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Thursday, April 20, 2023

Preparing for a 24 hour - Taper Panicking



By the numbers, yesterday’s run wasn’t amazing for any reason. It wasn’t a tough work out. It wasn’t at a high intensity or a faster than normal pace. The distance wasn’t crazy long or even any farther than my average training run. I did not reach any significant milestones for the month, year, or the number of miles on my shoes. Barring all the things it was not, yesterday’s run was special. The numbers and data behind the run didn’t make it interesting or significant, but the feeling of it did. Which is exactly what I needed to feel ready and prepared for this weekend’s 24-hour trail race.

The day before after getting home from work I began to feel depleted, like my mind and body needed some time off. That isn’t the feeling I was hoping for halfway through my taper week leading up to what I expect to be a pretty hard effort for 24 hours. I caught myself sneeze a couple of times and my throat felt scratchy. I feared I may me getting sick as my son was still getting over a cold he picked up a couple of weeks ago. Waves of anxiety, panic, and anger all took turns floating to the surface of my emotions as I feared that this was going to be a repeat of my last race that I ended up running while still recovering from a cough/cold. That would most likely make this weekend’s race a total sufferfest. Although my wife has told me, “you’re the best sufferer,” that doesn’t mean that I seek out extra opportunities to suffer or actually enjoy it.

I decided that as soon as the kids’ extracurricular activities were over for the night, getting ready for bed and getting some rest was my number one priority. But shortly after we got home my son reminded me that we had run our 1 mile training run for the day yet. We had just started running a mile a day this week because he wanted to train for his school’s fitness challenge run. I honestly had forgotten about it for the night, but when he asked if I was ready, I couldn’t bail on him and say no. We got our headlamps and went out for our mile. Once finished, it was bedtime.

Yesterday didn’t seem like it was going to be a change in my mental outlook or physical health until I managed to get out for my run after getting home from work. My legs felt great! I was full of energy and truly happy to run after a day of feeling worn out. Most importantly though, it was the confidence booster I needed to be ready for a 24-hour effort. It resolved the taper week feelings of panic I was experiencing just the previous day. It set my headspace right to trust my training and know that I have done the work to be as prepared as possible for a challenging physical endeavor. It’s almost go time, and I am ready!


Scott Snell
20 April 2023




Saturday, April 1, 2023

March Monthly Mileage Check In

 



Monthly mileage check in! Yesterday's run brought me to just over 300 miles for the month and 800 for the year! I'm feeling good and excited for my first race of the year, a 24 hour trail race in April! My goal is to achieve what I set out to do there two years ago: set a new course record. I feel better prepared and am confident I will hit my goal as long as I have a decent day!


Why the 300 theme? Well other than the mileage significance, it is due to a comment I received at Keystone Backyard Ultra about my tent / aid station set up. After the race, I heard someone describe my set up as very "spartan." I took a bit of pride in receiving that comment and still think about it over two years later when I pack for backyard races. Let's go 2023! Always room for improvement!

Scott Snell
1 April 2023

Thursday, March 16, 2023

February Monthly Mileage Check In




Happy #MonthlyMileage check in! I wrapped up February with a little over 239 miles! February was about increasing the solid base I started building in January and maintaining consistency without abandoning non running aspects of my life. With a baby boy due to arrive this month to join our family of five, the non running aspects of my life are obviously pretty demanding. Add in an unexpected bout of kidney stones leading to a trip to the ER that my wife had to endure while about eight months pregnant, and it’s easy to see how my training could have fallen pretty far off track. Thankfully it didn’t and I was able to meet my mileage goals and still have a few days at the end of the month dedicated to a ski trip with my older boys, or we can call it cross training if preferred.

My average daily mileage increased from 8.30 in January to 8.55 miles per day in February. Only a 3% increase in average daily mileage, but I am thrilled with it given the circumstances over the past month. I am especially happy with my mileage and where I’m at right now this early in the year with my training because it already exceeds where I was last year in preparation to run Capital Backyard. Last April leading up to Capital, I averaged 8.37 miles per day. This year, a full two months out from Capital, I’ve already surpassed where my training was last year. This gives me some high hopes and big expectations for how my days go at Capital this year.

But before I start focusing on Capital, my more imminent goal is to better my performance and the course record at the Adventure Trail Run 24 Hour race. Given my training thus far this year and my current fitness level, I am more confident in reaching my goal of bettering the course record there than I was when I attempted to do the same two years ago. I believe it is mainly due to the focus I had on consistent training and building volume last year. I had a decent endurance foundation prior to last year, but my training was still primarily structured around long training runs. I got away from those last year and refocused on consistency to build volume. That meant less recovery days for me and an overall increase in volume. I tested out the “brick by brick” training ideology and would say based on my results so far I am a subscriber. I feel like the long training run loses training value as you progress as an ultrarunner. They’re great for testing fueling options and improving mental toughness but after a few years of ultrarunning you tend to get fueling that works for you figured out and mental toughness develops and is refined over time. Therefore, my long runs are pretty much reserved for races, at least for the time being. We’ll see how that training regimen works for the 24 hour race format, but it has served me well in the backyard format so I intend to continue using it.




Scott Snell
16 March 2023












Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Healthy Mix of Joy and Fear


Scott Snell beast Coast Trail Running

Big's Backyard was the first race to break me. Although it didn’t do it single handedly; it had a pretty helpful assist from the cold I came down with about a week before the race. It was a culmination of events and circumstances that led to me succumbing and ending my race shortly after beginning the third night of running. Immediately and for several weeks after I wasn’t sure I would go back or if I even wanted to, but now I’m certain. I hope to be back at Big's this fall, better prepared mentally and physically. And hopefully in better health as well. When I think about going back I’m filled with a healthy mix of joy and fear.

The phrase “healthy mix of joy and fear” was one that I spouted off on a whim recently. One of the scout leaders from my oldest son’s den was congratulating me as my wife and I are expecting a new baby boy soon. Maybe I didn’t gush with as much excitement as I should have and he said to me a bit sarcastically about how thrilled I look. I replied with, “yeah, I’m excited. It’s a healthy mix of joy and fear.” Later I realized that is exactly how I feel about going back to Big’s as well.

I believe the joy stems from the opportunity to have a second crack at Big’s to do better; second chances are never guaranteed so I am grateful for the opportunity. Last year I was so dead set and focused on Big’s that I feel like I built it up to be more than it actually was, like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and no one ever goes back for a second attempt. Not that I all of a sudden don’t think that running at Big’s isn’t a big deal. It’s just that now I recognize that it was not a one time shot, that I may have several years of running Big’s with the national team format and in the strictly individual world competition format. In a way, it seems that strictly focusing on Big’s last year took away from the joy of the experience and made it feel like an impossible task. With what I hope to be my second chance at Big’s this year, I not only want to have a better performance but also want to enjoy the process.

The fear emanates from having experienced Big’s and having been broken by the backyard race format. Like I said earlier, I don’t think the race format alone broke me but it was the cumulative effect of the cold I was battling unrelated to the exhaustion and sleep deprivation which were directly induced by the race format. Top all of that with a severe drop in temperature and some strong gusting winds going into the third night and I was done. I’ve now experienced how quickly things can go from bad to worse and over so quickly in this race format and that is scary. It’s so scary because like second chances, there are no guarantees in the backyard format. Any runner, no matter how talented and resilient, can have a bad hour and sometimes that’s all it takes to end your race in the backyard. That is why I have a great deal of respect for the format; because it can humble anyone with little to no notice. I look forward to facing that specific fear that wasn’t there last year when I ran Big’s. I’ll still go into the race with high expectations for myself as I feel confidence is a key to success in backyards but this time with a bit more fear and respect for how quickly a race can fall apart and be over.


Scott Snell
15 March 2023






Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January Monthly Mileage Check In


Happy Monthly Mileage check in! I started the first month of the year with 257 miles! January was about building a solid base for me. And not just a solid base of mileage, but also a solid training mindset and a solid base of healthier habits to support and improve my training.

