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Showing posts with label goals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label goals. Show all posts

Thursday, June 8, 2023

2023 Capital Backyard Ultra - Father of Four, Ready for More... Ultrarunning

 
beast coast trail running scott snell capital backyard ultra

When my wife and I found out we were having another child to join our already family of five, I can honestly say I was shocked. I also selfishly thought of how it would affect my training and my running goals. I’d say I panicked a bit fearing that my ultrarunning days were more or less over or would at least have to be put on hold for a few years. Thankfully my race at Capital Backyard Ultra relieved any still persisting panic and alleviated my fears. After incorporating training around the birth of my fourth son and caring for his older brothers with ages ranging from 2 to 11, I put that training to the test and managed to come home to my two month old baby and my amazing wife having exceeded all of my expectations of what I was capable of and having achieved all of the race goals I set for myself. Long story short, this proved to me I was still capable of running backyard ultras competitively even with my family life becoming busier and more hectic than it has been the last few years.

 beast coast trail running scott snell

So what does training for a backyard race look like for a busy father of four that works full time? The key ingredients for me are consistency, volume, and flexibility.
 

Consistency: Getting in the miles day after day. Yes, I do take rest days, but usually it's one day a week. Some days are longer, some shorter, but I don’t do a huge number of “long runs”. Typically, my daily runs usually range between 6-13 miles. Personally, I feel like I get better fitness training by running three consecutive days of 13 mile runs rather than running 39 miles in a single run and taking a couple rest days before and after it.

Volume: Increasing volume of easy paced runs has been my primary goal of training since becoming focused on the backyard format. I aim to have a consistent build of volume leading up to a big race. I do this by setting up a 3-4 month training cycle focused on gradually increasing volume. I simply run consistently, then look at the daily average of miles per day for the baseline month. I then aim for an increase in the daily average mileage every month until the month of the race. I used this method for the first time last year as I trained for Capital Backyard Ultra. I ran a PR of over 100 miles and was the last one standing at the race last year, so that pretty much sold me on this method.

Flexibility: Life is busy and responsibilities get in the way of training. When that happens being rigid is not going to benefit a training plan. Adapting and finding a way to incorporate the desired mileage around other responsibilities has become my standard method of operation. Some days that means I run even slower than normal miles pushing my sleeping two year old (that most likely has a lollipop that has fallen out of his mouth stuck to him somewhere) in a jogging stroller. Would I have rather run my normal trail route? Yes, but road miles with a stroller are better than no miles. On days that I have not had an opportunity to run until 9 pm or so when the kids are asleep for the night, I view it as an opportunity to train my mental fortitude. Yes, I’m tired and I would like to go to bed for the night, but I ask myself “Are you too tired to run one more yard?” And the answer is always a simple “No.” So I push myself out the door to run and remind myself that I am building mental toughness for that time during a backyard when I feel so tired that I don’t think I can do one more yard. I remind myself that this is how you get one more yard, by choosing to start it, as much as you may not feel like it.
 
beast coast trail running scott snell capital backyard ultra
The view from my aid station.

I want to move on to focus specifically on my race experience this year at Capital Backyard Ultra, but before doing so let me give a brief description of the “backayard” race format for anyone reading who may not be familiar. Basically, it is a race of attrition without a set distance. The race continues until only one runner remains. Hence, these races are also referred to as “last person standing” races. So how are runners eliminated? By not completing a 4.167 mile lap every hour on the hour. Every hour all runners start a lap and must finish before the end of the hour. If they finish early, they must wait until the start of the next hour to start their next lap. With that caveat, this race prevents any runner from building a lead, more or less taking away the advantage of speedy runners. The cycle of on the hour lap starts continues indefinitely until all but one runner has opted to not continue running or has timed out. The last runner remaining must run one complete lap more than all other runners within the hour time limit before being named the winner. This leaves the possibility that there could be no winner (which has happened) if several runners go out for a lap and they all time out.
 

Day 1: After experiencing several multi day backyards, day one becomes a bit of an obligatory process. And honestly, with the depth of the field at Capital this year, I was viewing the first 48 hours as an obligatory process. It’s more or less a thinning of the herd, separating those there that have the capability and drive to be the last one standing from the rest of the group. Although it takes 24-48 hours for this process to play out with the caliber of backyard runners assembled for this race, that doesn’t mean it has to be a boring process. I spent most of the first day meeting new people and catching up with folks I had run with before. A good number of the runners I already knew were my teammates that I ran with on Team USA last year at Big’s: Kevin McCabe, Jennifer Russo, Keith Van, Justin Wright and Levi Yoder.

It had been a few months, but we were running together again, although this time not as a team but individuals. We all had our own reasons for being there and running the race. I believe Keith and I had pretty similar motivations. One motivator Keith had that I didn’t is that he currently has the most miles accumulated at Capital. As long as he runs the race and puts in a solid performance, he will likely be able to hold on to that record. Neither of us really needed to run this race. We both were pretty safe on the Big’s at large list with a performance of 62 yards. So it was something else that drove us to run this race. I believe our common motivations were first, just to run with our teammates again, and second, to assist them in earning a spot at Big’s this year. You can only go as far as your assist takes you in the backyard and to secure a spot on the at large list to Big’s this year will likely take a performance of over 60 yards which is no short order. Justin and Levi were both seeking performances to break onto the at large list as their best performances thus far for the qualifying period fell short. Kevin and Jennifer were both already on the at large list with performances of 57 and 60 yards respectively. While that puts them both on the at large list, it doesn’t leave a lot of breathing room and leaves the opportunity for a few big backyard performances to knock them off the list. I believe both of them were seeking to at least better their standing on the list.
 
beast coast trail running scott snell
My aid area for the duration of the race. 

I arrived at the race uncrewed (again) and spent the first day getting into a routine. I got my aid area set up and tweaked a few things throughout the day to make it flow a bit easier. Being uncrewed at Capital is pretty manageable for the first 24-48 hours if you’re a self sufficient runner. After that, things can start to get a little hectic or your brain just can’t function as smoothly due to the sleep deprivation and exhaustion. So, thankfully, I had a plan this year. A runner I had met at previous races and that volunteered at my last 24 hour race was running Capital. This runner is 72 year young Marty Fox. I chatted with him before the race and he agreed to crew for me when his race was finished and he had a chance to rest. The timing would be nearly perfect for him to be ready and rested to help me when I would start needing help.

Night 1: The first night was smooth and uneventful, just as you want it to be for a multiday backyard. I didn’t feel too tired that first night and didn’t use much caffeine either. The pace continued to feel easy to come in with 9-10 minutes between yards. I laid down a few times the first night to rest my eyes, but I don’t think I got any real sleep. The biggest challenge for me that first night was the temperature. It felt pretty chilly to me overnight and between each yard I was bundling up in my sleeping bag which made the start of every yard feel even colder.
 
beast coast trail running scott snell

Day 2: The sun rose again and the day warmed, rejuvenating me and most of the other runners as we finished our night laps on the paved path and returned to the trail for another set of 14 day yards. I don’t think we had lost many runners at this point. I know we lost my soon to be crew rock star, Marty, as he set a new PR for himself with 20 yards!

