A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thoughts - May 5 - The Pros of Actually Racing the 100 Mile Distance

I'm in the process of finalizing my strategy for the Massanutten 100 race coming up in a little over a week.

Now believe me, in all my years of racing the 100 mile ultra distance is the most difficult to finish. Especially when most of it is on single track trails.

So it might seem logical to play it safe here, bide my time, and the hurting should be kept to a minimal, right?

Well, no.

One thing I always hear from those who regularly do 100 mile ultras is that the hurting is always inevitable. It doesn't matter how slow one goes; it will hurt just the same.

And I'm never one to shy away from taking risks.

So this week, instead of a "playing it safe" scenario, I have decided to take a little bit more risk with this race. There are several powerful reasons for this:

1) The race is primarily over rough single-track trails. Over the past decade I have come to find out that I am more inefficient running too slowly over rocky trails. It feels unnatural and can increase the chances of sustaining an injury. As an example, most of the time, I turned my ankle taking it too easy on the trails. My more natural stride comes out when I go at a bit of a faster rate of speed. I am actually more efficient at that pace and would minimize myself from injuries.

2) I really would like to try to race this distance. I know that most runners who enter the race are just trying to survive and just get to the finish line, but it still is a race. How would I fare if I go in with a mentality to strive for a fast time on this course? That is one question that cannot be answered by "playing it safe". How would I ever know my true potential if I don't take some risks at this distance?

3) The faster pace will give me a chance to manage myself better through some true crises. This is a huge reason. I would have to be in a very heightened sense of awareness to prevent an onset of a crisis, manage crises when they do arrive, and recover well from those crises when they finally abate. It would be a great learning experience to see what mistakes I make and how to try to avoid those mistakes in future 100 milers.

4) I like to take a shot and go under 24 hours in the Leadville 100 race in August. Whatever might transpire at Massanutten can be a bit of a learning experience for Leadville.

Leadville 100

5) Even if I do not finish the race, at least I knew I gave it a good shot. Improving oneself is never without risks. To stay in ones "comfort zone" is to stay stagnant and never really improving much...and learning more about oneself in the process. To "live on the edge" is to really get a chance to see what one is made of. Sure, there is a greater possibility of a DNF, but it also gives one the possibility to realize his/her true potential. In this case, maybe I will have the race of my life. I would never get that possibility by playing it safe.

Now that you know the reasons for me taking the extra risk, I will lay out my plans for tackling this difficult course in the next blog entry.

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I will be volunteering at the Anthony Wayne Aid Station of the North Face Endurance Challenge station this Saturday. And the next week is my big race. After Massanutten, I'll be right back to planning group runs (and rides also for triathletes) on selected weekends.

I wish all of you luck on your respective races this weekends. If you are going to the North Face Endurance Challenge on Saturday, it's always easy to spot me. I'm the one with the Tilley hat on. Take a pause and say hi!

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