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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Every Single Street - The Beginning - Egg Harbor Township, NJ



Today I made the decision to embark on a new running goal: to #RunAllTheStreets of my hometown, Egg Harbor Township, NJ. I don't have a specific target completion date, but at the same time I don't want this to become a never ending project either. I hope to comfortably complete it before the end of 2020. I'll be using City Strides and Strava to track my progress and plan my routes. I’m currently at 1.94% complete, a small fraction, but it's a start! Now only a little over 98% to go!


I first joined City Strides a little over a month ago without any real intention of actually using it to complete the #EverySingleStreet challenge. After joining, it took a week or so for my City Strides account to sync with my Strava account. And once it did, none of my past Strava runs had synced over to my City Strides account. Only my new Strava activities were syncing over. The manager of City Strides was responsive and has assured me that my past activities would sync, but it would take some time. A month or so later without any of the past activities syncing, I decided why wait to get started on running every single street for my past runs to sync over. Why not just start at zero? So that’s what I did today.

When I first heard about Rickey Gates’ project to run every single street in San Francisco, I thought it sounded kinda cool and kinda quirky, but I didn’t really have any desire to make an attempt at doing it myself in my hometown. I prefer running trails over roads to begin with and some roads are just crap roads to run due to a total lack of shoulders and high speed traffic. So why would I even want to run every single street? That’s what I thought until I joined City Strides just on a whim to see what percentage of my hometown’s streets I had already run. When it began to seem like my past activities wouldn’t sync over any time soon, I for the most part moved on and didn’t give it much further thought. I would occasionally check to see if my past activities had synced, but it still just showed newly recorded runs. Eventually I decided to be proactive about it and just start anew, running a few new streets I knew I had never run before. 


It wasn’t until today while running a host of new streets to up that percentage that I decided I would commit to running every single street. I was running and thinking (my favorite past time) about how I have been lacking motivation to run lately. The reasons for the lack of motivation are mostly due to the changing weather, shorter daylight hours, and the fact that I’m not currently registered for any races. I thought that maybe starting in on this new running goal/project would spark a bit of a fire to get me excited about going out for runs again when I’m not specifically training for anything. And for today, it did! Hopefully I can stay excited and engaged about this project throughout the winter when I tend to cut back pretty heavily on my running mileage. And if all goes as planned, I’ll be able to say I’ve run 100% (or nearly) of the streets of Egg Harbor Township, NJ by the end of 2020!

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beastcoasttrail
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/runscottrun/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beastcoasttrailrunning/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/snellscott


Scott Snell
October 29, 2019

Saturday, October 19, 2019

2019 GAP Trail Relay - Initial Impressions



"Disclaimer: I received free entry to GAP Relay 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!"

With my first ever relay formatted race behind me after the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail Relay this past weekend, my overall impression of the event and format is that it was much tougher than I anticipated. With our Bibrave team of six runners, we each ran four legs of the 24 total legs that make up the 150 mile course. Each of us ran somewhere between 20ish to 30ish miles. When looking at this plan on paper, I may have been a bit overconfident or bordering on arrogant when I thought to myself that it didn’t sound challenging at all. “Run a 50k on a rail trail in four segments with few hours rest between each segment? I could practically do that in my sleep” I thought. Later, while I was actually experiencing the event, I would learn that it wasn’t as simple or straightforward as I originally thought and a few unforeseen challenges would emerge. I would also learn just how close I could be to sleeping while running during that final leg.


Race management also went all out with the swag. Our swag bags at the start were packed with lots of great running gear and other useful items. We all got a long sleeve shirt, a Nathan flashing wearable safety light for night running, a $10 Sheetz gift card, Honey Stinger waffles, Honey Stinger gels, GU Hoppy Trails gel, body glide, Balega socks, and Nuun tabs. It was quite a haul!

At the start!
The first of several speed bumps our team hit along the way was a few unexpected roster changes. From the time of our team forming until arriving at the starting line, our team lost a few members and gained a few members. At the start of the event, two of our team of six had been original members. I get it. Life happens and this whole running thing is just for fun and entertainment. But this is an aspect of race preparation I had never had to deal with before. Up to this point, it was only me I had ever had to worry about getting to the starting line. Counting on nothing interfering in six people’s lives is a bit of a bigger ask. This is definitely a point to consider if you have never done a relay race format before and are looking to form or join a team. I wasn’t super stressed or worried at any point, but as a bit of a planner not knowing how many team members we may have at the start did bother me a bit. Although, through it all, I never had a doubt that the team we showed up with wouldn’t be able to make it to the finish.

