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Showing posts with label trail runner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trail runner. Show all posts

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Importance of "Maintenance Runs"



Beast Coast Trail Running - Maintenance Miles


Long term success doesn't happen overnight.


I know some runners who always have a race on their calendar. It seems like they race nearly every weekend. Which is great if that works for them and keeps them interested and excited about running. I know it’s not for me for a few reasons. First, my running budget would get stretched pretty thin very quickly covering that many registration fees. Second, I try to make family time the priority on the weekends and I don’t want to make that family time unpleasant for everyone else by dragging them along for my hobby. I typically only race about 3-6 times a year. Between those races I’m just focused on training and preparing for the next. I know other runners who don’t race at all. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of running; you can shape it to be what benefits and fits your lifestyle best.

Lately, I’m in what I would consider my offseason. My last race was in August and the next one on my schedule isn’t until May of next year. While I’m a pretty goal oriented person and having a race on the horizon keeps me motivated to keep training, I feel like it’s important to have some down time during the year to allow the mind and body to recover rather than constantly pushing. However, you don’t want to totally fall off and lose all fitness during that recovery period. To keep myself motivated during this longer period without racing that I am in the midst of, I’ve taken to referring to my runs as “maintenance runs”.

Maintenance runs aren’t sexy and don’t bring the excitement of training for a big race. You don’t feel the anticipation of an approaching race day. You aren’t celebrating gains recognized or breakthrough workouts.They don’t culminate to an anxiety inducing taper period with a long day of racing looming. So what is good about them? Easy, they keep you from having to restart from what feels like zero and rebuild fitness when you dive into training for your next race.

For me, doing maintenance runs feels natural. I ran without racing at all long enough to appreciate running for benefits other than those associated with racing. However, since getting into ultrarunning about six years ago I have raced enough to feel like something is missing from running when I don’t have short term race goals to work towards. Reframing my runs as “maintenance runs'' has helped me to continue to run with passion and anticipation for when I do have a race coming up on my calendar. It’s mainly just a change of perspective or purpose, but I have found it to help me during this longer period without racing that I am working my way through. It helps me to consider the larger picture. For me, running isn’t about nailing an insane training block or running the perfect race. It’s great when that happens, but consistency and longevity are more important big picture goals to me than a few stand out performances. Including some downtime during the year to just run for the sake of running and maintain a base level of fitness is important to achieve those bigger picture goals. After all, long term success doesn't happen overnight.

Scott Snell
December 3, 2021

Monday, November 29, 2021

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

When I got comfortable with an uncomfortable heat index of 109.7°F at Wildcat Ridge Romp.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s a phrase or mantra you hear or read sprinkled throughout the ultrarunning world. It’s a concept that I’ve embraced and I feel like it has served me well in my ultrarunning experiences. In fact, sometimes I feel that I am more comfortable with being uncomfortable than I am with indulging in extravagant comforts. But what does it really mean and how does one become comfortable with experiencing discomfort? Is it a trick you play on yourself? Do you just learn to lie to yourself really well and believably? Or is it just straight up denial?

When I got comfortable with being uncomfortable at Eastern States 2017.

To me, it is more than just a matter of denying the facts. In the phrase itself we’re acknowledging a feeling of discomfort (“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”). We’re accepting the discomfort as fact and simply altering our reaction to that feeling. Rather than having a knee jerk, panicky reaction to the discomfort with the question of “How do I stop this discomfort?” we’ve trained our minds to recognize and accept the discomfort and react in a much more metered and controlled manner.

For me it’s usually a process of analyzing the situation and going through a checklist of questions:


1. How bad is this and is it going to worsen?

This is the “don’t fix what’s not broken” stage. If it’s not that bad, just don’t worry about it. Eventually it will probably resolve itself or you’ll just grow accustomed to the minor discomfort. View this as an opportunity to set your baseline threshold for discomfort. If you run long enough, there is going to be some level of discomfort at some point. When that discomfort begins to appear, greet it with open arms. Be grateful it is no longer hiding in the shadows. Use this baseline discomfort as a measurement tool to determine if it’s increasing or just persisting.


