After living here for nearly two years, I have constantly admired the mountains surrounding our town. We are incredibly lucky in Helena to have access to more than 70 miles of single track, mountain trails for running adventures.

Earlier this month, I moved from the North Valley to the South edge of town. Now the trails begin in my backyard. Literally, Mt Ascension begins at the end of my block. Time to up my trail running game!

running mount ascension helena montana

This week we’ve been buried under a blanket of smoke from fires west of the Divide. But on Friday afternoon, a cold front came through, knocked morning lows in the 40s and blew the smoke out of the Valley. So, I took the opportunity to climb up the second peak summiting out of downtown Helena and made the trek up Mt Ascension (having already climbed Mt Helena), which peaks at 5,300 ft elevation. These incredible views are less than 2 miles from my house.

And in true Millennial fashion of 2015, I periscoped from atop the mountain.

7.5 miles is much easier than it used to be. And as exhausting as the climb up may be, the run down reminds me why I LOVE trail running! The rush of keeping your balance when dodging roots, rocks, uneven footing of the trails. Feeling your core engaged to maintain control of your speed. The excitement of slowing for switchbacks. Once in a while, I catch myself holding my breath, having to remind myself to keep even, steady breaths. SO much fun.

Pure isolation.


running trails mount ascension helena montanaThen, once I make it back down the mountain, there’s a sincere, genuine feeling of accomplishment to look back up the mountain and say — “I just did that! I was up there.”

Sundays are my long day, or as I refer to it as #SundayRunday, #SundayFunday! 11 miles was on the training plan. Unfortunately, the smoke began rolling in once again. I had planned on doing all of my work on the trails, but with the haze, I took the option of only doing half trail work and sticking to the lower routes.

Still worth the views! I swear, once you’re up in the trees, it’s easy to understand how people want to jump off the grid. Trails for days.

I ended up making it a 12-mile run. Chalk it up to my inability to do the math on the run. It takes a little adjustment when you’re running new routes to commit the distances of segments to memory.

I was doing just great, averaging 9:30 per mile for the run until mile 9.5. A family was grilling steaks in their front yard. Evil, just evil I tell ya! From that point on I was starving and food was all I could think of. Rude. Least they could have done is offer some up to share. I might have to lobby for an ordinance to ban barbeque smoke in town [sarcasm, apologies to Austin’s Franklin fans].


running smoke trails mount ascension helena montanaThis weekend marks 34.74 miles for the week and 99.62 (where the heck did that .38 go?!?) miles for the month. Still a week to go and I’ll be blowing my monthly PR (105 miles, March 2015) off the trail!

Not a bad way to start the birthday week! Oh, I’ll get to spend it up at Big Sky Resort, sadly a week before the Rut, for a golf tournament of all things.

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