I haven't raced an ultra now since October. The break, rest, and rebuilding have gone just about as well as I could've hoped. At this point I'm feeing stronger both mentally and physically than I did at any point last year. My commitment to improving my uphill ability is beginning to pay off, as measured with my Rainman-esque stair workout. I shuffled over to the stairs late in the day yesterday with little enthusiasm, anticipating I may just turn around at the base of them and jog back home for a 6 mile easy run. Once I got there I used my common method of convincing myself to push on by asking myself, "What else would you be doing right now?" The answer is typically, "sitting in front of my macbookpro, wasting time."
So, I hit the steps with intent and ran the first two reps of 400 at a good pace. At about the 6th/7th rep I realized I could break my PR for 10 reps, so I hunkered down the focus and pushed myself until I had a constant stream of stars with that narrow black tunnel, dizzy vision you get just before passing out. It was all fun and games until the last descent of the steps in the dark when I nearly ate it in grand fashion. I crushed my PR by 4 minutes and jogged my 3 mile route home feeling like I've finally broken through to a new level. I'd love to be in Boulder right now (often, actually, for many reasons) to give my PR on Mt Sanitas a shot. This is going to be a special year of racing, I think.
Inside Trail Racing is humming along at a good frequency. Very kind people and groups are coming out of the woodwork to show support and align themselves with us. We feel very fortunate. Our online store is open. Our race calendar is solid, diverse, and exciting. People are registering for our events at an increasing frequency, daily. Things are good and our commitment is unwavering.
Every year, typically in March but a bit earlier this year, I get the strong urge to train/race bikes. In college I was known for coming out of my slumbering hibernation of winter in Michigan and start jamming with 300-400 mile weeks on the bike to jump start my season of racing. All the guys I trained with would train all winter (hard), whereas I'd usually just make the "pancake" Sunday ride; a ride on Sunday mornings of 50 miles along farm roads to a small restaurant in another town, consume a stack of pancakes while the ice and snow melted off our heavy gear, then ride back to the university. In memory, these rides are in blizzards with biting gusts of wind. I was notorious for sitting in the draft of teammates for 99% of our rides until the final county line sprint, so I enjoyed less of the harsh elements that accompanied our winter outings. Anyway, that spring ritual of looking over the upcoming season's calendar, truing the wheels, reading the the worn cycling magazines, trimming the winter weight, and hoping for big results hasn't faded, at all. The urge to train and race is still here, as well as the urge to re-connect with my training friends from those days. Some are still dominating cyclists, some haven't touched their hand built steeds in years. In my mind, they're all still great athletes, like Francois P, Mike Ventola, and Fred A. who inspired me each spring, and still do, to get out there and turn the pedals.