2. Is there anything I can do to resolve it right now?

Fix it if you can. The example of debris in your shoe is the classic example of this. Stop and get the crap out of your shoe before it creates a larger problem like a blister. If you can’t fix it now, can you fix it at the next aid station? Is it chafing that some vaseline will resolve? Aid station volunteers are some of the most helpful groups of people I have ever met. I believe they genuinely want to see all runners succeed and they will do whatever they can to assist with that. Just ask for help.


3. How serious is this and am I going to further injure myself if I continue?

This is the million dollar question. Sometimes distinguishing between superficial and serious injuries can be difficult, especially when your mind and body are both exhausted. Phantom injuries can quickly not only justify accepting a DNF, but convince you that it is the smart thing to do. Do your best to assess the pain/injury as objectively as possible. Try to get a third party opinion from someone who wants to see you keep going (like an aid station or medical volunteer) and not from someone who it will hurt to see you suffer (like a spouse, assuming your spouse is not a masochist).

It’s the reaction to the discomfort that is really important and to me that is what the phrase is all about: YOUR reaction. Of course I am not suggesting that you hobble the last 20 miles or so of an ultra on a broken leg or continue on after suffering a bad fall and showing signs of a concussion. Injury is a valid and respectable reason to DNF. I am not a big fan of another common phrase (“Death Before DNF”) that makes its way around the ultrarunning world. I mean, I like the idea of refusing to quit, but I don’t take it that far. I’m pretty sure people say it because they think it sounds kinda badass, but when you evaluate it a bit more honestly I would hope you realize rather quickly that you are more valuable to someone alive than dead at an ultramarathon. I know that’s the case for me.

So I encourage you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, but only to a certain degree. You don’t want to cause further injury or do irreparable harm to yourself just to finish a race. Sometimes it feels like a fine line to walk, but I guess that’s part of the fun of ultras. There’s so much uncertainty and so many “what if”s. And that’s part of the reason why I am so drawn to them. They’re challenging and complex in so many regards for achieving the simple purpose of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

Beast coast trail chafing
When I got comfortable with being uncomfortable at Eastern States 2019.




Scott Snell
November 29, 2021

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Night Trail Runs Are Good for the Soul

 


This was my first run since Sunday and my first night trail run since August. I got knocked down by a pretty bad cold (not COVID, I got tested) this past week and took a few days off to recover. I started feeling crappy and sneezing Monday evening. Tuesday and Wednesday were full blown "I'm sick" days complete with sinus congestion, sinus headache, runny nose, and severe reduction of energy levels. Things started getting better Thursday, but the energy wasn't back and I didn't want to add undue stress to the body while still recovering. Friday felt good other than a bit of stubborn congestion that was still hanging around. I decided it was time to go for a test run. It was the right decision.

It was also my first night run that finally felt like an autumn evening run. The air was cool, crisp, and still. The moon was bright and the sky was clear. The only sounds were my feet moving through the leaf litter and the sniffles from my still slightly runny nose. For having not run in almost a week and just getting over a cold, I moved surprisingly well and with minimal effort. Maybe my legs needed the break too. My headlamp lit the trails I've run so many times in daylight, surprising me how different these trails that I think I'm so familiar with can look after dark. Deer eyes and spider eyes glowed when the light from my headlamp was aimed in their direction. It's an experience that will always remind me of my overnight trip running the Batona Trail when my mind started playing tricks on me in response to all those glowing eyes staring at me from the dark.

It sure did feel good to run again after almost a week of no running and a few days off being sick. And to be able to run the same trails I always run, but in a new way. It's a reminder to me to be grateful and realize how blessed I am to have found an activity I enjoy pursuing with passion and that I have the physical capabilities to do so.


Scott Snell
November 20, 2021

Friday, October 22, 2021

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


Scott Snell Beast coast trail running backyard ultra finish

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Scott Snell
October 22, 2021








Saturday, 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

Saturday, July 31, 2021

First Time on a Podcast - Under the Tent



Under The Tent: Episode 2 - Scott Snell
Scott Snell is an avid ultra runner and is making his move in the backyard ultra scene. Scott has picked up wins at both the Run Ragged and Keystone Backyard Ultras. He is a father of three boys and has the added challenge of both balancing family time and time on the trails. You can follow Scott's blog "Beast Coast Trail Running" for more info and insight into his career.


I was more nervous than I probably should have been, but I guess that was no surprise since I'm not an extremely outgoing person in general. I'm usually not the one to start up a conversation with a stranger. Not that I don't want to talk to people, it’s just that I'm a bit introverted and initiating conversations feels especially difficult for me. The fact that this conversation I was about to have was going to be recorded and made public was kind of a scary thought to me. But I was going to be talking about running, mostly ultrarunning. So, I saw that as reward enough to make the uneasiness and anxiety I was feeling make the experience as a whole a worthwhile endeavor. This anxiety inducing running related experience was the opportunity to be a guest on a new running podcast.

The podcast title is “Under the Tent'' hosted by Brandon Fogarty who I met at the Keystone Backyard Ultra in May this year. My initial reaction was of excitement as it was the first time any podcast host had asked me to be a guest. I love running. I love writing and talking about running. My wife has heard more about ultras from me than she ever wanted to. So why wouldn’t I be excited about being asked to talk about ultrarunning with another runner? As the time to record got closer, I became more nervous and less excited. I worried I’d say something dumb or just stumble on my words too much. It mostly just felt like fear of judgment when you’re completely unsure how many people are going to listen to the conversation you’re about to have. I’m sure these were all pretty normal fears for almost all first-time podcast guests.

After chatting with Brandon for about an hour, we said goodbye and then I began to wonder how it went and how I sounded. I felt like it went pretty well immediately afterwards. I did honestly have fun chatting about the backyard race format and recounting a few stories of races I’ve run, but as time went on, I began to think of things I should have said. Other ways I should have answered certain questions. I’m guessing this is pretty normal for most podcast guests and hosts alike for that matter. I’m sure thoughts of everything from “I wish I would have followed up with this question instead” to “I should have mentioned that story from that race” to “Damn it! I should have credited that person and publicly thanked them!” are pretty standard fare for everyone following a podcast recording.

For me, I felt like my last example (Damn it! I should have credited that person and publicly thanked them!”) was my biggest flub. Who did I forget to thank? My wife of course. When Brandon asked about being a father of three and managing the responsibilities there with running and training for ultramarathons, I feel like I completely missed the mark on that question. I started talking about priorities and how as much as I love running, I still prioritize a quality family life over my running life. Which is true for me and I still stand by that, but in retrospect it was the perfect time to mention the primary reason I’m able to pursue my passion for running and chase my running goals is due to the sacrifices my wife makes to allow that to happen. It was the perfect time to credit her and thank her for her enormous and vital role in any running goals I reach. But I failed to do it at the time.

Now as I’m writing this and giving more thought to this podcast interview and the differences of the dialog format that I’m less comfortable with versus the written format that I’m accustomed to, I’m not surprised I have so many worries about whether what I said was good enough or how I could have improved the discussion. When I write race reports or more general blog posts I write, read it, read it again, rewrite, and reread and on and on until I am content with it. To me, it feels like there is more room to make errors and more opportunity to fix those errors with the written format than the recorded dialog. However, the recorded dialog can lead to discussions and topics that never would have percolated out if writing alone. So there truly is a beauty and set of unique benefits to both.

Given the circumstances, I’m happy I took the opportunity to be a guest on Brandon’s podcast. I still haven’t heard the recording yet at this point, but if nothing else the experience allowed me to have an hour-long chat with another runner all about ultrarunning. And maybe the most valuable lesson I learned as a result was that it reminded me to be grateful to my wife for making it possible for me to pursue my passion while maintaining a healthy family life with our kids at home. Additionally, it reminded me that I should let her know how thankful I am for that more often. So, with that final thought, here is what my answer should have been during the podcast:

I couldn’t do what I do without my saint of a wife, Amanda. Without her endless support my running achievements would not have been possible. She has encouraged me and pushed me to achieve more than I thought I was capable of on many occasions. She has helped me become a better version of myself than the self that I knew or thought I was destined to be. From helping me to carve time out of our busy family and work lives to generously applying lubricant to my severely chafed body parts, she has been one of my greatest blessings in my running life and beyond. Weekends that would have been just me getting away by myself for a race weekend became mini vacation family camping trips with Amanda caring for the kids while I’m out running overnight. Those types of trips mean excess stress and work on her end and extra special aid station support and finish line moments for me when my entire family is waiting there for me.

We have a friend who says that Amanda is “too nice for this world”. I couldn’t agree more. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but I could understand how if taken from a different perspective it could sound like someone pointing out a flaw. Although, at least in my opinion, if a person’s greatest shortcoming is being too nice for this world then it is the world that is at fault, not the person. It’s not that Amanda is too nice for this world; it’s that this world isn’t nice enough for her.



Scott Snell
July 31, 2021

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Floundering: Battling the Post Race Blues



The post race blues are not unique to me. Heck, I’m sure it’s not even unique to runners. From the other runners I’ve talked to about them, it seems to be pretty common among most runners. We work hard and sacrifice dedicating a great deal of time all to achieve a singular goal on race day. Then race day comes and goes; we either succeed or we don’t. Regardless of the outcome, following a race I’m always grateful for having the ability and the opportunity to experience the process of training for something that challenges me. I’m also thankful that I have the mindset and the support to even make an attempt at goals that actually frighten me. But when the excitement of race day has passed and the body has recovered, that’s when the post race blues can start to creep up on you. Sometimes it’s sudden, other times they sneak up on you so gradually you don’t even notice it until they’ve taken root.

It’s been about a month since my last race and with no races on my calendar, I’m just starting to feel a bit down. I think I was able to ride the high from my last race (Keystone Backyard Ultra) for several weeks following it because it went so well. Usually I plan my year out ahead of time so when I recover from one race I am excited to start training to prepare for what’s next. This year I left my schedule a bit open, being uncertain of what races would actually happen and entertaining the idea of going after a longer FKT attempt rather than racing. Now with the two races I was registered for this year over, as I started trying to plan out the rest of my year I found myself feeling extremely indecisive and having trouble committing to any race.

It didn’t occur to me until just recently as I was deciding on how and where to run my long run this weekend. I’m planning on recording a 206 minute run to complete the Chase the Sun BUFF Challenge on Strava. Originally I planned to make some progress on my project to run every single street of Egg Harbor Township. Then I wasn’t feeling real excited about that. Usually for those runs I’m stopping frequently to check my map and make sure I’m not missing any small streets and to remind myself of my route. It’s not really the ideal way to run if you just want to focus on letting your mind wander as you click off miles. So then I thought I’d just run laps at the EHT Nature Reserve since it’s been a long time since doing a long run there. Eventually I found myself floundering between the two options, unable to decide.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t feeling excited about either. It was the same feeling I was having when considering potential races to register for. I would look up races and think that they sound cool and would be fun, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m attributing these feelings to the onset of the post race blues. It comforts me recognizing it now that I’ve had multiple bouts and knowing that it is temporary. Eventually, the spark is always reignited and until then I’m just grateful for being able to run and stay fit. Even if there isn’t a specific goal with a set date on the calendar, the physical and mental benefits of running always draw me back and make it well worth my time.

Sometimes, until the excitement returns and I need a little extra motivation to get out the door for a run, I’ll use some type of short term challenge or goal to attempt to create a spark. I mentioned earlier the Chase the Sun BUFF Challenge on Strava. Encouraging motivation is the exact reason I decided to take on this challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to celebrate the summer solstice (June 20) by logging 206 minutes of activity. I chose running and decided to run it in a single session. Why 206 minutes? This year, the summer solstice is on 20th June so the time challenge is inspired by the date: the 20th day of the 6th month.


Join me in this challenge by logging 206 minutes of activity (doesn't have to be running) by June 21st to celebrate the official start of summer and qualify for a 30% discount on selected BUFF® products. Or just join for the fun and extra motivation the challenge will provided.



Scott Snell

June 17, 2021





Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Chasing DNFs: Prepping For A Last Person Standing Race

















It’s less than 2 weeks until my next last person standing race. It’s only been 3 weeks since my last long distance ultramarathon which was my first 24 hour race during which I ended up covering about 103 miles. I feel pretty much fully recovered, but the 5 week interval between long distance ultramarathons seemed to go quickly and I don’t feel as prepared for this last person standing as I did for the 24 hour race format.

