Saturday, October 5, 2013

Welcome to VA

Well, where do I start...

I've been down in Virginia for almost two months now. I've ran a total of about 150 miles. Mostly road miles.

I miss them trails.

My training has been shaken up a bit. I had planned to run on the Bull Run Trail on a daily early morning basis. A dead body and a tip from the cross country coach had me rethinking this plan.

I've opted to stick around Alexandria in the morning. Getting in anywhere between 3 and 5 mile runs. Maybe two or three a week.

I suppose I could run after school. I don't have a second job (first time in 10 years) and am not coaching. But I've really enjoyed coming home and hanging out with my kids, visiting the playgrounds and eating frozen yogurt with them. I suppose I could throw them in the double every now and again to get some miles in. Maybe I'll do just that.

The new teaching gig has gotten progressively better. I was a lost soul in the beginning, basically feeling like a new teacher, learning new procedures and policy. When it really comes down to it though, it's just being prepared and well-rested.

As far as racing goes, the ATR 12 Hour was a blast. Going in overzealous and undertrained (never a good combo:)), I ran five 6.5 mile loops in or near the lead group. Over course I knew going in I would only make about 30 miles, but hey it boosted the ego a bit knowing I could hit a 5 hour 50k with 3,250' of elevation on junk miles and no elevation. Results here.

Next up was Grindstone, or maybe not. Thanks to the greedy folks down the street, nobody ended up running. This was maybe a good thing for me. I am still under trained and probably better off not killing my fragile body right now. My knees are still a bit creaky from the 32 miles at the ATR and my right shin is tender. Too little training and too much racing miles? Too many road miles? Not sure but time will tell.

November will bring the Stone Mill 50 miler. Its a low cost, no frill race. Just my style. I actually plan on training for this. As of today, I've run three mornings in a row (4-5 miles, but I'll take it) which is a record for the last month or so. Gotta build off of it and string some long runs together. Put a few feelers out to some of my VA Strava buddies. I think if I hook up with someone else in the area, I'll be more excited to get in some quality miles over the 15-20 mile mark.

Excited for the fall to be here. Although the temp right now is 90 degrees, it will drop back to the low 70's this coming week. 50's in the AM which is prime running weather. I do better in the cooler temps than the warmer stuff. Looking forward to it.

Some other odds and ends about VA. They suck at driving down here. No joke. You put your life in someone else's hands every time you step in the car. Not calling myself Mr. Perfect on the road, but driving is different down here. If you don't drive like Jeff Gordon, stay home. They juice it off the line every time. If its green, that means redline the tac and hold the hell on.

I also feel like the smartphone was invented for NOVA folks. They spend so much time in traffic, they need to do something productive, like check their Facebook pages and text friends. Never seen so much phone play while driving. Maybe this is the root of the bad driving? Not sure, just an educated observation.

It's all good though. I'm enjoying the change of scenery and pace. Wherever my family is, I'm happy. That's my stance.  My HOME will always be in Massachusetts. We just LIVE in VA for now!!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Movin On Out

Today marks the last day for me in Massachusetts. My family has been down in DC for the better part of a month, with myself finishing up work on the landscape front.

Over the past two weeks I've really spoiled myself...and the extra free time, I suppose, by doing some cool things in New England.

On Thursday, July 25th, two of my running buds and I signed up for a fast 5-miler in Uxbridge. Jay, a fellow teacher, and Jesse, my long-time partner in crime, decided it would be a "great" idea to run this race two days before the Bear Brook Marathon. Up until the gun, Jesse and I said it was going to be a casual run and that we would save it for Saturday in Manchester.

This wasn't the case...

I took it out somewhat conservatively but was still in the top five. Soon I was in third and reeling in the leaders. It would turn out that Jesse was right behind me and moving on all cylinders. We ended up fourth and sixth when it all shook out. Full results here.

On to Saturday and the Bear Brook Marathon. Jesse has a nice write up over on his blog and the only thing that I'll speak to was the trails. Bear Brook State Forest is huge. We ran 27 miles on non-repeated trail. That is awesome around these parts. No loops or out-and-backs, just running on new trail the entire race. Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik did a superb job at race directing and I highly recommend everyone to partake in this race next year. Full results here.

The following week consisted of some Upton State Forest runs. A place that I explored by mountain bike and by foot many years ago. When I lived in Grafton with my parents I often visited this place. Now being back with my folks for the month of July, I took full advantage of this place.

