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Monday, October 12, 2020

Every Single Street - One Year Later (Almost) - Egg Harbor Township, NJ





On October 29, 2019 I made the decision to embark on a new running goal: to #RunAllTheStreets of my hometown, Egg Harbor Township, NJ. I didn't have a specific target completion date, but at the same time I didn't want this to turn into a project without an end either. Maybe it was partially due to naivety and partially due to the fact that I had not decided what kind of self imposed rules or restrictions I would follow during the course of the project, but I expected to be able to comfortably complete it before the end of 2020. Here I am nearly a year later and only a little over two months until the new year and I am currently 36.22% complete based on City Strides mapping program. I still have a long ways and many miles to go before finishing and I have accepted that it is likely not going to happen before 2021 arrives. 


I could blame part of my lack of progress on an injury I battled earlier this year, but honestly that was not the major reason I did not progress as quickly as I had originally expected. The main reason this project is taking longer than expected is due to the “all on foot” rule I imposed on myself after beginning. Rather than driving to streets and neighborhoods I had not run yet, I decided I would cover all the distance on foot until I had reached at least 25%. Then when I hit 25%, I decided to keep following this rule. This rule of course greatly increased the amount of miles and time required to run all the streets as the bulk of all of my short to medium distance runs at this point are on streets I have already logged. 


After almost a year of this project I have not grown tired of it. I enjoy planning new running routes to log new streets. I like discovering new areas that have been within a few miles of home that I have overlooked and never even noticed. I love finding so many short trail networks at dead end roads that connect paved areas and public parks. It shows me that people don’t want to be contained or limited by where the pavement ends. It is a refreshing realization. With so many positives, I don’t want to rush through this project just to “get it done”. That is why I have not ended my “only on foot” rule yet (if ever). I typically have to run close to a half marathon at this point to log new roads. Even as an ultrarunner, running a half marathon is not a daily occurrence. Will I succumb to the desire to mark the project as complete by altering that rule, or just enjoy chipping away at new streets only on long runs? I’m still not sure at this point. But since I am in no rush to be done with this project, I don’t see myself changing my rules to make it end any sooner than it would otherwise. 

If you’d like to follow along on my journey, follow the links below to my social media accounts and sign up for email notifications for this blog as I will be updating the status of this project across multiple platforms. Also, if you are embarking on your own #EverySingleStreet challenge I’d love to hear about it and feature you on my social media!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Science In Sport Isotonic Gel Review - I Think I'm in Love!






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


Sometimes life is pretty cool. A prime example of life being pretty cool occurred recently. I was offered another opportunity to test and review additional flavors of Science in Sport (SIS) isotonic gels. During and since my initial trial and review of SIS gels, they have become my “go to” energy gel for endurance events and long training days so I was super pumped to try more flavors. This time around I received three flavors to try: salted strawberry, apple, and orange (75 mg caffeine). I was especially happy to see the caffeinated orange flavor in this round. I had previously tested the double espresso (150 mg caffeine) flavor which turned out to be one of my favorite flavors. However, the 150 mg of caffeine in every 90 calorie gel was a little too much caffeine for me if that was the only flavor I was using. Having the option to spread out the caffeine intake between gels was a very welcome choice.


During my first trial of SIS gels, I put them to the test at two last person standing events and was absolutely pleased with their taste, how well my body was able to process them, and the energy they provided. For this trial, I put them to the test again and used them as my primary calorie source for a 106 mile FKT attempt on the Batona Trail (22:46:42) in South Jersey. Once again, SIS gels delivered the sustained energy I needed for long strenuous effort. My energy levels never crashed with my steady stream of calories via the SIS gels.

Of the plethora of brands and flavors of gels I’ve tried over the years of running ultras and eating whatever brand of gel happens to be at the aid station, I’ve found that the flavor and consistency of SIS gels work better for me than any of others. Usually after a long ultra my teeth hurt and I am almost sick to my stomach of forcing down overly sweet gels with overpowering flavors. This doesn’t happen to me when I use SIS gels, even after 20-30 some hours of eating them on three occasions. The flavors are not artificial tasting like I find most other gels to be. The lighter consistency makes them easier and faster to consume than your standard syrupy gels which also means you don’t feel like you have to rinse your mouth out after eating them.