With the lack of sleep and just being physically worn down from running over 100 miles, day two just begins to feel like a grind. But all you can do is bear it and soldier on, hoping you ran that first 100 miles smart enough to allow you to run the second 100 miles relatively comfortably. That’s the name of the game in the backyard, minimizing damage. There will be cumulative damage, for everyone. It’s the ones who handle it well and minimize it as much as possible that will be able to continue to compete for the ultimate prize.
 
beast coast trail running scott snell squat party capital backyard ultra
A few impromptu squat parties occurred throughout the race in the starting corral. 

The biggest disappointment for me on day 2 started between loops when I saw from my chair Kevin shake Keith’s hand and then turn to look at me and start heading in my direction. I already knew what was happening, Kevin was calling it quits. He shook my hand and confirmed my suspicions. His head wasn’t in it this time and he was walking away. Keith and I did our best to talk him into going back out. My line was “it can all turn around in one yard.” I feel like we almost had him convinced to go back out with us, but it seemed his drive was gone and there wasn’t any fight left for him in this race. Once it became pretty apparent to me that he was done, I gave him a hug and wished him the best as we prepped to head out for another yard. The backyard is rigid and makes no exceptions. Either you’re in or you’re out. And once you’re out the race plows on without you. Those continuing to run are left to speculate about what caused the other runners to end their days. I would think a lot about Kevin for the next few days, wishing that I had something better to say to reignite a fire for him to continue.

Night 2: We lost a second member of Team USA shortly after the switch back to the paved course. Justin disappeared from the field of runners suddenly. A lot of questions were asked, but no clear, definitive answers came back from anyone back at camp. Obviously something went wrong for him, and it apparently happened suddenly as he seemed in good shape and good spirits going into the switch of courses.

Having run through a second night at two backyards previously, the second night didn’t have me worried. I knew what to expect and had established tools and methods to address the issues that I knew I would face eventually. Drowsiness is usually the biggest issue for me during the second night; short naps, caffeine consumption, and comradery are pretty much the extent of the tools I use to battle that issue. I only had one pretty bad scare due to drowsiness. I was alone on the path taking a little walk break and resting my eyes when I felt a change in the surface under my feet. It had gone from paved to soft, cushiony grass. Obviously I wasn’t walking a straight line and I had veered off the path. I opened my eyes just in time to see I was about to walk into a drainage ditch where a metal culvert came out from under a driveway. It was a pretty good drop and pretty steep. Another step or two and I may have taken a fall into the ditch. I didn’t have much time to react when I realized what was about to happen so I made a little hop over the drainage ditch to the other side towards the road. I shook my head to try to expel the sleepiness then looked at the ditch and thought about how bad that could have been. I got back on the path feeling really proud of my fast athletic reaction to avoid a catastrophe and kept my eyes open for the rest of the lap. When I completed that yard, the first thing I did back at my aid station was down a half bottle of a Stacker 2 energy drink.

We got a bit of rain during the second night, but thankfully I invested in a running rain jacket prior to this race after my lack of preparation left me cold and shivering at the 24 hour Adventure Trail Challenge just a little over a month ago. As a side note, it was Marty, my crew volunteer, who saved me at that race. He was volunteering at the aid station and when he saw me come in soaked and shivering he grabbed his Patagonia Houdini rain jacket for me to wear. And here he was again at my next race, crewing for me and keeping me going through that second night after running his own PR. As a bonus, I also got two additional crew members through Marty. His son, Derek, was running the race crewed by his buddy Jaron. Once Derek called it a day for his race, they both jumped in to help Marty crew me. I felt like I had a full on pit crew attending to all my needs by the time I rolled into day three.
 
beast coast trail running scott snell
The Fab Four on Day 3! Team USA!

Day 3: After 200 miles, the field really started dwindling. At this point, I’d say the odds are pretty good that the only runners left are the ones who are all in to be the last one standing. When you’ve come this far, there’s no reason to quit unless there’s no one left to push you farther or something goes bad for you and you can’t continue. The third day the sleep deprivation really started messing with my head. I had managed a few short naps during the second night, but not like the solid 9-10 minute nap I got last year at Capital. The brain was super foggy which I tried to treat with caffeine, but there’s only so much that can do. I started experiencing a feeling of awake day dreaming that I’ve had on the third day of past backyards. The symptom that really tips me off to know it’s happening is when I’m chatting with other runners and all of a sudden I’m not sure if I actually said something or just thought I did. Or I’ll have an entire conversation in my head with someone running by me and then be uncertain if we actually had the conversation or I was just imagining it. It makes me question reality a bit when it’s happening, but I’m pretty certain it is mainly just a side effect due to lack of sleep.

As runners dropped off, one by one, the day and the race unrelentingly carried on without them. Eventually it was down to four of us, all former teammates from Team USA at Big’s last year: Jennifer Russo, Keith Van, Levi Yoder, and I. We weren’t a team for this race, but there’s no question that some of those team bonds remained. We chatted, we joked, we helped each other out, we even talked about goals for the race. That eventually led to us all agreeing that 72 was a good goal to shoot for together. I pushed a bit further and raised the question of what about when we hit 72 (I was confident I could at that point). Do we continue to work together or is it straight back to the backyard format, every runner for him/herself? It was agreed that in the spirit of the backyard format that we should continue on until only one is left. There would be no finish line or celebration for achieving the benchmark of 300 miles. It would just be one yard closer to a DNF for all but one runner.

The idea of hitting 300 miles was not a shock to me at all during our talk on that third day of running. I had posted a graph I made of my “great expectations” for this race. That graph included the benchmarks of 100 miles, 200 miles, course record (62 yards), personal record (63 yards), American record (86 yards), and World record (102 yards). Having done 258 miles at Big’s last year while still recovering from a chest cough and cold, I was sure I could do 300 on the easier course at Capital while healthy. So I set some big goals to shoot for, to keep me pushing for as long as other runners were willing to go with me. While those big goals were real for me, I wasn’t confident the opportunity to chase them would present itself at this race. You can only go as far as your assist will push you at a backyard. What I was confident of being pushed to was to run through a third night, something I had never achieved before and the mental hurdle that ultimately ended my race at Big’s last year. Last year at Capital a major goal for me was to run through a second night for the first time ever to prepare for having to do it at Big’s last October. This year, I was again using Capital to prepare for Big’s, but this time the test was making it through that third night.


