Posted July 9th, 2013 by Brian Hock
“Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” -John Muir
As ultra distance trail runners continuously search for new trails and new adventures, running traverses and going for the fastest known times (FKT) on different routes are becoming extremely popular. Most of these style runs take place in National Parks or National Forest Land. Some famous runs include: The Zion Traverse, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, Canyonlands Crossing, and the Glacier Gorge Traverse. However, numerous trails and mountains anywhere can be linked together, creating routes and new records. All it takes is a map, some creativity and little bit of effort.
Mike Ambrose after his Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run earlier this year.
One of the reasons I run, which is common among many trail runners is for the long days on the trails or in the mountains. I love to go exploring new lands while challenging my body and soul. That’s what makes running a traverse so appealing. You can achieve those longer training runs while taking in the beautiful sights and smells the wilderness has to offer. You can even have a dialed in race effort while shooting for an FKT. One of my goals is to get closer to the FKT on the Zion Traverse. I will probably plan and train accordingly, treating it like a full on race attempt. However, it’s not set up like a race. There are no shirts, medals, parties, and usually no aid along the way. It’s just you and the trail. Maybe some good friends will join you. But ultimately it’s just you and the trail. It’s quite simple, new challenges and new trails in beautiful places.
One attractive feature of running traverses and going for FKTs is there are no entry fees. Over the past few years as running has really become more mainstream, the costs of races are astronomical. As I total up my costs for racing alone each year, the number can surpass $1000 easily. That’s just on getting a bib and a timing chip. If you run a traverse, you don’t get the support of the race, but for the price of gas, a campsite, and whatever libation you choose to indulge on after, you have yourself and a beautiful day on the trails. Heck, if you live in the right place, you could run out your front door and link up some pretty cool trails and be home before dark.
I was contacted by one of my best friends Thanksgiving Day. The conversation short, “Hey bud, want to go run the Zion Traverse next week. It’s such a beautiful park, and only 48 miles. I reckon well see the whole park in less than 12 hours. We could try and get close to the FKT, or we can just soak in the whole thing, we’ll figure it out.”
Of course I was going, I could never pass on a chance to see a National Park, especially when it includes running. As a bonus, the Bandera 100k was only a few months away and I needed a longer effort that week. I was also new to the whole idea of running a traverse, so I was interested in the mystery of running self supported for 48 miles. It’s quite amazing to have the ability at any given time to take advantage of such an invite and go run close to 50 miles and see such an incredible park like Zion.
Since my first real traverse at Zion National Park, I have completed the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, and plan on attempting to set the record on the Colorado Trail this summer with two great ultra marathoners from back East. We’re hoping to complete the 486 miles in 8 days. Needless to say, I am hooked on this style of running. The simplicity and beauty of just picking a route and running has me longing for more. It is amazing how much you can see just on foot. I find myself just looking at maps during free time, drawing up routes and daydreaming what it will look like. There is something really moving and inspiring about going out into the wilderness and traversing miles and miles of trail.
Personal account on gear:
Most of the time during these longer style runs, you have to carry all your own gear. My Simple Hydration bottles play a very vital role in my running of traverse. If you have run an ultra distance event, you know that your body starts to crave little things. For me, its soda and Gatorade. I also like various electrolyte drinks along the way. For a 50 mile traverse style run I usually will have a small pack with a bladder. I don’t usually like bladders, but 50 miles is a long way and you need more water than you can carry in your hands or on your body. BUT, Simple Bottles allow me to have other types of liquid available – it’s a HUGE comfort to have when spending all day outside. I usually put one Simple bottle in the front of of my pack and one hooked in my shorts.
Mike Ambrose is a member of the Simple Hydration Ultra Elite Team and will be attempting to set the FKT on for the Colorado Trail starting on July 18th and hopefully finishing on the 26th.