Jun (the husband) and I were grocery-shopping in what appears to be the "biggest" grocery in Julian, CA this past June when the guy behind the cash register started talking to another customer. This customer, with his long hair and tall build, appeared low-key, no arrogance whatsoever. Being that it was the week leading up to San Diego 100, we almost assumed he and the lady with him were runners. Then the guy behind the counter started asking him about "the 100-mile race" with such questions from him as "... So people actually run those 100 miles?... Do they sleep?... Are you running it?" The long-haired runner then answered "No, but I ran it last year..." "How long did you do it last year?" was the question that followed. And then the long-haired guy answered "I did okay... I placed 2nd." The cash register guy was in awe, shaking his head, as the long-haired runner exited. Once he was out the door, thats when it hit Jun who it was. "That was Jamil Coury!"
Thank goodness for technology, it wasn't long til I was googling the name. Yes, that was Jamil Coury! My one and only up-close encounter with him. In a grocery store in the middle of nowhere! But that was good enough experience for me to brag about. And though I have known of Javelina Jundred and Coldwater Rumble, I, admittedly, did not know much about him. Fast-forward further to the long absence of a featured runner for our TWA page, my whim to run JJ, and, of course, his recent achievement at the Barkley Marathons, I found it more fitting to know more about and interview the runner behind the long-haired silhouette and the Arizona-based, Aravaipa Running... gave it a shot emailing him, and thankfully, received a gracious response that said "Sure!" to the request for interview.
And I guess this needs no further introduction. His name came to fame even more recently, as we, mere mortals, followed his progress and success at Barkleys.
(But if you really must insist on knowing more about his resume, stalk him at Ultra SignUP via http://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?fname=Jamil&lname=Coury ).
I promised him it will be no more than 10 questions but as I remember numbers are not my friends so I overdid it, along with your questions, yet he nicely answered them for us. So here goes:
TWA: Hi! So yes! Once again were the group, Trail WhippAss (TWA), founded in NYC last year with over 300 members from all over the world. Were a bunch of (mostly) ultra runners from all abilities (slow like me and fast like them). So we do this thing where we interview runners who, we think, inspire us with their badassery. This month, we chose you! And here are the questions!
TWA: What is your pre/during/post-meal and meal in general?
JC: My favorite pre-race meal is mashed potatoes with vegetables like brocolli or kale. I'm also vegan so I make them with soy milk and vegan butter. During a race I use a combination of gels, chews (like Gu Chomps or Clif Shot Blocks), Clif Energy Foods (they have sweet potato and pizza flavor in a pouch) and for real food I like mashed potatoes again. Post run it can be a good veggie burger, pizza and a beer.
TWA: What was your training like for Barkleys?
JC: My Barkley training this year was focused on getting in a certain amount of vertical in each week. I wasn't as concerned with mileage per se, but tried to mimic the steep grade I would see at the race which averages to be 1000 feet of climbing or descending per mile. Since I live in Phoenix, I have access to that type of grade on about 3 local trails by my house but each climb is only about 1000 feet of climb at a time so I ended up with a lot of repeats for training. One day I did 13 repeats of North Mountain which equated to over 10,000 feet of climb (and equal amount of descent) over 17 miles.
TWA: What do you think of Cantrell, etc. thinking that runners “failed” against the mountain this year at Barkleys?
JC: The Barkley is a five loop course that must be completed in 60 hours. It is an extremely difficult route with over 13,000 feet of climb per loop and over 25 miles per loop. The off trail portions of the route and navigation (since the course is unmarked) adds to the challenge and the time cutoffs are tight! I think he is entirely accurate in thinking the runners "failed" since no one was able to complete the course in the set time. While no doubt personal barriers were broken through and there were some incredible stories, the course and race still won this year. I made it the furthest, finishing 4 loops but over the cutoff to continue on to the 5th and final loop. Its nice to have a race in our sport that is this difficult to finish. It provides me with a great level of motivation to take my running to a new level.
TWA: What were your darkest and most hopeless moments at Barkley? How about the most euphoric? Were you ever scared during the race between the terrain, sleep deprivation, etc.
JC: I'd say the beginning of the 4th loop was pretty dark. I knew I was on the cusp of the cutoff with only a 90 minute time cushion when I started that loop. My first decent off that loop was completely in the dark and I was having some trouble finding the correct ridge to descend. I was literally heading through the woods attempting to follow a compass bearing in total darkness trying to find a paperback book hidden in the hollow of a birch tree. I lost some time here and mentally that was hard as I knew I would be even closer to the cutoff. When I finally found the book I was relieved, but soon became confused on the subsequent ascent. I was actually on course but thought I was not. I ended up trying to take a 10 minute nap to clear my head but slept through my alarm for 45 minutes. This was probably the most hopeless moment when I realized my finish was slipping away.
I'd say the most euphoric moment was actually a several hour period at the end of Loop 3. I had decided with 4 books to go on that loop I was going to run hard and really push the pace in order to give myself more of a cushion to sleep and shower before setting out on Loop 4. It's hard to describe what happened out there, but I was running hard and effortlessly for many hours and just felt really, really good. I think I was having the "ultimate" runner's high and just loving being out there.
I wasn't really ever scared out there. I was totally in the moment at all times, always focused on something important. Whether that be my nutrition, navigation, finding the next book or just making mental notes about the course route.
TWA: We are taunting one of our badass runners, Maggie Guterl, to run Barkleys Marathon. For her and the others, especially those who have no clue on how or when to apply, what would be your "tip" on to how to apply to get into Barkleys?
For those interested in applying for Barkley, I'd say get to know someone who has done it before and prove that you have what it takes to apply. There is no set rule on who is allowed to apply, but the method in which to apply is closely guarded by those who know. I first met some Barkley guys when I first went up to do some course marking for the Hardrock 100 in Colorado and met some others when I competed in an event called the MMD50K in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I think earning the respect of some Barkley runners is the best way to learn how to apply.