Mountain Outpost, The Jackass of Ultrarunning

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Three-quarters through the 2016 Quad Dipsea, a 28-mile rain-soaked mudfest on the famed Dipsea trail north of San Francisco, Jamil Coury, 32, of Phoenix, Arizona, and Schuyler Hall, 28, of Walnut Creek, California, hammer down the trail while holding two gilded, dog-sized faux reindeer adorned with bells and holiday ornaments. Coury also holds a camera on a selfie stick to film them.

Earlier in the race, which takes place two days after Thanksgiving, Coury and Hall had paused at key junctures to gulp pumpkin-spiced lattes, consume entire cans of pureed pumpkin and choke down pints of vegan mushroom gravy. They filmed their antics and the digestive discomforts that ensued while offering colorful commentary along the way.

“The climbing is brutal,” a wet, miserable Coury says. Switching the camera angle to film the back of the reindeer’s head while running down slick singletrack, he adds with forced cheer, “It’s Prancer’s first Dipsea!”

Days later, they transfer the footage to their colleague and ultrarunning friend Michael Carson, 30, of Tempe, Arizona, at the Phoenix headquarters of Aravaipa Running, the trail-racing company that Coury heads up. Carson, the company’s videographer, adds a Muzak soundtrack, inserts goofy graphics with pop-culture references and uploads the 11-minute video—dubbed “Quad Dipsea Holiday Challenge”—to their YouTube channel Mountain Outpost.

A comedy show about ultrarunning, Mountain Outpost has gained a cult following since its debut in May 2016. The show has hooked fans like ultrarunner Jimmy McCaffrey of Hamden, Connecticut. “Mountain Outpost is to trail running what Caddyshack is to golf,” he says. “It both celebrates and spoofs our culture, reminding us it’s really awesome but not to take ourselves too seriously.”

Their first video, “Mystery Drop Bag Challenge,” which has garnered more than 20,000 views, features Coury and Hall simulating a four-lap race on a mountainous trail in desert heat while using stuff from random drop bags that ultrarunners had left behind three months earlier at an Aravaipa event.

Related: Watch: Mystery Drop Bag Challenge

Before each lap, Coury and Hall open a bag, consume whatever edibles the bag contains and apply whatever clothing or medical aids they find inside. They become progressively overheated while running in layers of ill-fitting clothing, and sick to their stomachs while eating melted, sugary snacks and gulping warm, expired drinks.

The team also produces a weekly newscast, called Mountain Outhouse, which opens with Coury’s signature line: “I’m your host, Jam Jam, and this is the craziest shit to happen in running this week.” Wearing reflective sunglasses to conceal the fact he’s looking down to read a script, Coury anchors a news show as informative as it is satirical.

In one newscast, for example, Coury succinctly explained how lotteries for the Hardrock and Western States 100-milers work. In another, he poked fun at the “Ultrarunner of the Year” selection process by creating a farcical “Ultra Bromance of the Year” contest with nominees such as Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet, who finished the 2016 Hardrock 100 holding hands, tying for first place.

Some fans suggest that Coury and Hall could have been nominated for their bromance, too. “The rapport between Jamil and Schuyler is great,” says ultrarunner Lori Hall (not related to Schuyler) of Denver, Colorado. “I love that they are legitimate runners but can show us the lighter side of things.”

Coury started ultrarunning in 2005 and, in 2015, completed what he nicknamed the “The Slam of the Damned,” four of the hardest 100-mile races: HURT, Barkley (finishing four of the five loops to become the last man standing), Hardrock and Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. In 2017, he’ll race Barkley and Hardrock again.

Hall, a speedy runner on roads, transitioned to trails in 2014 through Aravaipa’s Arizona-based events. His claim to fame is a world record of 1:48 in the “beer half-marathon,” drinking 13 beers over 13 miles, set in December 2015 at Aravaipa’s Across the Years ultra.

Recently, Hall moved from Arizona to the San Francisco Bay Area to take a job in public health, but he continues to produce Mountain Outpost episodes with Coury and Carson as much as their travel schedules allow.

