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I was glad to see this morning that the Black Canyon 100k is a qualifier for the 2018 Western States Lottery. I signed up for it last week because I liked the idea of a race early in the year, and because I haven’t run a 100k event before. I was hoping that it’d be a lottery qualifier again because that’s a great bonus.

(In comparing the two lists, I noticed that there were only additions for 2018 Western States Lottery qualifiers — every race that was a qualifier in 2017 remains a qualifier in 2018. The additions are; Abbots Way, Blackall 100k, Golden Ring 100k, Grossglockner Ultra-Trail, Hardcore Hundred, Le Grand Trail des Lacs et Chateaux, Salomon Cappadocia Ultra-Trail, Tunnel Hill, Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji, Ultra-Trail Harricana, and Volcano Ultra-Trail. With the exception of Tunnel Hill, all of the new qualifiers are outside the U.S.)

As I sat down to sketch out the beginnings of a training plan, I started to follow the predictable steps:

  • How many weeks do I have until the race?
  • What types of training blocks do I need to include?
  • How long should each block be?
  • What should I set as training time/mileage goals?
  • details, details, details….
  • blah, blah blah….

It occurred to me that my training focus over the next five months is singularly clear:

Don’t get hurt.

If I keep myself intact, and stay active between now and next February, then I’m relatively confident that I have a good shot at finishing in under 17 hours (the WS Lottery eligibility standard). Even if a relatively unstructured training approach means that I leave something on the table – that I could get myself in better shape if I’m more deliberate and aggressive – I’m fine with that.

I think of training is something of a gamble. The more hours you put in, and the more time you spend at higher intensity, the more you stand to gain. But at those higher levels, you’re also taking a risk of losing the bet and not making it to the starting line at all. Obviously I have to put a lot of miles in between now and February 18, 2017 — not training at all is a sure bet that I wouldn’t be able to finish. I just need to play the smart action and making it to race day in one piece.