This is the time of year when I normally reflect on my running accomplishments (and failures) during the past 12 months. Although 2010 started out with some very good race results through April, injuries kept me out of the game for most of the summer and fall. Since most of this year involved no running at, I'm going to avoid looking back but instead focus on the future. Having such a disappointing year has motivated me to come back stronger than ever and establish a lofty goal for 2011. Initially, I thought about running my first 100 miler but realized the motivation behind that was more from external sources than from a burning desire within. To attempt such an undertaking without being 100% committed is foolish at best and I sense I would find little joy in it.
However, I do enjoy running long distances, and more specifically running ultra races, so I came up with the idea of running an ultra for every month of the year. Yes, you heard me correctly. That's 12 ultras in 12 months in 2011. I like to call it my "12 in 12 in 11" plan. To some, this may not seem to be a difficult task nor lofty goal. But I have never run more than two ultras in one year so it is a stretch for me. On the surface this appears to be a very unrealistic goal seeing that I'm still injured and haven't run a step since Stone Cat in early November. But I recently read a book that encouraged me to dream big and I think I can pull it off with a little bit of luck (ok, a truck load of good luck), something I've been lacking of late.
What it may take to be successful is training less, not more. I usually train about 30-35 miles per week when I am healthy but training at that level and running an ultra every month will likely lead to over training and injury. If I reduce my mileage to 15-20 per week it should allow for adequate recovery between races. It also means that I will suffer greatly during each race as I will be woefully under trained for long distances. Given my recent injury prone history, I think it's the only way to go.
Running ultra races is a costly endeavor in terms of entry fees, fuel costs, miles driven and time away from family. In order to minimize these costs, I have tried to pick races that are either Fat Ass events or have low entry fees and/or are relatively close to home. Fortunately, I was able to find races that matched my criterion without too much effort. With that in mind, here in the plan for 2011 (subject to change and subject to me regaining good health of course).
January - GAC Fat Ass 50K
This is a no-brainer. It's nearby, free to enter, has tons of good aid station food and also happens to be the only game in town. Plus it's a G.A.C event and they know how to host an ultra race. If the course is covered in soft snow like the past two years it will a tough day. WIth little training before Stone Cat and none since, this could prove to be the hardest race for me to finish all year (if I can even make it to the starting line).
February - TBD
This will be a hard month to find a race. The only February ultra in New England is the Frozen Fat Ass 50K on Cape Cod. I like the fact that it is free and not too far away, but the course is run entirely on the beach. Running two loops in soft beach sand is something my sacro-illiac joint can't handle. 31 miles in sand would put a serious hurt on me. I may just have to host my own Frozen Fat Ass to meet my February ultra requirement. How does "Breakheart Dan Does Bradley Palmer" sound? I'm talking about the state park, not the wealthy attorney long since passed.
March - Fells Trail Ultra Vernal Equinox Edition 32M
The RD for this race, Steve Latour, is a bud of mine and my partner in this "12 in 12" madness. He claims to have suggested this to me over a year ago but I fail to recollect that conversation. Steve's a self-professed cheap bastard which means he wouldn't think of charging an entry fee to his race. That's good for me, another free ride (except for all the running up and down rocky technical trails that is). Can't beat the fact that it's a 25 minute drive from my house. It is the Fells though, and I hate running the Fells! :-)
April - Don't Run Boston 50K
This was a hard decision for me. Last April I ran the Traprock 50K in CT. I loved the race and vowed to return in 2011. The only problem is that it's on the same weekend as DRB and I obviously can't run both. DRB is much closer to home and is a Fat Ass event so it wins out over Traprock. This past winter I ran several times in Blue Hills with the Trail Animals Running Club who host Don't Run Boston. Blue Hills is a very challenging place to run with a lot of big climbs and rock scrambling. The TARC's motto is, "No animal will be left behind." Well it didn't always work out that way but I did manage to find my way back to civilization. No hard feelings though.
May - GAC Mother's Day 6 Hour Run
I'll have to get permission from the wife to run this one. After all, it's her day not mine. I'm certain a precedent much have been set somewhere, sometime for celebrating Mother's Day on a Saturday. If not, there's always Wapack. Yikes!
June - Peak Ultra 50M
I'm told this is one of the toughest 50 mile races in the U.S. with 14,000 feet of elevation gain and some bushwhacking to boot. After running an easy course at the Mother's Day race the timing will be right to take on the serious challenge at Peak.
July - 24 Hours Around the Lake Ultra
I'm not really sure about this one. It's a 5K loop around Lake Quannapowitt which is less than 10 miles from my house. My only issue with it is the course itself. It's on pavement or concrete sidewalk and I can't run more than a mile or two on pavement because of my long-standing plantar fasciitis. I'm fairly certain half the loop can be run on a narrow path of dirt next to the sidewalk but I have to confirm that before committing to this race. The race starts at 7PM and the idea of running throughout the night does appeal to me. I've never done that before.
August - 24 Hours of Waterbury
Race Director and ultra runner extraordinaire, Josh Katzman claims this is the hardest 24 hour race in the USA. Here is a description from the website. "This is a genuine trail run - it is tough, but beautiful and rewarding. The trails on Perry Hill are maintained by the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA), and they do a really spectacular job at it. The 15 miles of trails are quickly gaining national attention for being awesome! There are some tough climbs, some technical sections, and some really smooth, runnable sections of carpeted pine needles that will be very welcome, especially as you get closer to the 12 and 24 hour marks. We will be running loops, using 8.4 of the trails and will have about 1,550 feet of elevation GAIN per loop. Yeah, that's a lot of uphill!" It sounds like a "must do" to me.
September - Pisgah Mountain 50K or Vermont 50K
Two great races one week apart. Not sure which one I'll run but if RunninRob decides to do Vermont I told him I'll be his wing man.
October - Bimbler's Bluff 50K
I've had my eye on this race for two years now but was never able to fit it into the schedule. 2011 will be the year. The Bimblers Bluff 50k runs through several inter-connected woodland preserves in southern Connecticut. Consisting entirely of rolling forest roads or single track that can be extremely rocky, the course provides a true test of a runner’s fitness and mental stamina.
November - Stone Cat 50M
This is another race that is within a 30 minute drive from my home and has a reasonable entry fee. It's also one of my favorite races with an abundance of single track, great volunteers and aid stations and almost a 100% guarantee for getting your feet wet. What more can you ask for?
December - Fells Trail Ultra Winter Solstice Edition 40M
Same RD and course as the spring edition of the Fells race but likely to be more difficult after running eleven other races during the year. Unlike the spring race, I'll be shooting for 40 miles instead of 32. I must be insane!
Well, that's the plan. Simple to design, difficult to execute. I just need to start training, and soon. I want to get in at least four weeks of training before the GAC Fat Ass in January and I'm running out of time. If my neck issue prevents me from starting soon I'll have to postpone the start of my racing season. But whenever I do start, my goal will be to run one ultra race a month until 2011 comes to an end.
Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.