If you’re a regular on our blog, you are well aware that a runner vs. nature post means that we will be offering helpful tips about how runners can best interact with some form of wildlife or force of nature. Sometimes our interactions are precarious and other times they are awe-inspiring, but they are always memorable because we as humans are intrinsically partnered with the world around us.
For this particular post, I’ve decided to draw inspiration and advice about Mother Nature from Mother Nature. My source? The mountain goat. This valiant, stately mammal can accomplish things on the face of a mountain that humans could only dream of doing. Scaling up, and descending down, steep and rocky terrain, surviving with ease at staggering altitudes, and leaping up to 12 feet in a single bound are abilities that would make our lives much simpler (and way more fun!). But alas, we are not the mountain goat. Our response? We humbly acknowledge our limitations, and press on into the challenges it presents. The mountain goat has adapted and thrived in its natural habitat. While humans have also learned how to survive the dangers of mountain running, it has been a long road of discovery. Follow us as we take a look at the majestic mountain and (hopefully) find something useful to take with you on your next run.
Run Training, Running Sport
Photo: A Mama's Corner of the World
As many of you hopefully know by now, our culture seems to be infatuated with obscenely large portions of food. Supersized meals, lattes the size of a human head, and the looming tryptophan coma that most Americans will experience later this month are all evidence of this pervasive lifestyle. Over-indulgence in food is a topic that has received a large amount of media attention in the last decade, most of which is fairly depressing.
But take heart. There is a silver lining, which happens to be the fact that we are not the worst offenders. That’s right, humans take second place in this twisted battle, to none other than our tiny nemeses – TICKS!
Just like your household kitty, right? Photo: Larry Grayam
You’re running (duh!). And that automatically puts you on a mountain lion’s hit list. Not because these big cats love human snacks, or that they are innately vicious creatures, but rather because they have a mad instinct to chase. Most road runners won’t come across this natural hazard (and I say most because sometimes wild animals end up wandering outside of their natural habitat), but trail runners should be keenly aware that the danger is real. Let’s break it down.
The bad news: You are the intruder. You are running in their territory. This makes you automatically attractive to these predators because they don’t differentiate you from an animal that they normally stalk as prey. And since you’re running, you have already started off on a bad foot.
The good news: Mountain lions tend to go out of their way to avoid human contact. They won’t seek you out for the thrill of attacking a human, they would much rather find a deer for dinner.
Breathless Mountain Running: The Alps' Finest. (image: EveryTrail)
From our home on the pacific, the closest many of us Californians come to a true adventure in the Alps is a ride down the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland. With countless races in the United States worthy of any runner-traveler’s bucket list, it is easy for Americans to forget about the rest of the world. However, the Sierre–Zinal trail race through the Alpine wonderland of South-Eastern Switzerland is worthy of our attention for its beauty alone. The course features views of some of the most renowned peaks of the alps: Zinalrothorn, Obel Gabelhorn, Dent Blanche, and of course the Matterhorn in real life. Doug Meyer of Run the Alps does a better job describing this magical race than I do in his blog here.
The race, which celebrated its 40th birthday last year, is hardly content to let its panoramic scenery be the only draw and many of the world’s best trail runners are invited each year to take part in the festivities. The course is crafted in a way that no particular skillset is favored and runners from a variety of backgrounds can find their way to the podium. At 31 kilometers, the race is hardly a sprint but it is short enough that the field is not exclusively seasoned ultra runners. There is some highly technical terrain that requires dexterity and the ability to adapt to a quad-burning crawl, but there are also much smoother sections of dirt road that reward runners that can handle a swifter pace.
Joe Grey had an awesome race on a course that suits his many talents. (image: Skyrunning.com)
Stevie and Kilian are midway through very successful seasons. (image: Skyrunning.com)
Where there are advanced trails and elite competition, the venerable Kilian Jornet always seems to be involved. This race was no different as Killian rose to the top for the seventh time this year in a world-class trail race. This time, American Jo Grey from Washington appeared to give him a challenge until the final 4km of the race but Kilian was able to open up over a minute on Joe before they eventually crossed the finish.
Americans did well on the podium, in addition to Grey’s silver, as Stevie Kremer of Colorado took the women’s race after a pair of second place finishes prior to Sunday. With her second win on the Skyrunning circuit she now has the lead with 3 of 5 races complete.
The Skyracing series continues in the Swiss Alps with the Matterhorn Ultraks on August 23rd and concludes with the Limone extreme race in the beautiful Lombardia region of Italy.
Tera enjoying the beauty of Robinson Flat
Racing is inherently unpredictable. It’s part of its charm. We can spend an eternity preparing for race day but any number of unforeseen factors can derail even the best-laid plans. Mastering the unpredictable is addictive and it is why we runners search ceaselessly for new challenges. It may be new personal records, more competitive fields, and longer distances over the most taxing courses.
This past weekend, Tera Dube, our retail manager and fountain of positive energy that helps this company thrive, reached the epitome of ultra running when she toed the line at the Western States Endurance run. As an automatic qualifier by virtue of a fourth place finish at the Sean O’Brien 50 miler, she had her eyes on a top 10 finish and a sub 24- hour belt buckle. Her training lined up perfectly and she was confidently prepared for the journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn.