descent down to hop on a road for only maybe a few hundred feet to cross a bridge before getting back on a single track trail. The first mile was the stick of the lollipop and was a gentle, non-technical uphill on the way out. At the “Y” that started the loop of the lollipop the trail began to descend through a slightly technical section with some rocks but still runnable. The trail then dumped us out on a short, maybe half mile, rolling downhill section of road before turning back on to a trail. This was about the halfway point, roughly two miles, of the lap. The next half mile or so of trail felt more like a fire road with a gentle incline. It was runnable, but I always hiked it and ate a gel at that point. Then you crossed a small bridge and went through a little rock garden which was the most technical part of the course. From there it was mostly short, gentle ups and downs of non-technical single track until returning to the “Y” and having about a mile of gentle downhill that you cruise in on before making it back to the aid station.

beast coast trail running scott snell backyard squatch
My family crewing for me between laps.

With the 10 AM start, we ran the trail loop 10 times (41 miles) before switching to the night road course at 8 PM. These miles were uneventful for me, which is a good thing for this type of race. I just got comfortable with my routine of running about a 55 minute lap then sitting, refueling, discarding my gel wrapper, and grabbing an additional gel for the halfway point of the next lap. I didn’t feel rushed between laps and my pace felt comfortable. I was still taking the time to take a selfie between each lap at this point. My family stayed to see me between laps for the first few hours, then they left for the bulk of the day to have some fun at the nearby High Point State Park and climb the High Point Monument. They returned before we switched to the night course to wish me luck through the night, then they headed to the cabin that we had luckily been able to reserve for Friday and Saturday night only a week earlier. When I returned from the first loop after they left I found a lovely surprise, an inspiring note they left that read “Dear Dad, You got this! We love you go for one more.”

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell The note left from my family going into the first night.
The note left from my family going into the first night.

With the heartfelt message in my mind and knowing that my family was good for the night in the cabin, I left on my first night loop on the road course. The road course is mostly gently rolling hills. Even though it was road and foot placement was less of a concern and trip hazards were few and far compared to the trail course, it did have its share of rough patches and potholes. Let’s just say you needed a headlamp and had to keep your eyes open. This was the first backyard I had run that used a second course for the dark hours, so this was a new experience for me that I was looking forward to. I liked it for the fact that it broke up the monotony a bit and provided a bit of a change in scenery and feel. My main trepidation was how my legs and body would react to running roads after so many miles on the trail. Yes, I did feel the impact more on the road, but it felt like a good trade to be able to run with less concern about foot placement and having the chance to give all those extra stabilizing muscles you need on the trails a chance to relax.

I didn’t give it much thought before the race, but a good deal of runners switched from trail shoes to road shoes for the road course. I brought additional shoes and socks, but I was only intending to change if I was having any foot issues. Also, I was running in my Altra Timps which I typically use for my mixed road and trail runs so I figured I’d just use them as long as they kept feeling ok. Thankfully, they felt good for the entire race so I never changed my shoes or socks.

Beast coast trail running scott snell The single pair of socks (Darn Tough) and shoes (Altra Timp) I wore for the entire race. backyard squatch
The single pair of socks (Darn Tough) and shoes (Altra Timp) I wore for the entire race.

The night portion of the race went well for me. All of my night laps were about a minute or two faster than my trail laps. It was over night that the field started thinning out more noticeably. We lost a few runners during the day on the trail, but when the numbers got lower and most other runners I was chatting with were chasing personal distance records, their absence at the start of a new loop stood out more. The fact that every runner starts every lap on the hour together provides a chance to run with runners you may not normally be near when running a traditional race. In my opinion, this is one of the aspects of backyard races that makes them so cool. If an elite like Courntey Dauwalter or Harvey Lewis shows up at the same race as you, you’re running with them or at least starting every lap with them.

When daylight returned and we finished the 24th lap to complete 100 miles we had four runners left in the race. We were all greeted upon our successful completion of that lap with a true Sassquad trail party. There was a unicorn, a sasquatch, and a volunteer presenting us with a 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Kim herself! Of the four runners, one was hitting the 100 mile mark for the first time ever and was dropping after that lap. Another just wanted to hit 100 and then improve his distance personal record a little more so he stuck around for a 25th lap (YEAH JIMMIE!!!). That left me and Justin Kousky still in the race. Prior to the race, I did a little Ultrasignup stalking and of everyone I stalked I had pegged Justin as the guy who would likely be one of the final two in the race. I had hoped I’d have a good day and I would be the other half of the last two standing and thankfully that’s how the race played out. So everything had gone as expected thus far, but based on Justin’s stellar Ultrasignup record and the many unsupported, lengthy FKTs he held, I had no idea what to expect after this point. I’ve heard it said that these backyard races don’t actually start until after the 24 hour mark, and I would say that is how it felt to me at the time.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell The 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Race Director Kim Levinsky.
The 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Race Director Kim Levinsky.

With just the two of us left, it no longer felt like a trail party. It quickly shifted from a party vibe to feeling like a true competition to me at this point. From what I could tell, Justin had his game face on and was in it to win it, as was I, but in this style of race there can only be one that succeeds.

My lowest point came between one of my laps during the second day, maybe around the 30 hour mark. My wife started telling me about what she had found out about Justin and how good of a runner he is with some really impressive wins and FKTs. I knew this already, but hearing her say it after a night without sleep and over 100 miles on my legs made the idea of going up against him in a last person standing race seem even more daunting. At the time, it felt like my wife was telling me that it’s ok to lose to him because I’m just outmatched. This led to some pretty negative thoughts in my head which is not a good way to be in a last person standing race. I began thinking that everyone there, including my wife and kids, was sure he was going to win. My oldest son had been enthusiastically telling me “You got this Dad!” between every lap. But when he said it this time it sounded sad and defeated like he didn’t believe it anymore. I believed that I was the last person there that thought I had a chance of winning. I went back out to run a lap with that thought in my head. When I got up to go back out for that lap, I said “I just have to keep running. I can control that. That’s all I can do.”

My outlook began to change at the next aid stop when I expressed my concerns out loud to my wife. When I told her this, she said that it wasn’t true. She went on to tell me that Kim had put out a call on Facebook to get more volunteers in because she was expecting the race to go into, if not through, a second night. It was also during this aid stop that Kim came over to my aid area to say that if I wanted any cooked food from the aid station just to let her know and she would get it for me. I asked for coffee. It was too hot to drink more than a few sips at that stop, but my wife loaded it up with sugar and let it cool so it was ready at my next stop. That next stop was a real mental turning point for me. I got a good deal of caffeine and sugar in me from the awesome coffee my wife prepped. I ate a piece of pizza that a glorious volunteer brought (THANK YOU!!!). My wife wiped down my legs, cleaning them of all the trail dust that had accumulated and stuck from all the trail miles. I felt more refreshed and ready to keep going on that 33rd or so lap than I had felt at pretty much any point during that second day.

Approaching the starting corral to head out for that lap I congratulated Kim. She didn’t know what I was congratulating her for at the time and gave me a confused look. I then explained, congrats for her race, NJ’s first backyard, as it had now officially gone longer than Pennsylvania’s first backyard race. We high fived and my mind was in a good spot again and I was happy. I was beginning to feel the wear and tear from the miles, but I was still enjoying them. I was floating through the trail section as easily as the first day; I found myself catching a toe and stumbling a few times. Once I nearly fell, but caught myself by putting my hand down in a patch of poison ivy which thankfully only led to a couple blisters on my wrist and not a full blown rash. I also knew we only had a few more trail laps left before we switched back to the road, and I was pumped to have that change of scenery and lowered concern for trip hazards to look forward to.

