Showing posts with label worlds end ultra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label worlds end ultra. Show all posts

Monday, January 20, 2020

Top Five Beast Coast Performances of 2019

5:  Rich Riopel’s 24 Hour Performance to Make the 2019 U.S. National 24 Hour Team

Rich Riopel at the 2019 Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn 24 hour. 

At the 2019 Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn 24 hour Ultra in Sharon Hill, PA, Rich Riopel returned to the world of competitive timed racing with an impressive performance. He ran a steady and consistent race to finish with 161.8207 miles. This earned him a first place overall finish at the race and a spot on the 2019 U.S. National 24 Hour Team! It was also good enough to earn him the third best 24 hour performance of 2019. This move back to timed races came as a bit of a surprise as Rich had moved away from those races and had run mostly specific distance trail ultras since running with the 2017 U.S. National 24 Hour Team at the 24 Hour World Championship Race in Belfast, Ireland. 

I admit that I may be a bit biased for including this performance in my top 5 of 2019 as Rich is a fellow New Jerseyian, but having a Beast Coaster throw down one of the top 24 hour performances of the year and represent ultrarunners on a World stage is pretty impressive in my opinion. 

4:  Alondra Moody and Luke Bollshweiler For Their Smokies Challenge Adventure Run FKTs

Alondra Moody (Ultrasignup photo)
Luke Bollshweiler (Ultrasignup photo)

Last year Alondra Moody improved the unsupported FKT for the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) route from 23h11min to 20h11min. The previous FKT was held by Natalia Traver and set in December of 2018. Luke Bollschweiler bettered the male supported FKT from 14h50min22s to 14h28min33s. The previous record was held by David Worth and set in May of 2011. Their performances earned them both nominations for the Fastest Known Time of the Year Award (FKTOY). The SCAR is a route following the Appalachian Trail (AT) across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Fontana Dam over 70 miles to Davenport Gap. Given the quick turnaround on the bettering of the FKT for the entirety of the AT in recent years (Scott Jurek - 2015, Karl Meltzer - 2016, Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy -2017, Karel Sabbe - 2018), I predict we’ll see faster FKTs for well established sections of the AT becoming the target more frequently. 

3:  New Male and Female Unsupported FKTs on the Long Trail

                     Jeff Garmire (IG photo, report)

New England friends!!! I am so excited to return to the @greenmountainclub and kick off the 28th annual James P Taylor Outdoor Adventure Series with a talk about hiking the Long Trail this fall. I would love to see you there! Below are some details. 🀩🀸🏽‍♀️🧚‍♂️ • “Rugged Happiness: Setting the Unsupported Female Record on the Long Trail”
When: Friday, December 20th, 2019, 7 P.M. 
Where: GMC Visitor Center, Waterbury Center, VT • “This past fall Nika “Early Bird” Meyers returned to the Long Trail for the second time, however, this time she ended up setting the Unsupported Female Record by finishing the trail in 6 days, 11 hours, and 40 minutes. Through photos, videos, and stories, she will share moments from the journey of deep strength, unexpected fear, sleep-deprived silliness, abundant discomfort, and overwhelming happiness. The Long Trail is where her love for long-distance hiking started and she is excited to share her story with the community that has helped give her the confidence to dream big!” •

Admission is $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers; kids under 12 are free. Tickets are available at the door only. Proceeds support local sections and the GMC Education Program. •

Colorado friends, I’ll be giving a talk in Aspen on January 7th 😁. More details to come. .
#longtrail #fastestknowntime #longtrail2019 #fallhiking 
#hikingadventures #triplecrownofhiking #thruhike #hikevt #pct2014 #cdt2016 #at2018 #appalachiantrail #longdistancehiking #storytelling #ultralightbackpacking #sheexplores #womenwhohike #optoutside #takemebackpacking #everyoneswilderness #vtraised #trailchat #hikingultralight #forceofnature #palantepacks #vermontsports #vermont #motivationmonday #mountainmonday
Nika "Early Bird" Meyers (photo from her trip report)

Vermont’s Long Trail saw a good deal of FKT action in 2019 with three unsupported records set. The Long Trail is a rugged 273 mile jaunt running from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts/Vermont state line. It has a long history of FKTs, with the earliest documented record I could find being set in 1978 by Dr. Warren Doyle (8 d13h25min). Nika “Early Bird” Meyers set the bar for the female record with a time of 6d11h40min. Although this is the first female unsupported FKT (there is a “self supported” record - Jennifer Pharr-Davis - 7d15h40m) for the Long Trail, it is not the FKT just for the sake of being the only known time. Meyers’ record is only about six hours shy of the male unsupported record which was set in 2010 and was just surpassed in 2019. That 2010 male unsupported record (6d17h25min) was surpassed twice in the past year, first by Josh Perry (6d9h48min45sec) then by Jeff Garmire (5d23h48min). For a record that stood for nine years to be
broken twice in under a month’s span, I believe is a sign of the rising popularity and interest in FKTs.

