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Showing posts with label trail runner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trail runner. Show all posts

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Mental Recovery From Big's Backyard


I hit a total of 369 miles for October with 258 run in a single go at Big's Backyard. I'm pretty sure this was my highest monthly mileage ever and I am completely sure that my run at Big's was a distance PR for me. For all of that I admit that I am proud and maybe I shouldn't say it at all but I'm going to anyway. I can't help but be disappointed in myself with how my run at Big's went. It certainly felt like giving up towards the end. And I hate that. What could I have done differently? Mistakes were made. I didn't change from shorts to pants soon enough to deal with the drop in temperature. I didn't stay positive. I lost hope. I didn't use my last resort lifeline that I have the previous two times I was ready to quit at a backyard: to call my wife and say "I'm done." Maybe I didn't have time. Maybe I didn't want the pressure to keep going. I'm still not sure and I may never know exactly where my head was at that point. What I do know is that it's on me for making those mistakes. There's no one else to blame. I take full responsibility. I also know that I'm not happy or impressed with what I did and it's impacting what I had planned for 2023. My primary running goal for 2023 was to make an attempt at the IA crossing FKT. Now I don't know; a "redemption" backyard run sounds pretty attractive. We'll see... Regardless, my plan was to take some time to recover and focus on family time from November and over the holidays until I start training again for a specific goal next year. What that specific goal is, I don't know at this point. I still need to accept what I interpret as a failure. But I am determined to find the good in this situation, to learn from my mistakes and use it as motivation to drive and to train harder towards whatever my next goal is. 


Scott Snell

3 November 2022 




Wednesday, October 26, 2022

2022 Big's Backyard Team World Championships


Team USA - 2022 Backyard World Champions

Not All DNFs Are Equivalent


  beast coast trail running scott snell big's backyard 2022 team usa world champions coin

The rules of the backyard race format are simple. There can be only one winner. The winner is the person that successfully completes one more 4.1667 mile loop than any other runner in the race. To remain in the race each runner must complete that loop within a one hour time limit every hour beginning on the hour. If a runner fails to complete the lap within the time limit or to be in the starting corral at the start of the next hour’s lap, they are out of the race and recorded as a DNF (Did Not Finish). It is a race format based on attrition with the sole remaining runner being the victor. When a team aspect is incorporated into the format, the sole focus of an individual athlete’s success is no longer centered only on him or herself. It also depends on the success of their teamates. That is what happened in 2020 when international athletes could not travel (due to covid travel restrictions) to Bell Buckle, TN where the Backyard World Championship race is held every year in October. To continue the annual international competition, the race format adapted to a team competition with teams of 15 runners representing their home country in their homeland negating the need for international travel. Teams would run an equal distance course on their “home court” following the same backyard rules with the addition of a simple team scoring system where one point (or yard) is scored for every team member that completes a lap within the one hour time limit. The team with the most points is crowned the champion team that year. Incorporating team camaraderie and representing one’s home country as a group were just a couple aspects that made the revamped team format of the race a worldwide success in 2020. So much so, that it was incorporated as a biannual event being held on even years while the individual world championships would be held on odd years. This report is the story of how I earned a spot on the 2022 USA Backyard World Championship Team and my race in Bell Buckle, TN.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

To make a long story short of how I earned a spot on the US team, I won a bronze ticket race (Backyard Squatch) in August 2021 which earned me a spot at a silver ticket race (Capital Backyard Ultra). Winning Capital Backyard Utra guaranteed a spot for me on Team USA. Earning a spot on a national team to represent my country in an international competition felt like a pretty big deal to me. It also felt like a good deal of pressure to perform well. I hoped to have one of those ideal days when everything just clicks and it feels like the energy flow is infinite. I wanted to have the performance of my life, not just for the sake of the team, but to achieve a performance that I could look back at and say “wow, that was it! That’s one that is going to be hard to ever top!” But, in ultrarunning, as in life, things don’t always go as we hope or plan.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions
My training mileage leading to Big's Backyard.