Of all the points of the race, my highest was the first road lap for the second night, my 35th lap. I drank more sugary coffee and ate a second piece of pizza just before heading out. I had over 141 miles on my legs, but they still felt ok and I knew they could at least get me through the night loops. I thought to myself “I’m only a 100k away from running my first 200 miler!” This had me pumped! And the icing on the cake, after eating pizza and turning my Aftershokz headphones back on, the song “Pizza Day” by the Aquabats came on! It was too perfect. It felt like everything was in perfect order. I was floating on the road, painlessly and almost effortlessly moving past my previous distance personal record of 129 miles. I was singing along to “Pizza Day” running on a NJ State Forest road in the dark just loving where life had led me.

With the switch back to the road course, my pace picked up. So did Justin’s, by a much greater degree than mine. It made me curious and wonder what he was up to. Was it a mind game? Maybe. Then I thought maybe he’s banking some time with the intention of sneaking in a quick nap before the next lap. At that point all I could do was guess. I would find out when I got back.

When I did get back with close to 10 minutes until the start of the next lap, I was shocked. My family and Kim were all standing under the tent that marked the starting line. They were all smiles and all cheered for me as I came in saying “way to go Scott!” I was confused. It was just another lap. We’d been doing this for over 30 hours. What the hell made this one different? That’s when they told me that Justin wasn’t going back out for the 36th lap. I didn’t believe it. He was looking too strong to stop. He had just run his last lap in about 44 minutes. I started questioning it and that’s when Justin spoke up. I hadn’t seen him where he was sitting just to the side of the tent in his chair. He said that he was done and was “officially throwing in the towel.” I started almost arguing with him, telling him can’t quit when he just hammered that last road lap. His mind was made up though. I gave him a fist bump and we chatted a bit, probably more than we had in the last 35 hours of running together. The competition was over and our game faces dropped. It felt like a sudden shift of attitudes towards each other. It felt like we almost instantaneously went from competitors to bros. I was thanking him for pushing me so far and he was telling me what a great competitor I was and how my race plan and execution was all on point. That’s what I love about this race format. It is SO competitive, but there is so much respect and admiration between the runners that are pushing one another to amazing performances. It felt great and I was loving the chat, but it had to be brief. I still had to get back out to complete one more lap.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell presented award from Race Director Kim Levinsky as winner of the Backyard Squatch Ultra
Race Director Kim Levinsky presents the award.

I went through my normal aid routine and then was sent back out with cheers for my final lap. I decided I was going to empty the tank on this lap and see what my legs could do after 146 miles of running. I ran that entire road and out and back, hills and all. I made it back to the aid area in about 40 minutes flat, surprised that I could still run a 4.16667 mile loop with a sub 10 minute/mile average. After receiving my share of congrats, Kim presented me with the Last Person Standing trophy and allowed my two older boys the honor of putting the “X” on the board they were using to track all the runners’ laps. It felt so great to have my family there with me to experience the finish of a backyard ultra with me! She also let me know that this was the first official bronze ticket qualifier backyard for the 2022 Big’s backyard and wished me luck as I advanced on to the next backyard race on the road to Big’s.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell at Stokes State Forest
My boys getting ready to mark my final lap as complete!

As the last person standing at a bronze qualifier event, I am now guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Capital Backyard which is a silver ticket event. The winner there is guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Big’s international satellite backyard competition. The winner there is guaranteed a spot at the 2023 Big’s World Championship Backyard. At least that is my understanding of how Laz has adjusted his schedule of backyard races, with Big’s being the US team’s satellite location on even years and the Backyard World Championship location on odd years. If I’ve misunderstood something or got it completely wrong, please reach out to me and let me know. What this all means to me is that I will likely get pushed to go even farther at my next backyard at Capital. This year’s race there went for 57 hours or 237.5 miles. Am I a bit frightened by that? Yes. But does that mean I don’t want to take a crack at bettering my distance personal record and being the last person standing there? Of course not! That’s what backyards are about: pushing yourself to your limit, going beyond what you ever thought you were capable of, and finding an additional fire buried deep in you to keep going when you don’t want to or don’t think you can. I am excited and look forward to digging deeper than I ever have before, becoming animalistic with my sole simplistic purpose being to continue moving forward in spite of my mind and body’s proclamations to stop.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell wins the Backyard Squatch Ultra
My family with me at the finish! Best feeling ever!





Scott Snell
September 4, 2021

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Egg Nog Slog - 48 Ounces of Egg Nog Over the Course of a One Mile Sprint - What Could Go Wrong?




So Christmas 2020 was a little different than past ones. And why shouldn’t it have been, pretty much all of 2020 felt out of the ordinary thanks to COVID. This year we found ourselves at home rather than visiting family. Without the family visits that our normal holiday routine revolves around, I tried to do something a bit festive that all of our friends and family near and far could enjoy. I ran an egg nog mile. There was also still the question of whether I would enjoy it or not.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell prepping for an egg nog mile.
Southern Comfort Egg Nog!
 
I first heard of and thought about doing this in early December. I figured since COVID had forced me to cancel the Annual Fourth of July Hot Dog Run, this would be a fun event to fill the gap that was still vacant since the summer. I initially intended to just do a single serving (4 oz) per quarter mile. Then I started doing a bit of research, to determine how much egg nog one had to drink to run an egg nog mile. The first virtual egg nog mile event I found required participants to drink 1 pint (16 oz) of egg nog every quarter mile. When I saw this I backed off and decided that I did not want to chug a half gallon of egg nog while running a mile. But I did more research. I found a video of the egg nog mile world record which used the beer mile standard of 12 oz per quarter mile. Then I became aware of a virtual egg nog mile hosted by a NJ based group (Sassquad Trail Runners) that only required participants to consume 8 oz of egg nog per quarter mile. I concluded that the egg nog mile has not yet reached the widely accepted standardized level of the beer mile so whatever I chose to do wouldn’t be wrong. I opted to go with the 12 oz per quarter mile to remain consistent with the beer mile standard and to avoid chugging an entire half gallon of nog.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell drinking egg nog for an egg nog mile.
First glass down!

The anticipation for the run was a bit unnerving. Mentally I was preparing to eventually spew all of the egg nog back up at some point. The thought of which in itself unsettled my stomach. I’m not a huge egg nog fan to begin with, but I will have an occasional glass around Christmas. However, it’s usually a few servings for the entire month of December, not 12 servings chugged while running a mile. While preparing the morning of the event I was spending entirely too much time imagining what egg nog would taste like in projectile vomit form.

While combating this internal struggle, I set up the Facebook live stream so friends and family could watch in real time. Shortly after going live, the clock started and I chugged my first glass of egg nog. It went down quickly and didn’t upset my stomach. I made the quarter mile out and back on our street and grabbed my next glass. The second one was tougher to get down. Not because of stomach issues, it was just that I was breathing heavy from sprinting the quarter and was having trouble to down the thick egg nog while trying to catch my breath for the next run. My stomach still felt fine during the second quarter and I actually picked up the pace a little during that lap. The third glass took a little longer to drink and my stomach started feeling full while chugging it. It didn’t feel like it was upset, just full. I got it down and still managed to run my third quarter faster than my first. The last glass was the toughest to drink. At one point while trying to chug it I gagged a little and thought that I might barf. Thankfully I didn’t and was able to get it down and run my final lap.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell running an egg nog mile.
Focused on the time.

I felt the egg nog in my stomach the most during this final lap. It didn’t feel like I was going to lose it while running, but I could feel it just sloshing around in there. I finished in about 8:27 without any vomiting penalties (breakdown of time in table below). Once finished I began feeling the worst of it. I was having hot flashes and wondering if I was about to vomit at any moment as I pushed my kids on the swing in our front yard. It wasn’t pleasant, but it passed after a couple hours. By dinner time I was pretty much feeling back to normal.


The egg nog I drank contained 190 calories per serving. My 12 servings during the mile I ran delivered a whopping 2,280 calories into my system in less than 8.5 minutes. No wonder why I felt like I was going to vomit. Would I recommend others to try this? Yes! Would I do it again? Again, yes! But not until next Christmas and hopefully in person with more people.

