Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Mike Potaski's Racer Story: How to run 123.74 miles on trail in 24 hours and win!- the experience, racing details, gear, & shoes

Article by Mike Postaski

Pulse Endurance Runs 24 Hour Race Report

My 2nd race of this season was the Pulse Endurance Runs - 24 Hour event in Eagle, Idaho. The annual event is held at Eagle Island State Park, and offers various distances and timed events from 6 hour day/night, 12 hour day night/ 100M, 24H, and 48H. All of the races are held on a 2.78 mile loop consisting of dirt paths, horse trails, hard dirt roads, muddy/soft dirt roads, grass, and a short bit of pavement near the start/finish area. 

It’s a great event for both new and experienced runners alike. New runners can get their first taste of running certain durations and distances, or their first taste of running through the night - all with the comfort of being fully supported. Experienced runners can push themselves to go for big miles or a fast 100M, while dialing in fueling and gear strategies. The gear testing is especially useful as you can bring a lot of stuff and figure out what works best - over big variations in temperature as well as fatigue.

Personally, although I love mountain races, especially longer ultras and 100 milers, I do have a strange fascination with timed events. I find the mental aspect very appealing - you know ahead of time that it will be so easy to tap out at any time. Also, the gear and nutrition aspects are much easier to handle, so the mental grind really takes on much of the focus and importance. Big respect to anyone out there, at any level, that does that type of event and really goes for it. 

The Race

I wanted to do this year’s race as somewhat of a personal redemption. I ran the same 24H event in 2021, but it didn’t go well for me. The short of it - I made it to 67 miles in just short of 12 hours, then it started raining heavily. It got very bad during my last loop and I made it back to the main station in bad shape- shivering badly and unable to warm up. I made a big mistake leaving all my gear out in the open at a picnic table - away from the main aid station and warming area. There was no way I could make it there in the pouring rain, and being unable to warm up, I hobbled back to our RV, blasted the heat and huddled up in the tiny bathroom to warm up.

[The start - Friday 6PM]

I was resigned to dropping out - slept a bit, and even watched Moana with my daughter when she woke up. But the weather turned and the sun came out, and somehow I rallied myself to go back out. I managed to knock out another 34 miles in the remaining time to end right at 100M - despite the ~4.5 hr break. It’s bothered me since then how that race played out, especially since it wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten caught out in weather during a race. I also went out a bit too fast, so I knew I could do much better by just preparing correctly and fixing mental mistakes.

This year, I went out much easier, I knew I’d be faster of course at the start, but the trick is to not be too fast. There’s an inevitable slowdown over the course of 24 hours, but you can’t give up too much in the early stages - you have to bank just the right amount so it evens out to where you want to be. The course was in great shape, dry all around, and thankfully, no rain in the forecast. This year’s event was held at the normal time of Mid-March; in 2021 it was pushed back to May due to Covid. So even though no rain was in the forecast, the overnight temps would be much colder, and there would be more darkness hours. 

[Early on - still some pep in my step]

So I set about plugging along - with the 6PM start, the 2+ hours of remaining daylight went by pretty quickly. It was quite windy, but it died down through the night hours. My Petzl IKO Core headlamp (for which I had 3 spare batteries) malfunctioned right away, leaving me to run primarily with my UltraSpire Lumen 800 waist light. I was planning to run with the waist lamp anyway, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. But I had to be careful with the battery as I only had one extra set for the 12 hours of night. If you haven’t read my 100M race reports, running with a waist lamp is sooooooo much better. I’ll never run overnight again without one. The depth perception, as well as lighting on the areas on the sides really eliminates the mental fatigue of running in a headlamp bubble.

The temps got into the upper 20s at night, but with calm winds, I had no problems keeping warm. I kept moving and didn’t take any extended breaks - only stopping to pick up fuel/hydration and a few longer stops in the warming tent just to add layers. Overnight, during the coldest time, this was my apparel:

Salomon warm beanie + Buff

ODLO Blackcomb baselayer - with hood

Patagonia Airshed Pro jacket (light)

GORE Wear  Drive jacket (RTR Review)

Serius glove liners, Patagonia convertible gloves, WhitePaws RunMitts

SAXX ½ tights, ODLO light tights

Brooks High Point shorts (RTR Review)

Patagonia Airshed Pro windbreakers

I was able to layer everything on top of what I started with, except for the ODLO baselayer. I started with a light baselayer, then switched to the thicker one with the hood sometime during the night. I started with full tights under my shorts since it was unexpectedly cold and windy at the start. Towards the mid-day next day it felt a little warm, but then it felt ok again when it got closer to the 6PM finish. 

[Early Saturday frosty sunrise after the long, cold night]

I ran pretty steadily through the night and into the next day. My first 5 hours of laps were in the 27-28 min range (9:30-10:00/mi), then I did some mental calculations and zeroed in on keeping my lap paces under 12:00/mi. That would land me somewhere within the 120-130 mile range. I hit 100M in 18:31 - my fastest yet. I was keeping pace pretty well, and on target for over 130 for a while - but I knew the last hours would be difficult. Sure enough, those 12:00/mi loops became harder and harder to keep, especially with the wind really kicking up over the last 6 hours. 

There was a big section of the backside of the course that was exposed, and ran directly into the strong headwind. It was practically impossible to continuously run in those conditions, at 19-20 hours in. I switched to a run/walk strategy which worked well, but when the wind picked up, the headwind coincided with my running sections. This is the part I’m proud of - as my target finish mileage kept going down, I just focused on keeping moving. I never took any breaks, just grabbing food and drinks (while moving) and kept going. 

[Gore Wear Drive jacket kept me plenty warm]

There’s a final paved 0.28M section that opens up in the last hour - so runners don’t get caught out on the big loop when the time expires (only completed loops count). Just getting to that final hour was a huge mental target over the previous hours. Even on that paved loop, I could only maintain my run/walk and covered a somewhat respectable 15 laps (4.2 miles). 

[Layered on an extra windbreaker during the last few hours]

By that point I knew that I would be a few miles over 120, it was just a question of pushing for those 1 or 2 extra. And by “pushing” I merely mean - not stopping. I ended up with a very well earned and fought-for 123.74M - good for 1st place on the day and a course record as well. I’m extremely happy and proud of that result - I had to stay focused and locked in for so many hours - probably over the last 14 hours or so. As is the case with many long ultras - the challenge was just as much mental as physical.

This was my 2nd of 4 qualifying races this season for the Idaho Trail Ultra Series (ITUS). It’s a series of ultra races throughout Idaho where points are accumulated for finishes, with higher points given to longer races. 4 races qualifies you as an official ITUS finisher. With 2 wins so far (50K and now 123M), I’m in a solid position for this season.

Shoe choices

I ran the entire race - every step - in the new Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review). That’s 24 hours, 123.74M, every step. I never even adjusted my laces. I also wore them at my first race this year - the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K. That’s quite a range of conditions for the shoe to handle, so clearly this is my shoe of the year so far. I considered many other shoes for the race, but ultimately the decision came down to favoring stability over “max” cushion. 


Aside from the small paved section, the course underfoot is constantly uneven surfaces - cambered at times, cobbled horse path, uneven muddy sections, some gravely parts, etc. So although it’s flat, anyone that’s run there will tell you it’s deceptively hard on the legs - especially over those long durations. Here are some other shoes I considered -

Craft CTM Ultra 3 (RTR Review) - Would have been faster, but speed is not really the name of the game here. The upper is just too insecure and they run “tall” - would have been trouble for my ankles.

Craft Endurance Trail (RTR Review) - Probably better suited than the CTM Ultra for this duration/speed/terrain, but a bit heavier, and again, not a well-fitting upper. Need to have something that “feels” good for 24H.

Hoka Tecton X (RTR Review) - This was my 2nd choice, and likely would have worked well, and the cushion probably would have been welcomed towards the end. But my thought was that they feel a bit “flat” when running on flat ground - better suited to rolling or mountainous terrain. Still my top 100M mountain shoe - stay tuned for Tecton X 2 review !

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 (RTR Review soon) - Well cushioned up front (great for me), and a very well fitting upper. But on a couple test runs the Energy Blade plate felt a bit stiff around the midfoot. I’m still working on my review. I think the stiffness is not an issue with terrain variations (ups/downs/varying foot strikes etc.). But for 24H, flat, I felt the stiffness might be an issue. Also, speed is not really an issue for this race.

Topo Ultraventure 3 (RTR Review) - After deciding on the Catamount 2’s, this was the only other shoe I brought to the race. I thought I might switch to them in the latter stages if my feet were sore. I think they also would have been great for this race, I just decided to go with the lighter, quicker feeling Cat 2.

[Post-24H / 123.78M - 199M total in the shoes]


I again stuck with what worked for me throughout last season - Precision Hydration. I drank exclusively their PH 1000 drink mix packets and used their regular gels. Their drink mixes provide enough electrolytes that I don’t have to worry about taking salt tabs, which was previously a regular issue for me. I find their gels have a neutral flavor that goes down easily, for long periods of time. I ate both the regular and caffeinated versions (overnight) during the race. 

Along the way I also ate a few MoN (Ministry of Nutritions) bars (review upcoming), a Snickers bar or two, and a few small peanut butter wrap slices. I also started drinking Coke regularly over the last few laps - trying to pep myself up a bit. 

I kept it pretty simple, and didn’t have any issues. I did make a small mental error and got into a bit of a calorie deficit later in the race. I had been timing my gels so that I would eat one every lap or so - which was around 30 minutes. So roughly 2 per hour, giving me 60g of carb, plus 17g from my drink, leaving me in the range of 75g/hour. It seemed to be working well for this intensity level, in these - cooler, conditions. 

[Feeling the burn after 23 hours or so]

Towards the end of the race, as my lap times started drifting longer, I didn’t adjust my gel intake so over the course of laps/hours my calorie intake dropped off without me realizing it (mental fatigue kicking in). At some point as I started dragging, I started to fuel up more, but of course it takes a bit longer to right the ship at that point. So something to make a note of and improve in the future. Lessons learned during a race always stick in your mind better than anything you plan out on paper ahead of time.

