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Eight Days in West

Wednesday April 17th. I started getting news reports of a major explosion in the town of West just north of Waco, Texas with an unknown amount of firefighters hurt or killed. At the time I was a response member with the “Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force”. I was asked to be on standby for deployment, around midnight that call came in, we would be deploying at 5am

Thursday April 18th. The director of the Task Force and myself would be making the 4.5 hour drive from Houston together with other Task Force members coming in from around the State of Texas. Once in the town of West, the first meeting was with the Mayor of West, and the West EMS Chief, the news was not good, 11 firefighters missing and presumed dead. This was quickly becoming a worst case scenario! If this was true, this would be the largest loss of firefighters since the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire”, The Charleston 9, June 18, 2007, outside of 9/11. We started putting the call out to a large number of Task Force members for deployment. In the days to come we would know that 12 brothers have fallen, 2 of the 12 being honorary firefighters. The first big challenge would be finding hotel rooms for all the Task Force members, we needed 14 rooms. With the help of a number of Task Force friends we had them all at one hotel within a few hours in Hillsboro, Texas. The next and most important thing was setting up our organizational chart better known as “Org Chart”, did it ever get big. I don’t want to list the names of the command staff, but we had the best people for that job in place, my role would be Logistics Officer. At the time little did I know just how big this role would become.

Friday, April 19th. After our morning meeting with the Fire Chiefs of the affected Depts., the decision was made, a memorial service would take place on Thursday, time and place to be found. After this meeting the Abbett Fire Chief told me he had a contact at “Baylor University”. The call was made to make a site survey on Saturday. This would also be the day we recover the bodies of our fallen brothers. The planning for this would take most of the day so that our fallen brothers would be honored during this process. The plan quickly became, this would be done at night so that no media could see it. There would be a wall of honor with every one of our brothers drapped with an American flag. This process started around 10:30pm and finished around 2:30am.

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting.

Saturday, April 20th. Site survey at “Baylor University Ferrell Center” three of us went to do a site survey along with two Baylor staff members at Ferrell Center. The moment we walked onto the floor of the Center, we know this was the place we needed, with seating for 10,000, also this was the biggest place in that part of Texas. A walk though with most of the command staff would take place on Monday.

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting.

A Family Liaison Officer would be assigning each family, Family Liaison Officer “FLO” as we call them. The job of the FLO is to help the family in just about anyway possible and be the voice of the family along with so much more. By far the hardest job of any deployment. The Honor Guard Officer would also start placing Honor Guards at all locations our fallen brothers would be at. This would be a large undertaking, calling in Honor Guard units from around the State of Texas and from around the country. The call went out to the Charleston Fire Dept to see if they would be willing to come into town for some guidance, they would be sending three people our way within 24 hours!

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting.

Sunday, April 21st. We had a lunch for all the affected families at a secret location due to the high amount of media in West, it went off just as we planned it. The news media was asking for all kinds of interviews with the Task Force and the families. So we decided to give them something in hopes they would back off a little.  So Sunday night we let them do a story on why we post guards for our fallen brothers.

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting.

Monday, April 22nd. This would be the first of very long meeting filled days. Once we arrived at Ferrell Center, we were told that the Secret Service and White House advance teams would be on the ground Monday night. It wasn’t 20 minutes later we all started getting new reports that the President would be in West on Thursday. We had no clue as to just how this could or would change our planning for the memorial service. We would have our first meeting with them on Tuesday morning.

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting.

Tuesday, April 23rd. Meeting at 10am with Baylor,  Secret Service and White House at Ferrell Center, but first a 9am meeting with West, City Council. After City Council was updated we needed to be 25 miles away in 30 minutes! Once we made it to Ferrell Center and started our meeting with Baylor, Secret Service and White House, little did we know it would be a 6 hour meeting to just get all party’s up to speed. Can’t really talk about want was covered in this meeting but very little changed as for the memorial service. More meetings with all party’s on Tuesday.

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting

Wednesday, April 24th. Last day to make it right! Meeting starts at 10am at Ferrell, 6 hours later our plan for the memorial service was set, all party’s working it were in place, we were happy along with Baylor, Secret Service, and White House. But nothing like a last-minute change. Myself and our IC were pulled from a Baylor, Secret Service, and White House meeting by the DPS-DDC Captain to go over our plans as to getting the families to Ferrell. We reviewed our plan with him. He ask why we are not using charter buses. No resource, sir, other than we can not find any charter buses in this part of the state. Not 20 minutes later we had 10 charter buses coming our way at no cost! Wow, we made some good friends high up! This would also be the day all Honor Guards having a roll in the memorial service would do their walk though. Once the caskets were in place on the floor of Ferrell and flag drapped. Let me add here. When I walked out onto the floor and seen all 12 in places with the photo’s of the fallen, its was just about more than I could take. The walk through went awesome, the Ferrell Center was set to be seen by an untold amount of people around the world! I could not wait for the world to see how Texas Firefighters take care of our fallen brothers!

Catch up on paperwork, phone calls, and daily Chiefs and FLO meeting.

