The temperature has dropped. The eggnog is warm. Time to reflect on your fantastic year of running and start getting ready for next year. This is where I find myself scrolling through race websites, flipping back and forth between my calendar trying to plan my races and travel to get the most I can out of the year. Consider the date, the distance, the weather, your work schedule, proximity to other races… every little detail needs to be fit together like a puzzle piece so you can have a great year of running without biting off more than you can chew, so where do you get started?
The big ones. Pick your goal race or goal races. Set your sights early for when and where you’ll be for The Big One. Maybe it’s your first half marathon, maybe it’s Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc. Shoot for the stars but keep it realistic. Everyone wants to sign up for Ultra-Famous Gruelfest Of Death thinking if they fill out that little waiver it will inspire them to train and the months will pass like a Rocky montage. You’ll be inspired, but how different your lifestyle will be is dependent on you, not your Race Registration Confirmed email. Don’t forget, races are almost always annual, and it takes months and years to change your body. Maybe that Gruelfest Of Death is best penciled into 2018 and the Half Gruelfest will be more a more rewarding experience.
Now that you have your goals, fill in the gaps with fun stuff. Even if you’re competing on an international level, 10ks and half marathons are just plain fun. Focusing too hard on one thing just creates pressure and other events can help you learn routine and build confidence for the big day. Make sure you have plenty of time to recover between the races. I generally give it 3 weeks between each race, more for bigger ones, but nobody is going to tell you that a solid effort in a short distance is bad for training. Just make sure you’re not applying for these things like machine gun fire and find yourself toeing the line at The Big One burnt out. Also, some wiggle room gives you more chance to find other events that you didn’t even know existed.
Know the ‘registration open’ dates. Write them down. Set an alert on your phone. Get a cute little tattoo. Okay, don’t do that. It’s a pretty bad feeling to be bragging to your friends about how you’re getting ready for such-and-such and then you miss the deadline. Most websites will tell you when the registration opens or will put you on a mailing list to keep you updated. Get early-bird pricing. I’ve missed deadline far more often than I’ve regretted signing up.
Now that you have your goals, put together the training. Check out my guide for building your training plan. This should revolve around your goals for the year, allowing you to peak at just the right time without being overly abitious that you end up injuring yourself right before the race. Don’t ask why I say that. Marathons need more long-distance tempo runs. Mountain races need hill training. All of the guys leading the race have structured their lifestyles to balance their life and their training. Nobody wins on accident.
Success starts with planning (and in the kitchen). Real improvement comes from consistent effort. Best of luck in 2017, hope to see you at the finish line.