So what’s the deal with “isotonic”? Well, it’s the reason why SIS gels aren’t a syrupy gooey mess like the majority of other gels on the market. They are the first of their kind. To explain it in more detail, we have to review a little high school biology terminology:


Hypertonic: If a solution is hypertonic, it has a higher concentration than the fluid in the body. This means that water particles will have to be pulled from the cells into the gut to help it absorb and balance up this concentration. This slows down the availability of the energy from the gel and can bloat your stomach and be very uncomfortable.

Hypotonic: If a solution is hypotonic, it will have a lower concentration than the fluid in the body. This means that it will empty quickly from the stomach, but it will not contain much energy.

Isotonic: To be isotonic a solution must have the same concentration of dissolved particles as the fluid in the cells within the body, typically this means having a tonicity between 280-310 mmol/kg.
https://www.scienceinsport.com/us/sports-nutrition/?post_type=post&p=53


So what is the benefit of SIS gels having the same concentration of dissolved particles as the fluid in the cells in your body? 

  1. They provide a quicker supply of energy to the working muscles than thicker, more concentrated gels.
  2. They’re absorbed without needing additional water.
  3. They’re easily digestible and light on the stomach.

If you’ve never tried SIS gels, I highly recommend giving them a shot. If you decide to, be sure to use the discount code “BIBRAVE20GEL” for 20% off (not applicable to already discounted products or special offers.)

Also check out what other BibRave Pros thought of SIS gels!

https://bluegrassbamr.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/get-a-little-kick-with-science-in-sport-caffeineenergy-gels/


https://runningforbeers.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/4-reasons-to-take-science-in-sport-sis-energy-gels-on-your-next-long-run/


https://kimrunsonthefly.blogspot.com/2020/09/all-fueled-up-with-sis.html


https://retrorunningmom.com/2020/09/22/make-the-perfect-fuel-plan-with-science-in-sport-gels-sis/


https://www.heelstriker954.com/post/sis-science-in-sport-gel-review


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

Saturday, August 29, 2020

No Buckles, No Support, Just the Darkness and Lots of Miles: Batona Out and Back FKT



"Disclaimer: I received Science in Sport isotonic energy gels to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!"



I made the announcement not too long ago here on my blog, on an Instagram post, and on the FKT website that I was planning to make an attempt at the Batona trail self-supported out and back Fastest Known Time (FKT). As I write this, it’s been a week since the actual attempt and I am happy to report that I exceeded the highest tiered goal I set for myself! My top goal was to complete the 106ish mile route in under 24 hours. I was able to do so finishing in 22:46:42 bettering the supported FKT time by over 4 hours! It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t until I was nearly at the finish that I was sure it would happen, but I made it happen nonetheless.

Why was I so nervous and so uncertain over running what most trail runners would call flat and fast running terrain through the New Jersey Pine Barrens? The main reason for me was because this was going into unchartered territory for me figuratively. I had already run every step of the Batona trail multiple times so I was familiar with the trail and the terrain. However, this was my first time wading into the FKT world. I was going for the self-supported record meaning I could not receive any aid from pre-arranged people helping me. Additionally, it meant I would be alone for the entirety of the attempt as the FKT website states that “if a person is accompanied or paced for any distance, it automatically becomes a Supported trip (accompanied = paced = Supported).” The challenge of running through the night in the Pine Barrens by myself without aid stations to break up the miles and without any human contact scared me. Yes, the thought of the Jersey Devil roaming the Pine Barrens crossed my mind, but more concerning to me was the fear of drowsiness and exhaustion taking over while my motivation completely dropped off.

