How I crushed my off-season

I want a long off-season. I need a long off-season. I will execute a long off-season.

This was my mentality three months ago after The North Face 50-mile Championships in California. And guess what? I executed a long off-season. The point of this recap of my past three months is to let you know that it can be very fruitful to be seemingly unfruitful.

I started my off-season with hardly walking. My legs were wrecked that badly after TNF50. Not in an acute injury sense, but in a race-above-your-fitness type of sense. My muscles were wrung dry of any flexibility. My joints were pounded into oblivion (in reality, oblivion lasted two weeks). Most notably, my mind was exhausted. I’d been racing since February, when I got second at the Black Canyon 100k, in order to run Western States last year. Side note: I’m not even trying to qualify for States this year. I want to race more courses, especially mountain courses. Rest assured, I’ll return to States eventually, just not right now when I have a different appetite.

Just five days after TNF50, I visited my old stomping grounds of Southern Thailand just north of Phuket. With a buddy, we checked in on the youth swim program we started there three years ago. I ran a little, but only towards the end of my trip.

After returning home from Asia, I was running a bit, more or less whenever I felt like it. My coach, David Roche, does such a good job of letting the reigns relax during times where there’s no pressing race goal. Heck, I guess he does this all of the time for me, but still, an off-season is meant to feel like you’re reporting to no one but yourself.

I’ve skied a little this winter, but the pathetic Colorado snowpack has made it a lot less incentivizing to get up at 4am to ski for a few hours around sunrise—as is the typical ‘skimo’ session with my close Boulder friends. Still, I was focused on staying healthy and rested, and won an uphill ski race in Vail two weeks ago. I tasted blood and pushed hard for the first time in months. It was awesome.

To add to my off-season: I’ve been atypically cold. What? I know, I should just put a jacket on. But something about this winter, or maybe my forced off-season has turned me into a hibernating baby when it comes to sub 20F temps. I sometimes have a hard time motivating myself to get out when it’s cold. It’s super lame and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve concluded that it’s okay to take it easy! I’m not trying to race in sub-freezing temps, nor do I care what people think of my less-than-impressive training consistency this past winter. I prioritized feel and motivation over everything, and have some 30-mile weeks to show for it. Whoa, dream big!

Seriously, I’m writing it here in the chance anyone reading this has felt similarly during any season and felt lame for not having the A+ stoke and motivation to crush 24/7 regardless of weather or temperature. Listen up: it’s okay. You can crush. Crush your off-season.

Fruits of Perceived Lethargy

So, after three months of low mileage, a little skiing and biking and climbing, and extra caution with tiny injuries that popped up as I started to incorporate speed work into my running in the last month, I feel the following:

  1. Very rested, both mentally and physically.
  2. So, so, so excited for summer
  3. HEALTHY: with bimonthly bodywork and acupuncture at the first sign of a little something, even babying chronic hamstring problems, loosening a tight back, poking an Achilles or ITB back into submission…you name it. I’m not immune to injuries, quite the opposite. I’ve just come to learn that the only way to stay in the game is to be proactive and be willing to pay $$ for preventative treatment if you’re willing to pay $$ for a race goal. They go hand-in-hand, and I practice this even in my off-season, when the cold and different activities like gym climbing and skiing are likely to aggravate something.

Beginning to Truly Run Again

I raced a half marathon in Pueblo last weekend, almost exactly three months after TNF50 and it went well! I raced smooth, just sneaking in under 1:20, and I’m living to tell the tail after placing second.

My year of trail running is just barely beginning and I am so excited.

Up next on the blog: about life transition to being a Patagonia Ambassador.

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Four days after TNF, I a was a spectator at the Denver Mile High Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. In case you’re wondering: Eric won this year’s TT yet again for the Gallagher family and my Mom beat my Dad yet again.

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The tsunami evacuation tower where I’d do repeats in 2014 when I trained for my first ultra! I lived just a mile away from here and the school I taught at was “across the street” inland.

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Okay, so I have skied a few times before sunrise this winter.

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Most of my runs have been with friends who motivate me to get out. Abby and Martina here.

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Martina, the Italian skier goddess!

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Lots of family time over training time!

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And a 250-mile bike tour with the homies in New Mexico. Joshy, Tony, and Lenny.

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I’ve been climbing in the gym quite a bit. Sending a V2 boulder project is my main 2018 goal. I’m not kidding.

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I’ve run on cement quite a bit. It’s efficient.

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I ran 3×6 mile segments in a 250-mile relay from Bears Ears to Grand Staircase Escalante. This is waking up one morning in the spectacular Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

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Skiing with homegirl and new Patagonia teammate Caroline!

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Running 15 miles with Stack Attack for his Boulder 15 summits. I met him at 4am on the top of the First flatiron and we ran to Sanitas to finish his epic 24-hour effort.

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I’ve talked about running. And about climate change. And about scuba diving. Here I’m doing a Protect Our Winters presentation at my high school, Cherry Creek.

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The longest run I’ve done since TNF50 was a 22 mile slog-fest with the two Abbys.

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After the Vail uphill ski race! Niko, Ginna and Caroline!