Scott Snell
December 30, 2020


Time Breakdown:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019



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

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

Total Running Miles = 1828

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

Scott Snell
January 6, 2019


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Now Foods BCAA Big 6 Sports Supplement


Disclaimer: I received Now Foods BCAA Big 6 - Grape and Watermelon flavor sports supplement and a NOW Sports shaker bottle 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 you read the disclaimer above, you’ll know that I received Now Foods BCAA Big 6 grape and watermelon flavored sports supplements at no cost to try out and review. As a newer BibRave Pro, I’m still feeling out what opportunities and responsibilities come along with it. Although I’m not a regular user of almost any sports supplements, when this opportunity presented itself it seemed like a perfect time to incorporate the use of a sports supplement into my workout routine with no financial risk. Prior to this trial, the only sports supplement I’ve ever used regularly is a whey protein powder which I typically use in a recovery shake after running maybe 2-3 times a week. So that may beg the question of why should anyone listen to what someone who doesn’t use sports supplements have to say about their first time trial using a sports supplement. And I would answer that because I am not a sports supplement user I can report on how using Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement during training compared to my training and racing without the use of any sports supplements. Because I am a sample size of one, whatever I report will not prove or disprove anything. This is simply a report of my experience using Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement.


So what are BCAAs? Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are essential amino acids that serve as the building blocks of protein, which helps to fuel your muscles during a workout and can also help support muscle recovery post-workout. They’re called essential because the body doesn’t make them on its own, so you need to supplement or get them from your diet. Since I have never supplemented with BCAAs in the past, I can only assume that I’ve been getting all the BCAAs required to fuel my training runs from my diet.

I began incorporating Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement in hopes that my training runs would improve or that I would at a minimum feel like recovery time was reduced. Up until writing this post I had not done any extensive research, but the information I had seen about the benefits of using BCAA supplements for endurance sports was not extremely convincing. Mittleman et al. (1998) reported prolonged exercise performance in test subjects receiving a BCAA supplement when subjected to heat compared to subjects receiving a placebo treatment. The cycle time to exhaustion increased for both men and women test subjects that received the BCAA treatment. Bloomstrand et al. (1991) reported improved mental acuity after a 30 km race of test subjects receiving a BCAA treatment during the run compared to test subjects receiving a placebo treatment during the race. The same study also examined the effect of BCAA treatment on marathon times. Sub 3:05 marathon runners showed no significant effect with BCAA treatments. However, marathon performance was improved with the use of BCAA supplement for 3:05-3:30 marathon runners. Since I fall outside of the range of marathon runners included in the study, I hope the trend of improved performance continues for 3:30-4:00 marathon runners like myself.

With the few studies I looked at reporting improved running performance and/or endurance with the use of BCAA supplements, it raised my hopes for improved results with my own trials. I began using Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement in mid September and continued its use for a little over a month until the last week of October. During this period I trained for and ran two races: The Squatchung Surprise 6 Hour and The Mines of Spain 100 miler. For those two races I finished first overall and second overall respectively. I’m not crediting the use of Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement for my performance at those two events, but it certainly didn’t hinder my performance either given the results. Having less than two months of experience using Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement, it is hard to come to any substantial conclusions. I performed well and felt good while using the supplements, but it’s impossible to say that I wouldn’t have felt and done just as well without the use of the supplements. Even without any definitive results to show, I plan to use Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement early next year when I’m training for and hoping to achieve a PR at the Novo Nordisk NJ Marathon.


What I can say definitively about Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement is that it was easy for me to digest and I never had a problem with it upsetting my stomach when consumed while running. I drank two servings during the course of The Squatchung Surprise 6 Hour event and five servings over the course of about 22.5 hours during the Mines of Spain 100 miler. During the six hour event I had no stomach issues. I was using this event as a test before drinking the supplement for the course of the 100 mile event. Since it sat well in my stomach for the six hour event I decided to drink it mixed with Tailwind for the entirety of the 100 mile event. My stomach felt good for about 80 miles of that race and just felt slightly upset for about a 20 mile stretch of the race. The upset stomach I did experience was most likely due to the fuels I was taking in during the race and not because of the Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement. You can only eat so many gels washed down with Mountain Dew before your stomach starts to protest.

