I’m in Boulder, Colorado, sitting in a coffee shop looking at blue skies and nearly snow free mountains. It is almost 70 degrees here today. It isn’t April yet but I can feel and see the first signs of spring in the city; the slight hint of spring flowers in the air, cyclists enjoying their post ride coffees on the outdoor patios instead of in the warmth of the cafes, and college girls sunbathing on the CU campus. We are quickly leaving winter behind and ushering in the spring and summer training and racing season.
Normally, this time of year is one of my favorites. Replacing single digit temperatures during morning runs with early morning sunshine and warmth is usually more than a welcome change. But this year is a bit different. I’m leaving winter with a sense of trepidation and worry. This summer will be my second year running ultra distance events, and the year of my first attempt at the 100 mile distance. With the prospect of a more intense racing schedule capped by a race at a distance I’ve never come close to approaching the winter was my time work on the weaknesses I identified last year: building strength and being more disciplined about my diet.
The strength focus arose while running the 2013 San Juan Solstice 50 and realizing that at my size (6’2”, 200lbs), ignoring leg and core strength was going to result in an inability to survive long downhills during races. I’ve added weekly gym sessions with lots of squats, deadlifts, core work and other leg strengthening exercises. I’ve focused on doing intense climbs with intense downhills and added Cross-Fit style workouts into my weekly routines. I’m noticing that I recover faster from runs and feel stronger on the downhills. I’ve also noticed that I’m really bad at squats. And I really don’t like Cross-Fit.
On the nutrition side, I’ve adopted a (mostly) gluten free diet with an emphasis on lighter meals and more protein, with a bit of cheating during dinner. Or, as my fiancee puts it: “you are gluten free all day…and then three beers.” The focus here has been cutting body fat and getting lighter. I’m a strong climber, but hauling 200lbs uphill isn’t the most efficient use of energy. And I want to look good blasting the guns during hot days on the trails. The diet end of things has been more difficult to maintain. Beer is hard to say no to and living in a city (Colorado Springs) in which “gluten-free” is considered something only “hippy, liberal restaurants” offer requires more strategizing on a daily basis. But I try, always conscious of the fact that my pacers during the 100 miler aren’t going to want to carry 200lbs of runner of something happens.
Now that winter is over I’m questioning whether I did enough. Have I set myself up for a stronger race season? Or should have I just used the time exploring Colorado’s breweries? Leaving winter this year is less exciting and more worrisome. I approach the spring with more anxiety than is typical of my daily approach to life. But if all else fails, at least I’ll look good in a bathing suit. Sulking over a gluten free meal. With a beer.