PepPod Athlete Chad Spring recently gave us a look into his life and how he manages training and competing as a working father of two young kids. Chad is proof that we can truly accomplish more than we think possible but must always keep our priorities straight!
Have you always been passionate about running? Was there a time when you didn’t enjoy it (high school, etc..)?
I actually discovered my love of running fairly late. In highschool and college I enjoyed playing basketball but was never a runner. In fact, I never understood why people wanted to run. I thought it was pointless. That changed in 2007 when I met my wife. She encouraged me to join her for a short run and by keeping a manageable pace she helped me conquer the furthest distance I had ever run in my life….2 miles. Accomplishing something I had never done before was exhilarating and I was hooked. It’s evolved over the past 11 years to running mountain ultra trail races on some of the hardest terrain around.
There was a time in late 2017 when I needed to step away from running for a little while. Earlier in the year I had completed my first 100k (Never Summer 100k in Colorado), the Spartan Ultra Beast in Breckenridge, and then The Barkley Fall Classic 50k in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park...all within a 4 month period. After Barkley I felt mentally and physically drained and unmotivated. Rather than fight the feeling of fatigue by continuing to train through it, I embraced the opportunity to downshift a bit. I needed 4-5 weeks of very low activity to recharge and let the passion return organically.
Motivation can always be tough, what do you do on days when you don’t feel like running but know you should?
Everyone at every fitness level battles this. I think about two things: 1. My competition. If I’m not out there training, or actively recovering, I tell myself that my competition is out there training their butts off. I’m in constant pursuit to get faster and stronger. 2. I know that once I complete a run or a gym training session I’ll feel better and accomplished.
How have you had to change your training schedule after having a child, and then after your second child as well?
Our boys are soon-to-be 4 and 6 years old. Up until 9 months ago I traveled for work almost every week. The combination of kids and work travel made it extremely hard to focus on proper training. I had to fit running and gym sessions in during the week either at hotels or in the very early morning when I was home. Then I had to fit long training runs in on the weekends. There were times that I, regretfully, prioritized my training over family time. Sometimes the conversations weren’t always pleasant but my wife helped to reign me back in to remind me where my focus should truly be; with family first. So I made a commitment to limit my race distance for the next few years until the kids are older and can actually have an active role in crewing for some of the longer ultra events. This re-centering with family first, along with a recent change in jobs so I travel FAR less than I used to, has really created a better balance all around.
Is there a specific race that you’re most proud of competing in or where you achieved a huge milestone?
I approach every race with a different goal and mindset. The Barkley Fall Classic 50k comes to mind as a huge milestone. If you’ve ever heard of or seen the documentary about the Barkley Marathons, The Barkley Fall Classic is on the same “course” but is a 50k-ish race. It’s an absolutely brutal race at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee with insane elevation change through dense briar fields, an abandoned prison, all with aggressive time cut-offs. After getting lost in the woods for about an hour I still managed to beat the time cut-offs and complete the full “50k” distance. With a 70% failure rate I was elated to have finished. Sometimes placement doesn’t matter, just finishing is the accomplishment.
What’s your favorite trail to run here in the Colorado front range?
I’m a fairly private runner and have never really been attracted to group runs. That’s probably why I like the private trail network in my neighborhood here in the foothills of Colorado. It’s never crowded, the terrain is rugged, and there’s some serious elevation change.
Do you have a crew that you train with, or solo?
I’ll invite a few people every so often to join me for training, but the majority of the time is solo. I’m also a part of Relentless OCR, which is a small group of obstacle racing fanatics who carry full-time jobs but are also in constant pursuit to better themselves through intense training to be more competitive in OCR, trail runs, ultras, etc. We keep each other motivated to push harder and to get better every day.
What’s a typical training run look like for you?
My baseline training consists of about 30-60 miles of trail running per week, depending where I’m at in my training cycle. Additionally, I’ll spend time in the gym about 3 days per week. Weekends are always my long runs, which could be 15-30 miles. My go-to training session for Spartan Ultras occurs every 3rd weekend. I have a route that starts with a 0.6 mile 80 lb bucket carry to the start of a loop. The loop then consists of 5 miles with 2400 ft elevation change. There is a little picnic pavilion on the loop where I’ll stop and do pull-ups. At the completion of each loop I’ll carry the bucket 0.3 miles up and down the mountain. Then I’ll repeat it multiple times. This past weekend I logged a training session of 30 miles, 7850 ft elevation gain, 70 pull-ups, and 2 miles of heavy bucket carries.
Any advice for people who are just getting into trail running?
The more you do it the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. Trail running is so primal and fun and a great way to improve running and core strength while you’re at it. Road running tends to be repetitive and monotonous while train running allows you to immerse yourself in nature. Due to the ever changing terrain and hills while trail running the speed is much slower.
For those who may be hesitant to venture out on trails alone I’m actually working on a project with a fantastic local race director and fitness coach to provide individualized guided trail runs along the Denver front range. In the coming weeks we’ll be launching Trails On Demand which is tailored to new trail runners, or those visiting the Denver area, who want to boost their confidence and familiarity with trail running. Individuals or groups are welcome. There’s a lot of excitement and interest in a service like this so we look forward to rolling it out soon!
Obstacle racing has become HUGE in the past 5 years, what’s your favorite race and favorite type of obstacle?
I’ve shifted toward the ultra distance obstacle racing format, like the Spartan Ultra for example which is 30+ miles of gnarly terrain with obstacles tossed in. My favorite obstacles are always the monkey bars or rigs with hanging pipes, rings, ropes, etc that you have to swing across using only your hands. Makes you feel like a kid again!
As I mentioned before, I’ve capped my race distance for the next few years but ultimately I’ll expand into full 24 hour events or longer.
If you could go run anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
When the time comes I’d love the opportunity to challenge myself at Western States 100, Hard Rock 100, or Leadville 100. For an obstacle race I’d love to take a shot at World’s Toughest Mudder or the Spartan Race Ultra World Championship in Iceland.
What are your must-have running items that you bring every time?
Before every run, and sometimes during long runs, I fuel up with PepPod. I also can’t step out the door without my Garmin Fenix 3. I’m a numbers person and have to keep track of my distance, elevation, pace, etc. My shoe of choice is the Brooks Cascadia. It’s a great ultra distance shoe that has enough cushion to protect from jagged rocks but still provides enough feedback from the trail surface. For nutrition on longer runs I stick to dried fruit, Rx Bars, Snickers, and gels with caffeine for that extra boost.
Who inspires you to keep running strong?
I didn’t grow up in a house where running was a thing so I love that my kids see my training and racing as a normal, active adult activity. Showing them that the human body is meant to move, gets stronger with strenuous activity, and can accomplish amazing things is what keeps me pushing to get better.
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