Thursday, April 25th. The day the Fire Service honors our fallen brothers! This day started early for some of our staff, 5:30am. Secret Service would be doing their last sweep of Ferrell starting at 7:00am with plans of a soft opening for staff at 10:00am, they opened it at 9:30am, awesome job guys! Our families would have a van pick them up where ever they were staying, starting at 9:00am. The van would then take them to a secret location, transferring  them to charter buses for transport to Ferrell at 11:00am. Our FLO’s did an amazing job getting all of them to the needed locations! All 500 plus Family members made it to Ferrell Center safe and sound, yes 500 plus! Baylor had lunch waiting for all 500 plus. The doors to Ferrell open at 11:00am for the public. This is when things started moving real fast! Just getting all 500 plus down onto the floor to their seating was a large job. Then we had what we called the Platinum 60, this was the group of family members that would be meeting the President after the service. As you know, the memorial service was amazing, again more than I could take at times. The Pipe’s and Drum’s were amazing, I even seen a few Secret Service with a tear in their eyes. That is what we had hope for, to bring a tear to everyone’s eye. After the service the families started making their way back to their holding area. I had so many of them come up to me and say. it was amazing, Thank You. No thanks needed, that what firefighters do for our fallen. All the families were loaded back onto the charter buses, back to secret location and back home safe and sound.

My Reflection of the week. As a 29 year firefighter, it was an honor to work alongside some of the most amazing people in the world! I’m not even going to try to put it into words the feelings I had over the week, other than I hurt deep down inside at times. For my wife and son to support me like they did and do in my time of need, Thank You, I love y’all more than ever! For my friends that would text or call me to see if I was ok, Thank You with all my heart! This was only my second deployment with the Task Force, WOW was it ever one for the sad record books! I pray the fire service never has to go though this again, but if it does happen, I will be right there in the front of the line waiting to go help my brothers.

I have a long list of Thank You’s

La Porte Fire Dept, Thank You for giving my the time off for this deployment. Every Member of the Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force, The People of West, Charleston Fire Dept, South Carolina State Firefighters Association, West Fire Dept, West EMS, Abbett Fire Dept, Brucesville Eddy Fire Dept, Mertnel Fire Dept, Dallas Fire Dept, Waco Fire Dept, Austin Fire Dept, Fire Service Honor Guards Units from around the country, Austin Police Dept, Baylor University, Baylor Police, Secret Service Advance Team, White House Advance Team, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Game Wardens, Texas Forestry Department, McLennan County Sheriff Department, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Houston Police Department, Patriot Guard, Care Flight, Hood County OEM, State of Texas OEM, Crosscreek Television Productions, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Firehouse Subs Dallas & Waco, Bushes Chicken, Batesville Casket, Texas State Technical College, Texas State Technical College Police, Econo Lodge Hillsboro Texas, Bearcom, Hobby Lobby Waco, Mercy Chefs, The little Mexican restaurant across from our hotel Thanks for staying open late!

I just know I’m missing a few, I’m so sorry for that, you are all ROCKSTARS!

To our FLO’s. Guy’s I can’t begin to say just what you mean to all of us. Y’all had the hardest job of all and did it and continue to do it like no other! To go into the home of a fallen brother and develop the trust that you did with the families, that’s the true meaning of Brotherhood! You all have my number, if you need anything, call!

The Command Staff. It was truly an honor to work alongside each and every one of you! I know we had some real tough times over the last week and we all vented a few times, but we honored our fallen brothers in the end as a TEAM! I love all of you but I hope it’s a long time before I see y’all again.

Thank you

Tony

Growing up

The following is funny story we’d like to share with you, to help you enjoy your day.

Names & Places have been changed to protect all parties…..lol

Before you read this make sure you have kleenex with you to wipe out the tears from laughter. My stomach still hurts.

Life as a child growing up in Oklahoma….

