Showing posts with label hyner 50k. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hyner 50k. Show all posts

Saturday, March 2, 2019

24 Treadmill Miles To The Bowl

Twenty four miles on one bowl of oatmeal.

Just this morning I finished what will probably be my last long run (24 miles on the treadmill) prior to my first race of the year, the Rat Race 50k. It felt good for having not run much in the last week due to work obligations and some family celebrations. I know a whole lot of people will disagree with my opinion, but it wasn’t that bad doing a long run on the treadmill. Especially since I have a pretty solid spotify playlist prepared just for such occasions. The other benefit of long runs on the treadmill is the ability to set the pace and stick to it mindlessly, which is what I had planned for this run. I ran the first 18 miles at my target race pace for the NJ Novo Nordisk Marathon, (8:30/mile) which would be under my marathon PR by less than a minute. After that I increased my pace slightly until the last 2 miles when I ran sub 8 minute miles. Being able to run 22 miles at my target pace without feeling like I was struggling at all and then being able to pick up my pace a bit at the end is a huge confidence booster for my PR goal at the NJ marathon. However, I still have my doubts about whether I’ll actually pull it off. Not because I don’t think the fitness or ability will be there, but because the Hyner 50k is the weekend before. And not just because the Hyner is a tough 50k with some big climbs, but because now that I’m committed to running the PA Triple Crown Series all three of those races (which begin with Hyner 50k) are my “A” races for the year. This means that I intend to not hold anything back at Hyner and if it goes well and there’s nothing left in the tank at the finish, I likely won’t be fully recovered after one week when I go for the marathon PR. Whether I blame poor planning or just myself for making stupid decisions doesn’t really matter because I’m not changing my plans regardless of how dumb they may be. The way I see it is if I do run a good time at Hyner and still hit my marathon PR goal it will just be that much more impressive. Additionally, it will likely motivate me to go for another marathon PR soon after in hopes that I could surely run a better time on fresh legs.

Before I wrap this up, just a side note, or more so a bit of a humorous story. One of the earlier mentioned family celebrations was a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos of PA. While this trip took some time away from what would have been dedicated training time, I still got on a treadmill to run at the Great Wolf Lodge resort. While it wasn’t a great work out or run, it was a pretty entertaining one. The fitness room is small even by hotel fitness room standards. And one of the three walls is made of glass windows along a busy hallway. This hallway is a pretty high traffic area between the water park, arcade, and a wing of the hotel rooms. Never before have I had more ice cream eating children stopping to stare at me running on a treadmill than during this treadmill run at Great Wolf Lodge. I’m not complaining about this. I actually found it pretty humorous at the time and still do. It was somewhat surreal as I kind of felt like I was an attraction at the resort with all of the attention I was getting. If you’re ever at a Great Wolf Lodge don’t totally blow off your work out if the weather is crappy, you’re slightly drunk, or just feeling exhausted. Find the fitness room and run some miles on the treadmill. It will entertain the kids roaming the halls and if you’re like me you’ll get a few chuckles from their fascination.

Scott Snell
March 2, 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Training for Ultras On a Treadmill

I totally take back this meme I made a year ago.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with deciding what the heck I’m running this year. Well, I registered for the entire PA Triple Crown Series for the third straight year. With the decision made and me being committed to running the PA Triple Crown Series this year, I knew it was time to get serious about training. Whether I opted to run the series or not, it was time to quit giving in to excuses and start building up some mileage for whatever I decided I was going to run this year. In the past two years I felt like it wasn’t my overall fitness level that took away from my finishing time at Hyner, but rather the big climbs and my lack of being prepared for them. So, I intend to change that this year. I got myself a membership at the local Planet Fitness so I could start training earlier, lose less fitness over winter, and train on some incline rather than just running pancake flat South Jersey. I’m also putting in some time on that stair stepper machine thingie in an effort to help build the quads.

My training for both years leading up to Hyner was pretty similar in mileage and terrain (see Table 1 below). Not surprisingly, my results were pretty similar as well. In 2017 and 2018 I finished in 5:36:36 and 5:42:02 respectively (race reports here 2017 and here 2018). This year has already been a bit of a change with the treadmill workouts allowing me to more readily and comfortably increase volume, mix in continuous 15% incline reps, and increase intensity. I feel these three aspects of training on a treadmill may work to my benefit as I concurrently train for Hyner 50k and the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon.

