Pleasure in your Pain: Part 1

Pleasure in your Pain: Part 1

A Race Director Q & A

When I reached out to nine of our favorite race directors, there was one similarity I noticed. They answered my questions within a day or two; (unheard of when dealing with athletes.. trust me I know because I manage the NATHAN athlete team.)   One RD sent back answers and pictures within minutes of me hitting "send."  Another cited his passion and enthusiasm for what he does as the reason for getting back to me so quickly.  With all the hard work that goes into a trail or ultra running event, dedication is a must... and it shows! There is no denying the fact that without race directors, we would have no races. We have them to thank for the goals reached and the bar we set for ourselves, even though their names may be the ones we curse during those tough moments.

 

I had originally planned to do one blog post dedicated to our favorite race directors.  Due to their amazing responses, and social media attention spans being what they are, we'll go ahead and do this in two posts and split it up into regions of North America, East and West.  So we bring you part one of this two part blog.... The BEAST COAST.  Part two will cover the west coast, Texas (needs its own region) and Canada. Enjoy and stay tuned for part two.

 

Cover photo by Mike McNeill

 

East Coast

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Craig Fleming 

Our first featured race director hosts trail races on some of the gnarliest trails that PA has to offer. Rocks, brutal climbs, crazy weather, and rattlesnakes are all possibilities at any of Craig's trail races.  Most of us in the NATHAN PA office are way too familiar, as we have suffered some of the trials on his trails.

 

Craig hands Eastern Sates 100 winner, Devon Olson, the coveted Ax. Craig hands Eastern States 100 winner, Devon Olson, the coveted Ax.

 

 

  • How did your race directing career start? A Recreation Forester ask me to put on a race in his district to increase interest in the trail system. All downhill from there.
  • What do you love most about race directing? The post-race party, the camaraderie.
  • What are the biggest challenges? Parking 1300 runners in the middle of nowhere. Communication when there is no cell service in the area.
  • What’s the craziest thing you have seen during one of your races? Snow, sleet, sun, 50mph winds, and a hatch of black flies all in one day during the race. Welcome to PA!!!!
  • If you had to convince someone to run your race in only one sentence what would you say? Our course is designed to reward those who have trained and to punish those who haven't. LOL

 

Lightning Round:

  • 30 miles of boulder fields, 31 miles of single track, 1 mile of road, 24,000 feet of gain in the dead of summer: What do you name this race? The Devils Gauntlet
  • Favorite race directing outfit: Trail shoes, shorts, and a tee shirt because I run my own races. The chef must eat his own cooking!!!!
  • Forget logistics and all that for a minute. Dream location to throw a race: Mt Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima.
  • Best piece of advice to a newbie who is about to run your race: Stop thinking and just run!!!

 

Hyner 50k runner, Alicia Rich, pushes up the first big climb to Hyner View. Hyner 50k runner, Alicia Rich, pushes up the first big climb to Hyner View. PC: Mike McNeil

 

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Carl Perkins

As is true with most race directors, Carl Perkins puts his heart and soul into the January race he directs.  The PHUNT memes begin popping up on Facebook in June and only escalate in frequency from there. With a 25k loop course and an option to continue on to 50k, or stop for the day and enjoy the amazing homemade soup, PHUNT is conducive to a massive gathering of new and seasoned trail runners alike.

 

The PHUNT memes are plentiful along the course. Carl's face graces this one. The PHUNT memes are plentiful along the course. Carl's face graces this one.

