Thursday, July 31, 2008

Interview: Ira Zaroff

Name: Ira Zaroff
Age: 33
Residence: Melville, NY
Birthplace: Queens, NY
Occupation: Attorney
Years Running: 5 or 6 for marathons and ultras.
Running and Other Accomplishments/Hobbies: 9 marathons and 15 ultras.

SJ: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me about your latest adventure Ira. You recently ran 120 Miles through Long Island, NY. Tell us a little bit about your adventure. Where did you start and where did you finish?
IZ: The run started at the lighthouse at Montauk Point on the eastern end of Long Island and finished at the Nassau Queens border on the western end of the Island.

SJ: How did you first come up with the idea to run 120 miles?
IZ: I've been wanting to run the length of Long Island for a few years now. Alicja Barahona, an extremely accomplished ultra runner (and all-around great person), has run it before for a breast cancer charity. I met up with her at the Caumsett 50k this past March and discussed running it with her for her charity and a children's charity that I'm involved with called Friends of Karen, Inc. We were set to run it together but there were issues with the charities co-sponsoring the run so I decided to just run it on my own.

SJ: So you were running on behalf of a charitable cause?
IZ: Friends of Karen, Inc. is a children's charity that my wife and I are involved with. It provides emotional, financial and advocacy support to children with life threatening illnesses and their families. Information about the charity can be found at their website

SJ: Can we still donate and how?
IZ: Any donations are always greatly appreciated. Please visit their website for information,

SJ: Was it difficult to plan the logistics of your run?
IZ: The whole thing was actually put together relatively quickly. The course is basically one road the entire way until the last ten miles or so. It is mostly safe running on wide shoulders and sidewalks. Planning was as simple as making a list of the things I'd need along the way (fluids, food, etc.), buying them and sticking them in a cooler in the back of my dad's car. We did drive the route a few weeks before the run just to familiarize ourselves with it.

SJ: Did you use any pacers or crew?
IZ: My wife and dad crewed me the entire way and my brother and his wife, Jodi, came out for the last 70 miles. I had some good company along the way. Newsday, Long Island's newspaper, printed an article about me and the run the week before. As a result, a great guy from the Suffolk County Police Department came out to run with me for about 20 miles, more than he had ever run before. My friend Peter came out and ran 15 miles with me and my good friend Mark came out to meet me at around mile 65 and ran the remaining 55 miles with me. He'd never run more than a marathon before! I was really proud of him for that. On Sunday morning I had a whole bunch of people run anywhere from one mile to six with me up until the finish.

SJ: What was the hardest part of your journey?
IZ: Sunday was brutal for me. It was unseasonably warm and humid that day and I was not acclimated to the heat. I ran most of the morning on exposed road without any shade. I probably had a good case of heat exhaustion when I finished.

SJ: Do you plan to do it again?
IZ: I'm hoping to make this an annual event for the charity. We did very well raising money and awareness. I'd like to get all of the communities we run through involved to bring them together to support this great cause.

SJ: What would you do differently on your next attempt?
IZ: It's not a race, but getting it done faster would be nice. This year it took me 30:13 to finish. I would also like to try and stay more positively focused. Ups and downs in ultras are a part of it, but it's nice to look back and remember smiling even during the down parts.

SJ: How did you train for this? How many miles per week?
IZ: I didn't do any specific training for this other than to back off the trails a bit and run mostly on roads for the last two or so weeks leading into the run since the run was entirely on roads. I typically peak at about 65 to 70 miles per week. I went into this thinking that 120 miles on the relatively flat roads of Long Island at sea level probably equal about 60 or 65 miles of mountain running at altitude like at the GTR100 that we were both at last year.

SJ: Do you utilize the services of a coach?
IZ: For my birthday in April, my wife surprised me and signed me up with Karl Meltzer. I've been training with him since. I'm running more miles each week consistently than I was before and the longest run I've done while on his program is not much more than 20 miles. However, for those 20 or so mile runs, I seek out the most gnarly trails and hills I can find in my neck of the woods. I also do longer back-to-backs than I did before training with Karl.

SJ: How beneficial is your coaches services to you?
IZ: Extremely beneficial. Before using Karl, I pretty much just winged my training. I've lined up for quite a few races thinking that I had no business being there. With a coach, there is a schedule to follow and the schedule has a point and a purpose so it's nice to have focused training that actually makes sense.

SJ: Tell us your favorite memory from your run.
IZ: It made me really proud that at least four people that came out to run with me ran longer with me than they ever had before. Also, seeing my two girls at the finish.

SJ: What other races or events do you have planned for this year?
IZ: I'm running the Burning River 100 miler this coming weekend in Ohio. In October and November I'll run a couple of local ultras including a 6 hour run and a 60k. I'd like to sneak away for another 50 miler or 100 before the close of the year, but it'll be hard with work and the family. I've got your NE races on the top of the list though!

Ira, seriously, you took on an amazing task of running the length of Long Island and you delivered. Congratulations to you and your charity. We wish you the best of luck during the rest of your season, good luck at Burning River, and we look forward to hearing more about your upcoming adventures!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

House Keeping

I figure as we begin to send July on its merry way, now would be a good time to clean up some odds and ends on the blog front. I've had the joy of relaying copious amounts of information to you all over the last few weeks and months and I'm certain you might be wondering about a few things. So.. allow me to address them here.

Record Attempters:
David Horton and his Continental Divide Trail Record Attempt: Dr. Horton's attempt at breaking the Continental Divide Trail record ended afte rjust one day in the hot desert of New Mexico. I welcome you to read about the events leading up to Dr. Hortons decision by visiting the Eco-Xsports Blogspot.

Jennifer Pharrs Appalachian Trail Record Attempt: As of July 22nd at 12:38pm, Jennifer has made it to the halfway point in Harpers Ferry, WV in about 32.5 days. She is on track to finish her run/hike in around 66 days total which would give her the record by 21 days! You can continue to follow her progress on her blog.

Vermont 100 Results from Interviews:

Jeff Waldron: Jeff dropped at mile 71 with a stress fracture in his tibia. We wish him well on a speedy recovery.
Paul Kearney: Paul finish in a time of 29:01 for his first 100 mile finish!
Nate Sanel: Nate finished the VT100 earning his first buckle in a time of 23:47. You can read his report here.
Dot Helling: Dot dropped from the race at the Stage Rd aid station. Dots desire to "do it all" is of great service to our running community and as she discovered at this years race... sometimes doing it all can tucker a person out. Thanks for everything Dot!

Hans at Around the Lake:
I received a phone call from Hans Bauer letting me know that he dropped out of the 24 Hours around the lake event sometime Saturday Morning. He cited race related issues, issues with the race, non-race related issues and issues in regards to his nutritional plan which seems to be tying him up in these events a lot lately.

My VT100 pacer Mike:

Mike is my much loved brother in law and is perhaps one of the most positive individuals I have EVER met in my life. Rarely have I ever seen Mike angry or negative. Always looking forward, usually with a smile and on the right track. He is an amazing husband to my sister and an amazing father to two of my nephews; Timmy and Kenny. Mike, at the young age of 40 years old ran 30 miles with me through the night at this years Vermont 100. In his training over the last few months, Mike never ran further than 10 Miles, and his longest run previously was a 16 mile run which I believe Mike last ran in September 2006. The performance he gave in helping me at this years Vermont 100 cannot be described with words. The guts and determination he displayed is unmatched in my book. So to Mike.. THANK YOU brother for helping me in reaching my goals. And I am certain what you displayed will live as evidence to yourself and your children that you can do anything you put your mind too. Thanks Mike.

Death Race Video:
The Pittsfield Peaks Death Race finally has a video production representative of this years event. You can view it at the end of this post.

Coming Up:
I'm hoping to finally hear from Leigh Schmitt. I corresponded with him prior to the VT100 and sent him some interview questions however, his understandably busy life has kept him from answering. I know many of you have been looking forward to reading an interview with Leigh and I still hope to bring that to you.

Later this week I'd like to introduce you all to ultra-runner Ira Zaroff. Ira ran the length of Long Island (120 Miles) as a charity run. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ira on his adventure and look forward to bringing thoughts on his journey too you.

I also promised some race reviews a while back and I'd like to get on that for you. My reviews will include the various ultras I have run (Pittsfield Peaks excluded due to personal interests and involvement with the race), and I'll have a quick post for the few marathons I have done and another post with the local 5 and 10K's (or longer) races I've participated in including some local favorites. It is my hope that these reviews will not only help you plan the last half of your 2008 running season, but also help you plan your first half of 2009.

If there is anything else you folks would like to see more of on this or any other blog... let me know and hopefully I can bring it to you. This is your place to enjoy just as much as it is mine.

Now, without further adieu: The Death Race Video

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crazy Weather

For those of you who remember sitting in the light rain and drizzle last Sunday during the awards for the Vermont 100, I am amazed now to know that that was the "calm before the storm." The last 7 days has been showcase to some of the most severe weather in my memory here in the State of New Hampshire. Keep in mind that during the summer of 2006, our state never hit 90 degrees F and the highest temp recorded that summer was 85 degrees with NO heat-waves. Last year (200&) we saw the return of summer with two sporadic outbreaks of severe weather, one where while at work, the tornado warnings sounded and I was hunkered down in a ditch at work as a landscaper here on the seacoast. Tornado warnings in NH? No, you're not mistaken. Our state averages 1.5 tornado's a year and rarely do they ever cause any significant damage. But what's happened here this summer.. is definitely proof that the earth is changing.

