Ultra Runner and Thru Hiker, Chad Lubinski knows a thing or two about traveling extreme distances on the trail with zero limits. Running and hiking lengths ranging from 50 to 500, and soon 2,650 miles, in remote areas with minimal gear, Chad has learned to conquer the mental and physical barriers that would cause some to “just quit.”
We caught up with Chad to learn about the training, preparation, packing and life experiences that go into Ultra Runner and Thru Hiking. And no...we did not chase him down for the interview on mile 300 of the Colorado Trail. Email is a beautiful thing...
Chad Lubinski (@chadahooche_) Thru Hiking the Oregon Rogue River Trail
What is ultra running and thru hiking?
Ultra running is defined as any type of running that’s longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). The most common distances are 50k (31 miles), 50 miles, 100k (62 miles), and 100 miles.
On the other hand, long distance hiking is most commonly known as thru hiking. Put simply, thru hiking is the act of backpacking a trail with continuous footsteps in one direction.
These are clearly not easy sports, how'd you get into ultra running and thru hiking?
I became fascinated with endurance sports after watching (repeatedly) the movie Rocky when I was young. While not technically an endurance sport per se, this movie showed just how far endurance and persistence can take you.
I got extremely interested in thru hiking after meeting a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hiker while on a random backpacking trip. I just couldn’t believe how far he had walked! I was hooked after that meeting and bought all the books and trail guides I could find and began planning my own hikes.
Ultra running was inspired after reading the book "Can’t Hurt Me" by David Goggins, and following Cameron Hanes (@cameronrhanes) on social media. Running an ultra had always been a goal of mine, but training jiu jitsu always took precedent over my training time. Then, I tore my bicep while training jiu jitsu and was forced to have surgery. Since I couldn’t train jiu jitsu, I decided to pivot and start running with my arm in a sling. While healing, I saw there was a 50k in the area and signed up since I felt I was in good enough shape from the various thru hikes I had done that summer!
Chad Lubinski in Utah Wearing a MuskOx Ultra Lightweight Charleston Performance Hoodie
What has been your most unique experience while thru hiking or ultra running?
I’d have to say when I serendipitously met a hiker named Salty Dog (his real name is Don; however trail names are part of the thru hiking culture) while on my first section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail back in 2019.
I met Salty on my first night of camp, when I was already miserable dealing with mosquitoes and a thunderstorm. He rolled up to my camp and basically welcomed himself in. It was during this time that I found out he was 68 years old, had completed the Appalachian Trail (2,200 miles) 2 years prior, and was currently completing a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles).
Not only was this man massively inspiring, but, he was also the likely reason why I finished that hike in the first place. The things they don’t tell you about thru hiking -- mosquitoes, snow, thunderstorms, wind, rain, heat exposure, walking over lava rocks, chafing -- were all of the tough encounters of this hike, and I had Salty to guide me through it. I definitely would have quit if it wasn't for him.
Unfortunately, Salty lives in North Carolina so I haven’t seen him since that thru hike. However, we stay in communication and the unbelievable amount of lessons I learned from an experienced thru hiker stay with me to this day.
Chad Lubinski Hiking Mt McLaughlin
Tell us about your accomplishments while ultra running and thru hiking?
So far in 2021 I’ve summited Mt. St Helens and Mt. McLaughlin, along with completing a thru hike of the Oregon Rouge River Trail and running a couple training marathons.
Upcoming plans are to complete a 50 mile ultramarathon in June, thru hiking the 486 mile Colorado Trail in July, thru hiking the Wonderland Trail and pacing my buddy during an ultra running event called the Bear 100 in Utah.
In 2020, I completed a Northbound route of the John Muir Trail (245 miles) which included summiting Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. I also completed the Timberline Trail (circumnavigation around Mt. Hood), the Loowit Trail (circumnavigation of Mt. St Helens), the Wallowa River Loop, The Enchantments and a 50k ultramarathon.
In 2019 I completed a 240 mile Oregon PCT section hike that ended in Washington...this is what kicked everything off and truly got me into thru hiking.
I also have a couple silver medals from Jiu Jitsu competitions 😀.
Chad Lubinski Training in a MuskOx Performance Foundation Crew
Break down your training, exercise and diet?
My training is very obsessive. I tend to periodize my training so I don’t get burnt out on one thing. My current schedule is strength training twice/week, running 4 times/week, Jiu Jitsu once/week, stretching four times/week, sauna twice/week, and a five minute mobility routine every morning. I aim to MOVE significantly every single day.
After completing my upcoming 50 mile ultramarathon in June, I’ll drop some running out of my schedule to focus more on thru hiking, Jiu Jitsu, and Crossfit style workouts.
I ask a ton of my body everyday, so my diet is even more obsessive! Whole foods, no sugar, plain yogurt, protein shakes, no alcohol, and smoothies that include everything you can think of. I look at foods as an underrated recovery tool.
I also take several supplements such as a multivitamin, other vitamins, fish oil, ZMA, glucosamine, collagen, etc.
How do you select the right gear for your adventures?
You NEED to try the gear out on a low consequence run/hike before committing to it during a long thru hike or ultra. In thru hiking we call these “shakedown” hikes! Figure out what works and what doesn’t. Every run and hike is an opportunity for you to optimize your gear even further.
What’s one item that you can’t live without while on a hike or run?
SPF Chapstick! Do NOT just bring regular chapstick while thru hiking, especially at higher elevations. I made this mistake on the John Muir Trail and paid dearly for it by experiencing severely sunburnt lips that would stick together and sting every time a piece of food touched them!
Chad Lubinski Ultra Running in Utah
Any tips or inspiration for anyone trying to get into ultra running or thru hiking?
Everything you want is on the other side of comfort and fear!
You need PRIORITIZE adventure if you want it in your life. Plan your trips several months prior to doing them. Block out summer weekends/vacations and dedicate them to going on adventures. Summer goes by way too fast -- this is your ticket to taking control of your time during that season.
Also, DO NOT NEGLECT STRENGTH AND MOBILITY TRAINING. These two components are the keys to remaining injury free and building a resilient body that will carry you from adventure to adventure.
How do you build the comfort and strength to backpack solo?
One of the first things I’d encourage someone to do is a solo overnight car camping trip. Set up your tent outside your car, climb in and wake up in the morning with an exhilarated feeling knowing you just slept outside by yourself! Seriously, that first feeling of knowing you just solo camped is indescribable!
The second step is to do a short mileage overnight solo backpacking trip. This time, try to camp next to a stream (provides white noise instead of total silence!) and also bring earplugs. This seems paradoxical but seems to really work for me since the scariest part of sleeping outside alone are the noises at night!
Next is simply, repetitions. The more you do it, the more you expand your comfort zone...simple as that!