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Showing posts with label running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label running. Show all posts

Friday, March 11, 2022

My Cure For Training Slumps: Trail Run Your Way Out of Them


 


Have you ever experienced a perfect or near perfect training build up without any setbacks or obstacles along the way? If so, consider yourself lucky because it is a pretty rare occurrence. Even the most goal oriented and motivated people can find themselves caught up in a training slump. Everything can be going along swimmingly and according to plan, but life happens and unforeseen challenges completely out of our control present themselves. I’m currently working my way through a bit of a training slump at this point as I build to prepare myself for whatever distance I end up running at Capital Backyard Ultra.

I’m about midway through my 4.5 month training plan for what I consider my biggest race ever. There have been a few challenges along the way that could have derailed or significantly set back my training. My family had a bout of the stomach flu for about a week of January. There have been bad weather days that made getting out to get the training miles extra challenging. Up until this past week though, I have recognized the challenges, adapted, and overcome them. As much as I hate to admit it, the cold/congestion I’ve been dealing with for a little over the last week has hit me the hardest.

I got taken down by a bad cold for a couple days and the sinus congestion and runny nose that has ensued has really tested my will to train. I've still pushed myself out the door to get at least a few easy miles, but I haven't enjoyed it and it's not the way I want to train. I'm questioning if I'm exaggerating the impacts of the cold by not just resting, but I don't want to lose fitness in the middle of my training.


*Trail Run Break*


Well I got out for a trail run tonight and it was the best run I've had in over a week. I still have some congestion, but the sinus headache is gone and my energy level seems to be almost back to normal. Apparently the cure for a training slump is a quality trail run! There's something magical about going out for a trail run a little before sunset this time of year. The trail is soft underfoot extensively cushioned with pine needles. The spring peepers are out singing. Suddenly, the last fading hues of orange and red sunlight are nearly gone beyond the horizon. Gradually everything fades to shades of gray and it becomes necessary to turn the headlamp on. Almost shockingly, the entire universe seems to contract instantaneously to be contained within the range of the light emitted from my lamp. And that is the extent of my world for the remainder of the trail run. The seemingly endless universe returns as I exit the canopy of the trail and the night sky and stars become visible again. A feeling that reminds me of hurtling through a void of space envelopes me as I adjust to my new environment. The foot falls are different on the pavement now. The air and lighting is different here. It's all changed. For the last couple miles I run under the dim moonlight grateful for the clear night sky and the many stars on display.




Scott Snell
March 11, 2022

My latest vlog ⤵️ 
























Thursday, February 10, 2022

2022 St. Jude Heroes Fundraising Campaign


Well, at this point I’m well into my training for my first race of the year and only a little over a month out from my birthday run I will use to kick off my St. Jude Heroes fundraising campaign. This year, like last year, I am attempting to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® again through the St. Jude Heroes program. My plan is to basically do what I did last year and hope for better results. Like last year, I’ll kick it off again with a celebratory birthday run where I run my age in miles (42). I’ll follow that up by asking for per mile pledge donations for the races I run this year. If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, you can help in many ways even if you aren’t able to make a financial contribution. Just share this blog post through your social media platforms to help spread the word and hopefully find additional donors. If you are able and choose to, donations can be made at my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page. Want to pledge a per mile donation based on how far I run at the Capitol Backyard Ultra? Fill out this Google form and donate when the results are posted. Want to learn more about this fundraising effort? Check out this blog post to learn more about this and my past fundraising attempts.

Thank you for any and all support!

Scott Snell
February 10, 2022



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Capital Backyard Training - Month One - January




Best Coast Trail Running Scott Snell


I am officially in training mode for Capital Backyard and am right on track where I want to be with 192 miles for January after today's run! My training plan is to use December's mileage as my baseline and match or exceed my monthly mileage from the previous month until May. I hit that target for January even with record breaking snowfall and a week long bout of the stomach flu in our household. I wasn't sure if it was going to happen with those extra challenges, but I managed to keep this train on the tracks. Three more months of training with tentative monthly mileage goals then it will be time to run some yards before I know it. I am psyched! My only worry is that I may have started out too hard. I question whether I can keep the momentum and energy going for the next 3.5 months. I fear I may burn out in March or April. Earning a place on the US International Backyard Team to run at Big’s Backyard this October is a big goal which requires a big effort. No other way to do it other than to put in the work and grind!

The plan.




Scott Snell
January 31, 2022














Thursday, January 20, 2022

2022 Goals… Errrr...I mean goal. As in Singular.



What are my goals for 2022? I should rephrase that. What is my goal for 2022? Earn a place on the 15 person USA Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra Satellite Team. That’s pretty much it. Pass or fail. All or nothing. A singular goal.

Of course there are building blocks to reach that goal. I’ll run plenty of training workouts, incorporate cross training, and have distance goals for long runs. But I’m not looking at those as goals in themselves. For me, at least this year, those are just stepping stones or progress markers towards achieving the goal.


How does one earn a place on the USA Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra Satellite Team this year? Well, there's a couple ways to get a spot. One is to win a silver ticket backyard race (currently six of them). The other way is through the “at large entry” route, which basically means run one of the top 9 backyard performances (outside of the winners of the silver tickets) in the US and apply for entry. As of now, a top 9 performance is right around 40 yards or 166 miles. I'm registered for Capital Backyard (a silver ticket race), so the plan is to win there or at least do well enough to have a solid shot at the “at large entry” route. We'll see what the day brings… If I fail to secure a spot there or think that my “at large entry” route chances aren’t good based on whatever distance I run, I’ll look into other backyard races to better my chances of getting in via the “at large entry” route.
                                    
Although I only have a single running goal for the year, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other goals I hope to achieve this year. One of which I will mention here since I am incorporating it into my running habit. This year, like last year, I am attempting to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® again through the St. Jude Heroes program. I will basically do what I did last year and hope for better results. I’ll kick it off again with a celebratory birthday run where I run my age in miles (42). I’ll follow that up by asking for per mile pledge donations for the races I run this year. If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, donations can be made at my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page. Want to pledge a per mile donation based on how far I run at the Capitol Backyard Ultra? Fill out this Google form and donate when the results are posted. You can learn more about my past fundraising attempts in this blog post.

Thank you for any and all support!



Scott Snell
January 20, 2022






Friday, January 14, 2022

Stomach Flu and DISCIPLINE




At first glance, nothing about this run looks special. Maybe "special" is a poor word choice; every run, no matter how routine or average is special in the sense that you're out there running. You're physically capable of that act and mentally motivated enough to do it which in itself is special. So let me rephrase that opening statement. At first glance, nothing about this run looks out of the ordinary. It was a common route and distance for me at a relaxed pace. What makes it "special" for me is the fact that it came at the tail end of about a week of my household being plagued with a case of the stomach flu. Of the five of us, only one managed to avoid vomiting. I spent the week leading up to this run cleaning up vomit, caring for my vomiting kids and wife, and doing my own share of vomiting. 

It felt like yesterday everybody was back to good health and we were finally returning to normal activities; which meant I could pick back up on running after a short hiatus. It would have been so easy to give myself an excuse to not run last night. 

We'd all been sick for a week. 
I needed another day to recover. 
Take your pick.

It was busy day between work, helping the kids with homework, and running them to extracurricular activities; I was ready to call it a night by the time I got the kids fed and ready for bed. It was after 9. I asked myself "are these just excuses? How bad do you want a spot at Big's?" The answers were "yes" and "bad enough to go run tonight." 

Oftentimes, your mind will happily justify the easy path, but it is a short lived victory. And for me, when I allow and accept that seemingly valid reason to not get after it, in retrospect, I usually regret it. Because I usually realize the main factor determining whether you get after it or not isn't extenuating circumstances. It's DISCIPLINE. Only you can gift yourself with discipline and either you have it or you don't.

Scott Snell
January 14, 2022







Friday, December 3, 2021

The Importance of "Maintenance Runs"



Beast Coast Trail Running - Maintenance Miles


Long term success doesn't happen overnight.