1.5: Big’s Backyard Has Its First Female Winner - Maggie Guterl

Maggie Guterl at Big's Backyard (photo from Tailwind blog)
There have been plenty of times in ultrarunning events where a female is the fastest runner in the race. I’m not sure if it has been researched, but I would venture to guess that it is even more likely for a female to get the overall win at last person standing events such as Big’s Backyard. What makes Maggie Guterl’s performance at Big’s this past year so amazing isn’t the 250 miles she covered in 60 hours. It’s the fact that Big’s is “THE” last person standing race. It has the highest qualifying standards (a selection from Laz) of all the last person standing races. You have to earn your spot at the starting line by proving yourself with past performances. Basically, it’s an international competition of the best of the best in this style of race. And Maggie proved she was the best one there this year.

1.5: Wesley Atkinson Wins the Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series of Mountain Running

Wesley Atkinson (left) at the Easter States 100 finish with Race Director David Walker (right) (photo from Eastern States website)
Let me start this final top Beast Coast performance with the explanation of the “1.5” and the lack of a first and second place performance. I could not place either Maggie or Wesley’s performances above or below the other. Both amazed me and I did not want to diminish either. Additionally, why can’t we have a male and female Beast Coast Performance of the Year? My blog, my list, my rules. Right? And with that, the male Beast Coast Performance of the Year: Wesley Atkinson’s two year journey to win the Pennsylvania Triple Crown of Mountain Running.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you know that I am especially fond of the PA Triple Crown Series. But that is not why I picked Wesley’s performance as male Beast Coast Performance of the Year. He spent both 2018 and 2019 chasing the Triple Crown and achieved that goal in stunning fashion in 2019 setting two course records along the way. It looked like he was well on his way to winning it in 2018 with first place finishes at Hyner 50k and Worlds End 100k, but due to circumstances beyond his control (the cancellation of the 2018 Eastern States 100) he would not even get a shot at finishing it that year. Wesley returned and started the 2019 series with a 10th place finish at Hyner. After that he dominated the series. He bettered the course record at Worlds End 100k from 11:37:52 (2016) to 10:50:38. This set some high expectations for everyone watching Eastern States 100 to see what he could do at that distance. Wesley did not disappoint. He finished first place and took over two hours off the course record from 20:30:36 (2016) to 18:23:47 to finish first place male finisher of the series!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

2019 Goals Reviewed

As we enter the holiday season of 2019 it is prime time to take a look back and assess goals for the past year. After much thought and consideration, I had three running goals this year:
  1. PR a marathon
  2. PR my greatest distance run
  3. Improve my cumulative time for the entire Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series
With time running out to complete any unfinished tasks on this list, it appears that I will have missed the mark on two of my three goals. Things looked great to start the year. At my first race of the year (Rat Race 50k) that I was mainly using to check my fitness level I hit a 50k PR. That wasn’t even one of my goals, but I’ll take it! I managed to smash my marathon PR by nearly 20 minutes at the NJ Marathon only one week after running the Hyner 50k checking box number 1 off my list of goals. Goal number 3 seemed to be just a matter of time as I improved my times at Hyner 50k and Worlds End 100k, but the ultimate goal of improving my cumulative time would fall out of reach at Eastern States 100. I still can’t fully explain it, but something was just off with me leading up to and during that run. That only leaves goal number 2 left, to PR my greatest distance run. Unfortunately, after Eastern States 100 I was just feeling a bit burnt out on running altogether. My original plan was to tackle a supported 200 mile trail run after recovering from Eastern States. I thought that my fitness would be there and this was a great plan, but I hadn’t accounted for the unexpected burn out (and possibly the disappointment that played a role) I would be facing at that point. So in the end, I scrapped the 200 mile attempt and accepted the one out of three goal completion rate.

