Closing the (Race) Book on 2017 (Part 2)

And we journey on in my race recaps. If you didn’t check out Part 1 on Wednesday, you can find it just below this post on the home page. If you did check out Part 1 and we’re anxiously awaiting Part 2 (because of course you were) here it is!

June – Things get kicked off in June literally a week after the Head for the Cure 5k. Like I said, it was a wild spring. The first weekend in June was for the second to last running of Dam to Dam, as 2018 will be its final year. I got talked into this one at the last minute, and signed up the week before the race.

I was heading down for the sole purpose of pacing two of my buddies to a 1:35 Half. It was an absurdly hot day, and I mean first weekend in June…what do you expect? So the race didn’t go as planned for the two of them. Meanwhile, I hit 1:35:03 on chip time, and 1:35:34 on gun time. Not bad.

The next weekend was for Relay Iowa. 339 miles across the state. Three days and two nights. It was quite the experience. It was also awesome! Lots of miles and virtually no sleep made for some exhaustion on Sunday. The whole Relay is too much to write here, but if you get the chance, I would 10/10 recommend it.

And the next weekend was Grandma’s Marathon. Somehow I thought I could run a decent race here, even though this was what, my fourth race weekend in a row? It was warm this year in Duluth, but definitely not unbearable. I just didn’t have the energy to hammer out a good race, or anywhere close to one. But Grandma’s is SUCH a good event that it didn’t matter. I’ve done this one twice, and would definitely go again.

August – But Ben, you skipped July. Correct. After a ridiculous May and June, I spent July training with no races. And in August I only had one, my all time favorite race: Gopher to Badger.

This was the fourth year I ran this one, and I hope to continue to do so in the future. I wasn’t sure what my fitness level was like here, so it was a good benchmark to see how my fall training was going. Turns out, it was going VERY well. I got in with a good pack immediately before I wrecked that with a 6:16 6th Mile (oops). But a PR by over a minute was in the cards for me. Now I can finally know that my Half PR is on my favorite course.

September – For the second year in a row I went to the Madrid Milers Labor Day Run featuring distanced of 2, 5, and 15 miles. Naturally I did the 15 again, done deliberately as a workout

Unless you’re running with a friend, there is a lot of alone time in this race because the field isn’t that large. But for a cheap race, and a certain 15 mile PR, this is a good event. You’ll also learn that there are, in fact, hills in central Iowa.

October – And that brings us to the Fall goal race. The Milwaukee Marathon. I think I’ve written enough about this that I don’t have to go into much detail. It wasn’t a good day for me personally, or for the race and race management. Bad races happen, and I’m glad it happened all in one day on a course that wouldn’t count.

Besides, I got to notch a marathon finish at the course I DNF’d at two years ago. AND I got to see my Dad finish his first marathon! So it was all in all a solid day.

November – And that brings us to now. Those of you who know me, or follow me on Twitter, Strava, etc., know that I’ve been dealing with an injury from the Milwaukee Marathon. It has definitely kept my running to a minimum since October.

So, much like two year ago, I wasn’t sure what the Turkey Trot in Milwaukee would bring. An 8k is quite intimidating when you’ve run over 5 miles once since October 15. Turns out, my training cycle was pretty good in the fall, and while I’ve definitely lost fitness, I’m not in terrible shape.

Full race recap is coming, but long story short here. Got out WAY too fast, suffered up the hill, found a rhythm, and survived the last .9. But got under 32 and walked away with a PR. So not bad.

Like I said on Wednesday, I have nothing planned until February. I’ll likely tackle a race at some point in January to see where I’m at. But until then, it’s time to train! Here I come 2018!!

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Closing the (Race) Book on 2017 (Part 1)

In my world, the year is broken into three different years. The calendar year (obviously), the recruiting cycle for admissions (July-May), and the race year (January-Thanksgiving).

And tomorrow we reach the end of the race year, at least in my world. For me, the obligatory Turkey Trot caps a year of racing nicely. I think I’ve run exactly one December race in my entire life. Typically, for me December is a mix of recovery from the year, and new build-up for the next year. Races don’t need to happen in that stage.

So with my final race of 2017 on deck tomorrow (I really need to check the start time…) I thought this was a good opportunity to look back on a 2017 full of highs, lows, and fun races, month by month (and I’ll have pictures today!!).

