Part six of an occasional Q&A series on my blog, where I'll share conversations with athletes in the world of adventure sports. This time I'm speaking with Austrian mountain runner and ski mountaineer, Markus 'Max' Schoiswohl.
Max Schoiswohl is a semi-professional mountain athlete from the spa town of Windischgarsten in the Austrian Alps. When he's not out trail running in the mountains of the Pyhrn-Priel region - or cycling, cross-country skiing and ski-mountaineering - he works for the outdoor company, Salomon.
I first met Max during the 2013 Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon, a race that was blighted by very poor, cold weather. Max was one of only a handful of athletes who made the cut-off for the 42km mountain running leg of the race - over the 914m+ high Beinn Eighe ridge - before he finished in 6th place.
Max and I spoke in July 2016, not long after he visited Scotland again to compete in the 2016 Celtman.
Q1. Hi Max, it was nice to see you competing in Scotland again. I do enjoy the photos you share on social media when you're out training, running in the mountains in Austria. Do you mind sharing what a typical week's training schedule looks like for you?
Max: Thanks... for me it's part of the game to share some cool pics with other people when we are out in the mountains.
It's difficult for me to explain what a typical week's training schedule looks like because it's never the same. I tend to tailor my training sessions to help me meet my goals so it depends a lot of what I'm working towards. If there is enough time, a typical week probably includes 10 training sessions (a mixture of running, cycling, swimming and gym work) but there's no strict schedule that tells me I have to cycle 6 hours on Tuesday (when there may be heavy rain) and do a 4k indoor swim on Thursday (when the sun could be shining). There are some common workouts I follow each week but my overall focus depends on my goals or projects.
For sure, everybody has to train to achieve their goals, but one of the most important things I think is to be flexible and do what you like and have fun with it.
Q2. How did you get started in sport? Do you have a favourite discipline, and why?
Max: From an early age, my daily-life has always been connected to some form of activity. I think my first contact with sports was at the age of three - I recall my uncle taking me on a cross-country skiing-session. Growing up, I enjoyed lot of different sports but over the years I've realised my heart definitely beats for outdoor activities, especially spending time in the mountains. I do really enjoy trail running up the local peaks. Maybe it's the silence or the stunning nature, or the times when I sit on top of a mountain alone or with some good friends. I don't know the exact reason but there's lots of different things that make the mountains around my hometown the most important place on earth for me.
Q3. Do you have a coach or do you prefer to train alone? Who has influenced you the most? And what's the best advice you've been given?
Max: In the past, I've had a great coach who is still a good friend of mine - he was with me at the Celtman in 2013 - but I'm currently working on my own. For me, it's definitely the best decision to plan my training on my own because I have to schedule it around my job and other stuff that it is going on. There is training that only you can do but I think one of the most important parts of a balanced training programme is to work with others, to be out with friends (and for sure to have fun ;-)).
Recently, I've gained the necessary know-how and qualifications to coach other athletes. In regards to who has influenced me the most, there are several people from whom I have learnt a lot and who have influenced me in different ways. The best advice I think they've given me, in the case of training, was to listen to your body, it will tell you what you've got to do!
Q4. You compete in ski-mountaineering races in Europe in the Winter. Can you tell us a bit more about the sport?
Max: The ski-mountaineering season always depends on the first snow but normally races start at the end of October and they last until the middle of May.
I've taken part in races such as the Sella Ronda (one of my favourite races), the Mountain Attack and several others. Ski mountaineering is similar to triathlon races and there are verticals, sprints, long-distance and team races. The rules are also similar to triathlon races. Ski-mountaineering as a sport has grown really fast and more and more people are getting into the scene but I am finding the skimo-racing community is getting more and more like the M-Dot people (I'm not a fan of M-Dot-Races). I do enjoy racing in Winter but what's most important for me is not running up a mountain head-down, it's riding down a sick line or steep ridge through deep powder. And also seeing the positive effect that a Winter's season's training has on my results in the Summer.
Q5. Twice, you've attempted an audacious running route around the mountains of the Pyhrn-Priel but had to stop (the first time due to horrendously bad weather and, most recently, because of an achilles tendon injury). Can you describe what you were going to do? Do you have plans to attempt it again? What other goals do you have?
Max: This is the biggest project I've ever tried, I call it 'my baby'. The idea came to me in Norway in 2013 after I'd competed in the Austria Extreme Triathlon. The route takes in all of the main peaks of the Pyhrn-Prieland region and has an overall distance of 150km and 13,500m of ascent. You can subdivide these 150km in several parts and my training routes follow famous hiking routes of the region. The idea behind this challenge to myself is to connect all these parts and make one loop out of it and do it within 36 hours. I do have a plan to attempt it again but I can't tell you the exact date because it depends a lot on the weather and some other factors.
In the meantime, there are definitely other things coming up. One of them is an extreme triathlon race in the stunning region of Pyhrn-Priel in 2017. I'm also hoping to be back again next year for the Celtman ;-)
Max Schoiswohl is sponsored by;
- Intersport Pachleitner
- Jausenstub'n Singerskogel