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Showing posts with label ultraunning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ultraunning. Show all posts

Friday, October 22, 2021

Why I Run Backyard Ultras and Why I'm Dead Set on Running Big's Backyard


Scott Snell Beast coast trail running backyard ultra finish

My three key reasons why the backyard race format attracts me:
  • The pressure and excitement of having a hard cut off time constantly looming.
  • The opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were.
  • Reaching a deeper state of being.
This past weekend I followed along online via tweets and facebook status updates as runners ran a 4.1667 mile loop every hour on the hour beginning at 7 AM Saturday and into the following week at the original backyard ultra, Big’s Backyard. The backyard race format is simply a matter of elimination where the winner is the last runner remaining after all other runners have been eliminated as a process of attrition. Every runner must complete the loop within the hour and start another loop at the beginning of the next hour. Any runner that fails to do either is eliminated. This continues indefinitely until one runner is the last one standing and the winner. After 70+ hours of running, three runners remained in the race (eventually Harvey Lewis would win it with 85 laps or 354.2 miles). It was then that the thought occurred to me, “many people would consider this to be torture.” I have a differing opinion. Watching these athletes push themselves to and beyond the point of exhaustion and knowing that they volunteered themselves for that experience out of their own free will only filled me with inspiration and awe. It also gave me a whole lot of FOMO and stoked my fire to earn my spot at Big’s in 2022.

I certainly have not made a secret of my intentions to run at Big’s. However, I don’t think I have ever explained in depth why I set this as my “A” goal above all other racing or FKT goals. Before explaining why running at Big’s became my highest priority goal, I feel the need to explain how I became interested in this race format to begin with. It began with an interest in Laz as a person and as a race director. Running the Barkley Marathon never really piqued my interest. The race and format interests me, I just have never had any intent at the time of learning about it or since to run it myself. His backyard format race though immediately made me wonder how long I would last and how far I could go. Then seeing records broken and competitors dig and push the boundaries of what I thought was possible I became increasingly intrigued with the format and wanted to test myself at it.

To my benefit, and likely in large part due to Courtney Dauwalter’s amazing performance at the 2018 Big’s, the backyard format started gaining more attention and received much wider coverage. This led to numerous backyard format races popping up throughout the US and eventually worldwide. In 2019, a backyard format race, Run Ragged, that was pretty local to me was announced. I registered for it and a question on the registration form was “How many laps do you plan to run?” I answered as honestly as I could at the time with my knowledge of backyards and my goal for the race, “One lap more than the second to last person standing.” Yes, maybe it was cocky, but I was going there with the intention of winning.

After doing just that and assessing my experience at Run Ragged, I didn’t know if I even liked the format or if I would ever do another. What the format introduced me to that I had not experienced previously was the feeling of chasing cut offs. I’m not trying to brag as I am by no means an amazingly fast runner, I would consider myself a middle of the pack runner at best, but I had never feared missing a cut off at any standard set distance races I had run. I had never felt stressed to make it to an aid station with the clock counting down to a cut off time. My first experience with that was at Run Ragged as that is essentially what a backyard format is, a 4.1667 mile loop with a one hour cut off. You are always within one hour of missing a cut off no matter your average pace. This was a form of stress new to me while racing and a completely novel experience. At first, I didn’t think I liked it, but over time and with more experiences, I have come to enjoy the excitement this sort of pressure to perform brings to racing.

As an additional beneficial effect of the relentless and never-ending pressure of looming cut offs, the backyard race format also provides an opportunity and motivation to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were. Everyone has their own reasons for running in general and anyone who gets into ultrarunning usually has additional reasons for pursuing that niche of the running world. A major reason why I was attracted to ultrarunning was to find my limit and to see what my mind and body are capable of when pushed beyond what I accepted their limits to be. After several years of running set distance ultras, I felt like I was still pushing myself, but not to the point where I was questioning if finishing was possible. After the first couple 100 milers, I no longer questioned if I would finish. It simply became a matter of when. That reason alone drew my attention to backyards. Since there can be only one finisher, everyone else will find their limit on that given day. That’s what attracted me to ultras to begin with, to find my limit. The backyard format could finally deliver that to me so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards them. After running several backyards (Run Ragged, Last Idiot Standing, Keystone Backyard Ultra, and Backyard Squatch Ultra) and being the last runner standing without having found my limit, I concluded I needed to go bigger and enter bigger backyard races with deeper fields. What backyard could be bigger than the originator of the backyard format, Big’s Backyard? My mind was made up, I would run at Big’s. No more being a big fish in a little pond, I wanted to run with the big dogs at Big’s.


The other major attraction of the backyard format for me (at the risk of sounding all new age and hokey) is that it encourages the runner to seek out and embrace a transcendental state of running. It allows the physical act of running to act as a key to access a spiritual or nonphysical realm. I’ve said many times that endurance running is only a physical feat to a certain point, then it becomes a mental challenge. This statement is even more true of a race without a set finish line. The idea in itself seems a bit supernatural to begin with: to run continuously for an indefinite distance or time. Most rational people (runners or not) would likely have an issue with this concept. I embrace it for the fact that I am so in love with those short episodes of time while running where I lose track of time, pace, and miles; I feel like I’m floating effortlessly and not even thinking about running or effort. They start and end unexpectedly. I don’t think they can be consciously induced; they seem to just happen for me. I don’t even notice that I’m having one of those episodes during it; it always occurs to me after it’s over and I look at my watch wondering where the time went and how I covered so many miles unknowingly. I think Harvey Lewis was describing this state immediately after winning Big’s this year when he said at times he was running pain free and felt like he could run forever. I believe he called it reaching “running nirvana”. What better way to attempt to achieve a state of “running nirvana” than to run beyond the limits of what your logical and rational mind has accepted as possible?

So far, this post has covered my key reasons for being attracted to the backyard race format. I haven’t specifically state why I made Big’s Backyard my goal race to reach. I hinted at it with the topic of running more competitive backyards with deeper fields, but there are other backyard races out there that have resulted in some pretty impressive distances run, much farther than I have ever gone or thought possible. Why did I pick Big’s over others? An additional motivating factor for me is to earn a spot as a member of the USA National Backyard Team, representing the USA running with some of the best backyard runners in the world: Courtney Dauwalter, Maggie Guterl, Harvey Lewis, and Michael Wardian among others. The only opportunity to achieve this is at Big’s. I think most kids dream about achieving the pinnacle of success in some sport, whether it be winning the super bowl or an Olympic gold medal. I had these dreams as a kid too, but none of them panned out. Now I have an opportunity to reach what I would say is or at least near the pinnacle of backyard ultrarunning, to earn a spot on the USA National Team. I believe I am capable of achieving that so in my view I’m doing a disservice to myself to not pursue it.

Scott Snell
October 22, 2021








Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Science In Sport Gels - HUGE DISCOUNT!!!



If you’re reading this then that means you must want to know how I managed to get 84 Science In Sport gels for just $52.36 and how you can do the same or even get up to 90 gels for the same price if it’s your first time ordering from the Science In Sport website!


Step 1: Follow this link and enter your email address. This step gets you a free 6 count gels taster pack.

Step 2: Next fill your cart with any combination of 6 count gel packs that are on clearance for $4.40 each until you have a total of 14 packs (Total = $61.60). The flavors at that price point include cherry, pineapple, and tutti-frutti.

Step 3: Check out - At checkout, enter promo code “SIS-BIBRAVE-21” for 15% off. Your total should now be $52.36 which still surpasses the $49 threshold for free shipping.


Congrats! You just got a great deal on some quality gels! Enjoy!












Friday, April 2, 2021

Runderwear Festival of Running and Countdown to My First 24 Hour Race


Beast Coast trail runderwear bib

As I begin this blog post we are quickly approaching the weekend of the Runderwear Festival of Running half marathon. Additionally, this Saturday is exactly 2 weeks out from my first 24 hour race! I am so excited and pumped to have an “in real life” race on my schedule and happening so soon.

I hope to use this weekend’s Runderwear Festival of Running virtual half marathon as a portion of my final weekend of training before rolling into taper mode until my 24 hour race. I’m excited to attempt to run a faster half marathon as it feels like it has been so long since I have pushed myself to run hard for any distance longer than up to a mile. Part two of my plan to use this half marathon as part of my final training weekend is to get out for at least a medium distance run the day after on what I expect to be either tired or sore legs. The thinking behind this is of course that at some point during the 24 hour race my legs will be tired so I want to be prepared and mentally ready to continue to move on those tired legs.