Around age 10 my dad got me one of those little badass compound bow beginner kits. Of course, the first month I went around our land sticking arrows in anything that could get stuck by an arrow. Did you know that a 1955 40 horse Farmall tractor tire will take 6 rounds before it goes down? Tough sumbich. That got boring, so being the 10 yr. old Dukes of Hazard fan that I was, I quickly advanced to taking strips of cut up T-shirt doused in chainsaw gas tied around the end and was sending flaming arrows all over the place. One summer afternoon, I was shooting flaming arrows into a large rotten oak stump in our backyard. I looked over under the carport and saw a shiny brand new can of starting fluid (Ether). The light bulb went off in my head. I grabbed the can and set it on the stump. I thought that it would probably just spray out in a disappointing manner. Lets face it, to a 10 yr old mouth-breather like myself, (Ether), really doesn’t “sound” flammable. So, I went back into the house and got a 1 pound can of pyrodex (black powder for muzzle loader rifles). At this point, I set the can of ether on the stump and opened up the can of black powder. My intentions were to sprinkle a little bit around the (Ether) can but it all sorta dumped out on me. No biggie, a 1 lb. pyrodex and 16 oz (Ether) should make a loud pop, kinda like a firecracker you know? You know what? Screw that, I’m going back in the house for the other can. Yes, I got a second can of pyrodex and dumped it too. Now we’re cookin’. I stepped back about 15 ft and lit the 2 stroke arrow. I drew the nock to my cheek and took aim. As I released I heard a clunk as the arrow launched from my bow. In a slow motion time frame, I turned to see my dad getting out of the truck… OH SHOOT! He just got home from work. So help me God it took 10 minutes for that arrow to go from my bow to the can. My dad was walking towards me in slow motion with a WTF look in his eyes. I turned back towards my target just in time to see the arrow pierce the starting fluid can right at the bottom—right through the main pile of pyrodex and into the can. Oh shoot. When the shock wave hit it knocked me off my feet. I don’t know if it was the actual compression wave that threw me back or just reflex jerk back from 235 frickin’ decibels of sound. I caught a half a millisecond glimpse of the violence during the initial explosion and I will tell you there was dust, grass, and bugs all hovering 1 ft above the ground as far as I could see. It was like a little low to the ground layer of dust fog full of grasshoppers, spiders, and a worm or two. The daylight turned purple. Let me repeat this… THE FRICKIN’ DAYLIGHT TURNED PURPLE. There was a big sweetgum tree out by the gate going into the pasture. Notice I said “was”. That son-of-a-bitch got up and ran off. So here I am, on the ground blown completely out of my shoes with my thundercats T-Shirt shredded, and my dad is on the other side of the carport having what I can only assume is a Vietnam flashback: ECHO BRAVO CHARLIE YOU’RE BRINGIN’ EM IN TOO CLOSE!! CEASE FIRE. DAMN IT, CEASE FIRE!!!!! His hat has blown off and is 30 ft behind him in the driveway. All windows on the north side of the house are blown out and there is a slow rolling mushroom cloud about 2000 ft. over our backyard. There is a Honda 185 3 wheeler parked on the other side of the yard and the fenders are drooped down and are now touching the tires. I wish I knew what I said to my dad at this moment. I don’t know – I know I said something. I couldn’t hear. I couldn’t hear inside my own head. I don’t think he heard me either… not that it would really matter. I don’t remember much from this point on. I said something, felt a sharp pain, and then woke up later. I felt a sharp pain, blacked out, woke later….repeat this process for an hour or so and you get the idea. I remember at one point my mom had to give me CPR. and Dad screaming “Bring him back to life so I can kill him again”. Thanks Mom. One thing is for sure… I never had to mow around that stump again, Mom had been bitching about that thing for years, and dad never did anything about it. I stepped up to the plate and handled business. Dad sold his muzzle loader a week or so later. I still have some sort of bone growth abnormality, either from the blast or the beating, or both. I guess what I’m trying to say is, get your kids into archery. It’s good discipline and will teach them skills they can use later on in life.

Guest Blogger, Jeffery Maddron

The following Blog is from one of our Ambassador’s

As a public service professional/volunteer there is no bigger honor than serving your community. Unfortunately in this field also, that may include the ultimate sacrifice. I started my public safety career as a volunteer firefighter for the Hitchcock Volunteer Fire Department near Galveston, Texas. As I spent time as a firefighter starting back in 1998, I quickly loved the service and decided to pursue this as a career.

October 5th, 1999 will be a day that I will never forget. Texas City Fire Department Engine 3 was en route to a medical call at the local mall when it collided with another vehicle and tragically took the life of veteran firefighter and Captain William Bethune. While I may not have known Captain Bethune, this struck home being that I have worked with Texas City Fire Department several times on mutual aid calls. Outstanding group of guys in its entire department. This also sets forth the reality for me of the dangers of this job. But I did not waiver. Instead, I was the first recipient of the William Bethune scholarship with pays for your firefighter course and examination as well as your emt-basic course and examination at College of the Mainland which is the local community college.

When I saw Tony Constanzo post on taking applications for the Footsteps For The Fallen Ambassador Program, I wanted to apply because even though I am most likely not able to be a professional firefighter now due to disabilities from war, I am still a firefighter at heart and will always respect the service. When you see a funeral procession that is well over a mile long in just different fire apparatus, with units across the U.S, you know you are in a service where everyone has your back. This organization is no different. I choose Footsteps For The Fallen because of the ultimate sacrifice these firefighters have paid for.

Jeffery Maddron

My Daily Facebook Post From The 439 Mile Honor Run

Day 1 in the books, 41 miles. It was a hot day on the concrete trail. Thank you all for the amazing support! Let us never forget our fallen!

 

Day 2 is in the books. 41miles again today. Feeling like I should with 82 miles on the legs.

 

Day 3 is in the books, 40 miles. Making a three day total of 122 miles. Body is feeling great! Team Footsteps is doing an amazing job caring for me. I do see all yalls post, and it moves me to tears reading them. Thank you all, and let us never forget our fallen.

 

Day 4 done, 38 miles today. Total for the four day is 160 miles. Body still feeling great.

 

Day 5 in the books. 41 miles today, totaling 201 miles. Not sure how the body should feel with 200 miles on it. But things are starting to talk to me. Team Footsteps is doing an amazing job caring for me. I do feel the energy of our fallen with me. Thank you all for all the very kind post.