This past weekend capped ten years of hiking in the Whites and my completion of the 48 4,000' mountains. It was rewarding and bittersweet at the same time. Having vacationed up there since I was 6-months-old really hit home on top of Carrigain. These mountains wouldn't just be a 2.5 hour drive away. The weekend consisted of tagging the Wildcats, Jefferson and Carrigain with my great friend Bill. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Finally, my last run. Well, my last run as a MA resident I guess. I'm sure I'll be back, but who knows when. It just felt right. Running my 5k route that I ran when I was in high school. My route that I ran when I weighed 190lbs after graduating college. And now what would be my final run before my big move to VA. I'm sure I'll run this route again, but for now, I'd like to go out where it all started.

To the trails of New England, I bid you farewell. I will return someday to twist my ankles on your gnarly roots and rocks. To the endless winters and feet of snow that I just hated to shovel but loved to run in. I will miss everything you have to offer.

And to the trails of Virginia...I'm going to chew you up and spit you out. Be ready:)






Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 Vermont 100 - My Pacing and Crewing Story

Vermont 100
July 19-21
Brownsville, VT



He said he was done at 59.1. Couldn't breathe. Wasn't having fun. Not going to hit the time goal. His race was over.

We all have found ourselves in this position during an ultra. It's how you respond to those low's that makes you stronger.

This is middle of my story however, let's back track a bit to Friday morning...

8:00 AM - Pick up Eric Ahern at the Grafton Commuter Rail Station and head north west to Brownsville, VT.

We were lucky again this year to have outstanding accommodations, thanks to a former co-worker and former teacher, Fran Graves. Fran has built this house from the foundation up and has constantly improved the place since our first stay.





Our mission for the middle hours of the day was a two hour jaunt around Mt. Ascutney. I secretly wanted a summit and Eric was more than happy to join. This run contained some uphill and downhill running mixed with some hiking sections. Beautiful views and fun times.






3:00 PM - With lunch and cold dip in the river behind the house, we made our way over the start to find Sir Speedy himself, Josh Katzman. Josh was to be the man of the hour (weekend!) and we were responsible for his well being. He compiled a stealthy crew of characters to help him in his 100 mile conquest.

The gang comprised of Anthony "GM" Parillo, Mike "Yes I wore my TARC 100 Belt Buckle" McDuffie, Sam Jurek, who ran the 100k, Eric and myself. My weekend would be broken up of sorts. I would help Josh until he passed through Ten Bear the first time, then I would head back to the start/finish to drop my car, and then back to 10 Bear to pick up my runner.

I figured with my running of the TARC100 back in June, I wouldn't be able to run Vermont and never signed up. I did, however, wanted to be part of the fun, and crewing and pacing was my ticket. The VT100 folks hooked me up with William Connell from Astoria, NY and it turns out his goal of sub-20 was my exact goal from last year's VT100.

In speaking with William, I knew it was a great match.

Fast forward a bit. It's 11 PM on Friday night and its down pouring with blasts of lightning, and thunder that is shaking the house. House is the key word. The Katzman crew is under a roof staying dry, while most of the field is, in fact, sleeping "in a field" and most likely getting a bit wet.

3:30 AM Saturday morning - Mike, Anthony, and myself head over to the start finish and see Josh and the other 100 mile runners off. Fireworks fill the morning sky and coffee and bagels fill my tummy. After seeing the 300 plus take their first steps of what would be many on the day, Mike, Anthony and myself headed back to the house for a brief nap (which I remained awake with the thought of Josh running fast, and us being late!!).



5:45 AM - The three of us grab ice, head to the start, and commence our drive out to the Pretty House Aid Station at mile 22. We get there super early, and find a spot right across from the aid table. The front runners come by at blistering paces and most look drenched in sweat, already feeling the effects of the humidity. Josh arrives with Ian Sharman in tote and we quickly swap out bottles and nutrition so he can push on till the next handler station, Stage Road, at mile 30. We hang a bit longer at Pretty House, conversing with Rob Lalus (who is crewing women's champ, Larisa Dannis), but something tells me we need to get moving till the next one. Josh is on a mission, I didn't want to be late!





8:30 AM - Stage Road handler station, mile 30. A few rain drops and cloud cover shrouds the sun. A good thing for all out on the course. Josh flies into the aid station, and again a quick change of bottles and nutrition and he's out. He is looking strong and relaxed, running his race, and comfortably in the top 10. We again chat with Rob a bit, and see our friends Adam Wilcox and Padraig Mullins (who Anthony would later pace) come through Stage Road.

Since we ate breakfast ages ago, a brief stop for brunch at a local shop was in order. These folks were on the ball and had bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches lined up by the dozens, ready for our picking. We shared a nice conversation with some cyclists about riding and running, and how long 100 miles really is.

