Friday, September 18, 2015

Scott Jurek and a Training Update

Before we get to Scott Jurek...a brief training update.

With the Javelina 100-miler now about six weeks away, my training is in full swing. In addition to putting in the mileage, I've incorporated weight/resistance training and definitely noticed some differences in my upper body and lower body. Lots of core work, as always. I've also added some spice to my training workload by mixing in a few races here and there, including a 10K next weekend, as well as a 5K and a hilly trail marathon (Xterra) that'll take me right into my Javelina taper.

Amazingly, in the more than 70 races I've finished over the years, this will be my first 10K. I would be thrilled with a time under 39 minutes. As for my 5K, I like do that distance at least once a year; it's a great measuring stick, which can be both good and bad! My hope is for the trail marathon to cap off a week of 90-100 miles; I'm going into it with no taper. Then I'll be pacing my son to his first 5K finish a week before Javelina. I can't wait for that!

I really think success at Javelina for me comes down to three main things: 1) Staying cool and hydrated during the hot daytime hours, 2) pacing it correctly and 3) staying positive. That third one used to never be an issue with me in ultras but I would be lying if I said that my Bighorn DNF didn't rattle my confidence a bit. So, above all, I need to stay positive and keep an upbeat mental dialogue going from start to finish. I think staying upbeat will translate to a happy gut.

Now for Mr. Jurek.....


While it may seem like old news, the fallout from what went down at Baxter State Park after Scott Jurek set the record for the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail seems to me quite ridiculous and saddening.

Photo of Jurek by Luis Escobar.

This morning, listening to Jurek and his wife, Jenny, recount their incredible 46-day adventure to Talk Ultra’s Ian Corless--and after having read much of the coverage of his AT record--I almost became angry about what's transpired at his expense. Note that they didn't talk about what happened at Baxter--they stayed positive--but I kept thinking about it as I listened to them open their hearts and describe what was truly a life-changing experience.

I know people who are close to Jurek and were actually out on the AT with him for various sections of time. From all I’ve read and heard, Jurek and his crew were true stewards of the trail and the environment around them. They packed out everything, left no trace and recycled much of what they used.
So, with that said, for him to be cited for littering when some celebratory champagne hit the ground seems ridiculous. Who knows what really went down that day, but by all accounts the park rangers had green-lighted the champagne only to cite Jurek when he came down from Mount Katahdin for drinking, littering and having too many people up there. Two of the charges were later dropped and Jurek paid a fine (only the drinking charge was upheld). Rather than exercise some discretion, what appears to have happened was an overreaction resulting in ticket-writing.
To me, what really was at work was this: Jurek, a celebrity to be sure, was targeted and publicly made an example of by Baxter SP rangers who had probably justifiably reached their boiling point because of misuse of the trail and park by so many--but who channeled their outrage at the wrong guy. How else to explain that rather nasty Facebook rant the park posted?

While most through-hikers and runners care for and are stewards of the land—as Jurek is—there are some people who are lacking when it comes to respect for Mother Nature. There are some people who think the surroundings revolve around them—leading to abuse. Hell, even at the Pikes Peak Marathon this year I saw litter well beyond the boundaries of the aid stations. But littering is only part of the problem. Consider for a moment what’s happened at Waterton Canyon, where some trail users have snapped so-called "selfies" with bears in the background. Are you kidding me? Do they have that little respect for nature? Waterton Canyon, which connects with section one of the Colorado Trail, is one of my favorite places to run--but it's not without yahoos, I suppose. Sadly, it's closed until the “bear problem” clears up.

Last summer, running down the Barr Trail, I came upon a mountain lion. It was my first encounter with a mountain lion and I can assure you that the last thing on my mind was reaching for my iPhone, much less snapping a "selfie." I was more concerned with my safety. I’m not sure what would possess one to take a "selfie" with a wild animal, whose land you are using, but when I read things like this it all becomes clear. We’re an increasingly narcissistic society and we’re passing it onto our young.

So, in that context, Jurek, who had quite a following during his AT adventure since he is, after all, Scott Freaking Jurek, was probably being made an example of by park officials who had it up to here with idiots breaking spoken and unspoken rules by misusing and abusing the land and basically exploiting it for their own self-glorification. Only Jurek isn’t one of those idiots. Completely misreading the situation, they saw cameras and champagne and pounced with citations, later taking to Facebook to publicly rake Jurek over the coals--all in the name of sending a message. While their frustration with park abuse is very understandable, Jurek never should have been a target. It's all very sad.

In part because of movies like “Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods,” trails these days are littered with people searching for something—probably because their lives need more meaning. While most have a deep respect for the land, there will always be some bad apples—like those who leave litter, exhibit an entitled attitude and take "selfies" with wild animals. The problem is that these bad apples are creating problems for those of us who responsibly move over the land and show the trail the respect it deserves. Another problem is that this overcrowding is making it incredibly hard to get permits for hikers and runners who want to experience magical places like the John Muir Trail.

Something needs to be done—starting with efforts to educate people on how to responsibly use the trail and land without leaving any trace. And, while we’re at it, let’s get a grip on the “hey, look at me” selfies.

No, go run!