After returning home from the VT100, the seacoast of NH was still bone dry with even some sun poking through an otherwise hazy afternoon. And then the storms rolled in. Once severe storm after another. The thunder rolled all night long where we had nothing but continuous thunder and lightning from 5:30pm until well after 11pm. Then, that surprising finale of a storm that hit around 2 am. The lights flickered and lightning struck so close to our apartment that we were treated to that ever so bright and shocking, "Flash BANG!" I got very little sleep that night, and then the next few days were crap shoots. Monday was hot and humid one more with temps topping out at 92. Then Tuesday it rained off and on all day long which eventually ended with downpours and another warm southerly wind. Wednesday we knew Thursday was going to be a washout, so we busted hump at work to mow as many lawns as we could in an event to stay ahead of this "weather game." Thursday I woke up to an odd day. It was raining buckets all night Wednesday and by Thursday morning it was yet to let up. I was poking around here enjoying another day off due to the weather... and then the TV went to the Emergency Action Message. "Tornado Warning, get indoors immediately. Get in your bathtub and cover yourselves with pillows." Could this really be happening in NH?! The place where just last summer we only had 2 thunderstorms all year. The same place where the word tornado is just another word for, thunderstorm with strong winds?

I turned News 9 on to see what was up and the News was in full swing and would be all day. It was actually happening here in NH; a report of a funnel cloud in Atkinson. I immediately called Sarah on the phone to tell her once again she was missing all the action here in New Hampshire while she was stuck at work in Boston. News 9 continued to report trees down, power outages and reports of a tornado in Deerfield, Northwood, Pittsfield, Barnstead, Alton... What the hell is going on here?! My buddy Pete lives in Deerfield, I'll give him a call. The cell phone call I had with him was nothing more than him telling me he was in Manchester and had no idea what was up but guaranteed Deerfield was spared.. Meanwhile, the line of storms continued to move East and finally settled in over the seacoast. For those of you who have seen the movie "Independence Day." You remember what the cloud looked like before we got our first glimpse of the alien craft... this is what I was looking at from my apartment.

The National Weather service has confirmed that the storm was an EF2 Tornado with winds in the area of 111 to 135 mph. The tornado tore through 11 communities.
Deerfield: 23 buildings damaged, 5 homes destroyed.
Barnstead: 40 homes suffered significant damage, More than 100 were lightly damaged
Ossipee: 1 home destroyed, 50 homes damaged
Alton: 43 homes damaged
New Durham: 1 home destroyed, 3 homes suffered heavy damage, 20 homes had minor damage
Effingham: 5-10 homes damaged
Other towns reporting damage were Epsom, Freedom, Wolfeboro, Northwood and Pittsfield.

In Northwood, NH; a house on Northwood Lake was literally ripped to shreds. Inside a 57 year old grandmother was killed. An infant suffered injuries as did grampa. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families. I took a drive up Rte 16 this weekend to view some of the damage. You know... you see images on TV.. but it doesn't sink in until you see it for yourself. A 1/4 mile wide path of destruction. What I saw today was an entire forest mowed down by the "Hand of God." I was in awe, saddened and frightened. Here are some photo's I took.

Today the severe weather continued again as a strong line of thunderstorms swept from west to east. As I was driving through Manchester, I was shaken a bit by numerous cloud to ground strikes and more of the "flash bang!"
I finally got back to running on Friday when I took a trip to Wakefield, Ma to check out the 24 Hours Around the Lake event held there every year. This years edition was the 12th Annual. I mainly went down to help my friend Hans Bern Bauer a little bit with his running of the event. Hans has won the 48-Hour event at Across The Years the last 2 years running and is a master at these timed events. It was a rather cool evening on Friday night with a light breeze coming off the Lake. I actually shivered a little bit as I watched Hans take a few laps.

Upon initially arriving at the event, I immediately set to helping fellow Ultra-Runner Chris Martin with setting up the main aid station at the Start/Finish Area. We set up the banquet tables under the tent that had been set up over a grassy area. Thursday's heavy rains that hit the area flooded the grass area and the aid station was now set up over a small swamp. Runners going for aid were all but guaranteed to get their feet wet. We made some rhyme and reason to the aid station. Soon the race organizers showed up... the "Somerville Road Runners." This pretty much says it all... "ROAD RUNNERS." I've said it before (and pissed some people off in saying it) and I'll say it again.. Road runners are a different breed. Typically high strung, high stress individuals with a lack of communication skills. After spending a good hour helping set things up; I went over to finally introduce myself to the Race Director. I told her my name was Sherpa John and I was volunteering a bit. She lightly shook my hand and completely snubbed me like my volunteerism didn't matter to her. I was ticked by this as a fellow Race Director. If someone helps me for even 30 short minutes in Pittsfield, VT... you bet your ass I'm going to shake their hand and make them feel like a part of the team no matter how busy I am.

I then elected to take a HUGE step back and let these people work their magic. What I saw was probably the most unorganized 12th year event I have ever seen. Cars driving through the parking lot that the start/finish was at.. hel.. Cars driving ACROSS the course with runners trying to pass through. There was a water only aid station about 2 miles in to the 3.14 mile loop. I brought Hans' Cooler over there and told the volunteers what I was doing.. they could have cared less. I'd be surprised if no one stole some of Hans' drinks. As runners ran in on each loop, they had to figure out what side of the shute to be on. Marathon runners to the left, 12 and 24 hour runners to the right. As they ran in, I got to see an absolute melee and myriad of runners all yelling their numbers at once. IN the mean-time, race workers yelled the numbers back in return while other people yelled out their time. You can imagine the unorganized chaos this looked like. And the aid station I helped set up... it was so far back off the course that as of 4 hours into the event I was yet to see anyone even remotely acknowledge its existence!

I finally took 2 laps with Hans clocking my very own 6.28 mile run. My legs were so tired and tight that I ended up chasing Hans the entire way around the Lake twice. I was beat! After the run I went home for some much needed sleep as I continue to recover from the VT100. I have not talked to Hans yet but I did get a phone message from him. Hans had dropped early and did not win the event. He sighted race related issues with nutrition and non-race related issues.. and issues with the race. Hmm. Hope everyone else faired well in Saturdays 90 degree heat on that 3.14 mile paved loop. Either way, I showed up contemplating running it myself. I am glad I saved my $85 for something else more worth it.
Saturday Night I met up with Adam at Bear Brook State Park around 8:15pm. With headlamps and flashlights we ran 10 miles in the night around the woods. I had a great time with Adam but it was pretty clear that my legs and body are still very much tired. For some reason I was VERY paranoid in the woods Saturday night. I felt like we were being watched, followed and... something just didn't seem right. When I was afforded the chance, I ran hard in an attempt to get to the car faster. I ran so hard at times that I got the side stitch pretty bad. After finally getting in the car, I was still paranoid on the way home. Everything was freaking me out.. even light poles.

I don't know what's up... but I think I am in need of some rest. Thankfully the next 2 weeks will afford me plenty.

Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Post Race Vibes

So I was at work on Tuesday, mowing lawns and all of a sudden this wonderful feeling came over me. All of that hard work, all of that training... then all of that running. I can't believe that I did it... AGAIN. Two Vermont 100's and Two Sub 24-Hour Buckles. While I stated that the race is by no means "easy," I will attest to the fact that this years conditions were exceptionally severe in terms of thunderstorms AND the heat/humidity combination. Perhaps this is what attributed to the 100+ DNF's. To know that I survived and that I can once again hold a new buckle in my hand is really an amazing feeling and has me begging for more. 266 runners started the race. 158 finished. I was in 62nd place with an official time of 23:37:06, now my second fastest 100 Mile time. I was 8th of 10 finishers in my age group, Male 20-29. 73 people ended up buckling.

When I think back on the training I did for this race and all that I've been through since December; I can once again protest that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. It doesn't matter if you run 30 miles per week, 50 mpw or even 100+ mpw. What matters most is that you:
1.) TRUST whatever training you did do.
2.) Implement your PLAN and stick to the plan.
3.) PREPARE for anything. Expect the unexpected. For instance.. its July in New England.. of course you have to expect the weather we had the day of the race. If you didn't expect it and/or you didn't PREPARE for it... you certainly suffered from it.
4.) Remain POSITIVE throughout the race. My back was up against the wall in terms of buckling way back at mile 65. I had 2 choices. One was to give up and be happy with finishing, and two was to push for what I went to get... a buckle. The results speak for themselves.

There are a LOT of experts out there, and in turn a lot of naysayers. These are the folks who instead of thinking, acting and being positive, they find the negative and try to send you down that negative road. The kind that says, "You can't buckle a 100 miler on a 49 mpw avg!" Well... I did. But I can see their point, not EVERYONE can do it. And it really all comes down to how we think. People can say what they want. They can tell me I can't, or I won't, or I'm nuts... people can call me a joke.. whatever. It matters not to me. What matters to me is this.

