August 01, 2018

Julian Carr is one of those rare athletes who excel at his sport—skiing—but still decides to morph his career from skier to skier/mountain runner/race series director/clothing company owner/advocate around climate change. If you ask him about any one of those titles, he’ll explain that he sort of “fell into it.”

Mountain Running

Take his mountain running series, the Cirque Series, for instance. After spending a year mountain running with his dog, Carr wanted to start racing up and down mountains. After a quick search showed that most mountain runs were ultra-distance events with elevation as an afterthought, and he wanted shorter, harder efforts versus all-day grinds. He also wanted to add more of a party atmosphere at the end. “People were finishing and you could see they were dying to have a good time, but there was no reason to hang out after you finished,” he recalls. So, he started the Cirque Series, where races are around 6 miles long, the prize payout for men and women is equal, and the hangout at the end is epic. Unsurprisingly, the series has been a massive success so far, and is in its third season now.

Carr’s own mountain run career was derailed a bit last year as he helped his dog through ACL surgery and the recovery process, but this year he’s back in the mix though he admits that race directing is currently taking a bit more of his time than his training is. However, he’s been running mountains for five years and hiking them even longer, so he’s certainly still a threat in any race.

“I’m just used to hiking up mountain peaks for skiing projects. You get to the top, soak in the view, and ski down,” he says. “It’s a great sense of accomplishment. Five years ago, I was mountain biking in the off-season, and my dog loved riding, but she couldn’t always keep up or do the distance I was riding. I lived by the trailhead to Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City, though, and she and I started hiking that.” - Julian Carr

Julian Carr and SP2 Spirulina

From there, he was hooked, and got “addicted to the clock” trying to beat his friends’ times on the mountain. That winter, he realized that the mountain running paid off hugely in terms of his ski fitness. “Heading into that winter, I was in better shape than I’d ever been. I went into my ski conditioning class in the fall in better condition than I’d ever been in at the end of that class!”

OK, but mountain running is hard, the way Carr does it: it’s almost always going right up, and going right back down. That’s hard on the body, so he supplements his training with plenty of mobility and body weight work, sort of a Pilates mash-up, as he explains it. He also dials in his nutrition, focusing on recovering from hard workouts the right way.

SP2 Spirulina and Carr

“Getting started using SP2’s spirulina has made my recovery a lot faster and better,” he says. “I’ve been able to get out every day and do pretty big hikes, and feel a lot better.” He mixes it into a smoothie with a banana, some BCAAs, chia, carrots, electrolytes and whatever else he’s craving, depending on the day. On big days, he does a second spirulina hit in the evening with a banana, water and some honey.

Cirque Series Mountain Running SP2 Spirulina


“I aim for a pretty balanced intake,” he says, adding that he doesn’t always opt for the only-organic/fair-trade options, but he does avoid processed foods when possible. (That said, after a big day in the mountains, he loves coming back down to a beer and a burger.)

Carr’s Best Tips for Mountain Running:

  1. On downhills, try to avoid landing hard on your heels. Aim for around 60 percent of your weight landing on your forefoot to activate all of your muscles, take some of the ‘smash’ out of your joints, and improve your agility. Don’t run on your tiptoes—still hit your whole foot on the ground! 

  2. Roll with gravity as much as you can—letting yourself sort of “fall down” the hill is the fastest, and the scariest, way to make it down the mountain. “Let gravity do its thing when you can,” he advises.

  3. For the uphills, look for little landmarks and aim for them—it’s a lot easier than stressing about the summit early on.

  4. Shift between the speed hike and the “grandpa jog” on the way up: Hiking fast is sometimes speedier than an actual run, and when the terrain starts to get a bit less steep, that’s where Carr shifts to the “grandpa jog,” where you’re shuffling along in a slow but efficient run.

  5. Focus on heart rate: try to not skyrocket your heart rate on any one section, aim to stay steady and out of the red zone when possible. A few short bursts is fine, but your heart rate shouldn’t be going wild—you won’t recover as well that way.

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