The base of healthier habits are varied, but the focus has been to supplement training runs with more cross training activities when the opportunity presents itself. If I’m staring at my screen with writer’s block at work I hit the pull up bar for a quick set. If I’m watching a show with the kids I throw in a few sets of crunches by the couch to break up the inactivity. When I finish a paragraph I do a quick set of burpees before I give it a final read through and move on. These are all just small cross training activity opportunities I have not taken advantage of regularly in the past.

Another focal point of healthier habits for me is sleep. In the past, I have mostly sacrificed getting a quality night of sleep due to late nights snacking and binge watching. What starts as just watching one episode turns into a three hour binge watching session and only five hours of sleep leaving me feeling groggy and depleted the following day. And if there was any alcohol involved (which I’ve pretty much discontinued altogether at this point), multiply the depleted feeling by about 10 or so. The best way for me to avoid extended binge watching sessions and ensure a good night’s sleep is to not start them.


I am focusing on consistency and volume for my training again this year as I did last year. It seemed to work really well for me last year; I never felt completely burned out or like I needed to take time off from training, I experienced no serious injuries or persistent, nagging pains, and I enjoyed and looked forward to my training runs. On top of all of that, I would say that the results were pretty good as well with two backyard race performances of over 60 hours. With 257 miles (an average of 8.3 miles per day) to start the first month of the year, I am starting with a base volume of about where I was in April last year (8.37 miles per day average) going into Capital Backyard Ultra. This is very promising for me and gives me hope that this year will be even better than last!

Scott Snell
2 February 2023













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









Friday, January 6, 2023

My Vegetarian Experience


The low point of my vegetarian experience, eating lunch at a place where the menu is basically cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks. 

To start this year I decided to give a vegetarian diet a one week try. It wasn't a New Year's resolution, more of just satisfying a bit of a curiosity. It was presented as a one week vegetarian or vegan experience by Harvey Lewis on his Facebook page and an Instagram post. Initially I was skeptical and had the same thoughts anytime I think about a vegetarian or vegan diet: that it would be too difficult for me, that I would be hungry all the time, meals would feel like they were missing something and be less satisfying, and that I would crave certain foods like beef jerky and grilled cheeseburgers.

I'm beginning day six of this experience as I write this and it has been quite surprising for me. For the first two days I posted at the end of the day what all of my vegetarian meals were. I thought I would continue this for the entire week, but by day three I was returning to my routine following some time off after the holidays. I was back to packing leftovers to bring to work for lunch without much thought going into the fact that they were leftovers of vegetarian meals. I didn’t feel the need to post a daily update about what I was eating at that point; it began to just feel like routine.

The Instagram post from Harvey Lewis introducing the experience.

I think something clicked for me at the end of the second day. I went to lunch with the family at a 50’s diner where the bulk of the menu was cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks. That’s the most tempted I was to end my vegetarian experience at any point during the week. I had committed to one week, so I went with the Cesar salad and enjoyed some tasty cheese fries. It certainly wasn’t what I would have ordered if we had gone there a few days earlier. Anyway, later that evening at dinner time I decided to make the chickpea curry I had planned as part of this vegetarian experience. It turned out to be delicious and felt just as satisfying and complete as any meal I’ve had that included animal protein. And the leftovers have been just as good and make for such an easy meal!

As I approach the end of my one week vegetarian experience, I figure the main question is whether or not I will continue it. As of now, I don’t know. I’ve heard accounts from so many athletes about improved performance and faster recovery when they became vegan or vegetarian so that definitely makes it attractive to me. Additionally, I’ve found that I am not missing or craving animal protein like I thought I would. Of course it’s only been a single week, so maybe that will change with time if I do decide to continue with this experiment. And it is certainly far too early to make any kind of judgment about how the change in my diet has impacted my running. At the very least, the experience has been enlightening and changed my initial distaste for a vegetarian diet. It has changed my mindset that a meal is not complete without a form of animal protein. Without a doubt it has been a positive experience (with the exception of watching delicious cheesesteaks being prepared and consumed all around me at one meal) that I am happy I somewhat reluctantly chose to try. Thank you for the challenge Harvey!

Scott Snell
6 January 2023