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4-Day San Juan Running Camp

With author and coach Sarah Lavender Smith
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Sarah Lavender Smith running near her home outside of Telluride. Photo by Howie Stern.

Join us in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains for a four-day trail running camp with long-distance runner, coach, and writer Sarah Lavender Smith, author of The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras. This retreat offers something for a range of runners, whether you’re considering a mountain ultra, looking to develop your high-altitude mountain-running skills, or just looking to explore a slice of the San Juans with like-minded trail enthusiasts. 

Dates : July 11 – July 14 and September 23 – 26, 2018        Duration: 4 Days, 3 Nights

Group Size: 6 – 10 Participants, 2+ Guides        Difficulty:

Price: $1,250, Double Occupancy

  • What to expect

    This four-day trail running camp in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains is for experienced trail runners looking to improve their mountain running skills. We’ll start in the historic mining town of Ouray before spending two nights at the Opus Hut, an eco-friendly, European style back-country hut with bunk-style sleeping arrangements. The Opus Hut is perched high on Ophir Pass at 11,600 feet and boasts some of the best views in the San Juans, home of the famed Hardrock 100. With options to run sections of the Hardrock course, we’ll spend three days exploring trails and learning tips while visiting the iconic San Juan high country. Whether we are running a high mountain pass, through a field of wild flowers and tundra, or a forest of colorful aspen, you’ll be in awe every step of the way!

    Untitled design copyFitness Level

    Attendees should be able to run 12-15 miles comfortably over hilly, rocky terrain. Runs will take place between 9,000 and 13,000 feet in elevation and present potentially challenging conditions such as rain/hail and technical terrain with some drop-offs. Given the high altitude and difficult terrain, there will be much hiking, but this is a retreat aimed to promote mountain running, not hiking alone. If you arrive with a strong base of consistent running and cardio fitness, and rested, you’ll reap the greatest benefits and most enjoyment.

    We also advise that runners unaccustomed to altitude arrive to the area several days early to acclimate and enjoy the area’s beauty. We’re happy to provide lodging and trail suggestions. We also can answer questions and provide guidance on training and preparation for this mountain retreat.

    Coaches

    Sarah on Oscar’s Pass, on the Hardrock 100 course. In the background are mountains above Ophir with trails we will explore on Day 3.

    Sarah Lavender Smith

    Sarah is a long-distance runner, coach, and writer with extensive experience running and hiking in the San Juan Mountains and deep family roots there. She is known in the mountain/ ultra/ trail-running community as a writer for Trail Runner magazine, co-host of Ultra Runner Podcast, and author of the 2017 book, The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras. A veteran of more than 80 marathons and ultras, Sarah has raced some of North America’s most challenging 100-milers as well as achieved podium finishes in three 250K multi-day, self-supported stage races. She lives half the year near Telluride, the other half in the Bay Area, and has participated in numerous races in the San Juans including the Telluride Mountain Run, Silverton Alpine 50K, Imogene Pass Run, and multiple times has paced different segments of the Hardrock 100. She is the mother of two teens and blogs at TheRunnersTrip.com. She is thrilled to be a coach and guide for this retreat, sharing her love and knowledge of trail running while she also trains for this summer’s Ouray 100 and other mountain ultras.

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    Allison running near her home in the San Juan Mountains

    Allison Snyder

    Allison is the type of person who will make you laugh over a campfire one day, and push you beyond what you think is possible in the mountains the next day. An avid runner from Upstate New York, she was an All-American track athlete in High School and ran for a Division I College program. She now prefers the rugged terrain of the American West. In 2015, after a decade of running mostly on asphalt, she rediscovered the freedom of trails when she set out for an 18-mile run in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Six months later, she quit her job in New York City and drove west to explore America’s wilds on foot. She filled her days with self-supported long runs, including a 38-mile run through Zion National Park, a 40-mile run through the Tetons and a 47-mile Rim to Rim to Rim run in the Grand Canyon. During her travels, she fell in love with Colorado’s San Juan Mountains where she’s learning to love the ups and racing renowned ultra-runners in the Hardrock Beer Mile. When she’s not out exploring, she’s writing.

  • Please note that daily runs are subject to change due to weather and trail conditions. Summer in the San Juans typically produces afternoon thunderstorms that we can plan around by starting and finishing our daily runs early. In the event of bad weather, especially above treeline, MOST planned runs have a contingency option that will give us a safer run for the day. All runs are optional and you can choose not to participate at anytime.

