Paul Terranova of Texas put together a huge effort that earned him an 8th place finish at this year’s Western States 100 in a time of 17:56:29!
In the lead-up to Western States Paul had a couple break-through efforts with a sub-9, third place finish at the USATF 100 km championship at Bandera and an exciting near-win at the USATF 50 Mile championship.
After completing his first 100 miler at Western States during his Grand Slam of Ultra Running journey in 2012, Paul was ready to get after it in a controlled-yet-aggressive manner at this year’s Western States 100.
Enjoy our chat!
How would you compare your mental and physical state between your first 100 at the 2012 Western States and this year’s race?
Last year, I knew I just needed to get through the first hundred in one piece, and then start thinking about Vermont 100 four weeks later. This year, I came in physically with over 600 more miles of trail racing experience, and mentally confident and ready to run a smart race.
When you heard it was going to be a cooker of a day, did you grin just a little bit inside? Did you include any special race-day strategies due to the sultry temps?
Ha, I learned to be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!? My debut Hawaii Ironman in 2005 was a sleeper of a day, some might call it an “easy” day. After that, I hoped and prayed for a blistering hot & windy day for my second trip there in 2009, and boy did I get it! I was in phenomenally better shape in all three disciplines that year yet only went eight minutes faster, very humbling. That being said, I was definitely ready for the heat this year as my wife Meredith had been predicting a hot year. The previous six weeks all of my workouts were in a long sleeve, short sleeve, and beanie (no gloves though!). During the race, I just made sure I stayed on top of my hydration, electrolytes, and fueling, carried a third bottle and a wet bandanna starting at Duncan Canyon.
Very early in the race during the hike up Escarpment, we see you hiking with/near the Mr. Karl Meltzer. Were there any strong thoughts or observations during these early miles?
Yeah, how much different it was than last year!!! (no freezing rain, sleet, wind, etc). The start of States really allows for a thorough warm up as it’s nothing more than a fast hike/slow jog, which is just fine with me coming from a low altitude region of the country. I knew I was in a good spot (20th +/-) with select company at that point including Karl, Joe Uhan, Jacob Rydman, and Nick Pedatella. Just a nice way to start the day with the other runners, thankful to God for the opportunity to compete here a second consecutive year.
10.5 miles into the race (Lyon Ridge), you were sitting in 16th position. Were you running with a group or essentially solo running at this point? Any feedback from the body on how your were feeling after the 10 mile warm-up?
I was pretty much solo at this point after Uhan took off like a bat out of hell shortly after summiting and Jacob came by me a couple miles before the Lyon Ridge aid station. I knew I was already right about 17-hour pace which historically will easily get you top-ten on a “normal” hot year on the “standard” (not snow) course. Just ticking away the miles, staying relaxed, and listening to my wife’s mp3 player, thanks babe!!! I sucked down a gel right before the aid station, topped off one of my water bottles, grabbed a replacement gel from the table, and then proceeded to drop it as I was tightening the bottle cap, which I didn’t realize until 10 yards after exiting the aid station. Turn around dummy, jog back, grab gel, tuck into race vest pocket, proceed. I joked to myself, “if that’s the worst thing that happens to you all day, you’ll be in pretty good shape!”
100 miles on the Western States trail. Second time around. How did you approach this 100 miles? Did you break the race into specific segments? Aid station to aid station? Etc? Did you tweak this approach from last year’s experience?
This year I had a much better feel for the pace that I was capable of sustaining and what splits I could expect to see. My approach was to break the entirety of 100.2 miles into “chunks” of course in between places where I’d see my crew: 3.5 to 4 hours for the first “chunk” to Duncan Canyon, 2 to 2.5 hour “chunk” to Dusty Corners, 3 to 3.5 hour “chunk” to Michigan Bluff, etc. Then all the other aid stations ended up being “waypoints” within each chunk. This seemed to work really well as I committed them to memory over the past three months and rarely had to glance at my split card on race day.
Through the first 62 miles, you moved from 17th position, up to 11th! Seems like a magical day up to this point. How would you describe your first 62 miles (to Foresthill school)?
The reality of that move is that I did nothing special at all, just maintained as Bryon Powell writes, “relentless forward progress.” Some of that move certainly is attributed to efficient aid station time management thanks to my crack crew Jeanmarie, Justin, Bryan, and Meredith, they attended to my every need without rushing or hastily doing things. I’m so thankful for them helping me out!
Less than 40 miles to the finish and on the cusp of being in the prestigious top 10. I assume you were you aware of this as your wife and crew, Meredith, doesn’t let anything slip by. What was going through your mind at this point? How were you feeling physically?
Definitely aware, but still sticking to the plan! Getting closer to 18-hour pace at this point, but given the day it didn’t stress me out one bit. The Michigan Bluff volunteers told me I was 11th upon leaving the mile 56 aid station. They have this huge plywood tracking board and I left still confident that there were at least a couple of runners to reel in up ahead. Less than a mile upon leaving, Uhan is walking BACK up the gravel road towards the aid station I just left. Though bummed to see a friend struggling like that, I had no choice but to “keep on keepin’ on” as I suspected that Karl and others were not too far behind. Physically and mentally I was superb. No issues whatsoever at this point. Karl caught up to me going into Volcano Canyon and had great climbing legs coming out of there and getting to Foresthill. Even though this put me back in 11th, it didn’t change my outlook, there was still A LOT terrain to cover.
Over the next 16 miles (up to mile 78 (Rucky Chucky)) you moved into top 10! How about 9th! Was the adrenaline flowing through your veins at this point? Did you have to throttle back the excitement a bit, knowing you still have over 20 miles before the finish?
