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

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

2024 Dogwood Ultramarathons 48 Hour



It’s been almost a month since running my first 48 hour race as I begin to write this report, so I’ve had plenty of time to digest and reflect on the experience. Of course, that also means I’ve had plenty of time for the details and my memory of the experience to become a bit faded and less reliable. Even so, I hope to still present an accurate recollection of the experience as best I can. I’m sure I’ll still get all of the major points correct: I had a big goal, it was going well, weather and trail conditions got bad, my main goal became unattainable, and eventually I settled for a new goal to stay motivated to continue. That’s the summary without any of the details or my thought process throughout. If that sounds like it could be interesting, here’s the full story.
  

I had been considering the possibility of attempting a six day race ever since running for 75 hours at Capital Backyard Ultra last year. With my inexperience in longer timed races fueling me, my naive thought was that if I can last for 75 hours in a backyard format race I should be capable of putting up a solid performance in a six day timed race. Although I was pretty confident of that at the time, and still am, I didn’t want to do anything too rash and just dive into a six day race with the longest timed race I’ve ever done having only been a 24 hour. That was my reasoning for attempting a 48 hour race this year, to test the waters of a longer timed race event. I wanted to see how my motivation would hold up for 48 hours without being forced to hold the required pace at a backyard format race. Which made my target mileage goal pretty simple for this attempt, to hit 200 miles in under 48 hours and then see how I felt and how much farther I could go before time ran out.


I began searching for 48 hour races not too far from home that wouldn’t conflict with other races on my schedule for the year or work and family plans. I finally decided that the Dogwood Ultramarathons at Twin Lakes State Park in Green Bay, VA was the race best suited for me to make this test run. It seemed like it was fate pushing me there as this was the first year the race offered a 48 hour option and the timing was good for all other aspects of my pretty crowded schedule. The course is a 3.35 mile trail loop with about 246 feet of elevation gain which makes for about 7,380 feet of gain for every 100 miles when you do the math. Based on elevation, this didn’t sound like a ridiculously challenging course to attempt two consecutive sub 24 hour 100 milers so I felt like my A goal was well within the realm of possibility. I wasn’t able to find any information on how technical the course was, but from the pictures I had seen everything looked runnable. Without finding anything to discourage me or think otherwise, I registered for the race with a pretty high confidence level of reaching my A goal of exceeding 200 miles.

My training went splendidly and I arrived the morning of the race feeling rested and ready. Although I felt a bit rushed between arriving at the venue and the start of the race, the first day started off really well. The course wasn’t very technical, just a few roots and rocks to remain aware of. The two water crossings were a non factor the first day as the water level was low enough that a couple steps on rocks and you were across with dry feet. The elevation changes were mild with just a few short climbs and descents, none of which were steep or treacherous. I ran my first few laps under my target past comfortably and learned the course. There were a few trail intersections, so you just had to be careful at a few points to make sure you didn’t inadvertently go off course but the course marking made it pretty foolproof.

Everything was going great for me pretty much the whole first day. I felt good and was on pace to get 200 miles in with plenty of time to spare. I didn’t feel like I was over exerting myself to maintain the pace. My stomach felt good and I had no sign of any digestive issues. It seemed like everything was falling into place as I hoped. The only factor left that I was concerned about was the weather. Forecasts predicted storms and steady rain starting overnight after the first day of the race and continuing through the end of the race. The forecasts were pretty accurate; it started raining lightly not long after dark. After a few hours of light rain, it picked up. The trail got sloppy and slick in spots. The water rose at the two water crossings. I got damp and chilled. I tried to just keep moving and run through it, but it was taking a toll on my pace and mental state. After multiple clothing changes and a fall at an especially slick turn on the trail I found myself back at the aid area shivering, feeling pretty chilled. I was at about 84 miles at that point and had been steadily slowing down. The rain was coming down heavy enough that putting on dry clothes had become pretty pointless. I decided it’d be best for me to get warmed up and dried off while at the same time getting in a nap so I could recover a little. It was around 3 AM and I decided to go to my car to do just that.


I hoped it would work out that I’d be rested and refreshed and the bad weather would be over when I woke up. Unfortunately, I woke up to the sound of rain hitting my windshield. I had slept a few hours and felt ok, but really wasn’t feeling like getting chilled and running in the rain for another 24 hours. I checked the forecast and it was promising, reporting that the rain should clear out within an hour. This gave me a bit of hope. My A goal was most likely out of reach at this point, or at least much harder to achieve. I checked the race live results to find I was still in the lead, but my lead had been reduced to a pretty narrow margin. Clinging to the lead became my new motivation for going back out and finishing the race. I thought about just packing it in and going home, but continuing to move to hang on to the lead is what drove me back out to run.