A photo from the six hour event.
On a subjective note, I found the taste of both flavors of Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplements to be agreeable. Before trying them I feared that they would be overly sweet or very strongly flavored. It turned out they were neither of those. I wouldn’t call either of the flavors sweet and the flavors for both were mild which I appreciated. I have found strongly flavored hydration products to become almost unbearable to consume after a certain amount of time. I would even call both flavors refreshing if mixed with cold water and consumed right after a run in the heat. In addition to this, Now Foods BCAA Big 6 sports supplement was super easy and fast to mix using their shaker bottle.


Why NOW® Sports? Well, I felt safe using their products. It’s a clean, highly-tested brand. They conduct more than 16,000 tests each month for identity, purity, strength and composition to ensure that what’s on the label is in the bottle. AND, now they’re third-party certified via Informed-Sport for added product purity assurance. The Informed-Sport program certifies that their products have been tested for more than 200 banned substances by their world-class sports anti-doping lab.


From October 1-November 15, use code 20NOWBCAA on Amazon.com (or visit this link https://www.amazon.com/promocode/A1G65M39SCQHX5) for 20% off both varieties of BCAA Big 6. Code is limited to one-time use only.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Bloomstrand, E., P. Hassmén, B. Ekblom, and E.A. Newsholme. 1991. Administration of branched chain amino acids during sustained exercise — effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology 63(2): 83–88.

Mittleman, K.D., M.R. Ricci, and S.P. Bailey. 1998. Branched-chain amino acids prolong exercise during heat stress in men and women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 30(1): 83-91.















Friday, October 12, 2018

2018 Squatchung Surprise 6 Hour Race

Fueled By Candy Corn and Mountain Dew

Disclaimer: I received Now Sports BCAA Big 6 Natural Watermelon Flavor sports supplement 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!
At the starting line.
Credit for all photos: Sassquad Trail Running
“Everything went just as planned, nearly accurate down to the second.” That’s something you usually can’t say about running an ultra where the race format consists of running laps of four differently lengthed loops while being randomly assigned a said loop via the draw of a colored golf ball out of a bucket for six hours. But, that’s exactly what I’m saying now as I report on my race at the Squatchung Surprise. This was the inaugural running of the Squatchung Surprise, organized and implemented by Sassquad Trail Running. While the Sassquad Trail Running group has only been putting on races for maybe a year or slightly over a year now, after running two of their events (the first being the Fat Sass Switchback Challenge) they have quickly become my favorite NJ based group that organizes trail running events in NJ. They keep their events fun and unique by changing up the race formats. Additionally, they seem to always have a charity benefit associated with each event. This event benefitted Operation Chillout, a nonprofit which aims to end homelessness particularly for veterans of our military services.

The four loops.
The Squatchung Surprise took place at Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, New Jersey on Saturday September 29, 2018. Like many of the other Sassquad Trail Running events, this one offered multiple race options: a 5k, a three hour, and a six hour event. I was really excited to run this race as it used a format I had never experienced before. I’m not sure if this race format even has an accepted name, so I’ll do my best to just describe it. More or less, each runner is randomly assigned a certain trail loop to run by drawing a colored golf ball out of a bucket. The color of the golf ball corresponds to a specific trail loop. At this particular event there were four loops of varying distances and elevation gain: blue loop (two miles), yellow loop (three miles), red loop (four miles), and the green loop (5 miles). In addition to the blue, yellow, red, and green balls there was also a black ball which if drawn meant the runner got to choose which loop they wanted to run. This process was continued for the duration of the event and like most other timed events, the runner with the most miles at the end is the winner.

