Tuesday, September 3, 2013


With an injured rotator cuff I was forced this summer to abandon my Ironman plans. This was the first summer in 13 years I hadn’t done a triathlon. I didn’t really miss the swimming, but I did miss the long bike rides. I love putting in the km’s on my tri and road bike. Instead I discovered a new sport. Not really a new one as it’s as old as the creation of man himself, but perhaps a new twist- mountain running. And I believe it’s going to eventually be a new sport- craze.

Ola, a Norwegian I met at the Euro champs in '09 runs in his native Norway.

Living where I do it was easy to fall into this endeavor. Basically it consists of running on trails that most everyone else hikes on. You run the flats and smaller uphills, but when the angle gets pretty steep you’re forced into a speed hike. In Europe these are called sky runs. They have several sky races, some with 1000's of entries. It’s easy to see why they call them "sky" as you often end up on top of a mountain...hopefully with a ridge top that you can run along. Of course having a spectacular view (though it is hard to look if you’re moving fast).

The first couple times you mountain run your legs are sore from the downhill running (and some old farts just can’t do it b/c of the pounding on the knees), but from then on I find I’m good to go and usually don’t get sore anymore. Another trick to the sport is concentration. You just can’t let your mind wander like you do on the road as you’ll end up tripping on a rock or root. Indeed, pretty much every step must be thought out...there’s no time to day dream. Because of this, the time actually goes by really fast. 2-4 hour runs just fly by. You clear your mind of most everything (except maybe for a tune in your head) and focus on the trail. It’s really relaxing as your focus forces you to block out and quiet the busy workings of your mind.

Another cool thing about mountain running is that you can cover long distances. One of Alberta’s best sky trails is the "Skyline" trail in Jasper. It’s 44 km long and hikers do it in multi day trips. That is if you can get the permits for the camp spots-they’re hard to come by. Yet, if you’re running you just figure out the start/finish shuttle and do it in 1 long day. It’s got 25 km of ridge top running. It’s one of my "to do’s" for this soon to end summer.

Next on my list though is the Robson marathon next weekend. A 49km race with Canada’s highest peak in the background. We only gain 500-700 meters, so we’re not really climbing the mountain. Most of my local runs typically gain 1000m.

A new favorite is what I did last Saturday. A 4 hour run up Wind Ridge. You can clearly see this smaller mountain from most of Canmore. It’s a 1 hour run to the trailhead, then another :45 min grunt to the top, then a wondrous flat ridge run. I love these local adventures that a quick glance up throughout the year bring back good training memories.

Happy trails!


Steve Sellers said...

I didn't mention in my article that sky running has a couple great benefits for skimo racers (the best sky runners are also the best skimo racers- Emilie Forsberg, Killian Jornet-B.). 1) running long distances has changed my body from a power endurance xc/tri body to a more lean runner's body (I'm 10 lbs lighter). Plus all that vertical is perfect skimo training.

Ville Vepsalainen said...

Hi Steve, I'm a follower of your blog and a skimo racer myself from Finland. I am doing my sport and exercise science undergraduate thesis on skimo racing. Would you be interested in answering a few questions considering periodisation and conditioning in ski mountaineering racing? If so, please contact me via e-mail: ville.vepsalainenATedu.ramk.fi