My pace goal for the half marathon is to run an average pace of 8:15 per mile. It’s not shooting for the stars or a PR for me, but my training for the last 5 months hasn’t been focused on speed; it’s been focused on building volume and endurance. Additionally, even if I thought a faster pace was within my reach, I don’t want to overextend myself with only 2 weeks to recover before the 24 hour race which has been my top running goal for the last couple years.

Based on my monthly mileage build up, I feel mentally and physically ready to run for 24 hours straight. I have built volume and endurance with this single race in mind. My last long run to prepare for it was 42 miles at what I considered a comfortable pace. Near the end of that run I wanted to test my legs and see what I had left at that point. I ran my forty-first mile in just a little over 7 minutes. This gave me a huge confidence booster for the 24 hour race. Now I just can’t wait to be on that starting line!


Scott Snell
April 2, 2021


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Runderwear Winter Gear Review - Base Layer and Neck Warmer




Disclaimer: I received a Runderwear Men’s Running Base Layer and Neck Warmer to review as part of being a Runderwear Ambassador.


I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it several times in this blog in the past, and I am sure I have made the statement multiple times on social media posts: I prefer hot weather running over cold weather running. I think I’m more of a minority amongst runners with this preference, but given the option of running in swamp ass, hot and humid conditions versus bitterly cold freezing temperatures, I’ll choose the swamp ass every time. With that said, maintaining my motivation and desire to run over the course of colder winter temperatures and shorter daylight hours becomes quite a challenge for me at times. Which makes the winter running gear I use an even more important factor in whether I stick to my training plans.


I received two winter running gear items from Runderwear: the Men’s Running Base Layer and a Neck Warmer. I tested both this past holiday weekend while running trails at Hartshorne Woods and Huber Woods in Monmouth County, NJ. Conditions were mild for late November with daily highs ranging from 55-62 F. I planned to be out for some longer days (an 18 miler and a 10 miler) on the trails, so I wanted to wear something that would keep me warm during the cooler part of the day and not make me feel overheated during the warmer part of the day. I went out wearing only the Runderwear Men’s Running Base Layer and a Neck Warmer above a pair of shorts. It turned out to be the perfect compromise for warmth and comfort throughout the varying temperatures of the day.

Men’s Running Base Layer
The Men’s Running Base Layer was designed for cold weather running with its moisture wicking fabric to keep you dry and warm in cold conditions. The fabric provides dynamic heat control with its mesh panels that contain micro perforations that increase breathability which assists with moisture (sweat) removal from your skin helping to keep your core temperature stabilized. The shirt design, like their underwear, is completely seamless and label-free further reducing any risk of chafing. All keeping in line with Runderwear’s chafe-free guarantee.


There’s not a lot of print on it, but the print that is there is hyper reflective. I found this out as I was making the short run back from the county park to the house as it got dark. I was regretting not bringing my headlamp as I ran on the side of a road with an extremely narrow shoulder, thinking what a terrible choice it was to wear a nearly all black long sleeve. I got nervous every time I saw a set of headlights, but noticed the reflection of the Runderwear logo and print on the front of my base layer which provided a bit of comfort.

The last feature of the running base layer that really stood out to me while testing it out was the foldable sleeve ends. The sleeve ends are designed to fold out and over your hands providing built mittens at the end of your shirt sleeves. It wasn’t cold enough that I needed mittens, but I thought the feature was super ingenious, convenient, and well thought out. It’s a well designed feature as the extra material at the end of the sleeves doesn’t feel bulky and is barely even noticeable until unfolded over your hands. I could see this feature being extremely handy for those cooler days when it’s too cold for bare hands, but warm enough that your hands get sweaty when you put gloves on. I’ve had those days where it feels like I’m constantly putting on and taking off my gloves.


Neck Warmer
The Runderwear Neck Warmer is on par with that other really popular neck warmer/face covering company that rhymes with “fluff”. It’s comfortable, breathable, and multifunctional. It can be worn as a bandana, head covering, face covering, or as a neck warmer, obviously. What sets it apart from that other popular band? Not a whole lot other than competitive pricing at only $5 a piece. That and the color perfectly matches other Runderwear attire. So if coordinated running outfits tickle your fancy, this neck warmer just might be your jam.