January – I rarely do January races, but the Icebreaker Indoor 5k was too neat of an experience to pass up. 12 laps on a 440 meter track? How many places can you do that? Additionally, the race was a Friday night event, which I think is kind of cool. Navigating a three lane track in a 5k with no good way to pace yourself is a treat at best.

I was coming off a cold in this one was well, and didn’t feel in great race shape anyway, yet there I was. A top 15 finish was just fine with me. Definitely a unique run. Would recommend 10/10…except that the race is under new management, not in January, and there’s no more 5k 😦

Indoor

Trying so hard to not get out kicked at the finish (I didn’t).

February – It’s becoming a tradition that I hope continues in 2018 (I’m signed up already). The Frozen Feet Half up in Minnesota. Because really, you can’t beat 13.1 miles of single track in the winter in Minnesota. Oh and the breakfast burritos are the best I’ve ever had.

Although this year was a bit different. Our warm winter, and freezing rain during the week, moved us off the single track onto a double loop bike path. If you’ve never tried to run on sheer ice, trust me it isn’t fun. Definitely hoping we get to run on the single track again this year. If you’re looking for a fun and different kind of Half, this one is for you.

March – Here’s where my racing started to take off a little bit in the Spring. First up was the Leprechaun Chase in Des Moines. And full disclosure, I signed up because it was cheap and we got a zip-up hoodie if we signed up on the first day. So I did. The race is a 10k where the women get a 5 minute head start on the men. The overall winner wins a beer for his or her gender! It’s quite an event.

However, this year ice altered a second race for me. Ice on the path around the lake made running slightly unsafe, so the race was changed to an out and back 5k, and everyone got a beer. Fine by me! I’m a little salty I didn’t get to run a 10k, but I totally get the decision, and a free beer made up for it!

Lep

Clearly I wasn’t thrilled with someone close to me. Look at that side eye!

My big March race was the Music City Trail Ultra 50k. After a 50k as a training run went well in 2016, I decided to give it a whirl in 2017 too. Coupled with an excuse to go to Nashville, this seemed like a winner.

And it was!

What an amazing race experience. Most of the race was on single track or jeep roads, but there were parts where we followed tiny orange flags through the Tennessee mountains. The amount of brush, hills, and water crossings was like nothing I’ve experienced. And despite my longest run since October was only 15 miles, I came away with a 5th place finish.

I’m signed up and have my AirBnB booked for this March already, and I am stoked for this one! I already told my coach that I want top 3, but I’d LOVE to take the win if that becomes a possibility.

April – I kind of ran a race on accident in April. The First Call Half fell on a day I wanted about 13 miles for a training run. It also fell the day after a 24 mile training run. Why did I sign up? My Dad talked me into it. I was planning on a relaxing run to the race to see him finish. Instead, I wound up in the race.

All in all, this was a good race, and in general Silver Circle Events puts on fantastic races! Mentally, it was a relaxing race and I still came away with an age group medal. Not a bad day.

Two weeks later, I was back on the race course. This time at the La Jolla Half out in California. This was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to race this one, and it never disappoints. HUGE hills and amazing views make this one a great experience. Knowing the course helped me to run this one way smarter than the last time.

Who cares if this was two weeks before my A race for the Spring. Loved this one, and would recommend to anyone.

May – Oh dear. I went a little bonkers in May.

The first weekend in May was my A race for the Spring, the Lincoln Marathon. In what became a theme for all of my spring races, it was a little too warm. Temps soared into the mid-high 70s by the finish on a course that offers minimal shade in the back 13 miles.

If you’re going to check Nebraska off your states list for marathons, then Lincoln should be your go to. This race is well organized and sells out super fast. The Half is a phenomenal course, and you run that whole thing in the Full before setting off on an out and back the second half. This race can be made or broken by weather, though, much like literally any Spring race.

The week after Lincoln, it was time for the Market to Market Relay in Iowa. We gathered our team of 8 and set off on the 75 mile journey. This year marked the fewest amount of miles I’ve ever run in the relay, and that was fine by me. This race is mostly for fun anyway. Love this event, even though I won’ be returning this Spring.

But wait! I wasn’t done in May just yet. One of my former co-workers had left our office to become an Event Manager with a race organization. And they were hosting their Des Moines race. So I couldn’t say no to a spontaneous 5k on a Sunday morning. This was two weeks post Market to Market, and a day after a 22 mile long run.

