Amazon

Showing posts with label ultrarunning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ultrarunning. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

2022 Goals Reviewed and Examining 2023 Goals


Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running

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

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

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running



Scott Snell
11 January 2023









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 




Thursday, July 28, 2022

Running Home - IA FKT - Post 2: Why





Running Home - IA FKT
Omaha, NE to Muscatine, IA
276.6 Miles < 72 Hours
Post #2: Why


  

Why would anyone want to run 276 miles in a single go? And even if the answer to that question was obvious, why would someone who lives in New Jersey decide to run across Iowa? Every long distance runner has their own “why” for what drives them to the pursuit of covering long distances on foot. Sure there is bound to be a good amount of overlap in individual’s “why”s, but every long distance runner’s “why” has some unique spark or twist to it. Some people will never understand the “why”s of long distance running no matter how many they hear from multiple runners. Some people will intentionally deride the “why”s in a condescending, cynical manner. I’ve explored my “why” in previous blog posts. It’s a multifaceted motivation for me. I like to push myself to see what I am capable of and tackle tasks that may seem daunting to most. I believe that life is bereft without seeking new challenges. That is the short version of my “why” for long distance running, but it doesn’t explain why I chose to run across Iowa.

The simplest explanation as to why I chose Iowa of all states to run across is that Iowa was home to me for the first 26 years of my life. Honestly, the FKT route, "Run Across Iowa (IA)", probably wouldn’t haven’t have even really piqued my interest had I not called Iowa home for the majority of my life so far. Although I have spent more time living in Iowa than New Jersey, I’m certain that I’ve seen more of New Jersey than Iowa. I’ve explored more areas, everything from historical sites to tourist attractions to state parks and forests, in New Jersey than in Iowa. Which is a major motivation for choosing to run across Iowa, to see and experience more of my home state than just the Quad Cities and the immediately surrounding area. While living in Iowa, I didn’t explore much beyond my home town of Davenport and the surrounding Quad Cities. I have driven all the way across Iowa on Interstate 80, but the whole point of crossing a state via an interstate is to do it as quickly as possible with minimal stops. Granted, an FKT attempt has the same goal in mind, but two key differences are the mode of transportation (doing it on foot one step at a time versus at 75 MPH in a vehicle) and the route (interstate versus two lane highway). I hope to see more of Iowa in my 2-3 days running the length of the state on Highway 92 than I did my entire time living there.

In addition to seeing more of Iowa, I also chose to run across my home state simply for personal motivations. I still have friends and family in Iowa that I rarely have an opportunity to see. Usually it’s only around Christmas when I make it home to visit and those visits always feel rushed. Making an additional trip back home to visit my folks and hopefully catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in years was a huge motivating factor for me in deciding to chase this FKT.




Scott Snell
28 July 2022



Thursday, July 21, 2022

Running Home - IA FKT - Post 1: Announcement of Intentions


 

Running Home - IA FKT
Omaha, NE to Muscatine, IA
276.6 Miles < 72 Hours







Details are still in the works, but my next BIG goal is to better the current record of the FKT route, "Run Across Iowa (IA)", sometime in the first half of 2023. The current record (3 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes, and 22 seconds) was set by Paul Noble in March of 2022. Paul improved the original record (4d 15h 32min 41s) posted to the FKT website by Taylor Ross in April of 2020 by a substantial margin (over 16 hours). As you have probably guessed by now based on the heading of this page, my goal is to further improve the record for the route and complete it in under 3 days.

The “Run Across Iowa (IA)” FKT route primarily follows route 92 connecting the Missouri River at the border of Omaha, NE to the Mississippi River at Muscatine, IA. The entire route covers a distance of 276.6 miles according to the FKT website.

I am still early in my planning process for this goal and many details (when, who, how, etc.) still need to be sorted out. As one would expect, running 276 miles across an entire state isn’t something that one should just dive into on a whim. I’m simply putting this blog post out now to publicly announce my intention to make this FKT attempt.

More details to come as they develop!