 

  • How did your race directing career start? Four years ago, the original race directors of PHUNT moved out of the area. So a call went out across the running club I hang with (Trail Dawgs), to see if anybody was interested.  I was the only one stupid enough to raise their hand, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • What do you love most about race directing? I really enjoy the feedback from the runners. I put a lot of work into making sure PHUNT appeals to a broad spectrum of runners, and that it’s a PHUN (pardon the pun) event.  I know the event was a success when I can’t walk more than 5 feet before somebody is stopping me to tell me what a great time they had.  I must be doing something right, because the 2018 event sold out within 3 weeks of registration opening
  • What are the biggest challenges? Without a doubt, managing the logistics on race day.
  • What’s the craziest thing you have seen during one of your races? While it didn’t happen while I was the RD, a few years ago at PHUNT it was so cold that one runner’s corneas froze. I’m still not sure how he did it, but he managed to drive away once he finished the race.
  • If you had to convince someone to run your race in only one sentence what would you say? It might suck at times, but we promise to stuff your face with lentil soup, french fries, & beer at the end.

 

Lightning Round:

  • 30 miles of boulder fields, 31 miles of single track, 1 mile of road, 24,000 feet of gain in the dead of summer: What do you name this race? The Wicked Pissah 100K Trail Race.
  • Favorite race directing outfit: Anybody wearing arm warmers, because that allows me and my fellow Trail Dawgs to mock the runner. We fondly refer to them as “arm panties”, and firmly believe no legit trail runner would be caught dead wearing them.  Having said that, we’re also the same type of runners that find calf sleeves and vibrant colored running tights, perfectly acceptable.  I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day with the reasoning that our motley group uses.
  • Forget logistics and all that for a minute. Dream location to throw a race: Iceland!  The country is totally awesome in every sense of the word.
  • Best piece of advice to a newbie who is about to run your race: Whether you’re doing one loop (25K), or two loops (50K), go out SLOW.  The course and weather have a way of sneaking up on a runner.  Many a runner have gone out too fast, only to implode later on.

 

No phun is ever had at PHUNT. No phun is ever had at PHUNT.

 

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Bob Becker

At age 71, Bob Becker is quite an accomplished runner and shows no signs up slowing. With numerous Badwater finishes (the most recent one at age 70 and he's signed up again this year!), Bob is no stranger to running in extreme heat so he knows a thing or two about what his runners will go through. Florida sets the perfect stage for two of his races, one on road and one on trail.

 

Women's podium at Keys 100 2014. Aly Venti, Traci Falbo, Katalin Nagy and Bob. Maybe race directing is Bob's fountain of youth. Women's podium at Keys 100 2014. Aly Venti, Traci Falbo, Katalin Nagy and Bob. Maybe race directing is Bob's fountain of youth.

 

  • How did your race directing career start? Realized there were no ultras in South Florida and decided to try to create one—having no idea what I was getting into!
  • What do you love most about race directing?  Easy.  The camaraderie among the generous people who make up the vast majority of ultramarathon runners.  I could tell you the story of my first 100-miler when late at night another runner literally gave me the shirt off his back to help me warm-up.
  • What are the biggest challenges? Now there are multiple races everywhere, every weekend, so distinguishing mine from the others to build greater participation is the greatest challenge.
  • What’s the craziest thing you have seen during one of your races?  Two come to mind.  One is an accomplished ultra-runner who hydrates by drinking beer and vodka during races!  Another is the runner who, before we stopped allowing it, was taken to the hospital needing an IV during a 100-miler, recovered and returned to the race, winning her age range!
  • If you had to convince someone to run your race in only one sentence what would you say?  Running across the islands of the Florida Keys is as spectacular as it gets—think turquoise!

 

Lightning Round:

  • 30 miles of boulder fields, 31 miles of single track, 1 mile of road, 24,000 feet of gain in the dead of summer: What do you name this race? “No Way 100k”
  • Forget logistics and all that for a minute. Dream location to throw a race: Nantucket Island
  • Best piece of advice to a newbie who is about to run your race: Read and take to heart all the advice on the race website, and hire a first-rate coach.

 

Chavet Breslin, and husband Ben, stop for a pic along the Keys 100 route. Not too shabby. Chavet Breslin, and husband Ben, stop for a pic along the Keys 100 route. Not too shabby.

