The Year Ahead

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When we aren’t training for a race, we’re making big plans for the year ahead. Excitement turns into anticipation as the lotteries decide our fates. And when all the names have been drawn, it’s time to move forward by creating a race schedule around the race we did or didn’t get into. But why? And is it healthy?

Depending on how many races we set our sights on, a loaded schedule might be too physically demanding and put a body at risk. With all of the recent discussions about Over Training Syndrome (OTS), a form of chronic fatigue, it’s hard to ignore the possible repercussions of high mileage training combined with racing year-round. But with so many ultras to be had, there seems to be deeper emotions involved when choosing which to sign up for – not unlike a kid in a candy store. Or, as Dylan Bowman, recently mentioned, “Like a fantasy football draft but more personal.”

Our enthusiasm for the sport often borderlines obsession, and rightly so. With the number of hours we spend on the trails and the beautiful landscapes we play witness to, there’s no question that endorphins aren’t the only thing fueling our fire. Unfortunately, like any obsession, there are negative effects when perspective gets a bit skewed. Relationships can be put at risk, along with priorities such as work or family. Off-season is a perfect time to evaluate the year ahead, and changes that can be made to increase quality of training, as well as quality of life. A sturdy balance of both is ideal.

More often than not we are reminded that the keys to this sport are consistency and patience. Running for hours means we must practice both, and when we’re not running – well, we want to be. Hence the late night ultrasignup.com binges. In a perfect world, our race schedules would include one or two big races, with a few smaller ones on either side to build up and balance out the larger ones. Everyone has their preference, but a variety of races distances can be beneficial training tools. So resist the urge to fill your race calendar for the year based on temptation, and cherry-pick your favorites.

When all is said and done, planning for the year ahead is often necessary due to race lotteries, early fill-ups and travel plans. But it’s also nice to be able to get excited about, and visualize the upcoming race season. As physically and mentally tough athletes, we have an incredible passion for our sport. And as long as we spend a little bit of our time on the trail thinking about consistency and balance, we can continue to plan ahead and foster our longevity as ultrarunners.

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About Author

Amy Clark is the Editor of UltraRunning Magazine. She began her career at a small advertising agency in Bend, Oregon, where she enjoyed the fast pace and creative environment. For over 15 years, lunch hour runs were a ritual. Amy also joined the board of the local running club, became a race director and finished her first ultra. She has completed over 35 marathons and ultras combined, and continues to run long distances while encouraging both kids and adults to ignite their own passion for running.

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