Night 3: The third night began with three of us; Keith had timed out on his 58th yard towards the end of the day to finish with a total of 237.5 miles. After a couple night laps, Levi’s stomach would turn on him. He headed out on his 64th yard, but the lack of a stomach that can digest and process fuel would take its toll on this yard. He would turn back to finish his day with a PR of 63 yards or 262.5 miles, a performance that is pretty certain to earn him his spot at Big’s this October. I was a little ahead of Levi when he stopped running on his last yard. I was pretty focused on getting myself mentally prepared for another night of sleep deprivation and exhaustion. I was battling my own mental monsters as I had just exceeded my backyard PR and not particularly looking forward to another sleepless night of running. It would have been easy to check out with a new PR and a pretty much guaranteed spot at Big’s at that point in the race. With everything going on in my own head, I didn’t do much to push Levi on. I tried to give a little encouragement by telling him that his stomach could come back, he’s just gotta make it through this yard, but honestly I don’t think I could have done or said anything to save his race at that point. He had the desire and the fight to carry on; he just needed a functioning stomach, not a pep talk.

beast coast trail running scott snell, Levi Yoder,  and Jennifer Russo new female backyard world record holder at finish of capital Backyard 2023
Jennifer Russo, Levi Yoder, and Scott Snell -
The last three standing at Capital Backyard Ultra 2023
  
So Jennifer and I were the last two standing again, just like last year. Only this year we were both in better shape to push on through the third night. We had had pretty ideal running weather for the first three days with decent cloud cover and highs in the 70s. It was nothing like last year with brutal heat and full sun outside the woods. We both pretty much ran on our own all night. My pace was just slightly faster and I would come in just a few minutes before Jennifer on every yard like clockwork. I only attempted to pick up the pace for a little extra sleep time for one yard on that night. It worked and I felt like I got good sleep, but I also stiffened up a bit during those extra few minutes of rest, so much so that I decided it seemed risky to do that again. So I just continued to come in with my comfortable 8-9 minutes and fell asleep quickly getting 4-5 minute naps every lap. I was impressed with how well I was sleeping in those short bursts through the night.

Even with the “quality” sleep I was getting, the lack of sleep was obviously affecting my brain function. I didn’t have any full, vivid hallucinations, but shadows and objects in the dark definitely began to resemble other random things. The shadowy shrubs were most often some type of animal. I saw lots of dogs and horses, sometimes full bodies, other times it would just be a giant dog face in the flora. I swear, one shrub along the path took on the shape of an elephant man until I was within a few feet of it when I was finally able to distinguish that it was in fact a bush. They had recently mowed the edges of the path which left a lot of tall grass clippings scattered on the path. Those clippings had dried and yellowed after a few days in the sun and took on the appearance of golden hay. Hay is for horses, at least that’s what my discombobulated brain reasoned. So I kept seeing horse faces in those strewn, dried grass clippings along the path. The fire hydrants along the path were painted silver which kept reminding me of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Before I knew it, every fire hydrant I approached appeared to be the Tin Man wearing a fire fighter’s helmet. The strangest visual miscue I had was just the bare paved path itself. On a few occasions as I just stared down at the path it seemed to take on a CGI rendered quality. It would smooth out and look slatey in a way, like it was a creation of some low quality computer animation using 3D rendered polygons. Thankfully, those didn’t last too long and things went back to the current normal pretty quickly.

Day 4: Jennifer and I ran our last night loop together as the sun came up. We didn’t plan it or talk about it. Our paces just happened to match up, maybe mine slowed a bit and her’s increased a bit, but we ran that yard pretty much side by side. I think we both knew at that point, having survived the night, that we were going to make it to 300 which was now only two day yards away. I believe that also meant that we both knew this was going to turn into a battle of wills as the day carried on past the 300 mile mark. At least that’s where my mind was headed.

We both completed yard 72 with little celebration. For a goal that we both worked so long and hard to achieve, the celebration was overshadowed, at least for me, by the knowledge of the battle that would ensue. It wouldn’t end with high fives and cheers of our victory. It would continue until one of us failed. A few fist bumps and a pat on the back from Jennifer as we headed out on yard 73 and the celebration was over. During that yard I began questioning how much longer this would go. I was growing tired both mentally and physically. I wasn’t struggling to complete the laps with 6-7 minutes to spare, but I could feel the wear of three days and three nights with little sleep or recovery time building on me. I began to wonder how Jennifer was faring, she wasn’t showing any signs of weakness at this point. In a way I had hoped she would hit 300 which was a big goal of her’s for a long time, and then her mind and body would just say, “We did it! Time to relax!” But that didn’t seem to be the case. It seemed like we would continue on through a fourth day at that point. That thought excited and scared me. It meant the American record would be well within reach. It also meant one more day until the race ended and I could go home to see my kids. I was starting to miss them and was tired of the struggle of the race. I quietly told Marty this between laps 73 and 74. It was the first time during the race I actually envisioned myself quitting. Thankfully, Marty said the right thing when I said I was ready to go home and see my kids. He asked if I was still with my wife and if she was with the kids. I said yes and he responded by saying just be thankful she’s still around and caring for the kids. We had a bit of an emotional moment, maybe just a few seconds, but it was enough to get me teary eyed. He was right. The kids are in good hands and I needed to just focus on one more yard.


As it turned out, it wouldn’t be much longer until I didn’t have to focus on the race anymore. Jennifer came in from lap 74 with only a few minutes to spare. She didn’t go into her aid tent as she had between every other loop. Her crew had placed her chair outside her tent right at the edge of the corral. My aid tent was right next to Jennifer’s so I could get an idea of how she was doing. This was the first time I had any indication that she was struggling. As it seemed she rushed to get some calories in and prep to head back out, my crew joked with me while I enjoyed some avocado toast with bacon. The song “Get Up, Stand Up” was playing and my crew joked about what an appropriate song it was for the situation. I found it pretty hilarious at the time and started cracking up. It was at that moment that I felt like the race had finally shifted in my direction and could be nearing the end. I made a comment to Marty just before getting up that I thought Jennifer might be starting a death spiral based on how close she cut the last lap and that she moved her set up outside her tent to the edge of the corral. He didn’t confirm if he agreed or not, but just said to focus on my yard.

During the 75th yard I went out ahead as I had been for the day laps and realized Jennifer’s pace had slowed a bit more on this yard. There is a short, maybe quarter mile out and back at about the halfway point of the trail course. After I completed the out and back I passed the trail that leads you to it and caught my first and only sight of Jennifer during that yard. She was climbing the small hill before you exit the woods to run the out and back. She looked like she was struggling, her shoulders a bit slumped. I didn’t see the fight in her that I was so accustomed to. For the last two miles of that yard, I eased off my pace a bit thinking that it could very well be my final yard. Of course I knew that Jennifer had the wherewithal to keep going indefinitely even with only a minute or two between yards (she did that for hours last year), so I didn’t get too comfortable or start celebrating. But something I saw in how she was climbing that hill made me think that her race was coming to an end.

When I got back from yard 75 my crew did exactly what they were supposed to, they got me ready to go out for number 76. There was no celebration or even talk of the race being over. The closest thing to it was when Marty told me he saw Jennifer’s time when she crossed the mid yard timing mat and that it was going to be close. He immediately followed it up with, “you get ready to run another, because she can still make it in!” We went through our normal interloopal process and waited. The 3 minute whistle blew and no sign of Jennifer. The crowd was looking for her to see if she exited the woods yet. I got no indication of whether she was within sight or not. I stayed in my chair. The 2 minute whistle blew. Still no indication of any sign of her. I took the complete lack of reaction from the crowd there that they had not spotted her. With less than two minutes, she should have been within sight of the finish if she was going to have a chance to make it. The 1 minute whistle blew. No reaction from the crowd, just a lot of peering at the landscape in the distance. I stood up and moved into the starting corral pretty sure I was less than a minute away from a win. The last minute seemed to move slowly, but the clock eventually ran out and Jennifer had timed out on yard 75.


Although the clock ran out on Jennifer’s 75th yard, she had still achieved something extremely impressive, a new female backyard world record. The previous record of 68 yards had been held by none other than Courtney Dauwalter since the 2020 Big’s Backyard. Rather than celebrate at the finish line, Race Director Sarah Smith and I walked back on the course to find Jennifer and congratulate her. She was about a half mile from the finish when we reached her. We hugged and I told her how impressive the run she had put together was and how much I love how much fight she has in her to never quit even when it gets ridiculously tough after 50, 60, or 70 some hours.

beast coast trail running scott snell and Jennifer Russo new female backyard world record holder embrace at finish of capital Backyard 2023

For me, I hit all of my goals and then some this year at Capital. The biggest being that I survived the third night which went relatively smoothly. I also learned a few new fuel options that worked well for me and some pain treatment methods thanks to my Crew Leader Marty. The icing on the cake, a consecutive overall win. That was a big goal to shoot for this year as I knew how deep the field was. I believed it was possible, if not it likely wouldn’t have happened, but I knew I’d have to have a REALLY good race for it to happen. Thankfully it happened and what a great confidence booster to build on leading to Big’s this year. With this performance, I know that as long as I stay healthy, I am capable of a much better day at Big’s this year than I had last year. And that is exciting because I’ll have the opportunity to run and compete with the best backyard runners in the world this October to see how I stack up against them on a common course. The thought of it scares me as I know the most likely outcome is a DNF, but even so, I know I have the potential to hang on into the final handful of runners and I believe there is at least a possibility that I could outlast the rest of the field there. I’ll never know what’s possible for me at Big’s unless I show up healthy and give it my all.

 
beast coast trail running scott snell capital backyard ultra jennifer russo
Jennifer Russo, Race Director Sarah Smith, and Scott Snell at the end of Capital Backyard Ultra 2023!

I would be completely remiss if I did not thank a whole slew of people who made my amazing experience at Capital so amazing.

Of course Sarah Smith, Race Director of Capital Backyard Ultra, must be thanked. The race was created by her, is organized by her, and is a very special event thanks to her attention to detail and personal touch on all aspects of the race. Also, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the many race volunteers that sacrifice their time and energy to allow us runners to enjoy the race. An extra special and huge thank you to the chefs who provide what I can honestly say without the risk of exaggerating the best aid station food I have ever had at a race. Without an extensive crew of selfless volunteers these races just could not happen.

Additionally, I need to thank Jennifer Russo and the many other runners that ran Capital this year. Without their comradery and her assist, I would not have continued to run as long as I did. I personally really appreciated and liked how Sarah Smith described the finish in a Facebook post.


A more personal thank you goes to the crew that adopted me this year: Marty Fox, Derek Fox, and Jaron Holmes. Marty and Derek are a father and son duo that ran the race this year. Jaron is a buddy of Derek’s and was crewing for him for this race. I had met Marty a few times at previous races and was chatting with him during the race aid set up time on Friday afternoon. He was planning on sticking around after his race ended to volunteer and help out other runners. I asked if he’d be willing to crew for me after he had a chance to rest. I am so grateful he agreed. Marty ran a PR of 20 yards (83.33 miles). Derek ran 33 yards (137.5 miles) being crewed by Jaron. After their efforts and only getting a little rest, all three jumped in to crew me for the remainder of my race. And they were a rockstar crew! I like to think of myself as a pretty self sufficient and independent runner, and I did go the first day and night without a crew, but I never would have lasted as long as I did without their help. I definitely owe those guys for making this run a very special achievement.
 
beast coast trail running scott snell capital backyard ultra
Left to right: Marty Fox, Derek Fox, Scott Snell, and Jaron Holmes -
my rock star crew!

The most personal thank you goes to my wife, Amanda. Ultrarunning certainly seems like a pretty selfish hobby at times. My wife takes on a lot to allow me to get in training runs and then disappear for long weekends to run these races. She keeps the house from burning down while corralling our four boys whose ages range from 11 years to 2 months old. I honestly don’t know how she does it but she does and she still doesn’t seem to hate me when I get home. Without her support, what I now consider my biggest running achievement would not have happened. I love you! Thank you!

 
beast coast trail running scott snell

Scott Snell
8 June 2023



Thursday, April 20, 2023

Preparing for a 24 hour - Taper Panicking



By the numbers, yesterday’s run wasn’t amazing for any reason. It wasn’t a tough work out. It wasn’t at a high intensity or a faster than normal pace. The distance wasn’t crazy long or even any farther than my average training run. I did not reach any significant milestones for the month, year, or the number of miles on my shoes. Barring all the things it was not, yesterday’s run was special. The numbers and data behind the run didn’t make it interesting or significant, but the feeling of it did. Which is exactly what I needed to feel ready and prepared for this weekend’s 24-hour trail race.

The day before after getting home from work I began to feel depleted, like my mind and body needed some time off. That isn’t the feeling I was hoping for halfway through my taper week leading up to what I expect to be a pretty hard effort for 24 hours. I caught myself sneeze a couple of times and my throat felt scratchy. I feared I may me getting sick as my son was still getting over a cold he picked up a couple of weeks ago. Waves of anxiety, panic, and anger all took turns floating to the surface of my emotions as I feared that this was going to be a repeat of my last race that I ended up running while still recovering from a cough/cold. That would most likely make this weekend’s race a total sufferfest. Although my wife has told me, “you’re the best sufferer,” that doesn’t mean that I seek out extra opportunities to suffer or actually enjoy it.

I decided that as soon as the kids’ extracurricular activities were over for the night, getting ready for bed and getting some rest was my number one priority. But shortly after we got home my son reminded me that we had run our 1 mile training run for the day yet. We had just started running a mile a day this week because he wanted to train for his school’s fitness challenge run. I honestly had forgotten about it for the night, but when he asked if I was ready, I couldn’t bail on him and say no. We got our headlamps and went out for our mile. Once finished, it was bedtime.

Yesterday didn’t seem like it was going to be a change in my mental outlook or physical health until I managed to get out for my run after getting home from work. My legs felt great! I was full of energy and truly happy to run after a day of feeling worn out. Most importantly though, it was the confidence booster I needed to be ready for a 24-hour effort. It resolved the taper week feelings of panic I was experiencing just the previous day. It set my headspace right to trust my training and know that I have done the work to be as prepared as possible for a challenging physical endeavor. It’s almost go time, and I am ready!


