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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Floundering: Battling the Post Race Blues



The post race blues are not unique to me. Heck, I’m sure it’s not even unique to runners. From the other runners I’ve talked to about them, it seems to be pretty common among most runners. We work hard and sacrifice dedicating a great deal of time all to achieve a singular goal on race day. Then race day comes and goes; we either succeed or we don’t. Regardless of the outcome, following a race I’m always grateful for having the ability and the opportunity to experience the process of training for something that challenges me. I’m also thankful that I have the mindset and the support to even make an attempt at goals that actually frighten me. But when the excitement of race day has passed and the body has recovered, that’s when the post race blues can start to creep up on you. Sometimes it’s sudden, other times they sneak up on you so gradually you don’t even notice it until they’ve taken root.

It’s been about a month since my last race and with no races on my calendar, I’m just starting to feel a bit down. I think I was able to ride the high from my last race (Keystone Backyard Ultra) for several weeks following it because it went so well. Usually I plan my year out ahead of time so when I recover from one race I am excited to start training to prepare for what’s next. This year I left my schedule a bit open, being uncertain of what races would actually happen and entertaining the idea of going after a longer FKT attempt rather than racing. Now with the two races I was registered for this year over, as I started trying to plan out the rest of my year I found myself feeling extremely indecisive and having trouble committing to any race.

It didn’t occur to me until just recently as I was deciding on how and where to run my long run this weekend. I’m planning on recording a 206 minute run to complete the Chase the Sun BUFF Challenge on Strava. Originally I planned to make some progress on my project to run every single street of Egg Harbor Township. Then I wasn’t feeling real excited about that. Usually for those runs I’m stopping frequently to check my map and make sure I’m not missing any small streets and to remind myself of my route. It’s not really the ideal way to run if you just want to focus on letting your mind wander as you click off miles. So then I thought I’d just run laps at the EHT Nature Reserve since it’s been a long time since doing a long run there. Eventually I found myself floundering between the two options, unable to decide.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t feeling excited about either. It was the same feeling I was having when considering potential races to register for. I would look up races and think that they sound cool and would be fun, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m attributing these feelings to the onset of the post race blues. It comforts me recognizing it now that I’ve had multiple bouts and knowing that it is temporary. Eventually, the spark is always reignited and until then I’m just grateful for being able to run and stay fit. Even if there isn’t a specific goal with a set date on the calendar, the physical and mental benefits of running always draw me back and make it well worth my time.

Sometimes, until the excitement returns and I need a little extra motivation to get out the door for a run, I’ll use some type of short term challenge or goal to attempt to create a spark. I mentioned earlier the Chase the Sun BUFF Challenge on Strava. Encouraging motivation is the exact reason I decided to take on this challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to celebrate the summer solstice (June 20) by logging 206 minutes of activity. I chose running and decided to run it in a single session. Why 206 minutes? This year, the summer solstice is on 20th June so the time challenge is inspired by the date: the 20th day of the 6th month.


Join me in this challenge by logging 206 minutes of activity (doesn't have to be running) by June 21st to celebrate the official start of summer and qualify for a 30% discount on selected BUFF® products. Or just join for the fun and extra motivation the challenge will provided.



Scott Snell

June 17, 2021





Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Run To Escape: Mission Mount Olympus


"Disclaimer: I received registration for the Run To Escape: Mission Mount Olympus 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!"


Run To Escape: Mission Mount Olympus

I recently completed the Run To Escape: Mission Mount Olympus running experience. You may have picked up on how I referred to this as a “running experience” and not a “virtual race”. This was an intentional and purposeful selection of words to most accurately describe what Run To Escape: Mission Mount Olympus actually is.

First of all, it is not a virtual race.


You will not be shipped a finisher’s award or a t-shirt. The creators intentionally wanted to distinguish this running experience from virtual races by not emulating what is standard practice for virtual race registrations. Additionally, they wanted to reduce waste produced from packaging and shipping materials and make this experience as environmentally friendly as possible.


So if it’s not a race, what is it?

Imagine an experience that integrates puzzle solving challenges similar to those found in escape rooms with several runs of multiple distances. This is the “running experience” that Run To Escape: Mission Mount Olympus offers. Clues to the puzzles are provided via audio clips that are delivered to you from the gods using the Runkeeper app. I suggest Aftershokz to get your audio on the go during your run. The puzzle itself is then accessed online where all of the audio clip clues are also made available for review. I will tell you now that having the audio clues available for review was critical for me as I found myself needing to listen to some of them multiple times before being able to solve some of the puzzles.

Additionally, there is an entire storyline and character development throughout the experience. The background of the story is that Atalanta, Goddess of Running, is vying for her spot as the 13th major deity of the Greek Pantheon. You will help her overcome the six challenges presented by other gods for her to earn her spot.


What are the puzzles like?

The puzzles are a mix of word riddles, games of logic, and problem solving. A few had me scratching my head at first, but eventually I was able to solve all of them. The solution to each puzzle provides a code that is then input into the website to unlock the next run and puzzle challenge.

Why not give it a try?

The creators of this newly conceived run experience are offering a generous, no risk full refund policy. If you try it and decide this type of escape room puzzle solving meshed with running is not for you, just let them know and receive a full refund.

Additionally, the discount code “BIBRAVE10” is good for 10% off registration fees until the end of 2021!












