Ryan Fectau: 888k Ultra Winner

Ryan Fectau

In this edition of our Athlete spotlight, we are privileged to share the remarkable journey of SGC athlete Ryan Fectau, a living testament to the power of dedication and commitment in the world of endurance sports. What sets Ryan apart is not just his extraordinary endurance, but his unique fueling strategy with HydraFuel, a product that played a crucial role in his recent achievement.

Ryan recently completed the Infinitus 2024 – 888k Ultra Race in Vermont by the endurance society. His feat is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Embarking on a grueling 550-mile journey, with only six courageous individuals daring to take on this challenge, Ryan emerged as the sole finisher, crossing the finish line after an astounding 228 hours and 4 minutes. That’s 9.5 days of unyielding determination and indomitable spirit, battling physical exhaustion and mental fatigue every step of the way!

Fueled by HydraFuel Performance Gummies

What truly sets Ryan apart is not just his extraordinary endurance, but his unique fueling strategy. Embracing HydraFuel from the moment it launched, Ryan powered through the race fueled by 74 out of 75 HydraFuel pouches. That’s a staggering 296 gummies consumed over the course of his epic journey!

“Yes, I really ate 74 of the 75 pouches you sent. We spaced them out so they would last the full race, and they went down easily the whole time.”

His accomplishment not only sets a new benchmark for HydraFuel consumption but also underscores its effectiveness as a go-to sports nutrition product for endurance athletes tackling the most grueling challenges. Ryan’s success is a testament to the power of HydraFuel in sustaining energy and performance.

Ryan is a true inspiration to us all. His unwavering dedication, strategy, and discipline remind us that limits are meant to be pushed, boundaries are meant to be shattered, and dreams are meant to be chased. His commitment to the sport is truly admirable.

We asked Ryan a little more about how he got into racing and accomplished this incredible feat!

The Seeds of Ultra Running

SGC: Tell us about yourself

Ryan: I am an ultra runner that works in sales. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, where I still live with my wife Michelle and our dog Haley.

SGC: How did you get into running/ultra running?

Ryan: I got into running in college when a friend of mine ran a marathon. It sounded cool, and I decided to sign up for one in the summer of 2013. That marathon went well, and the following summer (2014) I decided to make the jump up to a 100 miler. I had no business being in this race, and ended up dropping out at 50 miles. Nevertheless, that race made me fall in love with the sport, and I have been running ultras ever since.

Race Preparation

SGC: The Infinitus 888k is one of the longest-distance ultra races. How do you even begin to prepare for something like that?

Ryan: It took me years to prepare for the 888k. After finishing my first 100 miler in 2016, I sought out many difficult 100 mile and 200 mile races to build up a base of experience that eventually gave me the confidence to attempt to run 551 miles.

Not surprisingly, the build-up to Infinitus included a lot of running. I dedicated five months to gradually building up mileage until I felt fit enough for the challenge.

On top of the training, there is a TON of planning that needs to be done if you want to have a chance to be successful. You need to prepare all the food and gear that you might want or need during the 10 days of the race. Then, you have to organize it in a way that allows you to be efficient as possible to grab what you need and keep running.

Infinitus 888k Ultra Race

SGC: What was the Infinitus race like? Tell us about the lead-up, the start of the race, any struggles along the way, the finish, and what you learned.

Ryan: Infinitus 888K is the most challenging race I have ever run. The course is a rugged 27-mile, figure-8 loop, which consists of a short 9-mile loop and a long 18-mile loop. The course also features two significant climbs and descents, several river crossings, and lots of mud! To stay on pace for the 888k, you need to complete at least two full figure-8 loops a day.

Once the race began, I fell into a familiar rhythm of hiking uphills, running downhills, and eating constantly. I was fortunate enough to spend the first day with my friend Jason B, who was also running the 888k. This helped distract me from the enormity of the challenge at hand.

Jason B and I ended up separating at the end of the first day, when I stopped for a few hours of sleep at night. Prior to the race, I had set a sleep goal of 4-6 hours a night, which I felt was vital to giving me a chance to finish.

When I woke up and started running again on day 2, my entire focus went into run maintenance and running efficiency. For the remainder of the race, I was eating 300-400 calories an hour, with the goal of hitting 8,000 calories a day. I also had a foot care routine I was performing after every loop to prevent blisters and other issues from arising. Most importantly, I was forcing myself to run at every opportunity the trail allowed.

One of the things that stands out when I reflect back on the race was how incredible of an experience it is to be fully consumed in an activity for this long. From the minute I woke up, until the minute I fell asleep, my entire life revolved around taking actions that got me closer to the finish line. It required a lot of discipline, and wasn’t easy most of the time, but being consumed in an activity like this was very rewarding.

As the race went on, issues began to pile up. On Day 3, I got a shooting pain in my calf, which I pushed through. My other ankle took a beating from this, and also ended up injured. On Day 8 of the race, my quad began to give me problems, which made climbing and descending very painful. Fortunately, we were able to figure out solutions to all of these problems thanks to the help of some incredible people in camp.

Infinitus has a tight knit community that comes to the race every year. By day 6, I was one of two runners left in the race, and the only runner that was on pace to finish the 888k. People in camp began to rally around both of us to help keep us moving towards our goals!

Luckily for me, Shaun, a prior 888k finisher, and his wife Eb, showed up to spend 5 days in camp. They quickly became part of our crew, and Eb was able to help tape up my injuries to keep me moving. Shaun also ended up pacing me for 72 miles of the race. They also recruited their friend Crystal to pace me for 45 miles as well.

When I woke up on day 9, I decided that I was going to do a final push and run the last 108 miles straight through, with the hopes of finishing before sun down on day 10. During this final push, the already incredible support in camp got taken up a notch as shorter races were beginning and energy was picking up.

This final push started off with Jason M, another prior 888k finisher, jumping into pace me for a long loop. When I got back to camp, Shaun then joined me for the next short loop. Running with both of them was very special. It gave me the rare opportunity to reflect on the 888k, with two awesome people who have first hand experience in how challenging of a race it is to finish. Each time I returned to camp, more and more people were showing up and cheering. It was a weird feeling having so many people invested in what I was doing.</ p>

When the sun set on day 9, Crystal’s friend Ryan volunteered to pace me for 27 miles through the last night of the race. Ryan was an awesome pacer, and kept me entertained the whole time we were running. When we got back from the night time short loop, I started to fall asleep while eating. So I decided to take a 30 minute nap. Ryan and I left camp again at 2 am, and pushed through a night time long loop.

We returned to camp from the long loop just as the 88k, marathon, and 9 mile race were about to kick off. Andy, the race director called me in front of the group and gave a quick speech about me finishing the 888k. I only had 36 miles left in the race at this point, and knew that I would be done soon. It was crazy to me that the finish was finally within reach.

During this time I tried to really take in the new found energy of other runners on the course. I spent most of the last day of the race running alone, until Michelle jumped into pace me for the final 4 mile stretch of the last long loop.

I really can’t put into words how incredibly important having a great crew is for something like this. My wife Michelle was my main crew person, and I also had several friends that came up to help out. Michelle ended up doing such an incredible job in this role, and I am absolutely sure I never would have finished without her. She slept less than I did during the race and worked tirelessly to keep me going.

When Michelle and I ran back into camp, I quickly ate a sandwich, took a Mocca Shot gummy, and started to head out for the last loop. There was a DJ at the finish line, who made an announcement that I was on mile 542, and heading out on my final loop. The excitement in camp was building.

I began the final short loop, and spent a lot of time reflecting on the previous 10 days. I was so grateful for all of the friends, and strangers who became friends, that gave up their time to make this finish possible.

It felt surreal as I finished the final descent, and hit the dirt road back to camp. As I made the second to last turn, I could hear the cheers beginning. When I made the final left turn, and the finish line came into sight, the cheers erupted louder. As I approached the finish line, I tossed my trekking poles to the side, and jumped up to touch the “Finish” banner to cross the line after 228 hours and 4 minutes.

I immediately hugged Michelle, as the reality began to set in that I had just become the 7th person to ever finish the 888k. The finish line celebration was emotional and incredibly rewarding. We got to celebrate with a lot of people in camp who were there for some or all of the race. It truly is a moment I will remember forever.

SGC: Would you do it again?

Ryan: I don’t think I would run the 888k again. I’m very grateful for the experience I had, and think it would be more rewarding to help someone else finish!

SGC: What’s next for Ryan?

Ryan: The next race I have on my schedule is the Grindstone 100 in the fall. Until then, I’ll be enjoying summer miles on New England trails!