Trail runs can be a great way to turn your afternoon outside into exploratory exercise. But imagine that instead of hitting the trails for a few leisure miles after work, you're testing your physical endurance and mental grit against a 24-hour trail run, right in your backyard.
Field Agent, Brian Zembower, did just that this summer and finished his first ever 100-mile trail run with an outstanding second place finish in Virginia's, Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run. After he caught his breath and iced his knees, we checked in with Brian to learn more about the event.
So what exactly is the Yeti 100?
The Yeti 100 is a 100-mile endurance race that takes place entirely on the Virginia Creeper Trail. This trail runs from Whitetop Mountain (the third highest peak in the state of Virginia), through the town of Damascus, ending in Abingdon. A small portion of the Creeper Trail actually overlaps the Appalachian Trail in Southern Virginia. 210 runners competed this year.
What first got you interested in ultra distance trail running?
Going through high school I played soccer and swam competitively. I later attended a division three college in Ohio where I played soccer and ran middle distance track.
After undergrad I filled my athletic void by taking up triathlons; eventually completing a half ironman. Once I started attending graduate school, I found that I had significantly less time to train. That’s when I began focusing more specifically on running while using cycling as cross training.
Since then I have found my niche exploring the different distances of ultra-trail running, and enjoying the natural beauty of the wilderness in which I run. I have completed numerous 50K and 100K races in the past, but the Yeti 100 was my first 100-mile race.
What is your least favorite part about training for races like this?
My least favorite part is the isolation that comes with training while holding a full-time job. The majority of my training took place early in the morning, often going on runs at 4:30 AM.
What is your favorite part about race day?
The energy and enthusiasm of the individuals that take part in the race. I love that so many people value that time that we get to spend out on the trail; just like we are all kids again, getting the chance to escape the rigors of everyday life to play in the woods for hours on end.
What’s the most valuable advice you have for first timers?
#1: Put the work in on the front end; have a good focused training block to ensure that you are prepared properly
#2: Gradually ease into farther distances. Don’t just jump from a 10K into a 100 miler. Doing this can really stress a person within the mental aspect of ultra-distances.
Notes from the 2017 Yeti 100-Mile Endurance Run:
Where: The Virginia Creeper Trail Abingdon, Virginia
Start: 7:00 am @ Whitetop Station
Finish: 300 Green Spring Road, Abingdon, VA 24210
Awards: Handmade buckles
Cut-Off: 30 hours
Elevation Gain : 3,000ft
Trestle Crossings: 141 beautiful trestle crossings
Trail Surface: Crushed limestone and cinders left over from the trains
Brian's 2nd Place Finish Time: 17 hours, 10 minutes
Words & wisdom from Field Agent, Brian Zembower.
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