Table 1 shows my monthly mileage totals leading up to the Hyner 50k in 2017 and 2018.


The first benefit of the treadmill training I’ve felt is just the ease of increasing volume. With January almost over I have about 180 miles for the month, a pretty big increase over last year. Surprisingly, it felt pretty painless to go from two months of lower than average mileage to a higher than average month on the treadmill. Maybe the primary reason is because I’m not a fan of cold weather running. And the main reason I’m not a fan of running in the cold is because the cold, dry air tends to trigger my asthma while running. I’m a fan of running for 24 hours in the heat and humidity, but once it gets too chilly I just can’t breathe which makes running miserable. And no, for the most part I don’t think of running for 24 hours as being miserable. The treadmill takes away the “sucky weather excuse” altogether for not getting a workout in which has helped me increase my volume of running this past month. I readily admit that I have fallen victim to using that excuse. After getting home for work, cooking dinner for the kids, doing homework, and getting the kids ready for bed it can be tough to be motivated to get out for a run in the dark even if it’s just cold. And if it’s rainy, cold, and windy, the “sucky weather excuse” sounds even better. Thanks to the gym and the treadmill, it’s no longer an excuse.

The second benefit of the treadmill is the option to run some incline. Granted, the maximum 15% grade of the treadmill is nothing compared to the final climb (SOB) at Hyner, but it is still better than the average route I run in South Jersey. I do have a few areas I can run where there is the option of doing some short hill repeats, but I am not aware of any area in South Jersey where I could train on a long, continuous climb.

A video showing the hills I use for hill repeats at the Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve.

The third potential benefit I hope to eek out of this treadmill training is more quality workouts with higher intensity. We’ve all heard the old phrase that “quality is more important than quantity” in many situations, including running. Heck, there’s even a podcast that plays on this concept (Ten Junk Miles). Although I would argue that there is no such thing as a “junk mile” as long as I enjoyed running it, I am also well aware that not all runs provide equal training benefits. For reasons I mentioned earlier (that whole asthma and not being able to breath thing) my cold weather runs tend to be at a much lower intensity than I can maintain during the summer months. Not only am I able to do some higher intensity runs on the treadmill, I’m able to do it in an extremely organized fashion. Whether it’s half mile high intensity followed by a half mile recovery or three quarter mile easy pace with quarter mile sprints, I just set the treadmill and run it.

So, what does my treadmill incline workout look like? I set the treadmill to max incline at 15% for a mile which should be 792 feet of gain. I do three sets of max incline after three faster sets of 5 miles at 1% grade (264 feet of gain each). If my math is correct it puts me at a total gain of 3168 feet. Which I’m hoping will have me better prepared for the 7500 feet of gain at Hyner in April that has been a major shock to my quads for the last two years.

A video showing how I feel on the treadmill.

Scott Snell
January 31, 2019

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2019 Goals

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!


Against all opposition
Crushing all limitations
Pure strength through solitude
Discipline and determination"
- Hatebreed - Perseverance -

With Thanksgiving over it is officially time to get ready for Christmas. Additionally, it is also time to make goals and put together a race schedule for 2019. As I begin writing this post I am in the midst of making the decision of what my race calendar and running goals will be for next year. And I will have to come to a decision by the end of the week as that is when registration opens for one route I am considering. It seems a bit crazy to plan out next year so early, but with registration for races that are likely to sell out quickly opening so far in advance, there really isn’t another option if you want to get into certain races. As of now, my only definite races are the Hyner 50k (April 20) and the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon (April 28). Beyond that, I have two paths I’m considering. So, undecided what I will decide come Saturday when registration opens for Worlds End 100k, here are the two plans I’m considering.
  • Finish out the Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series
    • Hyner 50k (April 20)
    • Worlds End 100k (June 1)
    • Eastern States 100 Mile (August 10)
  • Focusing on timed and elimination race formats
    • Three Days At The Fair 48 Hour (May 17)
    • Last Man Standing Ultramarathon (August 31)
Obviously, as with everything in life, there are pros and cons to both options. I’ve run the PA Triple Crown Series and I loved every race course. However, I’ve been itching to try a timed event for awhile and I really like the idea of the last man standing format event as well. I think both would turn out to be a lot of fun and I’d like to try out some racing formats that are new to me. I’m afraid of ultrarunning beginning to feel routine if I go the PA triple crown route again for the third year in a row (the only reason I didn’t finish it last year was because Eastern States 100 was cancelled). So, maybe I’m leaning towards option 2 at this point. Also, given the timing of the events, trying to do both options in the same year would most likely be foolhardy and end with me disappointed in how I performed at the end of all the races. Seriously, two weeks after a 48 hour race to go into Worlds End 100k then three weeks after Eastern States 100 until attempting a last man standing event? Sounds like a plan for disaster and likely a good dose of misery. So it will most definitely be one or the other, not both. 

