An Interview with a Recent Ultra Runner

On March 20, I headed to the city of dreams, the city of champions to crew Coach Jeff through his first Ultra Marathon.  I am so excited to share my interview with Coach Jeff.  He is such an amazing person, such an amazing coach and obviously an amazing runner.  Enjoy!

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one of Coach’s awesome run friends, George.

This was your first ultra, but we know you’ve been a runner for a long time.  How did you get started in the sport?

I ran Cross Country in high school (a LONG time ago!) as a way to get in shape for basketball but didn’t really enjoy the sport of running.  However, running always got me into great shape and llowed me to shed unwanted pounds easily. In March of 2000 was out of shape and at my heaviest weight of 205 pounds when I got a phone call  that my Grandmother who was 84 at the time was diagnosed with Breast “C” (sorry, I cannot and will not say that word!) and going through a lumpectomy and radiation treatment.  She beat it!!! I decided to run the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and raise money in honor of my Grandmother beating “C” and in support of everyone fighting and going through treatment for this disease.  I became obsessed with running as my weight dropped from 205 to 160! I was living a much healthier lifestyle and felt much better about myself as well.  One year after I started running, I completed my first marathon and have never looked back.

What made you decide to train for and run an ultra marathon?  How did you choose the Lt. JC Stone 50K Ultra Marathon?

 I have a few friends that run Ultras and they kept telling me I was capable of running one.  I always thought they were crazy to want to run longer than a marathon.  I met my current Ultra Coach in Disney as she was pacing the group I’d be running with.  We learned we are both from Pittsburgh and had mutual friends.  Marie is an OUTSTANDING athlete having completed over 300 marathons, multiple Triathlons and Ultra races from distances of 50K, 50 & 135 milers!  Marie kept encouraging and pushing me to give a 50K a try.  I chose the Lt JC Stone 50K Ultra for a number of reasons.  It was local for me meaning I didn’t have to deal with travel and hotel, I train at North Park and am very familiar with the terrain and I knew I would have a great group of friends that so selflessly gave up an entire day to come to the Park and support me with cheers, run laps with me and manage all my hydration and nutritional needs.

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at the start.  Steff did the first two laps with Coach Jeff

What was the most rewarding thing during training?

The continuous support I received from my extended Twitter Family was overwhelming at times.  As the date of the Ultra rapidly approached and I got more and more nervous, there was no shortage of encouragement and support sent my way in countless ways.

What was the most challenging stretch of the 50K?

Definitely the final 3-4 miles after I got past the 27 mile mark which was the furthest I’d ever run.  The head wind especially picked up on the last few miles to make it that much more challenging.  Two members of my Support Crew Mike & Chelsea kept me going and even ran in front of me to try to block some of the wind and allow me to draft.  I mean – WHO DOES THIS FOR A FRIEND??? I am so BLESSED!

How did you prepare (outside of running a LOT of miles) for the race?

 I definitely ran a lot of miles both outside and on the treadmill. I completed a treadmill marathon as my final long run before my taper due to 4-6″ of ice, snow and bitter cold 3 weekends before my event! Talk about mental toughness training!  I also tried to stay positive, talking to my Coach and friends a lot who kept me on the right path.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about seeing all my friends and getting to share this special day with all of them.  This definitely helped sooth some of the nerves leading up to the race.  Oh, and I definitely consumed more than my share of pasta, potatoes & carbs leading up to the race! 🙂

Did you have any goals in mind when you registered?  Were they different than the goals you had on 3/21?

Goal A: FINISH

GOAL B:  Sub 6 hours

GOAL C: Sub 5:55

Anything better than 5:55 was going to be a gift from GOD.

GOD BLESSED me with a 5:37:28 finish, averaging 10:52/Mile.

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we were cold and a stitch confused about which lap we were on

What’s the most important thing someone who wants to run an ultra should consider?

