Ultra Running

Dan is a keen trail runner and ultra runner.

Ultra-runs or ultra-marathons are any runs longer than a marathon (26 miles).

Since the Laurel Highlands Ultra I’ve participated in quite a few 50 milers, some trail, some fell runs, and of course my first 100 miler (YORDALE 100)! Being better at running than writing I’ve  yet to update this page with all the juicy details… however you can find some info on them by searching the ultra running tags written by Anna on this site! Cheers!  Dan



I am leading a trip in Sicily from 7-24 May, so the real training will start after that! That only gives me 2 weeks of hardcore prep which will include a few 50k runs to get my body used to being on the go for many hours. The training right now is shorter and faster runs (8-15miles), cycling (15-30miles). About 1-2 hours of exercise about twice a day. That will be cut down to hardly anything in Sicily. The biggest challenge is not going to be one of speed, but one of mental and physical endurance. Upping the running for periods of 7 + hours in the 2 weeks before will be crucial. The actual race will have me going for 15+ hours!


I’m asking for sponsors to make a per mile donation for my race to raise funds for our volunteer course in England. In the first day of pledging we have reached $300! But better than that: Claire has decided to run with me and help raise support! She and I have been running together for almost 2 years and did our first ultra together, having her run with me will be AWESOME!!


Less than 2 weeks until the race!! I got back from the Georgetown trip to Sicily and England three days ago. On the trip I was ready not to train at all so it was a pleasant surprise to have three keen runners as participants. We managed an hour to an hour and a half run every other day. The runs seemed like no effort at all with great conversations and awesome scenery (beaches, rolling hills, quaint towns). Even so, a little anxiety set in as I landed back in the states knowing that the race was coming soon and serious training had not yet began. With that in mind the day after I landed Anna and I went off for two days for a weekend retreat. I managed to squeeze 1 two hour training run along the Potomac near Leesburg just before setting off… the run went well- although it definitely felt like I hadn’t run for over 1.5 hours in a while (maybe it was the humidity and hot sun)- running for ten times that amount does make me a little nervous.


OK- I am back home for good until the race!! Wohoo- serious training can finally begin. Today I added a few ultra-running sites to my favorites that had a ton of reading and check list advice–keeping hydrated, well fed, replenishing electrolytes/salts, techniques to stop chaffing, even why drinking beer or wine as you run might help!! In the afternoon Anna got her rolling blades on and we went for a 10 miler together. Tomorrow I am planning my first long run (of 2 before the race). I will run 15 miles to work and then 15 back- that’s about 46 kilometers. The biggest challenge will be keeping a slow pace ( I usually run to work in 1 hour 50 minutes but i want to make the 30 miles draw out in to at least 6 hours to get my body used to being on the go for a long time. I will also try a few different foods on the way to see what my body craves when it is under strain. Here are a few things i might try:Pb and J sandwiches, tuna pasta, salt tablets, double latte Gu, banana Gu, coffee, Gatorade, muscle relaxants and maybe a beer! (I’m not sure what the law says about that on the cycling path however!!)


15 miles in the morning before work went v. well. I managed to slow my pace by a half hour, stretched well and the fact that it was early enough that the sun wasn’t too hot helped a lot. Mind you the thing I find hardest is when someone on a slow 3mile run over takes me- my pride gets broken a little – I think running in a small group keeping a pace will be key to slowing down more (essential in the 70).The way back was only slightly harder due to the sun. I actually increased the run by 2 miles making the day in to a 50k. I definitely felt my legs cry out on the last 5 miles but with home nearly in sight I kept up till the front door.The key elements to the run were- 2 GUs (gulped down when I felt like stopping), long stretching at the end of the run, a quick stop in to 7 11 to get some gatorade to replenish the salt that was visible on my face, backpack, shorts and shirt (they all looked like they had been sprinkled with talc!), massaging my legs to get rid of the lactic acid build up. I had one beer when I got home- but it definitely made me feel a little oozy- so maybe it doesn’t do it for me.


Claire and I met with Rick (a ultra running pro- with many 100 milers under his belt) to discuss plans for the race. Rick actually gave up running a 100 miles on June 2nd to run with us and keep us motivated! He gave us plenty of sound advice- among my favorites was the kidney advice: never pee out everything in your bladder (especially before a long down hill)- its pretty scary when you go to the toilet after having emptied completely and finding out that you are peeing pure blood due to the empty kidneys having rubbed together for a while…. I am glad that rick has gathered so many useful tips along the way to prevent many mistakes like that- or explain what is going on if they happen.After meeting with Rick, Claire and i went hill running to practice for the mountains in now less that a week and a half!!!


