It's hard to decide which races I want to target as goal races this year, as goals come in different shapes and sizes. One definite goal is to get to the start line of a 100-mile race fit and healthy, and do what it takes to get that race finished. From there, I'll be able to decide if the 100-mile distance is something I enjoy and want to pursue.
That, minus the healthy part, was my goal for 2007. Unfortunately, it was the healthy part that was my undoing, and by the time Leadville rolled around I was barely able to walk - not the kind of shape you want to be in when toeing the line for your first 100 miler.
After an eight-month lay-off and a lackluster return in early '08, I am once again feeling like I am ready to race. I really think I can bust out some solid performances this year. Just got to stay healthy.
Anyway, after careful consideration and considerable sticker shock when receiving the Leadville application earlier this month, I have decided that Big Horn will be my big day out in '09. From what others have told me, the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming are a great setting for a trail race, and while Leadville is certainly a higher profile race, I think the Leadville Marathon and Silver Rush 50 will give me enough of America's highest incorporated town for one year.
The 100-mile race will be about getting it done and little else. Every other trail race I run this year, of marathon distance or longer, I'll be running for the win or for a place.
That's the great thing about ultra trail racing: if you're prepared to put in the miles, hills and intensity, and you have a modicum of talent then you can be competitive as the talent pool in this marginal but growing sport remains shallow. Of course, there is so much more to racing trails than competition, but it sure adds an extra element of fun when you can be in the mix towards the end of a race.
Salida Marathon (Salida, CO) - This is a small event that attracts a solid crowd of runners looking to get an early season read on their form. The course record is 3:09, which for a course that climbs more than 4,000 feet is pretty impressive. I'll be happy to go under 3:30 here. If I can do that, it should be good for a top-three finish.
Spring Desert Ultra 50 (Fruita, CO) - This was the beginning of the end for me in '07. I was signed up for the 50, but pulled up lame at the 25 mile turnaround after taking a major wrong turn a mile from the finish. Like Salida, a lot of runners use this race as an honest early season read on fitness. It climbs about 8,000 feet in total. Duncan Callahan, the winner at Leadville last year, holds the course record at 7:41, and according to his blog he plans to race it again this year. Although a listing of this year's entrants is not yet up, I know there will be other strong runners in the field, so again I'll be happy with a top-three, sub-8-hour finish.
Collegiate Peaks 50 (Buena Vista, CO) - This is a low-key race from what I understand. However, this being Colorado, you never know who'll show up on race day. Regardless, I'll be gunning for a win here. The website suggests to expect more than 9,000 feet of climbing. Looking at previous results, that seems unlikely, or if the climb is accurate then the course is probably short. Anton Krupicka holds the course record at 6:53. I'll be happy to run under 7:30.
Big Horn 100 (Sheridan, WY)- Just looking to finish. To get it done in less than a day would be a bonus.
Leadville Marathon (Leadville, CO) - This was one of my better finishes in '07. I ran 4:16 for a sixth-place finish. The climb up to Mosquito Pass at 13,200 feet is a classic, and with over 5,500 feet of climbing and some jarring descents on loose trail, anything can happen. I'm shooting for a sub-4-hour finish, which in years past would be good for a top three or a win in weaker years. Anton Krupicka holds the course record at 3:41.
Silver Rush 50 (Leadville, CO) - I beat Nick Pedatela, the '08 winner of this race at the Steamboat 50 last year, but came in 10 minutes behind Ryan Burch, who was second at the Silver Rush. If the same cast of characters shows up this year, I'll be shooting for a win and course record. The current course record was set last year, the first year it was run: 7:26.
Pikes Peak (Manitou Springs, CO) - I'm not 100 percent sure if I'm going to run this one, but if I do, a top-ten finish seems like an achievable goal. This famed race climbs a massive 8,000 feet in just over 13 miles and then you have to turn around for the brutal descent. Matt Carpenter is the undisputed king of this hill, setting the course record of 3:16 (surely untouchable) in 1993, and he is still winning to this day. If I do run the marathon, then I'd probably shoot for something under 4:30, and certainly a top-10 finish.
Breck Crest Marathon (Breckenridge, CO) - After being sent miles off course by aid station volunteers while running less than a minute behind first with four or five miles to the finish last year, I feel like I have a score to settle with this race. The win, and a better time than last year's winner (3:48), are the only things I care about here. This race is all about climbing, so I should be in good shape.
Blue Sky Marathon (Fort Collins, CO) - This one is right in my backyard. I had a poor race last year so will be looking to improve on my time (3:47).
And there it is in black and white. We'll see.