Scott Snell
21 July 2022



Tuesday, June 7, 2022

2022 Capital Backyard Ultra - Why Not Me?




Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling fine 25 miles in!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A view along the night course, just before dark. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

now we are into the 59th yard,

and the strongest field in the US so far in 2022

has come down to 56 year old jennifer russo

and scott snell

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

.

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

no personal tent.

no chair,

just a pad on the ground

no crew to tend to his needs and fetch supplies.

just scott...

.

to take care of his dam self.

.

quietly he has survived it all

as all around him the pampered runners fell.

.

and now there are two.

not the likeliest two

only the most resilient two.

.

this is the backyard.

where the race can turn on a dime

no one is out of contention until they give up.

anything can happen...

.

and anyone can win.

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


Scott Snell Beast Coast Trail Running Capital Backyard Ultra

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







Scott Snell                 
8 June 2022




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














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





Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ramblings On Backyard Ultras and the Undefeatable Human Spirit





I usually plan out my blog posts. I usually don’t put together a formal outline, but I at least have an idea of one in my head and will put at least a few notes or bullet points down on paper prior to beginning to write just to make sure I don’t forget to include any of the major points I intended to cover. This is not one of those posts. Tonight was the first night of running that it finally felt like the temperature dropped after the sunset. I think it was cooler than it has been since early spring this year. It’s strange when it takes a cool run after dark to realize how quickly the seasons are shifting from one to the next. Time doesn’t wait. Night to day, season to season, and year after year. It’s relentless. During this run while thinking about time relentlessly pressing on, I decided I would write this free form, unplanned blog post just to see where it led and what end result would be produced.

The main thing I thought I would write about was how I currently have no races on my schedule and I’m pretty much ok with it. I’m at the point after my last race (almost a month) that I would usually start experiencing some of the post race blues without having the next goal to conquer on my calendar. I’m not really feeling that as much this time or the need to sign up for anything. I’m guessing the reason why is because although I’m not registered for any races as of now, I know I have a race on my agenda next May, the Capital Backyard Ultra (CBU). I earned a guaranteed spot at CBU by winning the Last Squatch Standing this past August. The winner of the 2022 CBU will receive a guaranteed spot on the USA team at the 2022 Big Dog’s Backyard International Satellite Championship. It is a momentous race for me. It is a chance for me to earn a spot to represent the USA in an International competition of the best backyard runners from around the world. It struck me during my run tonight that this could be the most important race of my life. With that thought in my head, I vowed to make the months leading up to it my most focused months of training ever.

If I train hard and smart January through May, I know I’ll be ready for CBU physically. But the mental side of backyards can break you and end your run just as quickly as any physical issue. I was considering a gym membership to increase my running miles starting in January when weather can make outdoor running less enjoyable in my opinion, but I’m not so sure. I began to think that forcing myself out the door in freezing temps and running through slushy streets may help me nurture that determination that’s needed during a backyard ultra to get up and go out for another 4.167 miles when your mind and body may be advising otherwise. I mean that’s all this format is after the physical aspect, just a mental battle between the logical part of your brain that knows this must stop at some point and the other side of your brain that refuses to quit even though your muscles have been relaying the message to your brain that they’re spent.

I can’t explain what it is that keeps other runners going in these backyard races. I’m not even sure what it is for me all the time. I like to think it’s a reflection of my well honed sense of determination. I’m not the greatest or most talented runner, but I am a pretty determined person. I like to think it’s a display of the undefeatable human spirit to not accept defeat even if it seems the mind and body have accepted defeat. I feel that I was on the precipice of that situation a couple times at backyard races. Somehow, I found the will and desire to keep pushing on even when my brain was providing me logical justifications to quit and body parts were signaling their surrender.

I don’t know what will happen at CBU. I hope to have a good day. I hope to run my longest distance ever. I hope to be the last person standing. But hope can be lost quickly during a backyard ultra. The mind can be defeated in unforeseen ways. Some aspects are not in my control. What I can control is my training and my goal for race day. My training will be on point. I am committed to making that happen. My goal is simple, to go out for every loop on the hour until I am either timed out or I am the last person standing.