    Ouray Autumn Panorama

    Day 1: Arrive in Ouray, Colorado

    On day one we will meet in Ouray at 5:30 pm for an introduction meeting and group welcome dinner. Situated in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America and has a rich history that dates back to 1876. There are many options for flying to the area with the easiest and most popular being Montrose (MTJ). From Montrose there are two options for the 40-minute shuttle ride to the small mountain town of Ouray: Western Slope Rides and Telluride Express.

    Lodging: Ouray, CO.

    Meals included: Dinner

    Run: No run planned.

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    Day 2: Run in Red Mountain Pass Area (Acclimating Day)

    Most people on this trip will be arriving from lower elevations and will find that it might take a few days to get used to thin air in the San Juans. With this in mind we will go for a light acclimatization run on our way to Ophir Pass. There are many running options along the way and we will choose the one that has the best trail conditions and scenery at the time. Following the run we will finish driving to the Opus Hut where we will spend the next two nights of the retreat.

    Lodging: Opus Hut

    Meals included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

    Run: 5-8 miles

    Topics Covered: Review of gear, safety and hydration/refueling during mountain run

    Day 3: Alpine Run on Hardrock 100 Route

    Today we will go for a longer alpine run on a section of the famed Hardrock 100 route. This 15-16 mile alpine run/hike will include steep terrain, some scree travel, and amazing views. We’ll run over Ophir Pass down Ophir Road then turn off for Grant Swamp Canyon. Slightly higher than yesterday’s run, this trail will have many short climbs that will require some hiking. We’ll then retrace route back to the Opus Hut.

    Lodging: Opus Hut

    Meals included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

    Run: 16 miles

    Topics Covered: Uphill/downhill running technique and effective trekking pole use

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    Day 4: Alpine Run from Opus Hut/ Travel Home

    Our final day will include an alpine point-to-point run from the Hut. Again, there are many options from the Hut and we will choose the one that has the best trail conditions and scenery at the time. We will plan to be finished and back in Ouray by 1 pm for a farewell picnic lunch in town.

     

    Meals included: Breakfast and lunch

    Run: 8-10 miles

    Topics Covered: Demonstration of strength conditioning and stretching post-run that you can do anywhere

  • Lodging

    All lodging between our scheduled first and last night is included in the price. The first night of the retreat will be spent in an comfortable hotel in downtown historic Ouray, Colorado. The next two nights will be spend at the beautiful Opus Hut perched high on Ophir Pass at 11,600ft.

    All trip prices are based on double room occupancy when staying in hotels. Most, but not all, of our accommodations have the option for single occupancy if you prefer. Please inquire with Highline for these options and additional costs.

  • Gear

    High in the San Juan Mountains temps can fluctuate significantly like in most alpine environments and we need to plan for any conditions we might come across. Please read the detailed gear list and feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

    Travel Clothing and Gear

    • Large Duffel Bag- All luggage will need to be carried a 1/4 mile to the Opus Hut. Duffels are much easier to carry than traditional luggage and easier to transport in the van.
    • In Town Clothing- Please bring a few comfortable items of clothing to change into following our daily runs. Most days in the San Juans require only shorts, jeans, t-shirts and a hoodie.
    • Warm Clothing- Please keep in mind that while temperatures can reach into the 80’s during the day they can also drop into the 40’s during the night at some of our higher lodging (Opus Hut). Although the Hut stays toasty warm inside, please be sure to bring some warmer clothing items so that we can spend time outside during the evenings. i.e. pants, long underwear, long sleeve shirt, lightweight puffy jacket, etc.

