Sun Mountain 50K Race Report

Race: Sun Mountain 50K

Runner: Rohit Eipe

Race Date: 05/18/2024

Location: Winthrop, WA

Result: 9:57:12.9 https://chronokeep.com/results/sun-mountain-50/2024/570

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/11443014175

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Scenery – the mountain vistas, meadows of spring flowers; the area makes me want to leave the city and retire there!
  2. Trail conditions – generally pretty easy trails without too many roots or rocks. The course is singletrack trail for most of the race, with some wider sections.
  3. Aid stations – while they could be better by having consistent items at each aid station and publishing precise lists of what to expect ahead of time, the aid stations were well staffed, well stocked, and full of friendly race support. Having drop bags at each aid station made it so that I could changes socks often, change shoes for road and trail sections, carry less food and water with me, have my specific preferred fuel – so kudos to the race folks on organizing these well and getting everything right here.
  4. Weather – it was pretty wild at altitude, which made things harder, but it was cool and generally good running weather… plus the hail certainly made for a good story!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Overall race organization – the organizers of the Sun Mountain 50K and the weekend’s other races changed the course after months of my (and probably many other folks) emailing them to understand what the course was, which meant I didn’t know what I was training for. Eventually they added 10 miles of pavement – which I had mixed feelings about personally given I was expecting a trail race. I’m so used to road running and was looking forward to the added challenge, but those extra pavement miles made the race much more doable for me in the end. I could see this being very annoying for other folks set on a trail run too.


Weather – I got hailed on at altitude for about 6-7 miles, which in fairness we were warned about. In the end, it was actually kind of fun, but I can see how this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You also can’t control for that though.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Definitely the weather! There is always a huge variation based on altitude primarily, and May is also shoulder season so it could be hotter or cooler depending on the year. For me, on the day it went from sideways hail to light/heavy rain to sunny and baking sun: basically all four seasons in one day!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Finishing – I’d DNF-ed at a 50K 7 years prior, so for me this was a grand f-u to the universe and I’m stoked to have finished! Spite is the best motivator!
The scenery was also a highlight, as I mentioned about. The town of Winthrop had a really nice vibe to it as well.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Use the drop bags and carry less stuff! And for me, using poles was a good tool to take a ton of weight off my legs and made it possible to finish, so others could consider that too.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I think I left a fair bit of energy on the table. I ran the last mile or so quite fast in the end, so I really should have sped up more on the road downhill at a bare minimum. I’d say the same for the gentle trail downhills: I should have pushed harder on those.

Also, my watch was in a mode that auto-paused the workout while I was at one of the aid stations for a good 7-8 minutes, resulting in a difference between chip time and my watch’s timing. I need to turn that feature off for races.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The course is mostly single track trail, but, based on permitting difficulties, it looks like road sections may continue to be a part of this race in the future. While for the 50K or 50M this isn’t such a big deal, it is a bit of a downer for the 25K if you end up running 10 miles of road and only 5-6 miles of trail. Be mindful that the aid stations are well spaced out, so use them. And remember that the weather can vary a lot based on altitude and luck of the draw!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Very much so, one of the nicest courses I can remember!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I didn’t think the Sun Mountain 50K course was super difficult, but there was a moderate amount of elevation for the distance. The singletrack trail meant you had to pay attention somewhat. There were very few steep sections, and even those were relatively mild.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Yes – except for the months leading up to the race with the permitting and course mess.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I’m at the back of the pack here so I have no idea!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Hotels and Airbnb’s probably fill up quite quickly, so book early.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Good on the whole, but they could be improved by publishing precisely what will be at aid stations ahead of time and sticking to it. I did discover peanut butter and pickle wraps, which were weird and delicious!

Weather and typical race conditions

As you’ve read above, expect widely varying weather! There could be snow and hail at the higher altitudes, and rain is very likely at some point.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Poles are good but not really necessary. And I feel like pretty much everyone was running in the Hoka Mafates, so perhaps a shoe worth checking out for this race.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not this year based on the big changes to the course, and there was no racer crew support. This was a huge bummer.

How’s the Swag?

Not great. T-shirts were available for purchase but I didn’t buy one.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I’d give the Sun Mountain 50K 4 out of 5. It could be 5 with better organization.

Looking for your next goal race like Rohit? Check out this article: “How to Choose your next Goal Race“.

The Rut 50k Race Report – Michael Adams

Race: The Rut 50K

Runner: Michael Adams

Race Date: 09/17/2023

Location: Big Sky, Montana

Results: https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/12456#resultSetId-405241;perpage:50

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

Very well organized and plenty of help at aid stations. The spectators are very supportive as well many as a lot of ultra fans are either family or have done them in the past and fully realize when you are doing and the effort it took to subjugate yourself to such a thing. Staffing for packet pickup was knowledgeable about drop bag local, times of events and the like.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

You can get a tattoo of “The Rut” logo- so that’s a thing here.
No UTMB points – keep on looking
No W.S. qualifier. . . Actually disappointed with the race directors here on these last two points.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I liked the fact that the community of ultra runners seems to be 100% behind this race. There is not a whole lot of races like this one here in Montana with this much vertical starting at an already high elevation. There are plenty of places to stay at in and around BigSky and its in an area that is a little more scenic than the rest of Montana! So much so that you can see mountain goats, bears and foxes like I saw, and other wildlife if you are lucky enough to get to spend some time around the area and take it all in.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Base elevation is 7500ft so be ready to get your extra lung out. This is a multi day event with a party at the end so you can have your whole weekend, in one weekend, race, relax and fun! Plenty of things to do like zip line, downhill bike riding, hiking. You can do it all here its amazing, plan accordingly.
Local stores have a decent amount and variety of food stuffs. No worry about where you will get groceries in BigSky. There is no sales tax in Montana, however it is a resort town so the prices might be on par with a large city.

They do mean vertical climbing. There are some switch backs and a few scree fields are in the race, careful with the foot placement.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Training at high altitude and/or getting too much vert in is the name of the game in training. Get really good, really comfortable, with climbing at altitude.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The aid stations get more frequent the closer to the end you are. There is one drop bag location which is roughly half way through the race.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The course is amazing from up high! You can see the whole valley and mountain side(s)

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

This is one of the tougher courses out there in my opinion. With the vertical and starting altitude you’d be hard pressed to find a comparable race.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Well-oiled machine. They know what it takes to run multi day mountain running event with a family friendly party at the end!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

The competition is tough. Unless you are truly dedicated to winning this one; you have become trail running vertical gain food timing guru, you most likely wont win and will probably be hard pressed to get an age group award.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Plan months out, like six months out or more I’d say, maybe even more. Otherwise you will be hard presses to get a hotel, condo, camp site near the race start. You definitely don’t have to stay at the hotel or rent a condo in order to race. I was lucky enough to get into a cancellation in a resort condo room through Air B&B! However there is free parking and I did see a few people in their conversion-van(s) camping out the night before/ two nights before. There are also lots of camp sites between Bozeman and Big Sky were you can camp out in a tent or camper/conversion as well.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Miles apart between aid stations, roughly 5-8 miles apart at the beginning and shorter after the half way mark. They have a wide selection of things and have heed and scratch lab products. The usual gummies, pickles, chips, soda, water, gels and what not. Like most races its cupless so keep that in mind. Should be a problem as long as you have our hand held or pack held water container.

Weather and typical race conditions

Varies check the reports starting a week out. Its in the mountains so anything is possible.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

They have mandatory gear: headlight, rain fly/shell, space blanket. I wasn’t checked for such things, the 1st time I ran the race I was checked. So hit or miss on the gear check.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Its a viewer friendly course for sure. Where they dont want you to go they have signs so no wondering if you are supposed to be somewhere or not. Its a ski slope so you can get a ticket and take lifts to couple different spots and spectate and cheer on your crazy ultra running family member/friend!

How’s the Swag?

Standard-Shirt for all. More stuff available at the packet pick up and event happenings. Finisher award and age group award(s). Top 3 male and female get a cash prize.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

8 out of 10.

Minus two for the lack of building and/or qualifying race for other bigger races such as UTMB and Western States; I’m sure they have their reasons. Its a thing for people to try something such as a race like this to test their legs out for a larger race such as Mont Blanc. That factor just isn’t there. So either this has to be your goal race, or just one race among at least one other if your chasing a larger dream.

Mt. Hood 50k Race Report – Ron Kelly

Race: Mt Hood 50K

Runner: Ron Kelly

Race Date: 07/16/2023

Location: Mt. Hood, Oregon

Results: 15th overall, 2nd age group

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/9464620804/export_gpx

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

Great trail culture vibes, stunning views, and runnable single track trails

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

No weird factor! But you could run the 50M on Saturday and the 50K on Sunday. One person tackled the challenge.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I was able to run the entire course with fairly even pacing throughout. 50K PR given runnable trails without a ton of vert

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Get there early! Parking is limited. No crewing allowed so be prepared with hydration/nutrition though aid stations well stock with your basic needs.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

It’s a fast course with some climbing but the entire race is on runnable single track. Even pacing is ideal for this course.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

I ran it sight unseen. The kind of race you can do well at without seeing it first. Great trails!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Absolutely beautiful race course on clear day. Mt. Hood is stunning. Lots of mountain, forest and lake view along the entire route.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

All single track but very runnable throughout. Less than 3K of total vert and runnable trails makes for the opportunity for a fast race and PR.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

GoBeyond Racing does a tremendous job. Super well organized and post race party vibes. Definitely experience the trail culture of an iconic PNW trail race in a beautiful area.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Strong local runners from Oregon/Washington.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Tons of camping nearby and hotels/Airbnb’s in the Mt. Hood vicinity. I was on the waitlist and eventually got it. 50M race on Saturday is lottery and the 50K is sign up with waitlist.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Aid stations and the volunteers were tremendous!

