I think it's important at the end of a long season every year to have a little downtime and a little time to rest, recover and reset. Even though it can be hard sometimes to convince myself to stop training, I aim to take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks off depending on how heavy of a training load I had taken on that year. This gives not just my body a break, but my mind as well. A planned break can prevent overtraining and keep you from finding yourself in that eventual burnout slump.
In addition, I think it can be hard to expect your body to always be building and improving. Sometimes the best thing for your body is a good, solid break and I find taking some time at the end of each season can sometimes be just the trick to taking that next step forward. Sure, you're going to take a few steps back in overall fitness depending on how long your break is, but that break is often what will catapult you to that next level for the coming season.
In years past I have always been desperate for an end-of-season break, but this year I think I managed my training schedule a little better by reducing overall quantity and focusing on more quality training as well as placing an emphasis on proper rest, recovery and good stress management. Because of this I wasn’t quite feeling the need for a break just yet and felt I still had one more race in me this season. I planned on trying to fit one more half ironman in following IM 70.3 Santa Cruz, but as the weather begins to turn in North America it leaves very few race options and most were not all that appealing as potential places to travel to. In addition to this, after returning back to Flagstaff from some time home visiting my family in Reno, and seeing the beautiful Fall weather and the turning leaves it was just too tempting to have some outdoor playtime. I decided it was time to pull the plug for the season and take some time to truly enjoy the outdoors. This meant a lot of hiking and mountain biking in Flagstaff, easy coffee-shop rides and no set training schedule. For two weeks I did not allow myself to run (as running can be the hardest thing on the body) and my only bike rides were on trails on my mountain bike. The time trial bike got tucked nicely into a corner of the house. Swims were a maximum of 1,000 yards just once to twice per week and only to just keep my body loose and moving.
Every year, we do a long ride (about 50 miles round trip) from home up to the inner basin of the San Francisco peaks to see the turning Aspens. We were a little late this time and didn’t quite get the vibrant colors we have seen in years past as most of the leaves had already fallen, but it was still well worth the trip.
After some time spent enjoying Flagstaff, we were itching to hit the road again. Because my training and racing schedule can be fairly demanding most of the year, it doesn’t always allow us to get out to see some of the amazing sites we have right in our backyard. Fall is always a great time to take a break because the weather has yet to get really cold in the Southwest and it is a perfect time to visit some of the National Parks as the crazy summer crowds have somewhat subsided. We decided to head north to explore some of the many amazing parks Southern Utah has to offer. First stop... Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce was absolutely amazing and did not disappoint. I think it is definitely one of my favorite parks thus far. The hoodoos were incredibly unique and with perfect weather we had some amazing hikes. It was truly the reset I was needing and a good reminder of how amazing mother nature can be all on her very own with absolutely no human intervention or disturbance. I realize more and more how lucky we are to have so many protected areas through our National Parks services. (Something to think about when electing politicians. Can you imagine such spectacular areas not being protected?? It’s so important to protect nature and just let beauty be beauty… We don’t have to drill, dig or build on every square inch of land. There is a reason you find more foreigners in these parks than actual Americans… these people travel thousands of miles to see the beauty that we have protected in this country. You don’t find these amazing wonders everywhere. Okay, I promise I’m stepping off my soap box and I won’t get anymore political than that).
We have a fridge in the van so we do our best to still make all of our meals when we're on the road. This means not just being able to control what we're eating but it also keeps us from spending too much money eating out.
From Bryce we made our way over to the Moab area to see Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and on the way drove through Capitol Reef National Park. The leaves were still turning here and we had a chance to enjoy a beautiful Fall morning hiking and enjoying the beautiful colors of both the red rock and the trees.
Our first day in Moab we headed in to Canyonlands National Park and did several hikes out to some of the most spectacular overlooks I have ever seen.
The beauty of the van is being able to sleep in it just about anywhere and avoiding constantly paying lodging and camping fees. Sometimes, however, we're in areas where it's not legal to park and sleep in a vehicle on city streets and thus have to employ our covert techniques. I like to refer to us as "sneaky little bastards".
So far, our stealthy methods have proven to be pretty good and we have only ever been asked to move once. Errr... okay, now twice...
One lovely morning as I was deep in slumber dreaming of... what else but unicorns and rainbows of course, I was violently awoken by a loud banging on the side of the van. Yes, it was FAR more disturbing than an alarm clock and once I peeled myself off the ceiling of the van, I realized it was a cop.
The previous night, we managed to park right in front of the police station (in a city that does not allow parking and sleeping on city streets.)… DUH!!! I guess we were getting a little too cocky, and just decided to park the previous night without really checking our surroundings. Anyway, after said officer insinuated how dumb we were to park right in front of his station, we headed out for the day. I really wanted to ask the officer if he’d brought us coffee and donuts but I didn’t think he’d find that too funny so I kept it zipped and thankfully avoided a ticket and prison time for my illegal, slumbering ways.
After recovering from the morning's traumatic events over a box of convenience-store donuts and some equally great gas-station coffee there was nothing left to do but to sit in line in the dark waiting for Arches to open.
The good news is that we were one of the first cars into the park that morning and some of the only people out for our morning hike. We got to watch the sunrise and with the beautiful rock formations and arches it was well worth a 6 a.m. wake-up call. I’m just glad Officer Dick’s shift didn’t start any earlier.
Following Moab, we headed back to Flagstaff for a few days, then down to Tucson where we sought out some shelter for the Winter. I’m super excited to say that Tucson is now going to be a second home. Tucson has AMAZING Winter weather for training, some incredible road riding and some of the most spectacular lap pools and gym facilities (at VERY affordable costs) I have ever seen in a larger city. Add to that great culture including awesome Mexican food and super affordable mariachi bands (because I prefer to be serenaded at least once annually with the song "Guantanamera" just in case any of you needed birthday ideas for my 30th next year) and it just about checks off every box for me.
So, to finish, I have been on this little nostalgic tour through my childhood lately via music. I guess getting old will do that to a person and I’ve been listening to so much music from my early days. They just don’t make music like they used to. Ugh!! I know, that just made me sound really old. Did I also mention I actually had to walk 10 miles to school uphill both ways as a child??
For those of you that were not blessed with a childhood involving such radical music I've decided it would be selfish of me not to share. And so, my friends, I leave you with this gem. Please enjoy!!
P.S. If you like my pics and want to follow me more on the daily head over to my Instagram account and show me some love. (How's that for shameless self promotion??)