An Evening out with Tony Kupricka, Scott Jurek, Geoff Roes, and Dave Mackey
Four Premier Ultra Trail Runners Talk
Just the other night the Boulder Trail Runners invited four of ultra trail running’s premier runners for dinner and an open forum, interaction discussion at Sherpa’s restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. The guests of honor were: Geoff Roes, Dave Mackey, Tony Kupricka, and Scott Jurek. This was a great opportunity to hear them speak and to ask questions of these world class ultra trail runners. Although the evenings events lasted well over 1 and a half hours, I selected the comments by these great ultra trail runners that I felt touched upon why we love the great sport of ultra trail running and racing. The runners were introduced and then asked to make some open comments. Scott Jurek was first to speak.
Scott Jurek’s main point was to “keep it fresh” by setting new goals. He commented on his article “The King of Pain” which some people after reading thought Scott Jurek was burned out and was never going to run again. The joy of running has always been there for him although it waxed and waned over the years. Scott Jurek says that the secret is that we need to find things that drive us and that we really enjoy. And as ultra runners we need to strive for this to keep the joy and passion alive so we can continue the sport we all love.
Tony Kupricka was next to speak and he joked about thinking about what he was going to say today while running up Green Mountain in Boulder (last year he ran it about 296 times). For most of us all we can do when running up Green Mountain is concentrate on getting to the top without busting a lung. While for Tony Kupricka it is a time of meditation and compiling his grocery list. Tony Kupricka gets asked a lot about the secret of ultra running, how to run faster, etc. Tony Kupricka said that there needs to be a central place that is important to you. You need to develop a relationship with that place, the trails you run on, and too truly become at home in the mountains. Then when it comes to a race you draw upon the relationship that you have developed. By being truly at home in the mountains, and being proficient and comfortable in that environment is the ultimate thing when it comes time to performance. For Tony Kupricka it is his ultimate motivating and driving force.
Dave Mackey just turned 41 and just recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. Dave Mackey started trail running in College and he talked briefly about how he got into ultra trail running. The Leadville Half Marathon was Dave Mackey’s first trail race which was in 1993. His first ultra was the San Juan Solstice in 2001. The San Juan Solstice is a 50 mile trail race and ever since that race he has been running ultra races. He does it for the love of being outdoors and in nature. He says that you should keep the joy in running and do what you love to do. If you like ultra trail racing that’s great, but if you like 5k’s or any other sport that’s great too. Dave Mackey mentions that even above running ultra trail races that he loves to compete in adventure racing. Then he mentioned that he runs about half the mileage as Tony Kupricka does. Rather than putting on the mega miles he does enough to stay competitive and keep it fun. The bottom line for Dave Mackey was that we need to keep it fun.
Geoff Roes just came off winning the 2010 Western States 100 Mile Ultra Trail Race. The most intriguing thing about running for Geoff Roes is that it is the simplest thing. You take a step, and then take another step and some people can do this for 100 miles or for 24 hours. Around this simple thing there is so much of a culture and a community and interconnectedness. He mentioned that you just take a look around this room and all of us have gathered around to talk about and celebrate this simple thing. Geoff Roes believes that keeping this perspective is the key to becoming a strong runner. There seems to be a tendency to want to copy what someone else is doing, but at the end of the day it’s just running; putting one foot in front of the other. He points out that himself, Scott Jurek, Tony Kupricka, and Dave Mackey all have had a great deal of success and each has traveled a different path to reach their success. He mentions that Tony Kupricka does about twice the mileage per week as he does and what makes Tony Kupricka a great runner is that he is willing to do what works best for him and not follow what other great runners are doing. Geoff Roes finds it fascinating that there are so many different ways that you can approach ultra trail running and still come out successful. This does not mean only racing, but rather to just have a health and sustainable relationship with running. And for Geoff Roes to maintain his relationship with running he keeps reminding himself on how simple of a thing running is.
The next question for all the runners was “What’s next”
Scott Jurek was the first to answer this question. As far as running goes, he wants to try to set the world record at 24 hours. The big trail goal is the race at Mount Blanc. He has now moved to Boulder, Colorado. Boulder has motivated him and now he trains with Tony Kupricka and Dave Mackey.
Tony Kupricka needs to make redemption at Western States and deny Geoff Roes first place in 2011. Tony came in second place after Geoff took the lead at mile 92. He also has his name in the lottery for the Hardrock 100 Mile Ultra Trail Race. Mount Blanc is in the distant future, but not this year. Then finish his graduate degree at CU Boulder.
Dave Mackey is still evolving his goals this year. He will do some marathons and other shorter type races. He is registered for the MIWOK 100K Ultra Trail Race, and also has a lottery entry is the Western States 100 Mile Ultra Trail Race. He also is a grad student.
Geoff Roes is taking some downtime to recover. He has raced 10 races in 10 months. Mount Blanc is his focus race. He pretty much is keeping his options open. He is in the Hardrock lottery and an entry to Western States. He does like when other runners defend their titles, so that motivates him to do Western States to defend his win.
Why do it?
Stephanie Eric asked “Why do it?” Tony Kupricka took this question and had this to say, “Mostly to lose weight.” This got a good laugh from the crowd. He goes on to say, “There is nothing that compares to being on the trail when you’re really feeling good, and to reach that spot requires a lot of practice. After awhile all the training miles become a habit and ritual. And all of this does get bound up into my identity.” Stephanie then asked “What percentage of the time do you actually feel blissful on the trail?” Tony Kupricka said “80 percent. I never had a run and when I was finished said, God I wish I hadn’t done that. And even when I got injured on a run, it was better that I was out there.” The surprising thing that Tony said was “That racing is about 90 percent ego. It is like when your good at something and you do it, it makes you feel good about yourself.”
Geoff Roes chimed in and he said that he loves the feeling of moving through nature and getting to places where others may have never stepped foot before. He’s not one to sit and meditate in nature, but rather he loves to move through nature and be part of it. And yes, there is an ego side of the sport. He said “Heck, I could go run the Hardrock Trail by myself if there wasn’t some ego involved. The reason changes over the years, and even changes during the course of a run. It is a vehicle for self exploration. And part of this is about exploring your ego. Most ultra runners have accomplished great things because we are able to turn our egos on, and we are able to turn it off when we are not competing. The reason is different for everyone and you just need to find that reason.”