Weather and typical race conditions

The trail is primarily shaded throughout so makes for ideal conditions though it can be extremely hot in this part of Oregon in mid July.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

No crew allowed so carry what you need.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

No crew support allowed or needed but able to spectate and see runners at several of the aid stations.

How’s the Swag?

T-shirts, stickers, beer mugs. Full age group awards

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4 and half stars. Highly recommend for a local trail race in a beautiful area

Wy’east Wonder 50k Race Report – Simon Pollock

Race: Wy’east Wonder 50k

Runner: Simon Pollock

Race Date: 06/24/2023

Location: Parkdale, Oregon

Results

Finished! (8:55, but the course ran 1.5 miles longer than advertised)

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Location, location, location. Wy’east Wonder is a point-to-point course that basically runs south to north just east of Wy’east (aka Mt. Hood) on a ridge line between 4,000-6,000 ft above sea level. On good or better weather days, the mountain views are stupendous.
  2. It’s a very runnable course. Multiple people recommended this as a first ultra, part of why I picked it. Everything other than the precipitous descent over the last 2.5 miles was either double-track fire road or mostly well-packed single-track. Although speed demons may not love that many of the descents have lots of turns.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Prepare well for long gaps between aid stations, and honestly, the course needs at least one more. The gap between the first and second aid stations ran 1.5+ miles longer than listed due to some last-minute construction on a nearby forest road, and while the race organizers announced at the start line that the cutoff at the second aid station was extended, they did not really mention the mileage. I was told at the second aid station that many runners were coming in much later than expected because of this shift.

Plot the course on Footpath, or Gaia, or whichever reliable GPS service you use offline. Don’t just rely on GoBeyond Racing’s .gpx file. There are some easy-to-make wrong turns. GoBeyond did an okay job marking turns, but they need more proper “RACERS + [ARROW]” signs. Make sure you keep an eye out for those orange agility cones.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Prepare for the shuttles. Because this is a point-to-point, know that you’ll be bussed from race central to the start (25ish minutes), and that there is a shuttle from the finish line back to race central (short ride, about 7 minutes). If you don’t have crew, make sure to drop finish line change of clothes and anything else you want on the tarp, as directed at the start.

Plan for a net downhill course and save your quads for the end. You will make a techy, switchback-y 2000-foot descent in the last 2.5 miles.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This course is an excellent adventure. My primary goal was to finish, and I was well-coached and well prepared to ignore my HR/pace/cadence data, run by feel, meet people and take tons of pictures. I had a great time.

I had a particular focus on making sure I carried all my own gels and portioned electrolyte mix, plus full restocks of everything in my crew bag for the 22-mile mark. Can’t emphasize this enough: know how you sweat and what you need for hydration. Aid stations are staffed by amazing volunteers, but they’re far apart and it’s worth making sure you have what you need for nutrition and hydration (plus a little extra just in case) in your vest/belt.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Already mentioned this and, worth emphasizing:

  • Know your body and plan for that gnarly descent at the end.
  • Plan for the second section to run long

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

1000% yes.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I was told that it was a good choice for first-time ultrarunners like myself, and I’d mostly agree. Very runnable up until about 29.5 when you make your final turn and start the descent. About two-thirds of the descent is totally runnable, but it’s all switchbacks, so don’t expect to be able to set it in down-hill gear and charge it.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

I give GoBeyond a B+. They had to extend the cutoff twice, once right before we started +15 min, and again once they realized how much longer the course was running into the second aid station. I’m both grateful for that and got briefly worried that I’d made a wrong turn when the aid station didn’t show up within a half mile of what I was expecting.

Also, as mentioned above: needs more signage. A few more direction signs in the ground would go a long way from keeping runners off of nearby fire roads.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Wasn’t my focus.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Nope! Just keep an eye on GoBeyond’s registration dates and plan ahead.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Know how you sweat. Bring your own electrolyte mix. Plan for the long gaps.

Weather and typical race conditions

Late June is a terrific time to be around Mt. Hood.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Nope!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really, but there’s lots of hiking to do and beautiful orchards to explore while they wait.

How’s the Swag?

Totally fine. Provided by Territory Run Co.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

3.5 stars! I had an absolute blast. Easiest way to bump up to 4 or 4.5 is to improve signage and pre-race comms about course changes. This race would definitely be a 5-star race for me with another aid station.

Ice Age 50k Race Report – Natalie Weeks

Race: Ice Age 50K

Runner: Natalie Weeks

Race Date: 05/13/2023

Location: LaGrange, WI

Results: 5:18 – 7th woman overall

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

Photo: Jeff Crosby

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This race is so well organized, a well-oiled machine with the best aid stations, beautiful course and great swag!

At 10 months postpartum I was able to come within 4 minutes of my personal best at this distance. I was so pleasantly surprised in my ability to perform at this race with trying to navigate a full time job, training, and being a new mom.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Lots of hills, but not very technical for the 50K course.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Very strong field, people come from all over to do this amazing race.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The registration fills up within minutes sometimes, you have to be sitting on your computer!

How’s the Swag?

Amazing. Cool keychain for 50K and belt buckles for the 50M.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5/5

Photo: Jimmy FD

Canyons 50k Race Report – Sid Sriram

Race: Canyons 50k

Location: Auburn CA

Date: Apr-29, 2023

Runner: Sid Sriram

Results: 5:39; 89th OA, 4th AG

Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8979709031/overview

3 Bests:

  • Except for 2-3 hard sections, the course was mostly runnable. Given the wet spring in CA, the hills were very green and filled with wildflowers
  • The volunteers at aid stations were very proactive, helpful and motivational
  • Even though it was pretty competitive, there was a very fun bunch of runners

Not so much:

  • Mildly chaotic start that went up a road for a little too long, followed by a very narrow descent on a trail. If you were stuck behind someone, you were stuck for a while
  • Even though I knew to expect it, the final 3 miles were a brutal climb up that same descent in 85-degree heat

Weird factor: It was so much slicker than any other race I’ve been to – I guess that comes with the UTMB brand

Highlights: I controlled my inputs well – I handled the heat, ate sufficiently and drank enough. I felt strong and in control throughout – surprised I didn’t hit a mental block anywhere – and ran my fastest two miles (in ~13min) downhill at mile 26. That gave me confidence to push through the final, insanely hot, climb

Lessons for others:

  • Get out early if you can. The first bit is a climb up a road which quickly turns into a downhill down a narrow trail where it’s hard to pass
  • The heat is a killer. I was in the sauna 4x/week for a month before the race and hated it, but felt it really made a difference to my tolerance
  • The aid stations were very well stocked, and in hindsight I didn’t need to carry as much food as I did. YMMV of course

Lessons you learned:

  • Don’t fall :). I lost ~15 minutes (slowdown + first aid at aid station) because I took a big fall around mile 10 due to being distracted eating while running downhill, and that would have put me within spitting distance of finishing first in my AG (and an automatic entry to OCC)
  • Trust the prep and your coach. I was very nervous since this was my first race longer than 25k and so was very cautious going out. In hindsight I could have pushed myself a little harder and still had a fun race

Aesthetics: Yes, especially this year with the rains. Wildflowers everywhere, and some nice bits running by the river.

Difficulty: I have no baseline to compare it against, but it felt like a hard workout all through. The heat was the biggest factor since I was training in Seattle – the sauna prep helped

Organized?: Yes. UTMB knows how to run races 🙂

Competition: Yes. It’s the NA UTMB major, which means automatic qualification for OCC for AG winners.

Logistics: The 50k sold out, so yes, I’d recommend booking early. I stayed at a hotel in Roseville 20 minutes away, and it was very easy to get to and park across from the start line in Auburn.

Aid stations: Not much to compare against, but they seemed pretty well stocked

Weather: Hot hot hot! There’s an early, mostly-treeless climb that we luckily did before the sun fully rose, and the last 2.5-ish miles was a killer uphill

Gear: I had a 12L pack which was too much in hindsight – I’d likely have been ok with a 5L one, with most of the space needed for hydration.

Spectators: Yes. Spectators could come to two of the aid stations

Swag: Medal and tee – nothing crazy. There is a massive Hoka store if you want to stock up though 🙂

Overall: Definitely would recommend running this race. The big driver is the double UTMB stones, but with their seemingly adding a new race every week I’m not sure that it’ll help too much

Desert Rats 50k Race Report – Kyle Fulmer

Race: Desert Rats 50k

Runner: Kyle Fulmer

Race Date: 04/15/2023

Location: Fruita, CO

Results: 5:14, 44th Place

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8897031080

Photo: Eric Lee

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • The Views! – amazing views of the surrounding mesas, and the rim trails above the CO River were spectacular
  • The Trails! – just the right amount of technical. Really runnable, but techy enough you have to pay attention!
  • The Afterparty! – BYOB and a bluegrass band in town, yes please!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

It was all pretty good. Aid stations were pretty spartan, but they had enough to get you through, but sadly no gourmet offerings.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Still feels like a small locals race, just happens to be run by UTMB 🙂

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Pretty smooth. Just wanted to find a flow and enjoy the day, and pretty much accomplished that!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

The climb out of mile 25 is a buttkicker late in the race…be ready for that. Other than the first climbs in mile 2 & 3, it is really the only other sustained climb in the race. The final downhill is techy enough to slow you down a bit, and a bit tough on tired legs. The final climb to the mesa and overlook is one of the better finishing vistas I’ve experience though.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Probably just to be aware of the last climb, and to bring the running legs for the middle miles.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Mentioned above!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Gorgeous! Green canyons below the rim were rad.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It isn’t a gimme, but its also not terribly tough…solid Spring rust buster!

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very well oiled (except I heard on the aid stations ran out of water for a bit!)

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, thanks UTMB

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Don’t think so. Huge field. 400 runners in the 50k alone.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Spartan fare. Not gourmet, but good enough.

Weather and typical race conditions

Cool Spring temps, can get muddy with rain

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Emergency blanket, thanks UTMB! (they didn’t check)

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

I think so? Seemed to be folks at different aid stations.

How’s the Swag?

Kinda boring? Thanks UTMB.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4.5 stars, would recommend for a low key spring run

Southern Tour Ultra Race Report – Coach Cassie Nevins

Race: Southern Tour Ultra

Runner: Coach Cassie Nevins

Race Date: 01/21/2023

Location: Hamstead, NC

Results: 5:59:24

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8433214633

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • This race is a ten mile loop course. You can stage gear at the start and they have a runners village where you can access your tent or camper on each lap if you chose to stay overnight.
  • The energy is so high at this race. There is a live band and music the entire time and because the have multiple events you are never alone on the course.
  • The course is a cross country style course, but the trail is wide enough to fit several runners. You don’t really deal with congestion at the start of this race.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There was one aid station about half way through the loop around mile 5. Unfortunately, it was unmanned and my second two loops the water was empty. I was using a hydration vest with bottles due to the description of the race informing us that there would be water halfway through. I would suggest using a bladder and refilling at the end of each 10 mile lap.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

There is a relay going on as well as a last mind standing. It was wild to be close to mile thirty getting passed by someone running a six minute pace as well as seeing someone who had been awake for over 24 hours hobbling through all in the same event.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

This was my first ultra race post partum. I did a good job bringing enough calories and managing my nutrition as well as building up safely over several months to get my first post partum 50k under my belt.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

There is not a lot of aid. Be prepared to bring the nutrition and supplies that you enjoy and enough water to stage to refill your bottles or bladder.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

There are some fast sections on this course. I could have paced myself better on the first lap. There is also a lot of sand on this course so there was some muscle fatigue due to running on sand and an uneven surface that I had not trained for.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

There are multiple events going on. The course was well marked, but I could see if you are fatigued where you could accidentally make a turn and complete the five mile loop that is for relay runners and last man standing runners instead of continuing onto the ten mile loop. Make sure you stay alert of the course markings.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

This course is close to Wilmington, NC and has waterfront views at two points. There is a lot of shade cover in several sections and wildlife in the area.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

For a coastal race, I was still able to gain 922 feet of vertical gain during the 50k event. Overall, it is a beginner friendly race and a great trail 50K if you are looking for a personal best.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

I have done a few of the Without Limits races. I keep coming back because the make the events fun, care about runner safety, and provide really awesome swag and post race festivities.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I would say that most of the competition is local. There were some fast runners in all the events, but this is a great race to really test yourself and your personal limits.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

If you are local to the area it is a great event to fit into your schedule. You could stay in Wilmington and only have a 20 minute drive to get the to start. The cost of this event is relatively low.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

There was a water only aid station at mile 5. They do allow you to put a drop bag there, if you need to, but it is unmanned. There is a full aid station at the start/finish line at mile 10. They had gels, waffles, water, and gatorade.

Weather and typical race conditions

The weather was perfect. It was about 40 degrees at the start, but warmed to about 60 by the end.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

I actually did this race in my hoka rincons and was perfectly fine. You could use trail shoes, but it wouldn’t be necessary if you prefer a pair of road shoes.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

This course is perfect to bring family and friends. There is a camping village that you run through each lap. I would say the finish line party and camping is really where all the fun happens. They had a live band and it was packed with spectators.

How’s the Swag?

The swag is perfect for this race. You get a rather large finisher medals and extremely soft t-shirt.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4.9- I loved this event, I just wish the water stop had water. I spent the last two laps running out about a mile to the 10 mile aid stop.

Cassie Nevins is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Cowtown Ultra Race Report – Coach Jenny Windham

Race: Cowtown Ultra

Runner: Coach Jenny Windham

Race Date: 02/26/2023

Location: Fort Worth, TX

Results: 7:01:02

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • The spectators-they line the streets and not only have fun signs, but offer everything from water to snacks & beer or shots!
  • The downtown scenes-you get to see some top attractions like the Stockyards, Cultural district, TCU, and Trinity River Park trails.
  • The friends-this race has been going for 45yrs and has history you can share with other family and friends who had their firsts here.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There are a lot of people, which requires planning for parking and meeting up.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Define weird haha. If you want a uniquely western TX feel, this is it! Uber friendly folks combined with uber friendly runners!
I wouldn’t define necessarily as weird, but maybe not found elsewhere.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  • My friend was running it too! She didn’t have as much confidence, and was dealing with calf issues, so it was nice to feel strong and there for her.
  • My husband and a good friend came out and met us twice, and were there for the finish. Course support decreases the further you go, and that’s when we planned for. There are no drop boxes/bag options in this race, and the weather is always very different by the afternoon.
  • My feet made it with blisters, yes, but no major permanent setbacks. Such a great feeling achieving my first Ultra!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • There are distances from 5K to Ultra, kids 5K and adults. Plan to arrive early, and aim for the Friday Expo/packet pickup.
  • This allows more enjoyment of the moments leading up to the run.
  • Pace yourself, many start out faster than they should. It’s easy to get swept up in the fanfare.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • Course familiarity is a bonus, whether it’s mile 9 bridge hill or the different sections you’re passing.
  • I liken it to a road trip. The more you remember various stops, even if it’s an aid station in front of a house having a block party, it’s something to help distract you from how many miles are left, or a nagging knee or blister etc.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Take your time at the beginning as the crowd doesn’t thin out til a couple miles in. There’s no rush, plenty of time to make up for it later once your breathing sets in and legs get warm…sometimes literally. Plan your fuel and stick to it, especially for any areas you struggle with. For most, even myself as I did the shorter distances (Half & Full) it was mentally conquering the mile 9 hill. Having fuel at mile 8 helps, and you can focus on the cheering and mental grit to not stop, etc whatever your goals are. There are bricks you’ll be running on in the Stockyards area. If you have foot or ankle etc issues, you’ll want to take care and plan for a slower section. The finish is uphill, but it’s not steep, just drawn out. Then it turns and you have a flat walk, jog or sprint to the finish line.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It’s downtown, so mainly roads and store fronts, but there are some fun sections like the Stockyards and residential area near TCU.
The Full/Ultra course go thru nice Trinity River trails, so if you’ve done races there or just weekend training runs, that’s a peacceful area.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I’d say it’s moderate. There are plenty of hills and turns to navigate. For some this might feel like it drains your energy, for others it might feel like a nice change of pace (pun intended).

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

This is the MOST and BEST organized run of all!!! Constant email communication, prompt replies from race director if you have any team or other questions. They have maps for Expo and Event layout, as well as parking lots, and course, including pacers for all distances.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

  • Oh yes! There’s an Elite Men & Women start a few mins before the main corrals start.
  • The longer courses are USATF and BQ, there are division awards 5 deep for the kids, 3 deep for Adults, 1 deep for the Ultra.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Best prices are earliest, best hotel availability is in advance, as any travel. They also have a very runner friendly race distance change, or deferment to virtual or another racer for a fee. Friends may pickup packets, everything is in their FAQ.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

  • Standard fare, water and Gatorade Endurance. Some vendors have real food, including pb&j, hot dogs, burgers, plus bananas, oranges, pickles.
  • I didn’t see much GU or wafers, but I was in a longer run where the shorter quicker distances may have used it up.

Weather and typical race conditions

Just like TX weather, it has varied from icy morning to very warm afternoon. They provide a recyclable cover up at the finish, for the next year. Folks generally plan a hoodie and gloves/hat/gaiter for the morning and shorts or tank for afternoon. They donate any thrown away items, or you can hand it off to a loved one if they’re there. Communication is excellent as far as the Expo and Race hours, and last year we had a delayed start on the Saturday races (shorter distances 5K/10K are Saturday, longer Half/Full/Full Relay/Ultra are Sunday) because of ice.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

They are a Nonprofit active in the Community and donate to C.A.L.F. (Children’s Activities for Life and Fitness), as well as partner with Alzheimer’s Assoc and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and also allow strollers. I’ve seen people run with pockets, running belts, running vest, carrying a hand bottle or hydration packs.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes, as long as they don’t mind navigating road closures and crowds. There is a RunFarUSA app they can follow for live tracking, in addition to your Garmin or Strava options. I carry my phone, and my husband was able to track me in tandem with the app. My friend and I ran separate paces before the first mile. I finally only caught up to her at mile 24, but we texted each other starting around mile 20 checking all was good.

How’s the Swag?

The best around! They have running shirts and finisher shirts. Medals that fit a different theme each year, or that you can combine with the previous series. They also have a “Challenge,” which is running a race distance both days, and another medal. The shirts are drywicking, and they also have a store online and in person at the Expo that you can buy hoodies and hats, additional merchandise.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5, I absolutely recommend this one for all distances. It’s my favorite and unique to our town culture/history.

