I haven't even started to pick my road and cross-country races for next season so any hill races I preliminarily pick could see themselves replaced if I like such a race better for one reason or the other.
Having looked over the calendar, though, these are my choices so far...
Normally a favourite of mine but with my trip to Fargo making it impossible to do the first few races (I could do Howth but the new route would not work well with my current injury).
When I'm back I'll consider doing Tibradden Winter to have a look at the new route but this depends on what condition I feel I'm in. The route at Crone does not appeal enough to me to risk aything, so at that time I'll stay focused on heavy base work.
Wicklow Way Trail
Probably my favourite course on the IMRA calendar and one I missed with bleeding heart. I've got a very good time and a 5th place to consolidate in this race and if my training has gone according to plan should look forward to a good run on this day.
The LC starts at Black Mountain but its unlikely I'll race there in one of my highest mileage weeks shortly after the Trail which will probably mean not contesting the LC this year.
Leinster League and the Summer
The Leinster League will start late for me. I leave out Bray Head as always as it falls too early. Howth, a route I like, may also get the axe as the long northerly drive doesn't suit me well and I am only completing my Hill phase at the time the race starts. This one could yet make its way back in though.
I'm very tempted to do Tonelagee and Lake to experience the new course, this would certainly spell doom for Howth. Hellfire and Brimstone will likewise be left out as the course didn't do much for me and I felt the amount of people crammed into the trails an open invitation to injury, so best leave it alone.
Croagh Patrick is one I consider, even to just do the ascent and take it easy going down. The steep climb would be good training for Pike's Peak and I do love my weekend in Connacht...
If things go according to plan my LL season starts at Prince William's Seat. Not a classic, but a solid race, and one I have a reasonable time in to improve upon. Tibradden may be dropped to give me more time for training and I wish to go out that weekend and use the Circuit of Avonbeg race as a training run for Pike's Peak. Its long enough you can take it easy and still get a really good workout.
Next up, the Fairy Chase Anniversary Race is a must-do for any lover of the traditions of Irish hill running and then the Leinster League starts in earnest with some stone-cold classics that I would not miss for the life of me: Brockaghs, Scarr, and Sorrell Hill. The latter may unfortunately have to be axed depending on what my goals are for either the Wicklow Way Relay or the European Trial (I'm yet undecided which to do).
Powerscourt Uphill is a key item on my preparotory list for the Pike and Seefingan looks a great route, so I will do those back-to-back as well before finishing my Leinster League on home-turf at Trooperstown with hopefully 7-8 races done. The Sugarbowl will once again be left out for tactical reasons.
As mentioned above I may do Croagh Patrick if I deem it sensible. Carrauntoohil is another climb I should get into my legs before Pike's Peak but this will depend on how my body is holding up at the time.
I'll almost certainly do Lugnacoille: It's a great race and again its the sort of climbs I need to be doing to serve the season's main goal. Galtymore falls too closely after Snowdon this year so will need to be left out and Donard - Commedagh takes place during my rest period in Denmark after Pike's Peak (this one I miss with a bleeding heart, though, as I should have loved a "rematch" after my near-destruction there in 2007).
Potentially I could finish the Championship running Croagh Patrick, Carrauntoohil and Lugnacoille but with the two first doubtful it does look more like a non-starter this year.
Leinster and Long Distance Champs
I aim to run the Circuit of Avonbeg while I'll most likely miss Black Mountain. Tonelagee and the Lake has too much temptation to let go, so that would make it two for me. Fraughen Rock Glen falls between two LL races during a very busy period which will most likely make it a non-starter unless I decide to use it as my weekend uphill training run.
Mt. Leinster falls the weekend before Snowdon and while I'd love to do this great race, I will only do so if I feel truly physically on top and am absolutely sure I can go out and not give a 100% effort with only 6 days recovery for Snowdon.
I won't do the Wicklow Way Ultra earlier in the year so that leaves me without a chance to contest the Long Distance Championship despite planning to do both Circuit of Avonbeg and the Dublin Peaks as long distance training runs. If I decide to stay in my hometown a further week to contest the local half-marathon on the 5th September, Dublin Peaks will have to be sacrificed. Again everything hedges on how I recover from Pike's Peak.
Another big one for me. This year I will attack the course with an aim to break 85 minutes, the majority of the extra 5 minutes to be made up on the ascent, I believe. The formidable climb will be the true test of how I stand before the Pike's Peak Ascent and will be the longest I do at any stage before my trip to Colorado.
The first and second Trail League races I will have to give a miss as they sandwich Snowdon, but I'm hoping to be back for the third race (which I hope will be the Devil's Glen). This race will be used as one of the final tune-up tempo runs with only 18 days to go before Pike's Peak.
World Championship Trial
A difficult one to make a call on, as it will be up-and-down this year, this race will most likely to much too risky to do just 7 days before Pike's Peak and I look set to miss it. Potentially this could mean a year without contesting any trial race and missing out on the Inter-Clubs.
There are no easy choices in running...
Concluding the Year
Early September I go back in base training to prepare for the cross-country season and its possible I'll use the Nav Challenge races as long training runs, but given I'll have been doing hard hills for months at that stage, it may well be wiser to leave it alone and rekindle my flat speed.
If I have a formidable Pike's Peak experience, I will not leave out the possibility of changing my priorities from the cross-country to the Dublin Marathon. If I gain the immense leg strength needed for the Pike, it may provide a unique opportunity to get an early break at the 3-hour barrier in the marathon as well. Again all must be judged in the context of what actually happens. No plan survives first contact with the enemy...