First bridge crossing of the course!
What surprised me most about the race format and brought the majority of the challenges was the non running aspects of it. Navigating and traveling between exchange points to pick up and drop off runners was a challenge in itself. Probably more so than the running in my opinion. With a team of six runners and two vehicles we had the option to leapfrog longer stretches of the course rather than have both vehicles stop at every exchange point. But while the race was young and we were all still fresh and feeling energetic we wanted to cheer on our runners at every exchange point. If achieving our fastest time possible was our main goal, this probably was a terrible strategy. However, none of us were looking at this as a competitive event. We were all there to support one another and enjoy the experience. The extra stops and support of our teammates, although not the most efficient strategy, made the overall event more enjoyable.

Frostburg, exchange point #3.
Stopping at every exchange point made for many short chunks of recovery time outside of a vehicle. Arrive at exchange point, wait for runner, exchange runners, get to next exchange point, and repeat was our method of operation. It made for a fun day, but I found it particularly challenging to figure out how to fuel. At every stop I thought I should eat, but how much and what were tough questions to answer. I feel like I’ve honed in my nutrition for ultras for the most part, but this was a different situation. Usually for a 50k distance I’ll get by just on gels, but for a 50k spread out over about 24 hours I would need something more substantial than that. I more or less snacked on trail mix, chips, and some fruit most of the day then threw in a few peanut butter sandwiches when I felt like I had more of an appetite. The point that I felt the most hungry was when I finished my third and longest leg (an 11.5 mile stretch). Thankfully, the race organizers had hot Dominoes Pizza available at that exchange point. Seeing one of my teammates holding that pizza box after that exchange was one of the highlights of the event for me.

Only 134 miles to go to Pittsburgh! 
As the day and exchanges of the race passed by, the sun began setting on what was a perfect weather day for an all day run. I finished my second leg just as the sun was starting to set. With the sun set imminent, I both looked forward to running my final two legs of the race in the dark while at the same time wishing we could do more daylight miles. I enjoy night running with only a headlamp for light, but in early October daylight becomes more and more fleeting as the temperatures begin to drop. It’s hard to say goodbye to those last nearly perfect running weather days of the fall season offers.

We followed these train tracks for the majority of the entire course!
I first began to feel just a few pangs of weariness at dusk. It was getting to be around the normal time for me to get the kids ready for bed and my bedtime is usually shortly after. My body began reminding me of this. It didn’t get bad before or during my third leg of the race. In fact, after that third leg I was feeling pretty hyped up, only one leg left to run! But during the break between my third and fourth legs our team decided to leapfrog exchange points so we could all have more time to rest before running our final legs. Once we got to the next exchange point we had about two hours before we were expecting our runner to come in. I tried and managed to sleep for a little bit, maybe an hour but it didn’t feel like I got a good rest or was refreshed when it was time to get ready to run again. Having never slept mid race before, this was all a learning experience for me. I’ve read and heard about people running 200’s that claim they slept for 5-15 minutes and were completely refreshed. Apparently this is something I’m going to have to work on if I want to run longer races where sleep deprivation becomes an unavoidable issue because when I got up from my nap I still felt as dead tired as I did before dozing off.

After my final leg I got cleaned up a bit and got changed into some clean, dry, and comfortable clothes before making the drive to the next exchange station. I also got ahold of a cup of coffee that was offered at the exchange station I finished at. At some point during that rather short drive, unexpectedly and seemingly almost magically the sun rose and it was daylight when I arrived at the next exchange station. In my sleep deprived, fog filled brain I had lost total track of what time it was. The fact that it was light out when I arrived honestly surprised me.

Photo booth photos.
The sunrise (in addition to the Panera coffee and bagels) at this stop helped drive some of the sleepiness out of my head. The organizers of the event must have expected this exchange point (Boston, #20) to be the final leg for a good deal of runners given the facilities there. In addition to the refreshments, there was also a photo booth so runners could record how great they look after tackling roughly 127 miles of the course. Although I wasn’t aware of it until a few exchange stops later, it turned out there were even showers there. If only I had known, I may have looked a bit more fresh in my photo booth shoot with my hot dog hat!


One of the signs near the end of my second leg of the course.
As all of our team members wrapped up their final legs of the race, we finally found ourselves awaiting our final runner just a couple hundred feet from the finish line. With the finish line celebratory music well within earshot, our final runner came into view. When she reached us we all got our legs to move again and ran across the finish line as a team. The announcer was quite a hype man and got every team pumped as they crossed the finish line. After receiving our finisher medals and getting some finish line photos, we made our way over to the conveniently located after party at the Hofbrauhaus. With the beautiful South Shore Riverfront Park in view from our seating area, we were served large soft dough pretzels with cheese dipping sauce and our choice of biers: lager, hefe weizen, or dunkel. On top of it all, there was a bottomless pierogi buffet that our table ate our share of.


