Lessons Learned from a Pro: A recap of our evening with Paul Terranova

If you haven’t already heard of Paul Terranova and you’re into trail and ultra running, than you definitely have now! Paul is a seasoned veteran of endurance sports and has been competing in the Ironman and now ultra racing season for well over a decade.

He is the only person to the Grand Slam of ultra running (4 100 mile races in one summer) plus the Kona Ironman Championship. In the last year, he won Cruel Jewel 100, was 9th at HURT 100 miler (Hawaii), he won the 100km Trail National Championship a few weeks back here in Texas and set a course record, he was first place in the Chattanooga 100 mile endurance race, and was first American to one of the sister races of UTMB, Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) in 2017.

Paul is also generous, kind and all around great person. With that, it was a real treat to have Paul in the store last night talking to 40 or so folks on his preparation for a successful Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB) this summer.

Here are three things I learned last night:

#1 The most valuable things in life are at the intersection of Fun and Not Fun. 

Although this fun Venn Diagram is for ultra-running, it can obviously be applied to everything- owning a business, raising a family and yes training for a race.

How can you minimize the not fun? Preparation. Most people ONLY focus on the physical aspect when preparing for a race. A lot of stress and failure and can also come from the lack of logistical planning for you and your crew, as well as mental preparation for the event.

I always equate to my goal races as a final exam; it is a test to see how well you prepared for tackling this test. These days, they are just a lot MORE fun than midterms and finals from Graduate School.


#2 Always have a back-up “kit”. This allows you to be prepared for anything.

Like most foreign races, UTMB has a required kit of gear that you must have with you at all times. However, at least for the longer races 50K and above, especially as we enter Fall and Winter, it will never hurt to pack more than what you initially may need!

Paul’s gear list for UTMB included:

  • Black Diamond Carbon Distance Z poles. (I actually broke one coming into Coumayeur and Meredith (Paul’s wife) had my old spare pair on hand so I was able to swap it out)
  • Raidlight 6L Responsiv vest with two 600ml hydration flasks and Salomon Pole Quiver attached via zipties
  • Two Petzl e-Lites with whistle and 4 spare batteries (CR2032).  At night I used my primary Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp and a one80 LED waistlight
  • Ultraspire flexible cup (backup) & a GU flexible cup (primary)
  • Waterproof trousers (provided by HOKA) (good lightweight alternatives are made by Raidlight and Montbell)
  • Long-legged trousers (Patagonia Houdini pants)
  • Warm second layer long sleeve (Patagonia Air Shed pullover)
  • Windproof DWR jacket (HOKA super-thin)
  • Waterproof & warm gloves, warm hat, buff (waterproof glove shells provided by HOKA (similar to the ones made by Raidlight), warm gloves are my thinnest old pair of Hind glove liners, Patagonia beanie, Julbo buff)
  • -Waterproof jacket (Raidlight Hyperlight MP+).  HOKA provided me one but the Raidlight one is way lighter.  Montbell also has a superlight one.
  • M5 card phone with laminated passport and emergency phone #s
  • He also packed 5 pairs of shoes- Evo Speedgoat’s, Speedgoat 3 (primary) and a few pairs of the Hoka One One Bondi 6’s. Given the uncertainty of the conditions on the trail, this allowed him to switch shoes as needed.
  • emergency space blanket
  • elastic/adhesive bandage
  • plastic spoon (UTMB is now BYOU “bring your own utensil”)

#3 With all your preparation, you also have to understand that your plan is the basis for change.

You must be flexible and adjust in the moment as need be. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to handle changes. If you are overwhelmed or flustered by your event because you didn’t know what to expect, additional changes are usually the excuse for a DNF.

Other random tidbits I learned:

  • Putting a little Duct Tape on your hiking poles allows you to identify which pair is yours at an aid station and if you need duct tape, you now have some with you!
  • Paul learned while running HURT that Japanese runners use Rice with Soy Sauce as their “race nutrition.” So Paul’s crew carried Soy Sauce and hot Sauce in his drop bag in case he needed to season any bland aid station food or needed additional salt.
    • You can learn a lot from those around you.
  • Not a lesson learned, but validation for my own packing: I used to way under pack for races, only ever planning for the best case scenario. And then I became very Hypothermic in a race because I left most of my clothes at home and didn’t anticipate the drastic change in weather.
    • Now I pack for a ever weather scenario (especially in the mountains), just in case.
    • The weather forecast was great for his race in France, but Paul still packed three waterproof jackets. He had no trouble, but those that finished 10+ hours behind him, had a horrible rain storm overnight. If you own the gear, pack it. If you don’t own the gear, become a member and you can save on all your new gear as you acquire it!

Call for comments: If you were there last night, what did you learn or takeaway to use for your next race?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *