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Category: Ultra

Blues Cruise 2019

What went right?

If you are going to run your first ultra, the Blues Cruise 50K is the one to pick. That’s just what I did years ago and I keep coming back. The vibe of this race is incredible!
This was my 7th time racing Blues Cruise and I had what I call “fun with race day friends”. That’s when you meet new people on the trail and have a great time with them!

Patrick Durante with Kate Sidoli and Jessica Gockley
Sharing the miles with some super fast ladies!
Kate Sidoli and Jessica Gockley
PHOTO CREDIT: Teodor Beekneeyosec

I meet an incredible group of very fast women, all of which won awards in their respective age groups. Making friends can lead to a better race, but its the type of thing that only happens in ultras. It’s the shared suffering that creates a sense of comradery with strangers. You get to take your mind off the pain and it makes the running feel effortless! It places a limit on your suffering and for myself, I seem to run faster! My times are varied for this race, but maybe its because I don’t meet the right people? I’m unsure, but I finished right at 5 hours and felt great. I gave the race everything I had and that’s all one can hope for, just doing your best.

Trailing behind Kate Crane… As she took 1st place Masters.
PHOTO CREDIT: Teodor Beekneeyosec

What went wrong?

I set the virtual pace on my watch at 9:20 and was going to stick to that pace. This was based on what I had done in years previous. While in the race I had more fun running with strangers than focusing on time. I dropped the time goal and just made it about having fun. The people you are running with are better company than the clock. Know when to abandon something that no longer serves you, especially your watch!

I felt a lack of strength in the last 3 miles, the race taking its toll. I still lack late-race leg turnover, which means I lack strength.  Next year I plan to incorporate more strength and signed up for CrossFit classes at CrossFit Kanna. If I had structured workouts with a group I think I’ll find the missing link to better performance.

Relief!
PHOTO CREDIT: Teodor Beekneeyosec

Final thoughts:

10 minutes after the race, I’m in pain but sad. It went by so quick! I don’t want my season to be over! When you are having fun time flies. That night I couldn’t even sleep. I was excited about how well the race went and how much fun I had. I hate to think about the day when I can no longer do this. I just love these long races. Races are the easy part of the season. You are filled with such excitement and being in the race is pure joy. I hope I can keep running until I’m 90! If I can’t I will just find something new to excite me that matches my physical ability.  Keep moving, keep training and keep racing! I always say there will come a day when I can no longer do this. Today was not that day, but hopefully, that day never shows up… 

The loop!

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. 🙂

Trail Runner Nation – Tips for Racing and Running

My favorite running podcast is Trail Runner Nation.  If you haven’t heard of it stop now and go check it out.  I’ve listened to most of the shows in their library.  There are so many good quotes and tips for training.  Here are just some of the ones I’ve written down, and my thoughts on the different topics.  I’m sorry I don’t know what episode, or who said them, but just go listen and you’ll find out.

  • You never know where your last finish line will be. You are lucky to get to do this so enjoy it, smile, and have fun out there.
  • If you plan a quality workout also plan quality recovery. The day following a hard workout needs to be easy. You need more recovery as you age. Listen to the signs your body gives you!
  • Invisible training – it’s getting sleep and everything we need for recovery.  That could be lots of rest, yoga, foam rolling, etc…
  • Road and speed require more “invisible training” than trail.  The trail is not as hard on the body as road running and racing can be.
    • ** This made me think about giving up all road racing next year.  I really agree with this. **
  • Work on leg turnover, it needs to be in your schedule. Try the Yasso track workout.
  • If you put miles in the bank you will pay interest on them later. So go out slow in a race.
    •   Don’t be an idiot first half, and dont be a wimp the second.
    •  “Run with the mayor” at the start of the race. (Run in the back and work your way up through the crowds.)
  • Cramping occurs from dehydration , low electrolytes, or running at an intensity the body can’t sustain.  Train for race and test the pace!!!!!
  • Listen to your body. Take note of what you are doing during training. How much you sweat, pee, and how much food you need. It’s all rehearsal for race day. Adaptations happen over time and you need to know what you were doing when things go right, just as much as when they go wrong.  Have a change log if you modify things with your routines/training.
  • Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day try to start a routine. A body in motion stays in motion.
  • Save music for later in a race when you are not feeling good, or as a reward at a certain mile marker.  It may give you more motivation.
  • As mileage increases so should rest, stretching, good nutrition, and massage. Take care of the body more so it recovers better from the stress.
  • Have an “A” race and “B” race. Focus the effort and training to the more important race.  Have an “A” goal then “B” goal for the race itself.
  • More supportive shoe on race day.
    • You should have many shoes that work the foot in different ways. Race in a shoe with heel support because of added strain. Train in zero drop if you can work it in slowly.
  • Finish fast on long runs. Simulate what happens in a race. In training test running hard while you are dehydrated and have tired legs.  This will help you train for race day.
  • Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement.
  • Drink to thirst.  Don’t be waterlogged and wash out electrolytes come race day. You should not be peeing clear come race day.  Don’t eat too much fiber. Take S caps before the race will prevent the need to pee. You need electrolytes to process fat and food, if you don’t you may have stomach issues. If you don’t have electrolytes then water and food that enters the body will be rejected. Take an s cap or hammer tab so you have the right balance.  (Really applies to longer races).
  • Visualize the race and how it will play out. Do it daily up until race day. See yourself successful and running the course to completion.  A good time to practice this is when you go to bed at night.
  • Race specificity – mimic the next race course and conditions during your training.
  • Don’t let your feet or arms cross over the middle of your body.  Perform an inventory check while running on your form every 10 – 15 minutes.  This is even more important as we start to fatigue.  When we get tired our form starts to suffer.  
  • Your training should be on a cycle.  3 weeks at regular intensity with the 4th week at 20 percent less mileage/intensity. This allows time for the body to adapt to the training.  The benefits from training come when you take a break.  It gives your body a chance to rebuild.  If you’re always going at 100% you never give your body a chance to repair.
  • Mental rehearsal before a big event increases chances of success.
  • Be autonomous!  Know everything there is to know about your body.  Know how much sleep you need, how much recovery, water, and food you need on a run.  You’re an experiment of 1.  Use your training to test different methods of fueling and pacing.  Practice!  This comes back to the idea of rehearsal for success.
  • Slow weights – see Phil Maffetone