Friday, June 4, 2021

2021 Keystone Backyard Ultra - Hope and Faith against a DNF



The inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra (KBU) would be my third backyard format style race. It would also offer the largest and deepest field of runners of any backyard race I had run. This combination of race format and runner depth offers the opportunity for distance runners to push themselves to their limit. It also offers the greatest chance for their race to end with a DNF (Did Not Finish). With the chance for a great reward comes substantial risk. I set two conflicting goals for myself leading into this race. The first being to not quit and find my limit. I wanted to push myself and be pushed by the competition to find my breaking point and see just where my limit lies. I wanted to find out how many laps I could complete before the required minimum pace became unsustainable for me. The second being to finish the race without a DNF. To achieve one goal, the other must be sacrificed. You can’t have both and a sacrifice must be made to succeed at one or the other. In a sense, I got to choose my sacrifice, but one of my two goals had to be sacrificed for the success of the other. Of course, there was also the possibility that I could have failed on both counts.

The DNF bracelet was turned in when a runner DNF'd.

The backyard race format seems to still be growing in popularity with more races of this format popping up around the world. It’s a unique format as it has no set total distance or time that runners must complete; they must simply go farther than every other runner there. The standard format is a 4.167̅ mile loop that is run every hour on the hour. Every runner must finish the loop within the hour and then be at the starting line for the start of the next loop at the next hour. If the runner doesn’t make it back within the hour or is not at the starting line for the start of the next lap, that runner is out of the race with a DNF. This continues until only one runner is left. The winner must complete one loop more within the hour than any other runner. There is also the possibility that the race wins if multiple runners go out for a loop and all fail to finish before the hour cut off. It’s a harsh and unforgiving format that is as mentally draining as it is physically.

Runners' aid station areas.

The original backyard ultra, Big’s Backyard hosted by the infamous Lazarus Lake aka Gary Cantrell, alternates between a trail loop during the day and a road loop during the night. KBU diverged from this format by using a single trail loop for the entirety of the race. This was done as a safety precaution at the request of the hosting venue. The race was held at Mauch Chunk Lake Park in Jim Thorpe, PA. The park is home to a 345-acre reservoir which was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in early 1972 to protect the town of Jim Thorpe from damaging and recurring flooding of Mauch Chunk Creek. In addition to a flood control project, the reservoir and dam provide an outdoor recreational area. The park hosts access to a network of trails: Switchback Trail (13.7 miles), Shoreline Trail (0.8 miles), Fireline and Galen’s Surprise Trail (9.9 miles), Orchard Trail (0.8 miles), Board Bottom Trail (0.5 miles), and Anna’s Trail (0.4 miles). However, the course for the race would only showcase about 4 miles of trails.
 
Image from race website https://keystonebackyardultra.weebly.com/course-info.html

The course for the race was basically a large lollipop type course with a loop built into the lollipop. The start/finish area for the race was a large grass field directly across from the parking area for the lake. It provided a great view and ample space for runners to set up their personalized aid station and recovery areas. The course started by following a 0.1 mile stretch of the paved entrance road to the switchback trail. This roughly one mile section of the trail felt mostly like a rail trail. There was one short hill up a gravel stretch, but otherwise any elevation change in this section was extremely gradual. The course then turned, hopping on Board Bottom for the looped section of the course. This half mile stretch of single track was easily the most technical section of the course. There were a couple short climbs and descents with exposed root and rocks scattered throughout, but it certainly wasn’t the most technical terrain I’ve seen in PA. The way the course was set up, this technical half mile stretch would be run twice every lap. After 1.5 miles on the Board Bottom / Switchback loop the course followed Anna’s trail for about 0.2 miles to the Orchard trail. Anna’s trail offered a bit more single track and the steepest climb of the entire course before dropping you off on to the Orchard trail. The Orchard trail was basically a grass pathway, wooded on both sides. While it was not steep, it did offer a subtle change in elevation that was far more noticeable as the miles wore on. From there it was about a 0.8 mile stretch until connecting back with the Switchback trail to return to the start/finish area.

A prerace selfie. 

I went into this race a bit nervous. Partly because of the high chance of facing my first DNF, but mostly because I wasn’t certain if my training had been appropriate to best prepare me for this type of race. The KBU was only 5 weeks after my last race, a 24 hour race (Adventure Trail Run) where I ran about 103 miles. Going into a race that I was almost certain would go over 100 miles only a little over a month since my last 100 mile effort made me nervous about how my body would hold up. It also made getting any good training between the two races difficult. I was mostly recovered from the 24 hour race after about a week or two, but that only gave me about a week of real training if I wanted to do a two week taper before KBU. I ran my normal, shorter daily runs and a couple mid distance weekend runs, but I wasn’t able to squeeze in a long run on one of the weekends between the races as I had hoped to. My longest run in the interim was about an 11 miler. I had run two 100 milers (Eastern States and Tesla Hertz) a little over a month apart before using the same strategy and it seemed to work out alright for me, but that was a few years ago. However, it did provide some peace of mind and kept me from panicking.

Planning my strategy for the race and nutrition were the other key factors I focused on leading up to the race. During my last two backyard format races (Run Ragged and Last Idiot Standing) my strategy was a slow and steady pace throughout. I would run/walk my lap and finish with about 8-12 minutes until the start of the next. For me, less sitting between laps but just enough time to discard trash, refill bottles, and get some calories in was ideal. Since this strategy had worked so well for me so far, I planned to use it at KBU. Nutrition was a bit tougher to plan as only hydration was provided at KBU. No aid station food was provided due to covid precautions. I went with what has been a consistent performer for me in past long, hard efforts, the glorious pierogi. I boiled a box of Mrs. T’s potato and cheese pierogis the day before the race and tossed them in a tupperware with melted butter. My other goto for actual food is mashed potatoes. I prepared a family size package of Idahoan instant potatoes and added about two scoops to small flour tortillas to make about 8 mini mashed potato burritos. I tossed the extra mashed potato into another tupperware. I also packed a couple cans of chicken and rice soup, Chef Boyardee mini raviolis, and three peanut butter sandwiches. I stocked up on snacks and some sweets as well: Funyuns, pretzels, dill flavored chips, sour patch kids, candied ginger, and chocolate covered espresso beans. I also packed some hydration treats in my cooler: coconut water, Coca-Cola, aloe water, and iced coffee.