Were you surprised that the first episode— “Mystery Drop Bag Challenge”—went viral?

Jamil: Yes and no. When we first watched it in the office, we couldn’t stop laughing; we were almost on the floor and all in tears.

That is a tough act to follow. Where did you take the show next?

Jamil: We kept making things, and sometimes we would pour so much time and energy and money into an episode, but it would get hardly any views. We know that if you keep doing it, you’ll have some successes, even surprise ones. “Chasing Walmsley” was our biggest surprise.

Describe “Chasing Walmsley,” your second-most-popular video.
Jamil: Schuyler and I dressed up as [champion ultrarunner] Jim Walmsley and tried to mimic his outfit from Western States, with holes in our shirts.  We went after two of his Strava records in the Phoenix area. We didn’t get the first one, but we both beat the second one.

Struggling to eat large amounts of food while running is a recurring theme in Mountain Outpost challenges. What was one of the most difficult things to choke down?
Schuyler: The most difficult challenge for me, bar none, was Chipotle [which involved running to several Chipotle restaurants in 103-degree heat and consuming a burrito at each]. I love Chipotle, but that day, in those temperatures, and with my minor brush with heat stroke, was the hardest.

While filming, have you ever had to take a time-out and say, “This isn’t funny anymore; I could seriously hurt myself”?
Jamil: Yes. “The Chili Pepper Gu Challenge.” We had a four-lap race and ate chili peppers mixed with unflavored Gu before each lap—a 300-foot climb up a mountain and back down, on a super-hot day. We ended with the Carolina Reaper, the world’s hottest pepper.

I was hunched over, and Michael had to come find me. I thought something serious was going to happen because of the pain in my chest and body.

How would you describe the Mountain Outpost mission?
Michael: In this sport, there’s so much seriousness, so just to see some fun is awesome. We make things that we’d want to see, and it’s great that people enjoy it.

Jamil: For me, this is an outlet to kind of be crazy, where I can literally do whatever.

Actually, that’s not entirely true; we have two videos we had to take off the Internet because we broke some laws.

What were those videos about?
Jamil: One was “The Beer 10K,” where each of us carried a six-pack. We did it in a mountain park, where you needed a permit to drink alcohol. We didn’t have one, and got busted.

Then there was one called “Aid Station of the Future,” where we used a drone and flew snacks and booze to Schuyler out on a trail in a mountain park. We weren’t busted, but pre-emptively took it down.

How did the weekly Mountain Outhouse newscast spin off from Mountain Outpost?

Jamil: After Schuyler moved, we wanted to continue the consistency on the channel. The very first [Mountain Outhouse newscast] was a complete shit show. I decided to do a beer-mile newscast, where I would drink four beers and tell four news stories.

I was poking fun at Sage Canaday because on his old YouTube channel, he did this fake “nip tips” infomercial, featuring nipple guards made out of tin foil. So I ended the newscast wearing just foil. It’s total sophomoric humor to the maximum. The show has evolved since then, and now every episode is scripted.

Going forward, what is ripe for skewering or shining a light on in our sport?
Jamil: Anything where someone is taking themselves or the sport too seriously, or anytime there’s a controversy.

Viewers want to know: what’s your relationship status?
Schuyler: I am uncomfortably single, mainly because I have to explain Mountain Outpost early in the dating process, because I’m going to get googled, and Mountain Outpost is gonna come up.

Jamil: I’m single as well. A little-known fact is I have a child, but I’m no longer with his mother. He’s almost 11 months old. It’s been a hard process, and I’m still working through it.

Michael: I’m the married one of the bunch.

Are you guys making a profit?
Jamil: Currently we’re not. We do turn monetization on our videos, but I don’t know if we’ve made more than $10 a month. We’ll probably spend, easily, $100 an episode on props and things. For now, we love doing this, and we’re fortunate that Aravaipa is keeping the lights on and paying some of the bills.

If Mountain Outpost isn’t generating income, then what makes producing it worthwhile?
Jamil: Making people happy, and making them laugh—that’s really rewarding.

Sarah Lavender Smith is a contributing editor for Trail Runner.

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