Fun in 2016: What I have planned

I see a high route, and a good excuse to spend a lot of time this summer in my backyard.

I see a high route, and a good excuse to spend a lot of time this summer in my backyard.

It’s almost April, yet just recently has my 2016 play calendar taken shape. Normally my schedule is dialed by now, but I have more flexibility this year since I’m not guiding trips or actively speaking. The extra time was useful — it gave me an opportunity to reflect on 2015, and to ponder my long-term commitment to 2017 projects that necessitate action this year.

Here’s my schedule:

For my full thought process, which I wrote more for myself than for anyone else, read on.


Let’s start with this, since it’s refreshingly flexible and straightforward in comparison to my racing schedule.

My “short is the new long” series is working, and I’m planning for more of the same in 2016, mostly in July and August, and perhaps June if it stops snowing soon. I won’t reveal specific details yet, but my list of locations is not surprising: the High Sierra, Greater Yellowstone, several ranges in Colorado, and the northern Rockies.

I was hoping to schedule a Colorado Plateau trip in April, either in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or the Grand Canyon, both of which have long route possibilities. (Refer to Allen’s Canyoneering 3 or Steck’s Hiking Grand Canyon Loops for inspiration.) But with a manuscript deadline of May 1, this hope proved unrealistic.

In October I will finish the season with a backpack hunt.


I turned 35 yesterday, and I’m aware that I’m approaching the backside of my physical prime. I don’t have statistical proof of this, but I’m assuming that my trajectory will be similar to that of other endurance athletes. If I wish to set lifetime bests that reflect my peak talent, the sooner the better.

The single most important split to me is the marathon; I’m less interested in running fast 5k’s and 10k’s again. Given that my entire family lives around Boston, I feel there is no better opportunity for a PR than the Boston Marathon.

To race Boston, however, I need a qualifying time of at least 3:10, but probably a few minutes faster to actually be accepted. I intend to get it at the Colorado Marathon. I’m aiming for 2:50, or about 6:30 minute/mile pace. At Boston, I’ll be looking to go mid-2:30’s, which will require more intense and more marathon-specific training than I have done this winter.

The other 2017 project is Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB), perhaps the greatest ultra marathon in the world. Like Boston, one must quality for UTMB, but with finishes, not time. Specifically, I need 9 points from three races in the 2015-2016 seasons. Last year I received 8 points from three races; if I finish San Juan Solstice in June or Run Rabbit Run in September, I’ll be at 9 or 11.

Qualifying for UTMB does not guarantee entry, however. Like popular ultras in the US, there is a lottery. I have not found a detailed statistical analysis for UTMB similar to those for Western States or Hardrock, but I recall reading that odds were about one-third for first-time entries.

Thankfully, I have a more promising route: elite entry. UTMB guarantees entry for racers with an ITRA ranking of 750+, which is an average of your best performances, up to five races.  Currently I’m at 760, based on four races. If I race well at San Juan Solstice, I could call it quits for 2016: I’d have my points and have a satisfactory ITRA ranking. I don’t know of any other backpackers who can make this claim.

But I’d like to return for Run Rabbit Run 100. I raced well there last year, and my original motivations in registering are true again in 2016: a deep field of talented runners, and a logistically easy race for Amanda and me. Plus, learning more about training and racing helps me long-term.

If I botch either SJS or RRR and drop below 750 in my ITRA ranking, I may have to add a final 2016 race. But I’m not planning on that.

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Posted in on March 26, 2016


  1. Kevin on March 30, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Should be awesome to see whatever high routes you’ve come up with in CO

  2. Doug K on March 30, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    looks like a good year..

    you may hear runners say Boston is not a PR course, but it’s fine as long as you have trained for fast downhill running on tired quads.. ran 2:50 easily when in low 2:40s shape, ran easy because I knew I couldn’t PR and wanted to enjoy the run.
    I’ve run a lot of marathons and would rate Boston as a fast course, as long as you are prepared for it. From 2:50 to mid-2:30s is a huge jump though, it will take dedicated marathon training in 2017 preparation..

  3. Kevin on April 2, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Do you think you’d ever consider rafting through the Grand Canyon? That seems like it would be an awesome adventure.

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