Editor’s note: This article was originally published July 12, 2013
In the end, seven toenails was a small price to pay.
"Well, I still have three," Austin runner Paul Terranova said about the state of his toes after finishing eighth at the Western States 100, a grueling trail race that stretches from Squaw Valley to the town of Auburn 100 miles away. His time of just under 18 hours marked the first top 10 finish by a Texan at the event since 1987.
How did it feel?
"The best way to describe it is a combination of pulling an all-nighter, being hungover and getting in a car wreck," he said.
And he can’t wait for the next one.
Terranova, 39, a project manager at HNTB, an Austin engineering firm, loves trail running because it gets him out in the woods and into the mountains. "That opportunity to unplug and really get away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life is a nice escape for me," he said.
Terranova qualified for the race in January, when he placed third at the USA Track & Field’s 100 km Championship in Bandera. His performance is all the more impressive when you consider that he ran his first 100-miler at last year’s Western States 100, when he finished in just over 20 hours.
Conditions were drastically different this time out. The 2012 was one of the coldest ever, and temperatures this year topped 110 degrees in the canyons. Terranova coped by staying on top of hydration, pouring lots of ice and water on his head and wading into stream crossings.
"Once the sun starts going down - and for me I still had about 20 miles to go - the brunt of sun is waning and you feel like you’ve made it through the heat of the day," he said.
Terranova says he was better prepared this year, with 600 more miles of trail racing experience under his racebelt and more confidence. He also spent the last six weeks of training wearing a beanie on his head and a short-sleeved shirt layered over a long-sleeved shirt while he ran to brace for the heat.
"I was that crazy person outside sweating," he said.
It paid off. On race day, Terranova worked his way from the middle of the pack to the front. The last 20 miles he played leapfrog with Jesse Haynes, a California runner.
"It kept both of us going forward as hard and fast as we could," he said.
He also credits his crew, which included his wife Meredith, another Austin endurance athlete.
Next on the race calendar? The White River 50 in Washington. After that, he’ll crew for his brother-in-law at the Leadville 100 in Colorado.