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May 9, 2012 Comments (10) inspiration, Interviews, Musings, Training

Ultra Walking With The Master – Ulli Kamm

Picture of Ultra Trail Walking Training Number 3

Tonight, I walked with the Master. Yes, I said walked.  It’s really not a dirty word, you know.  Most of us mortals cannot, and will not, EVER complete an ultra without walking some of it.

…or a significant portion of it, if you are anything like me.  Thus, it makes sense for us slowbees to train specifically in the discipline of walking.

Which is why, when the Master, Ulli Kamm, invited people on the Boise Trail Runners facebook page to join him for Tuesday night fast hikes in the Boise Foothills, I was the first to raise my hand.  Or leave a comment, as it were.

But {whine} it sounds so TAME to say you are going for a walk.  Retired people go for walks.  Granolas in sturdy shoes and sensible clothing go for hikes.  I’m a runner, dang it.  I remind myself of that pesky little detail about not being capable of running a hundred miles at an eight minute pace.  Obviously, it would behoove me to work on my hiking.

But then I get nervous.  I usually shuffle at a pace similar to, if not slower than, Ulli’s walking.  It’s happened before.  Especially uphill.  And downhill.  Walking flat stuff is even harder.  But we never get better unless we challenge ourselves, right?  So, with trepidation I force myself to go.  Just go.

I show up at the appointed time of 6:20 pm.  Ulli is nothing if not precise.  We wait around for a few stragglers to show up.  And then we are off.  And I mean off.

Immediately, I am running to keep up. Drat!

Determined to actually fast hike, I launch into a jerking, hip-swinging, arms-flailing rendition of forward motion.

We go up and up – and it’s actually a little easier to stay with Ulli’s lead pack on the steeper up sections than on the downhills.  That walking downhill business is really some effort, if you ask me.  It seems so much more efficient to roll into an easy lope, or at least a shuffle.  Admittedly, I am forced to break into a run periodically in order to stay connected to the group.

And then we convene at a trailhead, as we are wont to do in these easygoing processions, letting everyone catch up and taking a few pictures. It is too nice an evening to not record the memories. And I ask Ulli a question, the answer to which I am sure will solve my struggles with ultrawalking.

Ulli, how do you do it?  You make it look so effortless.  What walking tips can you share?

Ulli takes a drink from his pack, shakes his head a bit, and chuckles.

People see that I walk hundred milers.  The whole thing, I walk.  And they email me and ask me how.  I listen carefully to hear his words through his German accent.

And I tell them.  One time I hike Pikes Peak from the bottom to the top.  Twice in a row.  Two times up and down is 50 miles.

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It takes a minute to process.  Ulrich Kamm, walker of 250 ultras and the person after whom Hardrock’s Kamm Traverse is named, is nonchalantly and ever-humbly advising us that the secret to being a good walker is bagging fourteeners by way of HILL REPEATS.

There you go.  That sounds reasonable.

Of course, what he means is that there is no secret.  Walking, like anything else, is something you get better at with practice.  Maybe years and years of it.  Hundreds of miles of it.

Still, as we finish on the wide path to the trailhead, I intently watch Ulli’s back for clues.  Match his gait.  Swing my arms.  Lean forward.  No matter what, the gap widens, and I have to break out in a run to catch back up.

So, my quest for the secret of ultrawalking continues…and somewhere in the journey I’ll probably even get a little better at it.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep showing up on Tuesdays and scramble to keep up.

…see you next week.

10 Responses to Ultra Walking With The Master – Ulli Kamm

  1. Jerry Armstrong says:

    Love this! Great piece… I have seen him many times!!

  2. Amy King says:

    Ulli is a master at this and geneously shares every bit of knowledge with any person who asks. I loved running while he walked an 11:30 min/mi pace with him at the Pickled Feet 24 hour endurance run. He is just a super great guy!

  3. Dave Dame says:

    These two sediments don’t seem related. “Thus, it makes sense for us slowbees to train specifically in the discipline of walking.” and “But we never get better unless we challenge ourselves, right? So, with trepidation I force myself to go. Just go.”

  4. Dave Dame says:

    Oops, sentiments.

  5. Ryan says:

    Don’t feel bad Emily! You saw what how he smoked me on Shanes Loop that day! Wonderful man, we are lucky to have him for a mentor. 😀 Ryan

  6. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I gave up running in my twenties when my knees started giving me more trouble than it was worth. Honestly, though, I was a person who didn’t LOVE to run, I did it to win and to be fit. NOW… I walk fast (we pass the cute joggers on the trail). It’s such an exhilirating change for me. I walk at least 5 miles a day and take extra long 10-20 milers a couple of times a month when time permits. A friend and I are doing our second 40 miler tomorrow. I was looking for inspiration and I found it. Amazes me that you guys have the bodies to allow for this length of RUNNING! Go you!

  7. mkreuzer says:

    Stephanie, that’s so kool that you have that in your life. To be out and doing something that you love is all that matters. Distance, time and speed can all be celebrated but in the end it only matters whether we’re happy doing it. Well, at least that’s my goal.

  8. […] have been practicing my power hiking with the Master, Ulli Kamm, after […]

  9. […] I was doing a fast-walk/shuffle because it felt only fitting to finish with Hugh after we had done so many miles together, and I wanted to keep the pace to something his stomach would allow. Hugh commented that my walking pace was really good “I’m having to run back here to keep up with your walk!” I took the opportunity to extol the benefits of actually practicing walking and credit Ulli Kamm with being the best teacher and example of an ultrawalker EVER. […]

  10. […] have been practicing my power hiking with the Master, Ulli Kamm, after […]

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