Scott Snell
20 April 2023




Wednesday, January 11, 2023

2022 Goals Reviewed and Examining 2023 Goals


Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running

My singular goal for 2022, well it actually began to form midway through 2021, was to earn a place on the 15 person Team USA for the international Backyard Ultra Team competition at Big's Backyard in October. I accomplished this goal in May by winning Capital Backyard Ultra which was a silver ticket event guaranteeing me a place on the team. With my main goal for the year accomplished only a few months into the year, I put all my effort into training to achieve my best possible performance at that competition. In retrospect, maybe that was a mistake putting all of my eggs into one basket. As luck would have it, my son got sick with a bad cough/cold about two weeks before the race and then I picked it up about a week before the race. While I still had a decent performance there (62 yards or about 258 miles), it was not the performance I hoped for and I was just angry the majority of the time for the timing of the virus I contracted. Which I guess is a major downside of focusing all of your effort preparing for such a long period on a single race. All it takes is one poorly timed sickness to destroy your hopes. So, I have decided not to do that again. I will do almost the exact opposite this year and just send it, running all the races I want to run. Which is probably equally bad for different reasons.

Overall, this year I just want to run the races I want to run and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe I'll burn out and be sick of ultrarunning (not likely) before October and the big dance at Big's. But I don’t think I will. The more likely flaw to this plan is either an overuse injury or insufficient recovery time between races to achieve optimal performance. But I don’t care. I’d rather run that risk and have a few races that I’m really proud of, a few that I deem mediocre, and a few that were total misses rather than have one race that I put so much time and effort into feel like a failure. So with that introduction and philosophy behind my running goals for 2023, here they are (in chronological order)!

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running

1.  Set a new 24 hour PR for myself and a new course record at the 24 hr Adventure Trail Run in Triangle, VA. - I made my first attempt at this goal and my first attempt at a 24 hour race in 2021. It was my first race after races had been shut down due to COVID. I believe I am better prepared to achieve this goal this time around. I know what mistakes I made during my first attempt and how I can remedy them. I also believe I am better prepared physically and mentally this time. My fitness level has improved and my mind is better adapted to overcome temporary setbacks within a 24 hour period. I was so close to achieving this goal last time that I am almost certain I will have success this time.

2.  Run Capital Backyard Ultra and be sure to secure my spot at Big's this year. - With the qualifying period for the 2023 Backyard World individual Championships ending in mid August, Capital Backyard Ultra (at the end of May) is one of the final more competitive backyard races likely to produce an at large qualification. Right now I'm sitting at the 56th spot out of 75 spots available. Chances are pretty good that where I'm at is good enough and I will qualify regardless of whether I run another backyard between now and then. However, there are some competitive backyard races between now and then. If I'm pushed farther down the qualifying list, it's most likely I'll be pushed off the list due to at large qualifications at Capital. If that does occur, I want to be in the race to compete for my spot at Big's.

3.  Run a 12 hour race at the Midnight Squatchapalooza. - I've never run a 12 hour race before and this is one of the most local ultras for me. It's also hosted by one of my favorite NJ race directors, Kim Levinsky of Sassquad Trail Running. My personal goal for this race is to run at least a 100k before the 12 hour clock runs out. From what I can tell based on the Ultrasignup results page, it looks like the course record is 25 laps of a 2.5 mile looped course or 62.5 miles which is just over a 100k distance. So, if I hit my personal goal I will at least tie the course record. Of course, if things are going well for me late in the race and it is within reach, I’d love to be able to better the course record and complete 26 laps to hit 65 miles.

4.  Run Backyard Squatch again. - I have multiple reasons for this goal and several achievements I’d like to reach within this goal. This race is also hosted by Sassquad Trail Running, so that alone makes me want to run it again. After running and winning it in 2021, I was invited back by Kim Levinsky to run it again in 2022 but I felt like it was a little too close and would disrupt my training cycle leading up to the Backyard Ultra Team competition at Big's Backyard in October. Although I wanted to run it again last year, I opted not to, hoping it would better my performance at Big’s. That is not the plan this year. Like I mentioned earlier, the plan is just to send it this year and hope for the best. With that mindset, my goals for this race are to better the course record (36 yards) that still stands from the inaugural year (2021). Additionally, I intend to be the last person standing there.

5.  Run a 200 mile race. - After spending the better part of the last two years making earning a spot to run at Big’s Backyard my primary focus, I’m trying to freshen things up a bit this year with some new exciting goals, hence the completely new goal of running a 12 hour race. While running a 200 mile race isn’t a completely new or fresh idea for me to pursue, this year I plan on acting on it. In the past I had kinda dreamt about running a 200 miler. I had always thought I’d sign up for one out west, most likely one of Candice Burt’s races but a few things kept me from acting on those dreams. The first being the cost. When you add up the registration and travel costs you’re looking at a minimum of a several thousand dollar price tag for an adventure that will most likely be a handful of days. I have trouble justifying that with my current household budget. The second primary reason was the fear that I wasn’t ready to tackle the 200 mile distance. Well, after running two backyards last year that went over 250 miles the fear of not being ready for the 200 mile distance is gone. However, the financial limitation is still there so I have been looking at other, more affordable options. As of now, the race I think I will register for to take a crack at the 200 mile distance is the Cowboy 200. Since I’ve already run two races greater than 200 miles, some may justifiably be questioning why I’m pursuing this as a goal this year. The reason is that although I’ve done the distance, I’ve never raced the distance. I’ve only run it in the backyard format where your pace is constrained to not exceed 100 miles per 24 hours. So the real goal within this goal is not to finish a 200 mile race, but to finish it in under 48 hours. Giddy up!

6.  Run the individual backyard world championship at Big's Backyard in October. - If you read my race report on my performance at the 2022 Big’s Backyard team competition, I think it’s readily apparent that I feel like I have some unfinished business there. I intend to be there again this year for the individual competition and do better. It would be na├»ve and maybe a bit foolish to make winning this competition my only goal. Of course it’s the top goal, but these are the best backyard runners from around the world competing here. It is the most competitive backyard competition in the world. Do I believe there is a chance? Yes. Likely? Probably not. Can I do better than last year? Most definitely yes. Outside of being the outright winner, I have a few other objectives that are more likely obtainable. The first being just to improve upon last year’s performance of 62 yards. Simple and definitely doable. Second is to make it through that third night of running and see how long I can hang after that. That will be more difficult, but I believe I am capable of it. My third alt objective and likely the most difficult if I am not the last person standing there is to simply not allow my race to end in apathy again. An apathetic outlook was the final piece that ended my run there last year. I don’t like excuses. Allowing apathy to take hold over the last few hours of my race last year feels like creating an excuse to quit in the moment. If not an excuse, then a defense or escape mechanism at best. It’s not fair to use either after putting so much time, effort, and sacrifice into preparing for this event. It’s not fair to me or others close to me who have also made sacrifices to allow me to not only be there, but to prepare to do the best I can while I am there. So that’s the final alt objective: to do my best with no excuses.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running



Scott Snell
11 January 2023









Tuesday, June 7, 2022

2022 Capital Backyard Ultra - Why Not Me?




Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra

Author's Note: Towards the end of this report, I incorrectly stated that if I had shared my water bottle with another runner it would have been against the rules of the backyard format. Laz brought it to my attention that it is NOT against the rules for a runner still in the race to provide aid to another runner still in the race. It is only OUTSIDE aid that is not permitted. 

I first applied for a spot to run at Big’s Backyard Ultra on 3 November 2018. I finally secured my spot at THE backyard race of backyard races after running 254.167 miles straight in just under 62 hours at my most recent race, Capital Backyard Ultra. It’s all still a bit surreal that I’ve finally achieved a goal I set for myself nearly four years ago. It was a long, challenging path that tested me, but that’s the purpose of goals: to motivate ourselves and to make us the best version of ourselves possible.

Let me rewind one second for anyone who is not familiar with a “backyard” format race. It is an elimination style race without a set distance. The race continues until only one runner remains. Hence, these races are also referred to as “last person standing” races. So how are runners eliminated? By not completing a 4.167 mile lap every hour on the hour. Every hour all runners start a lap and must finish before the end of the hour. If they finish early, they must wait until the start of the next hour to start their next lap. With that caveat, this race prevents any runner from building a lead, more or less taking away the advantage of speedy runners. The cycle of on the hour lap starts continues indefinitely until all but one runner has opted to not continue running or has timed out. The last runner remaining must run one complete lap more than all other runners within the hour time limit before being named the winner. This leaves the possibility that there could be no winner (which has happened) if several runners go out for a lap and they all time out.

First set of clothes ready to go the night before the race. 

Capital Backyard Ultra was the fifth backyard format race I have run (Run Ragged - 2019, Last Idiot Standing - 2019, Keystone Backyard - 2021, Backyard Squatch - 2021). My goal for the first four was identical: to be the last person standing or to find my limit on that given day under those circumstances. My goal for Capital was slightly different. Capital was the most competitive backyard race I have run with the most stacked field of talented, experienced backyard runners. I still had hopes of being the last person standing there, but realistically I knew that this would be the toughest backyard competition I ever faced. I gave myself a B goal to stay motivated and mentally in the game during the race in case things started looking grim. That B goal was to go “far enough” to earn a spot at Big’s this fall as an at large entry.

Since COVID travel restrictions prevented international travel for a world competition at Big’s in 2020, the race was reorganized to follow a biannual cycle. On odd years, the world’s best backyard runners would meet in Bell Buckle, TN to determine an individual world champion. On even years, all countries choosing to participate would assemble a 15 person backyard team running concurrent satellite backyards in their home country. The same backyard rules apply, but teams earn points for every yard completed by a team member until the team only has one runner left. How a spot on the team is earned varies between countries. For the US team, six spots are awarded to the winners of six silver ticket races (Capital Backyard being one of them) while the remaining nine spots are filled as “at large” entries based on a runner’s best backyard performance during the selection period. Securing an “at large” entry based on yards leading up to Capital would have required somewhere around 50 yards, certainly no small feat considering my best backyard performance thus far had been 36 yards. And to think, that was just my “I guess this is good enough”, B goal. Go big or go home, right?

Capital Backyard Ultra is held at Meadowood Special Recreation Area in Lorton, VA, just outside of Washington DC. It is a younger event with 2022 being only its third year. The first two years it used only a single trail loop, but this year Race Director, Sarah Smith, was able to organize a paved night course so the race would follow the standard backyard format of a trail course for daylight hours and a paved course for nighttime hours. The day loop is a mix of crushed stone bridle path and dirt single track, all completely runnable if you are so inclined. If I were to rate it on a technicality scale with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, I’d give it a 2. With a total elevation gain of 300-350 feet per loop, it is mostly pretty flat with easy hills. The steepest is about a quarter mile from the finish with a longer and steeper sustained climb of about 100 feet. The night course consisted of two separate out and backs on a paved bike path that had even gentler hills with a total elevation change of only about 75 feet. We would run the day loop from the 6 am through the 7 pm lap then switch to the night loop at 8 pm.

Feeling fine 25 miles in!

My training was based on building volume with very little attention to elevating intensity of runs. The vast bulk of my training miles to prepare were probably between 9-10 minute miles, an easy conversational pace for me. The goal of my preparation was a gradual and consistent build up of volume. I took my December mileage, what had been an easy running month not following any kind of training schedule, and calculated my average daily mileage. This average daily mileage figure would be my baseline mark to improve on over the next four months of training. The goal being to increase average daily mileage each month over the previous month from January until May. There were a few speed bumps and challenges along the way (documented in earlier blog posts), but overall the training plan went great and I hit my mileage goals every month. After a little taper period in May, it was time to find out if this plan I concocted had any value or if it was just another one of my hare-brained schemes.


I made the drive down the Friday before the race, leaving around noon to try to beat what I expected to be bad traffic around DC. It wasn’t early enough to completely avoid it, and what should have been a four hour drive became a five hour drive. It could have been for worse though with DC traffic being what it is. The drive time also included an unplanned stop at a Dollar General. As I was driving I panicked when I realized I hadn't packed a chair. I certainly didn’t want to go however many hours this race was going to last without having a chair, so I made the unscheduled stop as soon as possible. I got settled into the hotel I had reserved that was about 10 minutes from the race and prepped everything I could in advance to have a smooth morning. Once my initial running outfit was laid out and all of my running gear that I would need during the race was neatly repacked, I grabbed some dinner and tried to stay off my feet as much as possible. I usually don’t watch much tv at home, but when staying in a hotel by myself I tend to turn it on just so it isn’t too quiet. With my belly full and laying in bed waiting to feel drowsy enough to turn off the lights, I was watching a documentary on the Wright brothers and how they approached tackling the problem of flight. I had two major takeaways from this documentary that I would apply to my race.

The first being the idea that the Wright brothers didn’t approach flight as a singular large problem to be solved, but a multitude of smaller problems to be systematically addressed. It’s the same for a backyard race. The big picture and overarching goal to run one lap more than anyone else is made up of many smaller problems that must be managed: time management, pacing, nutrition, hydration, sleep management, gear management, sock changes, shoe changes, attitude, mental acuity, course navigation, temperature, headlamps, blisters, chafing, electrolytes, etc. Many little successes can lead to a big success, and likewise many little failures can lead to overall failure. The second takeaway was their mindset of attempting to master flight. As the documentary put it, it was simple. Their attitude was “why not us?” I heard it and I thought the same thing about my race tomorrow. Of the 57 runners in the starting corral that could be the last one standing, why not me? I would tweet that thought out at some point during the first morning of the race, not realizing how important it would be in about 30 hours or so.

The first 24 hours and hundred miles of my race went pretty much exactly as planned, uneventful. It felt like an easy pace that I could do forever for the whole first day and first night. There was lots of shade all day in the woods so temperature never became an issue. I never felt too sleepy overnight and felt refreshed and motivated when the sun came back up and it was time to switch back to the trail course. It was after four laps around the trail course that I hit my first stumbling block. It wasn’t anything major, just muscle soreness and some overall aches and pains from the wear and tear of running over 100 miles. I knew it would become painful at some point, but at this point I knew I still had a long way to go and expected that I had to keep moving for at least another full day before there was any chance of reaching my A goal. The thought of how bad the pain could get and how long it could last messed with my head a bit. I vocalized it in an attempt to get it out of my head and sent my wife a text that simply read “Love you. Hurting” at 9:58 am on Sunday morning.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra
First shoe change for the first night loop. 

The day rolled on and we continued to accumulate miles, our group of runners seeming to maintain its numbers. With 32 of the 37 runners continuing on after hitting the 100 mile threshold, it was pretty safe to assume that the runners sticking this out had their eyes on the prize. But there could be only one to hit that mark. The slightly warmer weather the second day seemed to wear on other runners, but it didn’t bother me much. Every lap I cooled down under my pop up and refreshed my icy bandana like clockwork. This was the part of the race to be patient and persistent. I was well aware that this could and likely would go through a second night so there was no reason to do something careless and blow my race at this point. They say patience is a virtue. In backyard racing it is a necessity.

Trail runners are a different breed of runner. The most entertaining part of the second day had nothing to do with me or my race. Another runner who I believe was nearing the end of their race decided to drink a beer during one of the afternoon laps. She was definitely having some fun with it this lap. About a mile in, she came bombing down one of the hills yelling “Move b!tch! Get out the way, get out the way!” and passed everyone, guzzling her beer on the next flat stretch. It had me laughing and thinking how much more fun trail running is than road running. I’m not sure if the group reaction would have been so jovial had someone done the same thing to a group of runners at a crowded big city marathon.

As day two wore on into the afternoon, lack of sleep and overall fatigue started getting to me. There were still so many runners left and I didn’t know how I would handle a second night of running. I began to lose hope. Prior to the race, I had scheduled an hourly tweet to coincide with the start of the first 48 yards. I had every intention of going that far and beyond leading up to this race, yet here I was about 36 hours in and beginning to feel hopeless. I wanted to stop and just go home. I began to feel like a failure. Here I wasn’t even going to make it to 200 and would have to tweet some sorry excuse of an explanation why tweets were still going out as if I was still running. I began planning my exit from the race. I’d bring my phone out for the first night loop and call my wife. I was sure that after I told her how tired I was and that my walking felt wobbly and I was starting to dream every time I closed my eyes she would tell me to just come home and be with my family. But she didn’t. She told me to drink an iced coffee and to keep going. She also reminded me of my tweet, “why not me?” I didn’t have a good answer or even a decent excuse, so I continued on. This was my second phone call to her during a backyard when she convinced me to keep going when I had been ready to give up.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra
Staying cool in the shade with an icy bandana.

It was at some point during the second night that I had my most stressful moment of the race. I was changing socks and as I went to put my transponder back on my ankle with the velcro wrap I realized it was only a velcro wrap and the transponder was missing. I panicked. Would I be disqualified? I started searching frantically around my cot and on the ground as the two minute whistle blew. Nothing. I went up to let Sarah know. Thankfully, there was a backup timing chip on my bib. Catastrophe avoided, I headed back out and before I finished that lap, another runner would find my transponder on the ground and get it back to me.

I was pushing through the second night with renewed determination. Our group seemed to steadily shrink in numbers during the night providing additional motivation as the wee hours of the morning passed. The sleep deprivation was getting bad for me though. I could not walk a straight line for the life of me and every time I closed my eyes I felt like I began dreaming. My solution: jog slowly and keep my eyes open. This worked, but I knew I needed sleep. My greatest fear of sneaking in a nap was that I would sleep through the warning whistles and the bell and my race would be over. I came in from a loop when I thought I had a few extra minutes and asked a race volunteer to wake me at the whistles if I didn’t wake up on my own. Laz, who had appeared at the race the first night, was within earshot and helped me get a second race volunteer as a back up to be certain I didn’t oversleep. I felt good about laying down, but as soon as I did, the three minute whistle blew. No nap this time. It was the 4 am lap coming up and I decided this was my best chance for a good nap. I pushed the pace for the first time of the race and finished my lap in 43:47. I lined up my volunteers and prepped everything to go back out. I laid down on my cot, put my towel over my eyes, and was out. I awoke to the three whistle warning and popped up waving to the volunteers to let them know I was good. I chugged a little iced espresso and went back to the starting corral to tell Laz how great the 10 minutes of sleep was.

The sun came up on that lap and I felt like I was having a fresh start. Nap, a new day, sunrise, morning espresso, approaching the 200 mile threshold, life was so good right now! The next interloopal period was the transfer back to trails. Laz approached me as I returned to my area to change my shoes. Since I didn’t have a crew, he was informing me of an update regarding spots for the American team. Based on his calculations at that point, he told me that we were only a few laps away from earning a spot on the at large list and that the top four finishers would make the cut. Well that was great news and motivation to keep going, which I believe is exactly why Laz was telling us this. With that information, I knew I just had to maintain and expected the heat of the third day (which was forecasted as the hottest day of the race so far) to narrow the field substantially.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra
Backyard advice: if offered a prerace donut, say yes!

Seven of us completed the lap to mark 200 miles total. My first 200 miler! I was pumped for it, but that’s not why I was here. I had hoped that some of the runners were just holding on to hit the 200 mile mark and we would have only the final 2-3 runners go back out. No such luck; only one runner called it at 200. The remaining six of us continued on for all the glory and those four Team USA spots. Ryan Metivi would do four more laps and stop at 216.66 miles. Five runners remained and only one away from having an at large spot. Keith VanGraafiland would drop after only one more lap and stop with 220.83 miles. It was down to the final four and we all had, at least for the time being, an at large spot on the team.

This topic came up amongst Jason Bigonia, Keving McCabe, and I. It definitely felt like a mind game as we all confirmed with one another that we had all at least secured at large spots. My thinking was still “why stop now?” I’ve gone this far for this long to have an at large spot, but a guaranteed spot with the silver ticket for the win may be just a few laps away. “Why not me?”, I repeated to myself.

Day three continued on and the heat began to play a role. It was the first day that the heat started bothering me and making me uncomfortable. I envisioned myself passing out and busting my teeth out on rocks on the ground. Kinda scary, but I kept going, receiving an ice bath at the end of every lap and refilling my hat with ice for the next lap.

I had no true hallucinations, but my mind was seeing images of familiar objects formed from random objects along the trail, much like seeing animals in the clouds as they pass overhead. It's a common phenomenon even for people who aren't sleep deprived. There's even a word for it: pareidolia. Yes, I was curious enough to look that up. At the time, it made me feel like I had been transported into a 3D world of one of the old Highlights magazine hidden object search and find pages. It wasn't disturbing and I chalked it up to an effect from my sleep deprivation.

A view along the night course, just before dark. 