Artistic interpretations of the Jersey Devil

Being familiar with the trail prior to my attempt was a benefit, but it raised another concern: the fact that I knew how easy it was to inadvertently leave the trail. The Batona is a pretty well marked trail with pink blazes, but there are a lot of unmarked intersecting trails, fire roads, and fire breaks that look pretty much identical to the Batona. I knew that staying alert and constantly being aware of the trail blazes was going to be essential to my success.


Lastly, I was so nervous about this FKT attempt because this was my first run of an ultra distance in over a year. My longest training run since Eastern States 100 in August 2019 was about a 23 miler. With it having been so long since my last ultra distance run I wondered if I still had the drive to keep going when exhaustion set in. I usually escalate my race distance as the season continues, running a few 50ks, 50 milers, and/or 100ks before going for a 100 miler, but this year was different (thanks COVID). Without that gradual build up, I wasn’t sure how my body or mind would react to the challenge of a 100 miler let alone a self-supported one.

I tried to have all of the logistics in place well before even beginning my attempt. This involved having a packing list for what was in my car at the start, what was in my aid drops, what was in my hydration pack, and what was in my car waiting for me at the finish. It also meant planning out where all of my aid drops would be, my driving route to drop them all off, and how I would find them again while running past them. I packed five waterproof first aid boxes with gels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Honey Stinger waffles, FBomb nut butters, and mint gum. These, along with a gallon of Gatorade and Shaklee Hydrate+, caches spaced about 10-13 miles apart would serve as my aid stations for my 100+ mile run. 

At the start!

Making the cache drops ended up taking a bit longer than I expected. When I mapped the route from my home to all of the aid drops and then to the north terminus of the Batona trail the total driving time according to Google maps was about two hours. I knew it would take a bit longer to actually do as I would have to park, stash the aid, and mark it, but it ended up taking about three hours total to complete. I tried to make this FKT attempt as relaxed as possible. Since there was no set date or start time to adhere to, I decided I would take a couple days off work when the weather looked good and go for it. My plan was to go to bed early the night before and get a good night’s sleep waking up without an alarm. Then eat a good breakfast, make the drops, and start running whenever all that was finished. I ended up making waffles for the kids then eating breakfast with them before leaving the house a little after 9am.

Starting to run was easy and felt good after all of the driving and preparations. I went out at what felt like an easy and maintainable pace, somewhere between 9-10 minute miles. It was faster than what I needed to do for my goal pace (about 13.5 minute miles) necessary to run a sub 24, but it felt like my pace at the time and I wanted to move. I quickly realized that I had not picked the most opportune time to go for this FKT. We recently had a pretty serious tropical storm with some very high winds pass through the region which resulted in many downed limbs and trees. After finding several pretty good size trees across the trail during the first 10 miles or so, I knew they were adding time by climbing through the limbs or going out and around off trail. I also knew that as I became more tired they would add more time. Not only were they adding time with every one I had to climb my way through or go around, but each one was also another opportunity to be the unwilling carrier for additional chiggers that I was picking up likely everytime I went through the brush off the trail. The little buggers wouldn’t bother me while I was running, but here I am a week later with my legs broken out in a terribly itchy rash from my ankles up to my mid thighs. 

Making my first aid drop!

I tried to rush through my first aid drop as quickly as possible. I devoured half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chugged my electrolyte mix after filling my bottles and exchanging my empty gel packets for full ones. A short time later I realized I may have eaten and drank a bit too much too quickly. My belly felt full and sloshy as I continued to run. In hindsight, this may have been the best mistake to make at the perfect time because it forced me to check my pace a bit before any symptoms of over exerting myself too early set in. The rest of the afternoon got a bit warm, but went without incident as I continued to try to move quickly and efficiently.

