Running in a Winter Wonderland
For most trail runners, the ideal place to live is near the mountain paths they so love to explore. The advantages being numerous, there is still one major issue when you reside in the high country: the weather. As a guy who grew up in Denver, Colorado and now lives near Munich, Germany, I have experienced many a harsh winter and have had 20 years of trying to figure out how best to train in the snow/mud/rain/ice, etc but with little success. Since I’m no pro, it seemed best to ask some of the top trail runners in the world just how they train in the offseason and how they stay fit when the trails are not runnable.
After all, these and many athletes from around the world will need to be in tip-top shape come June for the second running of the annual adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships in Gastein/SalzburgerLand, Austria. They will have to push themselves through the cold and dark days of the next few months in order to be ready for the events of 2019 and most of these world-class runners handle it in a similar fashion – they tough it out.
Several of the top adidas athletes who are a part of the team of runners that will take on other high-level groups and amateur teams from around the world in June, live in the sunny confines of Colorado. Known for its Rocky Mountains and world-class ski resorts such as Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge, the state is perfect for those who love to strap on some long, thin slats to their feet and trek up and down the slopes. Abby Levene is all about ski mountaineering and the benefits it brings to off-season training.
“Few things bring me more joy than clipping skis to my feet and flying through winter wonderland up in the mountains. Ski mountaineering gets you into killer shape without the risk of injury associated with running (i.e. slipping and sliding) over ice and snow. Plus, you get the reward of flying down the mountain after you crush yourself getting up it!”
Abby is a college athlete at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She’s one of the top young runners in the country and is one of the most energetic and likeable athletes you that you will ever meet. Though she and others take advantage of the snow by skiing or even snowshoeing, sometimes they just have to grin and bear it and run through the harsh elements.
Josh Eberly, a veteran American runner and fellow Colorado resident is more about toughing it out even in frigid temperatures or just use a good old fashioned treadmill.
“I don’t ski too much so I bundle up and run outside most days. For my speed sessions or longer threshold sessions, I am usually doing those on our treadmill at a good incline. I also run on the indoor track, lift weights and do a couple core circuits each week to keep the body balanced.”
Cordis Hall, who like Levene and Eberly lives in Colorado (there must be something special about this place), likes to push himself through the difficulties he sees each year.
“I always try to remember that everybody is facing the same challenge of dealing with cold weather and less daylight. I like to lean into it, embrace putting on my gloves and jacket when I head out into the cold, because once I’m out the door it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I also always think about how I want to play in the mountains all summer and in order to get the most out of the summer, I need to work really hard in the winter.”
Cordis, a former swimmer and native to the Mile High State, is one of many competitors from the U.S that will be joining us again in Gastein/SalzburgerLand from June 27th until the 30th for the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships.
For Cordis and others it’s perhaps not the cold that matters but whether or not they have the sunshine to help brighten the mood despite freezing temperatures. At least Josh Eberley seems to think that you need to see that big bright orb in the sky, at least occasionally.
“Here in Colorado our winter usually lasts from December ‘til March, with degrees of -15 Fahrenheit to a balmy 10 degrees Fahrenheit for a high each day. Although it is cold, we have the sun that shines on us 320 days out of the year! I have noticed the sun being out makes a massive difference with attitude.”
Abby Levene also takes advantage of the true “sunshine state” and soaks up the rays.
“I’m fortunate to live in the (almost) perpetually sunny, spandex-saturated mecca of Boulder, Colorado. Sometimes we wake up to a mountain of snow, only for it to all be gone by the afternoon and it’s back to shorts and t-shirt business. So running throughout the winter is not hard.”
Still, not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a place with such mild weather as on the Colorado front-range, so how can we survive a winter that’s not so full of sunshine?
Grin and bear it.
“During winter, you’ve just got to keep your eye on the prize. Every training session is another brick in the wall. When race day comes, you’ll look back on that snowy morning where it was so difficult to get out the door, and recall all of the hard work that got you to where you are,” Abby said.
Her Norwegian pal, Yngvild Kaspersen, a superstar in the sport of trail running, faces some of the harshest weather on earth but manages to come out of the cold seasons in premium shape.
“Living in the arctic, the weather can be challenging. The winter is long, and I use cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering to stay in shape. But mostly I run. The treadmill is a great tool, and I use the treadmill a lot during the winter months. For Christmas last year I actually ran every day on the treadmill for a whole week, including a 27k-long run early on Christmas morning,” she said. “I know that I’m crazy,” she added with a smile.
Whether you’re from Colorado, Austria, the arctic circle or any other areas with winter weather, you have no-doubt had to deal with the same obstacles as the adidas pros. They find ways to push through the difficult times and always have their bodily wealthfare first and foremost on their minds and I am sure that most of those reading this are also believers in the idea of mind over matter.
From June 27th through the 30th in Gastein/SalzburgerLand, Austria, these athletes will also face the same trials and challenges that amateur runners from all over the world will deal with. As they set a good example and prepare seven months in advance for the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships with any means at their disposal, hopefully it’s a reminder that all we have to do is step out that door or step onto the treadmill and the rest gets easier – at least according to Cordis Hall.
Abby, Josh, Yngvild, Cordis and many others are all about staying active no matter what the circumstances. They’re also all in for the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships in June. Are you?
Register today for the team relay trail running event in the gorgeous region of SalzburgerLand and be ready to compete alongside some of the best athletes in the world in a truly unique race.
(Photos are from adidas TERREX athletes: Marcel Hoeche, Benni Bublak and Christoph Lauterbach)
~ Kevin Gillikin