We arrived at Camp 10 Bear sometime after 9:30 AM and knew we had some time to kill. It was a 16 mile journey for Josh and a mere 35 minute drive for us from Stage Road. We found a prime spot for our portable aid station and set-up camp. And waited. Conversation and many trips to the port-o-potty filled the time. Ryan Welts arrived and we spoke of past and future races, footwear and life. It really makes me realize that in doing these races, we are surrounded by GREAT people. It doesn't matter what pace you run, we can all share the passion and love for the outdoors together.

Liz, Josh's wife, arrives and our crew is now up to full strength. Josh comes flying no more than 20 minutes later, gets weighed and refueled and he is gone. His time at aid has been superb, not spending more than two minutes at each of the aids so far. He still looks to be running strong and now among the top 5.

This was my time of departure from the Katzman crew. I would be heading back to the start/finish to drop my vehicle and to find William and his girlfriend and handler extraordinaire, Hanley. After a brief wait for the shuttle service, I was changed, geared up and ready to head back to 10 Bear. Cell service was spotty, so I just mingled around and attempted to spot Hanley, who'd I met briefly Friday night and with barely open eyes on Saturday morning.

I walked towards the incoming runners, down the dirt lane and eventually bumped into her. She had informed me that William had just gone through, albeit slightly over his initial time goal, but looked to be moving well. Hanley and William had come up to VT with another friend from NYC running his first 100 miler. Quin Gordon was expected to be about 45 minutes behind William and we figured we would help him get through 10 Bear. I know how seeing a familiar face can reinvigorate a runner or just some simple phrases like "looking strong" can do wonders.

After we helped Quin through, we headed up to the newly staged aid station called Seven Sees. Last year I remember climbing up the road to this particular spot. It was a decent climb, and there was a horse aid station to the left. It was during the heat of the day and I would have really loved a runner aid station on the right:) Kudos to you VT100. Hanley and I waited for quite some time for Williams' arrival. We moved in and out of the trees, under and around the aid tent, just trying to stay dry from the sudden down pour. Many runners were coming in saturated and knew that stopping would be futile. Some, like my new bud, Gray Weaver, waited a few moments for the rain to die down before his departure.

As the rain stopped, we moved back to the road and looked nervously down the hill. Hanley knew Williams gait and his attire for the afternoon. As he came into sight, we both took off to meet up with him. His first words were something to effect of "I'm really sorry guys, I think my race is over".

Hanley and I had previously spoken about what to do and say if the "dropping" situation came up. We had it all planned out and were ready for the excuses to pile up. I will say, that William had a case of exercise induced asthma going on, so my attempt to push him through this low point was tough. I didn't want to send the poor guy back out if he couldn't even breath.

The medical personal checked him out and said his vitals were good, but an inhaler would greatly improve his breathing and hence his running. After this exchange and a new time goal, William set off towards Margaritaville just 3.5 miles away (17 miles for us).



We figured, we had just enough time to drive to a drug store, get the inhaler and be back before William arrived. He said he would walk the entire way to Margaritaville so 45 minutes to an hour sounded right. It ended up taking us about an hour, with no luck on the inhaler, to arrive at the handler station. We had expected the worst, but when we pulled in, William was jumping up and down screaming, "I need shoes, I need new socks, I'm ready to go, lets do this!" As quick as Hanley and I could move, we got new shoes, socks, moleskin and nutrition for the next push back to Camp 10 Bear.

With our new found energy, Hanley driving and I navigating, we made our way to 10 Bear, but not before a dinner break (thanks Hanley!!) and some Spanish conversation at a local country store. Upon our arrival, we set up quickly, but not really anticipating William coming through till around 8 PM.

7:30 PM - William comes into Camp 10 Bear so fast, I think he may have past it if it wasn't for the medical folks trying to weigh him! He was on fire. Running hard and ready to go. Luckily I was all geared up and simply put on my AK Race Vest and headed out with him. It was a brief stop for him and then we were both ready to conquer that last 30 miles together.

Running this race last year, I remember the last 30 miles being tough. I recall a trail climb out of 10 Bear that went on forever and some quick single track to break things up. William and I initially set off like bats out of hell and quickly passed runners and pacers going up the hill. It must have been at least 5  pairs that we passed before the wind came out of the sail. His breathing was heavy and a full on sit-down was necessary.

I will take full responsibility for this one. I pushed the climb when I should have taken it easy. He is a trooper, however, and recovered after just a few minutes of rest.

I am now kicking myself for not bringing my phone to take pics during this section. Seeing the beauty of this course (as a pacer) is something that I truly enjoyed. Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoyed running it last year, but when your going all out and 70 miles in, sometimes the scenery is tough to take in.