Once back out on the course, I was surprised at the first turn when new runners for shorter timed races took a different route. After a quick chat, I found out that the course had been rerouted due to the water crossings becoming too dangerous to cross because the water had risen so much from the steady rain. The course was now a 1.1 mile loop around a lake near the start/finish aid station. Ok, no big deal I thought. During the first loop I learned how much of an impact the rain really had on the trail conditions. A good stretch of the new course was on trail and much of it was a sloppy mess from all the rain. I’d estimate about a half mile was shoe sucking mud. If you’ve ever tried to run on shoe sucking mud, you know how difficult it is to maintain any kind of decent pace. Especially when you have around 100 miles on your legs already. After becoming accustomed to the new trail conditions, I accepted the fact that my 200 mile goal was now definitely out of reach. Without having my A goal to chase, I continued to plod on “running” laps on trails of standing water hiding ankle deep shoe sucking mud.


To make a long story short. It wasn’t much fun from that point on. It was tedious and slow going. It was a constant mental battle. But I didn’t quit and I hung on to the lead being pushed by the second place runner (Aaron Bowers) until about 3 AM. At that point, I felt like my first place finish was almost a guarantee based on the pace Aaron had been running for the last few hours and the amount of race time left. What I was most proud of was that I managed to push on through terrible trail conditions and falling temperatures (it got quite cold and windy after dark that second night) for another 70 miles during the second half of the race to finish with 154 miles total. A huge thank you to Aaron for continuing to push on as without him steadily adding to his distance, I likely would have called it and quit much earlier than I did.


I may not have hit my A goal, but I did go home with a valuable lesson. I was reminded that variables completely out of my control like the weather and trail conditions could have a huge impact on overall performance at a longer timed race. I guess that should be pretty obvious, but having a refresher lesson in the fundamentals never hurts. Additionally, the longer the race goes, the higher the likelihood that one of these events will occur just by the window of opportunity being extended. So how does one control a variable such as inclement weather to be sure it doesn’t have a chance to impact your race? The answer is simple, select a timed race event held at an indoor race venue. Which leads to what may be my target, my A race next year: Six Days in the Dome.

Friday, April 19, 2024

When a Run is a Sigh of Relief



Today’s run was like a great sigh of relief for me. I had a sudden and stark reminder of my age this week and had thought that it could pretty severely impact my training for Capital Backyard Ultra. The issue was the primary cause as to why I decided to take an unplanned rest day yesterday. The issue was some pretty serious back pain caused by my ego and a pretty poor decision. It all started a few days ago when I decided to move a box. It wasn’t a big box but it was dense, packed tightly with books. When I first lifted it I thought to myself, “hmm… this is a bit heavier than I was expecting, but I can handle this.” I successfully moved the box and didn’t think much more of it until a few hours later when my back started aching. Then it got worse as the evening progressed. I decided I’d still run that night even if it was hurting. I figured I would get through it and it would be fine tomorrow without impacting my training at all. I was wrong. It actually seemed a bit worse the day after the causal event occurred. Ibuprofen didn’t seem to help much and by the time came in the evening when I had a chance to run I was pretty worn out altogether and tired of being in pain so I decided a rest day was in order and I went to bed early. I got up today hopeful and put my socks on with less back pain than yesterday. “That’s an improvement,” I thought. I didn’t take any painkillers all day and the pain seemed far more tolerable than yesterday. Good, now for the real test, time to go for a run. The run was mostly pain free and my legs felt better and were moving faster than normal at my standard easy effort pace. I had planned to do my standard two trail lap route which is about 12.5 miles. By the halfway point I had decided I’d add a little extra distance with a bonus short trail loop.


This run was the biggest relief I’ve felt in awhile. I feared the worst yesterday when the pain was at its worst. I thought I may have to take several days off from running. I thought this was going to derail my entire training block leading up to Capital. My training had been going so well, and here I thought I just blew it all by moving a stupid box. Thankfully, today’s run was a beautiful sigh of relief, like waking up from a nightmare that seemed so real in the moment. It also reminded me of a lesson I am still in the process of learning: that I’m not as young as I used to be. My buddy that’s a little older than me said to me a few years ago that I’m at a tricky age because in your 40’s your body is aging but you still think you can do everything you did in your 20’s. I’ve experienced a few life lessons that have reinforced this statement. This box incident is just the most recent of them.

So what’s the moral of this story? I guess it’s to not let that fragile ego of mine lead me to making stupid decisions. Not that I think I have a huge ego, but I could have very easily just bailed on lifting that box when I realized how much heavier it was than I expected. And I am willing to admit that I do have a bit of an ego which probably does contribute to some poor choices. But I think you have to have a bit of an ego to chase after backyard ultra success. I mean the format itself reeks of ego. Contenders looking to win have to tell themselves “I’m going to go run 4.167 miles every hour on the hour until every other runner quits, times out, is injured, or can not continue for some other reason. Then I will stop. Even if it means running for multiple days and nights.” I thought about this during my run today and couldn’t stop thinking about George Carlin’s bit about how golf is an arrogant, elitist, mindless, and boring game. While thinking about it, I couldn’t help but acknowledge some similarities between golf and backyard ultras. I’ve got nothing against golf, I’m just a fan of George Carlin and find his stand up funny. What he would have said about backyard ultras kept going through my head while running today. I could hear his voice in my head while running, “these assholes out there running for days. For days! How obnoxious! And boring! So boring. Can’t these pricks just run a few hours and go home? You’re all winners. You all ran far!” Hopefully I didn’t offend anyone with this post, golfers or backyard runners. It’s all meant to be good fun and lighthearted. If you want to see the Carlin bit I was referring to, you can check it out here:


After many years, I still find it pretty funny!


