HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: PLAN A
[Note: I wrote this entry on January 1 but our 2007 web
site wasn't ready for it until recently. In order to avoid total
confusion, I'm dating it June 1 and including an addendum at the end
with our current plans.]
I love the beginning of a brand new year! Not only is it Jim's and my
anniversary and the anniversary of the day I began this thing called
"running," it's also an optimistic, hopeful time for me.
I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions, at least not on
paper. I make "resolutions" all year long. Most I carry through, others
I revise when reality sets in.
Jim and I tend to make our running resolutions ("plans" would be more
accurate) in the fall rather than in January. We usually take our annual
rest break from running for a month or two in the late fall/early winter
months. Our major races are history and we let our bodies recover. We
tentatively choose the primary races on which we want to focus the next
season, like 100-milers, and then fill in the blanks later with shorter
ultras (is that an oxy-moron?) that will help us train for the longer
It's amazing how optimistic we are at that point. No matter how well
or how badly our previous race season went, we always know we can do
better the next year! It's comical, really, and we laugh at ourselves.
Anything seems possible in January (or November or December). We
do the same thing every year. It's like avid gardeners who plan their
most elaborate gardens ever in the dead of winter when they're drooling
over gorgeous seed catalogues.
Hope springs eternal, regardless of the passions in which we humans
indulge. At this point, our tentative plans go like this:
Jim would like to run at least two of his favorite 100-milers,
Bighorn (BH) and Leadville (LT). He loves both courses and has
unfinished business there. Although he was able to finish LT100 in 1999
- his very first 100-miler - he has DNF'd* several times since. And he
hasn't been able to finish BH in his first three attempts. Note that he
has finished other tough 100s like Wasatch Front, The Bear, and Western
States, as well as Vermont and Kettle Moraine.
[ *DNF means "did not finish." Some ultra marathoners also use it as
an acronym for "did nothing fatal."]
Jim, running on the right, during the 2006 LT100
In addition to Bighorn and Leadville, Jim is also entering the
Massanutten Mountain Trail (MMT) 100-miler in northern Virginia and
Wasatch Front (WF) 100 in Utah. He's never been interested in MMT before
because it's notoriously rocky. In fact, the race motto is "Massanutten
Rocks!" That's cute, but neither of us is fond of rocky trails, so I'm
surprised he's even considering it. However, it's close and we can train
on it this winter and spring with our Virginia Happy Trail Running Club
(VHTRC) friends. Some popular ultras are filling up and closing out in
record speed this year, so Jim wants to get into the race first and then
decide if he'll withdraw later. This is one of the few races where most
of the entry fee is refunded by a certain date. There will also be a
waiting list, so if he gives enough notice, someone else can take his
Wasatch has become so popular that it is instituting a lottery system
for entry this year. Entries are limited to about 150 runners because of
Forest Service regulations. The race committee decided a lottery similar
to that used by Western States was the fairest way to fill the race.
It's not a complicated system that favors past participants like
Hardrock. The fact that Jim has finished this race previously doesn't
increase his odds of getting in this year. It appears that anyone who
enters has the same odds of getting picked. The drawing is February 3,
so it will be another month before Jim knows if he's in Wasatch.
Jim's other current choices for races this year are one or more of
David Horton's local ultras (Holiday Lake 50K++ in February, Promise
Land 50K+++ in April) and Bull Run Run 50-miler in northern VA in April. Since we spend so much of our "play money" going out West for several
months in the summer, we ration races the rest of the year and try to do
ones closer to home that don't require overnight accommodations or dog
boarding costs. There are tons of races within two or three hours of our
home, one of the reasons we retired in the Roanoke area.
My own plans are light on races and heavy on journey/adventure runs.
As I get slower and slower, I just don't have the drive to compete
against the clock as much as I used to, let alone other runners. I'm
having major difficulties this winter kick-starting my new training
season (the subject of another entry) and I can't see wasting money on
races I'm real likely to DNF. At this point, the only race I can get
excited about is Bighorn. I plan to enter the 50K because the time limit
is very generous and I can enjoy myself without worrying so much about
cut-offs. If my training goes well this spring, I might try later to
move up to the 52-miler. I've finished both races and know the
challenges of each.
I'll crew and/or volunteer at the other races Jim does this spring,
and we'd like to attend one or more races just to volunteer. We have as
much fun - maybe more! - volunteering at races as we do running them,
and race directors can always use more help. Jim will probably volunteer
again to captain an aid station at Hardrock like we did last year. By
default, I'll be "assistant captain."
What I'm most looking forward to this year is completing the
remaining seven segments of the Colorado Trail (CT) that I didn't have
time to run in 2006, and going back to some of my favorite segments
again in the San Juan Mountains and around Leadville. I'd also like to
tackle some new sections of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in
Colorado. I've already done about 100 miles of the CDT where it
coincides with the CT. I have only about 3,000 miles of it left!
Crossing the Rio Grande below Stony Pass
Like last year, I'll do those CT and CDT segments with Jim's crewing
assistance and work them in around our other activities - his races and
altitude training, races where we're volunteering, and family visits.
CAVEAT: Those are our current plans, subject to revision as
always. We're both like kids in a candy store this time of year,
considering all the wonderful possibilities and being optimistic about
the adventures ahead of us.
REALITY SETS IN: PLAN B
I plan to cover our training runs and races more thoroughly in an
upcoming entry, but I'll mention here how the grand plan has changed
over the last five months.
- Jim is entered in just two 100-milers this year, Bighorn (June 15)
in Wyoming and Leadville (August 18) in Colorado. He withdrew from
Massanutten after our first group training run on part of the course
in mid-January. (See photos of part of the course at the "More Photos"
link, left.) He was one of about a third of the entrants to Wasatch
who did not make the lottery this year. As compensation, he'll have
double the odds of getting in next year.
- Jim ended up running five races in preparation for Bighorn:
Holiday Lake 50K in February, Umstead 50-miler in late March, Bull Run
Run 50-miler in mid-April, Capon Valley 50K in mid-May, and Old
Dominion Memorial 50-miler in late May.
- Jim has volunteered to be the aid station captain again for the
Cunningham AS (photo below) at the Hardrock Hundred in mid-July in Silverton,
CO. This is the station we worked for 24 hours last year when it was
the last one during the race. Since HRH switches directions each year,
Cunningham will be the first AS during the race this time. (Read:
fast and furious catering to the runners, then we're done and can
go enjoy the race at another location.)
- My plans are essentially the same - to run the Bighorn 50K as fast
as I can while still taking photos and enjoying myself, to finish the
CT and do more of my favorite segments, and to try to find some new
- I volunteered all day at Holiday Lake and Umstead while Jim ran
those races (as well as overnight at Umstead), and will assist Jim
with his HRH aid station duties again. We also volunteer lots of hours
every time we go to Leadville.
- The only race I've run this season is Capon Valley 50K, which I
finished despite a recurrence of leg cramps (my bugaboo last year).
Other than Bighorn, I have no other definite plans now to race this
year, but I'll probably want to race in the fall after we return home.
We're actually on the road right now, on our way to Kenosha Pass so I
can run Segments 3 and 4 of the Colorado Trail a bit west of Denver.
Then we'll head to Dayton, WY to acclimate and train on the Bighorn
course. After that, it's back to do five unfinished sections of the CT
between Marshall Pass and Eddiesville. We'll go to Silverton, CO before
the July 4 crowd arrives (in an attempt to get our favorite free
campsite on S. Mineral Creek Road again!) and stay until after the race.
Then it's off to Leadville for several weeks of fun. I hope to run some
CDT segments in and around those planned activities, as time and Jim's
crewing patience allows (tough to get to some of these trailheads).
And once again I plan to regale you with stories of our adventures on
and off the trails and overload your senses with photos of gorgeous
mountain scenery. We look forward to seeing some of you at the various
races, and hope the rest of our readers have a chance some day to
explore these scenic trails on foot, bike, or horse.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil