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, June 27, 2013

The Anticipation Is Over!

This will probably be my last blog before the race.

The flight to Sacramento encountered some hiccups. From what I heard, a crew member didn't show up and the plane had to wait for a replacement. As a result, the flight was delayed by over an hour which caused me to miss a connection in Houston.

I had to wait at Houston for 8 hours yesterday.


Luckily for me, I designed the schedule for impending delays. I am glad that I intended to stay in Sacramento overnight and take the train to Squaw the next day.

The 8 hours were interesting. I was tasting some chocolates and some ice cream at one of the shops in the area, taking in a movie, and trying on some western style hats (I actually liked one of them and will probably order it when I'm done here; the price they were asking at the airport was to much).

Hey, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right?

That's Type B Personality behavior. Maybe I'm finally mellowing out after all!

Still, I finally made it into Sacramento, along with all of my stuff last night.

Around noon today, I board the train to Squaw Valley. Where I'm sleeping tonight, there will probably not be a hot spot, so that's why I think this will be the last blog.

It's going to be one hell of an eventful weekend!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Final Western States Strategy? Oh, yeah, that...

Go West youn...um, older man!


Start of the Western States 100 which will happen in 5 days!

You think, with a long race like the Western States 100, someone like me has some sort of "elaborate" race strategy that will work 100% as planned and will get me to the finish line in great shape.

I hate to disappoint you, but as an older gentleman with a lot more wisdom than he has before, I already know that any "elaborate" strategy is doomed to fail.

This is 20+ years of endurance races talking here! And I'm not the guy who wants to set himself up to fail. Sorry.

But yeah, I have a strategy. It's really a simple one, and probably the best strategy I've ever embraced at all.

Once the starting gun goes off, I take a step, then another, and another...until I get to the finish line.

Too simple, huh? Well the strategy does work...100% of the time.

If I encounter a hill, walk it. If the course turns downhill, run it. Both involves putting one foot in front of the other. Other than allow only 3-5 minutes at each aid station, stopping is not allowed.


 In any case, I never try to think about anything further than getting to the next aid station. As long as I keep the water bottles and my belly full for the duration of the race, I should be fine.

That's it. Truly!

I guess I've fully adapted the "Type B" personality strategy after all. I would have NEVER thought that possible just a few short years ago!

Oh and just the fact that I will be having a heck of a lot of fun during this run and talking to people, enjoying the sights of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to keep my mood positive. If I do pick up a signal, I am hoping to put in some Tweets. The hashtag will be #ironpete.

The website also has an Athlete Tracker. If you click on this link you will be sent directly to the tracker. You'll see a whole slew of names when you click, but there is a search all the way at the top of the page. Just put in my Bib# (340) to get to my personal page.

I fly out on Wednesday, so I might have one more blog in me. There's a huge send-off party for 4 of us going to Western States in Manhattan, and I'll definitely write about that in tomorrow's blog.

If I'm not hung over that is...

(just joking, I'm definitely not drinking alcohol this week).

Tomorrow I will have time to make it to RVRR's Summer Series race at Donaldson Park in NJ. I might want to pick some peoples' brains about the actual course (Mr. Dixon and his crew that went there last year) and maybe even participate in the race itself, non-competitively that is.

Five more days until Western States!



Thursday, June 20, 2013

DREGS - An Open Invite to Staten Island Triathletes and Runners!

I'll be using this blog to do some "shameless plugs" at some of my ventures. I figure, "hey, I have all this downtime from my tapering for Western States, I might as well put this newly found time to good use", right?

Two months ago I created a Meetup group designed to bring out people who like triathons, trail running, and ultrarunning in this area. I wasn't sure how successful it was going to be, but I figured that there were a lot of triathletes and distance runners in Staten Island and in the surrounding area that might go for a group like this. I mean, look at this place...we have the beaches for open water swimming and have the Greenbelt for trail running, right? We can easily go across the bridge into NJ for our bike rides, so we definitely have the resources to get a group together who like multisport and off-road running.

The meetup group is called the DREGS, Distance Racers of the Empire and Garden States. The group will be centered on Staten Island, but with a lot of the workouts going across the border into NJ and upstate into the trails of the Hudson Valley, we can easily include people in the surrounding area. Plus, we would be cooperating with other triathlon and ultrarunning groups and clubs to really make this thing special.


