After being continually denied permission to ski in Colombia, Brody Leven decides to take some of the country’s most popular mountain bike trails by foot.
Brody is a professional skier, author and all-around badass residing in Salt Lake City. His work has been featured by Red Bull, Teton Gravity Research, Freeskier Magazine, Powder Magazine,…the list goes on. Do your best to keep up with him on Instagram and Twitter: @brodyleven
It’s the middle of the night and I’m trail running in the Colombian countryside. A local guy is hot on my heels. He has brought me here, though I have absolutely no idea where I am. It’s pouring rain, we’ve crossed multiple rivers, the trail is consistently ankle-deep mud, and I haven’t been able to lose him. He’s fast. My headlamp’s batteries are almost dead, so I’ve turned it off. I’m using the light of his trailing headlamp without his consent. We sneak through Colombian farms called fincas and the barn dogs bark as we try to silently open the barbed-wire gates. They are unleashed, uncollared, presumably unvaccinated, and loudly scamper alongside our bare ankles. He recommends crossing some fincas instead of others; he knows which dogs are meanest.
Alfonso isn’t a random Colombian, but a friend I met at a climbing gym that he runs in Manizales. He’s gracious to take me on one of his favorite runs, and I’ve brought him a specific pair of Salomon running shoes that he was unable to find in Colombia, but dearly wanted. Another puddle stretches the width of the trail, and his right foot lands directly in the middle of it with a splash deeper than I expected. It’s his first run in a pair of shoes that mean so much to him, but in Spanish he simply says, “That’s what they’re for.” He’s training for a prestigious 100-kilometer race in his home country.
I’m actually using new shoes, too: the new Salomon S-Lab XT 6. I only travel with one pair of running shoes, so when I decided to bring them, I questioned if their intense sole pattern would be overkill for whatever I’d be running in Colombia. As I nearly come to a halt in sticky mud on a section of jungle-entombed singletrack, I know that I’ve made the right decision. At no point do the lugs pack with mud, even given the variable trail surfaces, tacky and soft. I wish they also warded off whatever creatures lay beneath the thick blanket of jungle.
I am a staunch skeptic of waterproof clothing—such as the super light rain shell that I’m wearing—because I seem to be cursed. Nothing ever keeps me dry consistently. But this is doing just that. Ever the disbeliever, I decide it’s largely due to the comfortable temperature: I’m able to keep my Salomon Minim jacket on, fully zipped, with the hood (and its genius, inventive, elastic headband) up, and not overheat. But we stop to discuss route options for the first time after 5.1 miles and I notice that my torso is dry. My back isn’t sweating in the rain jacket, per my norm, and my arms aren’t soaked, also per my norm. This is most notable around the wrists, where I always get wet. Whenever I use a rain jacket, I think I’m not doing it right. I feel like there is a secret that I don’t know, because they never work for me. But this one is working. And I can’t believe I’m running this comfortably. We decide to head right, up a steep hill, to the highest point on the ridgeline. As our rest trot turns once again into a jog, he asks how far we’ve gone, as his watch has already died. “Ahh, Suunto,” Alfonso says with a thick Colombian accent. “Muy bueno.” I try to convert it to kilometers. Nine?
I don’t look at my Suunto Ambit 2 again until we’re nearly done with the loop. The temperatures are ideal, Alfonso’s headlamp is bright, and he clearly knows where we are going. I don’t need to know my pace or elapsed time because, although this is a regular run for him, it’s as good as an adventure run for me. I’m running in the middle of the night in Colombia, so who cares? I have eight ounces of water in a Salomon Soft Flask in one hand. With as much motivation as it took to put my running clothes on after eating a delicious dinner of greasy Colombian food, and the additional motivation needed to get out of the car after it had started pouring cold rain on the way to the trailhead, I couldn’t be happier I mustered it.
Only two miles before we end, I pull out the energy chews that I brought because I knew they’d be a treat for him. The main energy food that athletes use on the trails in Colombia is an assortment of gels. And if Alfonso is anything like me, he can barely stomach those things. He, too, enjoys the candy-like chews as we run side-by-side. After showing me a trail that I never would have found on my own, it’s quite literally the least I can do to show my appreciation.
We approach his car, parked under a streetlight in Lucitania. My Suunto reads over 12 miles, and I’m pleasantly surprised. For the last 10 miles, I’ve been asking him what we’re going to do—we are so dirty, and his car is so clean. A mile ago, on the final dirt road, we crossed a creek that washed our shoes really well. Now he pulls out seat protectors designed for dogs, and it’s suddenly as if we hadn’t just run through a muddy jungle for two hours. After immersing ourselves entirely in the rainforest, its thorns and leaves and puddles and bugs becoming part of our being, it’s the clean upholstery and vacuumed floor mats from which we choose to buffer ourselves. I think Alfonso and I have a lot in common.
Brody’s Colombia night running gear list:
- Salomon Trail Runner Tee
- Salomon XA Minim 2.5 Jacket
- Salomon Trail Shorts
- Salomon Trail Socks
- Salomon S-Lab Racing Shoes
- Salomon Soft Flask 16-oz
- Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab Set
- Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp
- Discrete Collatz Snapback hat
- Suunto Ambit 2 GPS Watch
Salomon Apogee Short Sleeve Tee Shirt – Men’s
Salomon Wayfarer Pants – Men’s
Salomon Agile Belt
Salomon S-Lab XT 6 Racing Shoes – Men’s