Although that seems like a low completion rate which may upset some people, I am still pleased with how my 2019 running season played out. I may have not hit all of the targets I set for myself, but I had some pretty big, unexpected successes in other areas. The first being the aforementioned 50k PR and the amazing end to the race where I got smoked by Rich Riopel a quarter mile from the finish. The second major accomplishment for the past year that I am super proud of is the success I’ve found in ‘last individual standing” (LIS) races. I registered and ran my first LIS race (Run Ragged) in June just two weeks after Worlds End 100k hoping to do well, but feeling pretty uncertain about how well with the lack of recovery time between the two races. Surprisingly, I turned out to be the last one standing. I followed that race up with my second LIS race, a true backyard race organized by a running buddy of mine with the start and finish in his backyard. This was a smaller race with only around twenty some runners. I went into it intending to stop at the 50 mile mark because Eastern States 100 was just four weeks away, but by that time it was down to me and one other runner. I decided to stay in it a bit longer and the other runner ended up timing out after finishing only one more lap. Again, I was the last one standing. With those two results, I’m excited to test myself next year at a more competitive LIS race and see what I’m capable of there.

So that more or less wraps up my goals and their outcomes for 2019. Now it is time to look ahead to next year and decide which endeavors I intend to tackle. I still want to PR my greatest distance run and take a shot at a 24 hour race, so I’m thinking I should be able to hit both of those targets in a single event. As for what else is on my to do list next year, I’ll have to give it some thought.

Scott Snell
November 27, 2019

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2019 Worlds End 100k

Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.

Going into Worlds End (WE) 100k this year my head was not in a good place for both personal life reasons and running related reasons. Advanced warning before you get too far into reading this report, as I begin to write it I fear it will sound like I’m whining and will get into some nonrunning related issues in my life. If you want a more Worlds End running focused report check out my 2017 and 2018 reports. Otherwise if you’re somewhat intrigued with a poor mental state leading up to a race and a lesson learned from it, by all means continue reading. For multiple reasons to be explained, I was battling a lack of motivation, questioning my abilities, and suffering from an overall rather pessimistic outlook in general.

The day before at registration.
I’ll start with the running issues that contributed to me having a bit of lack of motivation and confidence leading up to WE. I was feeling pumped based on my two most recent races before WE. I ran my best time after three attempts at Hyner 50k and a week later I ran a road marathon PR at the NJ Marathon. With basically just a month between the NJ Marathon and WE I planned to do an easy recovery week, ramp up with a decent training week, get in a quality 20ish mile long run, then ease into a taper. Things went as planned up until that quality 20ish mile long run. I got in my 20 mile long run, but it by no means felt like a quality run. My legs felt heavy from the start, I felt tired and sluggish for the entire run, and I struggled to maintain what I felt like should have been an easy pace for flat, nontechnical trails. So I did the only logical thing I could do, I did a 20 mile road run the following weekend expecting it to be much faster and to feel much better about myself going into WE. That follow up long run did not go as planned either. I felt better and was slightly faster (20.08 miles in 2:49:41 versus 20.0 miles in 2:59:27), but the small pace improvement and still not feeling strong while achieving it did very little to improve my confidence.


With back to back weekends of disappointing long runs behind me, the next weekend I followed the most logical course of action: I asked for advice from a retired Olympic trampolinist (aka my brother in law). After talking about training cycles, building, peaking, and my lack of all of those things much less a training plan, he said I should just rest the last week before WE. I took that advice and did not run at all for an entire week before WE. I had never tapered that hard before, so I was extremely nervous not even having a couple easy paced short runs the week leading into WE. It also didn’t help improve my confidence at all, but as my brother in law was suggesting, the training and endurance are already there, my body just needs a break to recuperate before being pushed again.