Scott Snell
19 April 2024

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Virginia Adventures Dogwood Ultramarathons: Race Plan and Goals for my First 48 Hour Race


 

I’ll be running my first 48 hour timed race in just a few weeks at the Virginia Adventures Dogwood Ultramarathons held at Twin Lakes State Park in Green Bay, Virginia. I’m venturing into this “new to me” timed race format with some questions, a few hesitations, and a bit of uncertainty. Which is understandable and I would say to be expected as it will be only the fifth timed race I’ve run; I have previously run a pair of 6 hour (Squatchung Surprise and Fat Sass Switchback) and 24 hour races (Adventure Trail Challenge 2021 and 2023).

  • Will it be more difficult to run 200 miles during a 48 hour race than in a backyard format race?
  • Will I miss those 5-10 minute breaks that are used to refuel and tend to needs on an hourly basis during backyard races?
  • Will it be harder to stay motivated to keep moving when it is not forced on me, such as it is with the alternative of not going out for another loop means a DNF at a backyard?

I’ve got more, but in addition to my questions and uncertainties going into this race I’ve also got a very clear goal, to exceed 200 miles by as much as possible. I’m confident I’ll be able to exceed 200 so that’s where my lowest tier goal starts. I hope, if all goes well and I don’t run into any major issues, I’ll be able to push to 240 miles before the clock runs out. If everything goes perfectly, I’ll hit that mileage by completing my final lap with just seconds left in the race after having to push myself to the brink of exhaustion and hammer that final lap.

With the high confidence level I’ve had going into this race, I realized tonight that I may be making a huge error leading up to my first 48 hour race. An error that I’ve made before, actually at my last race, at Big’s Backyard. That mistake is going into any race having a false sense of how difficult it will be; deluding oneself that it won’t be that hard. I did this leading into Big’s, and when it got hard during that third day I fell apart. It wasn’t because it was too hard, it was because it was so much harder than I had told myself it would be. I find myself making a similar mistake of overconfidence going into this race, telling myself it will be easy to exceed 200 miles because I’ve done that on four occasions at backyard races. Well, I think and hope I caught it early enough this time and for the next three weeks leading up to race day I will be thinking about all of the low points of my backyard racing experiences and how difficult they were at times. I know I'll hit low points during this 48 hour race, especially so during the overnight portions of the race when sleep deprivation can really drain your motivation.

As tired and drowsy as I may become on the second night of this race without taking any sleep breaks, I am mentally preparing a few strategies to get through it as best I can while continuing to move and cover as much distance as possible. During a backyard, the things I look forward to during the nights to motivate myself to push on are the sunrise and switching back to the trail loop. Knowing that the sunrise is only a few hours away is always a huge source of motivation for me when feeling especially drowsy while running through the night during a race.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard sunrise

I’ll still have the sunrise to look forward to during this race, but not the course change. But that’s alright because this race will have something else for me to look forward to that I believe will be an even more powerful motivating factor encouraging me to push harder for those last few dark hours of the night, a finish line! A finish line to induce a finish line kick is a luxury you don't get at a backyard ultra. Maybe you get one if you're the last one standing at a backyard and are aware that you are on your final lap, but that doesn't always happen. Oftentimes, a backyard seems to end suddenly, surprising everyone, runners included. Since I know I'll have the set finish time and a very certain count down to it, I plan to use that to my advantage as much as possible.

Hopefully my race goes as planned and I can write about how great it was in my race report and how I plan on testing myself at a longer timed race in the future. But as I very well know, best laid plans don't always pan out or go as we hope in ultrarunning. There are no guarantees. And that is a huge part of what keeps me interested in ultras.


Scott Snell
2 March 2024

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

2023 Goals Reviewed and 2024 Goals


Enjoy the journey en route to your goals.



It's that time of year again. Time to assess last year's goals and set new goals to work towards in 2024. I figure the best way to do this is to just go down my list of goals from last year.

1. PR and CR at the 24 hr Adventure Trail Run in Triangle, VA. Status: Failed

I made my attempt and came up short of my PR I ran there in 2021. I struggled with some digestive issues, inclement weather, and a lack of motivation, but I still managed to hit 100 miles which was good enough for first place. So although I failed to hit my personal goal, I still went home pretty content with my run.

Here is the full race report.

2. Run Capital Backyard Ultra and be sure to secure my spot at Big's this year. Status: Success

This was my best performance of the year in my opinion. I felt great for pretty much all 75 hours. Then I won an award for a shortened version of my race report that I entered into a writing contest!

Here is the full race report.

3. Run a 12 hour race at the Midnight Squatchapalooza. Status: DNS

4. Run Backyard Squatch again. Status: DNS

5. Run a 200 mile race. Status: DNS

6. Run the individual backyard world championship at Big's Backyard in October. Status: Success… kind of.

Well, I did run Big's Backyard for the individual backyard world championships last October, so in that sense I was successful in that goal. However, just like last year, I felt like I didn’t have the race that I hoped for.

Here is the full race report.

