2015 “3 Days at the Fair” 72 Hour: Race Report
Putting it all Together.
Going Beyond “The Dome”:
If I learned anything from running at “The Dome” in Alaska was always go into a race well prepared and with a plan. How can you not! Multi-day racing isn’t for just anyone. The runner and his or her crew need to be dedicated to the goals that are set forth by the runner and do what needs to be done to achieve those goals.
If you are a smart runner you have multiple goals, so if all doesn't go as planed then you will most likely go home with at least a few of them achieved even if your “A+” goal falls short. Coming back from Alaska made me a changed person and a better runner. I saw running differently. Running 465 miles showed me that the training practices that I had learned from a year of preparation had payed off. Now I could continue to train with the knowledge that what I was doing worked well.
First let me tell you that I don’t race a lot of ultras in comparison to some runners. I choose my races carefully and ones that fit within a set schedule. This gives me balance both as a teacher, family guy and runner. It also prevents me from burning out. My body won’t hold up if I race all the time so I just don’t.
Besides I like to run local 5 milers, 1/2 marathons and full marathons as well. I use many of those races to test my fitness. After running at “The Dome” I didn’t race anything seriously until April and that was the Boston Marathon. Boston was a test of my fitness in preparation for the 72 hour race in New Jersey. Of course I ran (not raced) a half marathon, a 50K and a 50 miler with my wife Sue this past fall, but for the most part I let my body recover and trained specifically for “The Fair.”
Preparing for New Jersey:
My approach to training is pretty simple. Lots and lots of miles. I run 7 days a week. In that week I run 12 to 16 workouts which works out to being 2 to 3 runs a day. That can be anywhere from 90 to 130 miles in a weeks time. I usually run 7 to 10 miles at lunch and treat that as a tempo run and then an easy 3 miles after work if needed on some days.
As long as I get at least 7 to 10 miles total before I get home then I can run with my wife Sue who is a Boston marathon finisher. I will run with her as long as she wants to run and at whatever pace she wants to run at. This teaches me to run a different pace and adds quality miles. By the end of a day I could have 15 to 18 miles in the books. On weekends I usually run 18 to 22 miles on Saturday and 15 to 20 miles on Sunday. All of this milage is much easier to handle in shorter segments instead of trying to do long runs all the time. Beside it mimics what I do in mulit-day racing.
During multi-day racing you run, and then rest and then run again, much like my training. I do much of my running on flat courses. I have a mile loop at Hickory Park, near my home, that mimics the New Jerseys course. It’s a huge help. I also do most of my running at lunch on a track. Again, specificity of training. If I race on the flats then I train mostly on flats. I do some hill work also, but I get enough of that stuff near where I live near Marsh Creek State Park, in Pennsylvania.
Most importantly, one of many things I’ve learned while being helped by my friend Bill Schultz is that there is a direct correlation between yearly mile totals and 6 Day results. So, if you can get 300 to 450 miles a month on average, then you will build up enough of a base to be able to handle the load needed to compete at a 6 Day race with “Big Miles”. This translates into something simple.
If you run about 3,000 miles a year then you should be able to do 300 miles in a 6 day race. And if you do 4,000 miles you should be able to do about 400. Everyone is different and in some cases this doesn’t always apply, but its something to mention here. I ran 4,575 miles last and 465 at the Dome. Made me look at that kind of information a lot closer since last August.
In addition to the running I also weight train and do a ton of core work everyday. This keeps me toned and my muscles well balanced and ready to take all types of punishment. Lastly I also teach an advanced cycle class at my local YMCA. I found it helps with endurance, but more importantly flushes my legs after the first half of my week of running and prepares them for the rest of the weeks milage. Hugely helpful.
My race plan for the 72 hour race at “The Fair” was crafted by myself, Bill Schultz and Mike Dobies, Joe Fejes crew man and stats guy. Mike looked at my 3 Day split from Alaska and helped craft a perfect sleep plan which would be about 7 hours total in the 72. Bill brought huge amount of multi-day experience and would crew for me over the 3 Days. He would also help keep me on task and crack the whip when I needed a kick in the pants.
In addition, my friend and running buddy Lou DO’nofrio would crew on Day 3 for me giving Bill a much needed rest. My wife Sue, also would be there with our daughters on Day 3. Sue would be running a marathon in the morning and a 50K at night. Quality family support.
There were many goals I had for the race. First, try and break 300 miles, a goal Bill and Mike thought well within my ability level. Second break the course record of 276 set by Darren Worts. And third, if I could go north of 280 miles it sets me up nicely to be able to crack 500 miles at ATY in December in Arizona.
I looked at paces and broke the days up into milage goals like this: Day 1: 110-113 miles, Day 2: 100-105, and Day 3: 90 miles. If I followed the plan, I should get close to 300 miles or over and also win the race.
|Sleep Plan A & B|
Who’s Running and Who’s Not:
These where the people I looked at in preparation for “The Fair” for a variety of reasons. These are quality runners who have been successful at a variety of distances. If I wanted to run a solid race I wanted to understand how these people have run this course and other events and learn something from them. Hugely helpful. Mike Dobies did some performance graphs for me to look at and see where these people take breaks, where they are strongest and how they pace themselves.
1. Darren Worts wasn’t running the 72 hour this year. He was entered in the Quadzilla event which is running 4 marathon in 3 days.
2. Marylou Corino wasn’t running this year. She won with 271 miles last year. She represented Canada at World 24 Hour Championships in Torino the month before. Planing on running Vol State this summer and another 6 day later this year at ATY.
3. Serge Arbona, a member of past 24 hour U.S. National Team, who has a PR for 24 hours of 156 miles was someone I’ve run against a lot. I’ve placed second to him twice at 20in24 an 24 hour ultra in Philadelphia. He’d beat me by 25 miles or more both times. My 124 mile PR couldn’t stand up to Serge on a good day.
4. John Fegyveresi has an impressive resume of events including a finish at the Barkley Marathon. John placed second last year and finished with 246 miles.
5. Brad Compton won the Icarus Florida UltraFest last year, a 6 day with 406.554 miles. He also place 3rd last year at “The Fair” with 231 miles.
We where set off at 9AM. Starting our journey around the fair grounds. It was a dry day and forecasted to be in the high 60’s low 70’s. Bill and I set up camp the night before in what was called Barn 1. We had our tents and car there set in a perfect little area to keep us dry incase of rain or intense sun.
With Serge going out fast, I let him go. I couldn’t run with him. Not yet. Besides its only Day 1. After the first 5 hours I finally started to settle in to my rhythm. Walk the hill at the start, run the flats and down hills and walk the hill by the Gate. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. I did that all day.
I put the blinders on and just ran. I wasn’t concerned about what anyone else was doing. Not yet. It was to early. I tried to enjoy to rhythms of just running. I stopped a few times to work on my left hamstring. I sat in a chair at my camp and rolled “The stick” across my sore left leg and then got up and off running again I went.
It has always been an issue since my left knee surgery in 2011. It took me years to work through my knee issues, but last August I finally figured out most of them. I strengthened knees and trained my legs not to need them anymore. Huge!! Thats why I don’t wear knee braces anymore or not as much. That was something four or five people commented on, including Serge. I thought it was interesting that people actually noticed that.
|Bill, John F. and Me.|
Bill did a superb job of crewing for me and information gathering on people in the race. This helped me stay focused on running. Bottle fills, food prep and equipment swap outs (shirts, bottles, bandanas, hats etc.) all handled perfectly. After Bill took care of me, he would take care of his own needs. Internet posts, e-mail catch-up, food etc.
The first challenge with Serge came at 72 miles into the race. Over the next 3 miles we ran together (9:24, 9:19, 9:19). It was a test. After that I let him go. I tried not to dwell on it for to long. I just went back to doing my pattern of running and walking. Not to long after that Serge was walking and I ran past him. A few laps latter I past him again. This time he was limping and he had put his sweatpants on.
Around his knee he had fashioned a makeshift brace out of duck tape. I told Bill as I passed by our camp site. A few more laps later I saw Serge sitting at his camp site working on his leg. It was tough to see. Knowing my own injuries watching someone else go through that is never fun.
Running at night was great. I tried to take it easy during the heat of the day and as Bill has said to me more than once “Manage the Day; and Own the Night!” Thats what I did. It was a perfect night for running; cool and dry. By the morning I was well ahead of any goals I set for myself. I wanted between 110-113 miles. I ended Day 1 with 117 miles. Only a mile shy of my first 20in24 race back in 2009. Serge had been off course for awhile now and I took over first place after 111 miles.
DAY 2: Settling In
I took my first sleep break at 131 miles into the race. It was a much needed rest. I laid down in my tent and elevated my legs onto a folding chair. I did this trackside at “The Dome” and it helped my legs recover much faster. Any fluid build-up would drain out and keep swelling to a minimum. Once my rest cycle was complete 2:23:53 later I was up and off again.
Tylenol was something I took every 4 to 6 hours as well. This kept the pain of the pounding to a minimum so I could just focus on running. Donuts and Root beer also made a second appearance in my race. Something I learned from John Geesler in Alaska. Root beer goes down real easy when you are looking for both hydration and calories. Glazed donuts to gave me a much needed pick up every so often.