The Meetup can be found here: http://www.meetup.com/Staten-Island-Dregs-Triathlon-and-Ultrarunning-Group/ 
The group is capable of meeting up in local venues, as well as join with other groups and clubs outside of Staten Island:

Local Trail Runs and Races in the Staten Island Greenbelt (Fall Flat 5k).

Trips outside Staten Island - Pre-Leatherman's Loop Run in the Hudson Valley - with the NY Trail and Ultra Meetup and the Leatheman Harriers Club (that was a fun day!)


Well, at this point, the meetup group has grown to 25 people. Our last meetup at the open water swim at Midland Beach was 8 strong! So there IS indeed some interest out there.

What also amazes me is the large number of beginners that are signing up for the group. I can easily count 5 right now who are looking to do their first triathlon; they tell me that these meetups really take the mystery out of these events. They can actually start believing that they can do a triathlon or a marathon or an ultramarathon. That's great! The veterans in this club have been definitely helping the beginners feel welcome to the group and help them out whenever possible to finish their first race. And we veterans are glad to take on that "responsibility". :-)

For those who are even remotely interested in doing their first triathlon and marathon, and for those who are looking to explore distances longer than the marathon, this is the group to do it in.

I'll be using the group to place in local races, road trips to races, featured workouts, and "Quick and Dirty" workouts during weekday mornings and evenings (short workouts that will be done quickly for those with limited time).

Biking along Fr. Capodanno Blvd. (Flat as a Pancake Triathlon)

Anyway, I sure hope the group continues to expand. Anyone in Staten Island who is even remotely interested in trying out a triathlon or marathon can sign up at Meetup.com. The link above will get you to the official page.

I'm the moderator of the group, but the group is for everyone! If you're looking to get a group together (no matter how small) for a ride, run, related lecture, or even a social at a nearby bar, then be my guest and post it onto the Meetup Group webpage. It'll easily get approved by me and will be posted for all in the group to see.

---------------------------
For those who want to join the DREGS, here is the home page of the group:

Link: http://www.meetup.com/Staten-Island-Dregs-Triathlon-and-Ultrarunning-Group/

As for our next meetups, there are 3 at this point.

There is one this evening (June 20) at Midland Beach, an open water swim starting at 6:30PM. You'll need to park at the lot at the end of Lincoln Ave., then head straight out to the beach; we will all be there. Wetsuits are welcome; the water is a bit brisk, but is great once you're in.

Saturday June 22 is another open water swim, at the same location. The swim will start at 7:30AM. Same location above.

Sunday June 23 is a 20 mile bike at Great Kills Park. This will be 8AM; go to the end at Parking Lot G, where the beach is, and park there. There are bathrooms there in case nature calls. We will either be doing loops within the park, or venturing out to do some road outside the park.

To keep updated on when the new workouts will emerge, all you need to do is join the group. Whether you're a beginner or a veteran, we will definitely welcome you with open arms. :-)

P.S. I am looking into running shirts that feature the logo above. It would either be brown logo on a white shirt, or a white logo on a brown shirt. If I do get the prototypes by next week, I WILL be wearing it at the Western States 100 next week! If anyone is interested in these shirts, let me know; I'll certainly order one for you. :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ultrarunning Balances Triathlon, and Vice Versa

This morning I hopped on my bike in Great Kills Park and proceeded to spin nice and easily. The distance that I wanted to do? 30 miles.



Now for a lot of triathletes, 30 miles does seem like a lot of miles to do. Especially when tapering for one of the biggest races in their life.

The Western States 100 is a huge race. I only have 11 days before it happens, right? Why am I including a longish bike ride of 30 miles this close to the race? Surely I'm not going to get any more physically fit in this short a time, right?

Ah, but that is where "physical" leaves off, and "mental" begins! My goal on this ride was to spin as easy as possible and not pushing any harder pace than necessary to complete the workout.

So I started out on a nice light, small chainring., spin easily, and just enjoy the marvellous day that nature gave me. The easy pace got me thinking about triathlons and ultrarunning in general...

I remembered that I started out as a hard-core triathlete. My training reflected my racing; a lot of hard rides and runs. Heck, my swim also was very physical; I tend to battle other swimmers to create my space in the water during races and not give an inch. I practiced very quick transitions, and, during Ironman races, I never even let a "call from nature" stop me. If I had to go on the bike and on the run, I went. Let's just say that I always had to throw out the shoes immediately afterwards when it was done!

I was the typical "Type A" personality racer. Just like 80% of the other athletes out there in triathlon and short distance running world.