Scott Snell
9/24/21

Saturday, September 4, 2021

2021 Backyard Squatch Ultra - Paving a Path To Big's Backyard


                                             

“I just have to keep running. I can control that. That’s all I can do.” That’s the conclusion I came to at some point during the second day of the Backyard Squatch Ultra when I was beginning to lose hope and feared it was only a matter of time until I DNFed (Did Not Finish). That was my lowest point of the race, mentally at least, and thankfully it only lasted a couple hours until it passed and then we ran into a second night without sleep.

The story of the race starts about a week before the actual race when I packed the car to head out on a week long camping trip with the family leading up to race weekend. You could say the story starts long before that with when I decided to give up smoking and replace it with running, but that’s a much longer story than I intend to tell in this report. So, I’ll stick with the camping trip the week before the race.

Plans for both the camping trip and the race all fell into place about a month before they happened. The announcement for the race went public about a month before race day. It was only a matter of a week or two before we were informed that our family had been moved off the waitlist and had a spot at the YMCA family camp we we’re hoping to go to in Frost Valley, NY. It seemed to happen quickly and the timing felt serendipitous. Before I knew it, I had plans for a week of camping and a weekend of racing another backyard format ultra to close out the summer with a bang!


beast coast trail running scott snell running gear
All my gear ready to go the night before.

The Backyard Squatch Ultra was NJ’s first official backyard format race. What is a backyard format race? Basically, runners run a 4.166667 mile loop every hour on the hour. If they don’t finish the loop within the hour they are out of the race with a DNF. This continues until there is one runner left standing who is the winner when they complete one lap more than any other runner. If you want to learn more about the details and rules, just google Bigs Backyard. That race and its race director, Laz, is the originator of the race format.

As NJ’s first official backyard format race, I was pumped to be a part of the Backyard Squatch Ultra! I had run Pennsylvania’s first official backyard format race, the Keystone Backyard Ultra, in May where I was the last person standing with 129 miles. I had also run two other backyards, Run Ragged 2019 and Last Idiot Standing 2019, where I was also the last person standing at both. With my streak of performances at backyards, I put a ton of pressure on myself to perform well and do everything within my ability to avoid a DNF at the Backyard Squatch.

beast coast trail running scott snell at the backyard squatch ultra
With my boys just before the start!

My training between Keystone and the Backyard Squatch was pretty much exactly what I wanted to do even though I didn’t know for certain which race I was training for. I knew I wanted to do another backyard before the end of the year, I just didn’t know when or where. The bulk of my training was all below threshold runs, just running what felt like an easy comfortable pace. I don’t follow a schedule. I run when I have time between personal and professional responsibilities. I usually do a long run every 2-3 weeks depending on time available and what I’m training for.

I was a bit worried about my taper period coinciding with a week of camping. We did some hiking and I did a couple short runs during the camping trip and it ended up feeling like a really great taper week. I wasn’t inactive, but my legs got a rest from the normal number of miles they cover. Mentally, it was great for the week before the race to be away and be 100% focused on family time. Usually I get anxious the week leading up to a race, especially a race where I really want to push myself to perform well. With all the activities during the week of camping, I didn’t think about the race anywhere near the amount I would have during an otherwise normal week’s schedule. This was great for me as I felt refreshed mentally, spiritually, and physically before making the drive to Stokes State Forest where the Backyard Squatch was held.

Arriving at the race on Saturday morning felt like returning home after being away on a long trip. I hadn’t run a Sassquad Trail Running race in a couple years and the vibe and community that race director Kim Levinsky has built around her races, or “trail parties” as she calls them, is amazing. As far as I can tell, every runner there is made to feel special by the amazing group of Sassquad Trail Running volunteers.