Training went splendidly. I followed the same basic plan as I did for the build up for Capital Backyard Ultra with the only major difference being an increase in volume of mileage. I had less hiccups, speed bumps, and interruptions to the training preparing for Big’s than I did for Capital. I had serendipitously met a local runner at Capital (Dagmar - thank you!) that volunteered to crew for me at Big’s. By the numbers (larger volume training) and other factors (crewed versus uncrewed) leading into Big’s, I expected to have a better day there than at Capital. Which is likely a major reason why I come away from the experience feeling so disappointed with a performance that was about on par with what I did at Capital. Of course I can make excuses, which I hate, but there has to be some explanation why things happen how they happen. The best explanation I have, least sounding like a bs excuse, began about two weeks before Big’s when my youngest son came down with a cold (not covid, we tested). The cold made its way through our whole household and I definitely had a remnant cough and some sinus congestion en route to Tennessee for the race. Finding yourself in the cough and cold aisle of a CVS to get cough drops and restock with zinc tablets is obviously not the ideal situation two days out from a multi day race where you’re hoping for the performance of your life, but that’s the situation I found myself in. That’s the hand I was dealt, and I chose to play it.
 

After a couple days of travel, we arrived at Big’s backyard Friday afternoon before the start of the race the following morning. Big is the name of the Race Director’s dog and the trail course is in his backyard, hence the race name “Big’s Backyard”. We got our tent and most of our gear set up and situated with a few hours of daylight left so we decided to hike the trail course. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this course was going to be far more challenging than the Capital trail course. The trail is nearly all pretty technical single track with plenty of roots and rocks to catch your toes on. With tired legs, this is an ever present danger. Add in the elevation change (about 470 feet of gain per loop whereas the Capital trail course had somewhere between 300-350 feet of gain per loop) and you’ve got yourself quite a challenging backyard course.

Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Day 1 - October 15 AM

The race started with the trail loop at 7 am. This particular race location requires runners to complete 11 day loops (7 am - 5 pm) before switching to the night road course beginning at 6 pm for 13 night laps. That is one of the quirks of the backyard team format international competition; each team is on a unique course in their homeland with varying lengths of daylight hours. Some have more day course laps than night course laps and some vice versa. Some have more runnable courses with less elevation change. It's not an even playing field, however, what plays to the strengths of some runners is a weakness of others. It’s a bit of a luck of the draw as to how your running strengths align with your country’s home course.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions tent
This was home for the duration of the race.

A few minutes before the start of the first yard, Laz (the Race Director) called all of the runners out for a pre race briefing going over all of the rules and reminding us he would make no exceptions in enforcing them even if it would be severely detrimental to our team effort. That is the essence of backyard racing: the rules are simple and must be strictly enforced. Shortly after, Laz was ringing the cowbell that would signal the start of every yard on the hour, every hour until there were no runners left in our competition. As he rang the bell, Laz shouted “Happy Times!” with what seemed to be a mix of emotions covering the ranges of excitement, joy, and anticipation of how the race would play out and what all of us runners would achieve.

The trail course of Big’s is actually only a little over 3 miles so to get the required 4.1667 mile distance it begins with a short out and back on the road course. It was during this initial road out and back that Harvey Lewis (a very accomplished ultrarunner and a bit of a personal running idol to me) called in our team for a little team building and strategy talk. It was real now! I was on Team USA with Harvey Lewis!

The trail course was a bit challenging on the first day, but having hiked it the evening before it wasn’t a surprise for which I was grateful. I’d much rather be aware of the challenges stacked against me rather than be surprised by them. The miles and yards rolled by smoothly while I took in calories between and during laps with no issues. The goal of day one here was the same as the goal of day 1 at any backyard: stay steady, be patient, and cause as little stress to the mind and body as possible.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Night 1 - October 15 PM

The overnight portion of any long distance race always presents a set of challenges not faced during the daylight hours. The sun sets and darkness sets in and head lamps are lit. Your body’s circadian rhythm reminds you that this is when you should be preparing to rest after a long day outdoors, but that’s not an option in the backyard. I feel like the need for rest is more intense or at least more apparent during a backyard race than a standard point to point race. During a standard race the goal is to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Depending on the timing of the race and daylight hours, point B could be reached before the sun rises. Having a finish line to target is a huge mental motivator to push hard and continue onward. The physical output intensity of a standard race is greater than a backyard. During a standard race you’re pushing your body harder to edge that line of moving as quickly as possible without breaking, whereas in a backyard the goal is to restrain the body from even approaching over exertion, keeping the pace as calm and relaxed as possible while still allowing a few minutes between laps to not feel too rushed. The backyard allows the mind to realize that the body is tired and in need of sleep while also holding the body in a state more ready for sleep with a lower heart rate than standard races. Maybe not during the first night, but it can be a recipe for disaster as the race continues.

