One of my favorite rituals to ring in the New Year is to sit down and commit dates for my target races for the upcoming year. Not only is it a chance to reflect, but it's a great excuse to peruse the 2010 calendar with the staggering amount of trail races, ultras, triathlons, and century rides available. Oh, the places we will go! A full schedule is more than peace of mind - it's evidence that I choose to live in this world, instead of on it.
So how to choose from all the great races? I usually begin by reflecting on the previous season to determine which adventures "fed my spirit" the most. You know the ones - those shared experiences that have you aglow for days afterward, stumbling around work with a shit-eating grin on your face, deeply hoping that someone asks you about that ridiculous smirk just so you can tell them all about your adventure in vivid, undulating detail. Recounting the previous year (by reading my own blog!) often gives me a few tips on the right recipe of new friends, new trails, and new distances/formats that create this opportunity for epic experiences like these.
I took some nice long runs this week to ponder the 2009 season, and came to some interesting conclusions about where I had drawn the most inspiration:
- I enjoy a change of climates and terrains. Roads or trails, mountains or deserts, humid or dry, 30 degrees or 130 degrees, the varying extremes throughout the year kept the training fun and the races challenging. But could I mix it up some more? I haven't raced in a mid-west ultra, nor on the east coast. Add to this that I've never raced on a track, indoor or outdoor. Conclusion - challenge myself with some new locations and terrains.
- I enjoy a variety of race distances in the same year. 2009 had half marathons, marathons, sprint tri's, 50k, 50m, 100k, 100-mile, and even The Death Ride. Each distance presents its own challenge, and the variety keeps the training fresh and constantly changing. Could I stretch myself even more? What about racing all distances from the mile to the 100-mile? Conclusion - try and plan a year that contains everything from the mile to the 100-mile.
- I like to mix some favorite races with some new ones. I love new races, but it's also comforting to keep some favorites on the calendar too. It's like a comfortable pair of jeans that you always know will have that relaxed fit. Conclusion - make sure I have some favorites every couple of months that I can count on.
- I enjoy the "championship" races. This is a change from previous years, much to my surprise. Historically I preferred a series competition of 4-9 races like those put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, Ultrarunner.net, Montrail Ultra Cup, PA/USATF, etc, to help structure my season. This year I tried a few "championship" races like Western States (the default 100-mile championship), the Lithia Loop Marathon (USATF Trail Marathon Championships), and XTerra (National and World), and really enjoyed the new mix of people and all-or-nothing effort. But I'm not a fan of putting all my eggs in one basket with just a few target races. Conclusion - try a few more of these, but don't get too obsessed about any particular race.
So here's what I've come up with for 2010. Let me know if you're planning to be at any of these, or see some opportunities I might have missed for the gaps in between!
1/7 - Indoor Mile @ The Armory, NYC - That's right, a mile on an indoor track! Although I'm not in shape for a super-competitive mile, I thought this race would be fun to broaden my horizons and check out the whole indoor track scene. It's a good way to meet some new faces in NYC too.
1/16 - Woodside Trail Marathon, Woodside, CA - My backyard trails, with a new race put on by Coastal Trail Runs. It's always great to share the trails I so often run alone, and I look forward to that first aid station in my driveway. Many of you know I like to sign up for races and not race them per se, both to ensure I get in the miles and feed my 20-shirt-a-year shwag addiction. This is just right!
2/7 - San Francisco Half Marathon, San Francisco, CA - A road marathon through Golden Gate Park, and also a regional RRCA half marathon championship race. Sounds like fun, and a great checkpoint for my 50k the following month.
3/7 - Caumsett 50k, NYC - The USATF 50k Road Championships, known for wicked speed and a competitive field of Masters runners. Happens to also be in NYC! This is my goal race for the first quarter of the year.
4/20 - Boston Marathon, Boston, MA - I just can't get enough of this race, and running it with my father last year was an all-time great life experience. My obsession was helpful this year since I signed up before the raced filled in record time. This year it will be the first leg of the "Boston 2 Big Sur" Challenge, where you run two marathons in the same week on either coast. Should be a hoot!
4/26 - Big Sur Marathon, Carmel, CA - Part two of the "Boston 2 Big Sur" Challenge, and one of the great US marathons. I had such an amazing time here at my birthday last year, let's do it again! If you're looking at this race too, be sure to sign up soon - it's already at 91% capacity.
5/1 - Miwok 100k, Sausalito, CA - The lottery gods only granted me one race this year, but I am thankful it was the wonderful and scenic Miwok 100k. I will happily be back for my third running.
6/17 - Dipsea Race, Stinson Beach, CA - The 100th running of the Dipsea is this year, making it the oldest trail race in the US. I've run the Double and Quad Dipsea, but never the original. Assuming I can get in, this age-handicapped 7.6-miler will be super fun.
7/10 - The Death Ride Century, Markleeville, CA - I am returning to the 129-mile Death Ride cycling century with the same crew as last year. The schwag is top notch, and they serve two for one beers at the end! For some reason, I have no issues recovering from this ride so I think it's going to be okay packed close to other events.
7/22 - USATF Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Sacramento, CA - My first foray onto the outdoor track, I will be running the Steeplechase. Given my lack of experience I doubt I can be competitive, but am looking forward to running a qualifying heat and getting a better understanding of the whole "track" experience.
7/31 - Burning River 100m, Burning River, OH - I was looking for a flatter 100m, something in the midwest, and this one happens to be the USATF 100m championship race this year. It sounds like a perfectly good excuse to try a very different kind of 100-miler.
9/19 - XTerra National Championships, Bend, OR - I had an awesome time at this race last year, and am hoping Christi and Sophie will join in on a week vacation in Oregon book-ended by two races. This is the first one.
9/25 - USATF 50k Trail Championships, Bend, OR - A brand new race in Bend, OR, will mark the return of the USATF 50k Trail Championship. After a week of visiting family and friends in Oregon, we will return to hit this race.
10/16 - Tussey Mountainback 50m, Boalsburg, PA - Another race I've heard great things about, and a chance to explore a new state near one of my work destinations. It is also a USATF Championship race for the 50-mile distance.
11/6 - Lithia Loop Marathon, Ashland, OR - I really enjoyed this race last year, much in fact to the perfect mix of a great running community, a town where I have a lot of history, and a gorgeous area. I will be coming back for the USATF Trail Marathon Championship with the family joining in the fun.
You'll notice a lot of USATF "championship" races on the calendar for me this year. The USATF schedule addresses a lot of my personal goals this year, and it just so happens that you can actually get IN to a lot of these races. I understand they aren't as competitive as other races like Western States or JFK, but they still should attract a good mix of runners.
It's a lot! But I seem to do best with a lot on the calendar. So much new experience here, I'm already giddy for the future pictures and blog entries!
I hope your new year is starting well.Wishing you the best for 2010!