You took the win this year after taking 3rd last year. What was different for you about the two races?
The biggest difference this year was my preparation. When I raced last year, I had only recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, so I really hadn't logged the mountain miles that help prepare you to race well up in Leadville. Also, my approach was different this year. I went into the race with just the goals of running hard from the start and preparing myself for my main focus of the summer, the LT100.
Give us the scoop on your running and racing background — When did you discover trail running, and how long have you been living the ultra life?
I have loved running for as long as I can remember but grew up in an urban area that was far from any sort of trails. So most of my early encounters with the sport involved running on roads, tracks or in city parks. The high school I ran for, Roselle Catholic, was well known for producing some great track runners and coaches dating back to the 1960s, so being a part of that tradition got me excited about racing right from the beginning.
Following high school, I was fortunate enough to be recruited by coach Jerry "Q" Quiller (a former CU Boulder and CSU head coach) to run for West Point. My Division I running career for Army had it's share of ups and down but ended on a high note when, as the team captain my senior year, we were able to win our conference title in cross country and beat our school's main rival, Navy. I didn't expect to have much of a post-collegiate running career but while conducting some Army training in Missouri, a friend and I signed up for the Ozark Trail 100-Mile Endurance Run on a whim one day. Without much training or experience, the race turned out to be more difficult than I imagined, but we managed to finish together in around 28 hours. Following a trip to the ER the next day, I was already planning the next one.
I didn't really begin living the "ultra" lifestyle, however, until about a year and a half ago. During my last couple months in Afghanistan I was struggling with a lot of issues and found myself running more frequently and harder than I had ever before. I registered for the LT100 and a kept my training up when I returned to the States. Since then, I've been constantly improving my training and ultra running has remained a big part of my life.
What brought you to Colorado Springs from New Jersey, and how has that benefitted your training and racing?
The move to Colorado came about when the Army gave me the assignment to come to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, and it has been a major part of my being able to run ultramarathons. The trail system in the Springs is probably one of the most underrated in the States. There are so many different places to train here that it never gets boring, especially for a guy from Jersey.
What are you most looking forward to about your return to the LT100 this year?
This year's race is going to be a great one with some really tough competition. I'm eager to run against some of the best guys in the sport. Last year's race went very well for me, and I was happy (and even a little surprised) with my 6th place finish, but not satisfied. I'm looking forward to putting the past year of hard training to the test.
What or who keeps you motivated out on the trail?
I've got a lot of different motivations. My friends and family have always been great supporters of my racing and are there to keep me honest with training. At the toughest times during races though, I think the main motivation is intrinsic. Running really isn't a big deal in the greater scheme of things, but it's something I love to do and an opportunity to test myself and push my limits. I try to remind myself of that when I'm out there.
How do you spend your time when not training or racing?
If I'm not training, racing or working, I'm usually asleep on my couch. Most of my interests are pretty low key: I like to fish, hike 14'ers (as leisurely as possible) when I get the chance, drink quality beer and hang around with my friends. Also, I've got a Great Dane mix that tends to take up a lot of my time. And I practice yoga a few times a week.