Josh Ferenc is a science teacher, coach and competitive runner from the tiny town of Athens in southern Vermont. His versatility across a variety of distances and terrain is impressive. Through the years Josh learned the importance finding a fuel that worked for his body no matter what terrain and conditions. Recently returning home from winning a grueling 6-Day TransRockies Run in Colorado, Josh took some time out of his busy schedule before school hits high gear to chat shop.
First things first, what is TransRockies Run?
The Under Armour TransRockies Run is a six-day stage race in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Starting in Buena Vista and ending in Beaver Creek, we run 120 miles total. Each stage varies in terrain, distance and altitude. This format is very cool and allows athletes to access and traverse incredibly wild and epic scenery, build camaraderie, overcoming obstacles and adversity, all the while sharing a singular adventure.
Have you ever raced days back to back before? Did the multiple day format change your approach to racing?
I have raced back to back on weekends over shorter distances on roads, trails and mountains, but nothing like this. The idea was one I gravitated to and I liked the concept of going hard every day. It’s an opportunity to push yourself to the very edge and test your limits each and every day. I had a plan going in, but had to refocus and reevaluate after a bad fall and a poor stage showing early on. You can never lose focus. That said, letting go of expectations and running free became a tactic I embraced and this led to success over the remaining stages and especially the overall.
Running 120 miles over 6 days is an incredible energy expenditure! What was your fueling strategy and did vary depending on the distance/duration of the stage?
Every morning I would start with two breakfast burritos I made myself. Then in the start corral as I waited for the days stage to begin, I’d enjoy an UnTapped Maple Waffle. I love’em! Because the stages were so long, I wouldn’t do a warm up at all. Instead, I used the first 45 minutes to get the body rolling. At high altitude, I was especially focused on my hydration. I needed electrolytes combined with calories and opted for the convenience of UnTapped Mapleaid single serve sticks. These were a godsend. I’d alternate Ginger and Lemon Tea Mapleaid sticks. Then I used Maple UnTapped to top off my energy needs.
Living on the east coast, how did you prepare for the challenge of racing on different terrain and at altitude?
I’ll put Vermont rugged trails up against anywhere in the world for training! I read a few articles that were in support of high humidity and high heat training to be the best to mimic altitude. Locally we have of Stratton, Magic, Killington and Bromley Mountains in southern Vermont that help offer a huge variety of training with ever-changing scenery. When it came to the race, honestly I didn’t notice the altitude, which was great. I must have hydrated really well!
What was your favorite stage and why? Or what was your favorite part of TR?
There whole week is a slideshow of incredible moments that come to mind. During Stage two we ran up and over the historic Hope Pass; I loved that opportunity and it was truly epic. Stage three, the longest mileage day ended at Nova Guides, which is a sweet location so because of its remoteness. Stage four had a great climb and then a river section that was impossible to avoid – you just had to embrace it. Stage five took us up and over Vail Pass and I just went bananas. That was as fresh as I’ve ever felt before. The final day was a bit of a blur, I was laser focused and knew I wanted to finish the event on the top of the podium.
Did you learn anything about yourself, your fellow runners or the sport that you would like to share?
There were as many extreme mental highs and lows as there were physical ones! There was a moment where I was a split second away from quitting, going home, and possibly quitting my running career. I thought that it was actually the end. Two things went through my head at that point: one, I’ll never give up, ever; two, never doubt myself again. Allowing myself to be at peace with whatever the outcome was of each stage and the event, allowed me to reset and reconnect all the systems. From here I just ran free!