Sunday, May 13, 2012

Past Events And Good Memories

Here's a couple of videos and pictures from the previous few races I've done.


KEYS100 May 2011



Charlie, Lauren & myself on the way to the race

Everglades Preserve Park

With Bob Becker (RD) at the finish line
the final stretch of the race

PALM100 Mar 2012



Our "base camp"

Liz Bauer & myself at pre start

Sunrise at St. Sebastian Park

Issie & myself

Issie glorious at the finish line...100miles!

This is it for now... looking forward to the next adventure!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You might be able to fake a marathon, but one thing you cannot fake is running 100miles...

...and I learned this lesson the hard way! Following up to my first post, well after the "discovery" of this passion my evolution into an ultra distance runner happened pretty fast. Perhaps too fast! I ran a couple of Olympic Triathlons before but I couldn't wait to start training for an ULTRA. With lots of questions in need of an answer, I didn't know where to start. I didn't know what to do. I didn't really know anyone to talk to about this. So after putting some thought into it, the best strategy I could come up with was to start running...more. Clever, I know!

All the information I found said pretty much the same thing: you need years of Marathon running before considering entering an Ultra. Of course, stubborn as I am, I disregarded that altogether. Why wait years when I can do it now?? So, with no hesitation I signed up for a100miler. BRILLIANT!!!

I tried to find a race that was both appealing, achievable (or so I thought) and logistically easy to "put together". Even though I was living in NYC at the time, I found that the KEYS100 was 4 months away. I though, that would give me "plenty" of time to train! It's all on the same road, easy to reach and with lots of open spaces to stop to meet up with your crew. Perfect! Perfect! Perfect! I was hooked and with the enthusiasm of a little kid in a candy store I started training with no refrain! Easy to say I didn't know what I was getting myself into. So, in a matter of days, my 3-4 times a week's strolls turned into a drastically more elaborate routine. In about 3 months I bumped from an average of 30Miles a week to about 145. I can't hide the fact that it took a LOT of effort and determination to make it through those long training days in the cold winter where snow and rain were a constant companion. No matter how hard it got though, I was committed 100% to what I set out to do. My friends thought I was completely nuts to the point where I would just avoid bringing the topic up. My girlfriend probably thought the same too but I'm thankful to say she was supporting and always by my side. Again, I'm very, very thankful about that.

Before moving on, here's a little description about the race.
The KEYS100 is a grueling ultra marathon which takes place in the Florida Keys. Every year more and more people are drawn to this extreme competition to test their limits, both physical and mental. It's a beautiful 100Miler on a long highway cutting right through the ocean waters where the humidity index rises to the stars and the temperature averages between 85 and 95 degrees. Because of its harsh conditions this is, by many, a must do before Badwater. It all starts in Key Largo (MM101) and the route takes his runners on a perpetual roller coaster of bridges and long stretches of road all the way down to Key West. US1 is the only road leading to the Southernmost Point in the US, while crossing a beautiful chain of tropical islands with crystal clear water and amazing little beaches all around. Both the incredible scenery and the size of the challenge make this race quite unique.

The KEYS100 was held on Saturday May 14th 2011. My girlfriend and I flew from NYC into 
Ft. Lauderdale where we picked up our rental and drove down to Miami. A quick stop at the Miami Airport to pick up my family before we all headed down to Key Largo. I still couldn't believe they came all the way from Italy to crew for me! That was, without a doubt, a special and a much appreciated treat! Friday the 13th was the day of the pre-race meeting. It was swarming with people and nothing like I would have expected. A river of people was flowing in this beautiful bay side hall to pick up their race packets and to attend to the required meeting. A very well put together event, perhaps too fancy to come close to what I pictured the ultrarunning community would have been like. Among the many people there, I had the pleasure to meet Pam Reed and Marshall Ulrich. Two HUGE characters in the Ultra running community. The first competing against us, the latter to promote his "Running on empty" book.

We spent the rest of the day, (my sister's bday btw...) checking our bags and collecting food and drinks for the next day. My crew was composed by my girlfriend Lauren, my dad, my mom and my sister. With no aid stations along the course (beside the 25/50/75 Mile Markers checkpoints), their job consisted in pretty much pampering me all day long, making sure I had all the supplies I needed to finish those 100miles on foot.  
The race day finally came. After months of preparation, hard work and lots of sweat, I toed the line among hundreds of other runners ready to embark on this incredible adventure! It was 6am when Bob Becker (the RD) started the count down...five, four, three, two, one...and off we went through the cheers of the crowd! A small one but very much alive...especially being that early in the morning!

I'm not going to analyze mile by mile, cause it wouldn't make much sense writing this almost a year later, so I'll try to sum this whole thing up and come down to the point. I took an easy start and decided to stick to someone that had more experience than me. Pam Reed made the perfect match! We closed the first 25Miles in 4 hrs. Not bad at all.

Few people dropped out in front of me while approaching the mid race mark. They were completely dehydrated and incoherent on the side of the street, too beat down to move forward. The 50Miles Marker came along and it was a wonderful sight, I admit. After 8 hours of continuous running under the beating sun and scorching heat, seeing that white tent in the distance was like a mirage when lost in the desert. All filled with drinks and candies and bars and fruits... just great!The ladies volunteering at the tent were super fun as they started dancing around when I came in.(Although I'm not sure that really happened or if I was hallucinating...) My Family was there with a little camp set up on the side of the road. It was a quick rest stop, just the time to fuel up and I was ready to head out again. My sister came storming right around the van screaming: "you're in third place! The other two guys are not far ahead! Go get them!"   

The infamous "seven mile bridge" came along shortly after and, while getting off the bridge in a completely delirious state, I eventually caught up with one of the runners in front of me. I didn't flinch and kept on pounding the sizzling asphalt head down. By Mile 63 I found myself in first place! My crew drove by and they couldn't contain themselves breaking into a loud cheer. It was such an intense feeling that made me feel invincible...after about 1/4 of a mile reality painfully set back in.

I ran through the 75Mile Marker checkpoint in about 12:50. The rest is ugly memory. Around mile 84, after 14 hours and change, I started feeling dizzy and needed some food. With a cramped up stomach I did the worst thing I could have done...I ate an ice cream and chugged an energy shot...very very poor decision there. Few steps later I hit the ground in agony.

My race ended at mile 93 where, after few miles of stubborn sluggish walking, my mom and my girlfriend begged me to quit in tears...

The shame and disappointment set in only the next day, when I had the time to ponder my decision. I couldn't believe I walked away from it with only 7 miles to go. I failed and I couldn't forgive myself for doing it. It took me months to recover from it as both my mind and body were shattered by the experience and perhaps even longer to accept what happened.

Now, after almost a year from the "incident" and with a lot more miles under my belt, I am able to understand my mistakes.

Training in NYC, through a fierce winter (and spring...) to run a 100miles race in the tropics is certainly not a good idea. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone. 4 months of preparation for such an extreme event is CLEARLY not enough... my lofty dreams of success where shattered as much as my body was after 80miles in. Perhaps it's advisable to know what you're doing in matter of food and drinks intake. The scorching heat and humidity require a meticulous intake of carbs, water, electrolytes etc.
not doing so you're dooming yourself to a painful, very painful experience... trust me on that one...

After all this time, I can finally look back at this whole experience in a positive way though. That race brought me down on my knees and only then I realized that it's crucial to respect the distance. Bottom line, understanding the fact that this is an incredibly demanding sport is a must and it can never be taken too easily. might be able to fake a marathon but you definitely cannot fake 100miles!