Fabiszak Getting Older and Quicker

Pringles, pickles, and bars were what he ate
The East Hampton Library’s executive director doesn't listen to music when he runs ultras, nor does he listen to novels. Jack Graves

Dennis Fabiszak, the executive director of the East Hampton Library, who is also an ultra runner, recently repeated as the winner of a 100-mile race near Cape Canaveral. 

But that wasn’t all that was newsworthy: The winner, who after last year’s victory hired an upstate coach, Elizabeth Azze of Mountain Peak Fitness, bettered last year’s time by almost three hours — 19:49 vis-a-vis 22:46.

“She gave me much harder workouts than the ones I’d been doing on my own,” he said during a conversation this past week. “Specific mobility exercises, core workouts . . . I’d been doing very little of that . . . long track workouts. It really paid off. My goal had been to break 20 hours.”

The race, he said, was in Titusville, Fla., in the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary. “They only allow 60 in the race — they don’t want 500 people running around the 3.4-mile loop. You do 29 of them.”

“It’s like being on a hamster wheel,” he said with a smile. But the park was beautiful, he said, mostly thick forest and lots of wildlife. “Armadillos were running around and there were reports of wild boar, though they didn’t come onto the trail. It was pretty flat. About a mile of the loop was sand. . . .”

Fabiszak said the race began at 7 a.m. and that he finished a little before 3 a.m. “I went back to the hotel and slept for four hours, then went to Denny’s for breakfast, and went back to cheer on the others who were still racing. . . . You’re running against the clock really; you want to see what you’re capable of. People who do this kind of thing support one another.”

There was a cutoff at 32 hours. “Twenty-two of the 60 entrants finished, including people who’d won it multiple times. Little problems can become big in ultras.”

Asked if there’d been any mishaps, he said, “A person was taken away in an ambulance; that’s the first time that’s ever happened in this race. . . . I don’t know what happened.”

As for food and drink, Fabiszak said, “You have to drink — I drank a sports mix that has calories in it, and you eat a lot.” Breakfast bars, Pringles, and pickles in his case. His crew person, and brother, Marc Drautz, “ran 30 miles with me all told, generally at night, on and off.”

Fabiszak is 47 and, because he’d changed his training and his diet, is in “the best shape of my life. It also helps to have all these athletes out here to be friends with and to run with. East Hampton is an encouraging environment.”

He does 60 miles a week, what a marathoner would do, though the workouts, as aforesaid, are much more specific than they used to be. 

Asked if good marathoners were good ultra runners, he said, “Not necessarily. The reason I got into ultra running, about 10 years ago, was that I realized how much more complex it was to finish an ultra than a marathon. Nutrition is a lot more important, hydration too, and your mental state is really key. You have to enjoy it in some way.”

He, himself, never played music as he ran. “A lot of [ultra] races don’t allow it. I wish they didn’t allow it in this race. We were on a very narrow trail and you don’t want to go off into la-la land. I’d have to stop and tap people listening to music on the shoulder. . . .”

Did he go into a Zen state? “I listened to the sounds of nature, I thought about how I felt . . . it takes mental discipline to allow yourself to continue doing something for 19 hours.”

Yes, he said in reply to a question, he did sense that he was moving at a faster rate than he had ever done before, “even though there was a lot of sand and mud on the trail. My 50-mile split was 8:12, so I had great confidence that the training had really worked. But I wasn’t really sure until the last 20 miles. I didn’t think the second person would catch up at that point. I realized then that I had a chance to break 20.”

His per-mile race worked out to 11:50, he said, in answer to a question. He could run fast too. “During training my mile time got better — I did the Montauk Mile in 5:42 this fall. At the end of one of my 15-mile track workouts I ran a 5:34. What’s amazing is at both ends of the spectrum I got better. It’s definitely helped to have a coach. I met her at the Breakneck Point marathon upstate in the spring. She was one of the organizers. She’s so knowledgeable. I keep in touch with her regularly.”

Later that day, he said, he would go to the Y to swim.

“I’m trying to learn . . . I’m doing it on my own. I know I can run. I’m trying to get to be okay at swimming.”