Next Gen Stryd Pod

I made sure to keep my Next Gen Stryd Pod (my RTR Review) fully charged up until the start of the race - even keeping it on a portable charger as long as possible. I also made sure to add the data screen to my activity this time - which I forgot to do last race. I was checking the power number during the initial stages of the race as more of a sanity check, but mostly I didn’t really look at the number. As the hours tick by, the power numbers are way lower than anything that I would be training at, so there’s not really much to think about on the run.

I was surprised that the battery lasted throughout the race - see below as the app indicated that there was even 20% battery remaining. 

Being that I was using the pod for distance, I switched my Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Solar to Ultratrac mode - just to see how much battery would be saved. My watch showed 28% remaining after the 24 hours, which is a significant amount more than if I would have kept GPS/GLONASS on.

UltrAspire Basham Vest

As I don’t like to use hand bottles, the Basham vest (RTR Review) was again the perfect option for this race. I was taking in about 16 oz. of fluids per hour, so I was able to get in a full 2 laps, and sometimes 3 without having to stop at my little aid station/chair. The rear carry bottle is perfect and unobtrusive. Minimal body coverage with some small pockets to carry a couple gels and a backup headlamp during the night. The rear pocket is enough to carry a rain shell, but I didn’t need one this race.

Recovery / What’s Next?

I took quite a bit of damage from this race - I was much more banged up than after any of the mountain 100 milers that I’ve run. My left knee was pretty messed up and swollen, and I had some issues with my right hip flexor. The general bodily fatigue was similar to after other 24+ hour / 100M events that I’ve done. 2 weeks of pretty bad fatigue - waking up still tired every morning even after a full night’s sleep. It usually takes me a full 2 weeks to fully recover the lost night of sleep, then a week or two after that to get back to baseline training readiness. 

We also had a family trip to New Jersey planned over spring break 1 week after the race which was pretty hectic and of course two trips across the country in 1 week. I’m aware that my recovery will be dragged out even more by that trip. It’s about 3 weeks now post-race and I’m still not feeling 100%. My legs are somewhat coming back, but my general body fatigue is just starting to improve slightly. I use an Oura ring for tracking, and I’ve had 3 solid weeks of elevated overnight resting heart rate as well as lower heart rate variability.

The next race I have planned is Scout Mountain 100M in Pocatello, ID on June 2 (another ITUS event). I’ve got 8+ weeks until that one, so hopefully I can get myself in order over the next few weeks, and in position to lay down a solid month+ of training ahead of that one.

Big thank you to Holly and Beth from Pulse Running for putting on another great event. So many distances and durations, so many runners, logistics over 48 hours, all going off without a hitch. Quite impressive, yet expected, as all of their events are first class!

Also big thanks to Lyn VanSchoiack for all the great photos - https://lynvanschoiack.smugmug.com/

She is also the founder and editor of Mountain Running Magazine .

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. In 2022 Mike won both the Standhope 100M and IMTUF 100M trail ultras within a 7 week period - both extremely rugged Idaho mountain races. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Some products mentioned  were provided at no charge for review purposes others were personal purchases . RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Scott said...

Thanks for this. I've got my first 24 hour run coming up in June and found your story informative and inspiring.

Mike P said...


Glad to hear that - and good luck! Feel free to fire away if you have any questions about gear, strategies. etc. Happy to help..

Scott said...

Mike, if you have any suggestions for dealing with nausea I'd like to hear them. I get sick as a dog after ~8 hours and lose any desire to eat, drink or live.

Mike P said...

Hmm, I don't have any experience with nausea, so no real advice for dealing with it.

But there must be something going on with your fueling during the race (duh). I'd recommend thinking about a few things - mixing in solid foods - bars or real food - if you're relying on gels. In that same vein, how much sugar are you taking in. It could be too much if you're doing sugary drinks on top of sugary gels.

I'm a big fan of Precision Fuel and Hydration the past 2 years (not sponsored). They focus on the salt/electrolyte aspect of fueling so that's also something to look into. Maybe you're not absorbing the fuel you're taking in due to lack of electrolytes? Check their website - they have a research section with A TON of articles about fueling and hydration. Even if their specific approach doesn't work for you, it may give you some other ideas to try.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to an impressive performance and thanks for sharing, much appreciated reading!

Bobcat said...


Try candied ginger for nausea.
I also get sick from gels and carbohydrate drinks. You can usually feel the liquid building in your stomach and not digesting. Two things to help that:
- Take salt tabs, they help u absorb water.
- I use 'Sponser Long Energy' (probably you can't find this,but I mention the same so you can look at the ingredients) - basically long carbohydrates and 10% protein - the protein somehow makes digestion so much better. Also your kidneys don't shut down and I can actually urinate normally during a race.
- Fruits like apple, banana, orange slices.
- Panforte bars

Usually gels and carb drinks are ok for short races, but Ultras are different you are not running at a high intensity. Your requirements for energy are less and your digestion, nausea and kidney function become more important.