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Fallbrook's Roy Quinn is the Ultra-Ultra Marathon Man!

Steven Schindler

Special to the Village News

Occasionally I might brag a little when I meet someone new at a party or in a locker room, when I reveal that I have completed over 30 full marathons. Some people don't even know how long a full marathon is, and when I tell them that it's 26.2 miles, and add my stock joke, "It's the point 2 that kills ya" I usually get a chuckle and a round of compliments at my running stamina. But after interviewing Fallbrook's own, Roy Quinn, I'm not sure I can feel that same level of accomplishment anymore.

When it comes to the category of "ultra-marathons," any race over 26.2 miles, Quinn, 42, has run in what might be the most ultra of ultra-marathons: The Cocodona 250, a run in Arizona that goes for 250 miles!

Over coffee on Main Avenue, Quinn was almost as excited to share his story as I was to hear about it. Of course, my first question was, "Why???"

"I love Arizona!" Quinn said, proudly, "My great grandfather was the first Arizona Ranger. He even named some of the mountain peaks after family members. I spent my early years there and have great, vivid memories of the area where the race takes place."

Having already run in races ranging from 50 to 100 miles, it was over a few beers the night before a Las Vegas half marathon that the thought of a 250 mile race seemed like a good idea, as many thoughts do depending on the number of IPA refills one has ordered. But it was a chance meeting with Michael Versteeg, the winner of the first Cocodona 250 race that sealed the deal for him.

"I had told Michael I wanted to run the Cocodona 250, but had just gotten laid off, and it wasn't in the cards. He told me that there were more important things than jobs and money. And what's more important is how we pursue our passions in life. I decided right then and there, I was going to do it!"

The race starts at Black Canyon City, goes through Sedona, and traverses a continuous 250 miles, through mountains, deserts, streams and brush ending in Flagstaff. In addition to the 250 miles, one climbs to the dizzying heights of 9,135 feet. But more daunting is that with the ups and downs of the course, you would ascend a total of over 39,000 feet, and descend an accumulative 34,000 feet!

"The race doesn't stop. The clock doesn't stop. You have a support crew, but you can't even meet up with them until 70 miles, which was about 32 hours into the race," Quinn recalls, with the memory still fresh in his mind. "It wasn't until Prescott, at mile 78 that I got anything more than a 5 minute nap. I slept there for two hours. It took me about a week to finish, and I think I got a total of seven hours sleep."

Obviously, a 250 mile race is not without dangers. Everyone must have a GPS enabled device in case they wander off the minimally marked course. Don't forget, the race continues around the clock. Runners must carry a supply of water, food, nutrient supplements, and um, personal hygiene items for the times when an aid station is not handy.

"At one station, the bathroom facility was a bucket," Quinn says chuckling. There are about 25 aid stations with water, snacks, real food such as burgers and pasta, bathroom facilities, and communications in case of emergencies. Some have cots for naps longer than five minutes.

"Having run ultra-marathons before, I can say that the first 100 or so miles, I was OK. But after 100 miles, I was in uncharted territory. At about 157 miles, four days in, I had a total breakdown. I was at my lowest point, thinking I couldn't do it. I thought maybe I had covid. I was actually crying and shaking, ready to collapse. But instinctively I began eating whatever was in my backpack and started to come around. I was merely in severe calorie deficiency and my body was telling me to eat. And I was soon back on the trail."

At some points the course went through private property, bordered with barbed wire, so ladders were placed which had to be climbed, sometimes in the dead of night. Also, there were streams that had to be crossed, by wading to the other side. "Crossing one particular stream was especially memorable, because when I was a child, I nearly drowned in that very stream, and here I was all these decades later 170 miles into a 250 mile race!"

One doesn't complete a race like the Cocodona 250 totally alone. A support team for pre-race planning and during the event are crucial for moral and physical support. "For the first time in my life, I actually hired a coach several months in advance. And it was the best thing I could have done. And of course, I definitely couldn't have done it without the support of my wife."

Quinn's wife, Rose, has given him full support throughout his ultra-marathon quests over the years. "I wasn't surprised when he told me he wanted to do the Cocodona 250. He had already done a few 100 mile races, and we had watched the Cocodona before, so I knew one day he'd want to do it. I was just like, here we go!"

For the several months of pre-race training, Roy lost 35 pounds and during the week of the race, he lost an additional 12 pounds. But if you're looking to lose 37 pounds there are easier and less expensive ways to accomplish weight loss. "Just the application fee alone is $1,400. And then when you add expenses for your team, for food and lodging for five days, it really adds up."

And like any race, from a kindergarten potato sack race to a 100 yard dash, all the way up to the Cocodona 250, it's all about the finish line. And at 1 a.m. in the early morning of May 6, after 250 miles of grueling endurance, Quinn's goal was within sight.

"You're running down a dark street in the middle of the night, and a weary volunteer tells you to turn a corner, and then you see bright lights, cameras, people cheering and the finish line! It was totally surreal. And though it sounds weird, I was kind of sad. After all the anticipation, training, and the 250 miles, it was over!"

Rose was there at the finish to cheer him on. "We were freezing! It was 35 degrees. When I first saw him, I was relieved! Then when I saw his face, it was oh my God! He made it! I was just so happy for him! He is amazing!"

And now that it has been over for a month or so, and Quinn is fully recovered, he has advice for anyone considering taking on this huge challenge. "Definitely hire an experienced coach. And the one thing that I would do differently, is I would concentrate more on a sleep strategy, which can make or break you."

And speaking of sleep, after just trying to relate what Quinn experienced powering through 250 miles, I think I need a nap!

 

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