 

Day 6 in the books, 43 miles, totaling 244 miles. Today hurt, sorry but I walked 99% of today. Team Footsteps is doing an amazing job keeping me moving forward. I could use some extra prayers, my friends.

 

Day 7 in the books, 41 miles, totaling around 280. Today was a little better day. I had a god talk with the Big Guy, and it's ok to walk. Big Shout out to Waco Fire, Engine 4, A Shift for the escort. Nothing like turning around at mile 34 and seeing some brothers in a big fire truck with their light on. Thank you all for the prayers.

 

Day 8 done, 42 miles. Legs feeling a little better, a little. Totaling around 347 miles. It's getting close friends.

 

Day 9 in the books, 38.9 miles. Totaling 366.7 miles. Today was amazing. It started with Waco Fire escorting me until Hewitt Fire could pick me up. Then Lorena Fire escorted until Bruceville-Eddy Fire pick me up. Then the most amazing thing in Bruceville happen. The school let all the kids come out 1st-12th grade, lined the street cheering. Then once in Moody, Moody Fire and PD escorted to the county line. Today was amazing friends. I cried more today then over the last 9 days. Keep praying I can just keep one foot in front of the other.

 

Day 10 in the books, 38 miles, totaling 404 miles. Today I met a run on the road, great guy. We shared stories and he went on his way. Then a few miles down a lady and her son stopped and gave me a bottle of water, so sweet of them. Then we had to deal with lots of road work, fun fun. Once out of that, we found fresh blacktop for the last 15 miles, was it ever hot. Tomorrow this amazing journey ends, but in one way the next journey begins. Team Footsteps has done an amazing job. There is no way anyone could do anything like this without a team like Tram Footsteps. Thank you all for all the support to all of us as we roll down the road. Let us never forget our fallen or their families.

 

Day 11 finished, 34 miles, totaling 439 miles. What an amazing life journey. Thank you all for all your support and kind words. Let us never forget our fallen.

Tony Constanzo

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Happening Now

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Footsteps For The Fallen is moving forward with its determined goal of becoming its own 501c3. We have begun the arduous process of paperwork, and hope to achieve 501c3 status just after the first of the year. We have filed our Article of Incorporation with the State of Texas, and hope to have it in place by the end of Sept 2014. Once we have our Incorporation in place, we will start up our fundraising campaign. We will also be at number of events, so stay tuned for them, and we hope to see you at them.

Footsteps For The Fallen would appreciate your ongoing support during this time of obtaining 501c3 status. We will keep you posted as this new journey begins for Footsteps For The Fallen.

As always, thank you for your dedicated support

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Overtraining Syndrome

One of the hardest things I've had to deal with, overtraining syndrome.

I sure most of you are asking yourself, whats overtraining syndrome? I did the same not just two weeks ago.

Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individuals exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. It is a real body injury, not something made up to just get out of training or racing.

My journey began back in February with the completion of my first 100 miler followed by four weeks rest, thinking this was enough. I did an easy 5k followed two weeks later by a half and full marathon on the same weekend followed the very next weekend by 25 miles of the Texas Independence Relay "TIR". That's around 170 hard race miles in a month and a half, on top of all the training miles.

Three days after the TIR I came down with a fever and real bad headache. Was it spring allergies the flu or something else like Lyme's disease. The fever would break with Ibuprofen and the headache would feel a little better. This went on for 5 days. The day the fever broke for good, my hands, knees and feet swelled to the point of hurting! I have had swelling before during a race, but never like this! So I did what I should of done a week earlier, went to the doctor. After the Q&A with the doctor, I told him my resent race history. Yes he thinks I'm crazy, but that a different story. He had no clue as to what was going on. So he ordered blood work to see if that would show anything. I the mean time it was just rest and wait to see if the blood work helped.

This is where the, Thank God for knowing the right people comes in!

To back up just a little, when I did the full marathon, I took part in a cardiac study with the University of Pittsburgh. This study was to maybe help find out just why people die of heart attacks at the finish line of marathon. They did blood work on me before and after the race, 12 lead EKG before and after, holter monitor during the race and the 24 hours after the race. I was all wired up for science!

Back to the story

One of the doctors that helped with the study had seen me make a few Facebook postings about not feeling right and all the swelling and stuff.

She contacted me and ask a lot of questions that the first doctor did not ask. Keep I mine she works with endurance athlete's on just this! It didn't take her long to tell me, I was Overtrained!

Me, how could I be overtrained? I don't put in 100 plus mile weeks, I only put in 35 miles a week training for my 100 miler! I don't race 100 milers once a month. Easy, I trained for 8 hard months for my 100 miler, then jump right back into other races. Over 10 months of hard training/racing with very little to no quality rest for the body! And it was shutting down in a very bad way! Like stop now or I just may die on you!

Some of my symptoms here, resting heart rate went from 50 to 80, B/P way up, hint's the bad headache, Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy, Pain in muscles and joints, Depression, Moodiness and irritability, Decreased appetite, Peeing what seemed  like every 20 mins. This is just the ones that I can name real easy, I'm sure there are others that a doctor could point out.