Since December I have run three 100 Mile races. I finished 100 miles at McNaughton standing up. I survived the difficulty and "rocks" of Massanutten. And I buckled at Vermont for the 2nd time in as many tries in as many years. I'm no superstar. I'm just an average Joe. I run when I can, I train as much as possible. I take a lot of rest. My taper is short... and I love life. Lets look at Massanutten. How many people bitch and moan about the rocks. They talk it up, "the rocks are terrible, they are the worst ever, it sucks, you'll hurt, you'll this you'll that." Of all the things that sucked and hurt at Massanutten it was my ass chafe. If I went into that race with the same negative attitude towards the inevitable.. then Yes, yes it all would have sucked. But instead; I ran 103 miles in 32 hours and loved every painful step of it. And when I crossed the finish line and later received my buckle; I was able to enjoy it that much more. The same goes for this years VT100. For days people talked about how hot and humid it was going to be. How it could rain and how miserable it was going to be. However, I showed up expecting the heat and humidity and embracing it for what it is. IT IS WHAT IT IS. I prepared for it mentally and THAT in and of itself is the best preparation anyone can do for a race. Prepare mentally for anything. The results will speak for themselves. While some may say the VT100 is easy.. the "game" is hard. You must play it from the moment you take that first step, until the end. This is true for any distance. If you WANT to buckle bad enough, you'll prepare for it enough. You'll Plan, prepare, remain positive and have trust. Do the research, follow these rules, and the rest will come to you.

So it looks like officially running 100 milers is done for me this year, and it sucks because I'm going to miss it. If I could choose one to run it would be either Arkansas Traveller in October or Javelina Jundred in November. These fit into my schedule nicely and both would be a great time I'm sure. However, unless I can find a way to get there cheaply; it looks like a small group of us are going to plan our own Fat Ass run of 70 to 120 miles. Depends on what we do it. Whatever we do decide, it will be free and ALL of you will be welcome to come along for any part of our journey run. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I have a 100 and 200 miler to direct on Halloween Weekend. Its going to be an amazing race! Plenty of shwag and we will have buckles.. details to come on this later.

I'm heading to the 24 Hours Around the Lake in Wakefield, Ma Friday night to help my buddy Hans Bern Bauer in his attempt to win the event. I'll also be cheering many of you on as you partake in your own ultra-journey. If you are there please say hello! Hopefully I can get to the mountains on Saturday. I'm preparing to help pace Karl Meltzer through the mountains of NH on his Appalachian Trail record attempt. Check it out!

Happy Trails!

Monday, July 21, 2008

RR: 2008 Vermont 100

July 19-20, 2008
Woodstock, Vermont
The 20th Annual Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run


The 20th annual Vermont 100 Mile endurance run was my 6th 100 Mile race and my 5th such race of this distance in the last 365 days. Of the group of friends I have made over the months, I’f like to consider myself the veteran. The 3 of them were trying to distance for their first time. We made a deal a few months ago that of the 4 of us, whoever was in last would carry a pacifier with them. And when you passed one of the others, you’d hand it off so that then they would have it. We all agreed and so it went. Myself and 4 of my closest friends, running against each other for 100 miles with the hopes of never carrying the pacifier and what we got in the end.. was one amazing time.
(The Pacifier Boys - Jeff, Me, Nate, Paul)

Spending the last 2.5 months working as a landscaper helps me greatly. Instead of working in an AC’d office, I’m out in the heat and humidity of New England every day, pruning bushes, and chasing lawn mowers. I love it, every bit of it and I think it showed during the race.

The Race:
Start to Pretty House:

Nate took the pacifier at the start whether he was going to be in last place out of our group or not with the plan to trade it off at the first handler station (Pretty House). The countdown began as a light rain continued to fall, 3, 2, 1… and we were off running downhill. Nate and I stuck together for a little bit, but we were determined to run our own race. Soon we all spread out a bit and leap frogged one another. I quickly noticed I had some small pebbles in my shoe and stopped on the side of the road to fix the problem right away. It was about Mile 4 or 5. As I stood up from fixing my shoe, an amazingly rugged stomachache descended upon me. I was getting frustrated early, as things weren’t quite in order with all of 95 miles to go. I ducked off into the woods to take care of business and while there I looked around to see I had stepped off into a patch of briars where every leaf had a thorn on it. My blood pressure rose as my patience with myself was wearing thin. I managed to find ample materials to clean off and then headed back down the road. I passed the aid at Mile 7 and still felt rocks in my shoe, so I stopped.. AGAIN… to fix the issue before continuing on down the road.

Nate had all ready begun to chafe as we descended into Taftsville so he stepped aside to address the issue. I continued to run, crossed the bridge and onto the next road which is one of the very few flat stretches on the course. Trees and limbs absolutely littered the area, remnants of last night’s severe thunderstorm that ripped through the area. As I made it to the aid station at the end of the road, I saw Joe Desena and Jason Hayden of Peak Races putting in some volunteer work. Joe gave me a hard time about me being a bit slower to this point this year. I grabbed some grub before moving on. As I wandered up the hill from the station I looked down to see red powder EVERYWHERE. My flashlight had been bouncing around in my Nathan Vest and it punctured a hole in my zip-lock baggy of Clip2. The powder leaked out everywhere. I returned to the station to use the rest of the powder to mix drink into my bottle. I washed my hands and then finally, left the station for good.

I headed up the hill and saw Jeff. I called his name and he waited for me as we ran comfortably in trying to catch Nate. We eventually did as we came out onto the roads leading into Pretty House. We were all in good spirits and getting ourselves together for our first visit with the crews. Nate told me it was about 8:15 on his watch. I started thinking about the time. As I got into the station, Mike told me it was indeed 8:15 and I was right on time. I had to think about it for a minute realizing that I needed and wanted to be AHEAD of schedule to this point and not “on time.” Crap! I needed to pick it up a bit. We had spent the first 21 miles holding back and being patient, but I wasn’t comfortable with the outcome. It was time to get the game on. I looked around at what Mike had out for me at the station. Being by himself is certainly hard I’m sure and though I appreciated his help; it was a mess. He had out what I needed to have at the station and not what I needed to bring. I scrambled around in the back of his car to pick up the pieces of what he didn’t have ready for me. I felt bad but had to keep moving. I knew he’d get into the swing of things as the day wore on so I wasn’t upset or anything, but I did start to pray a little. As we headed out of the aid Station, Nate Jeff and I were still together and Paul was behind with his crew still. We handed Drew the pacifier to give to Paul when he came by before heading out.
(I Run into Pretty House)

Pretty House to Stage Rd:
I was determined to power up these first few up-hills out of Pretty House and coast the down hills over to Stage Rd. I left Nate and Jeff behind as I finally started to stretch the legs out, I really settled in and felt good. I knew what I wanted to accomplish out here and it was going to take some work in the heat and humidity to get it done. As I crested the top of Sound of Music Hill, the sun finally broke through, the fog lifted and it got HOT. I LOVE the heat and humidity, its like fresh gasoline to me and my engines were revving up. I was ready to go. I spotted Kevin Sayers on the top of the hill and know that if I was near him and could keep him in my sights, I was in good shape. So I followed along behind him all the way downhill into Stage Rd.
(Damon Lease offers support at Stage Rd)

Stage Rd to 10 Bears 1:
Drew told me Mats Roing was some 27 minutes ahead of me at this point. Its Mats first 100 Mile race. I knew a little bit about his training and also knew that 27 minutes ahead of me isn’t going to find him anything but ahurtin unit at some point or another. I told Drew I’d see him at 10 Bears and Drew Laughed. Mike had everything out perfectly at Stage Rd and was ready to go. Thank god! I knew he’d get back into the swing of things with crewing for me. I quickly grabbed what I needed and headed out down the rd. I feel great still and still haven’t bonked. I am so far having the time of my life, feeling great and running strong. I passed by John Holt who wasn’t looking so good but moving forward at least. I took the right turn and began the long exposed climb up the old Suicide Six. It was a long tough climb in the heat and my breathing picked up quite a bit.

I coasted down the hills playing leap frog with a few other runners along the way. At Rte 12 aid station I waited in line for ice cubes for my handheld bottles. I even took one for my mouth. I ate as much fruit as I could and carried on up the road. The next stretch of the course is filled with long long climbs and short downhills. My only plan was to patiently continue to work my way through these hills on my way to 10 Bears and to get there in one piece. There was plenty of time left for running and in this section, its not it. I made it into the aid station on Rte 106 and needed to stop again for a little alone time in the porta-potty. I wish I could figure my stomach distress out in these races as its stating to aggravate me greatly. Something isn’t working. In the porta potty it was so hot I swear to god I sweat off about 3 pounds of my body weight. I grabbed some Vaseline at the station, ate more fruit and headed off down the rd. I ran for a little while with a guy who was enjoying his first 100 Miler. Good for him!

We got off the pavement and back onto trails. The trail section here is gnarly and littered with roots and downed limbs. I pickd my way through and out onto Jenne Farm Rd. I ran with a woman from Clagary for a bit and told her about the blue pipes strung out through the trees used to collect maple sap and how it is later turned into Maple Syrup. She was so intrigued and I love sharing a bit of New England with someone who has never been here before.

After finally running through the Jenne Farm area where I enjoyed a gentle breeze, I headed down into 10 Bears finally and ready to continue on this amazing adventure. I weighed in at 150, -4 pounds so far and Dr. Glass gave me the OK to move on. I was having a blast. Visited with my crew who was ready to roll and Drew told me I had caught Mats Roing as I had predicted. Mats was in the medical tent nursing a sore knee with a bag of ice. He told me he was dropping out. “Maybe next time you won’t run like a bat out of hell Mats!” We laughed, shook hands and I asked if his pacer had someone else to pace. Adam Wilcox is one of my good hiking friends and was indeed still looking to hook up with a runner to pace. I told him Nate’s pacer couldn’t make it and could use the help. I grabbed more food, sucked down my gels and boost.. and headed off up the hill.
(My brother-in-law Mike and I at 10 Bears 1)

10 Bears 1 to Margarittaville:
The guys told me I had about 10 minutes on Nate and Jeff as I left 10 Bears. Going up the hill I saw that I had caught up to Kerry Owens of Massanutten lore. She started running and quickly stopped saying how she wasn’t really motivated today. She looked great either way as I continued on. At the bottom of the hill I saw Jim Lampman. I gave him a friendly hello and we talked about how he went out a bit too fast, and taking a while to realize his mistake. Such a delicate game to play against the clock in these races especially given the terrain and weather. Jim was in great spirits and ready to continue on to the finish line at whatever pace it took him. I greatly appreciate his enthusiasm for the sport and his dedication towards reaching the finish line.

I then made it to Agony Hill and slowly worked my way to the stop. I crested over and ran down into Pinky’s where the same folks who were checking off times at Lincoln Covered Bridge were now checking off times here. I asked a woman to please put some ice in my bottles and my hat before giving me one for my mouth to chew on. Another woman recorded my time and said, “Hey… you’ve really picked it up since LCB!” I told her I was on a mission and things are pretty close right now. I thanked them for their work and headed out.

As I worked down the trail a few horse riders caught up and walked beside me down the hill. They asked me all kinds of friendly questions about running these races, training, nutrition.. it was a lot of fun. I let them head out as we listened to the Thunderstorms rolling in. As I climbed the next hill, one of the locals was out with a hose for horses and runners. I had them dowse my hat with the cold water. The homeowner told us about the severe thunderstorm warning for the area siting the NWS with small hail, high winds and deadly lightning. GREAT! As I crested the hill and ran through another meadow, I could see the storm swirling over 10 Bears and the finish area of the course.. I knew I was going to luck out. I ran into Birmingham’s where the aid station volunteers debated my age. Always love this… I was out of there in a hurry but with all smiles. They were very nice folks and very helpful as were the rest. I cruised downhill as huge drops of water fell sporadically and soon a quick drenching shower took over as I ran the last quarter mile into Tracer Brook. As I entered the aid station the rain let up. I had dodged the bullet for sure as the sun was all ready starting to come back out. I looked for my crew but couldn’t find him as Pauls crew offered some assistance. I asked for gels and went for the aid table to pick at food. Then, there was Mike. Phew! I grabbed all that I needed again and told him I’d see him at Margarittaville after the long climb.

I left Tracer Brook and began the long climb up to Margarittaville which takes us up and over the highest point on the course. I’m still climbing wel and have yet to bonk. Last year at this point, I was hallucinating and having a tough time. This year I was enjoyed a calm breeze and being soaking wet from the torrential rain we had. I continued to plug along all the way up Prospect Hill. About half way up I saw a couple who was running together. The guy was giving up on Sub-24 and I told him he had plenty of time if he kept moving. His partner was in the woods, he sounded a bit dejected. I wished him well, offered encouragement and continued on finally making it into Margarittaville myself.

Mville to 10 Bears 2:
In the aid station I once again went to the restroom. I came out and enjoyed a Cheeseburger in paradise before consulting with my crew. I told them, “Its going to be close for sub 24.” They explained I was a little behind and there was only hope if I got moving. I knew I wanted to make it to West Winds before dark and it was the plan all along. I’ve been moving greatly all race long. Have yet to bonk, have a good cushion of time on my fellow friends (20 minutes now), and wanted the buckle. I stopped talking and just grabbed what I needed and told the guys I’d see them at 10 Bears. Drew said good bye for the night and off I went.

I mixed in a good bit of walking and running from Margarittaville to Browns School House. And I continued to feel really good realizing that despite having my back up against the wall with the sub 24-hour clock, I was having an exceptional race and a strong day. I ran into Browns and they asked what I needed and I replied, “I need to get the hell out of here.” They put ice in my handhelds, I grabbed some fruit, I thanked them and I was gone. I climbed the last bit of uphill and took the right ready for the long downhill heading back in towards 10 bears. I got a HUGE break with some horse riders. The Horses were running at my pace and I allowed them to pace me to the road section where they took off. I hit the dirt road, stretched quickly and took off for more downhill, turned left, chugged uphill, down the other side and ran into 10 Bears for the second time. I had just run the 8 miles from Margarittaville to 10 Bears in an hour and a half. It was 7:05pm and I still needed to get to West Winds before dark. Drew was shocked at how fast I got there and he gave me an “atta boy” before finally taking off. The update on the boys was that Nate was 30 Minutes behind me..

I sat in my chair and they fetched Dot Helling. Dot came over to say hi as did Bob Dunfey. I wanted to talk and talk and talk with these wonderful folks but I was on a mission. My bottles were refilled, I sucked down some gels and boost, lubed up, changed my socks and shoes, grabbed solid food to eat and I was gone in 4 minutes! I wanted the buckle bad. Mike had turned crewing duties over to my good friend Pete (whole be riding the VT50 in Sept), and took over as my pacer. Mike had never run further an 16 miles in his life but I was confident he could make it the 30 to the finish. We both had the heart and determination and that is exactly what I needed to get me to the promised land. We headed out and onward for West Winds.

10 Bears 2 to West Winds:
Mike and I quickly sank into conversation and really enjoyed the setting sun against the foggy and humid Vermont countryside. Mike was in awe at some of the properties we ran by and through. I think it kept him motivated early. I know I was still on a mission and doing my best to move briskly when I could. The pain in my quads was quickly growing to be pretty unbearable and running took some heavy calming breaths and meditation. We stopped only briefly at Seabrook still trying to beat the clock. We took to another trail section winding our way through the dark woods. Our headlamps went on as the woods were dark and the sky still getting there. We heard noise, kept pushing and popped out onto a road, we made it… West Winds at dusk and before dark.

Pete was set up like a pro and we got everything we needed… except the body glide.. where the hell is the body glide?! It was missing and Vaseline became the last minute lube of choice. I went to the aid table and asked if they had chicken noodle soup and they did.. a lady grabbed a cup hastily and I stopped her, “please, half the cup of soup the other half cold water.” She obliged and I’m glad she did.. the half cup of cold water cooled the soup to luke warm and it went down easy and quick so I could leave without having to carry the cup or wait for it to get cool. Mike was ready to go so out we went, down the hill and into the woods.
(West Winds before Dark)

West Winds to Bills:
The nighttime became tricky. The fog was so thick that our headlamps were almost considered useless. Not only was it tough to see but the moisture in the air was suffocating. I took it in stride as we continued to push on. I was again starting to have doubts in the prospect of finishing in under 24 hours, it was indeed going to be close. I’ve been running my butt off all day in trying to make it. Stomach issues, rocks in my shoes, everything… and it was me with my back up against the wall and the clock. Crap! I kept moving. We went up and down the sick and twisted roller coaster that is miles 77 to 88. Mike continued to be great company, striking up conversation and keeping me moving along. We continued to search for Bills Barn through the fog, wondering if any of the guys would ever catch me as I hoped they would. I didn’t want to be the only one with a buckle. We climbed a short hill where we saw a runner puking her guts out on the side of the road. I hoped she was ok. We took a turn and headed downhill where out of no where appeared cars… but where was the barn? The fog was so thick and the air so humid that you could only see Bills when standing within 50 yards or so of it. I walked to the barn and to the scale. I was tired and sore. As I lifted a leg to put it up on the scale, the combination of the two caused me to wobble a bit and the medical volunteer told me I was going to sit down for a bit. Damn! My weight was right on 154. I felt great, just tired and sore and he sat me down without ever even telling me why. I just agreed and sat. My grandfather sat in a wheelchair for 14 years and it was a goal of mine in this race to never sit. I sat to change my shoes.. and now I was sitting because.. well… I don’t know why. They fed me food as I watched this medical guy get ready to leave for the night. He circled the barn and tapped a few other volunteers on the shoulder, pointed at me sitting in the chair as he whispered in their ear. I was now getting pretty damn pissed. I understand the need to be cautious but from what I later discussed with other runners, they were taking “cautious” a bit too far out at Bills barn and I was a victim. Then I looked over and saw Adam… wait, “ Adam?!… is Nate here?” “Yeah man, he;s outside.” I peered through the barn door and there he was. I had 30 minutes on him at mile 70. 18 miles later, with 12 miles left in the race and here he was. The race suddenly changed. Nate came into the barn, “Why are you sitting.” I explained the situation to him and he started to flip, “GET UP! Get your ass out of the chair and lest go! They won’t tell you why you’re sitting then F them!” He was right, I saw a doctor in a black shirt and asked him if he would please check me out so I can get going. He listened to my heart and asked me a bunch of questions. My two favorite were, “Are you on any drugs?” my Answer: “Funny you should ask a guy running 100 miles if he is on drugs. No.. but do you have anything good?” His second question: “Have you done anything like this before?” “Yes doc, this is my 5th 100 miler in the last 365 days… can I go now?” He let me out and Nate and I left together with out pacers.

Bills to Pollys:
I went flying out of Bills barn at an amazing clip. We ran downhill and onto some trails, popped out into an open field and hauled ass down into the night. When I finally hit the next road I stopped and took a walk break. After hearing the time at Bills I knew it was a slim chance of us breaking 24. I told Nate, “Dude.. just finish” He snapped back, “What are you talking about.. we’re getting a buckle.” Every time I heard Nate’s voice behind us, or saw his light.. I started running. I was going to be damned if he beat me. I took off on him on all the up-hills and he caught up on the down hills. My pacer has now run further than he’s ever run in his life. He’s hanging in there but when I asked him if he was sore yet he replied with “yes.” This was turning out to be quite a battle between friends, the clock and myself. I was going to win it all however.. and I hustled as best I could. The hills were never ending and painful. Some of the uphill climbs slowed me to a crawl, causing me to stop periodically to catch my breath and try to stretch my legs. I was beat, sore and slowing down. Damn! I just need to keep moving. We rounded a corner and I knew where we were and then it appeared, Polly’s. We went right for Pete and grabbed just what we needed and did so quickly. I grabbed one more piece of banana when I turned back and saw Nate come into the aid station. He never stopped as we all took off once again together. We have one and a half hours to go 4.5 miles. In our current state, wrecked, sore, tired and racing the crap out of each other.. I wasn’t sure if it was doable… the first goal was to make it to that second to last aid station in a hurry.
(Nate... we gotta go! Polly's)

(To the finish! Leaving Polly's)

Pollys to Finish:
We have one and a half hours to go 4.5 miles. In our current state, wrecked, sore, tired and racing the crap out of each other.. I wasn’t sure if it was doable… the first goal was to make it to that second to last aid station in a hurry. Nate was running when I ran. When I walked he walked. We entered another gnarly woods section with plenty of mud from the days storms, trees down, limbs and roots everywhere and it slowed us down. I could see and hear Nate behind me.. so we kept moving. As we got out of the woods and back onto the roads, Mike and I moved uphill as I listened for Nate… then I heard him come out of the woods and let out a huge moan, I looked back and he was stopped with Adam trying to coach him right back into moving. Not far down the road was that last aid station, I didn’t stop and almost went the wrong way. I looked back for Nate and saw the course took a hard left behind the station.. Crap! We back tracked and got back on course and as we did, Nate had caught me… but I knew I had his number… the rest of the course.. the last 2 miles is all pretty much up hill. Nate was much slower on the up-hills and I knew I was going to beat him. It was so much fun to be bale to race someone towards the end and I really enjoyed the experience no matter which one of us was going to come out on top. I told Mike, “Ok.. I don’t care which one of us comes in first.. I just want Nate to get his buckle.” As I worked uphill, walked as fast as I could, I could hear my brother in law running. I thought he wanted to keep me moving. We had no idea what time it was… so I started to run. Then I’d stop form the pain and continue to walk. I’d hear him run again and so I’d pick it up. Then he said, “John,, I’m not trying to get you to run. I can’t keep up with your walking! So I have to run to catch up.” We had some short jokes but continued on. Then we saw a runner. He stepped out of the way and said, “You’ll make sub 24 bud! Its 23:30 now!” We saw the sign for 1/2 Mile left and I kicked it in. I ran as hard as I could down hill, the voices of the finish got louder. I gave a hoot into the night and the crowd responded with applause, cheering me in. I came hauling ass around the corner, started to run up that final hump when I heard, “What’s your number?” I yelled as tears rolled down my check, “Number One Hundred!” My arms raised, I ran across the line and fell to my knees. I had never run so much during a race. Never had my back against the clock for so long and I was wrecked. I did it again… 23 Hours and 37 Minutes for 100 Miles.

I gave hugs and thanked Pete and Mike for their help. I saw Barry, Nates brother and crew and told him he was coming soon. Many folks I knew gave me congratulations. I turned back to the finish and waited. First the guy who let us pass came through, and then I saw 2 headlights… there they were, Nate and Adam. We yelled and cheered them in. Nate crossed the line in 23:42, he was pumped, relieved and spent. It was downright hilarious how two runners; completely wrecked, sore, and chaffed could run each other into the ground into the finish. We inspired each other to that goal of getting a buckle… and we did it. My 6th 100-Mile Finish, the Long Trail Ale never tasted so damn good!

Jeff was pulled at mile 70 with a stress fracture in his tibia. But he convinced the doctors to let him continue. At mile 71 he had no choice but to drop. Paul suffered through a litany of circumstances but persevered and finished with a time of 29:41; when he crossed the finish line, he had the pacifier dangling from his pack. If anyone tells you Vermont is an Easy 100… THEY ARE WRONG! Over 120 people dropped out. I loved every minute of it.. all of the heat 90+ degrees and the 99% humidity.. I wouldn’t rather run in anything else than that! WAAA HOO!

It looks like I am done with 100 Milers for the year unless I can find one for November or December and afford to go. I’d love for nothing more. But for now, I must prepare for the Vermont 50 in September, where my buddy Pete and I are going to duke it out. Him on a bike and me on foot. Its going to be another epic race. I love this sport! Special thanks to Mike, Pete, Nate, Paul, Jeff, Joe Mama and all the countless volunteers who make it happen. Especially Dot Helling, Zeke Zucker, Mike Silverman, Joy Crossman, Bill Stillson, Jim Hutchinson, The amazing Julia and anyone I don't know about.

And thanks to my sponsors... without them the race would not have gone by with so much ease and enjoyment! Darn Tough Socks, Long Trail Ale, Brooks, Nuun, Peak Adventures, Nathan and Dreamchasers.


My Splits:
Start (0) to Pretty House (21.1) = 4:15 - 12:05mi pace
Pretty House (21.1) to Stage Rd (30.1) = 1:50 - 12:13mi pace
Stage Rd (30.1) to Camp 10 Bears 1 (47.2) = 1:30 12:16mi pace
Camp 10 Bears 1 (47.2) to Tracer Brook (57) = 2:20 14:17mi pace
Tracer Brook (57) to Margarittaville (62.1) = 1:15 14:42mi pace
Margarittaville (62.1) to Camp 10 Bear 2 (70.1) = 1:45 13:07mi pace
Camp 10 Bear 2 (70.1) to West Winds (77) = 1:53 16:22mi pace
West Winds (77) to Bills Barn (88.6) = 3:20 17:14mi pace
Bills Barn (88.6) to Pollys (95.5) = 2:04 17:58mi pace
Pollys (95.5) to Finish (100) = 1:12 16:14mi pace
All times are run time from Times IN to each aid station.
(Ex. Time IN to Pretty House to time IN to Stage Rd. All rest time is counted in the pace)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vermont 100 Pre-Race

The Vermont 100. For Twenty Years, runners have been gracing the hills of Woodstock, VT in search of something grande. Whether it be self exploration, soulful reprieve, or a sub-24 hour belt buckle. As if thats not enough, for the only time in the United States, a horse race is run simultaneous to the running race and over much of the same course. The thought that man could run further than horse on one day to many is unthinkable. But to an adventurous few, its what they plan to do as the culmination of their training comes to center stage.

Over the last 2 weeks my blog has been dedicated to bringing the Vermont 100 to you, in the hopes that you'll find a fire burning within yourselves that you too can do anything you put your mind to. We heard from a veteran VT100 runner and a staple of the organization of the event. We heard from multiple first time mid-pack runners taking on the distance for the first times themselves and now.. you get to hear from the "young ultra-runner."

Here are my tope five male finishers for the event listed in the order I think they'll finish. Good luck to them all as the mens race is shaping up to be a doozy!
1.) Jack Pilla; 2.) Andy Jones-Wilkins; 3.) Devon Crosby-Helms; 4.) Glen Redpath; 5.) Joe Kulak
And as for the women.. Good Luck!
1.) Devon Crosby-Helms; 2.) Michelle Barton; 3.) Diana Fitzpatrick; 4.) Lori Lebel
As for the men I interviewed leading into the race, I posted their interviews in the order I felt they would be finishing this weekend. 1.) Nathan Sanel; 2.) Paul Kearney; 3.),Jeffery Waldron

As with any race here in New England, the weather tends to play a major role. It looks like the race will be run in classic New England summer weather this weekend; Hazy, Hot and Humid! Here is your forecast for the weekend:
Friday: A 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2pm. Partly cloudy, with a high near 84. South wind 5 to 11 mph becoming west. Friday Night: A 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms before 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. South wind around 8 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Saturday Night: A 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 58. Sunday: A 30% chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a high near 80.
Although temps look to only make it into the mid to upper 80's, runners should expect temps on the dirt roads to feel more like 100! MY KIND OF RUNNING WEATHER!