    Running Clothing

    • Running Socks- 3 pairs of comfortable running socks. Please bring the type you are used to wearing at home that have proven themselves in the past to not give you blisters.
    • Running Shoes- These should be broken in with plenty of life left. A shoe with a lot of padding, good traction and a built in rock plate is recommended for all of our adventures. If you are new to running longer distances in the mountains, please feel free to call us for shoe recommendations. This decision could make or break your trip.
    • Running Shorts
    • Running Pants or Tights- It is typically warm enough to run in shorts every day but many people choose to bring tights or running pants for windy and rainy days.
    • Wicking T-shirt- 2-3 short sleeved running shirts made from a fast drying material.
    • Wicking Long Sleeve Shirt
    • Light Wind Layer- This should be compressible to fit in the bottom of your daily running pack.
    • Rain Jacket- This should be compressible to fit in the bottom of your daily running pack if rain is in the forecast.
    • Light Gloves
    • Light Cap
    • Sun Hat or Visor
    • Buff or Bandana

    Running Gear

    • Running Pack/ Vest with 2L bladder or 2 water bottles- Running pack with storage capacity. This should be large enough to carry some of the items listed above, water, food for the day and any other items you might want to carry on the trail. Please bring a pack that will accommodate these items but also provide comfort and the ability to run.
    • Water Bottles- If you prefer running with bottles rather than a bladder be sure to still bring a small pack to carry your food, camera, wind and rain layers.
    • Running/ Trekking Poles- Light weight collapsible trekking/ running poles are recommended

    Other Items

    • Sunglasses
    • Sun Screen
    • Camera
    • Trail Food (bars, gels, drink mixes)- We recommend 200 calories/hour of trail time
    • Headlamp- This is for use at the Opus Hut. We have no plans to run in the dark. Please bring extra batteries
    • Camera
    • Toiletries

    Optional Items

    • GPS Watch
    • Flip Flops/ Sandals- Optional but highly recommended after a long day on the trail.
    • Earplugs- Roommate can be a little noisy at night.
    • Swimming Suit- You will have opportunities to swim at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and use the sauna at the Opus Hut.
  • Difficulty

    Attendees should be able to run 12-15 miles comfortably over hilly, rocky terrain. Runs will take place between 9,000 and 13,000 feet in elevation and present potentially challenging conditions such as rain/hail and technical terrain with steep relief. Given the high altitude and difficult terrain, there will be much hiking, but this is a retreat aimed to promote mountain running, not hiking alone. If you arrive with a strong base of consistent running and cardio fitness, and rested, you’ll reap the greatest benefits and most enjoyment.

    Running Gallery - 14936

    Altitude

    We advise that runners unaccustomed to altitude arrive to the area several days early to acclimate and enjoy the area’s beauty. We’re happy to provide lodging and trail suggestions. We also can answer questions and provide guidance on training and preparation for this mountain retreat.

    Although we do our best to help you prepare for higher elevations it is a known fact that everyone acclimatizes differently. With this in mind, know that running at these altitudes will still be challenging for all whether you are acclimatized or not and you should not expect your body to perform as it does at home. Most runners should expect to hike many sections of these trails, especially during the first few days at altitude. During this time most will enjoy running only the easier flats and gradual down hill sections while hiking the uphills like many people do during longer ultra-marathon races. Because of the beautiful scenery through out our trips most people have no problem adopting this philosophy of “run when I can, hike when I can’t” and simply take in the beauty of Colorado while hiking.

  • Cost Includes:

    • Experienced guides
    • All transportation between Ouray and the Opus Hut
    • All lodging
    • Most meals (See itinerary for what meals are included)
    • A signed copy of The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras
    •  

      Not Included:

      • Transportation to Ouray
      • Hotel costs before and/or after scheduled trip dates
      • Personal trail food, gels, energy drink mixes
      • Any alcohol with meals
      • Trip cancellation insurance
      • Personal running gear and clothing
      • Guide gratuity

      Reservations:

      If you have any questions regarding one of our trips or would like help deciding which trip is right for you please feel free to give us call. Once you have decided, just let us know and we will send you a registration form and other additional information you will need. We do require a non-refundable $1000 deposit to hold your spot at the time of registration. We recommend doing so as soon as possible since all of trips are subject to availability and have a maximum of 10 participants. Final Payment is due 90 days prior to the camp. If registering within 90 days of the trip full payment will be due at that time.

      Cancellation:

      We strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance for all of our trips.

      Because we must invest a certain amount to reserve your place on this trip with our lodging partners, transportation and hired help we can not always refund the your full amount if you need to cancel. We understand that every situation is different and we will do our best to work with you if you need to to cancel your trip for any reason. As a policy, our cancellation refund deadlines are as follows:

      • Cancellations more that 90 days prior to trip: Full refund minus deposit.
      • Cancellations between 45-90 days prior to trip: Refund 50% of trip costs minus deposit.
      • Cancellations within 45 days of trip- No refund.