Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Themes, Goals, Plans and Aspirations

There are a slew of races listed over there on the right side of this page in the "Under Consideration" category, far more than I could reasonably do this year. With so many ultras, both classic and new, these are only a fraction of the full list that I have really considered. To get through the myriad options I needed something to guide me at least into the first part of the year. If Western States had happened that would have set my initial plan for the year. Now, that will be 2009. My initial conception was to maybe go for some fast times to start things off. Establish a more serious marathon PR, do a sub-5 hour 50K and then try for under 9 at AR50. However, somehow I allowed myself to be talked into signing up for the Coyote Two Moons 100 in March. This race with over 28,000ft of climbing and a very unique format sort of sets both the underlying tone as well as the plan for the start of the season.

So my theme for the start of the year will definitely not be "fast" with the Two Moons ultra as the initial target. I have therefore decided that the theme to start the year off will be "hard". This also fits with one of the other ultras that I definitely wanted to put on my schedule which is the Diablo 50-miler. In general, I think going for difficulty rather than speed sort of suites me better anyway. I will never be a super fast distance runner, genetics has assured that. However, strength and perseverance are more up my alley. I love the idea of events with unique and/or interesting challenges. So the start of my year will be about hard runs and difficult races.

I got a good start on this theme during my final run of 2007. I had a few hours to kill before our planned trip to the central coast for New Years Eve so I decided to get my final run of the year up on Mission Peak. I also wanted to measure the distance of a particular route for a run idea I have. It was a windy day, but I didn't realize just how windy until I was out there on the trail. Luckily, I wore some extra layers, but the Underarmor and running vest weren't going to help running into those incredible breezes tearing down the hillside. At times I could barely move at all. Mostly it felt like trying to run on a treadmill set at 30% incline with the air-conditioner on full blast. I don't think I've ever worked so hard getting up that climb. At the top of the peak the wind was so strong I felt like I was going to be blown off. I had to hide below the peak from the wind in order to get my camera out. The main reward for all this work was that the wind left the entire Bay Area as clear as could be.

With my theme being one of difficulty, I thought I should try and challenge myself this year in my goals as well. One of my major goals is to try and complete four 100 milers this year. I did two last year and want to up the ante. Also, I like the idea of doing one each season of the year and sort of wrapping everything else around them. I also want to do some tough 50 miler or shorter runs including maybe one or two of my own design. Another goal of mine is to get better at the uphills. I want to increase my speed and efficiency especially when power-hiking. I would also like to up my weekly mileage to maintain more consistently around 60mpw with a few key weeks in the 70+ range (not including 100-mile races). Of course, most importantly, I would like to run consistently throughout the year keeping injuries at bay or at least under control.

Training Plans
I've already started one bit of training that I think will be key to meeting a few of my goals. In order to increase my mileage, become better at uphill pace and not spend more time away from home, I am going to start hitting the "dreadmill" more often. While taking time off from running recently I started doing some fast-pace walk training on the machine. Basically, I try to see how high an incline I can maintain a 4mph pace or how high a pace I can maintain at the top incline. Right now I can keep the 4mph pace at 12% incline. At 15% incline, I can keep about 3.6mph. I'd like to try and increase my 15% pace and make 4mph feel easier at the lower inclines. I figure doing a few hours a week of walking between these inclines, working my pace will give me an additional 5-10 miles per week. It should also help my walking efficiency and, finally, it is something I can do at home or at the gym with my wife.

Another thing in the training category that I want to do more consistently is cross-training. My wife is starting to get back into swimming and we went together the other night. It was a great recovery and full-body workout. I'm going to do yoga once a week and do more active recovery as well. On the weight and nutrition side, I'll just say that I want to be "better". I want to seriously try and keep the sugar under control and keep my energy, health and weight consistent. I'm hoping that keeping consistent mileage and workouts should help with this as I generally eat better when everything else is maintained. However, I am going to try to stay away from the "white stuff" meaning, white flower foods, white rice and sugar. These are my two downfalls in terms of nutrition.