A few hours in.

With all my calorie and hydration needs in order, I packed my other aid station gear and made the drive from South Jersey to Jim Thorpe, PA the evening before the race. I arrived at Mauch Chunk Lake Park a little over an hour before the race start. I got my shade tent up and arranged my chair, cooler, food tub, and sleeping bag. I had all I needed to run 100 or possibly 200 miles, at least that was my mindset that morning.

I ran my first couple laps just getting accustomed to the trail and the course. With close to 100 runners, it felt a bit crowded early on when everyone started the early laps. Of course the field would continually dwindle as the miles accumulated. The only part of the course that worried me a bit was the loop within the lollipop section of the course. The loop required you to make a right at a fork in the trail your first time around and a left your second time around to basically run the loop 1.5 times. It sounded straight forward and the signage posted by the race organizers was great and very intuitive, but I couldn’t help but worry that at some point when I was exhausted and sleep deprived I would forget which lap I was on when I hit that fork. Thankfully that never happened. After running the course so many times, I was just on autopilot mode and not even thinking about the turns I was making.

The first few hours of the backyard are deceiving. It feels easy. You’re not pushing your pace, you’re taking in calories regularly, and you’re having fun learning your personal routine for the short course. I set landmarks for myself to measure where I should be on the course and at what time. I had planned walk break sections and a set point when I ate my energy gel. Foot placement in certain stretches of trail became a planned activity after several laps. As the day went on and temperatures reached the upper 80s, the exact route was modified slightly to stay in shaded areas of the more open stretches of the course. Besides that, my pace and foot placement had become a precise pattern for every lap.

A few more hours in.

The sun set and the headlamp came out. We would soon get some reprieve from the heat of the sun, but the temperatures would stay in the mid 60s overnight. The field had been reduced by the time it was dark, but I would guess there were still 40 or so runners going out every lap. The race offered a few unique race bib awards for certain achievements during the course of the race. There was one for the fastest first lap, slowest first lap, fastest first night loop, 100 mile club, and of course last person standing. At some point over night I was hoping that the race director had enough of the 100 mile bibs as it seemed like there would be a pretty good sized group of runners finishing that 24th loop to hit the 100 mile distance. I was wrong about that though as runners started dropping pretty quickly during the wee hours of the morning.

The overnight portion of the race went pretty well for me. I started feeling pretty drowsy around 3-4 am, but a couple pierogies and some chocolate covered espresso beans brought me back. I also started laying down on my sleeping bag for just a few minutes between laps. I didn’t have time to fall asleep, not sure if I even could have if I tried, but it felt refreshing just to close my eyes lying down and stretching out my legs.

The first night loop.

Once the sun rose I realized how much our numbers had been depleted. We were down to the final four runners. Of the four runners left, I had only chatted with one of them. His name was Tom and in our short conversation around the 8th or 9th loop I learned that he had run and finished multiple 200 mile races including one in the Swiss Alps. I was not surprised to see him still lining up to go out as we approached the 100 mile mark. After the 100 mile lap the two runners I hadn’t chatted with both dropped leaving just Tom and I to continue on. I congratulated one of the guys that dropped on his 100 mile day. He said something along the lines that it looked like both Tom and I were in it for the long haul and he was happy with 100 so he was calling it.

The before and after.
 
By this point I was out of pierogies and was starting in on my mini mashed potato burritos. Unfortunately my tupperware allowed cooler water to leak in and all my individually plastic wrapped burritos were soggy with the cooler water I had been dipping my sweaty hat and neck cooler in. I drained them as best I could and continued to eat them. They still tasted fine and I needed the calories. The extra moisture actually probably made them easier to get down more quickly.

 

We went on matching each other lap for lap as the miles accumulated and the heat of the day rose to nearly 90. It was around 120ish miles that the first thought of quitting entered my mind. I started having a little pain in my front right ankle. It felt like it wasn’t getting worse, but I started telling myself that if it did then it might be time to call it. The ache felt like an overuse tendonitis injury. I probably paid too much attention to it trying to decide if it was getting worse or staying the same. That was the mind game I played on myself. I wanted to quit if I was going to injure 
myself and not be able to run. Then I started questioning if I was using this pain as an excuse to quit. When I thought about quitting I was planning the timeline in my head. My ankle is injured, I’ll quit this lap, pack my stuff in an hour, drive 2 hours home, and I’ll be home before dark and see my kids before bedtime. It sounded so much better than continuing on in pain in the heat, but that is what made me scrutinize the decision so thoroughly. If I was quitting because of an injury, it had better damn well be an injury worthy of quitting not just a convenient injury that I was using as an excuse to go home. How could I distinguish the two? Thinking of my kids reminded me of what they said to me before I left and what I promised them. They both said "I hope you win." And I responded with "I'm going to try my best." Thinking of that and looking at the poster they made that I hung in my aid area kept me going back out for another lap even as motivation was beginning to lack.

The sign my wife and kids' made me.

