Paul Terranova – Extreme Trail Runner – Hydration and Ultra Running
“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is the one who endures that the final victory comes.” – Buddha
100k or 62.2 miles is all it took for Paul Terranova to win a race. It is one thing to finish a 100k and it’s a whole other story to win a 100k and that is exactly what Paul did in the Quicksilver 100k on May 14th, 2016.
The Quicksilver 100k has a mere 13,000 ft. of elevation gain, 17 hour time limit, if a runner finishes in 16 hours that will qualify the runner for Western States, the runners get a belt buckle; and according to Paul, the Quicksilver has one of the best post-race BBQ’s a runner could ask for. This race has been hosted in the hills of San Jose, CA since 1983. Due to Paul being living in Texas, I guess that says a lot about their BBQ.
Sam: How old were you when you started running?
Paul: My exposure to running was as a collegiate lightweight rower. To get from campus down to the boathouse for practice and to get back up to campus to the dining hall before it closed, to eat dinner, we had to run. That was about 2.5 to 3 miles each way. That was my very first exposure because I was a tennis player in high school.
Sam: What college did you attend?
Paul: Cornell, up in New York.
Sam: When was your first road race?
Paul: I did my first marathon after college. While in college I did Army/ROTC. So, after college I was a Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for the officer basic course and decided to run the St. Louis Marathon and that was 1995.
Sam: What did you place? How well did you do in your first marathon?
Paul: Well, I knew I had qualified for the Boston Marathon, but at the time I didn’t even know the significance of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. People were telling me to go run it and I was saying, “Why would I want to run it?” I didn’t run it because I had training and my first duty station was in Fort Hood, Texas. I did the Austin Marathon a couple times and I didn’t get back into serious running until 2001 when I was out of the military. Then I ran the Houston Marathon and re-qualified for the Boston Marathon and ran it in 2002.
Sam: Other than competing, do you dabble in other areas in the running world?
Paul: In past years I have had the opportunity to pace the women’s A and B qualifying groups for the Olympic Trials. So, the women that are trying to qualify for the trials they need to have a finish time of 2:46 or 2:39 for a marathon.
Sam: At what point in time did you progress into trail running?
Paul: I started to get into it because some of the people I was training for the marathons were also adventure racers. I got into adventure racing with a co-ed team in Houston. We did a couple sprint races and a couple long 24 hour races. When my wife and I moved to Austin in 2004, I got really into triathlons. My wife was doing more of the trail running than I was and I used to think she was totally crazy for running 50 miles and a 100 miles. Now, here I am doing it!
Sam: It just becomes progressive and you have try new things and mixed it up over the years. How was the transition into trail running?
Paul: It was pretty seamless because in the off season of triathlons I would do some shorter trail runs, 30k or 50k. Going up to 50 miles and so on was just gradual and incremental move for me.
Sam: Tell me about the first time you won a trail race and what that felt like.
Paul: What distance?
Sam: Well, if we have to pick a distance….lets go with endurance.
Paul: In 2015 the 100 mile USA trail championship race. That was in Huntsville, Texas at Huntsville State Park. That was my first overall national championship win. That was a big milestone even though I wasn’t the first finisher. The two people who finished in front of me; one was from Britain and the other was from Italy, so I was the first American to finish.
Sam: What was your finish time for that particular 100 miler?
Paul: 14 hours and change
Sam: You are so fast. How do you do that? I want to do a 100 miler, but worry about finishing in the 24 hours.
Paul: You’d be surprised with the amount of cross training that you do and the mental toughness. You just have to break the race down into pieces. If you look at the mile time, it’s not very fast.
Sam: How do you break down the race? Study the course map? Base it off of previous race times?
Paul: My big focus is just going from aid station to aid station and knowing what that distance is. Typically, it’s anywhere from 2 to 7 or 8 miles. That can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. If you say to yourself, “I can run for 90 minutes and get there. Then, I’ve got food and fuel that I need to get that next distance.” Just do it, piece by piece, just like that.
Sam: When it comes to these long distance races like the Quicksilver 100k and the 100 milers. What have you learned about your body? For instance, what hurts the most or what won’t you eat?
Paul: The Western States 100 miler, that I did in 2012 really hurt. It’s coming up again in a couple weeks. The last 20 miles of that race was….I just never thought my quads could hurt that bad or my feet could hurt that bad. The beauty of the human body is its ability to recover and to respond positively to the stress that we put on it. I had to go and run another 100 mile race 4 weeks after that in Vermont. To get ready for that took a lot of swimming, easy biking, and a little bit of easy running, massage and physical therapy. I got to the line and my legs were still sore 4 weeks later, but the good thing was that it never got worse. Once you are sore, it’s really not going to get much worse.
Sam: Did you ever think in that 4 week time period, “why am I doing this?” or was it, “I have to do this.”
Paul: It was, “I have to do this.”
Sam: How did you place in that race 4 weeks later?
Paul: I was surprisingly competitive. That summer I had signed up for the Grand Slam of ultra-running, which is 4 of the oldest 100 milers in the U.S.: Western States, Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100 and Wasatch Front 100. That’s all in 11 weeks. At that time I had also qualified for the Hawaii Ironman. So, I did all 5 of those races in the 16 weeks. We call that The Grand Kona Slam.
Sam: That’s amazing. Tell me more about the Quicksilver 100k and why you chose that particular race.
Paul: This was my third time doing it and its phenomenal training for Western States. It has long climbs and long descents. If you look at the total elevation gain and loss per mile, it’s almost identical to what Western States is. Western States is typically more of a downhill profile and in the Quicksilver you get a lot of the downhills. For me, it’s great training to go out to San Jose. I ran 9 hours at 9:17 this year and I’ve been 2nd place the past two years. It sets me up well and I will do the Western States training camp.
Sam: While racing what is your favorite food and best way to stay hydrated?
Paul: I always have gels. I carry a simple bottle. It’s really easy to carry and I have used Oral IV since 2013. Of course, I am always looking forward to the post-race meal.
Sam: The BBQ!
Chatting with Paul was awesome and he really impressed me with how humble he is even though he has accomplished so much. I tried to convince him to run an obstacle race, but he isn’t open to it…yet. I’m not giving up on him. His wife is also an incredible athlete and she influences him a lot. In a couple weeks he will be in Florida supporting his wife swimming in Key West for the “Best Day Ever” 13 mile swim to raise awareness for childhood drowning prevention.
If you would like to donate to the cause please click the following hyper link: Meredith Terranova’s Fundraising Page.
Blog written by Samantha Wishner