Jenny Windham is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Franklin Mountains Trail Run 55k Race Report – Frank Fisher

Race: Franklin Mountains Trail Runs 55k

Runner: Coach Frank Fisher

Race Date: 01/21/2023

Location: El Paso, TX

Results: 6th place 9:19

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8430523651/overview

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

I loved the technical challenging nature of the course. The scenery is awesome, and I enjoyed the lowkey relaxed vibe. This was one of my more enjoyable and memorable race experiences yet.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Honestly, no complaints on this one.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

There’s a few things about that race that are kind of weird. It starts when the rubber chicken goes off, though we had to have a little bit of an extra “leave already” from the RD as most were confused by the chicken. It feels super remote even though the mountain chain the course is on runs through the middle of the city of El Paso. There was an escaped fugitive running around part of the race course that the cops had to track down (helicopters and all) in the middle of the 50 mile racers. No podium awards, and the results aren’t “exact,” which might bug some people. The 55k is much, much closer to 60k than 55k.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Well, maybe not a highlight, but I face planted and dislocated a finger around mile 21. Despite that, I had an awesome day! This is hands down the most technical ultra I’ve run, which was really enjoyable for me. I knew it was going to be a long day so I approached it more like a 50 miler, with a focus on being efficient over speed. That strategy paid off well, and I felt great the majority of the race minus the period post crash and the last mile or so of the big climb (elevation/long climb combo were tough!). I really enjoyed being able to race in my hometown and the mountains I grew up on, such a beautiful and underrated part of the country.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

This is a HARD course! The vast majority of it is rocky and technical with some tough climbs and tricky descents. There are sections that might make you pucker up if you’re scared of heights, lots of washouts and a few spots where some scrambling is required. Although I thought the course was well marked you do have to pay attention, and it helps to have the map handy. This is not a course for beginners. If I were the RD, I would probably have some pre-recs to race the 55k and the 50 miler. I also highly suggest reading the race manual and attending the online pre-race meeting.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

You really have to stay on your toes and pay attention on this course. I knew that going in, and I still crashed. I also saw a guy face plant into a prickly pear, and one other dude broke his finger too, so be careful. There are some sections in the first half of the race that you can take advantage of and open it up some.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

This course starts with a hard climb in the first 1.5 miles. The next 13-14 miles are the fastest section of the course. A lot of the climbs/descents don’t look terrible on the elevation profile, but the rocky nature just slows you down. There’s only 3 aid stations throughout the 37-ish miles, so you need to be sure you have all you need when you leave the aid stations. From mile 23 to 35 there’s only a water stop and it’s around mile 26. This is also the hardest part of the course with a 3000 ft climb up to just over 7000 feet. The middle section of the big descent is slow and technical, and the footing can get difficult. That turn is also easy to miss, but there are signs. The last 1.5 miles to the finish are no joke either.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes, classic desert southwest. You can see for miles from the top of the mountain with views of Texas, Mexico and even snow capped mountains in New Mexico.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes!

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Excellent race organization. It was a smaller race numbers wise, but very well done with a full weekend of different race options. Volunteers were fantastic, and the RD, John, was awesome.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

It’s not a big field, but it seems to attract a well experienced crowd. No elite level runners, but plenty of good runners.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Easy to get into, right in the middle of town so race morning is a breeze. El Paso is a big city with great food and plenty to do. It’s also very cheap!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard stuff, but as mentioned, only 3 full aid stations on the course and there’s huge gap between 2 and 3.

Weather and typical race conditions

Sunny, cold and windy. It was 22* at the race start, warmed up to low 50’s. The sun makes if feel warmer than it is till the wind picks up later in the day. You definitely need to layer up for a long day. Once the sun starts to set it gets cold quick, so an extra jacket or something would be smart.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

One of the few courses I might recommend poles for. You definitely want some heavier lugs on your shoes that grip well on rock and loose dirt. Layer up and be ready for a 30* average temperature swing throughout the day.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

The start finish is in Tom Mays park which is really nice for friends and family. You can also see a lot of the finish there, but the rest of the course is hard to get to and they prefer not to have spectators.

How’s the Swag?

Cool t-shirt.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 out of 5 stars!

Frank Fisher is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Mountain Mist 50k Race Report – Lukas Burrer

Race: Mountain Mist Ultra (50k)

Runner: Lukas Burrer

Race Date: 01/28/2023

Location: Huntsville, AL

Results: 5:45:56

Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/52jGc0D30wb

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • Beautiful trails
  • A lot of rolling hills
  • Steep climbs

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

It was very muddy and slippery

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  • Hit my sub 6h time goal
  • Made some new friends during the run

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

First half is way easier than the second half! Pretty much all the vertical is happening during the second half

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I brought too much water and food. It was just extra weight I had to carry around all the time

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Safe enough energy for the second half

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes! Some very nice and pretty trails

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes! Very steep climbs at the end

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

It was very good organized

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yeah it’s pretty competitive

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Sells out pretty fast

Weather and typical race conditions

Usually very cold

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Waterproof shoes would help a lot

How’s the Swag?

It’s fun

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it

5/5

Would recommend it to everyone

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50k Race Report – Renee Gale

Race: McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50k

Runner: Renee Gale

Race Date: 12/03/2022

Location: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Arizona

Results: 125 Overall, 1st AG

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8204079080

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. This was my first 50k and I chose this race because it is one big loop, no repeat of any part of the course, my preference.
  2. My feet really appreciated the fact that a majority of this race’s single-track trails were compact dirt.
  3. I liked that I had many miles of runnable rolling trail before getting to the steeper climbs after mile 17 and that there was a lot less elevation gain overall than other 50k courses (~2800ft).

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

About four to five hours into running, it started to rain. It wasn’t heavy but it was consistent. The rain started to flow into the single tracks and at this point in the race, there were more rocks on the trail; It became more difficult to run due to both mud and slippery conditions. Since moving to Arizona in April, I’ve never experienced being cold while running. Being wet with temps only getting to the low 60’s, by mile 25 or so, I was shivering so much, I started to doubt whether I’d be able to finish. At times, my nose was so cold, I had to start breathing exclusively thru my mouth. The rain had been forecast so I had a rain jacket in my vest. I didn’t think it would help me since I was already super wet so I kept putting off stopping and putting it on. I finally decided I better stop and at least try. So glad I did because it actually did help – I finally stopped shivering and was able to finish the race.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Well, the longest I’ve run prior to this 50k is 21 miles. On all my long runs in this training block leading up to the race, I’ve never had an issue with having to “go”; I don’t know if that’s because it’s been hot since I moved here and I sweat it all out. But in this race, I had to stop four times and in the desert, the scrub doesn’t offer very many hiding places. The second two times I stopped, my shorts were wet from the rain and I had the most difficult time rolling them down. Guys definitely have the advantage – I did see one fellow ahead of me who just stopped along the trail, turned his back to us and went. Oh to be male in these moments!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I stayed on top of my fueling, never had an issue with energy. I held back in the first half as much as is possible for me. I was really unsure whether or not I could go this far. The last couple of months prior to this race, I had been having hamstring issues with my left leg and two weeks before, I fell and whatever I did when I fell did damage to that hamstring: it hurt so bad for a couple of days, I couldn’t run. But amazingly, somehow, someway, I managed 31 miles with a sore hamstring! I followed the suggestions of my coach and “hiked early, hiked often” and ended up pacing myself well enough to make it to the finish line. A big thank you to coach Frank who did such a great job getting me ready for my first 50k! He had me prepared for everything from pacing, fueling, and keeping a successful mindset all the way to having that rain jacket available.

Another super cool thing that happened that lifted my spirits: as I was coming into the third aid station, I heard someone say “is that Renee?!” and when confirmed gave me some cheers and encouragement. A thank you to Des and the other volunteers who greeted me!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Next time, I will put on any rain gear as soon as it starts raining. I didn’t realize how much getting wet was going to affect me physically and mentally. When I got to the finish line, I started shivering again, uncontrollably and the women at the aid station (where I was trying to sip some warm chicken broth but failing due to the shaking hands) took me to the medical tent to sit under a heat lamp and dry off. Being wet and cold dampened the thrill of finishing this race with a better than expected time of just a little over 8 ½ hours (I was thinking it would take me 9 to 9 ½ hours).

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Up until mile 17 or 18, the trail is mostly dirt single track and then from mile 18 to about 25, the trail gets more rocky. Mile 18 to 21 is the steepest section and everyone around me was hiking this portion. From mile 25 to the end, the trail is more like the beginning, mostly dirt. However, this is the section where it rained continuously so I encountered a lot of mud and puddles on that part of the trail. In my pre-race research, I had read several race reviews that commented that the last ten miles were the hardest. For me the hardest miles were from 18 to 26ish. There’s a last little climb at mile 29 but at that point, I encountered no more puddles and that was a relief.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It’s standard Arizona desert scenery. Normally I find lots of beauty on desert trails; however, this day was overcast and rainy so I didn’t enjoy the views as much as I might have were it sunny.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I’ve heard a lot of comments around the running community here in Arizona that this is a good course for first time 50k’ers. Compared to other courses, it’s on the “easy” side or shall I say less hard. This race also has a generous cut-off time of 15 1/2 hours.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Aravaipa puts on this race and they always seem to have their act together. This was the best-marked course that I‘ve run so far. They had big red signs for the 50k and big white signs for the 50miler. Whenever there was an intersection where there was more than one way to go, there was a warning sign right before the turns saying something like “critical turns ahead”. They also placed blue ribbons across any trail to indicate “do not enter”.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There were about 600 runners across 5 different race distances. This year the race offered a Salomon Sponsorship to the top male and female winner of the 50 miler so I would assume that would attract some good competition, at least in the 50 mile race.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The 50k had four aid stations all well stocked. Volunteers were very helpful with assisting me refilling my water. The distance between aid stations #2 and #3 wa 10.5 miles and the runners are warned to fill up at #2 to not run out of water. With the rain and the weather in the low 60’s, water was never an issue for me.

Weather and typical race conditions

We did not have typical weather. I think it was said that this was the wettest day to date this year at that race location. The forecast a few days prior was a high of 71, low of 55, and overcast with slight chance of shower. That slight chance materialized and the steady afternoon rain kept the high temperature near 60.

How’s the Swag?

When I got to the finish line, I was handed a small glass with the Frenzy logo on it, maybe a stemless wine glass?. It had liquid in it so at first, I thought it might be champagne or something (a little delirious after 31 miles!). It was just rain water. No medals at this race.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I would give this race an 8 out of 10. Very definitely an excellent choice for my first 50k!

Whitefish Trail 50k Race Report – Ron Kelly

Race: Whitefish Trail Legacy Run 50K

Runner: Ron Kelly

Race Date: 10/01/2022

Location: Whitefish, Montana

Results: 18/125; 1st in 50+ age group

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7896289513

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

Location/accessibility, runnable trails, beautiful scenery

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Probably human (me!) error but I did get off course a couple of times. Though fairly well marked there are a couple confusing spots and I think they could have done a better job or had race volunteers in certain areas of the course.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Nothing weird. Prepare for any type of weather. This year was sunny and fairly warm. Ran the same race in 2019 as my first ever ultra and the top of the mountain was blizzard like conditions.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Took it really easy the first 4-5 miles of flat section before the long climb started. Felt like I ran a smart race throughout from a pacing perspective. Enjoyed the beauty of the course and the clear, sunny day. Perfect conditions for an October mountain trail run.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Save something for the downhill back to town.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I clearly didn’t hydrate well. I feel I’m usually pretty good at this knowing I’m a heavy sweater, but I started muscle twitching/cramping in my legs around mile 20 and progressively got worse. Disappointed I didn’t hydrate better. I was well trained and maybe a bit too excited and didn’t focus in an area I know I’m susceptible.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

I think one of those races you can do well without seeing the course in advance (as long as you stay on course!). It’s a long steady climb to the top. Mostly runnable with just a few small technical and steep sections where power hiking probably advised. The first 2.5 and the last 2.5 miles on roads as you run to/from the trail system. The top of the mountain is roughly the half way point and mile 16 is a moderate downhill, but mile 17 is a fairly longish, gradual climb before you then begin the steady downhill back to the finish. Mentally you are prepared for all downhill after reaching the summit and this hits you.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Beautiful run especially on a clear day. You can look back into Flathead Valley and see Whitefish Lake and the downtown area. Spectacular scenery.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Moderately difficult. One long, moderate climb to the top of Whitefish mountain and then back down. ~5,300 feet of total climbing

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Great organization (outside getting off course) and aid station support.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Strong contingent of primarily Montana and PNW runners. Primarily local field.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Whitefish is a super fun mountain town, though like many these days is fairly crowded. Lots of lodging and restaurant options. Kalispell, 15 minutes away has more plentiful options to stay/eat. Race doesn’t appear to sell out. Great early Fall race to end the season and celebrate post run.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

All the usual stuff. Well organized and supported.

Weather and typical race conditions

7am start Mountain time. Sun comes up about 7:45. Beautiful sunny day but with a mountain race, conditions at the top of the mountain could vary.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Headlamp to start. Be prepared for much colder conditions and the top of the mountain.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Outside of the very top of the mountain (spectators would have to climb up there), aid stations easily accessible for spectators.

How’s the Swag?

Minimal swag but a free ticket to the Great Northwest Oktoberfest and a drink ticket is pretty cool. A super fun community tradition right at the finish line.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Would definitely recommend the race if you enjoy smaller (125 racers), community trail events. On Sunday there is a half marathon, 10K, and 5K option to make it a full weekend of races.

Looking to run your first ultra but not sure where to get started? Check out our 7 steps to get started!

Nice Côte d’Azur 50k by UTMB Race Report – Julie Urbanski

Smiling relief and happiness at being done, with my boys there at the finish.

Race: Nice 50k by UTMB

Runner: Julie Urbanski

Race Date: September 24, 2022

Location: Nice, France (Menton to Nice)

Results: 11:29:40, waaaaaay in the middle of the pack 🙂

Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7861053549

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. I finished! I went into this with no time goals, just a range depending on how slow the climbs and technical trails might be, and based on training, I knew I could do anywhere between 3-4 miles per hour, so somewhere between 9 and 12 hours. Bonus points were that I finished before dark (with minutes to spare!) and before our kids’ bedtime.
  2. Having my boys at the finish line. I knew I’d be pushing close to bedtime with having been so slow to start, and I was so happy to see their eager faces at the end. They wanted to run into the finish so badly and it made me so proud and happy to run in with them, and for them to see me work so hard at something, not only in training for the months leading up to this, but also on race day.
  3. I appreciated that it was logistically easy to get to the start in Menton by train, and really cool to finish on the Promenade in Nice, with lots of people out and about in town. I love the races where I finish just 1-2 miles max from my accommodation so it’s a quick trip not only for my family to see me, but also to get home for shower, food and bed! Considering the logistics the 100 mile and 100k runners needed to get to their start, this was a biggie to me.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you?

Ok, so get ready for a laundry list of items because this was the first year of the race, so they have a lot of things to iron out.

  1. Porta-potties – They had 10 porta potties for 1500 runners. It’s just not enough, and while standing in line, a runner went in one, came out immediately and said, “No,” as he just shook his head and wagged his finger at the door of the porta potty and then went to use another one. So 20 minutes to go before the race and we were down to 9!
  2. The first few miles – Within those first few miles, there were several bottlenecks. The course took us on single-width staircases a few times, so hundreds of us just stood still for 10-20 minutes at a time, waiting to get on the stairs. Around 2.5 miles in, 2 people were scanning the bibs of all 1500 of us. We were standing on the side of the mountain, in the pouring rain, freezing because we were all cooling down quickly from the climb, just waiting to get scanned in. It seemed like a terrible decision that was unnecessary. Each time there was a bottleneck, there were hundreds of us just standing there, waiting to get moving.
  3. My moving time vs. elapsed time – My results page shows that I had just over 2 minutes of time in aid stations, and my Strava shows that I had 10:04 in moving time, yet 11:29 in elapsed time, so there’s about 83 minutes in there where I just wasn’t moving. Pretty much all of that was in the first 1-5 miles, just standing around, waiting to get in the conga line up a set of staircases or through a bib scan line. Even when we got on trails and could move, we would go 3 steps, then stop and wait for the traffic jam to get moving again.
  4. Starting position – This was my first big Euro trail race and I stupidly started near the back because I was in the bathroom line until 3 minutes to the start, and I paid for it. It was such a slow start and I simply couldn’t move at my own pace or even attempt to run my own race until about 10 miles in. It was super frustrating and took a lot of mental convincing not to be pissed off at the race in general for having such a crowded race with so many bottlenecks early on. It felt like I couldn’t take advantage of my actual ability to cover the course until about 10 miles in.
  5. The course – The course itself wasn’t overly epic. It had a few nice singletrack sections, but otherwise, it felt like a lot of patchwork to get us from point A to point B, with a few nice bits in between. I also have never done a UTMB course or even a true Euro trail race, so maybe this was normal?
  6. Water – Had the day been as hot and dry as it *should* have been, runners would have really struggled from the lack of aid. It felt like plenty of aid up until 21km (13.1 miles), but the next aid was at 35km (21.7 miles), then 50km (31 miles) and then the finish at 60k (37.3 miles). I was thirsty by both the 21 and 31 mile aid stations and I had about 1.5 liters between aid, and it was cold and rainy. We passed many spots with road access and even big parking lots, so I wonder if they will add more aid in hot years.
  7. Number of runners – I know I’ve already bitched about this, but hear me out. There was a section around the natural protected site of Vinaigrier, about 15km to go, where we weren’t supposed to use poles. It seemed ironic that they said we couldn’t use poles, yet they were ok with thousands of runners tromping on the trails and tearing them up in the mud and rain. If they really want to protect the area, they shouldn’t take thousands of runners on it.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

