Amazon

Showing posts with label big's backyard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label big's backyard. Show all posts

Saturday, July 31, 2021

First Time on a Podcast - Under the Tent



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Scott Snell
July 31, 2021

Monday, July 19, 2021

2021 Goals Status Check: Big's or bust



It’s July and we’re past the midpoint of 2021. We’ve just been informed via our social media feeds that the moon is wobbling and that it will cause more extreme and more frequent coastal flooding in the year 2030, but other than that 2021 is going relatively well. I’ve already checked two boxes on my running goals list for this year and they were the two targets that I most wanted to complete successfully. Those two goals were (1) to test myself and see what I am capable of at a 24 hour timed event and (2) to PR my greatest distance run. Two remaining goals are more measures of progress on a long term project (run every single street of Egg Harbor Township) and overall fitness (12 minute aerobic fitness test). The final goal (FKT attempt) was and is still more dependent on what race opportunities present themselves and what kind of crew support I can manage to wrangle together.

I’m pretty happy and proud of having already accomplished my primary running goals this year. Overall, my 24 hour race (Adventure Trail Run) went really well. I didn’t hit my goal of setting a new course record, but I did go home with a first place overall finish with about 103 miles. Taking another crack at it next year is something I’m definitely considering. I PR’d my greatest distance ever run at the inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra with about 129 miles. My previous longest was 106 miles. This was the kind of mileage increase I was hoping to do last year when I only bettered my longest distance by about 2 miles.


My long term project of running Every Single Street of Egg Harbor Township just hasn’t appealed to me much recently. Lately, every time I intend to do a long run to make some progress on it, I get as far as looking at my progress map and then just deciding I would rather do my long run on trails instead of what I know are busy roads. Maybe I’ll go back to it at some point, but for now that project is more or less in a holding pattern.

I’ll definitely complete my attempt at the 12 minute aerobic fitness test. After all, it only takes 12 minutes. I wish I would have done one earlier in the year so I could do it a couple more times throughout the year to see if I’m making progress or regressing. Maybe that will be a goal for next year.

With my top goals completed and my other goals not requiring a great deal of time, the question of what to do for the rest of the year arises. I think I have the answer, which is to work towards my more long term goal of running at Big’s Backyard in Tennessee. In order to do that, I basically have to build my long distance running resume by running backyard races. So that is my plan for the remainder of the year: find a backyard race that works with my schedule and train hard to go as far as I can there. And that’s it. To sum up my current major running goal is as simple as the the words: "Big's or bust".


Scott Snell
July 19, 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



Monday, January 20, 2020

Top Five Beast Coast Performances of 2019




5:  Rich Riopel’s 24 Hour Performance to Make the 2019 U.S. National 24 Hour Team


Rich Riopel at the 2019 Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn 24 hour. 


At the 2019 Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn 24 hour Ultra in Sharon Hill, PA, Rich Riopel returned to the world of competitive timed racing with an impressive performance. He ran a steady and consistent race to finish with 161.8207 miles. This earned him a first place overall finish at the race and a spot on the 2019 U.S. National 24 Hour Team! It was also good enough to earn him the third best 24 hour performance of 2019. This move back to timed races came as a bit of a surprise as Rich had moved away from those races and had run mostly specific distance trail ultras since running with the 2017 U.S. National 24 Hour Team at the 24 Hour World Championship Race in Belfast, Ireland. 


I admit that I may be a bit biased for including this performance in my top 5 of 2019 as Rich is a fellow New Jerseyian, but having a Beast Coaster throw down one of the top 24 hour performances of the year and represent ultrarunners on a World stage is pretty impressive in my opinion. 


4:  Alondra Moody and Luke Bollshweiler For Their Smokies Challenge Adventure Run FKTs


Alondra Moody (Ultrasignup photo)
Luke Bollshweiler (Ultrasignup photo)

Last year Alondra Moody improved the unsupported FKT for the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) route from 23h11min to 20h11min. The previous FKT was held by Natalia Traver and set in December of 2018. Luke Bollschweiler bettered the male supported FKT from 14h50min22s to 14h28min33s. The previous record was held by David Worth and set in May of 2011. Their performances earned them both nominations for the Fastest Known Time of the Year Award (FKTOY). The SCAR is a route following the Appalachian Trail (AT) across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Fontana Dam over 70 miles to Davenport Gap. Given the quick turnaround on the bettering of the FKT for the entirety of the AT in recent years (Scott Jurek - 2015, Karl Meltzer - 2016, Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy -2017, Karel Sabbe - 2018), I predict we’ll see faster FKTs for well established sections of the AT becoming the target more frequently. 


