For more than five hours of rigorous racing, Walter relied on water only, and his stored body fat for fuel.
Hal Walter won the 29-mile World Championship Pack-Burro Race in Colorado this past summer with a jenny named Full Tilt Boogie, using training and nutrition methods he’s learned from Dr. Phil Maffetone over the past 15 years.
Photo: Bonnie Wann
Walter was Phil’s editor from 1998 to 2004, working with him on several books, the Maffetone Report newsletter and other projects.
The annual event is held on a rugged mountainous course from the town of Fairplay, elevation 10,000 feet, to the top of 13,187-foot Mosquito Pass and back. Competitors run and hike the steeper pitches with their burros but may not ride. The animals carry 33-pound packs, including a pick, pan and shovel to commemorate the state’s mining history.
Walter says the race is much more demanding than a typical marathon or triathlon due to the extremes in elevation, vertical gain, weather conditions and terrain, not to mention managing an animal not known for its cooperative nature. He’s also competed in marathons, ultramarathons and winter multi-sport competitions.
Walter attributes his success to a high degree of fat-burning achieved over the years of training using aerobic training and a diet customized to suit his needs. He notes that he drank only water and ate nothing during the entire event, which Dr. Maffetone says is an indication of an excellent fat-burning capacity.
Walter also notes he does very little anaerobic training, but this did not keep him from having a finishing kick.
The race boiled down to a contest between Walter and Boogie, and George Zack of Broomfield and his burro Jack. The teams traded places as many as 30 times over the course of the race, with Walter and Boogie finally pulling ahead near the finish line, winning in 5 hours, 25 minutes and 23 seconds. Zack and Jack, who won the race last year, finished only two seconds behind.
“In the last few steps her ears went forward and she made a gallant charge,” said Walter. “It was all heart and it was all Boogie. Luckily I had the legs to go with her.”
This is Walter’s seventh world championship in 15 years and, at 53, it is believed he is the oldest person to win in the history of the event, which has been held annually since 1949.
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Postscript: In the summer of 2021 Hal ran his 42nd consecutive Leadville Boom Days Pack-Burro Race, which approaches Mosquito Pass from the other side and is 19 miles in length. He was among the leaders at the summit and placed 3rd overall in the race.