It wasn’t long after this internal struggle I was having with myself that I noticed Tom’s pace started slowing. He was usually always either nearly or completely out of sight from me when I made the turn onto the 0.8 mile straight stretch of the sun exposed Orchard trail. The lap when I noticed this (I believe the 29th) he was probably only a minute or two ahead of me. The following lap the same thing happened only his pace dropped off even more. I caught up to him at about the 3 mile marker. I talked to him a bit, but he seemed kinda out of it. I wasn’t sure if the heat was getting to him or something else was going on, but he wasn’t too chatty at the time. That was one of the few laps that I finished before him. He came back in from that lap looking a bit depleted and stopped at my tent. He didn’t say anything, but I thought he was getting ready to say he wasn’t going back out. I tried to just chat a little saying how that sun exposed section of the trail was getting a bit warm. He agreed then went to his aid set up to prepare to go back out. He lined up and went out on the 31st loop but stopped while we were still on the paved section and called me. He told me his legs were feeling gassed and his pace had dropped off. He said he wasn’t sure if he would make this lap within the hour so he might turn back if it looked like he wasn’t going to make it. He told me if that was the case, to go kick some ass and get that last lap done. I was excited to think that the race was almost over, but also uncertain. He yelled up to me again just as I was heading down the Switchback trail. He said he didn’t think it was going to work for him. I yelled back that either way I’ll see him back at base. I ran that lap looking back quite a bit. I thought maybe he just walked for a bit and then he got his legs back. He had looked so strong for 120 miles without showing any sign of exhaustion that I just couldn’t believe how suddenly his pace had plummeted. I continued thinking that and looking back for the entire loop until I returned to the paved section of the course where the final volunteer on course was assisting with traffic control. It was there that the volunteer told me that the other guy had turned back and I finally knew that this was my victory lap.

I ran the final stretch in with the volunteer that had given me the news ringing his cowbell the last tenth of a mile. Race staff, volunteers, and a few spectators that were still around all cheered as I finished my final loop to hit 129 miles. The race director, Jake Martinez, and Tom were both there to congratulate me at the finish line. After some finish line pics and being presented with a really cool Aravaipa Artworx trophy, I was able to relax and chat a bit about the race with Tom and Jake. While chatting, the topic of mind games between Tom and I came up. I think someone asked what kind of mind games we played on each other when it was just the two of us out there. Neither of us were really playing mind games with each other. We weren’t even running together the majority of the time as our paces on different sections of the course were just different. Without either of us really having a mind game to divulge, Tom volunteered that he was trying to finish the loop before me and out of my sight to mess with me a little. Then he brought up the one lap where I went out fast early and finished out of his sight. I explained that I wasn’t running that lap fast to mess with him at all; I just had to poop and was trying to carve out some extra time between laps to hit the portapotty. Maybe it was too much information for the small crowd there, but I was a bit sleep deprived and excited having just won so my filter was pretty much turned off at that point.

Congratulatory poster my Mom made for me. 

This format of race is so mental that a runner can easily defeat themselves before the true competition has ever really started. I nearly did it to myself by using the ache in my ankle as a valid reason to quit. At some point, it all comes down to hope and faith that things will work out and somehow you will succeed. This race was the greatest distance I had ever run. That and the accompanying mindset of curiosity (as to how far/long I could go without breaking) that I tried to maintain helped keep me moving. Surprisingly, it was a podcast I listened to during my drive to Jim Thorpe that helped me to reinforce that mindset of curiosity. It was an interesting podcast with Dr. Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, psychiatry, and behavioral science and director of the Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine about research on the psychology of psychedelics. During the podcast, at one point Dr. Griffiths stressed that an essential requirement of subject selection for his studies was that the subject expressed a true nature of curiosity in the lead up to the psychedelic experience. He talked about the intense and realistic appearance of demons that some subjects described during their psychedelic experience and how if they approached that demon, however frightening it may be, with a raw sense of curiosity the experience was less frightening and anxiety inducing. While listening to this, I decided that was how I would approach my experience into an unknown distance, with a true sense of curiosity and a desire to learn how far and how long I could go before it was too much. This mindset gave me additional reason to keep going when I felt like not moving anymore.

Race Director Jake Martinez and I. Photo credit: Matt Jurgs (https://www.instagram.com/matt_jurgs/

With a victory and a new PR for my longest distance ever run, I was pretty pumped about how the whole race played out. The PR for longest distance was one of my running goals for the year so I got to check that box. However, the look on my boys' faces when they woke up the morning after I got home and told them I won and showed them the trophy was definitely far more rewarding than the PR pride. And the icing on the cake was the cash prize ($12.50 per lap) the race awarded me for being the last person standing. The cash prize covered all of the expenses (race registration fee, hotel, gas, tolls, food, etc.) I incurred to run the race. With all of my expenses basically reimbursed, I decided that since I had failed at my earlier fundraising efforts to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that I would donate the remaining difference of how much my fundraiser had raised and what my fundraising target amount was. After feeling like a failure for running two 100 mile plus races and not hitting my fundraising goals, seeing that fundraising goal met was a pretty sweet reward.

Me in front of the lake I had just washed up in.

And that pretty much sums up the whole story of my experience at the inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra. But before I wrap this up, I want to add one more anecdote that didn’t fit in at an earlier point. After all the festivities were over and pictures were taken I layed down on my sleeping bag and closed my eyes for a bit. I’m not sure if I slept, but I just wanted to relax for a bit before making the drive home. I mentioned earlier about the lake directly across from the start/finish area. Well, after I rested for a bit, I decided that the lake looked irresistible for a guy who felt dirty and needed to get refreshed. I had soil caked on my legs from the trail dust sticking to my sweat. And I thought that washing my face would reinvigorate me for the drive home. I sauntered across the road to the lake swimming area. As I got closer I began to realize how busy it was. There were many families there with kids swimming, playing, and splashing in the water. I became a little self conscious about washing up in the lake with so many kids playing in the water, but I had come so far at this point that it felt like I was beyond the point of no return. I continued on towards the water. I avoided eye contact with children and parents alike. I stepped out of my Oofos sandals at the water’s edge and waded in. After 30 some hours without sleep and running 129 miles, I assumed that how I was walking and my overall appearance may have suggested that I was likely drunk and homeless. I could sense the parents’ collective apprehension about me as I rinsed my face in the water and scrubbed the trail dirt off my calves. I felt ashamed, but I continued on. I exited the lake with my eyes staring at my feet while the parents pulled their children away from my direction. It was an extreme shift of emotions from the high I was just on at the finish line receiving a trophy and it certainly didn’t feel like my proudest moment at that point. But that is the point where the experience ended and that is where I will end this report.




Scott Snell
June 5, 2021



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Chasing DNFs: Prepping For A Last Person Standing Race

















It’s less than 2 weeks until my next last person standing race. It’s only been 3 weeks since my last long distance ultramarathon which was my first 24 hour race during which I ended up covering about 103 miles. I feel pretty much fully recovered, but the 5 week interval between long distance ultramarathons seemed to go quickly and I don’t feel as prepared for this last person standing as I did for the 24 hour race format.

Maybe my less prepared feeling for this race is due to the short interval of time between recovery and tapering. It could also be in part due to the nature of the last person standing race format. If you’re not familiar with the race format rules, you can read a concise description of them in my race report on the first last person standing race (Run Ragged) I ran in 2019. One of the most unique aspects of the rules for this race format is that there can be only one finisher; all other participants are technically DNFs (Did Not Finish). It’s a rather harsh reality to accept for a race format that typically pushes multiple runners to go well over the 100 mile mark. All but one of those runners will get the same DNF that they would have received had they timed out or chosen to drop out at the 50 mile mark. It’s a little intimidating to embrace such a brutal race format, but in a way that is what makes it so attractive.

My many faces and meals during Run Ragged, 2019.

Having never been the recipient of a DNF, the thought of running a race that gives you the absolute best chance possible of ending with one is a bit intimidating. This will be the third last person standing race I have run. I know I had this feeling with the first two, but with those two successful attempts of being the only finisher I feel additional pressure has mounted for me to do well with this race format. It is of course all self induced, internal pressure. I’m not an ultrarunner who lives by the whole “Death before DNF” motto, but I’m not a quitter either. I like to run tough, challenging courses and I will admit that I carry a bit of pride having finished every race I’ve started even when they presented some pretty difficult situations.

Finisher awards from my first two last person standing races.

So why risk running head on into that first DNF with a last person standing race? The answer is basically the same as the one to “why run an ultramarathon?” for me. For the challenge and to push the limits to see what I am capable of. What better way to test the limits than a race of an unknown distance determined only by the performance and will of the participants, a race format that can have only one finisher and the potential to have no finishers. I can’t imagine a better way, and that is my “why”.



Scott Snell
May 11, 2021



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Science In Sport Gels - HUGE DISCOUNT!!!



If you’re reading this then that means you must want to know how I managed to get 84 Science In Sport gels for just $52.36 and how you can do the same or even get up to 90 gels for the same price if it’s your first time ordering from the Science In Sport website!


Step 1: Follow this link and enter your email address. This step gets you a free 6 count gels taster pack.

Step 2: Next fill your cart with any combination of 6 count gel packs that are on clearance for $4.40 each until you have a total of 14 packs (Total = $61.60). The flavors at that price point include cherry, pineapple, and tutti-frutti.

Step 3: Check out - At checkout, enter promo code “SIS-BIBRAVE-21” for 15% off. Your total should now be $52.36 which still surpasses the $49 threshold for free shipping.


Congrats! You just got a great deal on some quality gels! Enjoy!












Friday, April 30, 2021

Combating Exercise Induced Immune System Suppression With Science In Sport Immune Tablets - Bibrave Product Review



"Disclaimer: I received Science In Sport Immune Tablets 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 remember the first time I experienced it almost immediately after one of my long training runs preparing for my first marathon in 2009. It was probably a 17 or 18 mile run in some cooler temperatures in late February or early March. Soon after arriving back home, I started sniffling, sneezing, and just suddenly feeling like I was hit with a very sudden and quick onset of a bad cold. In all my years of running I had never experienced this before. However, I was also running a greater volume and the longer distances than I had ever run before. Little did I know how much impact endurance training and workouts can have on the performance of your immune system. In fact, Nieman (2007) reports that exercise induced changes can adversely impact the immune system in multiple ways and may last between 3 and 72 hours. Thankfully for me, my initial experience with exercise induced immune system suppression was nearer the shorter time period of that range and all of my symptoms seemed to disappear as quickly as they presented themselves, just a few hours after I got out of a warm bath.

