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Showing posts with label beast coast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beast coast. Show all posts

Monday, November 29, 2021

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

When I got comfortable with an uncomfortable heat index of 109.7°F at Wildcat Ridge Romp.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s a phrase or mantra you hear or read sprinkled throughout the ultrarunning world. It’s a concept that I’ve embraced and I feel like it has served me well in my ultrarunning experiences. In fact, sometimes I feel that I am more comfortable with being uncomfortable than I am with indulging in extravagant comforts. But what does it really mean and how does one become comfortable with experiencing discomfort? Is it a trick you play on yourself? Do you just learn to lie to yourself really well and believably? Or is it just straight up denial?

When I got comfortable with being uncomfortable at Eastern States 2017.

To me, it is more than just a matter of denying the facts. In the phrase itself we’re acknowledging a feeling of discomfort (“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”). We’re accepting the discomfort as fact and simply altering our reaction to that feeling. Rather than having a knee jerk, panicky reaction to the discomfort with the question of “How do I stop this discomfort?” we’ve trained our minds to recognize and accept the discomfort and react in a much more metered and controlled manner.

For me it’s usually a process of analyzing the situation and going through a checklist of questions:


1. How bad is this and is it going to worsen?

This is the “don’t fix what’s not broken” stage. If it’s not that bad, just don’t worry about it. Eventually it will probably resolve itself or you’ll just grow accustomed to the minor discomfort. View this as an opportunity to set your baseline threshold for discomfort. If you run long enough, there is going to be some level of discomfort at some point. When that discomfort begins to appear, greet it with open arms. Be grateful it is no longer hiding in the shadows. Use this baseline discomfort as a measurement tool to determine if it’s increasing or just persisting.


2. Is there anything I can do to resolve it right now?

Fix it if you can. The example of debris in your shoe is the classic example of this. Stop and get the crap out of your shoe before it creates a larger problem like a blister. If you can’t fix it now, can you fix it at the next aid station? Is it chafing that some vaseline will resolve? Aid station volunteers are some of the most helpful groups of people I have ever met. I believe they genuinely want to see all runners succeed and they will do whatever they can to assist with that. Just ask for help.


3. How serious is this and am I going to further injure myself if I continue?

This is the million dollar question. Sometimes distinguishing between superficial and serious injuries can be difficult, especially when your mind and body are both exhausted. Phantom injuries can quickly not only justify accepting a DNF, but convince you that it is the smart thing to do. Do your best to assess the pain/injury as objectively as possible. Try to get a third party opinion from someone who wants to see you keep going (like an aid station or medical volunteer) and not from someone who it will hurt to see you suffer (like a spouse, assuming your spouse is not a masochist).

It’s the reaction to the discomfort that is really important and to me that is what the phrase is all about: YOUR reaction. Of course I am not suggesting that you hobble the last 20 miles or so of an ultra on a broken leg or continue on after suffering a bad fall and showing signs of a concussion. Injury is a valid and respectable reason to DNF. I am not a big fan of another common phrase (“Death Before DNF”) that makes its way around the ultrarunning world. I mean, I like the idea of refusing to quit, but I don’t take it that far. I’m pretty sure people say it because they think it sounds kinda badass, but when you evaluate it a bit more honestly I would hope you realize rather quickly that you are more valuable to someone alive than dead at an ultramarathon. I know that’s the case for me.

So I encourage you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, but only to a certain degree. You don’t want to cause further injury or do irreparable harm to yourself just to finish a race. Sometimes it feels like a fine line to walk, but I guess that’s part of the fun of ultras. There’s so much uncertainty and so many “what if”s. And that’s part of the reason why I am so drawn to them. They’re challenging and complex in so many regards for achieving the simple purpose of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

Beast coast trail chafing
When I got comfortable with being uncomfortable at Eastern States 2019.




Scott Snell
November 29, 2021

Saturday, August 29, 2020

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



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



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

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

Artistic interpretations of the Jersey Devil

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


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

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

At the start!

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

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

Making my first aid drop!

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

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

All prepped and ready to go!

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

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

Calling my shot.

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

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

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

The northern terminus.

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

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

Finished and kinda exhausted.


















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





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


Last mile marker!

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

Scott Snell
August 29, 2020



Carry in, carry out!


Quantity

Description

Calories Ea.

Calories Tot.

Caffeine (mg) Ea.

Caffeine (mg) Tot.

2

Honey Stinger waffles

150

300

X

X

4

Honey Stinger gels

100

400

X

X

1

Honey Stinger gels (caffeinated)

100

100

32

32

3

SIS Double Espresso gels

90

270

150

450

5

SIS Apple gels

90

450

X

X

1

SIS Salted Strawberry gels

87

87

X

X

1

Boom Apple Cinnamon gels

110

110

X

X

1

FBomb Salted Chocolate Macadamia

210

210

X

X

1

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

350

350

X

X

2.5

Gallons Gatorade & Shaklee Hydrate+

960

2400

X

X

Totals:


4677


482







Saturday, August 8, 2020

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

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


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


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

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


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


Map of the BibRave Pro team's progress.


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



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


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