Patrick Reagan has been steadily climbing the ultrarunning ranks since he jumped into the sport in 2015, and there’s no end in sight. Perhaps more impressive than his finishes at top ultra races, though, are the sheer number of races Patrick enters. We asked Patrick to walk us through his 2019 racing calendar, which saw four 100K or 100-mile races, and how he balances training, choosing his races, and more.
Finding ultrarunning changed my life in the most positive fashion possible. In 2013, I was working full time as a head cross country coach at a university in Savannah, GA. My motivation to train was coming back, like a fire burning hot again off embers that never quite cooled from my collegiate running days. I started to experiment with running 5K-10K races again, having some success which lit the fire for me to run my first half marathon in 2014 and my first marathon in 2015. In the summer of 2015, ultrarunning found me.
In 2015-16, I began exploring my limitations by training on trails for distances of up to 35 miles. I began exploring my local region in Savannah – primarily on roads and trails in Chattanooga and Asheville. After experimenting with the 50K distance in 2015, I became curious about the 100K, racing both the USATF 100K Road Championships, the Ultravasan 90K, and the IAU 100K World Championships in 2016. The IAU 100K WC was my first race in a Team USA singlet and I was fortunate to finish on the podium in 3rd place. This was a big turning point in my career. Four weeks later, I signed my first professional running contract with HOKA ONE ONE.
In February of 2019, I decided to leave my full-time job as a collegiate cross country and track/field coach to concentrate on my running career. The year in sum was chalked full of transition and adaptation. When reflecting on the year, I think of it as a season of “Stringing Hundreds.”
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Typical training weeks for me are between 85-110 miles which include two days of strides and two long runs per week. Each week I typically engage in three days of core strength training, two days of weight vest strength training, and five to seven days of Phil Wharton’s activated isolated stretching program. Key workouts include 6-12 mile tempo runs, 1K/1 mile interval training at half marathon pace, and 2-3 mile intervals at marathon to 50K pace. Strength training (both core and weight vest) has become much more important for me as I’ve transitioned to 100 mile races. The quadriceps strength required to run Western States in particular has been the main catalyst for my coaches (Magda Boulet and Roxanne Vogel) to provide more strength training work. To enhance core and leg muscle strength, I walk my dogs for 2-3 miles a day while wearing a 20 lb weight vest.
When designing a yearly racing schedule, I pick 3-4 “A” races that are emotionally important while picking other events in the build to these where I can test my fitness and enjoy a new event on somewhat tired legs. Both Project Carbon X 100K and my first Western States 100 were slated to be my “A” races for the first half of 2019. In the sunset of the year, I planned an ambitious double of Javelina Jundred and the USATF 100 mile National Trail Championships (Brazos Bend 100). The gap between Javelina and Brazos was only a six week spread.
My year began with a win at the Daufuskie Island 40 mile Ultramarathon hosted by Rough Runners in January on one of our beautiful coastal islands in my region. Running in the southeast is quite different from the mountainous trails out west, yet showcase beauty in an entirely different way. The dirt roads around the island and beachfront running is a great winter escape for any runner from outside of our region. I set a new course record at the event racing to a 4:21.36 finish on the 39.3 mile course.
In the build to Western States 100, I decided to take two trips to California to specifically prepare for the course. Living in the coastal southeast is limiting from a vertical ascent/descent perspective; thus, I decided to race the Way Too Cool 50K in March followed by an extended weekend of training on the Western States Course. The plan also included the Western States 100 training camp in late May. I’d recommend the Western States training camp to any runner preparing for the Western States 100. It’s open to competitors in the current Western States and anyone that would like to experience the last 30 miles of the historic race over the course of three days.
Midway through the build to Western States was my first “A” race of the year: the HOKA ONE ONE Project Carbon X 100K. Eight athletes competed in Sacramento, CA to test the limits on both the 50 mile and 100K world records. Sage Canaday and Kris Brown paced me through the 50K mark in 3:09, directly on pace to achieve my goal on 6:20 for the 100K distance. Through 40 miles, Kris brought me through in under American Record pace, but I hemorrhaged some time on my way to the 50 mile mark, crossing in 5:08.21. Finishing second overall, I finished in 6:33.50 for the 100K. My time held up as the fastest 100K by an American in 2019 and the 6th fastest all-time by a North American.
My first Western States was 8 weeks to the day away from the finish of the race; thus, I had to prioritize recovery and rest. Following ultras, I take one day off for every 10 miles raced to focus on my other hobbies which include playing music, reading, and playing Magic: The Gathering. Recovery went smoothly and I was able to get back to training right on schedule.
The Western States experience is very unique. I was fortunate to be selected with an at-large bid by the Ultra Trail World Tour to compete in 2019; thus, I wanted to prove I belonged in the race by running patiently and finishing strong. The high country was quite snowy, but the weather started heating up as we entered the three canyons within the course that lead to Forest Hill, CA (the 100K mark). At Devil’s Thumb, I found myself in 22nd place and crept into the top 15 by the time we hit Foresthill. At the River (80 miles), I moved into 12th place and by the Highway 49 crossing (Mile 93), I saw Kyle Pietari who was the 10th place male at the time. From Pointed Rocks (Mile 94) to the finish, I ran the fastest split ever recorded to finish in 8th place and earned my spot in the 2020 edition of Western States.
Between Western States and Javelina Jundred (my next A Race), I had a significant amount of time to rest and prepare for the next training block. I took two weeks off from running in July and kept the training leading into August casual. In August, I ran both the Transrockies 6 Day Race with Camelia Mayfield to win our classification and finished 16th at OCC 56K in Chamonix, France.
In 2017 and 2018, I won the Javelina Jundred and wanted to repeat for a third victory in 2019 with intent to break the course record I set in 2017. I ran the first loop slower than the first two years, maintaining a more controlled effort that would allow me to even split the race. Loops two and three put me in a solid position to take a run for the course record. I finished first in 13:11.48, just ten minutes off the course record. Following the event, I had 6 weeks to the day until the start of the USATF 100 Mile National Trail Championships. This would be the most challenging double of my career. I stuck to my initial plan of taking off ten days following Javelina Jundred and resumed light training on day 11.
The training block between Javelina Jundred and Brazos Bend was primarily focused on strength work, mobility, and lower mileage. I didn’t exceed 70 miles per week in my training and my longest run between the two events was 18 miles. On race day, I lined up feeling fresh and confident in my experience in the 100 mile discipline. The event went out fast, passing through the 50 mile mark in 5:57 in 2nd place. At the 100K mark, I took the lead and began to distance myself around the 75 mile mark. At this point, the fastest 100 mile race was the 2017 Javelina Jundred in 13:01. By the 90 mile mark, I’d distanced myself from the field and was chasing the clock. I won my first USATF National Championship with a mark of 12:11.43 and a new course record.
The body of work in 2019 earned me a 4th Place finish in Ultrarunning Magazine’s Ultra Runner of the Year voting. The year was all about pivoting, challenging my own limitations, and being confident in the training heading into competitions. This won’t be a year I forget anytime soon.
Patrick Reagan is a professional ultrarunner at HOKA ONE ONE and GU Energy Labs. He is the owner of Patrick Reagan Running Coaching Services in Savannah, GA and co-host of Tortoise and the Hare Podcast.