January through March were all about laying the foundation for 2017. I banked more than 500 miles during that span and logged my first-ever 200-mile month.
Now it’s April, and racing season starts this weekend. A glance beyond Saturday can feel a bit overwhelming, however.Starting with the “Don’t Run Boston” 50K at the Blue Hills Reservation this weekend, 11 events are on my racing calendar so far. That includes five races in the USATF New England Mountain Circuit series, as well as the gnarly 7 Sisters race, and the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler at Wachusett Mountain.
Truth be told, I haven’t had a race schedule this packed since 2013, and that ended with a trip to the emergency room after crossing the finish line of a 50-mile mountain race in Canada.
Plenty has changed since then, of course, but it’s enough to make me pause and tap into some of the lessons learned from back then. For one thing, I ran myself into exhaustion both physically and mentally. For another, my nutrition was pretty poor.
The biggest lesson, however, had to do with perspective. In 2013, I treated every race like it was an “A” race. I was traveling quite a bit (races in four states plus Canada) and had invested quite a bit in most of those races, so I wanted to make them count. As a result, I never took a break – not a single week off for months on end – and by the time the Meet Your Maker 50 in Canada arrived, I was coming off of a 27-mile pacing assignment at the Leadville 100 and was both mentally and physically wiped out.
While the three-hour ambulance ride and overnight stay in a Vancouver ER were scary at the time, they also made me wiser. I’ve raced smarter since then, and learned not to take every race so seriously.
I’m counting on that wisdom to work to my advantage this year. Sure, I have a ton of races – tough, rugged mountain races – on my calendar this year, only one race matters. The goal race, the “A” race, is the CCC 101K in the European Alps from Courmayeur, Italy, through Champex-Lac, Switzerland, to Chamonix, France. It features three countries, 20,000 feet of vertical gain, and whatever elements the mountains throw at us, from extreme heat, to thunderstorms, to snow.
CCC is the only race on my calendar that matters this year. Everything else is a glorified training run and will be treated as such. It’s not that those other events aren’t important; they are. It’s just that they are all local races that I can do next year or the year after, and all of them feature elements – steep climbs, in particular – that will prepare me well for the “A” race.
Besides, I’ve been looking at CCC as a dream race since 2013. Race day is Sept. 1 – four years to the day since that trip to the ER – so a smart, focused, and prioritized racing season may be the best way to prove that I’ve learned and grown from those hard lessons of four years ago.