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Friday, October 22, 2021

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


Scott Snell Beast coast trail running backyard ultra finish

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Scott Snell
October 22, 2021








Saturday, October 16, 2021

Post Inspiration 4 St. Jude Fundraising Effort - Asking Billionaires For Help


As some of you may know, earlier this year I attempted to tie in a fundraising effort with several of my races. I set up a St. Jude Heroes fundraising page so all donations would go directly to and benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. After that I linked it to a Facebook fundraiser page to make it easier for people to donate. Then I attempted to promote it. I started it off with a celebratory birthday run where I ran my age in miles (41). I shared this on my social media platforms and asked that anyone who intended to get me a birthday present to please donate to the fundraiser instead. I received a few donations from friends and family.

I didn’t get as many donations as I had hoped. I thought if I went bigger, I would surely get more donations. I tied the fundraiser to my first race of the year, a 24 hour trail race. I set up a pledge system for anyone to donate any amount per mile they like prior to the race. Unfortunately I didn’t have any takers. I thought, “maybe 24 hours isn't enough.” I updated the pledge system for my next race, The Keystone Backyard Ultra, which I was sure would go longer than 24 hours. I was right in my assumption about it going longer (I ran for almost 31 hours), however I was wrong about thinking that going bigger would garner more donations. It was the longest and farthest I had ever run. I was really happy about my performance, but it would have been much sweeter if I had been able to secure any pledges.

After three running “events” that I had attempted to use to help raise funds for St. Jude I had garnered a total of 7 donations totaling $185. I was still $65 away from my fundraising goal of $250 (the base amount for St. Jude Heroes). I concluded that I’m far better at running ultras than fundraising. I got first place at the two races I ran as a part of this fundraising effort, but was still only about 75% of the way to my fundraising goal. Thankfully, I received a cash prize of $12.50 per lap (4.1667 miles) run for a total prize of $387.50! I donated a portion of that prize money to reach my base fundraising goal.

I was happy to have reached my goal, but the fundraising effort still felt like a failure to me as the only reason I reached my target amount was due to me donating. I decided fundraising isn’t my forte. I didn’t give it too much thought after that and tried to move on just focusing on running. Then, as a Bibrave Pro ambassador, I registered to run and promote the Inspiration 4 mile virtual run, a part of which was a fundraising component. It kinda felt like fate had brought this fundraising effort back into my life, and coincidence or not, of all the fundraisers that the Inspiration 4 mission could have chosen to support, they chose St. Jude as I did six months earlier.


The Inspiration 4 fundraising goal was inspiring, as it should have been given the name. They aimed to raise 200 million dollars for St. Jude and were successful in doing so. The success was in large part due to generous donations from two people heavily involved in the mission, Elon Musk ($50 million) and crew member, Jared Isaacman ($100 million). The flight was operated by SpaceX, founded by Musk, and procured by Isaacman.

After following the Inspiration 4 mission and promoting the virtual run, it made my earlier fundraising efforts seem pretty trivial. I know every bit counts, but $200 million counts a whole lot more than the $250 I raised. Then I realized, I was asking friends and family to donate. These are all people with budgets pretty similar to me when compared to billionaires. They might have donated 10, 20, or 50 dollars, which I greatly appreciate, but I doubt anyone I have in my circle of friends and family is going to donate thousands of dollars (let alone millions) no matter how far I run. That’s when I realized, I should have been asking billionaires to donate.

The Inspiration 4 crew traveled to an altitude of 364 miles, making the round trip (just accounting for distance from earth and back) 728 miles. Strictly considering the distance away from and back to earth, Musk and Isaacman’s per mile donations were $68,681.32 and $137,362.64 respectively. I ran 150 miles at my last race, fueled primarily by carbs and not rocket fuel. If either Musk or Isaacman had pledged the same rate for my run I would have raised $10,302,197.80 from Musk or $20,604,395.60 from Isaacman.


So this is my ask of a billionaire out there. Let’s continue to inspire even after the mission of the Inspiration 4 has been completed. It was an inspiring project to see four civilians travel into orbit. Especially when one of those civilians, Hayley Arceneaux, is a cancer survivor, was a St. Jude patient, and is now a physician assistant at St. Jude. I will be running another race in May 2022, Capital Backyard Ultra, that I plan to go even farther than my last. I would like to attempt to tie another fundraising effort in with this race as I did past ones, but fear the results will be the same as before. Is a 41 year old father of three boys who recovered from a hip surgery and now runs 100+ mile ultras as inspiring as the Inspiration 4 mission? Probably not in most people’s opinions. But maybe it adds a fifth pillar to the four pillars of humanity (leadership, hope, generosity, and prosperity) represented by the four crew members of Inspiration 4. I would suggest that my story and likely even more so many others’ could represent the pillar of persistence, the undying tenacity of the human spirit to continue forth despite undue suffering and grim odds. The quality of persistence is a common recurring trait throughout many of the most influential turning points in human history; doesn’t it deserve a place as one of the pillars of humanity?


If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, donations can be made at my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page. Want to pledge a per mile donation based on how far I run at the Capital Backyard Ultra? Fill out this Google form and donate when the results are posted.


Thank you for any and all support!


Scott Snell
October 16, 2021

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ramblings On Backyard Ultras and the Undefeatable Human Spirit





I usually plan out my blog posts. I usually don’t put together a formal outline, but I at least have an idea of one in my head and will put at least a few notes or bullet points down on paper prior to beginning to write just to make sure I don’t forget to include any of the major points I intended to cover. This is not one of those posts. Tonight was the first night of running that it finally felt like the temperature dropped after the sunset. I think it was cooler than it has been since early spring this year. It’s strange when it takes a cool run after dark to realize how quickly the seasons are shifting from one to the next. Time doesn’t wait. Night to day, season to season, and year after year. It’s relentless. During this run while thinking about time relentlessly pressing on, I decided I would write this free form, unplanned blog post just to see where it led and what end result would be produced.

The main thing I thought I would write about was how I currently have no races on my schedule and I’m pretty much ok with it. I’m at the point after my last race (almost a month) that I would usually start experiencing some of the post race blues without having the next goal to conquer on my calendar. I’m not really feeling that as much this time or the need to sign up for anything. I’m guessing the reason why is because although I’m not registered for any races as of now, I know I have a race on my agenda next May, the Capital Backyard Ultra (CBU). I earned a guaranteed spot at CBU by winning the Last Squatch Standing this past August. The winner of the 2022 CBU will receive a guaranteed spot on the USA team at the 2022 Big Dog’s Backyard International Satellite Championship. It is a momentous race for me. It is a chance for me to earn a spot to represent the USA in an International competition of the best backyard runners from around the world. It struck me during my run tonight that this could be the most important race of my life. With that thought in my head, I vowed to make the months leading up to it my most focused months of training ever.

If I train hard and smart January through May, I know I’ll be ready for CBU physically. But the mental side of backyards can break you and end your run just as quickly as any physical issue. I was considering a gym membership to increase my running miles starting in January when weather can make outdoor running less enjoyable in my opinion, but I’m not so sure. I began to think that forcing myself out the door in freezing temps and running through slushy streets may help me nurture that determination that’s needed during a backyard ultra to get up and go out for another 4.167 miles when your mind and body may be advising otherwise. I mean that’s all this format is after the physical aspect, just a mental battle between the logical part of your brain that knows this must stop at some point and the other side of your brain that refuses to quit even though your muscles have been relaying the message to your brain that they’re spent.

I can’t explain what it is that keeps other runners going in these backyard races. I’m not even sure what it is for me all the time. I like to think it’s a reflection of my well honed sense of determination. I’m not the greatest or most talented runner, but I am a pretty determined person. I like to think it’s a display of the undefeatable human spirit to not accept defeat even if it seems the mind and body have accepted defeat. I feel that I was on the precipice of that situation a couple times at backyard races. Somehow, I found the will and desire to keep pushing on even when my brain was providing me logical justifications to quit and body parts were signaling their surrender.

I don’t know what will happen at CBU. I hope to have a good day. I hope to run my longest distance ever. I hope to be the last person standing. But hope can be lost quickly during a backyard ultra. The mind can be defeated in unforeseen ways. Some aspects are not in my control. What I can control is my training and my goal for race day. My training will be on point. I am committed to making that happen. My goal is simple, to go out for every loop on the hour until I am either timed out or I am the last person standing.



Scott Snell
9/24/21

Friday, September 24, 2021

Inspiration4 Mile Virtual Run Review: Inspiring A New Generation of Space Explorers and Runners


Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell inspiration 4


Disclaimer: I received a free registration to the Inspiration4 Mile Virtual Run 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!


Checklist for the Inspiration4 Miler Virtual Run
  1. Nasa Shirt
  2. Running Shoes
  3. Two Super Pumped Kids
  4. Inspiration
  5. Begin Countdown to Run

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and GO!!!

I just ran the Inspiration4 Mile Virtual Run this past week. Well, actually I ran it twice. I ran it separately with both of my two older boys. When I told them about the Inspiration4 mission they were both immediately interested. They both have already shown some interest in space exploration, pretty standard for all kids under the age of 10 I assume, but their interest might be a bit beyond the standard. Of the two, one of them has worn his NASA shirt to the point of extreme fading and the other is always telling me about what he learned watching the YouTube channel of a former NASA employee. When I showed them the race swag with the Inspiration4 logo, they were both committed to running the 4 miles!

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell inspiration 4

So why did I run it twice if they were both running it? For a couple reasons, but primarily because they run at very different paces. I wanted to enjoy this run with each of them and I wanted them to both enjoy it. I didn’t want to have to dictate either of their paces based on the other’s pace. I just wanted to run with each of them at their pace. Every recent attempt of the three of us running together has basically been me trying to get the one to slow down while I try to encourage the other to pick up his pace. It may be a bit of brotherly competition coming into play there and I have NO clue where they would get that overly competitive spirit from… Ultimately, doing this ends up making the run less enjoyable for all of us, hence the reason why I wanted to run it separately with each of them. Additionally, this provided some bonus one on one time for me with each of them just to chat and enjoy the miles.


Sharing my passion for running with my boys has been one of the greatest experiences that being a father has brought me. Anytime I can share a running experience with my boys is a blessing! The fact that the Inspiration4 Mile Virtual Run provided the inspiration and motivation for me to share some happy miles with my boys was the most valuable takeaway for me. Yes, the swag is super cool, I appreciate the development and advancement of space travel technology, I love that the associated fundraiser benefitted St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but ultimately what was most meaningful to me and closest to my heart was the time and miles spent with my boys.




Scott Snell
9/24/21


Saturday, September 4, 2021

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Scott Snell
September 4, 2021

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Why I Registered For The Inspiration4 Miler Virtual Run



"Disclaimer: I received a free registration to the Inspiration4 Miler Virtual Run 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!"

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!”

If you recognize the above quote, then I’m sure one of the reasons why I registered for the Inspiration4 Miler Virtual Run is obvious. The quote is the introduction that began every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spoken by Captain Jean’Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, these words and his voice are pretty well etched into my memory. While I am by no means a card carrying trekkie, I did watch my share of Star Trek among other space themed sci-fi shows and movies. So, when I heard about the Inspiration4 Miler Virtual Run I was immediately intrigued. I had heard about a plan for an all civilian mission to orbit, but this was the first I had heard of the name “Inspiration4” and the associated virtual run. I think that some degree of fascination and awe of space travel and wonder of what is “out there” in that seemingly limitless expanse are pretty common human feelings. I view this mission as setting a benchmark of sorts of how far we have come in our advancements in space travel in the last few decades. And the fact that running is now tied in with it, even better! Sign me up!


A second reason I signed up so readily for this virtual run was the incorporated fundraising aspect of Inspiration4. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
® is the charitable beneficiary of the mission. As such, the fundraising goal of the mission is to raise $200 million to support the lifesaving work of St. Jude. As a St. Jude Hero, I fundraised for St. Jude earlier this year raising $250 by incorporating fundraising with long distance runs. As one of my preferred nonprofit organizations, St. Jude being named as the charitable beneficiary of this mission motivated me even more to be involved in this history making event in some way.


Lastly, a final reason I was motivated to sign up for this event was the cool swag and how much my kids seemed to love it. When I showed the hat, long sleeve shirt, and the medal with the Inspiration4 logo to my kids, they were super pumped about it, so much so that I ordered the shirt size for my son and told my other son that he could have the finisher medal as long as they both ran it with me. To my delight, they both agreed! Anytime I can share a running experience with my boys is a blessing! Photos of them and their new swag to come! If you'd like to get on board, register here!


Saturday, July 31, 2021

First Time on a Podcast - Under the Tent



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Scott Snell
July 31, 2021