The next aid was the Spirit of 76 aid at mile 77. I know there is a decent hill leading up to the aid and advised William of this. We walked up and Hanley was there waiting with filled bottles and Williams snack of choice, gummy bears. We moved quickly through the aid and headed out through the fields and back into the woods. William was feeling pretty good at this point and I decided to take the lead on some single track, pushing the pace ever so slightly. Looking at the clock, a sub-24 was in the bag, but how close to last year's time could we come. His 21:56 from 2012 was solid and we were right on pace to come close to that.

For anyone that has run, paced or crewed the VT100, the course is relentless. Never flat, never too steep, but constantly up or down. The downs got me last year, but this year I had fun running down them. William was also powering down them at this point and power hiking the ups. In fact, I think William may be the second fastest power walker I know. My wife is absurdly fast when it come to walking and I often times need to break out into a brisk jog to catch up with her. William was killing the hills and the flat sections with this technique when we needed a rest from running. People that were running ahead, were soon coming back to us, even though were weren't running per say. We simply "walked" faster than they "ran".



Bill's Barn was the next stop on this train. I knew the medical staff was pretty strict up there and told William to put on his game face. At 89 miles into the race, there were more quiet moments/miles than there was talking. I don't think I ever attempted conversation for the sake of doing so. I knew where Williams' head was and didn't want to distract him from his goal. We approached the barn and quickly got weighed in and fueled up. One of William's friends had driven over from NH to meet him at Bill's. It was only a brief visit, but like I mentioned, seeing a familiar face can do wonders.

I again took the lead onto some single track heading out of Bill's. William followed and we ran through the woods like it was a simple 5 mile jog. He had a great pace, was picking up his feet and was doing really well going downhill (as I remember at this point in my race last year, my quads hated me and downhill running was pure agony).

Keating's and then Polly's. Simple. The end was in sight and we were now in the single digits as far as mileage goes. William was still powering up the hills and running most of the downhills. The flat sections were mostly a power walking opportunity where we could refuel and refocus on the next task at hand. We had a good system going as to what he needed at the next aid and I hope that my constant reminders to eat and drink weren't too pushy.

Both Keating's and Polly's went, as we were now deep into the night. We hit the last unmanned aid station with 1.4 miles to go. We both remembered there would be one more hellacious climb then some single track to the finish. At the top of the climb, William took off. He and I both knew it was under a mile and whatever you got left, you leave it out there. 22:58. Done.






In my second attempt at pacing someone through a 100 miler, I can honestly say that I love it. No stress leading up to the race. 30 miles of exercise. A snack bar every few miles to fill your face. And just make sure "your guy" gets to the finish. This is mostly in jest, as I felt completely responsible for William and his safe passage over those last 30 miles. There is an art to pacing and with experience comes benefits to you and to your runner.

Our crew chief Hanley should be commended, for not only providing us aid and support at each handler station, but for finding each aid station by herself, in the night, in Vermont. Well done.

To William. You have shown me great courage and should be extremely proud of yourself. You were down and out and came back from the dead. I have never seen that first hand and you, my friend, proved it right before my eyes. I thank you for that.





I must also thank the VT100 organizers, volunteers and all those who showed up to run, crew and pace this amazing race. This has become a special weekend for me now and I think this will be my ticket to ride (now that I'm relocating to DC). I may be gone, but I'll never lose sight of those green mountains. See you next July.






Far North Endurance Pics - with a great shot of Josh and Crew at Stage Road

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rollin with the Punches

First post in awhile dealing with myself and training. Been busy on the moving front and graduate school endeavor, so free time has been nonexistent.

My training has improved ever so slightly and the confidence is coming back. I'm running most mornings and even thinking (key word) of doing another one in the evening.

Mileage is still lacking and no long runs as of yet....until this past weekend. Pemi Loop!! (Jesse's post)

Also spent some time up in the Whites with the family three weekends ago. Got to spend some time in the river (cold, no very cold!) and got to see a bike race at Loon Mtn. Fun times all around.

I had my first brew up there at the Woodstock Station. To note this was my first beer in almost a year. I must find out why I get an upset stomach and splitting headache after just one beer...


Got some new shoes. In fact its the first pair of shoes I've had to pay for in two plus years. Tecnica has issues with their Spring 2013 line and nothing new will be shipped to the US this year. I opted for a pair (or two!) of Hokas.

I'm mainly running in the Stinson Evo's for trail and the Bondi B's for the road. Both shoes contain a ton of cushion and have definetly helped in my recovery from my TARC 54.5 mile win...

Moved all my stuff down to VA a few weekends ago. Just got my running gear and landscaping clothes up north. I plan on being up here till the second week in August and then southbound I go.

And I just recently accepted a Health and Physical Educator position at a local high school. This was the final piece of the puzzle. Now I can breath!!!

Looking ahead, I have a busy few weekends coming up. I'll be pacing and crewing at the Vermont 100, running the Bear Brook Marathon and finishing up my White Mountain 4,000' list the first weekend in August.

Down in VA I have a 12-Hour Race planned mid-September in the Prince William Forest and the Grindstone 100 in October. Also heard of this thing called "The Ring" put on by the Virginia Happy Trail Running Club. I think I may give it a go.








Friday, June 28, 2013

Getting to Know the TARC - David Huss

I first met David back in 2011 at the Ghost Train 100. Actually, I met his wife Katie and their little girl first. They were at the Milford aid station and were extremely helpful and knowledgable about the sport of ultra running. I realized right then and there that it can be done. Family and ultra's can mix. David and his family have traveled the up and down the East coast running and crewing ultra's together. This weekend they will embark on another great adventure, with David running the Western States 100. Sit back and enjoy the ride!


How and when did you catch the trail and ultra running bug?
I was training for my first road marathon in 2006 when I met someone who had just finished running 100 miles on trails and lived to tell about it.  My disbelief turned into fascination and was quickly followed by participation. I’ve always loved the outdoors.  I spent a lot of time backpacking and camping during my college days, so the ability to cover more terrain in shorter periods of time appealed to me. The more I ran the more I enjoyed it.

What has your training regimen looked like lately?
I’ve been at it pretty hard since December.  Through the winter I survived on 6am runs along the Charles River and weekend long runs in the Fells.  In April and May I put more emphasis on the weekend long runs at the expense of weekday mileage. The backbone of this training cycle has been four 50k races and a 42-mile “training run” in the mountains of Northern Georgia. Memorial Day weekend I ran the 50K at Pineland Farms on Sunday and 27 miles in the White Mountains on Monday. 

Ah, Western States! How do you feel? Ready to go? Anxious? Excited!!!
Very excited, but the anxiousness is starting to build.  I‘m in the midst of my taper, and these things never go well.  I’m questioning whether I ran enough downhill, whether I climbed enough in the mountains, whether my cranky ankle will behave itself on race day, whether I’ve heat-trained enough…the questions go on and on.  I feel bad for Katie (my wife and kick-ass crew chief).  She takes the brunt of my neuroses during the taper.  But at this point, the hay is in the barn.  Now I just need to execute on race day.

Any goals you care to share with us concerning the showdown in CA?
One goal.  No regrets.

What has been your favorite trail to run up to this point?
I’m in love with the Pemi-loop up in the White Mountains – 31 miles with 9000+ feet of elevation gain on the gnarliest terrain you can imagine.  I’ve been on the loop 7 times in the last 12 months and every trek brings something unique and adventurous.  My first trip, the wind speeds topped 90mph and my last trip (Memorial Day), we found ourselves in waist-deep fresh snowdrifts.  In between, I’ve been growled out by a bear, run dehydrated for hours, and had picture-perfect views from every summit…and there’s always a soak in the river and cold beer at the finish.  Most importantly, many of these runs I’ve started with near strangers and finished with great friends.

The “orange loop” at Mohican State Park (Loudonville, OH) has a special place in my heart as well.  I grew up on those trails as an ultra-runner.  My first real trail run was there, and I’ve probably logged nearly 1000 miles on those trails with some of the best people I know.  I also completed my first two 100-milers there.


What does “trail culture” mean to you? Any examples would be great. 
Trail culture is blood, sweat, tears and joy in a single moment – but it is also about community.  My second 100-miler (Mohican) I was beaten and bruised and trying to drop around mile 70.  My crew and a few random strangers were trying to get me out of the chair, but mentally I had given up.  Then came Star – pacer extraordinaire.  She had run Grandma’s Marathon that morning, hopped on a plane, then drove two hours to join me for a long night in the Mohican forest.  By this point we had a wicked task ahead of us, but we fought the cut-offs for 30 miles and finished with 15 minutes to spare.  On my own, I would not have finished that race.

David, I’ve met your family and they are so much fun. They come to the races and support you and the others out on the trails. How do you guys balance life, family and ultra running??
This is a tough one.  Despite my love for the ultra-running community, I’m beginning to realize that ultra-running is inherently a very selfish endeavor.  Balance doesn’t exist.  I’d be lying if I said that running hasn’t caused an argument (or 20) in my family life.  At the same time, I have an amazing life partner that supports my running endeavors.  She has raced around mountains in the middle of the night to bring me my rice and bean burritos (hauling a 1-year old no less) and given me a swift kick in the ass to get out of an aid station when I was taking too long.  She has even crewed and paced other runners when needed.  On top of this, she will be spending our 5-year anniversary chasing me around the Western States course – that’s love.  But we are still searching for this “balance” thing.

