Friday, November 21, 2014

Turn the Page

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four weeks since my 100 Miler and even harder to believe that it’s been one full year since I decided to make it my Goal Race for 2014.

Looking back, it’s been a truly incredible year! And, I can’t really think of anything that I would have changed. My first attempt at a 100 mile training plan exceeded even my wildest expectations. I went the whole year without losing any time to injury. My races, turned out great - with only a couple minor exceptions! I spent a bunch of time having fun in the mountains. And, I was able to add meaning to my miles by helping raise money for a very worthy cause! In fact, the season went so well, I very much doubt that I could ever replicate it. So, I’m not going to.

Instead, for 2015, I’m going to do things just a little bit differently.

Rather than sign up for another 100 mile race right away (which I’d probably not have my heart and mind completely into anyway given how much of myself I put into this year’s 100) I’m going to give my body (and my heart/mind) some time to acclimatize to its new level and focus on something that I felt I lost a little bit of during the course of last year’s ultramarathon training. And that something is speed!

It wasn’t an issue that I really noticed at first, since nearly all the races I did during the year were 20 miles, or more. But, as the season drew to a close and I came back to the track to sharpen my speed, I noticed it was missing. Almost completely! 5 mile tempo runs that I used to finish with ease at 6:20 pace, now were a struggle at 7:20. Which is understandable, since I was specifically training for a race where I’d be averaging nearly double that! But, for someone like me who wants to be a well-rounded runner, it was still a little concerning.

With that in mind, in 2015 I plan to lower my weekly mileage slightly, mix in some additional speed work and run a “quicker” schedule of races.  I’ll still be doing mainly ultras, but with a real focus on the 50k distance and just one 50 mile goal race at the end of the year. In between the ultras I’ll be doing some shorter trail races to keep things interesting and to add a speed component to my racing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this in a seamless way, make it meaningful and still remain un-injured. Because, as was the case this year, that will likely be the key to my success.

So, without further ado, below is a preliminary list of the races that I’m eying for 2015, with a brief description of each:

DECTARC Winter Classic 32m – Stoneham, MA – Dec 6
With all my goals pretty much met for this year, this one is all about having fun. The 8 mile Skyline Trail in the Middlesex Fells is no joke, even for just one lap. So, 4 laps will definitely be a sizable challenge. But it’s one which, given my results this year, should be something I can handle. Plus, since I didn’t get into Hellgate, it’ll be my chance to show them what they’re missing out on!
JAN –  Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass 50k – Barnstable, MA - Jan 31In keeping with the “something new” theme, I signed up for this race to kick off the new year. I’m not so sure about potentially running over sand dunes and snow drifts for 31 miles, but from what I’ve read about this race, it’s just one big, well-stocked winter party, with a low, low entry fee.  So what the heck! Right?

FEB Old Fashioned 10m – Foxboro, MA – Feb 15
During my “marathon days” this one used to be my “go to” wintertime tune-up road races. And this will be the 20th running of this great race. It’s inexpensive, fairly fast, with a deep field and great post-race spread. I’ve run some pretty good times there, as well. So, hopefully, everything (including the speed) will be the same as I always remembered it! If only that were true!
MAR Eastern States 20m – Kittery, ME – Mar 29
I’ve been looking for an excuse to run this race again for a while now. It always seems to conflict with the New Bedford Half. But, since I won’t be running NB again this year, I figured why not give ES another shot? I ran an “out of my mind” 2:10:30 (6:31 pace) back in 2005. Anything close to that would be wonderful!

APRTARC Spring Classic 50k - Weston, MA – Apr 25
I ran this race for the first time this year and ended up setting a 50k PR of 4:29. Hopefully this year’s race wasn’t a case of “beginners luck” because, if the conditions are right, I’d like to think that I can lower that time by 15 minutes, or more. I just have to be careful not to completely forget all the lessons I learned there this year.

MAY Pineland 25k- Gray, ME – May 24
I'm planning on running the 25k team race once again this year, although I do reserve the right to increase the distance depending on how the team is shaping up and how I’m feeling.  The Pineland Trail Festival is one of my favorite events of the year.  So, MORE of a good thing is always better, right?

JUNAUG – Western NH Trail SeriesVarious Locations
Since it’s a proven fact that I’m terrible at warm weather ultras, I’m going to spend most of my summer running shorter races. This series is one which I’ve wanted to do for a while and will serve as the back bone of my speed work leading into my fall calendar of races. Not sure which of the 9 races I’ll be doing just yet, but I hope to do at least 5, or 6.

SEPTTARC Fall Classic 50k - Carlisle, MA – Sept 12
Again, a low-cost, fun event which will hopefully help me build towards the 50 miler in November.  The course is run at Great Brook State Park, which is right down the street from where I work, so there will be plenty of time to get familiar with the terrain! Plus, this will be another “first time” race for me. So, it’s a win, win!
OCTGhost Train 30m - Brookline, NH – Oct 24
Unlike this year, I’ll be running the 2015 version of the GT 100 as a pacer for a friend. Just one of many attempts to pay back some of the good karma that was sent my way during my race. Also, it will be a good chance to see what ultras are like from the crew/pacer standpoint. This will be the first pacing assignment I’ve ever taken on. So, hopefully I won’t screw it up too badly!

NOVStonecat 50m - Ipswich, MA – Nov 7
Heading back to where it all began! This is the biggie on my 2015 race calendar.  If all goes right for me during the year, I hope to run a 50m PR with a sub-8 hour race here.  If not, just finishing in one piece will be OK with me too!  I love this race and everything about it. So, just being a small part of it can be the highlight of any year!

Beyond Stonecat, I hope to have learned (by this point) which 100 mile race I’ll have gotten into via lottery. I’ll either be heading to North Carolina in March or Central Indiana in April for another crack at qualifying for the Western States 100m. Yes, I know I just said that I’m terrible at warm weather races. But Western States is Western States. What kind of Ultra runner would I be if I didn’t at least try to get in?

Also by this point I hope to have completed and published my first book. I’m working on it now and it’s tentatively titled, “NEVER AGAIN – Adventures of a Veteran Dad and Rookie Ultra Runner”.

More on this later…

Finally, I wanted to mention that in the wake of my 100 mile race, a couple of my awesome crew members wrote up reports on their versions of the race and the critical roles they played in it. Jesse Veinotte’s account of miles 52.5 thru 67.5 can be found HERE. Danny Ferreira’s recollections of the final (and very painful) 10 miles can be found HERE. Thanks guys, you made me sound a whole lot better than I was!

PS. Yesterday I finally got around to clearing the 100 mile splits from my watch.

So, it’s now officially time to turn the page and get back to doing work! Giddy up!

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