Ter­ra­nova tests the lim­its of her en­durance in ul­tra events

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - brom hoban

For many run­ners, the marathon is the ul­ti­mate dis­tance. For a smaller, but in­creas­ing, num­ber of run­ners like Mered­ith Ter­ra­nova, it’s a stop along the way.

Ter­ra­nova ran her first marathon in Hous­ton 10 years ago, and, al­though it was a chal­lenge and an achieve­ment, she was at­tracted to the Sun­Mart 50K, a 31-mile race through the pine forests of Huntsville State Park about 35 miles north of Hous­ton.

Wel­come to Ul­tra World, the place some run­ners go af­ter pass­ing through the marathon.

“The sport of ul­tra run­ning is be­com­ing more main­stream,” says Jamie Don­ald­son, a Lit­tle­ton, Colo., run­ner who owns the course record for the Bad­wa­ter Ul­tra­ma­rathon, a 135-mile race from Death Val­ley to Mount Whit­ney in Cal­i­for­nia.

Think Tour de France stage but with­out the bi­cy­cles. The Bad­wa­ter route goes from the low­est el­e­va­tion in North Amer­ica up into the Sierra Ne­vada Moun­tains of Se­quoia Na­tional Park.

“Some of the ul­tra races you ap­ply to get into are filled within lit­er­ally min­utes,” says Don­ald­son. “A lot of peo­ple are cross­ing over from marathons. They re­al­ize if they can do a marathon, they can do a 50K, and then a 100-miler.”

Ter­ra­nova is 35 and her hus­band, Paul, also is an ul­tra run­ner. She re­calls im­prov­ing af­ter the Sun­Mart and mov­ing up to the 50-mile dis­tance, win­ning the 2009 Rocky Rac­coon 50-Miler in 8:02 and tak­ing sec­ond there in 2010. The Rac­coon also is run in Huntsville State Park.

And, you guessed it, 50 miles is not the new marathon. Try 100 miles. And while you’re at it, try it over chal­leng­ing ter­rain rather than pave­ment, and try it at, say, 10,430 feet. That’s where Leadville, Colo., is and where the Leadville Trail 100 is run.

That’s just one of them. There’s also the Hardrock 100 En­durance Run through Colorado’s San Juan range, and the Western States En­durance Run in Cal­i­for­nia’s Sierra Ne­vadas. All are of­fthe-charts en­durance events and bru­tally un­for­giv­ing. The Hardrock says if you don’t fin­ish in 48 hours, you don’t get listed in the re­sults.

Ter­ra­nova at­tempted the Western States race two times, once in 2006, and once in 2007, but fell short both times. “The first time I went out too hard, and didn’t re­spect the dis­tance. I ended up vom­it­ing and got pulled at mile 50 due to weight loss,” she says.

“They mea­sure your weight six times along the course, and if you drop more than 7 per­cent of your start­ing weight, you are not al­lowed to con­tinue.”

In 2007 Ter­ra­nova de­vel­oped breath­ing prob­lems due to the ex­tremely dusty con­di­tions. “At mile 55, I just couldn’t breathe. I later de­vel­oped a pretty bad lung in­fec­tion,” she says.

This year was dif­fer­ent. On June 27, Ter­ra­nova saw the fin­ish line at the Placer High School track in Auburn, Calif., and earned a sil­ver belt buckle for break­ing 24 hours as well.

A huge mileage build-up and a me­thod­i­cal ap­proach are what made the dif­fer­ence.

“To pre­pare, I ran back-to­back 20 and 30-mile cour­ses, string­ing to­gether many of the biggest hills in Austin,”

bob macgil­livray

Mered­ith Ter­ra­nova fin­ished the Western States 100-miler in 23 hours, 56 min­utes.

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