The first night of most backyards probably produces a greater loss of runners than any other portion of the race. But this backyard was not a standard backyard, this was the International Backyard Team competition and although one team member (Brady Winkles) developed a knee injury overnight, our team had no drops during the first night.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

My night was uneventful other than battling some standard drowsiness. I attempted short naps between laps more frequently than I had at any other backyard since I had crew support at this race, but honestly I’m not sure if I ever actually slept. I made what I believe may have been a mistake towards the end of the night. I attempted to run a fast lap (37:55) in hopes that I could manage to get a bit of a longer nap, but the faster pace raised my heart rate too much and I mostly just spent that interloopal period lying on my cot with my eyes closed waiting for my heart rate to recover. I believe the negative mental impact of that failed strategy was far greater than the physical. It was the same strategy I used during the second night at Capital and it worked perfectly there as I got a solid 10 minute nap and felt refreshed before the sun rose for the third day. As the race continued, I would find many things that went right at Capital would present greater challenges at Big’s.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Day 2 - October 16 AM

Although our team would make it through night one with no losses, Brady would have to tap out early during day two due to his knee injury. He would complete 25 yards before timing out on his 26th.

The second day of trails felt like more of a struggle for me and required more effort than the first day, but that is to be expected when you have over 100 miles on your legs. The elevation change was definitely having an impact on me as most of my training is on extremely flat terrain in south Jersey. By midday my quads were letting me know just how unprepared they were for all of the climbing and descending on the trails. As the day laps wore on, I found myself falling in line with a group of teammates right behind Harvey Lewis. I did my best to just turn my brain off and just focus on his feet as I ran behind him. Sometimes the best thing to do during a long ultra is turn off the mind and just follow the footsteps in front of you. It helped get me through some challenging laps during that second day.

Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

At one point when I was hurting pretty bad physically and feeling extremely sleep deprived and drowsy I asked Harvey in a pretty general way, “what do you do when it starts to hurt really bad?” I think he responded with a few questions asking what hurt and how it hurt. I answered that it was mainly my quads just feeling spent. He came back with some tips and possible solutions to improve the situation: stretching between laps, making sure I’m taking in enough electrolytes and fluids, and more generally to think of someone important to you while you’re running through the pain. The advice helped me get through some low points during that day as our team approached a second night of running. It would also be one of the highlights of my experience of running Big’s. Just little old Scott out running trails and getting advice from one of the best backyard runners in the world.

Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Night 2 - October 16 PM

The switch back to the road course was a welcome change after the second day of trail running. It rained intermittently during the second day making the trails a bit muddy and the rocks slick. Sure footed, mindless running of the road was a relief after a day of concentrating on uncertain footing on the trails all day. Sleep deprivation is obviously intensified during the second night after the sun sets. This is when the field really dwindles to a few serious runners with their eye on the ultimate prize during a normal backyard, but again, this was not a normal backyard. All but two (Kevin McCabe who was suffering from nausea and vomiting for 8-10 hours before ending his run with 38 yards and Justin Wright who was battling an injury sustained on the trail during the day would fight on to complete 44 yards) of our 14 remaining team members would survive the cutoffs the entire second night. It’s not to say there weren’t struggles, myself included. I found myself chatting with teammates more during the second night than the first. It was in part to encourage them when it seemed they were struggling and as a means to keep myself awake and as alert as possible.