Now to go over the non running issues that were contributing to my less than ideal mental state for the start of WE. I shouldn’t say issues, as it was more so a singular work related issue. For the most part I’m usually pretty good about not letting work frustrations bother me outside of work, but given this situation I could not let it not bother me. In an attempt to not make this a long, drawn out complaining post, I will try to sum up the main points of the situation quickly. Basically, I was offered a temporary detail promotion because the manager of our office had been reassigned to a one year detail. Not long after accepting I was told the position didn’t exist and so I could not have the promotion but I could still do the additional duties that came along with the promotion. Not such a good deal. Not long after that development the temporary detail position was advertised and two other employees from other offices were selected for the three and four month temporary acting manager details. The motivating factors that went into the decision making are still unknown to me. Being passed over for a temporary promotion that I was told doesn’t exist after I had unofficially been doing the additional duties of that position for four months was enough to make me update my resume and start job searching, but not do anything crazy like quit on the spot. Anyway, that’s enough non running stuff to explain why my head was out of sorts.
The view from my cozy car camping.
To add to my disappointment just before the race, my family had a last minute change of plans for the race weekend. We had planned to make an extended camping trip out of this race weekend with our neighbors who have kids that are friends with ours coming along for the trip. I had been telling my family and theirs about how great Worlds End State Park is and how nice the camp sites are for two years. I had finally convinced them to come along for a camping trip and 100k trail run. Unfortunately, the weather reports for extended thunderstorms and rain for the entire weekend caused our neighbors to fear that it would be a miserable weekend for camping so they bailed on us. I got the news Thursday afternoon when I arrived home from work. Making the blow sting even worse, my family decided to back out as well since their friends wouldn’t be coming along. In a flash my weekend went from running an awesome, scenic 100k with my friends and family there to cheer me on and celebrate with afterwards to just me taking off for the weekend.

Between the poor long training runs, last minute plan changes, and the professional life disappointments I was feeling confused, cynical, and worthless which is not a good way to start an ultra. Regardless of the outcome, I showed up even if my attitude about it was pretty crappy. I tried to convince myself that I was excited for it and that even if things weren’t going well in my professional life I at least still had ultramarathons as an escape, but when I woke up the morning of the race after a night of camping the initial thought I had was “time to get this over with.” Not the best mindset to start a gueling 15ish hour endeavor, but I had faith that once I became immersed in the trail running things would start to feel right. 

Just before the finish!
Makes it all worthwhile!

For the most part, that’s exactly what happened. I tried to turn on autopilot and just run the course basically the same way I did in 2018, going out at a comfortable pace while taking in plenty of calories and not blowing up. Pretty much everything fell into place. The course didn’t completely cooperate, but it didn’t bother me. It had been wet leading up to the race and the course had long stretches of extremely sloppy, swampy areas. It reminded me of the conditions from my first time at WE in 2017. That year it really got to me because every stretch of trail that looked runnable ended up being a sloppy mess and I was not able to get into any kind of rhythm. This year was different. Even though the conditions were similar, I managed to still move in a way that felt efficient and consistent. I felt strong on the climbs, my stomach never felt upset, and I was never completely exhausted. It was almost a perfect repeat of last year based on performance, only slightly faster as I finished in 14:11:21 compared to my 14:18:47 finish last year. 

I mentioned at the beginning that there was a lesson learned for me from this whole experience. It wasn’t about how important thinking positively going into an ultra is because I was pretty negative going into this one and still executed better than last year. The lesson for me was that ultramarathons or running in general can’t always be used as an escape from other issues in my life. Or maybe more accurately, ultras and this silly hobby of mine will not resolve other life challenges. I went into this race with a bad attitude. Then the race was going well and I had a great time. I felt even better when the outcome was an improvement over last year. But afterwards all of the circumstances that had caused my mental anguish had not changed. I had just lowered the amount of attention I allowed them for a few days. This may be kind of a sour note to end a report of a positive race on, but that is how this chapter of this ultra season ended for me.

At the finish celebration!

Scott Snell
August 14, 2019

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2019 Goals

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

2018 Worlds End 100k

Two Years, Two Buckles

Two years of buckles.
Author’s Note: This race report was written after the announcement that the 2018 Eastern States 100 was cancelled. As a runner who was planning to run the PA Triple Crown Series, this news came as a huge disappointment. I tried to not let the feelings of unfulfilled expectations impact this writing, but some degree of letdown may have bled through in the process. Regardless, I hope you enjoy.

Prepping for the 2018 Worlds End 100k was much different than my preparation for it in 2017. My training regimen and fitness level was about the same, but my mental state was vastly different. I went into 2017 extremely confident after a much better than expected performance at Hyner 50k. I underestimated the difficulty of the Worlds End 100k course and overestimated my abilities which resulted in a much longer and less enjoyable day in 2017. This year I knew what I was facing and had a much greater deal of respect for the course and the challenges it would present. Learning from my experience last year, I made a few changes to the way I ran the course this year hoping to avoid repeating the most negative experiences I had.

