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Author: Patrick Durante

Shawangunk Ridge Trail Run (30M)

The Shawangunk Ridge Trail (SRT) is a 70-mile trail that traverses the entire length of the Shawangunk Mountains, from High Point State Park in New Jersey, where the SRT intersects the Appalachian Trail, all the way to the town of Rosendale, New York, where the trail ends just beyond a restored railroad trestle 140 feet above the Rondout Creek.

Along the way, the SRT passes through rolling hills, wetlands, rare dwarf pine barrens, sky lakes, waterfalls, and the distinctive white conglomerate cliffs of the Shawangunk mountains uplifted almost three hundred million years ago.

This was a completely new type of race format for me. They label it as an “unsupported” trail race which means a few things. No food, no water, and no trail markings to guide your way. If you get lost it’s your fault, and you gotta find your way back. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well here is my race report of how it went.

What went right

I made sure to diversify my food intake for this race.  I used chew blocks because you can load them in your pack.  Every snack I had in my bag I made sure to split up over the course of an hour and used a 30-minute timer to remember to eat.  Splitting up each snack made sure I was adding calories slowly and easier for my stomach to digest.  Pack was loaded with 4 scoops in the 2L bladder with Tailwind.  The GPX loaded from the race was in reverse so I edited the file down to 30M, you can find the course file I modified here on Garmin.



Water filtering for the course was pretty easy to do, I loaded my bladder to the max at the start, but next time I would have loaded it halfway and used water on the course. I timed my pain relief (cracked my shin on a rock, normally wouldn’t do anything for this distance) and caffeine (halfway mark I felt tired from being up since 12:30 AM) and they made for a comfortable energy and pain experience through the race.

What went wrong

There were a few times I was off course and then had to cross over brush.  This is what slowed me down the most but as I tell my kids, first is the worst.  I couldn’t sleep the night before as I had some pre-race excitement so I decided to leave early so I could charge my car at the destination.  I fell a few times on slippery rocks.  If it rains you will need to be mindful of traction.  The rocks were very slippery at points and only having poles would have helped to prevent some nasty falls.  You need fast feet for this course, which means jump rope and running drills as it is a rocky course.

What would I have done differently?  

Poles would be a must if it was wet!  I should have taken a picture of my kit.  I forgot calf sleeves and you need them to protect from brush in the beginning.  There wasn’t a whole lot I would change with how this race went.  I took my time where it was scenic and enjoyed the course.  I didn’t rush it, was able to locate most trail markers on only went off the trail a handful of times.  Now that I am aware of where the water refill spots are it eases my mind for next time, if there is a next time.  

I used water sources at Mile 3, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23

I used water sources at Mile 3, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23

Final Thoughts:

I just finished the book Die with Zero and it talks about the 3 things we need to maximize our life experience.  We need health, money, and free time.  There are certain experiences that we get locked out of if we wait too long to do them in life.  I was laughing as I don’t think this is a race I could do in my 70s or 80s.  This was a HARDER ultra, but not impossible.  The 70 miler might be worth taking on next year now that I have an understanding of the course.  Someone said that it was harder than Eastern States because of managing both the course and unsupported.  I believe that in the fact that is a ton of food you would need to carry.  It might be a fun challenge for next year. 


Another idea from Die with Zero is the idea of autopilot.  In most races, your brain can go on autopilot following the markers until you finish.  I think that’s why I enjoyed this race so much.  There was no autopilot, you had to be engaged.  You were always paying attention to water, food, and trail markings because if you didn’t you could only blame YOURSELF if you missed it!  That’s how life is, you can easily be going the wrong path and doing the wrong thing far too long in life.  You might think you are going the right way, but it’s only once you have traveled down the wrong path far too long you realize your mistake. In life, you CAN’T turn around!  It’s this idea of living a well-intentioned life and constantly evaluating choices.  That’s kind of what this race reminded me of.  You have to constantly evaluate your decisions in life to see if you have missed a “life marker” telling you that you should have turned.  If only life had more “markers” or signs to show you where you should be going, you may only get little hints here and there.  Autopilot is dangerous as you stop thinking, stop interacting, and stop paying attention to the beauty that life could offer only if you had gone the right way.  I add races I’ve never done every year to avoid autopilot.  What other things in your life are on autopilot?  If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you keep getting what you’ve always got.  CHANGE IT UP!  Go somewhere new, do something different, and add novelty, it’s the only thing that extends how long our life feels.  When we are in routine life speeds by, when we are doing new and novel experiences it slows down.  

I still do some of the same races every year, but I am glad for the new ones I add. They opened my eyes to the beauty and diversity of the trails you will find.  The Catskill Mountains are amazing and I can’t wait to run more races there!

Race Report – Leadville 2023

Traveling for a 100-miler was a new experience, and not really sure I enjoyed it all that much.  I wanted to get to Leadville a few days early to acclimate which meant more time away from family.  Our flight out of Philly was delayed 2 hours.  I should have been mindful of when we were landing.  There was road construction on our way to the motel so we didn’t get there until 4 AM EST.  This didn’t help with acclimation as I came in exhausted and sleep-deprived.  The headaches started the next day as I barely got any sleep.

The race is all about getting up and over Hope Pass

This race is all about the altitude.  I know I can do the distance as this would be my 8th 100.  My thought was to get there early to see if I would suffer from altitude sickness.  By getting there early I could get in a few test runs to see how bad it affected performance.  My biggest issue was just an intense headache at night when I lay in bed which made it impossible to sleep.  The two nights before the race I had a combined sleep time of maybe 4 hours.  Pre-race excitement wasn’t helping my cause.  

The low humidity is amazing to run in.  I think it led to fewer shoe changes and blister issues because my feet felt amazing most of the race.  They did get wet in the stream crossing after Twin Lakes 1.

The sun’s intensity in Colorado is something to be aware of.  Make sure you have ample sunscreen or clothing to protect yourself.  I wore a lot of white to help reflect the heat.  I wore white arm sleeves, a white shirt, and a white hat, but I should have had a hat that covered my neck.  Don’t forget to reapply the suntan lotion with all the sweating you will be doing!

My food strategy didn’t work.  I got food fatigue from what I had to eat during the race.  This wasn’t a big deal as I just started taking more from the aid stations.  I stopped grabbing my little prepacked snacks in my drop bags.  I realize I need more diversify what I will be eating for 24-30 hours. 

What went right?

I gave myself mini breaks on the climb to Hope Pass, resting to catch my breath.  The climb was so long that sitting a few times rejuvenated me.

A runner by the name of Sandra was having a bad day.  She actually kind of broke down a bit when she told me that she had done the race over 10 years ago and wanted to see if experience could trump youth.  It didn’t seem like that was going to be the case for her today because it looked like she was going to drop at Winfield (turn around).  She was using “Spring Energy” awesome sauces and it tasted amazing!  She traded a few of them to me and I am grateful she did.  I picked up some chew blocks on the course and they tasted better than what I was eating.  I know this is a crazy statement, but maybe what you train with eating shouldn’t be used on race day.  You kind of want something new and different, I know that is risky but if you have no GI issues I don’t think it’s a problem.

Pacers make all the difference

At 76.2 (Outward Bound 2) as I came into the aid station someone randomly called out, “Hey, would you like a pacer?”.  I said sure, why not.  This is when I met Jeff Spencer, he was a huge boost when I really needed it most.  The only reason he was there was because his original runner had dropped out, Marge Hickman.  Marge Hickman is a fourteen-time finisher of the Leadville Trail 100, a four-time big buckle achiever, holding the record for most finishes by a woman, and was women’s champion in 1985! 

What would I have done differently?

Give yourself the entire day to travel there, I had only given half the day.  Be mindful of when you are landing as you travel for a race because of delays.  

Line up a pacer beforehand!  Pacers are so useful, not sure why I didn’t try to coordinate one for such an important race.  Going forward I should look for opportunities to pace others, I think it’s fun yet I’ve only done it once.

I would have got there way earlier and given myself more time to acclimate.  3 days before the race was not enough.  I also would have picked up the medication for headaches.  Leadville was such a beautiful amazing town that it would be interesting to go back with my family.  

Be FAST at the aid stations.  I was faster than normal, but still not enough.  Even if you spent 5 minutes at each aid station that would be an hour on this course.  Get in, grab food, and stuff your pockets, then eat as you walk.  It will make a huge difference in race time.  

Final Thoughts:

Since this race has been going on so long I met a lot of what I call “faded glory”.  People trying to relive past performances to show they still have it.  To live up to an expectation that is doomed to fail in chasing the performances of our youth.  It made me think about my own trajectory.  20 years from now will I be doing the same thing?  Trying to run races I did 20 years ago and struggling to match performance.  Will I try to redo races from my 30s-40s to see if I am still capable?  I might have hit the highest point in my running career (12,394 elevation), both physically and proverbially.  I might not ever top this, and If I keep going down this path I might be setting myself up for a huge disappointment later in life.  So what do you do?  Transition to inspire others!  At what point do you remove yourself from the game?  I’m not sure but it’s a thought that’s rolling around in my head.  Maybe it’s time for a change?

The course was amazing, the views were like nothing I had ever seen.  The altitude played a huge factor and affected multiple aspects of the race, but I worked through it.  Picking up Jeff as a pacer was a huge boost, from his constant encouragement and overall concern for my well-being it made for a strong finish.  His actions in aid stations helped save the time necessary to secure the buckle so I can’t thank him enough.  

To the crazy kids who choose this as their first 100, I admire you.  I ran into 8 or 9 first-time 100 milers who picked this as their entry into doing 100s.  Personally, that’s not how I operate.  I slowly step my way up, look at the big picture, and take calculated steps to ensure success.  BORING!  I know, right?  I don’t want to wait another year, or 2, or 10 to take another shot at this.  You only get one chance and 100s are so complex.  You need to make sure you do everything to improve your odds of success.  The fact they let in so many first-timers is great, but ask yourself, just because I can, does that mean I should?  Why deal with the distance AND the altitude?  Having knocked out 8 of these races doesn’t make me a pro, it just makes me aware of what can go wrong.  100s mirror life in many ways, but like anything “the first is the worst”, so why make it harder on yourself?  

Maribell puts the medal around my neck.
Merilee told me: “Welcome to the family”

Merilee whispered in my ear as she put the medal around my neck, “Welcome to the family”.  They are building a brand, they want you to have an amazing experience that’s hard to top and they want to hook you early.  Hence no requirement to enter the race.  Maybe that gets some young rockstars, but showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.  I am glad I waited to take on this beast of a race.  It was a long race, but it wasn’t the worst I felt in an ultra.  It was just the closest I ever had to being timed out.  Do whatever you can to eliminate the altitude and I think you will have a greater likelihood of success.  So medication, get there 2 weeks early, or get an altitude tent at home if you have money to spare.

Thank you, Jeff, Dad, and everybody who watched the kids.

A Dog’s Purpose

I was admittedly young and naive at 29 when I first welcomed him. Little did I know then, I was effectively entering an unconditional pact guaranteed to break my heart eventually. Loving an animal inherently imparts a few crucial lessons when they pass away.

Lesson 1: Brighten the days of those around you without expecting anything in return.

I was here first!

A dog’s presence is almost always enjoyed. Are people equally pleased with your company? Or are they deterred by it? Interestingly, most times, people are genuinely happy to see a dog. It’s scientifically proven that canines improve mood and well-being, particularly among seniors. When a dog enters your life, it significantly widens your emotional horizon, teaching even the most self-centered individuals to care for someone beyond themselves. The reliance of these furry friends on their human companions is evident through shared adventures, frequent dog park visits, and their significant presence in our daily routine.

Lesson 2:  A dog’s love doesn’t fade.  Their love is a sure thing.  How many people would you say that about?  Near the end, you have to unlove them or change the love to compassion to end suffering.  As you watch the life leave their body you question what was the point of all the time spent, but that’s why I am writing this.  To remember the cliche saying of its better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all.  It’s their final lesson and no second spent with them was time wasted. 

Lesson 3: Nobody is immune to times arrows.  You watch as that puppy ages into an elderly dog, while you feel like you have remained the same but they have not.  The feisty puppy becomes a mature senior, and the things that used to be easy are challenging.  You’re reminded of your own mortality and fragility.   Any act to save him would have been for my own selfish reasons.  It would have just pushed the goodbye back a year down the line while the quality of life degraded.  Dogs are so friendly and compassionate that putting them to sleep feels like a betrayal of trust.  If you are ending their suffering, it is easier to make this decision.  

Give me a kiss!

Lesson 4: Goodbyes are hard, but don’t focus on the “tail end”.

As hard as goodbye are and I sat alone with his lifeless body I knew that if I did anything drastic to extend his life it would be for my sake not his. We had plenty of good times and it’s remembering the journey, not the final tail end you have to focus on. 

Goodbyes are tough.
Goodbyes are never fun…

Final Thoughts:

Where does a dog’s spirit go?  A runner’s spirit goes to his final race.  I think a dog’s spirit goes to a massive dog park with all the friendly dogs it once played with, basking in the sun, and running around until they are tired. They are waiting for their owners to pick them up once their time has expired… Maybe…

They say it can be harder to deal with the death of a dog vs a family member depending on their role in your life. That makes sense as a dog is in your daily routine, from when you wake up, to before you go to bed. Hell, most dogs even sleep in the same bed. I think I agree with that statement.   

Oliver Durante

5/18/10 to 8/6/23

He was the first video I posted to youtube.