3:  New Male and Female Unsupported FKTs on the Long Trail

                 
                     Jeff Garmire (IG photo, report)


New England friends!!! I am so excited to return to the @greenmountainclub and kick off the 28th annual James P Taylor Outdoor Adventure Series with a talk about hiking the Long Trail this fall. I would love to see you there! Below are some details. 🀩🀸🏽‍♀️🧚‍♂️ • “Rugged Happiness: Setting the Unsupported Female Record on the Long Trail”
When: Friday, December 20th, 2019, 7 P.M. 
Where: GMC Visitor Center, Waterbury Center, VT • “This past fall Nika “Early Bird” Meyers returned to the Long Trail for the second time, however, this time she ended up setting the Unsupported Female Record by finishing the trail in 6 days, 11 hours, and 40 minutes. Through photos, videos, and stories, she will share moments from the journey of deep strength, unexpected fear, sleep-deprived silliness, abundant discomfort, and overwhelming happiness. The Long Trail is where her love for long-distance hiking started and she is excited to share her story with the community that has helped give her the confidence to dream big!” •

Admission is $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers; kids under 12 are free. Tickets are available at the door only. Proceeds support local sections and the GMC Education Program. •

Colorado friends, I’ll be giving a talk in Aspen on January 7th 😁. More details to come. .
.
.
#longtrail #fastestknowntime #longtrail2019 #fallhiking 
#hikingadventures #triplecrownofhiking #thruhike #hikevt #pct2014 #cdt2016 #at2018 #appalachiantrail #longdistancehiking #storytelling #ultralightbackpacking #sheexplores #womenwhohike #optoutside #takemebackpacking #everyoneswilderness #vtraised #trailchat #hikingultralight #forceofnature #palantepacks #vermontsports #vermont #motivationmonday #mountainmonday
Nika "Early Bird" Meyers (photo from her trip report)






Vermont’s Long Trail saw a good deal of FKT action in 2019 with three unsupported records set. The Long Trail is a rugged 273 mile jaunt running from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts/Vermont state line. It has a long history of FKTs, with the earliest documented record I could find being set in 1978 by Dr. Warren Doyle (8 d13h25min). Nika “Early Bird” Meyers set the bar for the female record with a time of 6d11h40min. Although this is the first female unsupported FKT (there is a “self supported” record - Jennifer Pharr-Davis - 7d15h40m) for the Long Trail, it is not the FKT just for the sake of being the only known time. Meyers’ record is only about six hours shy of the male unsupported record which was set in 2010 and was just surpassed in 2019. That 2010 male unsupported record (6d17h25min) was surpassed twice in the past year, first by Josh Perry (6d9h48min45sec) then by Jeff Garmire (5d23h48min). For a record that stood for nine years to be
broken twice in under a month’s span, I believe is a sign of the rising popularity and interest in FKTs.

1.5: Big’s Backyard Has Its First Female Winner - Maggie Guterl

Maggie Guterl at Big's Backyard (photo from Tailwind blog)
There have been plenty of times in ultrarunning events where a female is the fastest runner in the race. I’m not sure if it has been researched, but I would venture to guess that it is even more likely for a female to get the overall win at last person standing events such as Big’s Backyard. What makes Maggie Guterl’s performance at Big’s this past year so amazing isn’t the 250 miles she covered in 60 hours. It’s the fact that Big’s is “THE” last person standing race. It has the highest qualifying standards (a selection from Laz) of all the last person standing races. You have to earn your spot at the starting line by proving yourself with past performances. Basically, it’s an international competition of the best of the best in this style of race. And Maggie proved she was the best one there this year.

1.5: Wesley Atkinson Wins the Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series of Mountain Running

Wesley Atkinson (left) at the Easter States 100 finish with Race Director David Walker (right) (photo from Eastern States website)
Let me start this final top Beast Coast performance with the explanation of the “1.5” and the lack of a first and second place performance. I could not place either Maggie or Wesley’s performances above or below the other. Both amazed me and I did not want to diminish either. Additionally, why can’t we have a male and female Beast Coast Performance of the Year? My blog, my list, my rules. Right? And with that, the male Beast Coast Performance of the Year: Wesley Atkinson’s two year journey to win the Pennsylvania Triple Crown of Mountain Running.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you know that I am especially fond of the PA Triple Crown Series. But that is not why I picked Wesley’s performance as male Beast Coast Performance of the Year. He spent both 2018 and 2019 chasing the Triple Crown and achieved that goal in stunning fashion in 2019 setting two course records along the way. It looked like he was well on his way to winning it in 2018 with first place finishes at Hyner 50k and Worlds End 100k, but due to circumstances beyond his control (the cancellation of the 2018 Eastern States 100) he would not even get a shot at finishing it that year. Wesley returned and started the 2019 series with a 10th place finish at Hyner. After that he dominated the series. He bettered the course record at Worlds End 100k from 11:37:52 (2016) to 10:50:38. This set some high expectations for everyone watching Eastern States 100 to see what he could do at that distance. Wesley did not disappoint. He finished first place and took over two hours off the course record from 20:30:36 (2016) to 18:23:47 to finish first place male finisher of the series!