“That’s really f–king stupid.”
— Is the phrase I heard on the other end of the receiver when I said I was going to run 100 miles in over the span of two weeks. The goal? To raise money for LGBTQ+ small businesses and entrepreneurs who are still pushing through the ongoing pandemic. Owning a business myself, I experienced the struggle first-hand. The Equality Chamber of Commerce in D.C. will be the direct recipient, with the Capital Pride Alliance receiving 10% of the funds.
“I wouldn’t donate to that, but 100 miles over two days I’d donate to,” I heard next.
When I hung up the phone with my colleague, I started a frantic Google search on “running 100 miles in two days.” My eyeballs encountered articles referencing athletes, avid runners and just everyday people who had never accomplished a huge fitness venture but looked to push themselves. Bottom line, it was doable. Training commenced on February 1, 2021, with a 100-mile start date of October 7 at 6:00 a.m.
Fast forward through my first four months of training that consisted of non-stop running, knee pain and carb-loading, along with a phone call with my friend Pablo Brown, a trainer working 15 years in the District. Brown previously was my coach and specializes in high-intensity varied training. He prides himself in not being specific with his fitness style.
“You’re going to get injured the way you’re training,” Brown said, and in the same sentence told me he would be introducing me to someone who could help. “When doing something like this, you have to ask the right people all the questions in the world.”
Cue Brandon Petelin. International trade lawyer by day, fitness extremist anytime else.
In 2012, Petelin was in the same boat as me. Active in the gyms, but never had done something on the next level. In China of that same year, he completed a seven-day, 170-mile stage race (his first). On day one, he was extremely dehydrated and didn’t prepare with proper nutrition. The race organizers and doctors didn’t think he could continue. Despite the early struggle, he finished and placed in the top 20.
Upon reflection of how he could improve, six months later he completed his first 50K, then a few months later a 50-mile race, with a second 50-mile race not long after that. Then one year to the date from his run in China, he ran his first 100-miler which had a 24-hour cut-off (meaning he had to finish in less than 24-hours). He completed it in 22.
Over the last few years, he’s completed fifteen 100-mile races and a 200-mile race on top of that. Did I mention that between now and my October 7 100-mile debut, he will also be completing two 100-mile runs before he guides me during my endeavor.
Along with guiding me on my run, he is leading my training. Using a modified CFE (CrossFit Endurance) program. The sport-specific portion of the program includes one short interval workout, one long interval workout, and one to three tempo or time trial efforts each week. Depending on one’s starting point and goals, the program would also include anywhere from three to seven cross-training workouts (i.e., two to three strength sessions and one to four strength & conditioning workouts).
So, for someone, like me, who has never run 100 miles, 20 weeks of training is ideal. For lesser distances, depending on base fitness level, 12-21 weeks of programming can be sufficient.
I had four months of run-specific training under my belt when I started with Petelin, so he didn’t need to start my mileage as low as he might with others. Specifically, I had a 10-mile run the first week, whereas someone else might start with a 5K run.
What is my coach’s motivation to maintain what appears to be a crazy lifestyle to the average person?
“My motivation is for continued physical improvement,” Petelin said. “Ultras (and other extreme endeavors) can become addictive to someone with my personality type. I’m always trying to find something harder to challenge myself. In some ways, I find pushing my limits leads to being more relaxed in other aspects of life – you start to realize other things in life don’t bother you as much because you felt like you were on the brink of death.”
Balance Gym is sponsoring my run by providing my fitness playground. Co-CEO of Balance Gym Devin Maier has been a great supporter of fitness endeavors for a great cause and is always encouraging members to push themselves, but to be cognizant.
“Self-maintenance and recovery are key when training,” Maier said. “A lot of it is being very aware of your body and limitations, mobility work with a physical therapist is great. Training is difficult, it gets more difficult when you start having injuries. It’s how you address them and if you address them quickly before they become bigger issues. I know many people who will start marathon training and have issues, which they’ll ignore, and then they become bigger issues and they can’t complete the event.”
Speaking of recovery, Dario Mejia, local LGBTQ+ owner of Sports Massage Guy, works with me weekly performing bodywork such as sports massage, cupping, scraping and stretching. His aid has been vital in keeping my body able and ready.
Petelin organized my route in partnership with run sponsor Pacers Running. Along with providing necessary running gear and partnership, Pacers has also designed my route which will be throughout the DMV region. Along the route, there will be pacers to meet me with nutrition and encouragement, and 17 aid stations with anything I may need along my 100-mile journey.
Pushing through these last seven months has been a lifestyle adjustment and the training constantly keeps me on my toes. Sometimes, in what seems like a never-ending workout for this, I have the phrase my colleague uttered to keep me motivated, “that’s really f–king stupid.”
When not training for ultramarathons, Brandt Ricca is the owner of creative brand agency, Nora Lee. To learn more about Nora Lee, visit their website here or follow them on Instagram @noraleeus. Ricca’s 100 mile run is on October 7, 2021 at 6:00 am. Learn more about Ricca’s journey by following him on Instagram @brandtricca. To donate to Brand Ricca’s run, please visit here.
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