Running in the Mountains
I was packed for two outings on a recent Sat night: one for obscure summer skiing in the Spanish Peaks and the other for a long trail run in the Gallatin Mountains. Both are definitely fun, self-indulgent activities, but I have been quite into mountain running this year and it isn’t yet winter. Inspired by those around me – both locally and on the interwebs, I have gained confidence this year to go farther on my trail runs and mountain scrambles. So I scrapped the notion of skiing and decided to run. I managed to get in over 20 miles and a few thousand of vert – my longest self-supported run of the year. All with just a simple, single 20 oz bottle waist belt.
Gear has helped in this running endeavor, as it is often preferential to carry a few extra things when traveling relatively long distances. Not all of us are on the elite level of athletes such as Kilian Jornet, but we can be motivated by their efficiency of movement. And we most likely will need to carry a bit more. I, for one, am not going up the Matterhorn in shorts and a t-shirt. Let alone in under three hours! It does though, open up the conversation to the fact that it can be done – which is incredibly inspirational. As are the so many others and their accomplishments. Sung and unsung. Here’s a heartfelt thank you to all those that have been a positive influence along the way!
Building from those around me, and from the obvious training needed to run marathon or ultra-trail distances, I’ve learned and refined upon my own techniques so that I can more confidently now attempt such distances. There are many other complicating aspects besides gear that inevitably play a role in tackling longer trail runs, but I’ll try to focus on just a few tangible items that have worked for me. This summer I have used twice as many pieces of gear as overviewed here, with over 50,000 feet of vertical and over 300 miles of training. So here’s my two pence on some trail-running gear that has worked for me this year, with the obvious emphasis of carrying as little as possible while maintaining a margin of safety.
So far the standout winner has been…Ultimate Direction! I have even found that I can use their kicker valve bottles without any complaint – which I hear is not necessarily the norm. But they work for me, along with a few other numbers in their product line. My current standouts are pictured below, from top to bottom: Access Airflow(modified with criss-cross bungee), Access, an accessory belt pocket, and the absolutely impressive, AK Race Vest.
Another notable, and honorable mention goes out to the Sawyer Personal Water Bottle Filter, which I’ve slightly modified to fit in a 20 oz bike bottle. This little gem of a filter has allowed me to run over 20 miles while carrying just the one water bottle, so long as there are a few water sources along the way. There are a few local trails here near Bozeman that have available water for many miles but the water needs filtering. This is where the Sawyer filter comes to the rescue. And now that the Mini has arrived, this filter system just gets even better.
One final piece of gear that has often come on longer, and higher mountain runs with me has been the oh so venerable windshirt. I have two favorites for running this year – the Montane Slipstream GL Jacket and the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Anorak. Both of these are bare bones pieces with no pockets and no hood. For hill running, this is perfect! They weigh next to nothing and provide just enough coverage when the weather turns, especially when up high. The Montane specs at 70g/2.5oz for a Mens Large and the MH specs at 53g/1.9oz for a Mens Medium. While I can no longer attest to the Montane’s weight (I lost it on a long run), I can say my medium MH Anorak weighs only 48g on my kitchen scale. It stuffs into its own little integrated, miniscule stuff sack and also has a 3/4 deep chest zip to aid in easy ingress/egress. Not much more to speak of, and for that I am very happy. It a lesson in simplicity that I praise Mountain Hardwear for.
That about wraps it up for what has been keeping me busy lately. The snow was falling up high on my run today, and the seasons are definitely in full swing. I wish everyone a great autumn and hope that you are getting after it!