Maybe my less prepared feeling for this race is due to the short interval of time between recovery and tapering. It could also be in part due to the nature of the last person standing race format. If you’re not familiar with the race format rules, you can read a concise description of them in my race report on the first last person standing race (Run Ragged) I ran in 2019. One of the most unique aspects of the rules for this race format is that there can be only one finisher; all other participants are technically DNFs (Did Not Finish). It’s a rather harsh reality to accept for a race format that typically pushes multiple runners to go well over the 100 mile mark. All but one of those runners will get the same DNF that they would have received had they timed out or chosen to drop out at the 50 mile mark. It’s a little intimidating to embrace such a brutal race format, but in a way that is what makes it so attractive.

My many faces and meals during Run Ragged, 2019.

Having never been the recipient of a DNF, the thought of running a race that gives you the absolute best chance possible of ending with one is a bit intimidating. This will be the third last person standing race I have run. I know I had this feeling with the first two, but with those two successful attempts of being the only finisher I feel additional pressure has mounted for me to do well with this race format. It is of course all self induced, internal pressure. I’m not an ultrarunner who lives by the whole “Death before DNF” motto, but I’m not a quitter either. I like to run tough, challenging courses and I will admit that I carry a bit of pride having finished every race I’ve started even when they presented some pretty difficult situations.

Finisher awards from my first two last person standing races.

So why risk running head on into that first DNF with a last person standing race? The answer is basically the same as the one to “why run an ultramarathon?” for me. For the challenge and to push the limits to see what I am capable of. What better way to test the limits than a race of an unknown distance determined only by the performance and will of the participants, a race format that can have only one finisher and the potential to have no finishers. I can’t imagine a better way, and that is my “why”.



Scott Snell
May 11, 2021



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Taper Week and Calling My Shot For My First 24 Hour Race



It is Monday and less than a week out from my first 24 hour race which makes this a taper week. Along with taper week(s) come a few changes, some good and some not so good. The greatest positive in my opinion is just the additional free time that was spent running and training can now be reallocated to other areas. For me this means more family time and being able to help out more with all of the household chores. While I see this as an overall positive, I probably end up wasting a decent amount of that extra time just scrolling on social media. It takes far more discipline for me to put the phone down and do something productive around the house than it does for me to not even pick the phone up when it’s time for a run. 

So, what about the negative aspects of tapering? Well the most obvious is of course less running. I think it’s true of most runners, I know it is for me, but when I don’t get to run I can get grumpy. My wife may even go as far to say that I have a shorter temper when I go for too long without running. Not benefitting from the mental health aspects of running definitely affects my overall mood. During tapering it’s not so bad for me as there is an end date in sight and it is all in preparation to have the best race day possible, so it is a good trade off. Not running due to injury, that’s a completely different situation. 

Which leads to the second negative I’ve noticed more during this taper period than past ones; I’ve found that I’ve become a bit more anxious. Maybe part of this is just build up to race day nerves after not racing in so long and the lack of the relaxation and mental health benefits that come with running, but a decent part of it is due to becoming overly concerned with injury just before race day. In the past week I’ve paid far more attention to every little twinge of pain and ache anywhere on my body. Especially any area where I may have dealt with a previous injury. A little extra tightness in the calf and I’m worried it’s that calf flare up that took me out for almost a whole month of running last year. A sharp pain in the arch of my foot and I’m immediately thinking I’m going to be sidelined with plantar fasciitis. I’ve mostly been able to calm myself and realize I’m overreacting, but talk about unnecessary stress! 

My final long training run before my first 24 race.

And to close this blog post, as the title suggests I have a very specific goal for this race: to run 112.5 miles before the end of the 24 hours. This equates to 18 loops on the 6.25 mile race course and an overall average pace of 12:48 per mile. This distance would also increase my single run distance PR by about 6 miles completing one of my running goals for the year. Since the current course record is 108 miles, maybe my goal is a bit over ambitious or not necessarily within my capabilities. But why not aim for a greater goal rather than a less challenging one that I’m sure I would be capable of reaching? Obtaining painless goals for the sake of completing goals is a meaningless pursuit in my mind. Shooting for the pinnacle of individual success is one of the most motivating aspects of ultrarunning for me and I don’t plan on that mentality changing. 

Scott Snell 
April 12, 2021

Monday, December 21, 2020

2020 Goals Review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


---- Jordan Peterson ----


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

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


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

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

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


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



Scott Snell
December 21, 2020

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve Grand Tour


Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve Trail Map

I've been running at the Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve for a little over 5 years now and have easily put in hundreds of trail miles there. Just this past summer I feel like I've finally found the ideal trail route there, in my opinion. I thought I had the best route already figured out a while back, but it included an out and back along a power line cut that I never really cared for because A: it's and out and back and B: it is one of the few sections that is in full sun. This updated route omits that power line out and back and adds a small trail loop at the beginning on a less traveled trail that I had always overlooked.


