I've been doing a bit of reading and watching race videos of trail races held in Europe, specifically two kinds of races that differ from those (if only slightly) we offer here in the States; Sky Racing and Vertical Challenges (Vertical Kilometer). Both of these types of races interest me greatly. I'll address them seperately.
First, Sky Racing. This has been defined by the International Skyrunning Federation as - The discipline of running in the mountains above 2,000m where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade. Ski poles and hands may be used to aid progress. There are three types of sky races; Sky Marathon (20 - 26.2 miles in length), Sky Race (15 - 20 miles in length), and Sky Raid (multisport team races at elevation). There is also Sky Ultramarathon, which is anything more than 5% greater than a Sky Marathon. We have a few of these in the States that would qualify; Wasatch 100, Hardrock 100, Leadville 100, Wasatch Speedgoat (best possible example) and others. We also have races that are similar in nature to Sky Races, but aren't quite at elevation. One that comes to mind is the Wahsatch Steeplechase.
Often times these races run up and over mountains. The grade is extremely steep for most of the ascent, requiring the use of trekking poles and on occasions, ropes to pull yourself up. The distance of such a race (15 - 20 miles) is ideal in that, for most, runners will likely push their limit on not only climbing but outright running. Often with ultras we just get into a casual rhythm and grind it out to the finish. With Sky Racing you have the challenge of doing difficult mountainous ascents at marathon pace.
I would love to host or co-host races like this here in Utah. For those familiar with the Wasatch Mountains I can easily think of several options that would fall into this category; Bullion Divide, Beatout Hike, Devil's Castle / Sugarloaf / Baldy loop, Alta-Brighton loop, etc. The requirements are easy - make it steep and do it at altitude. I just think it would be cool to do more altitude racing, especially since our local options are in such abundance.
Now, as for the Vertical Kilometer. These races are simple and insane. Find the steepest, toughest trail you can and push racers up it for 1 kilometer. I've watched videos on this and its crazy. The old Widow Maker trails on South Mountain would work perfectly for this. I wonder if Draper City would let me run a race like this. It's individually timed and people leave about 2 minutes apart. And they just go up as fast as they can until they collapse at the top. Sound fun?
What are your thoughts on the whole concept?