My legs aren’t aching too badly, but i definitely feel like I haven’t given them much of a break recently, so today I shuffled for an hour to give them some rest before my last long training run tomorrow.



I ran with JT  at the retreat… and while running hinted that I wanted to do a long training run in the night this weekend, but was anxious about doing it on my own. Without hesitating he said he would join me. I thought he was being polite, but alas he phoned me in the week and we organized a 50 k run for tonight! The cross county trail runs for 38 miles through the whole of Fairfax county (you run in the woods crossing a hand full of roads- its hard to believe that you are running through suburbia). I scoped out a thirty two mile run and spent the afternoon making peanut butter sandwiches , cliff shot electrolyte mix, gathering salty treats and hiding them in a safe place at the mid point on the trail. I also went to the pharmacy to stock up on pain killers, muscle cream and lube. After a big bowl of pasta and chicken John and I set out for an epic run (8pm). Once the sun goes down the challenge of running becomes quite different. The mind has to stay well alert for rocks and logs on the trail, bends and stream crossings, tracts where other trails cross and trail signs seem to disappear, movements of deer and other animals. After a few hours of running when you start getting tired shadows definitely start playing tricks. During a night trail run you can expect to spend a fair amount of time retracing your steps and running ahead a bit on unknown trails to make sure they are correct before you commit to sticking to them- but either by luck or skill John and I only lost a few miles doing that the whole night (I think it would have been quite a few more had I been on my own!). Another point to note was that my estimate of the distances we were running definitely seemed a little off (some of the maps i researched hadn’t quite taken in to consideration the many little bends in the trail)- one of the miles seemed to go on for about 4… we just made that in to a bit of a joke, and adapted our route accordingly.  Great conversation, 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some muscle rub, gallons of water and gator aid, some pain killers, wheat thins and 7 hours and a half later (3:30am) and quite frankly who knows exactly how many miles later (definitely over the 50k planned) John and I were stretching and smiling by the car. It should be noted that John had never run a 50k (although he has done marathon running)- and he breezed through this run- impressive.  The plan for me is now not to run until Tuesday to let everything recover slowly and not risk any injury!


Tapering is quite frustrating to be honest! As the race gets closer I am starting to get more anxious. I feel better when I am running. Training in the last week can be deceiving as it makes be feel like I am getting better prepared, but really this is not true. Resting in the last week is really the key to making sure that the muscles and joints recover from a heavy week (where i ran over 100 miles), and I avoid injury so I can hit the trail fresh on Saturday morning. From Tuesday to Thursday I am doing an hour run in the morning. On Tuesday my legs didn’t feel great and I had a headache all day… a little discouraging so close to the race, but today (wed) i feel much stronger and in better health. My right leg aches a little right above the knee- so stretching well will be imperative.

JUNE 8th

After having stuffed my small high endurance pack with the essentials for the ultra I cycled to the 15 miles to Gtown as my last training before the race. After 5 minutes on campus rummaging through the first aid kits for blister prevention supplies we headed for Pennsylvania! We went straight to the finish line to scout the terrain and envisage the last few strides of the race- v exciting stuff. At 5:30pm we went to the pre-race dinner- pasta, bread, cake, salad- every ones plates were stacked high! Listening to the race director go on about all the tricky spots on the course and giving sound advice about the initial 8 mile climb had us all ears. The atmosphere was pretty thick with anxious excitement, after a brief chat with some other ultra runners we headed to the hotel for a beer before bed (it was very stormy on the way back- but we were assured that the front was just moving through making for a sunny but dry race day!). Over a beer at the hotel two older looking men joined us- they were in their 60ies and fellow competitors. We sat and talked ultras for a half hour- one of these guys had no cartilage in his knees, was missing a few bones among other injuries “but just loves the atmosphere at ultras” and so was going to run the full 70 the next day, crazy. The other guy had run 10 100 milers in a year and 35 100 milers in total- but was totally chill- he was planning to just make every cut off and just have fun. When he left Rick informed us that he ha written a book too (I guess he didn’t want to boost his ego!)!! Bed at 8pm -sleep much- I don’t think so (that’s the problem with trying to stay super hydrated all day- you spend all night getting up to go potty!! The beer did not help in that department by the way!)