I took my hydration pack off for the first time when the sun was just starting to set to get my headlamp out. I had decided while running that this would be the ideal time to get my phone out as well and provide my wife with a wellness check and say goodnight to the kids. I was about 35 miles in at the time and the miles were beginning to take their toll on my mind and body. With this being my longest run in over a year, the thought of turning around and just doing a 70 miler had crossed my mind and didn’t sound like such a bad idea. I was hoping the conversation would help give me a bit of motivation. Maybe it was because it’s been so long since the last time I ran through the night or just the fact that this was my first solo FKT attempt, but my wife seemed genuinely worried about my safety in the middle of the Pine Barrens overnight. I assured her that I felt safe, hadn’t seen anything that would make me question my safety, and had some safety gear just in case. With that she was more supportive and encouraged me to finish, but it almost felt like I had to convince her to convince me this time. I said goodnight to my boys who gave me some well wishes then got my phone packed back away to continue on into the night. 

All prepped and ready to go!

It was well after dark by the time I got to the south end of the trail, my turn around point, and I had been moving for about 10 hours and 40 minutes. I felt good that I was well ahead of pace, but knew the second half would be tougher than the first. I took my longest aid station stop at this point because I had a towel and a 2Toms lube wipe stashed there.I did my normal fluid and calorie routine and then freshened up a little with the towel. I used the 2Toms anywhere I was feeling any hot spots; thankfully no major ones.

Overnight was the toughest part of this challenge for me. Not that the terrain had changed much, but it seemed like more portions of the south are multi use as a fire road. These portions seemed to have more frequent dips resulting in deep puddles stretching the width of the trail for lengths of up to 15-20 ft. I felt like anytime I had a decent running rhythm going, I would hit one of these massive puddles and break my stride to try to tiptoe around it to avoid getting my toesies wet. I know the simple answer to fix this is to run through the puddle, but tend to get blisters when I run with soggy shoes so if I don’t have to get my shoes soaked I do my best to avoid it. 

Calling my shot.

Besides the puddles, the night went pretty well other than when my head started playing games with me. Using a brighter headlamp (Nitecore 550 lumen) than my old one I was used to revealed a lot more in the woods than I am used to seeing. I kept seeing all so many reflective eyes in the dark and they seemed to be staring at me. At first it didn’t bother me at all. I just told myself it’s a deer (which I’m sure they were) and continued to run. But as I got more tired my mind started tricks on me and creating other scarier scenarios that became increasingly believable to my tired mind as the night went on. During those predawn hours as I was looking forward to the sunrise I had considered the possibilities that I was being stalked by a mountain lion, followed by a pack of coyotes, or that a big cat had escaped from the Six Flags Safari and was now living in the Pine Barrens.

Besides the tall tales I was creating in my mind, the night was peaceful. The night sky was clear and the stars above the lake clearings were beautiful. There were so many stars and they were so bright away from any lights that I took a quick moment to stand by one lake clearing and switch off my headlamp to enjoy the view for a few moments and mental pictures.

Even with all of my planning and marking to avoid missing my aid stops, I still managed to miss the second one during my northbound journey. Thankfully it was cooler overnight and I was drinking far less so it didn’t bother me too much; just surprised me. I was also pretty tired of gels at this point so I still had enough to keep me going until the next aid. Because of that missed aid drop, I covered nearly half (about a 23 mile section) of the northbound miles without any aid replenishments. 

The northern terminus.

By the last few hours of darkness I was feeling pretty physically exhausted and just plain tired. When it started to get light again I could feel a bit of rejuvenation and motivation to finish coming with it. With the four quarters of my total run clocking in at about 4:37, 6:01, 6:18, and 5:50 respectively, the two middle quarters of my total attempt were my slowest. I would attribute at least some of that being due to the night running and overnight drowsiness. Thankfully, my motivation to finish returned with the daylight. Although I was tired and in some pain, I would force myself to pick up the pace and at least “run slowly” everytime I caught myself walking. Then I would ask myself “Is this a walk in the woods or a FKT attempt?”

