Monday, October 8, 2012

Setting Goals

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about what I want to accomplish running/adventure wise next year.  This year I'm pretty set in a training schedule for the rest of the year, because I think it's important for my upcoming trail marathon to keep to a schedule to make sure I get the training base I need.  However, after this race, I'm going to change things up.

After a little break when I finish the marathon, I'm going to change my focus to prepping for my first 50k (I've narrowed it down to two, which one is TBD).  One thing I have decided, is that while I appreciate following a plan for training, and understand the structure behind it, I don't really like it.  There's no doubt that I have seen improvement in my running ability by following the plan, but still, I don't enjoy the structure.  I'm going to stick with the plan for the next 7 weeks or so until it's over, but after that, things are going to change.

A couple of things I've really noticed from training as of late: 

1.  I love the long trail runs.  I've realized that running over 15+ miles on the trails out here "fits" me, and doing so has drastically increased my confidence. 

2.  I love the short trail runs.  By short, I mean sub-10 mile runs.  Especially when I do those runs on more challenging trails that are far more technical and have lots of climbing and descending.  As it would turn out, I like climbing on my runs.  I'm really starting to get the power-hiking down.  And, I also like descending.  I enjoy moving fast over technical terrain, bounding from rock to rock.

3.  I like running on roads less and less.  However, sometimes it's just hard to get over to the trails.

There's lots of good scenery out here, too.  Several of the trails go to or near an oasis in the middle of a canyon somewhere out here.  It's pretty neat to be running through a rocky, fairly desolate area, and then a spring and a bunch of palm trees pop out of nowhere.  One of my favorite trails out here, 49 Palms Oasis, goes right to a canyon.  It's not a long trail, only 3-ish miles round trip, but this past Saturday I did the trail 2.5 times, and enjoyed the hell out of it.  Some decent climbs, technical descents, and great views along the way.  What more could you ask for?

Elevation Profile 49 Palms Oasis Trail

View Along 49 Palms Oasis Trail
49 Palms Oasis
My long run this week has been my longest thus far (18.5) miles, but I have to admit, I felt great the entire time.  I ran the Boy Scout Trail from Indian Cove Backcountry board, to Keys View West, and then part of one of the other outlying trails to make up a little more distance.  The initial 4 miles of the trail kicked my ass.  It's not so much the elevation gain, because it's not that much.

Elevation profile Boy Scout Trail from Indian Cove

What the elevation profile doesn't show you, is that the first 4 miles of the trail all take place in a sandy wash.  Soft sand + constant climb = suck.  I was just about to get really pissed off, when the soft sand came to an end for the last 3/4 mile or so of climb, and there was series of rocky/technical single track switchbacks out of the wash to the top of the canyon.  I enjoyed those.  There was a point, right after reaching the top of the canyon when it started to flatten out, I almost peed my shorts.  I damn near put my foot right on top of a sun-bathing Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.  I would have taken a picture of it, but in reality, my priority became just getting the hell away from it.  Once I got to the top, the trail flattened out with the exception of a few small rolling climbs.  The biggest issue was just the soft sand, that seemed to come and go depending on where you were at on the trail. 

Like I said, I felt really good on the run.  I may not have been that fast, but there were some sections where I was still pushing an 8:30 mile through the sand between the 10 and 15 mile marks.  I was pretty happy with that.  I was taking in plain water, a gatorade/coconut water mix I had in a bottle, and Cliff shot blocks the whole time.  Oh, I was also taking Hammer Endurolytes.  They kept me going, and considering I didn't eat any breakfast, I was happy that there was no point that I felt like I was going to bonk.  It really was a great run.

View from top of wash on Boy Scout Trail
Sandy wash section of Boy Scout Trail
What most of Boy Scout Trail looks like in the flat sections.  Nice and sandy.
Aside from some great runs, I've been thinking about what I'm going to attempt next year.  There's so much potential for some epic runs here in the southwest, that I feel I have to take advantage of it.  I'm going to base more of my training on things that I want to do, and then throw in a few races along the way.  I still plan on getting in plenty of long runs, and shorter, faster runs, and I don't think mileage or time on my feet is going to be a problem, I'm just going to try not to structure it so much.  I want to be able to run when and how I think I should, not how a training schedule tells me I should.

So here's what I've got planned so far for next year, in no particular order as of yet:

1.  2 50k races (Not sure yet, but looking at Oriflamme, Leona Divide, and Bootlegger Canyon 50k's)
2.  Trans-Joshua Tree on the California Hiking and Riding Trail (35-37 miles)
3.  Summit of Mt. San Jacinto via Skyline Trail (~20 miles 10k+ feet of gain)
4.  Grand Canyon R2R2R (41-48ish depending on route)
5.  50 mi race late in the year (TNF 50 maybe?)

I'm sure I'll throw in some shorter stuff, too, because around Joshua Tree, Big Bear,  and Palm Springs there are all kinds of great shorter trail runs.  Those are my big attempts for next year.  I'm not setting anything in stone as of yet, we'll just to see if I can fit them all into the schedule, but that's tentatively what I want to accomplish.  Now, I realize I'm not going to be setting any records on these attempts, but then, that's not really my goal.  My goal is just to do it.  Grand Canyon R2R2R may take me 20 hours, but I still want to do it.  So, here's to setting goals!  Anyone want to join me?

In the meantime....Keep Running!

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