Being one of the Air Force’s new cadre of F-35 Lightning II instructor pilots and pulling multiple G-forces daily puts a toll on one’s body, however, that’s nothing compared to running a 100-mile race through rugged terrain.
Maj. Peter Cossette, 944th Fighter Wing F-35 instructor pi¬lot, ran the Zion 100 Mile Ultra Marathon along the outskirts of Zion National Park in Utah in just over 25 hours April 8 and 9.
“A year and a half ago I did not enjoy run¬ning,” Cossette said. “I did it every once in a while when I thought I needed to get back in shape, but I had no real desire to run a mara¬thon let alone a 100 miles in the mountains. A friend recommended I read ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall. It taught me that what I thought I knew about running was all wrong and inspired me to figure out how to do it right.”
Cossette signed up for the race in September and spent the next six months working on en-durance training.
“These ultra-marathons usually take place in some pretty rugged terrain and often have upward of 15,000 feet of climbing,” Cossette said. “I was really anxious about that so I practiced a lot. I’d get up around 4 a.m., go for a couple-hour run and be back in time to help get the kids ready for school and out the door to work. Saturday morn¬ings I’d try and get a long climb in, so often times I’d throw on my headlamp and run up to the towers in the White Tanks … being sure to make it back in time for a donut run with the kids of course.”
Most of the run time was spent alone on the trail. Cossette only stopped to refill his water bottles, change socks and shoes and fuel the body with calories.
“The secret to running these ultra-long dis¬tances is to stay in the present,” Cos¬sette said. “Keep calories and water going in, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. They say ultra-marathons are 90 percent mental, and the other 10 percent is mental too. You can’t let your mind wander and think about the 2,000-foot climb coming up at mile 42. When I wasn’t thinking about pain I usually had one of my kid’s children’s songs stuck in my head.”
After mile 60 Cossette’s wife, Sarah, joined him for miles 71 to 78.
“I was excited for the company but by the time I met up with her I was exhausted and in a lot of pain,” he said. “She was really motivational and got me through a tough point in the race when all I wanted to do was lay down on the trail and sleep.”
Finishing the race was a huge accomplish¬ment but Cossette isn’t done running yet. When asked what he was going to do next, he instantly responded, “The Boston Mara¬thon in 2018.”