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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Short Report on the Vermont 2012 - Unbelievable!

This weekend, in a word? WOW!

Statistics couldn't tell me around which time I will be coming in during this 100 mile ultra. The variability is just to large for an accurate result in a race as long as this.

So I had to go with my gut feeling instead. And my gut feeling was I had an "outside shot" of going under 24 hours and maybe get a belt buckle.

But better than 21 hours and 24 minutes? I would have never thought that I was capable of this. 53rd place overall? No way.

As a matter of fact, I was holding the Midnight Pace (12 min/mile, or 20 hours that would make for a midnight finish) or better for this race until mile 80!

Better yet, I was still running everything except the steep uphills all the way to the finish. Granted that my running form wasn't looking very good after mile 90, but whatever "bad form" of running I was doing was definitely faster than a walk. And even on the uphills I was still walking quite fast.

I started having a feeling that I was going to have an epic race at mile 28, when when I easily went up and over the Sound of Music Hill.

That feeling got bigger when I handled Agony Hill in a suprisingly easy fashion(mile 50) as well. In 2010, I suffered up that hill. When I got to the top this year still feeling strong, I KNEW something good was happening.

Getting back to Camp Ten Bear 2.5 hours faster than in 2010 and during the daytime was the clincher. I was still feeling very well. I just told myself to go with it the rest of the race.

Again, I have to thank my crew AL, RL, and NC for an excellent job they did in the race. I owe them a lot of gratitude for my race this past weekend.

I used this race as part of a thesis. After a DNF in Leadville and really not getting anywhere with ultra races the past couple of years, I decided to find out whether going back to triathlon training might help in ultras as well.

Well, it definitely did!

I'll fully detail it in coming reports, but in short there are two primary reasons why triathlon training did work:

1) Since triathlon training trains a lot more muscles than just ultra training alone, I was able to put in a lot more hours of training swimming, biking, and running rather than running alone. This is one of the primary reasons why I toed the start line at least 15 pounds lighter than in 2010.

2) More developed quadriceps. I think all the cycling I did really built up my quadriceps to the point where the hills were much easier to manage. I also did a lot more trail running which helped as well. Handling the hills in this course was the most critical difference between this year and 2010.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm off to buy an appropriate belt for my sub 24 hour belt buckle.

That's all for now. The official race report and pictures will be up soon.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Music Selection for Vermont 100

I had a nice little run yesterday with a great group of people on the trails yesterday evening.

Most of the group went the 8 mile distance. Three of us opted to do the shorter 4 mile distance and kept the pace easy.

Of course, the reason why I went short is because of my 100 mile ultra on Sunday.

Even though it was only 4 miles, I made sure to thoroughly gauge my legs during the run for any signs of tiredness. Happily, there was none.

Which means I'm 100% on track to be 100% on Saturday as I toe the start line for the Vermont 100. :-)

Physically, everything is going swimmingly. I'm still addressing the mental part a bit. In short, I'll be fine there too. Basically the first 30 miles is going to be the fun part, as I attempt to talk to all those around me and strike up conversations as I initially plod in an easy pace.

After that, I'll essentially become a zombie. And that's where the music comes in. Hey, running zombies need music too, right?


Starting today, I'll be blasting some uplifting music as I go about my daily activities. The music sticks clearly in my head for a while before it starts to fade out, which is great to have in a race.

I don't use an iPod when I run anyway, so it's good to have some songs running in my head to lift my spirits. Listening to them repeatedly for the week prior to the race will help me in that regard.

And what do I usually listen to?

Well, I'm a metalhead. Meaning most of my music will be of the metal or hard rock variety. And since I'm an old geezer, I regularly listen to classic metal.

Iron Man by Black Sabbath is definitely on my list. Being a triathlete, how could it not?

AC/DC has a whole list of songs that I listen to that have a great beat to. Highway to Hell would be the most appropriate for my race this weekend, right? Come Saturday Night I should arrive at some point in hell. :-)

Instrumentals by Joe Satriani, including "If I Could Fly" would definitely be apt for this ultra. His "Speed of Light" is a beautiful instrumental also.

Oh, of course there are other songs outside the realm of classic metal that I will definitely listen to.

Where can I be without Frankie Goes to Hollywood telling me to Relax during my race?

And that quirky song "I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles" by the Pretenders. Listen to the lyrics and it's definitely one for the ultra! When I paced a friend in the Vermont 100 in 200, this was his song. I'll be taking it for my own this year.

This is just a short bunch of songs on my extensive list. With these rattling around in my head I should be golden for this weekend!

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Upcoming Events

Yes, tomorrow's trail run is on. Even though I am doing only 4, NC has offered to go more miles if anyone takes her up on it. It would be 7PM at the Carousel at Willowbrook Park.

Just to mention the other events that SIAC members are doing this week, there is a track workout this afternoon at Msgr. Farrell High School at 6:30PM. They just started their fall marathon training, so if you have one on your calendar, these workouts would definitely be beneficial. There will be a gathering at the Manor House afterwards if you're in a festive mood.

Thursday Tommy Hart will have his 3 mile run on Thursday at Clove Lakes Park at 7PM. From what I heard there will be a barbecue afterwards. $3 covers the food and beverages. I might go there not for the run, but for the gathering after the race.

Saturday, if you are trail minded, you can do the run at High Rock Park with DC as your host. Meet him at 8AM at the High Rock Parking lot. Temps this weekend should be cooler than during the week, so if should be a great day to run trails!

If you want to run on roads this Saturday, you have a choice between the Booking for Backpacks 5k or the Dan Kelly Twilight Mile. Or, if you're sporting enough, do both events!

And Sunday is the SIAC long run at Clove Lakes Park. Meet at 7:20AM so that the group can depart at 7:30AM. This, along with Tuesday's track workout will help you prepare for your fall marathon.

Now that I said a mouthful (or is it typed a finger-full?). Time for me to rest. :-)



Monday, July 16, 2012

Vermont 100 - Anticipation!!!


One thing about these really long endurance races is when it's only days away, I'm not sure how to react. There are a variety of emotions that are playing through my head right now. Here are a few:

Relief: After 6 months of training, the race is finally here. It doesn't matter what the outcome is, come next Monday, the race is over.

Anxiety: How am I going to do in a race that has the ability to kill me? This is no ordinary race like a marathon. A lot of people drop out of races like the Vermont 100 because the distance is so damn long and the terrain difficult to boot. When I completed this race 2 years ago a full 45% dropped out of that race primarily due to the heat (91 degrees that day).

Fear: There is a spiritual side to this race. Races like Vermont have the ability of stripping all of your protections and shields, leaving you vulnerable and face-to-face with your limitations. It's how my vulnerable self deals with those so called limitations whether to quit there or fight back and define new limitations for myself. I remember coming face-to-face with this in Vermont 2 years ago and I succeeded. I also came face-to-face with limitations on a more severe course in Leadville. I tried, but couldn't get my butt over Hope Pass in time.

Spirituality: While spirituality is not really an emotion, I will place it on the list anyway because I think it's important. Somehow, these races, along with Ironman triathlons, have the ability of breaking down your soul and building it back up again in a different way. Somehow I've always emerged from these races a different person somehow. Unlike the shorter races, these races are so, just, EPIC, that there is no way you can emerge from the race the same way. In a way, spirituality is getting to know yourself more on a deeper level. And you have to dig VERY deep in order to go far in these long races, so it all makes sense.

There are other emotions going on inside my head right now but they are not as important as the ones listed above.

Unless you want to call the constant irrational screaming inside my head an emotion. If I describe it, you might think I'll need a straight jacket, so I'll conveniently leave it out. ;-)

I travel up with a good crew on Friday. Keep sending those good vibes my way. I'll take any you can offer. :-)

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Wednesday night, the trail run is still on. I myself will only be doing 4 miles due to the 100 mile ultra this weekend, but if you know the trails, you can definitely go longer if you want.

This Saturday, DC will be leading the trails in our absence (I'm taking a couple of good trail running ladies with me to witness my journey through hell this Saturday as part of my crew). I would again thank DC for filling in this Saturday. Anyone who is interested in running trails this weekend would be happy to be in his capable hands.

And don't forget the Full Moon Trail Run. Although my legs might not be working well next week, at least I'll have 2 capable arms painting some bricks gold for that event. The first full moon happens on Wednesday August 1. We will initially set the course at 5k instead of 5 miles because running in sand is very difficult and I want people to get used to the sand (believe me, it's not easy). I will make the course longer in subsequent races.




Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mental Recovery Needed Soon

Yesterday I wrote about that "Window Of Opportunity" that exists for each athlete during the racing season. Once that window closes, athletes need to take steps to scale back everything about their training to allow their bodies to recover from all the hard training it had to deal with in the previous 6-8 months.

I'm getting those subtle reminders that that goes for the mind too.
 I've only got about 9 days until my biggest and most gruelling race of my racing season, the Vermont 100 Mile Ultra. And in the back of my mind, the weariness of the hard work of the last 7 or so months is starting to make itself known.

I still have only 3 more days before I taper for this race in earnest. My body is actually doing great, but my mind cannot wait until I see that down time, both before and after that race. My Window of Opportunity is closing at this point.

I don't think it'll affect the race, my mental focus for that race is as acute as ever. The mental focus for the daily training, however, has been blunted a bit.

But I have only 3 days left. That's the good part. I timed my training very well this year to have done as well as I did.

But you have to understand the mental weariness. Remember that I worked hard this spring, especially when losing 20+ pounds in the early going. To get from 205 to 182 pounds can be quite mentally taxing while getting in shape for the season.

In the past, I used to neglect the larger downtime that the body and mind sorely needs after a period of hard training. After my last race of the season I used to just right into next year's training.

After 5 years without a rest, I mentally burned out. Big time!

The result was about 5 years without doing a triathlon.

It wasn't fun any more. The endless laps in the pool, the constant hard mileage on the bike and the run...my mind finally said "no mas."

What I know now, in my increased wisdom, is that during the year, the mind and body need some serious downtime from the constant rigours of training. I definitely build that into every single athlete's training plan.

Active rest. Just what the doctor ordered.

So, after this 100 mile trek that I have on July 21, that downtime begins. Yes, I have the Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon in September, but I should still be very good shape to complete that race in a good time without all that training.

Plus, if I get a month in of active rest early, I might get that ability to refocus on a fall marathon this November. Maybe...

But I'm not pressuring myself. But we'll see. :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In-Season Training - Dos and Don'ts

I had an interesting little conversation with someone the other day about training. And it has to do with training during the racing season.

To give you a background, most triathletes will have a multitude of triathlons during the summer months because these are the only months when we can swim comfortably outdoors.

The problem comes when triathletes try to train through the racing season. Most are still trying to either build up their mileage or their speed through this season.

In most cases, it doesn't work.


When I tell people this, the next question is, "But Pete, how am I supposed to gear up for this race at the end of the triathlon season if you're saying I can't be in peak condition for it?"

And I respond, "Well I didn't say that you couldn't be in peak shape, did I?"

And then they look at me like I have 2 heads or something...

Listen, racing is great. I love this season when you have races coming up either this week or next week, and you have another race coming up the week after that. It makes you feel so alive, knowing that the fruits of your training labor are about to be realized.

But races are a major disruption to any training that you do.

Think about it. Every time you go out there and lay it out there 120% on the line and finish these races, you will need at least 3 days or more to recover from it. With long course events like 70.3 triathlons or other races that take 3 or more hours to do? Definitely more than 3 days of recovery. Maybe even more than a week! By the time you're ready to train at 100% again, most of the week has already past. And if you have another race coming the next weekend, well, your training regularity is thrown out the window.

Listen, I know you want to really build up toward your big races. But building volume and speed doesn't happen at this time. It's supposed to happen during the 4 to 5 months BEFORE the season starts. THAT is where your big gains are going to be, not now, during the season.

That is why I emphasize that the Base Phase is THE most important part of your training plan. There are little or no races in the way of your volume build-up and that is where the most gains will be. Your Build Phase, in which speed is incorporated into your training, is the next important. The Build Phase happens after the Base Phase in the 2 months preceding your first race in which speed is incorporated into your training. It finishes your build up and gets you ready for your big race and your racing season.

"So why do I train at all during the racing season". you might ask.

Simply put, the Racing Phase is just there to try to maintain your peak fitness as long as possible. What I find is that if done properly, you can get a good 8-10 weeks of peak racing done during this phase before you start to see evidence of de-training.

And when the de-training happens, you'll need to back off the volume and the speed for a little while before you can start to build back up again. At that point the body is tired. Any hard training is only inviting injury. And you will never see any gains at that point. The body needs a bit of time to recover before you see any gains again.

So before you even start planning your races in 2013, you'll need to keep this 8-10 week window in mind as you plan your "A" races. As you plot your "A" races, you can then set your 8-10 week Window of Opportunity to cover as much of those races as you can. Then you can set your whole training schedule around it so that you can build up at the right time toward that Window. Oh, you can still plan "B" races outside this Window of Opportunity, but you'll need to keep that these are your "B" races and that you're just training through these races without the interruption of a taper or a huge recovery (you don't go "all out" on these races).

As for triathlon season in 2012, don't try to build volume now. The best thing to do is to maintain it by slightly lower your weekly volumes from week to week to give your body time to recover from the burden of the races you inflict on it. And don't even think you're going to improve your peak fitness now. That should have been done during the spring.

Maintenance is the key for in-season training. Once you get it through your head that you cannot build any more fitness during this season, you can properly schedule your training so that you have a great season the rest of the way.

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Our Wednesday Night Trail run is tonight, of course, and I'm baaaaaccckk! Moses Mtn. is the goal for today. Come on down to the Carousel at 7PM at Willowbrook Park.

This Saturday is our run at Wolfes Pond Park. Note the new time and location for this Saturday only...7AM at the Wolfes Pond Park Parking lot. There will be an adventure race at 8AM in the same park (Two If By Land, One If By Sea), so it'll be nice to give Matt and NYARA a nice show of support. See you there!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Having Good People To Back You Up / Full Moon Beach Runs

I've seen something very good lately. And I'm very appreciative of it.

This season is full of disruptions. Good ones though, as I'm not complaining.

1) I've been away to do the Tupper Lake Tinman 70.3 Triathlon.

2) I've also been away in the Catskills this week.

3) I'll be away one weekend doing the Vermont 100 race in July.

4) I'll also be away one week in August as we have a family reunion set up.

With the weekly trail runs that I've been coordinating with SIAC, every time I've been covered by someone else within the club to keep the runs going. And yesterday, I find out that with future runs with the club, I'll also be covered also.

As the committee chair of SIAC Xtreme, I'm so glad that I have a great cast of people helping me out with this endeavour. You've made my job much more manageable for me, and I'm taking the time out to say thank you.

I won't use real names here, but initials. While I was away doing Tupper Lake and in the Catskills, I would definitely like to thank NC and AL for their parts in doing the Saturday Morning Trail Runs in my absence. Both of them will also be helping me complete the Vermont 100, so I know I have a solid crew behind me when I attempt that race.

I would also like to thank AL for backing me up with some triathlon results that I didn't get at the SIAC meeting. I'm glad that she's now the Masters Women's Team Captain because she's definitely the right person for the job. Her diligence is definitely noted here.

And lastly, when I announced that most of us won't be on hand for the July 21 Saturday Morning Run because of the race, I was pleasantly surprised when DC stepped up and said he will lead that Saturday. Thank you very much DC.

There are a lot of very good people in SIAC, and most are ready to back other people up when needed. These people provide the strong backbone needed for a truly great club.