Well, I already mentioned that I am going to try and focus on one 100-miler per quarter so I will look at my runs/races in those units starting with the next three months from Jan-Mar. I am really still in a re-building phase right now so that is what January is about. Right now I have the Fremont Fat Ass on schedule as my first actual ultra, but that may change. My wife will be in Costa Rica for a short trip and I may decide to join her. Other than that, I am planning a self-designed Quad-MP (Mission Peak) run that will do 4 loops up to the peak and back. I will work out further details and post here for anyone wanting to join me, but it will either be on the 19th of Jan or sometime in Feb (perhaps both). This should be some good hill training as the route I am looking at will be a little over 32 miles and have over 9000ft of climbing. Speaking of Feb. I currently have two PCTR 50K events on the list. I will most likely only do one of these seeing as they are less than a week apart. However, that might be a good challenge in-and-of itself. I am definitely going to put Skyline Ridge 50K on my final list as it is 3-weeks from Two Moons to be the perfect "last long" training run. However, I am thinking that maybe I will show up early and do some extra miles to make it more like a 40-miler or something.

I've decided that my second quadrant of training will be geared towards the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler in July. Right now April through early-June are dominated by some of the tougher 50K and 50-mile ultras. Diablo 50 is a definite. Hopefully, I can recover from Two Moons in 3 weeks and be ready for that beast. I read about this race years ago and having grown up on the mountain, it has always been a desire of mine. It was too close to Miwok last year for me to do it. This year it is a priority. If I get into Miwok again I will do that, otherwise I think I will shoot for Zane Grey 50-miler in Arizona which has even more elevation gain that Diablo. I also want to do Ohlone which I had to miss last year and want to return to Mt. Diablo 50K which seriously kicked my butt last year having been ill the week before. Other than that, I think I will need to find some way to get out and do some runs at altitude during late June and/or early July. I want to be better prepared at least mentally for higher elevation of TRT.

I think that repeating Headlands 100 is not in the cards this year. If I do TRT, I expect to need at least a full month before running a second 100 miler. However, I really like the looks of the Cascade Crest 100 in Washington. It looks beautiful and challenging. It's the only west-coast 100 that fits my schedule for Fall other than Angeles Crest in Sept. I don't think I am ready for Plain 100, though it seems like my kind of race and will likely be on my 2009 list. I want to run the Monta
ña de Oro 50K near my new place in the central coast, but I think it is likely too close to CC100. It looks like the Skyline-to-the-Sea 50K is going to be in Sept and that will definitely be on my list once it is finalized. The later in the year I look, the less definite things appear. However, I will definitely return to Dick Collins as I like the idea of having one race that I do every year and this one happens to fall right around my birthday so it will be my first race as a 40-year old. Wow.

For my final 100-miler I am thinking either San Diego or a return to Javelina. San Diego's date isn't finalized, but it is usually in late October. I like doing new races and having the final big race in October gives lots of end-of-year recovery time. The other option is to go back to Javelina which was a lot of fun. It will be later in the year this time and likely not as hot. If I do this one, I will have to shoot for a sub-23 to better last year's finish. This would likely to keep me away from either the Quad Dipsea or the Santa Barbara 9 Trails as a final race. However, all of that is so far in the future that anything could change. I could end up mixing everything up near the end, I could end up wanting to do less races and more solo runs, I could get caught up in the fever doing more 100's than planned, or I could end up injured. Who knows. Right now the most likely case has about 11-12 races on the schedule. This is about the same as last year, but more of the longer variety.

It's time to get down to training. I've got a new GPS watch and custom orthotics and I just did my first week with greater than 45mi since October. While the storms look to derail my original plans for this weekend, I am focused and ready to get back on a training schedule. Stay tuned for reports and details...

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