Woke up at 2:45am- went to the finish and caught a school bus to the start (over 1:30hr ride). The bus drivers Claire coming through the clouds!remarks as he dropped us off were: “I’m going to drive back now- you guys can run!”- and we did. After the last preparations and lubrications 5:30am came and …. OFF we went. race-1.jpg 100 nutters climbing up this hill with big smiles on our faces! The advice was to not go fast up the first 8 miles or we would be paying for it 4-5 hours later… and slowly but surely we went. Rick assured us that we would see all the sprinters again later on (and we did!). The first 2 hours were in a cloud of fog with occasional drizzle (not what the weather had forecast but we were hopeful all the same). At mile 12 I got a bit of a funny pain above my left foot which was quite worrying as it was a very acute ache that I had never had before. Trying to stay positive and focus on good vibes and surely enough at mile 20 it completely disappeared, as did we from Ricks sight. Rick was doing a great job of pacing and I was determined to stay with him, but I was so eager to burst on ahead that when he encouraged Claire and I to go on for the third or fourth time we did. He said “you know all the important stuff now so go at your pace and just don’t go fast up the hills (mind you if I pass you later on- I will laugh!!)”. Claire and I spent the next 2 hours CRUISING with fantastic conversation before we joined on to another duo with Marathon?… easy!!!whom we chatted for 10-15miles. Miss Richmond and Mr Blue (I’m not good with names). And so we raced past the marathon 26 Beautiful Fernsmile and the 50k mark slowly progressing in to uncharted territory! The scenery, as you can see from the photos, was absolutely stunning, ferns that were glowing, fluorescent green and sometimes as tall as us; thick forests that only let shimmers of light through and sparse fields surrounding lakes brilliant in the sunshine. I also need to mention the uplifting aid station crews who were so encouraging and helpful: greeting you with huge claps as you emerged out of the trees, taking our packs and getting us all the supplies our bodies craved! When the trail got kind a rocky we lost Mr. Blue and Miss Richmond and sped up ahead to mile 46 where we were re-united with a drop bag of goodie s (a bag we had prepared and asked to be left at this marker to give us something to look forward to!) Our goal until now was to finish STRONG before 22hrs- no injuries, safe and sound with the thought “I could have done this faster”. Well something was happening as we were going by more and more markers, my competitive side was kicking and screaming to come out! I started to dream about finishing before 18 hrs which was the old skool cut off time that challenged many…. then looking at my watch and pace I cut it to 16hrs- according to our speed that was well within our grasp!! After a proud moment with the 50 mile post we hurried on… only 20miles left!! We were well on target to finish strong!! But something happened- a little demon called fatigue started to catch Claire and the next 10 Mr Blue and Miss Richmondmiles were spent trying to out run him. Our goal for a 16hr finish diminished in to a 17hr- but that was ok. We tried everything- words of encouragement- pep talks that I think made Claire want to shoot me at times, but then at mile sixty whoooop! Claire got a second wind!! I think what did it was making very loud animal noises that did it, or it could have been singing “I’m a lumberjack” or maybe “the hills are alive”!! The second wind lasted until the dreaded grilled cheese sandwich aid station. At mile 62 there stood the last aid station- the last calorie kick until the finish, the last smile and bit of support before the descent of the mountain. Emotions can be a bit warped after nearly 16 hours of running so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Claire fell in love at this point. She fell in love with her wheat breaded grilled sandwich, and was now down to a mesmerized walk. It was dark, and somewhat selfishly I still had high hopes of breaking 17hrs. I had told my dear friend that I wouldn’t leave her in the dark, but we had now come across a fellow competitor who was going at her pace…. and I still regret this a bit but I said: “do you mind if I go…”. Claire said: “sure”- and with that I booked it! So much for camaraderie (I had just let go of my word in favor of pride- quite shameful really- Flying High!SORRY CLAIRE). I looked down at my watch and I had to average 10minute miles for the last 8… on rolling hills, in the dark, in the woods- hhmmmm. I took a few pain meds and thought- whatever- you only live this race once. Peggin it down the path I made the first 6 Going strong beyond the 50miles at an average of 11 minute- but I knew that the last 2.5 where steep technical down hill. That could mean careful safe steps down or RISK IT ALL AND JUMP! Guess which one I chose. I made the last 2 at a 7 minute and last one a 6 (this is notoriously a short mile though!). Sprinting past the finish I ran and hugged the first person I saw- which ended up being my bro in Law! Quickly kissed Anna and asked- “what was my time? what was my time? did i break 17hrs????”………….. 16:59 baby- oh yeah!! 10:29pm. Its funny how things turn out just right innit. I would re-live that whole 17 hours in a second- it is up there with the greatest days of my life so far. Thank you to every one who supported me!

3 thoughts on “Ultra Running

  1. I read this story after reading several entries on the PCT site. What a great story. I know that words only capture the outline of the overall impact this event must have had on you but I enjoyed reading it and thank you for sharing.

  2. Pingback: C&C Magic Factory | dan & anna’s adventures

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