A view of Loyalsock Creek near the start/finish area.

My actual training was about the same as last year, lots of running trail miles while trying to get as much elevation gain as is possible in South Jersey. Since there’s very little elevation change anywhere in South Jersey, this year I tried to supplement my running regimen with other workouts: lunges, box jumps, and burpees. My hope was that although I’m not getting a ton of elevation gain during runs to build my climbing ability and endurance, the other workouts focused on my legs would prepare them for the long, demanding climbs that nearly destroyed me last year.

Photo credit:  Tania Lezak (
Last year I was nervously excited leading up to the race and just plain nervous right before the race. This year was different. During the entire training period I was just excited to have another go at Worlds End and to do it better than last year. My goal for the year was to improve my cumulative time for the PA Triple Crown Series. I had set myself up well to meet that goal as I was only five minutes off from my time last year at Hyner and I knew that was the one race with the least room for improvement. I knew that as long as I had a good day my 2018 Worlds End time would be better than last year and likely by more than five minutes. On top of feeling like I was well prepared for this race and on my way to achieving a big goal, I knew a lot of people who would be running Worlds End. These are other runners I’ve met over the last few years at other races and training runs. I was pretty excited just to have the chance to catch up with all of them at one race since I only see the majority of them a few times a year.

I made the sixish hour drive from South Jersey to Worlds End State Park in the PA Wilds on Friday, cursing the Philadelphia traffic just before the midway point of the trip. I grabbed my race packet, chatted with a few folks I hadn’t seen in awhile, and then headed to the same campsite I stayed at last year. Weather forecasts from about a week out had been predicting a washout the night before and day of the race. With wet weather seeming imminent, I was set to sleep in my car rather than dealing with getting soggy the night before the race in my water “resistant” tent. I ended up sharing a campsite with a buddy that was planning to sleep in his car as well, but didn’t have a campsite lined up. We caught up a bit that evening and talked race strategies before retiring pretty early to get a good night’s rest before the 5 AM start to a long day on the trails.

Just off the course, but you will
see boulders like this on course.
Thankfully, the forecasts for a rainy day were wrong and we were blessed with some near perfect running weather at the start of the race and for the entirety of the day. After a pre race speech we were off and running promptly at 5 AM. I felt good and my breathing was relaxed unlike last year when my breathing felt shallow and labored, I think mostly just due to nerves, for the first 10 miles or so. After the short stretch of road right at the start, we hit the technical trails that were heavily strewn with slick, wet rocks and roots. Even with the treacherous footing, I was more confident and felt more in control this year compared to last year. I believe there are two major reasons for this improvement: firstly, I was committed to starting with a more conservative effort this year rather than last year when I went out hard from the start and tried to maintain for as long as possible (that turned out to be a bit of a failure); secondly, the runners around me this year seemed far more calm and controlled than the runner I was directly behind during this initial stretch of trail last year. I’m not trying to criticize anyone’s technique or running style, but this guy I ran behind at the start of the race last year was slipping and nearly spilling every few steps the entire time I was behind him. I was honestly worried for his safety the entire time I followed him. I was nervous to start, and witnessing this made me even more nervous. Thankfully, this year everyone around me was as or more sure footed than me and going out at a pace that allowed for comfortable conversations.

There are two pretty solid climbs between the start and the first aid station (High Rock) at mile 4.3. I didn’t want to lose much time at aid stations so went through pretty quickly, eating a gel and shoving one in a pocket of my hydration pack to eat on the trail. This was my basic nutrition plan for the day: a gel at and between every aid station. Additionally, I planned to start eating some real food around the halfway point, basically whatever looked or sounded good to me at that point. The next six miles to aid station 2 (Sones Pond) are more runnable than the first section with only one steep but not too long of a climb. I ran these six miles at just slightly faster than what I like to call my “forever pace”, basically a pace you feel you could maintain indefinitely without rest. After a quick chat with a runner (shout out Christian) I had met on a long training run earlier in the year, I continued my nutrition plan and ran the next 5.6 miles to AS 3, Devils Garden. This stretch is basically a medium distance descent followed by a medium climb. It was during this stretch that I caught up to and ran with another running buddy (shout out Steve) who was running the race while still recovering from a bit of an injury. Additionally, and for reasons I don’t understand, he was also running the first half without carrying any hydration of any sort. I get it that all ultrarunners are probably a bit of masochists to some degree, but this just seemed to me to be a bit ridiculous. In his defense, he intended to drop before the halfway point. After chatting for a bit, there was no doubt in my mind that he was not going to finish the race. To my surprise and amazement, he got his water bottle from his drop bag at the halfway point and finished the full 100k. So nothing but respect to you sir!