At one point while I was bobbing and weaving while walking (possibly sleepwalking) a headlamp came up beside me. It was Cody Eubanks who I hadn’t chatted with much earlier in the race as his pace was typically a few minutes faster than mine. He pulled up and invited me to run with him so we could keep each other awake and on the road as we struggled through the wee hours of the morning. I had been turning my headlamp off for portions of the road laps overnight hoping that it would help me to fall asleep faster between laps. The trade off is that I felt even sleepier while running in the darkness. With Cody’s headlamp next to me I woke up a bit and turned mine on as well. The dual headlamps help stave off some of the drowsiness that night. The conversation with Cody helped chase off all remaining drowsiness for a few stretches of that second night as we ran the next few laps together. We chatted about coffee at one point and that’s when I realized I had a package of chocolate covered espresso beans I had not even opened yet. I became irrationally excited about them at that moment. I invited Cody to stop at my tent during the next interloopal period and join me for some espresso beans. In retrospect, that espresso bean party at my tent kinda felt like closing down the bar and inviting all your drunk friends back to your house. Then all of your sober roommates (in this case your crew, sorry for the unexpected extra runner you helped take care of at that point, Dagmar) see you arrive and are just saying “WTF” to themselves.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Day 3 October 17 AM

Towards the end of the second night, I began losing hope that my legs would be able to complete the trail loop within the time limit. I voiced this to teammates and crew and got encouragement all around. I was committed to giving it a go. I didn’t want my race to end by choosing to not go out for a lap. I wanted to keep going until I timed out. Thankfully, after the first trail lap, it felt like my legs got a little spring back in their step and I felt more confident I could complete the trail loops on that third day without timing out. The shift back to trails was not as forgiving for all of our team. We lost both Cody and Jennifer Russo on the first trail lap. Jennifer barely missed the cutoff and was maybe 15-20 seconds away from completing her lap when the bell rang. Cody was a bit farther back and our team congratulated him on a race well run as we passed him making his way back on the trail. With their losses, our team was down 6 runners and 9 runners continued on into day 3.

After many hours and several days of hearing Laz howl “Happy Times!” at the start of every yard, it began to sound more like a purely sadistic yell to me than anything else. The excitement and joy was gone; now it was just hurting. I did my best to fight on through it and stay positive, but it was getting really tough. Food wasn’t attractive anymore. My mouth had begun to break out and felt like I had mini canker sores covering the insides of my lips. I was experiencing heartburn like I never had during a race before and all the Tums I ate didn’t seem to help but for a brief portion of each lap. I was losing the mental battle and I knew it. The sleep deprivation intensified. I attempted to chat with teammates, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually saying anything out loud or just thinking of saying it in my head. Making it back from the loops with about 5 minutes to spare began to feel like a challenge. I told myself just to hang on and the night loops should get easier. If I could just survive the day trail loops. My cold congestion started bothering me more and more during day 3. I found myself taking running breaks to move to the side of the trail to hack up phlegm from my sinuses. We lost Levi Yoder and Jason Bigonia after laps 52 and 54 respectively, reducing our team to 7 runners by mid day. During a standard backyard, losing a runner is motivating in a sense as it puts you one position closer to being the sole survivor of the race. But with the team format, it is more of a punch to the gut as you just lost another teammate.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions

Night 3 October 17 PM

We entered our third night with 59 yards completed, about 245.8 miles. My personal backyard record is 61 yards. Surpassing that was a personal goal for me going into this race. It was well within reach at this point, but I was fighting a complete lack of motivation to continue and an onslaught of apathy about the race in general. I believe I had lost the mental battle at this point. I actually just wanted to quit and not go back out for another yard although I knew I would regret it. Dagmar was able to reason with my unreasonable attitude enough to get me to commit to at least getting a new PR of 62 yards. Those last two laps were ugly. It was a lot of walking and feeling sorry for myself. Then reminding myself that I had to pick up the pace to make it in and get that PR. I came back from my 62nd lap torn. I had bettered my PR and now I could quit and be happy and proud. But that’s not the case for me with the backyard. I knew I couldn’t refuse to go back out without feeling like a total piece of garbage. Thankfully another runner’s crew member had found out I was planning to drop out and wasn’t going to allow it. He made me lay down for the few minutes I had between laps, threw a pair of running pants on me (temperature had dropped when the sun went down that night), put a water bottle in my hand and pushed me into the corral to go back out for another yard. Dying in the chair is unacceptable in my backyard ethos. If your race is going to end, at least go out fighting and let it end by timing out on a lap.
 

