Runner Spotlight – Dan Ostrander

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Spend enough time on the trails here in Rochester and you are bound to run into one of the areas better trail runners. His love for running wasn’t founded on cross country like many of us in this area- He wound up finding a love for the woods through his own endeavors.
Starting small with a few runs that he thought he would never get through, to running and competing at Ultra Marathon distances our January Runner Spotlight is local stand out runner Dan Ostrander.
Dan has competed at a high level on the local and regional running scene for some time now – We at TrailsRoc love sharing stories of runners both elite and local and we are happy to bring you Dan’s interview.
Please check below for a brief question and answer with Dan. We love chatting trails with him and we are glad to introduce him to our readers!
Dances With Dirt Sep 2011
Tell us a little about yourself – Work – school – family -etc
My name is Dan Ostrander.  I am 36 years old and I live in Fairport, NY.  I have one older brother who lives in Fairport and is married with four children (1 girl, 3 boys).  Being an uncle is the best!  My parents also live in Fairport.  I graduated from SUNY Albany in 1998 with a BA in European History.  I’ve been working at a bank for the past 11 years doing sales and customer service.
Highlight to us what is your favorite race, and your favorite place to run/train in Rochester
There are so many good local races, but I am going to have to go with Muddy Sneaker put on by Goose Adventure Racing.  It’s a 20k every April on the trails of the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area in Naples, NY.  It’s a very challenging, well organized race.  Uphill start, uphill finish, stream crossings, great single track, big climbs, big descents, great views…it has it all.  This year will be my third year running it.  I am already looking forward to it!
Muddy Sneaker Apr 2012 #3
Living in Fairport, (Editors note: Fairport is also known as Trail Town USA)-  I am lucky to be close to so many great sections of trail.  The Crescent Trail, Thayer Hill, Indian Hill, Woodcliff, McCoord Woods, Pittsford Trails, Powder Mills Park, and Mendon Ponds Park are all within 20 minutes of my apartment.  If I had to pick one, I’d say Mendon Ponds Park.  I’ve spent so much time wandering around that park learning what it has to offer.  It has so many great trails and a seemingly endless variety of ways to connect them.
What got you interested in running long distances? Was it something that you saw as a challenge, something you were good at or something else?
Like most, I started out running short distances.  Very short.  I can vividly remember wondering, “How am I going to run a mile straight without dying?”  Eventually I was able to get through that mile. Then I made it through a 5K, then a 5M and so on.  Then I started thinking, “How far can I go?”  I am still trying to figure that out.
How am I going to run a mile straight without dying


Did you have past running experience? What is your past with the sport? Did you run in grade school? college?

 I always played sports growing up.  I played organized baseball up to 8th grade and organized basketball up to 9th grade.  Running is obviously a component of those sports, but I never ran just to run.  I never ran track or cross country in high school or college.  In 2008, I cut something negative out of my life and figured I should replace it with something positive.  My brother ran and that is what originally sparked the idea.  I owned sneakers and knew how to physically do it.  I could just walk outside and go.  No lessons, no equipment, no team, no gym membership.  If I had questions, I could just ask my brother.  It was frustrating at first.  It wasn’t easy, I didn’t seem to get any faster, my body hurt.  It was discouraging.  Then I noticed a run that had been tough the prior week had gotten a little easier.  At that point I was hooked.


What is your future with running? Do you see yourself doing this for a long time?

 I started skateboarding when I was 12 years old.  I never thought anything would come along that would consume me like skateboarding did.  Then running came along.  I still love skateboarding, but running has definitely taken over.  Unless something else comes along to steal me away from running, I plan on doing it for a long, long time.  I love it.


On the biggest challenges of running high mileage.

 Longer races mean higher mileage in training.  Staying healthy becomes a priority.  All the training in the world doesn’t matter if don’t make it to the start line.  It’s a delicate balance.  You have to get the miles in to be prepared for the race.  You also need to be able to shut it down if an issue arises.  It’s easy to tell someone to listen to their body, but actually doing it yourself can be challenging.

I was lucky to spend the majority of 2012 healthy.  When I decided to take on the 50 miler, I thought I should do something besides running to prepare for it.  That ended up being Muscles For Mileage at Fore Performance in Brighton.  It’s a strength training class once a week lead by Josh Rossi that is specifically designed for runners.  The class is awesome!  We work on strength, core, balance, stability, flexibility, running form, etc.  The class had a huge positive impact on my fitness level, my ability to run more efficiently, my ability to recover faster, and it helped me stay healthy for most of the year.

The difficult year of training finally caught up with me in October when my left ITB flared up.  It caused me to miss the Catalina Island Eco Marathon (which I deferred registration and will run this year!).  I tried to stay off it and hoped it went away.  It didn’t.  I was bummed, of course, but I took it as an opportunity to learn.  What caused it?  How can I fix it?  How can I prevent it from happening again?

Josh referred me to Melissa Graham at Sport Physical Therapy of NY in Webster.  She diagnosed my issue and helped me get back on the right track.  You are going to get injured if you run long enough.  Dealing with injury, mentally and physically, is a great skill to develop.

  Dirt Cheap #1 Mednon Ponds Park Apr 2012 #1

You know what we love, but which do you prefer, trails or roads? why?

I prefer trails.  The varied terrain offers more resistance and helps me get stronger.  Running through traffic is boring.  Running through the woods is not.  A road is a road.  In trail running, the terrain can change from day to day and that keeps things interesting.  I love to get out on the trails after a thunderstorm or high winds.  I can’t wait to see how the trails have changed.  It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, humid, windy, rainy, snowy…being out on the trails is just more fun. (We couldn’t agree more and are thrilled to hear Dan explain why with such ease!!!)