2023 was a mix of success, partial success, a little failure, and a decent amount of failing to attempt. I’m pretty sure I was over reaching when I put together last year’s list of goals. Between professional responsibilities and a super busy family life, there’s only so much time to get away for races. I may still have some lofty running goals for 2024, but there will certainly not be as many. So with that, here are my running goals for 2024 (in chronological order)!


1. Run a 48 hour race - Running a longer timed race is something I’ve thought about a lot since running Capital Backyard last year. I put a lot of that blame for this goal on Victoria Brown who I met and ran lots of miles with there. Victoria is quite an accomplished multi day ultrarunner and triathlete. After chatting with her quite a bit about multi day events, I’m way more interested in them and curious of what I might be able to accomplish. So that is my goal at the 48 hour Dogwood Ultramarathon in Green Bay, VA: to find out how far I can run in a 48 hour period. It’s new to me because although I have run for longer than 48 hours at backyard races on multiple occasions, I have never run for that length of time without the pace restrictions that come with a backyard ultra. I of course have some distance goals in mind (a bottom tier goal of 200 miles, and a top tier goal of hitting 240 miles), but I also have other reasons to be excited for this event. That reason is the fact that my family is planning to join me for this race, something that hasn’t happened since I ran the Backyard Squatch in 2021. And to add to my excitement, my two older boys are planning to pace me for some of my laps during the race and one of them has the goal of running his first half marathon distance while pacing me! I am really pumped to start my running season off with a race experience that I am so excited about!

2. Run Capital Backyard Ultra - I ran Capital last year to make sure that if my spot at Big's was at risk, I’d have a chance to fight for it.This year is partially the same motivation. Although as of now, I feel like my best performance of 75 yards during this two year qualifying period makes my at-large spot pretty safe. The rest of the motivation to go back and run Capital for a third consecutive year is simply that it is an amazing event. Sarah Smith, race director, does an amazing job organizing the event and making sure all of the runners are so well cared for to have their best performance possible. I have greatly enjoyed my long days of running there and all the people I’ve met there. Besides the running and the impressive food spread, I’d say the people are right up there with my top reasons for wanting to go back again. Last year, only my second year there, felt like a reunion. I don’t think I’ve felt that accepted in such a short amount of time anywhere else in my life.

3. Run Bob's Big Timber Backyard Ultra - Why would I plan to run another backyard this year? Like I said earlier, I think my at-large for a spot on Team USA at Big’s is pretty safe this year, so the fact that Bob’s Big Timber is a silver ticket event isn’t a major motivating factor for me. The real reason is all because of a stupid belt buckle. I heard from Levi Yoder, or maybe I read it on Facebook, that the race director of Bob’s Big Timber had special 200 mile buckles designed and made for anyone who breaks 200 miles at his backyard race. Well, so far that has not happened there. It was the day after my race ended at Big’s last year (maybe a bit during the race too, tough to recall exactly) that I was chatting with Levi about this. He had said he intended to go 200 there last year, but no one else running the event was able to continue with him that long. I mentioned that I had considered signing up for it last year and he said I should so we could break the 200 mile threshold. I agreed that if we were both there the race director would very likely get to hand out at least two of those buckles. So that’s why it’s all about a silly belt buckle. I’m being a bit sarcastic there. It is about more than the buckle. I’ve greatly enjoyed all the trail miles I’ve run with Levi, so why not run another backyard with him? Not to mention, I look forward to meeting and running with lots of new folks at a different race to add some variety to my running schedule.

4. Run with Team USA again at the 2024 Backyard Team World Championships - If you read either of my race reports on my two experiences (2022 and 2023) at Big’s Backyard, I think I’ve been pretty forthright and honest about how I feel about my performances there. The bottom line is that I feel like I still have not achieved what I am capable of at Big’s and I still have my best performance at Big’s in the making. I have no excuses for the last two years there. I believe I came up short of what I am capable of there and have come home disappointed both years. This year, my goal is the same as last year: to do my best with no excuses.




Scott Snell
14 January 2023


Thursday, November 9, 2023

2023 Big's Backyard Individual World Championships


scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
Prerace photo with my awesome crew man, Marty!
 
DNF Number Two

I’ve run Big’s Backyard for the last two years and both years I put in more training and preparation than I had for any other race. And both years the course sent me home feeling defeated after serving me up with a heaping pile of humble pie. Coming up short of your goals and facing failure can be tough and is usually not a pleasant experience, but it can also be a learning experience that helps us grow and improve in our pursuit. With a few weeks between me and my second DNF at Big’s, I feel like I’ve handled this one emotionally better than the first and I am certain I have learned from this one.

This year’s edition of Big’s Backyard was the Individual World Championship competition, so slightly different from last year’s World Team Competition. The backyard international championship competitions are currently conducted annually alternating between an individual competition (on odd years) held on the original backyard course in Bell Buckle, TN and national team competitions (on even years) run remotely as a satellite competition at the home course of each team. The standard backyard rules apply for both types of competition, but there are some intricate differences between the two types of competitions.

Let me back up a quick second to give a brief description of the “standard backyard” race format for anyone reading who may not be familiar. Basically, it is a race of attrition without a set distance. The race continues until only one runner remains. Hence, these races are also referred to as “last person standing” races. So how are runners eliminated? By not completing a 4.167 mile lap every hour on the hour. Every hour all runners start a lap and must finish before the end of the hour. If they finish early, they must wait until the start of the next hour to start their next lap. With that caveat, this race prevents any runner from building a lead. The cycle of on the hour lap starts continues indefinitely until all but one runner has opted to not continue running or has timed out. The last runner remaining must run one complete lap more than all other runners within the hour time limit before being named the winner. 

Since this was my first time competing in the Backyard Individual World Championship, it felt much different than last year and felt like a pretty big deal to me. I had some really high hopes for my performance and my lowest goal in my set of cascading goals was to improve my PR of 62 yards for the course. Unfortunately, I failed to reach my lowest goal and my remaining goals only went up from there, far out of my reach.


Day 1:
The first day on the trails felt good overall and actually went by pretty quickly. The first 11 hours on the trail felt relatively easy compared to how difficult I remembered the trail being from last year. I spent much of the day meeting and chatting with some of the best backyard runners from all over the world. The rest of the day was spent catching up with the American runners that I ran with as a part of Team USA last year. Some of them I had run with only a few months earlier at Capital Backyard Ultra, but others I had not seen since last year at Big’s. With all of the socializing and just refamiliarizing myself with the trail and my time check points, the first day of trail yards was over before I knew it. It seemed minor at the time, but I was having some intestinal issues and making more stops at the porta potties than I probably should have. I figured it was just nerves and would get better as the race progressed, but in hindsight it may have been more akin to the “pebble in the shoe” analogy where it seems like a minor inconvenience until it leads to a painful blister that really can’t be fixed.

  scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard

Night 1:
The first night on the road brought back many memories. The sky was clear and filled with stars. The temperature was comfortable for which I was very thankful as it was the extreme drop in temperature and strong winds that I credited with a heavy dose of the blame as to why I quit when I did last year. The road yards really felt like a continuation of the first day. As every runner’s pace changed a bit from trail to road, I found myself still meeting new runners throughout the night which helped pass the time and ward off sleepiness. I never felt too sleepy the first night and as the sun rose on the last road yard, I felt refreshed and excited to go back to the trails.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
Still early on day 3, I think.

Day 2:
My legs felt good to start the second day of trail running and I didn’t feel too sleep deprived for having run through most of the night. I was still feeling good at this point of the race. I think it was at some point during the second day that I tried to address the intestinal issues I was still having. I took some anti diarrhea medicine to help treat it. I also stopped taking the gels I had been eating hourly and cut off the coconut water I had been drinking between yards. The thought was that I may have been taking in too much sugar or the coconut water was acting as a laxative. I’ve used coconut water at plenty of other backyards and never had these issues, but I had brought a different brand for this race. Ultimately, I don’t know what the cause was, but we were trying to resolve the problem as quickly as possible which meant getting rid of the two readily apparent possible causes. As day two continued, fatigue began to set in and the overall difficulty of completing each yard seemed to be mounting with every yard. I continued grinding and looking forward to the switch back to the road even though I knew it would bring with it the challenge of a second night of sleep deprived running. For those last few day yards on the trail I couldn’t stop thinking about how the trail felt more difficult this year on the second day than it did last year and what an extreme change I had in my perception of difficulty in just 24 hours. My perception of the trail difficulty had made a full reversal: from much easier than I remembered to tougher than I remembered.

Night 2:
It was during the second night that the thoughts of how I was not going to have the race I had envisioned began to materialize more completely, seem more real, and become much more difficult to suppress. I was feeling more sleepy than the first night but not getting much sleep in the few minutes I closed my eyes between each yard. I didn’t feel like I was working super hard, but still I was only coming in with about 7 to 8 minutes to spare. On top of it, I was still having some gastrointestinal issues, so much so that after one of the middle of the night yards I had to make a quick impromptu underwear change (please don’t ask for details, it was bad, but could have been far worse). The second night presented far more challenges than I expected going into this race. Thankfully, I was able to overcome them and survive to see another sunrise thanks in big part to the persistence of my crew and the other runners. My crew man, Marty, did all he could to keep me focused, fed,motivated, and on task even when my attitude in the crew area was pretty crappy. The other runners I ran with during the second night helped keep me motivated to continue pushing at a decent pace as well as keeping me engaged in some conversation to avoid falling asleep while running. The three runners that stand out for me that I ran with when I most needed someone to run with were Jivee Tolentino (who I chatted with for the first time during the second night), Thembinkosi Sojola, and Jason Bigonia. I can’t express how valuable it was to me to share those miles with them in the wee hours of the morning as I was desperately looking forward to the sunrise.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
Morning of Day 3, when I was overdressed and still had my headlamp on.

