Trail And Ultra Running MENU

Ironman vs. Ultramarathon: Endurance Athletes Who Do Both

Trail and Ultra Welcomes Duncan Callahan

March 4, 2014 Comments (2) Trails, Training

When the snow kills your skin

By Andreas

When I started to work as a bike-courier, I would ride my trusty bicycle in short trousers or calf-free-baggy-pants. Day in and day out my shins were naked. I did not care about the weather. I had a good job, enjoyed the action in the streets, met nice folks and earned my money being active.  No matter if  was winter or rain, I still wore my short trousers.

When I began running, I kept my habit, always running in short pants. Through the years I became a rather good trail runner, taking part at the big alpine events like Transalpine-Run or 4-Trails, ultra- and cross-running events. The danger to suffer gout or rheumatism in the future never concerned me. Maybe I will regret that in a few years, but these days, I feel cool and invincible.

Well, I felt invincible. Until last week!

Running up the hills, and then going downhill afterwards at the highest speed is good for conditioning, strength, health and coordination. You enjoy the sun, the air and the sound of the nature. Alpine trail running is a tough and great sport. Doing it when the mountains are covered with snow is even tougher. More conditioning, more strength and more coordination is needed.

Going out for a winter trip I met my friends Rainer and Flo. Our regular tour to Mount Hochfelln is about 10 K and 1.000 meters in elevation each way.

Normally this route is a pretty nice tour – 70 minutes up and 50 minutes back home without snow. Doing the same trip in the winter is a completely different challenge. After a few days of snowfall, we discovered the first few kilometers on a forest motor road (about 8% in elevation) were easy to run. The snow was already flattened from walkers and hikers that had used this trails earlier that morning.

logo uphill

After 4 kilometers, we left the forest and arrived at an open meadow with deep and untouched snow. Deep snow. The surface was covered with very thin ice, the snow underneath was fresh and soft.

My legs were naked as always.

Fighting a hill through deep snow is a good training for your mental strength. Your legs sink down to thighs or hip – uphill you have to crawl like an animal and at the steep parts you do two meters uphill, before sliding down another meter.

logo crawling uphill

We were motivated, the sun was shining and the summit seemed to be close.

As we moved along, I did not recognize that each step I took hurt my naked legs. The snow was cold, the nerves were deadened and I did not have any feeling at all. Climbing up became a harder challenge than expected (see at the pictures), but finally we did it. Meeting friends at the top, they immediately asked me what had happened to my legs. Blood running down and the skin looked like scar-face. Dozens of scratches all over. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized anything wrong on my body.

logo open calfs

Now, standing in the sun, my legs became warm and began to hurt.

With each step I took in the untouched snow, my feet and legs broke through the thin ice where the uncovered skin got more micro-cuts. Iced snow, sharp as a knife…a new experience for me.

You may imagine, what pain I went through on the following the downhill-run. The skin of my legs was hurt already, and each step ripping off another micro piece of  the legs. I tried to slide down the steep parts on my bottom. I tried to walk backwards, I tried to sit down and to wait there until summer comes back……Small cuts but big pain.

logo downhill

For Rainer and Flo it was a fun downhill run – they jumped through the snow, yelling and shouting like Indians on an attack-ride. For me it was hell on earth. I was also yelling and crying….but in another way.

Without question, the day after I went and purchased some long tights.

 logo on the top

3.700 signs


2 Responses to When the snow kills your skin

  1. Jeremy says:

    Once I forced a line through deep snow toward a summit. I had never been there and was unsure where the trail went under the snow. I just kept pushing in waist deep snow, higher and higher. My shorts did nothing to protect me. After a few hours, still short of the summit, I was forced to descend to beat darkness. I dropped straight down, not following the trail, as it was a shorter route to the dirt trail. When I got to the trail, my legs were completely skinned from my patellas down to the ankles. Huge, open wounds everywhere. I had 10 miles to run to get back to the truck. It hurt, sure, but the real pain was still a few days away. As the scabs began to form, they made an armor-like coating over my entire lower legs. The inflammation from the damage meant edema and heat in the area. When I stood or tried to move, the blood filled the muscles and the muscles flexed to allow the movement. This tiny expansion of the calves caused the scabs to tear apart with each step. This is probably the most pain I have ever felt. I equate it to boiling in oil, or a lava bath.

    Fun. Thanks for stirring up these memories. I miss the times when running was pure spirit and no concern for anything but summits and survival.

  2. Alex says:

    Those adventures makes you feel alive and to live means to feel. As long as pain goes away it’s a good adventure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *