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Category: mental toughness

Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, right?  Read that last one again.  It’s an interesting line in the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, was influenced by the work of John Locke. Locke wrote about life, liberty, and property as fundamental rights.  It would have been a completely different world if the US was only about pursuing property.

Ultras and part of your inalienable rights

Happiness is a vague term, but I’m glad they used it.  Ask someone to define it and you’ll see what I mean.  Holding happiness is even harder.  I like to relate it to trying to grab a fist full of sand.  You can hold it for a while, but it’s not long before it slips through your fingers.  It’s a perpetual moving target, especially with the challenges of adulthood/aging.  In the Declaration of Independence, we were only guaranteed the pursuit, not actual happiness.  The thing is that you get to decide what to pursue.

What it feels like trying to hold happiness

Our lives can revolve around anything we deem important, the choice is yours.  Nobody will stop you if you have the time or no other commitments.  Things that seem like a waste of time to you could bring others incredible joy and happiness.  You have to be careful where you put your time.  Some choices will bring judgment from others because they can’t relate.  Physical fitness is a fine thing to sink your time into.  I’ve gone deep on running, and most commend you for your accomplishments.  We all have addictions to some degree, it’s just some might be more visible than others.

Freshly bottled happiness after creation.

There are so many choices for your “Pursuit of Happiness”.  How do you know if you picked the right one for you?  One thing you could use to measure it is how long the feeling lasts. I called it the “shelf life of happiness”.  How long after the activity does the feeling begin to fade?  Some pursuits always make me smile when I think about them. 

  • Highest shelf life experiences
    • Difficult challenges
    • Experiences with friends and family
    • Creating art and media
    • Travel
    • Volunteering
    • Teaching

  • Lowest shelf life experiences
    • Consuming media (social, video games, TV, etc.)
    • Impulse purchases
    • Mindless Scrolling
    • Gambling

The high shelf-life memories are burned into my mind and replay often.  The ones I can’t seem to replay are things where I consumed media, be it social, or TV.  The little slices of happiness are short-lived and fade quickly.  We get into this loop of what feels good and makes us happy, so we do more of it.  Those difficult challenges shared with friends and family are the ones that bond people together and go well past the expiration date.  If I start a day with a hard run or workout, happiness can last most of the day.  It makes the other events of the day, even if they are stressful, easier than they should be because the happiness from that activity is still strong inside me.  

Happy memories aging in a jar.

Memories fade, no matter how well we try to preserve them.  Believe me, as someone who’s worn a camera on his head for 100 miles.  Even after a big race, or vacation with friends and family, the photos and videos won’t stop happiness from fading. The days after seem to be the worst.  They are followed by a struggle to set your targets for your next pursuit.  Holding happiness seems impossible because you are trying to lock your state of mind.  We adapt and return to our base level of happiness after coming down from a high.

Memories past the “best by” date on the jar.

Awards, medals, or buckles that sit on a shelf may not seem like they are worth much.  They are worth what they represent.  It is a symbol of an experience, a struggle to do something great while you can.  It’s that old cliche about “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”  Sadly, everything has a shelf life.  Everything spoils at some point.  The best you get is a moment in time. I’m bottling and putting those little moments in jars with friends and family even if they spoil.  The nice house, fancy car, and amazing job mean nothing when you’re 90 years young. The last thing you’ll own is your mind and a handful of memories nobody can take from you.  Good luck with that pursuit in whatever you choose!  

What happy memories last the longest in your mind? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed please share it with someone you think might enjoy it! Thanks for reading!

Rabid Raccoon 100 – You can’t train for this much mud

Rabid Raccoon is a relatively new 100 miler for PA.  This would be the first time I would take on a 100-miler this early in the season, and potentially deal with some cold temperatures.  That was the case last year when they had a low finish rate.  The weather this year was perfect, except for some rain late into the night, it was mostly sunny and warm.  This is a looped race on a course with a few streams running down the trails.  There were multiple variations of the race going on with 2-half marathons, a 100K, and the 100M.  You could also run a 5K the day before.  With this many races going off on a looped course it was getting destroyed by the participants.  Below are some of the issues and things I went through as I battled the muddy Rabid Raccoon 100.  

Right before the start of the race. Training buddy Alex Takacs

What went right

Being a March 100 the race itself changed a lot of my training.  Knowing that you have to complete this in March will make you skip the “off” or transition season.  I enjoyed that and it maintained my fitness from the previous year.

Barefoot Stream Crossing

Went barefoot 3 or of 8 times crossing this stream. It felt good and preserved my feet.

Initially, this helped to keep my feet healthy/dry, but as the course became more and more muddy there was no avoiding getting wet.  On the final loops, there was no avoiding just how waterlogged your shoes became. I think I took my shoes off for 3 loops and it did help keep them in decent shape.

Food Plan

I had pre-made bags with RX bars, cashews, goldfish, and shot blocks.  This worked well for most of the race.  I leaned on the aid stations for real food as always with soup and broth.  

Friends and Crew

This more than anything helped me finish.  I shared the race with several runners from the past.  Sharing the race with some great runners made it worth pushing forward.

Alex Takacs – He kicked off the race with perfect pacing and made the race feel like just another day at the Wissahickon, our training ground.  He was the one that got me to sign up for this race.

Trying to avoid the mud in the beginning. The key word is “trying”.

Phil from – When I saw the long flowing hair and orange shirt I knew it was him.  We shared miles like we did in the Eastern States race.  He was part of a fun crew that helped me get through that difficult 100.

The running sage himself – Phil Perkins

Michael Fatigante (Loop 7) – Rockstar runner Michael not only paced me late into the night, but he took 3rd overall at the half marathon AND was the support crew for a 100K runner.  When he should have been sleeping he was out running loop 7 late into the night.  I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted he wanted to help. I would have thrown in the towel at loop 7 because I was tired, and those aid stations were very comfortable.  BEWARE THE CHAIR as they had a sign that stated.

Who takes 3rd in a half marathon, runs support for 100K, and finally tops it off pacing ME for 4 hours. This crazy guy! God bless his heart. – Michael Fatigante

What went wrong


INSANE level of mud.

How do you train to slide around in the mud?  You spend lots of energy with poor footing and having to calculate every step makes a race more difficult.  Yeah, you could go stomping around in streams in your long run, but it takes 20+ hours for the damage and issues to surface from a race like this.  I was using anti-friction powder and dry socks. LOTS OF DRY SOCKS, I used every pair and I wished I had more.  

Stomach issues after a pepperoni pizza.

What was I thinking?  I asked for a slice and the kid asked if pepperoni was OK.  I said yes, but take my word for it.  Pepperoni is NOT OK in a 100M.  My stomach turned after that and I slowed down for 4-5 miles until it “passed”.

Foot care  

Good luck trying to save your feet

I didn’t pack enough socks. I knew that there would be water and streams in the area, and my initial strategy was working well. However, the trail became excessively damaged due to heavy use. Someone improvised by using trash bags to cover their feet. I wonder if he got across without water seeping in? The persistent mud made it impossible to keep one’s feet dry.

Course tracking died for my friends and family

I reverted to just taking my phone out of airplane mode and texting them after completing each loop. Live tracking broke. I know you can never count on this so always have a backup.  

What I would have done differently

Foot care – Foot care – Foot care

Your feet will be getting wet 8 times and water-logged for much of the day.  Use powder or something to absorb the moisture like spraying your feet with alcohol, or changing into dry socks.  Can you practice this?  Maybe, but it’s really hard to train for this level of mud. It’s funny because I would pass Phil, then tend to my feet, and he would pass me.  Some people don’t need as much foot care, but I like to keep them healthy for as much of the race as possible. 

100 Miler Monster – The Muddy Rabid Raccoon

If they change the course next year I say remove the stream crossing.  It added nothing except novelty to the race.  The course is already so wet.  It also increases their drop rate if temps are frigid.  The course was changed from the previous year, but it should remove some of the sections that are perpetually wet with runoff.  Remove some of the concurrent races.  Focus on just the 100K and 100M and make those the best they can be.  900+ people on a course destroyed the trails BEFORE a single drop of rain fell.  Of all my 100M finishes this one ranks in last place.  Food and aid stations get a 10, but the course gets a 1.  It had some of the friendliest people, amazing food, and the nicest facilities.  If they modify the course and limit the number of races they could have an amazing 100M/100K.    

The French toast bread was an amazing award.

Special thanks to support crew captain and chief – Pascal Durante my awesome father.  I couldn’t have gotten to the starting line in life, and this course without him.  Thanks to my wife and mother for watching the kids. 

Final note: One of the strangest things to happen was raccoons checked out my shoes/poles after the race. I had put them at the back of my house when I got home. This was the first time I had seen raccoons near my house! Weird…

Two raccoons check out my shoes and poles after the race.

My last post talked about battling a “100 Miler Monster”, well this is what I think he looked like. First I tried to generate a “mud monster”, then I tried to do a “Raccoon Mud Monster”. Enjoy!