With about 20 miles left to go, I was sure I was going to finish sub 24 and also knew that sub 23 was possible if I kept my pace consistent. Everything had gone really well for it being my first self-supported FKT attempt. I only veered off trail once overnight and figured it out pretty quickly, like maybe after a tenth of a mile or so. But now with only a few hours to go until finishing I began to recognize a problem. My Suunto Ambit3 Peak will last 20, 30, or 200 hours depending on the accuracy it is set for. With this being an FKT attempt, I figured more accuracy is better so I set if for the most accurate which should have lasted 20 hours. I knew I would take over 20 hours to finish so I brought a portable battery and charged my watch for a few hours overnight. It still seemed a bit low in the morning so I left the charger connected while I continued to run.

Finished and kinda exhausted.


















However, it didn’t seem to be taking a charge. It seemed to be more or less just running on the connected battery. I got a bit worried when it became readily apparent that my watch wasn’t going to recharge off of the portable battery. I’m pretty sure it was an issue with the portable battery as I’ve used this method with my watch before and it has worked no problems. I didn’t want to lose my evidence of this FKT with only a few miles to go if my watch died so I left it connected to the charger. I was contemplating getting my phone out to record a Strava activity on the phone app and use that second GPS file from that activity as proof if necessary. Although it made the last 10 miles or so kinda stressful, I got pretty lucky and it wasn’t necessary; I arrived at the north end of the Batona trail with my watch battery connected to the portable battery and a remaining life of 14%.





A common description I hear about 100 mile finishes is how anticlimactic the finish can be when considering the enormity of the task. I haven’t done the research to assemble the statistics on crowd size at 100 mile finishes compared to marathon finishes. Anecdotally and based on my personal experiences at the two types of events, the crowd size at a marathon finish has always far surpassed the crowd size at any 100 mile finish I’ve run. I’ve had a 100 mile finish when it was just the two race directors there to congratulate me. I’ve heard stories of runners finishing a 100 miler to only find a volunteer there sleeping that they had to wake up to get their finishing time recorded. Based on my experience and the stories of other 100 mile finishes, I was prepared for an empty and somewhat insignificant appearance to the finish for this FKT. As expected, it was the most empty 100 mile finish possible; it was just me arriving at a completely empty trail head. My car was the only one in the small lot. I ran from the trail end to the final mile marker (Ong’s Hat Rack) and stopped my watch. I didn’t put my hands up in the air or even give a victory shout. I just sat down on the bench there and thought to myself “I did it!” And in the end, that’s all I really wanted. I’m not that interested in the swag or finishers’ medals that come with races. The cheers and motivation from other runners and volunteers are great and very much appreciated, but the main reason I do any of this stuff, whether it’s a race or a personal challenge, is to test myself. The majority of my gratification from running and my motivation to pursue running challenges is to see what I’m capable of and to test what I believe my limits to be.


Last mile marker!

That wraps up my first FKT experience, but I want to just give a quick summary of my nutritional intake during the course of this run. It was probably the least amount of real food I’ve ever consumed during the course of a 100 miler. The only real food I ate was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a couple Honey Stinger waffles, and a FBomb nut butter pack. The rest of my calories came from fluids and gels. In total, I ate 15 gels (mostly SIS). This totaled about 4,677 calories over the course of almost 23 hours. I’ve heard the body can only process about 200-300 calories per hour and if that’s the case I guess I was almost right on target with my calorie intake. If you want a full breakdown of my calorie intake, check out the super cool table that I put together below!

Scott Snell
August 29, 2020



Carry in, carry out!


Quantity

Description

Calories Ea.

Calories Tot.

Caffeine (mg) Ea.

Caffeine (mg) Tot.

