A love for camping & training with the seasons
I am a type A personality. A go-getter, always have a race on the calendar, control my schedule, show up 5 minutes early kind of girl. So, when I had a bad fall on the trails two years ago that led to a surprising string of chronic injuries, I was on the struggle bus. I had zero control over the healing time, why my body kept falling apart, or my race schedule. I was forced to simplify, slow down, and find new ways and new reasons to train.
It seemed the easiest and fastest way to simplify my life was to rekindle my love of camping. Camping helps me dive headfirst into simplicity. A break from routine that I admittedly have anxiety about weeks leading up to the trip. No cell phone reception. A more primitive and natural way of going through a day. Making fires, cooking outdoors, walking 300 steps to use the toilet vs. 20 (yes, I counted), hiking, reading, simply watching the trees sway in the wind, and observing the curious deer. It made me realize that I want to run trail ultramarathons, but I need to spend time outdoors. Ultras will not be for my whole lifetime, but a commitment to be an outdoorswoman is. Hiking, camping, gardening – the outdoors is there.
With my body not cooperating with my usual way of planning a calendar year focused around ultramarathons, I thought about how to structure my year based on the seasons. I was inspired by the Moonvalley Diaries where professional Swedish trail runners Emelie Forsberg, Mimmi Kotka, and Ida Nilsson beautifully highlight each month of the year and how it relates to their diet, training, and racing. If professional runners can follow a natural rhythm to the year maybe there was hope for this middle-aged Type A girl. After experimenting with this for a full year, here is how my training changed with the seasons starting with my favorite season of Fall / Autumn. For climate context, I live in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
Fall: A return to trails! The mugginess of summer is over, and the air is finally fresh and crisp again. I maximized outdoor time on trails and increased my running volume. I also did more walking, hiking, and camping. Fall is a big race season locally, and I chose a few shorter trail races to participate in.
Winter: A season of darkness. It’s not the cold that bothers me about winter, it is the darkness. By the time I finish work on weekdays, it is already dark. This definitely called for a change in routine. I mainly ran trails on the weekends. When the work day allowed, I squeezed a road run in before dark. I also spent more time at the gym doing indoor sessions of swimming, strength training, and cross training (yoga, indoor bike trainer, stair stepper, rower, treadmill).
Spring: The light returns! Time to hit the trails again after work. I also started riding my bike outdoors again both on the road and trails. Race season picked up again, and I chose some running and multisport races to participate in.
Summer: Heat, humidity, and snakes oh my! This season was the lowest running volume for me which surprised me. When I have a fall ultra on the schedule, I run a lot through the summer months. This exercise showed me that I prefer to train for spring ultras vs. fall ultras as I don’t really like running a lot in hot and humid weather. I did nearly all my running on road, did quite a bit of mountain biking, and loved outdoor swimming. The outdoor swimming was by far the highlight of the season for me.
I think I will get back to running ultramarathons. But if I don’t, this year long experiment taught me so much about enjoying a process. Daily enjoyment in what you do is far more important than outcomes or results. Do you love the simple life too? How does your training change throughout the seasons?