And that is how my race ended on the 63rd yard. I started out, legs feeling stiffer than ever before. I pushed them to run. It hurt, but they began to pick up the pace. Then I was unexpectedly walking again. I repeated the cycle until I hit the half mile mark at 8 minutes. That made me worried. I would have to increase my pace to make it back in time. The cycle of walking and mentally pushing my legs to run continued until I hit the 1 mile mark at a little over 20 minutes. Then I realized my pace had slowed even more even with my attempt to pick it up. And I realized I would not complete that lap within the cut off. I stood still for a few moments looking at the night sky, then the ground, wondering if I could hammer out a 10 minute mile uphill to give myself a chance of making it back in time. I even made the attempt to run a bit more, but my legs wouldn’t have it. They refused to pick up the pace and I didn’t have the mental capacity to convince or force them to move. With that, I knew my race was over and I began my cold, sad walk back on the dark road.

I couldn’t quite explain at the time what went wrong and I’m still not completely sure. Was it the shock of the cold weather that third night, the sleep deprivation, the lack of stretching, calorie depletion, the phlegm I was hacking up and sinus congestion I was battling, just physical exhaustion, or most likely a combination of all of the above. Lack of sleep and physical/mental exhaustion will take your mind to some strange places, and I went there over the course of my time at Big’s. I had some big personal goals and high hopes going into Big’s, and I failed on several accounts. I wanted to run through a third night and break 300 miles, both of which I failed to achieve. I bettered my PR, but only by one yard. I truly believe that failure is an opportunity for growth and improvement and I hope to embrace my failure at Big’s to improve my future backyard performances.

Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions
My performance was good enough for 24th in the world out of 555 athletes.

With my race over, I was chauffeured to a hotel where I showered and slept for a few hours in a real bed. I felt a bit more human again the next morning and we returned to the race to clean up our tent and gear just after the two remaining runners had headed out on what would be their final lap. Harvey Lewis and Piotr Chadovich both went out for a 76th yard, but only Piotr would successfully complete it making him the Team USA Champion with 316.67 miles. I was so happy to be back and alert to witness the finish of our team’s race and congratulate both Harvey and Piotr on their amazing performances. With our team’s race over and a healthy lead in the team competition, it looked like we would have the team win, but with several other country’s teams continuing to accumulate points it was too early to celebrate. We took some team photos and chatted a bit about all of the challenges we all endured over the last 3 days or so. We had all suffered together for a common goal: to accumulate more yards than any other team in the world. Some of us faced more challenges earlier on than others. Some of us overcame and bounced back, some of us succumbed to those challenges. But through it all, we worked as a team encouraging one another to push on. Our crews assisted one another sharing resources such as foods, beverages, pain relief supplies, and expertise such as taping and wrapping injuries. True team bonds were formed as a result of our shared hardships. Although it took about another 25 hours or so to be official, Team USA was declared the 2022 Backyard Team World Champions with 860 total yards over Belgium's 788 yard performance as second and Australia's 744 yard performance for third.
 

I am still so grateful to have had the opportunity to compete in this international competition as a part of Team USA! I hate to tarnish our team victory in any way by expressing any disappointment in my personal performance, but that feeling is there. I don’t have any running plans as of right now. I expect to run more backyards and maybe chase some FKTS. Right now I’m not sure where to focus my efforts next. I can say with complete certainty that I hope to improve as a backyard runner and I would love to represent my country as a member of Team USA again in 2024.
 
Beast Coast Trail Big's backyard Team USA 2022 champions


Scott Snell

26 October 2022

















Friday, September 9, 2022

UCAN Edge Energy Gel and Bar Review



Best Coast Trail Running Scott Snell UCAN


"Disclaimer: I received a variety of UCAN Edge Energy gels and bars to review as part of being a BibRave Ambassador. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Ambassador, and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!"

Sugar Free Energy!? Say What? I Can and UCAN Too!

