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Tag: Ultra

Pine Creek Challenge 100 – Friends make all the difference

I have figured out the formula for finishing a 100-mile race. Pine Creek is the 3rd time I have completed the 100 mile distance. The key to all 3 finishes was one underlying theme. Surround yourself with incredible people! I know that’s not easy, and it can be total luck. Don’t get me wrong, there is lots of training you need to do, but that is just a matter of putting in the miles. If you can make friends with complete strangers on the course, find an incredible pacer, or put together a great support crew, you greatly increase the odds of finishing. I have been lucky enough those things happen each time. You are going to be battling your thoughts in the race. Having somebody there to talk with eases the pain. They are there to help push the pace or slow things down if you’re going too fast.

Why is it that in an ultra can you make friends with complete strangers? Is it the fact that you are facing a common goal and you both want to succeed? You create an instant bond because of the shared suffering. So the biggest thing I did RIGHT was to make new friends. It has helped me EVERY SINGLE time in a race, except for Vermont 100 where I was gifted the ultimate pacer by chance.

The other thing I really liked about this race was having a pace chart handy. From this point out, if it is a 100-mile race, it is critical to have every single detail of your race in an easy-to-look at Excel-like grid that is laminated. I am going to create one of these cards for every race at this distance.

Race charts like this make you feel like you are actually making progress in a 100-mile race. Somehow, Michelle, had the entire thing memorized!

The other benefit of running with a friend is you hear about new podcasts and books that are worth checking out. You learn about books and podcasts that might interest you and would never be exposed to. You hear about the most impactful material that is in that person’s life.

Michelle, Amy, and myself at mile 50.

I wouldn’t say I helped Michelle as much as she helped me. We completed it together. In my first hundred, 2 people stayed with me to get me to the finish. I remembered how much of a difference that made to have people to chat with. It helps with your mental state and I couldn’t imagine doing it alone. It was nice to go through the night with someone on their journey.

I am 100% sure Michelle was more than able to have completed it alone, but she was also kind enough to share the experience. Having someone to run the race with also keeps you honest about the pace. We would take turns alternating between a run-walk when combo in the later miles to keep under our pace target. It’s one thing to run 100 miles on your own, but an experience shared is so much more enjoyable.

Some of the things that I would say went wrong in the race were little slip-ups.
I skipped a shoe/sock change at mile 30-40 miles. There was gravel and dust that was getting in the top part of my socks that started to cause a rash. I should have cleaned and swapped socks sooner to prevent that. I also didn’t have enough caffeine intake later in the race and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I finally got a cup of coffee at mile 90 and it made a huge difference. Maybe I can bring my own instant coffee?

I should have had a drop bag at BOTH aid stations, not just the Blackwell. There is something about having access to YOUR stuff that gives ease of mind. Something in the bag you can look forward to that is not at the aid stations. I struggle with knowing what to put in each bag so I opted to put it all in one, which really didn’t work out.

I ran out of water between the longer aid stations, be mindful of a hot hundred and ONLY using handhelds, they actually might not be able to hold enough water if it’s greater than 8 miles between aid stations. I am just grateful the weather wasn’t too intense that day.

What would I have done differently? Not too much, my feet took a beating and I am glad I went with the shoes that I did. I switched out 2 pairs of Altra Torin 5s which felt great and caused zero hot spots. 100s can be extremely lonely, and if you get lucky enough to find a person running a similar pace it is worth staying together. You motivate each other to push when the pain can be unbearable. If I had to do anything different I would have lowered my expectations of a finish time when on a new course.

How would you know what to expect? My “A” goal I realized was going to be almost impossible to hit. My “B” goal was under 24 which I achieved. My “C” goal is to make friends and have fun, but my “C” goal was actually the most important goal. I am GRATEFUL for the experience and will be smiling for the next few weeks with the wonderful memories replaying in my mind. I still feel new to the 100-mile distance and feel like I have a lot to learn. Finally, don’t put your number on your shirt, I was an idiot and switched shirts and forgot to move my number. It should always be on your pants! How could I forget that!