  1. The weather! Had the weather been like it had been the previous weeks (months!) it should have been hot, dry and sunny, so that’s what I was trained for. Instead it was cold, rainy, and socked in, with very little views. The day before and the next day were beautiful in Nice, so it was literally the ONE day of our race when it rained, which created tons of mud. I think it was very uncharacteristic to have weather like that, and we had to carry our cold kit for the race. The 100 milers went 1000 meters higher in elevation than us, so they had a chance of snow!
  2. The distance – It’s called a 50k but it’s actually 60k. Freaking give me credit for that extra 10k!!!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  1. I didn’t quit. Not that I even came close, but as I stood there on the side of the mountain, waiting to get our bibs scanned in, I contemplated turning around and taking the train home from Menton and saying, “F*ck you, UTMB!” Alas, I didn’t, I got my head on straight and powered through it.
  2. I really enjoyed the climbs. I’m not a climber, I’m from Ohio, total flatland, and my jam is flat bike paths whenever we travel. But I knew with 3300 meters (11,000 ft!) of gain, I couldn’t train on flat crap and expect to enjoy any ounce of those uphills. So I power-hiked the sh*t out of my training since April 2022 in Boulder, Chamonix, and what I could in Nice. At least twice a week, I tried to run double digit runs, around 12-16 miles, with at least one 3000 foot (continuous) climb in each run. It equated to some slow runs, but it also meant my legs were ready for the climbing. I loved every minute of the climbs where I was free to rock at my own pace and it was so fun. I wish I could have power-hiked that first climb without so many hindrances, but maybe I would have totally shot my legs early, who knows!
  3. I didn’t fall! People were going DOWN on the downhills, either because they weren’t overly cautious or because they just slipped. The rocks were slick, the trails were a mudfest, and it felt like survival of the luckiest to not fall, and I stayed upright the whole time. It also made me slower, but I was willing to make that tradeoff.
  4. Fueling. I was worried about the heat going into this because I had done a 21 mile training run going backwards on the course and I walked in the last 2 miles home. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, high 80s, and HOT in the sun, and I couldn’t eat or drink, I felt so nauseous. So going in, I was worried about eating. With it being cold, eating was downright easy and I was oddly hungry, so I ate a gel every 2 miles and I wish I had packed more than the 20 I started with. I didn’t take anything from the aid stations other than water, so I was hungry by the end. I hadn’t practiced with anything other than gels, water and Tailwind, so I wasn’t about to risk solid food on race day.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • If you are normally in the front third of the race or normally do slightly better than average, start out closer to the front than you normally would in a race. I was shocked by how many people I was passing on just the first climb who had no business being that far up. I think because we had to funnel to staircases so quickly in the race, we had no chance to spread out before the first climb, and then the cluster of scanning all our bibs just a few miles in just made it so much worse.
  • If you can, train with long, continuous climbs and long, continuous downhills. This course had 2×3000 foot climbs and descents that were fairly continuous in terms of just going up, up, up and down, down, down. Then if you can, throw in runnable trail miles after those descents so that you’re trying to run well on tired legs. If you don’t have this accessible, go for a training weekend(s) somewhere so you can practice this at least a few times.
  • If it’s actually a hot day, the course is quite exposed, so carry plenty of water. I didn’t see any water sources that we could have filtered from, so you’ll be reliant on aid stations for water.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • Start closer to the front or at least the first third of the field if I had any hope of running my own pace from an earlier point.
  • Work on my downhill skills. I’ve known all along this is a big weakness of mine and it didn’t help it was slippery and muddy as hell, so I was even more cautious on the downhills. I was with another runner around the halfway point and he put 2 HOURS on my finishing time because he was faster on the downhills and the flats.
  • Work on my running speed. Since having Brecon 3.5 years ago my easy pace has slowed significantly and I think if I had better leg speed, I’d have had some faster easy miles in there, as I had my running legs all the way to the end, I just didn’t have any speed in them. And with the final 10km being so runnable, I could have used more speed!
  • Get stronger at running the slight uphills later in the race, that in a “normal” training run look like totally runnable sections. It’s amazing how later in a race, even the slightest incline looks tough and you revert to walking. I’d love to get stronger to where I’m still running those easier sections, as this race had a lot of them in the second half of the race.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

  • There are a lot of runnable sections if it’s not raining. Yes, power hike the uphills, but there is a lot that’s runnable besides those two big uphills. The mud made for really slippery sections that I was especially cautious on, even the sidewalks and roads through towns. I took those so easy and had it been dry, it would have been so much more runnable.
  • If it’s hot, be prepared to go without water on the second half or be prepared to carry a lot of water to make it between aid stations. There were two sections of 15km without water and 1 of 10km (the last section), and I ran out of water each time. It felt like plenty of aid up until the top of the second climb, and then it felt like the aid was few and far between!
  • The last 10km is very runnable, so if you have your legs left, there are sections of road, sidewalk, stairs, and other non-trail terrain that you can really run on. Aside from an annoyingly steep downhill on loose rock coming down from Mt. Vinaigrier, it’s very runnable past that. I did the last 10km backwards on a training run, so I at least knew this as I was slogging through some slow kilometers in the middle.
  • Also in the last 10km, there are A LOT of turns. Up until that last aid station, it was easy to follow the course because there were either so many people to follow, or there were only so many ways to go. They also had volunteers at several important turning points, BUT, in the last 10km, keep your eye out for the flag markers, especially given you are going down staircases several times rather than roads. I almost missed one key staircase and then missed the next one! Also keep your eye out for when you cross the street, as there were volunteers at most crossings, but not all, so it wasn’t immediately obvious where to go on a tired brain and body.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

  • Even with the rain and being socked in most of the time, there were big sweeping views on the big climbs and descents in the first half, so yes, definitely. If it’s sunny, have the camera handy!
  • There was a really cool section in the last few miles where they took us along the water before taking us into the Port in Nice and along the waterfront. It was stunning, even in the moment where I was just DONE with the race, I appreciated it. I went back and took pictures in the day time so I could capture this really unique section.
Along the water before heading into Nice

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes, as far as trail races go, 11,000 feet of gain over 37 miles is difficult, as that’s almost 300 feet per mile of gain. About two-thirds of the gain is in the first third of the race, which I kind of liked, as I came to like long, continuous ascents in my training (yet I didn’t get better in my long, continuous descents, head-scratcher for sure). It’s a “stone” earning race that you can use to put in for the UTMB races in Chamonix, so it’s going to be on par with how difficult those races are. Had it not been muddy, I think it would have been slightly less difficult in terms of being more runnable, but that would have meant it was hot and sunny, which would have arguably been even harder, especially with the lack of aid in the second half of the course.

I would say the trails weren’t overly technical. There were spots with rocks and such, and sometimes it was hard to tell how technical it was given puddles and squelchy mud, but I’ve run more technical trails than this one, and there were enough sections of road/sidewalk sprinkled in that it didn’t feel overly technical.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

  • Pre-race, I was ready to answer, “Of course, it’s a race run by UTMB!” but alas, the answer is, “Somewhere in between.” We didn’t have quite the cluster that the 100k did. Their shuttle buses realized on the way to the start that they were too big to make it up the tight switchbacks, so the buses had to drop runners off in a parking lot, then the runners had to wait in line for smaller shuttle buses, so the race ended up starting late. I can’t imagine starting off a race like that.
  • Something I wish UTMB would do is a staggered start, especially on a course that funnels into stairways and singletrack trails so quickly. Maybe they don’t want someone later in the race winning based on chip time, but shit, is it really better that I had about 80 minutes of standing time just waiting for bottlenecks to clear just so they could have a cleaner finish line celebration?
  • For me, having two people scanning 1500 people’s bibs a few miles into an already bottlenecked race, on the side of a climb in the pouring rain, seemed unforgiveable. Couldn’t they see the jam it was causing and make a game-day decision to stop scanning and let us just run the damn race?

Competition – Is there a strong field?

  • Oh yeah, absolutely. I think any race with UTMB branding on it has to be competitive, especially because of the sheer number of runners in the race. The winner ran sub 6 hours, which is fairly mind boggling given the mud, though he was also the first footprints, so maybe the mud wasn’t too bad for him yet?
  • Like a lot of UTMB (and maybe European?) races, our field was only 10% female. Where are all the women?!?! I felt like a lot of women were around me, which was surprising given that it was only 10% female.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

  • I signed up for the race in January and it eventually sold out, but I don’t know when. It was the first year for the race and it’s likely to get more popular given it’s a stones race, so sign up early!
  • Hotels are plentiful in Nice and given it’s post-summer, lodging is likely easier to find. We stayed about a mile Northwest from Old Town, where everyone else stays, because we stayed for a month and it was significantly cheaper to do it that way.
  • Getting to the start was thankfully easy, as we just rode the train from Nice to Menton. It was about a 30 minute train ride, there was plenty of space for runners, and it was free to ride it given we were in the race.
  • We did have to walk about a mile from the train station to the start, which felt oddly far and by the time we got there, I only had 20 minutes to stand in a very long porta-potty line, with 3 minutes to spare to get to the starting line.
  • If I were to do it again, I would have taken the earlier train at 6:06am rather than 6:36am, which would have gotten me in at 6:46, with a start time of 8:00. That would have given me more time to go to the bathroom and then get a better spot in the starting line.
  • I met a runner who stayed in Menton the night before, totally a smart idea, then her crew checked out of Menton and met her in Nice for the finish and to stay in Nice after that. Brilliant.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

  • Get in and get out. With the rain, there were a ton of people enjoying either a dry spot under a tent or inside, along with a hot cup of broth. Hell no, get in and get out while you can, and pass 20, 30, maybe even 50 runners in the process.
  • They felt a bit chaotic, as it wasn’t clear whether we filled our own stuff or people helped us, so I picked volunteers to help if they seemed available; otherwise I just filled up my bottles with plain water as fast as I could.
  • Standard fare available, cookies and sweet stuff, salty chips and such, Coke, water, and maybe an electrolyte drink, but I never found it. I didn’t want one, so I just made sure to only get normal water.
  • I only ate 19 of my 20 gels the entire time, carrying all of them from the start, so I only took water from the aid station. I was really hungry with 10km to go, but I wasn’t going to mess with eating solid food so close to the finish, so I just hammed the rest of my gels early in that section and ran as fast as my legs would go!
  • No drop bags allowed, so if you have specialty food, pack it from the start. They had a bag drop at the start to be there at the finish, but I didn’t mess with it and I was glad I didn’t have another thing to do at the starting line.

Weather and typical race conditions

  • For the 3 weeks leading up to the race, it was hot, humid and 80-90 degrees all except one day. I was shocked to get pouring rain and cooler temps, though it was a blessing in disguise, as I had no trouble eating.
  • Given the freak weather, expect anything! Train for the heat and be pleasantly surprised if it’s cooler.
  • Much of the course, at least the “big” climbing and descending, was exposed, so if it is hot, it’s going to feel HOT.
  • The 100 mile course was expected to have snow at about 2300 meters and they climbed to 2500 meters. For perspective, we “only” climbed to 1300 meters, so we were quite a bit lower in elevation, as we only climbed up from the sea rather than starting at any kind of elevation.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

I was actually stoked with how my gear turned out. No chaffing, no blisters, no bouncing of my pack, and I was fairly “comfortable” the whole time, comfortable a funny term given the weather.

  • The North Face (8L?) vest + Naked waistbelt – I was able to carry all my required gear, including the “cold weather” kit, along with 12 gels and 1 liter of water, in this vest, and it never felt heavy. I wore it on every run that was 10+ miles, so I was very used to it. Then I put 8 gels in my Naked belt and ate those first, as I don’t love having stuff around my waist/hips. I really liked this combo and love this vest. It’s simple yet carries a lot comfortably higher on my back.
  • Black Diamond collapsible poles – Likely the only reason I stayed upright and I practiced every damn climb with these things. I couldn’t imagine a vert-heavy run without them.
  • Fueling – A mix of Huma, Maurten, and Neversecond gels. I rotated these three and purposefully didn’t carry any Spring gels, as they’ve wrecked my bowels in the past (aka, a guaranteed mid-run poo). I gagged on the 19th gel, a Huma, with about 3 miles to go, and didn’t try to eat the last one. I’d call that a win. I wish I’d had more Neversecond gels, they were a little heavy but tasted so good.
  • Trail shoes – Have some with some grip. I run in the Nike Wildhorse and they aren’t the grippiest shoes out there, I tend to slip on rocks even when they’re dry, so these weren’t the best option, but I also wasn’t about to change shoes just because of the rain and mud.
  • I always carry my required gear in a dry sack in the back compartment of my vest and it was definitely necessary on this day, as it was a wet one!
  • I saw a runner with a rain jacket that looked like it had a zipper to open up a bigger space to accommodate a running pack, and I should have memorized the brand. My only beef with my current rain jacket (a Salomon one, maybe the WP Lightning?) is it’s just not big enough to fit over the outside of my pack, so once I put it on, I was hesitant to take the time to take it off. Granted, I likely bought it a size too small, but I also didn’t want to be swimming in it. When we started the second climb, it had cleared and felt hot and humid, so I took the time to pull over and take it off, and about 5 other runners did the same right behind me. Then I put it on as we started that descent and never took it off again, though I got pretty toasty the last 10km.
  • I used KT tape for the first time on a spot on my back that always gets chaffage on long runs from my vest and this time – nothing. KT tape for the win!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really. They could see you off at the start, then easily ride the train back to the finish in Nice. I *think* I saw some crew and/or spectators at the last two aid stations, 35km and 50km, but they could have easily been people just there and randomly cheering us on. According to the runner’s guide, there weren’t any crew locations. If people wanted to cheer you on at aid stations, they could easily figure out how to get to them, unlike the 100k and 100 miler, whose courses seemed much more remote.

How’s the Swag?

Matthijs (from Poland!) and I after the finish, he crushed his first ultra!

Pretty cool and unique! We got a waterproof/dry sack backpack, which I thought was pretty sweet given the entry fee was just 99 Euros. I’ll take that over much other swag, and there were finisher’s medals at the end, which I somehow missed until I saw others wearing them around when I left the finish line. No t-shirt, a bit surprising for a UTMB race.

Pre-race you can buy tons of UTMB branded gear in the race expo area, which I splurged and bought a Camelback travel mug with the UTMB logo because I’m a sucker for travel mugs.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Out of 5 stars, I would give it 3.5. They need to iron out a few details, and though they couldn’t control the weather, it definitely put a damper on the event given the crazy mud and lack of sweeping views. If you’re not too far from here and want to earn stones to put in for the UTMB lottery, it’s definitely a good option, just train for those hills and be ready for any weather.

Sisters Skyline 50k Race Report – Jason Bremer

Race: Sisters Skyline 50k

Runner: Jason Bremer

Race Date: 09/24/2022

Location: Sisters , OR

Results: 14th of 224, 11th male

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7861405136/overview

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

This is a well-run race, in an absolutely beautiful setting, almost entirely on great single-track trails.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

I’m not a big fan of courses that require a shuttle to the start, but not a big deal.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

I wish there was something weird about this race. –Can’t think of anything.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

The first two-thirds of the race is up high near The Sisters and Broken Top. They’re great trails and I felt like I was in the flow for big parts of this. Interesting that almost all of the vertical gain is in the first 10 miles. Makes for an interesting course profile which I thought was fun.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

The 10-mile climb to start is pretty mellow, but make sure you don’t go out too fast. The trails aren’t too technical–makes for a potentially fast course when you consider the profile as well.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Is it possible I need to hold back more for the end of the race?! Yes.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The course profile is interesting in that almost all the gains happen in the first ten miles, followed by 22 miles of descending/flat. That sounds like a lot of descending but it’s pretty mellow so not something to watch out for. In fact, the last 12 miles are quite flat.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The first two-thirds of the course is incredible. But the race needs to end in Sisters and for that reason the low-lands finish to the course isn’t nearly as beautiful as the first 20 miles. Definitely, in total, it’s a beautiful location worth doing for that reason.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It’s relatively easy as far as 50k races go.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Race organizers had their act together! No complaints.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There were some strong runner, but I wouldn’t say it was intensely competitive.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

There’s a ton of accommodations in Bend, which is 30 minutes away. There’s some but less up in Sisters. Given the early start, and the need to make the shuttle on time, it would definitely be preferable to stay the night in Sisters the night of the race.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare.

Weather and typical race conditions

September in Sisters is about as good as it gets, though it got pretty hot by mid-day.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Consider how you’re carrying your liquids, given 10 miles between the first couple aid stations.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

The course is almost impossible for spectators. Probably best to plan on seeing your crew at the finish only.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Great race and I recommend it, 8/10.

Looking to get into ultras? Check out our 7 steps to get started.

The Barkley Fall Classic Race Report – Brendan Gilpatrick

Race: The Barkley Fall Classic

Runner: Coach Brendan Gilpatrick

Race Date: 09/17/2022

Location: Frozen Head State Park, TN

Results: 6th Overall

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7828124823#kudos

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Chance to run in a place with a long history in ultrarunning.
  2. The unknown. With not knowing the course until the day before there is an added element of adventure to this race.
  3. Beautiful flowy single track running through the woods.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There is always a chance of poison ivy with the off trail navigation portions of this course. Post race it is important to go through a couple rounds of Zanfel to help prevent that from being an issue.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

You do not know the course until you get the map the day before. Once you know the course route on Friday it will give you the insight into how you should approach pacing this event. The exact distance is not 50km and it varies year to year but it is often longer than advertised.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Taking an hour off my previous time and finishing in the top 10 and walking away from the race feeling good.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

A relaxed slow and steady effort on the difficult climbs with names will set you up to run the park trails and anything in between at a much better effort.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I had arm protection for the long section of briars but I think it would be worth carry leg sleeves or a very light pant layer and taking the few minutes it would take to change in and out of those. Race the course and the clock not the other competitors. The difficult parts of this course stop the strongest runners in their tracks so it is extra important to focus on your own effort as the race progresses.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Know the park trail map ahead of seeing the race course. I did not take my map out at any point as I had reviewed the map of the park dozens of times. Knowing the color of the blazes for these trails will pay dividends as you navigate the race as there is minimal signage.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

While there are not really big sweeping views the single track trails of the park are fun and fast. They typically either go up or down through series of switchbacks so be prepared for little to no flat running.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

400 starters, 108 finishers for the 50K this year. That being said if you separate the difficult off trail climbs from the rest of the course runners with 50km-50 mile experience have a good shot at being able to finish.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very well organized. The race captures “fatass” style racing from early trail running and combines it with a large local community involvement. Aid stations are run by members of the high school and middle school football teams.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There is typically at least 20 very capable/experienced trail ultra runners. That being said it is a big field so no matter where you are performance wise you will always feel like you have competition. More importantly the course is hard and really offers you a chance to compete against yourself and the desire to quit or take the shorter marathon finish versus continuing on for the full 50k course.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Signup early this race always sells out. If you are truly passionate about doing it get on the waitlist and train like you are in as that list moves fast. I met a runner who tagged along with a friend was was racing and was on the waitlist and got in the morning of due to no shows.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Aid stations carry water and Sword drink. There is typical trail race snacks but no gels. Gels are not permitted. If you rely heavily on your own nutrition practice carrying it in a way where you could be self-sufficient for the day if you needed to be.

Weather and typical race conditions

Typically it is hot (65-70 at the start to as high 85-90 as the day goes on). Chance of rain seems slim this weekend but has happened so bring that gear so you are safe.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

I would recommend the following as it worked well for me:

  • 1L kathdyn soft flask with filter (if streams are running race day you now have extra water sources if you have a filter)
  • Gloves for the climb through briars. Could go a step further and have carry arm and leg sleeves. The woman who won took the time to change in and out of these through the section where these are needed and gave her an advantage.
  • Gels in soft flask for the day, powder nutrition in another soft flask for the day. I had enough on me to run without aid if need be.
  • Sunglasses to avoid briars to the eyes.
  • A cheap simple watch to keep track of the time on course as no GPS watches are allowed.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

I would recommend you get dropped off at the finish and then potentially your family or friends could see you go through the prison area. There is no crew aid for this race but seeing my wife in the middle of the race was a bonus even though it was just a wave. If family and friends are waiting at the finish make sure they don’t lay around in the grassy field there are chiggers and they will have their own bites to bring back from Barkley.

How’s the Swag?

You get a compass and whistle as well as a course map printed on fabric. The finishing medal is different than most and they recognize if you have multiple finishes at this race. I would recommend picking up a cheap whistle/compass combo that is lighter and smaller and takes up less room race day. They are both required.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

10/10. Now if I could only get a shot at the Big one.

Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Brendan Gilpatrick is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Volcanic 50k Race Report – Nate Orf

Race: Volcanic 50k

Runner: Nate Orf

Race Date: 08/06/2022

Location: Mt. St. Helens, WA

Results: https://ultrasignup.com/m_results_event.aspx?did=88715#id2013626

Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/dref5oFcvsb

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

Well organized, great volunteers, and incredible scenery

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Some light rappelling and lots of bouldering over lava fields, plus an aid station where all of the water is straight out of a glacier fed spring staffed by astronauts (a play on the moonscape of the blast zone you’re running through at the time)

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Great first 20 miles, but made a hydration mistake (skimped on electrolytes) and had to fend off some fairly bad muscle cramping for the last 12+ miles.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Time on course beforehand is helpful to practice orienteering over sections where you navigate through boulder fields with no trail.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Switching to 100% electrolyte hydration, especially on hotter days

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

There is no good place to drop given remote location, which is good and bad.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Awe inspiring.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes. It has a prerequisite of a prior 50k or previously having run the 25k.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

GoBeyond is fantastic and did a great job—well organized.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, field is fairly deep considering smaller size (200ish runners, necessitated by USFS permit requirements)

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

No special handshake, but options for hotels are limited near race. Drivable morning of from Portland area. Also regularly sells out, so always good to get in early (February), though waitlist is also usually an option.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

They have to hike everything in for 5 miles to each aid station, but considering, good standard ultra fare (if no frills). Gu gels and drinks, plus pickles, chips, pb&j, etc.

Weather and typical race conditions

Wide variety—everything from mid 80s like this year to snow and cold, and sometimes both.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

There are minim gear requirements (jacket, emergency blanket, whistle, and ability to carry water). Beyond that, if particular on nutrition plan on carrying it with you as there aren’t really any good places for crew to meet.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really.

How’s the Swag?

Minimal included in registration, but nice Nike and Territory Run swag available.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

It kicked my butt and think that’s a pretty common sentiment (though was also my first ultra). Not another course like it and definitely an experience. 4.5/5 stars.

Need help prepping for your next 50k race? We’ve got you covered.

Trail du Bout du Monde 57k Race Report – Eric Ahern

Photo: Yves Mainguy

Race: Trail du Bout du Monde 57km

Runner: Coach Eric Ahern

Race Date: 07/10/2022

Location: Brest, France

Results: 6:31, 128th out of 500

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7446083118

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

Incredible views along the coast. Efficient, well-stocked aid stations (very important because it was warm). Finish line party was like a festival: food, music, attractions for kids.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

My own fault, but I cramped pretty bad for the last 10k. Otherwise it’s hard to find anything to critique. It was great.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Running by the finish line at 37km in a 57km race is a challenge. The temptation to stop is real.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I was happy with how I paced the raced, even though I blew up due to under-fueling. Up to mile 30, I was steadily improving my position.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Bring electrolytes.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Bring electrolytes.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Although it’s a coastal race, it’s not flat. Over 4,000 feet of climbing in 35 miles. Do your hill work.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

One of the most beautiful races I’ve ever done.

Photo: Yves Mainguy

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Medium. Footing is easy, moderate amount of climbing. The terrain constantly changes from easy trails to sand, to steps, a few farm roads.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Super well-organized. Not a single issue.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Very strong field as this is part of a local series.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Sign up early and get your French medical certificate from any doctor.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard European fare. Soda, sports drinks, water, fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolate, crackers, chips, nuts.

Weather and typical race conditions

July in Brittany can be warm – low 80’s F.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

It’s very exposed, so if it’s sunny use lots of sunblock, wear a hat and sunglasses.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Plenty of easy to access spots for spectators.

How’s the Swag?

Nice tank-top.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Five out of five. Put it on your bucket list if you’re ever coming to the area.

Want to read more about this race? Check out Eric’s full race write up here on his blog. Eric Ahern is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coaching page.

Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k Race Report – Georgia Porter

Race: Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k

Runner: Coach Georgia Porter

Race Date: 06/18/2022

Location: Tahoe, California

Results: 3rd Place Female, 19th Overall

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

This race is EPIC in every way. Some of the highlights are the gorgeous scenery, the high level of competition and the amazing staff/volunteers

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t enjoy about this race.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

A weird/awesome thing about this race is the section called “Stairway to Heaven.” There is a ladder runners climb up to get past a steep rocky section and it’s followed by a set of stairs carved out of the snow. At the top of the stairs is the high point of the race.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

The 52k (more like a 49k as the race distance varies on the year/snow) is two 25k loops. I made sure to be very patient the first loops and I enjoyed looking around at the incredible views of forests and alpine lakes. That patience paid off and I was able to run a strong second loop. More importantly, it made the race so enjoyable!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

There are several very steep climbs that require power hiking. I typically don’t practice power hiking and it showed! Runners training for this race should consider practicing power hiking on steep terrain.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I got a little caught up in the competition heading into the second lap and didn’t stop to drink some mid-race coke like I normally do. A few miles later I paid for it and started bonking. Fortunately I was able to drink some coke at the next aid station and I felt better within a few miles.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Broken Arrow is a steep course! There are plenty of steep inclines and declines. There are also plenty of technical sections.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

This is one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever run. 10/10 would recommend!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

This course is difficult in terms of elevation and altitude, it’s all above 6,000ft.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Broken Arrow is one of the most well organized events I’ve ever participated in. Communication is frequent and clear, the course was well staffed and easy to follow and the finish line is a party!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There’s excellent competition in every event at Broken Arrow.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Registration is simple and straight forward on the website.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Aid stations have typical fare. This year the race partnered with Spring Energy and these gels were available.

Weather and typical race conditions

Weather conditions are never predictable in the mountains. This year (2022) is was in the 40s with a little snow at the top, perfect for racing!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Many runners ran with trekking poles. I didn’t but they were encouraged by the race director.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Given the terrain this race wasn’t incredibly spectator friendly. For the 52k friends and family can easily see their runner start, see them at the halfway point and see them finish.

How’s the Swag?

The swag is amazing!!! For the 52k there was a Broken Arrow Salomon backpack, a Broken Arrow hat, a commemorative cup, a trail cup, a Salomon hydro flask, and plenty of great fuel and snacks. Very impressed.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

10/10 for this race!!!

Georgia is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Wy’East Wonder 50k Race Report – Josh Bergseng

Race: Wy’East Wonder 50k

Runner: Josh Bergseng

Race Date: 06/12/2022

Location: Parkdale, Oregon

Results: 8:39

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/7299687069

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Race Organization – Go Beyond Racing does an outstanding job organizing races.
  2. Course – Great Single track trails with constant views of Mt. Hood and the Hood River valley. Clouds and fog disrupted the views on my race day but the views are typically amazing.
  3. Volunteers – The local volunteers in the greater Portland area put always show up to support local races. Make it fun at every aid station.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Due to high snow levels this year our course was changed. The course was supposed to be a net downhill, 4k of gain and 6k of downhill. Our course was changed to 5.8k of gain and descent including a steep 2200ft climb to start the race which was also the muddy descent to the finish. Made for a very tough start and finish to the race. But the views of the valley during this section were amazing along with the wild flowers.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Nothing really weird about this one. Interesting fact is that the term Wy’East is what the Native Americans referred to Mt. Hood as.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Race nutrition went really well and was mentally strong throughout. Race day was windy and rainy on the upper ridge sections of the course so was happy to stay strong during these sections.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

This course is usually a point to point run and net downhill. Beautiful single track trails. Be prepared for snow as usually there is some snow in the higher section. Weather can be all over the place. I got a cold, wet, windy day but next year it could be 80 deg and sunny.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I chose to stay in Hood River the night before the race. It was 20 minutes from the start. I would stay there again.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Since my course was different than the usual course, I will just say that the last downhill could be muddy, be prepared with shoes that have some sort of traction. Road shoes not recommended.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes, Mt. Hood National Forest never disappoints.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Tougher than anticipated. I didn’t get to do the net downhill course, but even that has some slower sections than would be anticipated from the course profile.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Go Beyond Racing is a professional organization, this is not a hobby for them. They care about all the runners and take time to get to know each runner. It feels like a family now that I have done many of their races.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

They get a pretty good field of Portland and Bend speedsters.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Easy race to get into. Everyone can pretty much get in. I signed up 6-7 weeks in advance of race and made it a training run for another race.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

They carried my gels of choice and many real food options. Tons of volunteers to assist the runners get in and out quickly.

Weather and typical race conditions

It can be sunny, or cold and wet, be prepared for any conditions.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

I would have a light jacket for the higher sections of the course. Maybe gloves if it is windy.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really, difficult navigating. One aid station is easy to get to and finish line is extremely family friendly. While you run there is plenty of cool things to see for your crew in the area.

How’s the Swag?

They give out finisher glasses for each of their races. They make buying shirt optional which is nice, no one needs more race T-shirts.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

9 out of 10.

Thinking about running your first ultra? Check out our 7 steps to get started.