Yet here I was again on a chilly and windy day for the Head for the Cure 5k. The course was one loop (exactly 3.1!) on a limestone trail around a lake. I would say that this was my best run 5k ever. Pacing was very good, and for once I was actually patient in the first mile. A top 3 finish is always nice for a spur of the moment race.

But a quick PSA for Head for the Cure. It’s a great event that offers 5ks throughout the US. Good organization, a good race, and for a good cause.

I’ll stop my recap of 2017 at May. But June continued a bonkers Spring. In fact, the very next weekend it continued.

Thanksgiving Week

Ah Thanksgiving. A short week of work, lots of food, and (of course) the obligatory Turkey Trot.

I think almost everyone will, at some point this week, post a blog, tweet, Insta, or Facebook post about being thankful for this, that, and the other things. And you better believe that this is my blog post about that.

This will be the second Thanksgiving in three years that I’m coming off a running injury. And the second time that I was sidelined primarily due to racing the Milwaukee Marathon.

I haven’t been able to really turn lose running yet, although my runs are continuing to improve in quality and ease. Much like two years ago, I’m not sure what I can do in this 8k. I surprised myself last time, and am hoping that happens again. I know my muscle pull still isn’t 100%, but it’s close. And to be honest, two years ago, I probably wasn’t 100% until late January, so this is a little more of the same I think.

It’s also always a nice reminder to just be thankful that I’m able to get out and run. Nevermind being able to compete in races, or rather to even race in general. Any time that we, as runners, are forced to take time off always helps put things in perspective. I know that I’m thrilled to just be able to get back out and go.

Spring training is right around the corner, and I’m thrilled about the fact that I’ll be able to be able to continue working toward my goals.

Ode to the Running Store

My plan was to sit down to a nice dinner and hammer away at some work emails. But the server is apparently down for our CRM, so it’s blog time instead.

This one came to my head this past weekend. Anyone who knows me knows that I have ultimate brand loyalty, love, whatever you want to call it, to the running store in my hometown: Performance Running Outfitters.

Trae, the owner, was one of our track coaches when I started track as a high school freshman. I’m not even sure if he remembers that I was on that team (because I was actually terrible). But that was when PRO was just starting out, and its where we ALWAYS went to buy our spikes for both cross country and track.

As time progressed, you’d see super speedy dudes (relative to my HS self) in the PRO singlets. I always figured I’d never be able to wear one of those, and it became that one piece of gear I really wanted to have.

Fast forward to this past summer, and I became a member of the PRO Race Team. A couple local races here, and some volunteering there, and that blue and black singlet is mine to wear for every race.

As I mentioned to Trae on a run this past weekend, I compare every running store to PRO.

And I consider myself lucky to have found a comparable one in Naperville; complete with it’s own running community.

I’ll definitely wear my Naperville Running Co gear. Especially my blanket/sweatshirt and winter hat.

But my races are reserved for my PRO gear. And as long as they’ll have me, they always will be.

New Faces and New Places

I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog, but now it’s time to devote an entire post to this. I’ve moved! Or at least, am in the process of moving.

A little over three years ago, I up and moved to Ames, IA. I didn’t know anyone, and was fresh out of college. I got hooked up with the local running group and the rest, they say, is history.

Now, I’m up and moving again, this time to the Chicago area. I’ll be setting up shop (aka moving to) Naperville, and will officially get everything done and moved next weekend. I’m super excited for the change of scenery, being close to home, and of course new running locations.

I already hopped on the run with the Naperville Running Co; in my mind making the move “Running Official.” With a whole new set of trails and roads to explore, and a new training cycle coming up, I’m ready to roll.

Of course, my pulled muscle needs to continue to get better…but we’ll get there.

Naturally, it’s a little intimidating heading to a new town, again. Although, getting in with the running group is a great move to get to know folks.

I’ve already been told about a member of the club who will be excited I’m around, apparently because I’ll be close to his speed. Apparently, this dude was disappointed with a 2:50 at Berlin. So I’m thinking my training runs are about to get turned up a little bit. I know that’ll make me a better runner, though.

So if you’re reading this and have recommendations on places to run, things to see, and of course where to get coffee in the Chicago-land, let me know!!

See you all (hopefully) at the Chicago Marathon this fall!

What Doesn’t Kill You…

Over the weekend (or maybe last week…I’m not sure) our friends at Runner’s World published an article about the pain of the marathon. And the marathon winning sometimes.

I was thinking about this as my next post, and then I listened to the BibRave Podcast about DNFs this morning, and I knew I had my topic.