Michelle Goldberg and myself right after the finish.

Final thoughts: I should have never told people it’s going to be easy because it was all flat. I completely underestimated the distance and the terrain. The course was beautiful as you can see from the photos. Would I do the race again? I am not sure… I think I enjoy a more rocky and technical terrain over the endless flat roads. It was great, don’t get me wrong, but I enjoy an actual hill every now and then.

More videos and photos can be found here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/eA6UWL9FSdMsfC1F6

Loopy Looper 2021 – Mistakes you do not want to make in your looped Ultra race.

Loopy Looper - Patrick Durante
Photo Credit: Glassjar Productions
Loopy Looper 2021 – Photo Cred: Glassjar Productions

Recap of my race of the Loopy Looper 12 hour event at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The reviews consist of 3 topics, what went right, what went wrong, and what I would do differently. I call it the RWD race review.

right:
1) Brought lots of ice to the event in a cooler so I could soak drinks and towels.
2) This race was the closest I ever came to dropping. Taking in some salt and just waiting until I recovered save me from a decision I would have regretted for eternity. I took in food, talked with some people, and tried to regain my reason to get back out there once my initial goals had failed. Thank god the guy working medical at the event gave me some S-caps.
3) Bringing a chair for my air station. I would also have brought something to be in the shade. The sun was VERY intense.

wrong:
1) I didn’t realize how much the weather would affect me and I blindly followed a plan without accounting for the weather.
2) I didn’t put ANY sunscreen on so my body didn’t deflect any of that heat and it made my body work harder than it needed to.
3) Food strategy didn’t work, I didn’t like what I brought and ended up NOT eating it. It didn’t have enough salt in it. I didn’t eat enough at their aid stations.
4) Small pop-up tent would have been useful for my aid station, but unsure if its worth the investment. GET TO RACE EARLY AND GO TO SHADE UNDER TREES!

Differently:
Take salt, start PAINFULLY SLOW.
Racing in the heat = PAINFULLY SLOW START WITH NO RECORDS being broken. We all enter a race with a preconceived plan, but it’s our EGO that keeps us going on a path that might be a mistake.
Better food intake with MORE salt on a hot day.
I have had hot races before and I should have started painfully slow. Remember 2019 Vermont? I don’t care what pace other runners are going, just worry about yourself and what feels right. Have more than 2 shoes to rotate! I only had 2 road shoes and wish I had more and one with MORE cushion. I picked up a pair of Altra Torin 5’s to try out for the next 100-mile race. No negative thoughts. Stop asking people how they feel when you run with or by them. What do you really think they are going to say? Most will just complain about something and bring negativity into the race.

Don’t invite the devil inside your house by talking or thinking negatively.

-Patrick

Final Thoughts: This race was run in direct sunlight/heat, and I didn’t manage my pace and salt intake properly. I didn’t have any S-caps and I didn’t realize how much the heat would affect me with lack of taking in salty foods. It started with water building in my stomach that I could feel sloshing around. Once that started to happen I didn’t feel like eating. I made it back to the start and waiting until I felt better. All I could think about was dropping from the race. I had 2 chewable S caps and waited. It was like somebody switched off the pain/suffering. I knew that If I dropped from the race I would regret it for a long time.

The pain cave was SO bad that I almost quit. Using the sit and wait before you make any big decisions worked well. It gives you time to regain your thoughts.

Would you do the race again? I am unsure how I feel about the course and looped races in general. I need to get over this failure first before I can come to a decision. I might take one more crack at this race before I give up looped races. Overall it wasn’t that bad of a result. I still made it for 52.5 miles.

Tussey Mountainback Race – 50 Miler Race Report

I was very excited for Tussey.  It was the first race, where I would need to travel and spend the night in a hotel.  It’s a nice drive up to State College, as it’s very scenic from Philadelphia.  You get a sense of the terrain as you pass the mountains, on the drive that makes up the “Mountainback” part of the race.  Our destination was the Nittany Budget motel.  The best, cheapest place, if you are thinking about doing this race and need a hotel.  The other perk is that it’s a bottle shop, to bad I couldn’t drink, with the race the next day.  After check in, we made our way to packet pickup, which was located at the Toffee Trees hotel.  I thought maybe this would be an expo of sorts, since it’s considered the championship race for 50M, but the race really isn’t that large of an event.  We grabbed a bite to eat at the Allen Street Grill, which was excellent and not too expensive.  It was also next to a convenience store to grab some last minute race essentials.

Once back at the motel, I tried to get some sleep, but the constant stream of cars to the bottle shop kept me awake.  Someone also decided to let their motorcycle idle outside our hotel room for 10 minutes at 12AM.  It didn’t really matter much, as I wasn’t going to sleep well, with the race constantly on my mind.

Morning came and our breakfast was delivered via a double sided lock box accessible from outside.  We headed off to the race start, which was at the Tussey Mountainback ski lodge.  I said goodbye to my Dad, who was driving the support vehicles, and the race was off to a start.  Looking back, it’s both good and bad that they allowed vehicles on the course.  Great when you can see your support at every check point, not that great when a car needs to pass every few minutes.

Dad made the trip up to drive the support vehicle.
Dad made the trip up to drive the support vehicle.

It didn’t take long until we hit our first climb and passed the first aid station.  It wasn’t that far into the race, maybe 3 or 4 miles that I met my new best friend for the day, Shaun Sauer.  We got to talking and realized we both had around the same time goal for the race.  The more we started talking we both realized the larger goal was just completion, and barring no major problems, we were going to complete the race together.  Shaun’s farthest run at the time was 27 miles, mine 31.  We both had some doubts about what would happen once we were past the farthest distance we had covered in training.  It’s uncharted territory for any runner and you don’t know how the body will respond.  That was the part I was fearing the most, what was I going to feel like when I passed 31 miles.  This would be where your mental preparation comes in, which should be a part of your training, but I’ll post on that some other time.  Running with Shaun, we just kept focused on the course and climbs that we needed to conquer.  Both of us were in shock at the long hill in the middle of the course (2300FT from my Garmin). This was the hardest, longest climb I have run to date.  I would recommend hill training in your routine, at least once a week, if you plan to do this race.  I used a hill near my house to do repeats once a week.  The hill takes two minutes to climb, with about 100 ft of elevation. I also did long runs done on a pretty hilly trail system.

Patrick Durante Shaun Sauer Tussey Mountainback
The two differences between my training and Shaun’s was that he did upwards of 70 MPW, and I felt he pushed the pace more than I did.  The training plan, that I was on, had me at 50 MPW.  In hindsight I’d say this wasn’t enough, and at the time of the race, I regret not getting in more.  I’m sure most people say the same thing after the fact, but I fit in as much training as my schedule allowed.  As the saying goes, don’t force it where it doesn’t fit, and I definitely couldn’t fit in any more mileage.  I did get in multiple runs over marathon distance and think that was my only advantage.  Also, my training had more technical terrain.  For Tussey, I would call this more of a road race than a trail race.  This is a perfect first 50 mile race because it’s not rocky or difficult terrain.  Personally, dealing with the distance was tough enough, so I didn’t want to add technical terrain on top of that.
Patrick Durante Shaun Sauer Tussey Mountainback 5
For me, the race became a death march around mile 36.  I developed a blister on my pinky toe, that caused pain with every step I took.  I decided to change shoes because I could feel the hot spot coming on at mile 27.  I put Vaseline on it, which seemed to help for a few miles, but didn’t completely resolve the issue for me.  At two different aid stations, I had to cut the blister to relieve the pressure. It was still painful but bearable.  I did try to patch it with moleskin, but it didn’t seem to stay on my toe.  Next time I would try to prep with more body glide. I have also picked up some feetures socks since then to avoid this in the future.  In training I had zero problems with blisters, but I never ran farther than 36 miles.
Allowing cars on the course is both good and bad.  It’s nice that you get to see your support crew at every aid station, but having to deal with cars passing every few minutes was annoying.  If I had to choose, I would say it’s still more of a benefit. It was nice to be able to tell my dad something as he drove past, and he would have it ready at the next aid station.  This is also necessary for the relay portion of the race, so I understand why it’s needed.
For the last 10 miles of the race, we switched to a run/walk combo.  Almost everyone that I know that does an ultra walks at some point.  In your training you should practice walking fast.  It’s a tool you can use to give your legs a break.  We reached the final aid station, which is 5 miles from the finish, and my last chance I had to check my blister.  I cut it again to relieve the pressure and try to put some moleskin on it.  I picked myself up, and joined Shaun after he met with his wife for the final time.  This was the last leg of the race and it was all downhill.  We pushed the pace as much as we could, but my quads, at this point, were destroyed.  The pain was horrible, so much that it was really turning me off wanting to attempt something like this again.  I just couldn’t wait for this thing to be over, I felt so much of  relief when I turned the corner and could finally see the finish line.  I asked Shaun if he was going to go for it and, and one second later we started sprinting toward the finish.  Behind us I could see there were two runners that were gaining on us, and then, finally it was over.  We crossed the finish line in 8:26:33.  This was faster than I thought we were going to run it, and a great time for my first, and possibly last 50 miler.
Patrick Durante Shaun Sauer Tussey Mountainback 3
I could not imagine having to do this race alone, I actually think I had such an advantage with having a running partner.  It’s less time you would have to listen to your own internal monologue telling you, “This is painful”, “Please stop”, “Why are you doing this?”.  If I had to do it again, the only thing I would change would be upping my weekly mileage to 70-80MPW.  I think that played a big factor in the amount of pain I was feeling in the end.  My final thoughts on this race/distance is that it takes a ton of time to be competitive.  More time than I’m willing to commit, I’m happy with the 50K distance.  I’ll try to perfect my 50K before I would ever attempt another 50 miler.  I keep going back to my first experience at Blues Cruise, and nothing compares to it.  So for next year I think that’s going to make that my main focus and set a goal to place in the top 10.
Patrick Durante Shaun Sauer 2 Tussey Mountainback
There’s three people I have to thank for my big success at this race.  First, it’s my wife for giving me the time with a newborn to train for this race. Second, it’s my dad for making the trip up to State College to support me.  Finally, it’s Shaun for running an entire race with a complete stranger.  This was the most difficult race I have ever run, but running with Shaun made the experience easier.  It did not feel like 8 hours when the race was over.  His support helped me through some really tough patches during the race.  He said I did the same for him, so I’m glad that I could help him achieve his goal.  I really don’t think I would have completed this race otherwise when the pain became almost unbearable.  Running is not a solo sport when you think about it, it can be a team effort.  So if I didn’t have my wife, Dad, and Shaun helping  me I could not have completed this race.
Post race I didn’t really like their food selection.  The soggy hoagies from Subway didn’t taste that great, but they did have live music and beer which was great.  I quickly proceeded to burger king to get a greasy burger and fries with a tub of coke.  I was pretty sure I earned it since I just burned upwards of 7500 calories.  Overall, this race provided me with a very enjoyable first 50 miler experience.  So if you are looking for your first 50 that’s not extremely difficult I would say pick this race for sure.
38 PATRICK DURANTE ********* 65 32 M 23 0-39 2:58:22.17 8:26:33.48 10:08/M
39 SHAUN SAUER 158 47 M 7 45-49 2:58:23.19 8:26:34.50 10:08/M