By Carrie Adams

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Ryan Dexter's 2011 Victory

When Ryan Dexter, also known as Dexter the Punisher, crossed the McNaughton 200 finish line at 51 hours, 50 minutes in the small town of Pittsfield, VT, on May 8th, 2011, he completed what he called “an epic adventure”:  two hundred miles of hard trail running in the Green Mountains with extreme weather, rugged terrain, steep elevation, and the will to continue despite fatigue, hunger, and physical pain.  It also marked one thousand McNaughton racing miles raced by the experienced ultra marathoner and a course record on the longest trail ultra in North America.

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Photo courtesy of Michael Larsen

The ultramarathon (also called ultra distance) is gaining in popularity with endurance runners and includes any running event longer than the traditional 26.2 marathon distance.  Ultramarathon events can cover specific distances or time constraints with the winner accumulating the most mileage in that time frame.  Common ultramarathon distances are 50K, 100K, 50 miles, and 100 miles.  The McNaughton has several events: 500 miles, 200 miles, 150 miles, 100 miles, and 30 miles.  Most ultras in the U.S. are trail and mountain runs, and environmental factors often play a critical part in the race outcomes.

When I caught up with Dexter, he had just finished mowing his lawn, a typical evening task in middle America, but doing it four days after running 200 miles makes it seem far more impressive.  Dexter, a professional engineer, didn’t set out to run and win 200-mile races when he began running in his twenties.  As a college student in Pennsylvania, he just wanted to run the three and a half mile stretch around the lake near his house.  Maybe loop it twice by the end of the summer.  He couldn’t imagine anything beyond seven miles.  When he got to seven miles within a couple weeks he set his sights a bit higher – a marathon.  So, in 1997 he did just that and after, he says, he was “wrecked…I had to roll out of bed and do a push-up just to get off the floor the next morning!”

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by Carrie Adams

[Editor's note: In just 12 hours, Jason Jaksetic, Spartan's legendary Barn Beast, begins the 150-mile McNaughton Ultra in Pittsfield, VT run by Spartan's sister company Peak Races.  Stay tuned to the blog, twitter, and facebook for live updates.]

Stumbling in the barn at 2:15 A.M. March 7, 2011 after 62 hours of effort, Jason Jaksetic had accomplished his mission: 100 miles on snow shoes in the books after 30 days of training.  Thus was born the Barn Beast.  Defying the naysayers and the experts, he accomplished the seemingly impossible–but that’s nothing new to this alternative athlete.  To Jason, there is no such thing as “normal.”

As a boy growing up in Stanhope, NJ, no one would have thought that the self-proclaimed “band dork” would become the athlete he is today.  As a traveling musician who both performed and taught, Jason didn’t enter his first long distance event until age 22.  With no training, he was immediately in over his head.  His first event was the esteemed Boston Marathon.  But there was a catch: he entered on a dare, he ran it bandit (and for you who always follow the rules, that means you crash the event and run the course), and still managed a 4:20 finish.  He’d previously never run more than four miles at one time.

Boston was the catalyst, and Jason wanted more.  Setting his sights on the Ironman, he got serious about training, and completed five Ironman events in two years.  At age 24, he qualified for Kona with a 10:23 finishing time in Lake Placid.  Jason seemed on the fast track and trained hard for a big showing in the Louisville Ironman in 2010.  Then, during a long training run, Jason felt a slight hitch in his hip.   Alarm bells went off in his head, but he dismissed them, not realizing that at that moment that he had suffered a stress fracture.

No injury could stop him.  He planned to destroy the Louisville swim and bike and then get through the marathon as best as possible given the hip injury.  The swim went well, but after pounding the bike for 70 miles, Jason bonked.  At mile 101, he woke up in an ambulance suffering from what appeared to be cardiac arrest due to exhaustion and dehydration.  This, his first DNF, weighed far heavier on his mind than on his body.  He escaped to Swaziland, Africa to reevaluate his training, his goals, and his expectations.  In the airport, he found a passport belonging to Joe Desena, owner of Spartan Race.  It was a turning point.

Not long after, Jason impulsively packed up and moved into the training facility, aka “the Barn,” in Pittsfield, VT, to work for Joe and to train for several ultra-distance races, including the infamous Death Race.  Abandoning his militant Ironman training style, he adopted a more non-traditional approach in the rugged mountains just outside his back door.

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by Carrie Adams

The McNaughton

The McNaughton is an Ultra Trail Run consisting of a rugged 10-mile loop in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Runners will repeat the loops 3, 10, 15, 20, or 50 times, depending on if they are competing in the 30, 100, 150, 200, or 500 mile race.  The loop has 2400 vertical feet of elevation gain, so the 30 miler will feature 7,200 ft; the 100 miler will feature 24,000 ft; the 150 miler will feature 36,000 ft; the 200 miler will feature 48,000 ft; and the 500 miler will feature 120,000 ft of elevation change.

The race is hosted by Spartan’s sister company, Peak Races, which puts on a variety of ultra-distance events, including cycling races, trail ultras, and the infamous Death Race on June 24th 2011 (part of the Spartan Race series.)  Additional races include a 100 mile snowshoe race (if you’re not up to that, you can opt for a marathon, half-marathon, and 10K snowshoe on that same weekend.)   In March, Spartan’s own Jason Jaksetic aka The Barn Beast competed in the 100 mile snowshoe and recounted his inspiring successful completion of the brutal race on his blog. There are also cycling events and trail ultras put on by Peak Races include the McNaughton Ultra – which started this week.

The 500 milers began their journey earlier in the week.  Their race has a 198 hour time limit (just over 8 days.)  The other races all begin this upcoming week.

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