What are three “must do” races on your future running calendar?
I turn 30 next year and want to do something epic.  Hardrock is at the top of my list, but very difficult to get into as a first-timer (although I’ll have 8 tickets in the lottery).  Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc is #2 on the list.  While less epic, Burning River makes the cut as well for 2014.  Although I’m pacing a good friend at Badwater two weeks after Western States, and the preparation alone is generating some personal excitement/interest/intrigue…



"10 in 60" (10 questions in 60 seconds. One or two word answers will suffice or the first thing that comes to mind)

1. Favorite ultra food?  Rice burritos
2. Hand held or pack?  Depends on distance between aid stations
3. Music or no music?  50/50.
4. Favorite blog or ultra site?  www.irunfar.com
5. Double Top?  42-mile training run.
6. Post race meal?   Veggie burgers and black bean soup
7. Beer me. Yeah or nay?  Absolutely.
8. Running injury? Cranky ankle.
9. Western states?  No regrets.
10. Walking in ultras?  Depends on terrain and distance, but most often necessary.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TARC 100 Race Report - 2013

June 14th, 2013
Weston, MA
7:00 PM Start
4 25 mile loops

TARC 100 aka "The Swamp 100" - It's my pity party and I can cry if I want to.

Eric Ahern battling the swamp en route to his
100 mile finish. Photo credits: Jesse Veinotte
This report will not necessarily be a play-by-play of my 54 mile DNF. It will entail some details and encounters, but mostly about how I am becoming mentally SOFT. I want to thank Josh and Bob, the volunteers and everyone that pulled the chair out from under me (I know who you are!!!)

At the start line, Mike McDuffie commented on how relaxed I looked. I felt relaxed, maybe a few ever present pre-race butterflies, but a lot less than usual. I had no time goals, no aspirations for a sub-18 hour finish like I initially expected. A poor training cycle led me to believe I was training for a 10k or maybe a half-marathon, not a 100 miler.

This is not a pity party report (OK maybe it is...), as life does get in the way sometimes, but as mentioned, it will deal heavily with my lack of mental toughness.

The first 4.5 miles went by quick. Maybe too quick. Anthony Parillo, a 50 mile racer and the Old Dominion champion of two weeks prior set a blistering pace. Us 100 milers, the aforementioned McDuffie, Gray Weaver, Glen Redpath, Eric Ahern, Padgraig Mullins, Patrick McGlade, Jack Pilla and myself thought nothing of it and pushed on. During this initial section, the trail was fast and had relatively no mud except for one minor stream crossing.

The next 20 miles would challenge my toughness. Darkness set in and my usual bed time of 9:00pm had passed. The pack had now thinned and I was running solo in the night. Around mile 20, I hit a low patch. I was mentally drained and just wanted to stop. And sleep. I had a GU with some caffeine in hopes that it would spike my moral. No such luck. I had already done the math. If I arrived at the start/finish by 11:30am, I would be home, showered and in bed by 12:30am.

All I wanted to do was sleep.

Of course I was not the only one who was tired. I was not the only one with a busy life. I was just the one that was mentally weak. I had already quit some 20 miles into the race.

I will get you some day!! Taken from
TARC 100 on Ultrasignup.com
Sir Josh Katzman, however, would not have any of it. The RD extraordinaire and friend, simply kicked me out of the aid station. Promptly showing me the buckle that I coveted, while enticing me with hot soup and drink. I simply didn't want to leave the chair.

Prior to hitting the start/finish, I hooked up with Eric Ahern, who has just about won every ultra marathon he's completed this year. He had added a few extra miles and wound up behind my wallowing arse. We spent some time catching up as he was going thru some early mile stomach issues. Misery loves company! We hit the next 4.5 mile section with little gusto. Walking the initial stretch up the parking lot and small incline to the fields. I thought to myself, just get through this and you got a 50k under your belt. You can still get home in time for a few hours of sleep and breakfast with the family.

Upon returning to the start finish, it was back to the chair. Normally, I don't sit in ultras. I'm in and out of aid stations in less than a minute. Get what I need and get out. This race, was the complete opposite. I spent at least 5-10 minutes at every aid station. Sitting and chatting it up. Drinking soup and eating whatever I felt like.

Ian Parlin of the Maine Trail Monster Running Club saw me getting comfortable in my chair. He graciously asked me to join him on the second 20 mile loop. I concurred. Not sure why. Just got up and went. Five minutes earlier I was done. Now I'll be running for at least 4 more hours. Eric was making a pit stop and eventually caught us before the aid 2.2 miles away. There was no turning back. Make it through this loop or get lost trying to find my way back.

Exhaustion set in. I was tired and really wanted to sleep. I simply wasn't having fun at this point. My apologies to all I encountered and if I came off as non-communicative. Arriving at aid stations just meant I was one more step closer to the end. Each aid station was filled with awesome volunteers and I truly thank you guys for pushing me through. Dima Feinhaus gave me a great pep talk at Ripley and I even got a back massage from Alyssa Adreani at the Gun Club!!

Many mentioned that with the sunrise occurring within the next few hours, I would have a burst of energy. No such luck. I felt like sleeping, in a soft comfortable bed.

Knowing I had someone waiting to pace me at 50 miles weighed heavily on my decision. I wanted to quit at 50, but I couldn't do that to my friend and running bud, Jesse Veinotte. He came out super early and had been ready to run for quite some time. I couldn't just tell him I was done. I needed to go out for a bit longer.

Early morning trail with Eric Ahern and Jesse Veinotte.
Photo credits: Jesse Veinotte
Eric, Jesse and myself headed back out for the 4.5 mile loop in the early morning sunlight. We could now see what we had run in the darkness. The course looked so different, as the only time I had run it previously was in the darkness (Sir Katzman's December birthday run). The ferns took on a vibrant green hue and the fields had a mystical feel as we passed through.

I battled back and forth on what to do. Drop or continue. I really didn't want to press on and drag this run out any longer. My mind was made up. I told Jesse and Eric I would be the winner of the 54.5 mile race and end my day. My legs felt fine but it was my mind that wanted out.

As I look back at the whole experience, I want there to be a take away message. My message is that you cannot run a 100 mile race when life pulls you in so many directions. Races of this distance demand focus and proper training. I gave neither. I hoped for the best, thinking my prior races and completions would take me through, but I was wrong. Being mentally tough is by far a greater asset to have than mileage on your feet or "hay in the barn" so to speak.

Photo credit: Jesse Veinotte
In the end, the race played second fiddle to all the other experiences that I encountered. I was able to share some miles with Eric Ahern and his first 100 mile success. I was able to run with Gray Weaver, whom I met down in Virginia at Bull Run Run, and whom I hope to share some miles with when I move down in August. I was able to see Mike McDuffie charge by me in the darkness, looking great (shirtless might I add) on the way to his 100 mile finish. And catching up with Anthony Parillo, Ian Parlin, Padraig Mullins (although I couldn't understand half of what you said Padraig! Sorry I kept asking you to repeat yourself!!), Scott Jamieson, Greg Esbitt, Brian Oestrike, Scott Patnode, Emily Trespas and her unbelievable soup!, Michelle and Bob, Julie from Wachusett and Steve Latour of Ghost Train fame.

I could go on and on and talk about all the relationships that I have acquired from this little sport we call ultra running. They mean so much to me. Maybe I didn't complete this race or obtain my goal, but what I did do, was spend a great weekend with some of the coolest people on this dang planet. Thanks everyone.

Full results here.

Map of TARC 100 Course

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting to Know the TARC - Anthony Parillo


Anthony Parillo is an ultra addict. He meticulously plans his vacations, weekends and pretty much any free time he has traveling the country and running ultras. I envy this guy. He was a partner in crime in the Double Top 100 debacle and I was fortunate to get to know him quite well on many fronts. Anthony will be running the TARC 100 in a few weeks and I see him at the front of the pack. "Throw the kettle on" folks (thanks Padraig!), it's a good one!!

First off, how did you catch the ultra running bug?

I always had it in me, but didn’t realize it I guess.  Back in high school cross country I would get in trouble because I would often extend the “planned” run and show up an hour or two later greeted by a furious coach!  I had heard of ultras, but never thought I was capable of doing one.  I ran Boston when I was a senior in high school with not nearly enough training, I finished, but it wasn’t pleasant. I was pretty content that I had done the pinnacle of long distance running until I showed up to the Vermont 50 in 2010.  I was into mountain biking at the time and was about to attempt my longest ride and was pretty concerned about the course vertical and difficulty. I just remember being in the starting tent at 5:00 AM looking at all these runners and thinking to myself what the hell am I worried about, these people have to run 50 miles!  At that moment I decided that next year I was going to run the Vermont 50, I knew I had some work to do.  In 2011, I completed the 50k at VT50 and let’s just say I’ve caught the bug.

Tell us about your weekly training regimen.

I really don’t run that much.  I’ll run 2-3 times during the week to and from work (4 miles each way) usually adding an extension along the Charles on one of the days.  When I don’t run to work I bike.  I also try to make it out to the fells or blue hills once or twice a week in the evenings for some night running (6-8 miles).  Weekly mileage adds up to 20-30 miles then I’ll do a long run or race over the weekend.  I do a lot of races so in between I’m usually just doing recovery and tune-up miles. On weekends I try to hit it hard, basically I just spend all day outside doing something physical, running/hiking, swimming, and biking in the summer. Nordic/downhill skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. 