Here is one many people worry about…Have you ever found yourself lost out on the trails? What did you do?

Crap, did I miss a turn?

 I have gotten turned around before and not really known where I was, but never to the point where I needed to worry.  There was a point in my 50 miler last year where I was cruising along all alone.  I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me and no one behind me.  It’s a pretty big race, so that worried me.  There is a relay going on the same time as the ultra and as a result there are many different color flags marking the trails.  For about a mile and a half I thought I had made a wrong turn and was running the wrong section.  I started to get nervous.  It turned out I was on the right trail, but I remember that feeling, “Crap, did I miss a turn?”  Not a good thought 20 miles into a long race.


What kind of gear is typical for you on a long run/race? What gear do you  suggest for others interested in the sport? How about nutrition? What do you eat anddrink on long runs?

 I keep the gear to a minimum.  I run with a Garmin Forerunner 410.  My shoe brand of choice these days is inov8 (RocLite 295, BareGrip 200).  I have had great luck with their shoes.  They are light, supportive, feel great right out of the box, and have an aggressive outsole.  I’ll stick with them until I have a reason not to.

I have a CamelBak handheld water bottle.  I only drink water when I run.  I try to consume a full bottle (21 oz) per hour.  On long runs, I either stash water or I run where know I have access to running water.  I can hit all the water spouts in Mendon on a long run right when I need them.  I love planning those runs.  I need to hit the spouts every hour or so all while not running the same trails twice.  It forces me to get creative with the routes.

I use a SpiBelt to carry my nutrition.  My food of choice is Clif ShotBloks.  I take in a large number of calories when I go long.  I eat three ShotBloks (100 calories) every 20 minutes.  There are plenty of things that can go wrong on a long run.  Hydration and nutrition are two things I can control, so I take full advantage.  What works for me might not work for someone else.  People should experiment and find what works for them.

– Editor – That advice about hydration and nutrition is some of the best we have heard – YOU can control that – you can’t control weather – terrain – other runners – but you CAN control nutrition -Thanks for pointing that out, Dan.

Rochester Marathon Sep 2010 #5

Have you ever had a time when you were out running, or just preparing for a run, or even just done with one when you asked yourself “what is the point  of all of this” what did you do to overcome that feeling?

 Up to this point, I have never seriously asked myself, “What is the point of all of this?”  The worst I have ever felt after a run was the Rock-N-Roll Las Vegas Marathon in December 2011.  I was very confident going in.  I didn’t eat or drink enough during the race and I went out faster than I should have.  I was fine through 19 miles.  At mile 20 the wheels came off.  It was a struggle get through those last six miles.  After I finished, I was dizzy, disoriented, cramped, dehydrated, hungry, sore, etc.  I still ended up with a solid time (3:22), but it felt so terrible.  As bad as that race was and as discouraged as I felt, I knew I would continue to run.  That race taught me the importance of pace, hydration, and nutrition.  If I keep those three things in check, I will never feel like I did after Vegas.


Dan- you have had a lot of success how  about some advice for someone who is interested in trail running, and for a runner who is interested in becoming an ultra runner!!!

 The Greater Rochester area has a great trail system.  More than that, it has a great trail running community (we like to think we add to this).  If you think you might enjoy running trails, get out and try it.  If you are worried about getting out there on your own, Medved can help.  Throughout the summer, they host a weekly group run through many of the local parks.  All skill levels are welcome.  There are people there that can answer questions, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, and you get to meet some like minded people who enjoy trail running.  The conversation makes the miles fly by.  It’s perfect for someone looking to give it a try.  My first trail run ever was with the Medved group in Mendon Ponds Park.  It was a great experience.  It encouraged me to keep coming back.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I was able to work my way up to the marathon distance on my own.  When I registered for the 50 miler, I thought it might be time to get some help from someone who knew what they were doing.  Too much can go wrong over the course of 50 miles to go in unprepared.

I started working with Nate Huckle after hearing him speak at a meeting for the Medved Endurance Project.  He helped me figure out the hydration and nutrition plans that worked for me.  He gave me my workouts a couple of weeks ahead of time and could tweak them based on how I was handling the training.  I learned quite a bit from Nate and I think that is why my first ultra was such a great experience.  Running is very mental.  I think people are capable of more than they realize.  You just have to want it and want to put in the work to get it.  When I was struggling with how I was going to run a whole mile, running a 50 mile race couldn’t have seemed more impossible.

Dances With Dirt 50M Post Race (1)


It was my motivation over the past few years, along with the support of my family and friends, that pushed me to see where I could take this.  Last year I ran my first ultramarathon (50 mile Dances With Dirt in Hell, MI).  This year I am going to tackle the TransRockies Run (120 mile, 6 day stage race in the Rocky Mountains with 20,000 ft of climbing).  I can’t tell you how to be an ultra runner, but if you are motivated enough, you will make it happen.


On living and running in Rochester – What do you love about it

I was born and raised here.  My family is here.  My friends are here.  My job is here.  It’s affordable.  There are plenty of good trails and a great running community.  There are races almost every weekend of the year.  Winter!  Two winters ago I started running trails on snowshoes.  It’s the best!  If you snowshoe all winter, you will be stronger than ever in the Spring.  Rochester is home.


So there it is – We hope you enjoyed meeting Dan and reading some advice from one of our areas better runners. If you want to see Dan in action – Check out our new Trail Runner of The Year Series– We are sure you will see him at some of these races.