Three days after the swelling came, it went away just as fast. I have been sleeping a lot more then I have in years. I'm starting to feel a little better, but have no plans to go out a train. With the strong words of advise, I will be taking a full month off from all workouts, more time if needed. The blood work did come back, everything showed normal.

I want to thank Serina, for what I'm saying, more than likely saved my life! Along with Vanessa, one of the other doctors with the study for checking up on me. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You is not enough! I will be buying yall a beer or 4 the next time yall are in town!

Guys I just could of been one more number they report on! I have learned to listen to my body in the last year when it come to training, guess I still have a tons to learn!

If there is one word of advise I can give you, log your resting heart rate! If it starts to go up for seemingly no reason, STOP training and get with a Sports Medicine doctor! You can DIE from this! If I would of done what I was thinking I needed, a short run, it just could of killed me!

We as Ultra Endurance Athletes push our minds and bodies to the limits like no other sport! It only makes since to take a REAL break in our training/racing to let it truly recover! Kids, I pushed my body to the out most limits and I didn't like what it looked like! It scared the HELL out of me! When you have someone in the field say to you, you are at risk of a cardiac event! You damn right I'm going to park it!

Live to race a nether day!

Stay safe out there my friends and I'll see you on the trails!

Tony Constanzo

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Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile, 2013

Rocky Raccoon 2013

Let me start with a recap of last years RR100. I dropped at mile 60, end of recap.

Now for this year, Rocky Raccoon 100, 2013

My journey started on Friday with the hour and a half drive to Huntsville. What a beautiful day it was, not a cloud in the sky! Once I made it into Huntsville and was all checked into the hotel, I made my way out to the State Park.

"This is where amazing people go to make epic shit happen!"

I just hope to be part of that group this year!

I ran into Joe Prusaitis the RD for the Tejas Trails races and an amazing ultra runner alone with being a great all around guy! With him was Liza Howard, also an amazing ultra runner and great all around person! After our hand shakes and hugs, Joe ask if I was ready. The answer was, much more than last year! The mind is so much stronger now! Little did I know at that time, just how much I would push the mind!

My crew was on there way to the park, couldn't wait to be with them!

Packed pick up started and my lucky number for the weekend would be bib #51. I liken it to, Area 51, being I just could be seeing some crazy stuff in the 30 hour time limit for the race!

Trail briefing went good, nothing really new, other than, look out for them roots! We think Joe ships in extra roots just for the race.

After trail briefing, we took a group photo of all Team Red, White and Blue members that were there, Go Eagle!

Now for a little team dinner time. My crew had a campsite for the weekend, so we did burgers with all the sides at their site. It was so relaxing to be with them. I was trying to keep my mind off of race day until race day.
But come on, when you're just 12 hours away from toeing the line of a 100 mile race, it's kind of hard to not think about it.

After a great dinner I made my way to the Holiday Inn Express for one last good nights sleep. I was in bed by 8pm with a 4am wake up coming up! So yes, I can say, but I did say at a Holiday Inn Express last night! Lets see just how good that saying is.

RACE DAY BABY!

The day I've been looking forward to for a year was finally here! One last nice hot shower, then time to lube up and gear up! I stop down in the lobby for a cup of coffee, been coffee free for 3 weeks! And get this crap, they didn't have any ready! Really people, no freaking coffee! So off I go, coffee less. I called my crew to let them know I was on the road to the park and I would see them in 30-45mins. They would have coffee waiting for me!

Time to toe the line!

One year of revenge was about to get started! I took my place in the back of the field, telling myself, you have 30 hours to pass people, just take it easy.
The horn sounded and off we went, 375 crazy 100 milers! "Rocky Raccoon 100 is a 5 loop course, 20 miles each loop." The first loop went by in a flash, it seemed as, somewhere around 4hrs 33mins.

Let me add, these years race plan was to take the race, aid station to aid station, nothing more. If you think about the whole 100 miles, the mind will go crazy!

Loop 2, 20 miles in

Off for 20 more fun filled miles! I knew this loop it would start getting warm, so I would need to take in more fluids. All was going great until mile 24 when a big time cramp hit me on the inside of the left thigh! Not freaking now, this is not happening! It stop me dead in my tracks! Ok, what to do? More Salt! Salt fixes everything on the trail! I dropped one SaltStick and started to just walk it off. After a half mile, back in the game! Other than the one cramp it went real good, coming in around 5hrs 20mins for the loop.

