Derek Schultz - Ultramarathons & Self Delivery

If you’ve been in the area for a while, you probably recognize Derek, our UPS driver, as he rides through town delivering packages to all the good boys and girls. It’s always a bright spot of our day here at Out There Outfitters when he drops off our packages and tells us about his latest races and adventures. For a while I’ve wondered, how does one even get into running ultramarathons? How do you train for that kind of thing? Is Derek human?? Luckily, Derek was kind enough to sit down and tell me all about it, so I thought I’d share the stories with y’all. 

It all started in 2005 with a 5K, “and I swore that was the longest I’d do because I hated running the mile in gym class.” It’s easy to laugh at that statement now, but it wasn’t a straight path from gym class to ultramarathons. It took some time for the fire to grow. Not long after that 5k, Derek’s friend, John, convinced him to do the Broad Street 10, so he ran some shorter races to work up to it. Maybe his earlier statement would’ve held true if he hadn’t done so well, but he kept placing high in those training races. He was good at it. “The more I did them the more I realized I had more to go.”

He and John started training for a marathon together, but as it got closer Derek dropped the training and John kept going. They ran a race together around that time and John beat Derek for the first time ever, the marathon training clearly paying off. That set the fire. Derek bought pictures from the race, had them engraved, gave one to John and kept one for himself. Then he got back to training.

He went on to run his first marathon in 2008 in Philly, then did Boston and New York in 2009. It was while training for New York that Derek ran his first ultra race, the Blues Cruise 50k. Despite his road shoes and utter lack of experience with this particular kind of race, he placed 2nd. “So I thought, ultras are easy,” he joked. His friend Alex was doing another ultra at the Delaware Water Gap, so Derek tagged along, placing 3rd and getting absolutely frozen in the process. He swore he’d never do it again, until Alex signed up for another race. It was inevitable, then. Whatever race Alex was running, Derek was there as well. 

He ran 42 races in 2010, pushing his limits, wondering what’s next. It seems absurd to run an ultramarathon and still be looking for more, but he knew he could keep pushing. He was getting better and faster, but he didn’t have any guidance at the time, so he ended up getting injured that November. This was when he met Ian Torrence, who saw Derek’s potential and offered to coach him. They started working together in 2011, and dialed things way back to only 7 races that year. With fewer races, though, they were able to push for higher mileage. 

That year Derek ran the Laurel Highlands Ultra in Ohiopyle, PA. The course is traditionally 70 miles, but in 2010 the bridge that carried the trail over the PA turnpike was closed. A detour was put in place so that runners could safely cross the turnpike and meet up with the continuation of the trail on the other side. With the detour, the race turned into 77 miles for two years. Derek broke the 2010 record, set by Angus Repper the year before, by 68 minutes. The bridge was back up by the next year, so his record will stay intact, at least until the bridge has to be rebuilt. If that day ever comes, he told me with an impish grin, “You know where I’ll be.”

He ran his first 100 mile race in September of that year as well, finishing in 3rd place with what is still his fastest time, 20 hours and 38 minutes. It was the Pine to Palm race in Oregon, which traverses the gorgeous Siskiyou Mountains until its end point in Ashland. He would soon name his son after the city that holds such a special accomplishment.

With his son came a new kind of training. He called these the stroller years, running 5ks and 10ks with Ashland in the stroller, resistance work that would actually make him faster when he got back to longer races. These were some of his favorite memories, Ashland giving the stink eye to anyone who passed them and then demanding, “Go faster, Daddy!” This is the same Ashland who affectionately calls Sugar, Salty, and we love it! 

At one particular race in Pottstown, which happened to be sponsored by Dunkin Donuts, Ashland fell asleep almost immediately once they got going. Derek said he tried to start these races fast to make sure Ashland was safe in the stroller. Usually people would catch up, but this time he started the lap back and saw other racers getting progressively angrier at how he was outpacing them with a stroller. At that point, he knew he had to win it. He pushed through to secure the 1st place finish for Ashland, ahead of him in the stroller, who woke up just in time to demand donuts for his efforts. Gotta love this kid, and his Dad!

The stroller years came to an end eventually, but with that end came the beginning of something new. Their next phase is biking; they recently did a 10 mile ride together.

Last year, Derek ran the Cloudsplitter 100 in Virginia. The elements slowed him down, it rained all night, but he learned that he’d built up a real endurance over the last 10 years. He carried that knowledge with him into this year, running his most competitive race to date in April at the Canyons Endurance 100 mile. People from around the world competed, trying to earn their way to the UTMB finals in France, the biggest trail race in the world.

The weather wasn’t looking great when things got started, and Derek’s initial hopes of a tan were squandered by 39 degree days and at least three storms throughout the first day. He started a little too quickly in the first 30 miles, but once he’d dialed in his calories, he started to feel good. The sun went down around mile 30, and with his wet clothes and worries of freezing, he decided to stop to warm up and dry off. Out There Outfitters is working with Derek to outfit him for these crazy races so he is as comfortable as possible, at least in his wardrobe.

He ran with a man named Tony until mile 62, when he started to really feel good. At that point, he started chasing down the people in front of him. It was a good game to play during those dark hours with little else to watch outside of his headlamp (only Derek could think of these crazy runs as a game!). As the sun rose, there were fewer and fewer people in front of him to pass. Those were lonelier miles, but it was only because he’d made up so much ground so quickly. He’d learn later that he’d gone from 60th place to 30th overnight. And that was where he’d finish, in 30th place after 25 hours and 21 minutes. Incredible!

Derek has all kinds of ideas for what’s next, but for right now he’s excited for the end of Ashland’s school year and summer days ahead. As for us, we’ll be eagerly awaiting news of his next run and finding him just the right gear so he’s comfortable in his adventures!


By OTO's Sam Sontag