It made sense, of course. The goal was to get to the finish line as fast as possible, right?

Grrr...faster, faster...!

In those early days, my training reflected my racing. Try to knock out some hard workouts as much as possible. Hammer down "red line" pace. Heck, maybe go anaerobic too! Any "easier" paced workouts were just a tad under "red line" too. If I wasn't feeling exhausted at the end of the workout, then what good was it, right?

As I was easily spinning on my bike this morning when reaching the 10 mile mark, I started to remember when I realized I was training too hard...

In the late 90's, I started to relent a lot on my easier paced workouts when I found out that I was getting too exhausted to hold onto my weekly volumes of swimming, cycling, and running. Apparently, getting over 30 years old has a way of telling you that maybe this isn't the way to go! I looked into periodization and the benefits of easier paced runs to try to remedy the situation.

It worked a lot. I was able to do very well in Ironman New Zealand and Ironman Canada in 1999.

But now, in hindsight, my "easy pace" should have been even easier. I didn't know this until I was introduced to ultrarunning in 2002.

Cruising through mile 20 of my bike this morning, I focused on how ultrarunning as made a significant difference in my training and my life...

Ultramarathons are different. Yes, the premise is the same as the other races; get to the finish line as fast as possible, but the vast distances of ultramarathons make this a very complicated issue. No longer can you just "go fast" from the starting line and try to hold it until the finish. The "type A" personality does not work here at all, it tends to break down somewhere soon after 26.2 miles.

Clearly the fastest guy from the start doesn't usually make it to the finish.

When I attempted, and subsequently failed, my first 100 mile attempt, I was around 30th place (of around 300 runners) at the 35 mile point. I thought I was going at my "easy pace" at the time. My "easy pace", from a Type A mentality, of course. It destroyed me at the end. I managed to make it to mile 75, but I was down and out and couldn't run another mile.

Burning River 100, my first 100 mile attempt. 30th place was no place to be in at mile 35. Crashed and burned at mile 75.


Right then and there, I knew Type A didn't work. I knew what I had to do then. I had to *GASP* develop a Type B Personality!

Yes, that laid back, almost lazy-like attitude. Don't worry about the future and just live in the moment. Me? Laid back? Living in the moment? I'm goal oriented! Square peg in a round hole! How was I supposed to adapt to that?!

If I was to succeed in a 100 mile race, I was supposed to redefine EVERYTHING, from my training basics to my racing style.

And so I did.It took a lot of patience, but I'm getting the hang of it. Type A always come natural to me. Type B constantly needs reinforcement. Hence, this morning's ride.

While on the final miles of my bike this morning, I realized some truly wondrous things about what I learned from ultrarunning...

First, ultrarunning is a beautiful counterbalance to triathlon training. Type A and Type B. Yin and Yang. If done right, if you can get a beautiful mix of Type A and Type B mentality into your endurance training, you will most certainly finish high in the standings EVERY TIME. One of the most time consuming things I do as a coach is to make every athlete I coach UNLEARN what they perceive as an easy pace (which, in most cases, is still too hard), and get them to run even easier than before. Heck, I even tell them to leave their watch at home and just enjoy their run! The Type A stuff is usually left to only 3 or so key workouts during the week. That's it. Everything else is easy!


If done right, they will be 100% ready and energized when one of the Type A workouts has to be done. Most of the time, they nail that sucker good! That is the best way to train. And, with the easier paces, they can also increase their weekly volumes without getting tired. It's definitely a win-win situation!

But secondly, and most importantly, is that this combination of Type A and Type B mentality should be expanded to your whole life too. Too many times, the Type A person is ever looking forward to the next goal. He or she never stops and takes a step back to appreciate where he/she is already.

That is one of my biggest regrets when I look back to when I was a triathlete in the 90s. I always got an age group award and the occasional overall award but I was always consumed about trying to move up even further in the standings. I never really stepped back and appreciated the position I was already in. Looking back over the many plaques and trophies that I've won during that time, I realize in hindsight that I was too blind to know that I was already one of the best in my field.

Type A: Goal oriented. Work hard to achieve your goals and dreams, but don't eliminate Type B: Step back and look at where you are in the present! Appreciate where you are at this moment.

At that point I finished the ride. A typical Type B ride: I didn't push the pace and worry about the miles ahead of me; all I did was live in the moment. The miles actually wound up taking care of themselves. I didn't realize I was finished until the last lap of the ride. My speed? About 16MPH.

Perfect! That's exactly the mentality I need to finish a 100 mile race too.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Weeks Until Western States - So Many Emotions!

Western States 100 Start Line - It All Starts Here


Two weeks to go before Western States and the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and I'm not sure how I feel. A whole mixture of feelings have definitely surfaced this past week:

I feel excited. The wait is almost over. It's been over 6 months since I was selected in the Western States lottery and the anticipation was killing me. It's time to get the party started!

I feel relieved. The hard work is over. Six months of hard, SMART training and I'm in perhaps the best shape of my life. And that includes my competitive years as a triathlete (the 1990s). I got one week of taper in this week and I've got all sorts of energy in the pool, on the bike, and definitely on the run.

I feel confident. The training definitely paid off and I know that it will reflect in my racing during the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. My weight is down close to my 175 pound goal and 20+ pounds of weight loss should definitely make a significant change for the better in each of these races.

Vermont 100 Start - 2nd leg of the Slam


I feel anxious. Anyone who undertakes four 100 mile ultras within 10 weeks is bound to feel that way. Even though I've trained well, there is still a huge unknown factor there that might rear its ugly head. I'm hoping that I can fix any problem that arises on the fly.

I feel fear. I've challenged myself and I have DNF'ed (Did Not Finish) in several races because I've taken gambles, but this will be a huge departure from that as I do not want to DNF in any of these races. It means I have to play it very conservative in each race. With Western States and Vermont, I don't think that will be a major issue, but Leadville might be a big issue, because the course demands that I take a more aggressive approach right from the start to make the aggressive 30 hour cutoff in the high altitude, thin atmosphere.

The Leadville 100 Start - High Altitude and Aggressive Cutoff Time Makes This a Very Difficult Race to Complete


I feel comforted. I've made friends with many ultrarunners who share the same philosophy as I do in both NY and NJ. Some of these friends I've made are also helping me to crew some of these races, and I've had promises from many athletes that they will make the trip to Utah (Wasatch Front 100) to see me and (hopefully) another person in the area finish the Slam. The ultrarunners in the area are of such high caliber that they have actually pushed me tremendously in training to be more like them, and that's a great asset to have.

"100 Miles of Heaven and Hell" - The Wasatch Front 100 Start - The Last and The Most Difficult Course of The Slam!


So it's time to do this. Although, if I should succeed, I would only be the 4th New Yorker ever to complete the Slam, hopefully I can be the first Staten Islander to do so. It's going to be one emotional roller coaster, but hopefully at the end of all this, in September, I'll be up there at Homestead, the Wasatch Front 100 finish line, with a trophy in hand.

P.S. My bib# for the Western States race on June 29 will be #340. You can follow my progress at this website... http://www.ultralive.net/ws100/webcast.php

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Don't Ever Be Routine With Your Training!

Last week I was talking to a triathlete about training.

He was telling me that every Wednesday, he does his longest swim of the week, a 1500 meter set, in which he tries to beat his time from a week before.


I nodded, but also asked if if it would be better to maybe do some shorter, more intense sets on this particular Wednesday instead.

"Oh, no; are you kidding me? Wednesday is always my long distance set. I cannot change that."

I then explained to him about the folly of a routine like that, and the mental burnout and frustration that might follow once he couldn't beat his time for several straight Wednesdays.

The guy wouldn't have it. Oh well, some people are destined to fail all the time.

I hope it's not you who are like this. If this sounds like you, you really have to change your training up frequently.

And please keep an open mind on this, because this can mean the difference between staying in the sport, or leaving the sport due to injury or mental burnout.

The reason why I'm bringing this topic up is because of the training I did this year, which was quite extraordinary.

I've been training for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, something that both excites and scares the bejeebers out of me (click the link to see why!). A huge undertaking like this deserves a very elaborate training plan. All this hard work ends with a long 30+ run this Saturday with friends on the Appalachian Trail.

Next week, I start my taper. Whew!

I've already started doing a bit of a debriefing on the training that I did that got me to this point of time. As of right now, I'm about 177 pounds, 8.5% body fat (at least the scale told me this), and have logged many miles on the trails, on the bike, and in the water since I started the training this year. I've also reformed my diet. I still cannot believe that I succeeded in changing my diet for the better, but it's been done!

Looking back at my training, there is one key thing that stands out with the schedule, and that is that ALL of my weeks look different. Different in terms of what days my long training happens, different in terms of where I train, different in terms of what the highlights of each week is.