Loop 3, 40 miles in

20 more fun miles coming up! This loop would be getting dark before I make it back in, so my crew gave me my lights. They then said they would meet me at the Park Road aid station with my gloves, arm sleeves and beanie. Ok that sounded good. About 6 miles into the loop it was dark enough to turn on the lights, let the night time fun begin! Looking at my times, I was feeling real good about having a lot of time in the bank! The body was still feeling good, even after 45 plus miles on it. I was coming up on the 50 mile mark, at this point last year, I knew I was going to time out. But this year, I was in major kick butt gear! I hit the 50 mile mark, right at 12hrs! This was a BIG moment for me. I just PRed my 50 mile time by 29mins! And I'm feeling great with 50 more to go! I was over 3 hours ahead of last years time at this point! It was starting to get a little cool so I was looking forward to seeing my crew to get my gear. I got into Park Road only to not see my crew! Crap, getting cold. I refilled my bottle and still no crew. Got to go. I told myself, they will meet you at the start of loop 4. This only 4.4 miles away. But it's real hard to not keep thinking about getting cold or will they be there! As I was coming end for the end of this loop, I started yelling crew names out hoping they would hear me. BAM, I hear one of them yell back! This loop took around 5hrs 20mins.

Loop 4, 60 miles in
I can now have a pacer run with me.

Only two crew member were there, no cold weather gear! I was told it would be at the Nature Center aid station, 3. something miles away. Ok, deal with it Tony, you're not going to die in that few miles. Time to go, ok Mike lets do this! Mike was my first pacer. It was great to have someone to talk to and to pass along my needs to my crew. We made our way into Nature Center and there they were, gloves, arm sleeves and beanie, much better! I also picked up a new pacer, Melissa. Melissa is a road runner, so this would be her first time on true trails, much less at night! She would be with me for 12 miles. The first few miles was a little tough on her, but she got her footing down and did great! We talked about all kinds of stuff. But then there were times I didn't want to talk. I told my pacers before hand this could happen. The back half of this loop I needed to do more power walking then running. Body starting to feel the 70 plus miles on it. But the mind was still strong! I told Melissa we needed to get a jacket out of my Dam Nation drop bag, I was getting colder. Making our way into Park Road I was getting tired but would be getting a new pacer there, Gretchen. Off we go 4.4 miles to hit the 80 mile mark! This loop took around 6hrs

Loop 5, 80 miles in! Victory lap!

My body and mind was in truly uncharted waters at this point. I have never gone past 55 miles! Gretchen would stay with me on this loop until Nature Center, new pacer there. At Nature Center I picked up Russell, he would pace me back to Park Road, 12 miles away. There was going to be way more walking this 12 miles. Still had time in the bank, but could waste a lot of time or it could get bad, fast! Off we go, again we talked about, you name it! My calves started getting tight and my back in the lower right side in the kidney area start to hurt a little. As we made our way into Dam Nation, I told Russell I needed to sit down just a few minutes to rub out my calves. He refilled my bottle and then it was time to go. It was more like a death march, just 13 more miles to the finish line! 13 freaking miles! The longest 13 miles of my life! My back was really starting to hurt like I never hurt before, bad hurt! I was still able to walk a 14 minute mile, not bad after 87 miles! But I was hurting bad! When you leave out of Dam Nation, it's a 6 mile loop then you come back into it, then it's just over 3 miles to Park Road. Coming back into Dam Nation for the last time! I told Russell to refill my bottle that I was not stopping, if I stop I'm not sure I will be able to start. The sun was coming back up by now. With only a little over 7 miles to the finish line I had 6 hours to go 7 miles. Sounds so freaking easy, NOT! I was in bad shape. The body was starting to shut down! I was leaning to my right side at about a 45° angle! Having to stop every 100 feet to try and sit-up right, didn't help much. The tears started flowing. I was in pain that I wish on no one! 6 miles left, we got me a stick to help me walk. 5 miles left, it was taking me close to one hour to go one mile! This is when a runner passed us in a Zombie walk! Everything hurt like hell! I ask Russell what the cutoff time was at Park Road, didn't know if I was going to make it. A half freaking mile! And not sure if I could make it! About this time we see someone walking our way, Lesley! Lesley is one of my trail sisters. She would also be with me the last 4.4 miles if I live! As we made our way to her the pain on my right side was unreal! But Lesley would not hear any of it! Get your ass moving, she said! I'm trying, I'm trying, as the tears from the pain flowed more and more. Lesley also told me, Fawn said you will not stop unless you have a bone sticking out! At this point that would have to feel better! Fawn is a trail sister also, that was going to pace me the last 20 miles but thanks to the flu, she couldn't. I was upright coming into Park Road, 4.4 miles left! I told my crew I needed to sit down and I didn't give a flying &@$? what they said! An aid station worker ask me what's hurting, I told her my right lower back in the kidney area. She worked it over and told me to drink nothing but water the last 4.4 miles. Now here comes Lesley, get your ass up and lets get moving! Now just who could not love them kind of words after 95 miles! Off we go just 4.4 miles away from finishing my first 100 mile race! The longest 4.4 miles ever! I had just under 4 hours to go 4.4 miles, easy cake, right? I downed about 32oz of water just after leaving the aid station. Did it make me feel better, hell no, I hurt! But I told Lesley I'm going to try and run. And run I did! Later I learned from my Garmin data, my best pace time at mile 95 was an 8:17, an 8:17 pace after 95 freaking miles! That's badass! Now I can hear some crazy talking people coming up behind us. What the hell I'm thinking. BAM, it's Mike and Gretchen! I was needing all the support I could get at this point, so I was so glad to see them! Two last climbs then its somewhat flat. The first one is going to kill me I told them. Lesley told me whatever I do, don't stop or you will not get going up hill. BAM, topped that one! Time please. 2.5 hours left on the clock with 2 miles to go! It's looking good! But still anything could happen in them 2 miles! Lets be safe guys! The last hardest part left, going along the side of the lake. The angle of the trail in this area puts your body at a bad twisted. And after 98 miles, it's sucks! I told Mike to get in front of me and I was going to grab a shoulder and for him to go until I told him to slow down! By dam it worked awesome! I needed to stop and pee from all the water a just took in. As I was peeing they ask me what color it was, making sure there was no blood in it. I told them, can't tell, let me pee in one of your hands so you can look. No one let me. Half mile to the finish line with just under 2 hours left on the clock! I'm going to make it! I ask if we could stop and let me take a 30 minute nap, they didn't let me. 100 yards to the finish line! My crew was waiting. I told them to get my jacket off, there would be photos, I needed to look good! Yeah right 99.9 miles and like anyone looks good! I told them I wanted only Lesley to cross the finish line with me. Here I come finish line, ready or not! I crossed the finish line of my first 100 mile race in 28hrs 27mins 52sec! And who was there to give me my first buckle, Joe Prusaitis! I gave him the biggest hug and started crying like a baby! I did it, I freaking did it!