So what do us runners who enjoy running for prolonged periods do to combat having constantly suppressed immune systems due to our running habits? Nieman (1998) reported that the data from two studies examining carbohydrate ingestion of marathon runners and triathletes suggest that overall physiologic stress is diminished in the groups of athletes that were given a carbohydrate ingestion treatment compared to athletes receiving a placebo treatment based on hormonal and immune responses. The carbohydrate treatment in these studies was consumed in the form of a carbohydrate beverage (think Gatorade or Tailwind) while running or cycling. The data (Figure 2) supports the hypothesis model diagramed in Figure 1 showing that carbohydrate ingestion during prolonged workouts results in high plasma glucose levels and reduced cortisol levels which ultimately helps to counter negative impacts to immune system function (Nieman, 1998).








That’s great to know, but most of us runners are already hydrating during our long runs with some type of carbohydrate beverage. Is there anything post workout that can help lessen the negative impacts of prolonged exercise on the immune system? Step up Science In Sport (SIS) immune tablets, it is your time to shine! These effervescent tablets quickly dissolve in water and are designed to maintain healthy immune system function after intense or prolonged physical efforts. Each SIS immune tablet provides vitamin C (200 mg) and iron (2.5 mg) in addition to key electrolytes that help aid rehydration following exercise. Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant that contributes to immune defense in a multitude of ways by supporting cellular functions (Carr and Maggini, 2017). Zinc is an essential trace element that affects the integrity of the immune system in many ways including acting as a cofactor in over 300 enzymes that influence organ functions and have indirect impacts on the immune system (Dardenne, 2002; Rink, 2007).


So the science behind Science in Sport immune tablets checks out, but how did they work for me. I began using SIS immune tablets daily about 3 weeks before my first 24 hour race. I always tend to get nervous about getting sick leading up to a race, so this was the ideal time for me to take any and every precaution to avoid any kind of cold or respiratory issues. The first item to note is the taste. Like all the other SIS products I have tried, the flavor of their immune tablets impressed me compared to workout supplements produced by other brands. I usually find the flavor of most supplements to be overpowering or too sweet. That was not the case with SIS immune tablets. I began looking forward to a tall, cool glass of their light orange flavor during my runs.


But did they work? Did they do what they claim to do?

Well, I didn’t get sick at all leading up to the 24 hour race I was preparing for while using SIS immune tablets daily. Additionally, I didn’t get sick at all following the 24 hour race where I put my body (immune system included) through some pretty serious stress considering the length and intensity of the effort and the sleep deprivation. While I can’t say that my good health was solely the result of using SIS immune tablets, they very well likely played a role and at the very least they gave me the mental comfort of knowing that I was taking additional precautions to protect myself and set myself up as best I could to achieve my goals on race day. So at the end of the day, SIS immune tablets will likely become a standard pre race and post race practice for me.

Literature Cited


Carr, A.C. and S. Maggini. 2017. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 9(11): 1211.

Dardennene, M. 2002. Zinc and Immune Function. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (56): 20-23. 

Nieman, D.C. 1998. Influence of Carbohydrate on the Immune Response to Intensive, Prolonged Exercise. Exercise Immunology Review (4): 64-76.

Nieman, D.C. 2007. Marathon Training and Immune Function. Sports Medicine (37): 412-415. 

Rink, L. 2007. Zinc and the Immune System. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 541-552.












Friday, April 23, 2021

Adventure Trail Run - 24 Hour Event 2021


My first place overall finisher award!

It’s been about 3 days since the finish of the Adventure Trail Run - 24 Hour Event as I begin this report. Other than some sore toes from a few blisters that developed under my nails and minor muscle aches in my quads and calves, I’m feeling mostly recovered. For a 24 hour effort, the physical recovery seemed pretty quick and not too painful. It’s more the mental recovery that’s a little harder to move past with this race. It’s not that I’m not proud of the effort I put forth or what I did achieve. The truly stinging part of replaying all the scenes in my mind of how those 24 hours were spent is how close I came to nailing my top goal while just falling a little short. I had a very specific goal for this race: to break the course record of 108 miles. My final official mileage was 103.1 when I stopped with about a half hour left on the clock. When it’s that close for a nearly 24 hour effort, the “what if”s and “if only”s seem to breed and multiply in your brain.

The night sky the whining before the race.

The Adventure Trail Run is a timed trail running event held at Prince William Forest Park (National Park Service) in Triangle, VA. This year was the 15th anniversary of the event and they offered 8 hour solo, 4 person relay 24 hour, and solo 24 hour options. While I chose the solo 24 hour because I had never run that race format before and I wanted to test myself with that style of race, the 4 person 24 hour relay option definitely seemed like a fun way to spend a weekend running with friends.

Just before the start!

The course was basically a lollipop design with a 1 mile out and back to a 4 mile loop. The 1 mile out and back section was definitely the most challenging in my opinion. It was probably the most consistently technical section of the course with seemingly endless stretches of jagged rocks and ankle breaking exposed roots. It also had many short but steep climbs and descents to deal with. During the first mile of the race, I immediately thought I’d have to reevaluate my goals as I wasn’t expecting that technical of a course. Thankfully, the 4 mile loop was far more runnable. In addition to the technicality of that entirely narrow single track section was the fact that it was also the section of the course where you had to deal with two way traffic of runners. Since this was a relatively small event (around 100 runners) it didn’t present a major problem, but with 50k and 100k runners on the course at the same time as the 24 hour runners, it did feel a bit congested to me on a few occasions.

My gear for the race.

The 4 mile loop section of the course was a totally different story. Even the more technical sections, climbs, and descents were more runnable than the initial 1 mile out and back. This year the loop was run in a counterclockwise direction. Apparently the race reverses direction of the loop every year. From the start of the loop to the halfway point fluid only aid station was nearly all smooth, buttery, flat single track trails with the exception of a short climb with a couple switchbacks and few technical rocky sections where you had to be careful of your footing. Immediately after the aid station was a short stretch of boardwalk to run on and then the longest sustained climb of the course. The climb followed a stretch of what appeared to be a fire road for about a half mile and up about 150 feet. The rest of the loop was all single track trail with a few technical rooty sections and a few short climbs, but nothing too intense.

