I’m excited to announce the launch of a new blog series—Going the Distance.
The series will feature runners from across the country (and beyond)—from beginners to long-time runners to those who think a 5k is the perfect distance to those who take on the challenge of running 100-mile or longer races—and everything in between from pavement to trails.
As runners, we tend to think of ourselves as belonging to a special club—where we speak the same language and members “get” why we run—why we need to run. Even though we may be strangers—when running, we’re connected and have a supportive network.
Those who are part of this club have great insight to offer—the goal of Going the Distance is to share this knowledge. I find that everyone has something to teach—and I hope the runners featured will inspire and motivate you, as well as provide support to help you reach your running goals. And from the first interview of the series with my friend, Troy Brady, it’s clear that the stories shared here will be honest, heartfelt, and may even surprise you.
I met Troy about two years ago on a trail around 1:00 am—he was running the Pine Creek Challenge, a 100-mile endurance race in Wellsboro, PA. I was there to run the last 20 miles of the race with my friend, Gina. When I picked her up at mile 80, she and Troy had been running together for the last several hours, so the three of us forged ahead together for the final miles of the race. Ever since, Troy and I have been tempting each other with great races across the country.
Troy was kind enough to be my first Going the Distance runner and I’m honored to share his story. I’m looking forward to profiling other runners—if you would like to be featured or know someone who should, please drop me a note.
Where do you live and train?
Philadelphia, PA (Wissahickon Park)
How long have you been running?
I’ve been running for over 30 years—WOW!
How did you get interested in running?
Both of my parents died of heart issues in their mid-to-late 40’s. I started running as a way to help prevent an early death and reverse or help offset my poor genetics.
What about running do you love?
Mostly, I hate the act of running—seriously. I do, however, love how I feel after a run. The exception being longer races—50 and 100-milers when I have lots of time to think, contemplate, and to experience the true highs and lows.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to running? How do you overcome it?
I usually take some time off after my last fall race and revert to maintenance runs. I find it challenging to get out and run when it’s damp, cold, snowy and icy, so winter provides me with a great excuse not to run. However, I’m prodded back into the routine as my waistline and percent fat continue to increase, and it becomes a challenge to comfortably squeeze into my running tights!
How do you get out the door for a run when you’re not motivated?
Ha ha…I pinch my belly fat and consider how much better I’ll feel once the run has been completed, regardless of how long, or short, it may be.
If you could invent one energy gel flavor, what would it be?
Now this is interesting…fresh grilled calamari.
What’s your favorite race and why?
Pine to Palm 100 this past September. This was a redemption race after my first DNF at Speedgoat 50K in July. I went into Pine to Palm handicapping myself and making excuses for why I might fail before the race even began. Much to my surprise, I never experienced a mental low point; sure I was tired, but mentally I never reached a point where I felt like quitting. I must acknowledge the positive energy and prodding provided by my crew, Dan and Erin—thank you so much.
What’s on your race calendar this year?
Hmmm, this is hard. I’m currently attempting to nail that down. I attempted to get into Western States, but Gordon Ainsleigh “refused” to pick my name during the lottery. My name was just drawn for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 lottery, but as luck would have it, my wife and I just booked a vacation to Italy the same week of the race—looks like the race may have to wait another year.
With my vacation now on the calendar, I’ll choose two races from this pack: Black Hills 100, The Ghosts of Yellowstone 100, Bryce 100, Mountain Lakes 100, Cascade Crest 100, Hideaway 100, Bigfoot 120, and Grindstone 100. This will be my first year attempting two 100-mile races—a present to myself for my 50th birthday this year. Other than the 100’s, I’ll most likely sign up for the Ugly Mudder, Dirty German 50-miler, as well as a few other local trail races and road marathons.
Best advice for someone wanting to take on a 100-mile race?
Don’t be intimidated by the distance. The legendary Karl Meltzer is famously known for saying “100 miles is not that far”—don’t believe him, it is—but I’ve also learned the old saying is true that running an ultra is 90% mental. On minimal training one can generally run, jog, hike and/or hobble 100 miles, but you must be prepared to battle your mind. As the miles increase and the daylight descends into night, your mind will work to defeat you, so prepare physically and mentally.
Find a mantra that you find motivational. For example, “one more step…one more step” or the one that I used during a section of last year’s Pine to Palm, “[expletive] Stein Butte…[expletive] Stein Butte” (those who have completed the race will understand this mantra). Additional basic guidelines include:
- Consume a gel every 15 to 20 minutes.
- Consume 8 to 10 ounces of water every hour and more if it is hot and/or humid.
- As much as possible, have your training runs mimic the terrain and trail conditions of your race.
- Don’t experiment with any new food or drink during the race. Stick with what you’ve used during your training runs.
- Probably the most important—tap into your local ultra running community. If you don’t have one, as is my case, tap into the online community. I have found the camaraderie, wisdom, and support to be priceless.
What’s your favorite post-run snack or beverage?
I know that I should say a protein smoothie with lots of fruit, yogurt, and coconut milk, but certainly a first, or close 2nd would be Cheez-It crackers—they are my Achilles Heel.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever run?
Hands down—the little mountain towns of Sicily.
What’s one thing that would surprise us about you?
I don’t enjoy racing—I’m not driven when it comes to running. As explained above, I started running out of fear, and now after 30 years, it has become a habit. So, that is the main reason why I don’t sign up for shorter races—I do not enjoy going all out. Whereas, with 50 or 100-mile races, you can plod along, enjoy the beauty, appreciate your surroundings…appreciate life.
If you would like to be featured in Going the Distance or know someone who should, please drop me a note.