Scott Snell beast Coast Trail Running

Usually when I see “sugar free” used to advertise any type of endurance sport energy supplement, it’s a turn off for me. I associate “sugar free” with low calorie, which is a negative characteristic in my opinion when selecting fuel sources for long efforts. I look for calorie dense foods that can be easily packed in my hydration vest and consumed on the move. Calorie dense means more calories in less volume and less to carry to fuel my long runs. So when I learned of UCAN sugar free Edge Energy gels I was a bit skeptical. But once I overcame my bias against sugar free fuels, read the nutrition label on the gel packet, and gave them an honest try, I became a fan.


Each Edge Energy gel packet contains 70 calories. This is only slightly less than most other energy gel brands I have tried which have ranged from around 90-120 calories per packet. So not a deal breaker at all. For me, it would just mean adjusting the timing of how frequently I eat a gel during a long run. I usually consume one gel every hour or so. Using UCAN Edge Energy gels would just mean I’m a bit more strict about not going beyond that “one gel per hour” schedule.


The taste of the gels was different from other sugary gels I’ve tried. UCAN Edge Energy gels were certainly less sweet and it felt more like I was consuming some type of actual food. These are both positive traits, in my opinion. I’m always very turned off by overly sweet drinks and foods during long runs. It was nice to feel like I was consuming actual food rather than a packet of syrup.


I was similarly impressed by the UCAN energy bars. Again, not overly sweet, sticky messes being marketed as sports nutrition. The bars were tasty, soft, and easy to eat on the go, fueling the longest test run I did with them (22 miles) without any stomach issues or energy crashes.


As I approach the end of my training block for Big’s Backyard (only a little over a month away now), I’ve been pretty certain my nutrition plan is dialed in and set. However, testing out these UCAN Edge Energy gels and bars has made me question if there’s room for improvement. I believe UCAN products could be another valuable tool in my nutrition tool box while I run at Big’s. I will definitely be bringing some UCAN products with me to Big’s because who knows, it could be what saves my race and keeps me going on day two, three, or even four?


Scott Snell

9 September 2022


See what my fellow BibRavePros thought:


Want to try them yourself? Use discount code: BIBRAVE25 - 25% off, no bundles or subscriptions, good thru 10/9/2022












Thursday, March 24, 2022

St. Jude Fundraising Success and a Happy Birthday Run




I am so happy and excited to report that my fundraising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® has been a complete success this year! Thanks to the generous donations of friends and family, we have raised nearly $600 through the St. Jude Heroes program and I couldn’t be happier about it. I am so grateful to everyone for their contributions!


This success is in stark contrast to last year’s fundraising effort. Last year I ran three events (a birthday 41 miler, Adventure Trail 24 Hour, and Keystone Backyard Ultra) and incorporated a fundraising component. After the three running and fundraising efforts, I came up short of my fundraising goal so I donated a portion of my cash prize from Keystone Backyard Ultra to reach my fundraising goal of $250. This year my fundraising goal was exceeded after the first running event I had lined up, my birthday 42 mile run.


And for an extra thick layer of icing on the cake, my 42 mile birthday run went really well, but not without a few challenges along the way. First off was a small change of plans due to some less than pleasant and potentially dangerous weather. I had planned to run the bulk of the 42 miles on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. However, leading up to the Saturday I had planned to run, the weather forecast was predicting showers and potentially severe thunderstorms. I decided to push my run back one day and run on some local trails instead when the weather forecast looked better. Well, Saturday arrived and what I expected to be a rainy washout of a day was a beautiful, sunny day. I decided to make hay while the sun was shining and headed out to run early in the afternoon after the threat of thunderstorms was nil.



An additional challenge was also weather related. Getting a later start than I had planned, the bulk of my run was during the warmest part of the day and it was a pretty warm mid March day with highs reaching the low 70’s. The local trails I run on are only a few miles from home for me, so I figured I’d wear my hydration vest, return home once to refill and then finish the bulk of my 42 miles on the trail. Well, I made it to 22 miles when I stopped to refill my bottles, but I ran through my fluids much more quickly during the second half of my run. With seven miles left and no fluids, I decided it was time to head home and refill. With only about five miles left to go after my second refill stop, I decided to just finish my run on roads around my neighborhood. Although I planned to do more on trails, overall the run was a nice mix of roads and trails. Not to mention, it felt good to get a faster road mile in at the end.

