It is traditional this time of year to set goals for the year to come. New Year’s resolutions are usually a ridiculous waste of time, but for an athlete engaged in seasonal sports, it at least makes sense to look down at one’s current state and forward to the next season.
So in the New Year’s spirit, here are some tentative goals. I may not get around to all of them, and will certainly find other things to do. While these plans reflect my focus on running, I don’t mean to neglect climbing and mountaineering.
The first step is to improve my basic fitness: by racing season, I should get my resting heart rate back to the mid-40s, my mile time down around 5:30, be able to do 8-10 pull-ups, and probably drop 3-5 pounds. If I end up doing 100 miles in big weeks with some quality efforts (intervals, tempo), I will probably be ready. I should also improve my climbing skill to lead 5.10a/b and solo 5.7 or 5.8.
One of the best things about ultra running is that you can train for it by wandering the wilderness at high speed. A number of one-day mountaineering objectives, such as Gannett, Moran, Devil’s Crags, and the last of the Colorado 14ers, also require substantial running. There are a number of runs I would like to do this season partly for time, but mostly for fun:
- Joshua Tree, CA riding and hiking trail, Black Rock CG to north entrance (~38 mi): This is a relatively flat winter point-to-point in Joshua Tree.
- San Jacinto, Cactus to Clouds (10k vertical): This is a chance to climb 10k without subjecting your knees to a 10k descent. I doubt I can come close to the FKT, but I can at least measure my sustained climbing rate.
- Sierra, South Lake to North Lake loop (~53 mi): I have never been to the Evolution Basin, and this would be a fun way to visit. Ideally, I would take less than 13 hours.
- Sierra, Thunderbolt to Sill traverse: I first did this classic traverse in 2008, and it is still one of my favorite routes, testing both endurance and climbing skill. With some running, it should be doable in under 12 hours.
- San Juans, Sunlight-Windom-Eolus (30+ mi): The normal way to do these 14ers is to take a $100 train ride from Durango to Needleton, then camp out. However, for someone cheap who doesn’t like carrying a tent, there is a 15-mile approach from near Purgatory.
Racing is expensive, and ultras rarely have cash prizes, so I need to choose my targets carefully. I would like to place in some 50 milers, and try my legs at the “real man’s distance” of 100 miles, though I still don’t see myself doing many hundreds. Three races in particular come to mind, with some (possibly over-ambitious) goals:
- Jemez Mountain 50: Top 3.
- San Juan Solstice 50: Top 3 and, if conditions are as good as last year, under 9 hours.
- Leadville Trail 100: Under 20 hours. Extrapolating from the small overlap between last year’s San Juan and Leadville finishers, I have a chance at a top 10 or even top 5 finish. Unfortunately, it’s insanely expensive — from $250 before January 31 to $350 after May 1. That’s a big chunk of change to gamble on being motivated and uninjured 8 months from now.