And again, I appreciate it greatly. :-)

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OK, the Full Moon Trail Runs! Before the monthly SIAC meeting I scouted the beach course with the president of the club. We both think it looks like a winner course. That being said, running on sand is quite tough! Those 5 miles we did were tougher than I thought! In the end, the course has promise, and the sand will strengthen up the legs for races, so we think it's overall a good thing.

Heck, we have a great stretch of beach in our geographical area. Why not use it to our benefit, right?

People also loved the gold painted brick that I brought to the meeting. Even one of our promising young female runners, AD, expressed interest in winning the brick for an award. She's definitely welcome to it. That is if she's accurate with her pacing, of course. Just like everyone else. :-)

Anyway, the first one of these runs will be on Wednesday August 1 at 8PM. That night will be the next Full Moon. It will be at the jetty on the beach in front of where the Memorial Day Run finish line is. The course is to run toward Midland Beach and Miller Field, then back.

Anyone can join. If you want to compete for the gold brick, you'll need to guess your time for this run. That means you leave the watch behind and hope that your guess is accurate. Whoever comes closest to their prediction wins the brick. :-)



Hope to see you all there!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vermont 100 Musings - Am I Ready?

Two weeks to go before the Vermont 100.

Am I ready?
Well, that is an interesting question. Two years ago, when I finished the race, I was concentrating on running long and training specifically for these ultras.

I was however, 20 pounds heavier and north of 200 pounds.

Since then, I have went back to my strength, training for triathlons, and it has treated me wonderfully this year. I've gotten my speed back, and have excelled in the 2 triathlons that I've done so far, including a half Ironman race (Tupper Lake). I've actually qualified to go to both National Championships this year (Olympic and long course distances), so this comeback is nothing short of impressive.

But how will I fare in a 100 mile ultra?

That was the thesis that I intended to do this year. It's going to be very interesting.

I ran very long this weekend (30 miles). The pace I set for myself then was ideal since I went through the 30 miles without any problems with tired legs. That's a good sign. I just need to remember to stay that pace in the beginning of the Vermont 100. If I can knock off the first 30 miles with an effort that feels like I ran only 10 miles, then I would be well ahead of the game.

Aside from that long run,  the number of long runs done this year is lower than the long runs I've done 2 years ago, when I was training for ultras. That might be a negative.

Still, the 20 pound loss should account for something. We shall see.

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Anyway, I still have both the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (111th overall) and Tupper Lake Triathlon 70.3 (45th overall) race reports to do.

I did the Tupper Lake report, and after reading it it seemed...boring. I'm going to have to spruce it up a bit. I myself hate reports that are boring; I don't want to be the person making those boring reports.

If I'm finding myself going to sleep reading my own reports, then that is, indeed, a problem.

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Staten Island Athletic Club (SIAC) Monthly Meeting is tonight. If anyone has any reports for me, the siXac Captain, get them in to me immediately or forever hold your peace.

Wednesday is the Evening Trail Run. I want to do Moses Mountain one more time before my 100 mile ultra. Help me fulfill my wish. :-)

Saturday we will be moving the trail run to Wolfes Pond Park because the NYARA race "Two If By Land, One If By Sea" Adventure Race is located there. The Saturday Morning run will start at 7AM at the Wolfes Pond Park parking lot.

For those interested in the adventure race itself, you can register at the NYARA website.

Just a heads up here: due to the fact that Amy, Nancy, and I are not going to be around the following Saturday (July 21; they will be helping me complete the Vermont 100), that run will be canceled. Of course, if you know some of the trails in High Rock, you can still form a group at that time and take the initiative and do it that Saturday.

Lastly, I will be running a 5 mile easy beach run about 90 minutes prior to the SIAC meeting tonight. This is to scout the course for the Full Moon Night Runs that I am looking to start on Wednesday August 3.

I intend on making those runs a "guess your time" run so that anyone has a chance to win one of these lovely gold bricks:


Just think, if you know your pace really well, you can very well build a new wing to your house with enough of these!