As for other running goals for 2019, I have only one and it is not trail or ultrarunning related. I want to PR a marathon. It will have been 10 years since I have run my one and only official marathon race in March of next year. Ever since then I have wondered if and how much I could improve on that finishing time of 3:43. I hope to find out next year at the Novo Nordisk NJ Marathon. However, the timing is terrible as it is eight days after the Hyner 50k. Regardless, I still aim and hope to run a marathon PR time there. The poor timing isn’t due to poor planning, more just a matter of choice and accepting opportunities as they arise. I registered for Hyner 50k early this year as it sells out quickly and I dare to say it is my favorite 50K course I have run. Then more recently I was offered the opportunity to run the Novo Nordisk NJ Marathon as a BibRavePro with my registration fee covered. It was hard to say no to that offer even if the timing was less than ideal. So that’s the plan and I’m sticking to it! Wish me luck! Also, even though I am leaning slightly towards option 2 at this point, I’m open to any advice or recommendations as to which option I should choose.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

2018 Hyner View Trail Challenge 50k

Then and Now

My parting view from my second visit to the Hyner 50k course.

"We see past time in a telescope and present time in a microscope. Hence the apparent enormities of the present." --- Victor Hugo

Training and preparing for the 2018 Hyner 50k was an experience unique to me since becoming immersed in ultrarunning. If you read my report on the 2017 Hyner, you’ll know that in my opinion it was the best performance I felt I have ever had at the 50k distance. The question of how to follow what was a nearly perfect day at peak performance in my estimation plagued me. My goal for most races that I’ve gone back to run additional times is simple:  see if I can improve on my previous time. My experience at Hyner was different though; I questioned if there was any room for improvement. This probably was not the best mindset for an improved outcome, but it forced me to accept that if I am not able to dedicate more time to training then I shouldn’t expect improved results. Since I did not expect to have any additional free time to put into training, I settled to just try to match or get as close to matching my finishing time of 5:36:36. Since my overarching goal for this year is to complete the entire PA Triple Crown Series for the second consecutive year and to try to do it in a faster cumulative time, just matching my finishing time from the Hyner last year seemed like a good start. Especially, considering that I felt I had the least room for improvement at Hyner than the other two races (Worlds End 100k and Eastern States 100).

Since I knew I had very little room for improvement, I figured my best chance to better my time would be to simply push myself closer to that proverbial red line for as long as I could. Considering I felt like I was pushing that way for the most part of the race last year other than the early big climbs, that seemed like a good place to start. So that was my plan, attack the climbs from the start and hammer the downhills harder than last year. The plan started off working well. I cranked out a good pace on the short paved section (a little over a mile) of the course from the start to the trailhead. Then I hit the first climb, Humble Hill, a gain of roughly 1300 feet over the course of a little under two miles. I pushed myself hard for this first climb, a stark difference from last year where I tried to reserve my legs during this first climb for the next four big climbs that I knew lay ahead over the remainder of the 50k course. After the climb, I hammered the downhill trying not to even consider the possibility of blowing my quads out.

I continued this strategy throughout the day almost hoping to feel exhaustion. Last year at Hyner I never felt exhausted which made me think I may have been able to give more at some point. This year, for better or worse, feelings of exhaustion began to creep in around the halfway point. I was happy about it because it meant that I had pushed myself to a point that I had not reached last year. I dialed it back trying to maintain and hoping I had made up enough time early on to come out ahead of last year. Looking at my watch and estimating the miles left to the finish I knew it was going to be close. It was desperation pushing me from around the halfway point to the final aid station at the top of the last and steepest climb up SOB, looking at my watch and doing some poor math far too often. At that point, I thought I had a chance. I popped out from the trail to the final short road section to the finish with three minutes to match last year’s time. I soon realized that the road section was longer than I remembered and even sprinting the whole way I was not going to make it. I ended up finishing in 5:42:02, five minutes and twenty-six seconds slower than last year.

