Chris Lundstrom half-jokingly calls himself the world's "only Theodore Wirth-trained mountain runner." Lundstrom, who lives in south Minneapolis, recently competed for Team USA in the World Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia.
First, though, he had to look up Slovenia on a map. Turns out the race site was near the border with Austria. The race was 12 kilometers in the Alps. That doesn't sound too bad, until you consider it also involved a 4,400-foot climb.
"It was basically up an Alp," Lundstrom said.
Lundstrom finished in a little more than 1 hour, 4 minutes -- basically a pace of 8:30 per mile, for those of you scoring or gasping at home. It's tiring just thinking about it, right?
Well, consider how he trained: aside from trail running at various local spots -- including Theodore Wirth Park -- Lundstrom mixed in some treadmill workouts as well. He would set the machine for a 12 percent incline to simulate mountain running. Then he would dash over and work on a stair-stepper to "make his quads burn."
You can imagine how strange this looked to the people at his health club trying to knock out a simple 45 minutes on an elliptical machine.
"I'm pouring sweat all over the place, and people are reading their magazines and stuff," Lundstrom said. "You do feel like a crazy guy. I assumed people thought I was an obsessive over-exerciser."
But it paid off. He finished eighth at the national qualifying race in June. Only the top six qualified for the world championships, but one runner ended up getting injured and one dropped out, putting Lundstrom into the mix.
"To represent the USA and get a trip to Europe -- I leaped at the opportunity," Lundstrom said.
He finished sixth out of six USA runners, but he still made a contribution to the silver medal-winning men's open division team by knocking runners from other countries into lower finishes.
The race was held over Labor Day weekend -- about a month before the upcoming Twin Cities Marathon, for which Lundstrom, primarily a road racer in his running career, is gearing up.
But his experience in Slovenia might not be his last time up a mountain.
"I was amazed to see how big this is in Europe," Lundstrom said of mountain racing. "There was a huge mob of fans. At the top, you feel like you're in the Tour de France. ... It was a big learning experience more than anything else. But I would definitely do it again."