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My 2015 ultra running race schedule: Strategy & considerations

In the medical tent after finsihing the Leadville 100 in 2008. I'd destroyed myself in the process of finishing 2nd in 18:17: I couldn't sit up on my own, and I had to be loaded into my car on a gurney and carried into the house where we are staying. Makes me wonder: Why am I going to do this to myself again?

In the medical tent after finsihing the Leadville 100 in 2008. I’d destroyed myself in the process of finishing 2nd in 18:17: I couldn’t sit up on my own, and I had to be loaded into my car on a gurney and carried into the house where we are staying. Makes me kind of wonder: Why am I going to do this to myself again? (I know why.)

A non-running subject to start. Join me on Thursday, February 19 at 11am PST for a live online event about backpacking shelters. We’ll be discussing pros & cons of double- and single-wall tents, tarps, hammocks, and bivies. Register here: http://sierradesigns.yourbrandlive.com/c/2015tents


This year excites me, a lot. It’s the first since 2010 in which I have both the desire and the ability to get after it again. My primary focus will be a series of backpacking trips in the theme of, “Short is the new long.” But I’ve added a few ultra races to my calendar, too:

If not for a family vacation in late-June, the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile out of Lake City, CO, would have been an excellent addition to this list as well.

I’ve always said that I “dabble” in ultra running, and this year there is no change to that. I’m a lifelong runner, but I view ultras mostly as an opportunity to satisfy my competitiveness, maintain a high level of fitness before and after the peak backpacking months, and to fill some voids on my calendar. It’s a very intriguing scene, but I still find I’m more drawn to efforts that require greater self-reliance: off-trail, committing routes far from roads or help like the Wind River High Route, rather than a race-inside-my-own-head on marked trails with frequent aid stations that is measured in hours, not days or weeks.

Most runners have a racing strategy, with primary considerations to training and recovery, plus budget, scheduling conflicts, and wants. How did I form my schedule?

1. No summer races

The prime backpacking season in the high country is just three months long — July through September — and I can’t afford 1-2 weeks of relative inactivity prior to an ultra in order to taper, and then 2-4 weeks afterwards in order to recover. I wish that Run Rabbit Run were a few weeks later, but at least I will still have all of July and August. And given the low snowpacks across much of the West so far this winter, July will be more productive than usual.

2. Elite competition

If I’m going to suffer, I want to make it count. Breaking the tape is always thrilling, but I enjoy more going stride-for-stride with talented runners. The North Face 50 will have the most stud-filled field, but competition at the front will be strong at the other races, too. No doubt, this is partly due to the prize money offered at Dirty 30 and Run Rabbit Run.

3. Guaranteed entry

I would love to run Western States or Hardrock — probably the two most esteemed 100-milers in the country — but I’m unwilling to follow a multi-step and multi-year plan of qualifying races and lotteries that still does not guarantee entry. Ditto for Leadville now, which wisely capped their field after unacceptable race management incompetence in 2013. Even if I qualify for the lotteries this year, don’t expect to see my name on a registration list soon — next year I will have just a 4.7 percent chance of entry into Western States and a 1.3 percent chance of entry into Hardrock! If ultra running were my primary gig, maybe I’d be willing to be more persistent, but at least for the time being I just don’t want it that badly.

4. Convenience

Thankfully, Boulder is one of the country’s ultra running capitals — along with Mill Valley, CA — so there are ample, high caliber races nearby that fit the parameters discussed above, which helps to keep travel cost and travel time to a minimum. The only exception is The North Face 50, but I think it’s worth the trip: it’s an excellently managed race; the competition is deep; and the course is wildly aesthetic.

Posted in on February 17, 2015
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3 Comments

  1. Daily News, Wed, Feb 18 | UltraRunnerPodcast.com on February 18, 2015 at 6:59 am

    […] I like this guy: Andrew Skurka’s 2015 calendar and considerations. […]

  2. Mike H on February 19, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Really enjoy reading your revived ideas regarding trail/ultra running; always thoughtful, always methodical. Keep them coming. Have you considered the Desert Rats Festival in Fruita this April? Definitely flatter stuff, but a unique landscape and an early season race.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 19, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I ran Desert Rats in 2009. At least then, it was well run, and it turned out a small, local crowd that wanted a “short” early-season race. If not for having 3 weeks of guided and personal trips in Escalante in April, I might have considered it this year, but like San Juan Solstice it just didn’t work.

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