I know some runners who always have a race on their calendar. It seems like they race nearly every weekend. Which is great if that works for them and keeps them interested and excited about running. I know it’s not for me for a few reasons. First, my running budget would get stretched pretty thin very quickly covering that many registration fees. Second, I try to make family time the priority on the weekends and I don’t want to make that family time unpleasant for everyone else by dragging them along for my hobby. I typically only race about 3-6 times a year. Between those races I’m just focused on training and preparing for the next. I know other runners who don’t race at all. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of running; you can shape it to be what benefits and fits your lifestyle best.

Lately, I’m in what I would consider my offseason. My last race was in August and the next one on my schedule isn’t until May of next year. While I’m a pretty goal oriented person and having a race on the horizon keeps me motivated to keep training, I feel like it’s important to have some down time during the year to allow the mind and body to recover rather than constantly pushing. However, you don’t want to totally fall off and lose all fitness during that recovery period. To keep myself motivated during this longer period without racing that I am in the midst of, I’ve taken to referring to my runs as “maintenance runs”.

Maintenance runs aren’t sexy and don’t bring the excitement of training for a big race. You don’t feel the anticipation of an approaching race day. You aren’t celebrating gains recognized or breakthrough workouts.They don’t culminate to an anxiety inducing taper period with a long day of racing looming. So what is good about them? Easy, they keep you from having to restart from what feels like zero and rebuild fitness when you dive into training for your next race.

For me, doing maintenance runs feels natural. I ran without racing at all long enough to appreciate running for benefits other than those associated with racing. However, since getting into ultrarunning about six years ago I have raced enough to feel like something is missing from running when I don’t have short term race goals to work towards. Reframing my runs as “maintenance runs'' has helped me to continue to run with passion and anticipation for when I do have a race coming up on my calendar. It’s mainly just a change of perspective or purpose, but I have found it to help me during this longer period without racing that I am working my way through. It helps me to consider the larger picture. For me, running isn’t about nailing an insane training block or running the perfect race. It’s great when that happens, but consistency and longevity are more important big picture goals to me than a few stand out performances. Including some downtime during the year to just run for the sake of running and maintain a base level of fitness is important to achieve those bigger picture goals. After all, long term success doesn't happen overnight.

Scott Snell
December 3, 2021

Monday, November 29, 2021

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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




Scott Snell
November 29, 2021

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Post Inspiration 4 St. Jude Fundraising Effort - Asking Billionaires For Help


As some of you may know, earlier this year I attempted to tie in a fundraising effort with several of my races. I set up a St. Jude Heroes fundraising page so all donations would go directly to and benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. After that I linked it to a Facebook fundraiser page to make it easier for people to donate. Then I attempted to promote it. I started it off with a celebratory birthday run where I ran my age in miles (41). I shared this on my social media platforms and asked that anyone who intended to get me a birthday present to please donate to the fundraiser instead. I received a few donations from friends and family.

I didn’t get as many donations as I had hoped. I thought if I went bigger, I would surely get more donations. I tied the fundraiser to my first race of the year, a 24 hour trail race. I set up a pledge system for anyone to donate any amount per mile they like prior to the race. Unfortunately I didn’t have any takers. I thought, “maybe 24 hours isn't enough.” I updated the pledge system for my next race, The Keystone Backyard Ultra, which I was sure would go longer than 24 hours. I was right in my assumption about it going longer (I ran for almost 31 hours), however I was wrong about thinking that going bigger would garner more donations. It was the longest and farthest I had ever run. I was really happy about my performance, but it would have been much sweeter if I had been able to secure any pledges.

After three running “events” that I had attempted to use to help raise funds for St. Jude I had garnered a total of 7 donations totaling $185. I was still $65 away from my fundraising goal of $250 (the base amount for St. Jude Heroes). I concluded that I’m far better at running ultras than fundraising. I got first place at the two races I ran as a part of this fundraising effort, but was still only about 75% of the way to my fundraising goal. Thankfully, I received a cash prize of $12.50 per lap (4.1667 miles) run for a total prize of $387.50! I donated a portion of that prize money to reach my base fundraising goal.

I was happy to have reached my goal, but the fundraising effort still felt like a failure to me as the only reason I reached my target amount was due to me donating. I decided fundraising isn’t my forte. I didn’t give it too much thought after that and tried to move on just focusing on running. Then, as a Bibrave Pro ambassador, I registered to run and promote the Inspiration 4 mile virtual run, a part of which was a fundraising component. It kinda felt like fate had brought this fundraising effort back into my life, and coincidence or not, of all the fundraisers that the Inspiration 4 mission could have chosen to support, they chose St. Jude as I did six months earlier.


The Inspiration 4 fundraising goal was inspiring, as it should have been given the name. They aimed to raise 200 million dollars for St. Jude and were successful in doing so. The success was in large part due to generous donations from two people heavily involved in the mission, Elon Musk ($50 million) and crew member, Jared Isaacman ($100 million). The flight was operated by SpaceX, founded by Musk, and procured by Isaacman.

After following the Inspiration 4 mission and promoting the virtual run, it made my earlier fundraising efforts seem pretty trivial. I know every bit counts, but $200 million counts a whole lot more than the $250 I raised. Then I realized, I was asking friends and family to donate. These are all people with budgets pretty similar to me when compared to billionaires. They might have donated 10, 20, or 50 dollars, which I greatly appreciate, but I doubt anyone I have in my circle of friends and family is going to donate thousands of dollars (let alone millions) no matter how far I run. That’s when I realized, I should have been asking billionaires to donate.

The Inspiration 4 crew traveled to an altitude of 364 miles, making the round trip (just accounting for distance from earth and back) 728 miles. Strictly considering the distance away from and back to earth, Musk and Isaacman’s per mile donations were $68,681.32 and $137,362.64 respectively. I ran 150 miles at my last race, fueled primarily by carbs and not rocket fuel. If either Musk or Isaacman had pledged the same rate for my run I would have raised $10,302,197.80 from Musk or $20,604,395.60 from Isaacman.


So this is my ask of a billionaire out there. Let’s continue to inspire even after the mission of the Inspiration 4 has been completed. It was an inspiring project to see four civilians travel into orbit. Especially when one of those civilians, Hayley Arceneaux, is a cancer survivor, was a St. Jude patient, and is now a physician assistant at St. Jude. I will be running another race in May 2022, Capital Backyard Ultra, that I plan to go even farther than my last. I would like to attempt to tie another fundraising effort in with this race as I did past ones, but fear the results will be the same as before. Is a 41 year old father of three boys who recovered from a hip surgery and now runs 100+ mile ultras as inspiring as the Inspiration 4 mission? Probably not in most people’s opinions. But maybe it adds a fifth pillar to the four pillars of humanity (leadership, hope, generosity, and prosperity) represented by the four crew members of Inspiration 4. I would suggest that my story and likely even more so many others’ could represent the pillar of persistence, the undying tenacity of the human spirit to continue forth despite undue suffering and grim odds. The quality of persistence is a common recurring trait throughout many of the most influential turning points in human history; doesn’t it deserve a place as one of the pillars of humanity?


If you would like to support my fundraising efforts, donations can be made at my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page. Want to pledge a per mile donation based on how far I run at the Capital Backyard Ultra? Fill out this Google form and donate when the results are posted.


Thank you for any and all support!


Scott Snell
October 16, 2021

Monday, July 19, 2021

2021 Goals Status Check: Big's or bust



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

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


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

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

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


Scott Snell
July 19, 2021

Friday, June 4, 2021

2021 Keystone Backyard Ultra - Hope and Faith against a DNF






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

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

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

Runners' aid station areas.

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

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

A prerace selfie. 

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

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

A few hours in.

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

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

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

A few more hours in.

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

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

The first night loop.

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

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

 

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

The sign my wife and kids' made me.

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

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

Congratulatory poster my Mom made for me. 

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

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

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

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

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




Scott Snell
June 5, 2021



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Chasing DNFs: Prepping For A Last Person Standing Race

















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

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

My many faces and meals during Run Ragged, 2019.

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

Finisher awards from my first two last person standing races.

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



Scott Snell
May 11, 2021



Friday, April 30, 2021

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



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


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

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








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


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


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

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

Literature Cited


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

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

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

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

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