The drawing of  another golf ball.
It would seem that this format basically comes down to chance, however the format throws a curveball at you in the last hour of the event where if you employ a bit of strategy it could benefit you quite a bit. And if you have a bit of luck, as I did, it will benefit you even more. This hiccup in the format forces the runner to make a choice when they cross the finish/start line during the final hour of the timed event. Whether it’s one minute or 50 minutes into the final hour the runner must choose whether to continue drawing balls and running random loops or opt to run a paved, flat half mile loop. The catch is you are only allowed to run the paved loop for the last half hour. So if you finish your trail loop just a couple minutes after the five hour mark and opt to run the paved loop you’ll have to spend the next twenty some minutes waiting until the start of the mini loops. In the same situation if you opt to continue to draw balls and get the green five miler and end up not finishing the loop before the six hour mark you get zero miles added to your total mileage for that last hour. Hence the strategic decision. And whatever decision you make is final for the remainder of the event.

Still high energy at this point!
I went into this race with a definite strategy and several major goals. My first goal was to get a long training run in. I was using this race as my final long training run in preparation for the upcoming 100 miler I’m running in October, Mines of Spain. I figured whatever mileage I ran, pushing myself for six hours at a trail race would give me a better workout than a set distance long run. Not to mention it would be far more fun. My second goal was to test out how my stomach would handle a new supplement I’ve been training with during a race. I’ve been using Now Sports BCAA Big 6 (watermelon flavor) supplement either before or after runs, but had never used it while running. I figured this would be a great opportunity to test it out and make sure it didn’t disagree with my stomach if taken for an extended period while running. My last goal was to get as many miles as possible and have a good time doing it.

Some sweet swag!
I checked in at the Loop Pavilion of Watchung Reservation, grabbed some pretty sweet race swag and drew my first ball of the day prior to the start. Blue. I’d be running the shortest of the laps to start the race. After a little downtime before the start the RD made a few announcements and went over the rules of the race format a final time. And after that we started promptly at 9 AM. All loops started on a common easily runnable trail. After about a quarter mile you reached the first fork in the trail with red/green going left and yellow/blue going right. I quickly realized that remembering which color to follow every lap could become a challenge as I almost took the wrong path initially because I was just following a couple other runners in front of me who were going down a different colored path than me. I caught myself right away this time and vowed to be more cognizant of my loop color going forward. The blue loop simply made a short loop around Lake Surprise. At about the one mile point the other three trail loops merged back on to the blue loop and all four loops were identical for the last mile back to the aid station area.

Feeling good with a pouch full of candy corn.
Next I drew a red ball for the four mile loop. I enjoyed the red loop as it was a bit longer and felt like you weren’t just doing a quick lap before arriving back to draw another ball. I liked the red so much that when I drew a black ball next I chose to do red again. Next I drew a red and then a yellow. The yellow three mile loop felt pretty similar to the red, just a little shorter. For my sixth ball I finally drew a green. I was bit excited as I would finally see the last of the four loops. My excitement ended when I reached the new section of the green loop and realized it was probably the most technical of all the loops and had the most gain. It wasn’t ridiculously tough, but just had elements that slowed you down more than the other loops. There was what felt like a long sloppy wet and heavily rooted section. Then a bit of a more rocky slick section. It could have been the miles I already had on my legs, but I’m pretty sure the terrain had something to do with it as it was without question my slowest paced lap of the day. I got back to the aid station and hoped to not have to run the green loop again.

And now a mouth full of candy corn.
At this point I was a little past the halfway point (about 3:20 into the event). I decided to refill my bottle with my watermelon flavor Now Sports BCAA Big 6 supplement with a second serving as my stomach and the rest of my body was still feeling good. Up to this point, other than calories from the electrolyte drink mix provided at the aid station the only calories I had consumed were handfuls of candy corn and the very similar candy pumpkins. This seemed to be working well as a fuel source in place of gels which weren’t offered and I’m too cheap to buy so I stuck with it, packing a sandwich baggie of the delicious dyed fructose into the pocket of my hydration belt before heading back out on the yellow loop. I made it back to the aid station by the four hour mark, drew a blue ball, and was back after that lap by the 4:20 mark. Up to this point I hadn’t given much thought to which loop I was assigned. But it was getting to the time of the event where luck and strategy would start to play a role. And I got a good deal of luck going forward. I drew a black ball and chose red as I figured as long as I maintained a decent pace I’d be back just before the five hour mark to draw at least one more ball before being forced to make the decision of running the paved loop or continuing to run random loops. I had to push a bit, but finished the four mile loop with a few minutes to spare before the five hour mark. I drew another ball and as luck would have it I got black again, runner’s choice! It took me awhile to decide, but I finally chose the yellow planning to take the three mile loop at an easier pace and get back right before the half mile paved loop run started. The timing was a thing of beauty, a dang masterpiece if you will. I made it back after the three mile loop just as the runners were given the starting signal on the paved loop!

The group of runners just prior to the last half hour of the race (I was just finishing my last trail loop at this time).
I ran through the aid station without stopping, I just slowed down long enough to let the volunteers know that I was opting for the paved loop for the last half hour. I dropped my hydration belt and joined the crowd of runners starting their paved laps. My goal for the last half hour was to run sub 8 min/mile pace which would give me 3.5 miles in 28 minutes and allow two minutes of fluff time in case I felt worn out towards the end. Amazingly, I still felt really good for having just run five and a half hours of trails and I cranked out two sub 8 miles without feeling like I was redlining it. With my goal in reach, I eased off for the last mile and a half knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sprint the remaining 14 minutes of the race to only add an extra half mile to my total. Some people may think that running a half mile paved loop for the last half hour of a six hour trail race sounds like a terrible thing. I would disagree with those people. I thought it was fun to push hard after a long day of running to see what’s left. I also found it a bit comical as it reminded me of the training runs I did with the Runhole crew early this year. The chief Runhole himself, Jon Nicholson, decided that after two 25ish mile days of running the second half of the Eastern States 100 course that it would be a good idea to extend the run a bit beyond the actual finish area of the course and add about a half mile of paved road section before reaching the lot where our cars were parked. I appreciated the gesture after I realized it was a bit of a joke when he kept on saying how great it felt to “open it up a little” and “stretch the legs out.” I borrowed the jokes and made sure to let the other runners know that I was having a good time that last half hour “stretching my legs out” and “opening it up a little” before the finish. If it weren’t for that Runhole training run I definitely wouldn’t have appreciated that last half hour of laps as much.

Early in the day while the tracking board was still looking empty.
With the six hours of the event passed, I headed back to the aid station to have my Sassport checked and find out my final mileage. The Sassport is a small paper booklet that all the timed event runners carried with them for each lap. At about the halfway point of every loop was a box with colored stickers corresponding to the loop it was on. It was the runner’s responsibility to make sure to stop and grab a sticker placing it in the their Sassport in the same sequence as the runner mileage tracking board at the start finish area. At the check in area, volunteers assisted with recording the runner’s laps on the board and totaled the runners’ mileage after every finished lap. At the end of the timed events, volunteers checked every runners’ Sassport against the tracking board. I’m not sure what the official rule is, but I assume that if there was a discrepancy between the two that unverified (missing/incorrect color sticker) laps would not be included in the runners’ total distance. I was a bit nervous as my Sassport was checked as I hoped I had not forgotten to stop for a sticker at every loop. Thankfully they were all there and gave me a total official mileage for the day of 38.1 which was good enough for first place overall!


Me with an awesome award to take home.
Having not looked at my mileage or the standings of any runners all day, this was like the proverbial icing on the cake, the cherry on top. My strategy regarding timing had worked out perfectly pretty much to the second. Where I needed to have a bit of luck it worked out as I drew the appropriately colored balls. I got the minimum 50k training run in that I wanted and then some. The whole day my stomach felt great with zero issues arising from testing out a new supplement (Now Sports BCAA Big 6) or from grazing on candy corn washed down by Mountain Dew all day! I can’t point to one thing that made this such a great race day for me, but I can point to many things that went well.


Scott Snell
October 12, 2018



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