My trail run on Wednesday night on one week may be a trail run on Monday night the next week. My long run that I did on Saturday one week might be done on Sunday the next week. And, for summer, my open water swim on Tuesday last week will be done on Sunday this week.

And that's indeed the best thing that I always do when I design plans for myself and for other people.


The idea of settling into a weekly "routine" provides a bit of comfort to a lot of people. One person might meet others for lunch every Tuesday at noon, and others will attend a spinning class each Thursday night. There is a comfort knowing that their "schedule" has already been made without putting in the effort to look at it.

Others are hopelessly locked into a routine. Most people work from 9-5 on Monday through Friday while some are locked into overnight jobs. Students are locked into a weekly schedule at college at the same times. So sometimes keeping a routine is beyond control.

Routines might be a way to keep people in their comfort zone, but remember that most of you athletes want to excel in your races, right?

That means getting out of your comfort zone. And therefore out of a set routine.


Routines feel safe to have, but they definitely do not really put excitement in your life. Think about it, why do people have to vacation from time to time, even if it means just taking off from work? On its most basic level, a vacation is an *interruption* of your normal routine, and that is why people look forward to it. It provides the excitement that your normal routine cannot provide, a chance to be a bit rebellious from that non-stop boring weekly pattern of your weekly agenda.

Even if a vacation is just sitting on a beach and doing nothing, you'll remember it as a highlight because it is not a part of your regular routine!


 At the end of the year, when people reflect on what they did the past year, it's those vacations that are easy to remember, not some boring day at work, right? And as an athlete you will always remember the races you did also. A race is pretty much a break from the normal Sunday morning run with the group and thus a break in your routine, right?

And that is why I try to break routines when developing my training plans for me and my athletes each week. To define each week differently makes it really tough on me as a coach because I basically have to start each week from scratch. I do have a long-term spreadsheet for me and each of my athletes designed to provide me with a general agenda where we ought to be during a particular stretch of the season, but as far as day-to-day developing of training plans, I start with a blank sheet of paper in front of me and go from there.

Looking back at my own schedule, I remember each week as clearly as the one before it. "Oh, this was the week where I did two 15 mile loops of the Staten Island Greenbelt in the rain", "oh, this is where I went hard on the trails in Wolfes Pond Park, that was a great run", "oh, that was the Wednesday where I went to NJ and did a very tough windy 60 mile ride through Jamesburg, wow were the winds tough!"

I also remember each group runs with the NY Trail and Ultra Meetup, the "5 Bridges Run" run in Manhattan with the NY Flyers, the group mountain repeats overnight at Mt. Beacon with some of the area's best ultrarunners, the crazy Leatherman's Loop Run with the Leatherman Harriers, and recently the sweltering 34 miles on the D&R Canal Towpath with the Raritan Valley Road Runners.

There were so many highlights to this year's training and so much excitement to be had this year looking forward to the special training done each week that I didn't actually mind the hard work that I did.

In fact, at this point of time, I'm kind of bummed that I have to let it up and start my taper next week!

This is the result of getting out of a set routine every week. It's definitely tougher because you have to make up a different schedule each week, but the rewards are worth it! No boredom with the training whatsoever! No mental burnout and a lot of highlights when looking back at the training.

And the excitement leads to better training and better results in races!

And this is the challenge I give to all you athletes out there. Break your routine. Don't do a long run every Sunday because you're compelled to. Don't maintain a running "streak" because you feel like you "have to". That's just plain stupid on your part and evidence that you are not giving your training much thought at all. When planning your week next week, throw in some training on an odd time that you've never done before. Do your long run in the early morning of a weekday instead of on a Sunday when you usually do it. Make your tempo run on a Thursday instead of doing your regular speed routine on a Tuesday. 

A little night trail running is quite different from most normal training routines. Get out there and give it a try!

And, by all means, run in a totally different area when you get the chance. It'll throw some excitement into your weekly training and will be the one that you will actually look forward to as it approaches.

Hmmm, this doesn't look like the Staten Island Greenbelt. And that is definitely not Moses Mountain in the distance!