I also recently have added strength training 4-5 times a week either before work or during lunch.  I feel this has really helped in both performance and injury prevention.

I’ve checked your Ultra Signup results (ya, I’m one of those guys), and your times have dropped drastically since you’ve gotten into the sport.  What’s your secret?

I dived into the sport pretty fast and my body wasn’t really ramped up for it.  Most of last year I was plagued with nagging injuries and was just plain beat up from doing too much. Maybe I overdid it, but I don’t care, I was having a blast!   Just with anything when you do it enough you start to get the hang of it, I think that’s what happening here. 


 You also race a ton! How do you recover so well and line up ready to go for the next adventure?

I don’t think I have ever toed up to a start line fully recovered!  I enjoy doing races and try to fit as many as possible into my schedule.   With that said though over the last year every race I do the recovery time seems less.  Last year after Vermont I could barely walk for a full week.  I did Leadville the next month and showed up to work the following Monday off the redeye and barley had a limp.  Funny how things work.

Since I started doing ultras my goal always has been quantity over quality, maybe at some point that will change but for now I’m having too much fun.

You’re a gear junkie. It’s official. Tell us what you are wearing at the moment. Head to toe.

Well I’m gearing up for my run home.  I have brooks pure connects on with smart wool socks.  Salomon exo shorts with mountain hardware way2cool tank top.  Smith glasses and a merrell running cap.  I carry my work clothes in an REI Flash 18 backpack.  Man when you write it all down it sounds like a lot of stuff!



Give us 5 pieces of trail running gear that are must haves.

Hmm…

1      Mountain Hardware effusion jacket
2      Salomon exo tights
3      Ultimate direction handheld
4      Mountain Hardware Way2cool tank top
5      Salomon S-lab hydration vest.



Were you always a trail runner? Tell us about your background in sports or
athletics.

I did XC running, skiing and track in high school and was known to be a gym rat.  The days when we ran on trails for training runs were always my favorite.  I grew up in a very rural town outside of Boston and when I did run for recreation I would always run in the town forest along the Charles.  In college I played Rugby and managed to injure almost every part of my body. I learned pretty quickly that contact sports were probably not a good idea.  After School I moved out to Sturbridge and started up trail running and mountain biking again for fitness.  That is kind of what got me back into the sport.


 You are currently attempting 10 100 milers this year. How is that going so far?

Well it’s May and I’ve only done two this year, so you tell me!  The race cancellation at doubletop kind of put a kink in my schedule.  I re-arranged a few races and I should be good to go at least logistically.  I still have to run all of them!  If I’m still able to run by the end of the year it will be a miracle.

I’ve noticed you wear Hokas during your races, have you always trended toward the maximalist approach?

Only recently.  I have a lot of shoes, it’s almost embarrassing.  I like to think of my shoes as tools, each one is for a specific purpose.  Currently I use merrell trail glove for short strength training runs.  Inov8 trailrock 245’s for mid distance trails runs. Brooks connects and pure grits for runs that are on roads and mixed trail respectively.  Then there are the specialty shoes such as x-talons or c-lites that I’ll use in wet rocky conditions. There is also the closet of shoes that didn’t quite work for me.  I’ll take the hoka’s out for really long and recovery runs.  Although it seems I’ve been leaning to them more and more lately.

What is your favorite race/run?

I would have to say Vermont.  I don’t know what it is about that race but it’s just so special, maybe because it was my first 100 or because Vermont is so beautiful in the summer, or because horses run at the same time.  I had such an awesome time and can’t wait to do it again. 

Favorite New England trail to run on?

That’s a tough one, but I would have to say the breakneck pond loop via the ridge trail in Bigelow Hollow state park Union, CT.   If you haven’t been, check it out, it’s amazing.  It can’t be compared to the whites but it holds a special place in my heart as it was where I did all my training for my first ultra.

10 in 60 (10 questions in 60 seconds. One or two word answers will suffice or the first thing that comes to mind)

1. Favorite ultra food?   GU gels
2. Hand held or pack?   Handheld, although I’m wearing packs a lot now!
3. Music or no music?   NO MUSIC!!!
4. Favorite blog or ultra site?   irunfar
5. Best pre race meal?  Plain bagel or toast
6. Post race meal?  Anything
7. Beer me. Yeah or nay. Always
8. Running injury? Bring it on
9. Western states  grand slam
10. Walking in ultras  Everyone does it, even those who don’t admit it