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Author: Patrick Durante

Vermont 100!

The biggest question about running 100 miles is – How do you train for it? Consistency! Run every day or almost every other day. Find a schedule that works for you! Most advice says to match the course and conditions of race day. The issue with that advice is nobody knows what race day will bring. So what do you do? Just run and make training difficult! Run as much as you can fit into your schedule. Run with a weighted vest, run sprints. Run hill repeats, just do things you might not normally do. Cross train and just do things that keep you active. The thing about 100s, much like life, is the formula that works for one person may cause another person to DNF. Push your limits in training so come race day you have incredible mental confidence. The day of the race you will have to go beyond what you thought you could do, or most want to do. That is done by being consistent, holding a steady pace, and having fun the entire time!

Oil Creek 100 Miler – Mud, rain, and pain…

Why Oil Creek?

Titusville, PA is somewhat close to where I live.  It’s about 5-6 hours outside of Philadelphia.  The past few years my father has run my support crew, which consists of just him.

I did the normal distances before the 100 miler.  2 years ago I finished the JFK 50 Miler, then last year I completed Boulder Field 100K (62 miles).

I decided to do something very different with my training.  If you listen to the Jocko podcast you will hear about the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu.

 Jiu Jitsu is a great workout both mentally and physically. You want to be strong for it and flexible for it. You want to have explosive energy and you want to have endurance. So it’s a very good all-around physical conditioning tool. Jiu Jitsu is probably the No. 1 activity that I could recommend to someone to improve their lives overall.

He speaks so highly of Jiu-Jitsu I decided to see if it would help improve my running.  I decided against the 80-100 mile training weeks that would normally leave me injured.  I worked for years on proper running form, now I just needed the mental side of the training.  I was hoping it would get me through the long night.  I would perform less running in the hopes of learning a new skill.  I knew the race would be more mental than physical.  The saying goes, “An ultra is 90% mental and the other 10% is in your head”.  I signed up forJiu-Jitsu classes at East Montgomery Martial Arts taught by Mr. Exaros.

Was I was going to jeopardize my racing?  There are different types of submissions you perform. Some of them were painful, and I did get injured.  Like any new activity, there is a learning curve, and I just needed to be patient.  After 6 months of Jujitsu, I did notice more strength and confidence, and mentally I believed I could take on anything!  My race times were also improving.  I took that as a sign that it was working, so I was ready for the hundred!

Earlier in the year, I had a very muddy 50K that taught me a valuable lesson about shoes.  Thankfully, it taught me that I need to train and prepare for the WORST conditions whenever I race. Little did I know that Oil Creek would be the worst race conditions I have ever experienced…

Race Conditions  – What 85% of the trail looked like.

This is what the course looked like.

It rained multiple times you were on the course.  Mostly after loop 2, you were wet the entire time.

What worked?

The aid stations that had food were about 8 miles apart. AS #2 and AS #4 allowed you to have a drop bag. Because the conditions were so poor for this race, having a change of clothes and shoes was critical. I made sure to pack 2 aid station bags with a separate pair of shoes and outfit.  I had to change out of wet socks and clothes multiple times to avoid chafing.  Thankfully, the aid stations were only 8 miles apart for food.  This gave you a chance to recharge and pull yourself together.  I had zero stomach issues and was able to keep eating the entire time.  This was important as it kept my energy up.

Sharing the miles 

My best races have always been with complete strangers and this race was no different. It’s amazing how you can create a bond with people you don’t even know.  I guess it is because you are all suffering against the same course. I met Erin around mile 2 or 3 and we ran the majority of the race together. She was a 7-time Ironman finisher and was a WAY stronger trail runner. We talked about everything from family, work, life, and all the things we experience out on the trail.  For her, it was her second time at the race so I looked to her for guidance about the course and what to expect.  Neither of us was prepared for just how bad the weather would get, but we kept going.  We kept moving forward and we didn’t stop, even when lighting struck very close to us.

What went wrong?

I could have gone through aid stations a little bit faster. That would have shaved off an hour. It might have come at the sacrifice to my feet. I was very concerned about blisters so I made sure to change my shoes, shirt, pants, and socks any chance I could. I had read that if you take care of your feet you can get through a 100M. It was just a lot harder to do with all the rain.

One regret was I didn’t bring my small raincoat for my pack.  Apparently, hypothermia is a real concern and I was lucky the temperature wasn’t any lower.  

Are we done yet? Going home loop!

Best race moment?

Sitting on a bench in the middle of the woods with Erin and Gilbert.  We sat there, broken, but we knew aid station 4 was close, and this was our final loop. All that we had left to complete was the “Going Home” loop. The funniest part of the race was when we arrived at #AS 4 and Gilbert’s wife informed him if he completed the race by 10 AM she could see him finish.  She had to be at work.  He sped off, out AS#4 without even saying goodbye.  He really wanted his wife and family see him finish.  I don’t blame him for that.  It made both Erin and I laugh because he kept saying how much pain he was in.  He wanted to quit so bad.  I didn’t understand how he changed it around so quickly.  We did see him after the race and his feet were completely destroyed.

Summary of the race?

You will meet all types of people in an ultra. Everyone is struggling through the race. They can make the difference in how hard you push.  They can motivate you, inspire you, and they might even wait for you if you are slower. Thanks, Erin 🙂

Was it painful? Yes, but if you ignore it long enough you get used to it. The pain came in waves so you just needed to ride it out.  Night racing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. You just need a good headlamp and lots of caffeine!  I also found it incredible, if I kept repeating to myself, “I feel no pain” over and over again the pain would kinda stop… slightly.  This always reminds me of the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Would you run the race again?

Yes! I want to run this thing on dry trails!

I have to thank my wife first for watching the kids and parenting all weekend. My father for driving and supporting me during the race. He asked for nothing in return, or maybe he did but I just ignored him. 😉

I would also like to thank Erin and Gilbert for being awesome race companions!  Final race time:

28:57:42.30   #32nd Place out of 70 runners and 170 total starters.  62% drop rate!

Me and Erin coming in for a speedy finish

When you take on challenges like this in life everything becomes a little bit easier.   On the way home, we stopped by a Burger King for some much-needed junk food.  The cashier said that chicken tenders were going to be an extra 5 minutes to the lady in front of me.  I had never seen somebody get so angry in my life over having to wait 5 minutes.  Her response was, “well I guess this isn’t really fast food!”.  She stormed out of the store while yelling at her husband to wait for them.  It made me think about our expectations, and how we manage them.  If you are able to be understanding, adapt, or change your perspective in life I think you can take on any massive challenge.  Even one like this, where SO many things will go wrong.  It’s not about what happens to you, things always go wrong.  It’s how you respond!

This is what it was all about! A belt buckle I probably never wear. 🙂

My system to complete a 100 mile race

“Why do you want to run 100 miles?”  Same reason you want to run 5, 10, 13.1, and 26.2.  It is an awesome feeling to finish a new distance for the first time.  I want to keep progressing.  The marathon doesn’t need to be the last distance you finish.  Completing a new race distance raises the bar for your life.  100 miles will be more mental than physical.  I want to be tested.  I raced hard the past few years to get to this distance.  I am ready.

The race will be the Oil Creek 100.  One of the top 100 mile races in Pennsylvania.

How do you train for a 100?  The same way you train for a trail marathon, get weekly totals close to 100 miles.  Make sure the terrain and elevation you train on have a similar profile to the race.  Strength training is important. I joined a jujitsu class to work on strength and focus.  The race is 98% mental.  How do you train the mental side of the race?  Make the training difficult and push your limits, but get to the starting line healthy.  I want to avoid over training.

What do I gain if I complete the race?  A belt buckle? An incredible sense of accomplishment?  I want the story, I want the experience under my belt, not on my belt.  There is never a right time to do this in my life.  I am doing it for myself mostly, to become a more tolerant person.  If I can endure this pain I can endure anything.  Distance running teaches patience.

Life is too much routine.  Break the routine with something big.  Something different, an experience worth remembering.  If you have the willpower and the focus, which most lack, give something big a chance.