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January 12, 2010

Hope and a Future

(Before today’s post, a reminder: if you haven’t done so already, point your clicker to this webpage to register for Wilderness Running Company’s Garmin 405 giveaway drawing, which will be awarded on Friday. Go ahead and do it now … I’ll be here when you get back.)


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
- Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

I’m glad that someone has plans for me … because I’m sure having a hard time making them for myself.

For each of the past two years, my training and racing revolved around a solitary goal: finishing the Western States Endurance Run. Working backwards from the race date, the pieces fell into place fairly easily: build high mileage through February and March, do a killer ultra in April, another one in May, and show up at the start line in June.

This year, everything’s different. There’s no big goal race. No compulsion to build mileage at any particular time of year. No pressure to cross a specific task off my bucket list. And consequently … not much direction to making a schedule.

Most of this predicament was voluntary; I owed my family some time and attention that were long diverted while chasing the Western States dragon, and that compensation started during the last half of 2009. And as it turns out, I kind of like sleeping in on weekends or seeing my kids before they go to school in the morning – so I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to jump back into Crazytown right away. Lottery signups (most notably Western States and Miwok) came and went, and I felt no compulsion to take part. Races with rapid-fire signup lists opened and filled to capacity without a pang of regret.

Combine the above factors with an all-around busier schedule from career and church obligations (all of them good, but still), and it makes sense that even when I had the inkling to commit to a race several months down the road, the reality hit me that I’m not in a great position to do so. The longer all of this went on, the possibility of spending an entire season on the sideline grew, and I even started to have some peace with the idea.

And yet …

This is what I do. These events are what I love. This training reveals the person I am. So I’m not getting rid of it all so easily.

Where does that leave me in regards the race calendar? Nowhere specific, but I’ve got a few guidelines for my decision-making:

Short notice: I can barely tell you what my situation will be one week from now, let alone 5 or 6 months. I need to wait a bit longer than usual to sign up for races, to see if I can actually pull them off. However, I’ll definitely need to factor in some buildup time, because I also like to …

Go big: Apologies if this sounds smug, but here’s the thing: I’m perfectly happy to do 30-milers at home. I block out some time, load up my hydration pack, get myself lost somewhere in the hills of Monterey County, then grab a quick shower before getting on with the rest of the day. So if I’m going to pay entry fees and travel to a race, it needs to be something bigger than what I can do on my own. My goal isn’t to run every trail race in California; in fact, I’m making a concerted effort to …

Stay close to home: If I can’t drive there in a half-day or so, I’m not going. Fortunately, that still leaves me a lot of options in the Western Mecca of ultrarunning better known as Northern California.

And with that, we’ll see what happens. Of course, some of these conditions may change over the course of a year, but that’s where I’m at now. As far as specific races go, the only one on my radar right now is the Diablo 50M - which seems to be affected by the same uncertainty bug I’ve contracted, in that the April race date is still tentative. It’s truly an epic race; beautiful and fearsome, empowering and intimidating, exciting and terrifying all at once. For the past two years I’ve done it as a tune-up to gauge my Western States preparations; this year I’d like to appreciate it as a destination in itself.

So far, that’s the list. I’ll announce updates as warranted, with the hopes of grabbing myself a few more wonderful race experiences before the year is out. But if it doesn’t happen that way, that’s OK as well. At most other times in my life, it would have bugged the heck out of me to enter a year with no plans, but I recognize there are larger forces at play here. There’s always hope and a future out there for me, even when they’re not entirely visible.


Anne 1/13/10, 5:00 AM  

A couple of years ago I made a similar decision to stop the destination marathons or races and just appreciate what is right in my backyard (or my children's in northern California if I was so moved). You might be pleasantly surprised at how this new attitude fuels your future races.

Gretchen 1/13/10, 6:02 AM  

Right after college when I wasn't training and racing so much, it was like a small (and delightful) epiphany to realize how many other fun things there were to do with my time besides running. The world is so full of opportunities! I guess the pendulum has swung back the other way for me at the moment, but that can be exciting, too.

Anyway, have fun with whatever works out for you. And don't forget to schedule in some non-race running dates with friends in beautiful places. (Ahem!) That's part of my plan to fill out my own, more streamlined race schedule. It doesn't have to be a race to be an event!

Looking forward to seeing you out on the trails.

momo 1/13/10, 9:16 AM  

i am exactly in the same spot. after 3 years of back to back to back to back im's and all sorts of other things, i'm taking a break this year. probably a good year to do it considering both the littles have so much going on.

rest, regroup and renew. 2010 is a great year for it!

wirehairedrunner 1/13/10, 2:16 PM  

Donald--It's ok to still train and NOT enter any races. You won't be any less of an ultrarunner. Plus, you'll always have a base to work from if you do decide to enter something on a whim.

Backofpack 1/13/10, 5:11 PM  

Running for the love of running! I love it!

Rainmaker 1/13/10, 5:16 PM  

It's interesting to see how similiar your and my schedules are this year. I don't yet have really any formal/final race plan. Sure I have a few things - but no massive build to one end-all-be-all race.

freecow29-first 1/13/10, 8:08 PM  

You know what is fun is volunteering at some of the big event, or pacing. This way you are still part of it and it is a good way to give back. My favorite is Coyote Two Moon in March near Ventura. As the site says, "...ultra-idiocy of its own personality, designed to entertain our volunteers (through your self-imposed pain and suffering) and challenge your running (“go with the Farce…”)

Darrell 1/14/10, 6:44 AM  

I have little doubt that the "right event" will find you eventually. I know I still am motivated to run by the goal race out there in the future and enjoy the racing just to be out on routes different from the ones I use on a weekly basis. Enjoy!

craig 1/14/10, 8:05 PM  

One of my favorite verses. And I like your plan too.

craig 1/14/10, 8:05 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
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