I'm ready. Every step I'm taken since the 2007 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run has been aimed at running the race this year in the hopes of bettering my time. I feel like a 100 Mile Veteran with this event being my sixth 100 Miler. Not bad since I ran my first 100 miler in April 2007. Since the last VT100 where I finished in 23:19; I have run the Grand Tetons 100 (Hardrock Qualifier), 100 Miles at McNaughton (in the mud) and The Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in Virginia (Hardrock Qualifier). Maybe I'm "over trained," but I have made sure of one thing... and thats to not go into this race a tired mess. For the first time since I started running ultramarathons I took some serious time off the last two weeks tapering into this event. I ran all of 15 miles last week and only 12 this week. I feel great. NO injuries; no bumps, bruisies or kinks... I'm in the game mentally, I'm prepared and I'm ready to go!

Only two things worry me: 1.) My lack of strength/core training at the gym. I'll be honest, I haven't lifted a weight at the gym since April. Thankfully I've been working as a landscaper since Memorial Day Weekend so not only am I heat acclimated but I have been doing strenuous work every day. Hopefully this type of work along with running and my 9 hours at the death race; has been enough to ensure my core will hold up for at least 80 miles of this weekends event.
2.) I'm down a crew member! Sarah is going to her cousin's wedding. My brother in law Mike is coming up to crew for me but he is also pacing me through the night starting at 10 Bears. I have no crew for the last 30 miles which could lead to some interesting strategizing in terms of a drop bag for West Winds and the rest of the race where I need crew help the most. If anyone has the night free... I need help!
Other than these two issues everything should be fine and should go off without a hitch. I take the experience of 5 different 100 milers with me into the race which should serve me well. I'm confident regardless.

2.) Sub 24 Hours
3.) Better last years time 23:19
Jeff Christian made a prediction for MMT when I ran it in May and he was off by 19 minutes! His prediction for the VT100; 21:40 I would be ecstatic if I could make or break this time and Im going to give it hell in my attempt to do so.

So thats it... I'm ready to go: The path of life has brought me here once more. Walk the ups, run the downs and run the rest when I can. Thats the plan and I'll stick to it as I did last year. I'm excited, I'm stoked, I'm ready. 20 Years of history at this race and I am more than humbled and honored to be a small part of it. See you in Vermont!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

VT100 Interview: Nathan Sanel

Nathan Sanel is an Ultra-Marathon runner from New Hampshire. He will be taking on this years Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run as his first ever 100 Mile Ultra. Nathan has quite the storied athletic past that has wound its way into ultra-land; of which includes formerly holding the world record for the bunny hop on a bike. Here is Nathan's (Yellow Hat in photo) story:

Name: Nathan Sanel
Age: 39
Residence: Penacook, NH
Birthplace: Concord, NH
Occupation: Owner, National Powersports
Years Running: 3
Running and Other Accomplishments: Former Mountain Bike racer, Professional Snowboarder, Professional Motorcycle Racer.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Nate about yourself and the upcoming Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run

SJ: Tell us a little bit about how you became an ultra-runner.
NS: A little less than 3 years ago I was noticing that I was putting on a little bit of weight around the middle. I had started a business and wasn't as involved with sports as I had been my entire life. All of the sports that I did involved a lot of equipment and travel time. Time was one thing that I just didn't have anymore. Running appealed to me because all I needed was a pair of shoes an shorts. I bought a pair of running shoes and ran twice around my neighborhood (2 miles). I could hardly walk after and I hurt for a week! I told my wife that this running thing sucked and she replied that I would be racing within months. Sure enough, I started to log my miles and then began racing. I turned to Ultras because I just want to keep going further.

SJ: What was your progression through the different race distances, did you run a marathon before an ultra?
NS: My first race was a ½ marathon in May, 2006. I had never even run with anybody! I did my first marathon 4 months later then my first 50k 3 months later in December. Last year I did 5 races with the longest being my first 50, the Vermont 50.

SJ: How has the sport treated you to this point?
NS: Remarkably well!! I love feeling strong and it is so fun learning what my body is capable of. I have suffered very few injuries and I still have lots to learn. I think that I enjoy the training quite a bit more than the racing.

SJ: How long do you see yourself participating in ultra-running?
NS: I don't really think about that. I move from goal to goal. I can't imagine not running, it helps me stay calm(er) throughout the day. I find that when I can't exercise I don't deal with life's little problems as well. I'm a pretty high strung guy, so it really helps.

SJ: Do you have a favorite race to this point?
NS: Not really. Every single one has been a fantastic journey. I have enjoyed them all. The ones that stand out are the ones where I have set a goal for myself and made the goal.

SJ: You've participated in a variety of journey runs and Fat Ass events, tell us about your favorite one of those.
NS: I love those runs! The best one was our Frozen Fatass Kankamangus run. Running that 35 miles in 1 degree weather at night was a trip! It was scary because when we would stop for more than a minute I would get really cold. It was actually pretty dangerous and that added to the thrill. My camelback freezing added a interesting twist as well. I kept thinking that there was a car behind us because the moon was so bright!

SJ: So tell us a little about your Vermont 100 Run... when and why did you decide to take on the 100 Mile Distance and in Vermont?
NS: I think that I started planning for it as soon as I finished the VT50. Thats the way I work. “Ok, now I know that I can run 50 miles, I need to tackle 100” I have been training pretty hard, and have increased my mileage quite a bit over last year. I have also run a lot more races this year and I have had some pretty good results. As far as which 100 to tackle first, VT100 is an obvious choice. I have seen the area and have a pretty good idea what to expect. It also seems like one of the easier 100's so that helps my mental game going into it.

SJ: Are you running for any charities?
NS: In the past I have run for the ATCP (Ataxia Telangicstasia Childrens Project). I held a charity event at my shop and combined it with my runs at Disney (The Goofy challenge). I raised a little over $10,000 for the project. I'm going to do it again this year. I am not running VT for any charities.

SJ: Supposing you are nervous.. what are you nervous about the most?
NS: Of course I'm nervous, but it is a good nervous energy. I use that energy to make sure I'm prepared and to not slack on my training. I am probably most nervous about my feet hurting.

SJ: What previous running experiences will you take with you through to the finish line?
NS: I've never DNF'd and don't plan to now. I'm pretty determined and even though I've never done the distance I will bring the same determination that I took with me every time I have tackled a new distance in the past.

SJ: Buckle or Plaque?
NS: What, are you kidding me? Buckle.

SJ: Do you have a time goal or ANY goals for that matter?
NS: I'd like to say that my goal is to just finish, but that would be B.S. My goal is to finish my first 100 in sub 24.

SJ: Who is your pacer and who is your crew?
NS: My pacer is Greg Stone, who is an amazing runner and super nice guy. My crew consists of my wife Amy, who is the most supportive person in the world, and my brother Barry who has no idea what he is in for.

SJ: What is your overall race strategy?
NS: Go out at 7 minute miles and see how long I can last....LOL. I know that I need to be very careful about going out to quickly. At this point I'm going to plan on an easy 10 hour 50 and go from there.

SJ: What are you excited about the most?
NS: The entire thing. I've been completely obsessed. I constantly scour the web for race reports and any tidbit of information that I can use to help me on this journey.

SJ: Will you be camping or staying in a local hotel or Inn?
NS: I'll be staying in my travel camper.

SJ: Any other 100 Milers that interest you?
NS: All of them. I'm sure that after this one I'll look for a “tougher” one to do. I also have been toying with just taking off on a Friday night and running all weekend to see how far I get with the goal of at least 100 miles. Sort of a “Fat-Ass 100”. I love the idea of going on a journey and seeing where it will take me.

SJ: We wish you the very best of luck in your endeavor Nate and we WILL see you at the finish line.
NS: Thanks for all the help John. I have enjoyed training with you and going on our wacky long runs!

Note: Due to an untimely passing of a family member, Nates wife Amy will not be attending the race as a member of Nathan's crew. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to her and her entire family in this time of grief.

Monday, July 14, 2008

VT100 Interview: Paul Kearney

Paul Kearney is a young ultra-runner from Vermont taking on the Vermont 100 this weekend as his first 100 Mile Run. I had the opportunity to talk to him about his running past, present and future and here it is:

Name: Paul Kearney
Age: 27
Residence: Burlington, VT
Birthplace: Hanover, NH
Occupation: Attorney
Years Running: About 15 years, since 7th grade cross-country, with periods of more or less intensity as I was lost in the grip of other sports- rowing, climbing, paddling, etc.
Running and Other Accomplishments/Hobbies: About a dozen marathons and the same number of ultras. Other hobbies- lately, hiking, riding and tinkering with my motorcycle.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Paul about yourself and the upcoming Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run

SJ: Tell us a little bit about how you became an ultra-runner.
PK: I had trained pretty hard for the Vermont City Marathon in 2006 while living in Ithaca, NY. We had a pretty mild winter that year so I was out on the track doing mile repeats all winter and I was feeling really fit, really hideously strong. I saw a sign for a local trail race, the Finger Lakes 50s, and figured I could cruise through the 50k and would still do really well based on the times I saw on the website from previous years. Boy, was that naive. I was excited to jump into the longer distance, which I don't think I had ever really considered before, but of course, I pulled the classic rookie move of going out way too fast, not eating enough, and crashing hard near the end. The scene was great, though. They have a fantastic party after with a great chicken BBQ. Everyone was so social, friendly, and they all seemed to know each other. This must really be a special race, I thought, a special crowd. Turns out, those very same people, that very same crowd, shows up at just about every race within 1000 miles. That circle of friends, the extended family of ultrarunners, is the primary difference between ultras and road races in my mind, even more so than the contrast between road and trails. We are a family and after a year or so in the sport, you know these people like surrogate parents and siblings.

SJ: What was your progression through the different race distances, did you run a marathon before an ultra?
PK: Yes, I had run two marathons before my first 50k. I went to high school in the Boston area and was totally immersed in the magic surrounding the Boston Marathon. I wanted to be a marathoner and was still training hard as a marathoner when I got into trail races. After the first one, I just kept looking for longer and harder races. I keep putting off training for that 2:40 attempt to run the next trail race. I ran the Finger Lakes 50s 50k a second time, then ran the Jay Challenge 50k++ up in northern Vermont, my first 50-miler at the Vermont 50 last year, then followed it with another 50-miler at Stonecat and then David Horton's 100k++ at Hellgate in December. More 50ks were thrown in there, and even training runs of 30-40 miles. By the time I had run Jay, I had just seen you run Vermont last year and had decided I wanted to run a 100, so I set off on this crusade of 40-50-60 mile races with an eye for preparing myself for anything I might see on the course at the Vermont 100 this year.

SJ: What is your marathon PR and when was it?
PK: 3:02, that Vermont City Marathon before my first Finger Lakes, in 2006. I was pretty convinced I could have run 2:55, but it was a scorcher of a day, as you surely remember, and although I held on enough to go to Boston, sub-3 slipped away at the end. Given the conditions, I wasn't dissapointed at all, though. I just kept pushing through the pain at the end, telling myself over and over like a mantra, "Hold on, keep going, you're going to Boston. Cold beer ahead. Hold on, keep going, you're going to Boston..."

SJ: How has the sport of ultra-running treated you to this point?
PK: It has enriched my life beyond description. I've travelled around the country, met the most wonderful, giving, caring and generous people.

SJ: How long do you see yourself participating in ultra-running?
PK: I hope to do it forever. I will probably race a lot less in the future, though. I'm starting a new job in the fall as a lawyer at a big firm, which will mean a lot more hours, so that's a lot of energy I will be directing elsewhere. I hope to keep racing my favorite races, say 5 a year, but I will definitely be stepping back from my race every three weeks pace I hit now and then.

SJ: Do you have a favorite race to this point?
PK: They're all so different that it's a tough call, but I think the Vermont 100 is going to be special. There was a magic feel to the air in some of those evening aid stations and the sense of shared struggle and camaraderie at a 100 I expect to be out of this world. I loved the unapologetic brutality of the Pittsfield Peaks race, and the Jay Challenge, though. It's great to go to a race where the course designed really tried to challenge you, to make something where more than just the distance makes it difficult, even to the point of trying to break you down mentally. Hellgate didn't have to try to be hard. The terrain took care of that. But when a race gets just a bit contrived and stupid, it really tests your mental strength. None of those hills you cretins threw in at the end of Pittsfield were especially nasty- but it was infuriating to be handed them at that stage in the game. Well done. :O)

SJ: What is the toughest Ultra you've completed?
PK: Well, there are tough races, and there are races at which you have a very tough day. Hellgate was both for me. I wasn't taking in enough calories and I was continually bonking on a very hard, mountainous course. I have never wanted to quit so bad, and I have never been a quitter at anything. I've never dropped out of a race, but at mile 60 I was completely willing to get in the car and drive away, despite having driven 800 miles to get there. That was a tough day. Jill gave me a push in the right direction, though, so despite empty tanks and explosive poo-tastrophies, I crammed down some food and hammered it home, pulling myself out of DFL on the last climb, passing about six folks, and finishing strong. Only a sense of fury at the idea of running so far and not getting a finisher's shirt kept me going. I was awash in frustration and anger at the course, and it served its purpose beautifully. Your mind is so far gone at these races that intangible reasons for running are worthless. You don't want to just be a finisher or to have challenged yourself. These things carry no sway on the mind that has been suffering for ten hours and is telling you to quit and go home. You need something literally tangible to focus on. That's the magic of the buckle. You can get yourself to do anything for an actual prize, especially one you can wear with pride for the rest of your life, rather than one you hang on the pile on the doorknob.

SJ: So tell us a little about your Vermont 100 Run... when and why did you decide to take on the 100 Mile Distance and in Vermont?
PK: When I crewed for you last year, Sherpa, it just blew me away. Driving home after the two-day epic of crewing and pacing, I was overwhelmed by all that I had seen. The emotional journey through all that pain and those excruciating moments of particular difficulty, to come through it all with this feeling of triumph and accomplishment at the end- it was just too good not to want a bite of it myself!

SJ: So as one of my pacers in the 2007 VT100 and the 2008 Massanutten, what thoughts come to your mind about the experience you took away from those times?
PK: I think that a familiarity with some of the aid stations, the topography, and the feel of the race at Vermont will be valuable. Seeing how tough those last few miles are at both races will be a good reminder to conserve energy early on. Also, seeing the destruction sleep-deprivation can cause was a very, very valuable lesson. I learned that your body doesn't need sleep nearly so much as your mind needs it. Allowing your mind to sleep for 20 minutes can make you a new person. That was the biggest lesson at MMT.

SJ: Supposing you are nervous.. what are you nervous about the most?
PK: There is certainly an aspect of the unknown to this race. Hellgate was so utterly different than a 50-miler, and the distance was part of it. I tend to be pretty low-maintenance during most races, not needing new shoes or clothing. Rarely do I have major problems with my food or gear. But with the 100-mile distance, who knows? I am going to try to take care of myself especially well physically, and pay very close attention to my emotions to keep a handle on my mental condition, too. I've run a lot of trail miles, but I can't really say I know what it's going to be like out there after 80 miles, after 90. That's a bit intimidating, but I'll always remember that first 50k, and realizing that the mental leap from "I don't think I could ever do that" to "I bet I can do that- I'm gonna try" is so much more difficult than the actual race itself. Once you get there, you just keep shoving food in your face and moving forward on your feet. That part is easy. It's signing up and toeing the line that can be impossible for some people.

SJ: What previous running experiences will you take with you through to the finish line?
PK: When I set out to train for this race, everyone said, "There's no book, there's no plan, you just have to figure it out." I have run every race I could get myself to just to absorb the skills I needed for this race. Every race has taught lessons on pace, fuel, water, salt, mental strength. I have learned that my legs will keep going as long as I am willing to make them go and I give them energy to burn. It has been a tremendous journey, and I am looking forward to this supreme test.

SJ: Buckle or Plaque?
PK: I'd look pretty silly trying to hold my pants up with a plaque, now wouldn't I? I have no interest in a plaque.

SJ: Do you have a time goal or ANY goals for that matter?
PK: Well, friends with tremendous confidence in my abilities have told me I have the potential to go under 20 hours. That would be pretty neat to do some day, to break a barrier like that and put up a performance that I could marvel at for the rest of my life. But I don't think that's what this day will be about. I'm not really looking to push my performance limits in this first experience at the distance. Going under 24 is a definite goal- that is what I'm doing here. But I've seen that you can be pretty relaxed and still get there. Having a solid, consistent day, with no major disasters is much more important to me than a killer time.

SJ: Who is your pacer and who is your crew?
PK: My girlfriend Jill and my buddy Bret will be crewing, with off-and-on help from my dad and other family members. Bret is pacing from mile 70, but the last 12 miles belong to Jill. She has wanted to run the end with me since the beginning, and there's no one I'd rather have there.

SJ: What is your overall race strategy?
PK: Start slow and ease off from there. :O) Seriously, I am approaching this just exactly like any other race. I'm going to go at a moderate pace, walk the hills, and eat everything I can get my hands on. I hope that I come through the 50 in about 11 hours, but it will probably be more like 9 hours, despite my desire to go slow, if your race last year is any indication. I'd rather run an even pace than slow to a crawl at the end, but I don't know how realistic that is- it's too easy to run too fast at the beginning, and the race is too long not to slow down a lot at the end. I guess just keeping it reasonable on both ends is all you can ask for.

SJ: What are you excited about the most?
PK: My freakin' buckle. It's sitting in a box somewhere right now, wrapped in gauze, waiting for me. I just have to go get it.

SJ: Will you be camping or staying in a local hotel or Inn?
PK: Camping the night before and after. It's a great field and who wants to drive anywhere after the race?

SJ: Any other 100 Milers that interest you?
PK: All of them. But one at a time and in slow succession. Massanutten was a quality, quality course and a great experience to behold. And that damn gorgeous buckle... That might be next year's race. :O)

We wish you the very best of luck in your endeavor Paul and we can't wait to share a Long Trail Ale with you at the finish line.
Good Luck!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

VT100 Interview: Jeffrey Waldron

Coverage of the 20th running of the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run continues!
If you've missed anything, you can check out previous posts by clicking their link below or by scrolling down below this post:
VT100 Interview - Dot Helling
2006 VT100 Pacer Report
Vermont 100 - Countdown

Name: Jeffrey Waldron
Age: 22
Residence: Rindge, NH
Birthplace: Concord, MA
Occupation: Student, part time work at a liquor store
Years Running: 2 ½
Running and Other Accomplishments/Hobbies:
Hmmm when looking back on things I am proud to have been co-captain of the varsity baseball and soccer teams in high school along with my twin brother. Our soccer team made the playoffs for the first time in the schools history, pretty cool moment. Other hobbies include hiking, kayaking, mountaineering, ice climbing, and ofcourse clif jumping with my friends

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Jeff about yourself and the upcoming Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run.