Finish line photo!
So, did I get what I expected from the GAP Trail Relay? I met some fellow BibRave Pros and got to run some miles with them through some beautiful areas of Pennsylvania in near perfect weather. I explored a good portion of a rail trail I had never set foot on previously. So yes, I did get everything I expected and even more: a greater challenge than I had thought I would face.



Scott Snell
October 18, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Letting the Xtrainerz Out of the Box





Disclaimer: I received Aftershokz Xtrainerz 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!

This past month or so I had the opportunity to test out a pair of Aftershokz Xtrainerz wireless bone conduction headphones. What the heck is bone conduction you may ask? I wondered the same thing when I first heard of them. The Aftershokz development team has created what is in my opinion an entirely new category of sound delivery by sending mini vibrations via the cheekbones to the inner ears. By doing so, the patented design of Aftershokz bone conduction headphones are able to deliver high quality sound without covering or blocking the ears. What does this mean? Greater comfort and situational awareness! If you’ve worn earbuds for a long period of time you’re familiar with how uncomfortable they can become. Aftershokz solves this issue by not requiring anything to be inserted into the ear; the headphones rest comfortably over the ear and on the cheekbone. This also allows the user to still hear what’s going on around them increasing their awareness of their surroundings and quite possibly their safety. These are two huge benefits of the Aftershokz bone conduction sound delivery system.

If you’re already an Aftershokz believer, you may be asking what the Xtrainerz offer that I’m not already getting with my older model of Aftershokz headphones? The Xtrainerz offer two major differences:

1: They are waterproof!

Xtrainerz are IP68 rated. IP68 is a rating assigned to products after laboratory testing to measure ingress protection (IP). The two numerals are ratings for IP from solids (dust) and liquids (water). The 6 indicates a rating of “dust tight; complete protection against contact.” The 8 indicates liquid protection against “continuous immersion in water”. A full explanation of the ratings can be found on the DSM&T site

What does Xtrainerz being waterproof do for you? How about music for cross training activities in the pool? Or getting caught in the rain in the middle of a run and not having to worry about getting your headphones into a waterproof bag? Both huge bonuses in my book.

2: They offer 4 GB of internal storage, but lack bluetooth connectivity

This change is a trade off so some may see it as an upgrade while others see it as less desirable. I can see both sides of the argument. I can’t say anything negative about the conveniences of bluetooth connectivity. However, I can see some benefits of opting for internal storage. The main benefit of internal storage for me is the fact that I don’t have to carry any other device if I want to listen to music while running, biking, or swimming. All I need is my Xtrainerz and I’m ready to go. This simplifies planning for having music during long trail ultras. I don’t have to worry about having my phone or its battery level to have music readily available when I feel the need for some extra motivation from it.

This leads to the second benefit I found of internal storage; it’s one less battery to worry about. If you carry your phone during runs to use for calls in case of emergency, as a GPS device or to check stored maps, or just to take pictures of cool stuff while out exploring new trails, battery life is always a concern. If you’re draining your phone battery because your streaming to your bluetooth headphones, you may not have any juice left for those other uses when you need it. With winter and colder temperatures just a season away, battery life becomes even more of a precious commodity.

Xtrainerz in the shower! Why not!
In my opinion, the Xtrainerz are another great product from Aftershokz. Comfortable headphones that stay in place and allow you to stay aware of your surroundings, what more could you ask for? Long battery life? Xtrainerz have that too as they’ll last for 8 hours without a charge and then fully recharge in just 2 hours. If you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones, consider a pair of Xtrainerz and use code “ BRBUNDLE” for $50 off the endurance bundle.

Friday, October 4, 2019

GAP Trail Relay - Preparing for the Unknown

"Disclaimer: I received free entry to GAP Relay 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!"

How does one prepare for a type of race they’ve never run before? I find myself asking this as I prepare for the GAP Trail Relay having never run a relay format race before. I feel physically prepared to handle the distance without any issues, but what it will be like running that distance as a part of a team with breaks between the legs is what I’m unsure of. Will cramping be an issue during the car rides between legs? Will the overnight sleepiness affect me more taking breaks between legs than when I simply run through the night at other ultramarathons? How do I fuel for a 30ish mile run that is broken into four legs over an unknown amount of time? Having all of these unanswered questions makes preparing nearly impossible. My overall plan is to go into this completely open minded and willing to adjust to changes on the fly. I have read up reports from others on how to run relays. I learned what worked for some teams and what caused problems for other teams. As far as I can tell, that is the best preparation I can do without having any first hand experience. The best case scenario is that things go well and our team has a great time. The worst case scenario I’m envisioning is that we have some problems and I learn something from the experience for the next relay. I’m looking forward to the challenge regardless of the outcome.