I know most of you cannot change your work hours or your hours with the family, but you can always change up your fitness schedule from week to week. Don't mind the extra work in setting up the schedule; you'll be compensated with more fulfilling and exciting fitness life. Trust me, it works!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Some Pics From the RVRR Train Run

There were basically 3 groups, or "Trains" that started at Trenton the morning of June 1. Thanks to RVRR Member and professional photographer Oleg Shpak for the photos of the run itself. He was able to initially drive the 9:30 min/mile paced group to its start at Trenton and took photos of their start. I was in the 8:30 min/mile group so I wasn't in these intial pics.
The 9:30 min/mile "train" group, ready to start.

The person second from the left is Chris Lehman, he was the whole reason for the start of this event. He was preparing for an ultra 15 years ago and decided to do the entire main section of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath. That very first run happened in mid-July, if I remember correctly. I ran part of the trail with him that first year and it was beastly hot! Oh God.

The second year of this event was moved to the first Saturday of June, National Trails Day, and that was when I first did the entire 34 miles.

Notice the mix of young and old members in this club. This is  the indication that RVRR is a thriving club.

The best part about the people who started from Trenton is that over half of them already have done an ultramarathon! That is a far cry from that first year when ultrarunners were few and far between.

The 9:30 min/mile "train" getting to the first "stop" about 8 miles in from the start.

Ah, here comes the 8:30 min/mile train, and there I am in the middle! Laura, the other ex-president of the club, and the pacer of the group, is the one on the right.

Look ma, no stomach! I worked damn hard to get into shape this year; I might as well appreciate it in photos!

These photos were still taken about 8 miles in from the start.

Ah, here is the the 10:30 min/mile group, led by pacer Judit Hajnal Ward. This I think was at Blackwells Mills stop, about 12 to go to the finish. The heat of the day has just started at this point!

At about 4 miles to go, all three of these groups would merge as one if everyone stood on pace, and then we come in all together as one large group. It's a great format.

The 9:30 min/mile pacer Molly MacLeod showing off her tutu. I don't think you'll catch me dead wearing this. It does work well for Molly though, and that's fine. :-)

The 8:30 min/mile group coming in to Blackwells Mills. Everyone is still looking good at this point.

Thanks again Oleg for these photos!

RVRR Member Robert Tona took the next series of photos, from the end of the run to the picnic afterwards.

Ray Petit is the mover and shaker of the entire event. He's the reason for the continued success of this annual event. Here he is blowing the train whistle at the end of the run.

Everybody is gathering at the end of the towpath to come in together. Ray has his train whistle in hand here.

I just want to mention that there were a few hardy runners who actually started from Frenchtown 70 miles out the night before the official start. As I said before, running 70 miles was largely unheard of before, and now it's starting to become frequent. It was great to see them finish also.

Run done, time to party. And eat! Keep your grill hand strong Robert Tona!

Some massage services at the picnic also. All well deserved after a long hot run.

The picnic is always a hit after the event! A lot of people attend this run every year, and it's great to catch up with old friends!

Ray giving out "100 mile" mugs out to those who have completed a total of 100 miles or more in this event over its history. We had a lot of people get that distinction this year. Hopefully I'll be looking for my "300 mile" mug at next year's event!

Ray also gave out magnetic decals to those who did the 34.1 distance (or more). Here I am skipping up there like I was still energetic. Yeah, I was tired, but didn't want to show it. :-)

I just love to talk fitness and coaching. I found myself doing this multiple times during the picnic.


The obligatory ex-presidents photo-op. From left, Bob Townley, Ray Petit, Peter Priolo (Me), Doug Brown, Laura Swift, and current president Tom O'Reilly. Gene Gugliotta was at the run and picnic but left before the photo was taken, so Tom extended his arm out as if Gene was still there. :-)


I'll be back to do this run again next year guys. Thanks for another successful run this year, and it was great seeing all of you again!

Some Very Pleasing Results of Statistical Analyses on my Recent Training

It's been a very hard, but rewarding year trainingwise. But it's been quite rewarding; the results of my training beyond my wildest dreams!

A case in point...I wasn't anywhere near 100% recovered just 2 days after the hard paced 34 mile RVRR Train Run I participated in last Saturday. I felt fine, but was still a tad fatigued from the effort there.

Nevertheless, I decided to do a hard swimming workout at the pool this morning to see how I fare. It's the last real hard week of training before I start to taper for Western States, so everything is basically "grind 'em out" tired until this weekend.

My home pool location in Staten Island


The workout consisted of four 500 meter freestyle swims with 60 seconds of rest in between the 500s. It's pretty much one of the tougher workouts in my repertoire.

