In my previous post on the importance of goals I promised that I would share my current goals. I am at that veteran runner stage where goals are sometimes hard to set. Last year I had thought maybe I would go after my marathon PR, which I still feel has some room for improvement, just because that is what I was used to doing. I even entered a marathon last year. However, it became clear as I was training for the road marathon that I really wasn't enjoying it like I used to. Part of the reason for the DNF I had at that race was that I just wasn't into it -- the training or the racing.
What I was enjoying was the trail running that I started doing last spring here in Michigan. My previous trail running had been in the California mountains, which are absolutely awesome, and in Florida, which is a big, hot, sandy swamp. Although I had loved trail running in California, I did not know much about Michigan and had no idea there were so many beautiful trails.
It was love at first run on the trails up here. The trails are soft, not too rocky (at least not compared to So Cal), and the greenery and wildlife are beautiful. In my mind, trails will always go hand in hand with ultras, so when I decided late last spring that road marathons were not doing it for me, ultras was the direction I turned. I was entered to run my first trail marathon in August and the 50k at Woodstock in September. I was starting to feel motivated and passionate about running again. Then in July I ruptured my spleen on a trail run -- 4 days in the hospital and 8 weeks of no running. That set me back a bit.
As I was on the couch for 8 weeks, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I really wanted to do in my running. One of those "someday I will" things I have had in mind for almost a decade is the desire to run the Western States 100. It occurred to me, as I watched the year click down toward the big 5-0, that if I was going to ever do that, I better get after it.
You are probably thinking, "Oh, then her goal for the year is the Western States." Well not quite. You see, getting into Western States is a long process. First a person has to qualify. That involves finishing another 100 miler, or a 100k race under 14 hrs, or a 50 mile race in under 11 hours. Once one qualifies, then the runner can submit his or her name into the lottery. The number of entrants is limited to 369, but some of those spots go to previous years' winners and other specially qualified runners, so the actual number of spots is less. The lottery is a long process. It can take years. If you are interested in the process, you can check out their site.
So, yes, entering Western States is a goal, but it is a 3 to 5 year goal for me. I am not the kind of person who likes to be unprepared. I don't just want to run Western States; I want to try for the silver buckle that comes with a finish under 24 hours. The odds are already stacking up against me because I am getting older even as I type, but I am going to give it a shot. Once that long term goal was set, it was easy to work backwards.
With that in mind, I had to ask myself "How do I get there from here?" The answer is that I need to get into shape to run a qualifying event. I decided to make it a two to three year plan, depending on how I progress and handle the mileage. This year, 2012, is the year of the 50k. The following year will be 50 milers and 100ks, and the next year 100 milers. I know that seems like a long build-up but remember that I want to "race" these not just finish them, and it takes me longer to build mileage than it used to. I would like to have a year of solid 40 to 60 mile weeks before I attempt the 100 miler.
Then I turned my attention to 2012. What did I want to do with those 50ks. Well I knew the answer to that question immediately. When I heard we were moving to Michigan, I was on the internet trying to find out if there were any running clubs or good races up here, and I came across the Dances With Dirt site. If you have never heard of Dances with Dirt (DWD) , you really need to go to the site and read a little bit to get the flavor of the whole experience. The Dances with Dirt series is a set of races put on by Running Fit. It is a pet project of their "head goat" Randy Step, who is an awesome guy and a really crazy race director.
The courses are all in places with colorful names: Green Swamp, Gnaw Bone, Devil's Lake, and Hell. The courses range from difficult to absolutely ridiculous, including stream crossings, bushwhacking, swamp crossings, dirt ladders, and whatever other surprises Randy can arrange for his dedicated runners. The best part is that the races are a series: Bloodied, Boned, Bruised and Burned. If a runner completes four ultras in the series within a single year, there is a buckle.
Now, I have mentioned before that I am a sucker for bling. I will run myself nearly to death for a cheap plastic medal on a tacky ribbon, so you can imagine how I felt the first time I saw that buckle. I had to have it. My goals for 2012 were set.
The races in the series go like this: Green Swamp, FL (March 24), Gnaw Bone, IN (May 12), Devil''s Lake, WI (July 14), and Hell (September 22). If I successfully complete the fourth race, the belt buckle will be awarded at the finish line of my "home" race in Hell.
Here is the plan. My odyssey will start with the DWD Green Swamp, sort of. Actually I fell victim to the FOMO I mentioned in the previous post and have entered a "training race" a trail marathon at Land Between Lakes in Kentucky , which is on the way to Florida, and which will be my last long training run before the 50k. That run is March 10. My goal in that endeavor will just be to get that long run in at a sensible pace that does not leave me fatigued for the 50k (IT band willing). You will see that I like to use trail marathons as some of my long training runs for the 50ks. It is fun to get those long training runs done with company and aid.
I have a secondary goal that I should also mention. I still love road running and was not ready to completely give it up. I also did not want to lose all my road speed. The half marathon is my favorite road distance, so I am keeping a few road half marathons in my schedule (Martian and Bayshore). I don't expect to set any PRs at these races, as my PRs at the half are times that I could only hope to reach with dedicated training for that event. What I am hoping for is to establish some "over 50" PRs for myself and maybe place in my age group if possible. Because of that you will notice that there are a few half marathons tucked into my upcoming races. Those are on my "down" weekends for the ultra training, the weekends where I would have run only 12 to 14 miles anyway.
So that is how the next 9 months are shaping up for me. I hope to take you along on the journey by providing video logs and race reports. I have to admit I am a little scared and am wondering if four 50ks are biting off more than I can chew, but only time will tell.
How about your goals? What do you have planned for the upcoming season?