The race used two courses, a mostly single track trail lollipop loop for daylight hours and a mostly paved road out and back for night laps, both starting from the Stony Lake Day Use Area. The trail loop was all runnable with a few more technical sections and a little under 400 feet of elevation gain. The trail loop started with a quick descent down to hop on a road for only maybe a few hundred feet to cross a bridge before getting back on a single track trail. The first mile was the stick of the lollipop and was a gentle, non-technical uphill on the way out. At the “Y” that started the loop of the lollipop the trail began to descend through a slightly technical section with some rocks but still runnable. The trail then dumped us out on a short, maybe half mile, rolling downhill section of road before turning back on to a trail. This was about the halfway point, roughly two miles, of the lap. The next half mile or so of trail felt more like a fire road with a gentle incline. It was runnable, but I always hiked it and ate a gel at that point. Then you crossed a small bridge and went through a little rock garden which was the most technical part of the course. From there it was mostly short, gentle ups and downs of non-technical single track until returning to the “Y” and having about a mile of gentle downhill that you cruise in on before making it back to the aid station.

beast coast trail running scott snell backyard squatch
My family crewing for me between laps.

With the 10 AM start, we ran the trail loop 10 times (41 miles) before switching to the night road course at 8 PM. These miles were uneventful for me, which is a good thing for this type of race. I just got comfortable with my routine of running about a 55 minute lap then sitting, refueling, discarding my gel wrapper, and grabbing an additional gel for the halfway point of the next lap. I didn’t feel rushed between laps and my pace felt comfortable. I was still taking the time to take a selfie between each lap at this point. My family stayed to see me between laps for the first few hours, then they left for the bulk of the day to have some fun at the nearby High Point State Park and climb the High Point Monument. They returned before we switched to the night course to wish me luck through the night, then they headed to the cabin that we had luckily been able to reserve for Friday and Saturday night only a week earlier. When I returned from the first loop after they left I found a lovely surprise, an inspiring note they left that read “Dear Dad, You got this! We love you go for one more.”

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell The note left from my family going into the first night.
The note left from my family going into the first night.

With the heartfelt message in my mind and knowing that my family was good for the night in the cabin, I left on my first night loop on the road course. The road course is mostly gently rolling hills. Even though it was road and foot placement was less of a concern and trip hazards were few and far compared to the trail course, it did have its share of rough patches and potholes. Let’s just say you needed a headlamp and had to keep your eyes open. This was the first backyard I had run that used a second course for the dark hours, so this was a new experience for me that I was looking forward to. I liked it for the fact that it broke up the monotony a bit and provided a bit of a change in scenery and feel. My main trepidation was how my legs and body would react to running roads after so many miles on the trail. Yes, I did feel the impact more on the road, but it felt like a good trade to be able to run with less concern about foot placement and having the chance to give all those extra stabilizing muscles you need on the trails a chance to relax.

I didn’t give it much thought before the race, but a good deal of runners switched from trail shoes to road shoes for the road course. I brought additional shoes and socks, but I was only intending to change if I was having any foot issues. Also, I was running in my Altra Timps which I typically use for my mixed road and trail runs so I figured I’d just use them as long as they kept feeling ok. Thankfully, they felt good for the entire race so I never changed my shoes or socks.

Beast coast trail running scott snell The single pair of socks (Darn Tough) and shoes (Altra Timp) I wore for the entire race. backyard squatch
The single pair of socks (Darn Tough) and shoes (Altra Timp) I wore for the entire race.

The night portion of the race went well for me. All of my night laps were about a minute or two faster than my trail laps. It was over night that the field started thinning out more noticeably. We lost a few runners during the day on the trail, but when the numbers got lower and most other runners I was chatting with were chasing personal distance records, their absence at the start of a new loop stood out more. The fact that every runner starts every lap on the hour together provides a chance to run with runners you may not normally be near when running a traditional race. In my opinion, this is one of the aspects of backyard races that makes them so cool. If an elite like Courntey Dauwalter or Harvey Lewis shows up at the same race as you, you’re running with them or at least starting every lap with them.