The marathon is a beast. We all know this. The physical and mental fortitude required to not only complete, but do well in the race is ridiculous. And we’ve all had those races where the marathon wins. I think this is where we really see the “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” line really come into play.

Personally, I have DNF’d a marathon, but that was due to an injury that had been plaguing me (and that I didn’t rest) since early September. The marathon was in November. Nevermind that I couldn’t run 2.5 pain free miles the Wednesday before the race, I was running that marathon.

The DNF question is an interesting one. If you’re injured, then yes, don’t continue. But that if the marathon isn’t your day. Again I refer to my recent experience at Milwaukee (ironically, Milwaukee is where I had my DNF two years ago). It didn’t go my way from the start. Hell, I thought about dropping. But knowing I was healthy, that I had DNF’d two years prior; I wasn’t dropping.

I think it is valuable to continue those races. Frankly, it’s a learning experience. And the marathon is meant for us all to suffer in some way. This is how we become better racers in the future.

So if it’s hard, don’t quit. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s why you signed up to run, right?

Shifting Focus

I think all of us have some type of goal/focus/plan (whatever you want to call it) for both our running and for our lives. Some of us may publicly advertise it more than others, but it’s present for everyone.

For me, the running goal was, and most certainly still is, qualify for Boston. Personally, I figured that my next stop after central Iowa would be back up in the Twin Cities. Most of my closest friends live in the area, it’s close to my alma mater, and I just like it up there.

On that note, after many swing and misses on job interviews for positions in the Cities, one of my coworkers told me (while I was en route to a race in Minnesota ironically) that maybe I need to say “Screw you” to the state.

And I kind of did. For those of you who know me, I’ve taken a role based out of the Chicago area. And that, as a Milwaukee native, still feels a bit weird. But that being said, I’m super excited to get back to a metro area and about learning about all the great things Chicago has to offer that I’ve never fully embraced.

Running has, and is, following a similar path. I’ve trained vigorously for that BQ time the last few years, but it has eluded me. I’ve often said that, until this year, my first marathon was what I was most prepared for. However, I made some classic first marathon mistakes which derailed the day. This year, I felt in equally good shape for Milwaukee, but if you read my recap, you know nothing went well. All that said, and Twin Cities is my PR, a race that I probably ran right on my ability based on the training I had going in.

However, as many of you reading this know, racing marathons and not getting the results you want can be mentally taxing. And I know that the marathon just hasn’t fallen into place for me yet. The Half finally did this year, and the 10k did last summer. Keep working, and good things will happen.

I believe that, but I think mentally it’s good to have a break, or a different focus. And that’s what I’m doing this spring. Spring marathons have never been kind to me, so this year I’m going to attempt to circumvent that by not having an A Race in the Spring.

Instead, I’ll be shifting to the trails, and longer distances. Currently, I have four races planned for the Spring, and three are on the trails. A Half, 50k, and 50 Mile (the 50 mile being my goal race).

And I’m super excited for it! I’ve had moderate success on the trails, most of which has come by accident. Time to see what will happen when I train for trails.

New town, new distances. Let’s go 2018!

Patience

Patience.

Its a valuable trait for a runner to have, but definitely one that some of us struggle with. For me, that definitely shows up in races, notably in the marathon and half marathon.

I have an issue of not running a Full very relaxed, which is something I need to work on. I run tight and get out a little quicker than I need to. And so far it comes back to get me almost every time.

In the Half, I typically find my way into a good pace and good pace group and consciously think “I need to stay with these people.” I normally don’t. And they normally beat me.

My best races, at every distance, has come when I am a little restrained and let the race come to me. Weird how that works.

Sometimes our patience gets tried in different ways. Currently, I’m dealing with an injury. Muscle pulls are the worst, guys. It helps that I don’t have an A Race on my schedule for a while, and don’t even have a structured plan in November.

Still, this Sunday will be three weeks from Milwaukee. I’ve run twice, and neither with good results.

Being patient is super important. But it sucks.

Milwaukee Marathon Recap

This one has been a long time coming, and I guess I’m still decompressing from the race a little. And if you follow running news, you probably understand that.

As many of you know, I came into the Fall with Milwaukee as my A race. Training was going well, and my last race, the Gopher to Badger Half, had gone extremely well.

Everything was pointing toward a good day for 26.2 miles.

However, as is the nature of all things running, it didn’t quite work out that way.