 Do not neglect your training.  The long runs are your foundation for a successful race.  Also, when considering an Ultra – Do your homework.  Find a course that sounds doable to you. Is it a road or trail course?  What is the elevation like? Is it an out and back or a loop course?  You don’t want to attempt your first Ultra if its a trail run and you’ve never run trails or an Ultra that has major elevation gain if you tend to struggle with up hill running.  Find something that sounds achievable to you. Be honest with yourself and set yourself up for success not failure! I was told if you can run a Marathon, you can run an Ultra.  I now believe that.  However, unless you are an outstanding or an Elite athlete, you MUST slow your pace down from the beginning to reserve energy for those later miles past the marathon distance.  If you’ve never gone that distance before, you don’t know how your body is going to react. Sometimes its the unknown that we as endurance athletes push our bodies to limits and strive for. You definitely don’t want to crash on the course when you’re going further than 26.2 that day!

 Anything else you want to tell my readers (aka Jan!) about the experience?

What can I say about my first Ultra Marathon experience?  I’m truly speechless at times when I’m asked and try to talk about it.  I feel like an actor who won an Oscar and has 30 seconds to thank everyone that made this a success.  I just cant do it and I know I’ll forget someone.  The weather for the day of my ultra couldn’t have gotten any better (minus some of the wind – but it was manageable).
My SUPPORT CREW! #JeffsPitCrew  What can I honestly say here?  Stef, Chelsea, Lauren, Mike, Coach George, Jimmy, Marine Doug, Dave, Mike A. – I could not have done this without you!  I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!  My Manager and CIO (Mike & Jack) from work came out to see and support me!  THANK YOU!  My Company posted one of those AWESOME Finish Line pictures on the Firm Facebook page congratulating me!  THANK YOU!
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we love you like, a LOT
Lauren – My Little Sis! Driving how many hours from Maryland to Pittsburgh to spend the day supporting me in my Ultra quest?  THANK YOU!  Also for managing my Twitter account sending updates, taking pictures, relaying replies and well wishes to me during the race, THANK YOU & I love ya Sis!
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distance between friends is only as far as the run.
Coach George – for being there days after your surgery and spending the day supporting me – THANK YOU!  I know it was killing you sitting there wanting to be out running with me but trust me my friend you were with me in spirit and always in my head coaching!  THANK YOU for making the AWESOME sign with Shalane Flanagan.  She even favorited the picture Lauren Tweeted of us with the sign!  How surreal is that?  THANK YOU & I Love you Brother!
Coach Marie – Who kept encouraging and pushing me to give an Ultra event a try.  What can I say here?  I wouldn’t have done it without you.  All those training runs together, the mentoring, friendship and camaraderie you’ve provided me are priceless!  THANK YOU – I LOVE you Marie!
My extended Twitter Family and Friends – Megan B. who emailed me daily encouragement and sent me motivational signs, Sarah & Matthew who sent me well wishes on Twitter & Facebook, Brian B. (@Cledawgs) who is an outstanding Ultra runner offering all kind of advice and allowing me to guest Blog a recap of my experience, Angie M. who completed her first 50K the week before me and offered all the encouragement and well wishes she could, Lauren H. Gloria S., Kelsey L., Kristy B., Mandy E., Kathleen B., Crystal D., Carrie D., Michael S., Dana, Tiffany, Teresa, Haley & everyone I’ve forgotten (like I said I would earlier.)  THANK YOU for all your encouragement and support! I LOVE YOU ALL!
To my two newest friends I met running the Ultra that day – Mike @djjazzpants and Jen @marathonmom50k – CONGRATULATIONS! WE DID IT!
The outpouring of SUPPORT and LOVE I felt that day was down right overwhelming for me and still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it!  I’ve never felt so loved by a group of friends like this before!  I used that Support & Love throughout my run to motivate and keep me going and envisioning that Finish Line Celebration with everyone.
I’d like to say I’ll do another Ultra in the future, but I honestly don’t know if I will. This one provided perfect temperatures, terrain and organization, and my support crew couldn’t get any better. I feel like I should stop while on top of the world! I don’t think I can top this experience or feeling.
I have several Ultra Friends, and they are a different breed of athlete. I’m not sure if I fit into that category, but at least for one day I can say I achieved the honor of finishing and becoming a member of the Ultra Marathon Club. I now can proudly say I am a Runner, Marathoner and Ultra Marathoner!
Keep on Running my Friends!
Love,
Coach Jeff
Stay tuned for my review of the 10/31 miles I rocked with Jeff.

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