When daylight returned and we finished the 24th lap to complete 100 miles we had four runners left in the race. We were all greeted upon our successful completion of that lap with a true Sassquad trail party. There was a unicorn, a sasquatch, and a volunteer presenting us with a 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Kim herself! Of the four runners, one was hitting the 100 mile mark for the first time ever and was dropping after that lap. Another just wanted to hit 100 and then improve his distance personal record a little more so he stuck around for a 25th lap (YEAH JIMMIE!!!). That left me and Justin Kousky still in the race. Prior to the race, I did a little Ultrasignup stalking and of everyone I stalked I had pegged Justin as the guy who would likely be one of the final two in the race. I had hoped I’d have a good day and I would be the other half of the last two standing and thankfully that’s how the race played out. So everything had gone as expected thus far, but based on Justin’s stellar Ultrasignup record and the many unsupported, lengthy FKTs he held, I had no idea what to expect after this point. I’ve heard it said that these backyard races don’t actually start until after the 24 hour mark, and I would say that is how it felt to me at the time.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell The 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Race Director Kim Levinsky.
The 100 mile buckle designed and crafted by Race Director Kim Levinsky.

With just the two of us left, it no longer felt like a trail party. It quickly shifted from a party vibe to feeling like a true competition to me at this point. From what I could tell, Justin had his game face on and was in it to win it, as was I, but in this style of race there can only be one that succeeds.

My lowest point came between one of my laps during the second day, maybe around the 30 hour mark. My wife started telling me about what she had found out about Justin and how good of a runner he is with some really impressive wins and FKTs. I knew this already, but hearing her say it after a night without sleep and over 100 miles on my legs made the idea of going up against him in a last person standing race seem even more daunting. At the time, it felt like my wife was telling me that it’s ok to lose to him because I’m just outmatched. This led to some pretty negative thoughts in my head which is not a good way to be in a last person standing race. I began thinking that everyone there, including my wife and kids, was sure he was going to win. My oldest son had been enthusiastically telling me “You got this Dad!” between every lap. But when he said it this time it sounded sad and defeated like he didn’t believe it anymore. I believed that I was the last person there that thought I had a chance of winning. I went back out to run a lap with that thought in my head. When I got up to go back out for that lap, I said “I just have to keep running. I can control that. That’s all I can do.”

My outlook began to change at the next aid stop when I expressed my concerns out loud to my wife. When I told her this, she said that it wasn’t true. She went on to tell me that Kim had put out a call on Facebook to get more volunteers in because she was expecting the race to go into, if not through, a second night. It was also during this aid stop that Kim came over to my aid area to say that if I wanted any cooked food from the aid station just to let her know and she would get it for me. I asked for coffee. It was too hot to drink more than a few sips at that stop, but my wife loaded it up with sugar and let it cool so it was ready at my next stop. That next stop was a real mental turning point for me. I got a good deal of caffeine and sugar in me from the awesome coffee my wife prepped. I ate a piece of pizza that a glorious volunteer brought (THANK YOU!!!). My wife wiped down my legs, cleaning them of all the trail dust that had accumulated and stuck from all the trail miles. I felt more refreshed and ready to keep going on that 33rd or so lap than I had felt at pretty much any point during that second day.

Approaching the starting corral to head out for that lap I congratulated Kim. She didn’t know what I was congratulating her for at the time and gave me a confused look. I then explained, congrats for her race, NJ’s first backyard, as it had now officially gone longer than Pennsylvania’s first backyard race. We high fived and my mind was in a good spot again and I was happy. I was beginning to feel the wear and tear from the miles, but I was still enjoying them. I was floating through the trail section as easily as the first day; I found myself catching a toe and stumbling a few times. Once I nearly fell, but caught myself by putting my hand down in a patch of poison ivy which thankfully only led to a couple blisters on my wrist and not a full blown rash. I also knew we only had a few more trail laps left before we switched back to the road, and I was pumped to have that change of scenery and lowered concern for trip hazards to look forward to.

Of all the points of the race, my highest was the first road lap for the second night, my 35th lap. I drank more sugary coffee and ate a second piece of pizza just before heading out. I had over 141 miles on my legs, but they still felt ok and I knew they could at least get me through the night loops. I thought to myself “I’m only a 100k away from running my first 200 miler!” This had me pumped! And the icing on the cake, after eating pizza and turning my Aftershokz headphones back on, the song “Pizza Day” by the Aquabats came on! It was too perfect. It felt like everything was in perfect order. I was floating on the road, painlessly and almost effortlessly moving past my previous distance personal record of 129 miles. I was singing along to “Pizza Day” running on a NJ State Forest road in the dark just loving where life had led me.

