NFEC-50 Finish with Alex B.
NFEC-50 Finish with Alex B.

Dang, where did the year go?  I seems like just yesterday that I was mapping out my 2012 race schedule, and here I am planning another one.

As runners we are forced into this yearly ritual of planning our race schedule far in advance.  Deciding to do a race 8 months out might not sound like much, but often what you commit to equals months of training, long hours of running, and turning down fun things because you have a big run the next day.

I rarely plan what I’m eating for lunch, let alone an entire year’s worth of something, but with races filling faster than ever and training becoming more targeted than ever, planning ahead has become a must for many of us.

Finding a good balance of spontaneity, thoughtfulness, and intrigue is key for planning a successful year of running.

My Plans for the Next Year

Planning for my 2013 race schedule has proven a bit complicated.  What has thrown off any normal plan is that the I would consider my ‘A’ race is in February.  That is really early to be running your A race.

Secondly, I’m getting married in September.  The last thing I want to do (or the future Mrs. RCR wants me to do) right before my wedding will be run a big race, and I know that training will be cut back significantly during the months before and after the big day.  That means that any major races in August – October are probably out.

So where does that leave me?

I was selected through a lottery to run this year’s 40 mile Mt. Mitchell Challenge in February.  If you aren’t familiar with the race, it starts in Black Mountain, North Carolina and runs to the top of Mt. Mitchell (the highest point on the east coast) and back.  20 miles up, 20 miles back, in February.  It is going to be brutal.

I will also be putting my name in the hat for the Bull Run 50 this year.  In addition to that, I’m hoping to run another 50k at some point, and plan to toe the line of a few local half marathons and 10 milers throughout the year.

Something New

Shenandoah's Appalachian Trail
Shenandoah’s Appalachian Trail

If all goes as planned, I will be diving into something new this year.

I hope to take on a few big fastpacking trips and treat them more like races than weekend outings.  I’ll train for them just as I would a real race, and hopefully they will fit in perfectly with the rest of my schedule.

What is fastpacking?  Basically backpacking a lot faster.  Instead of hiking 10-15 miles a day on a backpacking trip, I’ll strip down to the basics, carry a much smaller pack, and aim for 20-30 miles a day.

A few target trips I have in mind for this year would be 40-50 miles over 2 days in Shenandoah National Park (SNP) in March, and a possible trip alone the full length of SNP’s 101 mile section of the Appalachian Trail over 3-4 days.

This will be something totally new for me, and I’ll be sure to share my experiences as they come.

4 Tips for Planning Your Race Calendar

Planning out your race schedule can be a little difficult, but it will make your training and racing much smoother down the road.  Here are a few tips I’ve learned from past experience:

  1. Start with your ‘A’ race, the race that is most important to you.  Plan around that date, using shorter distance races as training tools leading up to it, and taking advantage of the targeted training you just finished for races following it.
  2. Think outside the box and find races you might not typically run.  Are you new to trail running?  Find a local trail race.  Thinking of trying out your first triathlon or duathlon?  Find an empty gap in your schedule and see if there is a local race to add to your schedule.  Mixing things up will keep you interested.
  3. Have a backup plan so you aren’t totally bummed if you can’t get into a race you were planning to run.  It happens.
  4. Don’t over-schedule yourself.  It’s a lot better to realize you don’t have any races coming up and jump into a local 10k than it is to have too many marathons on your calendar and get burnt out.

Thinking ahead can be a lot of fun and very exciting.  Have you been planning your race schedule for 2013 yet?  What big races do you have coming up?

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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