Quite the contrary. After picking up my pacer #1 Bryan, we methodically worked our way through the California Street loop. We’re both pretty even-tempered guys so we never got rattled or overly pumped-up when we got passed (by Jesse Haynes) or passed other runners (Jorge Maravilla, Hal Koerner, Jeremy Humphrey). Honestly, it was so flippin’ hot in the late-afternoon that all of our energy went into running smooth, trying to dissipate heat, and not making any stupid mistakes. Bryan and I train together a lot so it’s easy for us to go stride for stride with little to no communication. He also did a GREAT job memorizing his “chunk” of the race, A+!!! Admittedly, I did get a little jazzed up just as we were getting to the river and both Jesse and Jeremy and their respective pacers came into view in front of us at the same time. I knew right then that barring a total melt-down, top-ten was going to happen!!
Mr. Karl Meltzer and yourself played a bit of leap-frog during the later stages of the race. With both of you trying to get-in or stay-in a top 10 placing, were you working together a bit or simply doing your own thing? Could you describe this a bit.
The leap-frog with Karl was really just once at Volcano Canyon (~ mile 60 described above) and then I repaid the favor on the climb out of the river up to Green Gate (mile 80) when he was going through a self-admitted rough patch. THE story that the results DON’T show, is the 24 miles of back and forth between Jesse Haynes (bib #69) and me between Cal-1 (mile 66) and Brown’s Bar (mile 90). What a gutsy competitor he is, especially for his DEBUT 100-miler.
Here’s how it played out: Jesse (and his pacer) caught up to us at Cal-1, we caught back up to him at Cal-2, he re-passed us going to Cal-3, we caught back up to him (and Jeremy) at the river, he beat me to Green Gate but we left before him as he was changing shoes, he passed us going to ALT (mile 85), we beat him out of ALT, and then shortly after he made the final move for 7th place going to Brown’s Bar. Whew, that tires me out just thinking about it! 🙂
Leaving Green Gate (mile 79.8) in 8th position. Could you describe how these last 20 miles played out for you?
Despite the back and forth going on between Jesse and me, Bryan and I focused on getting as much daylight running in as possible, and I told him I thought we could make it to Brown’s Bar without turning on our lights, which we did! Nice milestone and a moral victory knowing that whoever was 9th and 10th would have to catch us in the dark. Meredith took over the pacing duties at Highway 49 (mile 94) [isn’t it odd that those #s are transposed, just realized that!] and she immediately recognized that we had an honest shot at cracking 18 hours. I was game so I just stayed on her heels the best I could all the way to Auburn!!!!
You, running down the track toward the finish. Meredith running stride for stride along the bleachers. I could see a smile on your face. What was going through your mind once you hit the track and then when you crossed the finish line in 17:56:29, 8th overall?
Absolutely thrilled with the way the day turned out and a dream come true to be the first “Top Ten Texan” since Mary Hammes of Fort Worth won the women’s race in 1987, under hot conditions of course! She was also the first non-Californian to win (man or woman). After seeing the top-5 guys (Olson, Mackey, Uhan, Bowman, Clark) at the 2012 Bandera 100km (I was 6th that year and Jesse was 7th) go top-10 at States five months later, I set my sights on earning my own Montrail Ultra Cup slot at Bandera in 2013. Must be something about the rugged Texas Hill Country that tempers the early season legs!!!
Did you learn any new insights about yourself after this experience?
I learned never to underestimate a strong faith in God and faith in those people and circumstances that He puts in your life. The past 25 weeks since Bandera have certainly been a test of consistency and perseverance, and there have been sacrifices to maintain, as I’ve heard Tim Twietmeyer say, the “DTI: Domestic Tranquility Index.” Meredith and I make a great team as we both pursue and support each other’s goals, and those decisions always seem to work out for the best in the long run!
After you have had a week to reflect and soak on the day. What are some of your strongest memories across the 100.2 mile journey?
Wow, so much of it seems like such a blur. Once the gun goes off, the journey goes by REALLY fast even though it’s the better part of a full day. Then afterwards at the awards ceremony, you feel like a combination of being hungover, pulling an all-nighter, and getting into a car-crash. Totally surreal experience but one that I look forward to revisiting in my mind for a long time to come! I’m sure I’ll also flip through my training log and remember all the early morning hill workouts and training runs with my Team Rogue teammates, often times followed by breakfast and coffee!!!
How have you approached recovery in your first week post-Western?
The first week has been VERY mellow and easy. Our “home-stay” with some great friends in Granite Bay (thanks Lee and Sarah!!) immediately after the race kickstarted my recovery and allowed us to get everything cleaned and washed before flying home early Monday morning. The farm-fresh eggs don’t hurt either! So far, I’ve just done some easy indoor cycling, an easy swim, about three ice baths, a 90 minute outdoor ride, a 30 minute easy trail run with the dogs this past weekend, and I just got into the gym this morning for some strength/recovery work. Massage is scheduled for this Wednesday! I also got a head start on all the house-projects that I’ve been “delaying” since January.
Any specific race or adventure plans for the rest of 2013?
We’ll be out in Leadville to crew and pace for my brother-in-law Ryan who is tackling his first 100!!! Last year, he was deployed while the Grand Kona Slam was going on, so it’ll be fun to do some running together this year. Some short local triathlons have already made their way onto the calendar so my great friends at Jack and Adam’s Bicycles don’t forget about me! 😉 Fortunately, Meredith has started training for Ultraman Florida in February 2014 so she’s carrying the triathlon torch for Team Terranova right now. After that, either Run Rabbit Run 100m and/or UROC 100km in September, and then Mountain Masochist 50mile in November. Hey boss, if I could get about 10 more days of PTO this year that would really be great!!!?
Special thanks to Paul for sharing with us!
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
Posted on 10 Jul 2013
One Response to “2013 Western States 100: Paul Terranova Chats About His Top-10 Finish”