Day 3:
After the second night, my legs were feeling pretty shot and I was uncertain how they would react when we switched back to the trails. I had the same worry last year, fearing my legs would be dead when they hit the trail again and I would time out on the first trail yard of the third day. With that worry in my head again, I hit the half mile road out and back section at a relatively faster pace to bank some time before the remainder of the day course that is all single track trail with some sections that are a bit on the technical side. It surprised me again this year, just like last year, how good my legs felt getting back on the trail after the second night. Other than being overdressed for the weather (I had failed to change out of my long sleeve shirt and kick off my running pants that I had put on as temperatures got a bit lower during the second night) the first yard of day three on the trails was honestly one of my most enjoyable. As I ran that yard, I started to think that maybe things were starting to turn around for my race. Even though I had to make another emergency roadside bio-break (all the while one of the camera drones hovered above my head) on the last road yard, I thought maybe that was the last of my digestive issues. Maybe day three will finally be the smooth sailing yards that I had expected early in the race.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
Post race interview.

The next few yards got a bit more challenging, but I was still completing them with 3-4 minutes to spare. That went on until yard 54. Early during that yard I got a bad feeling in my stomach. I thought I was going to vomit and my race was going to be over as I assumed I would likely time out after I emptied my stomach. Only a few moments later, I realized I wasn’t going to vomit but it was about to come out the other end. After I took care of business, my stomach felt better but I was unsure if I would complete the yard before I timed out. I knew I’d have to work for it so I immediately started pushing the pace. It was a struggle, but I made it in almost a full minute before the three minute whistle. Unfortunately, pushing the pace to make up that lost time took a toll on me physically and stressed me out. Which was basically the story for the remainder of my race. I’d go out easy to start the yard in an effort to try to recover from pushing hard during the second half of the previous yard. It felt like I was in a backyard death spiral for the last four yards of my race and I was panicking. It felt like my race was slipping away and there was no way to save it.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
A post race chat with Laz and Sandra. 

I had fallen at least a few minutes behind the pace necessary to complete my 57th yard before the halfway point. I’m still not sure how I fell so far off pace so early in that yard, but that’s where I found myself when I caught up with my fellow Team USA member, Levi Yoder. I think we both knew that we were in some trouble at that point, so we both worked together to pick up our pace and push one another. It felt like we pushed really hard for the last two miles of that yard; like red lining and going into a kick to cross the finish line. In reality, we probably barely broke a 10 minute mile if at all. Based on checkpoints we passed as we were hammering, I was estimating we’d complete our yard somewhere between the second and third whistles. We managed to cross the line about one second before the two minute whistle. I’m not sure about where Levi’s mind was at the time, but I was pretty certain my legs would be dead after that push. Levi and I left the corral at a shuffling pace for yard 58, but I think we were still laughing at the time at how ridiculously hard we pushed to complete that last yard. We walked the road out and back debating whether to even go back out on the trail. We agreed to force ourselves to run back through the starting corral on the way to the trailhead. We managed that, but when we got to the start of the trail we both stopped. We had a short discussion about how we would have to hammer the next three miles to complete the yard before the cut off which felt like an impossibility at the time. And so we both pulled the plug right there, turned away from the trail, and walked back to the starting corral.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
First time sitting down to relax after the race. 

The feeling of mixed emotions hit soon after as everyone in camp started clapping and cheering for us as we walked back. I was still in the midst of laughing at how the last yard ended when the reaction from everyone at camp suddenly reminded me that it was all over and my race was done. Relief, regret, joy, and disappointment all at once. Even now, nearly three weeks later, I still wonder what would have happened had we continued down the trail. Would some spark of life for a fight to survive and continue have ignited and powered my legs to complete one more yard? I don’t know. I don’t think so, but I like to think it would have at least been a possibility. That’s often the attraction and aversion of the backyard format, in my experience. Each race leaves you questioning. Did I do enough? Could I have done more? Where did it go wrong? Where can I improve? When can I try again?

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
About half of 2022 Team USA - Jason Bigonia, Levi Yoder, Dan Yovichin, Rick Kwiatski, Scott Snell, Keith Van, Kevin McCabe, and Piotr Chadovich

Lesson Learned:
I want to preface this lesson with a quote from a fellow runner at Big's this year and a member of last year's US Team, Dan Yovichin, - “We’re just ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” I think I got it right, or at least close to right. I recall him saying it last year, but this year it hit me a little differently and applies to the major mistake I made and what I learned from it. I made my big mistake before the race even started, before I left home for Bell Buckle, the seed for it probably germinated and began to take root during my training runs between Capital and Big's. What was my great folly? I failed to prepare myself for the fact that accomplishing extraordinary feats is extremely difficult.

scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard jennifer russo
A post race brew and chat with Jennifer Russo.

