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.

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. :-)

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