I first met Andy Pasternak back in 2009 when his wife, JoAnn, and I were the only two women at the inaugural Burton Creek Trail Marathon. Immediately the enthusiasm of these two runners struck me, and I have loved seeing them at most of the local races over the years and getting the opportunity to know them.
Andy (a.k.a. Hawkeye Pierce, if you happened to be at the Foresthill Aid Station at this year’s Western States) has become an integral part of the running community through his own running and racing, his Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Lab, and his contributions to the medical practices in the ultrarunning world. We are stoked to have him as an active member of the Donner Party Mountain Runners!
How long have you lived in Reno?
After growing up in suburban Detroit, I moved to Reno from Madison, WI in 1998.
When did you begin running? Why?
While we were living in Ann Arbor, MI, my now wife, then girlfriend, JoAnn Ellero signed me up for a 5K on the 4th of July in the Bavarian town of Frankenmuth, Michigan. I mostly signed up since it was a chance to drink German beer , eat fried chicken, and go camping. After that, we started doing a few more road races. When we moved to Madison, we did a couple of half-marathons and eventually did our first road marathon.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I’m a family practice physician and run my own practice. In addition to primary care, I also started a sports physiology lab, the Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Center. Along with my partner, Julie Young, our goal is to help local athletes of all levels reach their goals with a science-based approach to testing and training.
Between caring for patients and administrative duties, there can be a week or two where it gets tough to fit in training. I find, however, I’m way more efficient at work when I do get to exercise at some point during the day.
How did you get involved with the TRT Endurance Runs, and what has that experience been like? What are the highs and lows from the Tunnel Creek Aid Station? Any good stories you can share?
JoAnn had worked at Tunnel Creek was telling me about the need for a more organized medical care program for the race . I was also the research director working with the sports medicine fellow at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. In 2010, when the fellow was approached to coordinate the medical support for TRT, he started talking to me. He had been reading about covering road marathons and had no concept of how different trail races are. JoAnn and I had done the TRT 50K a few years earlier, so I knew the race and started explaining the differences. Since I had my own practice, I could also coordinate getting the supplies together with less hassle than going through the University. Everything sort of fell into place, and it took off from there.
Coordinating the medical care for almost 600 runners and working at the Tunnel Creek aid station is a lot of work but it’s also one of the biggest highlights of the year. As a Family Physician, continuity is an important part of what I do day to day; Tunnel Creek is incredible because we get to see the 100 mile runners 6 times during the race, and I get that same continuity. Every year we have a couple of runners who are really battling medical issues. When they leave the aid station for the last time at mile 85 and we know they are going to finish, the positive vibes always get me a bit misty-eyed. (The sleep deprivation and high levels of caffeine likely also contribute to that!)
I see you are involved with the Western States Medical conference. What is your role with that, and what can you tell us about the conference?
After my second year as TRT medical director, I wanted to reach out to other ultra medical directors. It was clear we all had something to learn from each other but didn’t have a way to do it. I contacted Dr. Marty Hoffman who is the research director for WS100 and put together a Google group of medical directors and race directors so we could start to share new science along with bouncing ultra-marathon questions off of each other. A little while later, Dr. Hoffman asked me to be one of the authors on a consensus paper on the medical coverage of ultramarathons. When Dr. Hoffman envisioned the conference last year, he asked me to be a speaker. I’m really excited to present some new data we’ve collected from TRT at this year’s conference.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? if not racing, what motivates you?
It depends on the year. I used to do a lot more races but lately have just enjoyed running more on the trails without having to worry about following a specific training plan.
Do you have any dream races?
Not specifically, but I do think it’s cool when I do races where some of the big names in ultra running are also doing the race. Not many other sports where you can toe the line against the elite level!
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy? Favorite post-run meal or beverage?
I just really advocate listening to your body. During races, I’m still a believer in carbs. Post race, either a mocha or a beer is what I usually reach for, depending on the temps.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
Not sure- every day on the trails is a pretty good day.
What was your most challenging or character-building experience this past year?
I had pulled my calf playing tennis a week before the Marlette 50K. It hurt even to walk. A few days after injuring it, I had to run from our car to the Paul McCartney concert at Candlestick. It hurt, but it didn’t get worse. I decided to give the race a go. It was probably a dumb thing and set me back, but it was my last running race of the year and I really wanted to do it
What are your racing/adventure plans for 2015?
JoAnn and I are headed to Europe in the fall to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc with JoAnn’s mom, Marisa.
What led you to join the DPMR?
While we live in Reno, JoAnn and I have a place up in Tahoe Donner and are up there almost every weekend. When DPMR got fired up, we wanted to join meet up with other runners and discover new trails.
What was been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
Every time JoAnn and I do a DPMR run, we meet really cool people who all just love running on the trails.
Do you ski or do any snow sports?
I love cross country skiing in the winter and do a lot with Far West Nordic. The last few winters have been a bummer though!
What’s your favorite local trail?
The Dry Pond loop is right in our backyard in Reno. If you do it from our house, you get desert, riparian areas and forests all in one big loop.
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
Along with running, I enjoy cycling and playing tennis.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I was huge into music in high school and can play the tuba, trombone and baritone. I was also the drum major for our school and since our mascot was the Highlanders, I am now one of the only Polish guys to wear a kilt.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Andy. I can totally picture you in that kilt! It has been great seeing you and JoAnn out at races over the years and now at DPMR events. We really appreciate all that you do for this community.