My cabin for the night before the race.

I alluded to it earlier about how the race went in my first paragraph, and I’ll expand on that now. I set what may have been a lofty goal for myself: to break the course record of 108 miles. Obviously, I came up a little short with my final official mileage of 103.1. It’s an especially disheartening form of failure when you’re on pace for your goal for so long and come so close to your goal, but it just very slowly becomes more and more apparent over the course of 24 hours of hard effort and battling exhaustion that it is increasingly unlikely of being attained. For the first 50k I was maintaining a pace faster than necessary and building in a bit of a cushion as I was pretty sure I would slow down for the last 12 hours and the early hours of the morning. As the day wore on and fatigue and exhaustion began to build, I checked my overall pace on my watch ever more frequently hoping to stay under that 12:48 pace that I had calculated I needed to hit my goal. I wasn’t exactly sure if or when my pace would roll over that threshold, so I continued to push on in hopes that I could fend off the ever slowing pace that my watch was reporting.

The inside of the cabin.

Initially it was mostly the aid station stops between loops that seemed to be the primary cause of my slowing pace. I’d check my watch going into and leaving and consistently find my pace slowed by about 10 seconds per mile with each pass through. I tried to get through more efficiently, but filling bottles, emptying gel packages, grabbing more gel packages, and eventually eating some real food all takes time. I was great through the 50k mark when all my calories came from gels and hydration, but when I started feeling the need to add some real food for calories my aid station stops tended to take a bit longer. The data shows that my slowest mile (with an aid station stop) up to the 50k mark was 15:55 and my overall average pace was 11:25 per mile.

A temporary tattoo I tried it for the race.

I still felt good and had hopes of hitting my goal even at the 50 mile mark. I was still at an overall pace of 12:31 per mile. I knew it was going to be close and a struggle at that point, but I thought it might still happen. But then around the 100k mark my pace began to suffer a bit more and my aid stops became more damaging to my overall pace. It was right around that point that my overall average pace rolled beyond my goal threshold and jumped to 12:50 per mile. Although this was a disheartening point for me, it didn’t crush me or make me want to quit. Even if I wasn’t going to hit my goal, I still wanted to get as close as possible. I held on to hope that things could still turn around. I was only about 13 hours into a 24 hour race at that point.

Most of my gel packaging.

Unfortunately, things never really turned around. I never got that major energy burst that I hoped for to put me back within reach of my goal. Things never got really bad either. I continued to move steadily and well, just not well enough. With about 8 hours left in the race the race director let me know that second place was only about 40 minutes behind me. That gave me a bit of a boost of motivation to pick up my pace for a couple laps, but it still wasn’t enough for me to get back to my target pace. As the 24 hour clock began to wind down, I finished my last full lap to hit the 100 mile mark with about an hour and 20 minutes left. I knew I wouldn’t complete another full loop, but I could get credit for a half loop if I made it to the midway aid station before the clock ran out. There was no reason not to keep going, so off I went for three more miles. I reached the midway aid station with about a half hour left in the race and called it there.

Preparing for the drive home.

With that half hour left to burn at the end of my race, I immediately began thinking about how many more minutes I would have needed to run the last 3 miles to finish that final lap which would have tied the course record. I thought another 15 would have gotten me damn close; 20 would have pretty much guaranteed it. After looking at my data, those thoughts turned out to be pretty accurate. My average pace for the last 20 miles without aid station stops was just over 15 minutes per mile. An extra 15 minutes may have gotten me back home to tie the course record. But where would that time have come from? I know I could have saved some time during my aid station stops. My 7 slowest miles included an aid station stop and clocked in at an average of 21:05 per mile; there is definitely room for improvement there.

At the finish!

And then that’s where the brain games start getting out of hand. If only I had changed shirts faster. If I had packed a 2 liter of Coke in my cooler instead of wasting time to have a cup filled at the aid station I would have saved a few minutes there. If I had eaten those 2 perogies while walking instead of while standing at the aid station I may have shaved off another 2 minutes. It’s all enough to drive you crazy at some point. It’s also enough to make you question why I can’t just be happy with a first place finish at my first 24 hour race. It’s not that I’m not happy about my performance or the win I managed to get. I’m proud of both of those accomplishments. But I don’t think it would be a healthy reaction to set a goal, not reach it, and then not at least be somewhat disappointed about it. It’s kind of the point of a goal. You set it, you aim for it, you work for it, you struggle to reach it. And after all of that, if you come so close but fall slightly short, you should be disappointed in my opinion regardless of other circumstances such as overall race placement which was irrelevant to my goal anyway. Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe I’m ungrateful. Maybe I set my expectations too high. Whatever it is, this one is taking some time to process completely. Regardless of failing to reach my goal, I am happy with my performance and what it indicates about my fitness level and ability to endure and continue to move forward despite a mentally challenging circumstance. It gave me an indication of what I may be capable of at my next race, Pennsylvania’s first backyard ultra, the Keystone Backyard!

Recovery time.





Scott Snell

April 22, 2021












Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K Race Report



"Disclaimer: I received a free registration to the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K 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!"


It’s Virtual! I Got to Run Where and When I Wanted!

I’ll be the first to say it, I miss in real life racing. I miss getting to the starting line with other runners. I miss visiting new places and discovering new areas to run as a result of going to races. I miss the excitement of crowds along a race route and the energy boost they provide. I miss the feeling of an actual finish line and meeting and chatting with other runners there over bananas and bagels. I miss all those things that were a part of in real life races that I took for granted. But COVID, but COVID, but COVID… those two terrible words. At least we still have the option to run events virtually to give us a taste of what we’re missing. And as much as virtual events lack compared to IRL events, they do present their own unique benefits.

Virtual events of course negate the need for travel plans and save all the associated costs making them simpler and more affordable. They are also much easier to work into a busy schedule making them more accessible. Don’t like running in the morning? With a virtual race you don’t have to. You’re busy the day of the event? No problem! Run it the day before or the day after. Or run it a week before as I did with the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K because I’ll be busy running a 24 hour race on the day of the event. Lastly, virtual events allow you to choose where you run and what kind of terrain you run on. I was indecisive as to whether I wanted to run on roads or trails for the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K so I ended up running both on consecutive days because why not?


It Had Been Awhile Since I Had Tried to Run Fast.

One of my goals was to actually try to race this 15K and run it as fast as possible. Well, I did not follow through with this goal. With a racing goal that has been on my “to do” list falling on the same day as the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K I decided to make some adjustments. I have wanted to test myself by running a 24 hour race for the last 3 years or so. I finally registered for a 24 hour race in April last year which was cancelled (COVID) and rescheduled to April 17th 2021, the same date as the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K. Thankfully with the Hot Chocolate 15K being virtual I could run it a week in advance. Even so, I did not want to push too hard for it as I wanted to be completely recovered and in top shape for my 24 hour race. Maybe it sounds like an excuse, but I have what may be some lofty goals for the 24 hour race and I don’t want to set myself up for failure or with excuses when things get tough there, which I expect them to at some point.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the Official Charity Partner.

A major reason why I ran the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K was because the race is an official charity partner of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The mission of St. Jude Children’s Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. I love what they stand for as a nonprofit organization and the fact that no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food. This was such a motivating factor for me to run this race that after registering I decided to start an additional fundraising campaign through the St. Jude Heroes program to raise funds as I train for and run ultramarathons this year.


The Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K Delivered on the Chocolate and Swag!

Another reason I decided to run the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K was a simple one: the chocolate. My kids are pretty big fans of all things chocolate. I figured I’ll run the race and whatever swag and chocolate goodies I get can be shared with them. We’ll both get some of our favorites; it will be a win win!


And what a win it was! My kids loved the chocolates and the hot chocolate mix! They also got a pretty big kick out of the unique finishers medal that flips open to reveal a storage area for more chocolate. And for me, the zip up hoodie is super comfortable, warm, and fits great!

While I’ll never be able to say that I believe virtual races can adequately replace in real life races, I don’t think they necessarily have to. I believe the two can coexist. For the time being and until we can safely get back to larger in real life races, virtual races will help me to tide my racing appetite and continue to enjoy my obsession with running.


Scott Snell
April 14, 2021



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Taper Week and Calling My Shot For My First 24 Hour Race



It is Monday and less than a week out from my first 24 hour race which makes this a taper week. Along with taper week(s) come a few changes, some good and some not so good. The greatest positive in my opinion is just the additional free time that was spent running and training can now be reallocated to other areas. For me this means more family time and being able to help out more with all of the household chores. While I see this as an overall positive, I probably end up wasting a decent amount of that extra time just scrolling on social media. It takes far more discipline for me to put the phone down and do something productive around the house than it does for me to not even pick the phone up when it’s time for a run. 

So, what about the negative aspects of tapering? Well the most obvious is of course less running. I think it’s true of most runners, I know it is for me, but when I don’t get to run I can get grumpy. My wife may even go as far to say that I have a shorter temper when I go for too long without running. Not benefitting from the mental health aspects of running definitely affects my overall mood. During tapering it’s not so bad for me as there is an end date in sight and it is all in preparation to have the best race day possible, so it is a good trade off. Not running due to injury, that’s a completely different situation. 

Which leads to the second negative I’ve noticed more during this taper period than past ones; I’ve found that I’ve become a bit more anxious. Maybe part of this is just build up to race day nerves after not racing in so long and the lack of the relaxation and mental health benefits that come with running, but a decent part of it is due to becoming overly concerned with injury just before race day. In the past week I’ve paid far more attention to every little twinge of pain and ache anywhere on my body. Especially any area where I may have dealt with a previous injury. A little extra tightness in the calf and I’m worried it’s that calf flare up that took me out for almost a whole month of running last year. A sharp pain in the arch of my foot and I’m immediately thinking I’m going to be sidelined with plantar fasciitis. I’ve mostly been able to calm myself and realize I’m overreacting, but talk about unnecessary stress! 

My final long training run before my first 24 race.

And to close this blog post, as the title suggests I have a very specific goal for this race: to run 112.5 miles before the end of the 24 hours. This equates to 18 loops on the 6.25 mile race course and an overall average pace of 12:48 per mile. This distance would also increase my single run distance PR by about 6 miles completing one of my running goals for the year. Since the current course record is 108 miles, maybe my goal is a bit over ambitious or not necessarily within my capabilities. But why not aim for a greater goal rather than a less challenging one that I’m sure I would be capable of reaching? Obtaining painless goals for the sake of completing goals is a meaningless pursuit in my mind. Shooting for the pinnacle of individual success is one of the most motivating aspects of ultrarunning for me and I don’t plan on that mentality changing. 

Scott Snell 
April 12, 2021