Editor's Note: Brian Hetzel, associate director of admissions at will participate in the six-day Transrockies Run in Colorado from Aug. 14-19 at altitudes as high as 12,500 feet. In the following Q&A interview, he explains what it takes to accomplish such a mountainous effort.
What made you decide to take on this challenge?
After reading about Dr. Petit and his family, I felt like I needed to do something. I started running marathons for the Petit Family Foundation in 2008, and have run a bunch since then.
When I would get tired, I would remind myself of why I was running, think of Dr. Petit and and keep going. Most importantly, because I want to remind the world just what Jen, Hayley and Michaela Petit stood for, and the amazing spirit they lived their lives with. This is what got me through my first marathon, for sure.
Then, I came across the Transrockies Run website. Now, at first, I laughed it off, thinking I wasn’t capable of running that far. I eventually reached out to my best friend from college, a talented endurance athlete who lives out in Oregon. I should have known better, as he quickly jumped at the opportunity and really talked it up. Eventually, I began to think, “why not?” Honestly, it went from there and I haven’t looked back. The short of it – I am running this race because I can, because I want to test the limits of what I am capable of, and most importantly, because I want to remind the world just what Jen, Hayley and Michaela Petit
How are you training?
I did a lot of research online, reading up on folks who have run the race in the past. I talked to a lot of coaches, as well, and got a great training plan from my Transrockies running partner and and Petit Family Foundation running team member, Spencer Newell.
I used the Boston Marathon in April as a fitness test, and I felt fine, despite the crazy seasonal high temperatures. From there, I started doing long hill repeats at Sleeping Giant down the road in Hamden. It’s about a mile and a half up to the top, so I have been running repetitions there two times a week. In the last month or so, I added longer, higher climbs to simulate what I will be experiencing out west. The popular ski mountains up in Vermont have been great, as well as Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts.
What do you think will be the toughest part of the run?
Without question it will be the altitude. I have never trained at elevation, as New England doesn’t have much to offer in the 12,000 foot range. I will be ready for 25,000 feet of elevation gain, I will be ready for the 120 miles, and I will be ready for the aches and pains and long days.
But, the variable I can’t account for is the thin air we will be running in. There are 6 stages (days), each one no lower than 7,500 feet. Our highest point will be right up around the 12,500 foot mark, and that is smack dab in the middle of the race.The fact that I will have a teammate out there running with me will be huge, and we know each other’s running styles very well. Add in the motivating factor of Dr. Petit and his family, and I know we will make it to Beaver Creek on August 20th with smiles on our faces.
How much do you hope to raise for the Petit Family Foundation?
I chose a figure of $15,000 to raise by November (the date of the New York City Marathon, which I will also be running along with 4 other team members). An ambitious number, for sure, but there is a reason; the two perpetrators who broke into Dr. Petit's house, who killed his two daughters and his wife, wanted $15,000. They forced Jennifer to go to the bank and withdraw the money, knowing her family was being held captive at home. She did so with grace and courage, knowing what was at stake. $15,000, to Spencer and I, is more than just a fundraising goal. That figure carries so much behind it, so much tragedy and heartache. We want to do our part to help turn the tide. The money may have been taken out of hatred, but it will be given back through kindness, generosity and love.
The Foundation honors the memories of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Elizabeth Petit and Michaela Rose Petit by continuing the kindness, idealism and activism that defined their lives. The Foundation's funds are given to foster the education of young people, especially women in the sciences; to improve the lives of those affected by chronic illnesses; and to support efforts to protect and help those affected by violence.
Anything else you'd like Cheshire Patch readers to know about your effort?
I didn’t know Dr. Petit before I started running in 2008, but I knew I wanted to do something to help. Since then, folks from all over the United States have written in and joined our running team. It’s pretty remarkable, how a group of complete strangers can come together over a good cause, to help an incredible man. I have never met many of them, but we are in contact frequently via email and group messages.
Those in the area get together for various races, which are always a great time. It’s been an incredible experience to watch this team grow, to meet like-minded people who just want to help Dr. Petit and his family. We are always looking to add new members, so if there are others that are interested in joining, they can go to www.petitrunningteam.com to find out more.
We welcome people of all abilities, runners and walkers alike. If anyone would like to help Spencer and I reach our fundraising goal, they can go to www.crowdrise.com/120forthepetits and make a donation. For information on the race and to track our progress, please visit www.transrockies-run.com. For more information on the Petit Family Foundation and the good work they continue to do, please visit www.petitfamilyfoundation.org