2

Honey Stinger waffles

150

300

X

X

4

Honey Stinger gels

100

400

X

X

1

Honey Stinger gels (caffeinated)

100

100

32

32

3

SIS Double Espresso gels

90

270

150

450

5

SIS Apple gels

90

450

X

X

1

SIS Salted Strawberry gels

87

87

X

X

1

Boom Apple Cinnamon gels

110

110

X

X

1

FBomb Salted Chocolate Macadamia

210

210

X

X

1

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

350

350

X

X

2.5

Gallons Gatorade & Shaklee Hydrate+

960

2400

X

X

Totals:


4677


482







Saturday, August 8, 2020

Using the California Coast 500 Virtual Challenge as Training for my 106 Mile Batona Trail FKT Attempt

"Disclaimer: I received an entry to the California Coast 500 Virtual Challenge to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"


If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that due to COVID-19 I ran my first virtual race this year. If not for COVID causing basically all races to be cancelled, chances are that I would not have dipped my toes into the virtual racing world. But, alas, I am adjusting to a “new normal”, willing or not. And with that adjustment, I just completed another virtual race challenge, the California Coast 500


I decided to run the California Coast 500 for a few reasons. One of the major reasons was to stay motivated to run throughout the spring and summer without having any “in real life” races to run or train for. Granted, even without racing I would likely still run just for the fact that I enjoy it for a multitude of reasons that I won’t go into here, but actual in person races definitely give me something extra to be excited for and get me to train harder than if I am just running for the other benefits that running provides me. So I used the California Coast 500 as a means to train for the fall races that I was still hoping would happen. As the COVID situation developed and races further and further into the year continued to cancel, I lost that hope. Rather than being upset at a situation that sucks, but is out of my control I decided to adjust my plans and use the California Coast 500 as training for an FKT attempt that will not be cancelled. 

I decided I would make an attempt at the self-supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the out and back Batona trail route. The route is about 106 miles of pretty much flat, nontechnical trail. This would be my first FKT attempt and using a long distance virtual challenge as a training plan was completely new to me as well. Having just finished the 500 mile challenge today and planning to make my FKT attempt in the next 1-3 weeks, I can not say at this time whether this was a good plan or not. It feels like I’ve had good preparation for a long distance run. I’ve put in higher than normal weeks for the last two months, consisting almost exclusively of slower paced longer runs. Even the shorter runs were usually slower than my other short training runs because I treated them as short active recovery days from longer runs during the challenge. I’m hoping all of these higher mileage weeks at a slower pace will pay off during the later stages of my FKT attempt, but only time will tell how well this plan turns out. 


Other than having the California Coast 500 keep me motivated to train for other goals, the event itself had some pretty cool features that I found to be pretty innovative for a virtual challenge. The first being that a one month free trial subscription to PWR Lab was included with the registration. PWR Lab is an online fitness system created for athletes that easily syncs with data from your smartwatch. The PWR Lab software uses analytics to synthesize that data with running science principles to deliver the PWR Lab Training Dashboard. The Dashboard displays key variables and highlights effects of your training on running power, preparedness, and risk of injury. The data from PWR Lab was also used to track all of the runners’ progress during the challenge as well, allowing them to create some pretty cool maps to track progress. 


Map of the BibRave Pro team's progress.


Another unique feature that the California Coast 500 added to make the virtual race experience more engrossing was to create and share California themed playlists



An additional feature that kept me involved and looking forward to the weekly emails from the race was the announcement of the weekly challenges, the associated prizes, and last week’s winners. Challenges ranged from running your highest mileage week, logging three runs of five miles or more, or being an early bird or night owl runner logging your miles before or after a set time. Although the coolest and most fun challenge in my opinion was the chase pack challenge. The chase pack challenge pitted three elite ultra runners (Dani Moreno, Mike Wardian, and Tim Tollefson) against the entire California Coast 500 field. Finish in front of them and be entered to win a pretty nice prize package. Get passed by them, and you are entered to win a pair of running shoes (still not bad). Thankfully, I stayed in front of them. We’ll see if it pays off with a prize!


The last aspect I wanted to mention about the California Coast 500 that really stood out to me was the finisher awards. The awards for the California Coast 500 Challenge are designed and crafted by @elevationculture. Not only do they look great, but all products from Elevation Culture are produced sustainably from renewable sources, byproducts are repurposed or recycled, and all shipping materials are biodegradable.