I went into this race overconfident. Then when it got hard, it was shocking. I had been telling myself while preparing that I could definitely make it to the third night and then it would start getting tough. All the while, diminishing the facts that running through two consecutive nights with minimal sleep is tough, covering 200 continuous miles on foot is challenging regardless of the pace, and maintaining normal bodily functions while adhering to the backyard race format time requirements can present additional challenges. So when things got tough and I started struggling more than I expected to during that third day, I wasn't prepared. I panicked. Which I believe made matters even worse, mentally and physically, as I felt like I had lost control. The feeling of panic was at least partially caused by my overconfidence and the unexpected shock of how much I was struggling earlier than I had planned. This concept of a misalignment of actual and expected demands in relation to our capabilities is a topic Steve Magness discusses at length in his book Do Hard Things. I read the book in part to prepare for Big's, so there was no excuse for me to make this mistake other than it is an easy trap to fall into. Magness explains how this blunder often plays out when a goal begins to feel impossible to achieve, stating that we’re more likely to “abandon our pursuit” because why try and continue to suffer if it will just end in failure anyway? Rather than me relaying the information, here’s a short quote from the book:

“When we are overconfident, we set ourselves up for failure. This isn’t idle conjecture: researchers have found this phenomenon in everything from competing in sports to deciding whether to stay in a relationship or quit your job. It’s easy to feel confident in the beginning but when we come face-to-face with the reality that we might fall short of our goal, we experience what psychologists call an action crisis.”

Since I read the book, I should have learned this lesson already, but sometimes it takes experience to learn a lesson. At least I hope that this experience has taught me this lesson well enough so that I remember it and do not repeat it at future backyard races.


Scott Snell
9 November 2023


scott snell beast coast trail running big's backyard
Cheering on the remaining runners was almost as much fun as running a backyard.












Sunday, June 11, 2023

Nutrition, Hydration, and Supplements Used for Long Runs




Here is a list of fluids, foods, and supplements that have worked for me to run long distances over the years. They all may not work for everyone, but for the most part, these are the options that I continue to use again and again while running many miles during multiday races. 


Fluids:
Foods I've Brought for Self Support:

Foods Provided at Races:
  • Pancakes and syrup
  • Smoothies
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Quesadillas
  • Pizza
  • Rice balls
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Avocado
  • Chicken broth
  • Mashed potato
  • Pierogi
  • Bacon
Supplements:




Wednesday, January 11, 2023

2022 Goals Reviewed and Examining 2023 Goals


Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running

My singular goal for 2022, well it actually began to form midway through 2021, was to earn a place on the 15 person Team USA for the international Backyard Ultra Team competition at Big's Backyard in October. I accomplished this goal in May by winning Capital Backyard Ultra which was a silver ticket event guaranteeing me a place on the team. With my main goal for the year accomplished only a few months into the year, I put all my effort into training to achieve my best possible performance at that competition. In retrospect, maybe that was a mistake putting all of my eggs into one basket. As luck would have it, my son got sick with a bad cough/cold about two weeks before the race and then I picked it up about a week before the race. While I still had a decent performance there (62 yards or about 258 miles), it was not the performance I hoped for and I was just angry the majority of the time for the timing of the virus I contracted. Which I guess is a major downside of focusing all of your effort preparing for such a long period on a single race. All it takes is one poorly timed sickness to destroy your hopes. So, I have decided not to do that again. I will do almost the exact opposite this year and just send it, running all the races I want to run. Which is probably equally bad for different reasons.

Overall, this year I just want to run the races I want to run and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe I'll burn out and be sick of ultrarunning (not likely) before October and the big dance at Big's. But I don’t think I will. The more likely flaw to this plan is either an overuse injury or insufficient recovery time between races to achieve optimal performance. But I don’t care. I’d rather run that risk and have a few races that I’m really proud of, a few that I deem mediocre, and a few that were total misses rather than have one race that I put so much time and effort into feel like a failure. So with that introduction and philosophy behind my running goals for 2023, here they are (in chronological order)!

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running

1.  Set a new 24 hour PR for myself and a new course record at the 24 hr Adventure Trail Run in Triangle, VA. - I made my first attempt at this goal and my first attempt at a 24 hour race in 2021. It was my first race after races had been shut down due to COVID. I believe I am better prepared to achieve this goal this time around. I know what mistakes I made during my first attempt and how I can remedy them. I also believe I am better prepared physically and mentally this time. My fitness level has improved and my mind is better adapted to overcome temporary setbacks within a 24 hour period. I was so close to achieving this goal last time that I am almost certain I will have success this time.

2.  Run Capital Backyard Ultra and be sure to secure my spot at Big's this year. - With the qualifying period for the 2023 Backyard World individual Championships ending in mid August, Capital Backyard Ultra (at the end of May) is one of the final more competitive backyard races likely to produce an at large qualification. Right now I'm sitting at the 56th spot out of 75 spots available. Chances are pretty good that where I'm at is good enough and I will qualify regardless of whether I run another backyard between now and then. However, there are some competitive backyard races between now and then. If I'm pushed farther down the qualifying list, it's most likely I'll be pushed off the list due to at large qualifications at Capital. If that does occur, I want to be in the race to compete for my spot at Big's.

3.  Run a 12 hour race at the Midnight Squatchapalooza. - I've never run a 12 hour race before and this is one of the most local ultras for me. It's also hosted by one of my favorite NJ race directors, Kim Levinsky of Sassquad Trail Running. My personal goal for this race is to run at least a 100k before the 12 hour clock runs out. From what I can tell based on the Ultrasignup results page, it looks like the course record is 25 laps of a 2.5 mile looped course or 62.5 miles which is just over a 100k distance. So, if I hit my personal goal I will at least tie the course record. Of course, if things are going well for me late in the race and it is within reach, I’d love to be able to better the course record and complete 26 laps to hit 65 miles.