Thank You's
First and foremost, my wife and son! My wife, Joy is amazing to put up with all my talk about nothing but running at times. To the cost of my running. Thank you, I love you more then ever! My son, Colton who got me into running just 4 years ago! Not sure if I should say thanks or not, but I'm going with Thank You! I'm still waiting to run a marathon with you.

My crew/support group
Tammy, my amazing crew chief! Thank you more then you will ever know! Jim, thank you for sharing Tammy with me. Russell, thank you for not making to much fun of me when I was crying like a baby. Melissa, it was great doing your first true trail run with you. Gretchen, girl can you ever talk up a storm at 3am, loved it! Mike, my tow truck, thanks brother! Lesley, my trail sister, thank you for pushing me past my limits!

"To give your all, sometimes you have to give away all your control"

And I give all control to my team!

The rest of my small village that got me to the finish line, in random order Libby, Fawn, Suann, Martin, Jeremy, Kim, Tim, Michael, Liza, Maryann, Michael, I just know I forgot some. I'm so sorry if I did.

Gear: Shoes, Inov8 255, Socks, DryMax Trail, Lube, Hydropel, Tights, CWX, Garmin 310XT, Headlight, Black Diamond Storm, Race vest, Nathan Endurance, SaltStick, Nathan handheld bottle, 50 PowerBar Gels

Training: no more then 35 total miles a week. Longest run being 5 miles. Lets of stair repeats. Tire dragging with 30 pounds extra weight in tire.

Ok, make all the fun of me you want by the way I'm running. But guess what, I just ran 100 miles!

Tony Constanzo

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Palo Duro Canyon 50 Mile

Palo Duro Canyon 50mi

This is a 50 mile race with a 12 hour cutoff, four 12.5 loops with 5 aid stations.

This is the first race of this years race season. I signed up for this race thanks to some awesome running friends, y'all know who y'all are.

The weekend started on Thursday with a 10 hour drive to Canyon, TX., where I got a hotel room and one last good nights sleep.

Friday morning I was up and going early, at the park gate at 7:30am, they open at 8:00am. I was first in line of what ended up being about 10 cars!

After getting my campsite, I made my way into the park. WOW! This is the most awesome beautiful amazing parks I have even been to! No matter the outcome of the race, I was already winning just by getting to see this park!

Once camp was setup, it was time for a short nap. Around 4pm I made my way into town for packet/trail briefing/pasta dinner and to meet up with the awesome running friends that talked me into this race.

When I picked up my packet, it was a little upsetting to find out the shirt was a cotton not tech shirt! The pasta dinner was ok. The for the trail briefing. It started out ok and only got worse! After they did their talk it went to Q & A.

I had to ask if the 50 milers could have a pacer at some point being it was a 12 hour cutoff. Yes you can have a pacer on the last loop. Is there going to be gel at the aid stations I ask. Yeah, what's that stuff called, GU. No GU is a name brand, gel is the generic name. I'm sure Hammer Nutrition would like that being they are a sponsor!

After the Dog & Puppet show I made my way back to camp.

Once back at camp I made up my drop bag and premixed my water bottles with my gel and SaltSticks.

Bed time was around 9pm with a 5am wake up call, race start time 7am.

Race day!

The day started on the cool side, 43F knowing it would warm up, but not sure just how much.

I dropped my cooler a drop bag a Phil's aid station. This aid station is in the middle of the figure eight course.

I made my way to the start line feeling good about the day. Once there I met up with the group of friends. Only two of them was doing the 50 mile the others the 50k, smart people!

The first 30-45 mins would be run under a headlamp. This would put us at the first aid station just after sunup, just right to drop the light there.

The first 3 miles went real good, just trying to get warmed up and stay safe in the dark.

After dropping the light and topping off the water bottle, off I go.

About a mile out from the aid station a pack of coyotes that was maybe 100 feet from me in the tree line  went crazy! The pace did pick up a little!

As the sun made its way up over the canyon, the color on the canyon walls was amazing! This part of the course was out in the open, zero shade!

The first loop went real good with a 2hr 15min time, up by 45 mins.

The start of the second loop started to get warm, low 80's.

All was going good until mile 17. This is where the leg cramp monster from hell grabbed my left thigh and said stop! On hell no this is not happening! I dropped two SaltSticks and walked after maybe a half mile trying to walk it out. It seemed to help, but this part of the course was the toughest, so smart going it was. Only to have to get crazy bad over and over. As I made my way back to the start/finish I was thinking, it's I'd going to be a tough loop. But I was still up by 30 mins, only dropping 15 mins the second loop. Not bad dealing with this cramp. If I could just keep it up by dropping 15 mins the next two loops, that puts me right at 12hrs.

The start of the third loop was getting hot, mid 90's!

I grabbed a hand full of real food and off I went! It was starting to hurt real bad to run, or at the time what I called running. This is where all the power walking training came into play. I was able to walk fast then run, funny how it works at times! About half way into this loop the cramp monster came back with his friends and they came with baseball bats! They do not play fair! About 3/4 way through this loop I knew my race day was over. Even if I could make the fourth loop cutoff time, there would be no way I could make the 12 hour cutoff. I was ok with it, it's just a race in the end. There are lots more down the road. 

As I made my way to the finish line it was an amazing feeling to see and hear all the support. 

As I gave it my all running down to the finish line, I do think I was passed by someone using a walker! 

So at the end of the day, I put in 37.5 miles in 9hrs 33mins in the hardest race mile to date! I also found out that the high temp for the day was 105F to 108F depending on what part of the course you were on!

The 11hr drive home was just about as hard as the race!

Thank You to everyone that played a part in this race!

Would I do this race again, yes, but with a little more planning.

Now for a 6 day rest and back at it with Cactus Rose 50 mile this coming Saturday!

Tony Constanzo

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Crewing an Ultra

Crewing

Let me start by saying, as a runner I take full blame for every DNF, did my crew have a hand in them, yes maybe.

My first race that I had a crew at was RR100, 2012.

How did I go about picking my crew is where I made my biggest mistake. I picked friends that new me away from ultra running, big mistake.

A crew needs to now you as an ultra runner not just as a friend. Now in saying that, not all runners much less ultra runners make good crew members.

My crew chief is a high school track coach. What else could you want in a crew chief, running is their life. Will it's all good if they have the time to put in away from the track team.

One of my other crew members was an ultra runner with four 100 mile finishes along with being a 30 plus year friend. You would think someone with this background would be just the ticket you would want on your crew. One word can sum up the problem I had with them, EGO! Their ego was so big they would do the little things that helped derail my goal. From not being at crew aid station areas because they wanted to work some other aid station to not showing up until late afternoon after the race stated. 

Two of my other crew members were new to the ultra running world, their longest run being a 50k. Not that a 50k is a walk in the park. But they had no clue as to what I was going to feel at 50 miles much less just trying to make it to the finish line of a 100 miler. But for their lack of knowledge they both made up in giving all their heart and soul in doing whatever I ask them to do. Just a few days before I toed the line one of them, that was also one of my pacers was dealing with a knee injury. Without thinking twice the other stepped up to pace me even though they have never ran trails at night! To me I couldn't ask more from a crew member then to do this!

My last crew member was a good friend that is not a runner. Wow, it was like I was in training for a 5k having to go over running terms to how my gear worked. I'll say why I ask them to be a part of my crew. They are over weight by 250-300 pounds! I was hoping that being around a group of people who have worked so hard to get in shape, it would help inspire him to start changing his life. One more mistake I made by getting side tracked by wanting to help a friend when it was my day. You ask if it did anything to help get them started in changing his lifestyle, no, not at all.

Looking back, what will change. 

All crew members will have a running background. It would be nice for them to have an ultra running background. But as I learned, not all ultra runners make good crew members.

I will also have every crew member read, Death Valley Ultras: The Complete Crewing Guide. It may be written about crewing in Death Valley, but the info can be used for any ultra. If they don't want to read it, they want crew me. Race day is not the time or place to learn the little stuff!

My crew chief will not only know me away from running, but they will put in some long training miles with me. They need to know what I need way before I know I need it! Be it from changing socks and or shoes, to I need to eat or drink more or less.

My pacers will also put in long training miles with me. I need to know going into race day they can deal with just about anything they may take place in the middle of the night in the rain with a temp of 35F.

Race day is not the time to learn how the runners gear works or their wants and needs. 

As a runner the last thing you want to deal with is, drama, egos and cry babies.

What I love best about ultra running is the other runners. I feel when I toe the line, every runner there is part of my crew. Out on the trail they are willing to help out any runner make it to the finish line! Not sure of any other sport that can say that. 

In closing let me say, my biggest and best crew member is my family! They support me in this crazy sport. Put up with my long training days and my never-ending running stories.

Tony Constanzo

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