Fall color in GTNP

Every fall, like so many other runners, I try really hard to take some time off.  For many people this comes very easily to them, but I actually have to work pretty hard at it.  Finishing the running season with a strong 100 miler makes one feel bulletproof, unstoppable, and ready for more.  I really have to force myself to slow down a bit and I don’t look forward to it.  But in reality, after 9-10 months of hard training, adventuring, and competing, its time to chill out for a little bit and gain some perspective.  For me, relaxation often comes in the form of an axe and chainsaw.

Getting some wood on Limestone Mountain
I spend a lot of weekends in the fall dodging snow storms and building up a wood pile to survive the winter, or the apocalypse — which ever comes first.  Most people get their wood a little earlier in the year, but I was too busy running.  As it turns out, carrying 100 pound logs in the snow is pretty hard work, but I appreciate staying active in the mountains, even if it isn’t running.

Kids are heavy

Most importantly I try to spend a lot of time with my family.  Hiking as a group works best for us, and as long as the weather allows, we get out as much as we can in the fall.  We had some great family hikes, but I also had the opportunity just to hike and camp with my 2 year old since Jenny made a habit of going to conferences this fall.

Hiking up high in the Tetons on a oddly warm October day

I took a solid two weeks completely off from running after the Bear 100.  I tried to ease into things, but apparently I wasn’t ready yet.  One fine fall Saturday in October I cut trees for a couple of hours to get good and tired, and then I went running up and down a sloppy and slippery Roaring Fork Pass that was slick from the previous weeks snow.  I was tired and struggled to focus on the super technical downhill part of the trail.  When the rocks mellowed out I let my guard down; I lazily over extended my stride a little bit, my foot started to slide in the mud, and I sprained the hell out of my ankle. This was kind of shocking to me because I had never sprained my ankle before — ever.  I limped my way back to the truck, and it has been a long rehab process ever since.  Throughout November and December I’ve been trying to get healthy and slowly build a strong fitness base so I can be ready for whatever 2015 brings.

About 20 minutes later my right ankle was kaput

An important part of my off season is strength and agility training.  A good friend of mine, fitness coach, and all-around badass, Lee Brown, wrote me a strength plan last year that worked out really well.  So, I’m implementing it again this winter to balance out all of the muscles after a lot of mountain running in 2014.  The plan involves a lot of work on the posterior chain through dead lifts, front squats, pistol squats, and other fun heavy lifts.  The goal is to get strong and durable for another running season without bulking up or losing flexibility.  I have a hard time getting back into weight lifting in the fall, but there is something fun about the challenge of lifting a ton of weight at once.
Cooking up our own homemade pizza sauce

I also try to focus on nutrition during the off season.  I certainly pay close attention to nutrition year round, but I’ve been really trying to eat foods that are nutrient dense, anti-inflamatories, and are going to prevent me from gaining too much winter weight.  Elemental Training has a nutrition challenge this fall that I am taking part in; there were a few challenges to choose from, but I decided on trying to eat an extra serving of vegetables at every meal.  So, I’ve had a lot of spinach in my morning smoothie, kale salads at lunch, carrots and celery as a snack, and boat loads of vegetables for dinner.  Its been delicious and fun getting creative in the kitchen.

We bought 144 oz. of fresh blackberries — no joke
As for snow, its been a really mellow fall/winter in Wyoming so far.  Temperatures have been all over the place; since the beginning of October we’ve had temperatures ranging from 65 to -15.  The below zero stuff lasted for a couple of weeks, which made for very cold morning runs.  Snow has been lacking, besides a few windy and frigid blasts of snow that don’t stick around long. I’ve still been able to run on some of the lower elevation mountains, even if it has been in almost hurricane force winds and whiteouts. As soon as we get some more of the cold white stuff I’ll get on my skate ski’s that I got last year; I got on them once this fall but I skied on more tree stumps and rocks than snow.  This years big purchase is a lightweight AT/rando ski set-up for getting way back into the Winds and trying to chase some powder on Togwotee Pass.  I haven’t got to use it yet, but I’m ridiculously excited.

Wind doesn’t show up in pictures, but I was holding on for dear life

Goofing around at The Bus (Photo Credit: Bob Joyes)

Whiskey Mountain near Dubois
So has it really been “The Dreaded Off Season?”  Well, I guess no, not really.  I do like a lot of things about the “On Season” like having a goal to work towards, warm weather, long training runs, competition, and wide open days to explore the mountains.  However, it really is vital to take a break from things, not be so one dimensional, and evaluate where you are at.  Plus, I never would complain about some extra family time.
Christmas card picture?  Check your mail to find out.
A few other pictures from the fall that I think my Mom would like to see:

Getting read to sled

 Playing a game called “Ready, Set, Go!”