Sometimes 100 miles isn’t far enough

One guarantee for Sunday afternoon is that Randy Duncan will be hurting from the Fat Dog 100

Long distance runner Randy Duncan of Victoria is running the Fat Dog 120-mile endurance race from Keremeos to Manning Park this weekend. In June Duncan and girlfriend Lori Herron did the Easter Seals 24-hour relay at UVic’s Ring Road

One guarantee for Sunday afternoon, is that Randy Duncan will be hurting.

The Victoria resident is running the Fat Dog 100 trail race from Keremeos to Manning Park, tomorrow (Aug. 18) and Sunday.

Ultra-marathons, or endurance races, typically begin at 50 kilometres. But there are several Fat Dog distances, 18 (29km), 30 (48km), 50 (81km), 70 (112km) and 120 miles (193km), and Duncan’s doing the biggest one.

It’s a race he wants badly to finish, having come undone his last time out.

“I attempted this race two years ago but had to pull at 21 hours, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) in, with a leg injury. I was literally lifting my leg with my arms anytime I had to climb, and I had to stop.”

The cut-off for finishing the race is 42 hours, which won’t be the problem. Enduring pain, that’s the real challenge.

It’s a challenge more and more runners are OK with. The sport isn’t new, but is enjoying a steady growth, stealing athletes away from the marathon and triathlon communities.

While Duncan is doing the Fat Dog, his girlfriend and training partner Lori Herron will be taking it somewhat easy, in preparation for the Cascade Crest 100 mile, Aug. 25 to 26, which starts and ends in Easton, Wash.

That race is sold out, and Herron only got in by lottery, with Duncan’s blessing.

“Lotteries are actually quite common with the popular ultras,” Duncan said.

The 51-year-old lineman from B.C. Hydro is in his 11th year of long-distance races. His family’s health history convinced him to get in shape. It started with swimming, turned into a few marathons and triathlons, including three Ironman triathlons.

“I think the Ironman helped train me not to listen to that voice in your head,” Duncan said. “The pain threshold for ultras is greater than Ironman, because you go much longer. You have that voice, a self-defence mechanism, telling yourself ‘you won’t hurt yourself if you walk.’”

This weekend is also the Leadville 100 in Colorado, made famous by the 2009 running book Born to Run, which, like the race, has ascertained cult status among endurance runners.

Victoria’s Mike Suminski, a well-known long-distance running coach, is there to run it for the third time. He first did it as a 50-year-old in 2002, did it again as a 55-year-old in 2007 and is now doing it for the third time as a 60-year-old.

As a coach, marathoners still make up the bulk of his clientele.

“Ultra is starting to build up a bit but 90 per cent are marathoners,” Suminksi said.

“When I ran my first 100-miler in Leadville there was myself and five others in my support crew. This year there are five runners and 16 support people from Victoria.

“People want to get off the roads, where they’re sucking up fumes from cars, and are getting onto trails which are beautiful and more forgiving for the knees.”

Twelve of the Victoria crew arrived in Leadville on Aug. 5, in order to acclimatize for the Aug. 18 to 19 race.

Going the extra miles

• Suminski uses organic baby food on his training runs, because “it goes down so good.”

• The Fat Dog 100 was first held in 2010 but some runners realized the course was actually 124 miles on their GPS, and it is now advertised as a 120-mile race.

• Fat Dog gets its name because once it reaches Manning Park it follows the Fat Dog Trail.

• Training runs for Duncan are  up 50km. One route he enjoys is from Thetis Lake to Mt. Work.

“When you run this much, you find all kinds of new trails and it’s surprising what connects around the Island.”