A final challenge that had to be faced during this run was the fact that it had been a decent amount of time since my last long run. My last LONG run was at the Last Squatch Standing at the end of August 2021, over six months ago. I had run a few runs around or slightly over 20 miles since then, but nothing where you get to that exhaustion point when your brain says “quit” and you have to mentally overcome the desire to stop. It is a real mental challenge that seems to me to be more manageable when it is familiar. In other words, I find it’s harder to run long distances if it’s been awhile since I’ve run a long distance. Thankfully, I was able to reacquaint myself with my old frenemy and see my run through to its end.


This was my running my second consecutive year of running my age in miles to celebrate my birthday. For me, this is a fun way to celebrate being alive. It also is a great way to get an early, easy paced long run in to kick off the training season. For those reasons, I intend to celebrate my birthday this way every year as long as I am still capable.




Scott Snell
March 24, 2022




Learn more about my fundraising goal here: https://www.beastcoasttrailrunning.com/2022/02/2022-st-jude-heroes-fundraising-campaign.html




Direct link to St. Jude donation page: https://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=6955516&pg=personal&fr_id=130587



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



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







Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2021 Goals Check




It’s January and the deadline to achieve my 2021 running goals has come and gone. Here’s what I accomplished and the targets I missed.

At my last goal status check, I had 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 (Adventure Trail Run) and (2) to PR my greatest distance run. Since then, I further improved my distance PR from 129 miles at the inaugural Keystone Backyard Ultra to 150 miles at the inaugural Backyard Squatch at the end of August.

I never attempted the 12 minute aerobic fitness test. After looking at some of my run data, I could see just based on faster paced training runs I was going to fall into the fittest category of the fitness test. It seemed pointless to me to do the 12 minute test of running as hard as I could to prove it. So I chucked that goal away as a poorly planned goal to begin with. I may attempt it this year earlier in the year so I can compare multiple test results throughout the year. The interest is no longer in seeing what fitness category I fall in, but whether I remain consistent during the year.

My long term project and goal to run every single street of Egg Harbor Township still hasn’t increased in appeal to me since my last status check for all of the same reasons: I would rather do my long runs on trails and I don’t want to go out of my way to run on busy roads with high speed traffic. For those reasons, that entire project has more or less been put on the shelf.

The final goal (FKT attempt) was more dependent on what race opportunities present themselves and I jumped at the chance to run Backyard Squatch rather than an FKT. I am getting some more solid ideas that have me excited and looking into planning a longer distance FKT attempt sometime in 2023. Why the delay? Because my primary running goal for 2022 is already decided: Big’s or Bust!


Scott Snell
January 5, 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, November 20, 2021

Night Trail Runs Are Good for the Soul

 


This was my first run since Sunday and my first night trail run since August. I got knocked down by a pretty bad cold (not COVID, I got tested) this past week and took a few days off to recover. I started feeling crappy and sneezing Monday evening. Tuesday and Wednesday were full blown "I'm sick" days complete with sinus congestion, sinus headache, runny nose, and severe reduction of energy levels. Things started getting better Thursday, but the energy wasn't back and I didn't want to add undue stress to the body while still recovering. Friday felt good other than a bit of stubborn congestion that was still hanging around. I decided it was time to go for a test run. It was the right decision.

It was also my first night run that finally felt like an autumn evening run. The air was cool, crisp, and still. The moon was bright and the sky was clear. The only sounds were my feet moving through the leaf litter and the sniffles from my still slightly runny nose. For having not run in almost a week and just getting over a cold, I moved surprisingly well and with minimal effort. Maybe my legs needed the break too. My headlamp lit the trails I've run so many times in daylight, surprising me how different these trails that I think I'm so familiar with can look after dark. Deer eyes and spider eyes glowed when the light from my headlamp was aimed in their direction. It's an experience that will always remind me of my overnight trip running the Batona Trail when my mind started playing tricks on me in response to all those glowing eyes staring at me from the dark.

It sure did feel good to run again after almost a week of no running and a few days off being sick. And to be able to run the same trails I always run, but in a new way. It's a reminder to me to be grateful and realize how blessed I am to have found an activity I enjoy pursuing with passion and that I have the physical capabilities to do so.


Scott Snell
November 20, 2021