EHT Nature Reserve Grand Tour Route Overview/Walkthrough


From the Zion Rd. parking lot you’ll hop on the Upper Trail and head out towards the right beginning a loop around the lake in a counter clockwise direction. You won’t be on that trail long though. Pretty much as soon as you see the lake from the top of the sledding hill (a little past 0.1 mile) you’ll see the woods trail cut off to your right into the woods. Follow those orange markers.

This trail will take you through the most heavily wooded area of the reserve. At about 0.25 mile the trail forks. Stay right for a little jog through the woods back towards Zion Rd. You’ll run with Zion Rd. in sight for a short while (I promise this is the most road you’ll see for the entire route) and then the trail will turn left and merge with what feels like a fire road at about the 0.45 mile mark. Follow this straight away through the woods until you come to a “T” at about 0.7 miles. Make a right there then keep your eyes peeled for trail markers so you don’t miss the next left otherwise you will end up in a storm retention basin if you stay straight on that trail.


The Woods Trail will lead you back towards the lake, but just before you reach it the trail will turn back in a north east direction into the woods again. Follow the orange markers until you are almost at the powerline cut (about 1.6 miles). At this point you will follow a very short trail across the powerline cut to pick up the 0.7 mile trail on the other side. At the halfway point of this section you’ll see Bayside Rd. as the trail turns and begins to make its way back towards the powerline cut.

You’ll then follow the powerline cut along the wood edge until you see the concrete tubes. At that point the trail cuts back into the woods for a bit and you’ll be back on the Upper Trail. Follow this past the concrete tubes and enjoy the artwork of New Jersey’s natural areas. Then enjoy the view of the lake to your left from the Upper Trail.

The trail will cut left at about 2.9 miles. Make the left, but before the trail reenters the woods, cut right and continue to follow the powerline cut just a bit further along the wood edge. At 3.0 miles a short “unofficial” trail will be on your left. Take that to hop on the “Smart Trail” loop and run that counter clockwise. This will take you back to the Upper Trail which you can follow past the Schoolhouse Rd. parking area. Follow this through the woods and you’re almost back to the Zion Rd. parking lot!

You could bail here if you want, but you would miss out on the Lake Trail portion of the Grand Tour. You don’t want that, so make a hard left and enjoy the shade between here and the gazebo. Hang right there and follow the narrow trail along the Phragmites at the water’s edge. Once it opens up, you’ll have to deal with full sun for a short while. Some sections are pretty sandy around the north edge of the lake so if you plan on a high mileage day, gaiters aren’t a bad idea.


Circle the lake and head to the far northeast corner. There you’ll find the steepest climb of the entire route and at the top is the Upper Trail. Hop on it and take a right. Follow this trail until about the 4.75 mile mark when you see a second bench overlooking the lake. A short connector trail is off to the right just after that bench. Follow that heading down the slate stairs to get back on the Lake Trail. Follow that passing the sledding hill again (this time from the bottom) the last quarter mile back to the Zion Rd. lot. Congrats! You completed the Grand Tour of the EHT Nature Reserve. You have now seen nearly all trails and areas of the reserve!

If you live in or around EHT and enjoy trail running, I highly recommend this route. It's a great area for runners new to the trails as it is all nontechnical and runnable. The route is about 5 miles and pretty much showcases all areas the Nature Reserve has to offer without any out and backs or retracing your steps at all. The main reason I run the majority of my trail miles at the EHT Nature Reserve is simply because they are the closest trails to home for me. I used to get a bit annoyed at running short loops to get any decent mileage there. Now with a 5 mile route without any out and backs or repeated loops, I feel like I have the perfect distance to run loops for long trail runs. From dusty, sandy trails overlooking the lake to shady trails with your footfalls cushioned by a layer of pine needles, the EHT Nature Reserve offers a diverse trail network within a relatively small area.

Of course there are many other variations of loops and routes you can create and adjust to your liking on the trails there. So get out and enjoy!


Scott Snell