I didn't feel very energetic this morning; I was actually dreading this workout as I was driving to the pool. I felt like a sheep arriving at the slaughterhouse.

After the warmup, I gave myself a little bit of a pep talk, and then it's on to the 500s.

The last time I did these 500s was in March. I finished these with an average of about 7:30 for each 500, a decent pace.

About halfway through the first 500, I started to feel very loose and started to push a little harder. I ended up doing the first 500 in 7:13. This definitely caught my attention!

I felt a little more inspired on the 2nd 500. I had no problems with it and finished at 7:10! I felt like I was on fire. Time to knock out the last two 500s!

The third 500? 7:07. And the last one? Finished with a flourish at 7:03!

Now I'm not sure when it was the last time I broke the 7 minute mark on the 500 meter distance; it certainly wasn't the past 10 years.

Coming back home this morning, I was very curious about what my projected time would actually be if I were to do a half-ironman triathlon or an ironman triathlon before. I mean, my cycling and running were showing some impressive results.

I have a spreadsheet with some statistical macros on them that do some of the number crunching for me when I coach athletes. The statistics I use, over the course of 15 years I've been coaching athletes, is found to be a very accurate predictor of results in various race distances, including half-Ironman and ironman triathlons.

Well, I decided to try doing the number crunching numbers on myself, using the swim numbers this morning plus some recent cycling and running results I gleaned from the past couple of weeks of training.

The figures that resulted made my jaw drop.

The half-Ironman results would predict me finishing a course with gently rolling hills and ideal weather conditions (around 80 degrees F) at 4 hours and 35 minutes, give or take 10 minutes, with a 90% degree of confidence!

That would mean, if I were to have an exceptional race and finish, say, at the upper end of that range (4 hours 25 minutes), that I would have an outside shot at qualifying for the Ironman Hawaii World Championships!

It definitely looks possible!


This is something that I would seriously consider trying for next year...maybe.

The statistics for the Ironman distance is even more impressive, with a 90% degree of confidence, I would finish around 10 hours and 45 minutes, give or take 24 minutes.

My PR in any Ironman distance was 10:36:37. Would it be possible to actually break that PR when I'm 44 years old and theoretically "over the hill"? The statistics says, yes, there's a chance!

Maybe next year I will try for these goals. It's certainly piqued my interest in them again. To actually have a shot at qualifying for Ironman Hawaii again after all these years is very tempting.

But hey, this should translate well to 100 mile ultras, right?

Statistics on 100 mile ultras are really not possible, considering the long distance and the wide variety of terrain from course to course. Plus, I do not know two of the Grand Slam courses very well (Western States and Wasatch Front), so I cannot reasonably predict how I'll do.

Even if I can get some accurate statistical info on the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, I don't think I would want to know anyway. It's better to go in blind, right? And see what happens in real time.

But the best thing I can take home from all this info is that my training worked very well. As a matter of fact, it was definitely above my expectations! This spring was the hardest I've ever worked with my training. I also added a good, sound diet to the mix, eating good foods...and that boosted my performance in training even more.

I look fit, I feel fit, and I actually feel like that 20-something year old again who did all those triathlons back in the 1990s.

And that is what ultimately counts!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My 34.1 Mile RVRR Train Run Report - Oh, It's Good!

After today's events, I'm really feeling good about my chances at the Western States 100.

First, I worked the hardest at getting as fit as possible. I've even successfully isolated myself from negative factors while I did it. With laser-fine focus, and with a huge reform in my diet (all Paleo now), I achieved my goal of getting down to 175 pounds.

Secondly, I've been running incredible distances over some really tough terrain the past couple of months. And I have really seen the full fruits of my labor in the past 4 weeks.

The only question was the heat. Whether I would see some good hot days after experiencing one of the coldest springs I've ever felt.

Aaaaaand...It's been quite a hot week in New York City!

No complaints here. I really needed the heat this week to acclimatize to. I've been training outside in this roasting weather every day this week, taking advantage of every minute of heat that I can work out to get ready for the Western States 100 race.

Saturday morning was perhaps the final test of all the hard work I did this spring to get myself ready for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. On every first Saturday of June, the Raritan Valley Road Runners hosts a non-competitive 34.1 mile "Train" run along the main part of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath that goes the same distance from Trenton to New Brunswick. Although a few hardy souls do the entire 34.1 miles (and in a few cases, go even over that distance), anyone can join in to do any distance even down to just 2 miles.

