Q&A with Ultra Runner Ray McNutt

Steve Geoff
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a series of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run and what are some of their running goals.

Aspen-based trail runner Ray McNutt amped up his running routine with the help of a running coach – and discovered a newfound passion for the sport. RootsRated speaks with McNutt about the benefits of using a coach, how he stays fit during cold Colorado winters, and his take on listening to music while on the trails.

How has a running coach helped improve your running?
It really helps keep you motivated. There are times I don’t want to let [my coach] down, when the weather is nasty or she has me doing something absurd. It keeps things fresh and exciting, and it’s been the best thing for me. I recently ran a half marathon, and I took 16 minutes off from [my previous time three years ago], which is not bad.

McNutt got into shape by hiking and then running many Aspen-area mountains.
McNutt got into shape by hiking and then running many Aspen-area mountains. Steven Bratman

How do you maintain your fitness during the winter?
It’s tough, because it gets dark at 4:15 p.m. You can go to the gym and run on the treadmill, but after about an hour, I’m so bored. What my wife and friends and I do is skin up one of the mountains. It’s a different motion [than running], so the first couple of times, your hips get really sore. We also skin in the backcountry on trails for two or three hours. And if I want to try to run, I’ll use microspikes, which fit over your shoes and have 15-20 spikes on the bottom. You stretch them over your shoes, and with those I’ll run some of the stuff in town that doesn’t have any avalanche danger. And obviously we ski in the wintertime.

Do you follow any special dietary regimen?
We have plots in the community garden, and we grow veggies ourselves. I probably have a kale smoothie five days a week. And I try to go vegetarian four or five days a week. The restaurants are much healthier in Aspen, too.

What’s your take on listening to music while running?
I’m about half and half. On training runs, I definitely do, but I listen to it low so I can hear the sounds of nature. But on some of the big hills, I like something more hard-driving to get me going. I think everything on my iTunes is pre-1990 – I listen to a lot of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones. If I’m in a race, every time I come to the finish line, I take the headphones out so I can hear the crowd. If I ran a big race like the New York Marathon, there’s no way I’d use music.

McNutt (not him pictured) enjoys running at Lost Man Loop.
McNutt (not him pictured) enjoys running at Lost Man Loop. Jake Wheeler

What are some of your favorite trail routes around Aspen?
One is the Conundrum Creek Trail. It’s an out and back, or you can go over a pass and access more trails. There are some hot springs about seven or eight miles up, which would be a 15- or 16-mile round trip. It’s a little hilly at first, then you get into this massive open valley. In the summer time, it’s just a sea of color, with big peaks on the side and a waterfall coming off them. A go-to one in town is in Hunter Creek Valley , including the Smuggler Mountain Trail and all these side trails; it’s a biking trail too. There’s another one toward Independence Pass called Lost Man Loop , which is kind of like a horseshoe and about 10 to 12 miles of beautiful scenery.

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