The neck warmer was especially useful for me as a face covering when passing others on the trail. With New Jersey’s mandatory face covering policy when social distancing can not be maintained (such as on a narrow trail), the face covering was perfect. I could wear it around my neck as a neck warmer and simply slide it up over my mouth and nose when I passed other trail users.

  

All in all, I’m very impressed with the Runderwear winter running gear after my initial weekend test runs. Although they started as a company specializing in running underwear, they have expanded and made other high quality running attire. I was already sold on their blister free socks and chafe-free underwear, but now I’m a fan of their winter running attire as well.

Scott Snell 
December 1, 2020





Saturday, August 8, 2020

Using the California Coast 500 Virtual Challenge as Training for my 106 Mile Batona Trail FKT Attempt

"Disclaimer: I received an entry to the California Coast 500 Virtual Challenge to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"


If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that due to COVID-19 I ran my first virtual race this year. If not for COVID causing basically all races to be cancelled, chances are that I would not have dipped my toes into the virtual racing world. But, alas, I am adjusting to a “new normal”, willing or not. And with that adjustment, I just completed another virtual race challenge, the California Coast 500


I decided to run the California Coast 500 for a few reasons. One of the major reasons was to stay motivated to run throughout the spring and summer without having any “in real life” races to run or train for. Granted, even without racing I would likely still run just for the fact that I enjoy it for a multitude of reasons that I won’t go into here, but actual in person races definitely give me something extra to be excited for and get me to train harder than if I am just running for the other benefits that running provides me. So I used the California Coast 500 as a means to train for the fall races that I was still hoping would happen. As the COVID situation developed and races further and further into the year continued to cancel, I lost that hope. Rather than being upset at a situation that sucks, but is out of my control I decided to adjust my plans and use the California Coast 500 as training for an FKT attempt that will not be cancelled. 

I decided I would make an attempt at the self-supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the out and back Batona trail route. The route is about 106 miles of pretty much flat, nontechnical trail. This would be my first FKT attempt and using a long distance virtual challenge as a training plan was completely new to me as well. Having just finished the 500 mile challenge today and planning to make my FKT attempt in the next 1-3 weeks, I can not say at this time whether this was a good plan or not. It feels like I’ve had good preparation for a long distance run. I’ve put in higher than normal weeks for the last two months, consisting almost exclusively of slower paced longer runs. Even the shorter runs were usually slower than my other short training runs because I treated them as short active recovery days from longer runs during the challenge. I’m hoping all of these higher mileage weeks at a slower pace will pay off during the later stages of my FKT attempt, but only time will tell how well this plan turns out. 


Other than having the California Coast 500 keep me motivated to train for other goals, the event itself had some pretty cool features that I found to be pretty innovative for a virtual challenge. The first being that a one month free trial subscription to PWR Lab was included with the registration. PWR Lab is an online fitness system created for athletes that easily syncs with data from your smartwatch. The PWR Lab software uses analytics to synthesize that data with running science principles to deliver the PWR Lab Training Dashboard. The Dashboard displays key variables and highlights effects of your training on running power, preparedness, and risk of injury. The data from PWR Lab was also used to track all of the runners’ progress during the challenge as well, allowing them to create some pretty cool maps to track progress. 


Map of the BibRave Pro team's progress.


Another unique feature that the California Coast 500 added to make the virtual race experience more engrossing was to create and share California themed playlists



An additional feature that kept me involved and looking forward to the weekly emails from the race was the announcement of the weekly challenges, the associated prizes, and last week’s winners. Challenges ranged from running your highest mileage week, logging three runs of five miles or more, or being an early bird or night owl runner logging your miles before or after a set time. Although the coolest and most fun challenge in my opinion was the chase pack challenge. The chase pack challenge pitted three elite ultra runners (Dani Moreno, Mike Wardian, and Tim Tollefson) against the entire California Coast 500 field. Finish in front of them and be entered to win a pretty nice prize package. Get passed by them, and you are entered to win a pair of running shoes (still not bad). Thankfully, I stayed in front of them. We’ll see if it pays off with a prize!


The last aspect I wanted to mention about the California Coast 500 that really stood out to me was the finisher awards. The awards for the California Coast 500 Challenge are designed and crafted by @elevationculture. Not only do they look great, but all products from Elevation Culture are produced sustainably from renewable sources, byproducts are repurposed or recycled, and all shipping materials are biodegradable.