The "main" part of the D&R Canal Towpath is the black line that goes from Trenton to New Brunswick, a total of 34.1 miles.


The reason why it's called a "Train" Run? When the group that starts at Trenton comes up to certain "stops" along the towpath, more people can "get on board" and join in with the group. By the time the group gets toward the end, the "train" is an impressive 100 or so people strong, and we all finish the event together.

The past couple of years, I've done the entire 34.1 mile distance.

And this year was no different.

About six of us who were doing the 8:30 min/mile pace shoved off from Trenton at 5:50AM. I was eager to see what my new, slimmer body can do on this run.

And to top it off, the temps were predicted to get back into the 90s again. The perfect test to see if I am adjusting to the heat of summer.

It usually takes me about 2 good hot weeks to get me impervious to the heat. I only got one week in. So it would be interesting to see if I was anywhere near adjusting while doing a long, fast run.

The D&R Canal Towpath is a very beautiful place in NJ to run in. With scenery like this, it's tough to get bored!


After about 2 miles in I quickly found myself adjusting nicely to the pace. The whole group was strong and engaged in conversation along the way. I missed a lot of these people during my absence with this club, so it was great to catch up on friends here.

One of the other things I noticed was the number of experienced ultrarunners in the group, especially from the NJ scene. 15 years ago, when we did our first such Towpath run, I never would have imagined so many people experienced with distances over the 26.2 mile distance.

Now it seems like the majority of us has done at least one ultra.

We've gone so far as an ultrarunning group, in both NY and NJ. It's great to know that our numbers are growing stronger.

Anyway, back to the run. We quickly saw lots of wildlife on the trail. Lots of hissing geese with their little chickies, and a couple of turtles right on the trail.


Saw two of these little critters on the trail.


After we quickly made short work of the first 14 miles of the trail, we picked up our first major group at Rocky Hill, with 20 miles to go.

With a bunch of fresh legs on board, it would be easy to get carried away and quicken the pace. We did found ourselves going a bit faster, but Laura, our official pacer, held us back on numerous times. It was great to know we were on track for most of the run.

The heat really started to take its toll on the runners with about 13 miles to go. I definitely felt the extreme heat, but was actually handling it very well. At this point, I was hitting the aid stations, and then moving through quickly, ahead of the rest of the group. It gave me a bit of time to do a little walking and slow running until the group caught up.

The critical portion of the trail is the long, hot 3.7 mile stretch stretch between Weston Causeway (9.2 miles to go) and South Bound Brook (5.5 miles to go). At this point I looked at Laura, and she looked miserable. She never liked the hot weather, and her face showed it. Shortly before South Bound Brook, she exclaimed, "I'm out" and slowed down. She was definitely going to make the entire distance, but not at the 8:30 min/mile pace.

I pressed on until we hit South Bound Brook. I slammed down some Gatorade, and like always, went on ahead while the group stopped. I was slowing down a bit also, making sure that the group was able to catch up.

But a lot of the people were wilting in the extreme heat, and the 8:30 min/mile pace never materialized.

Another 1.5 miles and I arrived at the last aid station (3.9 miles to go) with a smattering of other people. The main group never caught up to me. I did the "quick drink and go" routine again and was off before the people in what was left of the main group arrived.

After another mile I looked back and so no huge group at all, just a smattering of people here and there. The train was so spread out that we were definitely not a cohesive group.

This enabled me to slow down to a virtual walk with 2 miles to go in the event. It was actually quite nice "cooling off the jets" this early. It's best to preserve my legs with just 28 days to go before a 100 mile race.

With about half a mile to go, there were finally small groups starting to pass by me. Laura was in one of those groups and I was glad to see her finish strong. As for me, I latched on to one of the groups and brought it in to the finish.

I started at 5:50AM. I ended around 11:05AM. A quick calculation shows that over 34.1 miles I did about a 9:12 min/mile pace, and that was including all the stops at the aid stations.

In this heat? I passed with flying colors. Yes, I did feel the heat again, but this run today proves that I am starting to handle it.

I'm definitely going to need it when I run the Canyons section of Western States. With the bottoms of those canyons on record reaching 100 degrees or more in some races, I needed to be ready heatwise for this race.

There is now a strong indication that I am adjusting to the heat, and that is the reason why I am REALLY feeling good with my chances at Western States.

Exactly four weeks to go until Western States. And now I'm smiling. :-)


Pictures of the event will be up soon; I will provide a link to those pictures in the near future. :-)