 

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Bill Schultz

"May your goals forever be in sight.." is definitely Bill Schultz'motto.   The perfect tagline for someone who race directs a 24 hour track race. (His race is run on a 400m track. Yes, you read that right!)  The finish line is always in sight.  His experience with timed races goes back decades and his enthusiasm for these events has not wavered.

 

Bill Schultz presents D3 50k runner, Kristen Varley with her award. Bill Schultz presents D3 50k runner, Kristen Varley with her award.

 

 

  • How did your race directing career start? Year was 1984. I had been accepted into the Weston 6 Day race in NJ.  Thought I could use a 12Hr “workout” so Bob Huggins and I decided on a 12Hr (Dawn to Dusk) sponsored by the DELCO RRC. Many club members ran their 1st ultra with us.  Race ran from 1984 to 2001.  After Bob passed in 2012, Josh Irvan and I brought the race back.
  • What do you love most about race directing? One of our mottos is “For Runners, By Runners”. We’re just 2 guys trying to put on an event where the runners can ALL set PRs.  We want to help them achieve that… (May their goals forever be in sight!)
  • What are the biggest challenges?  Trying to troubleshoot any/all problems so that runners have less to worry about and can obtain their goals.
  • What’s the craziest thing you have seen during one of your races?  Must admit, seeing Dave Johnson send some volunteers out to get a baby pool… and then having people wait to get a chance to sit in it...
  • If you had to convince someone to run your race in only one sentence what would you say? If you’ve never tried a track ultra, I think you’d be surprised how hard they are… as you can ALWAYS see your competition.

 

Lightning Round:

  • 30 miles of boulder fields, 31 miles of single track, 1 mile of road, 24,000 feet of gain in the dead of summer: What do you name this race? Another Barkley Fall Classic..
  • Forget logistics and all that for a minute. Dream location to throw a race: Indoor 6 Day where the weather would not be a factor
  • Best piece of advice to a newbie who is about to run your race: In the 24Hr, “Manage the day, and own the night”…  You can’t win in the 1st 6-12 hrs, but you sure can ruin your race...

 

There is a unique sense of family at race where you see every runner hundreds of times in 24 hours. There is a unique sense of family at race where you see every runner hundreds of times in 24 hours.

 

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Tom Jennings

Race directing can be stressful, there is not doubt about that.  If Tom is ever stressed you would never know. I challenge you to find the guy without a smile on his face. You can tell her really loves what he does. Tom throws an impeccably run race in a gorgeous area of PA when they leaves are just right for fall foliage viewing.

 

Tom and OC100 finisher, Bryan Slotterbach share a laugh. Those polls are holding Bryan up. Tom and OC100 finisher, Bryan Slotterbach share a laugh. Those polls are holding Bryan up. PC: Bryan Slotterbach

 

  • How did your race directing career start?  A couple of people mentioned "we should have a race here at Oil Creek State Park - we have an amazing trail"  It seemed like it was something I needed to make happen.
  • What do you love most about race directing? Changing people's lives by giving them an extreme goal to shoot for.
  • What are the biggest challenges?  Getting the hundreds of volunteers each year lined up - they become inspired and then get into the race themselves so I'm always looking for new volunteers
  • What’s the craziest thing you have seen during one of your races?  I'm always amazed by the elite 100 milers & 100k'ers that can run a 50k loop nearly as fast as the 50k top finishers - blows my mind every year
  • If you had to convince someone to run your race in only one sentence what would you say?  "Strike oil or move on!"

 

Lightning Round:

  • 30 miles of boulder fields, 31 miles of single track, 1 mile of road, 24,000 feet of gain in the dead of summer: What do you name this race?  Hot Rocks 100K
  • Forget logistics and all that for a minute. Dream location to throw a race:  a 160 or 200 miler at Oil Creek State Park
  • Best piece of advice to a newbie who is about to run your race:  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

 

Actual oil derricks on the OC 100 course. PC: John Fegyveresi Actual oil derricks on the OC 100 course. PC: John Fegyveresi

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