With the switch back to the road course, my pace picked up. So did Justin’s, by a much greater degree than mine. It made me curious and wonder what he was up to. Was it a mind game? Maybe. Then I thought maybe he’s banking some time with the intention of sneaking in a quick nap before the next lap. At that point all I could do was guess. I would find out when I got back.

When I did get back with close to 10 minutes until the start of the next lap, I was shocked. My family and Kim were all standing under the tent that marked the starting line. They were all smiles and all cheered for me as I came in saying “way to go Scott!” I was confused. It was just another lap. We’d been doing this for over 30 hours. What the hell made this one different? That’s when they told me that Justin wasn’t going back out for the 36th lap. I didn’t believe it. He was looking too strong to stop. He had just run his last lap in about 44 minutes. I started questioning it and that’s when Justin spoke up. I hadn’t seen him where he was sitting just to the side of the tent in his chair. He said that he was done and was “officially throwing in the towel.” I started almost arguing with him, telling him can’t quit when he just hammered that last road lap. His mind was made up though. I gave him a fist bump and we chatted a bit, probably more than we had in the last 35 hours of running together. The competition was over and our game faces dropped. It felt like a sudden shift of attitudes towards each other. It felt like we almost instantaneously went from competitors to bros. I was thanking him for pushing me so far and he was telling me what a great competitor I was and how my race plan and execution was all on point. That’s what I love about this race format. It is SO competitive, but there is so much respect and admiration between the runners that are pushing one another to amazing performances. It felt great and I was loving the chat, but it had to be brief. I still had to get back out to complete one more lap.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell presented award from Race Director Kim Levinsky as winner of the Backyard Squatch Ultra
Race Director Kim Levinsky presents the award.

I went through my normal aid routine and then was sent back out with cheers for my final lap. I decided I was going to empty the tank on this lap and see what my legs could do after 146 miles of running. I ran that entire road and out and back, hills and all. I made it back to the aid area in about 40 minutes flat, surprised that I could still run a 4.16667 mile loop with a sub 10 minute/mile average. After receiving my share of congrats, Kim presented me with the Last Person Standing trophy and allowed my two older boys the honor of putting the “X” on the board they were using to track all the runners’ laps. It felt so great to have my family there with me to experience the finish of a backyard ultra with me! She also let me know that this was the first official bronze ticket qualifier backyard for the 2022 Big’s backyard and wished me luck as I advanced on to the next backyard race on the road to Big’s.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell at Stokes State Forest
My boys getting ready to mark my final lap as complete!

As the last person standing at a bronze qualifier event, I am now guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Capital Backyard which is a silver ticket event. The winner there is guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Big’s international satellite backyard competition. The winner there is guaranteed a spot at the 2023 Big’s World Championship Backyard. At least that is my understanding of how Laz has adjusted his schedule of backyard races, with Big’s being the US team’s satellite location on even years and the Backyard World Championship location on odd years. If I’ve misunderstood something or got it completely wrong, please reach out to me and let me know. What this all means to me is that I will likely get pushed to go even farther at my next backyard at Capital. This year’s race there went for 57 hours or 237.5 miles. Am I a bit frightened by that? Yes. But does that mean I don’t want to take a crack at bettering my distance personal record and being the last person standing there? Of course not! That’s what backyards are about: pushing yourself to your limit, going beyond what you ever thought you were capable of, and finding an additional fire buried deep in you to keep going when you don’t want to or don’t think you can. I am excited and look forward to digging deeper than I ever have before, becoming animalistic with my sole simplistic purpose being to continue moving forward in spite of my mind and body’s proclamations to stop.

Beast Coast Trail Running Scott Snell wins the Backyard Squatch Ultra
My family with me at the finish! Best feeling ever!





Scott Snell
September 4, 2021