SJ: Tell us a little bit about how you became an ultra-runner.

JW: Becoming a runner in general happened by complete chance. As a freshman at Bryant University I was lifting a lot and gaining a ton of muscle, but in turn I was losing my quickness and athletic look. Out of all people, my janitor, a Laotian man named Kham, suggested for me to go on a run with him in order to drop some pounds. Well, one run led to another, 2 miles turned into 3, 4, 5 and before I knew it I was hooked. It turns out Kham has ran over 90 marathons with a 2:41 PR, yikesss, I didn’t know what I was getting into. After months of training I ran the Applefest Half Marathon and got cooked by the hills. However, I loved it, and ran the Breakers marathon with a big ol’ cast on my arm as my first marathon. After learning the ropes about training and nutrition, as well as how to pace (they called me bat out of hell before lol) I was able to run the 2007 Boston Marathon. It was definitely one of the best moments of my life. However, the roads always beat me up, and I began running trails more and more, and the trails became my haven. I officially became an ultrarunner at the 2007 Vermont 50 where I was lucky enough to meet the crazy guy conducting this interview (Sherpa John) as well as Nate Sanel and Paul Kearney, all great guys who I love to laugh and train with.

SJ: What was your progression through the different race distances, did you run a marathon before an ultra?
JW: Before running the Vermont 50 (my first ultra) I ran the Breakers marathon in fall 2006, Boston Marathon in 2007, and the Jay ½ Marathon in the summer of 2007. All these races gave me a nice base for ultras, and the road marathons allowed me to realize that running on trails is where I want to be.

SJ: What is your marathon PR and when was it?
JW: As of now my official marathon PR is 3:33 at Boston in 2007, but I’ve ran the Hyannis Course unofficially in 3:08 for a bib

SJ: How has the sport of ultra-running treated you to this point?
JW: I’m lucky to have fallen into this sport, I learn something new on every run, and especially at every race. No offense to anyone, but ultrarunners have a great hold on life, they aren’t out there cramming numbers in there heads every second, franting over mile splits, elbowing for start position, etc etc they are social people who love being outdoors and I can’t get enough of these people. It’s very cool to meet random people at different races and after talking to them for a few minutes, a once completely random person is now offering you a place to stay out in CO or CA for example. It’s the kindness and care I never experienced in road racing, and in turn I try and keep my arms open to people as well. Also, I love the small, tight knit community, and how many races are runner’s races where all the volunteers understand what you want and need, and why on Gods earth you are running 50 miles haha.

SJ: How long do you see yourself participating in ultra-running?
JW: As long as I can move forward. I’ve already had runners knee, patella tendonitis, and battled those injuries with my eye on the future so whatever is thrown at me I will get through it. My goal is to always finish, even I have to crawl across the finish line, so I want to be running for life.

SJ: Do you have a favorite race to this point?
JW: By far my favorite race has been the Pittsfield Peaks 53 Miler. The course is very challenging, and favors hikers so it’s the perfect race for me. Also, I conducted my volunteer work for the VT100 at this course, so after running parts of this course twice, I feel attached to this race and have began to love the difficulty of this race.

SJ: What is the toughest Ultra you've completed?
JW: Definitely the Pittsfield Peaks 53 Miler because it was a killer hot day, and the course is unforgiving. Tons of climbs and switchbacks that you think will never end, but boy does it feel sweet when you peak out on some of those mountains. My best moment in the race came climbing one of the last peaks where I was just in the zone and hiking the thing like I was on an escalator lol, pretty sweet moment. Toughest part in the race came climbing/descending the last section called the “hell section” where I had some killer quadriceps cramps. I ran the race with Sherpa John, and Nate Sanel, so after a tough 12:20 on the course, it was a great feeling to finish a tough course with your buds.

SJ: So tell us a little about your Vermont 100 Run... when and why did you decide to take on the 100 Mile Distance and in Vermont?
JW: I decided to tackle the 100 mile distance shortly after running the Vermont 50 in the fall because the distance is a great challenge. I love being challenged, and what’s better than trying to run 100 miles? Also, I gotta give credit to DK after reading his book Ultramarathon Man, it is truly inspiring, but definitely one of the best moments that made me want to run a 100 miler was seeing Krissy Moehls ’07 finish at the Hardrock 100. I say this because she laid it all out and her emotions signify the amazing feats one can accomplish if you follow your heart. Definitely someone I look up to in ultrarunning and would love to hopefully meet her one day. I chose Vermont because it is close to home, and being a college student, I am lacking the moola it takes to run a race out west! However, once Vermont is over I’m hoping to run the Grand Teton 100 because I’ve never been out west and am dying to see the trails and utter beauty. Well see if I can scrounge up enough quarters from the sofas lol.

SJ: You were recently in a serious car accident and have rebounded from it greatly, tell us about the accident and how things have been since it happened.
JW: Yea the car accident happened on a Tuesday, when the Pittsfield 53 Miler was on that Saturday, so I was pretty upset about the whole situation at the beginning. I was coming home from work and an 80 year old lady simply pulled out on me from 10 feet away when I was doing 40 so not much I could do to avoid the crash. In short, car was totaled, I got ambulanced out of there, diagnosed with internal swelling and a bruised rib cage, and couldn’t lift a thing for a couple days. But, I just stayed positive and focused on being mentally prepared for this race regardless of my situation. I showed up for the race buzzing off ibuprofen and just powered through it with Nate and Sherpa, what a turn of events to be in a hospital bed on Tuesday to crossing the finish line of one of the hardest 50 milers on Saturday! I’m all good now, I am definitely blessed to have recovered so quickly, guess the ultra Gods are looking out for me!

SJ: Supposing you are nervous.. what are you nervous about the most?
JW: I am more excited than nervous for the race, but if I had to pick something to be nervous about it would be my pace. The course is definitely a runner’s course, so I’m just worried about going out too hard, and getting wrapped up in another runners race. My gameplan is to do what I always do though: run my own race, stay consistent, be patient, leave a lot for the finish, and be tough as nails. In the end, we’ll have to see what happens, but as always goal # 1 is to just finish, especially since it’s my first hundred.

SJ: What previous running experiences will you take with you through to the finish line?
JW: I have grown a lot since I started running a little over two years ago. Specifically, I am leaving a lot more for the finish by starting slow, and my race mentally has done a total 360. I used to get bummed out seeing a big hill or long switchback for example, but now I use those situations to remind myself why I am out there. To run for life, to run for those who can’t run, and to push myself to limits that I never thought possible. I am running for the American Cancer Society, so I will have all those less fortunate than me in my mind while running. Also, I run for my twin brother who is my best bud, and he will be in my mind as he will be in Washington training with the Army. My favorite quote to recite while doing ultras is “tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

SJ: Buckle or Plaque?
JW: Buckle, leaving it all out there. But if no buckle, its ok, it’s not the end of the world.

SJ: Do you have a time goal or ANY goals for that matter?
JW: Goal #1 is to always finish, goal # 2 is to go sub 24

SJ: Who is your pacer and who is your crew?
JW: I have my uncle, Richard Miller, who runs the NE mountain series, pacing me for miles 70-85, and one of my buddies Matt Smith, pacing me miles 85-100. My crew consists of those two guys, as well as my parents.

SJ: What is your overall race strategy?
JW: My strategy is to start slow, and to leave a lot for the finish so that I can actually run in the later miles. I’m going to run my own race, work on getting in and out of aid stations because there are so many of them at the VT100 and that’s a place where I do not want to lose a lot of time. Also, I’m just going to break things down like usual, one aid station to the next, run to see my crew next, and just keeping moving forward. Walk all the hills and focus on a quick turnover. I try to keep things simple, and love to eat so if you see my downing pizza at an aid station, pull me out of there!

SJ: What are you excited about the most?
JW: I’m excited to see my crew at least 8 times during the race because they provide me with a huge boost while running, and they can push me even when I look like complete crap during the race. I’m also looking forward to running at night because it’ll be the first time during a race. Also, just stoked about the finish, the excitement and adrenaline of finishing a 100 miler is definitely the thing I’m most excited about.

SJ: Will you be camping or staying in a local hotel or Inn?
JW: I’ll be camping at Silver Meadow with my two pacers (Rich and Matt) so if you see an older guy who looks like he’s from Hawaii (Rich), a young guy with red hair (Matt), or a kid shaking like a leaf (Me) say hello! haha

SJ: Any other 100 Milers that interest you?
JW: Oh for sure, I’m definitely going to try and tick off almost all the hundreds out there, some just don’t interest me as much as others though. But I love the brutal ones, where hiking comes into play and pure endurance, so the top three have to be Hardrock, Grand Tetons, and Wasatch.

We wish you the very best of luck in your endeavor Jeff and we WILL see you at the finish line.

Thanks SJ, goodluck to everyone else running or pacing!
Good Luck!

Jeff is running on behalf of the American Cancer Society and you can donate to his cause by visiting his First Giving Page at: