Latest reviews by scott snell

(2021)
"Hope and Faith against a DNF"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

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

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

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

Read my full race report at: https://www.beastcoasttrailrunning.com/2021/06/2021-keystone-backyard-ultra-hope-and.html

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(2021)
"Puzzles, Riddles, and Miles: A Mash Up of Some of My Favorite Things "
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

What really jumped out to me about Run to Escape: Mission Mt Olympus was that it differentiated itself from virtual races in so many ways that it became a unique running experience that didn't fit the mold of any runs/races I have run before. It certainly didn't fall into the category of virtual race that has more or less become pretty standardized. You will not be shipped a finisher’s award or a t-shirt. The creators intentionally wanted to distinguish this running experience from virtual races by not emulating what is standard practice for virtual race registrations. Additionally, they wanted to reduce waste produced from packaging and shipping materials and make this experience as environmentally friendly as possible.

I really enjoyed the puzzle aspect of the experience, some of which truly challenged me. Even though I was uncertain I would be able to figure them all out at a few points, it was comforting to know that hints and ultimately the solutions were all available so you would never get completely stuck on any of the challenges.

Just for clarification, the only reason why I rated the "SWAG" rating at 3 stars is because there was no physical swag distributed. Even so, the recipes, playlists, and giveaways at the pantheon party upon completion of the challenges was a pretty cool replacement for the typical t-shirt and medal that are mailed out for virtual races.

Read my full report at: https://www.beastcoasttrailrunning.com/2021/06/run-to-escape-mission-mount-olympus.html

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(2021)
"Twenty Four Hours of Fun"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The Adventure Trail Run is a timed trail running event held at Prince William Forest Park (National Park Service) in Triangle, VA. This year was the 15th anniversary of the event and they offered 8 hour solo, 4 person relay 24 hour, and solo 24 hour options. While I chose the solo 24 hour because I had never run that race format before and I wanted to test myself with that style of race, the 4 person 24 hour relay option definitely seemed like a fun way to spend a weekend running with friends.

The course was basically a lollipop design with a 1 mile out and back to a 4 mile loop. The 1 mile out and back section was definitely the most challenging in my opinion. It was probably the most consistently technical section of the course with seemingly endless stretches of jagged rocks and ankle breaking exposed roots. It also had many short but steep climbs and descents to deal with. During the first mile of the race, I immediately thought I’d have to reevaluate my goals as I wasn’t expecting that technical of a course. Thankfully, the 4 mile loop was far more runnable. In addition to the technicality of that entirely narrow single track section was the fact that it was also the section of the course where you had to deal with two way traffic of runners. Since this was a relatively small event (around 100 runners) it didn’t present a major problem, but with 50k and 100k runners on the course at the same time as the 24 hour runners, it did feel a bit congested to me on a few occasions.

The 4 mile loop section of the course was a totally different story. Even the more technical sections, climbs, and descents were more runnable than the initial 1 mile out and back. This year the loop was run in a counterclockwise direction. Apparently the race reverses direction of the loop every year. From the start of the loop to the halfway point fluid only aid station was nearly all smooth, buttery, flat single track trails with the exception of a short climb with a couple switchbacks and few technical rocky sections where you had to be careful of your footing. Immediately after the aid station was a short stretch of boardwalk to run on and then the longest sustained climb of the course. The climb followed a stretch of what appeared to be a fire road for about a half mile and up about 150 feet. The rest of the loop was all single track trail with a few technical rooty sections and a few short climbs, but nothing too intense.

I set what may have been a lofty goal for myself: to break the course record of 108 miles. Obviously, I came up a little short with my final official mileage of 103.1. It’s an especially disheartening form of failure when you’re on pace for your goal for so long and come so close to your goal, but it just very slowly becomes more and more apparent over the course of 24 hours of hard effort and battling exhaustion that it is increasingly unlikely of being attained. For the first 50k I was maintaining a pace faster than necessary and building in a bit of a cushion as I was pretty sure I would slow down for the last 12 hours and the early hours of the morning. As the day wore on and fatigue and exhaustion began to build, I checked my overall pace on my watch ever more frequently hoping to stay under that 12:48 pace that I had calculated I needed to hit my goal. I wasn’t exactly sure if or when my pace would roll over that threshold, so I continued to push on in hopes that I could fend off the ever slowing pace that my watch was reporting.

Read my full race report at: https://www.beastcoasttrailrunning.com/2021/04/adventure-trail-run-24-hour-event-2021.html

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(2021)
"The race is virtual, the chocolate is not!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

It’s Virtual! I Got to Run Where and When I Wanted!

I’ll be the first to say it, I miss in real life racing. I miss getting to the starting line with other runners. I miss visiting new places and discovering new areas to run as a result of going to races. I miss the excitement of crowds along a race route and the energy boost they provide. I miss the feeling of an actual finish line and meeting and chatting with other runners there over bananas and bagels. I miss all those things that were a part of in real life races that I took for granted. But COVID, but COVID, but COVID… those two terrible words. At least we still have the option to run events virtually to give us a taste of what we’re missing. And as much as virtual events lack compared to IRL events, they do present their own unique benefits.

Virtual events of course negate the need for travel plans and save all the associated costs making them simpler and more affordable. They are also much easier to work into a busy schedule making them more accessible. Don’t like running in the morning? With a virtual race you don’t have to. You’re busy the day of the event? No problem! Run it the day before or the day after. Or run it a week before as I did with the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K because I’ll be busy running a 24 hour race on the day of the event. Lastly, virtual events allow you to choose where you run and what kind of terrain you run on. I was indecisive as to whether I wanted to run on roads or trails for the Allstate Detroit Hot Chocolate 15K so I ended up running both on consecutive days because why not?

I'd like to give some context as to why I gave only 3 stars for the "Aid Stations" rating. Since it was a virtual race, obviously no aid stations were provided. However, I didn't feel like I could fault or commend the race organization based on a rating criteria that was basically irrelevant given the circumstances of the race. Hence, the average rating I gave.

Read my full review of the race at https://www.beastcoasttrailrunning.com/2021/04/allstate-detroit-hot-chocolate-15k-race.html

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(2020)
"Most impressive virtual race I've run so far."
Overall
Race Management
SWAG
Virtual Support

Since virtual races and virtual running events are a relatively new concept, the standards for what is expected are still in development in my opinion. Early virtual running events seemed to be more or less a process of reporting your finishing time and awaiting for your swag to arrive in the mail. As this race format has become a more common replacement with in real life races being cancelled due to COVID, the expected standards are being raised. I believe that even when our norm of in real life racing returns, a number of virtual events will remain. Most likely the ones that raised the bar for what runners expect out of a virtual running event. I won't be surprised if the California Coast 500 is one of the virtual events that remains popular even when actual in person racing returns.

The California Coast 500 did so much right and provided a well organized, engaging, and fun event. The communication from the race was great from registration through the finish. Online support for the single problem I had with my runs syncing was super responsive and resolved the issue quickly. The event kept participants engaged through weekly challenges, prizes, and my personal favorite, the chase pack which pitted participants against some well known and extremely accomplished ultrarunners. Having all of your mileage sync automatically and being able to track your and the other runners' progress on the map across California was really cool also.

Read my full review of the race at https://www.beastcoasttrailrunning.com/2020/08/using-california-coast-500-virtual.html

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