Chart 1
Hyner 50k Strava Pace Data - 2017 VS. 2018
Column graph of 2017 and 2018 Hyner 50k Strava splits data.

I took a risk and I failed. It didn’t pan out the way I had hoped it would. Did it bother me? Yes, but was it a total failure? I would argue not completely. I didn’t match last year’s time, but I wasn’t far off and there was still plenty of room for improvement at the next two races. Even using this solid logic to deagitate myself, I still wanted to explore where things went wrong. So I of course made a spreadsheet of my Strava data to compare my splits from last year to this year (Table 1). And of course I followed that up by using that data to create a column graph to visualize that data (Chart 1). Of course the Strava data doesn’t perfectly match up to the official results, but it provides an idea where my improvements were and where my shortcomings were. As can be seen in Table 1, I was ahead of my 2017 pace up until the fifteenth mile and from there I never was able to make up the difference. Interestingly, this completely coincides with my early interpretations of my performance where I assessed that it was around the halfway point that I started feeling exhausted and felt like my pace slowed. Looking at Chart 1 it is apparent that my first half of the 2018 race was an improvement over the 2017 race. Also apparent, is that my second half of the 2017 race was overall better than the second half of my 2018 race. So, the data shows what I felt was true. This concept that the data confirms my initial feelings about my performance is really cool to see, but the real question is the why and the how. Why did things take a bad turn? How did things go wrong? Is there anything I could have done differently to avoid the negative turn and come out ahead?

Table 1
Hyner 50k Strava Pace Data - 2017 VS. 2018
Hyner '17
Hyner '18
cumulative '17
cumulative '18
Strava split data comparing 2017 to 2018 Hyner 50k.

I did my best to examine these questions as objectively as possible, but could only come up with two decent answers. The first being the most blatantly apparent that I have already alluded to:  I went out too hard and didn’t have enough left in the tank to finish strong. You could say that this is just not running smart. I would argue that when I felt like there was little to no room for improvement, this at least gave me a shot at improvement. So, stupid or not, at least it gave me a shot. Long story short, I’m not mad or disappointed with myself for going out harder than I thought was “smart”. My second answer sounds like a total excuse or that I’m just a dumbass for allowing it to happen. And that answer would be that my shoes broke somewhere around the 20 mile mark (see pics). Now my shoes didn’t totally break and I didn’t run barefoot, but I feared that I would end up having to at some point with one major misstep. I will readily admit that my shoes had minor tears to start the race. In hindsight, I probably should have never started the race in those shoes. But, I did and I dealt with the consequences. And looking at the data, from the time I noticed that my shoes were in jeopardy of falling apart (around mile 20) I had an equal number of faster splits from that point to the finish in 2018 when compared to 2017. So maybe the greatest impact was that mentally it affected me, but physically I was obviously able to run just as fast with broken shoes looking at the data.

Shoe photos after 2018 Hyner 50k.

So what’s the answer? Maybe there isn’t one. I had a better day in 2017 than in 2018. It could be that simple. Weather wasn’t vastly different. Training time and intensity was similar. Regardless of the reasoning and the whys and hows of it, I am happy that I set myself up well to be able to come out ahead for my cumulative PA Triple Crown Series time. If I am being totally honest with myself, I’d say that being only about five minutes off from my finishing time last year felt like a win. In a way, it was a hard but valuable lesson to have reinforced; if you go into a race with the same amount of preparation and effort, don’t expect improved results. At best, hope for an equivalent outcome. I feel that this lesson is especially valuable heading into Worlds End 100k and Eastern States where I am dead set on improving my times. Forget the fact that I finished about ten places back from where I did last year at Hyner and five minutes is nothing looking at how bad I blew up at Worlds End 100k and how much time I had the potential to make up there. Additionally, if I’m smart and take care of my feet while having a good day at Eastern States this year I could very well gain even more time there. Let’s just say it was more of a mental speed bump than a truly damaging setback to my ultimate goal for 2018. With the right training, appropriate effort, and smart running, I feel that my 2018 goal of improving my overall PA Triple Crown Series cumulative time is still well within reach.

Scott Snell
June 10, 2018