I ran the short 3.4 mile stretch between AS 3 to AS 4 (Worlds End) at what still felt a comfortable and sustainable pace. I started drinking some soda (Mountain Dew or Coke) at aid station stops at this point for some additional calories. From last year I recalled the next 2.9 miles to AS 5 (Canyon Vista) as being some long, slow miles tackling some big climbs. While this section is mostly climbing with very little of it being flat or runnable, I felt much stronger taking it on this year and actually covered the distance more quickly than last year. Last year I was already beginning to feel exhausted at this point, so much so that my awareness of my surroundings was diminished to the point that I didn’t even notice the beautiful vista from the Canyon Vista AS. Not so this year. I took in the view and realized how much better I was feeling this year in comparison to last year’s race. I didn’t plan it, but that would then become my mantra for the remainder of the day: “Remember how you felt last year at this point? This year is so much better!”.

The view from Canyon Vista.
The next 5.5 miles to AS 6 Coal Mine are a bit more runnable made up of shorter climbs and descents. I started to let the reigns on my pace go a bit as I was still feeling kinda fresh given I was a third of the way done. Even so, my splits were still a mix of faster and slower than last year’s. All the while I was doing trail math to see if I was on pace to finish faster than last year. I didn’t completely trust my math, but I kept on calculating a faster finish time if I just maintained what so far had felt like a very manageable pace. I passed through Coal Mine, which I would argue may be the most festive and high energy aid station on the course (they also most strongly encourage the consumption of alcohol) and started in on the 8.1 mile stretch to High Knob taking two gels with me for the longer stretch. This section is made up of a medium descent and two respectable climbs. My feet were beginning to feel sore from having been wet for most of the first half of the race from soggy trail sections and small creek crossings. A big change I made this year was that I had A+D ointment, fresh socks, and dry shoes waiting for me at High Knob. With the excitement of hitting the halfway point and the refreshments in my drop bag pushing me on, I managed the climbs to High Knob without much trouble. I took some extra time at the AS to cover my feet and any chafed areas with A+D, change my shoes and socks, and eat a couple perogies. It was a smart decision because afterwards my feet felt amazing and pain free. There is about a two mile stretch of runnable downhill leaving High Knob where I decided I was going to start pushing my pace a bit and cranked out my fastest miles of the day. It was also at this point that I realized my stomach was starting to revolt against all the gels I had been forcing down. Between the gel and Tailwind concoction sloshing around in my belly and the extra bouncing around running the downhill a bit faster, my stomach unexpectedly said “no thanks” and I ended up with a surprising mouthful of vomit. I managed to chew it back and force those hard earned calories back into my stomach to finish digesting. After the descent there is a big climb before completing the 5.8 mile stretch to Dry Run (AS 8).

How could I have missed the Vista in 2017?

It was around this point that the race started getting really interesting for me. During my stop at High Knob, I was updated by a friend of another running buddy that my running buddy (shout out to Nate) who I hadn’t seen since the start of the race was only about 20 minutes ahead of me and looked really strong. With that update, I didn’t think I would see him until the finish. But then I thought about it some more. I was feeling really good after the halfway point. Twenty minutes on this course could be only a one mile distance of a long tough climb. Also, he went out hard from the start like I did last year. If that fast pace is going to catch up to him, it would likely be happening soon as it did me last year around this point of the race. All of this gave me hope that I may see him again before the finish, so I pushed myself on trying to up my pace a bit (we have a bit of a friendly competitive thing going on). After Dry run it is 3.8 miles to McCarty (AS 9), a water only aid station. From there it is a medium climb and descent to cover the 4.6 miles to Brunnerdale (AS 10). It was somewhere during that climb that I caught up to my buddy. I was a bit surprised to see him and I’m not sure if I surprised him, but he seemed a bit spent at that point. I finished the climb with him and ran some of the downhill with him before wishing him well and picking up the pace a bit to reach the next aid station, Brunnerdale. I was getting a bit hungry at this point and tired of the taste of gels. I took a little extra time to eat some real food, mostly pickles and grilled cheeses. While refueling, my buddy rolled into the aid station and joined all the volunteers there in encouraging me to do a few shots of the Fireball they were offering (like I said, we’re a bit competitive with one another). I regretfully declined and headed out from the aid station just before my friend. It would be a climb, descent, and climb to cover the 4.9 miles to the next water only aid station, The Gate (AS 11). From there it’s another three miles of smaller hills to Fern Rock (AS 12), the final aid station. I focused mostly only on moving forward as quickly as possible to avoid getting caught by my friend, but looked back a few times during this stretch and saw no sign of him.

I ate a few Tums to settle my stomach which was feeling a bit queasy then left spending little time at the final aid station to hurry on and finish the last 5.9 miles of the race. To my surprise and distress, within seconds of leaving the aid station I heard a loud cheer from the volunteers there. Without a doubt, another runner was coming in just as I left. I couldn’t be sure, but I figured it was probably my buddy trying to close on me during the home stretch. Most of the last section is pretty nontechnical and runnable without any big climbs. I had hoped that this would be the part of my day where I just comfortably cruised in for the finish. Given the situation though, I was running this section scared, checking over my shoulder a few times every mile. There’s one stretch (maybe about a half mile) of straight paved road in this section. With my friend having been a damn fine road marathoner, I knew that would be his prime opportunity to close on me, but there was no sign of him as I anxiously looked back. Suddenly, with about two miles to go I was no longer worried about being chased. I caught sight of two runners about a quarter mile ahead of me. All of my focus and effort went to chasing rather than being chased. Shortly after I saw them they saw me and started to book it. The chase was on. I lost sight of them as they hopped onto the final single track that takes you down a gnarly and steep descent before dropping you out into the parking area of the start/finish area. I saw them again and they seemed within reach on this technical descent, but they disappeared again as the trail ended at the parking area. When I reached that point I saw them sprinting around the parking area towards the finish and I gave it my all to catch them, but they still had enough in their legs to maintain a gap. I finished about 30 seconds back with a story of what was the most exciting and probably the tightest finish I had ever experienced in any ultra I’ve ever run.

And with that intense last six miles of being chased and chasing over, it was time to celebrate with friends, food, and some IPAs from New Trail Brewing Company. My buddy came in just about 10 minutes behind me and let me know that it was in fact him that came into the final aid station just as I was leaving. The finish line food was just as amazing as last year and this year my stomach was able to handle it a bit better. After a couple hours of food, drinks, telling stories of our days and listening to everyone’s adventures, the exhaustion began to set in and I decided it was time to get clean and crash in my sleeping bag.

The start/finish area, very empty (also very clean) the day after.
I went into this race with a better plan than last year and a better mindset. Ultimately it paid off and I finished 34 minutes and 39 seconds faster than last year, making up the five minutes and far more that I was off at the finish of the Hyner. Knowing this made the finish so much more valuable. I finally felt like I was beginning to figure out a few more key elements of this whole ultrarunning thing after hammering away at it for a few years. It felt like real progress towards improvement. Later, this feeling was reinforced when I compared my Garmin data from last year’s Worlds End to this year (Chart 1 and Table 1). Both tell the same story of my day and tell me that my strategy of going out easy (2018) made for a much better overall performance than going out too hard (2017) and trying to maintain. It reinforced my interpretation of my 2017 performance that I basically bonked and blew up around mile 40. What is truly intriguing to me is that it wasn’t until after mile 50 that I actually would have passed myself running my 2017 race and I was able to gain over a half hour on my time in the last 10 miles. It really drove home the lesson for me about how devastating blow ups and bonks are. However, in contrast, if you never blow up or push to that level you may always wonder what more was possible. Regardless, I wasn’t asking that at this finish. I was too happy with having a plan that worked and executing well.

Scott Snell

July 4, 2018

Strava data ------>

Chart 1
Worlds End 100k Garmin Pace Data - 2017 VS. 2018
Line graph of 2017 and 2018 Worlds End 100k Garmin splits data.

Table 1
Worlds End 100k Garmin Pace Data - 2017 VS. 2018
WE '17
WE '18
Cumulative '17
Cumulative '18
Garmin split data comparing 2017 to 2018 Worlds End 100k.