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TRAIL STOKE: Hope Springs Eternal

We're more than ready for some spring weather to roll around. When can we ditch our winter layers and switch to shorts?

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Spring showers might bring May flowers, but it also sprouts stronger trail runners come summertime.

It’s just about that time of the year north of the Mason-Dixon line. Or this year, just about anywhere north of the Gulf of Mexico, given how much cold weather we’ve all experienced. I don’t know if it’s the snowiest or coldest winter on record anywhere, but I also don’t care because I am ready for spring.

If you live in a climate where winter typically doesn’t exist — at least not the way it does in Colorado or Chicago, Minneapolis or Boston, for example — you might be somewhat oblivious to the love-hate relationship that seems to permeate those of us who do. I absolutely love winter for a lot of reasons, including the playful joy of running snowy trails on a regular basis. But I always welcome spring with open arms right about now.

If you live in a climate where winter typically doesn’t exist — at least not the way it does in Colorado or Chicago, Minneapolis or Boston, for example — you might be somewhat oblivious to the love-hate relationship that seems to permeate those of us who do.

To be clear, spring hasn’t yet sprung, but it’s about to. You can almost smell it in the air. And if you can’t, you can definitely feel it in the flashes of warm sunshine that, even for a few moments, break up the chilly winds and cloudy skies.

As much as I love winter, it requires that we gird ourselves up, not only in extra layers of clothing but also in the mental tenacity that gets us out the door. As the final weeks of winter transition into spring, it’s a time when hard work of a training plan has already begun.

That always leads to a love of spring, but it’s less about the running and more about what this transitional time of year represents. Springtime brings optimism, new beginnings and longer hours of daylight that make early morning and late evening runs easier to manage, not to mention the occasional flashes of better weather to give us a boost.

I ran in shorts and a T-shirt twice last weekend and it felt like summer. The sun was cozy and inviting, I was sweating profusely and it felt amazing. And it instantly sowed inspiration and dreamy thoughts for the coming summer.

Visions of running singletrack trails through the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, grinding up Colorado 14ers and finally running trail races again all danced through my head as sweat dripped off my brow. All at once, it was calming and invigorating, relaxing and motivating. But really, it was the calm before the storm — literally and figuratively — and a sign that there’s more work to be done.

Every year, it seems, Mother Nature teases us with those warm, sunny days that seem so gentle and summery that we all hope and expect to remain through the duration of the spring. But every year, almost without fail, she gets in a mood and decides we need to appreciate the wind and wuthering of the winter months just a little bit longer and dumps more snow or cold rain on us in an attempt to toughen us up.

As we have all learned many times as trail runners, March is a fickle month — especially when it comes to weather, races, shedding layers and hanging around for a post-run beer the tailgate of your buddy’s truck. It’s a sign that there are many more miles to be run to earn the glory of blissful summer running.

Every year, it seems, Mother Nature teases us with those warm, sunny days that seem so gentle and summery that we all hope and expect to remain through the duration of the spring. But every year, almost without fail, she gets in a mood and decides we need to appreciate the wind and wuthering of the winter months just a little bit longer and dumps more snow or cold rain on us in an attempt to toughen us up.

So as I ran in shorts and a T-shirt amid the flow of sunshine earlier this week, it was clear that it wasn’t going to last. I happily splashed through the few remaining piles of melting snow I found in the shaded sections of the trail, but I knew I was tempting the weather gods. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard the cool winds cursing my name as I finished my run and the sun disappeared behind some gray clouds.

And, yes, sure enough, the pleasant spell of balmy weather wasn’t meant last. Here comes another bout of winter.

By the time you read this, a major storm will be on the verge of burying parts of the country — including the parts of Colorado where I run trails — with a lot of sloppy, wet snow. Even though just days ago I was so hot and sweaty on a run that it made me recollect a scorching day running in the Grand Canyon a few years ago, it’s suddenly time to toughen up with my Kahtoolas at the ready.

Ultimately, springtime is a reminder that there is no bad weather, just the need to head out the door with the a strong work ethic and the right mindset.

I have to admit I’ve grown to appreciate these odd, schizophrenic spurts of weather, mostly because the dastardly cold and snowy days also give way to more warmth and sunshine. Eventually. And the more you work through those days, the more you persevere, the fitter you’ll be when spring arrives in earnest. Or something like that.

This time of year seasons us for the challenges we’ll be eager to embrace throughout the summer and fall and strengthens us for both the known and unknown of what lies ahead. All of those runs amid cold, slippery and less-than-ideal conditions harden us for the rigors we’ll have to face in our long adventure runs, ultra-distance races and even for those idyllic summer runs interrupted by a cold rain shower.

Ultimately, springtime is a reminder that there is no bad weather, just the need to head out the door with the a strong work ethic and the right mindset.

Brian Metzler was the founding editor of Trail Runner and now serves as a contributing editor.