I hit one more rough patch during the third day. It wasn’t mentally. I felt great mentally. This was life now. Constantly moving and preparing to move. One yard at a time and nothing else mattered. It happened in the last mile or so of a lap where my legs just felt physically shot, probably somewhere around the 55 hour mark. I trudged in willing them to move sluggishly to finish that lap, thinking to myself that it might be the next lap that I time out. As I started the next lap, I wasn’t sure if my legs would carry me back in time. I feared it would be my last lap regardless, so I figured I might as well bomb the downhills and not worry about blowing my legs up at this point. It seemed they were already blown. I’d do whatever it took to get one more lap in within the hour, even if it meant destroying my legs and ending my race. That’s when something strange happened. After bombing some downhills on my shot legs, miraculously, they were reanimated and moving fine again. I was shocked! I guess they just needed a bit of a wake up call? With my legs revived, I was confident I could make it to the night loop again.

However, before the night loops began, the final drama of the event would begin to unfold. It began lap 58. Jennifer Russo had only had three interloopal periods greater than five minutes since crossing 200 miles. Her last two loops (56 and 57) had only allowed her about four minutes and and three minutes respectively. It was definitely a little too close for my comfort level. Jason went out fast for lap 58 then slowed to a casual walk after about a quarter mile. It happened so suddenly, I slowed down to ask if he was alright. He assured me he was fine, so I continued on. Kevin, who had looked so strong and determined the entire third day, went out slower than normal this lap. I didn’t see him again until the out and back where he was looking like he was hurting terribly and asked me for electrolytes. I didn’t have anything to give him. I just had my bottle of Long Haul and a SIS gel pack that I was about to eat. I apologized and continued on. Then I saw Jennifer back even a bit farther than she normally had been. I asked her about Jason and she told me he turned back. Suddenly, it felt like this race had gone from never ending to almost over. I thought to myself, “Jason turned around, Kevin doesn’t look like he can run, and Jennifer might time out this lap.” I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but the thought crossed my mind that this could potentially be my last lap and I could be back to the hotel by dark and order a pizza! I wanted that so bad. I tried not to get overly excited and remain patient. I finished my lap and prepared for my next one as I had for the last 57 hours.

The start of lap 59. Jason had walked back on 58 and Kevin had timed out. Suddenly it was just Jennifer and I. She had come in with only 2:39 to spare and had to hustle to get back out. It was looking grim for her, but backyards are unpredictable and people have come back from what looked like a hopeless downward spiral. I focused on what I had to do and took it one yard at a time. Jennifer came in with 1:41 to spare that lap. During the hectic rush of prepping her to go back out for yard 60 and hustling her into the starting corral, somehow she went to the corral without her water bottle. As a crew member got her attention and Jennifer reached for it, the bell rang. The time for aid had ended and she was forced to go out for lap 60 without any hydration. At this point, I thought the race was over and was seriously concerned for her safety. I had been drinking about 20 ounces of fluid every lap in addition to what I drank between laps. Feeling truly concerned, I tried to make sure she was going to be ok for this lap. I wanted to offer my water bottle, but that would be considered aid and against the rules. She assured me she would be fine and very confidently and without hesitation told me she was NOT going to time out on this lap. I trusted her word was good and went on to run my lap. Good to her word, Jennifer came in with 1:35 to spare. We were going out for night loops.

I went out for lap 61 uncertain how long this was going to go on. I tried to get my legs to adjust to the paved surface after running trail all day as that had been a challenge the first two nights. It felt wonky, but I was confident that I could make it through another night if I had to. I saw Jennifer going out to the first turnaround and she was only a few minutes behind me. At this point, I believed we would be running until after sundown. I hit the second turnaround and started the home stretch back to the start/finish area. Jennifer wasn’t in sight. I was checking my watch and doing some complicated, sleep deprived trail math. How much farther did she have to go and how fast would she have to run it? It was going to be close, again. We finally crossed paths about 0.25 miles from the turnaround. Given the time remaining, it was possible for her to make it back. She stopped briefly to ask me if the turnaround was just ahead as she said it didn’t seem familiar to her this time. She seemed out of it, but seemed to be moving ok. She seemed worried about making it back in time. It felt like we talked longer than we should have. I looked at my watch and wanted to keep moving so I would have enough time to eat a chicken quesadilla after this lap. We parted ways and I made my way back pushing my pace a bit to maintain a cushion. I finished that lap with just 3:30 to spare. I knew she had about a half mile to cover in that amount of time. Definitely possible, but with 250 miles on your legs a 7 min/mile pace becomes far more difficult to achieve, even for just a half mile. I waited nervously until the final few seconds ticked off the clock and Jennifer officially timed out.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra
If you ever meet a legend, be sure to get a pic!

With the race over and as the official last person standing for the Capital Backyard Ultra, Laz congratulated me as did race volunteers and other runners that had dropped earlier and hung out to see the finish. It was all a bit overwhelming at the time chatting about backyards with Laz and it still feels a bit surreal. I was exhausted, but so pumped. This had been the most competitive backyard race I had ever competed in and I won it which meant I had secured a spot on Team USA for the International satellite team competition!

A local runner who had returned after cleaning up and resting, helped me out immensely during the third day when the heat was at its worst and my mind wasn’t functioning at 100%. A huge thank you for that Dagmar! And she didn’t stop there and leave me to sleep on the ground in the field as I had planned. She invited me to use her and her husband’s guest room at their house so I could get a shower and sleep in a bed. It was amazing and I felt like a new person. Thank you so much for your hospitality and generosity, Dagmar and Alex!

As I was getting my things packed up to head out, I realized I needed to get a picture with Laz. How could I come to a race where Laz was attending and posting updates, win it, and not get a pic with Laz? When I approached him for a picture, he was in the process of writing another race update. We chatted some more and I told him how great his updates are and how much fun they make the races to follow online. I know I’m not getting this exact, but he very humbly said something along the lines of how he doesn’t write great stories. You just bring great athletes together to compete and great stories happen. Then he just tells it as it happens. I would disagree, I believe he is a gifted writer with a great and distinctive writing voice.

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra
Chatting with Laz at the finish of the race.

When I finally got home, one of the first things I wanted to do was read the race updates from Laz. It turns out that my wife became a fan of them as well over the course of the race. She was sharing them with friends and causing emotions to rise and tears to flow. After reading one of them, my mom called her saying how she would have flown out to bring me water if she had known I needed help. The one in particular that got people was this one:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

now we are into the 59th yard,

and the strongest field in the US so far in 2022

has come down to 56 year old jennifer russo

and scott snell

(who we have been calling "the crewless guy")

.

scott has had none of the luxuries enjoyed by those he left in the dust.

no personal tent.

no chair,

just a pad on the ground

no crew to tend to his needs and fetch supplies.

just scott...

.

to take care of his dam self.

.

quietly he has survived it all

as all around him the pampered runners fell.

.

and now there are two.

not the likeliest two

only the most resilient two.

.

this is the backyard.

where the race can turn on a dime

no one is out of contention until they give up.

anything can happen...

.

and anyone can win.

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Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra

Thank you Laz for the opportunity to perform in the Backyard. This race format is special,  like no other competition.







Scott Snell                 
8 June 2022