4.  Run Backyard Squatch again. - I have multiple reasons for this goal and several achievements I’d like to reach within this goal. This race is also hosted by Sassquad Trail Running, so that alone makes me want to run it again. After running and winning it in 2021, I was invited back by Kim Levinsky to run it again in 2022 but I felt like it was a little too close and would disrupt my training cycle leading up to the Backyard Ultra Team competition at Big's Backyard in October. Although I wanted to run it again last year, I opted not to, hoping it would better my performance at Big’s. That is not the plan this year. Like I mentioned earlier, the plan is just to send it this year and hope for the best. With that mindset, my goals for this race are to better the course record (36 yards) that still stands from the inaugural year (2021). Additionally, I intend to be the last person standing there.

5.  Run a 200 mile race. - After spending the better part of the last two years making earning a spot to run at Big’s Backyard my primary focus, I’m trying to freshen things up a bit this year with some new exciting goals, hence the completely new goal of running a 12 hour race. While running a 200 mile race isn’t a completely new or fresh idea for me to pursue, this year I plan on acting on it. In the past I had kinda dreamt about running a 200 miler. I had always thought I’d sign up for one out west, most likely one of Candice Burt’s races but a few things kept me from acting on those dreams. The first being the cost. When you add up the registration and travel costs you’re looking at a minimum of a several thousand dollar price tag for an adventure that will most likely be a handful of days. I have trouble justifying that with my current household budget. The second primary reason was the fear that I wasn’t ready to tackle the 200 mile distance. Well, after running two backyards last year that went over 250 miles the fear of not being ready for the 200 mile distance is gone. However, the financial limitation is still there so I have been looking at other, more affordable options. As of now, the race I think I will register for to take a crack at the 200 mile distance is the Cowboy 200. Since I’ve already run two races greater than 200 miles, some may justifiably be questioning why I’m pursuing this as a goal this year. The reason is that although I’ve done the distance, I’ve never raced the distance. I’ve only run it in the backyard format where your pace is constrained to not exceed 100 miles per 24 hours. So the real goal within this goal is not to finish a 200 mile race, but to finish it in under 48 hours. Giddy up!

6.  Run the individual backyard world championship at Big's Backyard in October. - If you read my race report on my performance at the 2022 Big’s Backyard team competition, I think it’s readily apparent that I feel like I have some unfinished business there. I intend to be there again this year for the individual competition and do better. It would be na├»ve and maybe a bit foolish to make winning this competition my only goal. Of course it’s the top goal, but these are the best backyard runners from around the world competing here. It is the most competitive backyard competition in the world. Do I believe there is a chance? Yes. Likely? Probably not. Can I do better than last year? Most definitely yes. Outside of being the outright winner, I have a few other objectives that are more likely obtainable. The first being just to improve upon last year’s performance of 62 yards. Simple and definitely doable. Second is to make it through that third night of running and see how long I can hang after that. That will be more difficult, but I believe I am capable of it. My third alt objective and likely the most difficult if I am not the last person standing there is to simply not allow my race to end in apathy again. An apathetic outlook was the final piece that ended my run there last year. I don’t like excuses. Allowing apathy to take hold over the last few hours of my race last year feels like creating an excuse to quit in the moment. If not an excuse, then a defense or escape mechanism at best. It’s not fair to use either after putting so much time, effort, and sacrifice into preparing for this event. It’s not fair to me or others close to me who have also made sacrifices to allow me to not only be there, but to prepare to do the best I can while I am there. So that’s the final alt objective: to do my best with no excuses.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running



Scott Snell
11 January 2023









Thursday, November 3, 2022

Mental Recovery From Big's Backyard


I hit a total of 369 miles for October with 258 run in a single go at Big's Backyard. I'm pretty sure this was my highest monthly mileage ever and I am completely sure that my run at Big's was a distance PR for me. For all of that I admit that I am proud and maybe I shouldn't say it at all but I'm going to anyway. I can't help but be disappointed in myself with how my run at Big's went. It certainly felt like giving up towards the end. And I hate that. What could I have done differently? Mistakes were made. I didn't change from shorts to pants soon enough to deal with the drop in temperature. I didn't stay positive. I lost hope. I didn't use my last resort lifeline that I have the previous two times I was ready to quit at a backyard: to call my wife and say "I'm done." Maybe I didn't have time. Maybe I didn't want the pressure to keep going. I'm still not sure and I may never know exactly where my head was at that point. What I do know is that it's on me for making those mistakes. There's no one else to blame. I take full responsibility. I also know that I'm not happy or impressed with what I did and it's impacting what I had planned for 2023. My primary running goal for 2023 was to make an attempt at the IA crossing FKT. Now I don't know; a "redemption" backyard run sounds pretty attractive. We'll see... Regardless, my plan was to take some time to recover and focus on family time from November and over the holidays until I start training again for a specific goal next year. What that specific goal is, I don't know at this point. I still need to accept what I interpret as a failure. But I am determined to find the good in this situation, to learn from my mistakes and use it as motivation to drive and to train harder towards whatever my next goal is. 


Scott Snell

3 November 2022