Sunday, April 12, 2015

Adventure Running Tips From Scott Jurek

Recently Woody and I had the opportunity to hear Scott Jurek speak about a few running adventures at the REI store in Denver. You know Scott Jurek - the prolific elite ultra-runner, author, speaker, and vegan (to name a few).

The event was sponsored by Brooks - I had heard of a few other local events earlier in the week but this was the only one we were able to get to. Jurek lives in Boulder, so these events were right in his backyard, but I imagine his travel and racing schedule is quite hectic so it was great that he had time to meet with so many local runners. There were probably close to 200 people at the event we attended. He started by saying one of his favorite things to do is to help and inspire others to run and be active.

Photo Credit: Ben Moon
The Travelogue 
The first part of the talk was a travelogue of sorts. Jurek took us with him to the Khumbu region of Nepal, Northern Wales, and England's Lake District. 

From his multi-day adventure run in Nepal he showed images of imposing mountain ranges covered in snow, the tea houses where he was welcomed in to find warmth, food and a place to sleep (all on the same bench), and the ice covered "trails" he followed, solo, for days. When pausing on one particularly beautiful and unbelievable image snow covered mountains, he noted how he felt like such a small individual - a minuscule part of the landscape.

He then took us to Wales, where he and a friend ran through fog, rain, and dreariness for several days and the Lake District where they followed a few rounds in the tradition of the local fell runners. These were new terms for me. If they are for you too, fell running is the tradition of off-road endurance running featuring significant climbs in the UK, or as Jurek put it - running up any steep rock they can find - while "rounds" are fell running challenges composed of a circular route reaching specific summits. As Jurek showed us in several images from the Paddy Buckley Round and the Bob Graham Round, the trail often disappears forcing the runner to find their way to each summit. 

While I can't imagine ever having the endurance to complete a multi-day running adventure like the ones he Jurek shared with us, his accounts were nothing short of awe inspiring. 

In the U.K. he would run during the day and stay each night at a hostel, so he had the luxuries of clean, dry clothing and the ability to restock on the food and water he needed for the next day's adventure. In Nepal however, he carried everything he needed for several days on his person, in - or attached to - a small running backpack. Both experiences I'm not familiar with but sound pretty amazing.

Adventure Running Tips
As one of the world's most accomplished ultra-runners, Jurek is an ambassador of the sport, with a strong desire to inspire others to get out in nature and run. With this in mind, the second part of his talk was focused on providing tips based on his years of experience. In addition to having an ample supply of water and fuel, here are a few of his must-have gear items for a successful trail run. 

For your typical multi-hour trail run:
  • Shoes: Look for light but protective trail running shoes that dry quickly (a thick midsole will trap water in the spongy material; try to avoid this)
  • Layers are a must including a lightweight, windproof and water resistant jacket 
If you're planning for an all-day run and will be in a cold or wet climate, it's smart to take additional supplies in case you get lost, get injured, or inclement weather pops up (which can certainly happen in the Colorado mountains). Some of these items can be life saving:
  • A well-made and well-fitting pack that you can fit supplies into and tie onto if needed
  • A "MacGyver" pack with: sunblock, a mini lighter, small roll of duct tape, backup headlamp/flashlight, small pocket knife, and a safety blanket (all of these items fit into a sandwich-sized bag!)
  • A lightweight down jacket (the one he had was so incredibly light and rolled up into a small bag it was pretty incredible)
  • Lightweight synthetic or wool top in case you get wet or cold
  • A hat, tube/buff, or balaclava to keep your face warm and dry
  • Dry bag (for wet clothing)
  • Arm warmers
  • Lightweight sleeping bag 
  • Water filters and/or steripen
What it all boils down to: be smart and plan ahead.

One of my favorite things Jurek said during his talk was that "ultra-running" - and even "trail running" is sort of a myth. In reality, at some point ultra-runners and trail runners will end up hiking due to a variety of reasons. I felt particularly relieved as just earlier that morning we ran North Table Mountain and one particular climb turned into a hike for me.

I haven't yet read Jurek's book, Eat & Run, but it's on my list along with Feet in the Clouds, an exploration of fell running which Jurek proclaims is a must read.

Do you have a favorite trail run? * If you're an ultra-runner, what got you into it? * Do you have an adventure to share?

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