I ate many other things (egg sandwiches, rice and beans, mashed potatoes, fruit, cookies, grilled cheese etc.) but, the donuts and root beer always put pep in my step. Coffee to was something I drank a lot of as well. Coffee is always good from about midnight to 5:30AM. A tough time to run when the course has fewer people on it.
My second sleep break was 30 miles later at 161 and I was down for 1:48:23. Legs up, eyes shut. When I awoke a bee was in my tent and between Bill and I we captured it and set it free to the outside world. Serge was back on the course by now. I saw him walking his dog on the course earlier in the day. He must have worked through his issues and he started picking off other runners behind me. Daniel Gallo, John Fegyversei and Johnny Hallneby. All were ahead of Serge and he was coming for all of us.
By 12:30AM, my wife Sue and my step-daughters had gotten to the camp site. The girls watched me run and Sue ran a few laps with me over night before the three of them went to sleep. Sue was doing the marathon at 9AM and needed her rest.
After another night of quality running, the end of Day 2 was almost here. I had picked up the pace a bit telling Bill that I wanted to crack 200 miles again in 48 hours. Something not achieved by a lot of people. I came across the 200 mile point in 46:48:54 a new 200 mile PR. With time left in Day 2 I wanted to achieve my next goal which was to PR for 48 hours. Mike Dobies had been talking to Bill over the internet and said I should push that number higher and not just settle for breaking the 202 miles I ran back on the course in 2013.
|Bill Schultz: Crew Chief|
I ran controlled and upped the pace considerably. Once I past my old mark I felt a good sense of relief. I ran past 205 miles. That was as far as Liz Bauer ran on this course. It was also the number I was shooting for in my first 48 hour 2 years prior. Banging out 1 more hard mile in 8:53 gave me a total of 207 miles at the end of Day 2 and a 90 mile second Day. At 208 miles it was time for my 3rd sleep break (1:00:23) and the start of Day 3.
Day 3: Completing the Mission
Day 3 weather was hot. The sun kept going in and out cloud cover. It was difficult to decide what to wear. I ended up wearing the sun hat and my white desert dirt with my sun glasses and lots of sun screen. Regulating body temperature during the day was tough. I’m not a heat runner, Dan Gallo was. He kept telling me how he loves the heat and I kept telling him how I like it cold. We joked about it during much of the race. By this time I had incorporated a 3rd walking break along part of the back stretch of the course to aid in recovery. Fortunately I can walk fast.
Bill was getting tired and needed a break. Lou D’Onofrio arrived around 9:30AM to aid in crewing duties while Bill rested. Lou would check on me while he was doing laps of the fair ground. He would bringing me a filled water bottles along certain parts of the course, plus bring me food, coffee or whatever else was needed.
|Crossing at 200 miles.|
My last sleep break was around 4PM. It would be my last sleep break before the final push. The break lasted 1:57:51. Sue had helped me by rubbing my feet and legs which were sore from the hard surface of the pavement. A huge help to get some relief from the constant pounding. My feet were doing really well. No blisters and I only taped the bottoms of my feet to help keep the skin from shifting to much.
By the time my break was over, traffic was becoming a real issue on the course not with runners so much, but with cars. All of us had to watch out for cowboys coming to the rodeo. Not to mention earlier their were livestock tucks bringing in horses, cows, chickens and other animals for the farm show. That was tough. Lots of dust kicked up by pickup trucks and the amount of people at the fair was pretty crazy. They definitely were not looking out for us.
Thunderstorms rolled in just before the 6 hour runners started. The course was flooding in parts. Not as bad as the year prior, but still enough to be annoying and break a runners focus. Cowboys and their family ran for cover in Barn 1 which was a bit overwhelming for my crew.
I ran most of Night 3 with no shirt and just a baseball cap. Serge was still charging hard but I had a 25 mile lead on him at that point. Every so often we would run together and talk about racing or multi-day training. It was a good time. We ran on and off again throughout the night.
|Sue and I in the rain.|
At one point Serge made a comment about how it took him about 5 hours to catch me on a loop. I just figured if I kept a good solid lead then he would have to work really hard to catch me and thats how it was going down. Bill did the math. If I ran “X” then Serge would have to run “Y” for this amount of hours etc. and Serge was running out of time. The longer I stayed out here moving forward, even at a slow crawl, then he couldn’t catch me.
I told Bill that there was not way in Hell I was going down again and that I’d stay out here moving until the end. I did have to stop another time to dry feet and change shoe inserts and socks just to keep my feet happy and my skin in tact. By 10pm I start running laps with Sue. She started the 50K run at 9pm. To say the least it was fun to be with her, but it rained on and off the rest of the night. We ran with rain jackets, umbrellas, and trash bags as protection but we were still soaking wet.
So, I just dealt with it and ran with either my white tank top or with no shirt at all. It worked for me. It was a warm rain and it was humid out. The rain stopped around 3AM. Sue was really tired and we said our goodbyes. She went to grab a shower and get some sleep. The girls had already gone to bed many hours before after checking out the farm show.
During this time Lou had crewed for both of us all night long going back and forth from the timing clock to our campsite making sure I stayed the course. I snagged my ipod from Lou. The rain had finally stopped and I could get rolling again in drier conditions. The humidity was getting worse. The fog in the air was thick and steamy even if it stayed on the cooler side till dawn.
At 275 miles Serge Arbona was their again, this time we ran together talking about more running. We came through the 276 mile mark together and then picked it up. At this point I still maintained my 25 miles lead on Serge. He had caught up and past everyone else. It was good to run a fast mile with him now. Another 9:32 in the book for me. Mile 277 broke Daren Worts’ record. All new territory for me now. I backed it off a bit to recover and continued on.
Lou and Bill were both helping me now. Making sure I had what I needed for the final few hours of the event. By 280 miles I was pretty spent. It was even more humid than at night and the sun was coming up making it feel much worse. I had the lock for the win by now. After only 7:10:25 of sleep over the past 3 days I only had a little bit farther to go in the race.
As I past Bill one more time he said, “ Don’t let 290 slip away” or something to that effect. With that I was able to pull myself together for 1 more final push. Serge was there one last time. We ran together not speaking much just running.
285 - 9:46, 286 - 9:23, 287 - 9:42, 288 - 10:17, 289 - 9:40
“That was Fun. You’re a hard man!” Serge said; with a smile and a fist bump. It was fun. I’ve run on an off with Serge over the years and he really knows pace and runs smooth. If you sit on his heals or at his side miles can go by in no time at all.
Day 3: The last 3 miles
When I was done running with Serge I slowed to a crawl or at least it felt like that. My feet although not blistered were tired of the pavement and all I wanted to do was sit down. I hadn’t showered or shaven in 3 days and I felt like my legs were repeatably hit with sledge hammers. At 290 miles (12:17) I only had a bit of time on the clock left and then I would be finished. 300 miles was out of my reach. But, I was o.k. with that.
At 291 miles I came through again a bit woozy. John Fegyversesi and I had talked on and off again about a variety of topics during the race and he asked me to do 2 more laps with him. One more running lap and a walking victory lap. Sounds good to me, I thought. And off we went at a crawl. John was ahead of his pace from the previous year and was going to have a PR by 2 miles. He was pleased with that. One more mile down (292 mile -14:16).
During the last mile John had to stop and stretch. He told me not to wait for him. “Are you sure”; I said. “I’m fine John replied with a smile.” We were on the back stretch of the course. No shade here. Humid and warm. I was tired of running. But I wanted to make sure I got that last mile in before the clock ran down. I came off the dirt road and onto the last stretch. Sprinting wasn’t something I could do. I didn’t want to fall down on the up hill.
My coordination was a mess. I made the left turn towards the finish line and started up the little hill for the last time. I could see Bill, Sue and the girls towards the finish-line. I was a bit dizzy. I just wanted to sit down. I was going to sit on the ground near the finish or get on my hands and knees to kiss the finish line, but I didn’t think I could do it gracefully. Once I crossed the line I lost my balance and was caught by Rick McNulty, the race director, Bill,
and Lou. They carried me to a chair where I sat with 5 minutes left on the clock. Sue gave me water as I tried to alleviate people fears.
and Lou. They carried me to a chair where I sat with 5 minutes left on the clock. Sue gave me water as I tried to alleviate people fears.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, just tired; I said with a grunt. I rested there for a while as I watched John Fegyversesi walk across the finish line. I’m done I thought. I finished the 72 hour race with 293 miles and a new course record. After I had a moment to catch my breath I put on some dry clothes that Bill had ready for me to keep me warm. Soon after, my group and I moved to the blue tables for awards ceremony and breakfast.
Awards Ceremony: Looking at the Sky
During breakfast with Sue, the girls, Bill, Lou and the rest I had similar issues I had at “The Dome” during the morning of Day 5. I was sitting eating and then my hearing started to go. I felt I was going to vomit or pass out.
Fortunately I new the signs of this and I asked Sue to help me to the ground. I needed to get my legs in the air to get blood back to my head. I felt nauseous. Melissa, a nurse who was near us during breakfast, helped me as well. Between Sue, Melissa and Jen McNulty helping me through this “Crashing” episode, I was back at the table eating happily again with in 10 minutes.
During the awards I received the 1 place award for the 72 Hour event. A very nice ceramic chalice. Also I earned a 200 mile buckle and the 500 Life Time Miles coin. I love this course and this event. An amazing experience all around with some of the best people I know.
Thank you all for making this effort a real special one. See you next year.
|500 Life Time Mile Club|