The forecast called for chilly, windy, and possibly rainy weather. We got the chilly and the windy, but fortunately not the rainy. But boy did the wind make up for it. Gusts up to 40 mph, and a headwind from 3rd to 35th going straight up Wisconsin Ave. Not pleasant.

When we arrived, there was confusion on where we went to start, find bathrooms, etc. The race website, and all pre-race notifications, said the race would start at 2nd and Freshwater. However, literally everyone (and everything) was moving and set up closer to 6th and Pittsburgh, where the finish was supposed to be. Turns out, the start had been pushed back, and was now the same spot as the finish. This will be important later in this recap.

The bathroom situation was a mixed bag. There were lots of porta-pods, almost like a little village. However, due to the rain the previous days, they were basically in a mud pit. Runners had to decide to either have muddy shoes, or not go to the bathroom.

Next up, the start line. We all got lined up according to pace, like any other race, and it seemed like (for the most part) everyone lined up accordingly. I ended up next to the 1:30 Half group…and a handful of African runners. I moved back just a hair.

After a faulty rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (the singer messed up…twice), we were off!

The start went well, although I fell into the trap of getting out a little too quick, per the usual. As one runner I was chatting with said, we were a little ahead of schedule on pace. But overall, I was happy with how things were going, although the pace did feel slightly more challenging than it should have. I shrugged that off to the fact that it was a 6:30 start.

However, I couldn’t shake that feeling of putting in a little too much effort, and I also noticed that my eyes felt heavy. That’s something that shouldn’t happen running 6:45s in the early stages of a marathon.

After charging up the Lake Drive hill, we went around to mile 6, where problems started for me two years ago. That probably got into my head a little bit as well, in addition to still not feeling great. Already running in no-man’s land didn’t help either.

This all came to a head with a vicious porta-pod stop just before the Mile 9 marker (I’ll spare you all the details). I will admit, I felt better that, and quickly refueled with a Huma Gel. Fortunately, my stomach cooperated from there on out.

At this point, I ran much more relaxed, but at a slower than BQ clip. I didn’t quite have the strength to push after getting sick, but even with the stop, was able to maintain about 3:09 pace.

Fast forward to the next wild part of the race: Mile 14. Weaving through Washington Park (a disturbingly easy place to cut the course, if you’re that kind of person), a big gust of wind blew through and I heard a loud cracking noise, which I new was that of a tree part. I tried to look around to identify which branch was coming down.

Turns out, it wasn’t a branch at all. It was half of a tree. About 50 meters in front of me. Fortunately, it was enough that I was able to slow down to let the tree fall, utter some surprised profanities, and keep running. That one got the heart rate up, though.

After weaving around the Park, and doing a better than expected out and back, we were off to Miller Valley. Still being in no-man’s land, with no runner anywhere close to me, it felt weird running in the middle of Hawley Road and in the Valley. If you haven’t been to Milwaukee, these are major roads. They were completely closed for the race, but I had no runners around me, and no crowd support. It was weird.

At this point, I was still moving at that 3:09 pace pretty well. Then we made the turn onto the Hank Aaron Trail, and that’s where the problems began, in more ways than one.

We quickly hit Mile 21, and not too soon after saw the Mile 23 for those coming back from the turnaround. This was going to be a long out and back. Until it wasn’t. Again, if you’ve followed the fallout from the race, you know what happened here. Runners were turned around early, never passed the Mile 22 marker, and ended up with less than 26.2 on the day.

Remember when I said the start getting pushed back was relevant? It’s my theory that when the start was moved back, someone thought the turnaround needed to be moved to coincide with that. Since the race was too long in 2016, the race organizers couldn’t have that happen again. So instead, they inadvertently shortened it by about .8 miles.

The turnaround also posed problems for me as well. When we hit the Mile 23 sign, I hit the wall as well. The mix-up in distances also played mind games with me. Did we miss a sign? Were there actually only 3 to go? Or about 3.6 like my watch said?

The last few miles were a grind.

Then the final domino fell when I overstrided on a downhill, and pulled a muscle with about 1.5 to go. For anyone who has done that, you know how painful and slow that last stretch was for me.

Coming around to the finish was more of a relief than anything.

We were greeted with a medal (super nice medal, by the way), a 10 oz water, and a bag of pretzels. Food? Space blanket? All the food? Nope. None of that. Let’s just say the finish line area left a lot to be desired.

Obviously, most of the talk after the race were all of the runners comparing watch distances. Almost everyone had 25.5 or 25.6. Except for a friend of mine who got turned around in Washington Park and ended up with 27 and change. Whoops.

I won’t get into too much depth on the fallout of the race. But it went from Race Directors basically saying they were right, the course was correct, and our watches were wrong; to them acknowledging that they screwed up…again.

So if you’re keeping track, yes the distance was screwed up two years in a row. Out of the race’s three years of existence.

All in all, not the best day, in more ways than one. Of course, since the course won’t count for BQ times, I’m almost glad my body and the weather, revolted on this race.

Oh. And no, I won’t run this one again.

My Top 5 Most Challenging Courses

The countdown posts continue! I wanted to throw down my top 5 favorite race shirts, but I’ll be a good blogger and wait until I have pictures of those.

Instead, I’m going with the Top 5 Most Challenging Courses that I’ve run. And I’m talking about the course itself, not the weather conditions on race day. So as much as I’ve whined about the heat at the Lincoln and Pony Express Marathons, and the storm at Shamrock, you won’t find them here. Those courses were easy courses.

And a disclaimer. I’m aware that compared with others, I haven’t run THAT many courses that would be considered “challenging.”

It won’t surprise you that you’ll see a lot of trails on this one.

#5 – La Jolla Half Marathon – Two days in a row the La Jolla Half comes in at #5 on my list. I will clarify this one by saying that if you lived in SoCal or somewhere with real hills (aka not central Iowa) this course may seem more tame.

Still, the 400+ foot climb up to Torrey Pines is a brutal one that can really derail your race. Take it too slow? Your time is shot. Take it too fast? Your legs are shot. If you haven’t run a hill like this one, expect lots of pain. And one thing the elevation chart doesn’t show you is that you get some rolling and gradual uphills the next few miles. You can’t relax at the top of Torrey Pines, because they keep coming.

If you read my post yesterday, you saw me mention the two 200+ foot climbs in the race. Personally, I think the one at mile 12 is the most brutal. It’s late in the race and has a false top as well. The first year I ran the race, that hill was an absolute soul crusher.

#4 – Mount Desert Island Marathon – I said this yesterday as well, this was a hilly course. If you can pick up almost 2,000 feet of gain in a road race, you know there are hills. MDI keeps you going up and down most of the way with most of the steepest parts being downhill.

The second half of the race (in my recollection) is more flat than the first 13. However, the climbs in the second half are larger and longer. If you haven’t done training runs on hills leading into this race, you’ll have a bad time. But at least the scenery is nice!

But to be fair, I firmly believe if you train on hills this could be a PR course. No climbs are extreme, they’re just never ending.

#3 – Living History Farms – Ben, how does a 7 mile run in Des Moines get into your top most challenging courses? Run this and you’ll find out.

The first three miles are extremely tame as you run on jeep roads and through fields. Then you hit the single track. Descent into the rivers, crossing the rivers (and this is in November…COLD), and crawling up steep inclines to get back to the fields. And do it all over again.

The first time I ran LHF, I planned it as an easy run. My heartrate was absolutely hammering in the second half of that race all to maintain what would otherwise be an easy race. This is a challenging course for sure. But at only 7 miles, just about anyone should be able to slog through it.

#2 – Music City Trail Ultra – When a race makes you question what you’ve gotten yourself into at Mile 1, you know you’re in for a challenging day.

The climbs in this race are steep and massive. Throw in some segments that are off trail altogether and you’ve created quite the adventure. And let’s not forget about the 8 mile loop which most consists of off trail water crossings.

You almost dread the back of the out-and-back because you know what’s coming for you. Those steeps downhills early in the race? Now they’re steep uphills. And vise-versa.

#1 – Maryland HEAT 50k – This was a debate for me between the MCTU and the HEAT. Ultimately, I went with the Maryland HEAT, held in Patapsco Valley State Park, just west of Baltimore.

The course is definitely challenging, but honestly probably a little less so that the MCTU. So why is this number 1? Well, because there is a wall on this course. A literal 15 foot wall. And in the 50k you encounter this at miles 15 and 30. Have you ever tried to climb a wall 30 miles into a race? It sucks.

The wall does give you two options, though. Over or around. And wait, why not go around? Well, that entails wading through the river. Going over is faster and dryer.

Honorable Mention: Afton 25k, Louisville Trail Half, Icebreaker Indoor 5k